Friday, March 4, 2011

Kathy's Unsolicited Advice for Parents-to-Be, Part I

First of all here's my quote about being a parent. Feel free to frame it or cross stitch it on a pillow.

"As a parent you live for the baby smiles and laughs that give your life meaning. The rest of the time you can't wait for them to fall asleep so you can get back to the Internet." - Kathleen Mikulis, 2011

Yep, it's another advice post. I can't help thinking about advice lately since I have two friends who are expecting, two who gave birth yesterday or today, and another who's trying (fingers crossed), and I have lots of unsolicited advice to give. (Psst! These four older posts might also be of interest.)

1. Get a good camera and take good pictures.

Definitely have a good camera that you can use indoors with low light and take lots of newborn photos because they don't look newborn-y for long.

Our camera (no lens) - a bit pricey but worth it (good in low light and can take rapid fire pictures):

Our lens:

And some advice I read helped me to take photos that turned out so much better compared to what I was taking before! The advice is this: don't use a flash which startles the baby and provides light that's too harsh. Use natural, diffused light from a window. And incorporate your baby's favorite blankets in the photo, too, to serve as visual props and modeling tools to help position your baby. I didn't try this next trick but it also mentions placing the baby in a car seat but using a blanket under the baby so the car seat doesn't appear in the shot.

Using natural light made ALL the difference for me. In fact after reading the advice one of my favorite activities was to photograph them, and they enjoyed Mommy smiling at them trying to get them to smile. Here are some photos from my old (non-DSLR) camera - I wish we'd had the Nikon from the beginning.

James and his Japanese animation-size eyes. (1 1/2 months)

I think this photo of James was my first attempt at a window-side photoshoot. Not an amazing shot but much better than the ones I'd gotten before.

These two pictures were taken my second time putting them in front of the window. (2 months)

Mark suggests mentioning his advice - which he likes to point out that I ignored - not to take pictures too close and get disproportionate fisheye shots. Ah yes. Mark hates my photos. Granted, he has a point that full body shots when taken too close are disproportionate. If it was up to Mark, whenever I took pictures of the babies laying down I would have stood directly over them with my camera as high above them as possible to get a proportionate shot. Two problems with this: 1) Whenever I'd crop these shots to only the head, the resolution wasn't nearly as good as I'd like, and most importantly, 2) I had MUCH, MUCH better results getting the babies to smile when I took pictures close to them. (Note: the photography advice I found here recommends getting on the babies' level, up close to them.)

Here are some pictures I took that I like and Mark hates because they're too close or disproportional, or both. (Or maybe Mark's just underestimating the size of James's giant head.) (6 months and 3 1/2 months)

2. Have a snack food (for yourself!) on a table near where you hold babies.

The first three months you will be stuck holding a baby for an hour or two in a row. You will get hungry. Always have a snack food within reaching distance.

3. Put your babies to bed before they show signs of being tired.

The first 6-8 months we didn't know any better and we'd wait to see our babies rub their eyes before putting them down. A few times they stayed up as late as 8:30 p.m. despite their chosen morning wake up time only 8 1/2 hours later at 5:00 a.m.! Get into a good bedtime routine: feeding, diapering and changing, light play, gradual light dimming, and singing (or a CD of lullabies) at the end.

4. Put your baby to bed with multiple pacifiers.

There's nothing worse than going into your darkened baby's room
(Mark: Do we have a darkened baby?) in the middle of the night with them crying and you not able to find their pacifier. (This is especially true if you have a certain boy who is always letting them fall out of his crib.) So put several in their crib. Added bonus: as they get older, having multiple pacifiers in the crib means it's easier for your baby to find a pacifier himself and not wake you up.

Under James's crib is the Bermuda Triangle of pacifiers.

5. Know the difference between middle-of-the-night fussing and crying.

I'm guessing this is obvious for most people but I definitely didn't know there was a difference between middle-of-the-night fussing and crying. I would jump up from my bed and run in when I heard fussing or crying, pop a pacifier in the baby's mouth, and hopefully head back to sleep. However, doing this when the baby is only fussing is likely to disturb the baby's sleep and possibly wake him. Plus it keeps them from learning how to self soothe and put themselves back to sleep. Before I knew the difference, I was waking up 4-5 times a night to attend to the babies, particularly James. Then my friend Kashi clued me in, and after only going in when I heard crying, James became a champion at putting himself back to sleep. Julia could still use some work.


  1. Yay! I love advice posts. I hope I'm one of your friends who just delivered, since you posted this when I was in the recovery room, getting to know my new baby and not getting a moment of sleep! :)

  2. Yes! I was definitely referencing you and wondering if you'd even notice that I wrote it, since I imagine life is very busy these days! Congrats again!!!

    I actually have two more advice posts written. (I know - insane. I just wrote it all at once and it was too long.) I'm just spacing out when I post them since I often have big gaps when I have nothing written.