Category Archives: Baby

For those of you who have or are having or considering second children

So a few more questions came in over the last week or so about second children. A couple of them from people who were either newly pregnant with the second or about to give birth, and were wondering if they were setting themselves up for disaster. The real concern for both those writers seemed to be the overwhelming sense of guilt at breaking up the little party the first child had, combined with the worry that they'd never be able to love the second child the way they loved the first.

I don't know that I have so much to offer here. I definitely felt both those feelings when I was having my second son. And I think it's a mistake to resort to the old "a sibling is the best gift you can give" line to comfort yourself, even if you do believe it. (I do for myself, because my relationship with my brother is the most important relationship I've had, aside from the one with my children.) Because even as wonderful as it is to have a sibling, there is loss for the older child. If nothing else, there's loss of having all the focus (which, again, could also be a good thing), but there's loss of the immediacy and the cocoon.

Does the good outweigh the bad? For my kids, yes. But it's important to acknowledge for yourself that it's not all happiness all the time. Allow yourself to feel a little sad about it, even as you look forward to the baby.

Can I ask a favor? If there's anyone who truly doesn't love their second (or later) child as much as the first, could you comment on it anonymously? I've never heard of it happening, but of course it's something you could never say in public. So if there is someone, please put it here anonymously, and we'll see if it's a realistic fear, or if loving the second one as much as the first is just something you can't imagine until you're there.

The other questions I got were from a very new mom-of-two and one about to pop any second now, who were really terrified of what was going to happen when their help (spouses and family) were gone and they had to be alone with the two kids. The spacing was right around 2 years for both of these moms, and the primary concern was how to keep the older one calm and happy while they got the baby to sleep. And yeah, that's a concern, because a 2-year-old's needs are very immediate, as are an infant's, so it could turn into a donnybrook easily.

Mine were 3 years apart, so my older one watched a lot of Bob the Builder DVDs while I was getting the little one down to sleep in those early days. For those of you with kids spaced closer than 2 1/2 years apart, how did you keep the older one chill while you were getting the little one to sleep? Any and all suggestions welcome.

Q&A: that unbelievably annoying spitting stage

Michelle writes:

"We are flummoxed by my 10 month old’s food-spitting.  It is actually pretty cute…the minute we present him with ANY type of food (baby puree, toast, fruit chunks, even the “puffs” he usually loves) he starts blowing raspberries.  The only problem is that, apart from drinking bottles, he hasn’t had a single bite of any food in several days.  He doesn’t seem in pain, so I don’t *think* he is teething or suffering from a throat infection or something.  Rather, he seems playful or even triumphant about it.  But here’s my question- isn’t 10 months too young for the toddler-style testing?  Is this something babies do when they are leaping forward in other ways?  He is also about to start walking and struggles/fusses a lot in any position other than standing.  Is he basically trying to talk, and I can diffuse some of this behavior by doing baby sign language- which honestly feels a little silly to me?  Is he just destined to reject food and become one of those really picky eaters who only eats fruit roll-ups and peanut butter?"

First of all, I need to put my foot down and insist that no one diss the baby signs. Baby signs have the power, so you can think they're silly all you want, but once you see them in action you'll change your tune. And when your 9-month-old can tell you "more," "all done," "milk," "sleep," and a few other things, you'll be happy you did them.

Now, on to the question. Michelle labeled this a "lighter" question, but I get a version of this at least every month, and some of the parents are truly upset about it. I think it's hard for some parents to see their children testing boundaries and exerting their will so soon. When you've been used to a cuddly, compliant baby and suddenly you have this creature who just won't stop doing something that seems so counter-productive, it can throw you for a loop.

I also think that some parents react with a distress or rage about spitting that's out of proportion to the actual even because it hits something in them. If you were punished or harshly dealt with about eating and food and table manners when you were a baby and toddler, then your child stepping out of line (so to speak) is going to trigger those really anxious, rage-filled feelings in you. If you recognize yourself in that description, good! Now that you know what's going on, you can use those feelings to tell you what you need healing from. It's a good opportunity to give yourself what you didn't get when you were a child.

Now, as for why Michelle's baby (and yours) are doing this spitting thing: Michelle pretty much hit everything. It is too early for toddler testing, but it's right on time for older-baby testing (which no one wants to tell you about for fear that you'd say you were going out for a gallon of milk but you'd never come back). There's a 46-week developmental spurt, and I think part of it is that, but really I just have known so many many kids (both of my own included) who've started to really want to just do what they wanted and now! when they were 10 or 11 months old. 

Add in the physical stuff, and yeah, you've got a would-be tyrant with little ability to make his desires known and a very limited ability to go where he wants to go. You'd be cranky, too, in that situation, and would do whatever you could to piss off The Man

So, seriously, try the sign language (at the Michigan State free ASL dictionary or the Signing Time DVDs), and don't get too upset about the spitting, because it's just a result of frustration on his part plus exploration and being able to do something that feels cool.

Oh, and some of us would be happy if our kids ate both fruit roll-ups *and* peanut butter. Sigh.

Cast your vote in the comments for the most annoying baby/toddler behavior that isn't an actual problem but makes/made you nuts.

Q&A: shifting expectations and newborn energysuck

R writes:

“I’m a band widow.  My dh is involved in two bands, both practice onceto twice per week.  We have been married for almost a year and have a
two month old baby as well as an eight year old from a previous
relationship of mine. 

Dh and I have several arguments over who is the most tired.  He
works a very physical job and handles a lot of the physical things
around the house because I have a back injury.  I had hyperemesis
through the pregnancy, and midway through he decided we should also
start our own business.  SO, a home business, two bands, work, and
being a caregiver as well as parent, husband, etc and I think dh is a
little over loaded.  When we finally ever get time to ourselves, we’re
both usually exhausted and spend the time sleeping on the couch
watching movies.  For me, it went from hyperemesis to colic and dealing
with a very sore back.

We went on vacation and I really wanted dh to have some fun down
time, so I arranged for that to happen.  Just as he was about to leave
the campsite to have some fun, I felt super resentful and tired and
worn out (there’s another blog topic, camping with a seven week old
baby at an outdoor music festival).  He didn’t get angry, but I know he
was resentful that I had promised this fun time and ended up pulling
him back into the tent to watch us sleep and keep me company.

I don’t know if I should feel bad about being like this.  I’m glad
dh has a life and interests and it’s why I fell in love with him.  Over
the past year I’ve lost my life almost entirely, beyond making sure
this baby is healthy and happy.  I know he’s worked hard to support us
though.  The problem is, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I
did have time off.  My energy is still zapped from pregnancy and after
breast feeding and soothing a colicky baby for 1/3 of the day, I don’t
think a night on the town would last much more than an hour.

This too shall pass is my mantra… but I’m pretty sure that beyond
the colic and the back injury and the rest of it, I’ll still be a
band/extra curricular widow.”

How much would I love to be able to work in a “one time, when I was at band camp” joke here?

You know how musicians all seem so sexy and righteous? Masters of their craft? In touch with the beauty and power of the universe? And hot? Totally. I’ve been spouting off lately to my RL (regular life) friends, “My forever husband is going to be a musician…” with stars in my eyes. The reality, though, is that musicians don’t just sit around playing songs they wrote for you in between bouts of taking out the trash and selling millions of MP3 downloads. It’s practice and rehearsal and gigging and traveling to gigs and setting up and breaking down and all kinds of other stuff that’s a lot of hard work and not at all glamorous or particularly fulfilling (especially for the observer). And then there’s no guarantee that they’ll ever be able to make a living at it, either, so they have to take other jobs, which, if they’re lucky, mean playing for other people, which is more rehearsal and gigging, etc.

But what you guys are dealing with isn’t really about the bands. It’s about two things: getting smacked in the face by having a newborn, and dealing with two people who both have needs.

I know you went through the first-time mom thing already, but you can forget a lot in 8 years, and it sounds like you’re just getting smacked by the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy and caring for a newborn. It’s hard and it sucks and you need a break but at the same time you don’t even know what you’d do with a break. (Does anyone else remember just walking slowly through the grocery store looking at the new products on the shelves because you didn’t know what else to do when you had time away from your baby?)

At the same time, your husband has been smacked with extra physical and logistical demands, plus the freakout that can happen to men when they have a child.

So, to put it mildly, you’re both engaging in your stress behavior at this point. And for some of us, that can quickly go down the road of misery poker. Misery poker, while fun, ends up being a game that no one can win, because you’re disconnecting from each other and striking out from a defensive position. I know this game, and the resultant scorekeeping that happens even when things are “fine,” all too well, and what happens is you end up siloing yourselves. Pretty soon you’ll be living your life of resentment and he’ll be living his life of resentment. Not good.

One of the things I’ve discovered the hard way is that you should really only have people in your life that you can be honest with. So if the people you’re with aren’t able to accept your honesty, then they aren’t helping you be who you need to be. And if you’re not being honest with the people in your life that you *can* be honest with, that’s a problem you need to work on yourself.

It sounds like the camping trip falls into this category. You wanted to please your husband by letting him have his fun time, but you weren’t being honest that you 1) need help, and 2) resent that he still gets to go out and walk around without a little person attached to him.

So let’s recap: No sleep + physical demands + neither person talking about the stress with the other or possibly even admitting in to themselves + camping with a 7-week-old + too many things to do and not enough time to do it + watching your past life of fun recede quickly in the rear view mirror = major, resentful, ugly disconnection.

The path is clear: You need to figure out how to get connected again. It’s my guess that the couples who maintain connection (assuming they had it in the first place) are able to share the misery instead of compete with it. Which means that they’re a) admitting to themselves that it’s hard and they’re stressed and they can’t really do things like, say, camping, at this point in their lives (although you will camp again!); b) admitting to each other that they’re at the limit of their capacity; c) acknowledging whatever feelings the other one expresses as valid and earned; and d) giving each other the benefit of the doubt.

Ideally, you two would be able to work something out so that you get some down time and he gets some down time, too. And without question you both need to be honest with yourselves about what you need and honest with the other one, even if it makes you feel like the un-cool wife who won’t “let” her husband go have fun. But don’t forget that you’re in the Red Zone here, that even a year from now things will be so different, and three and five and ten years from now you won’t remember the actual events (unless you’re holding on to resentment) if you can work through it together now.

Anyone with a good relationship want to jump in here with sympathy and/or tips?

Q&A: special needs child

Katie writes:

“I have a 3-year-old son with autism and figure at least some of your readers have experience with special needs. My boy was diagnosed as having moderate autism just before he turned 2, and I am so proud of how far he has come. (I could write a whole separate e-mail about all of the therapies and interventions he has endured.) He is very verbal now and, though he is in a special preschool class, I believe he will be mainstreamed into a regular classroom by elementary school and be almost indistinguishable from his typical peers.

My dilemma is whether I should ever tell him about his autism. He hears me speak of it often now; I have no qualms about telling someone he is on the spectrum, partly because it explains some of his behaviors that new friends may find odd, and partly because I am so proud of all the progress he has made. But he is getting closer to the age when he will really pick up on what I’m saying when I speak to others about him.

I don’t want to completely ignore it or act as if it never happened or make it into this big secretive talk–“Son, let’s sit down for an important talk about something terrible about you.” It is a part of who he is, a part of his past and present. I guess what I’m looking for is wisdom from others who may have gone through this before. Do I stop mentioning it so much? Do I wait for him to ask me something down the road? Do I phase out the word “autism” as his symptoms show up less and less?”

Hmm. On the one hand, I feel like he’s going to know there’s something different about him. On the other hand, you don’t want him to grow up thinking there’s something less about him. So how do you balance the two–acknowledging that he’s got some things that are different about him but also letting him know that he’s great the way he is?

I wrote that first parapgrah three weeks ago, and have been sitting on this post ever since, trying to figure out what to write. The fact is, I don’t know what it’s like to have a special needs child. It would be disingenuous of me to talk about it, I think, because I’ve never had the experience of parenting a child who isn’t always going to be received easily by the world. (I definitely think I have a special responsibility in raising two white men in America, but that’s a different post.)

I’d love to hear from moms and dads of kids who don’t fit neatly into the boxes that we expect kids to fit into. Not just kids who have autism, but kids who have any other kind of developmental issue, kids who have chronic illnesses, kids who look different.

How do you manage their “issues” (treatments, therapies, medical inteventions, etc.) while still loving and respecting them as people? How do you straddle the line between living your experience as the parent of a special needs child and honoring their experience as a special needs person? What if the “special need” is something that isn’t recognized by the larger world (like being a highly sensitive or spirited person)?

Please talk about it. If you want to link to other supportive areas of the internet, please do. (If you type in the http:// before the www part of the address it’ll automatically hyperlink so people can just click through your comment.)

Q&A: The one where I feel like a shitty parent

Alisha (who clearly needs her own podcast, just for her email subject alone) writes:

Is there some fussy-farting-limits-testing-booshity thing that happensaround the 7 month mark? Because the boy and I have been going ten
rounds lately and he’s kicking my parental ass.
I don’t know if it’s the teething (it looks like his bottom eye teeth
are coming in. I thought the top ones came before the sides?) or some
sort of developmental thing (he’s 32 weeks but he was 2 weeks late so
developmentally that’s 34 weeks? He’s starting to sit unassisted for a
seconds and crawling is imminent, although I’ve been saying that for
weeks) or if I’m just being punished for being smug, but my son is back
to non-sleeping. It started a few days ago – a little extra rocking
here, another round of Lullabye there. Small stuff that was easy to
dismiss. Clearly a month of cushy snoozing (five minutes of rocking and
he was out until 5 am; easy breezy naps) made us soft. Now he’s taking
forever to settle and once he is asleep it doesn’t last. The minute his
head hits the mattress he flips onto his back, grabs his blankie, and
shoots us a self-satisfied grin.


what the grin says, I swear it. You can practically count the
exclamation points in his eyes. Lather, rinse, repeat (two to four more
times) and you’ve got yourself one pissed off mama.

the joy – the exalation! – that makes me so crazy. It feels like a
giant F- you to my parenting skills. We did CIO at 4.5 months and after
16 miserable, worthless days ended up with a baby who was terrified to
go to sleep. Then we instigated a rock/jiggle/hum routine that worked
wonders – until now. I’ve tried leaving
him to cry again which sends him to Shitsville in a large, wailing
I’ve said fuck it and gotten him up which leads to a grouchy, bleary
eyed babe and a difficult day. According to the books (here
we go…) he’ll nap better if he sleeps longer at night so I should
ignore him until 6 am. (Actually they say he should be sleeping until 6 am which makes me want to punch them in the nose.) There’s no way: his diaper is practically deteriorating by 4:30 (the outside actually squishes, it’s so full) and I defy anyone to get a baby back to sleep after an early morning wipe down.

trying to convince myself that this is just a phase (maybe he’s transitioning from 3 naps to 2?) but there’s an
awful lot of You’re Not The Boss Of Me happening lately, which is great
developmentally but panty-twisting, mommy-wise. (We’ve introduced solids and he’s starting to
refuse the bottle. Sure, the nipple is good for chewin’ and have you
ever just opened your mouth and let the liquid spill out all over
Apparently it’s awesome. Awesome enough to do over and over and over and over.)

Excuse me while I take a moment.

Is this crap normal?

Oh, this sucks. I’m so sorry, although your email was super-funny and I thank you for that.

It sounds like a whole bunch of developmental, movement, and teething stuff all combined into a big ball of suck, plus the 37-week wonder week. Also, it sounds like your son may be really smart, and that’s leading him to testing his independence a little bit earlier than usual. (Just like in that movie with L.L. Cool J in which they’re training the sharks and then the sharks get smarter than the human are and attack.) It’s tough with the smart kids, because lots of times they don’t sleep as much or as well as the norm, and they get frustrated when they’re aware of things but can’t make their needs or will known.

At this age, he’s probably too young even for sign language (you could start with the signs and he might understand at this point but probably doesn’t have the physical skills to make them himself yet). And sign language likely won’t help with the sleep. But talking him through every single thing that’s going on all day might. Verbalizing feelings for him, like saying “You’re angry!” when he’s clearly mad, and stuff like that. I know people think a 7-month-old is too young to communicate, but their receptive language kids in so early, and you might as well err on the side of attributing more maturity to your kid than less.

But back to the main point, which is that the books are full of crap. OK, not necessarily pure crap, but the stuff in those books works for a certain subset of kids. And it’s not working for your son, so for your purposes, the books are crap.

If it makes you feel any better, I got 6 emails since Wednesday about naps, so there’s something going around. And there isn’t anything in your email that’s jumping out at me as obvious that you could fix. If you’ve checked the usual things (propping the head of the crib, cutting out solid for a few hours before bed in case it’s indigestion, temperature check noises check, etc.), then it’s just time to open it up to sympathy. You’re doing a great job.

Readers, it’s Friday. And yet none of us will have a weekend because our kids will be up at the same freaking time as usual on Saturday morning. Sympathy for Alisha, primal scream for yourself, or pie recipes all appreciated in the comments.

Reader call: Car seat rage

The other day I schlepped my cats and both boys almost a mile in the snow to the vet (uphill both ways), and wondered "Why don’t I live someplace where I can just have a car??" But then I got this email, and felt like a jerk for my car-free self-pity:

"Please help….my child hates being in a car seat and facing backwards. She’s only 7 month old, so turning the seat around is a long wait. She can manage if someone sits in the back with her, but if no one there she throws tantrums. I’ve tried toys, singing, holding her hand while driving, but nothing seems to work. this winter is extremely cold, and its impossible to walk outside for long periods of time, so the idea is to go to the mall. But with this problem its even harder to drive to the mall than slippery roads and cold wind blowing in our faces. Please suggest something that I can do to make her more content with not having someone next to her for 15min drive."

I can remember a 6-hour drive with a 6-week-old screaming almost the whole time. But that seems to have wiped my car seat rage memory. In previous posts on this topic people have suggested that the baby might be carsick facing backwards, and that that may be contributing a lot to her anger. I’m not sure what the solution would be. You could try the Sea Band wristlets. I’d walk into the health food store and ask if they had anything homeopathic (not herbal) to alleviate motion sickness and try that. You could try a remedy like dramamine, but some kids react badly to it.

Readers? Any other suggestions, either of ways to deal with the screaming or to stop motion sickness if that’s contributing to it?

Q&A: fussy baby while nursing

N writes:

"My four month old and I got past the initial difficulty beginning nursing (pain, latch problems, mastitis, the usual suspects) and we were off to a really good start with the whole breastfeeding thing.  She is gaining well and healthy.  But she often does this thing at the breast that drives me crazy.  She kicks, screams and thrashes while nursing.  If I hold her where her feet can hit the back of the chair, she’ll kick against it, moving her whole body away from the breast while she’s latched on (not pleasant).   If I position her where her feet can’t kick against the chair, she’ll instead scream and whip her head back and forth while latched on (also not pleasant).  Taking this as a sign she’s not really hungry, I’ll take her off the breast, which is met with shrieks of protest.  Put her back on the breast, we get a repeat showing of Wrestlemania: Baby Edition.  It doesn’t seem to be a low supply issue as it’s always easy to express milk when she’s doing this, but I don’t really believe it’s that the let down is too strong for her either. Her older sister did this too when she was nursing, but this one is much worse about it.  I can’t quite figure out what’s going on here.  Any suggestions?  I’ve been stretched about as far as I can be – literally!"

Yeah, I remember this. I think it may be some kind of gastrointestinal growth spurt of some sort, but it was perplexing because there were no other symptoms of other gastric distress–no excess farting or crying 20 minutes after a feed (the classic symptom of a lactose intolerance) or anything like that. It sounds like you don’t ahve any of this other stuff either, just the donnybrook on the breast. I never did figure out what caused it, and it went away in about a month or so on its own.

In the meantime, what I did was try to put as much pressure on my son’s tummy as possible while he was nursing, and for whatever reason that seemed to work enough that he could finish an actual feed without going all Goodfellas on me.

The way I did it was by doing all my nursing (except for the middle-of-the-night nursing, which didn’t seem to bug him) reclining on the couch. I’d have him facing down on top of me, stretched across the length of my body, perpendicular to me. So we were a lowercase t, and I was the vertical line, and he was the horizontal line across me.

That meant that he was nursing face down, but he also had all his own body weight on his tummy on top of me.

I have no idea if this will work for your daughter, but it’s worth a try. Readers, can you offer up anything else that she can try if my tummy-pressure thing doesn’t do the trick?

Q&A: “baby led weaning” for a formula-fed baby

Suzie writes:

"At our 4 month doctor visit the other day, the pediatrician brought up the idea of already starting to feed the little Pumpkin solids (rice cereal, purees, etc.), and my internal thinking was, "OK, whatever, I’m waiting for the girl to want to eat before offering her anything to much on." But the ped did leave me wondering: when you start your baby on "real" foods, do you offer only one thing at a time (a la "wait 2 weeks before adding anything new") or just go whole hog and offer a little bit of everything? How do you handle the potential for allergies?

Also, I know the whole premise of BLW is breastfeeding; but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t give it a go with my formula-fed baby once she shows interest in what hubby and I are eating, right?"

First of all, BLW (baby led weaning) is explained by researcher Gil Rapley on this page, which now has a photo of a woman nursing about halfway down, with exposed nipple. (I’m not sure why that’s necessary. And if anyone knows who makes that sexy nursing bra, please post in the comments.) If you don’t want to or can’t look at that page, just read the quick and dirty on Wikipedia (taking it the same way you take everything you read on Wikipedia). If you don’t want to do that, the basics of BLW are:

Kids will eat solids when they’re ready to, and if they aren’t ready yet they won’t swallow. They tested a bunch of babies and found that in general they were interested in tasting food at around 4 months but wouldn’t really swallow until 6 months. Kids have more control over big chunks of food they can hold onto and shove in themselves instead of purees that are shoved to the backs of their mouths that they can’t control. So in general they develop the smal muscle coordination to pick up small pieces about the time they can safely eat them. Keep giving them breastmilk or formula until at least a year, and they’ll just transition to solid foods gradually and naturally. The End.

Anyway, the trend in the US is to offer only one thing (and people usually start with the totally disgusting rice cereal, which by now everyone knows I hate and think people should skip and go straight to bananas or avocado or something orange instead) for a few days because then you’ll know if the baby is allergic to it before you move on to something else.

The problem is that I don’t think that there’s been any research about whether that has any effect on allergy rates or discovery of allergies, or if it’s just something people came up with because it’s logical. I don’t think there’s any harm in doing one thing every few days, but I also don’t know if it’s necessary. I’d like to see if there are any differences in allergy rates or allergic reaction rates in groups that separate and groups that don’t.

I also think that parents know a whole lot about what our kids may be or probably aren’t allergic to before we get to the solids phase. You know if they have problems with dairy or soy if you’re using formula, and perhaps if you’re nursing (anyone who’s had to eliminate that sweet, sweet ice cream because of a baby’s dairy intolerance is cringing right now). If your baby is your biological child you also know some family history of allergies, and you may have this info if your kid is adopted. Lots of food allergies seem to be connected to skin rashes and other external things you alreayd know about. So definitely take all of this into account, and if your child tends to have allergies to one thing, be cautious about introducing too many new things that tend to be allergens.

And, yeah, of course you can do BLW if you’re formula-feeding. She’s a human baby, after all, so all the stuff about food size and choking and her learning process (which BLW is about, as much or more than it’s about actual nutrition) is the same for her and you as it is for the kid on that site whose mom is wearing that black lace nursing bra. Formula should be her primary source of nutrition for at least the first year, and she’ll tell you when she’s ready to eat other stuff.

Just beware of veggie burgers, because garlic poop is indescribable.

Q&A: rocking baby to sleep

Eric writes:

"I have been pouring over various entries in your blog for a while now and decided to ask you a few questions.  Based on different books (Ferber, Weissbluth, etc.) and doctor recommendations, my wife and I tried CIO and it was miserable…for us and our son.  It didn’t feel right and we were reassured when we read your thoughts on babies who increase tension by crying.

We have found some success by rocking our son to sleep though it often seems to take ages for him to fall asleep.  This might seem ridiculous, but one question is about how to get our son into the crib without waking him once he does happen to fall asleep.  On several occasions, he has fallen asleep in our arms by rocking him to sleep but awakens as soon as we set him down in his crib.  Do you know of a successful way to put him in the crib without waking him up?  Also, what is your stance on rocking him to sleep?  I know that you suggest rocking as a way of calming a baby who increases tension through crying, but should we be letting him fully fall asleep in our arms?  The problem is that if we don’t let him fall asleep in our arms and we attempt to soothe him while he is lying in the crib, it takes a much longer time and he seems to be more restless. 

We are experiencing other sleeping problems (night wakenings), but would really like to try to first tackle the issue of getting him to fall asleep without the nightly battle that it always has been.  I am not sure if his age would vary your response, but he is approximately 4.5 months old right now.  He was born approximately 3 weeks early due to my wife’s development of HELLP Syndrome. 

Exhausted and eagerly awaiting your response,

Ooh. Three things I hate combined into one post:

1) HELLP Syndrome. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s like turbo-ultra-mega preeclampsia, and is very serious. If the baby doesn’t come out, the mother can seize and then her organs shut down and she dies. I’m glad Eric’s wife and the baby came out of it healthy. We should all keep a close watch on our blodd pressure and the protein in our urine while pregnant.

2) The 4-month sleep regression. It just sucks. There’s no way around it. 4.5 months minus 3 weeks puts Eric’s baby smack in the middle of it. It’s so so hard for babies to sleep at this age.

3) The cultural expectation that a baby that young should be able to go down awake and that if the baby can’t it’s something the parents are doing wrong.

Yeah, there are things you could be doing to screw up your kid’s sleep. Some of them are obvious, like playing loud music at 10 pm in the same room your baby’s in, or snorting coke while you’re breastfeeding. Some of them are not so obvious, like drinking coffee in the morning while nursing(caffeine has a half-life of 96 hours in a baby’s system–go figure–but it doesn’t seem to affect some babies at all) or putting a kid in pajamas that make him/her too hot and sweaty all night.

But aside from a really small group of things, there’s not much you can do to change the way your baby sleeps. It’s largely a function of personality and age. If Eric’s baby needs to be rocked to sleep, that’s the way the kid is. It doesn’t mean that he’ll be like that forever, or even a month from now. Just that it’s what’s working now. By Any Means Necessary to get everyone as much sleep as possible.

So I think rocking your kid to sleep is fine, as is putting your baby in the swing, or nursing to sleep, or using a pacifier, or having the baby go to sleep with a comfort object or white noise machine or anything else people use. (If you use a comfort object, make sure you have a spare in case something happens to the primary one, or you’re screwed.) You child will not need that thing forever, and you’ll probably have a good instinct about when you can switch that thing out of the routine. At the very least, you’ll do better making sleep changes in your child if you have some sleep under your belt, so think of it as strategic pacing.

But. If it takes forever to rock to sleep, I’d look and see if there’s something else that might work better. Eric and his wife tried CIO so they know that doesn’t work for their son. (In contrast, my second son didn’t want to nurse or rock down, so I tried letting him cry and he fell right to sleep after a few minutes. Stunned me, since my first son would escalate if I let him cry for more than half a minute.) Maybe swaddling would work, or something else. I wouldn’t be afraid to try other things, because they just might stumble onto something that will work faster than the rocking. Or maybe not, and the rocking is as good as it gets at this stage.

It’s just awful staring down the barrel of a long, long bedtime routine (those of us in the 3-year-old sleep regression can sympathize). You’re finally at the end of the day, and you know you’re still facing an hour of getting the kid to sleep. No way around it but through it, but it still just makes you want to cry, and ask for your money back.

How many of us have suffered through the problem of getting the kid to sleep but then not being able to put the baby down into the crib?! It’s the bloody hangnail of the first year of parenting. I’ve head suggestions of putting a heating pad/hot water bottle in the crib to leave it warm, then moving it right before you put the baby down, but I didn’t have enough hands to do that. You can let the baby sleep for 20 minutes to get deep into the sleep cycle before putting him down (and then let all the blood rush back into your arms) and that might help. I’ve also heard that in Australia they don’t have this problem because they all put their babies down to sleep on sheepskins, and the sheepskin magically keeps them asleep. Honeslty, I can’t remember if I came up with anything good at that age because I was so sleep deprived that not much stuck from that phase.

So, can anyone solve the problem of putting the baby down into the crib and keeping the baby asleep? If you can patent it, you’ll make mountains of money.

And if anyone else wants to sympathize or complain, please feel free.


Check yourself

Last night I met a mom of a 7-week-old. We were talking about how things were going for her, and she said that she was wondering when she was going to start enjoying it, and that she woke up every morning with a sense of dread and a feeling of "How am I going to make it through today?" We were talking about her baby, and she seemed not to know what to say about him.

We talked some more, and it became pretty apparent that she either had mild PPD or was on the border of it. We talked about some things she could do that start feeling better immediately (exercise that works your core–so T-Tapp, pilates, or yoga, Omega 3s at 3,000mg a day, and B complex vitamins) and asked her to talk to her doctor in a few days whether or not she was feeling better, just to get a professional helping her.

As we were leaving, she told me she was glad she’d talked to me, because she’d thought she was just being a cry-baby about it.

That’s the thing about PPD. When you’re sinking into it, you don’t say "Aha! I have this illness called PPD. Let me get some help." You just think things suck and you don’t feel very good. And, yeah, most people aren’t really loving the gig at 7 weeks, so you feel like maybe it’s all normal. But why is it so hard for you? And if you tell your partner and s/he doesn’t know what to do so s/he just tells you "it’ll get better" then you think maybe it really is just weakness or being a whiner.

It’s not. In the first two weeks post-partum, your hormones will be whacked out and you’ll laugh and cry for no reason. Past that point, though, if you feel dread all the time, and don’t feel joy several times during each day, you’re sinking into PPD.

YOU ARE NOT WEAK. Your hormones are out of whack, and you have a treatable illness. You can probably get some relief by making some small changes, you may need meds but you won’t have to stop nursing unless you want to, and there is nothing wrong with you as a person. You are suffering from a physical illness.

Over on the left is a PDF you can download with some suggestions of things you can do to help lift the greyness (to me depression always felt like being rolled in that pink fiberglass insulation–I was still there on the inside but I just couldn’t seem to interface with the rest of the world) and give yourself a little bit of breathing room. Download it, show it to your partner, and tell him or her that you need help. Start with one or two of the things on the list, and get your partner to call your provider. They will help you.

Comments? Support? Requests for support?