Q&A: getting a 9-month-old into a crib

I’ve gotten at least 6 questions on this in the past two months. And, frankly, I’ve been avoiding answering them because I don’t really have an answer. So let’s all take our best shots. I’ll just summarize, because all of the questions were essentially the same.

Everyone wrote:

"I hope you can help me because I’m about to go insane. My beautiful baby has been sleeping with us for the past few months, but in the last couple of weeks she’s been waking up 3-4 times a night. She’ll nurse (or take a bottle) but then won’t go back to sleep right away. Instead, it’s like she wants to stay up and play for some reason. She never did this before. Why?!

In addition, she wiggles around so much in the bed that I can’t sleep for more than ten minutes, and my poor partner is getting kicked in the kidneys all night. It’s definitely time to move her to her own crib, but I don’t know how to start. Should we put her crib in our room and work on that, then move her to her own room? Or should we just go cold turkey and put her down in her own room? She seems to be one of the kids whose tension increases from crying, so I really don’t want her to suffer if she can’t fall asleep right away in the crib.

She still nurses at night,and I don’t want to wean completely until she’s at least a year, but I don’t know how to night-wean if I’m still nursing during the day, because I’m afraid it’ll confuse her. Also, she’s always been a great napper, but in the last week or two she’s started to nap poorly. Should I work on getting her to nap in the crib first (she’s always napped on our bed, but that isn’t so great now that she’s crawling) or try to do both nighttime and naptime sleep in the crib at the same time?

In the beginning we got so much more sleep with her in the bed with us, but now I’m afraid I’ve created a monster by not switching her sooner. Help."

The bad news is that you people all have a lot of stuff going on. The good news is that you’re not the only ones. Almost everyone’s baby starts sleeping poorly during the 9-month sleep regression, no matter where they sleep. So there’s absolutely no need or reason to recriminate yourself or look backwards. You made the best decision at the time. The situation has changed, so it’s time to adjust and move on.

Now let’s start to pull this all apart. The first issue is the poor sleeping. That’s a result of the 9-month-sleep regression, and there’s nothing you can do about it (short of drugging your child) until the baby goes through that developmental spurt. So tired you forgot what the sleep regressions are about? Here’s the post. Their little bodies just can’t stay asleep because there’s so much going on inside their brains.

This is also a prime time for learning to crawl, pull up, walk, etc. All that physical development also makes it really tough for babies to sleep, and they often wake themselves up in the middle of the night with movement. It’s a little funny when your baby wakes up and is shocked to be up on hands and knees rocking. His or her body just did it without any conscious effort.

The trifecta of sleep disturbances is completed by teething. I don’t know if anything more needs to be said about teething. If you want to give remedies, there are a bunch here and in the comments, but some kids are just really rough teethers and those kids are going to have disturbed sleep no matter what.

So. Your kid is sleeping poorly right now and you’ve determined that there’s nothing you can do about it. That means you have to approach from the angle of your own sleep. If you have a partner, the two of you can take turns sleeping and being the night parent. Divide up your nights any way you want to (some couples will do a 2 am divide so each gets half a night of sleep, while others alternate nights), but the person on duty is on duty, and the person who’s not is sound asleep and blissfully unaware of how restless the baby’s sleep is during the other parent’s shift. If you don’t ahve a partner, maybe you have a relative or friend who would come over and take one or two nights for you so you can catch up a little on sleep. remember that this is a time-delineated problem, so if you can just make it through the next few weeks things should settle down at least a little.

The real problem with being in this situation is that you’re desperate for the baby to be out of your bed and just sleeping, and you can’t take it anymore. But right now is exactly when it would be a disaster to move the baby into a crib, and would just mean hours of trauma and crying for all of you. You’re desperate to nightwean, but the nursing is the only thing that creates any remote sense of peace at night.

IME, and I’ve heard this from a fair number of other parents, that point of maximum tension, when something’s got to change or you will lose your mind, is right before things get better on their own. It’s almost as if the balance of the kid’s development is somehow designed to push the parent to the edges before retreating back to a point of comfort. With that in mind, deciding you can hold on another hour or day or week when you feel like you’re seriously going to lose it is sometimes the best thing you can do for your emotional health. At other times, the best thing you can do for your emotional health is hand the kid to someone else and just leave for an hour or a day to get yourself back a little. There is no shame in saying "I just can’t take this right now" and asking for help.

So now let’s assume that you’ve made it through the awful not-sleeping phase and your kid seems to be less restless and better able to get back to sleep. But you still want the baby out of your bed. Now’s the time to switch to the crib (or mattress on your floor, or whatever you choose) since the developmental spurt is over.

My recommendation is that you think about how your child is, and how you are, and let that help you pick where to put the crib. If it were me, I’d try with the crib in the other room just to see what would happen. But I’m a gambler like that. So do what you think makes the most sense and makes you feel most comfortable.

For the actual switch, try to keep the routine as identical as possible to the old routine. You may have to rock to sleep after nursing instead of nursing in the bed, or change some other element, but you’ll have the most success if you can keep your routine as similar to the old one as possible. Do what you need to to get your baby to sleep in the crib. Then come up with a plan of what to do for wake-ups. Lots of couples send in the non-nursing parent (assuming one of you is nursing) for the first wake-up, and find that the baby gets angry, but after a couple of nights stops waking up then (because there’s no milk payoff).

You should also decide how long the baby is going to be expected to stay in the crib. Obviously it would be excellent if your baby would sleep all night, But that probably won’t happen right away. So what do you do when s/he wakes up? You can try to get the baby back down in the crib (designate whose job this is ahead of time), or you can bring the baby in with you. We chose the second route and it worked out really well. Gradually he slept later and later, until one day he didn’t wake up until 6:30 am, and was sleeping all night in hs crib. It was kind of shocking. But you might want your baby to sleep all night in the crib sooner and be willing to go through more struggle to make it happen. Just pick a way that will work for you all. Then give it 4-5 days and reassess to see if you’re making progress, and decide what to do from there.

I’d try just switching into the crib first, to see if that cures the nightweaning problem. It’s possible that your baby will sleep all the way through, or only wake up once, in which case your problem is basically solved. Just start sending in the non-nursing parent for that wake-up, and see if the wake-up stops after a week or so.

If you do have to nightwean, cut out one feed at a time, starting with the earliest one. Send in the non-nursing partner to get the baby back to sleep. The baby will be angry, so it might be tough to calm him or her down. If the baby seems truly hungry, feed the baby. This process could go smoothly, or it could really suck. Remember to pay attention to yoru baby’s messages and go only as far as your baby can. Some kids do truly need to eat at night even past a year, so if your child seems really hungry, don’t pay attention to when the baby "should" eat, just feed your child.

About naps? You got me. Usually once the nighttime sleep is straightened out, the naps fall into place. And if you’re going to want to be out and about in the warm weather, don’t get your child used to only taking naps in the crib, or you won’t be able to let him or her nap in the stroller while you run errands.

Anyone else? What did I forget in this strange potluck of a post?

Q&A: 12-month-old eating issues

Please excuse any incoherence. I just got off the red-eye after a weekend of too much fun and not enough sleep.

Liz sends in a two-parter:

"A) My 12-month-old (boy, only child), who was a champion eater from
birth until about 10 months, is becoming increasingly picky. I have
always made all of his food, and he went from eating (with great
relish) every vegetable under the sun, along with plain yogurt and
tahini and lots of fruit etc. to a repetoire of pasta, fruit, dry
cereal and crackers. I’ve tried dicing up the veggies I used to give
him pureed and he just spits or throws most everything overboard. I’ve
also been trying to introduce meats (he had tofu before 12 months, but
no actual meat) but he seems to dislike the texture. He’ll try a piece
and then spit it out. So far he’s rejected fish, chicken and turkey
chili (very mild). I know this usually happens at around 20 months, so
I’m surprised it’s happening so soon with us.

2) He’s starting
to throw highchair tantrums in the evenings when we all sit down
together for dinner. He doesn’t do it at daycare and he doesn’t do it
during the day, but come dinner time and he’s a mess after 15 minutes
max. Dinner is also the hardest time to get him to eat anything. He’ll
play with his food a little bit and then start screaming to be let out
of the chair. I honestly don’t know what to do. Should I let him out
and finish dinner in peace? Or should we force him to stay in the chair
until we’re all finished? As it is, I’m keeping him in the chair for as
long as I can by constantly trying to give him new foods (meaning,
he’ll refuse dinner after a few bites and start screaming, so I’ll try
to give him a piece or bread or cracker to occupy him. After that’s
done he’ll scream some more and I’ll give him some fruit.) It doesn’t
really work and I worry I’m creating bad habits. Any advice?"

This thing with the baby not eating at right around a year old, even after months of chowing down, is really common. It’s so common, in fact, that it should have a name, so we can all just refer to it as a known phenomenon. Maybe we can call it The One-Year Eating Regression (TM). 

IMO, The One-Year Eating Regression is about the baby’s growing desire for control over his or her own body combined with being too excited about all the other things going on to eat, combined with trying to separate from you. So the rejecting foods isn’t because of the taste, per se. It’s more about only wanting to eat things he can feed himself and just not caring enough about food when so much other great stuff is going on. He may also be enjoying your reaction to his rejection of foods.

Nutritionally speaking, the old adage that he won’t let himself starve is true (assuming no metabolic or other disorders). If you’re really worried about nutrition, keep nursing or giving formula. Yes, you can switch to cow’s milk at a year, but there’s nothing saying you have to if you want to make sure your nutritional bases are covered.

So continue to offer a variety of nutritious foods, but the whole plan of introducing new things on a schedule is going to have to go out the window, since he’s going to want to choose what he eats instead of following your plan. They to surviving this emotionally for you is just to let it go, and genuinely stop worrying about what he eats. Almost all kids do this, and the parents who survive it best are the ones who don’t get tied up in knots about it but who also keep offering nutritious choices.

The same attitude is key to surviving High Chair Follies. He has plenty of time to be socialized to sit and eat politely once he’s actually eating. (Oh, and he eats more at daycare and with other people because they just don’t care as much. It’s always the way. Sigh.) If you’re trying to train him to stay at the table, you’ll have more luck if you keep him at the table until he starts to fuss, then let him down right away. Gradually he’ll be able to sit longer periods of time. But forcing him to sit while you’re screaming isn’t really accomplishing what you want it to, and it’s just making everyone miserable. The older and more verbal he gets, the easier it will be to teach social conventions and manners, so don’t worry about it when he’s barely a year old. At this age it’s more important for him to see you sitting and eating calmly and politely than to have him up with you during the whole meal.

Q&A: helping a shy 4-year-old

I got two virtually identical questions on the same day, which always fascinates me. My friend Theresa writes:

"My 4-1/2 y.o. son has always been a bit on the shy side, especially with adults.  We attribute some of this to his background – we adopted him from Kazakhstan when he was almost 1-year-old.  His birthmother released her parental rights the day he was born, so he went straight from the maternity hospital to the orphanage to, one year later, our home.  Although he’s bonded really well to us, we suspect that there is some subconscious fear of abandonment at work.

He is sociable with children he knows and relates well to his preschool teachers and to the parents of his friends.  He does not, however, do well with adults he doesn’t know extremely well.  This is starting to interfere with his life in that, although he lives, breathes and sleeps sports, he is unable to interact with coaches in any of the 4-year-old athletic activities we’ve tried, and has "failed" his first readiness assessment for kindergarten (which consisted of a one-on-one interview with a woman from the admissions dept. of a local private school).

We have more private school playdates and readiness assessments in the near future and tee-ball starts soon.  Does anyone have any ideas of how we can, gently, make him comfortable enough with these types of situations so that he can successfully interact?"

I know that I’m definitely not qualified to offer an opinion about whether his orphanage time or adoption has anything to do with his shyness. I will give the data point that my older son (a few months older than JR) has been in a period for about a year of not wanting to interact at all with unknown adults, and sometimes being downright rude in just ignoring them and acting as if they don’t exist. (This from a kid who was nicknamed "The Mayor" when he was 2 because he made friends with eeeeveryone.)

And clearly JR and my son are’t alone, because Lucy writes:

"Camille, my little girl, is 4 years old.
She’s bright and funny and perceptive. She’s very sensitive to the
goings-on of the world around her and always has been. Not to the point
where I’d call her highly sensitive (I guess), but it has caused some
challenges to both her and to me and my husband as parents. For
example, when she’s with a friend who disagrees with her or "corrects"
her, she dissolves into tears and drama and clings to my side. It’s a
normal and hard lesson to learn – you’re not always right; people are
different – but with her reaction, you’d think the world was ending. I
tell her people are different, wipe her tears, give her hugs, but I
often feel so helpless in getting her beyond the drama… and yes,
exasperated too.

She can also be so shy around children
who are unfamiliar to her. Inevitably, though, after we attend a church
event or birthday party where she’s been the wallflower, she’ll
excitedly tell us all about the great things that happened and the
people there – just like she was in the middle of things instead of
shyly refusing to participate. I encourage her to participate in all of
these events, but try not to do that to a point where she’s
uncomfortable.

And Camille has been in a clingy stage
for a while. With me especially. Going back to school after a long
break is hard for her, with tears in the morning ("I’m SIIIIICK,
Mommy!"), frustration and all that. This is especially challenging, so
if there are specific suggestions for helping school mornings go
smoothly, please pass them along. Again, I try to get through this in a
loving, supportive way, but it makes mornings really stressful for the
whole family.

I want Camille to be happy and unafraid
of the world and new people. I want her to be a little more
independent. I want to encourage these things in a way that will help
her grow and not feel like I see her as inadequate in any way. Please
advise."

I hate to say it, but it think our kids are not atypical. (Well, OK, I don’t really hate to say it, because it’s nice to know your kid is not some strange anomaly.) I’m not sure what to do about all this stuff, but here are some behaviors I’ve observed in my son and his friends:

  • shy and/or downright rude around adults
  • anxious about friendships (who wants to play with whom on any given day)
  • wishy-washy about social situations (being really excited about going to a birthday party, then freaking out and refusing to go on the day of the party)

If I’d been smart I’d have hunted down the Ames & Ilg book on 4-year-olds, and it undoubtedly would explain all of this. But after weathering the moods of the 3-year-old I got cocky and decided to do four without a book. So this is all just my speculation, and if anyone has the Ames & Ilg book, just jump right in with what the actual experts say.

I think this is the age at which kids start to realize that they are separate from other people. They know they’re different from adults, so they start to get shy around adults. They know they’re not other kids, so they’re sensitive to other kids liking them or not and who likes whom. They start to say things like "boys like x, but girls like y," because they’re starting to distinguish who they are in relation to other people.

The attitude I’ve tried to take (and it seems to be serving me well because I’m not anxious about this phase at all) is that it is just a natural phase of development. it’s part of the separation process, and part of the process of kids learning about themselves.

In particular, I really wouldn’t worry about shy behavior. Kids who are shy have really solid boundaries, which can be a healthy protective mechanism in a ton of situations. If your child seems particularly anxious, that can be something you want to work on, by taking baby steps to gradually expose the kid to more and more things, making sure you never push the child too hard past his or her comfort level. But just shyness is something to be observed but not worried about, like left-handedness or brown eyes. It’s the way the kid is, and as long as the child is able to be friends with one or two other kids (at this age–remember that kids younger than this like other kids but aren’t really engaged in active friendships per se) and do normal daily tasks, it’s just a way of being.

If the adults who regularly interact with kids this young are shocked by your child’s shy behavior, I’d be surprised. So many kids this age are either shy or just refuse to talk to grown-ups. Your kid is certainly not the only one. If you feel you need to explain, say your child is shy and does better warming up gradually to a situation. A professional should definitely understand and act accordingly.

Q&A: newborn who will only sleep in the swing

Shannon writes:

"I know you addressed this some in your "sleep week" article, but I
was hoping you could give me some hope regarding my 9-week-old. I know
you said for the first 12-14 weeks let them sleep any way they will.
Well, she sleeps only in her swing or on our chests. After spending two
days trying to get her to sleep in her crib, she would only sleep for
15 minutes tops… then she would wake up for an hour or two… sleep
for 15 minutes… etc. We tried everything… different positions,
trying to simulate the "feel" of the swing (it’s not the motion that
she needs because she will sleep in the swing when it’s off too).
Needless to say, after two days, she was near delirious – arms waving
erratically; shaking her head quickly – that is when I quit. Nothing
was worth seeing her like that.  I put her in the swing and she has
been asleep since (that was 4 hours ago).

Everyone tells me not to worry about it and that she won’t go to kindergarten with the swing.

My question is… If she isn’t going to go to kindergarten with
the swing, then how is the transition going to happen? Am I going to
have to go through the horrible heartache of the past two days again
when she gets too big to sleep in the swing?

Please tell me you have or know someone who has been through this. I just really want to know what to expect."

I think you have good people surrounding you, if they’re telling you not to worry about it right now. Because really, what can you do at this point that isn’t going to stress everyone out unduly?

It sounds like you’re in a good spot if she’ll sleep in it when it’s not moving, because simulating the motion of the swing would be the toughest, most exhausting part. It sounds like she relaly likes being upright. That could be just a preference, or it could mean that she feels uncomfortable while she’s flat, and that points to reflux or other tummy troubles.

If she does have some mild reflux, then the cure is to keep her on an incline while she sleeps, which you’re doing. I’m going to assume that she doesn’t have more severe reflux with spitting up since you didn’t mention that, so there’s no need for Zantac or any other meds for it. If keeping her upright is enough to help her, then you’re golden.

I’m not saying she definitely has reflux, but I am saying that it’s possible, and if she does, she’s certainly lucky to have parents who are going along with what she’s expressing a need for (very clearly, I might add, which means she’s used to your responding to her) instead of what they think they should do.

Now, whatever reason she’s sleeping in the swing, she’ll either outgrow it soon (my bet would be right around the 12-week mark), or you’re going to have to figure out some way to transition her out of it when she gets too big. Jo-Ann had a son who would only sleep in his infant car seat, and in this post we all were figuring out how to transition him out of it by figuring out exactly what about it he liked, and then replicating those conditions in his crib. You can do the same thing with your daughter and the swing, by observing what it is about the swing that she needs. You already know it’s not the motion. Is it the upright position? The sides that kind of coccoon her? The smell? There are all sorts of things it could be, and if you can isolate those, you can replicate them. But you probably won’t be able to figure that out for another few weeks at the least. 9 weeks is just the beginning of the cusp of the start of their making sense to adults.

My other suggestion is to start using a musical lovey, if you can. When you feed her, put the lovey (playing its music) snuggled in with the two of you, so she starts to associate the lovey and its music with drifting off to sleep with a full tummy. After a week or so of this you can start using the lovey to help her transition to sleep if she’s fighting it, or to soothe her if she comes out of sleep briefly. When it’s time to transition her out of the swing, the lovey will be helpful in getting her to sleep in a different spot.

It sounds like you guys are doing really well. Even if you do have to go through a swing step-down program, it’ll be easier when she’s older and a little more stable. The lovey will help. And she may grow out of it without your even doing anything.

Q&A: too much beta-carotene turning a baby orange?

I’m lost in a world of toddler projectile vomit today, so here’s a short funny one.

Karen writes:

"Is it normal for my 8 month old son’s skin to turn
orange if he has had any orange/yellow vegetables in the day? He will usually
have orange-coloured cheeks and/or nose if he eats sweet potatoes, squash,
carrots, apricots, yellow split peas, mango etc. The amount of
these vegetables is not excessive (one or two servings for the day, such as
sweet potatoes for lunch and squash for dinner). Is there such a thing as
beta-carotene overload and is it harmful?"

Do you guys remember when Susan Dey was on The Partridge Family, and she went through that anorexic phase? She spent months eating nothing but carrots, and her skin turned orange. (Ah, wait. Wiki tells me that it was actually orthorexia nervosa, not anorexia nervosa. Who knew that the millions of women who eat two bags of baby carrots every day so they don’t consume anything fattening actually had a named disorder?)

Here are some British people who ran an experiment to see if they could turn their skin orange by eating carrots. They could.

But back to Karen’s son. This is pretty common, and even has a name, carotenemia (complete with an entry in Wikipedia.) It’s harmless, and will go away when he stops eating so many orange things. if it’s really bugging you, you could rotate in some foods of other colors. Or just don’t worry about it and accept the compliments on his tan.

Update: Did you know there’s a World Carrot Museum? Who knew? It’s basically got everything you could ever want to know about carrots, including some amazing-sounding recipes.

Q&A: what to tell 2-year-old about mother going into the hospital

Joan writes:

"Hope you can help on this one.  My
daughter in law (29 yrs.) is shortly to go into hospital for breast
cancer surgery and whatever else the follow up treatment is in months
to come.  She and my son have a very bright two-year-old little girl,
Georgia, and I’m not sure how we should play the hospital stuff with
her to make sure it affects her as little as possible.  For instance:

How long will it take until she realises that mummy hasn’t been around for quite a while as opposed to just popping out?

What do we tell her about where mummy is?

Do we take her to the hospital so that
she can see mummy (as mummy will probably want) or will she be scared
and will it leave a  lasting impression?

Are we better just waiting until mummy comes home?

How do we cope with the after care situation of mummy not feeling well etc.?

In other words, how can I do the best for Georgia in this situation.?

Any other advice would be appreciated,
as we are all a bit shell shocked at the moment.  But I do know that
life has to be as normal as possible for Georgia – I just want to do
the best thing for her."

I’m so sorry for your daughter-in-law, and for all of you.

You have to prep Georgia ahead of time for your daughter-in-law’s stay in the hospital. There’s absolutely no way a 2-year-old will not notice that her mother is gone, and if no one says anything about it it will terrify her. The long-term effects of that could be serious, not to mention how her behavior will spiral down immediately and add to the stress you are all dealing with anyway.

We had a question a few months ago about prepping a 2-year-old for his mother’s stay in the hospital for an operation. (That situation was different because it was a rotator cuff surgery and she would be basically immobilized when she came home, but there was no worry about cancer.) The general consensus was that kids need to be told, and told repeatedly, where mommy is and why. I suggested making a little book for the child and reading it regularly about where mommy was going, what will happen at the hospital, and when she will come home.

Adults get really emotional and scared about cancer. But toddlers don’t have any idea what it is or how worrisome it is, and they’re also not scared of things like surgery yet. They just take it as you explain it. You can tell her (with the book you make) that mommy is sick and has a tumor (or you can use a word like "owie" or "boo-boo") inside her and the doctors need to cut it out with some knives. She’ll be asleep while they cut it out, so it won’t hurt her. She’s going to be tired and the place they cut her is going to hurt for a long time, and she’s going to have to stay in a special place called a hospital.

It’ll probably be more scary to Georgia not to see her mother. So if you can bring her to the hospital, do it. At least then she’ll have an image in her mind of where her mother is, and it’ll make things easier for her.

This has to be so stressful and confusing for all of you. The thing to bear in mind when dealing with Georgia is that children are always way more scared by not knowing what’s going on, and they don’t have all the baggage that we do attached to things like hospitals and diseases. In her mind, mommy is sick, she goes to the hospital, the doctors fix her, she comes home and recovers, and things are fine. Even if the individual steps are a little scary, the overall narrative is reassuring. There’s no need to deviate from that at this point or borrow trouble by withholding information, and it’ll help you all, too, to be able to talk about it in a matter-of-fact and positive way.

I hope everything goes simply and smoothly for your daughter-in-law. You all are lucky to have each other.

Q&A: not wanting sex 2 years postpartum

Before today’s question, does anyone have a great easy way to clean out the valves from sippy cups? Reader Marie and I appreciate it.

"Perplexed and unhorny" writes:

"Two years post baby (including 14 months of breastfeeding, 6 months
exclusively; baby sleeping through the night since 3 months (so I can’t
blame fatigue)), I don’t feel very interested in sex. I don’t have
nearly the same level of arousal or desire compared to my pre-baby
years. I notice I have less sensation in my nipples and the vagoogoo –
the whole area. I had a fairly easy delivery, no tears, had an
epidural, just pushed 1-2-3-4 and baby was out in literally 10 minutes
from the time I started pushing. So I can’t blame birth trauma. On the
rare occasions that I do feel a little aroused, the climax – well, it’s
not much of a climax. My periods have returned and they are normal. So
I’m thinking it’s not hormonal.

What’s going on? I’m assuming the decrease in nipple sensation
is related to the breastfeeding. Is this a common experience? What
about in the vagoogoo area? Will things get better over time? Since I
don’t have much interest, it’s not that much of a deal that I don’t
have much sensation etc…but this doesn’t seem normal. And there might
be complaints coming my way soon….
"

My guess is that it’s not one thing, it’s all of them.

First, I wouldn’t write off the lack of fatigue. Just because your kid sleeps through the night does not mena you aren’t bone-tired. Whether you’re at work all day, then coming home and taking care of your child plus everything else that has to be done, or at home all day with a 2-year-old, you’re tired. And focused on a lot of things that aren’t sex.

I also think there’s probably still a lot going on hormonally. (Think of all the women you know with "regular" cycles who still have problems with hormonal balance that causes infertility. Just getting a regular period does not mean you’re in balance hormonally.) It’s possible that your system just "reset" at a different level that’s affecting nipple and vaginal sensation. (Since you stopped nursing almost a year ago, I don’t know if the nursing is the culprit for the lack of nipple sensation.)

Don’t underestimate the forces of prgnancy itself. Just because the delivery was simple doesn’t mean you didn’t get all shifted around in your bones and ligaments and nerves just from carrying the baby for 9 months. Women all over the world would probably feel better in general adn sexier specifically if we’d all do regular yoga or go get a few chiropractic treatments or deep-tissue massages postpartum just to kind of snap things back into place.

I’m going to take a wild guess and say there might also be a little bit of unresolved tension in your relationship with your partner. Two years is about the mark when the inequities of childraising start to hit the fan and either boil over into a cauldron of seething rage or get talked about and modified, then dissipate.

It seems to me like nothing’s going to be a magic cure, but you can do things that will help you feel better and address some of the possible issues, and in a few months you might start to notice a difference. At the very least, you’ll be happier with your body and frame of mind.

The first thing I’d do is (and I almost hate to keep harping on it, especially because I get no kickback from recommending it 🙂 start doing the exercise T-Tapp. It’s going to help you sleep better and be more rested, and it will also balance your hormones by stimulating your lymphatic system. One of the well-known side effects of doing T-Tapp (that isn’t often mentioned on public message boards, but that women will talk about in private) is an increase in libido and sensation after a month or two of doing T-Tapp. (Menopausal women and post-menopausal women report the same thing, too.)

If you’re considering T-Tapp, don’t forget to read Summer’s post about how to get started, as it tells you everything you need to know about doing it.

The T-Tapp, with its emphasis on proper alignement, may help with some of the crunching and nerve-pinching stuff from pregnancy. But you should probably get a few chiropratic adjustments and/or massages, too. And none of this spa-style hot rock, kelp-wrap massage. Deep, therapeutic massage to help move out gunk in your system, relax your muscles, and get things back into place in the hip and pelvic region.

The other thing that could help is to have some real talk-time with your partner. A little time to reconnect every day, even just 15 minutes of talking about non kid or household things would help reestablish the pre-baby bond. And if either of you is feeling some resentment about the way things are going on a daily basis, it’s time to get it out in the open so you can figure out how to resolve it to both of your satisfaction.

The phone lines are open. Anyone want to say anything even remotely on this topic? You’re having great sex post-baby? Or bad sex? Or no sex? You have a solution? Or another problem?

Remember, to comment anonymously, just put in www.fake.com or www.google.com in the URL box.

Q&A: tips for multiples very close on the heels of an older child

Jessica (who will forever be everyones "I know a woman who" because her son is 9.5 months old and she’s 31 weeks pregnant with twins) writes:

"I’m writing to ask about the changing family dynamics that will happen
when we have twins within the next two months.  I’m currently 31 weeks
along, so they may be here as soon as five weeks from now!  I guess I’m
looking for some general advice and tips for parenting multiples, and
parenting a very young child (as I said, he’s 9.5 months) who will no
longer be an only child.  What might we anticipate?  What are some
useful tips/ hacks for caring for three babies, one of whom is older
and has different needs, maybe from some of your readers who’ve also
been there?  I realize this is very open-ended.  I already know that
we’ll have to do things very differently than we did with our first.
For instance, we co-slept with him and to some extent still do and
won’t do this with the twins.  Any sanity preserving advice would be
most welcome. 🙂
"

Parents of multiples, please jump in and tell her what she needs to know. Also, parents of children spaced very closely, your advice will fit here perfectly, too.

All I’ve got is that she needs to read Siblings Without Rivalry, because the concepts in it are extremely useful for helping you frame the way you encourage your kids to interact with each other. And if she could have some help in for a few hours a day for the first few months her life would be vastly improved.

My public service announcement is that while, statistically speaking, breastfeeding surpresses ovulation for the first 6 months postpartum if you nurse around the clock and give no supplemental feedings, that’s only true across the population, not for every single woman. Even in studies with women in cultures with scarce food who nurse almost constantly throughout the day and night, there is still a small percentage of women who get pregnant in the first few months while nursing. The rates of pregnancy are much higher for women in urban settings in developing countries than in rural settings, so one could draw the conclusion that lactation-induced amenorrhea will be less effective for women in developed countries, especially in urban settings. (I’m too tired to look up all the stats–if someone else has them handy, leave them in the comments, please). So. What that means is that nursing tends to prevent pregnancy for the first 6 months, but won’t necessarily prevent it for you. Take whatever you need from that.

Q&A: could pumping be changing the composition of breastmilk?

Joyce writes:

"My 5 month old son has always been a prolific spitter-upper.  I amtalking volumes.  We have always marveled that he is able to grow with
the amount of spitting up that he does (17 lbs, 4 oz at 4.5 months!).
He not only spits up right after a feeding, but even up to two hours
afterward.  He is always in a bib, and we usually go through at least 6
bibs and four changes of clothes a day — and we’re not being overly
fastidious and trying to keep him in "clean" clothes necessarily; we
change him when the spit-up stink gets to be overwhelming.  I made some
long-term, serious dietary changes to see if that would help (from
months 2 – 4, no dairy, no legumes, no cruciferous vegetables, etc.).
No dice. His pediatrician put him on Zantac to try to control the
spitting up, and we thought it was helping.

I
am a full-time graduate student.  Over winter break, I noticed that his
spitting up declined substantially.  We even made it through several
days with only one bib and no outfit changes!  I thought maybe he was
growing out of the spitting up.  Either that, or it was the Zantac,
since he  started it just before my winter break began.   

My
classes resume tomorrow, and his spitting up has also returned.  Today
we’ve gone through five bibs and five outfits.  I haven’t changed his
number of feedings, nor have I changed my diet.  The only thing
different: I didn’t pump during winter break, and I have gone back to
pumping to build up a stash of breastmilk for his return to daycare
while I am in class.  I am now assuming that the pumping is causing his
spitting up. 

Have you ever heard of such a
thing?  If so, what can I do?  I don’t want to feed him formula while
he’s in day care yet, so I’d need to keep pumping.  Should we all just
live with the spitting up as long as I am pumping?"

That’s a gross problem. But remember that spitting up, as long as the baby isn’t in pain, isn’t an actual health problem. For years I’ve been hearing and repeating the quote that "spit-up isn’t a medical problem, it’s a laundry problem," and then Jamie (author of the great "Why Is It So Hard To Breastfeed A Baby?" and "What’s the normal learning curve?" posts) told me the original source was  Dr. Greg White (husband of La Leche League co-founder Mary White).

My first thought was that the pumping was changing something about the amount of milk Joyce produces, or the ratio of foremilk (watery with a lot of lactic acid) to hindmilk (fatty and creamy and sticks to the ribs better). So I decided to get a second opinion from Jamie. Here’s what she said:

"It could be foremilk/hindmilk imbalance with a more abundant milk
supply, or it could be that her letdown is too forceful for him when
she has more milk.  Gulping to keep up with the flow of milk can mean a
lot of spitting up later.  A couple of ideas off the top of my head:
nursing against gravity helps with overactive letdown.  She could lean
back in a recliner, or in the corner of the couch, or try nursing while
lying down when she’s at home.  Sometimes positioning the baby so he’s
straddling the mother allows her to lean back more comfortably and puts
his mouth higher in relation to her breast.

Alternatively, she could try pumping off some of the milk
right before he nurses.  If she pumps or hand-expresses first thing in
the morning (or whenever her breasts feel especially full) so she can
offer the baby an empty-ish breast, it’s likely to be less of a
problem.  If a pumping session is too much to stomach first thing in
the morning, she could try nursing with a towel handy.  When she feels
the letdown begin, she could unlatch the baby for a minute, let that
milk just flow into the towel, and then reconnect the baby again
afterward.  It’s that first letdown that will probably be the most
forceful."

Those suggestions should help when Joyce is at home nursing. For the pumped bottles, it may just be the foremilk/hindmilk imbalance and there isn’t anything to be done about it. (I’m assuming she’s already checked to make sure there isn’t that sour or soapy taste characteristic of pumped milk in women with excess lipase issues.)

Joyce, I think you’re just going to have to decide which would be worse to you, to switch to formula at daycare or to keep doing so much laundry. If you start him on solids at around 6 months, that might also help him keep things down a little more. My guess is that as he gets older and that muscle at the top of his esophagus gets stronger, combined with eating more solid-ish foods, the spit-up problem will fade away.

Apology

I’d like to apologize for my harsh tone in Tuesday’s post about the 6-month-old baby who had no daily routine. I was aiming for tough love, because it seemed clear to me from the question (the part I posted and the rest of it) that the father was floudering and the parents thought there was something wrong with their baby. The baby was doing everything he could do–crying–to ask for help, and wondering what was wrong with him for crying is only going to make the problem worse. I wanted to impress upon Wits End that she had to take control of the situation, either by asking her husband to create a routine and stick to it, or by helping pull him out of PPD if that was the problem.

I apologize that my tone came off as harsh and mean. I should have edited better to keep the tough love edge but be kinder to Wits End.