Mommy Lessons (on Parenting) What's the Difference?

How I Survived the First Three Weeks as a Mom of Two (part 1)

We made it past three weeks.  Surprisingly I have not lost my mind (yet).  I haven’t even really had a hormonal postpartum breakdown (yet), and I’m wondering if it’s really because it is easier the second time around, or because — I’m just not as hormonal?  Or maybe because my expectations have changed knowing what I know now.  Even the husband is surprised that the Cranky Bear has not appeared… yet.

Our status:  I am a little more than barely breathing.  Thank God that both my girls are healthy and no complications arose with the delivery or with my recovery, and we were able to get back into the swing of things right away.  All things considered of course —  I was (am) still healing, my husband was on a pseudo paternity leave / work-from-home arrangement and my mom was around to entertain Sam.  To be fair to Jamie, she doesn’t demand much of anything either — except milk, an immediate change of diapers when dirty (my kind of girl!) and a tight swaddle or a warm body to sleep next to.

The apartment has never been messier that’s for sure, and I constantly wish I had an extra pair of hands on me to be able to multitask at will.  I daydream about 2-hour body massages and long for a good pedicure.  Yet in spite of all of these and the increasing sleep deprivation, I still feel it is manageable.  I dare say I’m having a bit of fun with it too!

How did I make it still sane this far?  The following is a list of what I think helped:

1.  Hire a doula. Seriously, KK or a postpartum doula is the best decision a new mother can make.  It is 4 hours of bliss.

2.  Say YES to everyone that offers food. I have the most generous friends in Chapel Hill!  Most showed up at my door with  full (and really delicious – I kid you not) meals for me and my family, keeping us all well fed.  I have not cooked since I started stuffing things in my freezer a month ago, and I have not used those either.  So I still don’t need to cook!  THANK YOU to our friends who have spoiled us silly!

My Mommyology Peggle
I'm a Peggle Master! Beat my score!

3.  Play Peggle. Okay, this may need some explaining.  Peggle is another Pop Cap game my husband discovered on his PlayStation3 a few months ago.  He downloaded the trial version for me, saying that I would enjoy it.  I didn’t believe him at first but as it turned out, I did enjoy it — so much that I downloaded it onto my iPhone and have been playing it ever since. I can just sit and play while rocking Jamie to sleep.  Yes, dishes need to be done or emails need to be sent, but sometimes, Peggle is all you really can do! 😉 (Give me a break – I just gave birth!)

4.  Be Less Self-Conscious. With Sam, I was very shy about breastfeeding her in public (even with a breastfeeding cover), or even at home when guests would come to visit us.  Now though, I realized that a barrage of people have seen me at my worst (ie when I was in labor), and so breastfeeding with a nice floral cover over me isn’t so bad.  That, and we can’t stay home all the time as Sam will go stir-crazy on me.  So now I find myself breastfeeding Jamie outside McDonald’s, at the playground and all these other public places.  Sometimes to my horror, Sam lifts the breastfeeding cover because she wants to see her sister.  But after a moment of shame I laugh it off instead of getting fully embarrassed like I used to.  I have no desire to flash in public, but what can you do with a curious 2-year old and an infant in need of nourishment.

My Mommyology Crying Baby
Exercise those vocal chords!

5.  Toughen Up. Before we would jump the instant Sam would cry or whimper.  But I guess now we know better — they survive every crying spell (and hey, it makes their lungs stronger).  Sometimes crying helps them drink a full side of milk, and makes them tired enough that they also sleep better.  So now when I stick Jamie in her carseat and she protests, I don’t panic anymore.  She also has no choice in the matter, since we need to get from point A to point B and we can’t leave her at home alone.  Also, Jamie and Sam sometimes cry at the same time and so one of them will have to wait until I finish attending to the other.

I don’t let them cry it out though, I’m not that tough. 🙂  But the crying is now more tolerable after learning how to deal with it in the last two years.

To be continued…

ExperiMOMent For Expectant Mommies Mommy Discoveries

KK: My Favorite Baby Bible (part 2)

My favorite piece of trivia from KK our doula:  She can tell if a baby was born vaginally or via c-section just by changing their onesie.  “It’s because the act of putting the onesie over and through the baby’s head reminds them of their passage through the birth canal, and it is traumatizing enough to make them cry,” she says. “Babies born via c-section don’t have that same sensation, so more often than not they won’t react when a onesie goes over their head.”

To continue the post about some of the things I’ve learned from KK, here are a few more snippets from the conversations we’ve had.

My Mommyology Swaddling Babies
DUDU -- the acronym for the proper swaddle according to Dr Harvey Karp.

On Swaddling and Soothing and all those other S’s. KK lent us the DVD of Dr. Harvy Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block to teach us about the 5 S’s as to how to soothe babies, colicky or not.  Swaddling in particular was something we learned wasn’t bad or constricting, and after two girls we’ve learned to appreciate its value.

  • Use 40″ x 40″ swaddle blankets (in Manila the pranela tela is best) for best fit.
  • White noise — because it sounds like the mom’s digestive system — helps soothe them too.  So bathroom vents, kitchen vents, hairdryers on cool… yes they all work.
  • There is no such thing as holding a baby too much in the first 3 months.  We Filipinos particularly believe that we shouldn’t get them used to being held or carried too much as it will make our lives harder in the long run (and another book did say you should start as you mean to go along), but KK says in the first three months, babies need to be held as much as possible, so that they feel most secure.
  • Following the previous point, KK likes to wear babies.  By putting them to your chest, they learn to regulate their heartbeat in tune with yours.  That, and you have both hands free to do other things, too (which is how she gets everything done in 4 hours).  Of all the wraps she’s tried, KK is an advocate of the Baby K’tan wrap, and has taught me how to use it.  I am now re-considering my decision to actually get one for me.
  • As tightly as you swaddle them to put them to sleep, you must unswaddle them to wake them up to breastfeed, otherwise you may not get a fully awake baby and they will fall asleep in the middle of feedings.

My Mommyology - siblings
Borrowed photo of siblings from

On Sibling Integration. KK has recently talked to me about managing the older sibling (and the new addition to the family), given our current situation.  “Imagine what it’s like,” she says, “if all your life it was about you, and then suddenly everyone is talking to you all excited about your new role as a big sister.  Day in and day out, that’s all you hear.  It can get pretty tiring.” That’s precisely why when she comes, we focus on me spending time with Sam as Sam, just doing her own thing, without any concern for Jamie.  She’s old enough to understand something different’s going on, but also still young enough to need attention that is just about her and no one else.

“It’s like a husband telling his wife — I love you so much and you make me so so happy, that I want another wife.  She’ll come home here, and you have to accept her and share me with her.  How would you feel if he did that to you?   In a way, that’s what you’re telling Sam with respect to Jamie.”

KK also says even from the beginning, it’s important to show both children that they are both important, and as such each one will have to wait their turn to get the proper attention they need.  “That’s not always easy to do, especially since the younger one can only cry.  But eventually they’ll learn.” I think this statement of hers makes me less frantic when I hear Jamie cry and I’m attending to Sam.  After all, when I’m attending to Jamie and Sam is crying, she too has to wait.

For all these and more, I am glad we have KK in our lives.  I could go on, but I think half of the learning is to actually work with her.  So if you do get the chance I would definitely tell you to go for it.  Her or other doulas like her who actually care for your family beyond their “scope of work” as we would say in the working world, can make all the difference.

KK is moving to Virginia later this year to be with her daughter and first grandchild, and will continue practicing her doula services there.  So those of you who will be near her, do look her up!

ExperiMOMent For Expectant Mommies Mommy Discoveries Mommy Lessons (on Parenting)

KK: My Favorite Baby Bible (part 1)

Once again, KK is back in our lives. 🙂

I talked about KK briefly in a post about doulas and how she was a big big (BIG) help to us when Sam was born.  Naturally with Jamie, I jumped at the chance to work with her again, and specifically asked for her with Marcia of Triangle Mothercare.  While I’m sure Marcia’s doulas are all well-trained and highly capable, I probably wouldn’t have agreed to a contract if it wasn’t going to be KK.  It is always a treat to have her here.  Now I’m glad that Sam has taken to her too, even if we’re sure she doesn’t remember KK from way back when.

Apart from the physical help KK provides such as laundry, cooking (yummy yummy food!), picking up after Sam and of course, caring for Jamie so that I can get some rest, she takes time to teach me about newborn care.  One of the things I love about her is that she’s always reading up to keep herself and her techniques current, and “experimenting” on her theories as well (which is what My Mommyology is all about if you think about it). Actually KK has a lot of subjects to experiment with since she does this all for a living and can refine her theories as she goes along.  So I tend to believe her and do what she says.

Here are some of the lessons and tips she’s shared with me, both old (circa 2008) and new.  I have my own opinions about some of them and feel free to share yours as well based on your own observations and experiences!  (I will go ahead and divide this post into two parts so that we don’t risk information overload).

My Mommyology 90-Min Sleep Program
One of the books I learned from KK

On Natural Rhythms. KK introduced the 90-minute Sleep Program book to me when I was having trouble with Sam’s sleep patterns, and as I’ve mentioned in my sleep-training posts it did help us a lot.  KK operates around the babies’ natural rhythm to help you form a schedule that is doable for both the baby and the mom.

She says she has recently learned that newborns aren’t built with the 90-minute cycle yet, but actually start out with 30-minute cycles, that build to 45-minutes and then eventually get to 90-minutes as they reach 3-4 months.  So the challenge, she tells me, is getting a full feeding into the awake period of the 30-minutes, as well as a diaper change before the newborn falls asleep again.  Otherwise, another 30-minute cycle starts up and the baby may be tired but won’t be able to fall asleep, and that will result in major crying.  Eventually she says by following their natural rhythms, you can “schedule” (the term is used loosely since we still have to be flexible as newborns aren’t robots) feedings every 2-3 hours and know that between that, it’s about helping them get to sleep.

My Mommyology is Pro-breastfeeding
Doulas are pro-breastfeeding.

On Breastfeeding. One of the primary roles a doula takes on is to first and foremost establish a good foundation for breastfeeding.  I remember KK walking into the house three years ago with so much literature it made my Mommy mush brain (that’s what she fondly calls moms’ brains after they’ve given birth) spin.  Eventually though, it all made sense.  Here are some of the ones helpful to me:

  • There is nothing that cannot be cured by breastmilk (sore cracked nipples, a clogged baby tearduct and dry lips are a few of them — I know this for a fact).
  • Breastmilk trivia:  KK told me about this experiment where they put two petri dishes of breastmilk, one as a control and the other inoculated with bacteria.  After a certain amount of time, they discovered that both dishes were bacteria-free.
  • To build the milk supply, use the first three weeks for the baby to feed exclusively from you (ie no bottle-feeding).  If you need to pump, do it to express excess milk and keep the flow going but not to feed the baby just yet.
  • Babies will drink about 30% more breastmilk from you than any pump can express.
  • It’s important to shift the baby’s position during one full feeding on one side (from the traditional hold to the football hold for instance), so that you work all the milk ducts and they all continue to produce milk.  The ducts that are working the hardest while feeding are the ones where the baby’s chin points towards.  (Okay try to imagine this, and if you are breastfeeding try to observe it as well — the milk “let down” has a different sensation for both holds).
  • When burping the baby, an option is to hold them on your right arm slightly upright and turned towards you.  This gives their stomach a little bit more room to get the milk down and the air bubbles out and up, without much spit-up.  Holding them upright as often as possible also prevents them from developing reflux.

There’s more to be learned from KK!  Coming soon. 🙂

For Expectant Mommies Mommy Discoveries My Mommyology Recommends

The Doula Discovery

My Mommyology Doula Discovery
Very apt photo of what a Doula can do for you (and your baby).

In light of this second pregnancy, one of the pertinent thoughts in my head is the need for a Doula.  Up until coming to Chapel Hill in 2008, I had never even heard of the term.  Now with March drawing closer, she is one of the people I can’t stop thinking about.

In Manila there is no need for a Doula, because you have extended family, friends, and household help (maids) and yayas that are there from the time you are pregnant, up to 10 years after.  Plus you have very strict rules in hospitals when it comes to the birthing procedures.  Here, extended family members sometimes have to fly over as needed, and not many have household help that stay in their homes 24-7.  I don’t know about other cities, but specifically at the UNC Midwives practice at the UNC Women’s Hospital, they are very supportive of alternative birth partners.  (Side note: I’d have to say I think my husband should be the only other person in the labor room with me, other than the necessary medical staff of course.  AFTER though at home, a doula is My Mommyology heaven).

In our area I found Triangle Mothercare, which caters to postpartum care for new moms.  They sent us KK, and she was (is!) an absolute angel.

My Mommyology Triangle Mothercare Doulas
KK is 2nd from the left, first row. THANK YOU Triangle Mothercare!

Each time she came, I had 4 hours of happy bliss.  She would arrive at 8:30AM, get Sam from me, and then I would disappear into the room to shower and sleep.  She’d only wake me if Sam needed to be breastfed, or if not, then I could sleep until she left at 12:30nn, just in time for lunch.  By some miracle, when I’d wake up, I’d find the laundry had been done and folded, the room tidied up, a complete meal on the table (that would last me and my husband maybe about 3 meals in total), and the baby snoring peacefully in her Pack ‘n Play.

But more than that, KK was (is!) one of the kindest souls I’ve ever met.  I learned so much from her too, that no book nor any other person has told me about caring for a newborn, information she culled from her vast experience as a Doula. Priceless really.  Beyond our contract, she also stayed in touch via email and would make social visits every now and then to see how we were.  She became family to us here and I absolutely loved it.

I’ve already confirmed KK for March, and I am quite excited to have her back in our weekly routine!