Celebrating His First Father’s Day

Father kissing baby

If your first baby was born within the past year, this Father’s Day will be special for the baby’s father. Becoming a father, becoming a parent, is one of those profound transformations we don’t necessarily realize we’re about to go through until the process is underway.

I’m not usually big on celebrating holidays like this, but I think there are ways to make Father’s Day and Mother’s Day special without giving in to the push to buy stuff. I also think it is important to take a moment or a day—any day you choose, really—to call attention to the transformation of becoming a father.

One of the reasons I don’t like a holiday with perfunctory gifts is that I don’t want my children to put a lot of their energy into what is for them a big gift or a big project only to create something that is thrown away or forgotten. I want to value their gifts, so I want them to learn what receivers will value.

Your baby is too young to quite be aware for gift giving yet, but you can set family habits in motion now by thinking about what this first Father’s Day really means for him.

It’s Not Just about Him

Don’t just make Father’s Day about him, as you would on his birthday; make it about his fatherhood. Make it about his transformation or his relationship with your child. If you give him a gift, make it a gift that helps him build on this new relationship he has as a father.

Or, make it a gift that helps him remember where he is now. You’ve heard that the time goes quickly. I’ll still repeat it for you: the time you have with your child does go quickly. You will be surprised when you see years behind you, and so will he. Your gift could mark the beauty of now and become a keepsake.

Daddy & Baby Photos

Remember this fleeting moment. Take him and your baby to a professional studio to get Daddy and baby photos. Then, repeat this every year. It takes discipline, but they will both love it. They will both marvel at how time changed them as they look back on these photos.

Anticipating Projects

Is he an active guy who is always involved in projects? Find him a great book of projects he can do with kids: science experiments, electronics, building outdoors, gardening, or anything else he loves doing. Sure, the baby is too young to do these things now, but you can spark his imagination now and watch the ideas grow along with your child.

Parenting Handbook

Do you talk together about how you will raise your child? At bynature.ca we carry only a few parenting books that we really value. One of them is Between Parent and Child, a book that was originally published in 1969 by renowned psychologist Dr. Haim Ginott and has since been revised and updated by Dr. Alice Ginott, clinical psychologist and wife of the late Haim Ginott, and family relationship specialist Dr. H. Wallace Goddard.

Between Parent and Child

Through 5 million sold, this book changed the way parents communicated with their children. Dr. Ginott believed that parenting was a skill that could be learned. If you baby’s father is wondering how to discipline and communicate in a way that your child will learn trust and self-confidence, this book is a gift that will help him and the whole family.

Your Message to Him

Your baby is too young to send the message, but you can let him know that he is doing well. Tell him what you appreciate about his parenting. Make sure he feels supported in this transformation into Father. You could just tell him, or you could write him a letter.

Whatever you choose to do, mark Father’s Day by acknowledging the importance of this new role as Father. It’s a tough job, and it helps all of us to know that we are noticed and appreciated.

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

10 Easy Steps to Care for Yourself Every Day

Woman listening to music

You know you have to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. What is your oxygen mask, though?

We suggest 10 easy ways you can take care of yourself each day. Separately, each of these is a tiny step in your life. Taken together every day, these steps can help you nourish yourself, breathe deeply, and keep yourself ready to care for your children and family.

1. Sleep. When you are parenting a baby or a young child, sleep can be a difficult issue. Sleep is the most important factor in your physical and mental health, though. You need to arrange family routines so you get what you need or the rest of the structure will suffer. Sleep is your own oxygen mask.

2. Greet the Sun. Whether you do a yoga sun salutation or you just step outside to acknowledge that the day is beginning, this simple act of greeting your day consciously can heighten your awareness to keep your from drifting through your day.

3. Work Out. Does it seem impossible to get dressed, grab your yoga mat, and leave the house for an hour? If you are busy and never get through your whole list, you can easily convince yourself not to leave home for a workout. You do have other options to stay physically fit. The 7-minute workout is a scientifically based series of 12 exercises. It is intense. Turn on the online timer, and just do what the timer tells you to do.

4. Groom Yourself. Before you had children, you would not have thought that you would need to remind yourself to take basic grooming steps, but it is easy to forget when the day sneaks up on you. So, before you forget, brush your teeth, wash your face, and brush your hair. Quick. Simple. Done.

5. Write a paragraph in your notebook. What?! Don’t have a notebook? Get one. One notebook to rule them all. You have a lot to keep organized, not just information about house and family but your own thoughts. It really helps to have one constant anchor. For me, that’s a notebook, and I use the bullet journal method to keep myself organized. I think it’s important to have a physical notebook rather than a phone app. So, write a paragraph in your notebook just for you. Tell yourself about yesterday; write out loud about today; tell your worries or share your joys. Just write for you.

6. Remind Yourself. When everything is so busy that you are tired and a little cranky, it’s easy to forget that the work you are doing matters. Raising your beautiful little human beings is a job that sends ripples of positive effects through the world and through time. Take another moment to bring yourself to awareness, and remind yourself of the good you do in the lives of people around you.

7. Eat well. Not all food is equally nutritious. Especially when you are stressed and tired, you need foods that will boost your immunity so you don’t crash. The key is to stock the healthy foods rather than the low-nutrition foods. Then, when you have only a few minutes to make food for yourself, you can grab dark vegetables and fruits and make yourself a smoothie.

8. Listen to Your Music. Bring who you really are to your parenting. For a lot of us, music is a big part of identity. Forget those collections of baby songs or children yell-singing pop hits. Turn on your own music. Sing your songs to your baby. Dance to your songs with your toddler. Make driving singalong time.

9. Read a book. Before you laugh, think of the time you spend breastfeeding your baby. In addition to gazing at this beautiful little human being you get to hold, give yourself 5 minutes here and there to read a book. Fiction, non-fiction, whatever takes you away or reminds you who you are—whatever you need right now.

10. Drink a cup. At night, when the baby is finally asleep, drink a cup of Peaceful Mama tea. The chamomile, lemon balm, and oat straw are calming. Just take a few minutes by yourself to reflect on your day.

If you can’t take every step every day, it’s OK. Just keep taking steps and moving yourself forward.

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Co-sleeping Basics

Mother and Baby sleeping

If you’ve heard about co-sleeping but you just aren’t sure how to co-sleep with your baby, we have the basics for you.

Once you know the basics, you’ll realize how easy it is to satisfy the needs of baby and parent.

Among my fondest of parenting memories is sleeping with a baby on one side an a toddler on the other, feeling warm next to my two children, falling asleep loving them so much I could burst.

How to Co-sleep

Designate a space. The baby shouldn’t go between two adults. I put my baby on the outside of me, toward the wall, and my toddler between me and my husband. When our babies were a bit older, we also used sheepies from our cousins in New Zealand (and ALL babies in New Zealand sleep on sheepskins), so the sleeping space was clearly marked. My sheepie = my space.

Get rid of heavy covers. Not only can heavy blankets or comforters be a risk for your baby, most babies will wiggly off even a light blanket. A baby sleeping bag will keep your baby warm. You might wish for your own sleeping bag.

Remove pillows. Usually your baby will be sleeping lower than your pillow (mouth to breast, most likely), but make sure there is no chance of your baby creeping under a pillow. If you can sleep without, you can prevent that happening.

Separate the siblings. When your baby is young (under one year), you should separate siblings. Your baby needs a responsible adult nearby.

Remove toys. First of all, very young babies don’t need toys. More important, you shouldn’t have hard or soft objects like that near the sleeping space.

Should You Co-Sleep with Your Baby?

You are the one who should decide. You will probably get opinions from healthcare providers, family, and others. Just make sure you understand that we are emerging from an era of pressure NOT to sleep anywhere near our children into a time of more open acknowledgment of the benefits of co-sleeping.

Even Dr. Richard Ferber, for whom “Ferberizing” (the cry-it-out method of sleep training) is named, changed his mind about co-sleeping in his 2006 revision of his oft-misused book on infant sleep. He acknowledges that there are many healthy ways for a family to sleep.

Knowing this, you can look for opinions that are based in the 21st century and based on fulfilling the needs of babies and families.

In addition to giving your baby what she or he wants—YOU—sleeping near one another makes your life easier.

For breastfeeding mothers, it is so convenient to have your baby right next to you at night. You don’t need to wake up all of the way, get up in the cold, go to a differet room to answer a baby who is distressed enough to cry so you will hear. Baby fusses, mother wakes enough to feed the baby, then everyone falls back asleep.

When You Shouldn’t Co-sleep with Your Baby

There can be risks when a big person sleeps next to a small person or when a small person could slip into soft spaces. If any of the risks are present, co-sleeping is not recommended.

Some issues involve the bed and bedding. Do not co-sleep with:

  • No bed. Do not sleep with your baby on a soft surface when the baby can slip into spaces (such as between cushions).
  • Loose pillows
  • Heavy blankets or covers

Some issues involve the adult sleeping with the baby. The adult nees to be able to wake easily. Do not co-sleep if:

  • Adult is a smoker
  • Adult has been drinking or has taken drugs, even prescription sedatives
  • Adult is over tired
  • Adult is morbidly obese

In some of these situations, you can still have your baby nearby on a separate surface without risk.

More Co-sleeping Help

Because there is so much misinformation about babies and sleep in western cultures, it has taken some time to pull the norm back to a place it can benefits babies and families.

One place working to help parents and healthcare providers get accurate research on normal, healthy sleep is the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at University of Notre Dame. Their focus is “how sleeping environments reflect and respond to family needs—in particular how they affect mothers, breastfeeding, and infants’ physiological and psychological well-being and development.”

If you want to know more about the science of sleeping next to a baby, this is a great resource. If you need information (downloadable articles, links to videos) for family or doctor, you will find those here as well.

Also, Dr. Sears (the multiple Drs. Sears) share stories of co-sleeping from their own family and from parents in “Co-sleeping: Yes, No, Sometimes?”

Why Co-sleeping

Last week, in our post “Helping Your Baby Sleep with Love and Compassion,” we mentioned co-sleeping or family bed—the practice of sleeping with your child. This post was more about the fact that co-sleeping helps a lot of families get more sleep more calmly. It touches on why families share a bed.

That got us thinking that some parents might just be looking for a basic how-to guide. We hope this helps.

If you are interested to know how the North American reluctance to share a family bed compares to the rest of the world, I repeat my recommendation that you read Christine Gross-Loh’s Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents around the World Can Teach Us (2013). The chapter “Sleep Time: Keep Our Babies Close or Give Them Space?” is a gentle survey of world practices.

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Helping Your Baby Sleep with Love and Compassion

Mother watching sleeping baby

Is your baby not sleeping through the night? That’s normal. It’s less common that a baby does sleep for long periods without waking, but norms don’t tell you what your baby needs. Babies’ needs differ.

A compassionate approach to parenting seeks to understand and meet needs—your baby’s needs, certainly, but also your own needs. Part of the challenge is separating your real needs from those cultural assumptions you have acquired from the people around you.

If you are experiencing enough disruption in nighttime sleeping patterns that you want to know how to help your baby sleep, I hope this helps. I have been there, and I remember how it felt.

Helping Baby Sleep

In cultures where there is less anxiety around the idea of how and where babies sleep, it would make no sense at all to give advice on helping baby sleep. Having read about babies’ sleep in other cultures (see Christine Gross-Loh’s Parenting without Borders below), I’m convinced that this is only a topic among North American parents because of a cultural anxiety that was introduced by an adult need to control children.

Nevertheless, you start where you are. If you already have sleep issues to deal with, you may need tips to help your baby sleep.

Start with your baby’s needs. Hunger, warmth, calm. Hunger and warmth are easy enough needs to meet most of the time. Calm can be more elusive. Create a calming routine with calming associations. All of the senses can contribute: sound (sing a lullaby), smell (most likely the smell of you), sight (darkness will probably help), touch (soft pajamas, soft blanket, sheepie), and maybe taste (breastfeeding while falling asleep).

For a great list of practical suggestions based on decades of experience with parents, see Ask Dr Sears, “31 Ways to Get Your Baby to Sleep and Stay Asleep.”

Also consider your own needs. You may be tired. You may need to trade off with another adult just for a while. Don’t take your frustrations out on your baby, though. Don’t make sleep an issue for your baby just because it is an issue for you.

If you don’t have your baby yet, start by letting go of assumptions that could cause problems. Read Parenting without Borders, so you will have a point of reference when doctors, your parents, and other well-meaning experts offer you advice on sleep and other aspects of parenting.

Co-sleeping or Family Bed

Again, in the context of family sleeping habits around the world and through history, it is strange to have to justify family members sleeping next to one another. It makes more sense to me to ask why some believe babies should be separated to sleep alone, since that is uncommon anywhere else in the world. The usual answer is that it will make them more independent, but research doesn’t show this result from separate sleep.

If we sleep better with our babies and if our babies sleep better with us, we should be sleeping next to one another. It makes waking in the night much easier and shorter. Everyone wakes in the night. How we handle that now can shape how our children handle that in their future.

You do need to remove risk factors, such as drug and alcohol use, smoking, water beds, sofas, and heavy bedding over the baby.

If you or your spouse have any of the risk factors, or if you don’t sleep better with your baby, don’t. A bassinet next to your bed can still give you the convenience of closeness that a separate nursery does not.

Will They Remember?

Human epigenetic memory of being stressed as a child can be passed on and will be encoded in the genes of the stressed person. The new field of behavioral epigenetics studies how and to what extent this happens. I have yet to see a study on the specific epigenetic effects of babyhood stress on an adult, but I don’t doubt it will come.

The simplest point to remember is: a stressful experience as a baby will have a effect. What effect? The science is out, but don’t believe those who tell you that a baby won’t remember being left to cry, so it doesn’t matter. The stress your baby feels now matters now and it can matter long into the future as epigentic memory can be passed on to future children and grandchildren.

When you meet your child’s needs with love and compassion, they learn to meet their own needs without the stress of worrying about the absense of your comforting presence.

Ask the Experts about Sleeping Babies

Christine Gross-Loh, “Sleep Time: Keep Our Babies Close or Give Them Space?” in Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents around the World Can Teach Us (2013).

“Where should your baby sleep? Wherever he sleeps best.”

Ask Dr Sears, the website of the Sears family of pediatricians, gives quick answers to common sleep issues.

“Sleeping with Hayden opened our hearts and minds to the fact that there are many nighttime parenting styles, and parents need to be sensible and use whatever arrangement gets all family members the best night’s sleep.”

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com 

Baby on a Budget: What Do You Really Need?

Mother holding newborn baby

When you are on a budget, that list of stuff you just have to buy before your baby arrives can be overwhelming. If you haven’t had a baby before, you aren’t really sure what you need. Let me help you learn from my mistakes.

Before my first baby was born, I read a lot of books, all of which listed stuff I needed. I bought a lot of it. It gave me a feeling that I was preparing well for my baby.

It turned out that I didn’t even use a lot of the essential baby stuff I was encouraged to buy. I probably should have know better, but I didn’t.

Thinking about what you really need for baby, for pregnancy, and for childbirth takes a complete rethink away from hard-sell you get in most situations. If you are ready to rock the foundations, read The Business of Baby by Jennifer Margulis. She is a journalist who goes into depth to help you understand how selling you stuff and services you don’t need has become big business. You CAN resist.

What Do You Really Need for Your Newborn?

Start by understanding that what you need are tools that will fit your lifestyle. Not everyone lives the same way, so you might need something didn’t and I might have used and loved something you won’t. With this in mind, I’m including only the essentials in the top list. You might also need a few items on the second list, but you probably won’t need them right away.

You may also be able to find some items used at a consignment store. Babies grow fast, so a lot of parents will be getting rid of clothes and other stuff their baby has grown out of. Do you have a friend with a baby 6-12 months older than yours? Make a deal to take all of the old stuff off her hands.

Diapers – Your baby will pee and poop—often. Some newborns can eliminate every hour, and, in order to avoid discomfort and rash for your baby, you should be changing the diaper every time it is wet or soiled. Don’t even consider disposable diapers if you are thinking of your budget. You can save big by choosing your cloth diapers carefully. Compare about $750 for disposables & accessories to about $250 for cloth diapers & accessories. (See comparison below.) If you are going to wash every day, you can start with 18 diapers. I know it may seem like a lot of wash, but babies slow down with their dirty diapers, so soon you will be washing less. You could double the number of diapers and wash every other day, but I’m thinking of budget. If you buy 24 prefolds or flat diapers and 4 one-size covers, you could be set. No more diapers to buy. That is my favorite budget cloth diaper set up.

Or, go diaper free with infant pottying. Even if you go diaper free, though, you will want a few diapers.

Compare prices

Diaper Changing Pad – Most of the time, I used a big diaper under my babies as a changing pad. Sure, it wasn’t waterproof, but that was usually fine. You could use a wool pad or some other useful waterproof mat without resorting to plastic, but you don’t need one of those thick foam pads. Use something you have on hand already.

T-shirts – If it’s summer, your baby can wear a diaper and a T-shirt most of the time. Even under other clothes, a T-shirt is an insulating layer. Buy just a few and wash them often so you won’t feel so bad when you have to buy a new size in a month.

Pajamas – Most babies spend most of their time in pajamas. Sure, you could buy a full hipster wardrobe, replaceable in every size every month, but why? It would be for you not for your baby. Your baby will be fine with 3-6 one-piece pajamas. Stick with simple clothes as long as you can.

Hat & Socks – Newborns lose heat easily. A soft, cotton hat and socks are essentials, but you just need two of each—one on baby and one in the wash.

Car Seat – It’s one of the most expensive must-have items you need on your list. Research for a balance of safety and cost. Don’t buy used.

Blanket - A lightweight cotton blanket is convenient when you are holding your baby. For sleeping, though, babies often throw the blanket off. A sleep bag will do the job better, but you may not need this if your baby doesn’t move around a lot or if it just isn’t cold enough to justify a warm sleeper.

Soft Baby CarrierA sling or baby wrap carrier isn’t absolutely essential, because you could just hold your baby on your hip all day. Your baby will want to be close to you, and a baby carrier gives you and your baby closeness without you losing your freedom to move around and get things done. This was essential to me. I bought a baby sling on a whim, and I’m so glad I did. It opened up a whole world of babywearing to me. The best choice is a versatile carrier that works from baby to toddler. We’ll go into detail on this next week.

Breastfeeding / Nursing Bra – This is low on the list, because I know a lot of people get by without a bra made specifically for breastfeeding. Your breasts may be very heavy with milk. Without proper support, you can experience back pain as well as skin stretching. Plus, it’s very convenient to be able to unhook your bra rather than trying to work around a non-breastfeeding bra. Maybe just start out with one nursing bra and see if it works well for you before you buy one in every color and every style.

Nail Clippers – Babies scratch themselves. Do you need to buy baby size? Probably not. Use your own carefully, but make sure you have clippers.


What You Don’t Need—Probably

Even if you do need some of these items, you can wait until that need show up to be sure. You don’t need to buy these things before your baby is born.

A Nursery – Your baby doesn’t want to be away from you. You don’t need a separate room. If you have a few clothes and diapers, those can often fit in 1-2 drawers.

A Crib – If your baby is going to sleep in the family bed or in a co-sleeper (a sort of half bed that sits next to your bed), you don’t need a crib. I bought a crib, and my baby slept in it as a crib exactly zero times. When she was a baby, I used the crib to hold all of the baby stuff I didn’t use. The bed was convertible into a toddler bed, though, and she did sleep in it for a while when she chose from about 3 years to 5 years old.

Changing Table – I had one. I used it, but I didn’t need it. Most diaper changes happened on the bed. That changing table was convertible, and my kids now use it as a chest of drawers, so it was a good purchase for us, but it wasn’t essential.

Wipes Warmer – Yes, cold water will shock your baby during a diaper change, but it won’t hurt. Warm it with your hands first, if you are concerned. An electric, plastic box that warms baby wipes all day long is just not necessary.

Diaper Bag – Maybe. A go-bag dedicated to carrying your baby stuff is convenient, but you don’t necessarily need to buy a specific bag made for babies. You probably already have a bag that would work.

Breastfeeding Clothes – Most of the time, you can just lift your shirt or pull down your nightgown. I thought I needed a whole new wardrobe, so I ended up with a bunch of ugly, bulky clothes that I hated to wear because they were just dumpy. When you do buy breastfeeding clothing, buy a few essential pieces that let you convert the wardrobe you already have.

Breast Pump – I did actually use a hand pump for the few times I left my baby, but I would not have used an electric pump. I didn’t need it because we weren’t separated much. If you are separated from you baby—working all day, for example—taking an electric breast pump with you can be very helpful. This one depends completely on your needs.

Baby Bath – The sink usually gives you a close enough space to bathe your baby safely, since you probably will be holding the baby in your arm the whole time.

Baby Shoes – Since babies don’t walk, they don’t need to protect their feet with shoes. Think about it. Socks are enough for a newborn.

Snowsuit or Swimsuit – Birth season, your local weather, and your family’s activities should guide you. It is nice to have one of each for the right season.

A Stroller – If you shop a lot, you might want a stroller to hold your bags, but a baby carrier takes the place of a stroller. Once I had a toddler and a newborn, I sometimes put my toddler in a stroller when we were travelling fast, but I only had a lightweight, fold-up stroller. Not necessary for a baby.

Burp Cloths – Use a diaper. Simple.

Baby Monitor – You can monitor your baby without the use of a speaker system.

Toys – Newborns don’t even know yet that they have hands. Once they find them, their hands are toys enough for a while. You won’t need toys for a while, and, when you do, simple toys are best. Something to shake (a rattle) and something to squeeze (a soft doll) will do it.

I haven’t come close to addressing everything you might find on a list of baby essentials. You don’t need anything new that makes it easier for you to ignore your baby (like a mechanical arm that gives your baby a bottle—and, no, I’m not joking. I saw this at a baby trade show last year).

For most of the baby extras, wait until the need pushes you to seek a solution, then see if you can meet your need without buying. Buy new stuff and gadgets as a last resort.

What were your genuine essentials? What did I miss? I’m happy to add to the list.

More Baby on a Budget

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com