This week was a bit of a haze. Tucker hit the three-week growth spurt right on time late last week and was ravenous all the time, which meant I was feeding him constantly. His normally sweet disposition was blurred by fussiness and hunger, and then as the spurt tapered off we hit a new phase in which he will not sleep during the day unless he is in motion. Nighttime is still going well (thank god!), with one stretch almost reaching a whopping six hours. But during the day I am Sandra Bullock in Speed, walking for hours with him in the carrier or the stroller, knowing that if I stop he will wake up, and that he is already getting far less than the recommended 16 to 18 hours of sleep. On a good day I can get him to a total of more than 14 hours, but if I don’t dedicate myself to endless loops through Cambridge on foot he dips as low as 12. Not good.
When he does sleep, if I have any hope of getting things done in the far reaches of our rather spread-out apartment--say, the kitchen or my office, which are as far as possible form the nursery--I need a really good monitor. We started with the Sony Baby Call monitors all our friends had used and loved, but it turns out that if you aren’t in a typical house with sheetrock walls, you run into some technical issues. Our 110-year-old apartment building has triple-thick interior brick structural walls, and even the normal walls are lathing with horsehair plaster. The monitors were out of range the second we turned the corner from the living room to head to the kitchen (and that corner is only about 15 feet from the nursery door, but there are two of those brick walls in between).
Ben hit the internet to find out what works in old houses, and all his results ended up being from people in the UK, talking about which monitors they used in 400-year-old stone cottages and castles and things. We sprung for the recommended set, a Philips Avent model. They arrived within the week and work like a charm: I even took the “parent” unit with me when I went downstairs to get the mail one day, and when Tucker obligingly started screaming he came through loud and clear, three flights down.
...It is amusing to see how quickly and easily I became a parenting cliche, talking and thinking endlessly about sleep, feedings, and bodily functions. Everyone jokes about exploding diapers when you say you’re having a baby, but I didn’t realize they were being quite so literal. The amount of poop produced by such a tiny baby is really amazing, and what astounds me even more is the force with which it sometimes makes itself known. Ben was being a bit too gentle in his diapering for a few days there (“I don’t want to pinch him!”), which led to some Vesuvius-style eruptions out the leg hole (often bright orange, for realistic lava-look), usually while Tucker was nursing.
The other thing you don’t realize in advance? That festively-colored poop STAINS, and it stains badly. We did a load of laundry without pretreating the results of one eruption, and distressing phantom poop-stains remained. Enter Oxi Clean, the unscented version with a pink top and pictures of baby clothes on it. I always have some on hand for soaking rust stains out of vintage linens from flea markets, and I remembered a friend saying it was key with baby laundry. That stuff is a miracle: It even worked on the stains that had been washed in already! After soaking the affected items, I hung them to dry (I didn’t bother rinsing since we will be throwing them back in the wash anyway) on one of my best and cheapest Ikea purchases ever, a $6.99 “Jäll” drying rack that folds flat but gives us 20 feet of drying space (eight 30” lines). I set it over the doormat by our back door, so drips don’t go everywhere, and it works like a charm. You can also drape it with a towel if you need a flat place to dry a sweater.
One last lifesaver, the thing I use more than anything else: the Total Baby app on my iPhone. A friend had told me that it was the best thing ever in these foggy first weeks, and she’s right. It’s the best $4.99 a new mom can spend. You can keep track of sleep, feedings (including which side you started with), diapers, baths and more, each with easy start/stop buttons. I wouldn’t forget to feed the baby, since he cries so loudly when he’s hungry (I joke! I wouldn’t forget to feed him anyway. I promise.), but it’s kind of shocking how easy it would be to forget how long it’s been since a diaper change, and I really like being able to track how long, total, he spent sleeping or eating each day. If you have an iPhone and a new baby, you have to get it, stat!
Kate Flaim is a freelance journalist and food blogger based in Cambridge, Mass. When she's not cooking or writing, she is gearing up for the arrival of her first child this summer.