Mommy Lessons (on Parenting)

6 Ways To Build Harmonious Sibling Relationships Amongst Toddlers

It is the first Friday of May! 

Check out the guest post at Green Eggs and Moms on Sibling Relationships.  But first, here’s a little “history” behind the post.

My Mommyology
The girls "sharing" and taking turns at the Piano.

I love it when siblings are the best of friends (Ahem!  A special shout out to my own who are reading this right now! 😉 ).  I know of a few people who have this relationship with one or two of their very own siblings and I find it absolutely priceless.  It is always a treat to see them interact.

I’ve often wondered how that came to be, particularly now that I have two girls of my own that are close in age.  I wish there was a handbook or a set of instructions I could just read and follow!  Of course as parents, we know that there is no such thing!  So we try — I try and experiment and dance on my head — at the very least I hope that what I am doing for the girls and with them will make them love each other unconditionally and have each others’ backs for life.

So far, I’ve come up with a short list of what’s worked for us over the last thirteen months.  I am happy to share them with you in the hopes that you can use and adjust them according to your children’s sibling (or cousin or close friends) dynamics to make it best work for you.

Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments and insights on the matter.  I’d love to learn from your experiences too!

Click here to read more.

Mommies of Newborns My Mommyology Wants to Help

Breastfeeding Again

My Mommyology Blushing, Flattered
This actually looks like me! 😉

I wanted to share an exchange an old friend of mine and I had a couple of weeks ago.  She is currently pregnant with her second baby and had some questions on breastfeeding.  While I am no lactation consultant or an expert in any way on this topic, nor do I claim to be, I felt that maybe somehow sharing this can help others in similar situations as well.

As with all other parts on this blog, feel free to collect, select and reject as you deem fit for your specific situation.  That said, I will have to admit I am still flattered that other moms out there would like to hear my opinion.  So thank you for that!

In the interest of privacy, names not already mentioned in this blog have been left out.

My Friend:  I was wondering how you manage to fully breastfeed, especially now that you have Sam to take care ofI actually don’t know how or where to start, because with my firstborn, So many things happened in his 1st month and in the end I wasn’t able to fully breastfeed him, so I resorted to mixed feeding instead.  I was heartbroken because I really wanted to breastfeed him.  Now with this baby I want to try again, but I don’t know what to do or how to start.  Can you give me tips on pumping, which side to start on and the like?  Thank you!

My Mommyology (in my limited experience and humble opinion):

First of all I think it begins with the commitment to do it, above all else.  Breastfeeding takes priority over dishes, laundry, or sometimes even sleep (I don’t sleep until after I’m able to pump milk, regardless of what time it is).   I made that clear to everyone, especially Sam and so far thankfully, she understands its importance.  From the very beginning, anytime Jamie needed to nurse, playtime would stop.  Of course I let her be curious and stay beside me or join in the cuddle, just to make her feel included and involved.

A tip from the midwives:  Keep a basket of stickers, toys or snacks that are ONLY for when you breastfeed, so that the older child knows how special and important it is.

Also in the first three weeks building supply was critical.  I was encouraged to feed both girls directly from me, and introduce the bottle after the third week only (If I really wanted to).  With Jamie, I was able to start pumping though after my 2nd week, but I would really only pump to “trick” my body into producing more (Also, I was worried I’d get sick and wouldn’t be able to feed, so I built a frozen stash in the freezer that falls on my husband whenever he opens it). 

I would start feeding on one side (say the left first) for at least 15 minutes, massaging around the area all the way from under the armpits forward.  After she’d burp, I’d put her on the other side (the right) for hopefully another 15 minutes.  Otherwise, I’d drain the right side with the pump.  On the next feeding, I start with the right and do the same thing all over again.

It’s important not to get discouraged when you pump and see very little milk come out.  For me, I had to keep at it, and fight through the pain, and eventually a steady flow would come each time.  You don’t necessarily need to pump all the time, but draining milk regularly will signal your body to produce more.

My Mommyology Malunggay Supplements
Pro-Lacta is the brand I use. Depending on your supply, you can take up to 3 300mg a day, but better consult with your OB!

Other things that helped build milk supply were the daily intake of malunggay (Or Moringa) supplements, eating meals with clear soup and lots of rice (it doesn’t help the figure, but oh well) and drinking more than 8 glasses of water a day.

Some people schedule the feedings and “force feed” their babies to regulate milk production, but I’d have to say that didn’t work with Jamie!  She was more of an on-demand feeder so my milk supply was up and down for awhile, and I had to pump out as much as I could.

My friend The Painter’s Wife has several articles on her website on breastfeeding and is also promoting an on-going campaign in Manila called LATCH.

At the end of the day, after all that’s said and done, I will say this:  if you end up having to mix-feed or formula-feed in spite of all your best efforts, especially with a toddler by your side, then there’s nothing wrong with that either (In my humble opinion at least.  I had to say it, because I feel it’s not said enough).  A lot of babies turn out perfectly fine either way!

If you have any additional tips and advice that you’d like to share for others to learn from, please feel free to do so!  

Mommies of Newborns Mommy Anecdotes

Packing for an Infant and a Toddler (and Then Some)

Why is it that when we take a vacation with the kids, it feels like I’m packing half the house to take with us?  Do you feel that way too?

My Mommyology Packing
Thank you to my best friend @Missusbig for the uber fitting photo!

We recently went on a three-day beach trip with the girls and some family members, and that’s precisely how I felt.  Here’s a list of some of the answers that I came up with:

1.  Because baby things are bulky.  Diapers alone for a 3-day trip will take up a third of the suitcase.  Not to mention if you a bring changing pad (like me), cotton balls and wipes (like me!)  a ton of burp cloths (like me), and a towel for each child per day out (oh let’s see… yes I do that too!), then it definitely fills up FAST.

That’s just the “changing and cleaning” department.  I also packed a breastpump and some bottles.  I tried to cut back by not bringing a sterilizer or a bottle warmer, because Jamie would be with me the whole time anyway, and so I really just needed to pump and dump.  I could sterilize when I got home.

Of course, with Jamie at 4-months, I wasn’t just about to bathe her anywhere.  So we packed her bathtub.  And her bouncy chair, since again, I wasn’t about to sit her just anywhere.  I also didn’t want to always have to carry her, so the stroller and the sling also came with us.  (Thank goodness the girls sleep with us.  At least we didn’t have to bring the Pack n Play!)

2.   You prepare for the worst.  The thermometer, the infant Tylenol, the saline spray and aspirator, the Lysol on-the-go, the Tide Stain Release on-the-go, medicines for rashes, itchiness, cuts, bruises, band-aids, anti-bacterial cream, vitamins… the list goes on.  Each child has their own grooming kit, set of toiletries and set of medicines.  In addition to what is packed in the suitcase, I also always bring an “instant kit” in the day bag, coupled with miniature toiletries (baby wash, lotion, cotton balls, toothpaste and toothbrush), only because if we have an unforeseen accident, then I don’t have to pull out the entire suitcase to get us all cleaned up.

3.  Like me, you don’t trust the disinfecting abilities of the staff that cleans the place before you arrive.  So I bring our own Lysol Wipes, spray, alcohol, paper towels, plastic bags… the list goes on.  My husband said that to save on clothes, we could use the washer dryer found in the unit that we were renting.  I gave him a pointed look, because a) I didn’t want to be doing laundry on my vacation, and b) Knowing that someone else may have put God-knows-what in there before me, I would have cleaned and disinfected both first before I ended up using it.  Then I would have packed our own laundry tools as well — forget it!

4.  You can’t trust a toddler (or an infant) to keep their outfits clean all day / all night.  For Jamie, it was more of a concern of spit ups and sweat than anything else, and boy did she do a lot of both!  For Sam, well she is a toddler and that in itself says she will get sweaty, sticky, sandy, and over-all messy!  Plus in terms of swimsuits, Sam is like me: if it’s wet or damp the next time we put it on, we don’t want to wear it again.  So I had to bring several swimsuits for her, since I anticipated she would be going back and forth to the beach all day.  Even if Sam didn’t need diapers, sometimes in all her excitement she’d forget she’d need a bathroom, and so I did have to bring more than enough underwear for her.

5.  No matter where we are, we must keep some semblance of familiarity.  The toys, the books, the comfort blankets and pillows — they all make the trip with us.  Rationalizing and selecting which ones to take also takes time, and naturally Sam would want to bring everyone, even the small ones that can potentially get lost and cause me a lot of stress.  There’s a set for the beach, a set for the car and a set for the hotel room too.  Then I bring the Your Baby Can Read videos of Jamie and Sam’s Kumon homework — because we definitely can’t skip a day for these things (Oh no, I sound like Amy Chua!).

Add in the gadgets and gizmos to record every moment of the weekend (Camera, phones, computers, tripods), some of the general beach things (blanket, umbrella, folding chairs, cooler), maybe a couple of canned goods (because what if the kids don’t like the food?  That’s another headache altogether), snacks for the trip  — and maybe, you’re just about ready.  Doesn’t it make your head spin?!

Then again, I always say — it’s better to overpack.  There are more options for them, thereby decreasing incidences of tantrums, whines, and boredom, and somehow giving it a semblance of a vacation for you.  That is me (us – since my husband has to endure my neurotic behavior when it comes to these packing situations) on a summer trip.  Packing for a trip in the wintertime…? oh boy.  I’ve done it with one — let’s see how we fare the next time around with two!

The funny thing was we were about to leave that morning for the beach and my husband started loading the things in the car, only to realize he had not packed his things yet.

I began this post by creating a checklist for future reference, and then realized days later (as I was unpacking everything away from the trip), that I had this somewhere in the back part of our guest room:

My Mommyology checklist
I love the last statement: Getting out of the house in two hours. Ha!

Oh epidural.  What have you done to my brain?!

Mommy Anecdotes Mommy Miscellaneous

The Sugar High

Lately Sam has been more vocal about her wants for sweets and junk food.  The junk food I will blame on her father (and one of her godfathers who stayed with us for 7 weeks) who has a regular stash of Pringles that Sam is now tall enough to reach for and open, in spite of my protests.  The sweets….well, okay.  It’s both our faults since we both have a sweet tooth (Of course Mom isn’t solely to blame! ;))

I’ve been trying to control Sam’s intake of sweets since she learned about them.  She’s still not allowed to eat candies or chocolates.  Occasionally she can have a sliver of some cake or bites of a cupcake, maybe a cookie or two depending on the kind (and how much sugar is on it), or a few spoonfuls of ice cream (with sprinkles).  Mostly I worry about two things:  that she develop cavities early on, and that she acquire diabetes (since it runs in the family).  Thankfully that little bit of strictness has paid off and she doesn’t really crave for sweets a lot.

A third reason would be that her sugar highs hit almost instantaneously; and when they do the poor thing doesn’t know what to do with herself!

My Mommyology Blondie Bar
Extremely yummy, if I do say so myself.

Take yesterday, for instance.  We had our usual after-nap family Sunday outing at BuyBuyBaby and Barnes & Noble; the latter stop at Sam’s request.  Naturally the hungry cow that I am went straight for the cafe and ordered a sandwich and a blondie bar with some M&Ms (aka Blondie Blast).  I said that I’d share a little of it with Sam since she’d been extra obedient this past weekend, and because I know she likes eating anything colorful (read: anything with M&Ms or sprinkles on themShe says it’s like eating a rainbow).  Of course the deal we made was that she had to share my sandwich  and then she’d get her “sur-prize” dessert after.  Now with me, she knows that a deal is a deal, and so she agreed.

In the middle of our meal, Jamie decides to do her business, and so I leave Sam and the food in Dad’s care.  I debriefed him on our deal and left.

Seven minutes later I’m back at the table and the Blondie Blast is out and practically gone.  One look at Sam’s smeared face, stuffed mouth and even more colorful smile (“Look Mom!  M&M cake!”), it was obvious as to where it went.

“Did you let her eat that all?!”  I asked horrified.

Daddy the enabler nodded eagerly and amused.  “She really likes it!  It’s good!”  was his reply.  (Thought bubble:  Of COURSE it’s good — it’s a blondie bar with m&m’s!!!) He said that the minute she saw it she dropped her pesto with chicken and bread and opted to eat that instead. (Exasperated thought bubble: Now WHO in their right mind wouldn’t do that?!)

Here’s the thing:  When Sam likes what she’s eating, there’s no stopping her.  She will use both hands and stuff large chunks of food in her mouth and is admittedly, quite a delight to watch.  It is a sight Daddy loves to see, which only meant:  the deal with mom went out the window and got run over by the cars on the street.

Oh dear Lord.  That was at least 250 calories!!!  Toddlers their age I’m told should only have 800-1000 calories a day, so an entire Blondie Blast would have covered 30% of what she’d need.

And then it hit.  The sugar high.

Sam’s voice went up 3 decibels, and she went on and on and on, speaking gibberish, singing nonsense and squealing at anything that moved.  She was also extra hard to catch, as I saw Dad struggling with Jamie in one arm and dragging Sam with the other, looking for me (I had gone book-shopping, heehee).  She wanted to go everywhere and nowhere at once, and was whinier than ever when it was time to leave.  Sugar highs make it harder for kids to listen to their parents — as if it’s not hard enough on a regular basis!

Thankfully with a lot of water and some milk and a banana in her, the sugar high dropped and exhaustion hit.  There were no arguments about going straight into our bedtime routine, and there were no tantrums either.  I didn’t offer her any more dinner either.  And in retrospect, I didn’t get ANY of the dessert that we were supposed to “share”!  Hmph.

The Moral of the Story:  Dads can’t be trusted with blondies. 😉

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

Eating My Words: Things I Said I Wouldn’t Do But Ended Up Doing Anyway

The saying “having a baby changes everything“, actually means, “what you thought and planned out for you and your child(ren) will not happen that way.  At all.”  It also means, “You + your child + the world around you = chaos.  It’s inevitable.”  You’d initially think and rationalize that the rules you set or the boundaries you’ve put — they’re not too much to ask, right?  Rrrrright.

You rationalize – they’re reasonable.  And you know that nothing will change your mind about it since you’ve thought it through.  Oh-ho-ho-ho!  Think again.

Sometimes, you’d even come up with a contingency scenario as your “compromise”.  But that doesn’t work out the way you’d expect either (at least in my experience!).

Here are some examples of my I said I’d never moments — and the reality that transpired.  Yes, laugh all you want.

My Mommyology Traveling with a Newborn
Yes. Pretty much that -- and half the house.

1.  I’d never travel long distances with a newborn.  I didn’t want to because I was worried about all the things I’d have to pack for the trip.  That, and here you cannot remove your infant from the carseat while the car is moving.  So tough luck to you all if they’re screaming their lungs out.  Of course the other fact was that I just wanted to hibernate for two months (Sam was born in the winter too so it was perfect to act like a bear and hide until it got warmer). 

But somewhere somehow, I agreed to a 2.5 hour drive down to Virginia to visit some relatives for the New Year.  Sam was 4 weeks old then. I did pack the whole house with us.  And the trip took 4 hours in total each way, with all the stopping we did because of the crying and the diaper changes.

2.  I’d never fly long distances twice in one year.  Okay this rule came about after we flew home to Manila in June 2009.  I was up for the whole 33 hours it took from our home in Chapel Hill, to our home in the Philippines.  The trip with a very light sleeper of a baby was exhausting to say the least.  To top it off:  Sam was jetlagged for over a week.  Coming back, it was the same thing.  So I laid the ground rules:  1 major trip back home per year at the very least.

And then 5 months later we flew home for Christmas.

3.  I’d never move house right before or after giving birth.  Wahahahaha.  Click the link to the post and find out why.

4.  I’d never bring a newborn into the public restrooms.  Oh boy.  First of all, I would have preferred to hibernate (again) after I gave birth to Jamie, but Sam made that impossible.  Keeping her routine meant that we would be out a lot as well.  As most moms of two’s tell me, that is the case with them too.  With the first, you can dictate your schedule.  With the second, your eldest dictates your schedule.

Then there’s the part where up until her two month check-up Jamie had not yet received her vaccines.  So family restrooms with lots of germs plus new baby with no vaccines equals terrified, incredibly paranoid mother.

But I had no choice in the matter, especially when it was just me and the girls.  Naturally both would be in the restrooms with me.  And one of them was always in need of a potty or a diaper change.  So I took a deep breath, decided that what wouldn’t kill them could only make them stronger, and in we went.

5. I’d never expose my newborn to a lot of kids if she hadn’t yet gotten her vaccines.  With Sam, that was easy to do.  Obviously, we weren’t attending school or playgroups.  Not the case with Jamie.  She was two weeks old when she came with me to pick up her sister from school.  Of course, she sparked the curiousity of all the kids and the moms there too.  All moms know that school children are the prime carriers of germs and bacteria, and so when one mom saw me with the carseat in hand, she said, “boy, you’re brave to bring her here this early!”  Of course each time I did I’d hold my breath and mutter a prayer that Jamie wouldn’t catch anything and thankfully she never did.

In any case, as her pediatrician pointed out, Jamie lives in a home with a toddler, who is herself a carrier of all these germs, and yet so lovingly touches her and kisses her and sleeps beside her, clean or not.  There’s no way to avoid it.

My Mommyology Dora Umbrella
Yes, we have a Dora umbrella in the car.

6.  No newborns out of the house when it’s raining.  The points above coupled with the most recent unpredictable weather are the reasons why I couldn’t stick to this “rule”.

7.  No infants, toddlers or newborns with me while I get myself “pampered”.  Let me tell you though, a lot of the facilities here will allow you to bring your child(ren) with you and will make sure your treatment schedule incorporates a certain amount of interruptions.  I once scheduled a postpartum massage for myself and the therapist asked me if I’d be bringing Sam along, so she could prepare a spot.  I said no, who’d want an infant around while trying to relax?

Jamie on the other hand, goes with me everywhere.  We drop off Sam at school, and then head over to my appointments.  She peers up at me through the hole in my massage chair when I lie face down for my treatments.  She falls asleep to the whizzing sound of the instruments at my dental appointment.  And she is coming with me again next week to the salon.  I think to myself — at least I only have one child with me at the time, not two.

So there you have it.  Never say never?

Or better yet:  OC about certain things?  When the kids arrive, throw it out with the kitchen sink.

Over all it’s not so bad, it’s just… different from what I expected.  It just takes a little adjustment in one’s perspective and all seems “normal” in the world again.  Now I’m quite used to it and again just charge everything to experience.  I’m sure there will be many more instances to come where my “I’d never” will turn into an “Oh well.”  Looking at it from a big picture point-of-view, the kids seem alright, and I haven’t lost (much) of my marbles.  Yet.

Oh well. 🙂