Getting a baby on a schedule

As we all know, humans like routine. So one of the cornerstones of parenting babies is the idea that babies need to get into a routine, and that things will go more smoothly for everyone once the routine is solid.

The problem can come in when someone tells us that we HAVE TO get our babies on a schedule from the get-go or the entire world will crumble apart. Let's look at what's wrong with that idea:

1. Schedule vs. routine. Routine is awesome. Wake up around the same time, eat around the same time, see the same people, do the same things around the same time. It gives us a structure, and lets us trust that things are going well so we can be free to think and work and grow within the structure. Schedule, though, indicates that we're on the minute, and if we get behind we're somehow doing something wrong. Is it semantics? Maybe. But one indicates that time is working for you, and the other inducates that you're trying to keep up with time.

2. Anyone who has a baby who's 6 months or older knows that babies in the first 12 weeks are a total crapshoot. Everything is so radicaly different from day to day, or certainly week to week, that trying to impose some external structure on a baby is difficult at best and extremely stressful (for you or the baby or both) at worst.

3. If a baby is healthy and his or her needs for food and comfort and touch are met, the baby's system will regulate and the baby will fall into a routine. Whether you impose it or not. (The issue then becomes manipulating the baby's routine so it intersects more closely with the routine you want the baby to have.) Some babies fall into a routine early (around 8-12 weeks) but some don't really until 4-5 months.

4. Don't believe the hype. All of the "you must impose a schedule as soon as possible" sounds to me a lot like just another way to make us feel bad about ourselves if we're not doing the exact right things at the exact right times.

5. Like everything else about parenting, routines are a collaborative effort between you and your child. Not something either of you imposes on the other, unless you want to get into a bad control game.

So, those of you who have infants, have your babies settled into a reliable routine yet?

Those of you who have older kids, do you remember when your babies settled into routines? How much of that was you, and how much of that was the baby, and how much was collaborative?

My younger one settled into a routine really early. He liked a 7:30 bedtime from a few weeks old, and even though the daytime stuff took a few months to stabilize, that bedtime stuck for years. My older one seemed more chaotic to me, but that was probably because he was my first and it took me longer to recognize patterns, and to realize that I wasn't doing anything wrong.

How did it go for you?


Q&A: Clusternursing or otherwise awake from 6-10 am?

(Hey, is it just me, or is thundersnow/thunderhail a new phenomenon? I don't remember thunder and lightning accompanying freezing precipitation when I was a kid.)

Anonymous writes:

"why are mornings the hardest? i thought babies who cluster nursed usually did it at night?? my guy is 5 weeks old and sleeps 3 hours at a stretch at night, but then he's UP at 6 am and wants to be on and off and nurse until about 10 am. this is killing me. everyone says it will change in a week or two but the next hour is going to seem like an eternity. i need some perspective."

Hey, the good news is that you won't remember any of this, until someone else going through it mentions it and it all comes hurtling back into the front of your memory like a slap in the face.

The other good news is that if you can hang on another week there's a growth spurt at 6 weeks, and that spurt may change eating and sleeping (and pooping) patterns for your son. Lots and lots of kids become radically different feeders and sleepers after spurts (the big growth spurts are at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months, and then the rest blend in and we dont notice them as much).

I don't know that there's anything you can or should do about this. If he were older it might be worth tryig, but at this point really it is just about getting through the next 7-10 days until it changes.

My one suggestion is to see if there's some kind of breastfeeding support group you can go to. For one thing, it will get you out of the house and into fresh air (or sleet, depending on where you live). For another thing, some of the other women at the group will have some strange issues you hadn't even thought of, and that should help you feel both solidarity with other women in the same boat and relief that your issue is just going to fix itself with time.

Also, courage. It will get better. It will get waaaaaaaay better.

Readers: Tales of clusternursing, or awake stretches that killed you, or unusual nursing issues, or breastfeeding support groups, or taking your baby out into the sleet? Or anything you can even remember from when your child was 5 weeks old?

Q&A: Ending a marriage

K writes:

"I am exhausted from trying to hold on and keep everything together. It feels like I'm the glue, and I'm not even attached to anything. How do you know when it's time to walk away and hope for a better life by yourself?"

I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.

And I know that exact exhaustion.

I would suggest that everyone who is feeling like ending a marriage read the excellent Uncoupling by Diane Vaughan. It is NOT a book that will make you feel bad in any way about "what you're doing" or your kids, so I consider it a totally safe book. (Also safe for same-sex couples.)

What it does is it goes through the entire emotional process that happens when a couple separates, starting from the very first inkling one person has that things aren't right. It talks about all the places the mismatches happen, and who tends to feel what when. It also talks about points at which the relationship could be saved if the partners are both willing and able to identify that and change behavior.

It's really just a timeline of how things unravel, from both sides, of the person who leaves and the person who's left. I found it invaluable.

Now, from personal experience, I had all sorts of different points of knowing. Everything from realizing that when I imagined myself at the age of 50, he wasn't there in my vision, to sobbing through church every week because my life was so wrong, to thinking Nora Ephron's Heartburn was the best book I'd ever read. (It's a good book, and the recipes are amazing, but I don't think people in healthy marriages identify with it as completely as I did when I read it.)

The bottom line for me, though, was that at a certain point leaving was the only thing that made sense. I knew it would be hard (I thought of it at the time as chewing off my own foot to get out of a trap), but it was the only path I could imagine. Staying seemed impossible, and like sickness.

Anyone who left, how did you know?

Anyone who fixed it, how far did you go before you pulled it back together?

The new carseat guidelines

Can we talk about the new carseat guidelines in the US? The AAP just recommended keeping kids rear-facing until age 2. Before this, it was common for people to turn their kids front-facing at age 1, but the new guideline says rear-facing until age 2 is far safer.

Here's a link to the whole story.

Before we start talking about it, let's just go under the asuumption that OF COURSE all of us want to do what's safest for our kids.

Those of you in countries in which you've been keeping kids rear-facing for longer already, please weigh in on how the experience has worked for you.

My older son was always very big for his age (99th %ile for both height and weight). I'm not sure that when he was 2 there was a rear-facing careseat that he would physically have fit into. What would we have done?

I'm also dreading having to keep my younger one in a booster for years and years until he hits the 85 pound weight limit, which could be a long time for his lanky self.

Just logistically, this is going to be tough for some parents with kids who are at the extremes of size.

What is your car seat/booster seat experience?


Q&yourA: Choosing Kindergarten

I've gotten a couple of questions about choosing Kindergarten programs:

The first was on half-day vs. whole-day programs.

The second was on starting a kid who was very much academically ready and seemed emotionally ready but was going to be in the younger half of the class agewise.

My take on the first question is that half-day vs. whole-day is largely a red herring. In my experience, what determines whether K is a good year or not is entirely the teacher. If you have a good teacher, it's a good year. Bad teacher, bad year. (I say this after my older one had a horrible K teacher [which GayNYCDad can confirm] and my younger one now has an amazing teacher for whom I'm thankful every day.)

Kids who nap in the afternoons will switch their sleep schedules to go to bed earlier if they end up in all-day K, and kids who are in half-day will still learn to read even if they're not in school all day.

My take on the second question is that I don't know. I think that if a) the teacher is good, and b) the kid is within reach (not even fully there) socially, it will be good. But both of my kids were in the middle range of the class and pretty average socially, and had been in preschool for two years each before K.

If I were making a decision about timing, and my child had been in preschool or daycare, I'd ask the teachers and put a lot of weight on what the said about how my child was in relation to the other kids, and how well my child adapted to change in an institutional setting. Because they see our kids the way we don't.

I think it's trickier if your child hasn't been in an institutional setting, because you don't have as much indication of how they act in a group.

So. You. How did you/are you making the decision? Is there even a decision to be made where you live? (In NYC public there is not. It's all full-day and it's strictly by age cutoof. Everyone born in calendar year 2006 is starting K this fall.) Are you happy with your decision? Is there anything you'd weigh differently if you could do it again?



Worried and addled

(If you've been waiting to get The Wonder Weeks for yourself or for friends, now's the time. They're selling it for $20 (inculding S&H) until March 27 at

I am so worried and preoccupied about the nuclear reactors in Japan, and the people without homes and water and shelter. It's cold there, and I'm thinking about all the parents who are desperate to give their children something to drink and eat and to keep them warm while they figure out what next.

It's making it hard for me to concentrate on the things I need to do, and on helping anyone else.

Head down, shoulder to the wheel, push through.

Be strong for the kids.

What's up with you?


Disaster preparedness

Q&A preempted by the Japanese earthquake/tsunami.

I saw the news and was watching it with my kids this morning, and realized that I have a plan in my head of what I'd do, but that's it–no coordination with my kids' dad, or anything concrete. So I emailed my friend Catherine at (they help families create disaster preparedness plans) and asked her what the top few things she'd say to families about making a plan are. Here's what she said:

"1.  This demonstrates the importance of family meeting places!  We have "home base" plus three places: near home, FAR from home, and something along the way.

2.  Everyone having the names and numbers of the family crisis management team on them at all times is crucial.  

3.  I carry an IronKey thumb drive with me at all times with copies of all of our insurance policies, wills, and identification.  It's with me right now at breakfast. It may seem silly but you never know when that emergency will strike.

4. Black umbrella clients have a "family marshal.". The other family members have to listen to that person.  Doing so in a situation like this one is what helps people get out of the building and get to safety."

I the past, when Catherine and I have talked about preparing, she's emphasized that it's not just about putting together a "go bag," because what if your bag is at home and you're at work? It's really about being able to find each other. Flow of information, not stuff.

What do you want/need to say about the earthquake and/or disaster preparedness?

The most helpful thing at four weeks?

Yesterday seemed to be a fairly horrible day for a lot of people, me included. So lets turn toward the light a bit, and share:

What is the most helpful thing you encountered (that someone said to you, or that you read, or that someone did) when you'd been a parent for about a month? (I feel like that's when it really sets in for most of us.)

For me, it was two things:

1. My mom was happy to talk to me every single time I called her (which was 3-4 times a day at that point) and always told me I was doing a good job.

2. My son started smiling, really early, and it was the positive feedback that kept me going.

Now you, please.


(Actual Q&A tomorrow if I make it through today!)

Q&yourA: Coping with juvenile diabetes

First, a reminder from one of your fellow readers: Don't clean an immersion blender without unplugging it, unless you like the emergency room.

And now a question from Jen:

"My 4-year-old was peeing and drinking excessively for about 2 weeks and I knew that was a red flag for diabetes, although of course I was hoping it was something easy like a UTI. But either way I knew I had to get it checked out, and turns out it was Type 1 diabetes. Luckily we caught it before he got too sick, so that was good, but we had a stressful and hurried trip to the ER and he spent a few nights in the hospital. We've been back home for about a month, but now comes the dealing-with-this-for-the-rest-of-our-lives part. He has adjusted well to the routine of finger pricks and insulin shots (he won't get an insulin pump until he is older). But we're really having a hard time with the need to get him to eat enough carbs. We're colliding straight into the preschooler picky eating and control phase, and I wondered if any of your fabulous readers/commenters would like to share advice.

In general we try to follow the Ellyn Satter division of labor idea. (Although–as an aside–am I the only one who's starting to get really pissed at what a first world/middle-class-and-up philosophy this is? As I scrape a perfectly good serving of chicken fingers that won't reheat well into the trash, I think about all the people working hard to feed their families and barely making it, or all the people NOT making it, and I get upset. But that's a rant for another day.) But then I start freaking out when all he eats of his dinner is the protein and none of the carbs. We've had a number of scares where we check his sugar level at 10 PM and it's something like 54, 42, or 29. (100 is normal; anything under 70 we have to wake him up and make him drink juice, which he dislikes as much as you'd expect. So 29 freaked me right the hell out. That's about when some people start going into a coma.)

So, like, what do we do? Obviously he has clued in to the fact that if he doesn't eat dinner he might get a yummy bar of fruit leather (aka concentrated form of carbs). Do people have any tricks to share?"

This is tricky. I never thought about managing a preschooler with diabetes because the kid we know with juvenile diabetes is my older son's age and he knows how to manage it by now. Which I guess is light at the end of the tunnel, that this IS about the age and at a certain point it will become more routine.

But I have never had to manage anything as nuanced and high-stakes as this. Readers, please, step in. I know a lot of you have had to manage chronic conditions and issues with food that are far more involved than "he won't let himself starve."

Would you please help Jen out? And if your child is older, could you let her know when it gets easier?

I am feeling very lucky that I have extremely mundane non-issues with my kids and eating.