Like many first time parents, with Lion we worried about doing everything correctly. We operated without a manual and without any real parenting experience. Even my experience caring for my ten-year-younger-brother did not prepare me well enough to be a parent myself. There were many things that, in hindsight, I realized we could do differently if we had a second. Here’s what we did differently the second time around:

No warm bottles

With Lion, I just assumed that babies needed warm formula and wouldn’t drink cold bottles since they were more used to breast milk, which is warm. Of course, this meant that we always had to heat Lion’s bottles up, boiling water (thank goodness for an electric kettle) then waiting for the bottle to heat in a mug of hot water. This task was made easier when my stepmother bought us a countertop hot water heater which allowed us to mix half hot water with half room temperature water from a pitcher on our counter with the powdered formula. Presto, instant warm formula! I thought that water heater, which we use everyday now for hot tea, was super easy and something we’d take advantage of when Panda came around.

Instead, I bypassed the whole warm formula deal altogether. I decided to try with room temperature water and see whether he would drink it. Panda had no problem gulping down bottles of room temperature formula or even cold formula straight out of the fridge. We never had to worry about warming his bottles when we were out and about or wait for bottles to warm up at home.

Immediate supplementing of formula

I’ve written about our formula saga before and wish we had supplemented immediately with Lion. I had no idea that a mother might not produce enough breast milk and our poor little guy lost more than 10% of his body weight by Day 4. On Day 4, Lion was screaming every twenty or thirty minutes and we were totally overwhelmed and perplexed until we visited the pediatrician who informed us that he was basically starving. We ended up having to wake him every two hours for the first two weeks to make sure that he was eating enough and it was really tough breaking him from this two-hour wake up cycle going forward. I didn’t want to go through that experience again!

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With Panda, I started supplementing with formula immediately in the hospital. How immediate? Well, he failed his blood sugar test while we were still in the labor and delivery room and, as a preemie, the nurses seemed a little more relaxed with the formula. We gave him some formula before we were allowed to move to a post-partum room. I tried breastfeeding for the first 12 hours, but I started having quite a bit of pain on one side. I also just sensed that it wasn’t enough, so I asked the nurses if they had formula. This option was never offered to me with Lion and I get the sense the hospital is very breastfeeding-centric, but I was determined to supplement. I wasn’t as stressed out this time around and my milk supply overall was much better (probably because it was a second baby, but I don’t discount the stress level). However, Panda was a hungry baby who was born in around the 5th-10th percentile for height/weight, but grew to the 50th percentile by six months. I never would have been able to keep up with his demand as he routinely drank 4 ounces of formula after breastfeeding on both sides. The biggest bonus was that in addition to being very hungry, Panda was also very sleepy and slept six hours at night the first evening home from the hospital. I 100% stand by my decision to supplement with formula from Day 1 and would do it again if we had a third.

Le Pause

Have you read Bringing Up Bebe? I didn’t until Lion was over six-months-old, but when I did I wished we had implemented “Le Pause.” I think I jumped up at every noise Lion made, instead of pausing and observing to see whether he really was hungry/starting to get distressed or whether he simply was transitioning between sleep cycles or making normal sleeping movements. The theory behind “Le Pause” is that not intervening immediately well help babies learn to transition between sleep cycles and put themselves back to sleep. Lion’s not a great sleeper, even today, and I don’t know whether “Le Pause” would have made any difference. That said, I wished we had tried.

With Panda, we did do “Le Pause” and he was sleeping through the night before four months. Again, Panda was completely different than Lion in personality and sleeping, so it’s hard to make a direct comparison. Panda was an extremely sleepy baby, extending the traditional two-week newborn coma to about three months. Whether “Le Pause” made any difference, I don’t know, but we’d definitely give it a try again.

Fruit pouches

With Lion, I was hyper-concerned about not giving him any processed foods, or at least very minimally processed. I made everything myself, focusing mostly on baby-led weaning. I was determined to introduce him to a wide variety of food and by nine months, he’d had chicken liver mousse, sushi, pickles, and many other random foods. Whenever we went out, I was always concerned about what snacks to pack him (if we went out for a meal, we just gave him whatever we were eating), bringing containers of freshly cut fruit or bags of freeze-dried fruit. I packed homemade healthy, sugar-free muffins or homemade granola. Eventually (around 15 months), I caved and started buying some fruit pouches for trips to the park and Lion was obsessed with them for awhile; some of his friends got them at daycare and he loved the opportunity to have a fruit pouch. They were reserved only for when we were out of the house and not at a restaurant or for vacations.

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Enjoying a fruit pouch at the park.

While I still try to make sure the kids have a fresh, home-cooked meal every night and pack leftovers for lunch, I wasn’t as anti fruit pouch. Panda has had fruit pouches since he was about eight months and I think they were one of his favorite things to eat. Panda didn’t do as well with baby-led weaning as Lion, but truthfully I was just tired and fruit pouches were the easiest thing to toss into my bag when we were leaving the house. We buy fruit pouches that don’t have extra preservatives in them and they definitely make life much more convenient on the weekends. I prefer that they eat “real” food, but I no longer drive myself crazy planning out all the foods we need to pack in the diaper bag.

Going out

This is something that I probably chalk up more to the kids’ different personalities than anything, but I think that even if we had Panda first, we wouldn’t have appreciated how easygoing he was because first-time parenting is just tough. With Lion, he was colicky and we were always nervous that he would start screaming in the middle of a restaurant, so we were extremely hesitant in taking him out to dinner or even running many errands with him.

With Panda, he slept all the time and even when he was alert, he seemed content. We took Lion out all the time after he turned a year-old and would just pack Panda along with us, too. I think after we had Lion, looking back, I realized how easy a newborn is in a lot of ways that you can only appreciate after you’ve had a baby that age. You can just tote them around and because they aren’t mobile yet, can’t get into much trouble. We really took advantage of the early months with Panda, which may have helped get him used to social settings more. Again, I feel like their personalities drove how much we went out, but I sometimes wonder whether Lion might be a little less shy had we exposed him to more as a newborn.

Pacifier only for sleeping

Lion was obsessed with his pacifier. We had a pacifier on a clip attached to his clothes at all times and he had it in his mouth all the time. It’s funny because he didn’t seem particularly interested in it at first, but once his colic set in, it became a lifesaver for the moments that it worked. Finally, at around nine months, we decided one weekend that we were going to quit the pacifier for daytime usage cold turkey, letting him keep it only for naps and sleeping. It wasn’t as tough as we thought it would be, but I was still determined to reduce pacifier usage with our second. We did stop full pacifier usage for sleeping just after we came back from a trip to Europe at fifteen months because we wanted to make sure there was a large enough break between him stopping the use of a pacifier and the arrival of his younger brother. We were afraid that if he saw Panda with a pacifier, he would try to take it away.

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We would triple-check before leaving the house that we had Lion’s pacifier securely attached and a spare.

With Panda, he also didn’t take to the pacifier right away. While we used it on occasion, he simply never depended on it the way Lion did. By four months, we really did use it only for napping or night sleeping. Actually, by four months it seemed like he only used it for napping. We took the pacifiers out of the crib when we put him down for the evening, but would deposit some in his crib in case he woke in the middle of the night. He seems to fall asleep just fine at night without the pacifier and we never really had to transition away from the daytime pacifier simply because we didn’t use it much when he was young.

Introduced a lovey early

I don’t know why we didn’t give Lion a lovey earlier, other than the rule that you’re not really supposed to put things in an infant’s crib. While we tried to give Lion his lovey as we transitioned away from his evening bottle and pacifier at fifteen months, he was never super interested in it. Again, this might just be a personality difference, but I wonder whether he would have that attachment if we had given him a lovey earlier.

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He loves his elephant to pieces!

Panda had a lovey very early, maybe by two months. I remember watching his hands move at nighttime and it always looked like he was clutching the air. Giving him a lovey really seemed to settle him down and he is now obsessed with his lovey. Whenever he wakes up in the morning, he reaches out and grabs his lovey first, then drags it around the house until he gets his breakfast. I do wonder if it has helped him with his sleep and it’s amazing to watch the calming effect it has on him. We do make him keep his lovey at home to try to reduce dependency on it, but it’s nice to see how comforted he is by his lovey at naps and bedtime. Because we took away his pacifier when he falls asleep in the evening by four months, the lovey helped with this transition. Sometimes, I would see him bite the ears or suck on the nose of the lovey before falling asleep. I should probably note again that this goes against the AAP’s recommendation, but we did several things that parents aren’t supposed to do (and I’d do again if we had another baby).

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Panda totes his lovey all over the house in the mornings.

What are some things you did differently the second time around?