Reader needs help

(Scroll down for today’s Q&A after you read this.)

A reader writes:

"Do you know anything about the use of CoQ10 during pregnancy?  I take it for my heart as I have a heart condition and things have improved immensely for me.  My doc says it’s unbelievable and to keep doing what I’m doing.  I am getting mixed answers on CoQ10 use during pregnancy since there has been no testing so I am wondering if you or any of your readers know of or have heard anything."

All Google searches are revealing that the information out there is inconclusive and contradictory. If anyone has any information about CoQ10 (an enzyme) and pregnancy, please leave it in the comments or email me directly.

Thank you.

Q&A: again with the toddler not eating

Someone who didn’t leave her name writes:

"I have a 20 month old who will not eat anything if it is not a cracker, chip,
or cookie.  There is the occasional mashed potato that he will eat. 
Other than that good luck.  We have been having this problem with him for
about a year now.  When it was time for him to start eating chunkier foods
he wouldn’t, then he stopped eating the smoother foods altogether until he was
just drinking milk and eating crackers every now and then.  While in the
grocery store one day I saw the Gerber veggie and fruit puffs.  He loved
those he would eat them all the time.  Then all he would eat were crackers;
goldfish cheez-its, Ritz, if it was a cracker he ate it. I was never too
concerned because he’s been in the 50-75% for weight since birth.  Now that
I’m home with him and my husband works I really see how he isn’t eating
food.  For the last 4 days I have started his day with some hot cereal for
breakfast.  He hasn’t eaten it yet but I make a habit of sitting there for
5 min. to see if he will eat it. Know the other night I was able to hide a whole
meal in his mashed potatoes.  I mashed up some chicken and put in some peas
and carrots.  I had the lights down so he couldn’t really see the veggies
and he ate the whole bowl.  It was great to see him eat I know he felt
better.  But what can I do for breakfast and lunch I don’t have the patient
to make mashed potatoes all day long.  Help!!!"

What is with these kids? Seriously. They chug-a-lug for the first year, and then ingest almost nothing for the next few years, driving us crazy in the process. It’s like some highly-organized plot that they all catch wind of as they pass each other in the pediatrician’s office.

This eating question comes up again and again in my mailbox, and I always give the same answer:
Don’t worry about it. Unless your child has an actual metabolic disorder, s/he won’t allow herself/himself to starve. And unless your child will never eat anything that isn’t smooth, s/he doesn’t have any kind of issue with texture that would require intervention*.

The refusing to eat is all about control. Kids that age can’t control much, but they can control what they eat or don’t eat. So they exercise that control.

I would try to stop caring, if I were you. I don’t mean stop making food or stop providing nutritious choices, but instead stop being emotionally invested in whether he eats or not, and definitely don’t let yourself fall into the trap of taking it personally or thinking it’s your fault he’s not eating. There is no magic meal that he’ll devour consistently. (Besides French fries and ice cream, of course.)

In reading your particular case, the only thing I’d try to change is getting a little more protein and some more vegetables into him. Hiding them in the mashed potatoes is a great idea, although, as you say, it’s a little tedious making mashed potatoes all the time. Will he eat muffins or pancakes instead? You could make muffin or pancake batter and keep it in the refrigerator for when you need to use it. Or you can make up half a dozen muffins or pancakes and then just hand them out to him over the course of the next couple of days. (Kids will eat room-temperature muffins, but who would eat cold mashed potatoes? Ick.) Muffins and pancakes travel well.

Other than that, I’d just try to let him graze. Sometimes they don’t realize they’re eating food if they eat a little bit here and there as they’re playing. You can leave a plate with some cubes of cheese, cut vegetables (cucumber, slightly-cooked carrot, zucchini, bell pepper), and/or cut fruits (cut melon, apple, segments of orange) sitting on a coffee table near where he plays to see if he’ll just eat some when there’s no pressure.

If he watches TV or videos, make sure he’s sitting in his high chair while he watches them, and put some nutritious food in front of him. He may eat a bunch of things he’d normally refuse, just because he’s too engrossed in the video.

If you think he’s really not getting enough nutrition, make sure he takes vitamins (not the gummy kind) just to make sure you’ve got his basic vitamin and mineral needs covered.

At our house the food wrangling is just starting to ease now that my son is over 4 years old. I think most kids go through some form or another of this resistance to eating the food we want them to. As long as we’re still offering nutritious choices, what our kids actually eat is not a reflection of us as parents but instead a function of how much control our kids want to exercise over their own bodies.

I do think that parents with kids who don’t eat a big variety of foods need to make sure that our kids get a lot of running-around time to make sure that they don’t end up as carb-addicted couch potatoes. (Has anyone been kind of baffled at that "Honey, We’re Killing the Kids" show? How do these parents think it’s fine for the kids not to move around every day?)

Good luck. It sounds like your son has a healthy will!

* I don’t know about where you live, but in NYC the doctors are very proactive about referring kids to Early Intervention for any speech, physical, or developmental delays. Whenever I hear someone mention "intervention," I always imagine all the other babies in the playgroup coming and gathering around the baby, saying, "We’ve been worried about you for a long time. You’re always late to playgroup, you never play with your teddy bear anymore, and you won’t even eat mashed carrots. We love you. Please let us get you help."

Q&A: making the leap to underpants

Erin writes:

"P is now almost 29 months old and has shown an interest in the potty since he
was 17 months old.  We bought him one at 18 months, he used it a couple of times
a week, but we never pushed it and he never really got all that interested in
it. 

Now that I’m a SAHM and he’s not in daycare anymore, I decided it was time
to be serious about potty-training so that he’ll be fully trained by the time he
goes back to school in a few months. I decided to go for the diaperless-thing in
the house…no bottoms at all.  He’s a pro!  I don’t even have to remind him to
go potty.  He only had one accident on the first day, and he was already in the
bathroom, trying to get to his potty when that one happened.

It’s been a week, and he’s great.  The problem is whenever we put anything
ON his bottom, he loses it entirely.  We tried Gerber underpants.  Pees through
5 pairs or more a day, and doesn’t seem to care–just lets us know that he’s wet
and needs to be cleaned off.  We tried shorts alone, thinking that since they
were only tight at the waistband, that would make a difference.  Nope.

We’re at a loss of what to do now, and I’m feeling house-bound!  I don’t
want to put diapers on him when we go out, but I tried the underpants the other
day and he peed all over himself while in his carseat–and I’d prefer not to
have to wash it daily.  We have a portable potty seat and he’ll sit on it when
we’re out if I remind him, but he’s never once gone potty when we’re not at
home.  Help!"

It sounds like you’re doing really well on the potty training front. It’s just going to take a little time and a few nudges to get him full-time in regular underpants.

The first thing I’d do is go cold turkey on the pull-ups. When he’s in diapers (I’m assuming he’s still in diapers at night) he’s in diapers, and when he’s not he’s in cloth underpants. Now before you freak out, let me recommend two kinds of cloth underpants. The first is the Gerber training pants (I’ve seen them at both KMart and Target, and I’m assuming your local baby store will have them, and a quick Googling shows that they’re available at PottyTrainingConcepts.com ) or Luvable Friends training pants. These are regular cloth underpants, but they have a triple layer down the middle, so if your child has an accident the underpants will get wet but the clothes (and floor) won’t. You’ll need a bunch of these.

These are going to be your bread-and-butter, getting-used-to-staying-dry-even-while-wearing-underpants underpants. You can try them on him for short periods in the house to get him used to feeling when he has to go even while wearing pants. You can also try them for short walking trips outside the house. Have him try to go before you leave, then put on the pants and go walk around outside, then come back in and have him use the potty again. Start with a 5-minute trip, then increase the time a little each trip. Eventually he can wear them for long periods in the house and long periods outside the house.

The other kind of cloth underpants is the kind with nylon or PUL (laminated fabric) on the outside (basically a washable pull-up). You can find them at many big-box retailers, and also here and here and here (and a bunch of other places, too). You’ll need a few of these.

These are the pants you’ll put on him for naps or when you go out in the car or in public. They’re still underpants, so you’re not backsliding into diapers or in the endless pull-up limbo, but you won’t end up with a soggy crib or carseat.

Once you’ve got the proper equipment to keep him moving forward, it’s just a waiting game. He’ll get better and better at knowing when he has to go, and being able to feel things even when he’s wearing pants. Eventually he’ll be able to stay dry without thinking about it. And even once he’s reliably dry all day, he’ll still have occasional accidents (especially if he’s particularly stressed or excited, or is concentrating really hard on something).

It sounds like you’ve got the right momentum, and one of these days it’ll "catch" for him and he’ll be in underpants full-time. Congratulations on being the mom of a big boy!

Preventing PPD 4: Finding your tribe

(This is part 4 in my “Preventing Post-PartumDepression” series. You can read the other installments linked from here. If you’re reading this because you already have PPD, don’t try to suffer through it. Tell your partner and your provider, and get help. It’s easily treatable and is not your fault.)

Once you make it through the first few weeks, you’re going to need to start focusing on finding friends to spend time with.

We (Westerners, I mean) have a bizarre idea that it’s normal and healthy for one adult to be alone at home, isolated, with a child or children. I’m not sure when this became the expectation, but it’s highly unnatural. Anyone who’s spend a whole workday alone with a child can attest to the fact that it’s just strange to be the only one on task all day long, whether your child is a cluster-nursing explosive-pooping newborn, or a cat-gluing Candyland-playing preschooler.

In other cultures, parents live with other adults who are around all day to help them care for their children. They get more conversation, they get more sleep, they get more validation, and I’ll bet they get a lot less PPD.

Since it’s not practical to move back in with your parents (and invite your aunts and uncles and cousins to move in, too), you’ll need to create your own tribe in your community.

If you’re part of a group of friends who have kids already, you’ve got a tribe. They already know what it’s like, and how it’s important to be there physically, not just emotionally. But if all your friends are childfree, or their kids are older, or you’re new to the area, you’re going to have to set out deliberately to make new friends.

Wait! Keep reading. I know the thought of having to make new friends as an adult, especially when you’re feeling lumbering and cranky and stinky, is painful. But new parenthood is the first time since college that it’s actually easy to make new friends, since everyone else is feeling equally adrift and hungry for the friendship of other people having the same experience they are.

The most obvious places to start are with the couples in your chidbirth education class before you have the baby. Their children will be the same age your baby will be, so you’ll all be going through the same stages together. There’s a 90% likelihood that something funny or stupid will happen in your childbirth ed class (and you may luck out and have a truly odd teacher), so this is the perfect way to vet your friendship prospects. Look around the room, and watch for the other couple having the same reaction you are. If you’re trying to stifle your laughter, there’s going to be another couple doing that, too. If you’re speechless in shock at someone’s comment (or one of the movies–oh, the movies!), then look around for the other couple struggling to process it, too.

When class is over, arrange to walk out at the same time your prospective friends are walking out. Then extend an invitation: "She’s really hungry, so we’re going to Friendly’s. Would you like to come along?" Then as you’re walking out or are on your way to the restaurant, you can strike up conversation by alluding to the happenings in class.

If you’re reading this after your baby is born, and thinking about The Couple That Got Away from your childbirth class, it’s not too late at all. If you got a roster of class couples, just call and leave a message with the excuse that you’re calling to find out about their baby and how everything went. If you don’t have a roster, call the teacher and ask if there’s going to be a class reunion party so you can see everyone again.

Another good place to find friends is in your breastfeeding support group. (Remember? It’s the one you researched and checked out while you were still pregnant.) There’s nothing that promotes bonding like being topless in a room together. And you know the other moms there will be just as tired and freaked out as you are (even if they managed to put on lipstick for the meeting). Don’t feel bad if you’re struggling with the nursing and are supplementing with formula. The leader of the group will understand, and the other moms will, too. (If any don’t, then you know who to avoid anyway.) If nothing else, going to the breastfeeding support group might make you feel a little better about how things are going for you and your baby, because there’s always someone there with a situation worse than yours.

You can also try going to new mothers’ groups in your area. Some are run through hospitals or birth centers, and some through parenting centers, YMCAs, childbirth educators, or houses of worship. Remember that it’s not important that you like the whole group or the facilitator of the group. You’re only there to meet one or two women you find tolerable like. It’s a bonus if you learn something or find the whole group fun.

Don’t fall into the trap of looking for someone else who looks just like you. That lady with all the tattoos and a baby named Spider might have the same ideas about positive discipline that you do. That woman with the matching sweater set and hair that’s not only washed but combed might be viciously funny. Your future best friend might be the woman who’s 10 years younger (or older) than you are. The woman who talks too much could turn out to be your greatest ally in the fight for sanity and good humor, and the woman who doesn’t say anything at all could be the one who helps you keep it together during the 9-month sleep regression.

So look around for the other woman who’s rolling her eyes at the dopey comments. But don’t rule out the others. You’re probably not at your sparkling, logical best at this point in your life, so be willing to give others a second and third chance.

The logistics of making the leap from group allies to actual friends is pretty simple: As you’re leaving the group, approach the woman you want to get to know and mention that you’re going to get an iced coffee/smoothie/wheatgrass juice/gin and tonic/whatever moms drink where you live. Do she and her baby want to come along? Unless they have a pediatrician’s appointment, she will not say no, if only because there are still hours to fill before her partner gets home from work. So then you’re on a date to see if you like each other. But at least you don’t have to think about whether you’re wearing your good underwear.

Lather, rinse, repeat until you get 2-3 people you can call and hang out with. (I love the image Andi Buchanan writes about in Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It in which she and her new mom friends call each other every morning at 8 to make plans for the day. Park? Children’s museum? Just hanging out with the babies?) It’s a numbers game, just like finding a job or a partner is. You’ll end up drinking some coffee with some women you realize you don’t ever want to talk to again, but if you put yourself out there enough, you’ll eventually find a few people you really like.

[This sounds beyond cheesy, but I wish I’d done it with my first son: Go to Staples and get business-sized cards printed with your name, phone number, and email address. Carry some around in your diaper bag and coat pockets. Then when you meet someone you’d like to get to know, you can say, "Our kids are the same age. Would you two like to come over for coffee next Tuesday? Here’s my number–give me a call." And then you hand over your card smoothly and can escape before you die of embarrasssment, instead of fumbling awkwardly for a pen and piece of paper.]

Once you’ve got a few people to hang out with, do it. Establish a regular day of the week to have playgroup. That will help give your week some more structure. It also makes making new friends even easier. "We have a playgroup that meets every Wednesday morning. Would you like to come?" Meet in between. Do some things on weekends so your partners meet each other.

If you’re going back to work full-time, time is not on your side. You’re going to have to establish a group of friends before you go back, so that you have weekend playgroups and friends to talk to during the week. But it can be done if you’re proactive, and it’s so worth it for the support and community. If your LC or hospital offers a "working and pumping" class, take it, if only to meet other moms going back to work when you are.

The effort of making a tribe may seem overwhelming in the first few weeks and months of parenting. But if you make consistent baby steps toward friendships, you’ll eventually be surrounded by people you can share the burden with on the tough days, and have fun with on the good days. It can keep you above water if you start to slide into depression, and if you do develop PPD you’ll have people who notice and care enough about you to help you get help.

Q&A: Nursing bras for bigger breasts

Danielle writes:

"Where can I find the best selection (and best) nursing bras for big boobed mamas?  I wear a 36DD-36DDD (aka E).  I am down to one that fits well (Eve Alexander) but I want one with underwire for better support during the day.  I have a ton of Bravados but I can’t wear them during the day."

Before I give up the goods, I’m going to make a public service announcement for postpartum women of all sizes, whether you’re nursing or not (and adoptive moms, if you ate your way through the endless wait, this goes for you, too):

Go get a bra fitting.

Your breasts have probably changed shape or size or both during pregnancy or the long wait, so you need to get a fitting instead of guessing and wandering around in a poorly-fitting bra. A properly-fitted bra will give you better posture, make you look taller and thinner, alleviate back pain, make your clothes look better, and relieve breast pain. Plus it’ll make you feel hotter in general.

It doesn’t hurt, and it’s free when you buy a bra from the store (you probably need a new one anyway). Don’t make me nag you again.

Now, I’ll assume that you’ve had a bra fitting recently and know that you’re in one of the larger sizes (anything above 38 band size or C cup size). You probably can’t find any decent nursing bras off the rack at regular big-box stores, so you’ll have to go to a local specialty store that sells nursing bras or an online store with nursing bras in larger sizes.

In Boston go to Isis Maternity.

In Chicago call The Art of Breastfeeding (you can get a fitting at their office or they’ll do a house call!).

In Detroit go to Sunny J’s Lingerie and Leisure Wear (550 Forest Ave, Plymouth, 734-453-8584).

In NYC, go to the Town Shop or Upper Breast Side in Manhattan or Boing Boing in Brooklyn (204 6th Ave at Union Street, 718-398-0251).

In Philadelphia go to The Lacatation Center at Pennsylvania Hospital (8th and Spruce in Center City).

In Portland, Oregon, go to Just Like a Woman.

In Seattle go to Birth and Beyond.

In Washington, DC, go to The Breastfeeding Center.

If you live in another city that has a special store for nursing bras and supplies, leave it in the comments so we can spread the knowledge.

Two great online stores with bras in a wiiiiiiide range of sizes:

BirthandBaby.com stocks nurisng bras from size 32A to 48KK. You can sort by what you’re looking for (support, comfort, etc) and by size.

BreakOutBras.com also has a good selection of nursing bras for larger sizes, and the owner of the store has helpful comments on each model.

As usual, if you have any more info or suggestions of places to buy "big girl" bras, leave them in the comments or email them and I’ll add them to this post once my internet service is up again. The large-breasted nursers of the internet thank you.

Q&A: preparing a preschooler for a new sibling

PumpkinMama writes:

"I was wondering if you could do an Ask Moxie post about preparing a young one
for an impending sibling.  My son will be not quite 3.5yo when #2 is expected to
arrive this fall and I am looking for tips and tricks on preparing him for this
big change.  He is a very sensitive little guy who is used to being the focus of
our lives, and on top of that he does not handle changes terribly well. I am
worried for him, as this will extremely difficult for him process, I think.  We
have only talked about it briefly so far (I’m still in my 1st trimester) and he
gets very serious and sad looking whenever I mention having a baby/sibling in
the house.  If I ask him outright if he’d like a little bro/sis to play with, he
says "No, thank you."  I don’t want to get too heavy about it with him, but I
also don’t want to just brush it off and utterly wing it when the time comes."

I know you’re really excited about the baby (and congratulations!), but I think it’s way too early for your son to really process what that means, and certainly for him to be excited about it. And would you really want him excited about it this early anyway? It would be like one long, nightmarish version of "Are we there yet?" for the last two trimesters until the baby finally showed up.

Realistically, I think your son’s not going to start processing it until you’re showing, and maybe not even until he can feel the baby start moving. (Since he’s 3, he’ll probably get it at that point. A toddler won’t even process it then.) So I’d focus my energy right now on getting your ducks in a row for what’s going to happen during the birth and postpartum period so you have that all set. Then start working on prepping your son once it’s a little more concrete for him. You can start mentioning it every once in awhile or reading a book here or there, but don’t expect it to connect with him until much later in the process.

You’re going to have to figure out where your son will be while you’re having the baby, and with whom. If you’re leaving your house to have the baby, you’ll need to figure out it you want someone coming to your house to stay with your son, or if your son should go stay with that person. Factor in that you might go into labor and need to leave for the hospital or birthing center in the middle of thie night while your son’s asleep. If you’re having a homebirth, you’ll need someone to come take care of your son during the birth. (That person should not be someone who really wants to see the birth, since there’s no guarantee that your son will want to be there when it happens. My midwife told me that she’d attended quite a few births in which the older sibling was totally excited for the baby to come, but then noticed that Dora was on and wanted to watch that instead of the birth. C’est la vie. So make sure the person assigned to care for your son isn’t invested in seeing the baby come out.) Some likely people to ask are your family or in-laws, close friends, your regular babysitter, or other parents in your playgroup. And don’t feel like it’s a huge imposition–it’s a way people can do you a great kindness and participate in your baby’s birth in a concrete and necessary way, so most people will feel honored to be asked.

You’re also going to have to figure out who’s going to be helping you out after the baby comes. Your physical and emotional recovery will probably be much easier this time, so you won’t need as much help with the baby or with yourself. But your older child will need a ton of attention and you simply won’t be able to provide it, no matter how much the baby sleeps and how great a carrier you have (although you’ll definitely need a great baby carrier so you can strap the baby on and go about your business as much as possible). So think about who you want to come and help you postpartum. For a first baby it’s important to have someone you get along with. For a subsequent baby it’s important to have someone your older child gets along with–you can put up with a lot of days of an annoying mother or MIL if she runs your older child ragged at the playground all day and makes your older child feel special while you’re learning the new baby.

(IME weeks 3-6 were the toughest. My mom had gone home, but the baby was still so needy every second, and my older son was starting to be Not Happy At All about having to wait his turn. In hindsight, I should have hired a postpartum doula to come a couple of times a week for those weeks and asked my part-time babysitter to work a few more afternoons. Other moms of 2+ kids, what weeks did you think were the hardest?)

If your older one will be in school, don’t forget to arrange for some help to do drop-off and pick-up.

By the time you’ve thought all those things through, you’ll probably be closer to showing, and your son might be a little more able to connect with the reality of the baby coming. You’ll want to open up a dialogue about the baby without bringing it up so often that he’ll be sick of it. You also want to make sure that you allow him to have and verbalize his own feelings about the baby, even negative ones. (Our standard line was, and still is, "You don’t have to like the baby but you can’t hurt him.")

Probably the most popular way of prepping a child for an impending sibling is to read books about having babies. I’d like to give you a long list of our favorite books about a new baby coming, but, well, I can’t, because my son didn’t want to read them. I got a few out from the library, but he just wasn’t that interested in them. I know the readers will come through with good titles, or you can ask the children’s librarian for help when you go to the library.

My son was way more interested in looking at pictures of the baby growing inside me. I looked and looked for a kids’ book with drawings of the baby growing, but couldn’t find one. (I was thinking it would be cool to have one that looked like one of those anatomy coloring books, but simplified a little for kids.) Instead we looked at the drawings inside my pregnancy books (there are some in the Sheila Kitzinger The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth and in the Martha/William Sears Pregnancy Book) to show how the baby was growing in relation to my body. We also spent some time looking at the cool photos in Lennart Nilsson’s A Child is Born. (Although there aren’t many good photos of the baby growing after week 20, and you’ll have to judge whether your child can handle looking at the photos of the actual birth.)

If your son doesn’t already have a doll, now’s the time to get one. He can play with the doll now, and it will open up some more conversations about the baby. When the baby arrives he can take care of his doll while you’re with the baby. I don’t know if girls are as into anatomically correct dolls as boys are, but boys seem to be really into dolls that look like they do. Here’s a nice hard nylon one (it comes in boy and girl, black and white). Here’s a nice soft fabric one (it comes in boy and girl, white, black, latino, and asian).

We found it extremely helpful to take a sibling preparation class with our son. He got to meet other kids who were going to become big siblings, and the teacher of the class was great in terms of telling the kids what to expect, and in telling us what to expect. There’s a pretty specific timeline of the way kids usually act when a new sibling comes. I wrote it up in detail in this post, but basically the older child will act out and get more and more unmanagable as the due date approaches, then relax when the baby is born for a few weeks, then start acting up once the novelty of the baby wears off, but then start to enjoy the baby once the baby is old enough to start crawling.

The largest part of our preparation involved answering questions when my son asked them (ranging from "How did the baby get inside you?" to "Is the baby going to play with my toys?"). In our case, it seemed that my son was OK with the idea of a baby (he liked his friends’ siblings) but was apprehensive that the baby would take over his bed, his toys, his friends, and his life. We spent a ton of time talking about how the baby wouldn’t be able to move around or play with his stuff, or sleep in his big boy bed. I was careful to allow him to express negative and indifferent feelings about the baby, even once the baby arrived. He still escalated in fears and negative behavior up until the birth, but we knew it was normal and tried to be more gentle with him than usual.

I’m guessing that your son’s sensitive nature will be helpful in the process, because he’ll be able to express to you what he’s afraid of. Instead of keeping it all inside like the "tougher" kids, he’ll tell you what he’s really afraid of. If he’s freaked out, you’ll know it, so you’ll be able to respond.

Even if you ignore the rest of the advice in this post, definitely read the book Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish. Every parent of more than one child should read this book. Heck, every person who has a sibling should read this book. Everything in it is common sense, but stuff you wouldn’t think of on your own. My favorite parts are the section about not allowing your kids to assign themselves roles (even if you’re scrupulously careful not to assign roles your kids might do it themselves) and the flowchart about how to know when to step in on an argument and how to know when to let them work it out themselves. The book is in cartoon format, so it’s a quick read.

The biggest thing to remember in the whole process is that you’re going to feel guilty about changing your son’s life. He’s been your only guy for so long that it’s just natural to feel like you’re wrecking his life by having a new baby. My mom says, "The guilt begins as soon as you get pregnant with the second one," and it was definitely true for me. But kids’ lives are only enhanced by having siblings (assuming the parents are good parents and don’t play favorites). It takes awhile to get over the initial bumps. The first 6-12 months will be hard. You’ll feel like a shitty mother. But if you can keep your eyes on the long picture–having kids who like who they are, respect each other, and can work through their own disputes–you’ll end up with kids who are thrilled to be each others’ siblings.

Q&A: 10-week-old taking his first bottle

(Update: This should be subtitled "In which I completely miss the boat." In my defense I was writing this post way too late at night, but that’s still no excuse for missing several simple solutions to the reader’s problem. If you’re running short of time, just skip down to the commenters, who have much better suggestions than I did for this one.)

Juliette writes:

"I am in a complicated situation. I have a baby boy, born on February 24, who is exclusively breastfed. I live outside the US, and can’t get things like fancy baby bottles or an electric breast pump, so he has only ever received milk straight from me. I tried using a hand pump once, and expressed a tiny amount that my mom tried to give him with a cup and a little spoon, and the baby wasn’t interested at all. He goes to work with me right now, and I can feed him on demand at the office.

I have a job interview on Thursday, May 11, in Boston. My son will be about ten weeks old. I had thought it would be a normal type interview, so I planned on nursing my son before I went to the interview, and then immediately when I got home. I was going to pump some milk and leave it with my husband so that if it looked like the baby was starving, he’s have something to give him, but that was really just to make my husband feel better.

I just discovered that the interview will take all day, and cannot be broken up into two days.

We are flying to the US just for the interview, and will get in Wednesday morning. We will have an electric breast pump waiting for us, and bottles to use for feeding and storage. I’ll have Wednesday afternoon and evening to pump enough milk for all day Thursday. On Thursday, my husband will have to give the baby his first bottle and keep him fed from about eight in the morning until six or seven at night.

Help! What can I do to make this go better?

I assume I’ll need to pump on Thursday; I plan to do it during my lunch break with a hand pump. I’ll just dump the milk. What can my husband do to make it easier for my son to take his bottle? Also, can you recommend a good nipple choice for the bottle to help prevent nipple confusion? We could try a cup and spoon again, I guess, but a bottle would be a lot easier."

I think you’re going to have to try to feed him before you go on the trip, to encourage him to take either a bottle or a cup. If you wait to try to pump and bottle-feed until you get to Boston you’re going to be really worried about it (including being distracted during your interview, which won’t be good), and it’s going to be more stressful for all of you, including your son.

You say that you can’t get "fancy baby bottles." Can you get any kind of baby bottle at all? I think your mind would be eased if you could try to get him taking even an ounce or two of pumped milk from a bottle. Some babies are very picky about the kinds of bottles they’ll take, while others will eventually take whatever kind you offer. If he’s 10 weeks old and has been exclusively nursing, he’s not going to get nipple confusion at this point, especially if it’s only one day of taking only a bottle.

You also mention that your mother tried to spoon/cup feed him once. Has anyone else tried to feed him since then? Have you tried to pump anything since then?

I’m going to recommend that you start trying to pump (or hand express if your pump is crappy) for 10-15 minutes every day to get into practice with pumping. Some women can pump easily, but others of us need to do it often before we get even decent at it. I have no supply problems, but didn’t really get decent at pumping until my second child. (Who won’t really take a bottle. The irony.) Even if you don’t get much at the beginning, you should pick a time to pump and pump at that time every day/night to get in practice and to get your supply up at that time of day. (Right after the first feed of the day is a popular time to pump, or you could try right after your baby goes down for the first stretch at night.)

Once you’re getting an ounce or two when you pump, you should have your husband start trying to feed your son. If you have a bottle of any sort, try that. Otherwise, have your husband try feeding him out of a soft-sided cup (a paper cup or disposible plastic cup will have flexible enough sides that he can squeeze them in to make it easier for your son to drink), which will be easier probably than a spoon.

Follow the same advice for getting a baby to take a bottle that everyone always gives:

  • Feed your baby a little first so he isn’t too hungry when he gets the bottle.
  • Leave the house when your husband gives the bottle.
  • If the baby isn’t getting it, stop for the day before the situation gets stressful.
  • If the bottle just isn’t working switch your focus to trying the cup.

I think if you can try every day for the next couple of weeks, you should be able to get your son to take an ounce or so from the bottle or cup. If he’ll take an ounce on a normal day, he’ll take more when it’s the only option for food when you’re in Boston. Or he’ll just go to sleep to escape until you come back and nurse him. (Make sure when you leave that morning for the interview you tell him you’ll be back when it’s dark out. Technically he’s too young to understand, but I think babies can understand much more than we think they can, and telling them exactly what’s going to happen makes it easier on them.)

If he absolutely won’t eat at all while you’re at the interview, it’s not going to hurt him. He’ll be mad (and really hungry), but he’ll be with your husband so he shouldn’t be afraid. In the long run that one day will be such a minor blip of his life, and what will stick with him is that you came back, not that you were gone. If he won’t eat, I think your husband will suffer more than your son will, frankly.

A couple of days before you leave you might want to start eating a couple of bowls of oatmeal a day to get your supply up. It’s easier to pump full breasts, so if you have a greater supply when you get to Boston it’ll be easier to pump then. On Wednesday, pump after every time you feed your son, and after he goes down for naps (ha–that was a joke, since he’s 10 weeks) and bedtime.

Now, about nipples: I have to confess that I’m not up on the absolute latest nipples, since my baby refuses them. The only thing mine will take (when he deigns to take a bottle) is the soft spout of the Nuby cup. (Your American source can get it at KMart and probably other big-box retailers. For some reason they’re always on the bottom shelf, forgotten and unsung, and cost around $2 each. A true bargain.) Plenty of people like the Avent nipples, so it seems to be a good all-around choice. (You’ll probably want the #2 size, since then he won’t get really frustrated with the slow-flow #1 opening or blasted with the fast-flow #3 opening.) There’s also the Breastbottle nurser, which looks like something from the movie Sleeper. It seems like it would do the trick, but I have no information on this yet. (Readers? Any reviews on whether it’s worth the hefty price? And is it possible for anyone to use it without giggling like a 7th-grader the entire time?)

So if your baby won’t drink out of the kind of bottle you can get where you live (if he does then bring along that kind), I’d have an Avent nipple and a Nuby cup, and one more. Readers? Which one should she have? (So far the frontrunner is the Playtex silicone nipples.)

I think if you try to get him eating from a bottle or cup now you’ll have a big leg up on the trip. If it doesn’t work out, then you’ll just have to do what you can and hope he’ll eat in Boston. The absolute worst-case scenario is that he refuses to eat all day, and then nurses all night when you’re back from the interview.

Good luck. I hope he takes a bottle with no problem, and you get the job.

Q&A: 18-month sleep regression

Lissa writes:

"I know you have mentioned this before – but I need
details, woman.  M is currently 18 months old – and has gotten back in
the habit of waking once a night – and getting harder to get down for both
bedtime and naptime.  I know that her verbal skills are growing
exponentially – but she still can’t tell me why she’s waking or what’s taking
her so long to fall asleep 😉

She does not CIO – just something we couldn’t
do.  She has on occasion, put herself to sleep alone – but in most cases,
there is singing/rocking/stories involved. And at bedtime, she still gets a
bottle.

M
is with my mom 3 days a week, and at day care the other 2 days a week.  I
usually go over to mom’s for lunch – but after M is already down for
nap.  Today I got there, and M wasn’t napping yet, but didn’t know I
was there – so I don’t think that was the issue.  My mom comes down and is
just frustrated that M isn’t asleep yet.  Says things like ‘I feel
sorry for her, she needs the sleep and just doesn’t know how to put herself to
sleep’ and ‘It just shouldn’t be this hard to get her to sleep’ and ‘I sure hope
you don’t nurse the new baby to sleep all the time like you did for M – because look at what’s happened.’ 

M self-weaned in January – I think
because the current pregnancy (due in June) just had my milk down to nothing –
at least that’s my guess. Up thru December, M was mostly still nursing to
sleep.  On the 2 nights I was in class, she would get a bottle – but I
would still go to her at mom’s and day care and nurse her once a day.  In
December, she stopped nursing to sleep for nap at day care – and day care was
able to pat her down on her mat and she would nap.  At my mom’s, I still
nursed her – but in January, when she weaned, mom started signing songs and
rocking her to sleep for nap (similar to the bedtime routine – just no
bottle).  And that’s also when my husband R started putting M down at
night.  We wanted to get R as the primary one putting M to sleep in
preparation for the new baby coming in June.  Figured if she had 5 months
of Daddy putting her to sleep – it wouldn’t be as hard to adjust to Mommy and
the new baby.  Not sure if that will actually work – but it seemed like a
good theory.  Anyway, all of this has worked fine up until
recently.  She had an ear ‘blockage’ and she’s getting her eye-teeth –
so I don’t know how much of this can be attributed to that, or just a ‘normal’
age thing, or what. 

I’m just really tired of feeling like I’ve somehow
failed her by not forcing her to fall asleep on her own/ CIO.  I already
tried having the talk with my mom that we will just have to disagree about
M’s sleep ‘issues’ and not talk about it – but every time she brings it up –
I feel super-defensive – and that M is being harmed by my parenting choices
(especially when I get told that ‘I hope you don’t nurse this next baby to
sleep’ and the ‘I feel sorry for her, she obviously needs the sleep, she’s over
tired’).

Luckily, I have the most supportive husband in the
world – not only does he take the brunt of putting M to sleep and getting up
with her in the middle of the night – but he constantly affirms that we are
doing the right thing for our child.  I need that support – especially
since I’ve been really weepy and hormonal this pregnancy and thinking that we’re
crazy for having another child, stuff like that.  The pregnancy insomnia
doesn’t help either – but there you go.

So anyway, this 18-month sleep regression – what’s
‘normally’ involved – naps and bedtime?  How long does it usually
last?  What to expect, things like that.  Any help would be greatly
appreciated by my ever-waning sanity :-)"

This is a bullet straight to my heart. 18 months was probably the lowest point in my parenting career. The first 3-4 months were excruciating, sure, but I knew they would be rough and I got a lot of sympathy from everyone who remembered how disorienting and grueling the newborn phase can be. At 18 months, though, I was just blindsided. He was the same kid, but everything just seemed so much harder at that stage. I actually thought my depression was coming back (the hormones of nursing made my depression disappear completely) because I just couldn’t seem to grind through each day with a child who was smart and funny and loving, but fighting me at every turn.

He wouldn’t nap. He went from sleeping all night to waking all night. He had a tantrum every 5 minutes, it seemed, mostly because he wanted to do everything himself and it just wasn’t possible. He hardly ate. He whined. He never shared with the other kids and he always tried to yank out our cat’s fur.

I was exhausted all the time, and really doubting the decisions I’d made and my abilities as a mother. I think I could have dealt with the oppositional behavior (I knew in my head it was normal for that age), but the not sleeping was killing me. Not only would he not let my husband put him to sleep (starting at
almost exactly 18 months, conveniently right after we came home from a
2-week trip to the West Coast, which I thought was what had caused the
sleep nutsiness), but he wanted to nurse every freaking time he woke up
in the middle of the night. He went from sleeping from 8 to 6 to waking
up 3-5 times a night for around a month or so. It was making me want to
run away.

And then at around 20 months it just suddenly went back to
normal. He wanted Daddy to put him to sleep, and he slept through again. It
certainly wasn’t anything I did, because I was too fried to do anything
but just try to make it through the day. The only consolation in all
of it was that every single kid in our playgroup was doing the exact
same thing, whether their parents had done CIO or not. Every one.
And then at a La Leche League meeting I threw caution to the winds and decided to risk scaring the new mothers by mentioning the non-sleeping. The mothers of older kids laughed bitterly and said, "Oh, yeah. Their sleep gets all screwed up at 18 months. If they were sleeping before then they stop for a couple of months, and if they weren’t sleeping before they start sleeping through the night then." So apparently this is a common thing no one bothered to tell me about.

So I am telling you all now. Do you hear me, internets? Here it is:

Your kid may have a serious, mind-blowingly awful sleep regression at around 18 months. It’s not your fault, and it will pass.

Lissa, what I would do if it were me in this situation would be tell
your mom you called to talk to your pediatrician about it, and s/he
said sleep disruptions are a very common stage for 18-month-olds, and
it’s a normal stage that will pass. Maybe then your mom will stop
giving you crap about it. Then you can decide with your husband how you
want to tread water through the next few weeks until M goes back to
her old sleeping ways (and I won’t promise she’ll just abruptly go back
to the way she was like mine did, but she’ll definitely drift back to
normal). Do you want to divide up the nights inot the early shift and the late shift, or alternate nights, or
whatever. I personally don’t think that anything you do in the middle
of this will have any effect. So if you want to do some sort of
sleeping plan (like the stuff in the toddler no-cry book) do it
because you want to be doing something if that’s your personality. But
if you just do nothing and focus on trying to make sure neither you nor your husband
is taking the entire hit, M will go back to sleeping better on her own
with nothing but the passage of time.

I remember
that phase vividly and how it made me feel like crap, just when I had started
to know that the nursing *had* been the right decision for us. And then the
rug was pulled out from under me and I started to doubt myself again.
But then when he started sleeping again it was as if it had never happened. I hope in 4 months you won’t even remember this happened.

I do think your idea of trying to get her used to going to bed
with your husband is really smart, so don’t let this blip throw you off
that plan permanently, even if you have to go back to you putting her
to sleep to get through the next few weeks. Keep trying your husband every week or so until she lets him be the bedtime specialist.

Good luck. And remember: A toddler and a newborn is much easier physically than being pregnant and having a toddler. So things will only get better.

Q&A: daily schedule for a 5-month-old

Anon writes:

"Your last post on the TV prompted me to write. I’m afraid I’m guilty of too much TV in our house. The baby (five months old) and I sit on the couch for extended periods some days and a few hours on others. (Ouch, I know…)

I want to be a better mother, but part of me is a bit clueless. I wondered if your readers might give input on a daily schedule for a good, productive day at home with baby. I am in desperate need of ideas.

We DO read together, practice different physical activies, sing songs, dance a bit and once the weather is warmer, we’ll go out for walks. It’s just that most days there’s a whole lot of empty time. What can I do that will be good for baby and keep us away from the TV?"

The question "What do I do with a baby?" is one all of us hit right around 4-5 months. Before that, all your time is taken up with trying to feed and catch naps and do all those other things that suck up 24 hours but leave you with no memories and no accomplishments other than staying alive for another day. But then by around 5 months you start to get all of the basic survival skills down, so you have hours ahead of you each day with a little sidekick who is adorable, but frankly not all that great a conversationalist.

When my older one was an only (because this problem disappears with subsequent kids) at around this age, I made it a priority to go outside to run one errand a day. That meant that if I had to go to the drugstore and the drycleaners, I broke those two teeny errands up and did them on separate days, just to have something to do. I’d go out at the same time each day, so it felt like a real schedule that was time-dependent. Otherwise I’d be on the couch all day, singing endless rounds of "I’ve Been Working on the Railroad." (If you blow a raspberry after every time you sing "Dinah won’t you blow" a baby will laugh reeeeeallly hard.)

So my daily schedule went something like this:

6:30-7: Struggle to awakeness, remember "Wait a minute! I’m someone’s mother." Get up, feed cat, nurse baby, kiss husband goodbye and start the countdown until he came home from work.

7:15: Watch one of the morning shows on the pretense that I needed to be informed about daily events.

8:00: Sing, play games, roll around on floor with baby. Worry simultaneously that everything I was doing was extraneous and a middle-class woman’s luxury and that I should just be strapping my baby on my back and going about my normal work, and that I wasn’t doing enough to stimulate him so he’d never reach his full potential.

9:00: Baby goes down for a nap. I wonder what to do with the free time. Should I wash dishes or do laundry? Call my mother? Take a shower? By the time I figure out what to do the baby is waking up.

10:15: Strap baby into the stroller and roll him into the bathroom doorway so I could sing to him while I take a shower. He cries the entire time.

11:00: Think we were ready to get out the door to do the Important Errand of the Day. (Must go uptown to get the good Hungarian paprika! Very important.) Then baby poops, and I have to change him. Once he’s changed, he wants to nurse.

11:45: Finally leave to go get the good paprika (sweet, not hot). Wonder the whole time if I’ve forgotten something I’ll need. Don’t need anything I’ve lugged along. Enjoy being out of the house with a Stated Purpose. Answer the same "He’s a boy. 5 months. Once or twice a night. I think so, too, thank you" questions from kindhearted strangers on public transportation. Buy paprika.

1:00: Come home. Eat lunch (kind of).

2:00: Nurse baby down for second nap. While nursing, think about all the things I’m going to do while the baby is asleep. Wake up an hour later in a puddle of drool on the pillow. Baby wakes up 10 minutes later.

3:45: Play more games with the baby. Read to the baby. Sing to the baby. Get up and dance around with the baby. Play with baby while baby’s doing Tummy Time. Give up and turn on the TV. Watch Michael, Giada, and Ina, then change channels when the blonde who desecrates store-bought muffins comes on. Start wondering if it’s too early for my husband to have left work.

6:00: Husband walks in. Hand him the baby, then escape to the grocery store to shop for dinner items in peace.

Oh, yeah.

What really helped was when I started getting out and making some friends. I started going to a mothers’ meeting, even when I wasn’t that interested in the topic. I went with the specific goal of meeting one or two women I thought I could be friends with out of the whole group. (That way I didn’t have to worry if I fit in with the group–I just had to find the one or two other women rolling their eyes at the same times I was.) After a few weeks of going, I tentatively asked one of the other women if she and her baby wanted to go get an iced coffee after the group. That’s how it started. We started going for coffee after each group, and gradually started inviting another woman or two to go with us. Within a few months we had a group of about 6 of us that usually went to the meeting. We’d also try to get together for playgroup, all of us, once a week at someone’s house. (We never even bothered with the pretense that our playgroup was for the babies.)

Having those two definite appointments with other moms with babies during the week helped with my daily flow immensely, because then I had a schedule for myself to work around. And it was so helpful to have friends that I could talk about adult things with, but who were also just as interested in the mundane baby stuff as I was.

So those are my two big tips: Go out once a day every day at around the same time, and find a group to go to (even if you don’t love the whole group) and make your own regular subgroup of friends.

Readers? What does your schedule look like if you’ve got a younger baby? If your baby is older, what did you do and what would you recommend?