A New Mom’s Questions

by Rhode

I’m returning to work next Monday. My husband is taking 8 weeks paternity leave starting today.

How did moms and dads handle the transition between leave and return to full-time work? Any tips?

Also, now that my mom is moving, I’m staying with my in-laws when visiting NJ. I’m not terribly comfortable there. It is emotionally draining to be a better version of myself. With my mom, if I want to cry in a corner I can. With my mother-in-law, I need to be stoic and bite back any strong emotions. I don’t even feel comfortable enough to wear my pajamas to breakfast. Any tips from Totebaggers on how to get comfortable in their home? Any tips on how to let them help me parent my son?


103 thoughts on “A New Mom’s Questions

  1. Be patient with each other – you are both moving into new roles and will both be very tired as you adjust to them.

    Not sure if you are breast feeding/planning to pump at work. If so, if you can, pump some ahead as sometimes the stress of the transition including the comfort level of the location you can pump at the office can lower your production. Also, check your work wardrobe to make sure your clothing is pump-friendly.

    Go through your work clothes – make sure they are comfortable and fit your transition figure (unless you are already back in your pre-baby clothing).

    If DH hasn’t had the baby for very long on his own, you might do a couple of test runs extending the time. Also, think about tips to pass on to him about baby’s preferences that he may not be aware of because he has been at work all day. Because DH will not do everything the way you do, if you feel extremely strongly that something (not everything) be done a certain way, this is the time to say so.

  2. So awesome that your husband is able to take leave as you go back. We don’t get any paid parental leave so my husband is planning on being home for about 10 days post-birth and then banking the rest of his leave time for random days as needed during the rest of my leave and then for during my transition back. We’te not sure how that will look exactly so I’ll be interested to hear how that works for you.

    I understand the difficulties that can come with getting truly comfortable at the in-laws. Are they particularly uptight or is it just your own comfort level with them? I ask because my in-laws are super mellow but I still have some of the same issues. On the other hand, my parents can be somewhat uptight and I could see them (unintentionally) making a son/daughter-in-law feel like they need to be “on” all the time.

  3. That’s so great your husband is taking paternity leave when you go back to work. My DH took 4 weeks of paternity leave with each kid when I went back to work. I think it really helped the transition. And I think it’s great for both parents to experience what it’s like to be home fulltime with a baby.

    I pumped at work. One thing I did that worked well (and I recommend to others) was I asked DH to be responsible for packing my pump and making sure it was ready to go every day (i.e. it had clean bottles and frozen ice packs). I figured since I was the one going through the daily hassle of pumping, it was the least he could do.

    As Temp Handle said, be easy on both yourself and DH. The first year is hard – figuring out new routines, adjusting to having a baby, being sleep deprived,….

  4. Be kind to your mother in law, forgiving of yourself . She wants to help, even if she cannot. I was horrid to mine, but she was forgiving and in time became Nana, not “my mother in law” . I miss her, after all she gave me DH with his full and gracious heart. Despite all the odd ways. I owe her but it took becoming a MIL myself to understand this. I used to nurce the babies and then set the Grandmas in charge while I napped, read, shopped or whatever . Grandma’s are wonderful , they are huge when teens close their ears to Mom and Dad, but relationship begins in the beginning.

  5. @Rhode – I realized that neither DH nor my own parents or in laws would do things exactly the way I would. Depending on how comfortable everyone was around the baby – I’d leave less or some times more detailed instructions. Otherwise the kids were fed, changed, played with, put down for a nap or left in their cribs now and then as the adults went on with their day.
    My kids have been at various daycares, with DH, both sets of grandparents…..it all worked out.

  6. With my in-laws, I learned after 3 kids to just let them do it their way.

    They raised their own kids, and I just keep reminding myself that they know what to do and love the kids too.

    If it something that has changed dramatically since their own kids were little, I will give them a quick overview on how to buckle the car seat or change a disposable diaper (or better, have DH do it).

    But otherwise, grandparents are people who love your kids almost as intensely as you do. Unless there is some reason that you would never hire your in-laws to babysit, like mental illness, dementia, or a substance abuse problem, look on your MIL’s visit as chance to sleep or get out of the house. If your MIL would be considered safe to watch a neighbor’s baby, grit your teeth, bite your tongue, and leave her alone with baby Rhode too.

    The same should go for DH: he’s a competent adult and will be fine. If there is some little trick I am using to get a kid to do something, like putting medicine in chocolate sauce, I will tell him before he takes over that job. Or if a kid has just developed a dangerous new skill like opening cabinet locks.

    But otherwise, I expect he can handle it and he knows the doctor’s phone number.

  7. I can’t offer good advice with respect to being a daughter in law, but perhaps some from grandma’s perspective. With my son and DIL the first couple of years were a bit rocky, but I was determined to find a way and everything is great now. One thing I pointed out to my son, who was more the reason for the rocky start than his wife, when he was keeping me at arm’s length in the beginning, was that my mother, his grandmother, was his rock in the family as 10:52 described. My mom was a very difficult person and a loner, but somehow all her tolerance and love poured out on that boy, who really needed it. I merely reminded him of that situation, and that in his child’s infancy no one has any idea which member of the extended family will end up in that role, and that the child has a right to find that out for herself.

  8. When my oldest was born, I went back part time for a few months which was a nice transition. It is so great that your husband can take paternity leave – it will be great bonding time for dad and baby.

    I think with parents and in-laws the key is to just be clear and open about what is helpful to you. My mother came when all of my kids were born, but didn’t want to overstep any boundaries so she wasn’t all that helpful. And she left a day after I got home from the hospital each time which also wasn’t terribly helpful.

    My MIL is the type that wants to be helpful but she will not actually ask you what would be helpful to you, she will just do what she wants to do and that led to a lot of tears (from me). With DD#1 she thought it would be helpful to get her up in the middle of the night for me and then sit with me at 2:00 a.m. as I tried to figure out nursing. As someone who is not terribly ready to nurse in front of anyone but my husband, it was awful and uncomfortable. By kid #3 I learned that speaking up averts a lot of bad feelings and anguish, and wish I had been more vocal from the beginning.

  9. Rhode, I have very little experience with sharing family duties of child-rearing. I just want to wish you the best. Maybe over time, as they see you growing in strength and confidence as a mother, your ILs relationship with you might change. Enjoy this weekend with your little bunny!

  10. I went back to work fulltime after my first was born. He was in a daycare that was 5 minutes from my workplace which was very helpful since I could go nurse him at lunchtime, and it was quick and easy to pick him up, especially if there was a snow dismissal or he was sick. I also was extremely fortunate to be at a company with private offices for developers – wonderful in every way – but it meant I could pump.

    After my second was born, I cut down to part time. It was just too much to be fulltime, I felt. I still appreciate the years I was able to work part time. I wish I could have done that with my daughter when she was small

  11. About inlaws – not sure how long you will be there, but you might think of them as a bed and breakfast where you wouldn’t go outside your room other than to the bathroom down the hall in you PJs/robe. Same thing about showing emotions, you wouldn’t bring that to the common living area with other guests. This isn’t a great long term solution, but it might help you on a short visit.

    As others said, you will have to let grandparents be who they are and they will find the role they feel comfortable with. Sky is correct about balance in how to direct them. Also, be aware that they may have ideas/philosophies about child rearing that have never come up that you may have to deal with. If you can, recognize them and let them go, but if you can’t you need DH in your corner to explain why you don’t prefer that and ask them not to do it.

  12. “I think with parents and in-laws the key is to just be clear and open about what is helpful to you.”

    I agree. People aren’t mind readers, and if they are being very conscious of “not stepping on toes” as my MIL was, they may be looking to you for direction. If they are just trying to do what they want to do, direction can help nudge them into being helpful vs unhelpful.

    I also say be very selective in choosing the things that are very important to you to be done a “certain way”. Trust your child’s father and loving, stable grandparents, and try not to sweat the small stuff. (and a lot more “stuff” is small than you think) I didn’t do a great job of that the first year or so because I was so unsure as a new mom, but things have been much, much better since I’ve let go of worry/guilt about little things like micromanaging food choices, bedtime when at grandma’s, etc.

  13. Inlaws- all I can offer is good luck there. I still feel quite uncomfortable with my inlaws when I’m on their “turf” for very long. Not clear from your post how long you are staying with them.

  14. We always stay at the in laws, and I wasn’t all that comfortable back then. They are the kind of family that keeps their shoes on in the house, and never, ever are seen in PJs or robes or even loungewear. They also are people who have the TV on and blaring all the time, except at dinner when they ate in total silence at the dining room table. There hadn’t been kids around in many years. The good thing was that as my kids arrived and also some other kids arrived as well, the in laws got more relaxed. I think aging had something to do with it too. They now walk around in slippers and sweats too. The TV still blares, but now we can eat pizza for dinner in front of it. So we all adjusted to each other.

  15. As someone mentioned the other day, don’t feel bad if you aren’t crying the first day back. I was surprised at how unemotional I was when I returned to work. I missed my baby, of course, but I felt like I was doing something wrong when I couldn’t relate to other mother’s first day back experiences.

    I have plenty of experience staying with the in-laws with a baby. My in-laws are not baby people. They did not enjoy consoling a crying baby, they did not want to hold a baby during dinner so that I could eat a warm meal with the rest of the family, and their memories of their own babies are foggy (my babies never did this or that). Once I realized, and accepted, that they did not like babies, I was okay with that. I couldn’t change that, so I just had very low expectations with every visit. I expected that my DH or myself would eat a cold dinner after everyone was finished, or that I would be in my pajamas all morning until baby took her morning nap. This way I didn’t hold a grudge while I was visiting. Also, with each visit I got better at standing up for myself and advocating for my child (no, we aren’t using that old crib because I don’t feel it is safe). Fast forward several years later and they are amazing grandparents to toddlers and older children. It was smooth sailing once we were outside the baby stage.

  16. Rhode,
    I’m so happy to hear you are doing well and returning to work, and that your husband has such a long paternity leave! I gave you guys up for lent, so I missed a lot, but this is good news! The way I read your post, you used to stay with your mom when you visited NJ, now you stay with your in laws – but others seem to be reading it as if you have moved in for a time. If it is for visits, we found (when visiting my parents) that it helped most for us to adopt the “we can do anything for three days” attitude and go with their patterns and expectations, which include 1) eating breakfast together and 2)being dressed for same, along with many, many other things that are different from the way we do things, but will elicit comments if we don’t comply. It kind of goes against everything we stand for, but we do it anyway because my parents are unchangable and lack self-awareness so discussion will not help. And now, 30 years in, we joke about it, and make bingo cards, so that when mom says/does certain things we mark off a space, and get a treat if we get bingo. We always get bingo.
    Of course, if I mis-read the post, and you are with them for a long time, none of this applies.

  17. Also – for me, the first day back at work was great – seeing all my old coworkers. The second day, reality set in and I found myself exhausted & emotional. It steadily got better each week, and then it has gotten better each year as our little family has found its routines and footing.

    Also – I will tell you that I put a ton of pressure on myself to pump enough milk and to make sure that no formula had to be used when I first went back to work. It is one of my biggest regrets – it made me emotional, exhausted from the ridiculous routine, and ultimately – it was not worth it. We switched to formula at 6 months, and after a few days of unnecessary guilt, I felt like a new person. If we had ever decided to have a 2nd, I definitely would not have pushed myself as hard to keep up BFing once I went back to work. The whole pumping routine can be just maddening depending on your commute, work set up, milk production, etc.

  18. “One thing I did that worked well (and I recommend to others) was I asked DH to be responsible for packing my pump and making sure it was ready to go every day (i.e. it had clean bottles and frozen ice packs). I figured since I was the one going through the daily hassle of pumping, it was the least he could do.”

    SSM is right on! I never did that and boy did I resent washing everything out, making and labeling the bottles, etc. every night, in addition to nursing/pumping. I wish I had just asked DH to do this to move it off my plate. This is probably just one of the many things I wasn’t vocal enough about and it would have been helpful.

  19. lso – I will tell you that I put a ton of pressure on myself to pump enough milk and to make sure that no formula had to be used when I first went back to work. It is one of my biggest regrets – it made me emotional, exhausted from the ridiculous routine, and ultimately – it was not worth it. We switched to formula at 6 months, and after a few days of unnecessary guilt, I felt like a new person.

    This. There is a ridiculous amount of pressure on mothers to breastfeed these days. If pumping becomes too stressful, then you can stop. The baby will be perfectly fine on formula.

  20. Rhode – it’s been so long for me that I think it’s more helpful to let these other, younger parents take the lead here. And I love Meme’s take from a MIL angle, too. This is all such helpful advice and I hope some/all of it will work for you. Good luck with the return to work! You’ll be great, DH will be great and the little guy will, too. Can’t wait to hear your stories about it later. We all have stories about being in meetings and noticing the baby vomit on our suit, etc., or realizing we’re wearing one brown shoe and one blue. You’ll love telling these too.

  21. I love HFN’s MIL bingo and am totally stealing that for our week at the beach in July. Awesome.
    My kids are older, so my only advice is not to over schedule your weekends with errands. Let some stuff go or outsource some of it for a while. Use your weekends to hang out and recharge.

  22. If you do “adopt the “we can do anything for three days” attitude”, remember that your boy can too. Of course you want to set up routines that work well for him at home, but kids are stronger than we give them credit for, and eventually knowing that things are different at his grandparents’ house might be a helpful base for other emotional lessons.

    I guess I sort of handed off breastpump responsibility to the sitter by default. I asked her to wash the bottles as the babe finished the milk. Eventually we didn’t have enough bottles–several were in the freezer–and I started handing her bags of liquid milk at the end of the day, when I picked him up. Keeping the shields clean didn’t seem like a big deal to me.

    Lemon, I’m right there with you re the first day back at work!

  23. When we visit NJ we used to stay with my mom, now it’s the in-laws. Last weekend was the first time I’ve ever slept in their house. My discomfort comes from my MIL – until recently she didn’t seem to like me all that much. Now I can’t tell if it’s “like” or tolerance. Either way, it’s better than dislike. I think part of my issues is me – I’ve been with the baby since day one. I’m a control freak. I’m type A. And my MIL knows this. So I need to figure out how to let go – it’s not like my MIL isn’t a good caregiver. I also don’t feel comfortable saying “here, you handle 2am” mostly because I live under the “it’s my mess I’ll clean it up” rule. I don’t think she understands that – or I haven’t explicitly told her that and need to.

    And I’m very lucky – DS is spoiled rotten by DH’s family. They fight over who held him last and who’s turn it is next. For an entire weekend, my kid never touched the ground. He only slept in his bed at night.

    I like the bingo. That may come in handy for long weekends…

  24. Oddly pumping breastmilk doesn’t worry me. If it works, great, if not, oh freaking well. I just don’t like being a pack mule. But I guess I should get used to that… kids just seem to require a sh!t ton of stuff.

  25. My DH also handled the washing and assembly of the breastpump. Definitely took a load off. I also sprang for the most heavy duty, powerful pump. I was lucky because I never found any of this to be stressful. I found nursing in general to be easier than formula feeding (last kid, by necessity, was formula fed ). The pump was a minor hassle but no worse than bottle assembly for formula.

  26. I’ll admit that once I started formula feeding – I went for the ready mixed formula in big plastic jars. It made things easier for the grandparents. Pour into the bottle, warm up and feed.
    It is expensive but very convienient. It was new on the market when DS was born.

  27. Any tips from the dads in the group for DH? He’s a little worried about being full time SAHD, even if it’s only for 2 months…

  28. My brother was a SAHD for a month and then he drive his kids to his work daycare for five years.

    He tried to get out for a walk or errand each day. This should work now that the weather is improving. He just didn’t like being stuck in the house all day.

    Also, I wouldn’t comment if your house is a mess unless it gets completely out of control. Just my opinion, but it could have been a hard day and maybe your DH really didn’t have time that day for laundry or clean up.

    Good luck. I remember my first day back, but now I’m sitting next to someone that carries her own “stuff”. It is so exhausting at first, but it gets easier.

  29. Rhode, my son’s father visited over Thanksgiving when my boy was 7 or 8 mos old. I was delighted to have time to work on my diss. When he was invited to a dinner, I baked a pie for him to take. Just as I was finally settling in at my desk, he said “you have more experience taking the boy out, so could you pack the diaper bag?” I thought my head was going to explode! The only reason I had more experience was that he had skipped out. That doesn’t apply to your husband, who I know has been working and emotionally supporting you. But they’re as smart as we are, they will have their own little tricks and games with baby, so might need different things, and if we lack the bag, they won’t know where to find things. My guess, from my inexperience, is that your husband needs to find his way and overcome his uncertainty the same as you did, without you stepping in to correct or provide quick answers (as long as the child isn’t in danger, obviously).
    I’m glad you’re open to figuring out what nutrition delivery system works best for you. Had we done formula, I probably would’ve either run out of let it go bad like the cottage cheese in my fridge.

  30. On the mechanics of breast pumping — it helps to have an extra set of shields, so you don’t have to wash yours at work. Or, just toss the used ones in the fridge and reuse them — there is nothing wrong with a little refrigerated breast milk residue. Also — pumping equipment needs to be rinsed in water to be clean — it does not need hot, soapy water, some kind of sterilization process, or any thing fancy (unless your doctor has told you otherwise).

    Work pumping can be a big hassle. I don’t recall if your baby is fully bottle fed or actually nurses – but many people find that their child care provider is continually feeding the baby when they are gone (because there is not much that comforts a tiny baby as well as being fed), putting pressure on them to pump more at work and sabotaging the whole endeavor. I was very strict with my care providers when the kids were tiny — exactly how much and how often they could be fed. (I could do that because it wasn’t a family member).

    Also, I am with Lemon — I was happy to be back at work, and felt a bit guilty that I wasn’t quite in my uninterrupted latte. I love my kids and I love them more when I get a break from them.

  31. OT and an update. I wrote a few months ago about DH getting a low salary offer from Large Internet Company and eventually turning it down. (It still perplexes me — it was kind of like asking someone who works as a barista at Starbucks – with benefits and perks – to take a pay cut and move to McDonalds – not known for being the kindest employer). Anyway, he just went through a prolonged interview and salary negotiation with Another Large Company and accepted a position, that favorably compares to his current position. And allows work from home at least 10% of the time. He has been quite unhappy at “Starbucks”, despite the perks, that I am really happy for him to make a change.

  32. Rhode–I’m probably going to be all over the place, but I hope something here helps!

    -On being a pack mule: I got to the point were I stored a week’s worth of bottles, pump parts, etc at work. They went home at the end of the day in my lunch bag with the milk, and one big bag came to work on Monday with everything in it. Gave me time on the weekend to catch up on the cleaning, and only thinking about what I needed once a week was a huge anxiety saver for me. Also, a box of the Kleenex hand towels was great for spills, drips, and all of the general wiping that comes with pumping. ( I feel like I spend half my life wiping things since DD was born!)

    – You may not be able to predict your feelings when you go back, and that’s ok. Somedays I was so happy to be working, and drinking hot coffee while it’s hot, and talking to grownups, other days I was morose and spent too much time looking at baby pictures. But that all evened out with time.

    -When DH started doing longer stretches as parent-in-charge, I asked him what he wanted me to ‘teach’ him. For the first few days, he was unsure what to feed her, so I’d put together a little lunch for her, and lay out some snacks, Now, he knows what she needs, and can open the fridge and figure it out as well as I can. But if I had just done that with out asking, we both would have felt out of sorts about it.

    -So this doesn’t get to the nitty gritty of your comfort at your MIL’s, but one thing that has made my life more streamlined is sleeping in pajamas that look like clothes: yoga pants and v-neck tees, in dark colors. I can get the mail in them, on a bad day I can go to the store in them, and no one knows I slept in them.

    -On letting the in-laws help you parent: this one I’m still working on, MIL is DD’s caretaker 3 days a week. I had to let a lot go at first (why does she hand wash bottles when we have a dishwasher? I still don’t know. But I just try to ignore it now) I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the whole thing, and it’s more important to me that DD has a strong relationship with MIL then if she eats grilled cheese for lunch every Monday. (couldn’t there at least be a vegetable?) Like I said, working on it. So, part of them having a strong relationship is that it has to be between them, I’m not in the middle of it. So when MIL wants to jump right in first thing when she walks in the door, I let her. When she wants to show her off at family functions, I wave them on and talk with grownups. It’s not always that easy, but I’m learning to take a step back and let DD choose a little bit (she’s more than happy to still act like a barnacle with me, so it’s not like I’m playing second fiddle for long).

    Wow this got long. I seem to be making up for my recent lurking.

  33. “Any tips from the dads in the group for DH? He’s a little worried about being full time SAHD, even if it’s only for 2 months…”

    I can’t think of anything. He’ll be fine. It’s easy.

  34. Milo — Did you stay home as a FT caregiver for 2 months? I’m sure Rhode’s husband will be fine, but I’m not sure it’s “easy” for most. Maybe it is, but I just have a prickly reaction when someone tells me it will be easy. Too many times it wasn’t. :)

    I don’t have any special tips. My transition to working was easy and my IL’s are the best. I agree it’s wonderful that your H will be staying home with the baby. And I believe your mom is around, too. I’m curious what your work hours/commute will be like.

    I agree with the t-shirt and yoga pants for sleeping. And I’m taking notes for how to behave if and when I’m the MIL. I don’t necessarily like babies, although I liked my babies. But older kids are more my thing.

  35. CoC – that’s more of a guy’s perspective. I think it’s easy because most people become parents, even people who are incapable of managing the most basic aspects of life, like showing up to work and holding down a job. Even for these people, it’s rare for an infant to not survive in their care. If they can do it, so can Rhode’s DH. The gist of all these comments is that none of these seemingly big concerns actually mattered in the end. My philosophy is that you may as well just realize that sooner than later.

    Rhode asked for my perspective, and that is it.

  36. My hours/commute are another hurdle to tackle. I will be gone pretty much from 8-5. That means I either do the 11p feeding but not the 5a, or vice versa. DH hasn’t decided which would work for him. Either way he gets the 2a but that’s fair because that’s been my territory.

    Next week is going to be interesting. And in 2 weeks I have a conference. I’ll be returning home at night but it’s still long days.

    Ya. He needs an epic Father’s Day gift.

  37. it is simple but defintely not easy. I remember the haze of the newborn days- all I did was nurse, let him nap in my arms, change diaper, repeat

  38. I remember somewhere around 4 months into that mind numbing exhaustion, starting to wonder if that was what I was going to feel like for the rest of my life. Of course, it all gets better, but at the time I was worried about what I had signed up for!

  39. COC – if you don’t like babies, just once please hold baby/give a bottle/or walk around the restaurant with the babe so that DIL can eat a hot dinner and have a conversation with adults.

    I think ADA said it best – It’s simple. It’s not easy. Perhaps that is the advice you give DH. Don’t expect it to be easy and don’t over complicate things.

  40. COC-
    My mom does not like babies. She spent the first 2 months of each of her grandchildren’s lives telling them how boring they were, (in a loving way, she’s now referred to as the ‘blunt’ grandmother) She didn’t let that get in the way of being helpful though. I think that’s the takeaway.

    Ada’s comment is spot on. Simple, not easy. That should be the new parent’s mantra.

  41. I like the “simple, not easy.” Mr WCE had two weeks off with the kids, and I still did the laundry and a little cooking, and he was surprised at how hard it was to maintain the level of chaos in our home.

  42. From a guy’s perspective, Milo is exactly right. Thank you, Milo. Ada is also right–it is simple. Of course, that doesn’t mean we want to do it, or our minds aren’t elsewhere, but men can do it.

    Heck, even I did it when my wife was in the hospital or otherwise unable. Do you think I can do anything? I can’t.

    The hard thing was the drudgery, when my mind was elsewhere.

    I continue to be surprised at the number of you who rely on mothers and in laws to be child care providers. That option was not available to my wife and me. It would sure be easier! Even now. But I’m stuck alone as my wife and I were when our kid was an infant.

    Does this portend or reflect that we’ve returned to the day when we stay close to our families for family care, if nothing else? I think so. I sure wish I had that option. I’d do that in a second other than pursuing my career in a far distant city.

  43. PTM- We stayed close to be family care for my MIL, after FIL passed away my husband is her only living relative. That she is able to help with care for DD is something of a bonus. DH has passed up a few great opportunities that would have taken us out of state. Luckily, we’ve had enough good opportunities nearby that it hasn’t halted anyone’s career trajectory.

  44. “I continue to be surprised at the number of you who rely on mothers and in laws to be child care providers. That option was not available to my wife and me. It would sure be easier! ”

    Ditto! Many times when I had a little one, I wished for a family member to babysit during the first week of the school year or a conference.

    I remember trying to figure out what was making me so tired during those first weeks. It wasn’t like there was a lot of work–nurse, change a diaper, play with a baby a little bit, occasionally bath him. I decided that the hard part for me (certainly not for people dealing with colic or kids who soil their clothing frequently) was being on call. I had full responsibility for another person all but 25 hrs per week. Never in my life had I had such responsibility, on such an ongoing basis.

  45. See, Amber? I think that is the new old thing.

    (On the other hand, I have no intention of raising or doing anything else for or to Junior’s spawn.)

  46. Saac, I think it’s hard to be all alone with a kid. If I had any common sense, I would have realized that and moved someplace with barns to be closer to family when I had my kid, or at least when I had my kid alone.

    But a problem was, I am the youngest. My parents, loving and good as they were, couldn’t really do it in their late 80s, and my sisters, all older, had their own grandchildren or were simply too old to do it too.

  47. I love “Simple but not easy.” Exactly that. My DH was actually better at being home with a baby than I was. I struggled to put some structure to my day and just felt it all disappear in feeding, changing, collapsing from exhaustion, eating over a tired baby. I had some babies that could NOT be set down for a while, which was part of it. I got better once they would nap in a crib or bassinet. DH, however? I’d come home and he’d have a baby strapped on and have washed dishes or vacuumed. He was a rock star. (Still is in a lot of ways.)

    Pump parts. I figured refrigerated or cold was close enough, and I tended to pack an extra ice pack into the bag and stuck the parts into ziploc bags by the ice. That way at the end of the day I could just run ’em through the dishwasher, but I wasn’t washing mid-day. I also worked out later with daycare providers that I’d drop off those frozen bags of milk, and they would thaw them & put them in bottles as needed, and then they washed the bottles. So less to schlep back and forth.

    I could write books about ILs. Mine are great and we have a great relationship…. now. But it took a while to get there. They tend to be a bit formal in ways that I am not. I still remember the first time we met, when they corrected something I said once or twice with the subtle tint of disapproval. I felt like I had to be on some sort of “best behavior.” They are also used to older family members being in charge or a family matriarch in a way that didn’t really fit our situation. We live far away, so even after we’d been married a few years, it was really hard to feel close because we just hadn’t spent that much time together! But we both valued our relationships with our grandparents and wanted our kids to have that, so we realized that we had to find a way to hammer out the details.

    I would say that it’s good not to sweat the small stuff, but also figure out what your “dealbreakers” are. We had one or two really uncomfortable conversations when my ILs crossed the line for us, and it helped when we clarified. They learned to respect our boundaries and what we wanted as parents, and we figured out where we cared, and what we really didn’t care about and they had leeway (most things). I suspect if the pattern starts being that you stay there more frequently now, you’ll probably develop a new rhythm over time for how visits there work. Sometimes I felt like I was supposed to get dressed, but I just couldn’t, and I used the baby as an excuse to keep things more casual and learned that (a) they didn’t really care, it was just their habit, and (b) they eventually got more casual during our visits too. It was like we all needed time and permission to get past company-manners.

  48. Milo, if I did have to care for a grandchild, I’d just strap her into her car seat in my Lincoln Continental and drive her forever. We wouldn’t get far with traffic and even gas station’s mens’ rooms have those pull down thing baby stations.

  49. When DH was in charge he took DS on a lot of little errands – grocery store, car wash and I described the one time he took him into his office. That got DH out of being feeling stuck at home. Small things became adventures for the kids.
    And as for no TV for infants – forget about it. News, sports was always on.

  50. I’ve learned to just put the kid in the carrier and get on with my day. The only ‘tough’ part of my day is pumping while DS is having a colic episode. He ends up laying across my lap swaddled up on his stomach and crying. I massage the best I can while not bashing his head with pump parts.

    Milo and PTM- DH appreciates the honesty. He’s feeling more confident reading what you two wrote.

    Louise- f that. The TV is only off when we are sleeping or listening to iTunes. And even then I’ve hooked my computer to the tv to get a better speaker system. DH and I have shows we’ve been binge watching.

    My 11p feeding is me, DS, and the Golden Girls.

  51. Rhode, Its’ not a problem. It’s really a redirection of our thinking. I for one very much believe that men are different from women. Men have zero (or almost zero) maternal instincts unless we are advanced like penguins or eagles.

    I certainly have none. Although I have a mind. I have nurtured Junior all along and I am quite proud of him at age 13– he is a typical turd. Along the way, my mind has had to shift frequently from “mommy mode” to “daddy mode” depending. When for example, my son was sick, I was in Mommy Mode. When he climbed book cases, I was in Daddy mode. Toddlers bounce. And learn.

    Certainly your husband can do it! But he may have to trick his mind a little. It’s not that tough if he’s a good guy.

  52. I had some babies that could NOT be set down for a while

    Why not? Obviously you don’t want to leave a baby crying alone for an hour, but there’s nothing wrong with putting the baby in a safe place for 10 minutes wihle you take a shower or just get out of earshot and take a break. This is one of those gender differences – dads are usually much more able to do this than moms are.

  53. Oh, Rhode. And sometimes I switch from “Mommy mode” to “Daddy mode” many times in a single day.

  54. You may also find that baby Rhode changes schedule at some point, stretching out the feeding times. My oldest DD – within 1 week of going back to work (she was 3 mo) would feed at 9:30 pm and then wake up wanting to eat at 5:30 am. I checked with the doctor, who said if she was still consuming the right number of ounces of milk per day to be thankful and sleep.

    Of course that pattern was too good to be true – I was then very sleep deprived when DD#2 didn’t sleep through the night until 18 months!

  55. I switch between “Mama” and “Daddy” too. I used to get “are you crazy?” looks on the playground all the time, always from women. Eventually, one might say “my husband does [something very similar to what I was doing]” The others would visibly pull up a memory and then snap into agreement that a kid won’t die from swinging or sliding that way, and the mood would get palpably lighter. And in discipline, there is obviously no “just wait til your father gets home”. I think it’s part of why my kid doesn’t see gender as two completely opposite poles and does some stuff he knows is seen as “feminine”. I think he’ll be a better father and a better man for it.

  56. A lot of good advice here, Rhode, so I’ll just wish you good luck. You sound like you have a great head on your shoulders and very reasonable expectations, so you’ll do great. When the craziness starts to get you, just remember that a full family life and interesting, challenging work are good problems to have, even if the dosage of all is a little more than you’d like.

    And I can’t remember if I thanked you or not, but what you posted once about addommodat

  57. … About accommodations prompted me to revisit the topic with my daughter, who is now trying out accommodations in one class this semester to see if she thinks it makes a difference. It does. So thank you for being willing to share that.

  58. Denver– Mild exaggeration, Denver. I could set them down and listen to them cry. I would to get a shower. But I hated to hear crying all day long. Hormones, my own temperament, I don’t know what, but I couldn’t stand to hear a newborn cry all day. Neither could my DH.

  59. Hey, that’s how I got my first babysitting job! The older sibs were 2 and 5 years younger than me, probably could have taken care of themselves and a mostly-sleeping baby brother, but he cried and cried so much their mother didn’t think it was fair to have them do that. I walked the floor with him for hours.

  60. MBT- you’re welcome! I’m glad your daughter is seeing a positive difference in her class!

    Tulip- oh thank God. I seriously thought we were the only people who had a kid cry all damn day. This week has been horrible. DH and I hope this is peak fussiness because we may take drastic measures. All the baby has done is cry or sleep this week. My lovely little boy has been replaced by a beast. This passes right??? Lol

  61. Just want to thank everyone! The advice today has been extremely helpful. I feel like next week will be ok thanks to all of you!!

  62. Rhode, a ring sling often works well for walking with physically small babies without killing your arms. (Many other slings/carriers don’t adjust down to a small baby.) If you don’t have one, you might check craigslist or plea on Facebook to see if you can try it.

  63. Rhode, if he cries all day for more than a week or two, ask your doc about reflux. I didn’t recognize it for years in one of mine, and the meds make a huge difference in the whole family’s quality of life :)

    During babyhood I never let the first two cry it out for more than a few minutes because they always threw up when I tried. Child three would sometimes cry for five minutes and then fall asleep. None of mine read the manual about how babies should be soothed or how long they should sleep.

  64. “I’ll agree with “simple.” And certainly tedious, and possibly lonely.”

    But you still think it’s easy. I think tedious and lonely is hard, especially when it drags on for months or even longer. I wonder if military training/perspective makes it seem easy. Or it could be that the men who say it’s easy have usually not done it for months on end. Or consider that a crying baby doesn’t have the same reaction for men as it does for women.

    Brain scans showed that, in the women, patterns of brain activity abruptly switched to an attentive mode when they heard the infant cries, whereas the men’s brains remained in the resting state….

    The earlier studies showed that women are more likely than men to feel sympathy when they hear an infant cry, and are more likely to want to care for the infant.


  65. *I* didn’t want to mother strangers’ babies, but it was forever until my milk ducts stopped going into letdown mode whenever I heard that particular cry out of any child, anywhere!

    I never thought caring for an infant was “tedious”. Part of that is because it was not the only thing I was doing–one of my son’s first three sentences was “Mama work ‘puter”. Part of it is because it was the first time that I had a front row seat to all the stages of development that occur in those first years–just marvelous!

  66. “I wonder if military training/perspective makes it seem easy. Or it could be that the men who say it’s easy have usually not done it for months on end. Or consider that a crying baby doesn’t have the same reaction for men as it does for women.”

    I think all of those are true. There are different types of “easy” and “difficult.” And that’s just a word I typed at a traffic light yesterday. But thinking about it more, I could counter my own argument by saying that most people will successfully deal with the death of a parent, but we wouldn’t say that’s “easy.” So it can go different ways.

    I do think that experience in certain things like a year of military indoctrination does give one a better perspective about things like 1am non-stop crying. And I tend to hear comments like that most often from wives of my classmates

  67. I was making a mental list of things that I think are simple, but hard:
    -running a marathon
    -losing weight
    -saving money

    I also had a hard time listening to the crying of my own children – more than I thought. It took me way too long with the first to hand him over to dad, put in ear plugs and get a 4 hour block of sleep, and my sanity suffered.

  68. The normal practice in the home country culture was for the new mother to spend six weeks at her parents house. Now, when the daughters live far away, her parents come and spend those weeks with their daughter, son in law and grandkid. My mother was still working and both she and I agreed to break with tradition, she didn’t come and so DH had a much larger part to play from day one than is common culturally. In fact he went to all the in hospital classes on baby bathing, diaper changing and was a pro by the time we came home. I was amazed at DH.
    I am not a baby person – I can care quite well for an infant ( and I have cared for a number of cousins) but I prefer kids older than six months.

  69. Rhode’s DH is under more pressure than the parent of a normal weight term infant. I remember struggling to feed babies who would rather sleep than eat and the pressure to feed every three hours so they will gain properly. I can only imagine that a cleft lip makes it harder to feed the baby and perhaps for the baby to receive comfort from sucking, so comforting the baby is harder too. And using the digestive tract “early” is associated with reflux, so I share recommendation to discuss reflux medicine with the pediatrician, if you haven’t already.

    Baby WCE was due the same week as Baby Rhode and she is approaching 11 lb and sleeping nearly 6 hour stretches some nights. I know my life is way easier than Rhode’s DH’s life- and none of my babies had a cleft lip.

  70. The struggle is totally the balance between needing to feed every 3 hours and DS’ desire to sleep. Especially at night because DS likes to sleep – I think he could go from 11p to 5a some nights without issue. Despite the cleft, he can use a pacifier (DS remarkably has a full palate), but he more chews on it than sucks. Still, in the throws of intestinal distress (we can hear the gas bubbles moving through), the chew/suck helps.

    DS goes back to the doctor on Tuesday and we have the list of questions – one of which being reflux. He’s only started to show symptoms of it. So we have no idea if it’s reflux, peak colic (this massive crying has only been in the last week), or that his retainer for the cleft is bothering him.

    I find my head swimming with wondering about his intestinal health, if he’s developmentally typical, if I should change how I do things to promote better brain/muscle development… is there a trick to figuring out is noise vs. real concerns? I’m starting to lose sleep over things.

    DH will be fine… his head isn’t swimming. He’s just sleep deprived. If the doctor advises to keep on this every 3 hour schedule, we’ll both do it willingly. And pray that one day we’ll be allowed to have a healthy family sleep life.

  71. Rhode – I can’t imagine how anxious you must be. My kids didn’t have any major health issues, and I was still worried about what I was doing and how they were doing! You and your husband are doing a fantastic job, and I hope you get some helpful and positive information from the doctor next week.

  72. Rhode, you’ve got this so under control that it’s easy to think all the issues are behind you. I still think the best way for your husband to learn is by putting his knowledge into practice, same as you have done.

    Ada, I think housekeeping is easy but hard. Really, sweeping the floor? Wiping down a sink? 6 year olds can do those reasonably well!

  73. Rhode, can you ask your doc specifically about waking the little guy up for his 3 am meal? If he’s ready to sleep through the night, you don’t want him to learn to wake up then. But I understand that appropriate weight gain has precedence.

  74. Tulip, I agree about all day crying. I’ve just heard a lot of mothers (especially SAH ones) make comments like “I don’t get to shower most mornings because the baby is always crying (or being fussy or whatever”. At some point, you just put the baby in the crib for 10 minutes and take a shower and get dressed. And yes, this is totally a gender difference per the study CoC posted. The big one my wife and I had was when the babies would wake during the night, and I would go to the bathroom before I went to see them. My wife complained because they would start crying more by the time I got there.

  75. Rhode, if you think it’s reflux, have you tried Dr. Brown’s bottes? Our son had reflux and switching to those did wonders. He was also a premie (4 lbs 9 oz).

  76. DD- just read your middle of the night story to DH. We had the exact same thing happen last night! Only I didn’t care so much that kiddo was crying more. It was that he was crying and I could hear it. I was tired and grumpy.

    Would love to use doc browns but the cleft means that DS doesn’t develop a strong enough suck and sustain it to use regular bottles. I know we are causing some of the gas because of the specialty feeder we have to use.

    Thanks ‘Saac! I know DH will figure it out. I will be fine. Eventually I’ll laugh at the memories of this time. And I emailed you back.

  77. Rhode we were told to keep DS elevated. That means he stayed in his car seat in the house.
    Also burping the baby after every feeding is a must.

    I totally sympathize with you, lack of sleep is sheer torture. I hope the little guy has gained enough weight to come off the 3 hr schedule.

  78. Colic is a terrible name for the crying that some babies do during their few months outside. It invites the connection between spasm-like pain (as in “renal colic”, “biliary colic”) and newborn crying. However, as defined by the medical establishment, colic is not tummy troubles. Colic is crying, without ANY identifiable reason. If a baby is crying due to gas, milk protein allergy, reflux — that not colic.

    People have tried to change the terminology to the period of P.U.R.P.L.E crying with little success. However, I do find their educational material quite helpful: purplecrying.info For anyone with tinies or expecting them, I think it is evidence-based, accurate information.

    From the intertoobs: colic is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child between the ages of two weeks and four months. By contrast, infants normally cry an average of just over two hours a day, with the duration peaking at six weeks. Fewer than 5% of infants who cry excessively turn out to have an underlying organic disease.

    If the baby is crying from tummy troubles, one would expect that to happen with every feeding, morning and night, while colic tends to be almost always an afternoon/evening problem. There are some people who think it may be related to artificial light, as the few cultures who live without electricity don’t appear to have colicky babies. It may also have to do with the immaturity of the nervous system and a be a form of self-soothing. I really like Dr. Karp (happiest baby guru) take on the whole thing that it is related to babies needing a fourth trimester of development, but being unable to do that internally as our walking-upright-pelvis would not be able to birth their large heads if they gestated for 12 months.

    (This is not directed at Rhode, specifically, but just as a general bit of helpful medical information. Delivered with a smile).

  79. I have a whole diatribe to deliver on reflux, but my children are a destroying the house. I will say that well-controlled, invasive studies have shown that infants at 60 degree elevation (like in a car seat) will have MORE reflux than if they are flat on their backs. If the baby sleeps better in the car seat, it is likely due to the swaddling effect.

  80. Rhode, I didn’t realize you have to use special bottles. Hopefully he’ll get through this period quickly.

  81. Wow Ada, that’s a bit surprising and a bit distressing to me. I always kept my reflux baby elevated. But mine had mild reflux and we got it under control with losec.

    If you could share some links of studies showing that elevation increased reflux, can you share the links? I would love to share them with my reflux baby board on facebook.

  82. I’m just waiting for Finn to comment on “elevating” babies by setting their carrier on the table or a tall ladder, or maybe swinging from a hook on the ceiling. I know what y’all mean, but when I read Louise’s comment, late at night, my first thought was “what, you couldn’t set him on the floor?”

  83. It’s getting to where I don’t even need to make comments on things like elevating babies– someone else will notice the same things I do, and make the comments before I do. Rhett did this recently as well.

  84. DS would have liked to be elevated by cradle on a hook. However, knowing him, he would have made a racket if you brought him down.
    When Rhode mentioned all the relatives taking turns carrying baby Rhode, the same thing happened with us after a visit to home country. Three weeks later when DS returned to daycare – he would yell when he was put down so his teachers ended up carrying him a lot more than before. I kept in touch with his favorite teacher long after he was out of daycare. I am ever grateful to her.

  85. Come now! You all know that babies are elevated beings. It is us parents that need “elevation”.

  86. Dell — the studies on positioning and infants involve placing a pH probe at the GEJ (bottom of the esophagus) and monitoring number of events over a given time period. I understand that this used to be common practice for diagnosing reflux — there weren’t good medications, the treatment was surgical and you wanted to be sure before you took a baby to the OR. I suspect that these studies are not done so often anymore due to the fact that babies rarely get surgery for reflux – so invasive testing is not standard of care and therefore you can’t subject otherwise healthy babies to pH monitoring just for the sake of research.

    A good review paper:

    A more technical review paper:

    The studies that are most often cited for lack of benefit from wedge and car seat positioning are
    from Orenstein in the 80’s. As far as I can tell, these are not available online:

    Orenstein SR, Whitington PF, Orenstein DM. The infant seat as treatment for gastroesophageal reflux. New England Journal of Medicine. 1983;309(13):760–763.

    However, any quality source (UpToDate is always my favorite to recommend) will state unequivocally that positioning doesn’t work – and I trust they have read the papers. There is actually some evidence that positioning on one side (but not the other) helps, as does face down. But we all stopped talking about those options in the early 90s with “Back to Sleep.”

    The normal escalation of treatment for reflux (which is not particularly evidence based – but is mostly cost-based) is positioning –> food changes (for mom if breastfed, otherwise formula) –> h2 blockers (drugs that end in -tidine, like Zantac/ranitidine) —> PPIs (drugs that end in -azole, like Prilosec/omeprazole —> Surgery

    There is very poor evidence for any of these interventions. The only one that has reasonable support in the literature is use of a PPI. These are often “last resort” because they used to be crazy expensive, and they are still somewhat difficult to prepare (cannot be dissolved like most meds or they won’t work).

    I had three babies who were all voluminous spitters – several times per day, soaking my clothes and theirs. 2/3 were tiny. However, those two grew (little by little, stayed at the 5th percentile), met developmental milestones, and were generally happy. The third was average sized, grew fine, but was screaming if he wasn’t eating/sucking – not colic (as those babies are not comforted by food). Medication changed everything for us.

    I think like many things in medicine that experts are convinced work, but evidence hasn’t born out (steroids for back pain, for example), it may be a case of not understanding who to put in the study. If I had medicated all three of my children, only one would have had any significant changes, and we would might say that the medication doesn’t work better than placebo.

    Anyway, I could keep going, but I imagine everyone has stopped reading. I told you I had a whole thing on this…..

  87. I have had a baby with bad reflux and a baby with terrible colic. The baby with the reflux would cry, arch his back and look like he was in pain after he ate. Plus I could hear him refluxing (is that a word?). Things that we did: upright for 30 mins after eating; Prevacid (Zantac was worthless; if you end up with Prevacid, get the solutabs because the liquid isn’t very stable and breaks down easily); thickened his bottles. By 7-8 months it was substantially better. The baby with colic would just scream in the evenings for a few hours. It wasn’t tied to eating and nothing really helped but time. I learned to just deal with the crying and hold the baby in a carrier while I did other things. By 4-5 months, it was a lot better.

  88. Thanks for the tips on reflux. DH is going to talk to the pediatrician tomorrow. We are trying to pay more attention to his fussing and when it occurs (before/after feeds). It just seems like we had one game, and then the game changed.

    I’ve been back at work for 1.75 hours… and I have a mountain of stuff. And it scares me.

  89. Oh and I think it was Louise who said it might take me that much longer… I wanted to be at work for 8am, and got here at 8:15a. I call that a glorious win which will never be repeated.

  90. “It just seems like we had one game, and then the game changed.”
    Yup, that’s what happens, over and over. That’s why so many parents use the mantra “this too shall pass”. Good or bad, just as soon as you settle in and have a way to deal with things, your kid moves on to the next big thing. None of us mentioned it the other day, but your husband will be dealing with a bunch of stuff you don’t have answers too because you never saw it.

  91. Rhode’s mountain of stuff…No one expects you to get through it all today. You’ll be back in the swing of things soon, just don’t get stressed about it. Keep in mind how long it took to build that mountain and some of it may no longer be important.

  92. Rhode, hugs to you! Sorry I missed this. Feel free to email me if you have questions about preemies or fussy babies (our #1 was early and VERY fussy for 6 months). Or pumping! Good luck!

Comments are closed.