Sleep & Nap Issues: Nighttime Crying & Proof That Crying It Out Is OK

Don't flame the messenger, but here's more proof that SOME nighttime crying won't harm your baby -- and actually may help the whole family by boosting mom's mental health. A big shout-out to mom's health advocate Katherine Stone for being on-record about this hot-button issue. She risks the backlash that I've experienced here, but she does it for the health and well-being of families and babies. Kudos to you, Katherine!

The bottom line is this: Neglect, hostility, and abuse DO hurt babies. Blowing off some steam to settle down for a better night's sleep DOESN'T. Of course, individual personalities and circumstances make a difference: Pick up and comfort your baby if she's sick, super-scared, or if she has an unusually sensitive temperament (or, if you have a crying/barfer, like one of my kiddos. Who wants to be up all night AND clean a barfy crib?) If you want to argue, argue with the respected journal that published the research today, Pediatrics.

Judging parents for their reasonable decisions about their own children is NOT good for families and babies. So hurray for more proof that this controversial parenting decision doesn't deserve the attacks it often gets. Parents and children who get more sleep are happier AND healthier. That's nothing to cry about.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather

The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

BabyGeek: Infant Sleep "Rules" Don't Work

I've been sleep deprived since April 2001, when our oldest was born. Since then, I've tried every "trick" in the parenting book. And nothing seems effective at "making" my

kids sleep better. They've all evolved into being better sleepers over time.

That's why I'm so interested in the line of research discussed in this study. Penn State scientists found -- despite common parenting advice -- that parents' EMOTIONAL response to their children at bedtime was much more successful than any specific behavioral "trick" in getting children to sleep.

As a shrink, I tell parents that babies absorb their emotional messages. Parents are often surprised when I tell them that even the youngest babies sense their emotions -- but it's true.

In the shrinking world, we've been struggling internally for years over the predominant theoretical orientation -- Behaviorism, and its spin-offs -- and the power it holds over the way we do our work. Those of us who work with very young children understand that simple behavioral and operant conditioning simply doesn't apply with the little ones. That's why "Ferberizing" and related approaches are often ineffective.  FIRST, babies need to feel emotionally (and physically) safe. Other learning can proceed from there. But sleep is an inherently scary proposition, and often triggers resistance and regression in children. It's a weird and scary thing to transition into a sleep state.

So the fundamental message of this research at Penn State is both obvious to me -- and very reassuring -- as an Early Childhood specialist. I'm eager to see what else they discover in this line of inquiry, and I'll be sure to share it with you.

Here's a link to some of my "getting to sleep" advice. What's yours?

 

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

BabyGeek: Early Trauma Damages Babies' DNA

It took me over a year, but I finally started to understand the fabulousness that is Twitter. And no, it's not because I want you to know what I had for lunch (although I had some amazing Indian food today). It's because I meet a lot of interesting people on Twitter, and am directed to some fascinating info. The geek in me LOVES the immediate access I get via Twitter to all sorts of interesting infant research. But I do realize that most of you don't share my fascination with primary-source research -- you just want to get through your parenting day with your wits reasonably intact. And that's why I'm here -- to help sort through all the clutter, and show you what I think is TRULY interesting, relevant, and important to parents. So I'm starting a new category on BabyShrink -- BabyGeek. It will give me the opportunity to use more than 140 characters to help interpret the most current findings from the world of infant and child development, and the mind-boggling findings from brain and neuroscience. I hope I can make it all interesting for you, too.

And now, for my first moment of BabyGeek:

Early Trauma Damages Babies' DNA

This heartbreaking study confirms what shrinks like me have long suspected: The mind and body are closely linked, even from the first months of life. This study shows how deeply linked: Traumatic emotional experiences such as institutional care actually damage the child's DNA. Scientists have been investigating how the length of the telomere (the cap that protects the ends of the DNA strand) is related to health and longevity -- and the orphans in the study had significantly shorter telomeres. Here's the study report.

In college, we used to argue about "nature vs. nurture". Now, we know it's nature AND nurture -- down to our DNA.

I'm waiting for the research that shows longer telomeres in babies from "good enough" homes.  I wonder what other aspects of parental care will show impacts -- positive or negative -- on DNA?

What are your thoughts?

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

And I hope to see you on Twitter! Follow me here.

Sudden Fears in 12 to 15-Month-Old Babies

Let me tell you about a cool conversation I had the other day with my Infant Research/Rock Star Guru, Professor Joseph Campos (at UC Berkeley).  He helped me understand more about a funky phenomenon I've written about here before: The Weird, Wacky, Sudden Fears of the 12 -- 15-month old. You know: Crazy fears of the bath, bizarre fears of mustached men, and other kooky things like Fear of Flowers (I kid you not -- I've heard 'em all -- many from my own kids). As I've said before, these sudden fears are NORMAL -- but now I understand a little more about WHY.

It's a combination of what I've already written about here -- adjusting to the exciting (and scary) new world of mobility, as well as an inborn fear of sudden, unexpected unfamiliarity. Babies this age tend to freak when they see something that looks out of place -- a man with facial hair (if they're used to clean-shaven guys), dogs that suddenly bark loudly, or things that move in unexpected, uncontrollable directions (like flowers in the breeze). Turns out that adult chimpanzees also have similar fears. Interestingly, our toddlers grow out of these fears -- chimps do not. Rapidly developing baby brains are starting to compare "familiar" to "unfamiliar". It's likely protective -- which is especially needed now that the baby is toddling around, away from parents.

Sudden baby fears are also related to a similar parent frustration at this age: Resistance to car seats, strollers, changing tables, high chairs, or any similar baby-jail. Why? Because they remove the element of control from your little one -- and CONTROL is what helps to decrease baby's fears.

So here's how to cope with those intense and sometimes inexplicable fears in your young toddler: Give her as much control as possible (given safety factors, and of course your need to do other stuff, too.) Fear of the unknown and unexpected is always best soothed with CONTROL. Let baby approach (or avoid) fascinating/scary things (or people) at her own pace. Explain to her when it's time to get into the car seat -- and let her try to negotiate herself into it, if possible. (She just might do it, if you give her a minute to think it through.) Take the pressure off if she's feeling shy or fearful. And most of all: DON'T WORRY. Weird toddler fears mean nothing about future psychological adjustment (and the more YOU freak out about her fears, the more SHE'LL freak out about them.)

But on the flip side: If baby needs to get into the car seat NOW, or if she MUST have a bath tonight -- that's OK, too. Explain it to her. "I know you don't want a bath, but you have enchiladas in your hair, honey. I promise to make this as fast as possible, then we'll be all done." Be supportive and understanding -- but shampoo away. You won't do any psychological harm. The trick is to give her the general message that, WHEN POSSIBLE, you'll give her as much control as you can. But sometimes the grown-ups have to be in charge (and that's a good lesson, too).

The good news is this: These fears almost always dissipate by 18 months of age. (Then you'll be on to bigger and better things -- like Full On Temper Tantrums.) Whee!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four and Parenting Expert

Spending Holidays with Young Children: Keeping It Simple

 

Preserving the meaning of the holidays is tricky with so much pressure -- pressure to BUY, pressure to TRAVEL, and pressure to JUGGLE HOLIDAY EVENTS. The obligations start to pile up, and pretty soon we can't wait until it's all over.

Here in Hawaii, we've learned something about simplicity: Simple is better. Not always easier -- but better. As we're being bombarded with impossible holiday expectations, keep this in mind -- babies and young children don't have ANY expectations for the holidays. Everything is new to them -- even more reason to keep it simple. They can only absorb so much before they go into overload and meltdown. Admiring decorations, singing songs, and extra time with family are all it takes to make a great holiday for a young child -- and make it easier on us, too. Because kids -- especially young kids -- take their cues directly from us. So a successful holiday is mainly about OUR mood, and how it affects our kids. If we're stressed about travel schedules, dreading family reunions, and scrambling to get "the best" presents, our kids will absorb THOSE feelings about the holidays. On the other hand, if we can relax and enjoy the time off -- cooking, playing, and having fun with holiday rituals -- our kids will absorb THOSE feelings. Which sounds better?

Consider These Simpler Holiday Options:

* Fewer presents -- more thoughtfully written (and decorated) cards * Fewer "junk" holiday treats -- more time cooking real meals together * Less money spent on toys -- more time volunteering for those in need * Fewer holiday parties -- more family "cocooning" time

Aloha and Happy Holidays,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding: How To Handle A "Nursing Strike" By Your Baby

The flip side of the baby on a "Bottle Strike" is the very common "Nursing Strike". Baby NOT nursing

Babies can switch from one distressing habit to the other, often without warning, leaving sitters and parents in a bind. Moms worry -- Will the baby finally nurse today? Will I lose my milk? Will I be stuck to this breast pump forever? Here are some tips, which are similar to those you can use when Baby is on a "Bottle Strike":

Consider Age -- At certain ages -- 5 months and 9 months are common -- your baby is way more interested in the world than in burrowing in for a cozy nursing session. The draw of the outside world becomes too tempting, making bottle feeding a lot more interesting and fun. Try nursing in a quiet, darkened place. Other babies will simply refuse to nurse unless they're exhausted or sleeping, as they're more interested in playing than nursing. Use a bottle (and nurse at night, when babies are more likely to go for it) until this phase passes.

Consider Temperament -- A baby who is easily overstimulated by being held might feel more comfortable begin fed while turned outward, which is impossible with nursing. Other babies are highly visual and love to look at everything, which is limited when nursing. For these babies you might consider only nursing when baby is tired or at night, using the pump and/or formula for bottle feeding other times.

Practice and Prevention: It's fine to expect your baby to alternate between the breast and bottle -- you've just got to keep him in practice, even if you don't need him to alternate all the time. This means he should be given BOTH the breast and the bottle at least every 1-2 days. This is the most important piece of advice I can give for preventing nursing AND bottle strikes.

Don't Panic: I know you want to nurse your baby, he's refusing to do it, and everyone recommends it, blah blah. Just don't freak out -- your baby has preferences and opinions, and this is only the first of many he'll express over the years -- breastfeeding propaganda be damned. Most babies can be coaxed back into nursing after exploring the fun and easy option of bottle feeding. Taking it in stride will help everyone come to a good compromise. Pump as much as is reasonable to keep your milk coming in the meantime -- but don't make yourself nuts about it. Your baby will be a lot less likely to nurse if you're stressed out and upset.

Offer the breast when he's asleep -- just as with Bottle Strikes, your baby is more likely to accept what you offer when he's drowsy or asleep.

Check with the pediatrician -- thrush, tummy upsets, teething, ear infections and other illness can make nursing more difficult. Remedy any medical problems first.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding: Dealing With A "Bottle Strike" By Your Baby

A common parenting problem: The Baby Refuses a Bottle -- And Mom Works (or otherwise can't always be with the baby). Here are some tips: Prevention and Practice. If you expect her to take a bottle intermittently, you've got to keep up the practice. Have her take a bottle at least every 1-2 days -- even if Mom will be with her -- to keep up her familiarity with it (and prevent problems when you DO need to leave her). I can't emphasize this enough. DON'T PANIC. I know Baby is hungry and fussy, but this too shall pass. The more stressed out you are about it, the more the problem will be reinforced. Stay calm, keep trying, and Baby will eventually accept the bottle again. In the meantime, arrange your schedule so you can nurse, but keep trying with the bottle. Often, Dads, sitters and grandmas have better luck with the bottle than Mom will. We Moms often have trouble trusting that anyone might possibly substitute for us, but this is a sure sign it's time to let go. Offer a bottle to Baby when she's asleep. She's more likely to accept the bottle when drowsy or sleeping. Experiment with different bottles and nipples, but don't blow Baby's college savings on this technique. It often doesn't work -- but worth a try. Babies who refuse one nipple will often accept the same one just a few hours or days later. Don't try to "force feed" in any way. This will start a struggle that you can't win. Offer -- repeatedly -- over different times of the day, different temperatures, and by different people. If she refuses -- immediately take it away for at least a couple of hours -- and don't get aggravated. She'll pick up on your frustration, and a negative cycle will begin. Have Dad, Grandma, Sitter, or Sibling offer the bottle when Mom is COMPLETELY OUT OF THE HOUSE. Babies smell Mom, and will wait her out if they sense she's nearby! And of course, make sure there's no thrush, teething pain, tummy trouble, allergies, or other medical problem interfering. "Bottle Strikes" (or their cousin, the "Nursing Strike") are very common. Just when you're sure Baby will never take the bottle again (or nurse again), you're likely to be surprised. Hang in there!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding: What To Do When Your Baby Bites You

Our 10-month-old is teething. ON ME. She wants to gnaw, chomp, and tear at my skin -- my arm, neck, or of course the worst target, MY NIPPLE. And man, it hurts! These aren't little love nibbles. These are deep, powerful bites that leave marks. Sound familiar? Today, I'll give you some quick info on babies who bite, and by "babies" I mean up to the age of 12-15 months. Those little chompers hurt!

Here are some quick tips:

Ignore and Distract. I know it hurts like hell, but any sort of reaction makes a repeat bite more likely. Your baby loves to learn new ways to impact his world, and Making Mom Shout And Yelp sure ranks high up there in "impacting his world". Detach him, take a deep breath, and move on.

Offer Teething Relief. Frozen wet, clean washcloths, teething rings or whatever your pediatrician recommends for pain relief should be your first consideration. Biting is often due to his erupting teeth bugging him. Biting feels good -- that's why he does it. At this age, he can't help himself.

Offer food or milk -- or don't. Sometimes biting occurs because your baby is hungry. Other times, it's because he's done with eating (or nursing) and getting bored. If the biting keeps up, change tactics to one of the others listed here.

DON'T lecture, pretend that you're hurt, or punish (all tactics found on other online parenting sites). Those tactics cannot work with a baby of this age, given his stage of cognitive development. You'll only end up confusing and upsetting him -- or reinforcing the problem!

I've written about aggression in young children, and if you're interested (or just plain sore from those sharp little teeth digging into your skin), go ahead and check out this post after you read this one for some more insight into the problem.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Child Development: Why Your 9-Month-Old Baby Is So Difficult All Of A Sudden

I had an amazing conversation with one of the world's foremost infant researchers last week, Dr. Joseph Campos. He's at Berkeley, where he's churned out tons of scientifically rigorous studies about the developmental changes in infancy. He's come up with some transformative ideas about babies, the upshot of one being that crawling causes your baby to become your little social partner, for the first time. No longer just a passive lump in the social world, now she's able to start to understand some of what's going on inside your mind. She understands how important you are to her, and seeks your emotional support, presence and encouragement as she starts to scoot out into the world under her own power. She now gets reassurance from your presence and your emotions -- your facial expressions and body language -- not just from physically holding her. Super Cute, and Super Challenging

The flip side of this is that it also causes clinginess, fussiness, and sleep problems -- some of the major complaints of parents at this stage. Turns out, crawling out into the wide world is fascinating -- and terrifying. Your little adventurer gets it now -- that as much as she wants to venture out on her own, she desperately needs you, and is panicked that she'll lose you somewhere along the way. As Dr. Campos said to me, the baby's drive for independence is equally matched by her fear of it.

So to you fellow parents of 9 to 12-month-old babies out there: I know it can be a challenging, difficult stage. Your little bug seems content to scramble around the house one minute, then wails in panic the next. What used to be stable sleep habits are now in a shambles. Feeding --and nursing -- has become an unpredictable struggle -- and separations are exceptionally difficult. And forget diaper changes! What a wrestling match! Immmobility is the enemy to her now -- being restrained in any way is bound to be a fight. High chairs, strollers and car seats are demon baby torture devices. They keep her from exploring her brave new world.

What to do? Re-think your daily tasks with this knowledge in mind. Everything will take a little longer, as your baby goes through this unpredictable (but temporary) stage. Some days she may need you constantly. But don't worry -- when you've finally reached the end of your rope with your little Clingon, she'll start to feel "refueled", and venture out again -- allowing you to catch up on that laundry and email. And make sure you get some help with nighttime wakenings -- you'll need extra rest too, since you're up again with a fussy baby -- but don't forget to reinforce the sleep routines that have worked well in the past. She'll eventually remember what her job is, at night -- and now that her memory is better, she can hold on to her internal image of you a bit longer, giving her some comfort, despite being away from you to sleep. Feel some reassurance knowing that the earlier -- and stronger -- your baby shows separation anxiety, the sooner it resolves. Lots of parental support and understanding help her get through this challenging -- but remarkable -- stage.

Dr. Campos was generous and encouraging in my BabyShrink book-writing project, and I had a blast geeking out with him, picking his brain about the amazing new developmental capacities in normal 9-month-old babies. What a great experience! Now, please excuse me -- I've got a 9-month-old baby clinging to my leg.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

"Sleep Training": Some Theoretical Background for Parents

It's so hard to walk away from that face! Reader JD was asking me for some specifics on sleep training, and I fought off the urge to give you another list of "How-To's". Your baby is much more complicated than a quick "Baby's Sleep Checklist", so here are some thoughts to ponder while you are up with your little screamer tonight, courtesy of one of my faves, Selma Fraiberg:

Regarding 9-12 month old babies:

We understand that the older infant finds it painful to be separated from beloved persons. We grant him the right to protest. At the same time this pain, this discomfort, is something he can learn to tolerate if it is not excessive. We need to help him manage small amounts of discomfort and frustration. If we are too quick to offer our reassuring presence, he doesn't need to develop his own tolerance. How do we know how much he can tolerate? By testing a bit of the limits of his tolerance as they become known to us. The point at which protesting and complaining crying turn into an urgent or terrified summons is the point where most of us would feel he needs us and we would go to him. This is real anxiety and he needs our reassurance. But we need not regard all crying of the older infant and young child as being of the same order. At this age, in contrast to the period of early infancy, the baby can manage small amounts of anxiety or discomforts by himself....As far as possible we should try to reassure the child in his own bed. Picking him up, rocking him, is usually not necessary and seems indicated only when the baby is unusually distressed by anxiety or illness.

From The Magic Years, pages 74-75.

If you like Selma, Click on "The Quotable Parent" down and to the right for more juicy tidbits, or just buy the paperback -- I promise it will end up heavily read, re-read, mashed and dog-eared, like mine. I'm clinging tightly to Selma these days (and nights), as Baby #4 has proved to be exceptionally gifted in protesting loudly, and waking up her siblings. But we are making progress, and so will you. Hang in there!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Sleep & Nap Issues: How To Cope While Sleep Training Your Baby

We're doing our own version of Sleep Training around here, since baby #4 has proven to be immensely resistant -- and LOUD -- in our efforts to help her sleep through even a decent portion of the night. Adorable as she is, she's the most rotten sleeper I've yet produced. Tough Love is in order. Sure, she sleeps OK in the stroller.

But Tough Love is rough on me -- and on the family. A fussing (or screaming) baby feels like a constant reminder of some kind of parental inadequacy, and is really grating on the nerves. Not to mention the fact that it often happens at ridiculous hours of the night when most other babies are surely sleeping soundly. And forget sleep for poor mom. I'm a zombie.

But persist I must. I won't give in to an 18-pound 8-month old, no matter how cute she is (in the daytime, at least). It will be worth it in the end.

Here are my tips for getting through this rough time, if you're going through Sleep Training:

Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. There's nothing worse than arguing about sleep training techniques at 2 am, standing outside the door of a screaming baby. Agree ahead of time -- or don't attempt it.

Prepare the older kids for nighttime noise. I tell my lightest sleeper that he may hear the baby fussing at night. "But you're a big boy and can roll over and go to sleep. Soon we'll all get better sleep."

Use a little reverse psychology on yourself. (You're so sleep deprived it just might work!) Instead of preparing for a night of sleep, prepare for a night of watching "guilty pleasure" TV, listening to great music from your (childless) past, or even folding laundry. Fooling yourself into thinking you don't really need to sleep somehow makes it less painful to be up at weird hours.

Take a deep breath, have a zen moment, do some mindfulness meditation, yoga, or pray -- pick your version of expressing gratitude and relaxation. Having a non-sleeping, screaming baby at 2 am is really hard. But in the scope of things, not really that big of a deal. A few moments recalling the years when we feared we couldn't get pregnant, or thinking of friends who have a baby who's quite ill, and others who have God forbid lost a child, and I'm ready to get through another tough night of sleep training. Having a healthy, happy, non-sleeping baby is a high-class problem we're blessed to have, quite honestly.

I've written other posts about getting through the sleep deprivation aspect of this, but let me also mention our friend caffeine here. Don't overdo it. At my peak, I have a mug of java in the morning, some iced tea at lunch, and another cup of coffee around 2. That's 3 servings a day. Any more and I get frazzled and nutty -- and no more awake than if I had stayed with the 3 servings. Studies say that some coffee is fine for most of us, but too much will definitely make you feel worse.

Sleep Training eventually works -- I'm writing this now as the baby sleeps nicely in her crib. Get through the rough nights and I promise things will improve!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Child Development: Is It Okay That My Baby Walks But Never Crawls?

Dear Dr. Heather, Our 8 month old son seems to be skipping the crawling phase altogether and learning to cruise and walk straightaway. Today someone told me that this means he’ll have learning disabilities later; is this true?Baby walking but never crawling, any learning disability worry?

Thanks!

A Concerned Dad

Dear "Concerned",

That's an old wives tale, but one that many people still believe. Here's the deal: if he's not working on locomotion -- in some form or another -- at this age, it could be reflective of some underlying issue. But ANY of the goofy forms of locomotion exhibited by babies at this age counts as "normal locomotion" -- the "Commando Crawl", the "Tushie-Scoot", the "One-Kneed Creep", and of course regular cruising and walking. Apparently the Back-To-Sleep campaign has resulted in an increase in babies who skip crawling, as they don't get as much practice on their tummies. But getting mobile is the important thing.

Look at it this way: crawling is a drag. Walking is a lot more fun --and a lot less gross -- for parents (Think: less opportunity to find and eat yucky stuff off the floor!). Plus you'll save tons on Spray 'n Wash since his knees won't be dragging through the dirt all the time. And for you parents of girls -- rejoice! You can finally bust out the pretty dresses! (There's nothing more frustrating to a crawling baby than having a dress get caught up underneath her over and over!)

We look for some form of mobility -- attempts to crawl, scoot or walk -- by about 10 months, but this isn't a hard and fast rule. Your pediatrician can do a quick review of your baby's developmental progress if you're worried.

Enjoy -- and double-check your baby-proofing. This phase begins the wild time of The Mobile Baby With No Self-Protection Mechanisms! You'll be running around after him very closely for the next year or so!

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Toddler Behavior: The Fabulous Fraiberg #1 - Child Development Problems

Selma Fraiberg wrote this classic on early childhood fifty years ago. My own thinking is based largely on her work, and I literally sleep with this on my bedside table for parenting comfort after a hard day with the kids. One of the problems with parenting advice today is that it's a "one size fits all" approach that doesn't take the child's specific developmental stage -- or temperament -- into account. Fraiberg explained this in the juicy little quote I've included below. Here's a sampler from the book's preface:

If we understand the process of child development, we see that each developmental stage brings with it characteristic problems. The parents' method of helping the child must take into account the child's own development and his mental equipment at any given stage. This means that there is very little point in speaking categorically about "childhood anxieties" or "discipline problems in childhood". The anxieties of the two year old are not the same as the anxieties of the five year old. Even if the same crocodile hides under the bed of one small boy between the ages of two and five, the crocodile of the two year old is not the same as the crocodile of the five year old -- from the psychological point of view. He's had a chance to grow with the boy and is a lot more complex after three years under the bed than he was the day he first moved in. Furthermore, what you do about the crocodile when the boy is two is not the same as what you do about him when the boy is five."

From the classic "The Magic Years", by Selma Fraiberg: page xvii.

Here at BabyShrink, I take Fraiberg a step farther. We look at problems with parenting babies, toddlers and preschoolers, and break the developmental stages down even more specifically. So the feeding problems of the 3-month-old are completely different than the feeding problems of the 9-month-old or of the two-year-old.

I don't do any affiliate links in any way from this site, so believe it when I say the 10 bucks you spend on this gem at amazon (or wherever) will be worth way more than that in parenting clarity. Enjoy!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Sleep & Nap Issues: A Noisy House = A Sleeping Baby?

When our first was born, I was determined to eliminate any possible source of noise inside (and outside) the house in hopes of bettering my baby's sleep. I neurotically tiptoed around, turned off the phones, waited on chores that made noise, and considered complaining to the County for allowing leaf-blowers in my neighborhood. Guess what? Nothing worked. The baby slept as she was going to sleep (not very well) no matter what. As I kept having babies, the ability to even try to maintain a quiet home was beaten out of me. It simply wasn't possible. And guess what? The babies still slept as they were going to sleep (still, mostly not very well). But slowly, it dawned on me that the normal, medium-noise level of the house not only didn't seem to worsen the baby's sleep...it improved it. Turns out, babies are used to a ton of noise in-utero. The mother's body -- and the typical household -- make it fairly raucous in there. So don't worry about a little noise -- in fact, noise machines, fans, and radios turned down low have all been found to encourage a good snooze.

I have found that a sudden CHANGE in the noise level of the house can disturb sleep; for instance, a generally noisy house turned quiet all of a sudden is just as likely to wake the baby as is the big roar of the garbage truck outside her window. But all in all, the baby will get used to the noise level in your house, and eventually allow you to sleep (a bit) too. So don't make yourself nuts trying to shush the other kids (and your entire neighborhood). Just breathe deeply, and try to grab a nap!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Parenting Tips: How To Leave Your Baby For The First Time

I get a weird, quivery feeling in my stomach when I think back to the time, 8 years ago, when I first left our first child in the care of a sitter. That sitter, Keri, has gone on to become a part of the family -- a central figure in our lives and the reason I can function on a daily basis. But on that day, I had horrendous visions of the damage that would be done to my daughter. How could anyone care for her as well as I? I had to force myself away from them -- Keri holding my daughter's arm up to wave "bye bye" as I drove away. I cried on my way to the meeting I had to attend. It's harder on us than it is on them

Of course, all went very well that day, and for all these years since. But that day ranks up there with one of the most difficult things I've ever done. Here are some tips for those of you facing that fateful day:

Ease Into It Slowly

You and your baby will adjust more smoothly if you plan to be away for progressively longer periods of time. Start out slow: figure out the least amount of time that you'll be able to handle being away, even if it's just for a few minutes. Arrange to have the sitter come anyway, and explain to her that you'll be coming and going as you all adjust to the new arrangements. Or if you're leaving her at daycare, work out a "transition" time with the teacher so that you can come and hang out for awhile at drop-off and pick-up times, helping your baby (and you) to adjust. Eventually build up to the length of time you'll usually be away. For some, this may take days -- or weeks. That's OK.

It May Be Harder For You Than It Will Be For Your Baby

Regardless of baby's age, talk to her about your plans to leave in advance. Even if she doesn't understand your words, the tone of your message will sink in. It will also be therapeutic for you to talk about it. Up until about 5 or 6 months, your baby will be pretty cool with you being away for awhile. Older babies and toddlers will need more "practicing" in advance, but for most, their protests will only last a few minutes at most after you leave. A good sitter will have a plan to distract her quickly after you've gone. Have the sitter call you when the baby calms down -- you'll feel much better.

Know That You'll Feel Like A Part Of Your Body Is Being Removed

You're supposed to feel that way -- Mother Nature makes sure of that. Know it in advance and make plans to deal with the feelings: Call an understanding friend after you leave, and make plans for a fun thing you haven't been able to do because of the baby. But don't let the feelings keep you from getting the sitter in the first place.

Each Time It Will Get Easier

As long as your sitter is good, you'll feel better and better each time you leave. And then you'll start to feel a developing sense of relief and gratitude that you don't have to do it all yourself. You have help now! HOORAY!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Child Development: Advice For Diaper-Changing Struggles

Chasing a toddler around is exhausting. The last thing you need is to get into a wrestling match with a poopy diaper and a flailing child. Here are some tricks to try (that also work with wriggly babies, 5 or 6 months and older, too):

Give a warning: When the stink-bomb hits, let your toddler know that he'll be getting cleaned up in a few minutes. Advance warnings help with transitions.

Time it right: Don't interrupt your toddler's flow of play if you can help it. Deal with the stinky diaper when there's a pause in the action.

Have a special basket of "Diaper Changing Only" toys that are normally forbidden: We have an old remote (with the batteries removed), a broken watch, a semi-functioning bright orange solar calculator, and various interesting items that normally wouldn't be allowed (like small cardboard boxes and other unusual things). Of course, safety is the number one concern. But since you're right there for those few minutes, you can monitor. When you're done, the toy goes back into the basket for the next diaper change.

As with all Toddler Power and Control Issues, parents need to assume -- and exude -- a calm sense of flexible authority. You're in control: Don't beg or plead for cooperation -- quietly assume you'll get it (and more often, you will).

Happy changing!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

updated 11/30/2010

Baby Behavior Problems: Tips For Helping Your Baby Eat Baby Food

Dear Dr. Heather, My baby won't eat his baby food. His doctor says he's ready, but he's just not interested.

He takes a couple of bites here and there, but would really rather drink his milk. I'm starting to panic since the other babies in his playgroup are trying all sorts of baby food and really progressing. Not my guy. The doctor says he's healthy so I try not to worry, but do you have any suggestions?

Thanks, Carla

I'm going through the same thing that reader Carla asks about: A baby who is lukewarm, at best, about eating baby food. Carla's son is 7 months old, and mine is 6 months. As parents, we're genetically wired to FEED OUR CHILDREN.

Some babies just don't like baby food

They must eat to grow, right? So, what if they won't eat? Here are some tips for parents like me whose babies would rather play than eat:

Babies Vary Widely and Can Still Be Normal

We're used to our babies marching along in lock-step with their baby peers on the magic developmental continuum. But this is where babies start to diverge. Some are huge eaters from the get-go (I had two of those), and some eat like little birdies (got two of those too). Think of adults (or even big kids): Some pack it away, others seem to subsist on air. When our first baby (a non-eater) dropped on her weight curve late in her first year, I started panicking. But her pediatrician pointed out that "some kids are slender. Be happy, she's healthy." He also pointed out that she still had enough cute baby chub to make baby dimples on her knees, despite her skinniness. She's now a skinny (and healthy) 9-year-old who still barely eats, some days. But our second kid ate so much that first year that my life seemed to revolve around procuring, preparing, and providing food to him. As a 10-month-old, one of his meals (of which there were FIVE per day) consisted of: half a block (and I mean half of the whole pack) of tofu, half an avocado, one cup of cheerios, and 6 ounces of milk. Of course, as always, check your baby's weight and eating habits out with your pediatrician.

It's a Learning Curve (for Some)

For some (like my second), eating is EASY. They know what to do immediately and do it with vigor. For others, it's a slow process that takes weeks (or months) of introductions, playing, experimentation, smearing, blowing raspberries (wonderful, trying to scrape solidified baby oatmeal off your jeans!) and basically NOT eating, before any food is consumed. Our first had this weird habit of sucking the "juice" out of any food, then spitting out the rest. This went on for months. She also really just preferred her milk. So although it's tiring to prepare yet another meal that you suspect won't be eaten, keep soldiering on, and don't let it get to you. This is a learning process that will set the tone for other parenting issues later on. Just breathe deeply and try not to worry about it as you dump yet another uneaten meal down the drain!

When to Ask for Help

Luckily, well-baby checkups are frequent during the first year of life, so you'll have ample opportunity to discuss any concerns with your pediatrician. If there's a concern, you can be referred to your local "Feeding Team", a group of clinicians who work with babies and these challenges at many children's hospitals. They are awesome specialists who can help. Barring any medical concern, you can feel comfortable that a slow, steady, and patient approach will win the day. Remember: You can't force your baby to eat, sleep, or poop. It's a process of learning and support that helps guide their development -- but a process that ultimately has to be driven by BABY, not eager parents like us.

Good luck, and happy eating (eventually).

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Sleep & Nap Issues: Got a New Baby? How to Manage The Sleep Deprivation

Boy, am I tired. You'd think I'd get used to the lack of sleep by now -- this is our fourth child, after all. But the crushing effects of sleep deprivation continue to be the hardest part of parenting, for me. I could change diapers and nurse and even chase toddlers all day long, if I could just GET SOME SLEEP. But this baby is just like her siblings, and she sleeps sporadically at best. At 4 months of age, she sometimes awakens once or twice at night -- but more often three or four times -- to nurse and be comforted. I've got 3 other kids, a day job, and you, dear reader, to keep me more than busy. I'm tired. IMG00341

When I had our first child, I had secret visions of the wonderful sleep-inducer that I'd be. "Babies need sleep, and so do parents. I'll get the baby to sleep." Somehow, I thought I could use my super-shrink powers to calm, soothe, or hypnotize her to sleep.

I was wrong. Our first didn't sleep reliably through the night until she was four. FOUR!

Since psych grad school, oddly, is completely unhelpful in the preparation for parenthood, I sought out and read every single "Baby Sleep" book out there. All the major titles. I tried everything, religiously. Didn't work.

And in the process, I got more and more sleep deprived myself.

There's not much recognition out there that parents' sleep deprivation often goes on for a really long time, and despite how difficult that is, it's actually quite normal and typical for a baby to be up a lot at night for several months, and even beyond. I was doing some research for this post and I found something really annoying -- most articles only address the FIRST MONTH of how to survive with a newborn. The implication is that things really improve in the sleep department after that first month of your baby's life. AS IF! In the first month, you're getting by on adrenaline, grandma's help, and that extra sympathy and interest everyone still has in the new baby. It actually gets WORSE after that first month; you lose most of those extra perks, the baby STILL doesn't sleep very well, and you're slowly but surely losing your mind from the accumulated lack of sleep.

And of course there ARE some babies who sleep beautifully from very early on. (But parents of THOSE babies aren't reading this post, are they?) It makes those of us with crummy sleepers feel there must be something wrong with my baby; or, there must be something wrong with my parenting. The urge to compare our babies to other babies is just too tempting. Not recommended, but hard to avoid.

When Your Baby Starts to Sleep Better...and then Regresses It's also easy to worry that "something is wrong" when your baby seems to be sleeping better....then all of a sudden is back to waking several times a night. Please know that regression is normal in many developmental areas, especially in early childhood. Sleep is no exception. My second-born slept a good NINE hour stretch from the age of 9 weeks until the age of five months. Then he started trying to roll over, and he roused himself several times a night with his new-found pursuit. After prematurely congratulating myself that we finally had a decent little sleeper, I just about lost it when he regressed back to waking several times each night again. Just as you get used to being up all night with a newborn, you also quickly get used to regular sleep again. And when your baby regresses and you have to go BACK AGAIN to being up and down all night, it somehow feels WORSE than when you were used to it before. "Of Course, MY Baby Sleeps Through the Night!" Another thing that happens is that we compare our experiences to other parents'. That's a mistake, because PARENTS LIE. Not all parents, but enough of them DO get caught up in the game of comparing kids that you end up getting some pretty skewed information. And for some reason, the misinformation also comes from other parenting "resources", which are often misleading. Even most pediatricians have little sympathy for our sleep deprivation. After all, most of these doctors take overnight call and had to be awake for their residency training for a couple of days at a time for years, so sleep deprivation is a relative term for them. And when your pediatrician says you can expect your baby to "sleep through the night" at 12 weeks of age, guess what she means? Sleeping a 6-hour stretch (sometimes, at least), is considered "normal". But in my book, that's not sleeping through the night, especially when most babies that age want to go down for the night at around 7 or 8 pm. By the time YOU get to bed, the nighttime rounds are just beginning.

The WORST advice you get is to "sleep when the baby sleeps". Well, DUH. But it's not that easy, is it? Babies' sleep cycles can sometimes be so unpredictable that they have their best stretch of sleep smack in the middle of the day, when you need to shop, cook, do stuff with your other kids, and otherwise live your life. Waking up every hour or two in the middle of the night is often more the reality for many young babies.

And I don't know about you, but it's impossible for me to sleep "on command". OK, baby's asleep now, ready, get set...SLEEP! It doesn't happen that way, does it? There are biochemical reasons for that. Once we're awake for far too long, or we're awakened one too many times at night, our bodies start to produce hormones to keep us awake. That's when you get that hyper, wired, "I-know-I-should-be-sleepy-but-I'm-wide-awake!" feeling at 3 am.

You might think that I'm going to give you some fabulous secrets for getting your baby to sleep. Sorry, folks -- sleep is one of the things you can't "make" your child do -- along with other bodily functions like eating and pooping. And if I had found the holy grail of making a baby sleep through the night, I would be a very rich Baby Shrink indeed. The truth is, nobody's done that. But I have come up with some tips, over the years, from both my experience as a shrink and as a mom, for how to SURVIVE the sleep deprivation that most of us experience with babies:

How to Survive Baby-Induced Sleep-Deprivation In order to be safe behind the wheel of a car and to keep your body (and mind) relatively healthy, you MUST get at least adequate sleep a couple of times a week. Consider this a Doctor's Order: GET HELP so that you can at least 1) sleep in at least 2 mornings a week, complete with eye shade and ear plugs so that you don't feel like you're "listening" for the baby, and 2) get at least a 90 minute break most afternoons when you can lie down and rest (and hopefully sleep). If you're a first-timer, it might not be easy to trust anybody to care for your Babe, even if you're eyes are crossing from lack of sleep. But you MUST force yourself allow a trusted person to help you. Not easy to arrange? I know. Essential for your health and well-being? YES.

Get some exercise -- preferably outside -- for at least a few minutes each day. I know it feels impossible when you're wiped out, but there really is a magical effect in taking even a few minutes' brisk walk. Getting outside in the sun will also help to re-set your circadian rhythms, which are being hammered by your 24/7 schedule. I promise, you'll feel better. You might also be able to sleep better when you get an opportunity later on.

Learn meditation and breathing techniques to calm the stress hormones that keep you awake when you should be sleeping. Any "mindfulness", prayer, yoga, or other meditative technique that focuses on breathing will work. If you feel hyper and over-tired, even TEN SECONDS of mindful breathing will help you slow down and feel better. But do strive for 15 minutes a day in order to get your stress hormones under control. This will help you to sleep better when you DO have a chance.

Don't obsess over how little sleep you're getting. Believe me, I've been there -- staring at the digital numbers on my bedside clock, getting madder by the minute about yet another night of lousy sleep, up and down with the baby. The less sleep you get, the more upset you become, and a vicious cycle begins. Don't obsess about it. Let it go. Tell yourself: Oh well, another late night. This is something I can look back on later in life and laugh about. I know I feel beyond exhausted right now, but this too will pass. And if you can't sleep, then read or watch TV. Just give yourself a break about it.

Don't compare the amount of sleep you're getting now to how much sleep you USED to get or need. I know you used to sleep in until noon, and you couldn't function with less than 8 hours before this, yadda yadda. But your body has changed -- you're a parent now, and things ARE different. Yes, your body needs sleep, but you're also pretty good at adapting to less sleep -- at least for the short term. It feels impossible to "roll with it", but that's what you've got to do.

Don't be afraid of the "Cry It Out" method for your baby -- once she's old enough. I think you can safely start that at about 9 months of age for most babies -- after they have sufficiently developed the memory skills to remember that you'll be coming back eventually, despite being left to cry (and sleep). Before then, you can (of course, with your pediatrician's blessing), allow baby to fuss, grunt and make noise before rushing to get her; many babies are NOISY sleepers (another reason for them to sleep in their own rooms), and don't actually need to be picked up. Try to learn the difference between "grunty-noisy-baby-sleep" noises and actual "come feed or comfort me" noises.

And finally, try to adopt a bit of a Zen attitude about all of this. Because your crushing sense of exhaustion will quickly dissipate one day, sooner or later, as your baby naturally develops a better capacity to sleep at night. Then you'll be on to the next parenting challenge. So pace yourself. Our oldest is almost 9 and I still almost cry in relief as I check in on her, in a deep sleep, late at night. How can they grow this fast? (Cue the music to "Sunrise, Sunset".) Is this the baby that so challenged my sense of order in the world, simply because she wasn't a great sleeper for the first few years of her life? And here she is, a beautiful, intelligent, happy third grader, reliably sleeping from 8 pm to 7 am every day. Development is a magical thing, people. We parents can only provide love, structure, safety, support and guidance to shape these fabulous creatures that are our children, while the amazing processes of "growing up" happen before our (sleep deprived) eyes. We can't "make" them sleep, but we can't "make" them roll over, sit, stand, speak, and run, either. So step back for a minute to bask in the miraculous glow of your child's growth and development. It's a beautiful thing! I hope this helped. And now, please excuse me while I try to get some sleep!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Here's another post on babies and the normal range of their sleep patterns.

Developmental Issues: Is Your Young Baby Showing Signs of Autism?

Hi Dr. Heather, I came across your website when doing a search for signs of autism in infants. Our 3-month-old doesn't look at us very much, doesn't track objects across the midline well, and doesn't often respond to our voice. He stares at the wall or just beyond us pretty much anytime we hold him in our lap looking up at us. He is very calm and mellow, and only cries when he is tired or hungry. He would sit in his bouncer or swing all day if we let him. We also have a 3-year-old very active boy with sensory processing problems so I know our baby doesn't get as much attention as i would like to give him. We know he is way too young for any of these signs to be a definitive answer, but I am having a hard time finding information on what we can do preventatively as we observe him over time. There is a program in our city, but other than that, everything I find is geared towards 18 months to 2 years, since that is the time that it is easier to see more clear signs. Can you help?

Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

I'm so glad you are aware of this crucial aspect of your baby's cognitive development. I think most parents would be happy to have a "mellow and easy" baby who would happily sit in his bouncer all day. But you recognize that he might not be reaching out to you for the important "give and take" and communication that he needs to trigger important aspects of his development. He needs to engage with you and play "Baby Games" in order to solidify his relationship with you, which forms the foundation of his cognitive growth. What to do?

I understand that you want to be as proactive as possible, given your experience with your older son. And while there is a possibility that your baby may suffer some similar developmental issues, it's also quite possible that everything you describe is well within the norm for typical development. First of all, try not to over-worry, but maintain the watchful engagement that led you to research your concerns. Your baby can pick up your fears and anxieties, and this can push him to be even more distant. There is some interesting psychological discussion and observation going on about this very basic "give and take" in the parent/infant interaction, and in the ability of a baby to pick up on his parents' feelings. When a very anxious parent reaches out to a baby in a way that seems desperate or demanding, the infant can sometimes seem to feel pressured, and retreat even more. So, as with many aspects of parenting, containing and managing your own feelings is Job One.

That said, there are many things that ALL parents can -- and should -- be doing to maximize this incredibly important time in a baby's development:

Carefully watch your baby's sleep/wake/activity schedule for clues as to when he is most likely to be responsive to parent interaction. Sometimes he'll be fussy, or seem overstimulated by your efforts. Other times he may be more receptive. Often, these receptive times are shortly after waking from a nap and having a feed. But you are your baby's best expert; try to figure out when he's most approachable.

Then, make a conscious effort to play "Baby Games" during these times of approachability. Try to match his energy level and catch his gaze. Follow his lead; if he coos and looks away, try to respond in kind. You want to reinforce any efforts on his part, even brief eye contact that might be just 1 or 2 seconds long. Each baby is different; perhaps your baby is more auditory and responds well to your cooing back, other babies might be better reinforced by a brief touch to the face or hand, or from a big returned smile. Experiment, and see which response generates another round of interaction from your baby.

Don't give up if your baby continues to avert his gaze. Take a deep breath if you start to worry, and try to be as available as you can for "Baby Games". Give him time and keep trying.

Jennifer, I have a 3-month old too. Although she does engage in periodic eye contact, coos and smiles, she is much more reserved than her siblings were at this stage. At first I also worried about her relative lack of eye contact and her willingness to hang out in her crib for long periods of time. I can't help but think that the noise and chaos of our busy household causes her to be a bit more protective in her interactions; there's a lot for a little baby to absorb in this household! But her Daddy and I have been engaged in the exactly these exercises with our little one, and I can see the difference in just a couple of weeks of consciously trying to engage with her.

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton has some excellent suggestions for engaging a baby who might have sensory issues or sensitivities. Use your parents' detective skills to determine WHICH senses your baby tolerates -- and DOESN'T tolerate -- very easily. Use this information to "fine tune" your interactions with him. For instance, our baby seems to respond longer to us, and with more smiles, when I'm quiet. Responding both with my facial expressions AND my voice seems to be too much for her, and she turns away. But if I keep focused on giving her a big returned smile, maintain eye contact, and maybe even stroke her hand or her cheek, she's much more likely to stay engaged in our "Baby Game" than if I coo or talk back to her. Eventually, she'll develop the ability to tolerate my voice as well. But until then, I'll hold back a bit. Experiment with using different modes of communication with your baby and maximize what works.

I also double-checked on the expected timeframe of infant response to parents' voices, and most authorities agree that this isn't regularly observed in most infants until 4 months. Our baby is 14 weeks, and only in the past few days has she started responding to our voices on a somewhat-regular basis.

Now, I'm not able to evaluate your little one, but there are many things you can do to maximize this important aspect to your son's development. Over time, you can judge his progress and if you're not satisfied, have him evaluated by the program you mentioned in your city. If they're not yet able to enroll him due to his young age, perhaps their specialists can take a quick look at your son and make some further suggestions to you. I'm a firm believer in erring on the side of having a child evaluated early, not only for reassurance of an expert opinion, but for the often very helpful recommendations that the specialists can give you, even if there's nothing really atypical with your child.

And I can't stress this enough: At 3 months of age, you should be aiming for interactions measured in SECONDS, not minutes. Feel good if you generate a few "rounds" of interaction between you and your baby at this age. Over time, you'll both want to stretch these interactions to last longer and become more complex. But at 3 months of age, your baby is still very young and new to the world of interaction. A 3-month-old is only recently "hatched" -- our psychological term for the opening of awareness that marks the end of the "squirrelly newborn" phase. So manage your expectations accordingly.

Jennifer, thanks for the opportunity to write about this extremely important topic. I hope you'll write back to update us on your progress!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Sleep & Nap Issues: Understanding Your Baby's Sleep And Wake Cycle: A Recipe For Sanity

Having a new baby throws all semblance of a household schedule into chaos. Your little interloper has demands around the clock, and as YOUR ability to sleep decreases, your feelings of insanity increase! Sleep deprivation is really one of the most difficult parts of being a new parent. You can't really blame the baby; he's obeying his internal needs and commands, which don't yet follow a nice, predictable pattern. Or do they? Believe it or not, you CAN make some sense of your baby's sleep/wake/activity cycle. Most babies generally cycle through the following phases:

1) Sleep 2) Hunger/awakening 3) Feeding 4) Alertness 5) Fussiness 6) Sleep

Very young babies may be in each phase for only a few minutes each, gradually lengthening the time spent in each phase as they get older. And of course there are variations on the above cycle; for instance, some babies like to feed again, for comfort, before they go to sleep. But most babies WILL have even some very basic, cyclical pattern that they follow around the clock, even from the earliest age. And as your baby gets older, his tendency to develop a more predictable pattern will become more obvious to you (as long as you look carefully for clues to his own unique cycle). Become a parental detective, and you'll learn a lot about your new little one.

It helps to know where your baby is in the cycle at any given time, so that you can know what to expect from him now, and in the near future. For instance, if your baby is at the tail end of a nap, it might not be a good idea to plunk him in his carseat for a long ride; he'll likely awaken with a powerful hunger, and you won't be able to feed him easily. It makes more sense to let him awaken and then feed him before you leave. Understanding where he is in the cycle also helps you know when you can expect to interact with him most productively (and have the most fun with him!) I know our new baby will awaken from her longest stretch of sleep in the morning, feeling good and ready to "play". I try to schedule my day so that I can linger with her while she coos and smiles at me from her favorite perch; the changing table, in the morning. We have fun, sweet little "conversations" that are both fun AND important to the development of her little brain. But at the tail end of her period of alertness always comes the fussiness, and I know we can wind down our playtime, as I start to rotate among her favorite soothing techniques. (At 7 weeks of age, it's anyone's guess what will soothe her at any particular moment; sometimes it's her Daddy's "Heismann Hold", sometimes it's her binky and bouncy seat, her swing, or a ride in the stroller).

Getting to know your child starts at even this very earliest of ages. You'll find, over time, that the general patterns you observe about her sleep/wake cycle eventually extend into her personality tendencies and temperament. This will help you over time to meet your child's unique parenting needs. Have fun -- and try to get some sleep!

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink