a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
earlier sprouts 
28 February 2016 01:08 - "I told my knees to please not knock"
rosefox: Me looking at Kit and both of us grinning. (baby-whee)
Kit is two months old today.

They're starting daycare in two weeks, when X goes back to work, so I wrote up an unnecessarily long letter for the daycare staff. I really like it as a snapshot (or 2.3 snapshots, since it's about 2300 words) of who we all are right now.

=====

Dear teachers and caregivers,

Thank you so much for welcoming Kit to your school! We look forward to getting to know you all.

Here’s some useful info about Kit. It’s probably way more than you need, but we’ve never sent a baby to daycare before, so we figured we’d be thorough.

Since Kit is too young to have a gender identity, we use they/them pronouns for them in this letter. You can use whatever pronouns you like; the baby doesn’t care, so we don’t either.

Summary

  • Kit is a happy, healthy, perpetually hungry, startlingly tall 11-week-old baby.
  • Kit has three parents: Josh, called Dad; Xtina, called Ina; Rose, called Zo. (Please don’t refer to anyone as Kit’s mom, mama, mommy, or mother.) Xtina will do most daycare drop-offs and Rose and Josh will do most daycare pick-ups.
  • Kit has mild reflux. Please only feed the formula we provide, give 5 ml Colic-Ease with a midday meal, keep Kit propped up (but not bent at the waist) for about 30 minutes after feeding, and keep their bib on longer than you think you need to. We will provide a crib wedge for angled sleeping. Once digestion is underway, lying on a flat surface is fine.
  • Kit has sensitive skin, so we use cloth diapers, unscented wipes, coconut oil as a daily diaper ointment, and an unscented diaper rash ointment as needed.
  • Kit is exclusively formula-fed and currently eats 90 to 150 ml at a time, with breaks of two to four hours between meals.
  • Kit does not have a set nap or meal schedule; we follow their lead. They mostly sleep at night, sometimes with a longish nap in late morning/early afternoon. Kit is very good at signaling both hunger (cries that sound like wow or ow) and fullness (cessation of sucking, closing mouth firmly when the nipple is offered).
  • Kit doesn’t complain about soiled diapers, so we recommend doing a diaper change immediately before every feeding.
  • Kit’s primary interests are eating, cuddling, being outside, looking at lights and reflections, and attempting to suck on fingers/thumbs (their own or anyone else’s in the vicinity).
  • When they get frustrated by not being coordinated enough to suck their fingers, they tend to punch or claw at their own face. Please gently hold or block their hands to discourage this.
  • We encourage Kit to develop at their own pace, and don’t do tummy time or provide direct assistance with tasks that Kit is working on.
  • When Kit is upset, we cuddle them gently, listen to their complaints, and offer sympathy. Please don’t discourage crying or other vocalization, or shush Kit when they’re trying to communicate or express feelings.


Details

Personality


Kit is calm, curious, opinionated, expressive, friendly, resilient, and persistent. We appreciate and encourage all these characteristics and hope you will do the same.

Likes and dislikes

Kit hates being hungry. They’re very serious about eating when they’re hungry, and they have no interest in it when they’re not. They don’t mind pacifiers but aren’t hooked on them.

Kit very much likes being held and cuddled, and enjoys meeting new people. So far Kit has only really noticed adults, but other babies will probably start to become interesting pretty soon. Kit is content to have relatively long stretches of awake time alone in the crib, but is always happier if there’s a person nearby, even if they’re not interacting.

Kit is a wriggly baby who loves having room to move around. We only hold Kit in a close hug when they’re very upset or colicky. We don’t swaddle Kit or confine their arms.

Kit loves going outside as long as there’s shade and a cool breeze; wind, rain, and snow don’t bother them, but they don’t like muggy heat or direct sunlight. They would rather be cool than warm, and they prefer to have as little clothing on as possible.

Kit likes lying flat and doesn’t mind being propped up at a 30- or 45-degree angle. Sitting upright is tolerable, especially if Kit is having indigestion and struggling to keep food down. Kit does not at all like being burped over an adult’s shoulder; please burp them by sitting them up briefly.

Kit does not like being carried in an upright facing-in position. Slings and carriers are met with extreme skepticism unless Kit is able to look around and see the world. Unfortunately their head control isn’t quite good enough for us to do facing-out carriers yet. In the meantime, being in a stroller facing out is the next best thing.

Kit has no particular opinion about wet or dirty diapers; we do changes immediately before meals because Kit can’t be counted on to let us know when a change is needed. They don’t love the process of being changed but mostly won’t fight it.

Kit isn’t yet interested in toys. Reflective surfaces, lights, and windows are of mild to moderate interest. Brightly colored board books are sometimes intriguing for a short time. Kit enjoys chatting with their reflection in the crib mirror.

Body and mind

Physical health

Kit is a very healthy, sturdy child. As of this writing, they have never had so much as a sniffle. (We realize that that will change very soon after starting daycare.) They handled their first round of vaccinations like it was nothing. They have no known allergies.

Kit’s nose is sometimes congested, making them snuffle and snort; we treat this with a bedroom humidifier and occasional applications of saline nose drops.

Kit’s skin is sensitive and prone to rashes, so we use only cloth diapers and unscented products. We apply coconut oil to Kit’s bum after every change, and use Diaperkind diaper rash cream if a diaper rash appears. (The cream is zinc-based, so it’s very important to clean Kit’s skin and let it dry fully before applying the cream—don’t put it on wet skin or it will trap the moisture and make the rash worse.) We use Babyganics lip and face balm on Kit’s face and Babyganics lotion everywhere else.

Kit is easily overwhelmed by certain kinds of physical sensation. Full-body baths, sponge baths, and massages are known triggers. If this distress is triggered, stop the stimulus right away, wrap Kit in a blanket or towel with arms tucked in (not swaddle-tight, but tightly enough that the cloth doesn’t move against their skin when they move), and hold and rock them gently. When they calm, unwrap them and place them in the crib to finish recovering. Don’t pat, stroke, kiss, or jiggle them when they’re overstimulated.

Since extended washing is so distressing for Kit, we spot-clean them as needed.

Mental and emotional health

Kit’s mental health appears to be excellent. They have never experienced any kind of trauma (other than birth). They frequently express happiness and only cry when there’s an obvious cause of distress. They have formed strong emotional bonds with all three parents. They enjoy going new places and meeting new people, and cope well with bright lights and loud noises.

Every evening Kit spends 30 to 60 minutes crying. This evening colic (which has nothing to do with digestion) intensifies after a day of new experiences, lots of stimulation, or struggling to acquire a new skill. We narrate this as “talking about the day,” hold and rock them gently, and make soft noises of agreement and support. These bouts of crying appear to be very useful for helping Kit express and come to terms with strong emotions and new situations.

Motor skills

Kit is squirmy and wriggly and will happily spend an hour or longer practicing various kinds of movement. Kit clearly sets physical skill goals such as “figure out how to suck my thumb” or “roll onto my side” and then pursues them devotedly for days or weeks at a time. We have been particularly impressed by their ability to use leverage to achieve these goals: using one hand to bring the other hand to the mouth, pushing off a wall or pulling on the crib bumper to facilitate rolling over.

Kit is currently working hard on thumb- and finger-sucking, and gets very frustrated if they can’t manage it (or if they’re hungry). We provide gentle verbal encouragement but don’t try to help or distract; Kit will persist for a while and then either succeed or give up, and that’s fine. If Kit gives up and is clearly upset about not having been able to do what they wanted to do, we hold and comfort them. Kit sometimes punches or claws at their own face while trying to suck their thumb or fingers; if this happens, we gently hold their arms or hands for a bit.

Kit likes to practice holding the bottle (or the adult’s hand on the bottle) while eating, learning what happens when their hands push alone or in opposition. We encourage this to an extent but try to keep feeding time focused on feeding rather than play, and don’t let Kit drop the bottle or push it entirely away.

Kit appears to have some difficulty holding their head up for extended periods, perhaps because it's large and heavy even by the standards of baby heads, but it might also be that this activity just doesn't interest them very much. We're not concerned about it.

Since Kit clearly has a solid agenda for developing motor skills, we provide a lot of floor and crib time for free movement but don’t do tummy time or place Kit into positions they couldn’t get into on their own.

Eating and digestion

Kit expresses hunger loudly and clearly, and gets quite frustrated if feeding is even briefly delayed or interrupted. They currently eat about 3 to 5 ounces (90 to 150 ml) at a time, with breaks of two to four hours between feedings. We gently encourage larger meals and longer breaks; if Kit eats less than two ounces and then dozes off, we sit them up for a burp or otherwise try to get them to wake up and eat more. Kit’s current capacity appears to be about 150 ml and is increasing by about 10 ml a week. It’s always fine to continue offering food until Kit firmly refuses it; they won’t usually eat more than they can hold.

Kit is exclusively formula-fed. Honest Co. formula is the brand that appears to be easiest for them to digest; they get very painful reflux when drinking most formulas or breast milk. We’ll provide a container of the powder, which we generally mix with boiled tap water. Kit prefers to drink formula cold—which is very handy, as you can premix it and keep it in the fridge—but will accept it at any temperature. Please give 1 tsp (5 ml) of Colic-Ease with one midday meal to reduce reflux and facilitate digestion.

Kit eats voraciously, impatiently, and messily. They frequently swallow air (burping after every two ounces is essential), suck more into their mouth than they can swallow, spit and dribble everywhere, and occasionally inhale liquid. They’re getting better at slowing their pacing and taking frequent short breaks while eating. We do what we can to keep mealtimes quiet and calm, and we take the bottle away briefly every few minutes if Kit isn’t self-pacing well. We’re in a difficult place at the moment where newborn-flow nipples are too slow and medium-flow nipples are too fast; we’re currently using newborn-flow nipples that have been slightly widened with a sterilized needle to provide a sort of intermediate stage. We recommend sitting Kit up at a 45-degree angle or even fully upright for feeding, as it helps them to swallow faster.

Kit is very good at signaling both hunger (with short repeated cries that sound like wow or ow) and fullness (mouth goes slack around the nipple). If Kit stops sucking and you’re not sure whether they’re pausing or done, take the nipple away for a moment and then tap it on their lips. They’ll make lip-smacking noises or mouth movements if still hungry, and close the mouth very firmly if done eating.

Kit often gets a bit of reflux. During and after eating, Kit should be propped up at a 45-degree angle or fully upright, ideally without bending too much at the waist. In the 10 to 15 minutes after a meal, they will suddenly start making faces and flailing or arching, and may spit up a bit or visibly struggle to keep food down. (We narrate this as "you're having a digestion".) After a half hour has passed, lying flat is usually fine for awake time, but a slight angle is better for sleeping. Kit’s crib at home has a wedge to keep the mattress slightly elevated at one end, and we’ll be supplying a wedge to use at daycare (with a doctor’s note).

Kit sometimes spits up undigested formula during or right after eating, and often dribbles clear saliva (with or without curds of partially digested formula) up to three or four hours after eating. Pretty much any amount of spit-up should be considered normal as long as it leaks out of Kit’s mouth in a waterfall rather than being forcefully emitted in a fountain. Kit may fuss a bit during or after spitting up, but usually doesn’t mind it too much, and is sometimes even hungry afterward.

Kit usually has about six to eight wet diapers a day, and one bowel movement every one to two days (typically of a fairly soft or claylike consistency, light brown or greenish in color). Farts are frequent and loud but usually odorless.

Sleeping

Kit, who is apparently a very orderly person, has colic at about 6:45* every evening, so our bedtime routine develops from there. We bring Kit into their room, put toys away, close the curtains, and turn lights down very low at 6:45 p.m. or when colic begins. We cuddle and talk quietly about the day, give Kit a big meal around 7:30 after the post-colic nap, say goodnight, and put Kit to sleep in their crib, usually in a sleep sack. We keep the overhead light on but very low all night, shut the bedroom door to block noises from the rest of the house, and run a humidifier for both congestion prevention and white noise. Kit sleeps solidly from about 8:30 p.m. to about 6:30 a.m. in two to three big sleeps (currently about 4.5 hours long and steadily increasing) interspersed with large meals.

* All times in this paragraph have just been adjusted by an hour for DST; Kit’s circadian rhythm couldn’t care less what our clocks say.

During the day we observe Kit’s mood and follow their lead on napping. There’s usually a late morning or early afternoon nap of an hour or two, but Kit seems to prefer being awake as much as possible, and will catnap or doze only if necessary. We take a daily walk in the park or along a quiet street, rain or shine, at about 4 p.m. (deliberately timed to daycare pick-up), and Kit sometimes naps a bit in the stroller. Their total cumulative daily sleep is usually about 13 hours.

Kit sleeps most deeply and happily on people, but will easily fall asleep in a crib or cradle. If a dream or noise startles them awake, they fall back asleep without difficulty. We have not made any particular effort to do sleep training, since Kit doesn’t seem to need it; if they fall asleep on us, we enjoy it for a bit, and then we transfer them to the crib. We try to avoid very loud noises when Kit is asleep, but we don't whisper or tiptoe, and they have no trouble sleeping through ordinary levels of noise.

Home and family

Kit has three parents: Josh, called Dad (he/him); Xtina, called Ina (they/them); and Rose, called Zo (they/them). Please note that no one is Kit’s mom, mama, mommy, or mother. We all live together, along with three cats who mostly ignore the baby.

Kit spends most of their time in their bedroom, with occasional visits to the rest of the house. They sleep in a crib and get wriggle time in the crib or on a blanket on the floor. We sit in an upholstered rocking chair for feedings. Sometimes we put Kit in a rocking cradle for propped-up time or to bring them into other parts of the house.

Significant people

About once a month we take Kit into Manhattan to visit Rose’s mother, Nancy, called Roo (she/her). Every two weeks we Skype-visit with Josh’s mother, Glory, called Gramma (she/her), who lives in Singapore.

We frequently bring Kit to Park Slope to visit their “backup family”: our friends Veronica (she/her), Helen (she/her), and Jonas (he/him), and their kids, Bear (age 4, he/him), Aradia (age 1), and Solly (age 1). Other friends visit often, and sometimes babysit for a few hours. Kit does not have a regular babysitter or nanny.

We see Rose and Josh’s extended families on holidays and special occasions. We are not in contact with Xtina’s family.

Values

We value kindness and compassion, self-knowledge and self-advocacy, explicit communication, mindfulness, activism, individuality, curiosity and inquiry and exploration, generosity, structure, and love. We encourage honest expression of feelings, modulated through compassion for the listener. We enjoy physical demonstrations of affection but never compel or require them. We honor all identities, including fluid ones, and call people by the names and words they choose.

Everyone in the household collaborates on maintaining the household, which includes treating the other people in the house with respect, speaking up about problems or concerns, sharing in housework according to ability, keeping communal areas comfortable for everyone, and spending time with family members individually and with the whole family. We pool the majority of our resources while respecting personal space and property; each person gets to decide how to spend their personal funds, effort, and time.

As parents, we feel our job is to give Kit plentiful choices, accurate information, gentle guidance, consistent support, and abundant love.

Our values are not based on religion. We intend to educate Kit about a wide range of religions, but don’t have any religious practices ourselves. Our families are also not religious. We observe Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Thanksgiving as excuses for secular family get-togethers.

We don't subscribe to any particular parenting philosophy. We continually educate ourselves on the latest evidence-based recommendations for supporting our child’s physical and mental health. We’re pro-vaccine and anti-homeopathy.

Parenting

We enjoy reading, cooking, eating, listening to and making music, crafting and fixing and hacking, spending time with people we love, and taking long walks through the city. We involve Kit in these pursuits as much as possible in age-appropriate ways.

We respect Kit’s autonomy. We ask permission before touching or moving them, and we offer sympathy when we have to do things Kit doesn’t enjoy. We observe and respect Kit’s cues. We speak to them in plain English or by echoing their cooing; we don’t use baby talk. We dress Kit in comfortable, practical clothing in a wide range of styles and colors, ignoring gender coding and avoiding clothing with labels and slogans. We narrate life out loud as it happens and do our best to honestly reflect Kit’s experiences rather than trying to tell them what they are or should be feeling. We joke and play a lot, but never aggressively or unkindly. We’re calm and supportive when Kit is upset and don’t discourage crying or other vocalization. We’re generous with hugs, cuddles, and kisses, but if Kit pushes us away we stop immediately. We take our time and move slowly. We never punish, threaten, or withhold affection or care.

All three of us work full-time and share equally in childcare duties. We take shifts being the “on-duty” parent. On weekdays, Josh is on duty from 6 to 7:30 a.m., Xtina is on duty from 7:30 until dropping Kit off at daycare, Rose or Josh picks Kit up from daycare and is on duty until 7 p.m., whoever’s available covers 7 to 11 p.m. (depending on who’s cooking dinner, working late, out at an event, etc.), and Rose takes the overnight shift from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. On weekends, Josh and Xtina cover daytime care and Rose covers nighttime care. On daycare holidays, if all three of us are working, daytime care is covered by Rose’s mother, a friend, or a babysitter.

Rose works from home every weekday except Thursdays, and Josh and Xtina work from home on Thursdays, so someone’s always available if Kit needs to come home early.

Did we forget anything?

It seems unlikely, but if there’s anything you’d like to know that’s not in here, just ask!

Thanks very much,
Xtina, Rose, Josh, and Kit


=====

Of course none of this says anything about how the three of us will cope with Kit being in daycare, but I think it'll be fine once we all adjust a bit. It's only three blocks from home and they have a very generous drop-in policy. And this is a great encouragement to develop a more solid daily routine for Kit, which I think will be good for everyone. And we get to order super cute clothing and bottle name labels with tiny foxes on them.

Also, let's be honest, I am REALLY looking forward to having the house to myself for a few hours every day. It will be weird for Kit's room to not have Kit in it, but I'll keep the door closed and take taurine and/or call the daycare if I get fretful.

It's been a really good two months and I feel like we're ready for what comes next. We've been talking a lot about plans to rearrange the main room of the house, have more friends over, do more things out in the world (Kit really loves going out, which helps). After the wild upheaval of pregnancy and new baby, we've found our footing, not in the sense of thinking we have it all figured out--because of course things will keep changing as Kit grows, and who knows what other changes will happen in the rest of our lives--but in the sense of having a stable stance. I have been watching a lot of videos of virtuoso basketball player Steph Curry, and it's easy to get caught up in watching his arms, or watching the ball go right where he puts it. But I watch his feet, because that's where the shot begins. With your feet under you, you can handle whatever comes at you. We're getting there. It's good.
 
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