Archive for the ‘Erin Burt’ Category

The Baby Advice That Didn’t Work Out

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

dscn2555Through my three kids, I have gotten baby advice from everyone. When I was a new mom, I totally took it all. I had no confidence in my ability to discern what was best for my family, and having a colicky baby didn’t do anything to instill my confidence. Plus, the PPD I suffered with her just confirmed that I had it all wrong: I was a terrible mom, and that’s why she cried and I was miserable.

It’s funny to look back at what didn’t work–and why.

Babywise: This book is a strict scheduling solution that will have your baby sleeping through the night by 6 weeks! Or, so everyone who has every used it will claim. It great if you hate things like: holding baby, soothing baby, feeding baby, and ignoring your instincts in favor of a stranger’s. I was made to feel like I was cheating if I fed my 2-week-old before the required 3-hour cycle began, so my milk supply–and my sanity–suffered.

Feed that baby! She’s hungry! Great advice given to us on a plane by a total stranger, because she was screaming during take off and right after being nursed. I said she didn’t need it, and my husband said we should, because the leering eyeballs were getting to be a bit much for us to take as new parents. And so we got out some formula and fed her. And she threw up all over me. The Baby Whisperer didn’t have any more helpful suggestions for us after that.

She needs a pacifier! The pimply-faced teen ringing me up at Target had some strong opinions on why my second child was crying in the checkout line. I am sure he had lots of experience with babies, but as it turned out, my thumb sucker who would also refuse the bottle and every single brand of paci, ever,  hated the stroller with a passion. Being that she was a month old, we didn’t know this yet. Once I started using my sling, she was happy as a clam and rarely cried on shopping trips.

You need to bathe your baby soon. This gem was given to us in the recovery room after my second baby was born. I refused the hospital bath because I just didn’t want her taken from us any more than necessary. I was told that she would “feel gross” just like I do if I go a day without a bath. Well, that notion has since been disproven. In fact, sparing baby from that bath helps her absorb all that beneficial bacteria she got during the birth process, which boosts the immune system! And, today we know that bathing babies daily could also lead to skin problems such as dry spots. Today, the American Academy of Dermatology agrees that a bath once or twice a week is plenty for most kids unless they are extraordinarily dirty. I mean, sure that research wouldn’t come out for four more years after she was born, but score one for motherly intuition (and a fear of slippery newborns.)

Put some socks on that baby! Oh, we tried, lady. Have you seen how long and skinny this child’s feet are? I only have the right foot of every pair of socks my first baby owned. Today, my 3-year-old loves to sleep fully covered–with her feet sticking out of the bottom. And no one died of hypothermia. So strange.

She won’t ever learn to walk! My third child practically lived in the Ergo. As a stay at home mom who needed both hands everywhere I went to keep my two other children alive, the stroller just wasn’t a reliable option since the older kids could, and often did wiggle out. I could also nurse in the carrier, and my baby could nap on my chest or back easily. Strangely, she did learn to walk right on time, at about 11 months. Crazy!

Baby Advice that Did Help: 

I noticed one common thread among all the baby advice I did get that helped: It was never someone telling me a specific way of doing things. The baby advice that did help was something that fit in my toolbox. Like the 5 S’s. Or how to swaddle with any blanket. Or learning about wonder weeks. Or cluster feeding. The baby advice that worked wasn’t really baby advice at all: it was other moms passing on actual knowledge that helped me how to figure out the rest on my own. Having three kids taught me that every baby is so different that no one is ever going to be able to write some book and unlock all the secrets. I did things differently from child to child in my own family–babies who were genetically similar and raised in the same home with the same parenting style! So it’s just madness to think any book is going to contain all the answers.

If you are looking for answers on your parenting journey, seek wisdom and not simply advice. Listen for things you can put in your toolbox, and then one day you’ll be able to share those tools with other new moms who are finding their way, too.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City. 

The Best Infographics for Understanding Infants

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

Being a mom is hard when your kids are fully verbal and can tell you exactly what they need, so when you meet a friend or someone in your family has just had their first, you have a whole new appreciation for how hard that stage is. Even harder than the stage is all the crappy advice you get from other people on sleeping, feeding and generally caring for an infant.

What no one ever tells you is how much you’ll realize that personality has to do with their behavior, but you won’t even realize the huge role it plays until your child is a toddler. Then you smack yourself in the forehead and go, “THAT’S why they refused to nap!” or “THAT’S why they hated the (insert world-renowned baby-soothing device that never worked on your child here)!”

The best thing you can do as a first-time mom is just understand what you’re dealing with on a biological level. There are some things that are the same from baby to baby, always, no matter what the popular wisdom of the time is. For instance, tummy size:

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This is such a brilliant visual. As a mom new to nursing, especially if you are one whose family has no personal experience with breastfeeding, you totally freak out that you aren’t making enough milk. Because if you were, why would baby want to eat ALL THE TIME? This thought is bad enough, but then it’s echoed by all your family members, and you begin to think the problem really is you. Some moms don’t make enough milk, and that’s a for-real but pretty rare condition. For most, it just feels that way because baby wants to eat so frequently. And when you see this graphic, it makes sense. If I could only fit one side-salad at a time in my stomach, but I could have as many as I wanted, I would probably be eating every hour, too.

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I remember not knowing what an early feeding cue was until my second child. No wonder breastfeeding never went smoothly with my first! As heartbreaking as it is to pick up a baby who, the the untrained eye, appears to still be sleeping, it really works out so much better to grab them before they wake up and realize they are HANGRY. That extra five minutes you have until they wake up crying? Not worth it.

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I’ll confess: I’m a crunchy mom and I never read this book! Although it may have more wonderful information, this alone was a lifesaver. The 5′s worked and they were our go-to for those all-out freak-out crying spells. My first baby did use a paci, but my other two would never take one. The pad of your finger works well for non-paci babies. Why not nurse instead? Well, if your baby is freaking out enough to need these steps, they are also likely too worked up to nurse. Calm them using this method, then try to nurse.

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Another thing that will never, ever change, no matter how much we learn about babies: the latch. I know we struggled with getting a good latch until I knew what that was and felt like. My first baby wanted to curl her lips in and it left me with bloody nipples and a baby who was losing weight fast. After meeting with a lactation consultant (Who made housecalls!) I learned to flip that lip out, and I ended up having to do it repeatedly with all three of my kids until they got the hang of latching. Without flat lips, baby just can’t get the suction right, and it leads to slurpy sounding, ineffective nursing.

I hope these infographics help you as much as they did me! Biology, man, it never goes out of fashion.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three who lives and writes in Oklahoma City. 

Unapologetic Parenting

Monday, September 26th, 2016

img_1145I take it for granted that when my kids grow up and ask me questions about their childhood, I’m going to end up apologizing for something. I’ll tell the oldest I’m sorry I didn’t hold her enough. The middle child will get apologies because I didn’t enjoy her enough while she was the baby because I was too freaked out about getting pregnant again so soon. The youngest, for not getting to go to preschool, story time, playgroups, or dance class like her oldest sister did at her age, because I was too busy carting around the older ones.

This approach has come to guide my daily decision making. I think about it frequently, like when I’m tired, when I’m tempted to say no automatically instead of thinking about each situation specifically, or when I’m out in public. I try and really think about my decisions because I don’t want to make decisions I’m going to have to apologize to my kids for someday if I don’t have to.

But now, in an age of frequent parent-shaming, I’ve come to think of parenting decisions in public also as public-relations problems. How will I defend myself if someone videotapes me or turns me in to authorities for something I think is perfectly reasonable or low-risk but they think is not? (I honestly had examples here but was too worried someone would shame me for doing those things, so I took them out.)

I feel like any small parenting decision can have very public consequences. Once when my husband was out of town, I had just put both kids to bed and decided to have a glass of wine now that I was alone. But then I thought: What if the house catches fire? What if someone breaks in or I have to take a child to the emergency room? All it takes is for someone to smell alcohol on my breath and that becomes a story. I dumped out my wine and spent the night tossing and turning in the dark, waiting for one of the kids to cry.

I’ve seen friends get called CPS on them because someone thought their house was too messy in a Facebook photo–Hoarder! Or because they joked in a post about running away from it all–Call the police! There was the mom in Houston who was going for help because she locked her kids in her car and got accused of getting her hair done while her children baked in a hot car. (She’s now suing the TV station for $200,000 and fears for her family because people were so vile over it.) There’s the couple in Sandusky, Ohio, who walked a few feet away from their baby, who was in a car seat, to grab food at a buffet, and had a complete stranger shame them on social media and call them terrible parents. (He didn’t call 911 or do anything about it at the time because the baby was in no danger.) A recent study showed that individuals in a focus group judged parents on the perceived moral rightness of their actions when stepping away from their child even for a moment.

Read that again.

The article says that “moral attitudes toward parenting have changed, such that leaving children unsupervised is now judged morally wrong. And because it’s judged morally wrong, people overestimate the risk.” It’s much more exciting for some Facebook acquaintance or stranger to call the local news station than give you a call and ask if you’re OK or if you need help. What a hero.

So what started as a pledge to not have to apologize to my kids one day in the future has become of a way of living in public. I have to make the best possible decisions I can not only for my family, but now also to the defense of my integrity in the public eye, even when my kids are unaffected. You’d think raising tiny humans to be decent adults is enough pressure. It’s an exhausting proposition. It puts me on edge in public, and sometimes I have the feeling that everyone I see is judging me. But that’s an advantage, I guess. Because someone always is. At least now I am prepared to confront them.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

Should Dads Be in the Delivery Room?

Friday, August 19th, 2016

should dads be in the delivery room?A recent article in the Huffington Post brought up a question that many modern parents probably thought had already been put to rest in the 70s: Should dads be in the delivery room?

Trends surrounding childbirth tend to follow a pendulum swing. From the days when women endured natural childbirth because there was no other way, to knocking women out with ether while their baby was delivered, to natural childbirth, to the height of C-section popularity. Birth experiences even vary widely within one  mother’s experience with multiple children. One thing is certain: there is no one right way to have a baby, for any couple. For that reason, the trend of having dads in the delivery room may well be worth re-examining. Many people also consider allowing siblings to be present during birth, and these are worthwhile considerations for that decision, too.

Here are a few points to consider when deciding how to wrap your head around how childbirth might go for you and your spouse:

  • Birth is a stressful situation, even when everything goes textbook perfect. It may be hard for your partner to see you in pain and not be able to help. Consider how you each react to the other’s stress, and what impact that might have on the labor process. Relaxation and oxytocin help speed labor up, while stress and cortisol slow labor down.
  • Would other people (in addition to your spouse) in the delivery room make the situation worse or better? A doula might be helpful for facilitating involvement. Other family, like adult siblings and parents may or may not help, too.
  • Does your spouse handle needles and/or blood OK? it’s possible that they may need to leave during certain parts, like administering an IV or epidural, and return when it’s over.
  • Consider where your spouse might stand during delivery that might allow them to offer support but not be overwhelmed.
  • Think about decisions like whether or not they want to help catch or cut the cord ahead of time.
  • Birthing classes can be helpful at giving your spouse helpful suggestions for how to assist during labor.

My husband passed out at the sight of needles and would shut down in a stressful situation, so we worked with a doula from early on in my pregnancy. She tagged him in on and off during labor, allowing him time to help and also get away during the process since it was long and overwhelming, and I felt safer knowing I would still have support if he needed medical attention.  I also decided no one but us and the doula would be at the birth. I had never really thought about this until I got pregnant, but once I did, there was no question. I knew additional family and the associated travel plans–on an unknown timeline, no less–would be stressful for me. It was disappointing for some, but I held my ground. It was one of the first times I felt a mother instinct.

In the end, only you as a couple can decide what’s best for your family. You may end up making some unconventional choices, or at the very least, not making the choices you imagined you would before you got pregnant. If you think family or friends will not be supportive of those choices, you can choose not to discuss the topic with them. Remember, it’s your body, and your birth. This is a time to be selfish and think about your health and what’s best for you.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mom of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City. 

 

We’re Having a Baby! And We Need New EVERYTHING.

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

new baby Once upon a time, a mommy who already had two beautiful children got pregnant with a third. “OK,” she thought. “We can handle this.” But no one else thought she could.

“But where is your new car?” said one friendly stranger.

“And where is your new house?” said another.

“But we already have a house and a car,” said the mom.

“Those won’t do!” said the two friendly strangers. “You need NEW ones!”

This conversation played out over and over and over after I got pregnant with my third child. We suddenly, according to everyone around us, not only needed to be preparing for another child, but should also be upending our lives to make everything bigger and newer in preparation for her. My Honda Civic wouldn’t do, I needed a minivan! Our three-bedroom house was too small, when were we moving? Why weren’t we finding out the sex of the baby? We needed to know if it was a boy since we only had girl things–what if he had to wear FLOWERED onesies?

Honestly, the stress of having a baby is stress enough, whether it’s your first or your fifth. And when you’re pregnant, you’re particularly vulnerable to the well-meaning advice of strangers. This is unique to pregnancy, since you don’t have to wear your condition around on your head for any other stage in life. The advice of well meaning strangers nearly cost me my sanity during my third pregnancy. We hadn’t planned to have another quite yet, so I was dealing with the shock of the idea of having a preschooler, toddler and infant at home. Then on top of that, people kept foisting all these additional consumer expectations on me. It took a few months of showing for me to stop and look at the situation with fresh eyes.

You’re bringing home an 8-pound baby, not Shaquille O’Neill. 
At first, I was panicking, running the numbers, and looking at cars online. But even small cars can fit three kids across the backseat–safely and legally–if you have slimline carseats. I did my research and realized we did’t ever need a need a new car if we didn’t want to get one.  Even Shaquille O’Neill can fit in a Kia, so there.

Babies don’t Need a Room.
The baby room is certainly a modern invention. For much of history, and in other parts of the world today, babies sleep with mom for practical reasons. Honestly, the baby room was basically a place for me to change diapers and clothing until about age 3 when independent play began to emerge. My kids didn’t want to play in an empty room all alone, they always wanted to be where the action was. This means you have about 2 years from birth to make a transition.

My kids also currently share a room, which, contrary to popular belief, is not child abuse. Up until about 1950, kids routinely shared rooms and bathrooms. The average home size was just over 1,000 square feet for a family of four. Today, the average home size is 2,100 square feet, and the most common trend in new home construction today is including a bathroom for every bedroom.

Decide for Yourself What Really Matters
People were floored that we weren’t finding out the sex of the baby since we had two girls. What if it was a boy? What would he wear? Honestly, the fashion conundrums of an infant were of zero concern to me. If we had a boy, he would wear the clothes we had at home until I found the space in my head and day to go get boy clothes. It was just not a detail that stressed me out. It continued to be a detail that stressed out everyone around me. I was much more concerned about how I would survive each day with all these tiny children at home. Be prepared for a million contingencies to be raised, whatever your situation. Then decide what you care about, because that’s the only stuff that matters.

 

Continue to Think Critically
As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to go play at friend’s houses if they lived in an apartment. This tiny detail stayed with me when I got pregnant for the first time. We can’t have a BABY in an apartment! I knew this to be true. Plus, we were throwing money away, right? Better to buy a house. Because that’s what you do when you get pregnant. You buy a house. Unfortunately, our first child was born in 2008. This means we bought a house at the peak of the housing bubble, in part because we had on these cultural baby blinders. Expectations and arbitrary rules kept us from thinking objectively and critically about the huge decision of home ownership.

It’s easy to go into autopilot when you’re pregnant. No matter which baby this is for you, it’s overwhelming to have so many people, familiar and strange alike, telling you what to do with your finances, your relationships and your body. But all of those things are still yours. You’re going to do a lot of smiling and nodding. But these people who are giving you advice don’t have to survive on your savings in 30 years. They don’t have to go to the grocery store and shop on your budget. They don’t have to bear the scars of major surgery or the emotional pain that can follow a traumatic delivery. These decisions are yours and yours alone, because you alone bear the consequences.

You can do things your own way in your own family. Your story may not look like your parent’s or your partner’s parents, and that’s OK. Sometimes realizing that is a process of mourning and acceptance, and that’s OK, too.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and the mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City.