Update and a question for you

Remember Zaimah and her upcoming trip to Pakistan? She wrote in to update us all:

"Dear Moxie and Readers,

We just got back from our trip to Pakistan and I wanted to let you all know that your the tips from your comments and suggestions were very helpful and we used them. We also realized that there were just
certain things you can not anticipate and so you have to be a lot more flexible than usual. SInce we were staying with family the whole time we had a few days of growing pains but by the end we had all reached a
happy middle ground. Anyhow, it was a good trip overall and I am happy to say we survived it with minimal scarring.

Thanks once again."

Well, that’s a relief. I always feel bad for the readers who are dreading some future event, because you really just never know how it’s going to go for them. Updates are comforting, so if anyone else wants to update us, feel free.

Now a question from me to you: I know that when a woman weans a baby, her body stores up calcium really easily (I’d find a research link, but I’ve been doing my taxes and am fried). My younger son is slowing down on nursing (although he went from once a day to twice a day when I went to work), so I’m thinking I should be actively supplementing with calcium to catch the window when he does wean completely. So what’s the best form of calcium supplementation to be taking? The one that’s most easily/completely absorbed, I mean.

(This is also useful info for women who experience a dip in milk supply at the beginning of their mentrual period each month. Extra calcium supplementation for those few days helps even out supply.)



Q&A: stroller facing in or out

Maria writes:

"Here in Sweden there is this dilemma about having your child facing out in a stroller. Most pediatricians recommend babies up to at least one year to sit facing their parent. But still there are many strollers facing out only and they are becoming more and more popular. Parents often say that in other countries they have their babies in outfacing strollers and nobody ever complains about it. That their babies are fine…What do you think about this?

Personally I have my baby (10 months) facing me.

Thank you!"

When it comes to car seats, it’s pretty clear that rear-facing as long as possible is the very safest thing. (Here’s a link to the video Portlairge left in the comments on my last carseat post. If you don’t want to sit through all 3 1/2 minutes of it, go right to minute 1:20 to see the crash tests. They will seriously question your assumption than turning a baby around at one year is appropriate.)

But strollers are a different story, because it’s a pretty safe assumption that they’re not going to be involved in vehicle crashes. In my opinions (and again, you know, just my opinion), the style of stroller you have is a reflection of the intersection between the culture you live in and your child’s personality.

I think it would be really hard for Americans to swallow having our kids facing in for years and years. Our culture is fundamentally based on the idea of independence that we do all sorts of things that are frankly bordering on the insane to get our kids to be as independent as possible as soon as possible. When I was worrying about putting my older son facing outwards in the stroller when he was 4 months old and had outgrown the infant seat/base combo I’d been using to stroll, people actually told me that he had to face outward at that age so he’d "learn about the world."

(I did manage to refrain from laughing in their faces. But it made me laugh typing it again right now. I think those people would be absolutely horrified to know that I occasionally carried him in a sling even at age 3. But what can I say? It was easier than schlepping a stroller on the bus, and I’m all about what’s easier.)

From what I know about Swedish culture (and I’m much more familiar with Norwegian culture, so I may be getting this wrong) there’s more value on the collective, and on the idea of interdependence. So at the very least, you won’t be in a rush to turn a true infant outward, and there may be significant cultural tradition of keeping the baby facing inward as long as possible.

But. I think you should also take your kid’s personality into account. Some babies (no matter what culture they’re born into) need more closeness for longer, and would do better facing you for longer. Others are the kids who really really want to see the outside world, and just use you as home base. Those kids will do better facing outward.

Anyone else have any opinions on this? It seems like a nice, minimally-controversial topic for a Wednesday.

Q&A: teaching a 22-month-old to nap in his bed

Karyn writes:

"How do you get a 22
month old to nap in his bed after he has been used to napping for two hours in
either a moving stroller outside or in a moving car?

I need a
step-by-step guide to doing this.

It is for the child
I ‘nanny’ for, not for my own child.

I would like to be
able to show the mum this step-by-step process."

Ha. Ha ha. Hahahahahahahahahaha. I think I’d just use the stroller time as exercise.

OK, that’s not really fair. I do believe that you can get a child to change a lot of things about the circumstances of their sleep if you have enough time and patience, and you define exactly what you want and accept flexible ways of getting there.

(What do I mean by that? Well, you might say "I want my toddler to sleep 12 hours at night in his own bed." That may be realistic for some kids, but for others it’s just not going to happen, any more than I am going to become an Olympic ski jumper*. While technically possible, the probability is extremely low. Instead, ferret out what you really want, and it may be "I want to be able to sleep from 11 to 6 and not have to wake up to deal with this toddler who I think is just waking up out of habit." That’s something you can deal with, even if it means experimenting with things you would never have considered, like giving your partner the 11-6 shift, waking the kid up at 10:30 for a big glass of milk, putting a bunch of toys in the crib so the child can play quietly if s/he wakes up in the middle of the night, etc. Redefining your expectations and being flexible will buy a lot less frustration than sticking with "shoulds.")

So. I’d start by asking "Is the bed mission-critical?" Because it seems like there are a bunch of components here. One is sleeping without motion. One is sleeping in a consistent place. One is the bed. The more of these you define as being absolutely necessary for success, the trickier this is going to be. If there’s anything you can eliminate from the plan, the easier it will be.

Think, also, about the child’s personality. If he’s flexible in general, you might as well try it cold turkey for a few days and see how it goes. Sometimes we parents get more addicted to something than our kids do, and we just assume they care when they don’t really. So you might be pleasantly surprised. If cold turkey isn’t going to work for your child, think ahead and start putting a favorite blanket (or a new blanket bought especially for these purposes) in underneath him wherever he takes a nap, starting now. It’s going to be his transition object.

Personally, I’d start by being consistent, and picking either the stroller or the car seat. Then I’d move on to cutting out the motion. Which means, maybe, that you’ll have to start the nap in motion to get him to sleep in the stroller or car, and then stop and hope he keeps sleeping. It may take a few days to figure out how long it takes until he’s out enough to keep sleeping. Once you figure that out, cut back the time by a few minutes each day until he’s falling asleep just by being in the stroller or car seat.

Once he can get to sleep without being in motion, it’s time to start the transition to his bed (if you’ve decided that his bed is where you want him to be for sure–I’ve known plenty of kids who napped better someplace else, like another bed in the house or a pack ‘n’ play, so if his bed isn’t working out, think about another consistent location). Start by putting the stroller or the car seat in the room you want him to be sleeping in. (Basically, you’re doing exactly what Jo-Ann did in this post.) After a few days of this, put his transitional blanket on his bed and put him down on it. (This is where the plan’s going to fall apart if it does. Just be prepared that everything might go really well until here and then stop in a screaming crying fit.) If it works it works. If it doesn’t, retreat back to the last thing that worked (sleeping in the stroller or car seat in his room, probably) for a few days, then try the bed again.

You know the old saying "Fast, cheap, and good. You can have any two of the three"? Well, I think the equivalent with children is "fast, simple, and painless." You can have any of the two, but rarely all three. So if you’re aiming for simple and painless, it’s going to take a few weeks to get the naps completely switched. And, depending on his personality, he may never nap easily in his own bed (I assume there’s a reason the mom started getting him to sleep in motion in the first place, and it may be something he’s grown out of, or it may just be something about him). And, being a fan of keeping up a plan that’s working, I’d probably just keep strolling him to sleep if there wasn’t really a reason to stop (and no, "the book says I shouldn’t do it this way" isn’t a real reason). But again, that’s me, and I’m notoriously lazy, and need the exercise.

Anyone else with stories of switching a napper? My older always napped on my bed (after nursing down–the horror!–and yet somehow he goes to bed all on his own now), and my younger always screamed at the top of his lungs for 3 minutes before dropping into a dead sleep in his crib.

* Please tell me I’m not the only person who holds a little glimmer of hope in her that she could start curling next winter and practice enough to get good enough to make her country’s Olympic team? If that 102-year-old golfing lady could make a hole in one last week, I could become a curler. Surely.

Q&A: routine for a baby of a shift worker

Lisa writes:

"A question that’s been weighing on my mind as I returned to worklast week: how can I get my little one feeling secure in the world now
that I am returning to work, on a very erratic schedule?  During
my 15 week maternity leave, my son and I got into a nice little
groove with a loose routine going. Nothing fancy, just a predictable
wakeup and bedtime (within an hour or so timeframe), a nap every hour
or two (can’t wait to consolidate those!), an outing midday, that kind
of thing.  Well, now I’m back to work.  I work shifts in an
ER, and my schedule is all over the place.  I work a combination
of daytime, evening, and overnight shfits with no predictable pattern
at all.  One week I might work 5 shifts, and the next week be off
entirely.  I can request shifts ahead of time, but have very
little control over whether I get my request (I’m pretty low in the
hierarchy).  We’ll be bringing him to a family day care starting
next week, and I
have flexibility there – we have a full time slot though I plan on
having him with me during my days off.  I once thought that my
schedule would be very kid-positive, in that I can spend whole days
with him, never miss a school play etc., but in his babyhood I worry
that the inconsistency is stressing him out.  Here’s why:

I started back to work with a half shift that began after his bedtime,
and ended just before he would typically wake up for a nighttime
nursing session.  Figured that he’d barely even know I was
gone.  I was so proud of my little plan, and whammo, he got me.
Wouldn’t fall asleep that night, up every hour with my husband during
my absence, and hasn’t been able to sleep since.  We co-sleep with
his crib as a side car on our bed, and now his sleep is all screwy,
getting up every 2-3 hours (where previously he slept for 4-6 in a
row), needing to sleep ON me from about 4 AM onward, that kind of thing.

I think this is a combination of my returning to work plus the 4 month
sleep regression or 3 month growth spurt (he was a month early so I
never know exactly where we’ll fall in those milestones) plus he seems
to be teething.  I know I can do nothing about the sleep
regression or growth spurts or teething except get through it and keep
him as comfortable and secure feeling as possible.  But is there
something I can do to give him some loose structure despite my
completely erratic schedule?  Any suggestions?"

First, I want to say thank you for working in the ER. I know it’s not glamourous and won’t make you rich, but we really need good people there. So thnks.

It seems to me that consistency and routine about about a few things: what you do, how you do it, and when you do it. Since you have no control over the "when" anymore, it seems like the other two elements will become even more important for you and your son until he’s old enough to be able to understand when you tell him what your schedule is for that day or week.

That’s earlier than you think it is. In fact, my first suggestion is that every morning when he wakes up you–or whoever’s with him–tell him what’s going to happen during the day and when you’ll be with him. You’ll be shocked at how much this helps him calm down and feel more secure. Think about not having any idea what’s going on and being carried around by big people all day and just being bewildered by everything. Then think about what it would be like to start to understand what the big people were saying, and realize that they were telling you what was going to happen for the whole rest of the day. It would be kind of like discovering the Rosetta stone.

Once you’ve started doing that, make sure that you establish and stick to routines as much as possible. The same bedtime routine. The same naptime routines. The same mealtime routines. Whether you’re doing it, your partner is doing it, or someone else is doing, try to stick to the same routine as much possible. This will provide stability and predictability, and help your little guy relax.

The other element is how you do things. If you’re sweet and constant and confident with him, no matter what time of day it is, he’ll feel like you’re always the same mommy. He’ll feel like you love him and want to be with him. He’ll feel like you’re in control and he can relax. It’s a huge relief to a child to know that his parents are taking care of things and he doesn’t have to worry.

This is clearly going to get easier the older he gets and the more attached the two of you become. And once object permanence kicks in at around 9 months it should get significantly easier.

Anyone have any wisdom for Lisa?

Q&A: rear-facing toddler carsickness

Jessica writes:

"Hello! Thank you very much for having such a helpful blog–I refer to it often, especially when we’re suffering from sleep or teething troubles.  I have a question that I just can’t find an answer to. My 16-month-old daughter is still rear-facing in the car (she’s 18.5 pounds), and we’re hoping to keep her that way as long as we can. However, she’s been getting carsick whenever we travel for more than a half hour or so. Yesterday, I had a feeling she was about to "pop"–the car was warm and sunny, and she was crying a little bit–not mad, "I WANT OUT" crying, just "I don’t like this" crying. So we opened her window a crack and tried to cool down the car with the A/C. It didn’t work–without fail our car smelled like yogurt. Also, before we got in the car, we took off her coat and pulled her sun shades down to keep her cool(ish) and to keep the sun off of her face. Do you have any better ideas on how to keep her stomach contents down when traveling? (My husband and MIL think the only way to fix this is to turn her around–but I’d really like to avoid that.)  Thanks very much!"

I have no idea. Truly. I get carsick myself sometimes, and have no cure for that. And since I don’t have a car, I really don’t have any good advice for people who drive all the time. (I have lots of good tiips for taking kids on the subway, though.)

Readers? You must have some magic cure. Or is this some thing people just suffer through that I never knew about?

Q&A: concerns with daycare caregiver

Annie writes:

"My son is 16 months and we have
been pretty happy with the day care but recently we’ve noticed that one
of his providers seems very attached.  She is constantly raving and
talking about him during drop off and pick up and on my lunch break when I
visit for about 30 min.  She does this in front of other parents
too.  Recently when I was asking my son for a hug good bye he had been
standing next to her and gave her a hug- she immediately said “I love
your hugs, go give your ‘birth Mommy’ a hug.”  This
really upset me.  Lately I feel she has been monopolizing my time with him
during my visits- hugging him, dancing with him and reading to him while I’m
there visiting.  This is my time with my son and I’m worried that
she is developing some unhealthy obsession.  I am happy that my son is “loved”
and well thought of at day care but is this too much?"

That would freak me right out.

She seriously called you his "birth Mommy?"

It seems clear to me that you need to talk to the director of the center about this. Mention that you think it’s a little strange that the caregiver seems to take such ownership of your child, and calls you his "birth Mommy." I’d also mention that she doesn’t seem to want to allow you to have time alone with him when you visit.

In all likelihood, she’s just taken with your son because he’s so sweet and above-average. But it’s still not appropriate behavior, and the director of the center should know about it and have a chance to respond.

Has anyone else dealt with anything like this? I’ve had friends who felt like their babysitters were getting extremely close to their kids, but it seems different in a daycare center situation. As if part of what you choose when you choose a center is knowing that there’s some distance between the caregivers and the kids, that they’re more like teachers than relatives (which is what I think babysitters can become).