Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So You Want To Give The Baby A Bath ...

Let's give the baby a bath.  Could it sound any easier?  Any more relaxing?  Any more innocuous?  Of course not; it sounds like the epitome of  "cake walk."  Moreover, does not introducing a bathing schedule for your little bundle of joy make perfect sense?  I mean, is not cleanliness next to godliness, etc and so forth?  The problem is not with the concept (which my semi-rhetorical questions rightfully laud), but with the reality.  You see, no matter how much you prepare and stage for the bath, your baby is going to make sure it is an adventure.  Why?  Because no plan, regardless of how well conceived and meticulously drawn, survives contact with the enemy little bastards, whom just love keeping us on our toes (I keep telling people, forget the What to Expect series, just read Sun Tzu to prepare for child rearing).

The support for my only slightly hyperbolic, but wholly plausible, claim?  Glad you asked.  Behold my scientifically relevant (not at all) and mathematically sound (who are we kidding) listing of the potential outcomes of attempting to give your newborn a bath.  Please note that the list is in order of descending probability, because we might as well start with the sure things and work our way down to the item so unlikely that it has only ever been substantiated by anecdotal evidence proffered by weary travellers around a camp-fire (much like Big Foot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster and Reasonably Priced Gas):

1) Something will make the baby cry and thrash.  Now, this would not be anywhere near as entertaining if you knew what it was that was going to make the child cry, or even if the same thing made them cry each time.  No, it is a journey through the heart of quantum random number generation.  Being put in the water makes baby cry ... no wait, it doesn't.  Having water splash on the baby's face is fine ... no wait, it is cause for melt-down.  Being disrobed for the bath brings forth the sound of a banshee, no wait, only kidding, disrobing is A OK ... no wait, now it causes two banshees to have a shouting match while fighting over an air-raid siren someone left blaring ... no, never mind, being naked is fine.  Each day brings a new cause for the cacophony, except for the one day when he's absolutely fine for the entire bath ... but starts wailing the moment you take him out of the water.  Son of a ...

2) The baby will pee.  On you, in the tub, on the side of the sink, on the counter ... it's going to go somewhere.  When will the baby pee you ask?  I have no idea.  Sometimes it is when you first put them in the water.  Makes sense, right?  Warm water hits the privates and bam, the baby pees.  Except, sometimes the baby can sit there for a few minutes before peeing, so it isn't the rush of the warm water maybe.  But then sometimes he pees while you are disrobing him before ever getting near the bathtub, which may be caused the by cold air hitting the baby ... however there are also the fun times when he pees on Daddy when proud Papa is standing holding the baby waiting to take him to the bath and Mommy stands there rightfully laughing her head off.  Oh, and there are also days when there is no pee around bath time.  So, essentially, I have no blessed idea when or why exactly there is going to be pee, but there is going to be pee 85% of the time.

3) The baby might poop in the tub.  This one moved up the list thanks to an incident just this week.  "Unfortunately," I was not home to witness the event, but My Wife was (obviously), and so here it is: you put the baby in the bath, go to lather the tyke up, but before you can say "don't you pee in the bath this time" lo and behold ... he has pooped in the water.  Explanations for the phenomenon range from the sensible (the warm water hitting the baby's bottom and tummy relax the sphincter and ... poop), to the plausible (crying tenses the baby's intestinal tract and ... poop), to the paranoid (the little bastards want to mess with us and ... poop).  Hey, I warned you that an overwhelming number of posts would involve this stuff; truth in advertising is all I can say.

4) You could get soaked.  The trick to this entry is not the soaking, because, let's face it, you are putting a baby in tub full of water; if you have any sense, the thought "I may get wet here" has to cross your mind.  No, the reason for this making the list is that you are going to cause the situation more often than the baby does.  Sure, he may splash a little, but that isn't what is going to get you.  Nope, what gets you is that you will either: (a) panic that you may lose your grasp on the wet baby and consequently hold the soaked child tightly to yourself; (b) go to dump the water out of the tub, but miscalculate the amount of water and get a huge back-splash in the sink (oh, yeah, I'm the only one to do this); or (c) get peed on by the tyke as you stand there waiting to put him in the tub as your spouse laughs their head off (hey, soaked is soaked).

5) The baby gets bathed.  It's a pipe dream people.  You manage to get water and a little bit of soap on the wiggle worm, call it a victory.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Clean-up on Aisle 6 ...

Babies make messes, or, more precisely (given that babies do not intentionally create the situations … I think), messes happen in exceedingly close proximity to babies.  Useful as this aphorism may be, it is the more vulgar formulation that is familiar: babies poop, puke and pee all over the place (no, seriously, all over the place).  As I have previously mentioned, poop/puke/pee posts are likely to be plentiful given that for the first year or so of life, it seriously seems like humans produce an inordinate amount of all 3, and parents traditionally deal with the tsunami of waste in comical fashion (at least My Wife and I do).  Today’s post was inspired by a spectacular diaper explosion that not only saw Sidney’s poop and pee flying to and fro, but came within 1 or 2 psi of bladder pressure from making My Wife pee herself with laughter.  That’s right, my kid peeing all over the place almost caused My Wife to pee all over the place. 

It started innocently enough.  We realized Sidney needed a change (thanks to a wetness strip on his diaper, more below), and took him over to the changing table (indispensable piece of furniture).  Off comes the diaper, full of pee.  Suddenly - and I am not talking “oh my, that was unexpected” here, I am talking “SWEET BABY JESUS, ALL I DID WAS BLINK” – our beloved child decided it was time to imitate a Play-Doh Fun Factory™ being operated by Popey on a spinach, steroid and cocaine bender.  As My Wife wisely dove out of the way of the avalanche (poop-alanche?), I attempted to keep Sidney from slamming his legs into the pile of baby butt soft-serve (you’re welcome for the mental image) forming underneath him.  No sooner than we thought this was under control, he starts peeing … a lot.  So now we’re keeping him from getting the crap-sundae on his legs while simultaneously attempting to aim the lawn-sprinkler away from himself, us and the furniture.  When the reality of the situation hit her, My Wife starts laughing and mid guffaw announces that if she doesn’t stop laughing soon she will pee herself.  I initially thought this casual hyperbole, until I noticed she was bending over and fighting to keep her legs pinned together.  Mr. Poopy the Pee Sprinkler on the changing table and the Lovely Mrs. Don’t Let Me Pee Myself to my right.  Other than going for cheap potty humor, what was the purpose of telling you this anecdote?  Well, believe it or not clean-up of this fiasco was a snap thanks to the following indispensable items:

1) Housetraining/Pee-pee pads.  Hear me out people.  You know that awesome changing table I keep telling you about?  Well, imagine what would happen each time we had a poop and/or pee explosion.  All of this would end up on the changing table, necessitating numerous cleanings and replacements of the table tops/padded covers.  You know what house-training pads are made to absorb/protect against?  Pee and poo!  You lay one of these bad boys down on the changing table and if (and by if, I mean when) there is the poo/pee explosion, it hits the disposable pad.  You clean up the kid, wrap up the crap, diaper, and soiled cleaning implements (more below) in the pad and toss the whole mess (sans kid).  The icing?  These things are insanely cheap.   A low cost, high impact solution to an omnipresent (when you have an infant) problem.  Also, when people come over and see the box sitting in the nursery, you can always quip of course you have the pads, you’re house training an infant.  (Management of this Blog takes no responsibility for any calls to Child Protective Services made by your guests whom lack a sense of humor and/or common sense.)

2) Cotton Squares.  For the first few weeks, use of even the most gentle diaper wipes is not advised because you can (and will) irritate the hell out of the baby’s bits with all the changes/cleanings you’ll be doing.  Using cotton balls in place of the wipes is recommended, but only by people who have never tried to wipe the poop coated ass of a kicking baby with a wet cotton ball (or who have, but want to share their misery).  In a flash of inspiration (and luck), I picked up cotton squares reasoning that (a) they, like the cotton balls, were 100% soft cotton; (b) because they were square pads they would not ball up and fall apart like cotton balls, and could be folded so as to get poop out of baby folds; and (c) they are marketed as being sturdy enough to take 12 layers of make-up off of your average Jersey Shore wanna-be (I likely made this last part up).  In any event, they work like a charm.

3) Diapers With Wetness Indicators.  I have no idea if all diapers come with wetness indicators, but they should.  I cannot over-state the utility of these things.  Most of the time, your baby will let you know when the diaper needs changing (of course, you may not figure out this is what they are telling you at first … someone really should offer “infant” as a language course), but every so often they don’t.  Be it because they are asleep, in a position where they don’t feel the wet diaper, or simply in a mood to mess with you (this happens more often than you think), you don’t get the warning.  Aside from not wanting to leave your child soaking in their waste (that’s right, I just played the guilt card … I am well on my way to full blown parent mode), the more pee that soaks into a diaper the more likely you are to have an over-flow situation.  You don’t want an over-flow situation.  As I have previously commented, baby pee is rancid stuff.  I remain unconvinced that it is not in fact produced by his kidneys, but instead teleported from one of the seven rivers of the underworld (given the stench, I am thinking the Cocytus or Acheron) to the diaper.  So knowing that the diaper is nearing saturation is valuable information.  The line turns blue, you change the diaper.  No guess work, no false alarms and, most importantly, fewer spills of hell water.

4) Dreft Stain Remover.  There will be messes.  This cannot be understated.  Sometimes the messes will get on bibs, burp cloths, clothing, bedding, you name it; and you’ll need to clean it up.  Particularly troublesome are formula spills/spit up/stains.  You see, baby formula is wonderfully high in protein (a very good thing for the baby), which, as anybody who has ever watched a detergent commercial (or an episode of CSI) knows, makes for particularly nasty stains (insert dissertation on proteins' reactive nature and ability to make strong chemical bonds to carbon molecules here).  On top of its amazing staining properties, protein also coagulates very quickly when exposed to heat and enzymes (see: digestion).  This means that when a baby spits up, you get a clumping gelatinous staining mess that tenaciously adheres to fabrics.  To top it all off, urine and poo also have a high protein content (different proteins, obviously, but proteins none-the-less).  Sidney is 3 weeks old.  So far he averages 4 spit-up and/or pee induced clothing changes a day (have I mentioned messes spring up around babies often?), and at least 3 t-shirt splatters a week.  At any given moment there is baby formula, pee, poop and/or spit-up on something.   You want the stains lifted and the clumps washed off?   Dreft does the job.  Correction, Dreft eradicates stains.  Intellectually, I understand that as a detergent it is simply an amphiphilic (likely cationic) surficant (albeit an ingeniously formulated one).  But when you see a giant stain disappear in seconds, it might as well be magic.  Seriously, this stuff makes OxyClean look like seltzer water.  You have a baby?  Get Dreft.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Baby Ate My Homework ...

It should be no surprise (at least not if you have read prior posts) to hear that My Wife and I like to be prepared.  We research, read, inquire, analyze, poke, prod and experiment (and not always in that order).  Personally, this methodology has served me well in life, and I was relatively certain it would work with child rearing.  My plan was steadily bolstered as My Wife bought more books, found more web sites and otherwise dug up more information on all things baby.  You see, I am an academic at heart, thus having reference materials available gives me a sense of comfort.  The fact I am writing about this, however, obviously means this was a false sense of comfort (because, honestly, there is little humor to be had from “and the plan worked out perfectly”).  The post hoc “obvious” reason for the failure of my plan is that no matter how much reading and preparing you do, raising a child is the epitome of “you have to actually do it to understand it.”  Now, this is not because we are dealing with some esoteric art, bordering on ethereal knowledge, which is incapable of conveyance by something as clumsy and brutish as human language.  No, the truth is ridiculously mundane: every baby is going to be just different enough from every other baby so as to awry (go with me here) the best laid plans of mice and men (yes, a tortured use of Burns’s poem and Steinbeck’s title was the pay-off; sue me).   In short, apparently you learn to be a parent by being a parent.

Personally, this revelation, although very helpful, is a bit anticlimactic.  More to the point, given that we are still so early on in our parenthood, the urge to romanticize the process still grips me.  It is in this vein that I started thinking, what if there was a way to effectively study to be a parent?  A baccalaureate in parenting program, if you will.  What would the course work look like, knowing what I do now?  Well, I am glad you (and by “you” I mean “I”) asked:

1)  Milk/Formula Dynamics (Applied Chemistry).  For at least the first 6 months of life, your child should only ingest two things: Breast Milk and/or Formula.  In this class you learn how to store, handle and dispense these volatile substances.  Topics covered: Hungry Child Thermodynamics (a bottle takes twice as long to warm up if the child is hungry, three times as long if he is screaming); Inverse Fluidity (flow through a bottle nipple will slow the closer it is to the child’s mouth, but accelerate near clothing, furniture or portions of the child’s face that is not the mouth); and Variable Stain Setting (staining potential of the fluids is directly proportional to the value of the item spilled on).

2)  The Newborn Parent Mind (Abnormal Psychology).  You now are 100% responsible for keeping an otherwise helpless human alive.  This course will examine behavioral manifestations of this responsibility.  Topics covered:  Obsessive Hovering; Obsessive Breathing Checks; Obsessive Movement Checks; Obsessive Diaper Checks; Did He Just Cry Checks; and, No Seriously Is He Still Breathing Checks.

3)  Baby Lifting (Phys. Ed).  You will have to maneuver through certain activities holding a child from time to time, and this class teaches you the proper techniques.  Topics covered: Mounting and dismounting the couch with a sleeping baby; preparing the bottle one handed; speed eating; cleaning up one handed; and proper holding of a child with soiled diaper (the advanced extended arm techniques).

4)  Sleep Seminar (Classics).  Much like Homer, Ovid, Virgil, Seneca and Boethius, sleep is now an artifact of the past.  Topics covered: Remembering sleep; Just one hour … for the love of God; and I bet I can catch 10 minutes of sleep on that stool over there. 

5) Expulsion Mechanics (Applied Physics).  Fluids and solids of varying viscosity and density, respectively, will be expelled by your child at unpredictable speeds.  Although prevention is an impossibility, containment and damage minimization is possible through a deeper understanding of the mechanics of the “blow-outs”.  Topics Covered:  Urine Pressure Differentials (pee flows faster the further from the diaper); Secondary Poop Blast (the initial poop’s contact with oxygen can cause an immediate second poop); Puke Vectors (puke will travel along whatever non-linear path necessary to reach your shirt); and Catastrophic Chain Blow-Out Dynamics (cleaning up any one expulsion and cause blow-outs in any other system).  

Attendance is taken in all classes, with the exception of the Sleep Seminar, which gets cut with alarming regularity.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Don't Delay; Order Now!

As I previously mentioned (once or thrice), My Wife performed considerable research during her pregnancy concerning all things baby (including Daddy Diaper Bags as you may recall).  At the time, I appreciated her thoroughness but quietly (for me) held the opinion that most of the stuff she was looking into was little more than gimmicky (dig the fancy lingo) versions of the crap (again with the fancy) we actually needed.  Now that we’ve had some time with the boy, I can report that I was right with respect to some of the products, but I was also very wrong with respect to others.  So as to make it manageable (and to give me the opportunity to make more posts, naturally), I am going to break my observations/reviews into multiple postings.  In the coming days we will cover the “wow, that was useless” group as well as the “these are ok, but we paid how much?” bunch; but for today we start with the “holy crap, these are sanity saving” items.  Cutting to the chase, if you are about to have a kid, get these, trust me:

1) Tommee Tippee Newborn Bottles: Babies belch; shocking I know.  More importantly, babies belch because they swallow air during feeding.  You know what else swallowing air during feeding causes?  Fussy, unhappy babies that scream bloody murder because they are uncomfortable; oh, and the built up air pressure means they will projectile vomit … we’re talking distance and volume projectile vomiting.  “He didn’t eat that much, how is he still spewing?!” projectile vomiting.  Breastfed babies swallow less air because when they latch onto the boob, there is a good tight seal; bottle fed babies may get less of a seal depending on the bottle top shape, fluid flow through the bottle nipple and/or other manner of air infiltration into the bottle.  Solution? Bottles with nipples that mimic boobs enough to create a tight seal, even fluid flow and otherwise limits air infiltration.  Tommee Tippee bottles are basically mini boobs (my understanding is that there are other brands that also do this).  In short, get your kid mini-boob bottles or deal with a screaming, burping, projectile vomiting child (and we all remember how that movie ended).  Bonus: you feel slightly naughty washing the bottles.

2) Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail: This one shocked me.  I was certain … certain I tell you … that this was nothing more than Arm & Hammer’s attempt to get into the garbage bag and pail business.  I was dead wrong.  Diapers stink; stop laughing.  For those of you that have children, you know what I mean.  To those that don’t: everything that comes out of your child’s waste management parts is noxious.  Pee?  It’s not urine, but rather some mixture of liquid ammonium nitrate, uric acid and devil’s sweat.  Poop? After the meconium clears out (an odorless, tar-like substance that babies pass for the first 24 hours or so of life, accurately described by Sidney’s Godfather in the comments below), what you get is a toxic sludge that smells not of familiar sulfur and methane, but some acrid distillate of butyric acid, pyridine and hobo’s sweat.  The situation is exacerbated by the fact that you will be changing your child’s diaper 10-12 times on a good day.  That’s a dozen bundles of mass olfactory destruction.  You want to have your regular garbage full of these things?  More to the point, do you think you can?  Unless you are suffering with anosmia, the rational answer is a stern (and nose pinched) “no.”  Enter the Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail.  This thing seals off the diapers you deposit and automatically sprinkles a bit of baking soda on top (sodium bicarbonate, you absorbing wonder).  Each bag will hold around 24 Stage 1 diapers – and even if it was only 3, it would still be worth it.  Your nose (and your neighbors’ noses) will thank you.

3) Tommee Tippee Newborn Shield Pacifier:  “Pacifier’s are horrible, deform the soft palate and lead to speech impediments later in life; I will not allow my child to use a pacifier.”  Yeah, we read those “reports” from “experts” too, and despite my reluctance to allow the research of extreme cases (prolonged and persistent pacifier use long beyond the newborn and well into the toddler phase) to create an absolute rule, I was ok with avoiding the use.  The problem?  A newborn does not care one whit about your opinion and will scream his/her bloody head off until soothed.  Your child can be soothed by something else?  Hallelujah, congratulations and feel free to move on to the next item.  For the rest (and the realistic), odds are you are going to break down (unless you want to hear your child bawl at the top of his/her lungs) and agree to go with a pacifier during the newborn phase for soothing purposes (you can wean them off the things later on; 0-3 months is not the time for philosophical stands).  This being said, a pacifier that mimics the thing kids are sticking in their mouths at this point anyhow (nipples and tiny fingers) and that does not press against the soft palate is ideal.  Enter the Tommee Tippee Pacifier.  Tiny, flexible and soothing.  For now it solves his fussiness when he is falling asleep, soothes him when he’s antsy and over-all makes life better for the family unit.  Another benefit is that giving your newborn a pacifier will annoy sanctimonious pissants.  The takeaway: you are going to end up using a pacifier unless you are a sociopath/sadist/sanctimonious pissant, so use these.     

4) Badger Basket Changing Table:  In my ignorance I was convinced that any solid surface was going to be sufficient to change a diaper, so why in the name of Plank’s Constant would we spend money on a “changing table”?  The couch is a “changing table” I argued, as are the bed, the dining room table, the floor and the kitchen counter.  Hell, storing a changing pad was one of the reasons I needed to have a diaper bag I railed.  Then I changed a diaper … you need a changing table.  It puts the baby at the perfect height, keeps him/her from rolling around, stores all the supplies you need within arm’s reach (and trust me, it has to be at arm’s reach) and gives you a padded surface to bang your head after the changing is complete (and you will want to bang your head sometimes).  More important than all of this, however, is the fact that without a changing table you will be buying a new couch, mattress, dining room table and/or kitchen counter.  Why?  Because your kid will not necessarily be done “going” just because you started changing the diaper.  Pee will shoot out the moment you have the diaper off, as will poop; on particularly bad days it is like having a combined lawn-sprinkler/soft-serve pump assault.  All of that would be on your other furniture but-for the changing table.  Get one people.

Now, if you will all excuse me, I think we need to get Sidney to the changing table (he just finished the mini-boob).