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Photo credit: Tim Chin Photography (www.timchin.com)

The journey of being a new mom has really challenged my sense of self-image. To say it has been a roller-coaster would be an understatement. When I was pregnant, I really enjoyed my new body. Physically, I felt great most of the time and mentally, I found it liberating to dismiss my insecurities about not being skinny enough and instead, to celebrate my growing belly. I actually found that I had more wardrobe options with my baby belly (I could now wear items that fit more snugly around the tummy area) and had fun adapting my clothes to my new new shape. It helped that I often received compliments on how I looked from my friends and co-workers which boosted my self-esteem. My positive self-image reached its peak when I gave birth to Leah naturally like I had hoped and planned. I was in such awe of what my God-given body could accomplish and the miracle that was created in my womb. But once that high passed, the roller-coaster started its steep descent.

The first blow to my self-image was the soreness and pain I felt “down below”. Every time I sat up to breastfeed or walked over to the bathroom to pee, I felt like I would never be the same down there (don’t even talk to me about sex!). Not only that, I quickly realized that I  wasn’t just dealing with an issue of comfort but also control! I was shocked to find that I had trouble controlling my pee which was both distressing and embarrassing. My boobs were painfully engorged, my nipples were sore and incredibly sensitive and the whole breastfeeding thing, while amazing, was hard to mentally adjust to.

Next, postpartum PUPPPS brought on massive hives all over my legs, belly and arms that could not be controlled despite my best efforts. This angry, red rash was unbelievably itchy and my relentless scratching resulted in bleeding, scabs, and awful stretch marks. Oh yeah, the stretch marks! Now that my belly was gone, I could see my stretch marks clearly and what a sight they were. I was prepared to throw out all my bikinis and secretly wondered if I would ever hit the beach again.

In terms of losing my belly bump (belly flab), it was a very long process… year long to be exact. While I knew that it wouldn’t happen right away, I still felt so frustrated when I found myself wearing maternity pants for many months after Leah was born (they really should call them maternity AND postpartum clothes)! Yoga pants, sweatshirts and hoodies were my wardrobe staples. I thought that the breastfeeding would help things but I wasn’t seeing the results that I had hoped for. I was even more frustrated with myself when I saw the mommies in my Mommy Group shedding the pounds and back to their normal wardrobe far quicker than I was.

A good mommy friend of mine warned me not to try on my pre-maternity jeans before Leah turned one, but I ignored her good advice and tried to stuff myself into them. At the six month mark, they weren’t even close to fitting, and at the eight month mark, still no luck. Another major beating to my self esteem. I knew I had to do something to help me feel better about myself and I couldn’t find the time to go to yoga class with Leah exclusively breastfeeding. I decided to finally invest in a few pairs of regular pants that fit my new body instead of waiting for my body magically return to its pre-pregnancy state.

Before returning to work, I also decided to start wearing my contacts more often and to spend a bit of time on myself in terms of putting on makeup and refreshing my work wardrobe. By accepting the reality that my body had changed and embracing my new shape, I finally found some peace and happiness in my new look. The extra effort seemed to pay off and with every comment and compliment (I treasured each one immensely), my positive sense of self slowly started to return. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that my identity is a whole lot more than just how I look physically, but I have to confess that the journey of my physical body from pregnancy to postpartum also made a significant impression on my mental sense of self. Being a parent ushers you into many new experiences, a new understanding of yourself, and taking stock of your physical self is a natural part of that process.

I think my positive self-image finally came full circle when I stopped breastfeeding. Leah was 1.5 years old and we were finally able to wean her to my great relief. As much as I loved breastfeeding and spending that quiet time with her, I was relieved to have my body back. I have to admit, I’ll never think of my boobs the same way again, but at least for now, I don’t have to share them with anybody else. Clayton, stay away, these girls are mine! :)

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Family Literacy Day in Canada was this past week so I wanted to celebrate by sharing some tips for raising a reader. As a self-proclaimed bookworm, it was very natural for me to share my love of reading with my daughter Leah. Here are some tips for raising your own avid reader!

Leah with her favourite ABC board book at 6 months

1) Start early - You can start exposing your child to books before they can actually hold them or read them. The pictures are great visual stimuli and reading books aloud gives your infant the chance to hear your voice, learn words and familiarize him/herself with sounds. When Leah was a newborn, I placed books by her change table so she could look at the pictures while she was getting her diaper changed. Early on before Leah could even hold her head up on her own, Clayton and I started the tradition of family storytime before bed, with one of us holding the book and the other, the baby. When her fine motor skills improved, we gave her lift-the-flap books (which she loved!) and board books with interesting textures (check out her page turning video here).

Before long, Leah became a pro page turner, often turning the page before we could finish reading them. When playing, she would pick up books on her own to “read”. Now one of her favourite things to do is sit in our lap while we read a book with her.

Leah playing with a lift-the-flap book at 8 months

2) Build a library – Take the time to build up your child’s personal library.  Funny enough, Clayton once made the mistake of saying “I think we have enough books…” and I quickly set him straight. My rule is, you can NEVER have enough books! :) You don’t have to spend a lot of money to build up your library. Check out sites like Kijiji and Craigslist to purchase hand me down books (I scored an amazing box of Dr. Seuss and Bernstein Bears books for just $20, in perfect condition!). The clearance section of Winners (and popular bookstores too) often have great finds for just a few dollars. These clearance books might not be in pristine condition, but I figure since Leah will probably destroy them anyway, it doesn’t really matter! Warehouse sales are excellent too such as the Samko Miko Toy Warehouse (brand new books for just a few bucks, great book sets for amazing prices). Lending books from the library or book swapping with other moms is another low cost option that will help your personal library stay fresh. Need more ideas? Click here for a list of Top 100 Children’s Books from Today’s Parent.

Leah reading a cloth book with a friend

In terms of the type of books you should invest in, here are some of my suggestions. In the first three months, you can read any book to your child but I suggest something not too long (short attention span at this age) with vibrant colours or black and white patterns. From three to six months, I suggest ABC board books and fabric books like Happy Duck that your baby can safely play with and even chew on. Finger puppet books are great fun too! When the fine-motor skills start to develop, add on lift-the-flap book and textured books that your child can interact with. Include some story-telling board books and even some vocabulary or word books to start teaching your child the names of objects. I find that Leah always loved small (miniature sized) books because she could handle them so much more easily. Plus, they’re the perfect size to bring along in the diaper bag for outings.

Leah picking her favourite book at 15 months

3) Involve the whole family… and friends too!

At first it took some encouragement to get Clayton to read with Leah, but once he experienced her plopping her down in his lap with a book in hand, he was hooked. Reading with your child is such a meaningful bonding experience and one that will stay with your child forever. Encourage friends and family visitors  to spend some time reading to your child so the message is reinforced in your home.

4) Enrich the reading experience – When you’re reading to your child don’t feel you have to stick to the script. Take the time to point out interesting illustrations or to ask your child questions about the story. I would ask Leah “where is the flower?” or “where is the fish?” to teach her what these words meant. In fact, wording questions in the right way you can improve your child’s thinking skills. Participate in reading programs at your local library or Early Years Center so your child can experience fun games and activities that involve reading and literacy.

Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy the process… learning is contagious!

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The Boob Nursing Singlet (tank top) was one of the first items I received from PTPA to review and wow, was I impressed! The design, comfort, style and overall usefulness of this item made me instantly glad to be a member of the PTPA Panel of Moms so I could learn about great nursing tops like this one. Like I mentioned before, breastfeeding in public can be challenging partly because most clothes are just not designed for nursing, even when you’re nursing in a designated room. There’s the issue of trying to manipulate your clothes with one hand while holding the baby with the other, and then also the concern of being exposed while nursing. Call me uncoordinated but I often fumble with my nursing bra and Leah is not the most patient baby so easy access is incredibly essential. This means no more fitted and buttoned tops, dresses, and long tunic/dresses. Instead, I wore lots of stretchy shirts/tanks, hoodies and cardigans. Once I started breastfeeding I looked at my wardrobe completely differently and zoned in on those items that allowed me to nurse discreetly and easily. Unfortunately there just aren’t too many every day items that allow you to do this. Enter the Boob Nursing Singlet!

The Boob Nursing Singlet is a black tank top with a clever double layer fabric design over the bust, allowing for discreet and comfortable nursing. The opening is simply pushed aside with one hand, leaving the other one free to hold your baby. Made from organic cotton, this garment is good for you and for your baby.

With the double layer fabric, you don’t end up exposing your waist while nursing, plus the top layer over the bust discreetly covers up any boobage that might otherwise show. The fabric is soft and stretchy and super comfortable (I think I wore it every day for a week when I first received it in the mail!). The design of the tank is slimming, particularly if you get it in black, which is great when you’re still dealing with your postpartum body. I especially love how the tank top is extra long to cover up my lower belly pooch.

In general, it’s a simple design that works really well. Everything you need to breastfeed in comfort and maintain a positive self-image. And as a bonus, it doubles as a maternity top so I’ll be able to put it to use for #2, both during my pregnancy and postpartum. YAY!

Learn more about this PTPA Winning Product here.

Check out the Boob website here.

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When I received the Baby Daze baby organizer to review, I instantly wished I had one when Leah was born. The first few weeks as a new parent (or should I say months), are all about recording information about your baby. First its breastfeeding and dirty diapers, then it becomes sleep habits and solid foods that they’ve tried. I had so many different slips of paper, notebooks and agendas lying around in attempt to keep myself organized, but in my “daze” I could hardly understand my own shorthand and chicken scratch. Had I known about the Baby Daze organizer, I would have been in a much better state!

The Baby Daze organizer is incredibly well designed and simple to use, it’s no wonder it is one of the PTPA Summer Campaign winners! I highly recommend it for any new parent. It has sections for: Feeding and Diapering, Sleeping, Pumping, Milestones, Gift Tracker, Medical Log and Contact Information. The design and layout of each section is well thought out so that you can easily record the information you need for your child. The organizer comes as a small 3-ringed binder so you can add and remove sections easily, with tabs to flip to the section you want.

For the Feeding and Diapering section you can record what time you last fed the baby, circle which boob you fed the baby on (L or R) and how long each feed was (these are all the things you need to know that you always forget when you’re sleep deprived). For the diapering section, you can indicate whether the diaper was wet or soiled so you can make sure your baby is producing the right number of wet diapers, thereby ensuring your baby is properly hydrated. In the Sleeping section, you draw a line through the hours that the baby slept so you can see patterns in sleep habits over several days or weeks, valuable in the sleep training stage. When the time comes for solids, the Food Diary is incredibly useful for recording what different foods your baby has tried and their reaction to it, so you can make sure you wait the necessary 3 to 5 days before starting a new food.

After using the Baby Daze organizer, it is easy to see that it is designed by a professional organizer and a mom. It really does make life with a baby a little easier and has helped get through the daze of being a new parent.

To learn more about the Baby Daze baby organizer, check out the website: http://www.babydaze.net

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Parenting is very challenging but having a support team makes the all the difference. It is essential to have people you can turn to when times get tough and particularly when you’re at the end of your rope. This might be family members who can come by and cook you a meal and/or hold the baby while you take a nap. It might be girlfriends that you can email and vent to, who will bring you ice cream and send you supportive messages. Or, it could be other mommies who are going through the same thing (or have already gone through it), who can relate to your problems and assure you that you’re not crazy for feeling the way that you do.

I am so thankful for family and friends that I have to support me through this first year of motherhood. The first time I reached out to my support group was when I was struggling with Leah’s naps. She was napping for 30 minutes (or less) and I was so exhausted from trying to rock, nurse or pat her to sleep. This was before we started sleep training and during the period of time I was still holding her ALL the time! I was feeling really down and sent out a few emails to my closest friends, some of which were moms, and got such a loving and supportive response. The phone calls and email responses I received over the days that followed sustained and strengthened me, and helped me to persevere through that tough period.

I am very blessed to have close friends who are moms and they have been so understanding and generous with their support. If you’re one of the first among your close group of friends, make an effort to meet other moms so you can turn learn from their experience. Join a mommy group and attend baby classes at the library, community centre or Early Years Centre so you can meet other moms and learn from one another. It really makes all the difference to know that other women (and men) out there struggle with parenting on a day to day basis, and to have them to hold your hand through the difficult parts.

There are also a lot of great online parenting forums out there which allow you to access other moms without leaving your home! Reading posts in the forums help me to feel like I’m part of a community, and provide me with the assurance that the frustration I experience is normal. One forum that I really like in particular is the Berkeley Parents Network. I used a great deal during Leah’s sleep training and have recently found that there are many great topics on the site. There are also a lot of mommy bloggers out there, so you’re bound to find one that you find interesting, fun, and inspiring. One of my favourites lately is the blog “Enjoying the Small Things”, by Kelle Hampton. But don’t just take my word for it. Look around, bookmark your favourites and enjoy the benefits of being part of generation of online moms. And you can always start one yourself, like I did! :)

More of my favourite blog sites are listed here.

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It has now been almost 9 months of this parenting adventure and I have to say it has been full of surprises. One of the most welcomed surprises is to witness on a daily basis how my husband Clayton is such an amazing father to Leah. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since he has been a loving and supporting husband these past 5 years, but seeing him as a father has really opened my eyes to how truly incredible he is. Here are my Top 5 Tips for Daddies in honour of our first Father’s Day!

1) Ensure You’re Ready

I remember one key conversation that started my husband and I on this journey of having a baby. We were sitting around with friends chatting about the next step in our marriage, and when they asked if we were ready to start having kids, Clayton surprised me when he promptly replied that he was! Though I never doubted my desire to be a mom, I felt that I still needed to methodically analyze the pros and cons for having children, before actually starting on that path. Clayton on the other hand, knew he wanted to be a dad, and was ready to become one. Even so, he waited patiently as I examined all the arguments for and against, and interviewed our friends and family who had kids. When we were both ready, we embarked on the journey together, ready and excited.

TIP: Regardless of who is ready to have a child first, it is incredibly important to have both husband and wife completely on board before starting a family. Having a child is not a small decision and should not be entered into lightly.

2) Start Out Strong

The labour and delivery of baby Leah went better than I could have hoped for and with the help of Clayton (and our doula), our baby was born naturally, according to our birth plan. It helped that my husband and I attended great prenatal classes, spent time discussing our hopes and fears for the labour, and practiced relaxation exercises and labour positions beforehand. He respected and responded to my needs throughout the labour (no talking or noise during contractions) and helped to keep me relaxed (amazing hand massages) the whole time. After Leah was born, we spent the first night in awe of our new baby, taking turns holding her skin-to-skin and sleeping in the hospital bed (me) or in a chair (him). The next four days in the hospital proved very difficult as Leah was diagnosed with jaundice and had to spend the majority of her time under UV lamps in an isolette. She was inconsolable and it pained us to hear her cry, to be separated from her, and unable to hold her or breastfeed on demand like we had planned. To make matters worse, we were incredibly sleep deprived from taking turns monitoring, feeding and changing her (with attempts to nap in between). Despite all this, Clayton refused to leave our side until we left the hospital together as a family, showing from the start the kind of commitment and sacrifice that Leah would always have in her father.

TIP: Spend time skin-to-skin with your baby in the first few weeks of his/her life (and onwards) for quality bonding time and numerous health benefits to the baby. The bonding time between baby and dad helps the baby to become familiar with daddy’s scent and helps the daddy to form a connection with the baby early on. This bond is so essential when he’s struggling to soothe or care for the baby, and can help him to gain confidence in his role as a father.

3) Work as a Team

For the first few weeks of Leah’s life, Clayton and I worked as a team to take care of her every need. From joint diaper changes to taking turns rocking her to sleep, we did everything together. Though I was breastfeeding and thus couldn’t share the load of feeding her like we would have otherwise been able to do with a bottle, Clayton still supported me every step of the way, playing his own role. While I was feeding Leah, he would sit next to me, checking the latch, reminding me to finish the feed, and bringing me ice cream in the wee hours of the morning. He also took on the role of burping Leah after I fed her so that he was involved in the feeding process. Even when Clayton returned to work, he continued to participate in the night feeds, which I will always remember as being one of the most loving and meaningful ways he supported me in my first few months as a mom.

TIP: Each couple is different in how they work as a team, but ensure the dad has his own role to play in the parenting process so he doesn’t feel left out and so he has a chance to build his confidence in caring for the baby. Though it may sometimes be easier for the mom to soothe, feed or care for the baby, give him a chance and he’ll surprise you, and possibly himself, with how great of a father he is.

4) Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Having a child catapults a marriage into uncharted territory and even the most prepared couples may find that their lives are quickly turned upside down. Clayton and I had over 10 years of friendship as a foundation for our marriage, and supported each other through a number of difficult circumstances throughout our dating relationship but still, having Leah pushed us to a new place in our relationship. Talking to each other through it all has helped a great deal. Sharing our fears and worries has helped us to manage them, and expressing our needs to each other has helped us to meet them. Clayton is not the most talkative or outgoing person, (especially in comparison to me!) but having Leah has really helped him to come out of his shell. I have witnessed him asserting himself in decision-making and really stepping up to the plate to take care of the both of us. Of course it took some time for us to get to this point, with some tough conversations between the two of us at times, but we got there. And we’re still growing as a couple through this experience.

TIP: The best way to navigate the world of parenting is to have open lines of communication with your partner. Talk about things beforehand, as it happens, after each experience and every moment in between. You’ll learn a great deal about yourself, about each other, and if you stick with it, having children will strengthen your marriage instead of weakening it.

5) Be Patient

Even though you may follow tips 1 to 4, sometimes things take time. Patience for yourself, for your child and for your spouse is key. The good (bad?) news is that change is the only constant, so when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, things will improve and when you feel like you’ve finally got the hang of it, things will change again. That’s the adventure of parenting and though it can be tough and full of surprises, it’ll be the the greatest ride of your life!

TIP: Have patience for yourself, your child and your spouse. Learning and growing as a parent takes time, and is a lifelong journey.

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Clayton with the Peapod Wrap

There are a lot of baby carriers available to parents out there and selecting one is not easy, but when you pick the right carrier and use it correctly, it can be a godsend! Unfortunately, figuring out which one to use, and when, is not an easy task.

The benefits of ‘baby-wearing’ are well documented on sites such as AskDrSears.com. They include reduced crying, improved physical, mental and emotional development, improved maternal bond, easier breastfeeding and better care, thereby reducing the incidence of postpartum depression. On a practical note, baby-wearing is convenient and can give you some of your freedom back. Like I mentioned in my previous post about Leah’s sleep habits, we spent the first 3 months of Leah’s life holding her (both when she was asleep and awake). Though this was wonderful bonding time for us, sometimes I just needed to have my arms available to get a few things done around the house. Putting Leah in a carrier gave me my freedom back and it felt amazing.

We started shopping around for a baby carrier while I was still pregnant and purchased the Baby Trekker at the HIGH recommendation of a friend. I also decided to purchase a baby wrap (PeaPodBabe) since I heard they were really useful as well. A friend of mine loaned me her Hotslings baby sling so I had 3 major types of baby carriers to experiment with. So far, I’ve found that carriers vary in effectiveness depending on the size and stage that the baby is in.

Before I go any further, I want to address the recent recall on the Infantino SlingRider. Like all baby products, it is important to know how to use the product properly and the risks involved. It is important to note that the recall was for a bag-style sling which can be more risky due to the tendency for the baby to be scrunched up, thereby compromising the airway. Like stated on thebabywearer.com, I agree that when properly positioned, a baby in a sling is as safe as a baby in arms.

Here’s a summary of what worked for us.

Clayton with the Peapod Wrap

The Baby Wrap

In the first few months of life, a sling is a great option for baby wearing (again when properly positioned). However, unlike some newborns, Leah didn’t seem to like being in the confines of a sling. The first time we put her into the sling she squirmed and clearly wanted out. This was unfortunate since a lot of my friends had great success with going out to weddings and restaurants (even high tea!) with their newborn in a sling. Without this option, we always held Leah in our arms when we were out and about.

At home, we started experimenting with the baby wrap so our arms could have a break once in awhile. It worked because the wrap supported her easily and adjusted to her small size (like a custom fit every time). Plus this super cute video peaked my interest. At first we put her into the wrap in the horizontal position (cradle hold) like in the video but as she got bigger, she preferred being in the upright position (tummy-to-tummy). We only used it while we were at home since wrapping her was tricky. We’d often have to re-wrap a few times before we got it right and in the process of doing so, the ends of the wrap would drag along the ground. The only caveat was that he would only tolerate the wrap during certain times (after being well fed and burped) and not for too long in most cases (3o minutes to an hour).

Me with the Baby Trekker

The Baby Carrier

When we started going out to the mall or grocery shopping, holding her all the time became increasingly cumbersome. She didn’t like being in the car seat (since we were still using the car seat in the stroller), so most of the time I would push the empty stroller while Clayton held her. Again, not the most convenient arrangement, especially when I started going to the mall with my other mommy friends and without Clayton. I didn’t want to use the baby wrap because it would drag all over the floor while I put it on. Instead, we started trying the Baby Trekker baby carrier and it worked out perfectly since she was able to look around (nosy girl!) and I could push the stroller myself since my arms were free. It was so comfortable that we could wear it for hours! Leah would enjoy looking around and often nap in it as well. The only tricky thing about the Baby Trekker brand of carrier is that putting it on is a bit of a two person task. As long as I had another mom or Clayton around to help me it was no problem but if I was home by myself, it was a bit of a struggle. This is why I later moved on to the baby sling.

Me using the Hotsling

The Sling

A baby sling is great because it is very compact and can fit in your diaper bag easily (unlike the Baby Trekker which I always needed to remember to bring separately). If Leah is fussing, I can quickly slip her into it without needing help from anyone else. I used it a few times at home when she started to get clingy and I needed to be able to move about the house. In the modified cradle carry hold she can still look around. Now that Leah has really good neck and back control, I can even start to use it with her in a hip-carry position. The disadvantage of the sling is that it can be tiring and straining on your back once the baby gets bigger. Carrying Leah in the sling (she’s about 15 lbs) gets tiring after 30 minutes. the Trekker on the other hand never got tiring.

Other Brands

My sister using the Ergo

In terms of different brands, I can only comment on what I have learned from my own experience and from talking to other moms. I thought I would also mention the Ergo since a lot of my mommy friends have had good success with it (and it’s easier to put on than the Trekker). Like the Trekker, it distributes the weight of the baby well, with the help of a waist strap. The standard Baby Bjorn and Snugli don’t have this feature so once the baby gets to a hefty size, your shoulders will start to ache. A friend of mine even experienced plugged milk ducts from using her Baby Bjorn, so make sure you adjust what carrier you use once your baby starts to get bigger. The Ergo however, does not allow the baby to face outwards which is how we typically use the Trekker. Another mommy friend of mine uses the ErgoSport carrier for all of her baby’s naps, so you can imagine how important comfort would be.

In summary, you will likely find that you prefer various carriers depending on the age of your child and how/when you’re using it. For this reason it is useful to have a few on hand and to try them out with your baby. Buying used carriers (in good condition) or borrowing them from your friends can make this feasible.

For a different perspective, check out a recent article on Baby Carriers in Canadian Family.

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Since Leah is now rolling around, we’ve put down foam playmats for her to roll around on. The problem with these mats (and with her other playmats and exersaucer) is that they attract dust and hair. Ew! It doesn’t help that I’m shedding hair like crazy, another fun postpartum symptom. I’ve found that masking tape does an excellent job of picking up stray hairs off the foam mats and lint rollers work great for removing dust from the Leah’s plush playmat. Try it!

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I know this tip sounds like its meant for newlyweds but communicating with your partner is SO important in the journey of being a new parent that I thought I would take the time to write about it. Similar to a new marriage, having a new baby really introduces new challenges into a couple’s relationship and on top of that, both individuals are usually so sleep deprived and exhausted that resolving a conflict and making decisions together is that much more difficult. In addition, a new baby introduces many fears and uncertainties that can cause one to act irrationally or out of the ordinary.

Clayton and I are the kind of couple that rarely argue and we typically resolve issues and conflicts quite quickly and easily but the introduction of Leah into our lives changed that in a big way though, especially in the first few weeks of parenthood. I found myself getting so frustrated with him for the things he was doing (or should I say the things he wasn’t doing) and I felt like I was a newlywed again, trying to figure out how to communicate how I was feeling without hurting him. I wasn’t sure if my expectations were too high or if he just needed a good kick in the butt.

I would say that things really got bad once Clayton went back to work. During the day I felt so frustrated and exhausted from being home alone with the baby and counted down to his return home so I could vent to him about all the things that were bothering me. But when he came through the door, I was so happy and relieved to see him that I didn’t want to bring up all these negatives thoughts. Plus, I didn’t want to spend our precious moments together arguing, not to mention that we had hardly any time to argue anyhow. We were fully occupied changing, feeding and trying to put Leah to bed before we collapsed into bed exhausted ourselves. Before the end of the first week had ended I had written him a strongly worded email expressing all the things he had been doing that caused me pain and frustration. Although it was really hard to sacrifice those precious moments of the day to write that email I was so glad that I did, especially when it helped Clayton to see how much more I needed his help and support. He agreed to try harder and help out more, and his support really helped me get through a rough patch. Later on, the open lines of communication helped us to make important decisions regarding breastfeeding, sleep training, and other challenging issues.

Moral of the story: make sure you take the time to talk (or email) your partner when things start to get rough or when he’s not quite supporting you in the ways you need him to. He may not know how much you need his help or perhaps may not know how to help. The physical and mental support will help you to be a better mom and also, a better wife! And you know what they always say: “Happy wife, happy life!”

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Baby skin conditions are very common, the most common being crusty flakes of skin on the baby’s scalp called cradle cap. I  read about cradle cap in my prenatal books and was so relieved that Leah didn’t have it when she was born. However, when she reached one month old, some dry, flaky skin started to appear, first on her eyebrows, then later developed on her scalp. Even though I knew what it was, it still worried me and it was very annoying to have everyone ask us about it.

Most sources say that cradle cap is harmless and does not cause any discomfort to the baby, but Leah was always swatting and scratching at her head. She also had some skin irritation behind her ears and inside her ears. She tugged at her ears so much that the skin would crack and bleed :(

I tried cutting out cow’s milk from my diet and taking Omega-3 capsules but I didn’t notice a significant improvement. We tried the olive oil remedy a few times (where you rub some olive oil on the baby’s head, leave it for 15 minutes to an hour, and then shampoo it off during bathtime) but the flakes wouldn’t come off. I also tried using a soft brush like some sources suggest, but it just pulled off the edges of the flakes, creating a dandruff shower.

It wasn’t until we went to see our family doctor that we realized we hadn’t been using enough oil. If you soak the flake with lots of olive oil (using a Q-tip is less messy) it gradually slides off the scalp. The flakes really require a major oil soaking before they detach. Some people suggest using a fine toothed baby comb to remove the flakes but I found that the best way was to gently pull at each flake with my fingernail to see if it was loose enough to slide off. If not, I would add more oil until it loosened. I could only do this when Leah was sound asleep on me, she wouldn’t stay still enough otherwise.

Some disclaimers: As the flakes come off, a few baby hairs may be attached so be prepared for some hair loss. It all grows back later on anyhow. We also noticed that after removing the flakes they would reappear a few days later so be aware that this is just a short-term solution. You have to wait until the baby grows out of it before it stays away for good (this happened at 3.5 months for us). To address her ears I would just keep it moisturized with Vaseline or Polysporin if the skin was broken.

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