4 month olds

I’m really, really behind in my life today. And I’ve been getting a ton of questions lately from people with 4-month-olds. And there’s just so much going on at that age that makes it a tough, tough time–they don’t really nap yet, their nighttime sleep is falling apart (thank you 4-month sleep regression), you may be back at work or seriously wondering what made you decide not to go back to work and either way it screws with your head, you probably haven’t lost the baby weight yet and don’t feel sexy but then there’s Scary Spice doing the cha-cha looking like a brick house, and your baby is probably not as fat as your doctor wants him or her to be, and it all just sucks.

A very helpful nursing-related post about breastfeeding at 4 months from CJ:

Things to consider if your four-month-old baby coasts down the growth charts

So I’m going to just open up the comments, and those of you who remember your 4-month troubles, (or are in the middle of them) post them, and we’ll all commiserate. I don’t think there’s much of a cure for most of this stuff except for time and being gentle with yourself, and realizing that you do what works at the time and then when it stops working you do something else. Think about getting sleep today, not what might happen a year from now.

Window to the world

I was reading an article about the One Laptop Per Child project the other day. Have you guys heard of the project? Nicholas Negroponte and a bunch of colleagues decided to come up with a laptop computer that could be produced for around $100 (it’s ended up being closer to $200), and that governments of developing countries would buy them for the kids in their countries. By giving them laptops you’d give them a window to the world, and a way to communicate with the world. In the same way that having access to mobile phones increases the economic status of people in developing countries, giving kids laptops would open up a whole world to them that they otherwise would never have access to.

I was looking at the specs of the actual laptop (called the XO laptop) at laptop.org, and it looks amazing. Designed specifically for kids, with hardly any parts to wear out or break, the computer is so energy-efficient that it’s going to be able to be recharged by the kids themselves (with a hand-crank or pull-cord). It has wireless range that’s better than most laptops on the market, so kids will be able to network with each other and with the internet. It runs on Linux, and the software on it is open-source, so kids can modify as they see fit.

The problem is that a bunch of the countries that committed to buying them have backed out. So the One Laptop Per Child group has decided to run the Give 1 Get 1 promotion. From November 12 through November 26, people in North America can give US$399 (which is pretty much CA$399, as well) and get one XO laptop (otherwise not being released to the US and Canada) and have another one donated to the project.

Great, right? Because a laptop for $399 is still an amazing price, especially one that’s going to last for so long and be specifically designed for kids to learn on. But what if we could get organized to do even more good with this project?

There are plenty of schools in underserved and underfunded areas of the US and Canada that have little access to technology, or massively outdated technology. These schools are lucky to have one 8-year-old computer per classroom, with outdated software and spotty internet access. Combine this with the fact that many of these same schools have 20-year-old textbooks, and you can see that these kids are at a distinct disadvantage. (For a well-laid-out argument about why giving students their own laptops instead of spending the same amount of money on notebooks and skinny markers and white-out pens makes a ton of sense, read this article.)

Obviously, the best-case scenario would be for schools/districts/the community to be able to buy each kid their own laptop. But even if that’s not possible, what if corporations, religious and civic groups, or community groups could donate or raise the money to put a laptop cart or two in each of these schools? (A laptop cart is a rolling cart containing 30-35 laptops. Teachers can sign out the laptops for certain periods of time, and each kid in the class can have a laptop while doing that activity. It ‘s a great way to share within a school without forcing kids to share in the classroom during computer-related lessons.) Doing it during the Give 1 Get 1 promotion would cost $12,000-14,000 per cart. That amount of money is easily within the budget of some companies, churches, synagogues, and even private schools who could donate to an underfunded school in their area, and that money could be raised by other groups that don’t have it on hand.

The problem is, there isn’t much time. The promotion starts November 12, which means we have 40 days to troubleshoot this and get the funding together. Mull it over, post your objections in the comments, try to work out the kinks, and then let’s break and go out to our local communities and start asking for money to give some kids the modern equivalent of the printing press.

(And don’t forget to go put in your email address over at xogiving.org so they can remind you on November 12 to buy your own Give 1 Get 1 computer for your child.)

Q&A: Itchy boobs, weaning, and what in the world do I do with nap time?

How could I come up with a better title for this post than the subject line of the email? Jennifer writes:

"I really never expected that I would push weaning. My peanut is 25
months old and I have always believed in Child Led Weaning until a
several weeks ago. Suddenly I wasn’t enjoying nursing her so much and I
was really wanting my body back. The worst of it was that I really
became physically uncomfortable with nursing. I would get antsy, and my
boobs would itch or they’d feel an uncomfortable tickle while she
nursed. At first I thought this was due to my own monthly  hormonal
changes, but the physical symptoms didn’t let up after a week or so. So
I decided I would start to set limits around nursing and try to move
this weaning process along a bit.

I started
with telling her my milk was sleeping when she woke up for her usual
2am nursing, ah my little all night nurser! (We haven’t nursed to sleep
at bedtime since she was 18 months old.) My logic was that it would be
more manageable to eliminate night nursing before her nap nursing
because she can fight sleep at nap time. I also started to tell her at
times that we could nurse only a little bit and then Mommy will tell
her when Mommy is "all done." So now (after 3 weeks of ‘moving things
along’) she only nurses at around 6am, again at naptime, and just a
little bit before bed. What I’m experiencing is that her 6am nursing
feels fine, I can deal. At nap time I can handle nursing her down, and
maybe one wake up which includes  nursing on boob #2. After both sides
are done I can’t do any more, therefore she doesn’t go back to sleep
which really sucks. The bedtime nursing has been really uncomfortable
the last 2 nights, so I limit it big time.

I have 2 questions:

1) Is this itchy, uncomfortable business what comes
with weaning, or is this what I get for ‘moving things along’?

2) And
what in the world do I do with nap time? She’s 2 so she’s at the age
that she can totally nix a nap but really needs it. It’s the only time
she still nurses down and I don’t know what else to do except maybe go
for a car ride at nap time for a few days, and then what? There’s gotta be a better way, right?"

Oh, the guilt. I think most of us feel some guilt about weaning, whether we do it at three days or four years. I can still remember being convinced that my older son had gotten a cold because I’d finally weaned him the week before and thinking that made me a horrible mother.

In a perfect world, we’d all be happy nursing until our children were ready to stop on their own. But that’s not the way it goes for most nursing pairs. Usually, the mother wants or needs to stop nursing before the baby is quite ready. When I was in the middle of it I felt horrible about putting my needs above my child’s needs, but in hindsight I feel pretty good about the way I started to teach my son that other people had rights, too, and that respecting someone else’s needs didn’t mean he was being abandoned. He could still get the comfort and love he wanted from me, even without nursing.

I think most of us are really circumspect about weaning and the weaning process. Understanding that it’s  an important part of growing up, not least because it teaches children that someone else has a right to her own body, helps to make the transition easier for the mother. And kids who are given alternate forms of comfort and affection come out of the weaning process secure and attached.

Of course, my musings aren’t helping with your itchy boob problem. Frankly, I’m stumped. I’m going to give three guesses, any of which could be true and all of which could be false. In no particular order, I’m going to guess that the itching is a) psychosomatic (because you’re feeling kind of itchy about still nursing but also itchy about weaning), b) caused by some kind of minor infection or fungus (like low-grade thrush), or c) caused by dry skin from showers that are too hot or a harsh soap. But as I said, I haven’t heard of this and really don’t know. If it’s still happening a week after you’re really done nursing, go see a doctor.

Now I know you think you’re joking about just driving her around to get her to sleep without nursing down, but people have done similar things with great success. I don’t nurse outside once a kid is no longer a little baby, so when I wanted to cut out all daytime nursing sessions with my older son, I did it when the weather was warm and left the house in the morning and didn’t go back home until suppertime. We’d play at the playground, and when it was time for his nap I’d put him in the stroller and just walk around until he fell asleep. It was tiring for me, but it cut out the daytime nursings in a week without his even noticing. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’ll guess that I’m not the only one to have done this. Distraction is really the king of all parenting techniques for the two-year-old set.

Does anyone else want to share distraction methods they used to cut out nursing sessions with a kid this age? Or your own feelings of guilt about the weaning process? And if anyone else has experienced this itchy breast thing, please speak up (anonymously, if you’d like).

I’m on the radio, and labeling things

I was interviewed for the internet radio show Jumping Monkeys with Meg Morrone and Leo Laporte! You can hear me and my flat Midwestern accent here. (I don’t know if I should admit this: I said yes to the interview request but then forgot to go listen to all their other shows. So 5 minutes before the interview started I had this panicked thought of "What if they’re the Ali G of internet radio shows with parent bloggers and are going to ask me a bunch of prank questions?" Fortunately, they are very nice, funny, sensible people who asked me genuine questions, none of which involved the words "punani" or "bum.")

In other news, let me give you all this important tip: Put your cell (mobile) phone number on all your kids’ stuff. I wrote my cell number on the inside of my older one’s school backpack (as I do with most of my kids’ stuff), which then got left on a bench at the playground Friday afternoon. With his new Laptop Lunchbox inside (which yes, would mean that he lost it the very first day he used it) and all the weekend notes from the teacher, etc. But Saturday morning I got a call from a very nice lady who works at the playground telling me that she had the backpack.

One of my theories is that most people really do want to do the right thing, so putting my cell number on the kids’ crap is a way to let people return things to us if they want to (you all know the frustration of finding an obviously-treasured child’s item and not knowing how to return it). But this was the first time it was actually useful. I’m not at all surprised that the lady returned it to us, but I am grateful.

Of course, not everything is labeled as easily as a backpack is. For instance, plastic containers (like, say, Laptop Lunchboxes). And I’m not the only one wondering about this. Katherine writes:

"My daughter just started daycare & I have to label everything.  When I wrote her name on her sippy cups with a Sharpie it washed right off!  What do I do?"

I think certain kinds of plastic accept Sharpie but others don’t. (I know the name I wrote on the bottom of one of my Rubbermaid containers 4 years ago with Sharpie is still there.) I wonder about those fancy labelmakers–Are they just big stickers? Or would they adhere to plastic? And how can one label a Sigg bottle? They’re enameled aluminum, with bare aluminum on the bottom. Am I going to have to resort to the old nail polish trick (that works for labeling keys)? Or is there something a little easier to work with?