Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Diaper Scourned

As Prius-driving, Obama-voting, hummus-eating, organic-cotton-wearing, reduce-reuse-recycling hippies, Leanne and I use cloth diapers. We are pretty happy with them. You can read my previous post about the diapers to get the full review.

But, in the spirit of Tiger Woods, I need to make an admission. I have cheated on you, cloth diapers. I am sorry for the hurt that I have caused you. You see, when Leanne, Olive, and I go away for a weekend and we leave you behind – we haven’t been alone. There have been other diapers. Lots of other diapers.

Let me try to explain. If we take a trip for a few days, there just simply aren’t enough of you to satisfy Olive. Even if it is just a short trip we would need to bring ALL of you along. And you are, well, bulky. I’m not calling you fat, but those disposable diapers are so slim! We can pack 30 of them in the space that it would take to carry only a half dozen of you guys. Then we would need to find a Laundromat to wash you, and I know you hate those. And when we are away from home, well, it feels weird to store and transport poop. There might even be laws about transporting human waste across state lines. You understand, right? Plus, how are we supposed to explain to the maid at the hotel that no, really, we would like to KEEP that bag of human excrement.

I know, I know. You have been there for us for months. We have been through so much together. Remember when Olive started sleeping through the night? You were there. How about when we switched from breast milk to formula and Olive’s poop REALLY started to stink. You didn’t bat a Velcro tab. Then we introduced solid foods and you took it all in stride.

But really, the disposables don’t mean a thing. I mean, we use them once and then throw them away. We always come back to you.

Well, okay, here is another admission. When I’m away, and we are using the disposable diapers…I like it. I like that I don’t get poop on my hand as I try to shake it into the toilet. I like that I can wrap the disposable up into a neat little ball and throw it into the trash. I like it that I don’t need to wash them. They just do their duty and I never see them again. It’s all so, so, clean! But I feel so dirty.

I know, I know, there is no relationship there. It doesn’t mean anything. They are all one-poop stands! That’s why we always come back to you. When we come home, Olive goes right back into your soft, comforting, bulkiness. We think she looks cute with her gigantic behind stretching her pants to the limit. We don’t mind that she can’t fit in to baby jeans because of you, really! You are so much better for the environment. We love not having trash bags full dirty disposable diapers every week. You come in so many different colors! Disposables have to try and spice up their whiteness with little Disney characters. They look so cheap. You are sophisticated. We really love how you don’t demand much from us. We just buy you once and you’re with us for life. We would have to buy package after package of those disposables. And then they want us to buy some sort of Genie!

So, to close, I’m sorry if we have hurt you, cloth diapers. But we aren’t going into therapy. We aren’t going to stop. The affair will continue. You will have to get used to this dual life we lead. You’ll always be our first choice, you’ll always be in our home, but when we go away, disposables will be in our bag.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Scourge of the Baby Walker

As new parents, we get a lot of questions about baby walkers. They usually come from people from around my parent's generation who raised their kids with them. The question is usually: Do they still have those things?

Well, not really.

Then they always lament at how we coddle our kids too much these days and that all of their kids survived just fine and then they mumble something about nut allergies and walking to school barefoot uphill both ways. Well, there was a nice little blog posting on the New York Times website today regarding the danger baby walkers pose, and it was eye-opening for a few reasons.

The posting reads: Back in 1994, when baby walkers were still extremely popular in the United States, the Consumer Products Safety Commission declared that baby walkers were responsible for more injuries than any other children’s product. (Italics added)

Now if that doesn't make you wonder how we all survived a world rife with baby walkers, I don't know what will. I think I'd rather make Olive walk to school barefoot than put her in a baby walker now. Apparently the walkers were seen as the cause of broken bones, burns, broken teeth, and even death. I do understand that a possible knee jerk reaction could be to say that the baby walkers weren't necessarily to blame, but parenting was to blame. This is the old, guns don't kill people, people kill people argument. But the walkers do allow the child to move pretty quick, and often faster than the parent expects or can react. Plus, I don't let Olive play with guns either. So, we have settled it. Baby walkers = death trap.

This was all well and good, but I kind of knew this before. I mean, if Babies R' Us isn't selling 27 of them then there must be something REALLY bad about that product. What was really interesting, especially for me, was that baby walkers actually delay gross motor development AND mental development. Baby's learn to walk and move by exploring the world around them and figuring stuff out. Throwing them in a walker skips a few steps and so, apparently, they don't learn to crawl, walk, or roll as quickly as kids who aren't put in walkers. Also, their mental development is slowed fairly significantly (my guess is because they don't have to do the work of figuring out how to get from point A to point B).

Now, Olive has never been in a walker. But for the past couple weeks, she has been walking around the house by holding on to our hands. We constantly are doing laps of the house bent over while she leads us from one interesting point to another. We have realized recently, however, that she isn't exactly keen on trying to do any of this on her own. Olive needs mommy and daddy to be there all the time. She is nearly helpless when put on her back and her tummy. She cruises well, but gets frustrated quickly and spends most of the time trying to figure out loud she needs to yell before someone comes and helps her. Are WE doing the same thing as the baby walker? Are we, by giving in and letting her hold on to our hands and motor around, keeping her from figuring all this out on her own? Maybe. Maybe not. But it definitely makes me think.

Now we are trying to be better at not immediately jumping to her rescue if she gets frustrated trying to reach a toy or move around a room. She isn't crawling, but she is doing a sort of half crawl/half walk maneuver where she puts both hands in front of her, gets on one knee and then pushes herself along the floor with the other foot. It makes her look a little bit like Quasimodo, and it isn't the most efficient of transportation options, but it is effective -- and she is doing it without anyone's help.

So we'll see how the next few weeks go. I'm sure we will still give in and shuffle along behind our little girl (I mean, it IS fun) but we will also be doing our best to let her be an independent baby and happily (hopefully) limp around on her own.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What's a three letter word for firearm?

This is what happens when you leave Olive with my father-in-law and a toy that spells out three letter words...

Celebrate Consumerism! Part Two!

There are more exciting posts to come, I promise, but I am having trouble getting videos up on blogger which is really slowing down my production.

So I figured this is a good time to re-visit my celebration of consumerism. Since it seems like all the rage these days, it is probably best that I start with a little disclosure.

I make no money from this blog nor have I received any products in exchange for me writing about them. I am not compensated for my links and get no proceeds from ads.

All this is funny to me because I think about three people actually read this – but I guess it is best to be honest. Oh yeah, and if anyone wants to pay me or give me free stuff, I would gladly accept. Just don’t be angry if I say that your product is shite.

There, now that silliness is over with, let’s talk about neat detachable chairs. When we first registered for the Chicco Caddy Hook-On Chair, I kinda thought it was going to be one of those useless little pieces of baby gear. We already had a high chair and restaurants provide them for you, so I fully expected this to sit in a box and get used twice before we handed it down to someone. Wrong.

The chair spends most of its time hooked on to the end of our kitchen table. It provides a great place to plop Olive when we were making a meal, eating, or working around the kitchen. She can belly right up to the kitchen table and play with toys or eat some finger foods. You might remember that the chair was featured prominently in a previous post on how much Olive enjoyed dropping toys and getting daddy to pick them up for her.

We’ve also used the chair more than a few times in restaurants. We found that for the first nine months or so of Olive’s life that restaurant high chairs were both too low and too roomy. She would slide around the seat and end up slouched back staring towards the sky, immobile, uncomfortable, and frustrated. If you propped her forward, her head was at just the right level to ram her mouth into the edge of the table – luckily, she didn’t really have any teeth to knock out.

The Chicco chair, however, quickly attaches right to almost any table and makes it a heck of a lot easier to entertain or feed her while eating. I mean, check out how happy these parents are in this picture. A regular restaurant high chair just doesn’t bring that kind of joy!

Of course, the thing ain’t perfect. As you can see from every negative review on Amazon, it isn't going to fit on all tables. Also, while it is fairly small, it isn’t exactly easy to fold or carry around. If you are out by yourself and already carrying a diaper bag and a baby, it isn’t the easiest thing to lug into a busy eatery. Also, beware of the stability of the table and the size of your baby. At one restaurant the weight of Olive was almost enough to tip a small two-top table backwards.

But other than the slight danger of crushing your child under the weight of a falling table, this thing is awesome.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lotions, Creams, and Ointments

When you become a parent you learn a lot of random stuff you never thought you would need or want to know. For example:

-What a cervix is and how it can be ripened.
-The length of time a human can go without a full night’s sleep before googling “putting your child up for adoption.”
-A belly button is not actually tied, but rather clamped.
-The best detergent to use to remove poop stains.
-The words to every nursery rhyme ever composed.

I picked up the most recent bit of trivia a couple weeks ago at the pediatrician’s office and I’m not afraid to say that it blew my mind.

The doctor was doing his normal examination of Olive and everything was looking normal. We pointed out that her skin was getting dry patches all over it. It was actually beginning to worry us a little. Once the winter started, dry, red patches started to appear on her chest, then her tummy, then her arms and legs and back. We had pretty much ruled out an allergic reaction and were now convinced that she had dry skin or borderline eczema.

“Yeah, it could be a little eczema,” said the doctor. “But more likely it is just plain dry skin that comes with the season. What are you using on it?”

“Well, we just use some moisturizer stuff.”

We had been lathering her up with this stuff for a while, and it really didn’t seem to be working. I was at the point where every time I went into a grocery store or pharmacy I would stand in front of the baby moisturizer section and stare blankly at packages and labels for 30 minutes. Eventually I would be overwhelmed by the choices, twitch a little bit, and walk away.

“Well, are you using a lotion, cream, or ointment,” the doctor asked.

Wait, what? Lotion, cream, or ointment? Isn’t that like asking someone if they are drinking soda, tonic, or pop? Aren’t they all the same stuff?

“Umm, I think it says moisturizing lotion on the label,” I responded.

“Well, there is your problem,” said the doctor, leaning forward in the stool, getting ready to learn me something. “Lotion is really not that much good. You can rub it rub it rub it and it never really absorbs into the skin. It just gets wiped off and then all the skin’s moisture can leave. Cream is a little better. But what you really need is an ointment. It will stay on top of the skin and really help to heal the dry skin and protect her. Lotion is all the way over here,” he said, holding out his left hand. “What you need to do is jump all the way over here,” he said, extending his right hand. “Go get yourself some ointment and just keep her a little greasy. It will help provide a good moisture barrier.”

After I got past the fact that I was going to keep my daughter “a little greasy” I got back to thinking about the difference between lotions, creams, and ointments. How did I go my entire life without knowing the difference? Have I been I wasting money on moisturizing lotions and hand creams? Have I been drinking Sanka all my life and just have someone introduce me to espresso? (And yes, this is the stuff I get excited about now. Really, I used to be an actual man.) What it all comes down to is viscosity. Great word. Lotions are low-medium viscosity, creams a bit higher, and ointments are high viscosity. Viscosity is basically a measure of thickness or density. Lotions have a high water to oil ratio, while ointments can be 80% oil. Therefore, ointments provide a protective layer on the skin, preventing it from drying out.

For those of you who, like me, did not know which products fit in which categories, here are a few illustrative examples.

Lotion: Your basic daily moisturizer like Aveeno and Curel. Maybe you have to use it “Daily” cause otherwise that shit don’t work.

Cream: Usually sold by the same brands, but often in tubs or tubes rather than large hand-pumped containers. Also, more expensive.

Ointment: Aquaphor is probably the best known one, and it is expensive. Also, lots of ointments are called “healing” – which makes me not want to buy them cause I don’t want to admit I have a problem that needs curing. Bad marketing.

The good news is that it has worked. The dryness has, for the most part, cleared up and we seem to be keeping it at bay. The bad news is that Olive is now known as Greasy McGreasenfield at day care.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What is the infant dosage of Tylenol PM?

My brain is not working today. I have started and stopped a couple blog entries at this point, but can't seem to get something coherent down on the screen. This may be because Leanne has been away for the last few days so I have been flying solo (well, I did spend yesterday at my parent's house -- so not completely solo).

I have learned a couple things from this experience:
1) Single parents obviously have super powers.
2) Naps are important.

Over the last couple days, Olive has decided that she really doesn't need two naps. One will be sufficient. Unfortunately, this throws off a very nice routine where I get a couple hours to myself both in the morning and the evening, with the waking baby hours easily filled with walks, play time, meals, and such. Taking one of those naps away means there is suddenly two more hours to fill.

You would think missing a nap here and there wouldn't be a big deal. That is not the case. I'm completely spent. I am writing this as Olive, thankfully, naps. I spent the last 5 or so hours trying to where Olive out by walking her all over the house and limiting her only to physically difficult tasks.

"What, you want to read a book? No, that is a stationary activity. Come on, let's go try to get you to do pull-ups!"

Therefore, I have no cognitive power available to write mildly witty but mostly sappy and annoying blog. Instead, I'll just post a recent cute picture of Olive.

Ever wonder why they put pockets on baby clothes? So you can pose your baby for pictures like this.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Baby Walker

Olive has a little pushcart that we alternately call her car or walker. But when you dress her in a pink plush tracksuit that makes her look a little bit like a baby girl version of Paulie Walnuts from The Sopranos, well, then I don't know what you call it.

Olive is getting increasingly more confident with her walking. First, it was shuffling from one end of the coffee table to the other, then moving around the legs of chairs at the kitchen table. Now she loves doing laps of the house holding on to your hands as you walk behind her desperately hoping that your back doesn't give out or you don't trip and crush her. Cause that would be hard to explain.

You might notice from the video that Olive has mastered walking forward, but hasn't really figured out how to turn. She would have a blast on a drag racing track, but in our house, she tends to push her car five feet, hit a wall, flounder for 10 seconds like a malfunctioning Roomba, and then looks around for mom or dad to save her.

I want to discourage the walking as much as possible. Mostly because when she is able to walk on her own then I can't leave her alone. I may not shower when Leanne goes away on business trips. Right now it is so easy. Just sit her down and put a bucket of toys in front of her. That buys you 15 minutes. A walking baby? Buys you 15 seconds before she heads straight for the knives or the basement stairs.

Leanne, however, is all about mobile baby. I'm pretty sure that when I'm gone she pulls out a little baby-sized treadmill and runs Olive through a series of workouts. If my daughter's first words are "lactate threshold" then my hypothesis will have been proven correct.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's a good thing

There are few legal things in the world that can make you feel this good.

The Needle and the Damage Done

So what fun would it be to write about parenting, where disagreement and strong opinion abounds, if you didn’t at least wiggle your toes in the pool of controversy every now and then? We parents practically live to tell other parents that they are doing it all wrong.

She’ll never potty train if you do it like that.
Co-sleeping? That is craziness.
You mean you don’t have a family bed?
Wait, you wouldn’t send your kid to a public school, would you?
You are letting her play with plastic?
I can’t believe you are still nursing.
Wow, can you believe she never nursed?
Oh, we only buy organic food.
Ten minutes of television a day, and that’s it!
You just HAVE to buy the “My Child Can Read” DVDs!

And on, and on, and on. I mean, it even starts with HOW the baby is going to be born. Drugs or no drugs? Doctor, midwife, or doula? Home birth? Tub birth? Scheduled C-section? Maybe you go for the hypno-birth. Ask any mom, and some dads, about that subject and then gird your loins for an hour or two of really heated discussion.

Well, yesterday’s controversy du jour was served up in the form of a retracted article in a British medical journal. What is so controversial? No one but doctors and grad students read those things. And who cares about the British ones, we are American! Well, this is not just any medical journal article. This was a medical journal article about autism.

Now we are starting to see some blood pressures rise.

In 1998, The Lancet printed a paper authored by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and 12 others that linked the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine to autism. Since then, 10 of the 13 authors have renounced the conclusions and subsequent studies have found no link between vaccines and autism.

The CDC has this to say about vaccine safety:
“…evidence from several studies examining trends in vaccine use and changes in autism frequency does not support such an association. Furthermore, a scientific review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that "the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal-containing vaccines an [sic] autism." CDC supports the IOM conclusion.”

Last week, a British medical panel ruled that Dr. Wakefield “failed in his duties and acted against the interest of the children in his care” during the study. The AP has a nice little summary of the censure and some unethical practices associated with the study. Wakefield may not be allowed to practice medicine in the UK soon.

All this caused The Lancet today to fully retract the study from published record, basically saying: “our bad.”

The issue here is much larger though. Since the study came out, Britain has seen a study rise in Measles cases. Sure they are still on a relatively small number of cases (under 200), but this is a disease that, before vaccination, used to afflict hundreds of thousands a year.

In recent years, Jenny McCarthy, actress, model, autism awareness advocate, hot mom, and (hey, it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want) a complete quack, has gone on a publicity tour promoting the link between vaccines and autism. A lot of people are jumping on her boat. McCarthy has sold a lot of books and appeared on a lot of talk shows talking about vaccines and autism. And she is also a fan of Dr. Wakefield and his research. McCarthy’s non-profit, Generation Rescue, even put out a statement of support for Dr. Wakefield. It reads, in part,
"The recent decision by the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom against Andy Wakefield shouldn't surprise anyone who understands the stakes, profits, and reputations at risk in the debate over vaccines and autism. The sole purpose of the GMC's ruling this week is to try and quell the growing concern of parents that the expanding vaccine schedule and the remarkable rise in autism are correlated."

McCarthy seems to be a strange one. She clings to what looks to be junk science, but then rejects good science and reputable organizations like the CDC, the AAP as somehow conspiring to give kids autism. She shuns some published studies to seems to embrace the anecdotal and then coincidental.

Okay, now this is where I try to empathize. As far as I know, I am not the parent of an autistic child. Olive has not even had her MMR shot yet (though we do plan to give it to her on schedule). I can not imagine what it would be like to be faced with the prospect of dealing with autism day in and day out. There are hundreds of thousands of parents who deal with this every day. If I was one of those parents that felt my child was taken from me, that just wanted an answer, I would probably be pointing my finger at everything I could. And yes, bringing my daughter into the doctor’s office and watching her get shot after shot after shot seems strange and dangerous. I mean, we dress her in organic cotton clothes because we don’t like pesticides, but we are pumping her full of manufactured vaccines? Yes, the rate of autism has spiked since the MMR vaccine was introduced. But this does not prove a causal relationship. You can't ignore the observations of parents, or individual cases, but you need to look at a body of evidence to draw conclusions. Dr. Geri Dawson, the Chief Science Officer of Autism Speaks provides a great summary of the scientific findings on Autism and vaccines -- and one worded far more sesitively than my own uninformed rantings -- can be found on here.

More research on a possible link between thimerosal,mercury, or the MMR vaccine should be welcomed and encouraged. But my fear is that fear surrounding vaccines can be dangerous. By turning our back on vaccines that protect our kids from horrible diseases to try and protect our kids from another horrible disease, we may just be cutting off our nose to spite our face. Would you want your kid in a daycare with a group of unvaccinated kids? Want them to share a sandbox? The measles really suck. As do the mumps. We might not have been around to see their hay-day, but in the last 150 years measles killed 200 million people. The last outbreak of rubella was in 1964-65 when 20,000 infants were born with birth defects like deafness because they were infected with rubella while in utero. These are diseases we now have beat. Let’s not let them come back.

When I was on paternity leave I watched a television program called “The Doctors” (Tagline: America's Medical Dream Team) where a panel of really good looking docs sit in front of an audience in scrubs and lab coats (did they just come running in from surgery or the office?). It is like “The View” but they talk about urinary track infections and menopause less. They had Jenny McCarthy on and great debate ensued. You could almost see some of the doctors on the panel restraining themselves from yelling “CRAZY!” And McCarthy was doing her best not to yell “SCIENCE, SCHMIENCE!” At some point someone, I think a pediatrician, calmed everyone down. I’m obviously paraphrasing here but he said, look, we have tons of research on vaccines. They go through an enormous amount of testing. The medical community is pretty darn sure that there is no link. However, there is a whole TON of stuff in the environment that we haven’t studied – let’s move on and try to find a link.

I couldn’t agree more.

I also fear that the campaign against vaccinations seems to me to be chasing windmills. It is taking the focus away from the disease and getting more badly needed money to research possible treatments and causes.

Soo, I’ve probably pissed some people off. But that is okay. I piss people off every day. We can still be friends. Yes, Leanne and I are following the recommended vaccine schedule for Olive. We think it is the best choice for us. Yes, I understand that you may not be following it for your child and you think you are making the best choice for you.

I promise, I’m not a horrible person.

But Jenny McCarthy is still a quack.

P.S. If you would like to support Autsim research and awareness, please considering donating to Autsim Speaks