Category Archives: Parenting

Astrid: Month Four

Too Big for the Bassinet Astrid’s fourth month was all about sleep, and what happens when she doesn’t get enough. It’s been a slow transition, but we’ve gone from being easy going parents who let their child sleep whenever she wants (with lots of rocking, bouncing, and stroller walks) to obsessing about naps and bedtimes. Sleep training hasn’t been easy, but I think it’s been worth it.

Astrid started the month with poor sleeping habits and it only got worse for the first few weeks. After reading too many sleep books and blogs, we realized she had built up a sleep debt and we needed to be more vigilant about ensuring she got enough sleep.
Too Many Baby Sleep Books

Before we could make any changes, everyone got sick. First Emily and Astrid got colds. A congested baby doesn’t not sleep well. Then a week later, I got a nasty flu that sidelined me for a week (luckily I managed to keep it to myself).

The sleep problems have been compounded by Astrid’s early teething. I think we’re still a few months away from her first teeth, but she loves gnawing on things and sucking on frozen washcloths and soothers now.

Teething with a Frozen Washcloth

On October 7, after a few weeks of frequent night wakeups and a grumpy baby during the day, we let Astrid sleep in the swing overnight (following some of the recommendations from Precious Little Sleep). It seemed unnatural to have her in a moving swing all night, but we were ready to try anything to get a good night’s sleep. Even though she was buckled in, we didn’t entirely trust the swing and worried she would somehow fall out of it, so one of us spent the night with her just in case (at least for the first few nights).

The first night she slept in the swing felt like a miracle. She slept for 6 hours and then another 4. The next few nights weren’t quite as miraculous but over the course of the month we’ve slowly increased the amount of sleep she gets every night and how long she goes between feedings (at least at night). She’s even sleeping in to anywhere from 8 to 9:30 in the morning. Some other things that have helped:

  • Moved bedtime earlier – from 9:00 pm to 7:30 pm.
  • We’ve been conscious about putting her down drowsy but not completely asleep, so she can learn how to fall asleep on her own. This is definitely still a work in progress.
  • Use the soother to calm her but try to remove it before she falls asleep.
  • We’re slowly transitioning off the swing. We don’t run it all night anymore. After she falls into a deep sleep we turn it off but leave her in the swing. Next step is to get her sleeping in the crib.
  • We’ve managed to cut out the midnight feeding (huge triumph in the past week). Sometimes she still wakes up but we can usually sooth her back to sleep. So now she’s sleeping from 7:30 pm until her 2:00 am feeding. And then sleeping until a 6:00 am feeding.

Although the past week has been a good sleep week (which is giving an overly cheery tone to this blog post), we’ve also learned that we can’t expect consistency. I don’t think we’ve had two consecutive days with the same sleep schedule. When we put her down to sleep, we never know how long she’ll sleep for. She definitely keeps us on our toes.

Cat in the Crib

During the day, we’ve been more strict about naps. We used to play with her until she started getting really vocal and upset. Then she would refuse to nap, screaming at any attempt to help her fall asleep, even though she was visibly tired. After reading more about napping, we realized we were overstimulating her.

Now, we watch how much awake time she has between naps and try to get her to sleep if she’s been awake for 1.5-2 hours. At the first sign of tiredness (a yawn or a face rub), it’s nap time. Sometimes she naps in the crib, sometimes in the swing.

So that’s been our foray into sleep training. Obviously still a lot of work to do, especially transitioning her out of the swing and into her crib, but we’re in a way better position than we were a few weeks ago.

Happy Thanksgiving

Other than our obsession about sleeping, we’ve still had a lot of fun times with Astrid. Baba and Dido visited from Manitoba for a long weekend.

Baba and Dido Tim

And we’ve had a few visits from the grandmas.

Ladies

For the most part, Astrid is very healthy and continues growing along the 75th percentile and is hitting her development goals. She reaches out for things and is grabbing toys.  She enjoys tummy time a lot more and has come close to rolling over on her own, but she hasn’t quite figured it out yet. She really likes the new songs that Emily has learned, like Peek-A-Boo and Roly-Poly.

Workout

The biggest worry is she hasn’t pooped in 8 days. We’re not panicking yet because she only drinks breast milk (which doesn’t generate a lot of waste) and she still seems happy and is not experiencing any pain. We’ve been letting her play without a diaper, daring her to poop, but so far no messes to clean up. If this lasts any longer we’ll be calling the public health nurses for advice.

Kale Bouquet
Maybe she needs more greens in her diet
Bumbo
Sitting in the Bumbo
Stuffed Animal Line
Conga Line
Ordering Sushi
Ordering sushi
Stroller
Monkey Business
Astridnaut
Astridnaut in training
Toy Time
Toy time

Public Education in BC

I’ve started paying more attention to the province’s education system since our daughter was born. And it does not look good. Public education in British Columbia is a mess. The BC Liberal government has been systematically dismantling the system since it was first elected in 2001.

Looking at the data from Statistics Canada is depressing. From 2001 to 2011, BC and Newfoundland were the only provinces to see cuts to the total number of teachers – but Newfoundland’s population was decreasing during that decade whereas BC added an extra 500,000 people. BC now has the worst student-teacher ratio in Canada, and it is getting worse.

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BC spends less per student than any province except PEI.
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Between 2001 and 2006, BC lost 5.9% of its teachers.
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From 2006 and 2011, the number of teachers in BC fell by another 3.2%.
cg-13-1-eng
BC now has the worst student-teacher ratio in Canada.
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It’s the only province where the student-teacher ratio is getting worse.

 

The BC Liberals and Premier Christy Clark are downright hostile toward the public education system. They’ve torn up teachers contracts (then got in trouble in the Supreme Court), starved local school boards for money and forced school closures, and recently fired the elected school trustees in Vancouver. Not surprisingly, the Premier sends her own son to a private school (which receives generous tax support from the government), so she doesn’t even feel the pain she causes parents and their children.

We’re still 5 years away from sending our daughter to school, so there is time for the next government to fix things. I’ll do what I can to ensure the BC Liberals lose the next election. BC desperately needs a change.

Update to add a better chart from Nic Waller:

https://twitter.com/nic_waller/status/790387325993836544

 

Astrid: Month Three

Moose Family
Astrid is another month older. She now consistently smiles when she’s happy, makes distinct vocal noises when she’s bored or excited, and has more head control. It’s been awesome watching her grow.

Ponderosa View

We spent the first half of the month travelling and visiting relatives in Manitoba and Ontario. She did really well with the new environments and faces. We had no problems on the three flights and one train ride we took. WestJet, Air Canada, and Via Rail all gave us priority boarding and didn’t charge us for the baby or the extra baby luggage (her car seat and stroller). WestJet was a slightly better experience than Air Canada, mostly because of the little touches – friendlier staff making sure we had everything we needed and they had our stroller waiting, all setup, when we got off our flights.

Airport Amusement

Astrid was quiet for all of our long distance rides. On our first flight from Vancouver to Winnipeg we were seated right in the middle of the BC Boys Lacrosse team. I felt really bad for the poor kid stuck in the window seat next to us, but Emily fed Astrid on takeoff and landing and she slept for most of the flight without making a peep.

Toys

Now that Astrid is more aware of the world around her, she requires a lot more stimulus when she’s awake. On the plus side, this means that she loves walking under trees, going shopping, attending baby activities, and discovering new toys. However, it’s also requiring a lot creativity and plenty of repetition from her parents. We sing the same five songs a lot, we have dance parties, we read and listen to stories, and we work on sitting, standing, and rolling over.

Crib Mobile

Skwish

The most challenging parenting moment in the past month was when Astrid got something stuck in her eye while we were in London.We noticed her rubbing her eye in the morning, but didn’t realize something was wrong until she slept for 3 hours and refused to open her eyes, even after feeding. She resisted any attempts to pry her eyelid open, so we couldn’t see what was wrong.

Irritated Eye

We tried flushing it out with water in the sink but it only upset her. Doctor Google gave us some good tips (flush water toward the nose and hold her on her stomach so the eyelids move away from the eyeball). We were tempted to give up and take her to a doctor, but after a second water flush and some time being held face down (it was the first time we realized she really enjoys playing airplane and has enough neck strength for it) she managed to blink out whatever was bothering her.

1st Full Night Sleep

Our biggest surprise of the month was when Astrid slept through the night. On September 4, while we were at the Ponderosa, she slept for 9 hours (from 9:30 pm to 6:30 am). Sadly, we didn’t weren’t able to take advantage of a full night’s sleep. After 3 am, we were waking up every hour to check on her and make sure she was still alive. We keep praying to the sleep fairies, but she hasn’t repeated that magic night since. In fact, the past 2 weeks she’s regressed in her sleeping habits, waking up every 3 hours to feed. It’s only a small change from her old habits, but the extra nighttime wake-up has been a noticeable drain on our energy levels.

Dream Time

The good news is she’s napping better during the day. Before, she would only nap in her swing or stroller. But while we were travelling we were forced to improvise. We were amazed to discover that if we wrapped her in a warm blanket when she was tired and gave her a soother, within a few minutes she would contentedly fall asleep.

1st Doctor's Visit

Astrid had her first doctor’s visit last week. There is some concern about her eczema, but we seem to have it under control. I was happy the doctor wasn’t eager to prescribe a steroid cream. Astrid’s weight gain and size are excellent for her age (around the 60th percentile) and she’s on track for her mental development.

Astrid also get her first vaccinations. I wasn’t vaccinated as a child, but have come to the conclusion that vaccines are safe and an important health measure.

Oral Vaccination

So, we took Astrid to the the local health clinic to get her 2 month vaccinations last week. The oral vaccine she got (for rotavirus) was no problem but the three shots she had (covering Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Hepatitis B, Polio, and Meningitis) gave her a fierce crying fit. She calmed down after five minutes and let Emily nurse her. After the shots, we monitored her at home for a fever. Not because she ever showed any signs of one, but I wanted to try our fancy, contact-less, digital thermometer – the Thermo. In 5 seconds it takes the baby’s temperature without any upsetting probing. It’s awesome.

Cuddles

New Parent Adventures: Baby Eczema

Eczema

Astrid was born with sensitive skin. Something she unfortunately inherited from her parents. We both have to deal with eczema. Mine was particularly bad as a child, when my parents would slather my legs in creams, wrap them with rags (mummy style), and put socks over my hands before I went to bed top stop me from scratching my legs until they bled. As an adult, my skin is very dry but it’s manageable with moisturizers and by avoiding eczema triggers.

Eczema

While we were travelling, Astrid’s eczema really exploded. The heat in Ontario and a bunch of other environmental triggers caused the small patches of eczema on her legs to get much worse and spread to her stomach and chest.She never really complained or itched, but that might because she doesn’t have the motor skills to scratch yet.

Our number one priority when we got back to Vancouver was to get her eczema under control. Here’s what we did:

  • washed all her clothes with scent-free laundry detergent
  • started moisturizing her skin twice a day with homemade lotion (made from shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and olive oil) and Aveeno Baby Eczema Care
  • Emily avoided eating soy, eggs, and dairy (which irritate my skin)
  • gave Astrid oatmeal baths twice a week

After two weeks, her skin isn’t perfect but the eczema is now under control.

Better Skin

Astrid: Month Two

Beach Time
Happy 2 month birthday to our little girl, Astrid. It feels like we’re getting the hang of being parents and she’s establishing a more predictable routine. It hasn’t been all sunshine and beach parties, but things are getting easier, especially over the past 2 weeks.

The biggest change is that we feel more rested and less exhausted than we did last month. I’m not sure if that’s because we’re adapting to life with less sleep or she’s sleeping better. Probably both.

Mobile View

Parenting is becoming less of a chore and more fun. Astrid is more interactive – she smiles, makes happy baby noises, and reacts to sounds and objects around her. She really loves the mobile Emily made for her. When she’s awake and happy she’ll stare it for up to an hour as it slowly spins above her. She also likes hanging out with her stuffed animal friends – Maurice the mischievous monkey, Pauline the perky penguin, and Ekua her elephant spirit guide.

Last week Emily took Astrid to the library for story time. Astrid was the youngest baby there and slept through the whole thing, but Emily learned a bunch of kids songs that she enjoys singing with Astrid.

Animal Party

We still don’t have a life outside of the baby and it’s tough to plan anything. Astrid doesn’t have much of a schedule, except for one day a few weeks ago when Emily freaked about sleep training and tried putting her on a rigid nap schedule. That proved to be more effort than it was worth, so now we’re back to letting her nap when she’s tired.

For the most part she feeds every 2 1/2 hours during the day and spends the rest of the time awake and playful or cat napping. Her only scheduled activity right now is bath time – Wednesday and Sunday evenings around 8 pm. It helps calm her down and sleep better. We try to get her to bed between 8:30 and 9:00 pm.

Bath Time

We’ve been lucky she’s been developing some good overnight sleep habits over the past two weeks, without us having to stress too much about it. Most nights (fingers crossed), she goes to bed at 9 pm and sleeps until 2 or 3 am (a good 5-6 hour stretch). Then she feeds and goes back to sleep until 6 am. At 6 am, I take her and Emily goes back to bed. We do playtime for an hour and then I try to get her to nap for an hour.

Anna, Astrid, and Zoe

During the day, she cat naps for short stretches (up to 30 minutes) in the stroller, carrier, or on the floor with a soother in. The only way to get her to have a long nap is to put her in the swing. It usually knocks her out pretty quickly. I don’t know if that makes us lazy parents or smart parents, but it sure beats having to push the baby around in the stroller. At least this way we can do other stuff, like eat, cook, and watch Netflix, while she’s napping.

Messy Reward Donuts

Astrid is a very regular pooper. A pretty consistent 5 poopy diapers a day, and you have to be careful when changing her because sometimes she tries to sneak one in before the new diaper is on. We’ve started a tradition where you get a donut every time you’re pooped on. It was Emily’s idea (she’s had a few poop explosions while breastfeeding) and I think it’s just an excuse for her to eat more donuts. But she usually gets one for me too (even though I’ve only been peed on), so I’m not going to argue with yummy vegan donuts.

1st Bottle Feeding
My biggest triumph of month 2 is successfully bottle feeding Astrid. I’ve done it 3 times now and it was pretty easy (twice at 6 am while Emily slept). We’re lucky that Astrid has no problem drinking from a bottle. We know a few babies who refuse to.

So the plan is to occasionally pump and I can take care of the odd feeding. That way Emily can leave the baby for more than 2 hours during the day or get a full night’s sleep when she needs it. It’s also nice for me to be involved in the feeding.

Astrid in the Garden

So we’re two months in, Astrid is healthy and happy, and we couldn’t ask for more. She has cradle cap and sensitive skin (she gets heat rashes easily and has some eczema on her legs), but otherwise she’s very healthy and gaining weight and a good rate. We don’t want to jinx it, but she’s a really sweet baby.

Pouty Faces

New Parent Adventures: Baby Tracking App

Today's Timeline

I’m a proud data nerd, so it probably comes as no surprise that I’m a huge fan of our baby tracking app. It’s the great aid to my sleep deprived brain and the keeper of our daughters history so far – at least all the important statistics like weight (4.9 kg), height (57 cm), and dirty diaper count (445).

We use the Feed Baby app. We paid $4.99 for the Pro version so we could sync data between our phones faster and not have ads but the free version is pretty good. The main competitor, Baby Daybook, looks very similar and I’m not sure there is much that separates them.

Sleep By Day

The app’s main day-to-day feature is helping mothers keep track of what side they’ve most recently breastfed the baby on. It’s also a great aid to help decipher the baby’s moods and answer the some key questions. When was the last time she fed? Is she constipated, when did she last poop? Maybe she’s over-tired, how much has she slept today?

The charts and statistics have been handy for seeing the patterns in her habits. For example, Astrid’s steadily been getting better at sleeping at night, with longer sleeps and less time awake for feedings and diaper changes. Of course we can feel that, but the data really shows that although there has been a few hiccups, her sleep patterns have been steadily improving.

Sleeps Heatmap

It’s also useful for tracking her weight, height, and head circumference and comparing them against standard growth curves. Astrid started off small and lost 10% of her weight in the first 3 days, but has rapidly growing since then.

Growth Chart

There are a bunch of features we haven’t used yet, but will as Astrid gets older – like new teeth and vaccine tracking.

So if you have a newborn, I highly recommend getting a baby tracking app. It will make your as sleep-deprived life much easier.