Q&A: 3-month terrors

Jill writes:

"Maybe there’s no "answer" to my question but I thought I’d ask anyway
since I’m desperate.  My son is 14 weeks old.  He’s been an angel until
a week ago.  We went on vacation to Hawaii and shared a mini-van and
condo with my sister-in-law and her 11 month old screamer of a son.
Now my baby won’t go to sleep at night without several hours of crying.
I don’t know what caused what.  My husband is convinced that our baby
learned to cry from listening the other baby cry all week.  My son
still goes down for daytime naps like normal.  I put him in bed,
sometimes with a pacifier but not always, and then I walk out and he
coos himself to sleep.  But nighttime is another story.  He literally
screams like I’ve never heard him before.  He can’t be consoled.  I’ve
tried picking him up to console him but he keeps crying.  I’ve tried
burping him.  I’ve tried nursing him.  I’ve checked his diaper.  I’ve
even tried just letting him cry since some people swear by that….
NONE of it helps.  Tonight he cried for well over two hours.  It was
time for him to eat again, so I fed him but put him in bed before he
went to sleep.  I don’t want this to become a habit.  I’m already losing
my mind and it’s been one week!  Any ideas?  Any chance he’s teething

Sounds like a fun vacation.

Your husband’s theory is as good a guess as any. There’s a developmental spurt at 12 weeks and another at 19 weeks (according to The Wonder Weeks, the font of all my spurt info), so unless your son was a few weeks early he should be past the 12-week spurt and not in the zone of the 19-week spurt yet. (If he was a little early it could be the 12-week spurt and he’ll be back to normal in a few days–I hope it’s as simple as that.)

The other things I can think of are your husband’s theory, diet, and teething.

It sounds a little extreme, but if your son was really frightened by his cousin’s screaming (and 11-month-olds are loud), it could be sticking with him. We’ve all known someone who had a very early frightening experience with a dog who ends up being frightened of dogs for years afterward, so why not this? It makes total sense to me that your son got really scared of all the screaming and is just taking awhile to feel secure again. If it’s that, the only thing to do is to try to snuggle him as much as you can and make everything as boring and predictable as possible.

Another thing to consider is whether your diet changed at all while you were in Hawaii (or right when you came back). Were you eating something you don’t usually eat (like coffee-flavored macadamia nuts or fish tacos), or more of something you usually eat sparingly? Think of the usual suspects: dairy, caffeine, soy, wheat, eggs, corn, and peanuts. Did you start drinking a ton of coffee when you got back to deal with the jet lag? Caffeine has a 90-something-hour half-life in babies, so you’ll not-so-gladly pay on Friday for a cup of coffee today if your baby is sensitive to caffeine.

But it’s completely possible and reasonable that it’s teething. 14 weeks is not too early at all. My older child started teething right around then, and I had two teeth myself at 16 weeks. You never know. Here’s another post I wrote about teething (and homeopathic remedies for teething), but let me just list the symptoms of teething again (because it doesn’t hurt to have them out in the Googlesphere for frustrated parents to find):

* biting hands or anything that comes near their mouths
* crying out in yelps of pain
* drooling
* runny nose or congestion from drooling
* "smokers’ cough" from the drool going down the back of the throat
* spitting or throwing up from drool going into the stomach
* "drool stool," which is shards of drool in the poop (I know, and it’s truly stunning when you see it)
* rash around the mouth
* rash around the anus
* acidic poop (sometimes you can even smell the difference) and a burned monkey-butt look after pooping
* tugging or pulling at the ears
* not wanting to nurse
* biting while nursing
* flash fevers (fevers that come out of nowhere and are gone in 30 minutes to an hour)
* extra clinginess
* unexplained restlessness during sleep

And bear in mind that any individual child can have any or all or none of these symptoms. I outlined some medications I give and also some homeopathic treatments in the original teething post.

I think (although in 20 years there will probably be research studies proving me wrong, in which case I fully expect any DIL I have to roll her eyes at me) that 14 weeks is too young for concrete bad dreams. But I think it’s possible that he’s feeling scared and insecure from spending time with his Amazing Screaming Cousin and that that’s combining with teething pain to make a big ball of nighttime suck for the wee lad. Poor little thing. Do whatever you need to to get him to sleep, whether it’s rocking or letting him sleep with you (it’s never too late to change a sleeping arrangement, so don’t shortchange your sleep now because of a fear of creating a bad habit) or whatever you can find that helps the little guy relax enough to drift off.

(I would never ever tell a nursing mother to drink a glass of beer before nursing her son to sleep to help relax them both. But if I did, I would say that Guinness is high in iron and is rumored to help with supply.)

Try to keep in mind that this is a temporary phase. Hang in there.

The Results of the Early Riser Question

(More thoughts on the mom who won’t have a ladies’ weekend with her friends right below this post.)

This is in response to the original early riser post.

So, not surprisingly, it looks like how your kid sleeps and reacts to bedtimes and other sleeping conditions are a function of his or her personality.

Well, duh. I could have told myself that, I guess.

But it does look like there are two Best Practices that seem to work for a majority of kids:

1. Early bedtime. Kids do really each seem to have that sweet spot. For every one of wix’s nightowl kids, it seems there are a few of Bethany’s 6-pm-bedtime kids. It wouldn’t hurt anything to try jiggling your kid’s bedtime a little earlier to see what happens.

On a personal note, my younger one seems to have hit the 55-week developmental spurt (thank you Wonder Weeks) and slept for 11.5 hours straight last night. My older one went to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual last night and slept until 7. We’ll see what happens tonight.

2. Darken the windows. It seems like most people experienced some morning benefits of darkening the windows. But that doesn’t necessarily mean spending big bucks on blackout shades, because it turns out that you can use cardboard or plain old aluminum foil (which will also protect your children from alien invasion, natch), and HollyRhea reports that you can buy blackout shade fabric at the fabric store and cut it to fit your window. How ya like us now, overpriced blackout window shade makers?

On the other hand, there didn’t seem to be any real consensus on naps. Some people felt good naps helped their children’s nighttime sleep (the sleep-begets-sleep kids), while others observed that their kids slept better when they dropped the nap or took it earlier in the day (the go-til-you-drop kids). So it seems like trial and error is what we’re left with.

Any other insights? In some ways it makes me feel a little better to know that there isn’t some magic secret that I’ve just been unaware of this whole time.

No Ladies’ Weekend, more thoughts

(Scroll up for the results of the early riser question.)

This is a response to this post.

Sarah said, "What a thought provoking question. I love how the way we see this
letter provides a little view into our own heads. A mini personality

That really seems to hit this one on the head! I think we all brought our own assumptions to this situation. (And I was hoping to avoid more hurt feelings about my comments about attachment parenting gone to extremes. I wish I’d been able to express it the way Another Reader did: "We practice Attachment Parenting, not Attachment Mothering." And of course AP doesn’t cause any more identity problems in mothers than other parenting styles do. I thought that would be obvious in what I wrote, but I guess it wasn’t.)

One thing I didn’t mention in my original response, but which informed everything I wrote, was the part in the initial question about how S and her husband are always fighting and how even when A and Nikki were in her town for a visit S still only wanted to stay home and watch her daughter play.

S and her husband are constantly fighting and since she never wants to
leave her daughter we end up spending the whole weekend sitting around
her living room or doing only toddler-friendly activities.

I don’t think this is healthy. First of all, if S and her husband fight so much and so constantly that they can’t even control it and be civil for a weekend in front of other people, that’s not a good sign for her marriage. And it also sounds like she really doesn’t trust her husband for even a few hours with her daughter (even just to play with the daughter while S and the friends are drinking coffee and talking in the kitchen). Why?

My hope, and what I based my answer on, was that she’s lost herself in the mothering thing. Because the other scenarios–that the father is abusive, that S is having mood problems or other problems that are causing her to misjudge her husband–are not good at all.

Many commenters said, and I completely agree, that S just doesn’t seem to want to spend a weekend with her friends. Now that Nikki’s reported back that S made an excuse not to come even when they asked her to bring her daughter along, it’s pretty clear that she doesn’t want to hang out with them anymore. She could be so consumed by motherhood that she doesn’t feel like they have anything in common now. She could be having such problems in her marriage that she’s feeling like all her emotional resources are going to that and she just can’t make the effort. She could feel like A and Nikki hurt her feelings in some way and she doesn’t want to make the effort to see them. She could be feeling too poor to keep up with Nikki and A. Who knows? But this is a separate issue from what’s going on with S and her daughter and husband.

A couple of people brought up cultural issues about leaving your child. I definitely think this should be taken into account. I was raised in the midwest and (in my family, at least) the idea that anyone would leave a baby is preposterous and that anyone would leave a toddler for anything that wasn’t a medical emergency is rare. (And yes, Elizabeth, I think things are different on the East Coast, from what I’ve observed. And here in NYC all bets are off. There are people who leave 8-week-olds with a nanny to go off on a vacation cruise, and there are people who wouldn’t ever separate overnight from a 10-year-old.) But it also seems like such a normal assumption to me that people would just say outright, "I don’t feel comfortable leaving her" instead of offering up excuses about the father not being able to handle the child, etc.

NumNum and a few other commenters brought up the fact that it’s no one’s business but the parents if and when they leave their child overnight. Very true. It just seems like there’s something going on with this story that just doesn’t add up. I was emailing with a commenter about this, and we both agreed that there was something about this story that’s staying with us, and that it just doesn’t make sense.

That’s what sticks with me. A sense that there’s something not right about S’s situation. Not that she doesn’t want to leave her daughter, or that she doesn’t want to leave her daughter with the grandparents. And not even that she doesn’t really want to spend the weekend with her friends (as the update from Nikki tells us). It just makes me worry about her relationship with her husband, her self-image, and her mental state that she’s making excuses instead of saying "I just don’t feel like I can take this time right now" or something else more direct.

I hope that this is one of those situations that turned into a game of Telephone and got twisted in the retelling. Otherwise, the daughter could be in the middle of a bad situation with S and her husband.

Linky Lou

Today’s a national holiday in the United States, so in lieu of a Q&A I’m going to post some of the newest interesting links I’ve found. Tomorrow I’ll post the results of the early rising poll and also some more thoughts about the situation with the woman who doesn’t want to spend time away from her daughter (there’s been an update from the original questioner).

The post "Why Bother With Good Fit" on Bra-Making with Bra-makers explains what elements go into bras and how all these things work together to make your bra fit you well (or not.) A very interesting read. I’m going to be watching this site to see if they do anything with nursing bras at any point.

We’re coming up on the summer holidays here in the Northern Hemisphere, so people are planning vacation travel. This page, "Adventure Travel With Children Under Four" almost makes it sound easy to hike in the Himalayas with a preschooler.

For those of you who have kids starting to learn to read (or for those of you thinking ahead to that time), here’s an interesting article about Synthetic Phonics (it’s a PDF, so you need Adobe Reader–a free download if it’s not already on your computer–to view it), a way of teaching phonics to kids that’s having great success in Scotland and seems to be particularly beneficial to boys. I’ve been using the main ideas (teach letter and cluster sounds in groups instead of individually, and teach them in all positions within words) to help me decide how to frame and proceed with our discussions here about words and reading.

A fun site for kids is SeeSheep.com, a site with a live webcam of the sheep on a farm in South Carolina, USA. If the shot is dark because it’s nighttime in South Carolina, scroll down to see some still shots of sheep, or play the timelapse sheep movie (24 hours in the sheep paddock in 60 seconds of movie). Each of the five sheep has its own page of still shots, and there’s a page about the sheepdog and cat, too. Very cute and refreshing in a world of oversaturated raucous animation for kids.

Have a peaceful day. I’m off to Central Park for a picnic.

Q&A: friend won’t leave daughter for a weekend

(Still taking comments for the early waking problem below. I’ll put together some common themes and post them Monday.)

Nikki writes:

"I have two good friends from college, A and S.  A is single and lives up north.  S and I are both married and live about 8 hours away from each other in the south.  S has a toddler – will be 3 in October.  A is moving to another country this fall and would like us all to get together this summer.  She and I thought it might be a good idea to get together in my city.  We think S needs a vacation so we decided to offer to pay for her ticket here.  Her parents live 20 minutes away from her and I know they would be more than delighted to keep their granddaughter for the weekend (her husband "can’t handle" keeping her alone – this is a whole other issue I won’t get into).

However, when we presented S with this scenario, she freaked out.  She says there’s no way she can leave her daughter for 2 or 3 days, that she still wakes up in the middle of the night and calls out for her.  S says that her parents won’t be able to handle her for several days.  Now I have witnessed firsthand that her daughter is a high maintence child, but she’s not that bad.  She also goes to daycare 3-4 days a week so she doesn’t spend every second with S.  S wants us to come to her city instead, but frankly neither of us wants to make that compromise again (we’ve been through this before).  S and her husband are constantly fighting and since she never wants to leave her daughter we end up spending the whole weekend sitting around her living room or doing only toddler-friendly activities.  As an added complication, the timing of the visit would overlap the beginning of my first injectible/IUI cycle (which we’ve been planning since March) so there’s no way I’m going anywhere.

Are we being unreasonable to ask S to leave her daughter for the weekend?  A wants me to call her and try and persuade her to come, but I don’t want to make her feel guilty.  A and I are getting together no matter what, but we would love to find a way to include S.  Any suggestions?"

Let’s just get my bias out of the way here: I’m not a mother who finds it easy to leave her children overnight. El Chico was 2 1/2 before I was away from him overnight, and he was with my husband. (I would have left him with my husband earlier even though El Chico was still nursing, but the opportunity never presented itself.) So I’m definitely not one of those people who say "You need to get away!" as a cure-all, and I sympathize with people who just don’t feel ready to leave yet.

Also, I hope no one misunderstands some of the things I’m about to say about S. I consider myself toward the attachment side of the parenting continuum despite Dr. Sears (who irks me to my very core). But as anyone who’s spent any time with the attachment parenting (AP) crowd knows, AP can sometimes be an excuse for women with problems they don’t want to deal with to pour all their energies into their kids as a way to disconnect from other things. (To me this seems like the flip side of the workaholic father who uses work to disconnect from his family.) For the majority of people who lean toward it, AP is a healthy way to nurture their children and promote a close family, but it can also be an easy excuse for people who are looking for one. (There’s no direct evidence that S is practicing attachment parenting, but you don’t often see non-APers claiming that no one else could handle their preschooler overnight.)

It sounds like S has some things going on that aren’t necessarily healthy. I understand that her daughter is high-needs, but a 2 1/2-year-old should be comfortable enough with her father and vice versa that the two of them could hold down the fort alone together for a few days. Especially with some assistance from grandparents who live so close (and probably see the girl often enough for her to really know them well). I’d understand her reluctance to leave a baby or toddler, but a 2 1/2-year-old is old enough to see a weekend alone with Daddy or her grandparents as a treat.

I wonder if S is a little depressed, or if she’s gotten into that really bad pattern of putting all her identity into being The Mother. 

The first few months of being a mother are so strange and difficult and disorienting. Everything you thought you were before is on hold while you spend 24 hours a day serving a tiny creature who can’t even talk to you. At time you feel like your worth is only measured by the quality and quantity of the milk you make. To say you’re having an identity crisis is putting it mildly.

Most of us give in (eventually) to the confusion and strangeness and just wait it out until things start to make more sense and we refocus into improved versions of ourselves–our old wonderful selves, but with a harder core and softer edges. Some women, though, can’t deal with the ambiguity and throw themselves face first into the role of The Mother. They have to be perfect at everything having to do with mothering in general and caring for their child(ren) in particular, or else they don’t feel like they have any identity left.

So they need to feel needed by their children, and they assume the role of gatekeeper between their children and partners. These are the moms who never use babysitters even if it means they have to miss things they’d love to do, who don’t allow their partners the time and space to make mistakes with their children, who are the ones who have to put their children to bed every single night through age 5 because "no one else can do it." Instead of nurturing their children so the kids can be free and work toward independence, they keep themselves in business (of being the only ones who can care for their kids) by keeping their children too close and not allowing them the chance to test their own freedom.

Is this what’s going on with S? Well, I don’t know her personally so it would be ridiculous of me to say it is. But a lot of this description sounds like that could be what’s going on. Is S legitimately responding to her daughter’s higher needs? Or are the high-needs of the daughter and S’s overmothering feeding on each other and preventing normal and appropriate steps toward separation? Is her husband just an asshole who doesn’t want to have to spend a weekend alone with his kid? Or did S convince him over the last few years that he can’t "handle" the girl because no one can do it as well as she does? Would her parents be overwhelmed by having the girl for an overnight and two days? Or would S be overwhelmed that her daughter would be fine without her for a short time? If S was gone would her daughter freak out if she didn’t come when she called for her in the night? Or would the daughter sleep through, knowing there was no need to call?

This is all idle musing, of course. There’s nothing you can do to help S’s marriage, and probably nothing you can do to help her get some perspective on herself and her relationship with her daughter. (If she is in The Mother mode she’ll discount anything said by someone who isn’t a mother yet.) I do think you owe it to S (or at least the way your friendship used to be) to try to convince her to come spend the weekend with you. Maybe she could come just for one night, even. If you have a good relationship with her mother you could call her and try to enlist her help to conivnce S to come. But it sounds like you’re also going to have to accept that it may just not be possible for S to allow herself to be off duty for an overnight trip, and that has nothing to do with you and A and everything do with S and her own conflicts.

I hope that she can find her way back to you and A once her daughter is older. I hope that she and her husband can work through whatever mishegas they’re inflicting on each other. (If you wanted to be passive-aggressive you could anonymously send them a copy of Harville Hendrix’s Getting The Love You Want, which is the best plan I’ve seen for couples to help themselves out of crappy patterns. I highly recommend it for anyone having partner trouble.) And I really hope that your first injectible/IUI cycle is your only injectible/IUI cycle and that you have a spring baby.


Q&A: early rising

5:30 a.m. Why do I have to know it even exists?

And yet I do, for several weeks in a row now. The 4-year-old and 1-year-old seem to be taking turns waking up then and not going back to sleep.

I am not the only one with this problem. Elise wrote in to ask me what she could do about it with her 3-year-old. Rachel asked me what to do about it with a 10-month-old. Deb is wondering about it with her 15-month-old. Kelley wants to know how to stop her 2-year-old from waking up too early.

Now what’s fascinating me about all of this is that our early rising problems here Chez Moxie started (and by "started" I mean "cycled around again," because we’ve had early rising phases here before) about a month or so ago, the same time I started getting emails from readers about it. So I think it might have something to do with the time change or weather. Or else it could be some kind of organized plot by the under-5 set to drive grownups insane slowly.

I can tell you what worked for a few weeks with our 4-year-old, but seems to have lost its magic. We got him a digital alarm clock, and told him not to come out his room until the first number was a 7. It worked like a charm for a few weeks, but then he started coming in and stage whispering, "The first number is a 6, Mama, but I’m not going to wake you up until it’s a 7." Then 6 became 5. So the alarm clock has turned into a bust. (Although the alarm part does seem to go off at completely random times, which is freaky, but adds some interest to the day.)

The only thing that worked for us when our older son was a baby (around 10 months old) was waiting it out. He just started sleeping in later and later progressively, and by 15 months he was waking up at around 6:30 or 7. But I also knew there was no way CIO would work for him (he could have and would have cried for hours), plus I wasn’t willing to do it anyway, so I never seriously considered it (except in a "What if I just ran away and moved into a luxury hotel by myself?" kind of way).

When he was 2 and went through early rising phases we’d just let him climb in with us and he’d usually fall back asleep. Some mornings one of us would go with him into his room and fall back asleep in his bed with him. So if that isn’t working I don’t have anything else for that age.

I clearly have no answers to this early rising problem, so instead I’m going to ask a series of questions. You’ll answer to the best of your abilities, and maybe we can piece this thing together, erm, together.

1. Are those of you in the Southern Hemisphere also dealing with this early rising thing, or is it just happening to those of us transitioning from spring into summer?

2. Do you see any correlation between the time the child went to bed and the time s/he wakes up?

3. Do you see any correlation between activity level one day and early rising or lack of it the next morning?

4. Does the child’s sleeping situation (crib, bed, co-sleeping) seem to affect early rising? (Our data points are a co-sleeping 1-year-old and a bed-in-his-own-room-sleeping 4-year-old.)

5. Are there mornings in which your early riser falls back asleep? If so, have you noticed anything those mornings seem to have in common?

6. Is there anything else you can think of that I’m not asking about?

7. Do blackout shades work? And if they do, do they work well enough to make them worth the $$$?

8. If it was legal to give your child a sleep aid like Ambien or, say, opium, would you do so?

So give me your answers and we’ll see if we can figure anything out.

Q&A: getting out of the house with two kids

Amy writes:

"I have two kids–26 months and 2 months.  A lot of moms of 2 told me that their lives went completely haywire with the addition of their second child, but it hasn’t been as crazed a transition for me as I feared it might be.  The only really obnoxious difference I’ve found is the stress of getting out of the house in a timely manner.  For get-togethers like playgroups (events with fuzzy timelines) I’ll tell myself that I’d like to leave between 10 and 11am, but find myself dragging kids to the car at noon.  I know I underestimate the time it takes to do things, but it feels like the toddler and baby work together to thwart me on top of my procrastination.  My 2 year old doesn’t throw tantrums, but pretends not to hear me when I tell him it’s time to go somewhere.  The baby is constantly peeing and nursing, which I can’t blame him for, but it seems like the instant the big brother is standing up ready to go, the baby needs something.  I’ve started keeping a backpack with most items I’d need for 3-4 hours out of the house by the front door to minimize running around collecting stuff, but it’s not enough.  Do you have any other ideas on how to speed up this process?"

I was completely incompetent at getting out of the house with two kids for the first six months or so of my second son’s life. Actually, I was stellar at getting out with two kids for the first few weeks, although in that time I consistently forgot to leave the house with anything resembling an extra diaper, wipes, or blanket of any sort. But then once I remembered that you have to bring supplies along I started being worse than inept.

Not only could I not get everything I needed together, I also couldn’t maintain my composure when I thought we were ready to leave and then there was a poop blowout or tantrum or unanticipated demand for a snack. So leaving became this crazed, disjointed scramble to gather all of our stuff, keep everyone dry and clean and fed, and try not to yell at my older one for doing things that made a ton of extra work for me.

What I finally figured out was that I could get out in an organized and timely manner if I had to keep track of one kid and the stuff, or two kids, but not two kids and the stuff together. So I cracked down on myself and started planning out my morning the night before. I’d pack everything (and I mean everything) the night before. I’d have snacks in little containers, diapers and wipes in the backpack, my older one’s school backpack with his change of clothes and water bottle, any assorted toys, and my water bottle. I’d write a list of what I needed to bring on the dry erase board next to our door.

I had two bags, one for each kid. I’m sure there are some parents who could keep stuff for two kids in one bag, but that would have required way more mental processing and organization than I had back then. Or than I have now, frankly. Since my older one needed to bring a backpack to school I just used that for him and a bigger backpack (with room for diapers) for the little one’s stuff.

That way I only had to worry about getting the two kids ready the next morning. The secret to that (and I still don’t do it every morning, even though it makes things at least 200% easier when I do) was getting everyone dressed first thing in the morning. Before breakfast, before we turn on the weather report (we’re obsessive TV weather checkers here–my older one often says things like, "Pat Kiernan says it’ll be partly cloudy with a chance of showers later."), before we even brush our teeth, before we get out any toys. Once everyone has clothes on, we’re more than halfway there.

I have no guaranteed ideas to get a 2-year-old to want to cooperate in leaving the house. Sometimes I could get my son so excited about where we were going that he’d hurry to leave. But other times he’d be excited about where we were going but would still give me a ton of pushback about actually leaving. I often had to resort to bribing him to get him to get into the stroller. (He was crazy for his chewable vitamins at that age, so I’d tell him he could only eat his vitamins in the stroller.) I’m sure there are more legitimate, calmer, more together ways of getting a child to leave the house, but I felt proud enough of coming up with a solution that didn’t involve either of us screaming.

The rest, for me at least, is getting control of my own procrastination. I’m always thinking, "Just let me check my email" or "I need to call my mom and tell her what my older son said last night" or something like that. Then the next thing I know we should have been out the door 15 minutes ago. So I have to limit myself to only doing certain activities at certain times, and sticking to that.

Another thing to think about (although you’re probably not experiencing it as much now as you will in a few months) is that the baby will have to take more naps than the older one will. You’ll be hamstrung by the younger one’s nap schedule for a few months, unless you live in a walking city and the little one is a good stroller napper. A solution to this is to offer to host playdates and playgroups more often than usual so your little one can just sleep while the group is going on in another part of the house. Or else you’ll have to try to shift activities to the non-napping time of day, if there is one.

I think you should cut yourself a break, because your baby is only 2 months old. I’m not even sure I was able to brush my teeth at that point with two kids. It gets a little easier at 3 months, and then when the second one starts being more mobile and wanting to be tended to less it gets easier again. But try doing all the stuff-related tasks the night before and I think you’ll be able to get moving in the morning much more easily.

Any tips from other parents of more than one?

Q&A: baby naptime problems

Mary Beth writes:

"I’ve read your blog with much interest and believe you are my only hope, Moxie-Wan-Kenobe. 🙂

I have a six-month old son who is having terrible difficulty with naps. Up until a few weeks ago my husband was finishing up his PhD.  Because he cares for our son during the day while I work, he was forced to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to work on his dissertation.  When our son was ready to nap during the day, my husband just walked him around for several minutes until he fell asleep and then plopped our son right onto his chest where they dozed for hours.  Oh, we were so smart. We chuckled at those who complained of naptime problems because we were the masters.  We had it all figured out!

As you might imagine, this is now backfiring.  Our son is creeping up on 20 pounds and is too long to rest on our chests comfortably.  He doesn’t snooze nearly as restfully or as long as he used to and 1 1/2 or 2 hour naps have slowly dwindled to 1 naps, max.  We are about to switch roles in a few months and I will be staying at home while my husband works and I’m trying desperately to get our son to nap in his crib, to no avail.

I’ve been performing a modified nighttime routine at naptime.  Changing the diaper, putting a sleepsack on the boy, turning out the lights and nursing him until he is quite asleep. Then I rock him for a few minutes just to make extra-sure.  I even do the limp-limb test to make sure he’s really out.  I put him down in his crib as gently as possible, but as soon as his head touches the mattress he’s wide awake, not to be lulled back to sleep.  I’ve read /The No-Cry Sleep Solution/ and have tried repeating key words, patting him, whatever, but he is super-stimulation man.  Any touch or sound and to him, it’s time to play.  I’ve also followed her strategy of continuing to try putting him down over and over until it works, but after about the fourth time he decides that it’s time to be awake for good, and then it’s another forty minutes until we can attempt the whole cycle again.  It has only worked once, and I can’t figure out the magic formula that resulted in success.

Not only am I concerned that he’s not getting enough rest (he turns into a royal crank without enough sleep), but I’m also interested in having the time that he is asleep to do things around my house so that I can spend the time that he is awake playing with him.  It’s also affecting his nighttime sleep; however, I’m much less concerned about that than the fact that he simply isn’t getting enough rest during the day."

If only I could use The Force to make him fall asleep. Wouldn’t that be a great trick? I could charge people $10 a pop to get their kids to sleep remotely by email. I’m going to get to work on that as soon as I get my monkey training ranch up and running.

Don’t beat yourself up about having him nap on your husband’s chest. You did what you had to do at the time to make it through. Your real error was in getting cocky about it. One of the eternal truths about baby sleep is that as soon as you start to feel cocky or smug about how your kid’s sleeping, it’ll come back to bite you in the keister and your kid will stop sleeping.

There are a couple of things I’d try in your situation. None of them are guaranteed to work, of course, but at the very least they’ll give you something to try until he moves into the next phase and just decides on his own to sleep. I guess it goes without saying that he should have a solid bedtime routine and time. Sleep begets sleep (that’s a little Biblical language joke especially for Mary Beth), so if going-to-bed isn’t working the naps won’t work either.

The first is tweaking the timing of his naps. A 6-month-old still definitely needs two naps a day (totalling 3-4 hours, according to all the baby sleep charts), so you might as well try out 2-3-4 and see if it works for him. (2-3-4 review: Many babies seem to naturally fall into a pattern of going down for the first nap 2 hours after waking up in the morning, then going down for the second nap 3 hours after waking up from the first nap, then going down for the night 4 hours after waking up from the second nap. Who knows why?) For a few days in a row, instead of watching for his sleep signals, see what happens if you just go under the assumption that he’s going to go down 2 hours after waking in the morning and then again 3 hours after waking from the first nap. You will either find out that 2-3-4 fits him, or that he’s got different sleep sweet spots. Go with whatever seems to work best for him timing-wise.

Another suggestion is to try to tire him out during the morning even more than you are now. Get him laughing and bouncing around and really interacting as much as possible, so when it’s time for that first nap he’s physically tired enough to go down. A playful dog or eager 4-year-old might be helpful with this part of the plan, or just regular Dance Party USA in your living room for 30 minutes.

You might also try a kind of step-down program to ease him into crib napping. Right now you’re going cold turkey from chest to crib, and it’s not working too well. Maybe you could try to get him to nap in the stroller for one of the naps to see if he’d fall asleep more easily with the motion. In the long run it’ll be easier for him (even into adulthood) to be able to fall asleep in a bunch of different situations, so if you can get him to nap in the stroller you’re partially solving the immediate problem, but you’re also assuring that he’ll be able to fall asleep on high school bus trips in 15 years. (Of course you don’t want him to be the first one to fall asleep on the bus or the other kids will steal his jock strap or whatever it is that boys do, but you don’t want the poor kid to be awake for the whole bus ride.) Since the weather is getting nicer you can stash a book under the stroller and go for a walk. Then when he falls asleep, stop and sit down and read your book for awhile. The beauty of this is that it’s enforced leisure time for you while he sleeps.

The other idea would be to have him fall asleep lying next to you on the bed. Then you can either sleep, too, or just roll away. (There’s no law that says he has to take a nap in his crib, and I know plenty of kids who slept easily in cribs at night who slept much better during the day in their parents’ beds or other locations.) Just make sure that once he’s crawling you have either a low bed or some kind of barrier so he can’t crawl off when he wakes up, or that you teach him to back safely down off the bed ASAP.

I think trying to replicate nighttime sleep conditions during the day is backfiring on you. Try seeing what happens if naptime is totally different from bedtime, with a different routine and different light conditions, different clothing and different songs. He may not be falling asleep because he knows it’s not bedtime.

Play around with these suggestions and see if any of them work for you. If it were me, I’d probably try nursing to sleep on the bed for the first nap and doing a stroller nap for the second nap. But I don’t know if that works for your family. So try a few of these out and let me know how it goes.

Reader call: stealth health for your family

Katie writes:

"I have used flax oil in the past – as liquid and capsule form.  I just started with the meal (ground flax seeds) mixed in with a little applesauce in the morning.  I want to start my kids on it but wondered about the dose.  I take 2T a day but wonder if that is too much for them.  My daughter is 3.5 and son is 1 year. Any suggestions? Also what else should I include in their meals that I can slip under the radar. I mix in veggies when I can but wondered about supplements. I want to try the same for my husband."

I don’t think you can overdose on flax seed oil (there are studies done with super mega-doses with only positive effects), but too much oil or seed might affect a person’s bowels. I think it would have to be way more than 2 tablespoons, though, even for a kid. I don’t know if you could get a full 2T into a one-year-old, though, since they have such fickle eating habits and tend to pick at a bunch of things, or inhale something one day and then reject it outright the next day. So I’d just say to try to get it into them and don’t worry about overdosing, but don’t be surprised if the baby won’t eat enough applesauce to get in all the ground flax seed.

If you do notice loose stools, just cut back on the flax seed and it’ll work itself out.

A note about flax seed and flax seed oil: It loses its beneficial effects if it’s heated, so don’t cook with it or bake with it. (If you bake with flax seeds you’ll still get the fiber, so it’s not a total wash, but the fatty acids are destroyed.) And you have to grind the flax seeds (or buy it preground like Barleans) or else your body can’t get the oils from them and they just pass through you undigested.

I’ve been trying to think of other things you could slip in so your family won’t notice them. I don’t have a ton of practice with this. I do slip in rolled oats (the 5-minute kind) for extra fiber whenever I bake something, I sometimes put cooked pumpkin in chocolate chip cookies (sounds gross but is really delicious and makes them moist), and I’m notorious for putting beans into too many meals, but that’s about it. I’d ask my mother, but she was never any good at slipping things in without our knowledge. (During her health food days she’d just expect us to happily eat her disgusting concoctions. Finally we just flat-out refused to eat any more carob or brussels sprouts.)

Someone out there has to be good at slipping in healthy things without anyone noticing. Any ideas?

Q&A: how to keep in-laws out of the delivery room

Lindsay writes:

"I am 37 weeks pregnant with my first child, and my husband and I are really excited about the baby. As my due date looms near, there is one area that is causing me much anxiety: visitors during labor, deliver, and post-partum.

I’ve never been through this before, but I really have this strong feeling that I don’t want any visitors during labor. Even after the birth, I would really like some family bonding time, and be able to have visitors in at my discretion. I plan on breastfeeding and would like some privacy after the birth to make sure that I get the best start I can. My parents have known me my whole life (duh) and we are very close. They  completely understanding of my wishes and will do whatever I want. They are so excited to meet their first grandbaby!

I like my husband’s family, I really do. His mom has 5 sons, so my MIL is no stranger to the whole baby-birthing thing. This will also be their sixth grandchild. Although my husband and I have never gone to the hospital for any of the births of our nieces or nephews, we’ve always received calls that labor was beginning, etc… They all go to the hospital and wait. I do not want this. I would prefer people come after, if they feel compelled to come to the hospital at all. Is this wrong of me?

Also, is it wrong that I want my parents to be the first to hold the baby? They have been such wonderful parents and this is their first grandchild, so I kind of want that honor to be theirs. Is this unreasonable?

The problem in all of this is my MIL. She can be overbearing, pushy, and controlling. Since she has been through this five times, she exerts herself an expert on all things child-related. I can see her dispensing all sorts of "advice" and anecdotes on how it was in her day, etc… I don’t want her ruining these special moments by trying to "trump" my experience (which she has done the entire pregnancy). On the other hand, I understand that she is excited about the baby too.

I guess my question is, how should I handle this delicate matter and how much control I will have when the time comes? I don’t have a problem making my wishes known or standing up for myself, but I would like to handle this in the most agreeable way possible, preferably before a conflict situation arises. My husband knows my wishes, and he will do his best, but she is a master manipulator. It’s my (well, our) birth and I just want what I want (again, should I just let it be?).

Oh, and it will be virtually impossible just "not to call" when labor begins. My husband owns a business with two of his brothers whom he sees on a daily basis, so no hiding his absence from them! This is why I feel I need to express my desires before it happens – without looking like a bitch (if possible).

Any advice or insights you could offer would be greatly appreciated."

Rats! I was feeling so self-satisfied while reading this question because the answer was going to be, "Don’t tell them when you go into labor, and after you have the baby call and say ‘Things just went too fast for us to call!’" (A friend of mine did just that with her second child, and it worked perfectly.) But your in-laws foiled me with the working together thing.

But let me go back to the basic premise of this question, which is that you have the right to have things the way you want them when it’s your birth and your child. You do. You really do. Your MIL had her chance (5 times), and you have every right to control the things you can control about the birth. You know you won’t be able to contol the labor and delivery, so you absolutely should be able to control who’s there while it’s happening, and who’s there right afterward.

I think you’ll have better luck in figuring out a strategy to keep your in-laws away until you want to see them if you can figure out why they want to be there so much. Part of it may just be the family culture. Some families do everything (even having babies) together, so it may have just become the expectation. But I’m betting that your MIL’s insistence at being there has more to do with her own fears and hurts than anything else.

Part of your MIL’s pushiness may be her feeling left out because the mother of the father is never included as much as the mother of the mother is. I know I’m not unique in that I had my mother with me for both my births and wouldn’t even have considered having my MIL there. As a mother of sons myself it makes me sad to think that it’s highly probable that I won’t ever get to see any of my grandchildren be born, because my daughters-in-law (if any) will probably want their mothers there, not me. I understand 100% your not wanting her to be there. But at the same
time I feel sad for her (and for myself) that she won’t get to
experience being the first to see her grandchild. The need to go to the hospital and wait is her way of making sure she gets to be part of the experience, because otherwise I’ll bet she feels like she won’t really get to be there. She’s pushing herself in so she can’t be shut out.

The problem is that it’s making you want her there even less. I’m betting that there’s a way you can reassure her that she’s going to be a big part of it without having to have her there while it’s happening. (Can someone who had an epidural explain to me what it’s like to want to chat during labor? The very concept that you would want to have anyone you didn’t completely trust there while you’re in labor is so far out of my imagining.) If you have prearranged the way for her to be a major participant, then you may stave off her jumping into the moment that you want to save for yourself and your parents.

You need some kind of modern equivalent of boiling water to keep her busy while the real work is going on. I’d suggest that you ask your MIL if she and the rest of the family can prepare your house and have dinner waiting for you the day you get home with the baby. Schedule an informal photo session of the generations for 4 days after the baby is born (on Day 3 the mother usually has a rough day because of the hormones, so you probably shouldn’t see your MIL on Day 3). You might also ask if they’d do a small, family-only Welcome Baby party a few weeks after you get home, or some other thing that’ll give her a project but that won’t stress you out.

In the meantime, talk to your doctor and get him or her on board with the idea that you don’t want anyone else there while you’re in labor. Have your husband tell his family (because it’s his family so he needs to be the one to tell them) that the doctor doesn’t allow family to be there during labor because in the doctor’s experience it prolongs the labor and makes it more difficult for the mother and baby (or something like that). Then have your doctor write an order for no interruptions for you and the baby "until breastfeeding is established." No one should be allowed in the room with you at the hospital except your husband, the doctor, the pediatrician who checks the baby, the nurses, and the lactation consultant. Then when you’re discharged, the doctor should dictate that you not have any visitors for longer than 15 minutes at a time except your parents, who will be taking care of you at home for the first few days. If your doctor won’t actually do this for you, lie and say it’s the doctor decreeing this.

These conversations are probably going to suck. But you and your husband need to establish from the beginning that you make
the decisions regarding your child and your little family, or else your
MIL will run over you for the rest of her life. Even though her motivation may be love for her son and her grandchild, it doesn’t give her the right to push you around or criticize your parenting decisions. You and your husband are going to need to practice saying things like, "Ooh, that’s an interesting idea. Our pediatrician says that the most recent research shows…" and "That’s a good tip! I’m going to really have to think about that." If you’re pleasant about it and make her feel like you’re taking her opinion seriously but making your own decisions, eventually (we hope) she’ll stop offering advice on every topic.

You may be able to mitigate the problem by asking for her advice on things you don’t care about. What’s the best way to wash the baby’s hair? Does the baby need a hat in this weather? What’s a good way to burp the baby? That kind of thing, that’s not going to make any difference in the long run, but that will give her the chance to participate and be the expert. If she feels needed, she won’t have to insert herself at every turn.

Another thing you could do is to establish a regular weekly visit in which you bring the baby to your ILs’ house (that way you control when you leave). They’ll know they’re going to see the baby every Wednesday night (or whenever your regular visit is) so they won’t be as tempted to pop in or call asking to see the baby all the time.

I hope that by reassuring your MIL that she’s important and essential to the process and demonstrating that you’re giving her plenty of time with your baby, she’ll be able to accept the limitations you’re going to have to make on the delivery and first few days. Just keep in mind that it is absolutely your right not to have your ILs there at the birth and right after. Make sure your husband is on the same page about that, enlist your doctor’s help, and don’t back down.

I hope you go into labor on a Saturday and everything goes so quickly that you truly don’t have time to call your in-laws! Have a safe and easy birth.

Did anyone else go through this? How did you handle it?