Q&A: when you don’t want your kids at a friend’s house

Coco writes:

"My daughter made a new friend in Kindergarten and asked for a playdate.  Her new friend’s mom called and we arranged for her to pick up my daughter from school for the playdate.  After speaking with her, I became concerned that I didn’t really know these people at all.  I had introduced myself to her mom one day after school, but that was it.  Should I allow my daughter to visit the home of almost-complete strangers?  I decided I wasn’t comfortable with this, so I called back and offered to have the playdate at my house. 

After making the change-of-plans, out of curiosity, I googled the parents.  Turns out, they are involved in some things that I am not comfortable with [Ed: Coco described specifically what it was that she found, but I took it out because I don’t think the actual thing is relevant to the question and didn’t want to get into a discusion of the thing she found, but rather keep it on topic with what to do when you don’t approve. It is something that isn’t an immediate physical danger to a child, like unsecured handguns or other weapons, and it’s definitely a hobby and choice of activities, NOT something innate to a person that they can’t change.]  I’m pretty clear on my position on this.  (And, fortunately, my husband and I are in agreement.)  I am fine with my daughter being friends with their daughter, but I am not okay with allowing my daughter to visit their home.

So, here’s where I’m struggling:  (1) If they invite my daughter over in the future, do I tell the parents directly and honestly that I am uncomfortable with their values and not comfortable with allowing my daughter to visit their home?  Or do I just make up an excuse?  and then another excuse the next time?  and the next?  (2) What, if anything, do I tell my daughter?  She’s clearly not old enough to discuss the whole [topic] thing.  Should I tell her we’re not comfortable with their family values?  Or, should I say nothing? and (3) Should I mention this to any of the other parents?  I mean, I’m glad I found out BEFORE I unwittingly allowed my daughter to visit their home.  I would want someone to tell me.  OTOH, (a) beyond my own daughter, their personal life is none of my business, and (b) all of my information is based on a google search.

I’m really conflicted on this.  I really don’t mean to start a debate over [topic].  So, setting aside the source of the concern, the broader question is how to handle a situation where you are uncomfortable with your child visiting a particular friend’s home, due to differences in family values."

This is a tough one. I don’t know if I have an answer. On the one hand, it make me think that if you’re into something that other parents could see as so objectionable that they don’t want their kids to go to your house, you should probably take pains to keep it off the internet. This child is going to be ostracized because of something her parents do that she has nothing to do with. Essentially, her parents are limiting her social life and development by engaging in certain hobbies and being very public about it.

On the other hand, I feel like the parents have a right to be themselves, and maybe by being so open they’re trying to weed out who their daughter becomes friends with because parents who aren’t comfortable with their hobby will not let their kids go to their house.

On the invisible hand (bad Adam Smith joke for the econ majors out there), what about all the people you and your kids interact with every day who do all sorts of things you wouldn’t approve of, but who just have the sense to keep it off the internets? How can you worry about every objectionable hobby out there?

But then, since you do know about it, you can’t just ignore it.

Ah, this is all making my head hurt. You obviously have to trust your instincts about where you allow your daughter to go. I guess you could just tell the other parents you really want to be That House where all the kids hang out. But I think that if the other mom asks you directly why you don’t want your daughter to go to her house you need to tell the truth. She needs to know that her decision to be public about a hobby some people could see as objectionable is having ramifications she maybe didn’t anticipate. If she decides you’re a horrible person you haven’t lost a friendship, so there’s nothing to lose by telling her the truth, and you could help her and her daughter out.

The other thing to do is clarify whether you don’t want your daughter around the parents who have that hobby, or if you just don’t want her in the house? Would it be OK for her to go on a playdate to the playground with the friend’s mother? Or is it the parents themselves you want to avoid? That’s going to affect how you handle this, too. If it’s the parents, then I don’t know what you can do. But if it’s the house, then maybe you could suggest alternate locations.

I don’t think you should tell the other parents. They can Google the class list themselves. (What, you people don’t Google the class list of parents?) And they might not be as bothered by that particular hobby as you are.

What do you all think?

Q&A: thrush + diarrhea = diaper rash X vicious combination

Simone writes:

I’ve looked through your illness
section, and while I have found some information about diaper rashes and
teething, I couldn’t find anything that throws thrush into the equation. Three
weeks ago, my 6 mo-old son was diagnosed with Thrush. (Which in itself is weird
since he’s on the older side for Thrush, and I’m no longer nursing.) We were
given Nystatin, and after now our third round it has proven to be ineffective.
Several people have suggested Gentian Violet, and I’ve heard it’s
messy. I’m OK with his mouth being blue/purple for a few days. But is it one of
those things where if he drools, the drool will then also be purple? How badly
does it stain? Is it worth the trouble? I have visions of having to replace
clothes, carpeting, etc.! But, we need to try something different because the
Nystatin is not working. (Plus, I’m freaked out over the sugar content, and also
read somewhere that yeast thrives on sugar…in other words, it sounds like the
WORST thing to give.) During all of this, he also developed diarrhea (5 days
ago), and subsequently a HORRIBLE diaper rash that we’re finding hard to battle.
He’s vaccinated against rotavirus, but we took him to the doc to be sure and
they’ve ruled that out. It took two poopy diapers to cause the rash, and every
time I think we’re on top of it, he poops once and it flares up. So obviously
the poop itself is an irritant. I am wondering if the two things are
related, and that perhaps the Nystatin is what caused the
diarrhea. Has anyone else experienced this side effect? He’s also
teething, which could be a contributing factor, and also why I mention the
drooling/staining thing. In the meantime we are limiting his solids to rice
cereal and bananas in an effort to help the diarrhea. This is a vicious
cycle that we’re anxious to break, and my little boy is miserable!! If
any of your readers have dealt with a similar situation I’d love to
hear how they fixed it.

Oof. This is a big cluster of hideous.

I don’t remember what the guaranteed thrush cure is, but I know it was mentioned somewhere in the comments section of Julie’s A little Pregnant blog back when her son was a few months old. Does anyone remember what I’m talking about, and remember what the cure was? It contained the word "grape" (grapeseed, grapefruit, grape-something) and was topical and was far more effective (and less messy) the Gentian violet and less disruptive to the system than Nystatin.

Now, if the thrush was out of the picture I’d offer that the diarrhea and diaper rash could be caused solely buy the teething if he’s got a ton of drool. Many kids get what’s called "drool stool," which is watery diarrhea-like poop, often with strands of viscous drool in it. Talk about things you could never even imagine before you had kids! Anyway, the poop seems to get highly acidic because of the drool, and that can cause diaper rash that’s really hard to battle. I also think sometimes the body just causes a rash on the anus the same way some kids get a rash on the face around the mouth near where the upcoming tooth is located. The human body is both wonderful and creepy sometimes.

So I’m hoping someone either remembers or can find the archive of the thrush treatment (I really really want to say grapeseed oil, but have no idea if that’s what it actually was) so you can get the thrush under control. Once that’s gone you can start working on the other layers. In the meantime, the more you can keep his poor little butt exposed to the air the better you’ll probably be. If you can just let him roll around on a waterproof pad for periods during the day it might be the only thing that doesn’t make his butt pain worse.

And now let the magic of the internets commence, with the thrush cure appearing in the comments section ASAP.

Q&A: nighttime parenting is making our eyes bleed

Lisa writes:

"Can you stand another question on sleep?

I guess the actual question is: how do I night wean?

The context is this: I work random shifts in an ER and this means that sometimes I am away for the evening or overnight and my husband has baby sleep duty. When he has to do bedtime, no sweat after we did a little sleep training that involved a little crying.  But the overnights are a different story.  My son (9 months old) has been co-sleeping from day 1, starting the night in a crib and moving into our bed once I come to bed.  I used to be able to nurse him at night and slide him back into his crib but now that he’s so mobile, the crib rails have all gone up, and he protests the return so often sleeps next to me, latching on all night when the fancy strikes him.  This is great for all of us except on the 3-4 nights a month that I’m gone for the night.  He totally freaks out, my husband then totally freaks out, they end up awake all night from 1 AM onward with bags under their eyes the next morning.  I blame myself because I know it’s not fair to my son to get me some nights and not others without any pattern at all.  So I feel like my only option is to get him to go without the milk bar which probably entails going without sleeping under my shirt.

We tried doing this by letting him yell in protest but living in a little condo makes my husband feel guilty about the noise’s impact on the neighbors so we end up jumping ship on that plan.  We also recognize that having him in our room is compounding things but I can’t move him into the only other candidate room since we had an intruder break in several weeks ago through that bedroom window, so I’m psychologically unable to put him there.

I just don’t know logistically how to night wean a baby who is still in our room without lots of hollering.  But I have to do something because every morning after I work a night shift, my family is falling into little tiny pieces which means I’m trying to fix them and not able to recover from having been up working all night and I am starting to get just a teensy bit resentful.  Plus hugely guilty that I did this by letting my son cozy up to the milk bar all night long for so long.  Help? Please?

I love Ask Moxie and someday when I make the big bucks I’ll buy lots of expensive stuff by clicking through from your site first."

Hey, thanks! Somebody bought an expensive power tool a few weeks ago after clicking through here first. I was kind of baffled but happy. (I get a little teeny tiny percentage of all the Amazon.com purchases made after clicking through the links here.)

First, let me say how sorry I am that someone broke into your home. That’s got to be a terrifying and creepy feeling. I completely understand that you can’t put your son alone in that room.

You know what I’m going to say next: Trying to do anything to change sleep patterns is going to be harder in the middle of a sleep regression phase. So right now (9 months) is probably not going to meet with much success. If you can wait a month you’ll probably do better.

And even more next: This isn’t your fault, and it’s NOT your responsibility to manage the relationship between your son and husband, or fix things the next morning when you come home from work. There is not a single thing you can do about what happens while you’re at work, and working out a nighttime routine that allows both your son and your husband to sleep is pretty much your husband’s responsibility. Babies learn that different people do different things, so your son will have a different set of nighttime expectations when he’s with his dad. It happens all the time that kids go to sleep differently with their mothers, fathers, grandparents, babysitters, etc., so it isn’t your responsibility to gatekeep the relationship between your two guys.

I think nightweaning is actually going to be counterproductive, since it’ll take that comfort away from your son on all nights, not just when you’re not there physically. Especially at this separation anxiety age, it’s probably going to end up making him more clingy and crabby all the time, instead of just when you’re gone.

Now, having said that, if you truly do want to nightwean for you, and not because you think it’ll somehow equalize things, your husband is going to have to take the lead on that. I can’t think of anyone I know who nightweaned within a month without basically giving the baby to the non-nursing partner during nightweaning. Most women I know moved to another room during nightweaning (raising my hand), or just played dead at night during that phase. Which leaves you in a tricky situation, since you’re going to have to do the thing you’ve identified as the problem (your husband having to comfort your son to sleep) in order to avoid having your husband have to comfort your son to sleep while you’re not there.

You can see why I’m not so excited about putting the nighttime responsibility all on your shoulders. It’s a big circle of confusion, nastiness, crying, and sleep deprivation for all three of you.

I really think I’d try to work with your husband on developing his own routine to get your son back to sleep. I don’t know if he does much of the initial putting to bed, but that’s a start. Many kids seem to be confused when the going to sleep is different from what happens when they wake up in the middle of the night. So having him develop a really solid bedtime routine that he does might make it easier to replicate that in the middle of the night to get them both back to sleep ASAP. It also sounds like he maybe feels like your son not sleeping is his fault, and, again, a non-sleeping kid is not the parents’ fault. So if your husband can stay kind of zen about it he may have better luck with the getting back to sleep.

Having said that, this is probably all going to get slightly better in a few weeks anyway, once this sleep regression is past. And the older your son gets, the easier the changes will be on him because he’ll just be used to them. And he’ll start sleeping longer anyway.

Anyone have conflicting opinions, suggestions, or comments?

55-week sleep regression

And today we tell the tales of the 55-week (13 month) sleep regression. Kamala and Kelly wrote me virtually identical emails detailing how their daughters were waking up and staying awake for more than an hour in the middle of the night, and crying hysterically if they were left alone. (The only difference was that Kamala’s daughter has been sleeping through for several months already, so the waking up was new, while Kelly’s daughter was still waking up twice a night but used to go back down easily, so the staying awake is new.)

Both girls escalate tension when left to cry, so the experiments Kelly and Kamala and partners have done have only left everyone shaky and unhappy and even more tired yet unable to sleep. Kelly is afraid that she’s scarred her daughter by letting her cry for too long for two nights. Both women are afraid that this is never going to end, and don’t know what to do when the kids wake up in the middle of the night.

I’d love to talk about some techniques for this period, and I remember clearly both my boys going through it. (I remember feeling extremely insulted by it both times. It wasn’t enough that we’d made it through the first year–things just had to fall apart for a month after that year? Honestly.) But I can’t remember for the life of me what I did about it.

I think there are two lesson to be learned from that: 1) It eventually ends, and 2) memory is merciful and you won’t remember all of the suffering. And if you don’t remember it, the baby certainly won’t remember it. So I don’t think Kelly should worry about having hurt her daughter with the crying.

Is there anyone who’s just come through this phase who has some good suggestions about how to make it through the hour+ awake sessions in the middle of the night? I think that if the kid is playing alone in the crib and isn’t getting upset, you should just sleep through it. But if the child needs someone there while s/he’s awake, there’s got to be something that will bore the child to sleep. I’d probably choose Food Network over Sesame Street, and keep the lights dimmed and the sound low to see if it would help mesmerize the child into slumber. But I’m betting someone out there has even better suggestions. Complaining about this phase is, as always, allowed.

FWIW, the skill developed during the 55-week leap is the ability to follow programs, meaning dealing with a bunch of little events. The example in the Wonder Weeks book is the program "eating lunch," which involves the ritual of sitting in the high chair, getting a bib put on, eating the foods, getting cleaned off, etc. No wonder kids start to seem so much more independent at around 14 months.

(Has anyone else been watching the BBC show–now on the Discovery channel in the U.S.–"Last Man Standing"? It’s 6 youngish American and British athletes who go to tribal villages and participate in their tests of strength and fighting rituals. I’ve been watching, thinking how lame it all is. Any woman who’d mothered a child through the age of 5 could beat any of these guys in tenacity, endurance, and feats of strength under adverse conditions. Brazilian piranha-tooth cuts on the legs rubbed with chile powder? Try 36 hours of unmedicated labor.  Zulu fighting sticks? Try sleep regression after sleep regression. Running 30 miles uphill in sandals? Try nursing all night for months and still holding down a full-time job. Maybe I should work up a pitch for the show: kick boxer, triathlete, and bodybuilder vs. mom of high-needs baby, mom of twins, and mom of three kids under age five.)

Starting to feel the holiday crush approaching

I can’t be the only one who’s realizing how few days there are until Halloween, and the official runaway freight train of the holiday season. I love Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas as individual celebrations, but the psychic weight of the whole two-month period can wear on me.

So I think today’s topic is going to be a mishmash of comments about minimizing stress related to the holidays, finding things to be joyful about, and a little bitching just because this is a safe place to complain without anyone thinking we’re blowing things out of proportion. Feel free to post what you’ve got. (And Canadians, you can brag about being done with Thanksgiving already.)

I’m going to start with my annual plug for the A Greater Gift fair trade catalog. You can buy fair-trade chocolate Advent calendars (the kid with the chocolate behind each window), and lots of toys and serving items made by fair-trade artisans. (And they have alpaca yarn and handmade knitting needles and crochet hooks this year, too!)

Ordering from the Greater Gift catalog makes me feel joyful because I know the gifts are handmade by people who are being fairly compensated for their work. And it just feels nice to have an item that you know was made by an actual person somewhere out in the world.

Now a question that I thought was really funny, because it was just so cranky. Let it be known that the writer knew it was cranky and not earth-shattering, but just wanted to express some frustration:

"Am I the only parent who thinks dressing up an infant for Halloween is ridiculous? I stand alone in my family. Already talk at family gatherings, by email and by phone has come around to "what will she be for Halloween?" My answer – "10 months old, in bed, not collecting candy" falls on deaf ears. Why must I spend 30$ on something she’ll wear once? (yes, I admit to being a hypocrite since I spent far more than 30$ on a wedding dress I wore once, but still.). So, since I am losing this battle, any suggestions for a costume? And, aside from having no sewing skills to speak of, I can be pretty crafty with a glue gun, so suggestions that involve NOT going to a big box store would be appreciated too. thanks!"

I can gloat about the fact that my older son has chosen the costume he absolutely must! have! from the drugstore, so I’m 50% done with the costume craziness. I have no idea what the younger one will deign to wear.

Any suggestions for a baby costume that can be made with a glue gun? I’m no help, since I went all-out and sewed baby costumes when my kids were teeny. But then I’m a Halloween fan.

Anything interesting to share or complain about any of the upcoming holidays?

Q&A: children of the opposite sex in restrooms

Nikki says:

"I have two boys,
one is nearly 4 and the other just 14 months.  I’m wondering at what
age they have to start using the men’s public restrooms or locker rooms
and how you possibly get up the courage to send them in there alone.
Luckily my husband is usually with us when we’re shopping or some other
place that the older one might need to go to the bathroom and there aren’t
family restrooms.  However, I take my son to his swim class at a time when
Daddy can’t go and I can’t imagine sending him into the men’s
locker room by himself any time soon!  We already get strange looks and
both women and girls moving to other rows to change their clothes.  There
is no sign posted about it but I thought I’d seen signs at other places about
boys over 5 not welcome in the girls locker room.  I understand the reason
for an age cutoff from a girl’s point of view, but the protective mommy
point of view is interfering.  Any advice?  Can we only do swim
classes when Daddy can go?  And only shop where there are family
restrooms?  Help!"

I can’t believe people are already giving you strange looks about a child who’s still only 3! That just seems so extreme and nonsensical to me.

I don’t really know what to do about bringing a child into a public restroom at the middle kid age. (For the record, I don’t consider 3 or 4 to be an age at which anyone should be upset about seeing a kid of the opposite sex in a restroom. I do think a 12-year-old can probably go into a public restroom alone, depending on the situation. The years between 4 and 12 are what I mean by "middle kid age" in this case.) My older one is 5 1/2, and I have no plans to stop bringing him into public restrooms with me any time soon. He’s allowed to go into the men’s room by himself in certain places that are technically public but known to us (church, school, my office, etc.), but in truly public places there’s just no way. If anyone gets upset about a 5-year-old in the ladies’ room at an airport, I’ll invite them to come up with a solution that keeps my son safe and still allows everyone to pee in a closed stall.

I do think locker rooms are a different story. People are out in the open, in full view of each other, changing clothes. So I can understand that people might feel uncomfortable being nude in front of a 6-year-old of the opposite sex (but a 3-year-old?!) or feel it’s not right for a child to see an adult of the opposite sex with no clothes on (a bigger problem IMO). But it’s the responsibility of the gym or pool to have a family changing room available for this situation. If they allow children to come and swim or exercise, they have to have a family changing room. If they don’t, I wouldn’t go there, and I’d let them know exactly why. It shouldn’t be your responsibility to come up with a male to accompany your child to swim lessons (what about single moms, two-mom families, or families in which the dad has to work when swim lessons are happening?).

The best-case scenario for locker rooms, in my opinion, is 1) having a family changing room easily available, and 2) having the rules clearly posted about what ages of kids of the opposite sex are allowed in the locker rooms. This makes everything clear, so everyone knows what to do and no one feels insulted, offended, vulnerable, or embarrassed.

Experiences? Advice?

Q&A: early toilet training

Emily writes:

"I’m pregnant with my first child, and have been reading a bit about the early toilet training/diaperless baby movement.  It’s hard to get a read on it because people either think it’s crazy or genius.  I don’t think that early toilet training warps a child psychologically, and I think the environmental arguments for it are compelling.  Also, I’d rather start early than be frantically trying to toilet train the two months before preschool, like my niece.  But I do wonder if it’s doable, or more work than it’s worth.  What do you and your readers think?  I’d be particularly interested in those who tried it and gave up, or those who combined it with daycare."

I think when you call it "early toilet training" people do think it’s nuts, because "training" implies control, and babies just can’t control when they poop or pee.

But when you think of it as "elimination communication" or early toilet learning, it makes a ton more sense, because babies can absolutely communicate. In both directions. If you think about it in terms of the way babies get themselves fed, the process starts to become even more clear: A baby gives little signals–smacking the lips, rooting, eventually escalating to fussing, then crying–to indicate hunger. The adult responds with food, so the next time the baby uses those same signals, and the adult responds and it starts a beautiful cycle that goes on happily until the next thing you know the kid’s saying, "Mo-om, do we have any juice boxes?"

But you can also change the course of that communication to make things more clear if you’d like. From the time my second baby was a few hours old, every time I fed him I’d say "nurse" very clearly just as I put him on. After about 5-6 days, when he’d fuss to eat I’d say "nurse" and he knew I understood and was coming and he’d calm down for the few seconds it took. Some people introduce a hand sign for food when their babies are a few months old, and it has the same effect, and then the child can use the sign to ask for food long before they can use words.

Bodily functions are bodily functions, so you can do the same thing and create a big feedback loop with peeing and pooping. Basically, you just try to notice the teeny little signals your newborn gives when prepping to pee or poop, and then respond to that by changing the diaper immediately or holding the baby over the sink/toilet/receptacle. Eventually the feedback loop will let the child know that you’re going to help them eliminate when they give the signal. But you can also change the course of that communication by introducing noises or hand signals that the child can make long before they can talk. Some cultures do a little "shh-shh" noise when the baby pees, and when the baby is old enough to say "shh-shh" they can tell the adult when they need to pee.

It doesn’t mean that a baby or toddler can actually hold it and wait for long periods of time, but it does mean you’re communicating, and the baby can tell you when s/he needs to go.

Now, in theory it works well, and it also works well in cultures in which parents are with their babies all day and night, everyone in the culture is familiar with it, and people aren’t too picky about what happens to their floor coverings. In practice, it’s hard for most of us in "developed" countries to do a full-on elimination communication without some compromises. There are some  times you just can’t stop and hold your baby over a bowl to pee (on the subway, riding in the car, while doing preschool pick-up with an older child, etc.), or even change a diaper immediately. Which is why the focus should be on the communication aspect of it, instead of the "I have to catch every pee every time" sense that some parents can fall victim to.

Going back to what we were saying in the email from the woman who was smacking her child to sleep, parenting is a long conversation with your child. You don’t have to understand everything perfectly, and say the right thing each time, as long as you’re generally tuned in and you’re able to focus when your child really needs you to. Pottying is the same thing, so you don’t have to catch every single pee to have your child be able to tell you when s/he needs to go. And kids eliminate differently from each other, just as kids eat differently from each other, so you could catch every single drop from birth and have a kid who still wore diapers until age 3 (but was great at communicating with you) or do it part-time when the child wasn’t in daycare and have a kid who was out of diapers at home from the time s/he could walk.

So my advice is to try it, have fun with it, enjoy the extra communication it gives you with your baby, but don’t feel like it’s something that you pass or fail.

Now, comments from anyone who’s done it or grown up in a culture in which it is/was done?

Q&A: fighting the new-mom boredom

Deanna writes:

"My sister is expecting her first child at the end of January.  Due to my husband’s transfer to a VERY faraway state (think pineapples) around the same time, he and I worked it out so that I could move back to Maine for about two months when my nephew is born to help my sister take care of her baby and then will go on to meet up with my husband later.  She and I are both excited about this and I can’t wait to be an auntie, but we do have a big concern.  The problem is twofold, and we have already discussed the first aspect with our doctors: we both suffer from various forms of adult ADHD and depression.  The second is money–cash will be tight for her family and for me, and my sister lives in a very small basement-level apartment with low windows in an isolated complex.  We know that after the first three weeks or so, we will be experiencing massive cabin fever.  But how can we find things to do during the day for brief (maybe an hour and a half) outings that are a) free or cheap, and b) safe to take a small baby to?  We are confident that we can both manage the depression aspect–she is very comfortable discussing her fears about postpartum depression with her doctor and developing coping strategies, but we think we’re going to drive each other bonkers sitting around the house all day.  If any of your readers have suggestions for national programs that would provide a reason to leave the house for a short period of time, or if any of them are from the Portland, ME area and have suggestions specific to the city.  I have no children of my own, so please feel free to tell me if the baby is just too young for quick trips out of the house in such chilly weather!"

I think you two are in great shape, and your being there will be the best thing that can happen to her. I say that because the number one factor in developing postpartum depression is lack of support. I think the researchers think that means that you’re not getting any emotional support from your partner and family and friends, but I think it also just means being physically isolated. Talking on the phone and being on the internet are wonderful things that have probably prevented PPD for some women, but there’s really nothing like being able to carry on a real-life conversation with another adult who’s in the same room you are.

I wouldn’t necessarily worry about the ADHD, since young babies do things in such short spurts anyway that it may actually be an asset! By the time you found the remote control to watch that 2-hour DVD, the baby would need to be fed again and you’d have another load of laundry to throw in. (I’m not trying to be facetious, but you really don’t need to have any attention span to tend a young baby. And any attention span you do have will atrophy in those first few months anyway.)

My first couple of suggestion are pretty winter-specific and location-independent. You can always go out and walk around at the mall (assuming the baby’s born full-term and doesn’t have any respiratory issues). Your sister should wear him close to her body and not let anyone else touch him, poke at him, cough on him, etc. That’s why you should go to m place like the mall with plenty of room so you’re not all packed in together.

My other suggestions are your local bookstores and coffee shops. They tend to be gathering places for moms and caregivers and little kids, and you can sit and pretend to be adults for an hour or so while the baby sleeps on one of you. If your sister is nursing, they tend to be pretty safe places to nurse without worrying about the coats and diaper bags and stuff so that she can get him latched on without flashing the whole place, and if she does flash a little inadvertently, people tend not to notice.

I know someone out three’s got to have Portland, ME-specific suggestions. Anyone with those, and also other winter-based ideas?

Q&A: in-laws selling funny cigarettes

Happy Thanksgiving, Canadians!

Alice writes:

"Fall and the Holiday season are approaching. I’ve agreed to spend Christmas with my husband’s family this year a few states away. We’ll be bringing our two-year-old and three-month-old daughters. I’ve only been to my in-laws once before, two years ago with an infant. You can imagine my surprise when on Christmas morning, as we all sat around in our PJ’s, there was a knock at the door and my mother-in-law sold a bag of weed to the visitor.

I knew that my in-laws are frequent smokers (several times a day, every day) but I didn’t realize just how much traffic there was in and out of the house for the purpose of acquiring marijuana. My husband (who is ironically in law enforcement) ignores the entire issue. Thankfully asking them not to smoke (cigarettes or pot) in the same room as the babies is not an issue as they at least go outside or to another part of the house.

In preparation of our visit, I’ve made two requests to my husband. I have asked that we get a hotel room and that there are no transactions while I am in the house with the kids. My husband has agreed to the hotel but I’m quite sure he has not mentioned the embargo to my mother in law.

To me this seems like a no-brainer. However, this is an incredibly sensitive topic in my household. These are my husband’s parents and he wants them to share our daughter’s lives as much as I want my parents too. I have approached this topic gently in the past and I’ve also approached it very poorly in anger. I need suggestions on how to set boundaries and how to explain to my husband why I will never feel comfortable leave the children alone with his parents."

This is actually my first pot-related question. (I’m kind of surprised someone hasn’t asked me about smoking while nursing, but who knows.) However, this is not my first in-law-related question, and they all seem to fit the same pattern: Why do they do these freaky things, and how can I get them not to do them around my children for the few days we visit them?

Why do they do these freaky things? Well, I guess pot is better that crystal meth, no? Aside from the fact that the smoke is bad for your lungs the pot itself is not unhealthy*. The impaired judgment, illegality, and inertia are the bad things about it. I guess once you get really into that slacker lifestyle, and can make money selling it, it’s just hard to give that up to go legit. Even if it means you’re spending a lot of time high.

How can you get them not to do it while we’re there? It sounds to me like your solutions are perfect. The hotel makes sense to keep your kids safe and you from blowing a gasket, plus then they can continue their business without having to shut down for the entire time you’re there. But they certainly shouldn’t be dealing pot while your kids are there.

As for convincing your husband that you don’t want your kids exposed to pot-smoking, I think you’re going to have to emphasize the impairment issue. Basically, would he leave the kids around people who were drunk all day? It’s the same thing. Would he want the kids in an house full of strangers coming in and out to buy alcohol? (The strangers in and out creeps me right out and makes my "Danger Will Robinson!" sense go off strongly.)

Whatever compartmentalizing he’s doing between knowing what he does about drug houses from his law enforcement work and loving his parents, he needs to really look at this objectively. I’m not sure how you can help him break through the "my parents love us and don’t want to hurt us" barrier to see that, regardless of their intentions, they’re exposing your kids to real danger, whether from unknown people or just from impaired judgment.

Do you think it would help to ask your husband what he’s going to tell your 2-year-old when she asks (and she will ask, if not this year then next year) what her grandparents are doing, who those strange people are, what that funny smell is, and why her grandparents are so loopy and eat so many pretzels? It would also help if you emphasize that you like his parents and want them to know their grandchildren, but you have to protect the kids first, so you can’t just leave them with his parents, and his parents need to show some kind of good judgment in ceasing with the dealing for a few hours when they’re with their grandchildren.

Any suggestions for Alice? I guess I’m not sure exactly what to say if her husband can’t let himself connect with the idea that his parents are endangering his kids.

* Despite what Nancy Reagan told us, they really can’t prove that the THC does anything bad to anyone. Negative effects of pot are from the smoke. Having said that, I have no desire to do it anymore, but it was interesting while it lasted.

Book Review: Mama Knows Breast

To The Parents of New York City: Please do not write your child’s namein big black letters on the outside of his backpack so everyone who
sees him knows his name. Writing his first name and your cell number on
the inside of the backpack is sufficient. Thank you.

Today’s post is a book review of the book Mama Knows Breast by Andi Silverman.

This book is cute. Really cute. The graphic design and
packaging of the book are irresistible, and it’s the perfect size to
read one-handed. The writing is breezy and in list form, so you can
read little chunks at a time when you get the chance, or sit and read
the whole thing in an hour or two. The tone strikes a nice balance
between confidential and factual, and she covers some situations other
breastfeeding books haven’t covered (the etiquette of nursing in
different kinds of public places, for example, and "sex and

But I think the subtitle of the book, "A Beginner’s Guide to
Breastfeeding," is kind of a stretch. It’s got a lot of lists and
helpful tips, but it doesn’t really dig into the meat of what could go
wrong, what you should do to help things not go wrong, or how to get
back on track if things are going wrong. It doesn’t cover the emotional
aspects of breastfeeding, or what to do if you think you aren’t
producing enough milk, or your baby’s cluster feeding, or all those
extremely common things that can make women feel like big failures at
feeding their children. Instead of a true guide, it seems to be an
introduction to several topics in breastfeeding for women who know
nothing about it and haven’t had any friends who did it.

And that’s fine. There’s a huge segment of the population who
gets pregnant without ever having taken care of a baby. In our culture
not many of us grew up watching anyone nurse a baby. How many of us
even knew that the milk comes out of a bunch of little holes in each
nipple? There are all sorts of things we don’t know that someone needs
to tell us, without freaking us out or making us feel bad for not
knowing it. And I think that’s the strength of Mama Knows Breast. It’s
a funny, gentle, hip-looking introduction to some basic concepts of

I do, of course, have a beef with one section, which is the part that
says that "many babies can sleep through the night by the time they are
three months old." Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahaha. See: yesterday’s post.
OK, yes, some babies can sleep through at three months, but "many"? I
think that’s a stretch, and by saying it she’s going to make moms whose
babies don’t feel like freaks. Plus, even the hard-core CIO pushers
don’t want people to start sleep training until four months. I think
that little section was a misfire, and I would have ignored it except
that sleep is such a huge hot-button for our generation that I worry
that one paragraph is going to make women feel bad. Which is clearly
the opposite of the author’s intention.

But otherwise I liked
the book as a gentle intro to breastfeeding for someone who hasn’t
thought about it before, or who really isn’t sure she’s going to try it
or not. It humanizes breastfeeding in a nice way that doesn’t make you
feel like an ogre for not being super-committed or knowledgeable about
it. But it’s not going to be enough for women who have anything but the
simplest nursing experience. Most of us are going to need more
resources, in book form (The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen
Huggins is extremely factual and covers a zillion scenarios, while So
That’s What They’re For
by Janet Tamaro has a bunch of actual
information but also humor and commiseration) and on the internet (kellymom.com)
and in real life (an IBCLC lactation consultant, La Leche League
, breastfeeding support groups run by hospitals and women’s
centers, or even just another mom you see nursing at the bookstore).

I’d get this book for your friend who hasn’t really thought
about much past the delivery, because it’s cute and inviting and a
quick read, and will get her from zero knowledge to some knowledge
fast. But it would be an even better gift if you’d look up the number
of a IBCLC lactation consultant in her area
and write it inside the
cover of the book before you give it to her.