Homes 203: Preparing For Children

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Homes 202: Marriage

Having a baby is one of the most rewarding and difficult things you can do

  • Having a child isn’t really something you “plan” for as much as it simply happens
    • The probability of conceiving a baby is extremely high if a woman has sex during the peak of her fertility cycle
    • Outside of abstinence, there is no way to exercise 100% perfect birth control
    • Condoms in a wallet for longer than a month have a 50% chance of breaking
    • Consider adoption if you can’t conceive and want a child, since it also serves as a community service
      • For some reason, adoption is often easier and simpler from a foreign country
  • There isn’t a right or wrong number of children to have
    • Some people stay married and never have children
    • In urban areas, 1-2 children is common and 3 may appear excessive
    • In rural areas, at least 4 children is expected from a family
  • A successful parent must become a Level 3 Leader and later a Level 4 Leader with much more nurture involved
    • You’re going to make dumb decisions, learn to accept them and move on
    • It can be easy to become lazy with the marriage relationship or parental responsibilities, but that’s where your ability to lead will show itself
    • As issues come up, it can be tempting to be passive about dealing with them, but the issues will become much bigger later on
    • Parenting magnifies everything in the family dynamic
      • If there is any dysfunction, the children will inherit it and take it further
      • Any redeeming qualities will be inherited as well
      • Therefore, the child is either going to become far worse than their parents or far more successful
  • You cannot be over-prepared for raising children, so it’s a useless endeavor to make it a “perfect parenting”
    • Your patience and limits will be tested, since children are high-maintenance, constantly needy and will try to push every boundary you have
    • Thankfully, this shows itself slowly over time, since babies don’t have to be restrained or corrected

Get physically ready for a baby

  • As soon as you’ve conceived, start stocking up on what raising a baby will need
    • Health and hygiene needs
      • Brush, comb
      • Cotton balls, cotton swabs
      • First aid supplies, baby pain reliever, medicine droppers, nasal aspirator, teething medication, thermometer
      • Humidifier or vaporizer, vaporizer fluid
      • Find a good pediatrician
    • Bath needs
      • Baby lotion, baby soap and tearless shampoo
      • Soft bristle baby brush
      • Various washcloths
    • Clothing (at least a dozen or so outfits)
      • Baby caps (for the first few months), hats
      • Booties, socks
      • Coats, jackets, sweaters, shirts
      • Gowns, stretchies, one-piece footed rompers
      • Receiving blankets, sleeper outfits
    • Food needs
      • The food itself
        • Bottle feeding route: baby formula (a large supply), bottles, bottle warmer, bottle sterilizer, bottle brushes, bottle drying rack, breast pump
        • Nursing route: nursing pillow
      • Absorbent bibs (at least a dozen), drop and burp cloths
      • High chair
      • Infant spoons, plates, utensils, spill-proof cups
      • Pacifiers
      • A lot of dishwasher detergent or dish soap
    • Diaper and waste needs
      • Baby oil or rash ointment, baby powder, wipes
      • Diapers, diaper bag, diaper pail
        • Eastern cultures don’t use diapers and instead hold babies over a toilet when they need to go, which works for some people in the West
    • Nursery needs
      • Crib blankets, sheets, changing pads
      • Changing table, dresser
      • Crib or bassinet or rocker, crib bumpers, crib mattress, crib mattress pad
      • Playmat, rattle, teethers, simple baby toys, swing
    • Safety needs
      • Baby car seat (if you have a vehicle)
      • Bumpers for sharp edges, cabinet door locks, electrical outlet covers
      • High-quality vacuum
      • Safety gates
  • Baby needs can be met through more creative solutions or are often not really necessary

Get mentally ready for a baby

  • Adjust for a pregnant lifestyle
    • Don’t go anywhere without bringing some food and water along
    • Always keep bags for morning sickness around
    • Adjust the physicla exercise regimen to allow lower-stress workouts
  • Schedule a pregnancy’s needs in advance
    • A baby incubates in about 40 weeks, though healthy births can vary up or down by 2 weeks
      • With the right care, a premature baby can often survive an early birth
    • Get an ultrasound 6-12 weeks in to diagnose any early problems
    • Get another ultrasound at about 20 weeks if you want to find out if it’s a boy or girl
      • Many times, the mom can accurately sense the gender of the child, but anyone’s guess is about 50%
    • There’s no specific time to announce it
      • If there are complications, you will have to tell everyone, which can be either good or bad depending on who you are
      • The earlier you announce the less excuses for pregnancy you have to make (declining alcohol, exhaustion, etc)
      • The simplest way to go is to tell people as the conversations happen
  • Research ahead of time about babies
    • Spend as much time as possible around babies before your own is born
      • Volunteer in a church’s childcare or daycare to be more exposed to small children and babies
    • There are hundreds of good parenting books that teach what you need to know
    • Read articles on BabyCenter for answers during pregnancy and after delivery
  • After the child is born, there is never technically “downtime”
    • Life doesn’t actually change at all, it simply adds the baby on top of everything
      • Take all of the good aspects of your old lifestyle as you adapt to the new one
    • Be ready to never sleep for at least 4 months for more than 3-4 hours at a time
      • Babies will wake you up for food and diaper changes, so the work is easy but at odd hours
      • This will normalize later, but tasks connected to the children will continue to rob sleep
      • Adapt an alternative sleep cycle to have the least stress
    • Be prepared to be overwhelmed
      • Your happiness is guaranteed to dip from all the extra outward stress of the child
        • Learn to be low-stress and happy in all stages of parenting, since it’s exhausting to worry
        • Like anything else pertaining to happiness, set low expectations
        • There are happy moments and reprieves, but they can sometimes be rare
      • Time is the scarcest resource to a parent
        • The house will never be clean again in the way it was, since children will drain energy and cause messes
        • This only gets worse as they are able to grab things, crawl around, run around and then run without falling
  • Your relationships with others will change
    • There are some things you might want to say, but are taboos by society
      • When you’re pregnant, you must talk about the baby in almost every conversation
        • Even if you’re going through life normally, society expects you to revolve your whole life around the new child
        • At the same time, you can’t talk about your miscarriage, since everyone finds death to be an uncomfortable topic
      • You should say that you were absolutely in love with the baby upon seeing them
        • It’s normal to be confused and overwhelmed, but nobody likes to talk about it
        • Love is seen as binary, but it’s actually a grown skill through caring for them
      • You can’t talk about how lonely or unhappy you are as a parent
        • It’s normal to feel alienated from society, especially after the constant attention during the pregnancy
        • People like to put children on a pedestal, which means they’d have a hard time understanding your unhappiness you’ll often have with them
      • Thankfully, all of these can be discussed with other newer parents
    • All of your single friends will notice you don’t have time for them
      • Some of them will be oblivious about the fact that you can’t go everywhere any time you want
    • Many of your friends simply disappear for no obvious reason
      • Some of them may wish you well, but won’t be around very often
      • This is normal, and can be from their own longing for a child or from anxiety about being around babies
      • Any friends who do stick around through your absence from the public eye are usually worth keeping
    • Some friends, especially women, are prone to be obsessed about your baby
    • All your parent friends will give you a new level of respect and will affiliate with you more often
      • New parents that have their child around the same time as you will be especially close
      • Don’t take offense if parents of older children try to play the role of mentor, learn to politely express yourself
      • Eventually, your friends with children will spend time with you for the kids to have playdates
    • Even if your relationship with your parents isn’t very good, get ready for the grandparents to visit more often
  • Keep the marriage the priority
    • Give the child over to a babysitter on a routine basis to allow for one-on-one time
    • It’s common for husbands to feel they’re less important than the baby
      • It’s the responsibility of the wife to address those concerns, since they don’t go away with time
  • From birth, babies are driven exclusively by personally set goals
    • As a general rule, they will follow any consistent pattern they observe
      • Set the expectations together in discussion before the issues come up
      • It’s much easier to train them once in an action than having to retrain them later
    • Once they are old enough to observe their environment, they will do whatever they can to get what they want
      • A toddler throwing a temper tantrum knows that enough persistence will bring them what they want

Babies grow faster than you think they will, especially in the first year

  • They will start developing basic motor skills and focusing on people within the first month
    • If you sleep with a baby blanket for one night, your smell will be on the blanket and will comfort the baby
  • Between 1-3 months they will start tracking other people, making noises and responding to people
    • Starting at 1 month, put them on their stomach for at least 2 hours a day
  • The first 2 months are the most dangerous times for a baby, since they get sick and heal themselves within 8 hours
  • At 4 months they’ll start moving on their own, distinguishing emotions by vocal tone and putting things in their mouth
    • This is the best time to start disciplining them, since they know what they’re grabbing
  • Before reaching 6 months, they will be able to count things and understand what is and isn’t helpful
    • Make a game for them by putting pennies in a pile of sand and having them drop them into a piggy bank
    • Their teeth will start growing at this age
      • This will lead to plenty of uncontrollable crying that you won’t be able to do anything about
      • Give them a teething ring to console them
    • They often start solid foods around this age, but it can be supplemented to formula/milk as early as 4 months
  • By 8 months, they will be able to distinguish sentences’ meanings
  • They should start eating hard foods at 8-9 months, either by baby-led weaning or spoon feeding
    • Baby-led weaning should involve them being able to grab larger items of food and give them the freedom to make a mess, and may involve them choking a bit
  • At 8-12 months they will be sitting up on their own and grabbing things properly
    • They will make noises that sound like words and body language gestures
    • They’ll socially start being anxious about being alone and will be shy around strangers
  • By their first birthday they’re usually about 1/3 the height of an adult and started interacting directly with others
  • By their second birthday, you can predict their adult height by doubling it
    • Don’t give them any computer media (TV, computers, tablets, phones, etc) until they’re at least 2 years old
  • Make plans for their future right away
    • Write a letter to them every year around the same time, add a small amount of money to each envelope and give it to them upon graduation
    • Reserve them a good email address and send them pictures, notes and messages, then give them its credentials on their 18th birthday
    • Take a picture of them every birthday with them holding last year’s photo

There are a lot of small tricks to make raising babies easier

  • Learn how to comfort babies
    • Raise your eyebrows when holding a baby to make them less likely to cry
    • Stroke their head, since that’s how they comfort themselves in the womb
    • Rock the baby while shushing them to distract them
    • Babies cry for many reasons
      • They are hungry
      • They’re tired
      • They’re in pain, feel sick or have gas from having not been burped (colic)
      • They’re uncomfortable from being too hot or too cold or from having a soiled diaper
      • They’re lonely and want to be held
      • They’re bored and want to play, want attention or need a change of environment
      • They want to suck something
      • They feel like they’re falling because they’re not swaddled
    • A baby crying does not mean you must panic
      • Biologically, a baby’s cry is meant to inspire panic, but this isn’t the right response most of the time
        • Eventually you learn which cries are severe and which are non-urgent
      • Sometimes you will need to walk away from the baby, and you should if you’re losing your temper
  • Help you and them sleep better
    • From birth, make plenty of noise that you normally would throughout your day
      • Whatever sound level you make will determine how deep they sleep, which will affect them and you for years
    • Try to remove yourself from their need to sleep
      • Sleep with the baby blanket for night before giving it to the baby in order to get your smell on it
      • Put your bed next to theirs instead of sleeping with them
      • Give them pacifiers to fall asleep to
        • Don’t add honey to it until at least 1 year old, honey is dangerous for infants
      • Try to avoid consistently rocking, caressing, singing or holding them to get them to go to sleep
    • Use a night light over their crib to be able to see them better without waking them
    • Set rituals to get them to go to sleep at the same time every day
      • Get a predictable nap routine in place during the day
      • Carry them around more during the day if they have a hard time getting to bed
      • Adapt the schedule as they grow and change
    • Sometimes they may have allergies to synthetic sleepwear or airborne irritants
    • A baby in your arms can sleep in any position
      • Eat on top of the baby or use your phone when they sleep face down, since they can sleep with a plate or phone on their back
      • Learn how to hold the baby with only one arm or get a sling for them
  • You’ll need to feed the baby about once every 3 hours at the beginning
    • Breastfeeding is recommended, but not necessary
      • Don’t give them pacifiers if you’re breastfeeding
      • If you’re sick, you can still breastfeed
      • Don’t go on a diet if you’re a nursing mother
    • Bottle feeding is much more convenient
      • Baby formula is more expensive than breast milk
        • It is almost as good for the baby nutritionally as breastfeeding
        • Use filtered water with the baby if you’re concerned about their health
      • A good hybrid of convenience and cost is to use a breast pump to extract milk and then feed from a bottle
      • A cup of warm water is just as good as a bottle warmer
      • If you feed from a bottle, you’ll need to burp them by hitting their back while leaning them forward
        • This can take as much time or longer than the actual feeding
        • If you don’t burp them they will get colic and you will lose any ability to relax or sleep
        • Cut down on burping time by getting a vent for the bottle to avoid them drinking bubbles
  • Learn the art of diaper changing, which will be about once every 3 hours at the beginning
    • The costs and ecological impact of cloth diapers over disposable diapers come out to about the same with only one baby, but become better with multiple ones
    • They will get diaper rash, and you will need to apply ointment
      • You can use anything good for skin healing, including bag balm or coconut oil
      • Baby powder is fine, but make sure it doesn’t get in their lungs
        • Browning flour in the oven is a good alternative baby powder
  • Learn how to plan ahead when going anywhere
    • Bring enough of the following everywhere you go, and get a bag to conveniently carry it
      • Diapers, diaper rash ointment, baby wipes
      • Bottles, formula and bottled water or a nursing cover
    • On a long airplane or train ride, give out small gifts with an apologetic note to each of the passengers who will hear the crying
  • Bathe the baby every few days to cut down on odors
    • Make sure you get around the neck, especially once they’ve gotten a little bit of fat there
    • If you have a full-size bathtub, put the baby and their bath toys inside a laundry hamper to make something easier for them to hold on to
    • Adding 2 tbsp of baking soda to the water will cut down on diaper rash irritations
  • Find easier ways to carry them around
    • Carry the baby with a sling, wrap or a back-mounted sling instead of simply holding them
    • You can stuff them inside your jacket once they’re big enough
    • Instead of pushing around a baby in a stroller, roll them around in a wagon behind a reasonably strong remote-controlled car
    • Have them wear overalls for something to grab
  • When talking to them, use normal language you would with friends
    • “Baby talk” can actually stunt their development if it’s frequent enough
  • You will eventually want to switch to solid foods, and most babies do this automatically
    • Try infant-led feeding, where you give them large objects and have them feed themselves
    • If the baby doesn’t want to eat, start feeding them chocolate and then stuff food in their mouth as soon as they open it
Next: Homes 204: Parenting