Category Archives: Experts

Sleepless/Seattle

We had a great meetup here in Seattle last night. There were around 15 women who came, with or without kids, to have dinner at the Seredipity Cafe. (Which was excellent, we thought. Mmmm, mac and cheese with truffle oil…)

We talked about a bunch of things, ranging from food allergies to couples' therapy to baby signing to food and politics. But one thing we talked a lot about was sleep.

I've been saying for years that I think sleep is our generation's thing. Our big problem, and the thing that seems to hurt us most and make us feel most inadequate. Past generations had different things–my grandmother was upset that my dad wasn't potty-trained by the time he was a year old, for example. But sleep is ours.

I think there are several reasons for that. Probably the single biggest one is that we don't put our kids to sleep on their stomachs. Our parents put us down on a full belly and we'd fall and stay asleep easily. Since we know we can't do that because of the SIDS risk, we lack the one surefire trick past generations used to use. (I also think this is why we don't get much sympathy from older generations about the sleep thing, because they just didn't experience the same number of problems we did.)

Another factor is that past generations were more likely to have an adult at home during the day, which meant there wasn't that same crazy pressure to get everything Perfect before maternity leave ended. Past generations were also more likely to live closer to home, and have family support. Lots of us now don't have any kind of safety net, and are doing it all alone or close to alone. That makes the sleep thing more high-stakes.

And yet another factor is that we have so many more "experts" now. In the past, there was basically Dr. Spock and maybe one or two others. So if what he wrote didn't work for your kid, you just confronted the Dark Night of the Soul of being a parenting failure, made peace with it, and moved on.

Now, if you absolutely can't conform to what an expert says, you feel like a failure, but you move on to another expert, and the cycle begins afresh. How many times have you heard "Weissbluth made me feel like a failure and Pantley was totally useless but the Sleep Lady Shuffle saved me!" or "Dr. Sears can suck it but Ferber changed my life!"? So much drama, trying to follow someone else's Method. If you'd just been allowed to trust yourself, and given a list of possible things to try, you'd have gotten there in the same amount of time, but feeling empowered by your ability to figure your own kid out. (this is also why there's such passion about CIO vs. not–if everyone just was allowed to figure it out for their own kid without feeling like it indicated anything about them or the kid, it wouldn't be such a huge symbol of everything that we all had to get defensive about.)

Any thoughts? Lamentations? Words of hope for those in the trenches? Other hypotheses?

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
few
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.

FOOLS!!!

That’s
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.

It’s
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
basket.
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.

I’m
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
yourself?
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.

Guest post: A Daughter’s Pain, A Mother’s Strength

Num-Num wrote this for you guys, after reading all your kind comments about her post on parenting adult children:

I’ve been thinking about Dorothy Rodham lately. You know, Hillary’smom?

Dorothy Rodham was 89 years old, on June 4th, the day after
her daughter lost the Democratic nomination for president. She looks younger
than her years and centered, with a wide smile. Still…89? You’ve got to hope
that by then your children will have ceased to need you. But she’s never stopped
being a mother and, according to all reports, remains very close to her daughter
and to her granddaughter. The few times I spotted the three women together on
television, they were drawing strength from one other.

Dorothy Rodham had a dreadful childhood and a fifties-type marriage. Hugh
Rodham ruled the roost. The few descriptions of her marriage in print hint at
emotional abuse. The story of her parents’ abandonment of her, and her paternal
grandparents’ cruelty lead you to believe that life with a domineering husband,
if that’s what he was, and her children in a Chicago suburb was light years
better than her past.

So how, I wondered,  would
she deal with her daughter’s great disappointment? In my last post about how to
parent an adult child, many of you liked the idea of keeping one hand lightly on
the small of your child’s back and sending brownies. I’m not sure that would do
the trick in this instance. After reading a bit about Dorothy Howell
Rodham,  I asked some friends what
they would say to Hillary, if they were her mother.

First me:  I’d bring a
mega-box of tissues with me,  and
I’d spend a long time listening. I’d probably need more than a few tissues
myself. I’d bring some good chocolate with hot peppers in it (Whole Foods,
natch),  because Hillary loves hot
peppers and she needs chocolate. I’d tell her to go easy on the Bourbon and beer
now that she’s off the campaign trail. But if a shot of schnapps, like the one
my grandmother downed every night of her adult life, got her through the night for a while,
well, okay. After all, Hillary has a track record of extraordinary discipline.

I’d control myself and not give vent to the anger I would be feeling
because of the way she’s been treated, because she lost, and because I’d do
anything to punish the people who hurt her. I’d keep telling myself that
wouldn’t do any good, not for her, not for me. I’d tell her how proud I am
of her and I’d also tell her that the 17 million who didn’t vote for her were
plain stupid. Others could be easy on them, but I’m her mother.

A good friend, and one of Moxie’s Moms, had an important Don’t:  “Don’t tell her to suck it up, don’t
tell her it wasn’t that important, and don’t tell her she’ll be fine! Don’t tell
her your own stories of disappointment or turn the convo somehow to how her hurt
hurts you.. Help her wallow a teeny bit.”

Another friend who was passionate about Hillary told me that she should
Dump the Chump. Not really, she adds. Really, though, my friend would keep her
away from news and public appearances, she’d bring in some silly films and
comfort food. She’d encourage the tears (after all, you always stop) and she’d
take her on a vacation, bringing Chelsea along.

The women I spoke with emphasized that when Hillary was ready, Dorothy
ought to encourage her to keep on believing in herself and in the causes she
worked for. When your child, no matter how old she is and how old you are, has
processed the hurt, do what you can to help her up on the horse again. Maybe,
just do something outrageous yourself, just to set a good example.

Thanks, Erma

Today is Erma Bombeck’s birthday. For those who haven’t heard of her, Erma was an American writer. She started out as a newspaper writer, but got married and had three kids, and for a middle-class woman in Ohio in the ’50s, that was the end of a reporting career.

She couldn’t stop writing, though, and starting writing a "little" column called At Wit’s End for her local paper, talking about the light and dark sides of parenting. Her writing was self-deprecating and inclusive and funny. And other parents responded. In a year it was nationally syndicated, and eventually ran a few times a week in hundreds of newspapers. She went on to publish a dozen books of her collected columns.

I think Erma Bombeck was the mother of parenting blogs. Think about what you like about parent blogs–the not feeling alone, the not feeling like you’re the only one who sucks at it sometimes, the not feeling like it’s harder than you thought it would be–and realize that Erma did it first, by herself, with no comments section to help out. And she was funny. I mean, I sometimes crack myself up, but she was actually funny. Every column. For years and years in a row.

Spend a few minutes looking at the Erma Bombeck Online Museum. And then smile at another parent the next time you’re out.

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,
Eric"

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.

 

Guest post: Archivist on managing your kids’ stuff

Remember the post two weeks ago about organizing kids’ stuff? I got an amazing response from archivist Alison Langmead that I had to share with you. Alison writes:

"First of all, please let me reiterate that I am an archivist and records manager, not a professional organizer or life manager or any such thing. It is my job to help organizations maintain, access and
make use of their stored information for both the short and long terms. That said, more and more information professionals are starting to look in to the serious issue of personal information management as it relates to the information economy and other broader social trends.

I have read through all the comments (pre-January 5th) to the "Help with Organization of Kid Stuff" thread and I have found them fascinating from both a personal and professional point of view. One
general response came to me right away. In my experience, I have found that people have natural tendencies towards keeping their stuff or destroying their stuff. Some people, for example, feel lighter when they clear out an entire closet, while others feel only loss. I call these extreme types "Destroyers" and "Keepers." I think most folks would consider Destroyer a harsh term, but I love it. I’m a natural-born Destroyer. Think Shiva. Perhaps the term "Purger" used so often in this thread is better. On the flipside, "Hoarder" has a major negative connotation for me. So, let’s compromise and call these basic types Keepers and Purgers. Quibbles over taxonomy aside, I have found in both my personal and professional experience that there is a kind of personality continuum between these two ends of the spectrum, but
that innate tendencies do exist. Reading the comments to this thread, it has been very easy to differentiate the Keepers from the Purgers and all the gray areas in between.

All of this explanatory build-up has been to say the following: There is nothing so difficult or so emotionally burdensome in the personal domain as being a Keeper who feels social pressure to purge
excessively or being a Purger who feels social pressure to keep excessively.

Many commenters have noted thoughts such as, "I like to purge. Is this bad?" or "I keep everything due to an inappropriate sense of sentimentality." I am of the firm personal conviction that rebelling
against one’s natural predilictions does not help us as we go through life. If you like to purge, then you need to accept that, and work with it. The reverse also holds. This is not to say that we can always
just keep and purge at will. We are in this world with other people who have other tendencies and needs. In my professional life, I am constantly in the position of reminding people that the process of
information management is a necessary balance between keeping and purging (or, to be terminologically precise, retention and destruction). If we keep absolutely everything, it becomes almost impossible to find any one given thing, which is almost precisely the same state of affairs that we find if we destroy absolutely everything. Finding the balance, then, between appropriate keeping and purging is what we are all looking for in this thread.

But, compounded with this, I believe that there is general social pressure for women, mothers especially, to be super organized. It is as if we are all supposed to be born with the innate ability to keep it all together. Some of us do indeed have this capacity, others do not. But those who are not so inclined often feel that they are somehow inferior to those who can. This is a crying shame. We should feel free to do whatever makes us feel happy and healthy and what facilitates our ability to raise happy and healthy children. This will be different for everyone.

For some of us, however, it is not social pressure that is the problem, rather physical constraints. If you are a born Keeper who lives with a partner and a child in a 450-square-foot apartment, your living conditions will pose extra challenges for you. Some of the really creative storage ideas found in this thread could really help you out. Balance and acceptance will again always be key.

Enough with that diatribe for now. As promised to you Moxie, I have a few general comments that you and my fellow readers might find helpful.

1) There is a difference between the act of reducing your family’s holdings and finding a more compact way to store things. Decide which one of these things you want to do and do it. Do not confuse the two
issues. The first is an act of purging, the second, an act of keeping. They are both good and proper.

2) Scheduling things for purging can be a very good thing ("the one year rule," the toy "death row"…would "toy purgatory" be slightly less morbid? Maybe not.). But as other commenters have already noted, the key to this process is finding the precise right length of time to keep things before you purge them. Otherwise said, the trick to this is not the act of deciding to keep things for a certain period of
time, it’s deciding what that "certain period of time" is and what action you will take at that time. By the way, I am less comfortable with the "everything that fits in this small box" rule. I think it leads to preferential treatment on the basis of size and not meaning. Which leads me to…

3) When trying to decide what to keep and what to purge, the pros are always considering their mandates and their user base. Maybe this would be a good thing to do in the personal domain as well. Ask questions like, "Who am I keeping this for?" And, "What will they be doing with it and for how long?" BE HONEST. If you are keeping your children’s art for your own sake, then do it up right! If you are
keeping it because you want your kids to have it when they have their own kids, then do that up right as well! In addition, I couldn’t agree more with those commenters who suggest that you involve your children
in these decisions when they are capable. Finally, if you are doing it because you are
afraidthatyoumayonedaywishtoseeitagainbutthenagainyoureallyneedthisspace,

then it is my opinion that you should confront that fear and come to some sort of compromise. This might be a moment for the swift one-two of transferring the items to compact storage with a plan to revisit the items later on.

4) Charity is always a good thing.

5) I really do not wish to be a scaremongerer about this, but making digital copies of physical objects is absolutely not a panacea for these issues. I could go on and on about this, and will do so, if requested. Suffice it to say here that, unless you are willing to go to your CD’s every two years or so and make sure that all of the data you put on them is still there—meaning, you will need to open up the files and look at them—you might find that you have lost your records of these objects. All types of digital media are prone to corruption and failure. Hard drives even have an accepted "mean time between failure" figure associated with them. CDs, DVDs, hard drives, tapes…all of these objects _will_ fail. It is just a matter of time. Now, let’s all take a deep breath. We can get around this problem. It simply takes effort. You have to go back from time to time and check in with your stuff. Just make sure it’s still there. Copy it onto new CDs from time to time. By the way, professionally speaking, hard drives are preferred to CDs for longer-term storage, mainly because it’s easier to check in on your stuff with a hard drive. You’ll do it more often because you aren’t sitting there for hours swapping disks in and out. And, one more thing, it is now well-understood in professional circles that, for the long-term, digital objects are *more* expensive to store than physical ones.

I think I’ve been on my soapbox for long enough. Please feel free to ask any and every follow-up question that comes to your mind. I love talking about this stuff.

And, thanks, Moxie for putting yourself out there and maintaining this fabulous resource. I cannot tell you how many times I have read and re-read a posting at 3am reassuring myself that I am not alone with my perceived faults and my very real fears. With all of our similarities and differences, we are all fantastic mothers."

You’re certainly welcome, Alison. Thank you so much for your wonderful post! Questions, anyone?

Super picky eating behavior in toddlers

Judy Converse MPH, RD, LD of Nutrition Care for Children, responded to my post about super picky eating behavior in toddlers:

"I saw your post on this topic and have to jump in.  I’m a licensedregistered dietitian in private practice who has specialized in
pediatrics since 1999.

Here’s the scoop:
Doctors always tell parents not to worry about this.  Partly true:
Some defiance around foods is normal at the toddler stage.  But,
toddlers are also naturally curious when they are developing
typically.  While they can have jags with a certain food for a bit,
these should pass, as should the tantrums that can come with presenting
new foods.  A natural curiosity to put things in the mouth and try them
normally extends to foods.  In my experience, kids who simply will not
do this usually have nutrition problems that need correcting.

What
is not normal is for kids to continue exceedingly rigid eating patterns
into school age years.  If a kid still eats five or fewer foods at age
four, that is a red flag for me.  While they may get enough total
calories to keep growing (sometimes they don’t), they pretty much can’t
eat a diet that adequately meets their needs for learning, developing,
sleeping, pooping, talking – all the things toddlers must learn to
do.  If a child is truly entrenched in this, a nutrition assessment can
find out if it really is cause for concern, or if all you need to do is
add a good multivitamin with minerals and wait it out.

A
big clue:  Kids currently get many, many more meds than prior to 1980.
Antibiotics in infancy and toddlerhood can change eating patterns.
Children with entrenched, rigid food preferences often have had
antibiotics either very often (five or more rounds) or very early (in
the first 8 weeks of life).  Adjusting the gut ecology back to normal
often triggers an abrupt change in food preferences in children.  So,
for parents really tearing their hair out, try antifungal therapy for
intestinal Candidiasis.  This can be prescription or naturopathic
(herbs and probiotics) – et voila – your picky eater suddenly picks up
fish, steak, and broccoli.  The hardest part is convincing your
pediatrician to try this – they are trained to believe this is only
relevant if thrush is foaming out of your child’s mouth or anus.  My
experience with this is that it does matter if there is intestinal
candidiasis without thrush, and that it responds very nicely to
treatment.  There are medications like Nystatin that are very safe for
infants and children for this.  Even Diflucan is now used in infants.   

Long
short, no need for parents and kids to struggle through this.  You can
find out whether it matters or not with a good nutrition assessment,
and fix it."

Great information. Thanks, Judy, for setting the record straight and for giving us more clues to start piecing things together for our own kids.

Q&A: “in denial” about CIO?

Pamela writes:

"I’m the mother of a wonderful 10 month old boy. Wonderful in every respect except that he’s a terrible sleeper at night. I haven’t gotten a decent (more than 3 consecutive hours) amount of sleep since the 4 month sleep regression. He averages 3 wakings a night, around 11pm, 2am, and 4:30am. I’ve been holding out doing any sleep training in the hopes that he’ll start sleeping through the night on his own.

Am I kidding myself? I hear of people saying their baby finally started sleeping through the night at 11 months, but were those kids waking up this much? I’m trying to keep the faith, but it’s hard.

We don’t have any problems putting him down at night (I nurse him, and put him in drowsy or sometimes asleep) and I generally nurse him when he wakes as well. Please give me some encouragement to keep
Ferber and Weissbluth at bay, or tell me I’m in denial, and my kid really does sleep worse than others and needs intervention."

Well, the only people who talk about sleep are the ones who have good
sleepers. Basically, anyone who’s tried something and it worked will
rave about it, but people who try something that doesn’t work think
it’s their fault so they don’t say anything about it.

So for every kid who started sleeping through the night at 11
months, there are an equal number who didn’t start until 15 months
(another really common time–both of mine didn’t sleep through until
then, which is strange because they slept so differently from each
other in every other way), and probably an equal number who didn’t
really sleep through regularly until 2 years. And for every kid for
whom CIO worked, there are an equal number whose sleep got even worse
because of CIO, or for whom it just didn’t do anything.

Now: I do think you can kind of predict which kind of kid you
have and when they’ll sleep through. Basically, if you have a kid who’s
just a nightmare sleeper in every way–can’t get to sleep easily, won’t
stay asleep, has big problems in the middle of the night–those seem to
be the ones who won’t sleep through until 2 years (or even longer, God
help their parents). If you have a kid who can fall asleep but just
wakes up a lot (like yours and my second one–which I absolutely don’t classify as a "terrible sleeper" because I’ve just heard of so many worse sleepers, but no one’s telling you that because they’re afraid to say anything when the conversation turns to sleep) and doesn’t seem to be
particularly upset during the night, just awake, those seem to be the
15 monthers. The ones who are great sleepers in general but just go
through the normal sleep regressions are the ones who sleep through at
11 months.

Not that it’s always like that, of course, but this is what I’ve observed from people I know IRL and from the emails I get. (Read the rest of the post before you leave your comment telling me I’m dead on or full of it. :-))

Add
in the other factor that really influences whether or not you do CIO,
which is how your child responds to crying. If you have a kid who gains
tension by crying (so if you let him cry he’ll escalate and get more
and more upset), you’re an unwitting dupe if you do CIO because you’re just going
to make it worse for all of you. If, however, you have a kid who seems
to need to cry/fuss to tap off some energy (like some adults feel
better after "a good cry"), then the kid might actually need to cry for
a few minutes to go to sleep. My first was the first kind, and my
second was the second kind. (And yes, I was one of those "I could never let my precious child cry to sleep!" people until I had a kid who cried himself to sleep while nursing. Kids just seem to know what they need.)

To me, since you say he falls asleep easily by being nursed or
comforted to sleep, I personally wouldn’t mess with that by introducing
CIO into the mix. Certainly not to get him to sleep initially. I might
try a modified approach for the middle-of-the-night wakings of not giving him the nursing, but still responding to him, to see how he responds. In other words, get your partner
to take a shift of 3-4 nights in which he responds to your son at night
(I might still do the 2 am feeding, since it’s totally possible that
your son is actually hungry then, especially if he’s an active kid).
Some babies wake up out of habit, and if there’s no reward of nursing
they’ll just stop waking up then because it’s not worth it to them.
If he cries and it’s Daddy who shows up instead of the milk machine, he might just stop waking up because it’s not worth his time. But sending in your partner is still gentle parenting that won’t scare
him or make him feel alone (although it very well might piss him off).

I’d give it a try for 4 nights or so to see how he responds to
not getting you and your magic breasts in the middle of the night. It
might go well (my older one dropped the 11 pm feeding in a couple of
days this way and I was totally flabbergasted because I thought it
would be a huge fight, whereas my younger one freaked right out when we
tried that approach).
If it doesn’t, you’re out nothing but 4 nights in which you didn’t have to do all the wake-ups.

Basically, it’s kind of a choose your own adventure depending
on your child’s temperament, so I’d just try some easy readjustments
for a few days each to see how they work out before you jump to the big
guns of CIO. Which might not even work anyway on your particular kid,
so don’t believe the hype. (Don’t , don’t, don’t…)

If it makes you feel any better, I remember with both kids
just feeling like 9-10 months was absolutely killing me with the
endless sleep drama (and mine weren’t even that dramatic, just waking
up). I think it’s when we parents really start hitting the fatigue stage.
But everyone else seems to have a peppy, precocious sleeps-14-hours-at-a-stretch kid who’s also walking and can say 5 words and sign 30. It makes you feel like a loser. A puffy, incompetent, wrung-out loser. Things are much better at around a year, even if your kid isn’t
sleeping through reliably then. Maybe only because you can tell yourself that if you made it through one year you can make it through 17 more.

Commiseration? Anecdotes? No philosophical debates, please, just things to make Pamela feel better.

(Breakfast meeting, lunch and dinner planned, about to check the weather to choose clothes for Monday…)

Book Review: The Big Book of Birth

Review of The Big Book of Birth

Full disclosure: I know Erica Lyon, author of The Big Book of Birth,
personally. She taught the newborn care class I took before the birth
of my older son, and the sibling preparation class we took before the
birth of my younger son. I know her to be a funny, sympathetic, and
super-knowledgable woman.

Which is why it’s no surprise to me that The Big Book of Birth
is such a stellar book. Seriously, this is the book I’ve been wishing
for years had been written about birth. I wish I’d been able to read it
before I had my first, and you can bet that this is the book I’ll be
recommending here on Ask Moxie and giving to all my pregnant friends as
a shower gift. Here’s what I love about it:

It’s unbiased. Erica
covers all the current options for birth–location, pain management,
interventions. She gives positives and negatives of each option
(including some stuff I’d never heard of) and includes stories from
women who experienced the things she discusses.

It’s practical. She
acknowledges that birth doesn’t go the way we plan, so we need to be
informed so we can make the best decisions possible within the
available options. And no judgments about what options you choose.

It’s inclusive. This
is the only book about birth that I’ve seen that gives both practical
and emotional tips for both the mother and the partner. It’s not just a pat on the head for the partner, but a real resource. The sections on
counterpressure/massage during labor alone are worth the price of the
book. And it’s all written in an accessible (but not patronizing) way.

It’s smart. I haven’t
read any other analysis of the increase in the number of c-sections
performed in the US that looks at so many different factors
and–surprise!–doesn’t lay it all at the feet of ignorant women or
money-grubbing doctors. She’s really looked at the total landscape of
health care, the birth industry, societal attitudes, and women’s
choices and illusions of choice to do an analysis that ultimately helps
the reader prioritize a number of different factors.

It’s encouraging.
Rather than scaring you about how dangerous birth is or patronizing you
about how easy it is, Erica emphasizes that it’s hard and long and can
be scary, but you can do it and the baby will come out one way or
another. I mean, you know it, but reading it throughout the book really
helps it sink in that this is a job you can and will do.

Of all
these positives of the book, the one I think is most important is the
lack of bias. Anyone who’s read two books from the
pregnancy/birth/parenting section knows that everyone’s pushing an
agenda. It would be silly to say that Erica has no agenda–she does.
It’s just that her agenda is to make sure every woman is as
well-informed as possible to make the choices that are right for her
and her baby (and partner, if any) within her own circumstances. And
that’s an agenda I wish more birth professionals would embrace.

If you haven’t had your baby yet, I highly recommend buying
this book. And I found it interesting even after having given birth to
two babies.

Your comments on sleep regressions

You guys are smart, and very, very kind. I’m going to pull some of the comments and we can talk about them some more.

First, though, let me list the posts about sleep that people seem to think are helpful:
Quick and Dirty on Sleep
11-week-old and self-soothing (about using "props" and teaching your kid to soothe himself)
What are sleep regressions anyway?

If you don’t have time to go in and read, the developmental leaps (according to The Wonder Weeks) are at 5, 8, 11, 19, 26, 37, 46, and 55 weeks. (Remember to add or subtract weeks if your child didn’t gestate for 40 weeks.) It seems like the ones at 19 (4 months) and 37 weeks (8-9 months) are the worst, followed by the 26 (6 month) and 12 week ones.

Also, if you care, here’s the big post I wrote on CIO. I was a dedicated anti-CIOer (and still hate the idea of setting out to break your kid by letting them scream for as long as it takes). But after having my second child I came up with this theory that there are kids who release tension by crying (so they need to fuss or cry for a few minutes in order to release enough tension to fall asleep) and kids who gain tension by crying (so if you let them cry for more than a few seconds you’re screwed because then it takes forever to calm them down again). If you know which kind of kid you have (or how they are for nighttime sleep vs. naps, for example), your path with regards to crying vs. soothing becomes a little more clear.

J said: "That’s the problem with expectations. They always let you down." This made me laugh, because it’s so true about baby and toddler sleep. And Valentine’s Day.

Davida said: "But I do know that YOU are the one there with your daughter, not any of
the experts, and so they mustn’t be allowed to make you feel guilty." Seriously. And that’s my big beef with this culture of expert-worship. Everything’s great as long as your kid conforms to their set pattern, but if not, you feel like it’s your fault. Yes, there are some things that you might be doing that could hurt your kid’s sleep (like mainlining those caffeine or ginseng/guarana energy drinks, or not having a regular routine of some sort), but if you’ve got a decent structure and set the stage for sleep, it’s not your fault.

Shandra said: "I personally decided that I wouldn’t do anything at night that I wouldn’t do during the day." I did, too. It’s extremely hard, sometimes, although easier now that I’ve relaxed my daytime standards. (Ha! I’m my own best audience.) Anyway, it was important to me, and once I identified that as one of my core values (congruence in actions) I was able to release some of the anger at the nighttime egregiousness.

Marsha said: "our babies are not enjoying whatever sleep disruptions, tantrums, or
whatever else is making us parents want to pull our hair out in
frustration/fatigue either." Yeah. It’s so hard not to get all adversarial in the middle ofthe night, but you and your child really have a common enemy, which is baby insomnia. You and your baby can work together (OK, so you do most of the work) and you’ll stay in a better frame of mind than if you sink into that tempting-but-empty mindset of battling with your child.

Charisse said: "There are various things you can try, but no one of them is necessarily
right for you, and sometimes the idea that you "should be doing
something about this" is worse than just getting through it." Dude. Yes. Which is why I spend half my time here saying, "There’s probably nothing you can do about this now, so just try to split things up so neither you nor your partner are taking the full hit." And one day, yes, one day you will be annoyed because your child forgot to brush his teeth when he put himself to bed, and woke up at 7 instead of 7:30 in the morning.

Laury said: "It seemed to make a huge difference smiling (I know this sounds hypocritical) and telling him, knowing that he could do it." I don’t think it’s hypocritical at all. Think about it–if you were supposed to be doing something you weren’t sure you could do and were a little scared of all by yourself, wouldn’t you feel much better about it (and maybe even be able to do it) if the person you most loved gave you a smile and encouraged you before leaving you to do the task? Contrast that with having her scowl and tell you to "Just do it!" and leaving angry. The pleasant way sets a person up for success.

What other sleep wisdom do you guys have? I don’t really mean techniques (because those are a dime a dozen and won’t work for everyone anyway), but ideas and concepts and attitudes that have helped you get through the long nights.

(Mollyball, if you’ve checked all the physical stuff–like silent reflux, etc.–I’d try either the Calms Forte 4 Kids homeopathic pellets, or finding a pediatric chiropractor or cranio-sacral practitioner.)