Monday, December 10, 2012

What I Know With My Second Child, That I Wish I'd Known With My First

I'm excited to be a part of a campaign through Comforts for Baby: What do I know now that I have two kids that I wish I'd known when I had my first. I don't share advice on parenting often because I firmly believe that every new parent has to find what's right for them and their family, and far be it for little old Emily in Colorado to know what's right for you and your family. But here are a few things that work for us - many of which we discovered now that we have our second baby.

At the top of my list? Don't compare kiddos. Thomas was an expert the point where B and I thought we were just great parents who established solid sleep patterns with him from the beginning. So we didn't give a seconds thought to packing up our car and heading to the hospital at 2 am on a Monday morning when I was in labor with Nell...we'll have a sleepless 24 hours and then we'll have our baby and we'll all be sleeping like we were before within a month. Wrong. Every baby is different. I knew this in theory, but with Nell I know it through practice. They sleep differently. They're awake differently. They interact with us differently. And this doesn't just go for siblings – don't compare your baby to your friend's baby. They'll all grow at different rates, they'll all reach milestones at different ages. And most likely? They're all perfectly healthy and normal and doing things when it's right for them. Because every baby is different. We have good friends who have a son who is one month older than Thomas. Their son outweighed Thomas by a good 10 pounds their entire first year of life, and he met his gross motor milestones what seemed like ages before Thomas did. And now? Thomas has about an inch on him, they weigh the same, and we can't stop either one of them from running, jumping and catapulting themselves off of everything. Don't compare babies.

Another tool I've added to my parenting arsenal is "baby wearing". I wasn't a baby wearer with Thomas, in fact, I still don't consider myself a baby wearer in a lifestyle sense, but I wear Nell a lot. I love having my hands free to help Thomas, and I love having Nell right up next to me. I bought a structured soft carrier when Thomas was 4 months old that I truly only used when taking the stroller was a hassle or when we were hiking or snowshoeing. I ended up buying a wrap shortly before my due date with Nell knowing that my hands wouldn't be free to just hold the baby all the time, and I used that daily from the day we brought her home until she was 2 months, and then sporadically after the 2 month mark. We borrowed an infant insert from our friends for our soft structured carrier and it was a great help from about 2 - 4 months when the wrap started to feel less supportive of her growing weight, and now that she's almost 6 months, we've been enjoying the soft structured carrier on its own. I can discretely breastfeed while wearing Nell, and we can get out and do more than I could if Nell was constantly in my arms. I think it's important for new moms to try these carriers out - there are lots of boutique baby stores that carry lots of different brands and styles, and they are happy to help you find the right fit, and will let you return the carrier if it doesn't feel right when you get it home.

And finally, let's talk breastfeeding. Before Thomas was born, my cousin asked me if I was ready to breastfeed and emphatically answered yes, and was surprised when she told me it was really hard. How hard could it be? I'm so glad she warned me because if I'd been thinking it was all sunshine and puppy dogs, I wouldn't have persevered. It can be hard. I really struggled to nurse Thomas. He didn't have a great latch and I had no clue what I was doing. It was painful. We both cried at the end (or sometimes at the beginning) of pretty much every nursing session for the first few weeks. I was pumping after every feeding to increase my milk supply, I was using an SNS tube while nursing to help him gain wait. It was a lot of work and it was really hard.

We went to see a lactation consultant after two weeks of tearful feedings and Thomas going on a nursing strike and she said to me, "There are two rules to breastfeeding. You need to feed the baby, and then you need to enjoy feeding the baby. If you can't feed the baby by exclusively breastfeeding, then you need to find an alternative. And if you aren't enjoying feeding the baby while breastfeeding, then you need to find an alternative. I want you to be successful with breastfeeding, but not at the sake of his health or your sanity." I didn't need to find an alternative, things fell into place quickly after that with a lot of help from the lactation consultant (I joke that I lived at the l.c.'s office for Thomas's first month of life), and Thomas hit his growth milestones so we didn't need to supplement anymore and my milk supply started to meet his needs, but it was the most refreshing thing anyone had ever said to me. I share that tidbit with every one of my new mom friends. Number one: Feed the baby. Number two: Enjoy feeding the baby. If both of those things aren't happening, get help or find an alternative.

Oh, and the second time around? Breastfeeding is so much easier - I knew what I was doing so it was just a matter of Nell learning how it works, and the nursing pain only lasted about two weeks instead of six with Thomas, and my milk supply seems to be better. Just throwing that out there: Thomas needed formula supplements in his first two weeks to grow, and the world did not end. And Nell didn't need supplements. Every baby is different.

So that's what I know. Unless you want to consider that hypothetically last week I realized I should carry a lightweight blanket and a change of clothes in my diaper bag at all times. Because I hypothetically hanged Nell on my purse the floor of a bathroom and returned her to our table at a local restaurant in just a clean diaper in early December because I didn't remember a change of clothes. Nope, that didn't happen to me just last week.

We moms have to stick together and support each other - especially in the first year of our baby's lives while we're all figuring things out. What's the one tip that has changed your outlook on parenting or made your life easier?

Share your tips below and the first 350 to reply will receive Comforts For Baby coupons for products like diapers, wipes, and formula.

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Comforts For Baby. The opinions and text are all mine.