Q&A: an uncomfortable lovey

Elizabeth writes:

"This problem is really pretty funny, except that it's getting less andless so to me.

My eight-month-old son is obsessed with my hair. I have fine hair that goes
about to the bottom of my shoulder blades. Every
I pick him up, he grabs a handful of hair and sticks his thumb
in his mouth. It's pretty much the only time he sucks his thumb any more, but
if he can get my hair, that's the immediate next move. If I try to tie it back
or braid it, he gets a handful from near the scalp and pulls as hard as he can,
and it hurts. Plus I always seem
to have wispies for him to grab – my hair resists being confined. When I pry it
out of his hands, he starts sobbing. Every time I hand him to someone, I have
to pry his hands open to get my hair back before I can move. (My husband is
used to this routine and doesn't try to whisk him away, but I've been dragged
by the baby clutching my hair many times by other people who don't know that
they have to wait for this step.) When I lay him in the crib, he can be totally
asleep, but as I stand up and the last strands pull out of his hands, he wakes
up and sobs.

It's pretty clear that my hair is functioning as a lovey for him. But this
cannot go on. It hurts, it makes it hard for me to hold him or nurse him or
anything – it's unmanageable. But I'm afraid to cut it off (and I don't really
want to, although I'm willing if I can solve the problem) without having some
kind of substitute for him. I have looked for a stuffed animal or something
that has long "hair," but apparently nothing feels like mine, because
he's not interested.

What do I do? His sister never had a lovey, and I don't really know what to do
with a kid who does. Can I redirect it? Should I just slather Anbesol on my
scalp and hope he outgrows it? Help!"

There are parenting experts who will tell you to just suck it up because your son clearly needs the security of your hair right now. And there are parenting experts who will tell you that you need to show your child his place by cutting him off from holding onto your hair immediately.

That's why it's nice not to be an actual expert–I get to look at the problem from a bunch of different angles. And it seems to me that this is an opportunity to start helping your son with the give-and-take that all humans have to learn. He is extremely important, but so are you. And he can't do something that causes you pain for no good reason, but you can probably hold on long enough to find something to transition him to a more practical lovey.

He's not going for the loveys with hair, which makes me think he doesn't want to be tricked. (This seems to be similar to kids who won't take a bottle because they don't like to be tricked, but will drink out of  cup instead.) I'm wondering if you could find a lovey that would have a similar intensity of sensation. I'm assuming your hair feels pretty silky, so maybe something either smooth (like metal) or something else very tactile, like a koosh ball or wooden spoon handle or piece of wide satin ribbon might do it. When you find something he'll take, make sure you get 3 or 4 of them.

Once you've found something he'll accept, even if he still has a clear preference for your hair, you're going to have to try to transition him. The first step is to talk to him about it, about how grabbing your hair hurts you, so he should grab onto the lovey instead. Once you've talked to him about it a few times, it's time to stop him from touching your hair and put the lovey into his hands every time he tries to grab your hair.

Now, if it were me (and it's not, it's you), I'd go all GI Jane and buzz my hair off to really provide the opportunity to reinforce the new pattern and make the old pattern impossible. (Remember, though, that getting divorced has given me much less concern for what other people think of me, so I'd be fine walking around with a buzz cut. I'd just have to wear a hat everywhere until the weather got warmer.) If you don't want to cut off your hair, you should wear some kind of tight-fitting hat that he can't burrow under easily.

By doing this gently (and talking to him about it first) you are showing him that you respect him and that his needs are important. But by pushing to wean him off your hair, you're showing him that you're important, too, and that he can love you but he can't hurt you. (Once you wean him off your hair and help him with this balance, he'll be more emotionally advanced than the average 19-year-old…)

Oh, and he's about to go through a developmental spurt/sleep regression (usually around 9 months), so start on this ASAP, or you may end up having to wait 4-6 weeks until he's through the spurt before you can make any progress.

Has anyone else been in a situation in which something important to your baby has been untenable to you? How did you deal with it?

Q&A: !@#$%ing daylight savings time again

So I'm trying to be proactive about switching time instead of talking about it after the fact. We switch to DST next Sunday (and by "we" I mean the USA, Canada, Mexico, the UK, and lots of Europe, and probably some places I missed), and all the normal stuff is going to apply. We miss an hour of sleep ("spring forward") and you're going to have to try to decide how to deal with whatever havoc that wreaks on your kids' schedule. But here's a new twist I haven't heard, from Ann (from Seattle, if any of you from the Seattle meetup remember her):

"So, I just realized that Daylight Savings starts next Sunday, and thisis the first time that we know in advance that it'll affect my son's
sleep (last time sort of sneaked up on us). Could you do a post this
week on how to manage the time change, for those of us who are
relatively new at it? Last time it TOTALLY SUCKED.

he is a not-terribly-scheduled toddler — his nap- and bed- times
aren't so much clock-based as dependent on when he woke up last. He's
still on 2 naps/day, usually, and he's awake for 3-4 hours between
naps/bedtime. So that makes it hard to put him down 10 minutes early
every day for a week, etc. Any ideas?

To make matters even worse, he turned 18 months a couple of weeks ago. So, lots of awesome sleep stuff going on here."

Well, because I have one guiding principle in life ("there's always another way"), I immediately started thinking about how Ann and her husband could bang their heads against the rocks of a non-scheduled bedtime, or they could let go of the end of that rope and take one of two approaches.

Possible Approach #1: Since his sleep is all FUBAR because of being 18 months anyway, do nothing and just let the suck continue apace for another few weeks. Since his sleep is screwed up anyway, perhaps the won't notice the time change issues as severely as they did last year when he was 6 months old and it won't be as troublesome.

Possible Approach #2: Go at it from the other end, by adjusting his wake-up time. I mentioned this to Ann, who told me that he doesn't have a specific wake-up time, but that he usually wakes up in a one-hour window of time. (I won't tell you what that one hour is, because I like Ann and would like for you all to continue to like her, too.)

I think a one-hour timeframe is easy enough to work with, and makes this approach doable. I would just pick a time (let's say the midpoint of the time range in which he usually wakes up) and wake him up then for a couple of mornings. Since it's within half an hour of his natural wake-up, it shouldn't have any major negative effects on him. Then just start waking him up 10 minutes earlier every day for the rest of the week coming into the time change. If you could get him to wake up an hour earlier by the night before the time change, then the morning of the time change he'll be sprung forward and waking up at the midpoint of his previous wakeup time.

It sounds so simple in theory, doesn't it?

In reality, it could work like a charm. Or they could all go down in flames. Or he could cut the 18-month molars and not sleep for three days straight, or a motorcycle gang could race loudly down Ann's street and wake him up, or anything else could happen. So I make no guarantees, and no one should schedule anything important, like, say, defending a dissertation or doing any Olympic qualifying rounds for next week.

Whaddaya got?

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