Reader call: Mother with MS

Angela writes:

"I’m in the process of being diagnosed with MS (clinically likely – no official diagnosis yet). The worst part of it is that my husband and I planned on starting to try get pregnant the month that I started having symptoms (last month). I’m terrified, and am still hoping that my symptoms could be something else. But, if it’s not, I’d love to hear from other mothers who have MS – I know that you can get pregnant (as long as you take a break from the medications) – but Iwant to know what life is like for a mother with MS. Is it do-able? Should I rush and have babies as soon as possible (I’m 29) before my symptoms worsen? Is it fair to kids to have a mother with MS?"

I don’t know much about MS (multiple sclerosis). What I do know is that people have used T-Tapp to control MS symptoms, so that’s something to look into.

Also, I think what’s fair to a kid is to have a mother who loves them, whose eyes light up when she sees them. What she looks like or how much money she has or what kinds of illnesses and conditions she has are so minor compared to how she treasures them and treats them. It’s possible that your children will wish you didn’t have MS (for your sake and for theirs), but I can’t imagine that they’d wish you weren’t their mother.

Anyone out there with MS (or any other autoimmune disease or other chronic health condition) want to comment?

Q&A: sarcasm or something

Natalie writes:

"Our kids are preschool age, and my husband uses what I think would be
sarcasm with them all the time….maybe it is just plain teasing.  You

He does things like this: He will be playing "chase" with
them (which I appreciate), but then when they run into their rooms to
hide, he will knock on the door, and yell, "Grandma is here!" When they
open the door, all excited, he will grab them and say, "I gotcha!"
Repeat this about ten times with ten different exciting promises (ice
cream, grandpa, candy, etc).  The kids get really excited, and then
realize he is teasing.  He also does this the opposite way, by saying,
at around 4 pm, "Well, it is time for bed", and one of my kids will be
to the point of tears, and then he’ll say, "Just kidding!"  Repeat five
times.  When I tell him to stop, he says, "Think how happy they are
when they see that I am kidding!  Hee, hee!"  He really is doing it to
have fun. 

I want you and your commenters to
tell me what you think:  Is this just plain kidding and I am just too
sensitive?  Or is it more than that?  What do you think?"

I think it’s mean. But I think it’s entirely possible that he doesn’t have any idea that it’s mean, because someone pulled that same crap on him when he was a kid and told him it was normal and he was being "too sensitive" if he didn’t like it. Alternately, it’s possible that he’s got some unconscious resentment toward the kids at this stage because he was treated meanly when he was that age, and so it’s coming out in this too-harsh treatment of them.

Don’t get me wrong–I love sarcasm and funny teasing that lets the kid in on the joke. (An example of that is answering a kid’s question with something so exaggerated that the kid knows you’re teasing and thinks it’s funny. "Mom, where are we going after school?" "First we’re going to buy some space suits, and then we’re going to drive to the moon!" Assuming the child is old enough to know that you can’t drive to the moon in a regular car.) But the teasing your husband’s doing isn’t letting the kids in on the joke. It’s just setting them up for disappointment and teaching them that they can’t trust what he says.

I have no idea how to resolve this situation. You could try giving him a taste of his own medicine, but telling him you were making his favorite meal for supper, or that you’d gotten a raise at work, or that you were dying to have a quickie right then, and then saying "I gotcha!" Or sit him down to tell him you’d gotten a letter from the IRS and you owed $50,000 in back taxes and penalties, and then say "Aren’t you happy to see that I’m kidding? Hee, hee!"

But something I can’t put my finger on really does make me think that he’s striking out at the kids like this because of some hurt that was done to him when he was this age that he may not even realize happened. I don’t know if giving him a taste of his own medicine is going to help much if he’s still carrying that hurt around in him. Maybe you could start a conversation about things that adults did when you were little that you hated. (I can start: There was one distant relative we’d see a few times a year who would always offer to pour a drink for me and say "Say when," and then when I’d politely say, "Thank you" he’d keep pouring until the drink overflowed and then say, "You didn’t say ‘when" and give a big laugh. Jerk.) It may come out without his realizing it was there.

Anyone else? Do you agree with me that this is more harmful than funny? And what can Natalie do to stop it before it seriously harms her husband’s relationship with their kids?


Q&A: crib mattresses

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it!

Speaking of a sleeping baby, Kristen writes:

"What are your thoughts about the flame retardants in crib
mattresses?  Should we be concerned about the chemicals in our mattress
and our baby’s mattress?  I was looking into getting a rubber mattress
but I can’t get any solid non-bias information."

I can’t imagine that those flame retardants can be good for anyone, least of all babies*. If you can afford it, I’d definitely look into an all-natural (rubber or organic cotton) mattress for your child’s bed.

However, the price difference is enormous between a regular mattress and an all-natural one. I’m about to switch my younger son from his crib into a twin-sized bed, and the gap between What I Can Afford For a Mattress and the price of an organic cotton mattress is truly insurmountable. (Unless there’s some organic cotton mattress company who’d like to send me a twin-sized one to review for this site.)

I’m going to try to mitigate some of the effects of the toxic traditional mattress by putting down a wool blanket under the mattress pad (yes, they make wool mattress pads, but those are expensive, and my mother has wool blankets aplenty to give me), which will also provide some waterproofing as we head into nighttime potty training. (Of course this is no help for kids who are allergic to wool.) I’m also going to hope that the pillow acts as a buffer between any fumes and his nose.

Anyone else have anything on crib mattresses?

* Hey, if your baby doesn’t sleep all that well, at least that’s one good thing about it–they’re not breathing in all the crib mattress fumes as much as the better-sleeping babies are. Come on, you knew you could get some snark here on Christmas Day.

Q&A: 20-month-old afraid of an 8-month-old?

Shelley writes:

"I have a 20 month old son and an 8 month old daughter.
My son runs and hides behind me and screams frantically whenever my daughter
crawls towards him.  What’s up with this?"

Heh. I’m imagining your daughter as a pint-sized Godzilla, storming through Tokyo as your son cowers behind Century Tower.

I think he’s probably scared because she’s crawling, and that just freaks him out. It’s the same reason some adults freak out when we see a mouse running across the floor or a large spider crawling on the wall. Even though we’re way bigger than the mouse or the spider, it’s the crawling aspect and the "otherness" that scares us.

I have no idea what to do about it, really until she starts to walk, at which point I’m pretty sure he’ll stop being afraid of her. Maybe some of the readers have a suggestion about what to do to stop the screaming and cowering? I’ll just tell you to make sure you videotape his reaction at least once, because it’ll be priceless when they’re older.

Q&A: feeding problems

Great comments yesterday. Some of you have some heavy stuff on your minds! Much worse than my "problem" of having to make several dozen Norwegian vaffler for the end-of-the-year International lunch today…

You know those composite sketches artists do? Well, I’m going to smash together a couple of emails I’ve gotten recently on the same topic into one post.

Several parents write some version of:

"My son is almost
2-1/2 and can use a spoon and fork just fine — but he won’t. We call it pasha
mode: He waits for us to feed him, which we eventually do because we don’t want
every meal (especially in the morning when we’re trying to get to work) to take
3 hours. Whether we sit with him or not, eat our own meals at the same time or
not, offer him finger foods or food that he needs to eat with utensils (or
both), he waits. Sometimes he’ll start by himself and then say "You do it." It’s
driving us nuts! Please tell us what to do."

Pasha mode–heh. This is just the flip side of the same old control game back from this post and several others just like it. Assuming he doesn’t have a metabolic or feeding disorder/allergy/GI imbalance of some sort, and it sounds like he doesn’t because he lets you feed him just fine, it sounds like he’s trying to exert control.

I think you have two choices (you probably have more, but these two are what I’m coming up with now): A) Keep feeding him until he grows past this stage and moves on and starts feeding himself, or B) Just ignore the food issue after you serve him his plate, and then when the meal is over clear away anything left on his plate.

Before I decided what to do, I’d check with his daycare provider (or anyone else he spends time with, if you’re a SAH with this same problem) to find out how he eats for them all day. If he eats fine at school, then you know for 100% sure that it’s all about control, and then it’s just strategy for you. (Parenting: A Minute To Learn, A Lifetime To Master) Plus, you know that he’s getting plenty of calories at daycare, so it’s not going to hurt him if you choose option B above and he doesn’t eat much for a few meals in a row.

If he doesn’t eat all that well at daycare, and you really want to make sure he’s eating a lot, then it may be worth it to you to choose A. In my mind, the problem in this situation isn’t the feeding or the not feeding, but the control part of it, that you three are locked in a Battle Royale over eating. So by deciding that you will either just feed him straight off, or that you don’t care how much eat eats, you remove the control as an element of the interaction.

Speaking of which, Sarah writes:

"I was wondering how to know if my baby has a feeding problem.  I know a
lot of babies stop eating around a year, but I’m more concerned with
the fact that my (almost) 11 month old just is not progressing from
baby food to table foods AT ALL.  I have been told to "pack up" the
baby food by 1 year of age and I just don’t see how he won’t starve if
I expect him to eat only table foods in one month’s time!  His
repertoire of table foods is minuscule.  I wish I had never fed him the
purees to start with.  I know some babies want "real food" and protest
being spoonfed bland mush, but my baby is the opposite: I fear he will
never move past baby cereals, which are still his staple and the only
thing he eats a lot of consistently.  I don’t think he has a swallowing
problem, since he can manage finger feeding a total of about 5 items
(toast/crackers/cheerios/muffins/quesadillas — basically, carbs
completely dry to the touch).  He has never, not once, picked up a
fruit, vegetable or piece of meat and put it in his mouth.  Do I
take away the baby food and hope he gets hungry enough to eat table
foods?  Do I keep feeding him the jarred stuff?  Why can’t this be
easier???  I feel like I am losing my mind in frustration.  Any
thoughts or advice?"

This, again, is all about control, but it’s the control that the external culture has over Sarah in telling her there’s something wrong if her son doesn’t like table foods at this point.

All kids are different, just as all adults are different about what we eat and won’t eat. I love tapioca pudding, but I know half of you just squirmed in horror and revulsion at the thought of tapioca. There are plenty of healthy normal children all over the world who are still consuming only breastmilk or formula up to and past a year because they’re just not into food yet, even the mashed stuff. And some kids get so completely into table foods that they can barely choke down any milk once they start eating foods.

So I would pay more attention to how you feel about his eating. You know he can eat things with texture, so it sounds like he’s just not choosing to. Do you feel in your gut like there’s something wrong? If so, ask your pediatrician for a referral to have him tested by a speech therapist. If you don’t have any strong feeling that there’s anything out of place, then who cares when you’re "supposed" to start feeding what? (The whole "stage" idea for jarred baby foods cracks me up because it’s such a brilliant marketing gimmick.) He’s going at his own pace, and it may not be what you’d like him to be doing, but he’ll get there eventually. IME, some kids just sort of click into eating at around 13 months, so maybe that’s what’s going to happen to your guy.

For more support on following your child’s lead on feeding, especially in the first year, here’s the link again to my favorite study on babies and solids.

Please, everyone, contribute anecdotes about your kids’ eating habits. If anyone does have kids with diagnosed feeding issues, could you walk us through how you knew and how it’s resolving? I think it’s helpful to have all sorts of data points so we all know what’s normal, and what’s normal but needs some extra help.

Product reviews

One of these years I’m going to be the kind of woman who has everything done in plenty of time, who can just relax and coast through the last week before Christmas.

But this year I’m not, so in addition to skipping yesterday, I’m posting two brief product reviews today. Tomorrow we’ll have feeding questions.

I can’t tell you how much I love love love the BusyBodyBook planner I was sent to review. It’s a planner, but specifically designed for people with lots of balls in the air, like moms and freelancers and people managing their parents’ lives or home businesses, etc. Basically, each week gets a page, with the seven days listed down the side. Then there are 5 columns across the top that are left blank so you can assign them your own categories. That means you now have 5 squares for each day, so you can keep track of 5 different arenas of your life each day. (If you did some color coding with pens you could probably track 10 things.)

What I love is that’s it’s so flexible. Assign whatever categories you want to each column. Mine won’t look the same as yours will, or your neighbors will. I hate being boxed in by someone else’s idea of organization, so this has been a true delight. I think in academic years, so I have this one , but she also makes calendar year models (this one and this one).

My other product review is plain old Crayola washable markers combined with disposable wipes for plane rides. We used to do the color wonder markers on planes, but they’re so ridiculously expensive, plus the colors are strange, and they fade. For the last few flights, I’ve been bringing regular washable markers. They are so washable that a kid can color all over the tray, walls, and window of the plane, and you can wipe it all off with a couple of baby wipes and it’s as if it never happened.

Are you guys hanging in there? I am, but things are falling by the wayside. Post any comments you’d like to, please, from your mental state, to tips for plane rides, to what annoys you most about the holiday season to anything else on your mind.

Q&A: Abrupt weaning, and autism (no causality!)

Hmmm. I’ve republished the entire website, and the comments still aren’t accessible. Continuing the dialogue with Typepad’s tech support people…

Katy writes:

"As there’s been some talk of weaning recently, I thought I’d email and
ask a question about weaning abruptly.  We recently found out that our
18 month-old son has autism.  After scrambling to get him services
(speech therapy etc.), the next thing on our list is to try eliminating
gluten (wheat) and casein (dairy) from his diet which has had great
results in many kids on the spectrum (as a side question, I’d love to
hear from people who’ve had positive or negative results with this kind
of dietary change). 

Anyway, we decided that Christmas break would be
the best time to try it as he won’t be in his full-time daycare/therapy
program where they give him his lunch and snacks and we’ll be able to
fully monitor everything he eats.  However, I’m still nursing him and
my options are either to wean him or cut out gluten and casein myself,
something that rather daunts me as I’m a big dairy person and the
holidays seem like an extra hard time to be on a special diet. So I’m
thinking of weaning him; this also seems appealing as he’s become a
nursing maniac in the last month, constantly lifting up my shirt and
wanting to nurse, as well as waking lots in the night demanding to
nurse.  I’m feeling very frustrated with him as I feel like he’s
constantly pawing at my body and the night nursing involves lots of
sucking, snoozing and groping of my other breast – to the point that my
body feels so sensitive I could scream (and, of course, I’m not getting
good sleep).  So my questions then are:

  1.  Is this just an awful time to wean if he’s so interested?  What’s going on with this 18 month nursing mania?

2.  If I weaned him, how would I deal with the constant demands for
nursing?  He has limited language so I don’t know how well just telling
him that he can’t nurse anymore would work.  I hate the idea of just
saying no to him.

3.  How would I get my milk to dry up? (Moxie,
you mentioned something about mint tea in the previous message about
weaning – do you have other recommendations?)"

I’m sorry you got this diagnosis, but I’m glad you have a diagnosis. I’m hoping that other parents of kids with autism will jump in with help.

Answers in the order in which the questions were asked:

1. It depends on your definition of "awful." 18 months is just a tough time all-around, and if you’re still nursing, it tends to be one of those times the mother just can’t deal with it anymore. So, yes, it’s going to be really difficult to wean at this age because he’s so needy and wants it so much. But it might be worth it for you not to have him nursing anymore. So "awful" here is totally subjective, and you get to pick your own poison.

Personally, having nursed two kids through the 18-month I-can’t-stand-this-for-one-more-second, it-makes-me-feel-like-a-worn-out-old-sow, stop-stop-for-the-love-of-all-that’s-holy-stop phase, I think it’s easier just to self-medicate through the nursing with chocolate and do the weaning in two or three months (why is 21 months so much easier than 18?). But if you have to do it now, you have to do it now.

2. You got me. That’s another reason I waited the 18-month phase out. Someone out there has done this, though, and will have something for you.

3. Bear in mind that drying up your milk is NOT going to prevent your hormones dropping when you wean, so be really aware of that and do some extra T-Tapp Hoe-Downs every day, make sure to keep up your Omega 3s and B-complex vitamins, and get as much sleep as you can. PPD on top of all of this would not be good, so do whatever you can to prevent it during the weaning process.

The things I know that help dry up milk are mint and sage, so you can brew mint tea and alternate that with "tea" you make by boiling fresh sage leaves. These aren’t going to hurt the kid if you’re still nursing while drying up your milk.

If you want your milk to dry up more quickly, you can take the old-fashioned Sudafed (the kind that can make you drowsy) for a few days, which will dry up every liquid in your body, so you’ll need extra handcream while you’re taking it. But if you’re still nursing while you’re taking it, it can make your child either super-drowsy or hyper, so use with caution.

All-in-all, I think weaning over Christmas is going to really suck. But going off dairy and wheat yourself is going to really suck, too (eggnog! Christmas cookies!).  If it were me, I’d probably delay the entire project until January, but  you just have to decide which is going to cause the least problems for you.

Now, I’d really like to hear from parents of kids with autism, specifically about navigating the condition, and especially about dietary changes that can help. Thank you guys so much.

Comments, Christmas week, and other crap

First of all, I know there’s something wrong with accessing comments on all the posts from before I switched domain names last Wednesday, and am trying to figure it out with the Typepad people. The comments are all still there, I just don’t know how to get to read them yet, but it will all get straightened out soon.

Second, I’m going to be out of town with very limited internet access next week (December 24-28), so I’m going to set posts to autopost every day that week. But in the spirit of combating the stress of that week, I’m going to put an open post up that stays at the top of the screen, so people can just stop by and comment about whatever they feel, whether they need advice, want to vent, or are just looking for some non-family conversation. If you’re feeling bored or sad or irate or like you could use a little community, please stop by and see what’s up.

Third, we’ve got another disgusting topic today. In the spirit of the vomit conversation from a few weeks back and the pee overflow question of Friday, can we talk about poop explosions and diarrhea? One of my co-workers was out a few days last week because his toddler had the stomach flu and they were just drowning in vomit and diarrhea. OK, maybe I could have used a different verb there. They were overwhelmed by keeping up with the substances coming out of both ends of the little lad. That’s better.

So we’re looking for tips on dealing with diarrhea. While we’re here, we might as well talk about regular old poopsplosions that newborns have.

I’ve pretty much got nothing on diarrhea.

I do know about projectile poop, though, and my biggest tip is to put layers on the child’s butt to catch the poop. That’s one reason I did cloth diapers at the beginning with each of my kids, and not the fancy pocket diapers either. It seems like the extra layers of prefold + cover helps contain the runny newborn poop so much better than a one-layered disposable can, or a pocket diaper that has the effect of a one-layered diaper. The times there was a big poop in a disposable or pocket diaper, the poop got all over the clothes. In a prefold + cover,it all stayed inside the cover.

I’ve even heard of people who use disposables buying PUL (laminated fabric, what modern cloth diaper covers are made of) covers and putting them over the disposables to make that extra layer to protect the clothes.

Another thing I know about is the two kinds of normal poop that can mimic diarrhea. One is runny green poop. Green poop happens when the milk runs through the kid’s system too fast. Sometimes that will happen with a stomach bug (and can continue to be green even after the other symptoms are gone). The other thing that can make green poop is if there’s a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, or the mom has oversupply. The foremilk is the first milk the baby gets, and it’s watery to hydrate the child, plus it has lots of lactose. The hindmilk is the milk that comes at the end of a nursing session, and it’s full of fat to bulk up the child.

If the mother has oversupply, the child gets mostly foremilk and can never drink enough to get the hindmilk, so they have too much lactose in their systems and their poop can be green. (Other symptoms of oversupply are: falling asleep within a few minutes at the breast then waking up ravenous an hour or so later; putting on weight really rapidly; and making little goat baby noises. If your child is doing this, you may have oversupply.)

The other normal poop that can mimic diarrhea is "drool stool"." When a child is teething, s/he produces drool, and lots of it ends up going down the back of the baby’s throat. (If your teething baby has what sounds like a smoker’s cough in the mornings, it’s from the drool down the back of the throat.) It passes through the stomach and will come out in the poop, as slimy long shards of drool. The drool can also make your baby’s poop so acidic you can smell it (eew) and can cause patches on the butt and anus that look almost burned from the acidic drool. (So now your child is in pain in the gums and the butt. Lovely, isn’t it?) Use a non-zinc oxide diaper rash barrier cream (plain old Vaseline or Aquaphor will work well) proactively each time you change a diaper to make a coating to prevent the next poop from touching the skin.

I hope you finished your breakfast before you started reading this morning. Please post your poop-related tips for all to enjoy.

Q&A: Peeing through a diaper at night

The title is a lie, because I don’t actually have the answer. Michelle writes:

"I have a 21-month-old son who wakes up every morning SOAKING wet.
Usually soaked through his diaper (a Pull-Ups overnight, I might add)
to his pjs and his sheets.  In addition to feeling bad for my son who
has to feel wet and yucky, I feel bad for my husband and I, since the
wakings are getting earlier and earlier – he is now waking up between
5:45am and 6:00am (we have a 5 month old too, so sleep is a valuable
commodity around here).  I know he would sleep later if he wasn’t
swimming in his own pee.

He does drink a lot of fluids, usually two 8 oz. bottles of milk a day
plus however much water he wants from his cup.  He loves water, so he
gets a lot of refills on that.  I have tried not letting him have the
water after dinner (5:30pm) lately, but that hasn’t seemed to make much
of a difference.  He does get a bottle of milk at bedtime (I know, the
horror!  It’s on my list of things to fix but with two under two I am
doing good to maintain relative sanity and order around here – its my
new year’s resolution to get him off the baba completely).  Surely it
couldn’t be the milk causing him to pee like a race horse all night,
could it?

I am just looking for some ideas on how to prevent leaks.  Should I
limit the water?  Should I try to get him to pee on the potty before
bed, even though he hasn’t really shown any potty training readiness
signs? Should I just grin and bear it?  Will it ever stop?

He goes down around 7:30pm, usually falls asleep around 8:00pm (doesn’t
sleep with bottle in mouth) and before the soaking through started he
would sleep until 7am on the dot everyday.  As much as I love the fact
that he is such a  good sleeper the lack of night wakings also means I
can’t change a diaper in the middle of the night (*I have tried and we
ended up watching his favorite dvd for an hour because he wouldn’t go
back down).

He only weighs 30 pounds so the bigger Pull-Ups, Goodnights, etc just swallow him.  I am out of ideas – please help!"

You know, both my kids went through a phase of peeing through their diapers right at around that age. It lasted around 6 weeks to two months for each of them.

When my older son went through it, we were still using cloth diapers at night. We were using pocket diapers, and I kept increasing the stuffing until he was all puffed up like a marshmallow. I tried hemp, I tried microfiber, and nothing seemed to make much difference. Then one morning I just realized he hadn’t peed through his diaper in a few days.

Flash forward to my second child. We were in disposable diapers by then (I use Seventh Generation, because I figure if I’m using disposable I’d rather give my money to a company with some interest in the environment, instead of a mega-conglomerate, and they’re just as absorbent as the national brands). Same leaking through problem. So I tried three or four other brands of diapers in the same size and a size bigger. No change. He leaked through them all (but out the side with the bigger sizes. Then one day he just didn’t leak anymore.

So basically, I have nothing, except that it’ll probably stop on its own.

Anyone have anything that actually stopped the leaking? Or did you just try things and then it stopped on its own. Any idea why this happens at this age?