Category Archives: Talk

Q&A: high needs toddler

Lisa writes:

"I have a wonderful, active, intense one year old son who puts the "attachment" in Attachment Parenting. He was born nearly 8 weeks premature and spent 12 days in the NICU, and is now perfectly healthy and normal. His pediatrician hasn’t even bothered with adjusted age since before he was 6 months old.

My challenge is that he is literally attached to me 20 or more hours a day, often nursing every hour or more. He has never slept more than 5 hours straight, and now we’re lucky if he sleeps a 3 hour stretch at night. He doesn’t sleep if I’m not next to him (or preferably, nursing him). During the day, if I so much as walk a few feet to the  bathroom without him, he screams and wails as though his world is ending. My husband and I tried to go see Harry Potter but we had to come home 45 minutes into the movie because our son was so hysterical I was gone (he stood at the door screaming "Mama" and holding his breath). We go to playgroups a couple of times a week and it takes him awhile to warm up but he does explore and interact with the other kids. I just have to stay in the same spot, or he’ll panic.

I wear him constantly outside the house, but he’s not so keen on that indoors. And we’ve tried NCSS for the sleep issues with no success. We do have a sweet young woman come in 4 hours a week to play with him so I can get some freelance work done. So my house is a mess, I don’t get any time to spend with my husband, my clients are firing me, and I have no time to myself.

My first question is, it gets better eventually, right?

And the second question is, how can I encourage my husband to use more positive descriptions of our son, and be less frustrated when dealing with him? He tends to call him "crybaby", "whiny", "mama’s boy", etc. and insists we are never, ever having another child. It’s hard enough dealing with the baby alone for 12 hours a day, but hearing my husband’s complaints when he comes home and I hand our son over for an hour or so is the straw that’s breaking this camel’s back."

The answer to your first question is "Yes. It will get better." I don’t know if you have The Fussy Baby Book by Sears, but it will help you get a little perspective about the fact that there are plenty of other babies like yours, and plenty of other parents going through the same stuff. And that at some point it gets better. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, yada yada yada.

Really, he sounds totally normal (for a high-needs baby) to me. He’ll probably for the rest of his life be one of those cautious people who spends a lot of time contemplating before he makes his move. Which will be annoying when you’re trying to get him to do things like decide on a college, but will come in really handy when he decides not to do things like buying stock on margin.

If your son hasn’t started walking yet, he might go through yet another period of extra clinginess when he starts walking. Just so you know.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong or even unusual about him, or the way you’re parenting him. I think you have two problems that are stretching you to the brink though. The first is that you have no time for yourself. I wonder if you could get the babysitter to come for another 4-hour stretch each week. It’s crazy to think that 4 hours is enough time for someone to get everything done that she needs to get done, including working. If you had two chunks of time you could use one to work in, and the other to run errands and have some time for yourself. I think that would give you enough breathing room to carry you through the next few months until your son calms down and is able to separate a little more.

The second, and bigger, problem here seems to be the way your husband is responding to your son. It’s my guess that the same thing’s happening here that happened to all the moms in my playgroup right around this age–our husbands all thought there was something "wrong" with our kids, just because they never saw any other kids the same age. At playgroup we moms saw all the kids together, so we knew that they’d all cry at the drop of a hat. But a dad who’s at work all day and only ever sees his own kid doesn’t have the benefit of seeing what kids are really like. (I can also remember absolutely fuming because the other parents at my husband’s job were telling revisionist stories about how old their kids were when they did all sorts of things. Really unbelievable stuff like not ever having hit separation anxiety, or being able to feed themselves neatly at 8 months, etc. Not to mention the so-cliched-it’s-almost-funny "sleeping through the night at 2 months because we did CIO to get him into his own crib" story.)

To solve this, we decided to do a weekend playgroup with dads invited. My husband was not the only one who came home from that day thinking that his kid was the best of the lot! When you see your kid in comparison to other age-mates, it really drives home how wonderful your own kid is (probably just because you’re used to the stuff your kid does, and things other kids do seems so foreign). But it also shows you just how normal the really babyish behavior is.

So my first piece of advice about your husband is to try to get him around some other kids your son’s age, so he can see that your son is normal. All one-year-olds are crybabies (they cry like babies, strangely enough). And, I hate to break it to him, but this is just the very beginning of a long and crazymaking whiny period. So far it lasts until at least 4 years of age. (And I hear it starts again at age 13).

The other thing that could be frustrating your husband is that he wants to really play with your son, but your son prefers you to him. I know it’s impossible for your husband to believe at this point, but a year from now your son will be all about your husband and will want nothing to do with you (unless you’re still nursing, in which case he’ll want nothing to do with any part of you except the milk machines). It will be "Daddy!" and "ball!" and "trucks!" and all the typically male bonding things, including horseplay and goofy behavior and watching sports on TV and fart noises and endless giggles. It’s got to be so hard for your husband to feel like he really wants to play with your son, and do all those typical dad-son things, but then have your son only want you.

I think this situation could be eased if there was one activity that your son absolutely loved that only your husband did with him. That way, they could do that thing every night when Daddy was home, and your son would love it and look forward to it. Since your son is one, the first thing I thought about was a ball tower or ball popper. Kids seem to go just nuts over toys like this, and it’s something your husband will probably have fun with, too, and since it’s balls it’s ostensibly a manly activity. If you never played with it with him, your son could look forward to that activity every night with his dad.

Not that this has anything to do with anything, but if your husband really seems preoccupied by the "mama’s boy" thing, you could casually slip into conversation the factoid that Michael Jordan, the amazingly talented and unquestionably virile basketball superstar–arguably the best athlete of last century–nursed until he was 3 years old. By some people’s definitons, that would make MJ a real mama’s boy. But look how he turned out.

Keep your chin up. Once your son grows out of the true baby stage it’ll be easier for your husband to connect with him. Your son will probably always need more from you than some other kids do from their moms, but he’ll need less and less as he gets older. And any client who fires you is an absolute fool, because you take amazing photographs.

Q&A: Daycare problems

Daycare moms, we need your help! I know next to nothing about daycare, and another mom is having a hard time of it. Please weigh in with your advice and support.

Kinneret just went back to work last week, and her son is 3 months old. You can read how the first day went here.

(She’s doing in-home daycare, with two adults and four kids total, so he’s getting plenty of attention and holding.)

The next few days went well because she only worked half-days, and stayed in the daycare with him for a few hours each day to help get him adjusted. (And I was feeling like a super-genius, because my thoughts were that staying with him to help him get adjusted would take care of the problem since he would be used to the daycare provider by the time he needed to be alone with her. I fear my hubris has caused bad luck for Kinneret.) But then on Monday he refused a bottle from the daycare provider and screamed inconsolably for 45 minutes. Kinneret had to leave work to go get him.

She doesn’t have the option of taking more time off work, but she can’t "break" her baby. Any ideas how to make this easier on him (and her!) so he can be happy in daycare?

Q&A: Preparing for a Baby Boy

Jessica writes:

"My question revolves around your knowledge as a mother to two children, specifically two boys.

We are expecting our second child this April.  We recently found out
that he will be a boy. We already have a 2 3/4 year old daughter.  Our
family has tons of girls in it, and everyone (myself included) thought
this baby would be another girl.  While we are very excited to be
having a boy, I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around it.  I
think my major concern is that I don’t really know what to do with a
boy.  Several friends suggested some "retail therapy" to help me get
more in the little boy mood, which is also necessary since we knew we
were having a girl the first time and consequently own very little baby
clothing that is not purple or pink. Other than more masuline clothing,
is there anything you "need" for a boy baby?  Or for two children?  All
I can think of are more carseats and a double stoller, as well as
replacing a few items that either we either wore out or didn’t like
with my daughter.  Also, do you have any little boy tips?  Or dealing
with a newborn and also an older sibling tips?  We are a very girly
household, and my husband, though great while he is home, travels a lot
for business.  Part of me knows very well that everything will be fine,
but another part is panicked."

My biggest tip is to stay out of the way of the penis.

Not really, of course. My biggest tip is to prepare yourself for The
Cute. Because boys are cute. Not that girls aren’t, but there’s just
something about baby boys that makes them irresistable. Do you have any
friends with baby boys? Because you might want to see if you can spend
a little time with one so you can steel yourself for the full frontal
attack of cuteness. Am I sounding goofy and over-the-top? Of course I
am. But I can’t help it. I just love boys. (And I was one of those
women who always assumed she’d have at least one daughter and never
gave a thought to having a boy. But I find myself staring at baby boys
much more than baby girls now that I have one–kind of the way I now
think bald men a super-sexy since my husband lost his hair.)

I think the only prep you need to do for having a boy instead of a
girl is to be on the same page with your partner about a few key
issues, specifically penis issues and gender issues.

Penis: I’m certainly not going to tell you what to do about
circumcision, although I can offer my own experience. I felt that it
was not right to cut off a part of a person’s body without that
person’s informed consent, and El Grande was OK with that, so we didn’t
circ. It turns out that I took the easy way out, because there has
never been any maintenance on either of my uncut boys’ members. However,
penises are strange little creatures, and it took me almost a year not
to be a little stunned every time I changed a diaper and saw one there.
At any rate, make sure you and your partner are absolutely on the same
page about circumcision before you have the baby. Then, whether you cut
or not, be prepared to think it’s all a little strange down there for
awhile.

Gender: The two of you as a team need to talk about what messages
you want to send your son about sex and gender roles and identity. I
imagine it’s different from the way you approach this stuff with a
girl, since no one will tell you not to get a girl a catcher’s mitt or
let her wear denim overalls. But plenty of people don’t feel
comfortable letting their sons play with dolls or wear toenail polish.
Talk about it now, so that no one gets upset about things that happen,
presents that are given, clothes that are worn, etc.

About the things that you need for having two kids:

A double stroller is essential if you use strollers at all. (I
realize some people in suburbs never need them–in the city where I
live it would be ridiculous to try to get by without one.) Think about
how much and where you’re going to use the stroller. If your daughter
is a decent walker you might want to think about something like the Caboose.
In NYC I go so far that my older son can’t always walk that far (3 mile
roundtrips, for example) that we bit the bullet and invested in a Phil and Ted’s  (for some reason the Amazon page only shows it in single mode–you buy an extra seat that attaches underneath and behind the main seat
so you have two kids stacked vertically in the footprint of a single
stroller) The Phil and Ted’s has changed my life and I recommend it
unreservedly. If you’ll be pushing both kids a lot but don’t want to
spend the money on the Phil and Ted’s and have lots of wide doorways,
consider a side-by-side umbrella double like the Maclaren or the Inglesina Twin Swift.

Even before you use the stroller, though, you’ll need a really good
front carrier for the baby, so you can be handsfree to play with your
older one. I have an Ellaroo Wrap
and I absolutely love it. We used it from Day 2, and it was the perfect
carrier–more secure than a ring sling, but he could lie down
horizontally in it and nurse easily (and completely discreetly). I
honestly don’t know how I could have managed without a great front
carrier, because the little baby needs to be held all the time, but you
still have to play with and feed and run around with your older one.

Read Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish (the women who wrote the classic How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk).
A lot of the stuff in it is common sense, but there are some
interesting things that I never would have thought about, like not
allowing your kids to assign themselves roles within the
family. The section on figuring out whether you need to intervene in a
fight or not is easily worth the price of the book.

I can’t think of any other objects that you need for either a boy or
for going from one to two kids. You will probably get peed on a few
times in the beginning, but a washcloth works as well as those things
they sell to deflect the pee. I’m sure if there’s anything else someone
will mention it in the comments.

The thing I very strongly suggest is that you arrange for someone to
be there to help you for the first few weeks. The first three weeks are
just mind-boggling. You’re really stuck between your two children with
their conflicting needs. If you have someone else there to play with
your older child it takes a lot of the pressure off you. By the sixth
week you’ll start to get it together, so if you can have someone there
with you for at least the first three weeks you’ll have the best start
possible.

My only other advice is not to get cocky like I did. I thought it
would be so much easier the second time through because I knew what I
was in for. And I guess it was easier in a way, but only because I was
able to keep in my mind that the bad things wouldn’t last forever. But
all that other stuff–worrying about milk supply, night waking, feeling
trapped, feeling flabby and ugly, the witching hour, resenting the
inherent work imbalance of the first few months, being tired of holding
up the entire world with only two arms–all that was still there. If
you know it’s going to be just as ugly the second time you can grit
your teeth and get through the first few months, and if it turns out to
be a lot easier for you you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Good luck. Having a second child is a wonderful roller coaster that will add more love and more chaos to your family.

Q&A: Toddler Tooth Brushing

Sleep Week is over, which is good, because it was making me tired. Why is sleep so much more gutwrenching than other kinds of problems? And now on to an easier question.

Elise asks:

"How crucial is it for two-year-olds to brush their teeth twice a day? It is so hard to get my daughter to brush hers that they only get brushed once or twice a week if we’re lucky.  My co-worker was telling me it’s OK if they’re not super diligent about it until they’re 3 1/2 or 4 – what do you think?  Does El Chico brush his teeth regularly? Do you have to pry his lips open with the toothbrush?"

I think they’re really supposed to brush twice a day.

Having said that, though, I’ll confess that El Chico only brushes once a day. Some days he brushes by himself, and other days I can get him to let me do it (so I know the back and insides are actually getting brushed).

What tipped him over into being a tooth brushing fan was the Dora electric toothbrush. Once that wore out, he got a Hot Wheels electric toothbrush. Whatever one you get, I highly recommend a licensed character electric toothbrush. (If they’re going to market to kids anyway, why not at least make use of it for good dental hygiene?) And goofy fruit-flavored toothpaste. I’ve heard other parents say that they let their kids pretend to brush the parent’s teeth as an inducement to allow the parent to brush the kid’s teeth. We just kept talking about how Big Boys brush their teeth every night (and how Bob the Builder brushes his teeth every night), so now he demands to squeeze on the toothpaste and do it himself.

AFAIK, a 2-year-old should be seeing the dentist soon anyway (I’ve read that they should go for the first time at 18 months). You’ll probably have to do a lot of practice ("and then the dentist sticks a cool little round shiny mirror in your mouth so she can see the back of your teeth!") and hype ("I love the dentist!") before you go. But then at least you’ll get the straight story on how often you need to brush, and you’ll see if your child is having problems yet.

Q&A: aggression in 1-year-old

AmyinMotown asks:

"My will-be-one on Friday baby girl has developed a temper and a very unpleasant way of expressing it. She bites, hits, head butts, etc. when I take her away from something she wants to get into or sometimes if she’s just mad. I want to nip this in the bud, no pun intended, but am not sure how to do it in the most gentle and affirming way. I want her to know it’s okay to be mad but not okay to hit and bite. Is she too young for timeouts? Any other ideas? Redirect doesn’t seem to work yet; she’s incredibly strong willed."

Damned if I know.

Seriously, though, this is one of the toughest ages because you really can’t do much of anything. They’re not being aggressive to hurt someone else. They’re just being aggressive because they’re frustrated because they can’t express themselves and because they have no control over their lives and environments. I can tell you what we did with El Chico when he was that age, but it didn’t completely eliminate the problem for us, either. I think it’s extremely important to remember that this is normal behavior for this age, so even if you can’t get rid of it, you’re not raising a monster and it’ll get better (and then worse again, and then better, and then worse again, and then eventually they go off to college).

First, I made a concerted effort to talk to him about what was going to happen that day. In the morning I’d tell him what we were going to do for the whole day. Then right before we’d do it I’d tell him again, and as we were in transit somewhere I’d tell him where we were going and how we got there. He seemed to be calmer and in a much better mood when he knew what was going to happen that day, or where we were going when we were on the road.

Also, I was very sure to give him a 3-minute warning before removing him from any activity. Think about how pissed you’d be if you were reading a blog and all of a sudden your partner came and turned off the computer without telling you first. You’d throw your toys, too. Once I started giving the little warning ("We have to eat lunch now–say goodbye to your truck. You can play with it after lunch." Then give a couple of minutes for the kid to say goodbye.) transitions became so much easier.

Third, consider teaching some sign language. El Chico only picked up a few signs (milk, more, "all done" were the ones he used all the time) but they helped cut down on his frustration immensely. He knew I understood what he was trying to tell me, and we seemed to be able to understand each other better even when he wasn’t using signs. (He had a friend who had over 30 signs by 12 months, and this kid was sooooo mellow. I think it was because she could basically say whatever she wanted to at that age.)

Four, keep repeating yourself. Remove her hands (or teeth) from you, repeat "no biting/hitting," and redirect her to something else. Repeat this 30 times a day for several months. It won’t work, but the alternative is just to do nothing, which won’t work either.

Five, remember that a strong will is the sign of a healthy child. It’s driving you nuts right now, but it’ll be an important trait for her later in life.

I think time-outs are only ever effective to remove the kid from the immediate situation as a redirect. I don’t think it’s a good punishment or disciplinary tool other than to change the focus of the situation for a few minutes. (I know people are going to write in about how it works so well for their kids, and how can I say it doesn’t work, etc. I just think it’s another system kids learn to game instead of learning from.) So it doesn’t even make sense to label it a "time-out" for a baby that young. Removing her from the situation will probably work as well as anything else will at this age, though.

When El Chico was around that age, I read Lawrence Cohen’s Playful Parenting and it made me look at discipline in a different way than I’d been thinking of it before. It doesn’t have many practical solutions for kids under the age of 3 (and is probably best for kids 5 and up), but it switched my mindset and made it easier for me to deal with this super-frustrating stage when they’re really out of control so much of the time.

Good luck. This is such a strange time because the energy you use to parent shifts and it’s almost a completely different task.
 

Q&A: Ebay ethics

I’m getting a ton of questions about sleep, so next week is going to be Sleep Week here.

I’m answering the questions in the order I got them. I’m not sure I’m really qualified to answer this one. Let’s hope Randy Cohen doesn’t come after me in a turf war.

Lee asks:

Hi Moxie…I know you’re an ebayer and I’d
like your advice.

I just bought a used cell phone from a relatively new ebay
seller (rating of 50 or so, 100% positive).  The listing mentioned that
the phone had a chip in the hinge that did not hurt the phone’s
performance at all.

The phone makes and receives calls just fine, but the chip
in the hinge makes it hard to close the phone and occasionally it goes
off-track.  I sent a gentle email to the seller asking what she thought
would be the best course of action and I received a lengthy reply basically
telling me ‘too bad for you, I never had that problem, all sales are
final, blah blah blah.’

I haven’t left feedback yet (she left me positive
feedback immediately) and I’m tempted to go negative, but also wonder if
I should dangle that possibility in front of her to see if I get a more
positive reaction.  Is that just playing dirty? I know sellers are
protective of their 100% positive rating…

Of course I’m an Ebayer–isn’t everyone? As such, I’ve had my share of disappointing transactions. I think I’d go at this one by looking at intent, and trying to figure out whether the seller intended to deceive you or not. Go back into the original listing and see if the seller used nebulous language to try to claim that she warned you, or if she seemed straightforward with the flaw. Was this item new to her, or used only by her, or purchased by her in used condition? That kind of thing.

If you get the feeling that she was trying to be honest and report the flaws accurately, then you have to just chalk this one up to "sometimes you bite Ebay, but sometimes Ebay bites you." But if there’s evidence that she was trying to bend the truth, then I’d pursue it with her and make sure she knows you won’t leave feedback until the issue is resolved. If she gets nasty with you after that, then she’s pretty much begging for negative feedback.

Q&A: night nursing and the working mom

Readers who work outside the home, please share your experience in the comments section. I’m a WAHM, so I’ve never personally experienced this situation.

Carrie says:

"Moxie,
 
I need help. 
My almost 7-month old son still wakes to nurse at least two or three times per
night.  I work full-time outside the home and have since he was 3 months
old.  I need to get him on some sort of schedule or into a routine so that
I can function better.  Last night, he woke at 11 pm, 2 am, and 4 am to
eat. 
 
I talked it over
with our pediatrician (who was less than helpful and suggested I wean).  I
talked it over with our new pediatrician (after I fired the first one for
suggesting I wean).  The new ped suggested a 4-hour feeding plan during the
day to get him used to taking more less often, and stated that is was OK to feed
him at midnight and 5 am, but between those hours, we should let him
fuss/cry.  I like this idea in theory, but since the waking times are
erratic, I alter it a bit to fit our nights (if he wakes at 11 to eat, I’ll feed
him if he wakes at 4, etc).

He nurses when I am home and
(reluctantly) takes a bottle at day care.  He eats solids.  He is
learning to crawl, rolls over easily, sleeps in a sleep sac, and is teething,
but his waking at night has been this way since before all of that
started.
 
When I am home (such
as on weekends or the recent Thanksgiving holiday), he wakes less often at
night.  But, when I am at work during the day, he tends to want to nurse
more at night.  The LLL website says this is "normal reverse cycling", but
really, it is killing me.  I am not comfortable with the idea of bringing
him to bed with me as LLL and Sears suggest.  My breastfeeding books all
gloss over schedules and working women and are very light on how many times a
baby older than a newborn needs to eat per day.
 
I need help with
changing the times he eats so that it fits my workday and so he gets most of his
feedings from me and not from the hard-to-collect bottles of
breastmilk.  He goes to bed at about 7:15 and gets up for the day just
before 7 am.  I’d like to feed him at 6 or 7 am before I go to work, but he
has usually just eaten some time between 3 and 5, so feeding him before
work would go against the 4-hour pattern I am trying to do.  Also, I
get home around 5:30 and he goes to bed at 7:15, so there is really only one
nursing session available in the evening.  Do you think it would help if I
fed him right when I get home and then wake him to eat before I go to
bed?

Is there really any way to put him on a schedule?  Am I doomed
to sleeplessness until I wean?  Is his night waking just a bad habit I have
to break?  He only wakes to eat – not to play or be rocked or any other
reason.
 
I would love to be
able to have him eat at 6 am (nurse), 10 am (bottle), solids at noon, 2 pm
(bottle), 4:30 pm solids with Dad, 6 pm (nurse) or 7-11-3-7, and one nursing
session over night, but I have no idea how to go about doing this.  Any and
all advice from you or your readers is welcome."

You are getting quite the grab-bag of advice there, and most of it sounds completely counter-productive to me.

I think you’ve assessed the situation perfectly. He misses you (and your boobs, of course) while you’re at work, and is trying to make up for it while you’re home. In bed. Asleep.

So, if he wants a) more contact with you, and b) more food from you, then you should figure out how to give him those things without having to be up half the night.

You could give him more contact with you by wearing him in a sling or wrap as much as possible. After you walk in the door, pee, and wash your hands, put him in the sling and wear him around until it’s time for him to go to bed. In the morning, wear him around even if you only have 5 minutes while you’re watching the weather and traffic report. In a few days he might start to catch up on contact time with you and not want it so much in the night.

I’d also try to stuff him with as much milk as possible while you’re with him (NOT try to stretch out his feeding time, which will just make him more hungry when you’re trying to sleep). Definitely nurse him before you go to work. Nurse him when you get home, and top him off before bed. Wake him up for a dreamfeed right before you go to bed. If you can get as much milk into him as possible while you’re home and awake, he won’t be as hungry in the middle of the night.

FWIW, I don’t think he’s going to sleep straight through for another couple of months. (That’s not to say that no babies do, but if he hasn’t in the past, he’s not going to magically start sleeping through this week, even if you wean him to formula.) But I do think you could get him down to 10 or 11 and 4 or 5 without much of a struggle, and then gradually he’ll wake up later and later.

The bad news: Many many kids go through a kind of sleep regression around 8-9 months. I think it’s correlated heavily with the developmental spurt around 37 (once again The Wonder Weeks comes in handy). So you might make great strides in the next few weeks at getting this settled and then have it all fall apart again for a few weeks. But then once he’s past this spurt the sleep should really get so much better. Unless he goes through some bad teething.

Working moms, any BDTD stories?

No advice today

In the past 36 hours, Casa Moxie has seen middle-of-the-night preschooler diarrhea, middle-of-the-night preschooler vomit, preschooler illness-induced tantrums, baby refusal to nap or sleep, missed work deadlines, mother’s exhaustion and 8:30 bedtime, and various forms of playgroup intrigue that really could have waited another week or two.

I’ll try to post some questions over the weekend.