Monthly Archives

December 2011


Baby in carrier, cocktail in hand?

December 14, 2011

So, we are smack dab in the middle of the holiday party season and many people may be in the position of having recently had a baby and staring down a handful of party invitations, wondering “Should I go? Am I comfortable with a sitter? Could I bring my baby?” This situation is one, admittedly infrequent, of those times I think babywearing is so darn brilliant. I believe it’s really important for new moms to be able to maintain some semblance of a social life, and if you typically enjoy attending a few normally grown-ups only parties this time of year, I don’t think that having an infant should necessarily stop you. With babywearing, you can carry a pre-walking baby, potentially throughout an entire evening, enjoying some adult conversation and fancy mini-quiches at the same time. (Maybe skip the hot spiced wine or cider and the fancy chocolate volcano dessert fountain.)

Tips for bringing baby to a party:

  • If the party is at a person’s home, call up the host and tell them how much you appreciate the invite and that you’d like to come with your baby. “Hi! Thank you so much for inviting us to your party. I’m really looking forward to seeing you and having some grown-up conversation. Little Madison is already 6 weeks old, can you believe it? I’m planning to come with her in a baby carrier, she’ll probably sleep the whole time! I just wanted to tell you ahead of time and make sure that won’t be a problem.”
  • If the party is at a public place, take your cues on whether bringing your baby is a good idea from the location. The party room of a restaurant you would dine at with children? For sure. A fancier restaurant, but still a private room? Yep. A bar or dance club? Maybe, maybe not. I would consider the likely noise level (loud music and very loud conversation will startle baby and could harm his ears), whether it will be smoke-free, and who the other potential patrons not associated with your party may be.
  • Assure your host that if your baby has a meltdown, you will excuse yourself, whether temporarily or by calling it an early night. It’s fair for adults to want a time and space where they can step away from the demands of raising children.
  • If your baby needs a diaper change, go to a private area and always put a mat or blanket down on whatever surface you use. If you use disposable diapers, take it with you to dispose of later (unless you know the hosts *really* well and feel ok asking to dispose of it in their garbage).
  • Your little black dress might be AWESOME but it is probably also really hard to breastfeed while wearing it. For maximum babywearing-party-going efficiency and enjoyment, try dressy pants and a dressy button-down blouse. Maybe a pretty scarf or pashmina would be useful for coverage or to block distractions for baby. A ring sling tail will do the same. The hood on a carrier like the pikkolo, or other SSC, can serve this function as well.
  • If you have an alcoholic drink or two, there is typically little to worry about with regard to breastfeeding. Alcohol can inhibit let-down but if this is not usually a problem for you, drinking a little likely won’t pose a problem. Also, you do NOT need to pump and dump your milk if you drink, unless you are uncomfortably full and not yet ready to nurse baby. Alcohol does not stay in the milk, it dissipates just as it does from the bloodstream. Blood alcohol levels peak within 30-90 minutes of consuming a drink (faster without food, slower while eating). Most doctors advise consuming no more than 1-2 drinks and waiting a minimum of 2-3 hours to nurse again. There is also a product called Milkscreen, which you can use to determine if there is any alcohol in your breastmilk if you are concerned. (See Thomas Hale’s Medications and Mother’s Milk, 1999, for more information on alcohol’s interactions with breastfeeding.)

So, would you take a baby to a party? At what age would you think twice, or say “no way!” For me, I would only take a pre-walking baby that I knew would be content in a carrier for at least an hour (and hopefully more!). Beyond that and I think the experience would be more stressful than fun. 

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Medical Research Parenting

“Your baby is cold!”

December 9, 2011

A random grandmotherly woman told me this once when she passed me and my first child on the street. My daughter, who was born in early August of that year, was probably about 6 weeks old. It was heading toward October but it was still pretty warm out, as it can be in Chicago in the fall. This woman seemed to feel she knew whether my baby was warm or cold due to the fact that she had no socks on. She kept kicking them off and since it was not, in fact, cold out and she seemed fine, I put them in my bag, rather than lose them.

For some reason, a lot of people are utterly convinced that babies have a freezing point of about 65 degrees, but I’m here to tell you it’s just not true. (In fact, 61-68 degrees Farenheit is considered the ideal temperature range for sleeping.) Yes, babies are not as able to regulate their body temperatures as we are and we should pay attention to making sure they are at a safe and comfortable temperature. But some people only ever seem to be worried that they are freezing their little tushies off, which is rarely the case. Overheating is a serious concern.

I am writing this now because it’s now that time of year when I start seeing, on a daily basis, babies so bundled up that I wonder if I should say something or mind my own business. Just like I didn’t appreciate that woman telling me my baby was cold when she was not, I’m sure that strangers on the street don’t want me boldly informing them that *I* know better than them. But I often see babies who are dressed in snowsuits, hats, strapped into handheld infant car seats that then also have thick blankets or buntings tucked in around them, or even over their heads. A 2008 study found that the mean prevalence of head covering among SIDS victims was 24.6% vs. 3.6 in the control group. Researchers do not know if the risk associated with head covering has to do with overheating, hypoxia, or rebreathing, though. So, yes, bundle baby up when you go outside in frigid temperatures; but never cover the face or head and always remove layers when you go inside, even if  doing so risks waking a sleeping baby.

Babies are indeed sedentary compared to older children and adults and so may need a little more clothing than we do. But only as much as any person would need if they were merely sitting and resting instead of walking around and doing normal activities. If you are comfortably walking around outside with jeans and a short sleeve shirt, your baby really doesn’t need a fleece jacket over a cotton footed sleeper plus a receiving blanket and fleece hat (personally witnessed this one while strolling around an outdoor mall recently); a light blanket over the cotton sleeper and maybe a lightweight hat (maybe!) will do just fine.

In both sleep situations and during babywearing, it is important to keep baby warm but not so bundled as to allow them to become overheated. Remember that with babywearing, your body generates heat that helps keep baby warm. If you will wear baby in a carrier and then use a coat over both of you or a carrier cover of some kind, skip the snowsuit and use a light jacket and hat or possibly no jacket and just a hat. Bring extra layers with you in case you need to add them but don’t think that just because it’s winter that means baby needs a snowsuit (and a blanket, and a bunting, etc). Babies hands and feet may feel a little cool to the touch sometimes and this does not necessarily indicate baby is too cold! Feel the stomach or chest and if it is warm, baby is at a good body temperature.


(Citation: Blair PS, Mitchell EA, Heckstall-Smith EM, Fleming PJ. Head covering: a major modifiable risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome—a systematic review. Arch Dis Child. 2008;93(9):778–783)

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