i have been working on this post for five days now. there isn’t much downtime with a baby and i suffered from another bout of mastitis (!) but more on that later…
penny had her two-month doctor appointment on monday. it was a moment that i had been dreading because of the vaccines – 3 shots and one oral. as a member of three facebook groups geared towards parents, i learned that side effects from the vaccines can include a fever, soreness, fussiness, and sleepiness. (dennis confirmed.) many moms also recommended nursing right away to help soothe the baby.
at the appointment, we found out that penny has been growing beautifully. she now weighs 12 lb. 6 oz. and is 23.5 inches long! her measurements are in the 90th percentile. that’s my girl! she was so happy too as she lay on the check-up table smiling and cooing…until we gave her the shots. poor thing was crying and screaming from the pain. nursing immediately really did calm her down. afterwards, she was lethargic and had a glazed-over look in her eyes. she cried on and off from the pain during the evening and after holding and rocking her she went to sleep. on tuesday, she was much more sleepy. at one stretch, she slept for 4 hours and didn’t nurse in almost 5 and a half hours!
in the meantime, i had been pumping because of mastitis. i woke up tuesday morning with a tenderness under my right breast and my heart sank. even after taking a hot shower, massaging, pumping, and applying heat the symptoms of mastitis arrived in full force: the flu-like symptoms (achiness, fever, and chills). we usually don’t have the ac on in the lower level of our home because it stays relatively cool. because of chills, i wore sweatpants and a hoodie and i was still huddled underneath a blanket.
luckily my sister came down from boston to help and even stayed two nights. two important things to do when you have mastitis is to stay hydrated and rest. drinking water is easy enough but definitely not the resting part. true, i have help but one person can’t put a baby down for a nap and try to cook dinner. i stepped in to nurse penny and put her down since it was nearing 7pm and we hadn’t had dinner yet. normally, penny wakes up around that time from her last nap to get ready for bed but the vaccines threw her ‘schedule’ off.
after taking ibuprofen to ease the pain, i ended up taking a percocet before bed because i was suffering full-force by that time. i woke up around 1am hearing penny’s cry and feeling infinitely better because i had sweated everything out though the tenderness remained. thankfully, my sister stepped in to do the late night feedings (penny only nursed 4 times the previous day) while i pumped and went back to bed. as the percocet wore off, the flu-like symptoms returned. before dennis left for work, he picked up thai food for us to eat at lunch and i had to force it down because i had no appetite; but i needed to eat to maintain energy.
penny is ten weeks now. at times, it feels much longer, and other times i can’t believe how fast time has gone by. the days can drag on especially when she’s going through a growth spurt and is cluster feeding and taking short naps. i want to share some things – 14 to be exact – that helped us get through the first few months, particularly the first two weeks which were the hardest.
1. apno lactation cream
“apno” stands for “all-purpose nipple ointment.” this was a HUGE lifesaver when i was struggling with breastfeeding during the first several weeks. we found out that penny had a slight tongue-tie which made latching more painful. in one of my earlier posts, i wrote about the pain and desperation i was feeling during the earlier days. this was like a miracle cream. it contains steroids among other ingredients to speed up the healing process. i noticed a drastic change the next day! after nursing, i applied the cream and wrapped saran wrap around the nipple area to lock in moisture. i was told to only do it for a week as steroids can cause thinning of the skin. this cream can only be obtained at a compound pharmacy with a prescription, of course. luckily, there is one down the street from us. for moms that suffer from sore and raw nipples, this could be the cream for you.
2. boppy lounger
penny was really gassy during the first month due to a tongue-tie (this was resolved at her first doctor visit) and the use of a nipple shield (which i still use). she’s been less gassy as of late but still spits up almost after every feeding so we try to keep her upright for, at least, 15 minutes. we found out that holding her over our shoulder to burp her was causing her to spit up more because of the pressure on her stomach. first, we place penny in a sitting position and pat her back to burp and then we put her over our shoulder to continually get the gas out of her body. this boppy lounger was helpful when penny was taking naps in the living room. (now that she’s older and more sensitive to noise and light, she sleeps upstairs in her crib.) we let her sleep on the lounger to keep her upright and to also have less pressure on the back of her head (no flat head for this girl!)
3. uppababy vista
this stroller comes with a bassinet, and it’s the bassinet that proved to be very useful. my mom stayed with us for a weekend during penny’s first week. since the “real” bassinet was in our room and the crib in the nursery, penny slept in the uppababy bassinet. (by the way, this bassinet was approved for overnight sleeping.) my mom woke up every few hours during the night to feed penny and would put her back to sleep in the bassinet. sometimes when we found it difficult to put her down for naps, we would take her out for a walk and she would get much needed shut-eye in the bassinet as well. these days, she doesn’t sleep in it for naps or overnight when we’re at home but we do bring it with us when we are visiting family and friends so she can nap in there.
we love the aden and anais (pronounced an-eye-ees) swaddles (shown in the boppy lounger photo). these receiving blankets are made from muslin and are light and breathable which helps prevent overheating. many come in sets of 4 with various, pretty designs.
we were also fond of summer infant swaddles but penny has long outgrown them. they were easy because the baby’s legs and lower torso are tucked inside a pocket and two velcro flaps keep the arms in place. swaddles are key in helping infants go to sleep and stay asleep. newborns have a startle reflex called the moro reflex where their arms fly up. this can wake them up so tightly swaddled babies sleep better and longer.. plus, they feel safe and secure from being snug as they are used to cozy spaces from being in a womb for 9 months.
if you’re hesitant about purchasing a glider for the nursery, don’t be; it really is a great investment. why a glider over a rocker? well, dennis and i felt that a glider looks better than a rocker as it doesn’t have the exposed rails on the bottom. plus, it’s a bit safer for when penny starts crawling so her hands don’t get caught underneath.
i spent many a night actually sleeping on the glider the first few weeks because penny would want to nurse constantly. there was no point in going back to the master bedroom; i just collapsed onto the glider with a blanket and fell asleep. i still spend most of my mornings on that chair for early-morning feedings. thankfully, penny has been sleeping in longer stretches so i don’t need to get up as often but it’s so comfortable that it actually makes it hard to get up.
the one that we chose to get is the kersey upholstered swivel glider recliner from babies ‘r us. it retails for around $499. i love that it reclines which makes sleeping in it is easier.
below is the glider in penny’s nursery
6. halo bassinest
the above word is not a typo. we love the halo bassinest swivel sleeper. it’s next to my side of the bed so i can easily get to her. during the first four weeks, penny was exclusively sleeping in the bassinest at night. when she woke, i would scoop her up and take her to the nursery to do a diaper change and a feed. we didn’t have a monitor then because we wanted her to be close to us at that time.
the bassinest boasts a 360-degree swivel which comes in handy when you’re trying to gently place a baby inside it without waking them up. i would turn it towards me when i was about to put penny down. i didn’t have to worry about squeezing in between my bed and the bassinest to access it.
it also has 6 different music options like ‘hush, little baby’ and rainforest noises. there is also a dim, bluish light that can be turned on so you can see your baby without switching on a bright lamp. in addition, there’s a vibrate mode than can help the baby go to sleep.
one thing that i couldn’t use was the collapsible side rail. one side of the bassinest is collapsible so you can reach in to soothe, or take out, your baby. unfortunately, we have a low bed frame and the bassinest was too high for me to be able to lean over to take penny out. i had to get out of bed. i didn’t mind really since i nursed in the nursery anyway.
7. baby bjorn
baby bjorn one
there are many baby carriers out there but we chose ‘baby bjorn one’ for its versatility. ‘baby bjorn one’ accommodates newborns-3 years and has four different carrying options. newborns are worn higher on the chest to not only make them feel safe and secure but also for easy viewing access for the parents. after the age of four months, babies should be worn lower on the chest. after five months or when your baby has a more developed neck, hips, and spine they can be worn facing outwards as well. starting from 12 months, or when your child has consistent control over their head, neck, and torso they can be worn on the back.
in the early weeks, there were days when we struggled with putting penny down for a nap and the only way she would sleep was either in our arms or in the baby bjorn one. the baby being strapped close to a warm chest lulls them to sleep (much like a swaddle). of course, it limits what you can do but at least the baby is finally sleeping and you’re hands-free! (you could’ve been stuck on the couch cradling a baby while nodding off… always a dangerous situation.)
dennis and i always make sure to pack the carrier when we’re traveling so it’s an option when penny is being fussy. recently, we drove up to massachusetts to attend my cousin’s high school graduation party. penny was overtired from being handed around to multiple people so when it finally came down to napping she would awaken a half hour later. after it occurring twice, we decided to put penny in the carrier so we wouldn’t keep missing out on the mingling and festivities. it took, maybe, five minutes for her to fall asleep once dennis put her in the carrier.
using a combination of all three will really help in keeping you preoccupied when you’re up at odd hours of the day to feed the baby. during the first month or so, newborns generally feed every 1.5-2 hours so much of your days are spent confined to a glider, or the couch, unable to do much else.
i used the kindle more when i was exclusively pumping to pass the time since i was pumping every two hours in the beginning. when i resumed nursing, i started using my ipad to browse the internet and go on facebook because of the larger screen but it wasn’t as convenient as using my iphone. yes, the screen’s smaller on a smartphone but at least i can access and hold it with one hand. i’m also very skilled at texting with one hand so i’m able to keep up on my social life as well.
in addition, there are several apps (that i will mention below) that i consistently use so i always make sure to have my phone on me. during the first month when penny was either cluster feeding or feeding every 1.5-2 hours, i was bound to the glider or the couch. coincidentally, genie would be up at the same odd hours of the night as me since she had to tend to her newborn. we would spend this time texting back and forth sharing our triumphs and frustrations as well as links to articles that ranged from current events to harry potter.
9. baby tracker, white noise, & spotify apps
in a previous post, i had talked about ‘baby tracker’, an app that logs your baby’s feeding time/length, diaper changes, sleep time, milestones, vaccinations, etc. since i’m constantly accessing this app to record all of these things i make sure to have my phone with me wherever i go. when i like something, i reach the obsession stage and currently i’m consumed with this app. i like organizing data and seeing patterns, and this app allows me to gauge penny’s next meal so i know not to be in the middle of eating if she’s going to wake up for a feeding soon. being able to see when she last slept is crucial so i can make sure to put her down before she reaches the overtired stage. i make an effort to get the nap routine going before the 1.5 hour mark. it sounds crazy but it’s so easy to miss a baby’s tired cues and when you do, it goes downhill pretty quickly.
babies are used to hearing all kinds of environmental noises because they were exposed to it in the womb. one time when penny was only a few weeks old, yuri barked very close to her ear – i was livid – but penny continued snoozing on my shoulder without so much as a flinch since she had heard yuri barking for the past nine and a half months. that’s why sometimes white noise can be soothing to babies and actually help them go to sleep.
i have the white noise app on my phone and ipad. i keep the ipad in the nursery so the white noise is on whenever she is sleeping. to be honest, it’s a waste of an ipad to only be used for the white noise app so we are mulling over buying a white noise machine. now that penny is older and more sensitive to background noise, white noise also helps to mask other noises so that penny stays asleep. it brings a peace of mind knowing that you don’t have to whisper or tiptoe around the house (though we still do occasionally).
ah, spotify. we love accessing the myriad of playlists to expose penny to a variety of music. besides the white noise, we also play calm and soothing tunes from playlists such as ‘afternoon acoustics’ and ‘peaceful piano’ when trying to put penny to sleep. when she’s awake, we’ll play more upbeat music from playlists like ‘today’s top hits’ or ‘weekend buzz.’ there is a bose sound dock in penny’s room so we connect our phones to it via bluetooth whenever we are in there. to ensure penny won’t wake up when the music abruptly stops, i gradually lower the volume while putting her to sleep and then stop the music altogether when i’m just outside her door. for when she’s awake, we connect our phones to the sound bar that’s in front of the tv so music can course throughout the first floor. we try our best to not expose her to television and since many a day is spent with just me, it’s awfully quiet in our home; so to have her hear different sounds and experience all kinds of music is always a good thing.
10. samsung safeview baby monitor
the above picture is one of a slightly older model. i believe the features are all the same but some of the buttons on the front look different.
we got this monitor out of the hundreds that are out there because it got an ‘a’ in the baby bargains book and we’re very partial to samsung. but really, it does have a lot of wonderful features. the monitor has a built-in stand and a belt clip for convenience. there are also buttons to zoom in on the baby and move the camera up and down and side to side. night vision is excellent, and the out-of-range feature was helpful to me when i have to take yuri out because she’s pleading with her eyes and penny is sleeping. i grab the monitor and walk yuri as far as i can within range. thankfully, i only had to do this once. yuri was stubborn and refused to do her duty unless she went farther so i called my fil who was able to come and take her out while i tended to penny.
there’s also a two-way talk button so you can talk to the baby. dennis and i actually use this feature to communicate with one another if one is in bed and the other is tending to the baby. case in point: after a recent feeding, penny woke up, crying. surmising a soiled diaper, dennis went to go change her and found that she had had a blowout. panicking, he leaned into the camera and hissed, ‘mayday, mayday’ so i got up to assist him.
11. graco pack and play
we use this every single day. it is in our living room, and we placed a small basket of diapers, wipes, and disposable changing pads in the corner of the pack and play to also serve as a place to change penny when she’s downstairs. in addition, she does most of her tummy time in it and we also put the boppy lounger in there so she can sit up for independent play.
as she gets older, we will lower the mattress so it can serve as a playard. it’s super easy to assemble and disassemble for travel or outdoor purposes. say you’re at a cookout, you can place your (older) baby in the playard with a few toys so you can mingle and eat.
12. simple wishes bra
i know, i know, it’s a silly-looking contraption but it is very useful especially if you’re frequently pumping. i exclusively pumped the first few weeks because of severe nipple pain and damage. since i was pumping every two hours (even at night!), i was incredibly sleepy and had a lot of time to pass while pumping. initially, i would support both pumps with one arm and use the other to control the suction/speed. i found myself nodding off and milk spilling out of the flanges and thought there had to be a better way. dennis suggested the simple wishes bra and ordered one for me. i laughed it off because it looked comical, but i was a believer after the first try.
since it’s hands-free, i was able to read on my kindle and/or use my phone. i haven’t used it since that first month though since i mostly breastfeed penny, even when i’m in public; but i’ll be able to use it at work when i return since i need to pump to keep up my supply.
13. dria nursing cover
i have the gray-and-white striped cover
i purchased this about two weeks ago from amazon. since i’m planning to go out more with penny, i wanted to find a nursing cover that wasn’t cumbersome nor had cheesy prints and patterns. i researched and came upon the dria cover. it looks like a regular top – a tunic – and the material is light and breathable. although pricey at $79.95, it’s totally worth it. not only is it a nursing cover, but you can use it as a car seat and stroller cover as well.
penny is used to taking naps in her nursery where it’s dark and has the white noise app on in the background. i’m trying to take her out more so she can get used to falling asleep anywhere. penny and i met up with genie and olivia last week to walk around the mall. although olivia fell asleep right away in the stroller, penny had difficulty because of all the stimulation. finally, i draped the dria cover over the stroller and she fell asleep within minutes. this method worked yesterday too when dennis and i went to the mall – it was instant! true, she didn’t sleep as long as she would have at home but she still got some shut-eye and we were able to focus our attention elsewhere.
14. support system
this, money cannot buy. i’m fortunate to have my in-laws live 15 minutes away. my mil is semi-retired and came over nearly every day with homemade korean food and side dishes for the first month. it was such a huge welcome since dennis and i barely had time to eat let alone prepare meals. she also helped with feeding while i rested – another bonus. my fil is retired and is mostly at home which is convenient because there are times that yuri needs to go out for a walk and i’m unable to take her. if i let him know, he leaves his home immediately and comes over to relieve me.
it’s difficult for my workaholic parents to visit since they’re preoccupied with their restaurants; which is why i was surprised and grateful when my mom stayed over for the weekend during penny’s first week. she brought loads of food from the restaurant as well as korean groceries. while i was busy tending to penny, she cooked up a storm, washed the dishes, and cleaned our home (even the bathrooms!) she also slept with penny in her room to do night feedings while i pumped.
my sister during this week’s visit
my sister’s visit when penny was 6 weeks.
my brother-in-law, dan, and his wife, crystal
recently, both of my parents came down for the day. again, they arrived laden with korean food and groceries. while penny slept, i was able to eat 비빔국수, or spicy cold noodles, one of my favorite dishes with my mom and dad. growing up, my relationship with my parents was complex and awkward.. i guess it’s the typical relationship many asian children have with their parents. as i grew older, i started connecting more with my mom. it helped that i would make an effort (someone has to start). now that i have a child of my own, i see how laborious and tiring it must’ve been to raise three while working full-time. my admiration and appreciation for my parents grew significantly that first week when i struggled with breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and overall patience.
i’m also grateful for all of my friends that come to visit especially when there’s food involved! it can get mighty lonely being homebound with a newborn and a dog – both creatures that are unable to talk back to you – and having adult conversations really cheers me up. plus, i don’t feel as isolated and out of the loop.
earlier, i talked about how my friend, genie, and i regularly keep in contact about our day particularly how our girls are doing. having a close friend go through this journey with me has been beneficial. olivia is about 6 weeks older than penny so genie is able to tell me what to expect. furthermore, being able to decompress with another first-time mom is important for our sanity… and knowing that we aren’t alone.
the purpose of this blog is not only to document my experiences as a first-time mom so that penny and i can look back and cherish these memories, but also to hopefully be of some assistance to future and new parents. when you’re up at 3am with sore nipples and an inconsolable baby, it helps to know that you’re not a failure. this doesn’t just happen to you. all the praise and encouragement i’ve received from family and friends during these past ten weeks have bolstered my own self-esteem and contributed greatly in persevering through my troubles. if you’re feeling overwhelmed, please confide in your significant other, a family member, or a friend. with all the stress and work that is involved in raising a baby, you shouldn’t feel like you’re alone.
as always, thanks for reading.