A little fun for the weekend: There are two videos of kids that have had me laughing recently…
A little fun for the weekend: There are two videos of kids that have had me laughing recently…
I’ve talked before about what my list of baby essentials would be, but one thing I didn’t mention was how, in hindsight, I would have handled building the baby registry differently. I registered with an online site where you could pull in items from various stores, which seems nice in theory but ultimately made things more challenging overall. It’s really valuable to find a store with both a wide online selection and wide physical selection; a place where you can go see things in person—and your guests, many of whom would prefer to walk into a store and out with a gift and a card for the shower—can go. And some guests with less online experience are likely to find a purely web-shopping process confusing. I’d suggest finding someplace with locations in most cities, inexpensive shipping, flexible and friendly return policies, and which carries plenty of things you’d like to spend store credit on, should you make any returns (highly likely), after the baby arrives.
Target didn’t have a Manhattan location when I was registering for Hudson (now they do), or it would have been the obvious choice.
In fact, Target asked me to make a sample registry with all of my favorite baby essentials (as well as some additional items I’d love for a nursery). Every single one of the items pictured here is from my Target registry.
Here are ten suggestions for registering for all things baby…
This post is sponsored by Target. The adventure begins here: Discover all Target has to offer for your baby registry and throughout your motherhood journey.
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Two months in seems like a good time for an update. Which means nothing, really, in terms of understanding what life with two kids will really be like but it feels like we’re getting our bearings.
There have been, of course, all of those incredible moments when Skyler smiles and my eyes water with love. And I could dwell there. But there have also been plenty of ridiculous acts of juggling.
Realizing that we were a little short on sustained conversation—lately our evening routine seems to involve a lot of dinner and bedtime hand-offs, screaming (side-glance at Skyler), or general toddler interruptions (“why?” “what doin’ mommy?” etc.)—Aron and I decided to arrange a babysitter for Hudson while we took Skyler out on a walking date. It’s basically a move from our New York playbook, as it’s how we got out with Hudson when he was a baby.
Anyone could of course shoot for a variation on this with a newborn sleeping peacefully in a car seat during dinner, but (at least right now) we’d have had to bring someone else’s newborn to have that happen. But Skyler’s pretty happy to sleep and let us do all the talking—as long as there’s movement involved. I thought I’d share some photos…
Lately, in our house, we have been spending a lot of time looking at Larry Gets Lost in San Francisco, a children’s book about a boy and his dog who get separated and, of course, reunited after the dog has some fun adventures around the city. I love hearing Hudson pronounce “San Francisco” and “Golden Gate Bridge.” We talk about the cable cars and the sea lions (which he remembers), and the curvy streets and colorful Victorian houses (which he does not).
I love the idea of discovering other children’s books to bring to life and combining them with travel. It was an idea explored so sweetly by Bridget Hunt (on her blog, Tales of Me and the Husband) last year. In fact I couldn’t stop thinking about the video (below), so I asked if she would share the experience of bringing Make Way for Ducklings to life. Here’s what she had to say…
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I’ll never forget the time when, a few weeks after Hudson was born, Aron walked into our tiny Manhattan studio apartment to find me rocking back and forth like a madwoman on the sofa—at the time convinced that it was perfectly normal to just pretend to have a rocking chair to soothe our colicky infant. We didn’t have room for one after all, and the yoga ball just wasn’t cutting it. Our eyes met and I suddenly realized how crazy I must have looked. We both burst into laughter. (Moments later, of course, I passed Hudson off to Aron when he, no doubt, started performing some other version of a soothing-jiggly-bouncy dance that was no less ridiculous. Probably right before I crept through our closet, past Hudson’s mini-crib, to get to the bathroom.)
Ah, the crazy things you do in the name of sleep.
It all passes, and you look back with humor and nostalgia at what would once induce panic and weepy tears. We survived (thrived mostly) in that 500-square-foot space, the three of us. And I’m grateful for the lessons I learned in minimalism. But there was often a sense that it would be so different (i.e. easier) if we had more space.
Yes and no, is what we’ve learned since moving to a larger home in California. We still have to do the jiggly-bouncy-crazy dance (and now while smiling reassuringly at a toddler) but now we can get help from a rocking chair. There’s still that sense of fear that strikes about six weeks in: “will we ever be able to go outside past 8pm again?” (of course, yes), but now we can eat outside in the backyard. When she cries, it still sounds as loud as a chainsaw (to her own parents’ ears), but we no longer feel like we have to jump at the slightest peep out of courtesy to our neighbors. Thank goodness for not sharing walls. No matter the circumstances, new parenthood seems to come with its own dizzying combination of joy and anxiety, and often a bit of isolation.
More than ever, I’ve discovered, it’s important to love where you live—and find comfort in your home.
Here are ten things making motherhood sweeter at home these days…
Her big brother, who has been more patient and tender than I could have ever imagined. “Her name Skyler.” “O want to pet her head?”—whereby “o” he means “u”—is the greeting Hudson offers enthusiastically to everyone who passes.
Fresh, white sheets for snuggling (and petting her head and nursing and napping and, more often than I’d like, not sleeping at night). I can’t tell you how good it feels to come home from the hospital and lay down (and lay your baby down) on crisp, clean sheets. And because it’s hard to keep them that way (hello, spit up), I got an extra set. Still, I like white for those precious newborn photos (and the spit up doesn’t even show!)
Fresh flowers and natural light. The illusion, at least, of calm. (And isn’t it amazing what natural light can do for your mood? It’s so refreshing and uplifting to get outside!)
A stack of thank you cards. Because, fortunately, people have been incredibly kind and generous and because, unfortunately, if there aren’t cards nearby I’m apt to forget to thank them. (Even though I’m sure friends and family would give a new mother a pass.)
Baskets. Baskets, galore. I can’t stop bringing home woven jute baskets. They help me carry away messes in a hurry to look presentable and they’re by my side with water (I get so thirsty when nursing) and snacks (I’m obsessed with these dried fruits for my sweet tooth) and entertainment. I love that they have handles for moving one-handedly (the manner in which so many things get accomplished lately, it seems).
A foot stool or ottoman for balancing little people on my knees and helping me to sit back and stop slouching while feeding Skyler. I’ve literally placed some version of one near every chair I tend to camp out on. (Can’t get enough of the jute.) It’s also just right for lounging on our slightly narrow couch if given the chance to binge-watch The Americans.
Our swing. (This is new to me and has been such a relief. We seem to make motion-loving babies, only this time I’m not walking around New York City for hours and hours every day.) And a video monitor so that I can be in the backyard or Hudson’s room while she’s in said swing. Or—eeps!—in her own room. With a lovely, full-size crib.
A partner to share it all with. A daddy to love them, and to play “shark attack” over and over (and over) in the “tiny pool” with an incredibly energetic toddler while I sneak off to soothe a sleepy baby. Obviously in a category of his own.
All of the items linked can be found at Target. Also pictured, from Target (their Threshold collection has been amazing lately): Ceramic White Vase / Decorative Linen Tray / Round Rope Mirror / Nate Berkus Scissors (in store) / Nate Berkus Pool towels (in store). On me: Micaela Tee (Anthropologie) and Zara Jeans (similar to broken-in style by JCrew).
All opinions expressed are my own.
Do you sometimes feel like all you do is talk about your kids (and everyone else’s)? I sometimes have to remind myself to stray from the subject among groups of friends at dinner parties, even though it is—of course—front and center in my mind these days.* (So I’m not making any promises, in other words.)
There’s a great parody of a parenting study in this week’s issue of the New Yorker, wherein it is concluded that if parents have to read one more “long-form think piece about parenting,” one more of those “articles that begin with a wryly affectionate parenting anecdote, segue into a dry cataloguing of sociological research enlivened with alternately sarcastic and tender asides, and end with another wryly affectionate anecdote that aims to add a touch of irony or, failing at that, sentimentality,” they will “go fucking ape shit.”
It’s pretty funny, particularly considering that my plan for today was originally to share with you the one that keeps coming up in conversation around here lately: Have you read the article in The Atlantic, “The Overprotected Kid“? It’s been largely circulated (and in being so probably prompted the New Yorker spoof), but it doesn’t stop it from raising fascinating questions about your tolerance for risk when it comes to your children. I’m curious where most of you fall on the spectrum, actually. I have said “be careful” to Hudson enough times that he will actually preemptively say—as he is about to run past the edge of the pool toward our dog’s house or climb atop a chair I’ve told him not to—”I be careful, mommy.” He’s got my number.
It made me seek out an old Momfilter post that once sparked similar conversation…
With Hudson, we read (skimmed) so many different baby books. Some were borrowed from friends who would pass them along to us, dog-eared and filled with promise; many were devoured while swaying in the parenting aisles in Barnes & Noble—usually frantically hoping for a golden-ticket to sleep.
We’ve barely glanced at the accumulated pile this time around (so far, at least), but Rachael’s post on sleep training last week had me thinking about which books (and which promises) I’d pass along to friends, if asked.
The books I used most:
The Happiest Baby on the Block
It almost goes without naming. We watched the DVD first and were pretty convinced about reading the book. Besides, everyone will tell you about Dr. Karp and the “five S’s,” so you may as well know what they’re talking about. Even though we don’t have this book (we borrowed it), we are totally reliant on its techniques.
The American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding
My sister-in-law passed this one on to me, and I’m really glad I read through it before the baby arrived. It’s not the sort of book I found myself referencing much once I’d finished, but I felt like it started things off really well and gave me some great tips. In other words, borrow it or check it out at a library.
What to Expect the First Year and The New Basics: A-to-Z Baby & Child Care for the Modern Parent
I lump these two together because both are very searchable by issue (as opposed to being something you read through). I really enjoyed WTE‘s monthly breakdowns: it was nice to see which milestones were right around the corner and to feel pride at things Hudson was mastering on the early side. And it helped me come up with questions before visits to the pediatrician. The guidance felt very straightforward, with little that could be seen as controversial. Each chapter—each month—is structured into Q&A format, and I would usually pick it up and just read through to see what other questions were typical around that time. I think it’s superior to the WTE When You’re Expecting guide. This is the first one I’ve pulled out to look at again.
The New Basics is a bit more unique to Michel Cohen—who runs a pediatric practice in Tribeca, and is often described as “very French.” (The “Frequently Bought Together” book on Amazon is, tellingly, Bringing Up Bébé.) I really appreciate his no-nonsense approach (though I think the book is best paired with another source). It’s also a Q&A, structured in alphabetical order by issue (e.g. Colic, or Pacifiers).
Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems
Ah, the controversial classic. I read most of it at the bookstore, and then realized that just about every other book/plan I was considering buying/committing to was essentially an abbreviated version. So if you’re of the mind to teach your child to sleep/self-soothe and are open to leaving them to do that (crying, with checks at intervals, hopefully briefly) then I think it’s worth reading the original, often-updated Ferber. It’s a tome, with lots of sleep study info, but I felt so much more confidant about making a plan with all of that information to back me up. It gave us the tools and the confidence we were looking for, with plans I thought were compassionate and reasonable (and it worked). My two cents: if you’re going to try the ill-coined “cry-it-out,” the only way to do it kindly is to think it through ahead and be consistent. It’s the inconsistency that tends to accompany (the very familiar) impulsive desperation that seems unkind to me. But honestly you also have to trust your gut.
The Sleepeasy Solution
This is actually one of those books that owes completely to Ferber, as it basically tells you to do exactly the same thing, but it is much less dense. I’ve probably actually used it the most, because once I’d read Ferber and we’d successfully done our three nights of initial sleep-training, I’d reference this book for things like sample nap schedules (so handy) and tricks for getting back on track after a cold.
I also occasionally referenced:
For sleep, the other books recommended to me most frequently:
The No-Cry Sleep Solution
On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer
The 90-Minute Baby Sleep Program
All of which Aron and I, no doubt desperately, skimmed at one time or another. (Something I’m sure will happen again soon… as those “witching hours” are getting tougher every day!)
Do you have favorites? What would you add?
[Thank you, Giggle for sending Skyler her own Mr. Scrapoctopus (aka "Scrapopulus" in our house)]
Last year, around this time, we were just planning our garden: planting citrus trees and succulents, and making room for plots of Sungold tomatoes. We were also hoping to address an aphid problem. One way to do so, is to encourage beneficial insects—like ladybugs and lacewings—to take care of them, rather than use pesticides. Sounded good to us!
But even more appealing, to be honest, was the chance to play in the garden with Hudson—who was, at the time, just getting really excited about dirt and worms and rolly-pollies and the like. He would surely love to release ladybugs!
Hooray for the first day of spring! I couldn’t resist pulling out a few more photos from that week (Skyler’s second week with us) when we spent multiple afternoons in Almond orchards (lest we miss out on the blooms)—I hope you’ll indulge me, but those trees were all just too pretty!
I thought the afternoon was a nice reminder to get out to some parks without playgrounds every now and then. It was refreshing to see Hudson combing through the grass in search of bugs (rather than through wood chips), and I loved hearing his imagination at work when he found himself knee-deep in grass that resembled a nest. It was a pleasure to hear insects (rather than other little can-be pests… if you know what I mean) and birds while watching him run through trees with the same enthusiasm generally observed on hard-rubber mats and sidewalks.
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This coming Friday has been declared World Poetry Day by UNESCO, so I found myself looking into the archives to find this post Stephanie Madewell wrote for me when Hudson was born: I’m feeling inspired to try finding some poems to read with him.
by Stephanie Madewell
One of the great sneaky pleasures of being around little children getting to experience all sorts of firsts, to see and be reminded of wonders hidden in plain sight. One of those everyday wonders is poetry. For many of us, childhood is woven through with nursery rhymes and funny poems, but eventually life tilts to prose. Poetry retreats to the highest, dustiest shelf, (maybe) respected and (generally) unread.
This is a tragedy!
We are born to poetry and poems are born to be read aloud, which makes babies and poetry a perfect match. Tiny babies are an especially ideal audience for reading or reciting poems to – they don’t need pages to turn or pictures, just your voice and face.
There are many, many good places to look for poems, and many excellent books of poems specifically for children, but my favorite read aloud anthology is The Rattle Bag,edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. Hughes and Heaney, good friends, were both incredibly well-read and extraordinary poets. They sat down together in the early ’80s and compiled over 400 of their favorite poems, then put them in alphabetical order. It’s an oddly genius arrangement that lets each poem sing out, unexpectedly and wonderfully, and makes it easy to stumble across treasures. It’s the perfect volume to pick up and flip through until you find something that catches your eye, and there’s enough there to get you through a lifetime – if I could commit the whole to memory and ended up stranded in darkest Peru, I would feel pretty lucky. And while few of these poems were written for children, almost all of them can be read to them. I’ve read selections from it to squirmy babes, antic toddlers, and fidgety kindergarteners, and the response is always ‘MORE!’
And you never know. Keep it up, and eventually you might have someone who’ll recite poems for you.
[Republished from my previous parenting site, Baby Mine, August 2011; Thank you again to Stephanie of Even Cleveland]
It is my veteran opinion that the conscientious art of sleep training occurs to a mother right around the time she needs it. I’ve seen it in myself, I’ve seen it in other mamas. They get a firm look on their face as they talk about the absurd lengths they’ve recently gone through to get some sleep. And there’s knowledge in their eyes–the infancy period is over and it’s time for the family to have some predictability. There’s a suspicion in the air that everything is being sacrificed for the baby. Dinner, other children, an affectionate marriage, mom’s energy and enthusiasm for life. I personally suffer from a faint sense of bitterness around this time. I don’t ask for it. I don’t want it. But it arrives, lurking in the back of my mind, when one small part of me knows the baby could sleep better, long, harder, deeper, than this. When I know it’s up to me to bring us there. When I know it’s been me that got us into this mess, by feeding willy-nilly at all hours of the day, and letting naps be on the fly or not at all, letting the 2am wakeup slip back in, and then an 11pm wakeup, and shifting bedtimes every day as my calendar demands.
Oh but it’s hard for those few days. When I’m in the moment of it I just want it to end end end. I can tell it is not hunger crying and I don’t want to be counted on to feed at 11pm but my surging hormones want to solve this now. It sounds so wonderful to go in and calm her. But you know if the exact same thing happens tomorrow, and the day after, it will not sound wonderful. And after that heady ten minutes of soothing, I’ll think to myself, what have I done?
And so you have to write a schedule down, or find one in a book, or tell your husband or call your mom. You have do something, out loud, that affirms the logic of it, that reviews and confirms what you’re planning.
With Joan at six months, I’m in this right now. I talked it over with Joe and realized that our day schedule had no predictability for her. As of the beginning of this week, she wasn’t even falling asleep on her own during the day. So I’m fixing that first–paying more attention to the time going by, putting her down for naps, awake, at the same time every day, timing the space between feedings.
And then next week we’ll tackle the nights; and after three or four nights we will all sleep happily ever after. Not really, of course. But I can praise a few of the results for you, from experience: after sleep training you do end up with a baby who can fall asleep on their own, who doesn’t wake up at the slightest discomfort crying out for you, who errs on the side of sleep rather than wake when changes come—like being sick or traveling.
This is the fourth and final piece in a series entitled “Infancy. Again.” by guest contributor Rachael Ringenberg. I’m so grateful she was willing to share these, all of which struck a cord with me and, I gather happily, many of you. Thank you, Rachael!
Rachael lives in Boston with her husband Joe, and their two daughters—2-1/2-year-old Lux and six-month-old Joan, and writes about having another baby on her blog Erstwhile Dear. She can also be found under the name girlpolish on twitter or instagram. Read her first, second, and third posts.
In which our young heroine finds she was given a real baby, a waker-baby. None of this magic sleeper-baby stuff, like always falling asleep while nursing (Lux) or sleeping 5+ hours by one month (Lux) or never ever spitting up (Lux). No, this time it’s a real baby who wakes up every three hours to the dot, and would like to be held all the time extra please, who hasn’t the faintest idea how to fall asleep and gets rather upset about it, who detects a whiff of caffeine in my breastmilk and can not abide it.
It will never be this overwhelming, I said to myself last Monday morning after Joe had left and Lux was begging to go to the playground and Joan was fussing. This is it. The pinnacle of overwhelmingness has been reached. The next time I have a baby, I’ll have a four year old and she will make lunch for all us. Right?
I see normal, I see the glimmer of it, though I think it might still be two months away.
I hate repetitive conversational pleasantries. I’ve probably heard some variation of “zero to one is the toughest,” or “one to two is the hardest” one hundred thousand times. THE POINT IS PEOPLE, I would like to interrupt, IT’S A NEWBORN. I remember how I felt with Lux. I remember feeling overwhelmed. THIS is the pinnacle, I imagine I probably said.
There are times in the day I have to say to myself, quit it. She is a newborn. She doesn’t have to shape up. She doesn’t have to get with the program. She can do whatever she wants. I think I perhaps see her worst, through a glass darkly, at 6pm. I’m not seeing her, I’m just seeing all the stuff I haven’t gotten done. The absolute rumpus Lux has piled around me and throughout the entire apartment. The lack of dinner plans. The two emails (just two!) I was hoping to respond to.
But I see her best at 6am. She wakes up to the sunlight. She coos and stretches next to me and I wake up too. It’s quiet and everyone else is still asleep and we’ve made it through the darkness to this very second. I love that moment, a moment when I manage to open my eyes to the present instead of chasing something else in my mind, when I can watch her facial expressions and notice that her eyelashes flit out like a Disney chipmunk’s. When I wonder who she is right now and who she will be.
My mom once told me that she took up sewing when we were young so she could point to something and say “here’s what I accomplished today.” That’s probably why I find myself in the kitchen, baking something that doesn’t need to be baked by hand, dancing a very fine line where Lux is engaged and Joan is briefly asleep but perhaps soon to wake, but will it be after the dough is safely pressed into pans, or before? Last week I found an index card I had scrawled on years and years ago. “Finnish bread” it said at the top, which sounds absurd because it was always “homemade bread” when I was younger. I asked for it weekly from Mrs. B, a Dutch woman who started helping out my mom around the time when there was four of us kids. Before I left for college I finally asked her to walk me through the recipe, and I made scattered notes on this index card. And after I put it in the oven the kitchen smelled exactly as it used to when she made it.
Toast with butter and honey? Who could forget this delicacy? And what about cinnamon sugar toast? My college cafeteria used to keep shakers of cinnamon sugar casually on hand by the salad bar (like, you can have salad, or you can have…cinnamon sugar!). Throughout the semester, on not so good days, I would make a neat stack of white toasted bread with cinnamon sugar and sit down with a cup of coffee for lunch.
When people come visit our apartment, and a rather lot of them have been lately, which is lovely, when they make it up to the 5th floor after the two heavy doors that noisily buzz them access, after the tiny rickety elevator that lifts them four floors, after the small red carpeted flight of stairs from the kitchen they found themselves in after the elevator—they often look around and call it a treehouse. The ceiling is vaulted like an old attic, the windows are mostly enormous, and the tops of trees are visible everywhere. A treehouse that smells like fresh bread.
I think of this as a very easy bread, hard to mess up, leaving you with basic tomato sandwich makings or, of course, steady toast supply. I sometimes abandon the dough for more than two hours, if babies demand. And I particularly like the short baking time–fresh bread so quick!
This is the third piece in a month-long series entitled “Infancy. Again.” by guest contributor Rachael Ringenberg. Rachael lives in Boston with her husband Joe, and their two daughters—2-1/2-year-old Lux and six-month-old Joan, and writes about having another baby on her blog Erstwhile Dear. She wrote this post when Joan was just five weeks. (Which is just one reason it feels so on point for me!) Rachael can also be found under the name girlpolish on twitter or instagram. Her first and second posts are here and here, respectively.
Every spring—this year earlier than some—acres of almond orchards around here burst into incredible displays of pale pink of white blooms, and start to buzz, literally, as bees go to work pollinating trees. If you neglect to get out and about around the time the blossoms are on the branches, however, you could miss them entirely. So around the middle of February, I start looking for signs of spring in the neighborhood… and start asking friends who pass by the farms on a regular basis: “any blooms yet?”
It would be a shame to miss something as beautiful and transient as this.
When Hudson turned two, we decided that our gift to him would be his first bike—something called a “balance bike.” They’re pretty common these days, so you’ve likely seen one: sitting low to the ground, it’s a tiny bicycle with no pedals. Basically, as this Slate article discusses, there are two obstacles to learning to ride a bike: First, pedaling. And second, balancing. Training wheels helps you learn to do the first—which is actually the easier of the two to overcome. Taking away the pedals helps you learn to do the second—which will make learning to ride an actual bike much easier than training wheels would. (We’re still on the balance bike phase, so stay tuned, but I have a feeling the skill will come quickly.)
Have you heard of StickyGrams? We’ve been growing our collection on the refrigerator ever since moving to Davis—and I love them! Basically, StickyGram transforms your Instagrams into fun little magnets (and, now, IPhone and Ipad Cases). You just log in to StickyGram with your Instagram details, and choose from your own photos.
The quality is great. And because I use Instagram so frequently, it’s easy to grab what feels like a fairly accurate representation of our favorite, informal family moments to display.
They come in sheets—nine photos in a square, and I hadn’t even bothered taking ours apart (but rather have just been adding sheets to a single large grid one-by-one) until it occurred to me to let Hudson rearrange them. He loves looking at them and pointing out specific ones to babysitters!
Fair warning: they’re nearly addictive as Instagram itself. In fact, now that Skyler is here I think I may need to order the next sheet!
This is the introductory piece in a four-piece series entitled “Infancy. Again.” by guest contributor Rachael Ringenberg. Rachael lives in Boston with her husband Joe and their two daughters, 2-1/2-year-old Lux and six-month-old Joan, and writes about having another baby on her blog Erstwhile Dear. I’ve asked her to share four pieces with us here—one each week in the coming month. Rachael’s writing always resonates with me; she has a beautiful, relatable voice that I hope you will enjoy as much as I do.
To begin, her “Ten Thoughts for New Moms” (to which she, generously, agreed to add four more for second-timers like me).
Ten thoughts for new moms
Sleep with a favorite bed companion for your baby before they arrive and infuse it with your scent.
Since this is your first: Relish nursing them to sleep. Relish falling asleep with them. Relish getting stuck under them for their whole nap. It will be the rarest of occurrences with any baby after this one.
Things that are easiest when the baby is smallest: day trips, plane trips, eating at loud restaurants, and evening adventures.
Never post about how well your baby is sleeping on Facebook. Nothing marks a new parent more than this boasting and, unfortunately, it can really hurt some friends’ feelings who’ve had more difficult babies. Stay savvy and avoid this topic.