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The First 90 Days of Parenting: How to Crush Your One Job

We’re in deep. Baby #2. Week #6.

I’m of the belief that the real shaping of your child’s personality, intelligence, and behavior – the “hard part” – really doesn’t begin until about six months. You can let them watch “Scarface” naked at 2 a.m. while listening to gangster rap without doing any permanent damage. The “fourth trimester” is the time in a baby’s life from birth to three months and it is all about physical endurance – yours and theirs. So don’t stress about their minds and emotions quite yet. You have enough to do keeping your precious meatloaf happy and alive and taking care of something equally as important: You.

Dr. Harvey Karp has a wonderful video called “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” in which he demonstrates a weird-looking but very effective method of calming a cranky newborn, which basically involves wrapping him up tightly and jiggling him on his side while saying, “Shhhh!!!” loudly in his ear. It works. Most of the time. For me, however, the more important takeaway from the video is the “why” behind the technique, and the concept of the fourth trimester.

Most animals do not experience this unique aspect of human life, because they are born much more physically advanced than humans. Take for example a horse, who is up and running on day one, because the ability to walk and run is important for its survival. The human brain, on the other hand, is our most important tool for survival, and we therefore have proportionally big heads. If newborn humans were to be born as physically advanced as a newborn horse, human mothers would be birthing 20-pound babies. The size that human babies come out is the absolute maximum it can be, or their heads would not fit through the exit. So, due to their oversized heads, human babies come out “early,” and are therefore not really ready to be out in the world yet. They should still be in the womb – hence the “fourth trimester.”

There’s a reason they look like aliens. They don’t belong here.

You can read lots of articles detailing techniques to utilize during the first three months in an attempt to recreate the familiar womb environment for your baby. But this article isn’t about the baby. It’s about you. Let’s talk about you.

Bottom line, you have one job for the first 90 days of parenthood: Keep baby alive. That may sound overly simple, complex, or dramatic depending on your perspective, but nevertheless, it’s true. You really don’t need to overthink her physical, mental, or emotional well-being during this time. That will come later when she’s four and throws her string beans across the room because she didn’t get invited to the 13-year-old neighbor’s birthday party.

The good news here is that the baby is on your side in this task. He’s a meatloaf, but a meatloaf with an inclination to stick around, so it’s not like you’ll be fighting an uphill battle of survival with an unwilling meatloaf. He really only needs two things in order to survive: food and sleep. And he has built in mechanisms to ensure he gets these things: A loud alarm will sound from the baby when food is needed, and the automatic power-down function will engage when sleep is required. So, your job is simple, but not easy. Keeping yourself rested, fed, and sane while doing it is a different challenge entirely. I’ll share some things we’ve done, bought, and learned that have allowed us to remain relatively functional through one and a half fourth trimesters. Functional enough for me to write this article anyway.

Buy baby buy

I’m still astounded when I look around the house and in the car at all the stuff that a newborn baby “requires.” At one point, however, I realized the two things he truly requires – milk and sleep – you can’t buy at Buy Buy Baby. All this stuff wasn’t really for him. It was for us. Getting the right stuff is essential to your surviving the fourth trimester.

1 | Changing table

These are built tall so you can change your baby’s diaper without bending down, and after a few hundred changes, you (and your back) will understand why this is important. Changing tables also have storage drawers that fit pretty much all the baby’s clothes, blankets, etc., as well as a ready supply if diapers, wipes, and changing paraphernalia. It’s all in one place, so you don’t have to think about it, or look for it. Baby doesn’t care where you change him, or often even if you change him at all. The changing table is for you.

2 | Stroller

So you don’t have to carry the baby and all her stuff around. The stroller is a baby, baby supplies, purse, and grocery holder all in one. Don’t leave home without it.

3 | Swaddle

Funny thing about newborns: They can’t control their parts. It’s all new to them. Their heads flop around like tennis balls on noodles. They smack themselves in the face and cry. Their own farts scare them. They are small living versions of those inflatable display beings outside used car dealers. Swaddles are like little baby straitjackets that stop them from swatting or disturbing themselves inadvertently. The thing is, the tightness of the swaddle recreates the familiar cramped quarters of the womb, so they dig it. They sleep better, so you sleep better. I imagine that throughout history millions of babies have slept badly in their fourth trimester, and have not only survived, but thrived. But trust me, do yourself a favor – swaddle. And sleep.

Note: Get a swaddle with Velcro or a zipper. They are easier to operate in a foggy 3 a.m daze than the ones the hospital nurses make from cloth and magic, and babies can’t do their Houdini-esque escapes from them.

4 | Bassinet

We use ours exclusively at night. When baby goes into bassinet and lights go out, it’s night, and night means sleep. Both kids seemed to “get it.” Baby #2, who only sleeps for two hour stretches during the day, is going down for five hours at night, and baby #1 was going for six hours a night at three weeks! And the longer baby sleeps, the longer you sleep.

We also bought a wooden rocker thing for $50 to put the bassinet on. It elevates it, which is nice, and you can rock the baby in it until she falls asleep.

Note: There are mixed schools of thought as to whether newborns need to be woken to eat or not. Follow your doctor’s advice. A friend’s 70-something-year-old pediatrician did say that he has yet to hear of a case in which a baby slept itself into starvation. We let our newborn sleep crazy long at night and she was off the growth charts until she was six.

5 | Bottles

We bought new “recommended” bottles that only served to make baby mad and took baby forever to empty. We now use six-year-old bottles that baby drain happily in minutes, like his big sister did. Happily fed babies are much easier to deal with than grumpy, hungry ones. Get a bottle that makes baby happy. For your sake.

6 | Monitors

We’ve developed a schedule/routine in that after what we determine is baby’s “last” feeding for the day, he goes “to bed.” Sometimes depending on how feedings shake out, that is at 10 p.m., and we join him, but sometimes it’s 8 p.m. and we have two hours of “free time” before joining him – all due to the presence of a baby monitor.

7 | Seats

In the daytime hours of the fourth trimester and beyond, there are basically two places baby will be: in your arms, or in some kind of seat. This may sound obvious or trivial to non-parents who have never had to find a safe place to put a human for 12 to 14 hours a day, for 12 months. There are so many varieties, and babies have different tastes in seating, none of which you will know until after you have bought the seat.

My advice is to buy a few and experiment. Our first one loved her high-tech swing that played lullabies and emitted a sparkly display of stars. The new one hates it, and prefers the old spat-up-on brown and pink cloth stationary rocky chair. It’s worth the effort, because if you don’t find a seat that baby likes, you will become his favorite seat. Babies often seem happiest the more completely they can incapacitate you, so get them used to sitting somewhere besides in your arms as early and often as possible, so you can do fun stuff. Like pee. And bathe. And eat.

My biggest piece of advice for surviving the fourth trimester: Get stuff. It helps. A lot. Trust me. Yes, having and using all this stuff for only three to six months seems crazy. Do it. If guilt is an issue, pass it on when you are done with it. This is not the time to be cheap or luddite or earthy or brave or paleo-minimalist. Buy stuff. Your survival depends on it.

If cost is an issue be smart about how you acquire stuff. We saved a lot of our daughter’s things in the attic for six years till we had our son, and he certainly doesn’t mind the pink boppies and burp cloths. We’ve had so many clothes given to us from families who have outgrown them, we’ve barely bought any. When we were told that our old car seat had “expired,” we erred on the side of safety and sprang for a new one, but when we were told that our old $700 stroller had similarly “expired,” I called bullshit and stuck with the old one.

The fourth trimester can be tough, so be prepared, and remember that in this time your meatloaf will smile at you for the first time, and all the sleepless nights, spit up, and seat drama will be worth it.

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Between the sleepless nights, endless worries, and persistent temper tantrums, parenting can feel like a fast track to gray hairs and wrinkles.

Now, researchers at Northwestern University have proven what we've suspected all along: having children does, in fact, speed up the aging process. A new study, which was published last month in Scientific Reports, found that each pregnancy can age a mother's cells by up to two years.

Each baby ages a mother’s cells

Researchers studied 821 women in the Philippines between the ages of 20 and 22, with various reproductive histories. They examined two separate markers of cellular aging—telomere length and epigenetic age—to measure the toll pregnancy takes on the body.

"Telomere length and epigenetic age are cellular markers that independently predict mortality, and both appeared 'older' in women who had more pregnancies in their reproductive histories," Calen Ryan, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in biological anthropology at Northwestern, said in a statement. "Even after accounting for other factors that affect cellular aging, the number of pregnancies still came out on top."

The researchers were surprised to find that cellular aging increased between about six months and two years for each additional pregnancy—a figure much higher than what they originally anticipated. Meanwhile, women who were currently pregnant had cells that looked significantly younger than predicted for their biological age."

It's an interesting situation in which pregnancy makes someone look temporarily 'young,' but there appears to be some lasting, cumulative relationship between the number of pregnancies and more accelerated biological age," noted Christopher Kuzawa, PhD, senior author of the study and a professor of anthropology at Northwestern University.

Our telomeres shorten and our epigenetic age increases

Telomeres, which are stretches of DNA at the end of chromosomes, protect our DNA and make it possible for our cells to divide. Longer telomeres are associated with longer lives and better health. As people age and as cells divide and replicate, those telomeres shorten.

Given that there is hyper cell production during pregnancy, it makes sense that those telomeres would shorten and, therefore, appear to age dramatically.

"During pregnancy, more cells need to be produced for carrying and nurturing the fetus, such as in red blood cells, placental cells, and more," said Dr. Kim Langdon, an Ohio-based retired OB-GYN who writes at Parenting Pod. "In addition, the cells in all organs such as the heart and uterus enlarge. This is known as hypertrophy—and when cells hypotrophy, their telomeres shorten."

Meanwhile, the epigenetic age begins to climb. This is an estimate of a person's biological age based on changes in the DNA that are caused by environmental factors, such as toxins and stress.

In other words, pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on the body. "I'm not really surprised," Langdon told Healthline about the findings. "Every OB-GYN knows the extreme stress to the system that pregnancy causes."

Throughout pregnancy, the blood volume increases by 50% as does the cardiac output, which puts strain on the heart. The kidney function increases and the lungs have reduced capacity, which causes breathlessness.

Why, then, did the pregnant women seem so much better off?

It may all come down to the immunological, hormonal, and physiological changes that take place during pregnancy to support development of the baby.

For example, pregnant women experience elevated estrogen levels, which can lower oxidative stress and prevent damage to telomere length and epigenetic age. Once the baby is born, though, those shifts are no longer necessary.

The findings may not be permanent

The study supports previous evidence that women who have had more pregnancies are more susceptible to certain illnesses and have slightly shorter life spans. Earlier this year, researchers from George Mason University found that childbirth could age a woman by as many as 11 years.

While it may be nerve-racking to learn that having children can accelerate the aging process, scientists still don't fully understand why this happens and don't want women to worry.

According to Langdon, we are far away from understanding if these findings could impact family planning or the longevity or long-term health of the mother.

"We don't know if these findings are permanent," Langdon said. "More longitudinal studies need to be done over many years, even decades, to see if this is reversible or if it really can predict when you will die."

The researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Washington have already started they working on a follow-up study that will examine the same group of women 13 years after their cellular measurements were first taken. Eventually, we'll be able to see if the women's cells continue to appear older throughout their life.

Until then, though, you can keep blaming your kids for those fine lines and dark circles.

Originally posted on Healthline.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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I always thought I'd have babies. As in, multiple babies. Maybe three or four? I knew it would be hard. I knew pregnancy was tough and childbirth was no walk in the park.

I just didn't know how tough. And I also had no idea how hard my recovery would be.

It's been nearly four months, and I'm still taking pain medicine. I'm still using the witch hazel pads and haven't touched toilet paper. I'm still struggling with issues from my labor and delivery that just won't go away.

I'm still dealing with the emotional guilt that comes from feeling like I failed my daughter because I don't remember her first moments of life due to the trauma of what my body went through.

My birth story was traumatic and terrifying—and rare.

At 38 weeks pregnant, I had been in what we thought was labor for almost two days—but was actually a kidney stone. I was in constant, terrible pain for nearly 48 hours straight, and morphine didn't take the pain away—it only took the edge off. I watched out the hospital window as the world went by outside, and the hours dragged on.

I didn't sleep because of the pain. My body was completely drained and had gone into survival mode because of what felt like endless torture. Eventually, I was induced because of a small leak of amniotic fluid and had to give birth in an exhausted physical state and a completely anxious mental state.

I was in no way ready to have my baby—the baby I had been so ready for just weeks earlier.

This lead to all the things I had hoped to avoid for my birth—inducement, more inducement because I wasn't progressing fast enough, having to lie flat on my back, epidural, episiotomy and forceps.

By the time my sweet daughter finally entered the world, and they placed her in my arms—all I could do was immediately fall back onto the bed and close my eyes. My body was shutting down from sheer exhaustion. I wasn't even able to look at my brand new baby, let alone admire her or watch her take her first breaths. This part of my birth story still breaks my heart.

After they moved me to my recovery room, I asked my husband what our delivery room number was—because I never wanted to go in that room again. I didn't want to see it. I didn't want to walk down the hallway past it. And I really didn't want to think about what happened in there. My mind was scarred by the fear and anxiety I experienced.

The hardest part of all of this is that now, the thought of getting pregnant again terrifies me. My heart longs to have a house full of little feet running down the halls, yet my body says "closed for business." It's a confusing tension.

I know of women who have suffered through experiences much worse than I have. I know there are stories out there that are almost unbelievable. I don't know if or when or how I will ever feel ready for another baby again.

Yet, I have been realizing a few things.

It's okay that I'm scared. It's okay that I didn't feel as strong as I hoped to be. It's okay that I didn't power through childbirth without assistance. It's okay that I wasn't like the moms who can give birth in their sleep.

And it's okay that I wasn't physically able to witness my daughter's first moments of life. It doesn't make me a bad mother. It won't ruin my daughter's life. She doesn't even know what happened—only I do. I'm the one whose heart is broken because of this—not hers. She was in mama's arms and that's all she knew.

So I'm giving myself grace. I'm letting my mind and body heal for however long it takes. I'm not going to feel the guilt of failure—because I didn't fail.

So, mama with the traumatic birth story, please give yourself grace too. You're a good mom. You're a strong and powerful woman who has done something amazing.

You brought life into this world.

Your body didn't fail—you survived, and you're a mother now. And it's absolutely, 100% okay if you change your mind about having another baby. You have permission to feel exactly how you feel, right now at this moment.

Don't feel like less of a woman because of a story that was ultimately out of your control. You did it. You really did it. That is what makes you a strong, powerful woman. You are amazing, and you are a rockstar for going through what you did.

And you know what? You're killing this whole motherhood thing, too—just so you know.

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First responders do a lot of heroic things on the job. We're used to seeing police officers on TV pulling victims to safety or chasing down the bad guys, but sometimes, heroism looks a lot different. Sometimes, it looks like breastfeeding.

A Facebook photo of a police officer breastfeeding a hungry baby in an Argentinian hospital has now gone viral for very good reason. It's a simple act, but to that hungry baby, Officer Celeste Ayala is certainly a hero.

The photo was posted to Facebook by Marcos Heredia, who says he witnessed the police officer comfort and breastfeed a hungry baby while on duty at the Sister Maria Ludovica Children's Hospital in Buenos Aires.

According to Heredia, who tagged the officer in the Facebook post, Officer Ayala was attending the busy hospital on August 14 when she noticed the baby, a patient, needing care and comfort, and took it upon herself to give it.

"I want to make public this great gesture of love that you had today with that little baby, who without knowing you didn't hesitate, and for a moment you fulfilled [as if] you were their mother," reads a loose translation of Heredia's post.

Multiple Spanish-language websites report the 6-month-old baby Ayala breastfed is the youngest of six siblings who were in the process of being placed into foster care because their mother did not have the resources to feed them. The children were at the hospital for the medical exams they needed before being moved into foster care when Ayala came into contact with the baby, who was desperately hungry while waiting, according to reports.

Metro reports Ayala spoke to local media in Buenos Aires, explaining that she noticed hospital staff were overwhelmed so she, a mother of two, asked if she could comfort and feed the baby. "I noticed that he was hungry, as he was putting his hand into his mouth, so I asked to hug him and breastfeed him. It was a sad moment, it broke my soul seeing him like this, society should be sensitive to the issues affecting children, it cannot keep happening," Ayala reportedly said.

Not only is Ayala a mother and a police officer, but she is also apparently a volunteer firefighter as well. Her fellow firefighters joined in the chorus of people supporting Ayala's simple heroism on social media.

'We want to congratulate the voluntary firefighting cadet Celeste Ayala who yesterday in her job as police officer whilst she was on guard duty at the hospital, breastfed a young child who arrived crying."

Sometimes, first responders pull people from a burning building or save people from a hostage taking. And sometimes they feed babies.

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