4 Month Well-Baby Visit

We’re still on a whirlwind tour of family homes for the holidays (I’ll be writing about how that went in a later post), but we managed to squeeze in Avery’s 4 month well-baby visit (dr. appt) between trips out of town.

I went in with a laundry list, and got a lot of great answers.

  1. Earwax build-up. She has been getting dark, hard chunks of earwax building up in her ears. The first time I noticed it I thought it was an earwig (a nasty, pinchy bug) nestled deep down in her ear and I freaked out. Anyway, the dr. reassured us that it was normal, but since she has been pulling on her ears lots we could try a drop of olive oil in each ear before bed and the earwax buildup would slide right out. In terms of chosing an oil to use he said “anything from the kitchen, nothing from the garage”. I thought that was a handy tip. Anyway, it worked amazingly. In the morning there was a big chunk of dark wax stuck to the side of her head.
  2. Infrequent pooper. The longest stretch had been 5 days without a poop, but she was often 3 days between. The dr. said this was nothing to worry about as long as she was peeing lots still and the poop consistency hadn’t changed too much. When I asked a telehealth nurse about this issue earlier she said a breastfed baby can go up to 2 weeks without a poop and there be no concern, after about 3 months of age. So I guess we’re those lucky ones who don’t have to change a poopy diaper very often! Definitely happy we chose to use cloth diapers with this kid.
  3. Eczema. Her eczema has been a bit better now that I’m 3 weeks into a cow’s milk protein allergy diet, but she still seems to have brief flare ups caused potentially by stress and/or polyester clothing. She was head-to-toe red rash when we took her clothes off at the doctor’s office, but it was gone when we got home. If I try to moisturize with a store bought eczema moisturizer during a flare up, she screams in pain because it stings. It’s horrible. I now mix coconut oil and shae butter together and use that and it fixes the scaley skin better than anything else we’ve tried, and soothes her rather than irritates her. The doctor gave advice about the 1% corticosteroid ointment. He said not to be afraid to use it if it’s going to make her skin feel better. He explained that the risks associated with continued steroid use are delayed growth, but that those risks were only identified in children who use a lot of powerful oral steroids (e.g. asthma inhalers), and those children end up reaching the same growth milestones as non-steroid users, just a little delayed. He said it would be extremely unlikely for us to see any side effects from using a 1% topical steroid. So I can feel OK about using it two or three times a day for 7 days, then give a day or two break, and start using it again. I had been using it very sparingly but now I’ll use it before she flares up too badly.
  4. Nodules at the base of her skull. Apparently these are lymph nodes and it’s ok to feel them once in a while as they develop. If you feel all of the lymph nodes are a bit swollen (back of head, under jaw, armpits) at the same time, get a dr. to check it out.
  5. Vaccines. These boosters were the same as her 2 month shots. The rotovirus was a liquid in the mouth that she kind of liked, and the rest were done in 2 injections that she didn’t like. I asked if I could hold her this time and the (different) nurse said no, she needed to be on the exam table. I got upset and my wife (who was thankfully in attendance this time) took over baby duty. I sat back in a chair and cursed everyone and ached for it to be done so I could hold her. Again, this was a far worse experience for me than for Avery. She was a champ and only cried for a minute or two. This time she was really fussy for 12 hours after though, whereas last time she got a fever and slept for 24 hours. We couldn’t put her down at all for the rest of the day or she’d cry.

We also got a handout about starting her on solid foods, but we’re nowhere near ready for that yet so we set it aside. That’s pretty much it! Our baby is healthy and we’re starting to get a handle on the eczema. Good news all-around. I think we’re getting better at not panicking so much about her well-being, but let’s see if we can make it till the 6 month well-baby visit without our usual panicked call to Telehealth or visit to the walk-in clinic. 😉

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Christmas market and definitely teething

On the weekend we went to our local vintage and makers market. A friend was exhibiting her photography/holiday cards there this year, and we left Avery with her while we toured the market. This was a BIG deal for me, and I didn’t pay much attention to the vendors as I tried to rush us around the loop and back to our friend with our baby. It was no biggie for Avery. She just chilled and helped sell cards. We bought her some cute pants and a bib made by a local mom who was breastfeeding her baby while she sold us her product (rock on, super-mom), and we bought some eczema cream, because we are trying literally everything. The pants in this tummy time pic are from the market.

Also this weekend we bottled some beer that we made two weekends ago, and I did some dairy-free baking. Praise coconut oil.

Avery is definitely teething. Here’s how I know:

  • Nursing strike
  • Soothed by frozen teethers
  • Restless nights
  • Tugs on her ears when upset
  • Drool has increased exponentially

She has started a nursing strike during the day, and only nurses well when she’s half asleep. She’ll throw her head back and cry, then try again, and get upset again. I’ve found that offering her frozen teethers as an intermission during nursing sessions really helps. What I’ve read about nursing and teething is that the sucking draws blood to the gums which exacerbates the soreness. Chewing on the cold teethers (or my finger) applies counter-pressure which soothes the pain.

She also had some really shitty nights of tossing and turning this past week. I was wondering if it was the 4 month sleep regression already, but it only lasted a few days. Now I’m thinking it’s from teething discomfort. When I bed-share some nights she sleeps much better because every time she wakes up whimpering she cuddles into me and falls asleep again from the comfort of my smell (I speculate).

The drool is intense. We never before had to deal with frequent costume changes or bib use because she wasn’t a spit-up-prone or barfy baby. The drooling started about a month ago and I thought it was a lot, but I realize now that teething drool is a whole new experience. It now comes out in globs, her chin is constantly wet, and we now have to keep her in bibs because her shirts were getting soaked through in a matter of minutes.

Anyway, she’s actually in really great spirits for a teething baby, but that might change when the tooth is closer to cutting through. I’m actually really excited for her first tooth. I don’t want her to grow up, but I’m so excited to see her developing into each new stage. She is really into practicing rolling and sitting. The day she sat up straight on her own (from a reclined position), she wanted to practice all night long. She gets such a kick out of learning. This age is the best.

Weekend Update

My wife had to work Sunday so our weekend was just Saturday. And since my car stopped starting… I haven’t left the house in a while and all the days roll into one so having my wife home really is the only way I know it’s the weekend.

This week we continued the fight against the eczema, but it has just gotten worse and worse. It has even started blistering. My poor little babe… I unfortunately realized AFTER two weeks without dairy that if it’s a dairy protein allergy, I have to do a lot more than cut out milk and cheese. Dairy protein (and the allergically similar soy protein) are in a LOT of things that I hadn’t realized: in the cereal, hot chocolate, bagels, and granola bars I had been eating. So now I am starting on a Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA) diet, using a guide put out by McMaster university here in Ontario. It is hard. I pretty much can’t eat out anymore unless I go to the vegan places in town which either have crap menus or dirty atmospheres. Eating at home is requiring some adjustment, but I got some dairy and soy protein free bakers chocolate, and with coconut oil and almond milk I can still have hot chocolate and carefully baked goods – the things I couldn’t live without in the winter. The real challenge will be avoiding it over Christmas – my in-laws are butter people. I have seen my SIL put a cup of butter knobs on a veggie dish at a big holiday dinner. Anyway, it’s a challenge to worry about what I’m consuming when it was difficult enough to worry about simply consuming… But I will do literally ANYTHING to try to help my baby’s skin. It’s a terrible feeling to think that she relies completely on me for nourishment, but eating from my body might be making her this sore. My dr said it only takes 2 weeks for dairy to leave the system, but the Le leche league says it can take up to 6 weeks.

In other news, we are living in a winter wonderland right now! The snow just keeps coming and the roads are getting treacherous. We use our neighbour’s driveway to park our second car (the one that I can’t even drive right now) in exchange for shoveling his driveway. So now, since my wife leaves for work at 6am, I have to shovel. I put the baby in her little seat by the front door, all piled up with toys, and I go out and shovel two shovel-widths, come in and check on her, two more shovel-widths, check on her, etc. It sucks. Most of the time I don’t get to our own driveway and just do his.

And that’s about it! We haven’t been doing anything lately. I’ve been cooking and cleaning and giving Avery lots of baths. This boring week-in-review makes me want to do something fun this week…

Baby Eczema

Avery was born with sensitive skin. She was one of the 40% of babies to get baby acne, and at one point it looked so sore all over her face, neck, chest and arms that we took her to the doctor who said she would simply outgrow it. She did, by about 8 weeks.

She also has chronic diaper rash, since birth. I wondered if her poop was extra acidic because it looked almost like an acid burn and was very concentrated to one high-poop-volume spot. On days she doesn’t poop, it seems to clear up. It took us 3 months to come up with a solution that worked (we tried different diapers, creams, and anti-fungals). We do plenty of diaper free time letting her dry out completely between diaper changes, and we use cloth diapers, a fleece liner, and zincofax cream, and she now has a good number of redness-free days on her little bum. Still prone to rashes though if we’re not careful.

Our newest skin problem is eczema. Again, it became so enflamed and itchy, covering about 50% of her body, that I called telehealth for advice. They gave me valuable tips and also recommend I take her to the doctor immediately. Here is what we’re doing for her eczema, but it doesn’t seem to be helping.

  1. Daily oatmeal baths (with real oatmeal in a cheese cloth satchel) and moisturizing while she’s still wet to lock in the moisture. We pat her dry, no rubbing her skin with the towel.
  2. Slathering of hypoallergenic moisturizer (Cetaphil) at every diaper change all over her head and body
  3. Hydrocortisone cream (a 1% steroid solution) for the really bad flare ups that seem to be keeping her awake or aggravated. This has a 7-day in a row limit for use though, so I just use it as sparingly as possible.
  4. I cut out dairy (again). It has only been a week and a half and the dairy allergens won’t leave my body completely until 2 weeks, so time will tell. So far I would say her eczema has gotten WORSE since cutting out dairy, but maybe it’s a ‘gets worse before it gets better’ kind of deal. The doctor reluctantly said this is a possible cause of the eczema, but not likely. Definitely worth giving it a real try though.
  5. Keep a cool mist humidifier running constantly in the rooms she spends the most time in. Unfortunately I’m sure the space heater and furnace evaporate the mist as soon as it hits the air, but it’s damn cold here and we don’t have much choice.

These are all doctor and nurse recommended remedies, but there’s still no reprieve.

Has anyone else found treatments/remedies/skin-soothing things that worked for baby eczema?

Osteopathy for babies?

Avery is a perfectly healthy baby with no physical problems besides sensitive skin and a history of colic. She has 10 perfect little fingers and 10 perfect little toes, bright eyes and a happy smile, and she is growing like a weed. But there is something in the back of my mind making me worry, and making me consider getting some kind of alternative physical therapy done on her.

She has always been a great breastfeeder. She latched from her first moment of life outside the womb, and has always had productive feeds. However, in the past 6 weeks or so I’ve noticed that she seems to prefer side lying nursing to the typical cradle hold. In fact she hates it when anyone tries to hold her in cradle hold. When I hold her up to nurse she either cries and squirms away (even though I know she’s hungry), or she has very short feeds (we’re talking 4 or 5 minutes short). When she is lying on the bed to nurse she can go for an hour without moving during evening cluster feeds.

Also, since birth we have noticed cracking and grinding in her shoulders, sometimes loud enough to hear, sometimes we just feel it. I asked her doctor about it at the 2 month appointment and the doctor said that since she couldn’t replicate it, and since shoulder displasia wasn’t a thing, there was nothing to worry about.

So I’m not TOO worried, but I want peace of mind that she is as comfortable as possible as she grows. Many, many friends have told me about chiropractic work or osteopathy for babies, as up front as “have you booked her for her chiropractic assessment yet?” Just days after her birth. I know nothing about either practice besides what I’ve googled as I try to figure out if this is something I want to pursue, but I am a little cautious about someone twisting and turning my baby’s mushy little body.

Currently I am between going on a 2 month long wait list for a well rated local osteopath, or going in much sooner for craniosacral therapy. I’m still not sure if this is something we will pursue at all, but if anyone has any experience with either of these therapies on their babies, I’d love to hear.

Colic and being kind to myself

I finally Googled what colic was and it explained so much about what we are going through. The operational definition is crying for more than 3 hours on more than 3 days a week for at least 3 weeks. It is worse in the evening. That’s my baby.

So what does it mean to fit into a somewhat arbitrary behavioural definition, as opposed to just having a baby who cries? It gives me something to blame besides myself.

My family has been unintentionally but effectively blaming me for Avery’s seeming lack of happiness. Here are some of the ways: (just a reminder, Avery is still a newborn at 2 months & 2 weeks old)

  • She can feel your social anxiety and it’s rubbing off onto her.
  • You just need to get out more and expose her to more. She’s too sheltered.
  • You need to put her down more – she is getting spoiled so she can’t be soothed without you holding her.
  • Have you eaten any dairy/chocolate/carbs/cruciferous veg today? Maybe your milk is making her stomach hurt.
  • She’s ready for an earlier bedtime.

I’m reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby, and it summarizes what we know about extreme fussiness/colic:

  • It is likely hormonal (an imbalance of serotonin and melatonin that will correct itself with age)
  • Gas does not cause colic, but the crying of a colicky baby may cause gas
  • Food hypersensitivity and reflux are not linked to colic
  • Maternal anxiety is not linked to colic
  • Even if your baby doesn’t cry for 3 or more hours every evening for more than 3 days a week, but fusses and needs parental intervention to stop or avoid such crying, they are still considered to have colic. (So on those good nights when I can nurse her in bed for hours to stop or avoid the crying, that behavior is still colic)

Last night was a particularly bad night, which is why I started googling when she finally fell asleep after 5 hours of crying  (plus the couple of hours of crying around yoga that morning, and the couple of hours of crying in the afternoon while my mom was visiting and giving me all kinds of unsolicited advice on what the baby needed to stop crying).

We have been trying to practice having my wife take over bedtime routine so I can go to my evening meeting next week. My wife tries to give her a bottle and Avery screams. My wife tries to rock her like I do, Avery screams. My wife tries to change her diaper and put her in pajamas, Avery screams. Blood curdling screams, choking from the exertion, tears in her eyes, eyes all swollen and red from crying. There’s me, sitting downstairs trying to keep away, tears streaming down my face because my baby is crying like she thinks I abandoned her, and after a while I break and run upstairs and take her and the crying stops and she sounds comforted. Of course, it doesn’t last. She starts up again shortly after I have taken her. But I feel better knowing I am doing all I can do comfort her. She cries in a less panicked way when I am holding her. It’s the fourth trimester. Babies need close physical comfort from the person(s) who comforts them most regularly. My wife is rarely home, so she doesn’t have that same comforting smell. It sucks for so many reasons, but there’s nothing we can do about it. I need to stop feeling bad about needing to be there for my baby when she cries. I need to stop feeling like I have somehow caused her upset.

I am crafting an email to my board of directors that explains my situation and tells them that I will still be absent at this month’s meeting. As a group of childless young people I don’t know if they will understand, but I can’t leave the house for 3 hours knowing that my baby will likely be crying so intensely and my wife will be helpless. I need to do what I need to do, and that doesn’t make me a failure.

Baby’s first vaccines & Out of the house diaper changing disaster

It’s true, what I’ve heard, that baby’s vaccines are worse for the parent than for the baby. The nurse administering them warned me that the last one really stings and that even adults find it painful. I know why she told me that – to warn me that Avery was going to really scream. But I would rather have just been warned that babies tend to cry a lot when they get vaccines than to be told she was really in pain. She did scream and it was horrible. But my little bug was super brave and calmed right down when I was allowed to pick her up. I asked if I could have a room to nurse her, but she was too stunned to nurse. She looked like a deer in headlights the whole way home. At home I rushed her up to bed where we could do skin-to-skin, and she nursed happily and fell asleep. I needed the cuddle more than she did… She seems to be having the sleepy reaction to the vaccines, which is better than the grumpy reaction. But we’ll see how the night progresses.

On another note, restrooms really need to be more mom & baby friendly. I can’t believe it is 2016 and we are still waiting for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to become law. I was at a pub for lunch with my wife’s aunts and had to change her diaper (and feed her and walk around with her all while my burger and fries got cold on the plate). –The trip did NOT go smoothly, by the way, and was full of baby’s and my tears in the car. Anyway, I had to change her diaper and the only place to do it was on the filthy floor of a tiny, grubby restroom at the bottom of a steep flight of stairs. ON THE FLOOR. Her head was inches away from the toilet. I asked if there was another place, like an office, and they literally thought the bathroom floor was the best place for my baby. We had to walk 15 minutes from our parking space to the pub so I couldn’t even go to the car to change her. Thank god I had a change pad in my diaper bag, but it didn’t make the situation acceptable. I am appalled to discover just how baby/kid unfriendly the service industry is. It really makes me more aware of how challenging the world can be for people with mobility challenges, because it seems to me that when a place isn’t baby friendly it’s also not generally accessible.