Category Archives: Baby

Q&A: Taking a baby to see fireworks? (aka fitting your baby into your life)

Lisa writes:

"As a new mom I find myself now thinking hard about all kinds of thingsthat were once no-brainers, like whether or not to go see the fireworks
on the Fourth of July. I have gone out to see fireworks as long as I
can remember and enjoy them, but now I have a son who just turned 8
months I'm concerned going to the show and keeping him out late at such
a loud and stimulating event might be a form of "sleep suicide" for
everyone (and that is only considering the late bedtime…we have no
idea how he'll react to fireworks). In our area, the fireworks don't
start until 10pm, and usually last about 30 minutes. I would definitely
give him a really late nap if we did decide to brave it. But the closer
we get, the more I'm having second thoughts about attempting this. So
do I listen to my gut, or do I practice "you never know until you try"?
And what do families do when they have a range of kids…like an older
child and an infant? Do they have to split up the family so one parent
stays home with the infant or toddler and the other takes the older
kids, or just take everyone and bear any consequences? Does it only
matter how much I value seeing those firework shows? Maybe I'm thinking
about this way too much, but if you'd like to throw this out there for
everyone to discuss I'd be really interested in any experience or words
of wisdom in making this kind of decision."

Well, number 1: Always go with your gut.

And, number 2: Yes, you are overthinking this particular issue, but it seems to me that this is just a stand-in for the greater question of "How do you fit your baby in to the life you've loved without sacrificing too much of yourself or too much of your baby's wellbeing?"

Balance is really hard to achieve. We touched on it a few weeks ago when talking about weaning, but it's an ongoing process. There are some things that are clearly good for everyone: eating vegetables, sleeping, dancing around in the living room to your favorite album from high school. But there are so many other situations in which you have to make decisions, whether big or small, about whose needs are prioritized.

There's no way anyone else can make that decision for you. You have to come up with your own process for making these decisions. In some families, everyone does it or no one does it. In other families they split up so kids get alone time with parents and to do special things only they enjoy. Some families have kids in bed at 7 pm no matter what, while others let their kids stay up hanging out with the adults talking long into the night. Privacy, communication, schoolwork–the list of things that are going to need negotiation goes on and on.

It might be worth your time to talk with your partner and see if you can come up with some guiding principles. Is it more important to you to keep his sleep normal now? Is it more important to celebrate the holiday the way you always do (bearing in mind that you should come home if the sounds freak him out)? Do you want to make a blanket policy decision, or play it by ear every year as he gets older? There are so many variables, so if you can isolate a few things that are more important to you than the others, that will help you make your decision.

How do you all approach making decisions like this? And what are you doing for the holiday weekend (in the US)? And did Canadians get the last few days off, too?

Q&A: fear of baby preferring dad over mom

Gah! Technology problems!

Anonymous writes:

"I am the mom of an 8-month old boy. I work full-time, and my husband ismostly a stay-at-home dad. Our situation is pretty great, although I
wish I worked 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5, but that's life, right?
The thing that has come up since I returned to work though is that I've
become surprisingly insecure about whether my son is more attached to
his dad than to me. I hate feeling this insecure and emotionally needy
with my own child and it isn't good for any of us, but I can't help
feeling really afraid that he will be way more into daddy than me. I
know toddlers often go through phases of strongly preferring one parent
over the other, and I'm worried that it's going to be his dad and I
will have a really hard time not taking that personally. I would love
to hear from working moms with stay-at-home husbands who either (a)
feel that their child is very strongly attached to them and can
reassure me a little, or (b) have been through their kid being more
attached to dad but got through it okay. If I'm really honest with
myself, I want more of the reassurance that our situation can still
lead to a very close mother-son bond, but I would like to hear both
perspectives."

I know you know you can have a close relationship with your son. You know he loves you, that he knows you're his mom, and that he's always going to know that.

I know you know plenty of families that have SAH moms and WOH dads in which the kids are very close to their dads.

So it's not about whether you can form a close relationship. It's about your fear of how you're going to handle the different emotional stages your baby goes through if you're not there all day long with him. This is an issue not about your son and his bond with you or your partner, but about your conflict with not being at home with him more.

So that's what you have to work on. Because the readers and I can give you hundreds of data points proving that it's possible (even easy!) to have a great relationship with your kids while working fulltime (and think about all those adults who talk about how close they are to mothers who worked three jobs to feed them and were hardly ever home, so it's clearly not just about facetime), but until you come to terms with how much you're home and how much you're not, you're not going to be able to accept it in your heart.

It makes me hurt for you that this is turning into such an anxiety point for you. I feel like I was lucky when I went back fulltime–it was the only way I could get a divorce, so I knew I had no choice (since divorce was the only way for me to get my kids out of the middle of our toxicity). It doens't sound like you have come to terms with it, though. Is it possible that you feel like there's something different that you could be doing? If there is, you might want to explore whether that's a possibility so you know you've maximized your options.

I don't think it hurts most kids to be apart from their parents all day while their parents are at work. I do think it hurts some parents, though. So you owe it to yourself to figure out a way to be OK (or as OK as you can be) with your home/not home ratio or else there's always going to be some worry point for you.

Any advice or sympathy for Anon? Any reassurance that her son will have a good relationship with her? And ideas for helping make WOH easier on her emotionally?

Q&A: early walker scares mother

I'd like to thank all the teachers out there who did projects with their classes for Mothers' Day. Single moms with kids too young to come up with and make or buy their own projects don't get anything else for Mothers' Day. So thank you.

Lydia writes:

"Gah! My 8-month-old is starting to walk. She's a total daredevil, and has no control or judgement. I'm terrified that she's going to fall and get a serious head injury, and am seriously considering buying her a helmet. But then I think that's insane. I need some perspective. Help!"

Let me begin with one of my mom's favorite aphorisms:

"God couldn't make them so fast and us so slow if he didn't also make their heads so hard."

Assuming that you've babyproofed all the truly dangerous things, and that you don't let her walk around in dangerous terrain outside, she's going to find her own level. Which isn't to say that she won't fall. But if she's being monitored appropriately (which doesn't mean you have to hover–just pay attention) she won't get hurt more than her size can take. So she'll get bumps and bruises and scrapes and cuts, but nothing that would require protection from a helmet.

If you think about it, letting her find her own balance and what she can and can't do now, instead of when she's really big and can get into lots of trouble, is going to mean fewer injuries later. Plus, it'll give her confidence in what her body can do, and let her know that you trust her to be able to do what she sets out to do. So letting her learn and walk the way she needs to (helmet-free) is a gift you can give her that'll set her up for confidence and physical accomplishment for the rest of her life.

Did anyone else have an early walker? How did you deal with the lack of judgment at that age? How long until your child was smooth and graceful?

Q&A: bloody, mucusy stools

Rachel's got a question that's stumping me:

"My daughter is almost 5 months old and has had frequent bloody andmucusy stools on and off since she was about 6 weeks old. She is
exclusively breastfed.  Our pediatrician initially said it was dairy
and soy protein from my diet, so I cut those out. It seemed to make no
difference. I then cut out wheat, then eggs, until eventually the "top
8" allergens were out of my diet. Still no improvement. My pediatrician
says to wait it out, and since my daughter is gaining weight, seems
happy, and is meeting developmental milestones I shouldn't worry. I
just don't feel right about this, and since we are creeping up on
solids introduction age I really want to figure it out.  Do you have
any suggestions? We are so at the end of our ropes here."

Yeah, I just can't imagine that having blood and mucus in your poop is something that should just be ignored, so I'm kind of shocked that your pediatrician is telling you not to worry. Something is definitely not right.

You've dealt with the most obvious things: dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, etc.

Is this ringing a bell with anyone? I'm trying to think backwards through what I'd suggest if it were an adult suffering from blood and mucus in the stool, but I'm not getting anywhere with that in my head, either.

Was your daughter ever given antibiotics? That's the only thing that's jumping immediately to mind.

Please jump in with ideas if this is sounding familiar to anyone.

Q&A: breast pumps

Woo-hoo! Back to alleged reality for most everyone today. Over the break, my cats pried seven of the keys off my laptop, I had wacky hijinx involving airline flights, and I discovered that somehow all the crap in my apartment is reproducing so the more I get rid of the more there seems to be. I hope you're well.

Today's question is from Maria, who writes:

"Do you have any advice on picking out a breast pump? I feel lost trying to pick one out!"

This is when I confess that my breast pump knowledge kind of stopped in 2005, when it became evident that my second son was never ever ever going to drink my milk out of anything but me, so I gave up on pumping, and if I was out he just ate something else or waited.

But I do think the advice I've been giving all along is basically sound: You don't really need to have a pump ahead of time.

Here's the logic: Some women don't need to pump at all for the first month or so, and, in fact, pumping can screw around with their supply and get them overengorged and just cause all kinds of wackiness that's basically unnecessary. (Those of you who suffered from undersupply may not believe it, but oversupply can cause problems, too.) Plus it's just another task added to your overstressed brain and body, and why cause more headaches for yourself if there's no reason to do it?

If you are having actual supply issues (and by "actual" I mean that it's not just the normal "am-I-making-enough-how-can-this-possibly-be-working-when-I'm-not-actually-doing-anything-and-why-does-the-baby-want-to-nurse-from-3-9-every-evening?" stuff) then you should go directly to renting a hospital grade pump for the first few weeks until all that shakes out anyway. Sometimes supply issues are a matter of management and time (if you have edema, for instance, or got a bad start or had a traumatic birth) and you'll end up needing your own pump, but you can figure out which kind once you know what kind of pumper you are. Sometimes you're going to need to keep the hospital grade pump for the duration of your nursing experience. Sometimes you have issues that mean nursing isn't going to work, and having bought a pump is just going to add to the whole ball of suck that surrounds that discovery.

So. Upshot: Unless someone else desperately wants to buy you one, and will only buy it now, or you live someplace where you need lead time to obtain a pump, hold off until the baby's a few weeks old so you know what kind you'll need.

Having said that, I'll recommend the two gold standard pumps from a few years ago. Please, commenters, if there have been any new developments in pumping, put them in the comments.

For people who only have to pump once or twice a day, the universal favorite was the Avent Isis. It's a hand pump, but women said time and time again that they get more and have an easier letdown with the Isis than with an electric pump. I know first hand that their customer service is phenomenal, so if you lose a part or are confused about something (the white star disc has to go in facing down or you won't get any suction) they will fix you up cheerfully and quickly. (I would not use any other hand pump, no matter how cheap or available, because it just isn't worth it IMO.)

For people who need to pump more often, the Medela Pump in Style (PIS) was the winner. It's portable and reasonably quiet and has great, comfortable suction. Everyone I know who had to pump on the jobsite had the PIS and loved it about as much as anyone can love a pump.

And with that, I'm going to leave you with my own opinion, which is that pumping sucks. I don't know anyone who liked it, no matter how often or for how long they did it. It's one of those things we do for our kids if we can, but just counts as a sunk cost of parenting. 

Any new pumps out there that beat the Isis or PIS? Has anyone tried the new dual electric Isis and want to give a review?

Q&A: babies seeing ghosts?

And now for something *completely* different. Brenda writes:

"I have a question that used to bother me but not that muchanymore. (At least not for now until my younger kid gets a little
older.)

My question is: Do you believe that babies and toddlers can see
entities of another realm (as in spirits, ghosts etc.) that we can't?

My son is now 3 years old. He used to look at, point to and make
"eh eh" sounds at two particular corners of our bedroom. I have never
seen anything there that may interest him – no interesting patterns or
intriguing colours. Now he no longer does that but would sometimes walk
over to those two areas to take a look and briskly walk away. (I'm
getting goosebumps as I type this.) I know there's a school of thought
that says that some kids have the ability to see things that we adults
can't, and as they get older and start expressing themselves, they lose
that ability. This is how the "other realm" keeps itself separate from
ours. I have horrific thoughts sometimes and keep picturing scenes from
the trailers of the movie "The Messengers". I'm now just hoping my
7-month-old doesn't start doing the same thing as well.

Do you or your readers have any thoughts that you would like to
share on this? I know this is a rather sensitive and disturbing topic,
but I'm curious about other parents' experiences and what they have
done about it."

<Insert your own "I see dead people" joke here.>

You know, I don't think it matters if *I* believe they see anything.

So much truly strange, unexplainable stuff has happened to me in the last several years that I don't discount anything. But at the same time I completely understand how other people don't think strange stuff can happen. It's all your own personal experience. In my experience.

Is there a way for you to switch rooms in your living space so your kids don't have to be in that room as much? That might make you feel better about things.

Anyone want to debate whether or not kids can see stuff like that? Or talk about personal experiences with it?

Q&A: baby not eating during the day

Fran writes:

"This is kind of an odd question, but is it possible for a six-month-oldbaby to refuse food even if she's hungry? Lately I've been having a
horrible time with my daughter Lulu. She refuses a bottle constantly,
or else eats just a couple of ounces (she's bottlefed) and rejects the
rest in favor of playtime on the floor. That would all be fine with me,
she's in the 100th percentile for height and weight, so no health
worries, and I don't want to force her to eat, even if that were
possible. What drives me nuts is that 1) she's grumpy a lot of the time
because she's hungry and won't eat (and yes, she's definitely hungry,
because if I can somehow get her to eat, she cheers up immediately),
and 2) she's started waking up at 2 and 5 am demanding food again, I
think because she's not eating enough during the day. This is maddening
because she was one of those kids who slept through the night early on,
and we're having a hard time adjusting. I've tried giving her solids, tried watering down her formula for those middle of the
night feedings, tried giving her just a pacifier or water, but nothing
seems to work. She's just on the cusp of crawling, but I'm not sure
that's the reason for her not eating; she seems bored by the bottle,
and will only take it if I put her in weird places, like her
exersaucer, or lying flat on her back in the middle of the living room.
I'd like to think this is just a phase, but if it is, it's a very, very
long one.

The pediatrician recommended not giving her a bottle when she cries in
the middle of the night, lest she get used to it, but what can I do?
The girl's obviously hungry. At the same time I definitely don't want
her to get the idea that this is going to be a regular feature of
nighttime. We are so tired that I'm not even sure what I'm asking
here–but if you and the Moxites have any suggestions for any of this,
we would be so, so grateful!"

And here I thought this was a problem that mostly affects breastfed babies. It just goes to show that one of my primary theories may be correct: Everyone's got the same problems, they just manifest themselves differently depending on your circumstances.

At any rate, this does seem to be a problem of this age and stage of development of babies. They get to this age and are just so excited by everything that's happening during the day that they don't want to stop and take the time to eat. It mean, who wants to waste time on milk when you could be looking at cool stuff? Or trying to crawl or scoot or roll? Only suckers waste time eating.

I also think that sometimes at this age babies are teething (either pre-teething or active teething) and that make them not feel like eating. So combine those two factors, and the kids may not eat much at all during the day.

Of course then they need the calories, so they eat at night while nothing exciting's happening, and while they're relaxed enough that the teething might not hurt so much.

So I would NOT try to cut out food at night, since I think the mechanism works the other way around, and that won't entice them to eat more during the day but will make both of you miserable without fixing the problem. Instead, I'd try to help them want to eat more during the day. The classic trick that most breastfeeding moms have tried (notice how I word that–it may or may not work) is to go into a dark, quiet, super-boring room when it's time to eat. Minimize distractions as much as possible, and hope that that lets the baby focus on eating.

You can also try to feed the baby right as soon as she's coming out of a nap, since kids seem to be more likely to eat while drowsy, before they remember that there's all that exciting stuff going on. As many calories as you can sneak in during the day will help with nighttime.

You can also try to alleviate some of the teething symptoms by giving the homeopathic teething tablets (either Hyland's Teething Tablet–they contain lactose–or Humphrey's #3 formula–they contain sugar but not lactose). The pills  are small and will dissolve easily in a baby's mouth and have such teeny tiny concentrations of active ingredient that there's debate over whether they can do anything at all. I've been happy enough with them (even if it is a placebo affect) to use them for both my kids and give a bottle as a shower gift to my friends. A pill a few times a day should take the edge off just enough to help a teething baby more likely to eat.

The good news is that this is a time-specific problem. At a certain point the baby will become more interested in food again and less agog about the environment, and the days and nights will flip back in your favor.

Anyone remember this phase?

More unformed thoughts on those rough times (3 1/2-year-olds)

So I've been thinking a lot about this 3 1/2-year-old thing. And how it really seems to me like all the "difficult" stages seem to be at times that double: 4 months, 9 months, 18 months, 3 1/2 years, 7 years, 14 years. I don't know if that means anything, except that if you're 28 maybe you're having a tough time, too. And 56 might also be rough…

Anyway, it seems like the difficulties start out more weighted toward the physical but become progressively more emotional as the people get older. So that first rough stage at 4 months is mostly about being fussy and not being able to sleep. Then at 9 months it's not sleeping but more generalized crankiness. 1 months seems to be a tie between physical and emotional distress, and then by 3 1/2 it really seems to be mostly emotional (even if all of this is caused by some physical process of development in the brain).

It feels to me, from being on the outside of it, that the developmental spurt that's happening somehow seems to remove the protective emotional layers somehow, so that all the person's emotions are right there, waiting to bubble over at any second. The person on the inside can't process or deal with or control them. Which is why they get stuck in a "Pick me up!! Put me down!!" loop. It's like they have an exposed nerve, and any time anything brushes against it they just go off from the overload.

I've noticed that when I'm feeling emotionally fried, my child being in one of these emotional wack-out times just sets me off, too. But when I'm on an even keel, my response just instinctively seems to be more one of "Oh you poor sweet little thing. Let me give you a hug."

Does this resonate with anyone? About any of the stages? About yourself? Or do you think there's something different or more going on?

Q&A: One-year-old not sleeping

Once again, when it rains it pours. A grand cascade of 5 emails, and one real-life friend, in the past week asking what the heck is going on with birthday babies. Let me write you a composite sketch of the emails:

“OMG Help! We made it through that !@#$% 9-month sleep regression, and my baby was only waking up once per night (which, believe me, was a miracle) by 11 months. But my baby just had a birthday and is now waking up 4 times a night again. Help me! What am I doing wrong? Why does my baby hate me? Is this ever going to end?”

In the order in which the questions were asked:

You’re not doing anything wrong. Your baby doesn’t hate you. Yes, it will end.

Your baby is ramping up for the 55-week developmental spurt. I forget what happens at this spurt, and my Wonder Weeks is packed in a box while I paint my living room, so I can’t look it up. But there’s a great summary here.

It’s going to be over in a couple of weeks, and then your baby will go back to sleeping at least as well as before, but maybe even better.

Sympathy, commiseration, anecdotes (either of your kids or of things you did because this regression threw you for such a loop), or any other musings welcome.

Here’s my musing: I thought it was so bizarre to get to one year, and then feel like my child was in such flux. It made 365 days seem completely arbitrary. You think, when your baby’s an infant, that a year actually means something. To me it just seems like a big period of flux in all sorts of areas.

Q&A: pooping in her sleep

Carole writes:

"Is there any way I can engineer my 9 1/2 month old baby's diet toreduce the likelihood of us waking up to her in a messy diaper?

We sleep trained her about a month ago (and it's AMAZING, happy happy
girl she is now that she's well rested), and have her on a pretty
solid schedule, but when we go in to her at 7am she's been poopy for
the last three mornings.  She generally poops twice a day.

I breastfeed her at 7pm, 7am and 1am.  She gets formula at 2:30 when
I'm at work, breastmilk when I'm home.  She's a big eater, and loves
everything, curry, mildly spiced thai food, fish, tofu, whatever we're
having for dinner.  Should I make her evening meal more grains and
less meat or fiber?  Are there any suggestions for helping avoid
making her sit in poop?  (Other than going in to her every time she
wakes up and cries for a minute?  She's usually back asleep again
within 5 minutes.)"

See, this is yet another situation in which my Trained Monkey Assistants would come in handy. (I've had this idea for years that I should open a ranch where we train monkeys to do things for tired parents like pop back in dropped pacifiers in the middle of the night, wash out sippy cups of milk, match baby socks, etc. Changing middle-of-the-night poop diapers would be a great job for the TMA. Then my friend who actually works in primate research had to shatter my dream by telling me she thinks monkeys would mostly be ill-suited for this job temperament-wise. Easy come, easy go, I guess.)

I think you have two options: 1) Experiment with stuffing her full of binding foods (like rice and Veggie Booty) a few hours before bed, or 2) Wait it out until her pooping pattern changes on its own.

Feeding her binding foods could do the trick, or it could have no effect whatsoever. There's really no way to tell. And I guess it's also possible that you could end up going too far and constipating her for a day or two until you work the balance back out. But, if you are the kind of person who likes to be actively working on a problem, then you might as well try it and see what happens.

The real truth is that it's going to stop eventually, because as her eating and movement changes her pooping is going to change, too. So you could just cut to the chase and wait it out. If you're feeling particularly tired or worn out, that's certainly going to be the best option. But if you want to work on the problem, try messing around with her food, and it may ease things more quickly, or eventually she'll just stop pooping at night on her own.

If she were older, I'd tell you to teach her to yell out "poop"or some special sign when she's actually pooped, so you'd know it was that and not just that little night-waking thing some kids do. At this age, she could probably learn a hand sign for poop, but that doesn't help any of you in the middle of the night.

Any suggestions to help Carole get to her daughter when she's pooped, without having to go in for every little peep? Did anyone else go through a night-time pooping stage with a baby this old?