I am a proud survivor of my son’s infant-to-toddler years.
We had some really rough days. Just after we came home from the hospital, he was diagnosed with “failure to thrive,” which is a practically medieval way to say that your child is not succeeding at eating enough to live. I was confused, because he was breastfeeding for about 13 hours a day, according to the careful journal I was keeping—but apparently his jaw muscles weren’t strong enough to do the work. Under my pediatrician’s and lactation nurse’s careful instruction, I went into crisis mode to:
(1) try to make his muscles stronger,
(2) try to keep him on the breast, using three different kinds of contraptions to encourage continued breastfeeding, and
(3) promptly adding regular bottle feedings.
It was a brutal cycle: It took almost two hours to get four ounces of a bottle into him, and then he often projectile-vomited it all back up, as he was also suffering from reflux. I barely slept. To try to get my milk to come in fully, I kept a breast pump attached to me at all times and drank endless cups of raspberry leaf tea. I didn’t bother to button my shirt (much less put on a nursing bra) for eight weeks after my son was born.
The crisis passed. He never was able to get back onto the breast, but I pumped what little milk I had as long as I could, and worked with his little weak facial muscles until he could eat like a normal baby. He gained weight and strength, and at three months he hit the averages we needed to see. What a relief.
But Scarier Still Was To Come
And I thought THAT was the hard part. But what came next really floored me.
I was a total loss. Uh, hmm. Me looking around my apartment for something, anything. Um, hey there, baby Zack. What’s up? Uh…
Oh. My. God. What I am supposed to do with my baby?
Turns out, I had no idea. I had figured out the keeping-him-alive part (no one tells you that’s what maternity leave is actually for), but I had no idea how to play with a snuggly, non-talking, non-walking little grub of a human being.
I would hold him in my lap and stare down into his wide-open blue eyes and wonder what he was thinking. Or was he thinking? Was he thinking, “Wow, man, my mom has no idea what she’s doing.” Because that’s what I was thinking.
So after a week or so of this, I bought a book filled with “infant games.” When the book arrived at home, I laughed out loud: turns out there are no infant games. The book made its best effort to seem like it was making up games, but with an infant, you don’t play patty cake. You just engage your child’s attention. Over and over and over. In very specific ways and also very general ways, that will
(1) activate their senses,
(2) start to give them some very basic direction in how to focus their limited attention,
(3) expose them to broad concepts such as language, sounds, colors, shapes. Really, really general stuff.
But wow, I still really needed to be told exactly that. I wanted to do the right thing!
Help Is On The Way
Every parent wants to do the right thing. Too bad weeSchool™ didn’t exist back then to help me with my early-parenting anxiety! But now that I am partnered up with the team of educators who have created this product (the same CEO mom and team who created Baby Einstein, by the way), I want to help get it into the hands of as many parents as possible.
weeSchool is a complete birth to 3 early-learning and play system. Think of it as your baby’s pre-preschool, powered by you, your baby’s first and most influential teacher. Recent research is reinforcing that parents are the killer app in this period of a child’s brain development—and that all a child masters and takes in now has an impact on their success at school years down the road. Download the WeeSchool App (which is FREE right now during our introductory beta phase1), and you can start tracking your wee one’s progress—as well as get great simple tips on how to play with your baby to help support his or her learning and development‐and a whole lot more.
Easy things like: place a toy in front of your baby during tummy time to encourage her to begin reaching. Or show your child a mirror and watch his reaction as he sees another human face, his favorite thing to look at (he won’t even know that the reflected face is his for at least another year). And of course, the easiest of all: share your smiling face with your baby as much as you can. That’s really all he or she needs at their youngest years to feel safe and secure—the best kind of foundation for learning and growing.
My son managed to survive his youngest days with my somewhat haphazardly rolling through the first three years. And obviously with each passing day I grew more confident and he became more expressive. But if I had had the WeeSchool App back then? I would have been a much smarter, much more relaxed parent!
Stacy Morrison is Executive Producer at weeSchool, as well as a mother, writer, author and former magazine editor in chief (Redbook, Modern Bride and more). She sometimes plays an expert about family, relationships and parenting on TV.