Breastfeeding: Why Is It So Hard To Breastfeed A Baby?

This is the first in a multi-part series Ask Moxie is going to run on breastfeeding. My guest expert is Jamie. She’s a lactation consultant, mother of four, raconteur, and tireless supporter of all things boobular. She’s the person you want to talk to when your tits are in a vise (literally or not). In addition to writing these articles for Ask Moxie, she’s written an amazing series of posts on breastfeeding, breastfeeding support, and breastfeeding in U.S. culture on her own blog. You should check them out.

And now, on with the show:

Why Is It So Hard to Breastfeed a Baby?
 
One
thing that complicates breastfeeding for new mothers is the abundance
of myths steering her in the wrong direction (or at least in unhelpful
directions) as she’s getting started. 
 

Myth #1: It’s so much easier to learn about breastfeeding these days.
There is a ton of breastfeeding information floating around out there.
Unfortunately, a lot of it is bad. My copy of the Sears & Sears Baby Book
instructs mothers to center the nipple in baby’s mouth and RAM the baby
on. Some babies are fine with that. Others will respond with the same
indignation I would feel if someone shoved my face into my plate and
expected me to eat that way. So choose your sources carefully to find
current, research-based recommendations. (I am partial to kellymom.com and LLL myself.)
      
Myths #2 and #3: It won’t hurt if you’re doing it right vs.  Early breastfeeding is painful and you just have to suck it up.
If breastfeeding hurts a lot, something isn’t right. It may be that a
tiny adjustment in the baby’s latch (usually helping him to latch more
asymmetrically, taking a deeper bite with his lower jaw — details on these pages)
will make a vast difference. The problem may be an anatomical varation
like a tongue-tied baby or a mother with larger-than-average nipples
(technically known as "oro-boobular disproportion"). Significant pain
should signal you to get help pronto, before your nipples turn into steak tartare.
 

On the other hand, a lot of women experience a little pain. Your
nipples have never been stretched so far; your ducts have never been
distended to such a degree. Sometimes, especially before the milk
starts flowing, it makes a person say ouch. According to The Breastfeeding Atlas, this
type of pain should last about 20-30 seconds per feeding and resolve
within a week. But if you hear that you shouldn’t be saying ouch, you
may worry that you’re doing it wrong. Motherhood presents many and
varied opportunities to worry that you’re doing it wrong. Whenever
possible (this is just such an instance), decline them.

 
Myth #4: A lactation consultant is a lactation consultant.
As far as I know, no state in this country regulates lactation
consultants. You can get tired of your career in furnace repair one day
and hang out your shingle as a lactation consultant the next. This is
part of why lactation support in hospitals is so uneven. You can find
some wonderful nurses and LCs with a magic touch — and, more
importantly, the ability to transmit same to you. You can also
encounter nurses whose idea of evidence-based practice is "Good Enough
For My Baby In 1982 Is Good Enough for Yours in 2006." If you need
breastfeeding help, you can search here for an IBCLC. You might also call a local LLL Leader (start here).  If you need more assistance than she can provide, ask her whom she would call if she had a stubborn breastfeeding problem.
      
Perhaps most pernicious is myth #5: Breastfeeding has to get off to a good start or it won’t work out. A good start is a big help, but here’s what you do if you get a rocky start instead (courtesy of Linda Smith):

  1. Feed the baby. If possible, your own expressed milk, given in whatever way works for your family. If you opt to use a bottle, this is a helpful article  on using bottles to transition a baby back to the breast.
  2. Protect the milk supply. To bring in a milk supply, rent a hospital-grade pump. If your insurance company balks, an LC should
    be able to drop them a letter explaining why it’s important.
  3. Fix
    the breastfeeding. If you can keep something relaxed happening at the
    breast, offering the baby a chance to nurse when you’re both calm and
    he’s not too hungry, many babies will catch on all on their own. Most
    will figure it out in time, with assistance from an experienced LC.
One last note: many of the women who read and comment here are
infertility veterans. Lactation consultants report, anecdotally, a
higher rate of breastfeeding difficulties among women with a history of
infertility. Sometimes the cause is physical (PCOS can be related to
supply issues); sometimes the reason is unclear. I mention this not to
alarm anyone, but because forewarned is forearmed. The same tenacity
that brought you to motherhood can also help you, given good
information and support, to get past most breastfeeding hurdles. Good
luck!

Q&A: When do babies share?

Erika writes:

"I have an eight month old boy who will most likely be an onlychild. Our nanny who watches him two days a week has a son about 6
months older than my G. My hope was he would be a bit of a surrogate
sibling and would head off any spoiled-only-child-itis thing.
 
Now, cut to how we play with G. We sit with him, pick up a toy,
which he then of course wants to play with, so we hand it to him. Seems
like the rational thing to do, right? That’s the main reason we picked
up the toy, and what grown up is going to withhold a toy from an 8
month old?
 
So here is where I’m a bit concerned. We had some friends over
whose baby is about the same age as ours. Every time he would pick up a
toy to play with, G would want it. At this point, I don’t think there
is any obnoxiousness intended on his part, of course. He’s playing with
this little boy exactly the way we allow (encourage?) him to play with
us. But, of course, intentions aside, what he’s doing is obnoxious.
 
So…how and when do you teach children how to share and not be
grabby? The most ‘logical’ thing that came to mind was not to just hand
toys over to him if I pick one up and he shows an interest. But that
just seems weird. And while I know he’s a bit young for the concept of
sharing, I’d rather start while he’s young and malleable than when I
have a head strong 2 year old on my hands who has never been
introduced to the concept of sharing.
Any thoughts? Are more closely supervised play dates the only really good answer?"
This question means that this week I’ve hit the trifecta of Things We Worry Our Kids Will Never Do: Sleeping, Eating, and Sharing.

So far I’ve reassured you that your child will sleep. S/he will eat. The sharing? Well, I think that’s a tougher one. I mean, I’m 32, and I’m not even all that great at sharing. (I’m not joking–I often hide delicious foods like chocolate and ice cream from my son so I don’t have to share them with him.) I think it’s a much tougher thing to master than just sleeping through the night.

People will tell you that a kid should be able to share at age 2, but it’s not exactly true. Kids do know the word "share" at age 2, but most of them think that share means that someone else lets them have something. "I want to share the ball" means "I want you to give me your ball." (I always found this hilarious, because it’s such a great example of being able to see the wheels turning in your child’s head. But of course I had to squelch my laughter and reinforce what actual sharing meant. Sometimes it’s a drag being the grownup.)

By the time they’re close to 3 they understand it, but they don’t really want to do it, unless it’s for a special friend (or something they don’t really want).

So basically what I’m saying is that there’s no chance on earth than an 8-month-old should be able to share. A child that age isn’t even remotely close to being able to understand the concept.

Your son sounds completely normal and on target for his age. When babies under 15 months get together, they alternate between grabbing things out of the other kid’s hand, and grabbing the other kid’s hair and yanking hard. (OK, sometimes they throw in some drooling and biting for good measure. And if their nails haven’t been clipped within the last 10 minutes they’ll probably end up doing some scratching, too.) It’s really awful, except for the fact that the other kid doesn’t realize that your son is being rude, because they just don’t have any social sense yet. He knows that the toy was in his hand and now it’s not, but he doesn’t really know that G took it. (The developmental spurt that allow kid to understand a sequence of events doesn’t even happen until the baby is closer to 10 months, and they can’t understand any kind of more complicated program of events until shortly after a year, according to The Wonder Weeks.) So we adults look at it as a horrible interaction, but the kids are just so thrilled to be with other babies that they don’t even care.

The task for a child’s first year is to learn to trust. When you play with G and give him what he asks for (remember that for babies there’s no difference between want and need), you’re teaching him not only to trust you, but to trust the world. It’s what’s supposed to happen. You might want to mix up the games by putting him on his tummy sometimes and getting him to reach for things he wants (unless you want to prevent him from learning to crawl), but that’s just a developmental thing, and has nothing to do with sharing or "spoiling." (If your baby doesn’t like tummy time, check out SparkPlugDance.org for some great ideas on how to make it fun, and a clear explanation of why it’s important.)

The best way to "teach" a baby that young about sharing (which is a subset of politeness) is to model polite behavior in your home and outside it. "Please" and "thank you" and "I’m going to the kitchen. Would you like something?" to your spouse and G will let G know that being polite is what people do. "Thank you" and "Excuse me" and "How are you?" to the bus driver and grocery checker and librarian shows that it’s not just for people you love. You’ll be surprised at how quickly G catches on to politeness and hospitality rituals–lots of kids start saying "thank you" as one of their first sets of words or signs. Once you’ve got a kid who’s polite at an age-appropriate level, teaching about sharing just becomes more about hospitality and less about rules a kid has to follow to gain approval. Which means that you’ll have a 3-year-old who still occasionally grabs other kids’ toys (age-appropriate) but also invites other kids to your house to play and is a better host than Hugh Heffner.

The play date thing can be tough. El Pequeño is 8 months, and it’s almost painful to watch him with other babies that age. They kind of swarm all over each other like little lobsters, grabbing at everything they can reach and sucking and teething on each other. The tips I have to make it easier are: have playdates with other parents who also understand that babies are completely uncivilized at that age so they don’t get upset if some grabbing happens, have a huge pile of toys so if one child grabs one away you can quickly trade in another one, and remember that some animal crackers or Veggie Booty can solve a lot of conflicts instantly.

Also, FWIW, I don’t think only children are any more spoiled than other kids. Manhattan is probably the capital of only children, so we know a bunch of them here. If you’re a good parent and you set appropriate boundaries for your child, your child won’t end up spoiled whether or not s/he has siblings. If you don’t teach your child appropriate behavior s/he will be spoiled even with a bunch of siblings. So I wouldn’t do anything special to try to head off your son’s being spoiled. Just treat him with love and respect, and teach him appropriate behavior, and he’ll grow from a cheerful barbarian baby into the kind of 10-year-old strangers compliment you on. I think you’re doing exactly the right thing, and G is going to turn
out to be a well-mannered person, even though he’ll have some normal
hooliganish bumps along the way.

Q&A: Getting a 3-year-old to eat

Tammy writes:

"My name is Tammy, I’m 33 and the
single mother of a 3 year old little boy.  I am having a hard time getting him
to eat anything besides: chicken nuggets, scrambled eggs, corn and cereal.  He
doesn’t want to try anything new and is downright awful when I try to get
him to eat something else.  What kind of advice can you give me to help him
start eating more nutritional foods?"

I feel your pain. Oh, boy, do I feel your pain!

Kids are just as stubborn at 3 as they were at 2, but they’re not tricked as easily. And they really refine their preferences into the two discrete categories of "favorites" and "no-o-o-o-o!".

I was talking to one of the other moms at our preschool the other day. El Chico will be 4 in two months, and her son will be 4 in five months.

"Remember back when he was 2 and ate everything?" I asked.

"Yes!" she said. "I thought I was the best mother ever because my kid ate such a wide variety of foods!"

"Oh, I was sooo cocky and judgemental because my little health nut loved asparagus."

"And kale!" she countered.

Then we both laughed. The bitter, jaded laugh of mothers whose children eat nothing that isn’t a carrier for butter.

My kid will eat cinnamon toast (special thanks to my mother for introducing him to cinnamon toast), French fries, chicken, broccoli, baby carrots, bagels with butter, peanut-butter-and-honey-sandwiches, and frosting (but not the cake beneath it). I am extremely grateful that he eats the chicken, broccoli, and carrots. Three month ago he wouldn’t even eat those.

Actually, he seems to be expanding his palate almost exponentially in the last month or two. He’s eaten salad, cucumbers, turkey, baked beans, and corn in the last two weeks. Who knows how many foods he’ll deign to eat by the time he turns four?

If your son is anything like mine, it’s partly because he just likes what he likes, and partly to exert control over his life. I don’t think there’s much to be done about it (assuming you don’t want to have knock-down-drag-out fights at every meal) except wait it out and make sure he gets vitamins every day.

So you should probably just count your blessings (corn is better than cookies!) and hang in there until he gets closer to 4. It will happen. Just not soon enough.

Updated to add: I just thought of another thing that might help. Peer pressure is strong at this age. So if your child has a friend who will eat things s/he won’t, maybe you can have them trade some time sharing meals with each other. "Jack likes tomatoes!" can be a powerful force to getting your own child to at least try them. It doesn’t always work, but it’s more likely to work than just trying to talk new foods up on your own.

Q&A: 12-month flip-out?

Julia writes:

"My daughter will reach one year in just a few short weeks.  She’s made some amazing developmental leaps recently, including walking (completely independently, and quite quickly, I might add) and talking.  She’s been so much fun lately I can hardly describe it.  But then yesterday she began acting, um, weird, for lack of a better descriptor.

She’s figured out that she can "ask" for something by pointing to it and saying "that! that!" repeatedly until "that" is handed to her.  With this skill, she’s also realized that she doesn’t always get what she wants.  She’s begun throwing what seem to be the beginning of temper tantrums.  They aren’t bad, but they’re frustrating.  I know she’s just upset over that lack of control over her environment.  But is that all? She’s also been super clingy, approaching me with her blankie in hand for some hugging and then not wanting me to put her down.  She’s been really tired – in fact, since she began toddling she’s reverted to three hour-ish naps a day, and an earlier bedtime.  Yesterday, her funky mood was bad enough and persistent enough to get me really down.  (All add here that I think my hormones are doing their own special number on me, as well.)  Today she’s already exhibiting much of the same behavior. I’d rather not be in tears by noon.

In the past you’d mentioned the book Wonder Weeks.  But the book only goes through 14 months, so I never coughed up the change to get it.  Is this time frame a common one for freakouts?  If so, I think I can get through it more easily knowing there will be an end to it shortly.

Are there other tips you might have for controling mini-temper-tantrums at this young age?  Or for any of her other weirdness?"

I think part of the clinginess is directly related to her newfound walking skills. Many kids need to come back to you as soon as they can leave you. So once they master walking they go through a clingy phase. Annoying, but it means she’s really attached to you.

I’m not sure which one of the Wonder Week periods she fits into right now. There’s one from 40-44 weeks (and she was born at 38 weeks IIRC, so that would be 42-46 weeks for her), and one from 49-53 weeks (or 51-55 weeks for her).

The earlier one is when she learns about sequences, or that she can put things together (putting one block on top of another, for example). The symptoms the book lists that happen before this leap are, in part:

Cries more often and is bad-tempered or cranky
Is cheerful one moment and cries the next
Wants to be kept busy
Clings to your clothes, or wants to be close to you
Throws temper tantrums
Wants physical contact to be tighter or closer than before
etc.

The later leap is when she learns about patterns, or that there is a goal that requires steps to achieve (like setting the table, for example). The symptoms the book lists that happen before this leap are, in part:

Cries more often and is bad-tempered or cranky
Is cheerful one moment and cries the next
Wants to be kept busy
Clings to your clothes, or wants to be close to you
Throws temper tantrums
Wants physical contact to be tighter or closer than before
etc.

So, yeah. It definitely sounds like it’s part of a developmental leap, although I’m sure the walking has something to do with it, too. Are you signing with her? That might help her cut down on some of her frustration about the words she doesn’t have the motor skills to say yet.

The general tantrum-aversion tips I can give are to try to remove all elements of control from the situation so it isn’t a power struggle of her vs. you. ("It’s time to put your pajamas on now." vs. "I want you to put your pajamas on now.") When she’s a little older you’ll be able to give her choices ("It’s time to put your pajamas on now. Do you want to wear the red ones or the blue ones?") Make things silly whenever you can. And keep on using the distraction that’s been working so well for so long.

But basically, I think you’re going to have to wait this one out. In a week or two she’ll probably be her old sweet self, but smarter because of the leap, of course.

Congratulations on making it through the first year! Onward and upward.

My Favorite Slings

(Sorry. I just couldn’t resist the pun.)

Everyone’s going to need a way to carry their kid on their body, unless they’re adopting a kid over the age of 3. It’s my opinion that you really need two carriers–one ring sling and another carrier. Let’s discuss the ring sling first.

Ring Slings

A ring sling (I’m also including pouch slings in this category) is a simple design that has a bunch of advantages as a carrier (and a bunch of flaws, but that’s why you’ll want another carrier, too). It’s relatively simple to use, you can use it to carry your baby in several different positions, it’s not bulky so you can shove it under the stroller or in your bag, you can use it as an emergency diaper pad or pillow, in some positions you can nurse in it, and (most importantly if you have a toddler) it’s super-easy to get the baby in and out of it (and in and out and in and out…).

Some people like a lightly padded sling, but I think an unpadded sling is more comfortable. Padding is supposed to make it more comfortable on your shoulder, but the padding IME makes it bunch so the weight doesn’t really distribute itself evenly. Lack of padding also makes it cooler in the summer, and far easier to adjust when it’s on.

When I had El Chico, the only unpadded ring sling out there was the Maya Wrap. (Now there are a million people selling unpadded ring slings.I haven’t tried any of them, but they’re ring slings–you can’t go wrong.) I live in New York CIty, yo, so I couldn’t walk around with stripey granola fabric, so I was temporarily stymied until I found the awesome and oh-so-simple-in-both-design-and-execution pattern to sew my own sling *. I far prefer the shoulder design of this sling to any of the ones my friends paid money for. And it takes literally one hour (including pinning) to make it. Order the rings from slingrings.com (craft rings from a craft store are not strong enough and your baby could get seriously hurt in a sling made with craft rings). I recommend nylon, because metal are heavy, can bang you in the jawbone or your baby in the sweet little soft head, and make a nasty noise in the dryer.

A sling ring will run you anywhere from about $10 (if you sew your own) to $120 (for a silk one). Most are in the $25-40 range.

Do not under any circumstances be fooled into buying the NoJo sling that they sell on Amazon.com. It is beyond dreadful.

The Other Two Carriers

The real problem with a ring sling is that it’s not going to be comfortable for long walks. For around the house or quick walks it’s wonderful, but if you regularly carry your baby (or toddler) around on your body, you’ll need something that distributes the weight better onto your hips and back and off your shoulders. There are two carriers I’ve never heard a bad word about: the Ellaroo wrap and the Ergo carrier.

The Ellaroo is the one that I own (in black, of course). It’s a long piece of woven fabric that you tie in a bunch of different carries, so it works for a newborn up to a 3-year-old (on your back). It was so perfect and secure when El P was a newborn (and I could walk around and nurse him and no one had any idea). Now he hangs in it like he would in a Björn (facing out or in depending on mood), except it’s actually comfortable on my shoulders and back. When he’s older I’ll carry him on my hip or back in it. The woven fabric gives it more strength than a stretchy wrap like MobyWrap, Hug-a-Bub, or Ultimate Baby Carrier, so you can use it up to a higher weight and older child. It’s cool in the summer (even the black one), and a bargain at $70. If you buy your from a local distributor instead of off the web, she’ll show you how to tie it and put your baby in it for no extra cost. The disadvantage of the Ellaroo is the learning curve when you learn a new way to tie it.

I have some friends who love love the Ergo Baby Carrier. It puts the baby’s weight right on your baby’s hips, so no more aching shoulders. You can use it to carry the baby on your front, hip, or back, and it’s easy to put on and put the baby in. This is a great choice for people who like the feel of a backpack carrier, but don’t want the extra weight or metal frame of an actual backpack, and for people who are hesitant about tying a wrap. It’s a bargain at $92, and you can buy it on the web or at a store near you. The disadvantage of the Ergo is that it’s pretty bulky and weighs more than an Ellaroo, and isn’t as easy to nurse discreetly in.


Carriers I Don’t Know Much About

The MeiTai is a Chinese-style baby carrier made by Ellaroo, Colibri, or a bunch of other companies or WAHMs (search The Babywearer and/or Ebay to look for different models). The MeiTai puts the weight of the baby across your chest (if you’re wearing the baby on your back) or on your back (if you’re wearing the baby on your chest). I’ve heard some people say they loved theirs, but don’t know much about the features.

The Sutemi looks a lot like the Ergo to me. I ran into a mom at the airport a few weeks ago who loved hers, but, again, I don’t know the specifics, except that you can’t use it before 4 months, but they say you can use it up to 5 years(!).


Carriers I Don’t Recommend

The Björn. $120 for something that you can only use for one carry style, can’t nurse in, and that will cut off the circulation to your arms once your baby is 18 pounds? Next. (They make an awesome potty, though.)

The NoJo Ring Sling. It stinks like fabric dye, and is impossible to adjust while the baby’s in it. Too much padding, and hardly any room for the baby. Resale value on Ebay = $0, so that ought to tell you something.

The P-Sling. $550 for a "hand-crumpled" linen sling? Wait until the first time your baby spits up on it. Although maybe the children of people who can afford $550 for a sling don’t ever spit up.

The Hip Hammock. Absolutely kills your neck, and it doesn’t do anything you can’t do better with a ring sling.


For more than you’d ever need to know about slings, register at The Baby Wearer and check out their bazillion reviews. Have fun wearing your baby.

*Can you believe people are taking Jan’s pattern and sewing slings from it for sale? It’s called intellectual property and common decency, people.

Q&A: wintertime dressing, feeding solids, delaying development on purpose

Melanie (whose twins are 9 months old) writes:

"Issue 1:  I don’t know how to dress these babies!  First there was the overheating = SIDS issue, but since they are past the main risk period, I’m not so concerned.  I get very caught up in believing Hayden (who runs hot) should be dressed lighter than Zoey (who runs cold).  So the house is at about 60 degrees+ drafts and most days I’ve got them in long-sleeve onesies and sleepers.  Is this enough? If not, please lay out what you would dress them in.  Very specifically, so my brain won’t try to overthink it.

Issue 2: Feeding.  We started solids at 6 mos.  They are each nursing about 7 times a day.  We’ve been doing "dinner" for 3 months, and last week I began with "lunch" & watered-down juice.  (BTW, 2-3 oz of watery juice during the late afternoon grumpiness is very helpful!) So they are getting about 3 ice cubes of food twice a day.  Is that enough?  I suspect they should be slightly nursing less at this age, but I confess I view that as moving towards he days when they’re all grown up so I’m not eager to push it.  But I am wondering if they’re getting enough food.  They don’t seem willing to eat much more at a sitting– might I need to add another meal, even if it means letting them grow up??

Mini-Issue:  Another mom at playgroup has attempted to slow her child’s progression to mobility by sitting them up and handing them toys instead of encouraging them to roll on their tummies and reach for toys.  She figures dealing with a mobile child is easier if said child has a little more language comprehension.  And it’s not as if you could stop them —  my kids often practice rocking & crawling during naps.  So what think you on the idea of attempting to delay crawling by a couple weeks?  Is the common drive for early mobility good parenting or just the beginnings of  ‘must-be-able-to-compete-in-modern-world’ overacheiver-ism?"

OK, I was really thinking this email through and deciding how to answer issues number 1 and 2, and then I got to the mini-issue. At first I laughed a loopy "What-is-wrong-with-people?" kind of laugh that made my husband say "What’s so funny, Cacklepuss?".

But then I thought, "Why the hell not?" I mean, people bound girls’ feet for years to prevent them from developing normally, and in some cultures kids were given opium so they wouldn’t get into trouble while their parents were out plowing the fields. And they all turned out fine*. So why not hand them things so they won’t reach for them in hopes of trying to delay their development?

Because it’s both futile and a little nutty, is why. Even kids in seriously deprived situations learn to crawl, so why would you actually try to prevent it? I completely understand the mom’s point that an older baby has better judgement, but they’re babies. How much more judgement are they really going to have in a month or two anyway?  Frankly, I think she should be putting all this energy into babyproofing her house, because time waits for no mom, and they’re going to be crawling soon whether she likes it or not. In the meantime, what’s she going to do when they start learning to walk? The mind boggles.

FWIW, I think there’s so much ridiculousness going on in the Parenting Industry right now with thousands of products to make our babies smarter and more advanced. I don’t think they work. And, even if they do, who cares? We need our 8-month-olds to have one extra IQ point or walk two days early? Sounds like too much time on our hands, and too much pressure on our kids. Personally, I choose media products based on how funny they are, and whether the kid will watch them for half an hour so I can put in some laundry and catch a shower. (And if he happened to learn the alphabet or his numbers from them before he was 2, well, that couldn’t be helped.)

Now, to Issue 1: You’re talking about dressing them for bed, right? Shhh–don’t tell anyone, but I actually put a blanket on my baby. You might feel better with a light blanket on them at the beginning of the night (over the onesie and sleeper you’ve got them in already). Then if they feel hot in the night you can always take it off them. In a few months they’ll be able to kick it off themselves if they don’t like it.

Anyway, the rule to tell if they’re warm enough is to feel the back of the neck. If it’s warm, they’re fine. (People always think it’s the hands or the feet, but plenty of kids have hands and feet that always run a little cold, so that’s no great indicator.)

Issue 2: At this age, eating is still for fun, and they’re getting most of their nutrition from nursing or formula. If they like eating, try adding another meal, since volume isn’t what you’re really concerned with at this age. Practice and exposure are. So maybe try giving them some kind of finger foods to see how they do. Cheerios, Veggie Booty, cut pieces of ripe banana or avocado, smushed beans, etc. Of course they’ll be fine if you don’t give them another meal, but if you’re willing to let them grow up just a teensy bit 🙂 they’ll find the self-feeding fun. Just whatever you do, don’t let them watch Baby Einstein while they eat, or they’ll be ready to move out of the house next week.

*Please note I’m being sarcastic. This is my least favorite excuse for why people should persist in parenting decisions that have been shown to be less than optimal. "We never had carseats, and we turned out fine." Yes. You sure did.

Q&A 3-for-1: sleeping through the night, sibling squabbles, cursing

Three, three, three posts in one!

Beaver Girl writes:

"When, in general, do exclusively breastfed babies start sleeping through the night?   I would define that as six hours in a row or so.  I have heard answers that vary from 12 weeks to 2 years!  I know every child is different.  Just wondering in general so I can adjust my expectations – and/or those of my MIL.  She keeps asking if my 8 week old is sleeping through the night yet – which is getting irritating.  She seems to think adding cereal (to what? breastmilk?) would mean he would sleep more."

Two things:

I have no idea. El Chico slept through the night (the medical definition is 5 hours in a row, but I’ll go with yours of 6 hours in a row) around 13 months or so. El Pequeño did (temporarily) at 2 weeks (and then regressed with teething, and then if you read my blog today, well, let’s just say he’s not sleeping through the night anymore). My mom says I did at under a year and my brother did at 3 years, but he says he still wakes up once or twice a night (he’s 30 years old). So who knows? There’s probably an average, but do you really want your kid to be average?

Lie. Tell her he’s sleeping "fine." "Like a baby." And feel free to lie to anyone else who’s going to give you crap or have inappropriate expectations about baby things. Because nobody knows and all kids are different and you know your kid better than anyone else does. Also, the person asking will never know the difference, and if it saves you the same dumb "why don’t you let him cry/put cereal in his bottle/give him Benadryl/my kids all slept through at 4 weeks" conversation, it’s all good.

(Also, when I started El Chico on rice cereal he started waking up more often at night. So YMMV on the cereal thing anyway.)

                                               *************************************

Karla writes:

"I have three toddlers (21 months this month).  Basil is constantly taking things from Zeke.  When i am in the room, i have been asking to return the toy to Zeke.  Usually, i end up helping Basil do this by doing it with him, hand-over-hand.

Here is the second problem:  whenever Zeke gets a toy taken away, he screams bloody murder (very high, piercing scream at the very top of his lungs).  My husband works nights, and is therefore sleeping during the day, so this doesn’t suit him very well. Yet, I don’t want to punish Zeke for screaming, because I don’t want Basil to get away with what he is doing.  I wouldn’t always know that he was taking things, because I am not always in the same room (or on the same floor).  Is he too young to teach him to come and tell me when there is a problem?  Do I want to teach him to tattle?"

It seems to me that you should be working toward the goal of not having to mediate between Basil and Zeke. Eventually, Zeke should be able to tell Basil not to take his stuff and get him to give it back himself. Right now you’re putting yourself squarely in the middle by making yourself the one who forces Basil to give the stuff back, and you’re reinforcing your role as middleperson by getting Zeke to tell you when Basil’s taken his stuff. You’re also inadvertantly giving Basil the role of Aggressor and Zeke the role of Victim, which will cause problems for their relationship into adulthood.

By redirecting your attention and energy you can start setting them up to work it out themselves. When Basil takes something, instead of going after him to give it back, focus your attention on Zeke and helping him to speak up and ask for it back (you’ll have to follow through by making Basil put it into Zeke’s hand at the beginning). That should a) demotivate Basil to take things, since he won’t get any attention by doing it, and b) start to empower Zeke to defend himself from Basil. It’s not going to happen overnight. In fact, it probably won’t happen for months and months, but it’s better than the situation you’re currently setting up. It may also help with the screaming problem, because you’ll be giving Zeke something proactive to do instead of just shrieking like a dog whistle.

If you haven’t read it already, run don’t walk to the library/your local bookseller/Amazon to get Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish. They have great sections on how to teach your kids to be able to solve their own squabbles.

Where’s the other toddler in all of this? You must be an iron woman to get through this squabbly stage with three!

                                            *************************************

Liz writes:

"I have a potty mouth. I would fit
right in with those well-known sailors. My husband is only slightly
better than me. It’s not that I curse all the time just that when I do
it’s pretty offensive. It’s like a reflex; someone cuts me off and I’m
cursing him/her and forgetting that my son is in the back seat. I’m
pretty sure you already know what I’m going to ask but the question is:
how do I learn to curtail the offensive language before my son starts
to repeat everything I’ve said? My son, Riley, is now 16 months old and
has a bunch of words but he’s just starting to show signs of word
repetition. Right now he says something that sounds suspiciously like
"oh, shit!". Of course it’s garbled enough that it could be interpreted
as something else (luckily). The last thing that I want is to be the
parent of "that kid". Ya know, that one that calls little Suzie an
asshole for stealing his toy at daycare? I’m obviously aware of the
problem but keep procrastinating and thinking "well, I’ve still got a
lttle time". The simple solution is to just stop, but that’s a lot
harder than it appears. I know I’m not planning on forgoing curse words
altogether because there are time when a simple "gosh darnit" just
won’t do the trick. I just need to figure out how to stop the verbal
vomit in front of Riley."

Damned if I know.
Seriously. I curse like a trucker. It’s bad. Very bad. A few months ago
we went to my SIL’s house and within 30 seconds of walking in the door
El Chico said, "Those fucking people!" (I don’t know who he was talking
about–not my ILs.) My MIL almost shit a brick lost her composure and asked indignantly, "Where did he hear that
language?!" directing an accusatory glance at my poor, genteel husband.
My SIL, bless her heart, jumped in with, "Mom, he lives in New York
City. He hears it on the street all the time." I love her, my innocent
SIL. But it was a close call. Almost close enough to help me stop
cursing.

Q&A: Nursing bras

Mimi writes:

"I’m expecting my first child very soon and am feeling very calm aboutnearly everything birthing and parenting related.  My anxiety is
completely centered around picking the right nursing bra.  Sizes,
styles, stores… I’m stymied!  Please opine at length."

"At length"? Ah, you know me too well.

Now, lingerie is such a personal thing. So what I’m going to recommend (with the exception of buying one or two Bravados ahead of time, which seems to be universally recommended) is just my opinion, based on the limited number of different nursing bras I’ve tried. My advice is coming from a woman who started out a C-cup before pregnancy, went up to a DD (and up one band size) by the end of pregnancy, was an E for a few days when my milk came in, and then was a DD for the first 9 months of nursing. I went down to a D (and back to my original band size) by 9 months post-partum and then back down to my original C by 18 months or so of nursing. I sincerely hope that others comment with their opinions so we can get some more data points from women with different sized breasts.

I would buy one or two Bravado bras right now to have when you deliver. Bravados are kind of a stretchy sports-bra style that fits a range of sizes, so you can order the size you are in your 8th month and know it’ll fit you when you deliver. I liked my Bravados because they were extremely comfy and gave me enough support for everyday activities. However, I did not find that I could open and close them with one hand–the band was too stretchy for that. What that meant was that I wore them a lot at home, but not out when I’d need to open and close smoothly in public or in front of my FIL. I wore them so much I ended up throwing one of them away last month after 40 or so months of use (with two different kids), when it finally gave up the ghost. Bravado’s not the perfect bra, but it’s a good one to have on hand to carry you through the first few weeks until your size settles down and you can think about ordering or buying another few.

An aside: I never could have managed with 2 bras. They tell you you should have one on and one in the wash, but come on. Who’s washing bras when you’ve got garments full of spit-up to wash first? I think 4 is probably a reasonable minimum number of bras for someone who nurses for more than 6 weeks.

I also have a few Playtex Expectant Moments bras, which win hands-down in the dumbest name category. They are very easy to open and close with one hand. I have the older style with woven cotton cups so they don’t stretch much. I got them on sale, so I’m fine with them, but they’re not the first bras I reach for. Maybe the stretch cup style is better, but this style was just kind of eh. I’d wear them when I knew I’d need to open and close smoothly with one hand, though.

My favorite nursing bras for every day are actually the cheap bras I bought at Target (I’m positive I used to be able to find them on the website, but I can find them now). They range in price from $12 to $17, and I’ve liked most of the styles I’ve tried. They don’t last forever, and if you wash them in the machine you risk losing an underwire, but I don’t think you can beat them for the intersection of price, comfort, and style.

I have two nursing tanks from Target, which are OK, but they’re way too short and run extremely small. I’ll probably buy a nursing tank or two from Motherwear to see if they run a little longer (the ones from Target ride up like crazy). Wearing a tank under another shirt turns that shrt into a nursing shirt, because you’ve got the tank layer covering your tummy. This is key for those of us who live in cold climates.

That’s all I’ve got. Anyone else? Smaller-breasted women? Other larger-breasted women? I’m due for some new bras myself and could use recommendations. Sign in with your size, favorites, and least favorites.

(Oh, and has anyone tried the new uber-sexy nursing bra?)

Q&A: toddler eating and drinking

Kat writes:

"My babies are 13 1/2 months now, and both of them act as if I amchoking the heck out of them when I try to feed "solid" solid foods.
Things they can/will eat: 1) cheerios, tofu hot dogs cut into small
pieces, macaroni and cheese, shredded cheese.  Anything else I offer,
small cut up pieces of chicken, green beans, kidney beans, baked beans,
black beans, julliened(sp?) cooked carrots, any other foods I think
might be "soft" enough, like a bite of lasagna, for example, is
promptly spit out of their mouths or choked on.  I am at my wits end,
imagining that I will still be spooning baby food jars of green beans
and rice at 2 years old.

Also, we are having a heck of
a time encouraging the sippy cup.  They seem to rather not drink
anything than to drink milk from the sippy (although strangely enough
they will guzzle water from the sippy).  Mini I can understand as she’s
only for the boob, but Jr. only takes a bottle, I thought he’d be
easy.  People are making faces at me for continuing to offer the bottle."

 

I’m going to start at the end of this question.

<rant>

I hate, no make that despise, the crazy fervor in this country to get kids off the bottle at exactly the 12-month mark. If you can keep a kid on the breast past 12 months (and let’s remember that the WHO recommends nursing until at least 2 years, so no one ought to be telling anyone to wean at 12 months if she doesn’t want to) then you can keep a kid on the bottle past 12 months. But we seem to have this bizarre preoccupation with taking away anything that resembles comfort for our babies to encourage them to be independent. Because God forbid a toddler might actually need comfort, and all the ills of the world are clearly caused by having used a bottle too long.

<insert eyeroll></rant>

But now to circle back around to the front of the question.

I’m not sure about the choking, honestly. Is it that they’re engaging in a power play or just don’t like to eat those foods and are pretending to gag (which sounds dead on for that age), or are they actually physically choking on them? If you’re going in to the pediatrician at 15 months, just mention it and see what s/he says. If the ped thinks there’s anything going on, s/he’ll give you a referral to a physical therapist who will evaluate them.

Best case scenario: They get evaluated and it’s nothing, and you can stop worrying.

Worst case scenario: They get evaluated, and it’s something that can be dealt with easily with regular therapy, and you can stop worrying.

Linda (also a mom of twins–hmmm….) asked me a sippy-cup-related question recently, too, so I’ll add hers to yours:

"I hate sippy cups.  I posted on my blog forever ago about it and I
still haven’t figure them out.  My kids will only drink from the soft
tipped ones.  I can’t get them to drink from the hard tipped ones at
all.  The problem is that they chew on the soft tipped ones and then
break the valve and render them useless.  I think you recommended the
straw cups.  Do you stand by that?  And when can they start (reliably
and relatively neatly) drinking from a topless cup?"

I don’t really get the sippy as this new "skill" or "milestone" people act like they’re teaching. It’s not something that really builds to anything, since most of us don’t do any kind of motion like drinking from a sippy as adults. The real point of the sippy is that it doesn’t spill when it’s tipped over, not that it’s something kids need to learn to use.

OTOH, learning to suck things from a straw is a useful skill. Straws are fun, and you have the chance to use one every time you drink anything at a restaurant. You use the same motion when you drink from a sports bottle. If you don’t want to mess up your lipstick, you have to use a straw. And–here’s the kicker–it’s an easier, more natural muscle motion for kids to learn. El Chico was a sippy conscientious objecter when he was a toddler, but when someone suggested a straw cup I tried it and he got it immediately. We’ve used the Playtex Straw Cup and also the Rubbermaid straw cup and found both to be delightful.

We have a couple of friends who were diagnosed with low muscle tone (hypotonia) in the mouth muscles, and one of the things they’re supposed to do is drink out of straws every day. So there’s that.

Kat, I don’t think it’s at all odd that they won’t drink milk from anything that they haven’t been using all along (the breast for your daughter and the bottle for your son). Milk is the basic, bedrock comfort, and they don’t want anything changed about it. El Chico would never take breastmilk from a straw cup (only me or the bottle), but would take ice cold cow’s milk from the straw cup. I’ve heard similar things from lots of other moms–that their child would take breastmilk or formula only from boob or bottle, but would take other liquids from the straw/sippy.

So I’d say just to forget about getting rid of the bottle (unless it’s actually bugging you) because undoubtedly you’ve got some bigger fish to fry at this point, and don’t expect them to take milk from the straw/sippy. Use it for other liquids, instead. That’s my famous Lower Your Expectations method of parenting, BTW.

I bet people are actually making faces at you because they’re jealous that you look so good despite having twin toddlers, not because of the bottle.:)

Linda, I thought I could say that 3 was when they could reliably and neatly drink from a topless cup, until we hit 3 1/2.

Have you read any of the Ames and Ilg series of books on child development?  They were recommended by the amazing Dawn, and they are dead on. They all have funny titles like Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender and Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy, and some of the things are horribly outdated (assumptions that the mother is at home all day with the child, and that kids aren’t in school ever until age 5) because they were written in the 70s, but they are scarily accurate. You think your child is some sort of freak and that you’re raising a monster, and then you read the book and every odd thing your child is doing is typical behavior for that age and will go away in six months. Highly comforting.

Anyway, Ames and Ilg say that kids alternate between equilibrium (emotionally and physically confident and sure) and disequilibrium (in emotional upheaval and physically clumsy) for years. On the year seems to be equilibrium and on the half year seems to be disequilibrium. So at 3 El Chico and his friends could walk around with open containers and not spill any. But then a few months later they’d spill every freaking time I’d give them a cup. We’re starting to go back to mastery, though.

So you probably want to stick with the white grape juice for a few more years. But try the straw cups now, and let them use topless cups outside next summer so they can practice.

Q&A: Having another baby soon after a difficult pregnancy

Rachel writes:

"Our daughter is 10 months old. She was born with a myriad of birthdefects, and her twin died. I’m ready for another baby. My husband
isn’t. He wants them 2 years apart. I think he’s more afraid of having
another hellish pregnancy (even though the doctors say the chances of
that are the same as for anyone else) than he is of actual said
baby. Advice?"

It
sounds like you’re really thinking about what your husband’s motivation
is for wanting to wait (being afraid of the pregnancy) but are
discounting his concerns about what it would be like to have "actual
said baby" (heh) there when your daughter is nine months older than she
is. A 10-month-old is a sweet angel of rainbows and light, smart and
funny and competent and loving. And you think that this child will
always be the same, just more and more mature.

But she won’t be.

IME, the months between 18-21 or so are the most turbulent stage for
most kids under the age of 3.9 (that’s how old my older son is, so
that’s as far as I know). They can talk, but not as much as they want
to. Their thoughts are way ahead of their emotional savvy and language,
so they get frustrated and angry and cranky and mean and throw tantrums
all the time. They want to do every single thing themselves, but they
can’t. And they get mad at you if you help them, but they get
frustrated when they can’t do it on their own. They are extremely
jealous of your time, unless you’re the parent that they’re rejecting
that day. Many of them go through a nasty sleep regression (waking up
2-5 times a night. seriously.) that lasts anywhere from a month to
three months.

That age is exhausting.

So I don’t think you should go into this thinking that "it’ll all
work out" once you have the baby. I mean, of course it will all work
out (and millions of parents have kids 17-21 months apart), but if you do have the option to plan the spacing between your kids, it will be far less stressful on you, your daughter, your husband, and your marriage if you can avoid having a kid in that nightmare stage and a newborn at the same time.

I also think you should take a look at exactly why you want so much
to have another baby right now. Why is it so important not to wait
another 5 months or longer?

One reason I can think of that might make you want to get pregnant
again right now is that you might feel that siblings closer in age will
get along better and be better friends. But I don’t think there’s any
truth to that. There are anecdotes either way (my friend who hasn’t
talked to her 16-months-older sister in years, the kids 18 months apart
who spend all their time together, the guy I talked to today who was
and is best friends with his brother who is 6 years older than he is,
my dad and my uncle who are 5 years apart and have nothing in common).
I think what’s important is how the parents treat the kids and the
expectations they have of behavior. Create the right environment and
your kids will get along, no matter how far apart in age they are.

Another reason I can think of that you might want to have another
baby right away is to have the chance for a "do over" of your horrible
pregnancy, heartbreaking loss, and stressful early days. I don’t think
there’s a thing wrong with wanting a second chance. I hope not, because
I certainly did, and the problems I had with my first pregnancy and
birth were nothing compared to yours. Consider, though, that you’re
still pretty raw about the trauma you went through–it hasn’t even been
a year. And if your next pregnancy isn’t the fun pregnancy you hope
for, you might be better able to deal with it emotionally if a little
more time has passed before you’re thrust back into that totally
vulnerable place.

(Some other reasons someone might have for wanting to get pregnant
right away that I don’t think apply to Rachel are that the mother is
older and doesn’t have much time to have kids, the mother wants to
limit the amount of time she spends away from her career, or the couple
wants to have many many kids.)

What I’m saying is that I think there’s more to it than just "I’m
ready for another baby" and "I’m not ready," and you two need to really
hash out the pros and cons of having a baby before your first one is at
all independent. In my opinion, your life will be a heck of a lot
easier if you wait to get pregnant until your daughter is 15-24 months
old, but that’s just based on looking back at when my son and his
playgroup seemed to be mature enough to handle having a younger sibling
reasonably well. I’m sure there are going to be commenters saying you
should do it now, but just the thought of kids 19 months apart makes me
want to take a nap.

Good luck with the TTC. I hope your next pregnancy is completely uneventful and the birth is downright boring.