Q&A; frequency of post-partum sex

Reader K. writes:

"I’m 37 and my wife 24, married last year July, have one baby about 6 months…can we have sex daily?..is there any medical issue….if I do that..I feel weakness.. like back ache, sleepy in office, headache..but problem is I am ready for another shot.

This problem is not regular but started since last week when I took Viagra pill for overcoming my premature ejaculation problem…which is very regular since 5 months."

I can certainly sympathize, since if I had a 6-month-old and was having sex every day I’d probably feel weak and sleepy at the office, too.

Seriously, though, as far as I know there’s no restriction on frequency of sex at 6 months postpartum. Usually postpartum sex issues are with the mother, but once the mother is cleared for sex and meets the conditions most people are more or less ready to go. "The conditions," as they were told to me by a midwife I love, are that 1) the mother has to be done with the post-partum bleeding, 2) all cuts or tears must be healed, and 3) she has to feel like having sex. As you can see, meeting these three conditions could intersect with the 6-week mark everyone thinks is so magical, but the don’t necessarily have to. I am absolutely not aware of any restrictions on sex for men after the birth of a baby with regards to the reproductive organs.

(You don’t mention if your wife wants to have sex every day, but I can only assume that she’s happy with the frequency of sex you’re having. If she wasn’t, your question would be "How do I convince my wife to have sex every day?" instead of wondering if it’s medically advisable. If, by some chance, she’s not happy about having sex every day, then please negotiate for a frequency that you both enjoy.)

One explanation is that you’re just tired out from working and having a young baby. Having a baby adds another full-time (at least) job on to whatever a person is already doing. Before kids, you can work, have dinner, do errands or chores, have sex, and still go to bed at a reasonable time. Once you have a baby, you have to squeeze sex in around everything else, and you often don’t even get to start until you’re already exhausted from everything else you have to do. That makes for a big sleep deficit, and could make you sleepy at the office and headachy.

However, you say that this all started when you started taking the Viagra. I looked up side effects of Viagra, and sure enough, headache and backache are side effects, as is light-headedness (scroll all the way down toward the bottom). You’re having side effects of the Viagra.

You should call your doctor and talk to him/her about the side effects and see if there’s any other treatment for the premature ejaculation that you can try, or if it’s possibel to adjust the dose to eliminate the negative effects but maintain the beneficial ones. (Please, please tell me you started taking the Viagra under a doctor’s supervision. Recreational Viagra use is just so Footballers’ Wives. And if there’s some underlying medical cause of the premature ejaculation a doctor could help treat that instead of masking it with the little blue pill.)

If there’s nothing else that works as well for the premature ejaculation, you’re going to have to decide if the side effects of the Viagra are bad enough for you to stop taking it. I’d recommend that you make this decision with your wife, since your health (and by that I mean the headaches and backaches, but also your mood and your sexual satisfaction) affects all three of you in your family. I could tell you what I’d probably choose, but I’m not you. (I also think that men and women tend to weigh these things differently, as evidenced by the mating habits of the preying mantis, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The good news is that it sounds like all your worrysome symptoms are caused by the Viagra. I hope you and your doctor and wife can come up with a solution that lets you have sex as often as you want to without causing you physical pain.

Q&A: What kind of food intolerance is this?

Kelly writes:

"I have a 20-mnth-old son that has had problems with
food since day 1.  I breastfed him for only 6 weeks as he would have
screaming attacks, wouldn’t settle and a lot of crying.   Nothing
changed when I changed things in my diet.  He wasn’t a lot better on formula
and at 3 months the Doctor said it was Reflux but all the reflux meds just made
him more grizzly.  When he started on solids he didnt get any better

There are so many things he can’t eat now, it’s
really hard finding something he CAN eat.   The only common
denominator we can find in the foods he can’t eat, is sugar/fructose.  Can
you maybe find some connection in the foods below?  We have been to
paediatricians, dieticians, nutritionists, had a ultrasound done,
gastroenterologist, cealic test done and they all say nothing is wrong with him
as he is putting on weight and doesn’t come out in rashes or anything else to
suggest allergies..  But when he eats something he can’t handle, he gets
VERY whingy, gassy, wakes up screaming, constipated, but doesn’t get

Rice, noodles, pasta, corn, maize, carrots,
breadsticks, raisins, bananas, biscuits, cornflakes, rice bubbles, spaghetti,
jam, medicines,  yoghurts (unles they have no sugar or fruit) and
even pears and other fruits for babies..

Please help."

Let’s put the foods into categories. It sounds like he has a problem with carbs, including wheat (noodles, pasta, breasdsticks, biscuits, spaghetti), rice (rice, rice bubbles), and corn (corn, maize, cornflakes). The rest are fruits or sweet vegetables.

I’m going to guess yeast overgrowth, because those carbs and the sugars feed yeast. To find out, put him on probiotics like acidophilus or unsweetened kefir (like drinkable yogurt, but with way more active cultures). If you start giving him the probiotics they will help the good bacteria in his stomach overcome the yeast overgrowth. Some people with big yeast problems go through a few days of feeling very tired while the yeast gets under control before they start to feel better. I’d give the probiotics two weeks, and if you don’t see any difference, eliminate yeast as a cause and move on to the next thing.

Remember that I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, just a mom with a wheat intolerance and an interest in natural health who knows how to use Google. Neither acidophilus nor kefir have negative side effects, although they can cause your digestive system to move a little faster than it usually does.

Does anyone else have any other thoughts about what this intolerance could be?

Let me know what happens with the probiotic treatments, and if they work or if we need to look for something else.

Q&A: “the witching hour” with a newborn

Lauren writes:

"I have a 3 week old who just started getting fussy in the evenings. Any tips on how to console him?   Sometimes the pacifier works, he alsoneeds to be held at all times when he is fussy. When he falls asleep
in my arms (probably from exhaustion from complaining and whining) he
wakes up as soon as I move him to his bed. HELP!!!!"

Ah, the classic problem of the Witching Hour. When we took a Newborn Care class before having our first son the instructor spent 20 minutes of the 3-hour class covering this topic. Starting at a few weeks old, many many newborns start to fuss at around 7 pm (although it can start as early as 4 pm) and fuss until around 10 or 11 pm. It goes on for weeks. This is apparently a worldwide phenomenon, so you can console yourself that there are parents all over the world going just as crazy as you are with fussy newborns in the evening.

No one knows for sure why this happens, although there are a million theories. Some people think it’s the babies’ bodies working out some kinks. Some think it’s adjusting to all the stimuli they get out of the womb that they didn’t get in the womb. Some think it’s digestive difficulties. (Some people think the babies have gas and that makes them cry, while others think the babies cry and swallow air and that gives them gas.) My mom thinks the babies just figure out they’re no longer in the womb and get pissed off. I think it’s because they’ve figured out that everyone else can move and they can’t even roll over and they get pissed off. Honestly, it’s probably a mixture of a bunch of things, very few of which we have any control over.

It’s very hard to deal emotionally with this stage, since you’re so new to it and it’s heartbreaking and frustrating to have your baby be so upset. It can be a great first opportunity for you and your baby to become closer, though, if you let it, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for parents to start to come into their own power.

The important concepts to remember are that when you try to comfort your baby, your baby learns that someone cares about his/her distress and is coming to help. That’s the second step (after feeding) in learning to trust the parent and the world in general. It doesn’t actually matter if you can fix the problem for the baby, just that you’re there soothing and being with the baby. For parents, it’s the first of many times you get to discover that there are problems that don’t have solutions, and that walking through the challenge is what turns you into a parent, even if you can’t "solve" it.

Now for actually dealing with the fussiness: There are as many things to try as there are parents and kids. Everyone you know will swear by something different, and that’s because different things help different kids. My feeling about dealing with the Witching Hour is that you should use the same Malcolm X Method you do with sleep in general for the first few months: By Any Means Necessary.

[Updated to add: If you’re nursing, you should always try nursing first. It’s the simplest solution, if it works. Some babies cluster-feed in the evening, which means they nurse on and off for a few hours, but then will often sleep a little longer at night. You can just sit around and nurse and watch TV in the evening and hope to get a few extra hours of sleep at night.]

Here are some things that are commonly recommended:

  • Putting the baby in the infant seat on top of a running clothes dryer. The shimmying and noise of the machine are supposed to soothe the baby.
  • Running the vacuum cleaner near the baby. The loud white noise sometimes helps.
  • Taking the baby into a silent, dark room and walking or rocking slowly, to remove as much external stimulus as possible.
  • Taking the baby into a bright room with lots of background noise, to add as much background stimulus as possible.
  • Putting on loud music. My friends’ daughter would only calm down to "Livin’ La Vida Loca" at top volume. They listened to it for 3 hours a day every day for 4 weeks. They don’t even like Ricky Martin.
  • Driving the baby around in the car.
  • Strolling the baby outside. This seems to be especially effective in cold weather, for some reason.
  • Bouncy seats or swings, although some kids who like them at other times of day hate them in the evening.
  • Walking the baby around in a sling, wrap, bjorn, mei tai, or any other body-carrying device. (We had to put our first son facing out in the Bjorn and bounce slwoly around the apartment for 4 hours every day while the evening mishegas period was in effect. My calf muscles got huge.)
  • Chamomilla or other homeopathic treatments, or Mylecon drops.
  • Figuring out when the crying starts, and trying to put the baby down for a nap (nursing or rocking, if that’s the sure-fire way to get them down) 15-30 minutes before the crying usually starts. If you luck out the baby might sleep though part or all of the cranky time.

I’m sure there are dozens of common suggestions I’ve forgotten. You can Google "colic" to see other things people have come up with. I don’t think normal evening fussiness is actual colic, since colic is technically 4 hours a day of inconsolable crying for at least 4 weeks, but since no one really knows what any of it is, you might as well try anything you can find.

Unfortunately*, laudanum (opium tincture) is not approved for use in infants. So you’ll just have to try a bunch of things and see what works best to help soothe your baby. If you have a partner to trade off some of the crying shift with it will help. You might also be able to sucker a friend or relative into coming and babysitting for an hour or two sometimes during that phase. (If you have a friend with a teenager who comes to babysit, this would be a perfect way to scare said teenager into being assiduous about practicing safe sex. It’s a win-win, really.)

There are four pieces of good news about this situation:
1. It’s not you. You’re doing a great job.
2. It will end. Really, it will. Maybe in 2 weeks, maybe not for 6 weeks, but it will end.
3. This is one time when people’s ridiculous advice might actually help you. As long as it’s not physically dangerous, you might as well try it.
4. Going through this phase with your baby will tell you so much about your baby’s personality and likes and dislikes. Does your baby escalate by crying, or release tension? Does your baby like dark and quiet, or loud and busy? Does your baby like to swing or to bounce**? Does Rage Against the Machine soothe her, or Enya? Adversity helps you know your baby better.

So now, readers, release the hounds! We need your stories of tricks that helped soothe your baby during this phase. We also need stories of how horribly your baby would cry (for us it was 4-9 every afternoon), what you thought was wrong (I thought my older son had an undiagnosed intestinal disorder), and how long the crying phase lasted (memory is merciful, but I think about 4-5 weeks). Even if none of your suggestions help Lauren, at least she’ll know it’s not just her.

* I’m kidding. Opiates should never be used on infants. They should be reserved for cranky, non-sleeping toddlers instead.

** My older son hated the swing and bouncy seat like they were red-hot lasers poking him. When my MIL said "Some kids are bouncers and some are swingers," we realized that he hated them because he didn’t like to swing, but needed to bounce. It was so petty, but a huge key to being able to soothe him (by bouncing him for hours at a time). Some dumb little insight like that may be the beginning of being able to soothe your baby, too.

Q&A: morning sickness

Unhappy reader Tammie writes:

"I’m 10 weeks pregnant and since Thursday I eat and then feel like I’m going to be sick (vomit) sometimes I do and then sometimes I don’t, this goes on ALL day. I still now feel the same but I am being sick more often so I’m not eating much or drinking cause of the way I feel afterwards. Not eating or drinking means I have no food or liquid inmy stomach. "What can I do?" If there is anything I can do, ’cause I don’t
think it would be too healthy for the baby or myself."

These are the things people will tell you to do to stop morning sickness:

Eat saltine crackers

Eat protein at least every three hours

Eat a bunch of small meal throughout the day

Wear SeaBands

I will tell you right now that if you have moderate to severe nausea these will not work.

If you have moderate nausea these things will probably help you:


Reglan (a prescription anti-nausea medication)

Zofran (an unbelievably expensive anti-nausea medication that is rarely covered by insurance)

Supplementing any or several of these by eating ginger (or drinking strong ginger beer) and sucking on sour candy (the Altoid Sours line is excellent for this) can help some, too.

If you have severe nausea (or hyperemesis, which is when you throw up so often that you become dehydrated and the only treatment is hospitalization and an IV), not many things help. However, I checked in with Jessica at Kerplop (formerly Very Mom), who had hyperemesis with her first two pregnancies, but did not with her third. She’d mentioned some mysterious vitamins in her blog, so I emailed her to get the scoop. Here’s what she said:

"The brand is Standard Process and Dr. Stockwell hawks them at www.jackstockwell.com
but you can find them all over the internet.  They are not pyramid
schemey at all though the company prefers that you get them after
having some kind of work up/exam from a doctor before medicating
yourself just so you get the right ones for your system.  I had a Bio
Meridian scan at Dr. Stockwell’s office (about $50.00 at the time)
which gave me a total work up on what I was deficient in.  Without a
scan I can’t promise the same results, but I have had folks call his
office and get the pre natal list for "morning sickness" and experience
success without the scan.  Doctors (mostly chiropractors nation wide
offer the Bio Meridian scan).

Here’s what I took:

started me off taking 1 Unisom each night with 4 Cataplex B tablets –
I’d tried Unisom & B vitamins before without results, but with the
Standard Process B vitamins, I had a significant decrease in vomiting.
They thought it would take about four weeks to get it under control,
but I felt better within a week and a half.  (From 18 pukes a day down
to like, 5 or 6, it was amazing).

I "weaned" off the Unisom after two weeks.

I took 2 Diaplex tablets before I tried to eat anything.

Calcium Lactate tablets every day (this is the best kind of calcium
that your body can actually use rather than just creating expensive pee)

3 Cataplex F tablets

6 Cataplex C tablets

(This is the 6-3-6 combo)

2 Folic Acid B12 tablets

2 Bio Dent

1 Ferrofood

1 Immuplex

1 Protofood

1 Nutrimere

2 Cataplex GTF

2 Trace Minerals

And I had an iron pill, I can’t remember what it was.

put me on Phosfood liquid drops to quell my irritating excess saliva
and that was a miracle potion as far as I’m concerned, it worked

For anyone completely freaked out over the sheer volume of pills the most important for hyperemesis would be:

Unisom with 4 Cataplex B and 2 Folic Acid B12 tablets.  Take them
either at night or first thing in the morning, or whenever you’re
feeling the least pukey.  If you throw them up, don’t worry, just try
to take them again.  You can grind ’em up and put them in a shake if
that helps. 

You should start to feel better
within 2 – 6 weeks.  When you do, wean yourself off the Unisom and
start adding the "6-3-6" and take that every day.  The rest make up
more of a typical "prenatal" pill that will help your immune system and
strengthen baby’s bones and help baby’s growth.

I hope this helps!"

I hope this helps, too. If anyone tries this vitamin regimen, definitely let me know how it works.

Q&A: being happy with an only child

Lucy wrote:

"I am in my mid-thirties and mom to a bright, energetic, wonderful 4-year-old girl. My husband and I put much thought into having a child and our relationship has deepened and grown in ways I would never have expected because we chose to have a kiddo. We both work full-time, but with creative scheduling and good daycare programs, we’ve been able to spend a good bit of time with our child.

In the past year, many of my friends who had their first kids around the same time I had my daughter have given birth to their second child. I have held these new little ones and have really missed those early baby years and being pregnant and all that. But… After I had my daughter, I had months of anxiety and depression. It was very hard. More than that though – my husband has a disability which affects his fine motor control and walking. He also has a tricky back. He’s a very hands-on parent and has been from day one. He is concerned – rightly so – with the energy and physical commitments that having another baby can bring.

I really think I’d be happy with one child. But worries linger – I wonder if I’d be cheating my daughter out of the special relationship siblings can have. What if we’re sick and old and she has to take care of us alone? What if she is inevitably spoiled by being an only child?

What I’d really like to find are people who are happy with just having one kiddo, why they’re happy and what they feel has worked for them. (It’s been hard to find these stories on the internets.) Also, insights into my concerns are welcome. :)"

I was thinking that I was not a good person to ask, because I deliberately had a second child, even though I was terrified of it, because I wanted to make sure my son had a sibling. My relationship with my brother is one of the joys of my life, and I wanted my son to have a chance at that. I’m very glad we had a second, even though it’s been harder than I thought it would be in a bunch of ways. (We’re currently living through the 18-month sleep regression and vicious scratching phase again. Nice.)

But then Lucy answered her own question! Awesomeness. Instead of having to research it I got to spend more time refereeing fights between my two kids. Here’s what she came up with:

Berkeley Parents Network (a great resource for all things
parenting) – Having Only One Child, http://parents.berkeley.edu/advice/parents/singlechild.html

Parents Of Only
Children on Canadian Family Network – http://forum.canadianparents.ca/ubbthreads/postlist.php?Cat=&Board=UBB133

Question: How true are the stereotypes that "onlys" have problems
adjusting to social situations and often are selfish and unappreciative?  –
Great answer  http://www.usaweekend.com/03_issues/030420/030420relationtips.html

Similar to my original question to you on the Gardenweb Forums: http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/parents/msg120122131041.html?40


I’m certainly not going to tell someone else whether or not to have another child. I think people know, in their hearts of hearts, whether they want another one or not. Don’t let expectations influence your decision.

Anyone else want to say anything? Parents of onlies? Onlies? (Num Num or Barbara?) People who considered having an only, whatever you decided?

Q&A: healthy birthday cake for 1st birthday

Miss W writes:

"My son is turning one on October 31.  I have made all of his baby
food since he began solids except when we travel and then he eats only
Earth’s Best organic foods (jars where the ingredients list is entirely
made up of the names of foods and not words that are better suited for
a chemistry lab).  He was 10.5 weeks premature, so even though he’s
turning 1 and has 7 teeth he still doesn’t like to do a lot of chewing
and really doesn’t want to self-feed much of the time.  I’m very
careful about what foods I introduce and when.  As a rule, I follow the
Super Babyfood book’s schedule for introduction of foods.

Obviously for his first birthday, I want to have cake for him.
And yet he has never eaten sugar.  The only sweet things he has had are
fruits.  I did give him a tiny bite of cake at a gathering in his dad’s
office this afternoon.  He tolerated it well, but it was just one bite.

What can I do to make sure that he doesn’t get sick on his
birthday?  Do I throw out the "rules" that I’ve lived by in feeding him
to this point and give him something sugared each day?  Do I bake a
special organic/naturally sweetened cake for him? (And if I do, where
do I find such a recipe?)  I mentioned that I might make the birthday
cake that way and his paternal grandparents turned up their noses and
told me the would NOT eat a cake like that and they highly doubted that
anyone else would either.

So, what do I do?  How do I keep it enjoyable for my son, avoiding
the chance of illness or the dreaded sugar rush, while appeasing the

I can absolutely understand your desire to give your son a healthy, sugar-free birthday cake. I did the same thing with my older son’s first birthday. He also hadn’t had sugar at that point (except for one incident with my dad and some Halloween candy), and it didn’t make any sense to me to suddenly give him sugar in a cake he’d never remember anyway. I was lucky to have friends who were equally cautious in introducing new foods to their babies, who thought the unsweetened banana cake I made was wonderful, and relatives who pretended not to care. I felt that there was such a little window of time in which I could actually control what he ate that I should take advantage of it (like taking advantage of the years in which he’d be too little to care what his Halloween costume was).

Your in-laws’ protestations that they won’t eat a sugar-free cake sound like they’re more about feeling judged by your feeding choices than about needing a specific kind of cake. I mean, I’m sure they’ve had all sorts of birthday cakes in the past that haven’t been their favorite flavors (and plenty of the grocery store cakes that taste like sugary styrofoam) but they’ve eaten them happily anyway. Their protest sounds like they think that your caution in introducing new foods (especially ones with no nutritional value) is an indictment of the food and feeding choices they made for your husband. I bet you could ease the situation by asking them to reminisce about your husband’s first birthday cake or his favorite foods as a baby and sounding interested and appreciative.

I’m going to assume that they haven’t made any remarks about feeding your son "real cake" or anything like that since you didn’t mention it. That also leads me to think it’s more about their feeling you don’t approve of what they did, than trying to control what you do with your son.

Since it’s probably more about hurt feelings than about testing behavior (which does sometimes enter into interactions with grandparents), I’d be inclined to make two cakes (or make one and buy one). One healthy one for your son, and one that’ll give your in-laws sugar shock and make them happy. Your son will never know the difference, and if it makes the day go more easily for you then it’s a small inconvenience. Since cake for the first birthday is mostly about the photo op anyway, you could put the sugary-but-pretty cake in front of your son for some photos but then give him the sugar-free cake to eat. And don’t hesitate to use the "preemie card" to justify your choice not to give him sugar. You make the decisions you feel are best, and compliment your in-laws on what wonderful grandparents they are, and everyone should be happy.

I’ve looked and looked for that banana cake recipe, and just can’t find it anymore on the internet. (It’s a shame, too, because it actually tasted good.) But I have found a couple other recipes. The first one uses only ripe bananas as sweetener, but uses egg and butter. Personally, I’d take out the raisins, but I hate raisins cooked in things anyway: http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk?topicid=4&threadid=195449&stamp=060724121705

The next recipe from the drgreene.com website is egg and lactose-free, but uses raw sugar or another sweetener (I’d use stevia or maple syrup): http://www.drgreene.com/24_50.html

If you want to frost it, you could use thick Greek yogurt sweetened with a little maple syrup or pureed fruit. Or just make some chocolate ganache and serve it on the side for adults. (To make ganache, take 1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream and bring to a boil in a saucepan. While it’s coming to a boil, chop 8 oz. of good semisweet chocolate into tiny pieces. When the cream boils, turn off the heat and put the chocolate in the cream. Stir to blend as the chocolate melts. It will set up as it cools–you may need to refrigerate it. For a drizzly ganache you can pour over cake, use a little less chocolate.)

Congratulations on making it this far. Have a good time at the birthday party, and take lots of pictures!

(Unsweetened banana cake for the first child’s first birthday. With my second child, feeding–and almost everything else–went totally off the track because there were other people giving him all sorts of things when I wasn’t looking. His first birthday cake was cupcakes from a mix and frosting from a can, slapped on at the party in the playground. That’s life.)

Q&A: helping a partner with PPD

Jim writes:

"I have a question for you — my wife and I have a 3 month old son, and I think she’s going through a bout of depression right now.  Looking back, I guess all of the ingredients were there for it  — we live far away from family and friends, and she’s been at home with our son for the last 3 months.  We had a lot of family come and visit at first, but since the beginning of September we’ve been alone.  It doesn’t help that her dad tells her things like "you know, I think that whole PPD thing is baloney – if anyone would have had it, it would have been your mother and she was fine."

My question is what can I do about it as her husband and as a father? No matter what I do (try and take the baby, let her get extra sleep, etc.) it doesn’t seem to help – I realize this is a medical issue, and it’s not her fault. If it’s a hormonal imbalance, obviously more sleep and help aren’t going to fix things.  I’ve tried to get her to consider seeing the doctor, but she flat out refuses.  She’s been saying things like "I wish I was dead" and "I just want to go away."  Obviously this scares me, more than a little …

When I got to work this morning I called her doctor and left a message to talk to a nurse.  I worry though that I’m going around her back and she’ll be hurt.  But right now I don’t think I have an option.

So, long story short, what can a partner do for someone suffering PPD?"

Oh, you poor family. This must be so scary.

It does sound like she has post-partum depression. Many non-depressed moms think or say things like "I just want to go away," but we mean on a long weekend by ourselves to the Canyon Ranch, not to really disappear. And wanting to be dead is a sure sign of depression.

I agree that you don’t have an option, even if it makes you feel bad to be going behind her back to try to get her help. If she had another illness, like diabetes, you wouldn’t think twice about calling her doctor and getting her meds if you saw she was crashing. You’d know she wasn’t able to get help for herself. This is no different. Her denials that she needs or wants help are part of the disease.

(Having been there with regular depression, I can attest that even when you know something could make you feel normal again, it still feels like shameful weakness to admit that you need help. If you were a worthy person you’d be able to get a grip and pull yourself up out of it. Except that you can’t, since it’s not anything you caused or had control over. But still you think you should be able to fix yourself.)

And better she be hurt right now that you sought treatment than she spend weeks or months in pain, or do something to hurt herself or the baby. Let her really give you hell for going behind her back once she’s feeling normal again. Except that once she’s feeling normal again she’ll be grateful you loved her enough to look for something to pull her out of the pit.

I’m deliberately not talking about what could happen to your son if your wife stays depressed or gets worse. You’re probably scared shitless about it already, so there’s no need to belabor it. Your wife and son are a unit, and as she goes, so he goes. So to protect him you have to protect her.

It might take a few phone calls to get someone to help her. Not everyone takes PPD seriously. I hope that the nurse called you back right away and you somehow convinced your wife to go to the doctor, who prescribed an anti-depressant for her immediately. But if that didn’t happen, don’t give up. If the nurse doesn’t take it seriously, ask to talk to the doctor. If they don’t take it seriously, call the maternity department of the hospital she gave birth in and ask for a recommendation of a doctor who treats PPD. If they can’t help, call a local midwife and ask for a rec. If they can’t help, call a local lactation consultant (even if your wife isn’t nursing they’ll still help you find help for PPD).

There are several antidepressants that are safe for nursing moms and babies, if your wife is nursing. The preferred heirarchy according to researcher Thomas Hale, PhD (the medication-and-breastmilk researcher) via Kellymom.com is:

  1. Zoloft
  2. Paxil
  3. Celexa
  4. Effexor
  5. Prozac

It can take up two weeks for the anti-depressants to start working. (If nothing changes in a few days, don’t switch from one to another hoping for a quick resolution. That can just prolong the depression. If things get worse, though, call the doctor who prescribed them ASAP.) While you’re still making calls or waiting for the meds to take effect, you can do some other things to help your wife:

  • Don’t let her be alone too much. If you can arrange for friends to come spend time with her and the baby during the day that would make things a lot better for all of you. If you don’t have a local support system, see if you can hire a post-partum doula for a few hours a week at least. Even a local teenager who could come over after school and play with the baby would be a help.
  • Encourage her to go outside and get some sunshine. 30 minutes a day would be great.
  • While she’s outside, why not take a walk with her for 20 or 30 minutes? The exercise will help her immensely.
  • Make sure she’s still taking her prenatal vitamins. Try to get her to take an Omega 3 supplement (I’m still not sure what’s at the bottom of this flax seed oil thing yet, despite lots of helpful analysis from kind readers on studies that all seem to contradict themselves and each other), too, as we know Omega 3s help stabilize mood.
  • Sleep deprivation greatly influences hormones, so you’re totally on track with helping her get some extra sleep. If she has trouble falling asleep the Omega 3 supplements will help, as will a calcium and magnesium supplement right before bed.
  • Protect her from ignorant and negative influences telling her it’s all in her head, like her clueless father. I’d like to write more about him, but I can’t think of anything to say about him that isn’t profane, violent, or both.
  • Encourage her to make local mom friends. Having a support system of other women going through the same things is invaluable.
  • Check out kellymom.com. She has a bunch of great resources about PPD, including a quiz on how to tell if you have PPD.

I just want to say thank you for taking this so seriously and for being willing to do the heavy lifting your wife is going to need for the next few months to get out from under this disease. You’re saving her, and you’re saving your son, and you’re saving your family. Please let me know how it’s going.

Q&A: getting grandparents to visit

Josie writes:

"My husband and I live in the South and his parents live in
New England.  We have a three month old daughter; she is the only grandchild on both sides of the family. 
I was lucky enough to have a great relationship
with my grandmothers and I think the grandparent/grandchild
relationship is unique and important.   My in-laws don’t seem to agree. 
My husband and I both work and have limited vacation, so
going to visit his parents is difficult, but we plan to visit them at
their house about once a year. My in-laws are retired.  My husband and I have said to them several
times how important we think this relationship is, our door is always
open, and even suggested specific dates to visit, but they still won’t
visit. They came down for a few days after she was
born, but they haven’t been back and only plan to come back because
we’ve set her Christening date (she’ll be almost six months old then). They have enough money to travel, so that is not the issue. Do you have any suggestions for encouraging them to visit? I realize I may be the only person in the world asking for advice on getting her mother-in-law to visit! And
honestly, when they visit, they can drive me nuts, but I really think
developing a relationship with our daughter is important.  I do realize it might not matter as much right now
because she is so young, but I want to encourage a great
grandparent/grandchild relationship for the long term."

Unfortunately, you can’t force people to want to visit their grandchildren. And as baffling as it may seem to us, some people just don’t feel the need to see their grandchildren very often at all. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t excited about the baby, and that they’re not showing photos of her to everyone they know, and bragging about how great she is. It just means that for whatever reason they don’t want to visit.

I could speculate ad nauseum about why they might not want to come. They could be afraid of babies and feel like they’ll break her. They could be afraid she’ll give them colds. They could have insecurities and secrets they haven’t resolved that make them feel they don’t deserve to be around her. They may be saving their frequent flier miles to go to Hawai’i. They could be afraid of air travel. They could be too self-involved (or, conversely, too insecure) to realize how much you want them to come.

The mostly likely explanation, IMO, is that they don’t really know how to relate to little babies. I don’t think it’s at all uncommon for people (even parents, sometimes) to not enjoy babies and only start relating well to kids when they’re old enough to carry on a decent conversation.

I have two suggestions. The first is to make sure you foster your daughter’s relationship with your own parents. If your in-laws never end up coming around about your daughter, at least she’ll have a wonderful, close relationship with one set of grandparents.

The second suggestion is to act as if your in-laws are just as much in love with your daughter as you are. Send tons of photos, call to relate what she’s doing, and continue to invite them and express sincere regret when they don’t come. The worst case scenario is that they never make any more contact, but you know you did everything you possibly could to encourage a relationship between your daughter and them. The best case scenario is that they do decide to visit more often to see her and really get to know her. You can’t lose by setting aside your disappointment and continuing to try.

Good luck. This situation sounds painful, because it’s easy to take it as a rejection of your daughter. Try to keep in mind that whatever is making them stay away is all about them, and not about your beautiful daughter.

Halloween issues

Apologies to readers in countries that don’t celebrate Halloween.

(Hey, since Halloween’s almost upon us it must be time to start thinking about Hanukkah and Christmas. Fans of fair trade chocolate can find fair trade Hanukkah gelt at the SERRV.org catalogue here and Advent calendars with fair trade chocolate behind each window here.)

Is Halloween stressful or fun for your family? I’ve gotten a couple of emails about Halloween stuff, and I wrote a little thing for Kristen at The Mom Trap on doling out your kids’ candy so they don’t explode in one big chocolate bomb (It’s going up sometime today). I’ve also read some stuff about people trying to reconcile their personal and religious beliefs about Halloween with their kids’ desires to participate with everyone else.

I had no idea it could be so stressful. I do tend to go a little nuts with the costumes, but I just figured out that I can get great ones on Ebay (I know, duh). And we live in NYC and there’s no trick-or-treating in our building, so we just go to a carnival with some candy but not too much. The candy issue is over in a few days for us. I have friends, though, that report huge competition about costumes (as if we need another thing to compete about!), and hundreds of trick-or-treaters at their house, and bags and bags of candy that their kids collect.

So I guess I’m wondering if Halloween is a burden, logistically or mentally, for any of you. Or if it’s just part of the long end-of-the-year Parade of Holidays.

Back to your questions tomorrow.

Q&A: “Sleep while you can”

Blythe writes:

"I am 26 weeks pregnant and looking forward to delivering in January.
Friends and relatives give me plenty of advice all the time, and the
most frequent refrain seems to be "sleep now!/stock up on your sleep!"
I realize (assume?) this is a ‘hilarious’ way of saying I’m never going
to get a good night’s sleep ever again.  It does, however, lead me to
wonder if there’s a way to prepare myself for the postpartum sleep
deprivation to come.  My bladder is cooperating with my baby to wake me
at least once each night, but that’s not quite the same thing.  What’s
your advice?  Try to begin some kind of adjustment period now?  Or bask
in blissful dreamland while I can?"

Your body is going to prep you all by itself. An awful lot of us experience more frequent waking as the pregnancy progresses. First it’s the peeing. Then it’s the strange dreams. Then it’s the heartburn/reflux. Then it’s the backaches. Then it’s the restless legs. Then it’s attempting to roll over in your sleep but waking up because your belly won’t come along with your shoulders.

By the end of each of my pregnancies I was sleeping for about 45 minutes at a time. Those first couple of weeks of the baby waking every three hours to nurse felt like a rest cure to me.

But there are other women who sleep fine until the end of the pregnancy. And there are some babies who wake up all the time at the beginning, and some who sleep a lot from the get-go. There’s no way to know which kind you’ll get (although I’ll tell you to take Omega 3 supplements during your pregnancy to stack the odds of a sleeping baby in your favor). So I wouldn’t borrow any trouble. Why go into a sleep-deprivation situation with a deficit?

Sleep as much as you want to and can now. Also, go out to dinner any time you want to, go to the movies, knit complicated patterns, eat hot meals with two hands, and have sex in the middle of the day as much as you can now. All these things are about to disappear from your life temporarily.

I think people say these things to pregnant women because they don’t know what to say and they want to say something, even if it’s inane, to acknowledge your impending motherhood. Or because they still feel resentful of the sleep deprivation, and want to pass it off onto you. But I also think some women say it because it’s safer than saying "Things are going to change and it won’t be easy. You will be tested. You will be broken down. Remember that we all did it and you can, too." There’s no way to describe what it’s like to be a new parent. It’s horrible and wonderful at the same time. It shakes you to your core. But we don’t talk about it with pregnant women because the language we have is inadequate to express what we mean to someone who hasn’t been there yet.

Whatever the motivation is behind statements like the sleeping thing (and my personal favorite, "It’s a lot easier to take care of the baby now than it will be once it’s out," which I never found to be true for a lot of reasons), there’s no real way to respond in a thoughtful manner. You can be breezy: "Ha ha! I’m really in for it now!" Or flippant: "Oh, no. I’m going to make my partner do all the night wake-ups."Or smart-ass: "I thought babies slept through the night at around 3 weeks. You mean they don’t?" Or you can just nod and smirk and then go home and take a nap.