Sometimes Nothing Is Going to Work

Newborns don’t do much other than sleep, cry, drink, and poop. Sounds simple at first, but so do some of life’s most complex problems. Soon after my friend Gina brought her newborn home from the hospital she was stymied by the following: whether to change his diaper before or after breastfeeding him. Her goal was for him to nurse and then drift off into blissful sleep like all the babies in the nursing videotapes they showed her at the hospital. But inevitably, her son would poop right before or during his feeding. If she changed his diaper first, by the time she brought him to her breast he would be sucking and crying at the same time because he was so hungry. This would lead to spit up and gas, which prevented him from sleeping. She tried changing him after a feeding but this would wake him up, which would start the whole scream/suckle/spit-up/poop cycle all over again. She even tried letting him drain one breast and then changing him before giving him the second one. But putting him on the changing table also made him spit up, which got him so upset that the one remaining breast wasn’t enough to soothe him to sleep. “What should I do?” she asked me. So I told her the truth. “There’s nothing you can do.” And then I added, “Get used to it.” That’s just how it is with all children, not just newborns. Sometimes nothing works and you’re left to muddle through. Almost always, kids outgrow these daily, insurmountable problems. In the meantime, you just do your best. In the morning you change the diaper before the nursing. If that doesn’t work you try changing it halfway through. On some days you get lucky, on others you get frustrated. Meanwhile, the baby keeps growing until he’s out of the spit-up and yellow poop stage and ready to present you with even more ghastly problems. Part of being a parent is to try really hard to solve these problems. But part of being a parent is also to realize when you cannot. Instead, you just survive until the problem solves itself.

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