Parenting

Please Don’t Touch Babies with Dirty Hands

It seems silly to have to dedicate an entire post to this, but unfortunately, so many people need to be reminded to sanitize before holding babies. I ask people to disinfect with alcohol before carrying Wolf, and sadly, some have taken offense at my request, saying things like, “You’re too uptight!” and “I’m not dirty! As if I’m carrying such a threatening disease!”

I don’t understand why some people react so violently. It’s not like I single them out. I expect everyone to be extra careful when touching babies. I myself always make it a point to sanitize with alcohol several times throughout the day. Our hands are the dirtiest parts of our body. They transmit millions of germs. Babies have immature immune systems, and they are highly susceptible to getting sick.

Just a few weeks ago, Wolf caught his first major cough and cold. He would wake up crying in the middle of the night, because he couldn’t breathe properly due to all the phlegm. He was still so sweet and good-natured throughout the ordeal, which made it even more heartbreaking to see him struggle. Here’s a picture of him smiling despite his runny nose:

smiling baby selfie

Have you ever had a terrible flu-like cough and cold? The kind that has you hacking through the night and constantly expelling mucus? Well, imagine if you didn’t know how to blow your nose. Imagine if you didn’t know what “sick” meant. Imagine if you felt horrible and had no idea if you would ever feel well again. That’s what being sick is for babies.

So please, the next time you want to cuddle a baby, take the initiative to ask the mom or dad for some alcohol or gel sanitizer, which they most likely would have ready. And if you are sick or feeling under the weather, please please don’t go near the baby. Just imagine that if the baby catches a virus from you, that baby could get very sick or even die. It’s not worth it!

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Musings, Parenting

December Baby Birthday Blues

Wolf is turning one on December 27 this year. Every time people find out his birth date, they smile and comment how unlucky he is, because he’ll get only one gift for his birthday and Christmas. I would always smile along, but deep inside, I’d feel bad for my baby. It’s not his fault that his parents lacked foresight when they decided to do away with contraception! Haha.

frowning baby with mom

I imagined what his birthday would be like every year, squeezed in amid all the Christmas festivities, like a little footnote to the grandness of the Yuletide season. I imagined him at seven, wanting a big party like all his classmates, while I would fret over how to break it to him that his friends would be out of town on his special day. I imagined him opening his joint birthday and Christmas presents alongside his cousins, his face falling because even if it were his birthday, all the other kids had lots of presents too.

We originally did not plan on celebrating his first birthday with a party. We were going to have a simple family vacation a stone’s throw away from the metro, just the three of us. But then I realized, this year might be the first and last chance for us to plan a birthday party for him. I don’t want to have a huge party every year, because it’s just not practical. After the first birthday, the next big birthday is the seventh, but a party on Wolf’s seventh may not be in the cards. As I mentioned above, I imagined the heartbreak he’d feel at not being able to have his friends at the party, thus making the possibility of a seventh birthday bash very slim. As for the birthdays that follow, people unfortunately tend to become even busier as they get older. His chances of partying on his birthday seem quite bleak indeed.

tearful baby with dad

And so we decided that we should have a party for his first birthday, at the very least. As I began inviting people, sure enough, several regretfully told me that they’d be out of town. This early in Wolf’s life, it’s no big deal. He’s not yet aware. But later on, he will be. And that’s why we’re jumping at the chance to celebrate now that he’s still too little to feel rejected.

When he’s much older and more emotionally mature, he will laugh along with his friends when they joke about the inconvenience of his birthday. He will gladly accept that the Christmas spread will inevitably double as his birthday feast. Perhaps he will even jovially invite everyone to partake of the “birthday treat” he prepared. But as a child, he will not be able to help himself from feeling the sting of sharing the gift-opening spotlight with everyone else.

Casey and I will try our best to help Wolf still feel special on his birthday by making it distinct from Christmas, especially when it comes to opening gifts. Wolf will have two piles of gifts to unwrap — his Christmas gifts and his birthday gifts. We have pledged to each other that we will always make an effort to get Wolf two gifts every year. I think that no matter how nice the gift is, reading “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday!” on one card will make any kid feel down. I would like to appeal to our immediate family and closest friends to try and do the same. If you will get Wolf a Christmas gift, please get him a birthday gift as well. Getting two gifts doesn’t mean spending more. Wolf is a very happy, easy-to-please child who busies himself with the simplest of items. Don’t trouble yourselves with getting fancy toys or gadgets. The gifts don’t need to be extraordinary. They don’t need to be expensive. They just need, ideally, to be two.

happy baby with mom

Parenting

How Virgin Coconut Oil Helped My Baby Gain Weight

Wolf was a relatively heavy newborn at 3.5 kg, but he was slow to gain weight from the very beginning. At one point, he was even severely underweight due to complications encountered while breastfeeding. We were able to address the issues with the help of lactation counselors, and his weight gain improved. When he turned six months, he was well within the normal weight range for his age, and we were able to achieve this on breast milk alone.

The newborn Wolf:

Wolf at six months:

Given our history with weight issues, I was anxious about starting him on solids. You may wonder why. You may be thinking, “Wouldn’t you be eager to start feeding him solid food so he can bulk up?” It is a common misconception (which I also held before) that babies will naturally gain weight faster once they begin eating solids. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Weight gain tends to slow down as babies take in food other than breast milk. One reason is from six months onwards, babies become more active and eager to explore their surroundings, thus burning more calories. This obviously cannot be avoided. Another reason is that ounce for ounce, breast milk has more calories and fat than most solid food for babies, and so solid food tends to bring down total caloric and fat intake of babies. It is this second factor’s consequences that I could mitigate to a certain extent.

It was easier said than done, though. According to this article, there are few solid food options for babies that come close to breast milk in terms of calories and fat, and I can count them on one hand — avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes, and rice. I had heard though from a lactation counselor that her pediatrician suggested virgin coconut oil (VCO) for her baby who was slow to gain. VCO has high amounts of lauric acid, which is the the same type of healthy fat found in breast milk. That’s why many milk formulas contain VCO. So I decided to try adding VCO to Wolf’s diet.

Wolf at seven months, before eating his first solid meal, avocado:

When Wolf began solids, I would add a teaspoon of VCO to everything he ate, especially if the food that he was eating was not calorie or fat dense (such as carrots). By doing this, I was able to keep his weight gain on track. You may ask, how am I sure that it was the VCO that kept him gaining well? On Wolf’s eighth month, I became complacent. I stopped adding VCO to his food. To my dismay, Wolf did not gain anything in three weeks! I then added VCO again to his diet, and in less than a week, he gained 300 grams.

Wolf at eight months:

VCO has many other uses aside from promoting healthy weight gain in babies. It can be used to supplement the nutrition of adult diets, moisturize skin, massage baby, prevent and treat diaper rash, minimize cradle cap, help heal minor cuts, condition hair, and so much more! With the many benefits, VCO is surely a good buy for every household. I’m such a believer that I’m even considering using VCO to cook our food at home. I doubt Casey would agree though (he hates coconut). But hey, he should hate it just a little less, now that it has worked wonders for Baby Wolf! ❤️

Parenting, pregnancy

The Quiet Joy of Having a Baby

There are many women who choose not to become mothers. For them, motherhood is just not among their life goals. I used to be one of those women. Back in high school, while my friends would fantasize about their ideal weddings and come up with names for their future children, I shuddered at the thought of getting pregnant, giving birth, and becoming dumpy for the rest of my life. Haha.

Then I got married to an amazing man who was a great cook and handy with tools — in other words, a very domesticated guy. Needless to say, he wanted kids. I entered into our marriage fully aware of this and willing to set aside my anxiety to grant his desires. As we grew more in love, I also grew more at ease with the idea of raising his babies. I realized that the reasons I had before for not wanting children — the fear of getting fat, the dreaded sleepless nights, the endless crying — were surmountable with a loving partner by my side.

More than two years into our marriage, we decided to do away with birth control. A month later, I got a positive pregnancy test. We didn’t expect it would happen so soon, but I was happy that we didn’t have to deal with the stress of trying several times to conceive.

While I was pregnant, many people asked me if I were scared of giving birth. I always replied that I was more scared of what would happen after the baby came out. Caring for a baby seemed like such a huge responsibility to me, with the disadvantages outweighing the benefits. I was imagining non-stop crying of the baby (and mommy), poop everywhere, utter chaos on bad days and mundane routines on good days. Suffice to say, I had a very bleak picture of what it meant to be a new parent.

Boy, was I wrong.

Perhaps I was too jaded. I often err on the side of pessimism, and it keeps my expectations in check. I dreaded too much and hoped for too little. Now, as I reflect on the past eight months caring for my baby, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. I didn’t expect being a mom to be this.. enjoyable! Yes, there are sleepless nights and round-the-clock diaper changes, but all those chores are rewarded with the most adorable coos and smiles that make the fatigue worth it. And the number one reason I had before for not wanting to conceive, which is that I didn’t want to gain weight that I wouldn’t be able to shed post-partum, is now no longer an issue, because in these eight months, I’ve successfully returned to my pre-pregnancy weight.

I am just in my twenties, and I have so much of life still ahead of me, but I can say that having a baby is the most incredible, humbling, rewarding experience thus far. My advice for women on the fence with having kids is to take that terrifying plunge. The experience is much more wonderful than it seems. The “bad” side often gets the limelight, and we tend to think of infants as how they are portrayed in movies — synonymous to wailing poop machines. But the good, no, the great side, is too often overlooked, perhaps because it is quiet and tender — the warmth of your baby falling asleep on your chest, the delight on his face as he learns to sit up, the wonder with which he becomes aware of his fingers and toes.

Babies find joy in the smallest things. They teach you, not only to love another human unconditionally, but also to rediscover and love the world. I do not regret and don’t think I will ever regret having a baby. Some days are exhausting. Some days are chaotic. But all days are amazing.

Parenting

5th Breastfeeding Congress

Last August 1 and 2, I had the honor of being one of the panelists at the 5th Breastfeeding Congress, held at the Manila Hotel.

I gave my testimonial as a breastfeeding mom who overcame initial challenges and continued to breastfeed successfully. My fellow breastfeeding advocate panelists were Dr. Marini Tabon-Esguerra, a pediatrician and lactation consultant, and Jolina Magdangal-Escueta, a television host and actress.

I shared our breastfeeding journey, from our initial setbacks, to the intervention we sought, and finally to our current success. I was proud to proclaim that from being underweight, Wolf became well within normal range, 8.3 kg at 7 months. It was so heartwarming to hear the attendees clap in appreciation of our accomplishment.

Aside from sharing my personal story, I shared why I think more women should nurse without a cover, as I am doing now. I also cited the benefits I myself got from being a breastfed baby–I have a strong immune system, an adventurous palate, and no weight problems. In Wolf’s case, the benefits I cited were the convenience when going out with him, the many chances for bonding, and his well-behaved nature grounded in how breastfeeding is a great source of comfort.

Casey and Wolf were also on the stage with me. Casey shared how proud he was of me, especially when he saw how difficult it was in the beginning. He also expressed his support of me nursing without a cover, saying that he realized how eating while covered by cloth must not be comfortable at all for babies. Wolf was very well behaved, even if he were sleepy. Toward the end of the session, he was fast asleep in Casey’s arms.

The other two panelists also shared their initial struggles breastfeeding. It was comforting to feel that I was not alone. Imagine, even a pediatrician mom encountered difficulties breastfeeding! That’s why I think it is so important to be more vocal about the topic, so that people become aware that with proper information and guidance, breastfeeding is absolutely worth it for both mom and baby. I am happy to have been able to share my experience with a room full of physicians and med students. Hopefully, the testimonials of me and my fellow panelists inspired these medical practitioners to offer more guidance to new mothers just beginning their breastfeeding journey.