Category Archives: Yourself

Q&A: partner taking night shift

Audrey writes:

"I’m embarrassed to ask this, but since you’ve mentioned it various times, and in comments to others, I’m finally gonna.  Can you share the gritty details of a dad taking "nightshift" for a frequently-awakening breastfed babe? We’ve got a co-sleeping 11 month old who wakes, oh, every 1-2 hours all night long, and nurses just about every time he wakes up.  I work outside the home (dad is a stay-at-home dad, actually) so I like the snuggle time, and mostly get enough sleep by a wickedly early bedtime.  I have no desire to night-wean–our son is not too much into solids yet, and also since I’m gone during the day, I always worry about keeping up my supply (though no problems yet).

I would love just a couple nights of really good sleep, especially after a few "rough" nights in a row.  But I can think of 2 concerns with daddy taking the night:

1) We live in a small (800 sqft) townhome–I’m not sure I can sleep through the screaming.  I totally agree that crying in daddy’s arms is NOT the same as CIO.  But still, I’m afraid that laying on the sofa while I hear him cry will be far less restful and more stressful than just doing the nightshift myself.

2)  What do you do about feeding?  I can barely go 3-4 hours during the day without pumping–certainly I imagine he’d need to be brought every 4 hours or so to feed during the night.  How does the dad decide when the fussing is hunger vs. anger at the change in routine?"

First of all, I want to say that I’m in no way saying that everyone should try to cut down on nursing with a co-sleeping child (or even with a crib-sleeping child). If you’re happy with your sleeping situation, then it’s great, even if you’re nursing throughout the night. A baby (or even toddler) who wakes repeatedly throught the night to nurse is not going to have any lifelong sleep problems. The only dangers to having a night-nursing baby or toddler in with you are that 1) it makes you tired, and 2) your partner can get kicked repeatedly in the kidneys. If those things aren’t bothering you, then keep doing what you’re doing.

But, if you have decided that you want to cut down on the night waking, one way to do it that doesn’t involve CIO (although it might involve some crying) is to have your partner take the night shift for 3-4 nights in a row.

A note: I think this plan is only going to work for families in which one parent is most usually the one who deals with the night-wakings. My experience is with breastfeeding, but I’m guessing bottlefeeding families in which one parent is the one who always does nightfeedings might have gotten into the "reflex-waking" cycle, too. If the two partners always alternate who deals with feedings at night, this plan isn’t going to do anything for you.

Now, back to the logistics of the "plan" (if you can even call it that): Basically, you find a different place to sleep in your house or apartment. (I’ve been on the couch for almost two glorious weeks, because we have a small apartment.) Then you do the last feeding before you go to bed (for me that’s around 11 pm). If you’re ready to go to sleep and your baby hasn’t woken up, try going into the room where your baby is sleeping and making a little noise to see if s/he’ll wake up and want to nurse. Then, once that feeding is done, it’s all about your partner until morning (the two of you should decide what time is "morning").

One of two things will happen: Your baby will wake up the same number of times s/he usually does, and your partner will have to comfort the baby back to sleep. Your partner will also have to determine when the baby is aqctually hungry and when the baby is just waking up. When the baby’s hungry your partner will have to give a bottle of pumped milk (or, if you’re me and your baby won’t take a bottle, your partner will knock on the wall and you’ll come in and nurse).

The other thing that could (and IME probably will) happen is that without you and your milk there, your baby won’t wake up as often. I know that I can’t go for longer than 4 hours during the day without eating anything, and less than that without drinking anything. But I can sleep for 12 hours in a row with no food or water. A baby may not be able to go 12 hours, but most babies can go a lot longer while asleep without eating or drinking than they can awake. It’s entirely possible that your baby will only wake one time, or even not at all.

How your partner determines whether or not the baby needs to eat is up to the partner. It’s part of their being able to trust each other and develop a relationship that doesn’t have you as the gatekeeper. If you’re nursing, you’re always the one determining the eating schedule, but that doesn’t mean your partner couldn’t do it if given the opportunity. If your partner seems at a loss, help set up some general guidelines beofre the first night of the plan, some signs to watch for. Audrey, in your case, since your husband is at home all day with your son, this won’t be any kind of problem. Your husband will definitely know what to look for.

You should also have some sort of way for your partner to summon you if you really are needed. (For us it’s my partner knocking on the wall between our room and our living room–I can easily hear it when I’m sleeping on the couch. If you have a bigger living space, maybe you can sleep with your cell phone by your head and your partner can call if you’re really needed.) That way you can make yourself relax and go back to sleep if you hear crying, knowing that your partner is taking care of things, because if s/he really needs your help you’ll hear the signal. Who knows if there will even be any crying at all? If there is it will tug at your heartstrings, but you can trust your partner to comfort your toddler or baby.

The question about feeding is a tricky one, because the baby might not even need to be fed, and certainly probably won’t feed as often. When we did it here I just figured my husband would be able to tell when my son needed to eat (we’ve been working on the sign for "milk"), and that’s exactly what happened–when morning comes, El P wakes up signing "milk." If your baby doesn’t sign yet, your partner is going to have to figure it out. If I had a child who would take a bottle, I’d probably pump right before bed and leave the bottle right on my partner’s nightstand so it would be room temperature and easy to get in the middle of the night. But you know what your routine is, so ask your partner how s/he wants to work it, and then make a plan.

But don’t have every problem solved for your partner ahead of time! IME a big part of the experiment is that not only are you getting more sleep, but you’re also not the one in charge at night for a few days. If you’ve planned every detail out ahead of time, you’re still in charge, and you’re not letting your partner take responsibility.

My recommendation is to talk with your partner, pick a start date, and just do it for 3-4 days. See what happens. Your baby may surprise you and sleep really well those nights (and then nurse like a pie-eating contest winner in the morning). You may surprise yourself and sleep through unless you’re summoned. It may go poorly the first night, in which case you should try to figure out if there’s anything you can do to make it go more smoothly the next night (like feeding earlier or later before the time your partner is in charge, for example).

Whatever happens, see if you can stick to 3 nights. That way, even if it doesn’t have any lasting effect on your baby’s waking up habits, you will at least have gotten a few nights to catch up.

Q&A: how much sex is enough?

Tess wants to open up the question:

"How much sex after a baby is the right amount???"

Funny you should ask that, Tess. I’ve been thinking about that exact question, and have come up with two formulas. If you have:

  • one child under 6 months old, or
  • two children whose combined age is less than 4 years, or
  • three children whose combined age is less than 7 years, or
  • more than three children,

Then the right amount of sex is: [(the number of times per week you want to have sex times 3) + (the number of times per week your partner wants to have sex times 1)] divided by 4.

If you have:

  • one child who is older than 6 months, or
  • two children whose combined age is more than 4 years, or
  • three children whose combined age is more than 7 years,

Then the right amount of sex is: [(the number of times per week you want to have sex times 3) + (the number
of times per week your partner wants to have sex times 2)] divided by 5.

So, for example: If you have a 5-month-old, and you want to have sex once a week but your partner wants it 5 times, the right amount is [(1 x 3) + (5 x 1)] / 4, or 2 times per week.

Or, if you have a 3.5-year-old and a 9-month-old, and you want to have sex 4 times per week and your partner wants it once a week, the right amount is [(4 x 3) + (1 x 2)] / 5 = 14/5, or 2.8 times per week.

Any questions?

Seriously, though, I don’t know. We already talked about how long it takes to get the desire back. I’d guess that the two biggest factors affecting how much sex a mother wants are how much sleep she’s getting and whether or not she has her cycle (and normal hormonal level) back. So if you’re getting a good night’s sleep most nights and have gone back to normal cycles, you’re probably way more interested in sex than someone who’s dealing with lots of night waking (or the hidden problem moms don’t talk about, insomnia) and is still in the no-period zone.

I guess I’d hope for everyone (including myself, of course) the answer would be "more than I wanted three months ago, but not as much as I’ll want three months from now."

How do you negotiate if you and your partner have vastly different ideas of how much sex you should be having? Does one person’s opinion trump? Or have you found some special compromise that both of you can live with?

Anyone want to discuss this? Tess? Anyone else? (As usual, if you don’t want to post your real email or URL, just put a fake URL in the "URL" box and no one will be able to see whatever email you put in the "Email Address" box except me.)

Q&A: postpartum bridesmaiding

Ria writes:

"I am expecting my first baby in late June or early July, and my brother is getting married in mid-August. It’s all very wonderful and exciting, especially as I am to be a bridesmaid (bridesmatron?) at the wedding.  My question is not related to parenting as such, but I’m hoping you and/or your readers can give me some advice on a few specific things.

First, I have to get measured for and order this dress now, almost into my third trimester.  Luckily, I have a set of measurements taken last August before I got pregnant. My instinct is to order a dress one or two sizes above what those measurements would indicate and have it altered at the last minute. I also thought about getting some measurements taken now and shooting for a size halfway in between those sets of measurements.  Does either of those sound reasonable, or one better than the other?

Second, the chosen dress is strapless. Even if they sold strapless nursing bras, I’m not sure I would want to invest in one just for one use.  Any wisdom or thoughts on the best way to be a newly-nursing mother *and* wear a strapless dress? Perhaps some kind of underwire or support sewn into the dress? A normal strapless bra with breast pads inside? (I know you’re going to suggest Lilypadz, but they alone don’t solve the support garment issue; I was a D cup before I got pregnant, and who knows where I’ll end up by next August.)

Third and lastly, dress alterations take time, and time is one thing we’re not going to have a lot of.  My chest and belly will probably still be actively changing size six weeks postpartum. Having never gone through this process, I have no idea whether to go see a seamstress two weeks after the birth, or four, or when at all. If I wait long enough to get the best fit, there’ll be very little time to get the alterations done. On the other hand, at a fancy wedding with eight bridesmaids and a dress that costs more than the baby’s crib, I don’t want to look like my dress doesn’t fit me. Any insight into this? And while we’re at it, any recommendations of places in the Boston metro area that specialize in working with pregnant/barely unpregnant bridal parties?

Someone out there has to have gone through a similar experience. All thoughts and advice will be gratefully accepted!"

I think that with dresses, as with the rest of life, it’s all about the boobs. If the dress fits the ladies correctly, the tailors can always alter the waist and hips etc. to fit you a week or two before the wedding. Since you’ll be fewer than 8 weeks postpartum for the wedding, it’s highly likely that your breasts will be the same size they are in the third trimester. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’ll be two cup sizes and one band size up from your prepregnancy size. You probably will have lost a lot of the swelling and water weight around your midsection, but it’s likely that you’ll still be at the same band size you were at the end of pregnancy at that point. Most women go up a cup size when they become engorged in the first week postpartum, but the engorgement will have gone down by the time of the wedding and you’ll be back down to the cup size you were in the third trimester. (For more data points on sizes postpartum, read the comments to my nursing bra post.)

So I’d go get measured right now and figure your breasts will be the same size then, and they can just alter down the rest of the dress for you.

A strapless bra is, by nature, a nursing bra, no?, because you can just pull it down when you need to nurse. I’m assuming that since your baby will still be so small you won’t be ready to nurse in front of a reception hall full of people anyway, so if you’re sitting in some ladies’ lounge on another floor somewhere you might as well just pull down the dress and strapless bra and nurse. So I’d go for a good, supportive strapless bra (maybe a long-line to give you a little extra support and slimming effect) in the size you are in your third trimester. But if you do your reconnaissance work now and find out the styles available to you, you can get sized closer to the actual wedding. OTOH, if you do want to find out if strapless nursing bras exist, I’d give the women at your local nursing supply store or Upper Breast Side in New York City a call at 212-873-2653 to see what they have to say.

(And I am going to suggest Lilypadz, but just so you don’t soak through the beautiful teal or burgundy taffeta of your dress, not for support, which they don’t provide.)

As for the timing of all of this, I’m going to hope that someone can suggest an awesome seamstress in the Boston metro area. When you get this info, you’re going to call and tell her your dilemma and ask how much time she needs to do alterations. She’ll tell you exactly when to come in for alterations, and you’ll feel better and it’ll all work out.

Congratulations to your brother, and good luck to you. If you find a good seamstress, it’ll all be fine and you’ll be able to enjoy the wedding with your little baby.

Q&A: getting your groove back

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes:

"I got the all clear to have sex again at my 6-week appointment, and we’ve had sex somewhat regularly since then, but  the Pumpkin is 7 months old and I’m really not all that into it. Is there something I should be doing that I’m not? I’m breastfeeding and don’t want to wean until at least a year.

Please tell me the sex drive comes back."

Yes, it comes back. Eventually.

There are a bunch of theories about why post-partum moms aren’t all that interested in sex for awhile after the birth. I think the best one is that it’s a protective mechanism of the body so that we don’t have kids so close together that we lose our minds. Of course people end up having kids that close together all the time by accident, but I’m really not sure that all those moms were just dying to have sex right then.

I do think it’s normal to just not be interested in sex loooong after that 6-week mark passes. It’s a huge disservice to couples that 6 weeks is touted as the magical time when we’re going to be getting back to Sex The Way It Used To Be, when in reality 6 weeks is just a fairly reasonable time that a woman with a non-complicated vaginal birth with no tearing would be healed enough not to be damaged by penis-vagina intercourse. It doesn’t mean things are back to normal. It doesn’t mean that a mom is going to actually want to have sex. Even if the nursing is making her hormones rush during the day, by the time nighttime rolls around, she’s probably so tired and touched out that, well, you all have been there and know what I mean. You love your partner and want him or her to be happy, but there’s probably a certain amount of faking going on, at least for awhile.

I don’t want to give body image issues (for the mother) and sheer exhaustion, resentment, and self-image and role confusion (for both parents) short shrift, but ths is a how-to post, not a 5,000 Ways Having a Baby Can Screw With Your Head post. So let’s move on with the good news, shall we?

What I think gets most women back on track is going through the energy shift toward the end of the first year and going through the hormonal shift of getting the menstrual cycle. Once the baby gets out of the first 6 months and closer to a year old your energy just shifts. Instead of being intimately connected almost 24/7 with the baby, you’re dealing more with helping the baby negotiate her own body and learning new skills. It’s more about playing with blocks and finding foods they’ll eat than snuggling for hours and nursing around the clock. I personally, find the pre-toddler stage more frenzied and cumbersome than the in-arms phase, but it does give you a little more mental space and emotional energy, and some of that will go straight down to the lady parts.

Even more than that, though, I think is the hormones. I guarantee that if this post gets many comments it will be women saying that their libidos came back when their cycles came back, whether they weaned before or after their cycles came back. I got my cycle back at 11 months with El Chico, and it was like a switch flipped on and it was fiesta time. (I nursed for a year and a half after that.) The women I know who didn’t get their cycles back until after they weaned say it felt like a switch flipping back on for them, too.

If your baby is 8 or 9 months old and you’re thinking, "I want to get my libido back but I’m not willing to wean," you might think about cutting back on nursing so you get a 7-hour stretch each day in which you don’t nurse. For many women that’s enough to bring the cycle back. If you think about it, that’s basically what happens when you nightwean (last feeding at 11 and then the morning feeding at 6), or if your baby nurses in the morning but is then too busy playing or eating solids until after lunch.

Or you may just decide that another few months of not feeling all that sexy isn’t going to hurt your relationship or your self-esteem, so you’ll just ride it out for a little while longer. If you’re not that concerned about it, that’s perfectly valid and you shouldn’t feel like there’s something wrong with you because you’re not worried about not being a sex goddess.

Now, if you’ve got the desire but just never seem to get around to having sex, I can tell you that what I found helpful was to plan ahead. In the morning, before either of you leaves the house, make a sex date. That way you can both think about it all day and get yourselves in the mood. If you want to stoke the fires with some phone calls or emails during the day, do so. But then as soon as the kids are in bed, that’s your time. Leave the dishes and other chores until after you’ve had sex, or you won’t start until 11 o’clock and you’ll be too exhausted to really enjoy it. You may even want to pick a cut-off time and if you haven’t started having sex by then you just roll the date over to the next night.

So. I guess that was a lot of TMI. Anyone want to make me feel better about flashing you by leaving some comments?

Q&A: breast pads (specifically Lilypadz)

Daphne (who is newly pregnant and either a market researcher or product liability lawyer, judging from her questions) writes:

"So. Lilypadz. Any specific feedback you can give me that would be enlightening? 

How long have you been using them? Months? A year? 2 Years?

What are they made of, by the way? Plastic/silicon/latex/NASA-developed secret substance?

How many pairs have you gone through? 

What color are they?

Are they detectable through clothes? 

Speaking of clothes/foundation garments… if you’ve used the Padz for a long time… do you NEED a nursing bra? Or can you use a normal bra at some point?

Have you had success with wearing them to bed minus the foundation garment?

Did you use them with the prior pregnancy? 

What are the noticeable differences between the Padz and antique padded
milk-absorber thingers (if you ever used the old fashioned ones)?

Do they still stick if you use ointment to preserve the integrity of the skin (cracking/chapping/etc)?

Anything else you can tell me that I might not think to ask you would also be most helpful.

Earlier tonight, my sister in law complained that her old-fashioned breast-leak-preventers were horrible.  So not only would I like to get some for me, but I’d like to get SIL some ASAP. "

That is a thorough line of questioning, Daphne. I hope never to be up against you in a courtroom.

I was told, in the breastfeeding class I took while pregnant with El Chico, that the reason some women leak is because there’s a muscle inside each breast that controls the flow of the milk. Some women have tighter muscles there (they won’t leak) and other women have looser muscles there (they will leak). The LC who led the class did not think supply was directly correlated to whether or not you’d leak (although obviously if you have chronic low supply you won’t ever get engorged enough to have anything to leak).

The difference in muscles (which apparently has some genetic component) also has something to do with the different ways women experience the sensation of milk letdown. I’ve heard some women describe it as painful, like little electric shocks, while others say they never noticed it, but most seem to feel something in between.

Also, the longer you nurse, the better your body becomes at storing and regulating supply, so the less you’ll get engorged and the less you’ll leak. All this stuff make sense to me, based on what happened to me and the women I’ve talked to about this. I stopped leaking with El Chico at maybe 4-5 months, and with El Pequeño at around 7 months. I stopped feeling the letdown with each kid right around the time I stopped leaking. I have a friend who had a huge supply (her daughter had a heart defect that caused her to need an enormous number of calories for the first two months until the hole closed up) but never leaked. I have other friends who leaked until they weaned.

So you don’t know ahead of time whether or not you’ll leak and even need nursing pads, although if you leak during pregnancy you know you’ll leak at least some once your milk is in.

And now a little review of the nursing pads I’ve tried. I’m an oversupplier, and I leak. Waking-up-in-a-puddle-of-my-own-milk kind of leaking (a problem I know tons of people would love to have even if it means you smell like a cheese factory). So nursing pads aren’t optional for me (my mom says she used to just put a cloth diaper in each side of her bra).

I’ve used disposible pads, and really really don’t like them. They are convenient, except that I always run out and then by the time I get to and from the store I’ve leaked through my bra and shirt. The adhesive never really works that well so I end up with a bunched-up pad that looks like a boll weavil in my bra and is not giving me proper coverage. They’re not absorbant enough to cover me for all night. The stay-dry material of the pads always makes me itch. And if you aren’t careful to buy disposible pads that breathe you can get a wicked infection or fungus, which just, eew.

I’ve used cloth pads and like them slightly better. They’re far more comfortable, and it’s not throwing money down a hole because you can reuse them. But I have to change them 3-4 times a day, they bunch up and are bulky even when they’re not bunched, and I have to remember to wash them and somehow keep track of the pairs (yes, I use a lingerie bag, but somehow they escape). Also, they don’t contain my nighttime output.

I struggled through with the cloth pads during my leaking time with El Chico, but lost all patience when I was leaking with El Pequeño. So I gave in to the hype about Lilypadz (despite my misgivings about purchasing a product with a Z where an S should be). Oh, so worth the $20. So, so worth the $20.

Lilypadz are clear, floppy, flower-shaped discs made of "silicone rubber compounds" that are smooth on one side and tacky on the other side. You peel them off the hard plastic discs they come on and stick them right to your skin, like pasties (link is not work safe, no no no!). They work the same way it does if you press your fingers or the back of your hand against your nipple when you feel the letdown coming–the pressure stops the milk from coming out. So Lilypadz don’t catch any milk; instead, they stop it from coming out to begin with.

Because they stick to you you don’t need to wear a bra with them (I didn’t at night), and because they’re so thin and flexible you can’t see them under clothes. A friend with no kids told me that her friend (also with no kids) wears them under skimpy outfits to prevent nipple show-through. For what that’s worth.

After you wear them you should wash them with soap and let them air dry. If you don’t wash them in between wearings they won’t stick to you that well (and milk can come out and leak down out the bottom of them). Whenever you want to you can boil them to sterilize them (boiling them turns them a little cloudy, but doesn’t affect the performance). After a couple of months mine started to disintegrate slightly. I used mine for about 3 1/2 months, at which point I stopped needing to use them (I stopped leaking) and stopped keeping track of them and one went missing (it’s undoubtedly back behind the headboard of our bed, where I can’t see or reach). The website says they last for around 4 months, which I think is probably a good estimate.

From a financial standpoint, they’re way cheaper than using disposible pads for the same amount of time. In order to have a decent rotation of cloth pads you’d probably end up spending at least $20, so you end up ahead there, too. Environmentally speaking, I liked only having two items in use that required minimal care.

The website claims that they are less likely to cause thrush than other pads are, and that makes sense to me since the milk shouldn’t even come out to get trapped next to your skin. I didn’t use mine until I was past the irritation phase of nursing, so I don’t know how they’d perform with lanolin underneath them. I’d recommend that in the first few weeks of nursing, if you’re using ointment for irritation or cracking you allow your nipples to be in the open air as much as possible anyway, so pads shouldn’t be an issue at that point.

For me at least, Lilypadz were absolutely the answer to the question "If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they invent nursing pads that don’t make me look like an idiot and smell like a fine Stilton?".

Oh, and I have problems nursing while not wearing a nursing bra because I have a big cup size. Friends with smaller cup sizes have great success just lifting their regular bras to nurse. So the question about whether or not you need nursing bras totally depends on the size of your particular rack. You may want to check out this post about nursing bras, and especially the comments, to gather some more info about nursing bras in general.

I hope that answers all your questions, because my brain is empty now on the topic of leaking and breast pads.

Q&A: depression during pregnancy

Jodi writes:

"This will be short and sweet. This is my
first pregnancy and I am almost three months along. I am very excited
and feel lucky because I got pregnant the first time I ever went
without protection (thank god I was a responsible teen). I am 33 and as
my ob/gyn said "On the senior citizen side of birthing"  (hell of a
bedside manner I know ). Anyway here is my thing I have been feeling
DOWNRIGHT DEPRESSED for a few weeks. I am usually outgoing and love to
have fun but I just feel sad and kind of remorseful that I have not
done more of the things I set out to do. Did you ever experience
this? It is making me feel very guilty."

33? Is old?

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Hahahahaha. Ha.

Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my eyes.

I think your OB must have had extremely limited experience if s/he thinks 33 is "on the senior side" of first-time pregnancy. Even the technical definition of  "older" first-time mother doesn’t start until 35. I had my first baby at 29 and I’ve always been The Kid with other moms of children my son’s age. (Now that the kids are around 4, all the other moms at my son’s school seem to be in the 38-45 age range.)  I know a ton of women who didn’t have a first baby until age 38 or 39 (note that I’m not saying that it’s advisable to wait until that age specifically, or that you’ll have an easy time conceiving then, just that I know plenty of people who had first babies then).

All this is to say that 33 sounds positively early to have a first baby to me. Your OB’s comment is uninformed and a wee bit insulting.

But about the depression. Did I ever experience this?


I spent the first trimester of my first pregnancy in a serious, almost debilitating depression. I had just started building a little teeny career in something I liked better than my old "career." All of a sudden I was pregnant (with a baby we’d been trying to conceive, but somehow didn’t think would come so soon) and felt like I had nothing to show for my life, which would now, of course, be over, because you can’t do anything with a baby.

I dragged through the days, too exhausted from the pregnancy and too heartsick from the depression to do more than two things each day (and sometimes one of them was take a shower). I started having panic attacks. When I went in to a prenatal visit the midwife could tell I was not doing well and she basically twisted my arm to see the therapist that worked with women at the birth center.

What the therapist told me was this: There are extremely powerful hormones surging through your body when you’re pregnant. Different women react to them in different ways. Many women become depressed under the influence of these hormones. The only thing to be done about it is go through the motions of living day by day as best you can. Getting up in the morning is a victory.

What I know is that the depression may change or lessen or disappear by the end of the pregnancy, or it may not. I felt a little better in the second trimester (until the World Trade Center was attacked a few miles from my apartment), and then the depression came back slightly in the third trimester. Since I have had depression in my "normal" (non-pregnant and non-lactating) life, I knew I was at a higher risk for post-partum depression, but I never developed it (I made a hard-core plan to prevent it and it worked).

There’s a website called Pregnancy and Depression that has collected all the available research studies about depression in pregnancy (it also has some info about treating depression while breastfeeding and during mothering, and some info about bipolar disorder). Most of the studies are evaluating the risks to babies of exposure to antidepressants while in utero, but I thought this study was interesting and kind of sad. The conclusion is "Rates of depression, especially during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, are substantial. Clinical and economic studies to estimate maternal and fetal consequences are needed."

I can tell you what I think the maternal and fetal consequences of prenatal depression are. I think those of us who are depressed during pregnancy doubt ourselves. I think we feel guilty that we’re not glowing, happy little earth mothers, basking in the miracle of human repoduction and our own fecundity. I think we feel cheated out of enjoying something our culture tells us is the pinnacle of human experience, and terrified that we won’t enjoy being mothers. I think we’re afraid that there’s something inherently wrong with us that means we won’t be good, or even adequate, mothers to our children. I think we think that if we’re so depressed during pregnancy we don’t deserve to have children. I think that’s why no one talks about prenatal depression.

But it’s real. It exists. It’s caused by hormones and the enormous changes we’re going through in our views of ourselves and in our relationships. It doesn’t have anything to do with how much we’ll love or enjoy our children, and it certainly doesn’t mean we won’t be damn good mothers. It does not have to mean that we’ll get PPD. It just means that we’re not the happy preggos in the magazines. But that’s OK. We’ll keep on getting up every morning, and we’ll waddle through our days until delivery, and then when the baby is crying at 3 in the morning we can think "At least I’m not still pregnant."

So, Jodi, don’t feel guilty. You’re going through a ton of changes and you have enough hormones to kill an elephant racing through your system. If you end up coccooning yourself your friends will understand. And life’s not over when you become a parent. You can’t do much of anything for the first year or two, but then you’ll get your groove back, only with renewed efficiency and a BTDT kind of fearlessness (that undoubtedly comes from knowing rightly that once a small person has puked into your mouth there’s really nothing left to be afraid of).

If you’re not already supplementing with flax seed oil, consider starting now–it can’t hurt. But try to cut yourself a break, and know that better things are coming for you soon.

Q&A: first child doesn’t want another

Sky writes:

"I am 30. Had a son at 20. Always wanted more kids but I’ve been busy with school and was just married to (not the father) last year. Now I’m (finally) ready for more kids, but my son is not. He says "You will love them as much as me!" and cries. How does one answer something like this? Any ideas would be great, thanks!"

If I were my MIL or Dr. Laura or a hard-liner like that, I’d say something like, "It doesn’t matter what your son thinks. You’re the parent, and if you want to have another baby, you should do it."

But I’m not a hard-liner, so instead I’m going to say that your son’s feelings matter very much, and if you want another baby you should have one.

Siblings don’t always get along, and yes, it’s possible that your son and this baby won’t end up being best friends or having much in common as adults. But that doesn’t mean the experience of being a big brother won’t be fun or worthwhile for him, or that it will ruin his life. And what if this sibling becomes the most important person in your son’s life? There’s no way to know until they’re both a lot closer to grown up.

It sounds like your son is used to the way things have always been. The marriage itself must be a huge thing to adjust to, and he’s probably already wondering about his place in the new family (no matter how great his relationship is with your new husband). So thinking about being "displaced" with a new baby can’t make him happy.

But his feeling of belonging within the family is a separate issue from whether or not you should have another baby. I’m sure he knows this intellectually, but it wouldn’t hurt to reassure him again repeatedly that you want another baby precisely because he’s so great and you know a new baby will be, too, and not because there’s anything wrong with him, or that he’s no "fun" now that he’s practically a grown-up. A new member of the family is going to divert some of the attention from him, but it’s also going to create more love and more fun in the family.

My advice once you do get pregnant is to involve your son in as much of the pregnancy process as possible, but without attaching any expectation for his participation or enthusiasm. Talk about pregnancy, birth, babies, siblings, etc., but don’t expect him to be interested or happy about it. Let him talk about his negative feelings and acknowledge them without judging them. As long as he knows that he doesn’t have to like or love the baby as long as he doesn’t hurt the baby, he has the freedom to form his own relationship with the baby without going through you or your husband as gatekeepers of emotion.

I’m going to plug, once again, the amazing book Siblings Without Rivalry. The central idea of the book is that there’s no way you can force your kids to like each other, but you can treat them as individuals and make sure they know how to resolve conflicts with each other. I read it while I was pregnant with my second and found it to be helpful even then in framing how I talked to my son about the sibling he was about to have in a few months.

FWIW, the new baby will probably idolize your son. It’s a ton of fun to have someone who thinks you’re just the best thing ever. I’m sure your son isn’t thinking about it now, but when you have another child your son is going to get an adoring fan who wants to be just like him. He’s probably been thinking in terms of sharing you instead of in terms of getting yet another person who thinks he’s the greatest.

Good luck with building your family. Your son may not be thrilled about it initially, but if you can make sure he knows how much he’s loved and you avoid comparing your children, he’ll enjoy being a big brother. Most of the time, at least.

Q&A 3-for-1: sleeping through the night, sibling squabbles, cursing

Three, three, three posts in one!

Beaver Girl writes:

"When, in general, do exclusively breastfed babies start sleeping through the night?   I would define that as six hours in a row or so.  I have heard answers that vary from 12 weeks to 2 years!  I know every child is different.  Just wondering in general so I can adjust my expectations – and/or those of my MIL.  She keeps asking if my 8 week old is sleeping through the night yet – which is getting irritating.  She seems to think adding cereal (to what? breastmilk?) would mean he would sleep more."

Two things:

I have no idea. El Chico slept through the night (the medical definition is 5 hours in a row, but I’ll go with yours of 6 hours in a row) around 13 months or so. El Pequeño did (temporarily) at 2 weeks (and then regressed with teething, and then if you read my blog today, well, let’s just say he’s not sleeping through the night anymore). My mom says I did at under a year and my brother did at 3 years, but he says he still wakes up once or twice a night (he’s 30 years old). So who knows? There’s probably an average, but do you really want your kid to be average?

Lie. Tell her he’s sleeping "fine." "Like a baby." And feel free to lie to anyone else who’s going to give you crap or have inappropriate expectations about baby things. Because nobody knows and all kids are different and you know your kid better than anyone else does. Also, the person asking will never know the difference, and if it saves you the same dumb "why don’t you let him cry/put cereal in his bottle/give him Benadryl/my kids all slept through at 4 weeks" conversation, it’s all good.

(Also, when I started El Chico on rice cereal he started waking up more often at night. So YMMV on the cereal thing anyway.)


Karla writes:

"I have three toddlers (21 months this month).  Basil is constantly taking things from Zeke.  When i am in the room, i have been asking to return the toy to Zeke.  Usually, i end up helping Basil do this by doing it with him, hand-over-hand.

Here is the second problem:  whenever Zeke gets a toy taken away, he screams bloody murder (very high, piercing scream at the very top of his lungs).  My husband works nights, and is therefore sleeping during the day, so this doesn’t suit him very well. Yet, I don’t want to punish Zeke for screaming, because I don’t want Basil to get away with what he is doing.  I wouldn’t always know that he was taking things, because I am not always in the same room (or on the same floor).  Is he too young to teach him to come and tell me when there is a problem?  Do I want to teach him to tattle?"

It seems to me that you should be working toward the goal of not having to mediate between Basil and Zeke. Eventually, Zeke should be able to tell Basil not to take his stuff and get him to give it back himself. Right now you’re putting yourself squarely in the middle by making yourself the one who forces Basil to give the stuff back, and you’re reinforcing your role as middleperson by getting Zeke to tell you when Basil’s taken his stuff. You’re also inadvertantly giving Basil the role of Aggressor and Zeke the role of Victim, which will cause problems for their relationship into adulthood.

By redirecting your attention and energy you can start setting them up to work it out themselves. When Basil takes something, instead of going after him to give it back, focus your attention on Zeke and helping him to speak up and ask for it back (you’ll have to follow through by making Basil put it into Zeke’s hand at the beginning). That should a) demotivate Basil to take things, since he won’t get any attention by doing it, and b) start to empower Zeke to defend himself from Basil. It’s not going to happen overnight. In fact, it probably won’t happen for months and months, but it’s better than the situation you’re currently setting up. It may also help with the screaming problem, because you’ll be giving Zeke something proactive to do instead of just shrieking like a dog whistle.

If you haven’t read it already, run don’t walk to the library/your local bookseller/Amazon to get Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish. They have great sections on how to teach your kids to be able to solve their own squabbles.

Where’s the other toddler in all of this? You must be an iron woman to get through this squabbly stage with three!


Liz writes:

"I have a potty mouth. I would fit
right in with those well-known sailors. My husband is only slightly
better than me. It’s not that I curse all the time just that when I do
it’s pretty offensive. It’s like a reflex; someone cuts me off and I’m
cursing him/her and forgetting that my son is in the back seat. I’m
pretty sure you already know what I’m going to ask but the question is:
how do I learn to curtail the offensive language before my son starts
to repeat everything I’ve said? My son, Riley, is now 16 months old and
has a bunch of words but he’s just starting to show signs of word
repetition. Right now he says something that sounds suspiciously like
"oh, shit!". Of course it’s garbled enough that it could be interpreted
as something else (luckily). The last thing that I want is to be the
parent of "that kid". Ya know, that one that calls little Suzie an
asshole for stealing his toy at daycare? I’m obviously aware of the
problem but keep procrastinating and thinking "well, I’ve still got a
lttle time". The simple solution is to just stop, but that’s a lot
harder than it appears. I know I’m not planning on forgoing curse words
altogether because there are time when a simple "gosh darnit" just
won’t do the trick. I just need to figure out how to stop the verbal
vomit in front of Riley."

Damned if I know.
Seriously. I curse like a trucker. It’s bad. Very bad. A few months ago
we went to my SIL’s house and within 30 seconds of walking in the door
El Chico said, "Those fucking people!" (I don’t know who he was talking
about–not my ILs.) My MIL almost shit a brick lost her composure and asked indignantly, "Where did he hear that
language?!" directing an accusatory glance at my poor, genteel husband.
My SIL, bless her heart, jumped in with, "Mom, he lives in New York
City. He hears it on the street all the time." I love her, my innocent
SIL. But it was a close call. Almost close enough to help me stop

Q&A: Reclaiming yourself

Jen asks:

"Hi Moxie,

I have always been a fan of your advice and am so thrilled you started an advice column. I hope you can shed some light on my situation.

I gave birth to Sophie after a rather stressful and often times gloomy pregnancy that was plagued by one darn thing after another. I thought to myself that at her birth we’d reach this crescendo and all would be so great afterwards. Only, it sort of didn’t happen that way.

Sophie screamed nonstop from birth, had apnea spells, plateaued her weight gain and in her 4th week of life slept 20 minutes a day. Her 5th week was no better when we saw a single hour of sleep. She screamed, vomited copious amounts of everything and gorged herself on the breast. We were feeding ever 15 minutes. Finally, by the grace of G-d, we got into a Paed’s office and she was diagnosed with severe silent reflux. Since then we’ve battled on with a severe reaction to a drug, balancing 2 medicines daily and teaching her how to sleep and eat properly.

Now at almost 16 weeks things are starting to settle down (I never expect life to be ‘settled’) but I’ve developed PTSD amid PPD and was diagnosed with physical exhaustion and have been put on anti-anxiety meds and an antidepressant. I’m feeling ok about that (nervous about the drugs in the breastmilk) but the doctor ordered me to take some time out for me. Get a sitter a couple hours a week and go do things for me. Take an overnight holiday he said.

And with Christmas coming up all the relatives and friends want to ‘do things’ for me and give me gifts. And I just can’t let them. I guess I feel no one would know how to cope with Sophie’s meltdowns or how to soothe her, how to give her medicine, etc. I feel such anxiety over it. So I’ve declined to let anyone watch her. I’ve worked a way to have about 30 minutes to myself a day and that feels really good.

But I’m suddenly stuck wondering where I’ve gone. In those 30 minutes I’m supposed to do something I like. Only, I don’t even remember what I like and none of my old hobbies appeal. I’m too tired to go jogging or go swimming as was suggested by the doctor and I just want to hole up and hide. I already bathe with Sophie as a means of destressing so it’s not like I want another bath. I can’t even tell people what I’d like for a Christmas gift because I can’t even feel desire for anything — not even chocolate or cake!

Is this just part of the depression? Where on earth have I gone!? I know they say the AD’s don’t change you but I sort of want it to — I want some of me back!"

Thank you!

If it makes you feel at all better, I think you’re having a
completely normal reaction to an abnormal situation that’s become
normal for us. If that makes any sense. Let me explain.

I think the way we parent is absolutely nuts. We are all isolated in
our own little houses trying to stay interested and keep our heads
above water being alone with a baby for the whole day. That’s just not
normal. Humans are created to be around other humans, and not just
teeny tiny humans.

We should all be living as tribes or small villages. If we lived
with other people around us, parenting wouldn’t be as stressful or
isolating, because we’d be talking to other adults all day. And they’d
help us raise our children. Need to take a nap? One of the old ladies
or teenagers would be happy to play with your baby for an hour or two.
Feeling frustrated? One of the moms of older kids would help give you a
little perspective, and you’d look at her kids and see the light at the
end of the tunnel. Need some time alone with your husband? Your baby
can crawl around with the other babies at a neighbor’s house. In short,
you wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place.

So that’s the abnormal part. Now, I think your reactions to this are
completely normal. I felt, and I know lots and lots of other moms who
felt, a physical and emotional pull toward our babies that was
shocking. Before I had El Chico I thought for sure I’d be happy to
leave him with a babysitter for a few hours at a time. But then once he
was here I just couldn’t imagine it. He was part of me, and when I
wasn’t with him I couldn’t even imagine what I’d do. My husband would
say, "Honey, just go out for an hour or two and do whatever you want.
We’ll be fine here without you." I had no worries whatsoever about the
two of them together, but I literally could not think of a single thing
to do by myself. I’d usually end up wandering aimlessly through the
aisles at the grocery store.

I know I’m not the only one who had this same experience (anyone
else who wants to pipe in, feel free, especially adoptive moms, because
my suspicion is that you have the same exact experience as bio moms
with the separation thing, but I don’t know as I’m not an adoptive
mom). I think it’s partly biological (the same way we become forgetful
during pregnancy), and partly emotional (because of the love and
connection we feel for our babies) and partly a result of stress (sleep
deprivation, recovering from pregnancy, wondering who the hell we are
anymore). But it’s normal.

In my experience, it started to go away once my baby started
crawling. Funny, isn’t it, that as soon as he could start to leave me I
was ready to start to leave him a little? I can’t believe it’s just a

So, in the meantime, what do you do to get some relief? Well,
knowing that how you feel about being away from Sophie is normal and
not something to be worried about or "cured," I’d say you should ask
for things that will get you more support and contact from people who
care about you while you’re with Sophie. Ask people to come
over and bring you lunch and stay for an hour or two. Yes, they’ll
probably hold Sophie while you go to the bathroom or toss in a load of
laundry, but the point won’t be for them to babysit her. The point will
be to create more of a community to help support you both (and your
husband, too, of course). Ask for people to give you a gift certificate
of their time to come sort through baby clothes with you, or paint some
room that needs to be painted, or go to the zoo with you, etc.

In the meantime, have you started going to any groups for moms of
new babies? I think peer support is absolutely critical for new
mothers. You can find friends at breastfeeding support groups, baby
classes, the public library, La Leche League, and hospital support
groups. These groups can also help you organize your week by giving you
something to look forward to and plan around.

Once you start feeling
like you’re not so trapped in your own head, you’ll have a little room
to breathe and you’ll start to get interested in the things you used to
be interested in. Maybe you’ll join a book club (once a month leaving
Sophie with your husband for a few hours won’t seem like anything by
then) or train for running races (with Sophie along).

I’m going to disagree with your doctor here that you should go on an
overnight by yourself. Not because I think there’s anything wrong or
unnatural about a mother going away from her baby, but because I know I
couldn’t have done it when mine were that age. I would have gone into a
full-blown panic attack because it would just have felt so wrong to me.
But I know it’s not that way forever, and won’t be for you, so don’t
feel like you have to force yourself to do something you don’t think is
right for you.

If you don’t feel like leaving her yet, don’t. But try to bring the
outside world, and the people who care about you, into your life more.
You’ll get your old self (actually it’ll be your new, improved self)
back soon enough once you start to reenter the world. (And if you need
to ask for physical things for Christmas, ask for a great jogging
stroller–so you can walk or run with Sophie–and some Lilypadz–if
she’s been nursing every 15 minutes you probably have a heck of a
supply and are probably leaking a lot at night!)