Category Archives: Developmental Spurts

Q&A: 12-month flip-out?

Julia writes:

"My daughter will reach one year in just a few short weeks.  She’s made some amazing developmental leaps recently, including walking (completely independently, and quite quickly, I might add) and talking.  She’s been so much fun lately I can hardly describe it.  But then yesterday she began acting, um, weird, for lack of a better descriptor.

She’s figured out that she can "ask" for something by pointing to it and saying "that! that!" repeatedly until "that" is handed to her.  With this skill, she’s also realized that she doesn’t always get what she wants.  She’s begun throwing what seem to be the beginning of temper tantrums.  They aren’t bad, but they’re frustrating.  I know she’s just upset over that lack of control over her environment.  But is that all? She’s also been super clingy, approaching me with her blankie in hand for some hugging and then not wanting me to put her down.  She’s been really tired – in fact, since she began toddling she’s reverted to three hour-ish naps a day, and an earlier bedtime.  Yesterday, her funky mood was bad enough and persistent enough to get me really down.  (All add here that I think my hormones are doing their own special number on me, as well.)  Today she’s already exhibiting much of the same behavior. I’d rather not be in tears by noon.

In the past you’d mentioned the book Wonder Weeks.  But the book only goes through 14 months, so I never coughed up the change to get it.  Is this time frame a common one for freakouts?  If so, I think I can get through it more easily knowing there will be an end to it shortly.

Are there other tips you might have for controling mini-temper-tantrums at this young age?  Or for any of her other weirdness?"

I think part of the clinginess is directly related to her newfound walking skills. Many kids need to come back to you as soon as they can leave you. So once they master walking they go through a clingy phase. Annoying, but it means she’s really attached to you.

I’m not sure which one of the Wonder Week periods she fits into right now. There’s one from 40-44 weeks (and she was born at 38 weeks IIRC, so that would be 42-46 weeks for her), and one from 49-53 weeks (or 51-55 weeks for her).

The earlier one is when she learns about sequences, or that she can put things together (putting one block on top of another, for example). The symptoms the book lists that happen before this leap are, in part:

Cries more often and is bad-tempered or cranky
Is cheerful one moment and cries the next
Wants to be kept busy
Clings to your clothes, or wants to be close to you
Throws temper tantrums
Wants physical contact to be tighter or closer than before

The later leap is when she learns about patterns, or that there is a goal that requires steps to achieve (like setting the table, for example). The symptoms the book lists that happen before this leap are, in part:

Cries more often and is bad-tempered or cranky
Is cheerful one moment and cries the next
Wants to be kept busy
Clings to your clothes, or wants to be close to you
Throws temper tantrums
Wants physical contact to be tighter or closer than before

So, yeah. It definitely sounds like it’s part of a developmental leap, although I’m sure the walking has something to do with it, too. Are you signing with her? That might help her cut down on some of her frustration about the words she doesn’t have the motor skills to say yet.

The general tantrum-aversion tips I can give are to try to remove all elements of control from the situation so it isn’t a power struggle of her vs. you. ("It’s time to put your pajamas on now." vs. "I want you to put your pajamas on now.") When she’s a little older you’ll be able to give her choices ("It’s time to put your pajamas on now. Do you want to wear the red ones or the blue ones?") Make things silly whenever you can. And keep on using the distraction that’s been working so well for so long.

But basically, I think you’re going to have to wait this one out. In a week or two she’ll probably be her old sweet self, but smarter because of the leap, of course.

Congratulations on making it through the first year! Onward and upward.

Q&A: toddler eating and drinking

Kat writes:

"My babies are 13 1/2 months now, and both of them act as if I amchoking the heck out of them when I try to feed "solid" solid foods.
Things they can/will eat: 1) cheerios, tofu hot dogs cut into small
pieces, macaroni and cheese, shredded cheese.  Anything else I offer,
small cut up pieces of chicken, green beans, kidney beans, baked beans,
black beans, julliened(sp?) cooked carrots, any other foods I think
might be "soft" enough, like a bite of lasagna, for example, is
promptly spit out of their mouths or choked on.  I am at my wits end,
imagining that I will still be spooning baby food jars of green beans
and rice at 2 years old.

Also, we are having a heck of
a time encouraging the sippy cup.  They seem to rather not drink
anything than to drink milk from the sippy (although strangely enough
they will guzzle water from the sippy).  Mini I can understand as she’s
only for the boob, but Jr. only takes a bottle, I thought he’d be
easy.  People are making faces at me for continuing to offer the bottle."


I’m going to start at the end of this question.


I hate, no make that despise, the crazy fervor in this country to get kids off the bottle at exactly the 12-month mark. If you can keep a kid on the breast past 12 months (and let’s remember that the WHO recommends nursing until at least 2 years, so no one ought to be telling anyone to wean at 12 months if she doesn’t want to) then you can keep a kid on the bottle past 12 months. But we seem to have this bizarre preoccupation with taking away anything that resembles comfort for our babies to encourage them to be independent. Because God forbid a toddler might actually need comfort, and all the ills of the world are clearly caused by having used a bottle too long.

<insert eyeroll></rant>

But now to circle back around to the front of the question.

I’m not sure about the choking, honestly. Is it that they’re engaging in a power play or just don’t like to eat those foods and are pretending to gag (which sounds dead on for that age), or are they actually physically choking on them? If you’re going in to the pediatrician at 15 months, just mention it and see what s/he says. If the ped thinks there’s anything going on, s/he’ll give you a referral to a physical therapist who will evaluate them.

Best case scenario: They get evaluated and it’s nothing, and you can stop worrying.

Worst case scenario: They get evaluated, and it’s something that can be dealt with easily with regular therapy, and you can stop worrying.

Linda (also a mom of twins–hmmm….) asked me a sippy-cup-related question recently, too, so I’ll add hers to yours:

"I hate sippy cups.  I posted on my blog forever ago about it and I
still haven’t figure them out.  My kids will only drink from the soft
tipped ones.  I can’t get them to drink from the hard tipped ones at
all.  The problem is that they chew on the soft tipped ones and then
break the valve and render them useless.  I think you recommended the
straw cups.  Do you stand by that?  And when can they start (reliably
and relatively neatly) drinking from a topless cup?"

I don’t really get the sippy as this new "skill" or "milestone" people act like they’re teaching. It’s not something that really builds to anything, since most of us don’t do any kind of motion like drinking from a sippy as adults. The real point of the sippy is that it doesn’t spill when it’s tipped over, not that it’s something kids need to learn to use.

OTOH, learning to suck things from a straw is a useful skill. Straws are fun, and you have the chance to use one every time you drink anything at a restaurant. You use the same motion when you drink from a sports bottle. If you don’t want to mess up your lipstick, you have to use a straw. And–here’s the kicker–it’s an easier, more natural muscle motion for kids to learn. El Chico was a sippy conscientious objecter when he was a toddler, but when someone suggested a straw cup I tried it and he got it immediately. We’ve used the Playtex Straw Cup and also the Rubbermaid straw cup and found both to be delightful.

We have a couple of friends who were diagnosed with low muscle tone (hypotonia) in the mouth muscles, and one of the things they’re supposed to do is drink out of straws every day. So there’s that.

Kat, I don’t think it’s at all odd that they won’t drink milk from anything that they haven’t been using all along (the breast for your daughter and the bottle for your son). Milk is the basic, bedrock comfort, and they don’t want anything changed about it. El Chico would never take breastmilk from a straw cup (only me or the bottle), but would take ice cold cow’s milk from the straw cup. I’ve heard similar things from lots of other moms–that their child would take breastmilk or formula only from boob or bottle, but would take other liquids from the straw/sippy.

So I’d say just to forget about getting rid of the bottle (unless it’s actually bugging you) because undoubtedly you’ve got some bigger fish to fry at this point, and don’t expect them to take milk from the straw/sippy. Use it for other liquids, instead. That’s my famous Lower Your Expectations method of parenting, BTW.

I bet people are actually making faces at you because they’re jealous that you look so good despite having twin toddlers, not because of the bottle.:)

Linda, I thought I could say that 3 was when they could reliably and neatly drink from a topless cup, until we hit 3 1/2.

Have you read any of the Ames and Ilg series of books on child development?  They were recommended by the amazing Dawn, and they are dead on. They all have funny titles like Your Two-Year-Old: Terrible or Tender and Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy, and some of the things are horribly outdated (assumptions that the mother is at home all day with the child, and that kids aren’t in school ever until age 5) because they were written in the 70s, but they are scarily accurate. You think your child is some sort of freak and that you’re raising a monster, and then you read the book and every odd thing your child is doing is typical behavior for that age and will go away in six months. Highly comforting.

Anyway, Ames and Ilg say that kids alternate between equilibrium (emotionally and physically confident and sure) and disequilibrium (in emotional upheaval and physically clumsy) for years. On the year seems to be equilibrium and on the half year seems to be disequilibrium. So at 3 El Chico and his friends could walk around with open containers and not spill any. But then a few months later they’d spill every freaking time I’d give them a cup. We’re starting to go back to mastery, though.

So you probably want to stick with the white grape juice for a few more years. But try the straw cups now, and let them use topless cups outside next summer so they can practice.

Follow-Up to waking in the middle of the night

In the comments of the previous post, Dee said she was having problems with her 5 1/2-month-old, because she was waking like a fool whenever she wasn’t swaddled. And won’t even fall back asleep in the middle of the night when swaddled. She says:

But she will go right back to sleep in the swing at that pointwithout crying so most nights that’s where she goes once she wakes.
Once there, she’ll stay asleep until we…wake…her…up…the next
morning (payback and all–sister loves to get her some sleep, just like
her daddy). She didn’t used to do this, and slept through the night–in
her crib–like a champ.

At this point, I have to wonder, will she be sleeping in that damn
swing until she’s two? ‘Cause it’s the only place that she’ll go back
to sleep in once she wakes up in the crib. And am I doing her harm by
putting her back to sleep in the swing almost every night (probably 5
or 6 nights a week)?

Eventually she’ll grow out of the swing, so the answer to whether she’ll be there when she’s two is an unqualified "no." The motor of the swing will probably burn out before then.:)

And what do you mean by "harm"? Do you mean that you might be creating bad sleep habits? I don’t really believe in that. I mean, if you had to switch shifts at work and needed to start sleeping at completely different times of the day, you’d be able to do it, even if it sucked for the first week or so, and you’re a full-grown adult. So I just don’t believe that a baby can’t learn to sleep different ways, as long as no one expects it to be easy and happen in only one night. I think the "don’t create bad sleep habits" thing is just another scare tactic.

Now, I guess it’s possible that you could be doing some harm to the spinal cord by having her sleep in the swing, but I kind of doubt that, too. Humans are pretty flexible and adaptable. If she’s getting plenty of tummy time during the day, I say do what you need to to get her to sleep at night. In another 4 weeks she’ll be doing something completely different anyway.

Also, read the comments from Kate and wix, and see if anything triggers for you. If she changed her sleep habits all of a sudden, it could be from something that changed in her environment, or it could just be because she’s a baby.

Sherry: Most baby books will have general info about physical spurts, but great info about developmental leaps is in the book The Wonder Weeks by Hetty Vanderijt and Frans Plooij. (They have freaky names because they’re Dutch.) The book talks about when the big developmental leaps happen in the first year so you can figure out why a good sleeper suddenly won’t sleep, or a good eater won’t eat for a few days, etc. It also tells you what they’re learning, and how you can help them. I love this book and can’t recommend it enough.

Q&A: 6-month-old waking up in the middle of the night

Kate asks:

"Hey Moxie

OK, so when they’re 6 months, and they start rolling
around the cot all night, waking every couple of hours asking to be put back
where they started….

Do you think it’s best just
to let them cry and figure out how to fall asleep wherever they are (on their
tummies, out of the blankets and whatever)? Or go in every so often, sort them
out, and hope it’s a phase that ends soon enough?

Because there’s some serious sleep deprivation in this



Well, Kate, first of all, I think you must be a better person than I am to be able to end your email about sleep deprivation with "Cheers." I think I would have ended mine with "Stick a fork in my eye" or "Barely functioning."

Now, on to the issue. I’m going to have to go with "it depends" on this one. It seems like there are three things you have to examine before you make your plan:

1. What’s up with all the wiggling? Is he just a wiggly kid? Or is there some kind of developmental spurt going on? Is he about to crawl? Is he getting a tooth or two and trying to wriggle away from the pain?

If it’s something transient, like teething or crawling or something else developmental, I’d say to see if you can hold on for another week to see if it resolves itself. I think most kids will go back to what they were doing before sleep-wise once the spurt or crisis is over. But if he’s a wiggly kid, then you’re really looking at making a decision about what to do.

2. How will he deal with being left alone to work it out on his own? Some kids will fuss a little and then conk right back out. Other kids wake up in the middle of the night and just won’t go back to sleep without help. My older son was like that–if he woke up he was up! and crying! until someone came to save him from the indignities of being alone! in the dark! oh, cruel cruel world! I never considered letting him cry, because it would have gone on for hours and hours. My younger one will wake up, fuss for 10 seconds, and then go right back to sleep. A friend’s child will wake up, scream his head off for about a minute, and then abruptly fall asleep again (she discovered that he’d fall asleep again on his own in almost exactly the time it took her to realize what that noise was, wake up, struggle out of bed, and stumble down the hall to his room.).

If you’ve got a kid who’s going to be up and crying if you don’t go in, then you’re going to have to go in, do a slow wean off going in, or minimize the ways he can wake himself up. If he freaks out from being on his tummy, do more tummy time during the day so he’s not as freaked out by it when it happens in the night. If he’s cold, maybe put him in warmer pajamas so the blanket isn’t such a factor. If it’s something else, try to figure out what exactly is waking him up and see if you can eliminate that cause.

You can always let him fuss for a minute or two to see what happens and whether he’s an escalator or a yelper who falls back asleep. It might surprise you.

3. Can you let him cry? Some parents have no problems with letting their kids cry at night. Others can’t do it. I think you should be the same kind of parent at night as you are during the day, so stay true to yourself and your vision of yourself as a parent. Or delegate this one to your partner.

Whatever happens, just know that he will sleep through the night without you. Even my older one, who would yell like a car alarm when he was up at night, now falls asleep easily and stays asleep with no problems. And someday they’ll move out of the house and you won’t know how or even if they sleep.