Sleep & Nap Issues: I Need Help Transitioning My Toddler From A Bed To A Crib

At first, Attachment Parenting sounds really good. Responding to the baby's needs, keeping her close for skin-to-skin contact, letting her learn independence at HER pace. I get it. I live on Maui, people -- this is Attachment Parenting Central.

Or maybe you just accidentally fell into having baby sleep in your bed. Lots of babies don't sleep well in the first year, and we're so tired that we're willing to do anything to get a little rest. Plus, it really can be dee-lish to snooze with that little sweetie right there.

But eventually, your little baby grows -- into a toddler. And realizes that she can 1) keep herself awake on demand, 2) insist on nursing constantly through the night, and 3) crawl, climb and play all over Mom and Dad, who are trying (in vain) to sleep.

So I get a lot of desperate emails from readers like Amy who are re-thinking the Attachment Parenting thing. Maybe not the WHOLE thing, but the "not getting any sleep at night after umpteen months" thing. Is it possible to transition a toddler OUT of your bed, and INTO her own crib? (Or is a toddler bed in your room better?)

This is such a complicated situation that I'm devoting an entire chapter in my book to it. But until that's available, here are some things to consider:

  • Toddlers don't associate cribs with "jails" or "cages", as some might suggest. That's an adult projection. Toddlers feel relieved to have a safe, cozy, predictable place of their own to retreat to, after a long day toddling, climbing, and falling.
  • Letting a toddler have free access to your room (or the whole house) at night while co-sleeping (or sleeping in a toddler bed in your room) is enough to cause most parents to sleep with "one eye open". Too much freedom, not enough sleep -- and maybe not safe, I say.
  • Parents who aren't getting much sleep after many, many months risk SERIOUS health consequences (think: life and death), plus the obvious negative impact on the relationship. Parents need some sleep to stay healthy and sane -- plus their own time -- together -- to be "on the same page" and have a strong relationship. Even babies and toddlers can absorb -- and accept -- this message.

But how to do it? This depends on your family's needs, the setup of your home, and your kiddo's temperament. If you're struggling with this, let me know. We can problem-solve in the comments section.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert Sign up for my Newsletter and Follow Me:

Video: Giving Birth & The Human Birth Process

The most obvious of miracles are the ones right in front of us. Having a baby -- producing a person--  is a mind-blowing process. Just think of how many things in the delicate, microscopic machinery of the human body must go RIGHT for a baby to be born. But it's easy get lost in the daily drudgery of life. We fail to appreciate the beauty of what our bodies have done. So check this out: a 9 minute Ted Weekends video post that shows -- in incredible detail -- the journey our baby goes through to become a person.  The next time fussy toddlers, crabby bosses, or terrible traffic get me down, I try to remember this video. From a single cell to trillions in just 9 months, it's a miracle that dwarfs life's little annoyances.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

"Crying It Out": Acceptable -- or Abuse?

One of the most primitive, innate reactions any mom has is to comfort her crying child. But as we've talked about here before, many babies can tolerate -- and thrive -- with some crying, when their parents thoughtfully decide why and when that might be necessary.

That's why articles like this leave me mystified -- especially when they come from one of my shrink colleagues.  Her bottom line is that CIO is dangerous. She trots out all the old arguments, hailing the Dr. Sears "science" behind her claims, and providing one of the most common misinterpretations of infant research. She makes the mistake that clinical research findings about abused and maltreated babies -- babies who were pervasively denied their needs over the long-term -- should be applied to NORMAL babies in NORMAL families.

The fact is, there is no evidence whatsoever that occasional CIO in typically developing babies causes any damage. PERIOD.

More importantly, there IS evidence that severely sleep-deprived mothers are at much higher risk of developing an already common --and dangerous -- condition: postpartum depression. And PPD certainly CAN lead to long-term damage to both baby -- and the entire family. CIO is a method that, when implemented thoughtfully, can often lead to improved sleep (and health and happiness) for everyone.

Firebombs like those thrown in the Psychology Today article only make the burden heavier on moms. What a shame.

Aloha as always,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

PS: Wow, what a response! After commenting here, please also see the comments developing over at the Fussy Baby Site.

Toddler Behavior: Louise Bates Ames Writes About Your One-Year-Old

I'm reading every parenting book ever written on an obsessive quest to find helpful nuggets and insights to include in my first BabyShrink book. Those of you who know me know that I think much of what's available these days is garbage. Junk. Not practical. Not worth the money.

But once in awhile, I find a gem. Most of these gems are "oldies but goodies" -- dated, in some ways, but true and superb in the way that classics always are.

Louise Bates Ames, PhD, wrote a whole series of parenting books over 30 years ago, with a new book for each year of life. I've read most of them, but so far, this is my favorite. It might have to do with the fact that I have a particularly spicy 1-year-old in the house (thankfully NAPPING, at the moment -- something I don't take for granted with her).

Ames doesn't take 12-24 months for granted, like so many other parenting writers. Ames contends that, in fact, this is one of the trickiest ages to parent -- and I fully agree. In this book, she explains why -- and gives the simplest, sweetest, most effective suggestions I've ever read on how to contend with your newbie toddler.

Enjoy.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

BabyGeek: Chronic Stress In Children

I recently wrote about amazing findings showing that stress in early life actually causes DNA damage. Researchers at Duke have taken the next step, finding the exact receptor that is disabled by chronic stress, resulting in genetic damage.

This adds strength to what I believe about making sure our kids are brought up in Good Enough environments: We already know that a LITTLE bit of stress is a good thing. It toughens us up and helps us learn new lessons. But too much stress, over a long period of time, is a bad thing.  That's why children brought up in chronically abusive or deprived environments fare so poorly. And these folks at Duke have found a glimpse into exactly how that works, on a molecular level. Cool stuff.

Their research is connected to how our cells are damaged in a variety of ways -- including by the aging process -- and I know I'm not the only 40-something parent out there hoping science will help us push the envelope of healthy life way out into the future, giving us more time with our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Do you think science will offer us a cure for stress and aging -- in our lifetimes? I hope so!

 

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.

Exciting Work -- BabyShrink's Updates

Whew, I've been busy! Make sure to check me out all month on ParentsConnect.com, the Nick Jr parenting blog. You know, "We're not perfect, we're parents." We had an awesome connection over my "Good Enough" parenting posts, and it's exciting to interact with so many of their families. It was all made possible by the fab folks at Learning Care Group -- you probably know them by their 1,000+ schools in the US, including ChildTime, Tutor Time, La Petite Academy, Montessori Unlimited, and The Children's Courtyard. I've been blogging for them on the LCG Blog Learning Together too. They have exciting plans for showing off their expertise with kids -- and they want my help. I'm honored and thrilled -- and I'll keep you posted as things develop.

I recently spent a bunch of time with the LCG folks on the mainland, creating a series of parenting videos. I'll post them here soon, and they'll also be on the LCG website. It was a wild ride, creating top-notch, scientifically-based, but accessible info for parents in the most professional, high-quality, high-tech media environment.

In the meantime, I'm expanding my Parent Coaching practice, and juggling not one, not two, but THREE kids' basketball team schedules. What the heck -- it's all good experience for my LCG writing -- they want to focus on work/life balance in the future, and my house is the perfect crucible to test out some new approaches.

Thanks for your continued support, and I hope you'll stick around to check out some of my parenting tips!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

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

Child Psychological Development: BabyShrink's Thinking Points for Parents

Lately I've been getting a lot of requests for expert comments on baby stuff: parenting mags who want info for their stories. I've got a love-hate relationship with those magazines. They recycle the same old stuff,  and aren't in-depth enough to get down into the heart of the issue. So parents are left with a handy-dandy little checklist that MIGHT work with their child (but just as likely won't) -- and they're left doubting themselves and their parenting ability (or the development of their child.) "If National Parent Mag says this should work, why doesn't it work with my child?"

Most of the writers are simply learning right along with their readers. I recently spent 20 minutes explaining to one writer why sleep cycles (and parents' approaches to sleep) should change over time. Meaning that a 3-month-old is a totally different animal than an 18-month old, and therefore, responds way differently to sleep "training". There's no quick, "one size fits all" sleep-training answer. It hadn't occurred to this writer of a major parenting mag (a parent of a toddler herself) that since the psychological needs of a young child vary over time, so must our approaches to the various issues that come up.

This has me thinking of the simple but powerful ways that parents can consider the psychological development of their babies and young children (which really is the whole point of BabyShrink). I'm working on a book on the subject, which allows me more room to explore the issue, but for the time being I'm left with the same problem that parenting mag writers have: cramming a huge subject into a limited amount of space. So what I'll do is list some "thinking points" for you to consider in your parenting, and we can discuss further as you have questions:

BabyShrink's Thinking Points For Parents:

* Your baby's psychological needs change over time. 0-6 months is about getting oriented to the world and trying to feel safe in it. 9-12 months is a whole different ball game, and leads into toddlerhood, which is different yet again (check out "annoying toddler behaviors" under my Categories below and to the right). Vary your approach as your child goes through each stage.

* Psychological development doesn't follow a straight line. There will be "regression", and there will be progress. This is normal and expected.

* The fact that your young child CAN do something doesn't mean that she WILL do it. HAVING a skill doesn't mean your child is psychologically ready to USE it. Readiness to sleep through the night, potty training, talking, and most other issues have strong psychological components  -- handling that aspect artfully, helps your child navigate the issue more completely, and with less chance of later problems.

* Your child's temperament is a major Wild Card here. What works for an "easy" baby might be worthless for your "fussy" baby. An "intense" toddler needs a totally different approach than a "shy" one.  A "bold" preschooler needs a different approach than a more "sensitive" one.

Randomly trying new parenting "solutions" can be really frustrating. Understanding the psychology of your child, and making a parenting plan based on these "Thinking Points", is the key to finding your way with your child. If you want to to know more about how psychological development affects your parenting, and how it can best be handled given the unique temperament of your child, there are lots of ways to learn more. Click around my site, Twitter me your questions @BabyShrink, comment here, or email me at BabyShrink@gmail.com for Parent Coaching.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Toddler Behavior: My Toddler Won't Sleep

Reader Allie emailed me a couple of questions about her 15-month-old Jack*.

He was an otherwise healthy boy who simply stopped sleeping a few weeks ago. After getting through a nice, regular sleep-time routine -- a routine that used to work beautifully -- Jack would fuss, play, and scream. Anything to avoid going down to sleep. This would escalate over the course of the night with Jack snoozing briefly here and there -- but only with Allie holding him. The moment she carried him to his crib, he'd pop up, wide awake. Although she wasn't a co-sleeper "type", she tried it in desperation -- and it only made matters worse. Mommy's bed was treated like a big playground by Jack.

And Jack's Dad wasn't so hip on it either. He was of the belief that "tough love" was in order (as was Jack's pediatrician), and again in desperation, Allie tried it with Jack. After three hours of crying (and barfing all over himself and his crib), Allie had enough. No "CIO" for this baby.

After weeks of this, poor Allie was totally blotto from the accumulated sleep deprivation. My emailed suggestions didn't seem to get to the heart of the problem, and so I asked for more information. Turns out that Mom and Dad were having relationship difficulties on top of everything, and they just couldn't agree on how to handle the nighttime sleep issue. They had just started couple's therapy, and although the therapist was helpful to them, there was no time to focus on the problems with Jack. Plus, the therapist wasn't a specialist in babies and young children.

I suggested a Parent Coaching session, so that I could see Allie for myself, get to know her a bit, and have some time to get into the nitty gritty of Jack's situation. We spent an hour on Skype, going over Jack's temperament and personality, as well as options Allie hadn't thought of yet. I gave her detailed information on what is "normal", sleep-wise, as well as developmentally, for a child Jack's age. This helped decrease her fear that something was really "wrong" with Jack. Also, Allie was upset that Dad wasn't seeing things exactly the same as she was. I carefully side-stepped the relationship issues, focusing on helping Allie to understand that different parental attitudes CAN WORK with children. We created a plan that both parents could agree on, with the goal of helping EVERYONE get better sleep.

The "nuts and bolts" of the plan weren't anything fancy or unusual. But the fact that we had the time to really put our heads together to make a plan -- a plan that would work for Mom, Dad, AND Jack -- made it simple, but powerfully effective. And although I'm not necessarily against CIO in every case, I knew it was off the table for this family -- so we worked out a different plan. I was excited to receive an emailed update from Allie this weekend, letting me know that Jack was back to his old good-sleeping self (and more importantly, so was SHE).

If you can relate just a little too well to Allie, you've come to the right place. I'm including a link to one of my most popular Sleep posts here, to get you started. If my sleep posts aren't enough, shoot me an email (BabyShrink@gmail.com) or hit the "Parent Coaching Packages" button up on the top of the page to complete the form. I'll be happy to chat or Skype with you, too, to help you FINALLY get some sleep!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

*Allie asked me to keep her name, and that of her child, private -- these aren't their real names. But their experiences are real.

Toddler Behavior: How To Handle Sibling Rivalry

I love it when parents say, “Our toddler is SO happy that she has a little baby brother. She seems to have accepted him totally!” Just wait.

Sibling rivalry usually doesn’t become a problem until your toddler has to contend with a mobile baby --one who gets into her stuff, pulls her hair, and otherwise competes with her in the Zone of Stardom she previously owned in the family. When that happens, all the harmony that existed in the home evaporates, replaced by screams of “MINE!”, “HE HIT ME!”, “STOP TOUCHING ME!”, and “AAAAAGGHHHHH!”

It’s pretty upsetting, to see it in action. Our fierce protectiveness of the baby kicks in, and it’s made worse by the fact that the offender ALSO belongs to you. “How COULD she? Am I raising a sociopath? What have I done wrong?” We worry.

First of all, it’s important to understand how painful it is for your toddler to have to share you with a sibling. Here’s an analogy: Your partner comes to you and says, "Honey, I love you SOOOO much that I've decided to get another partner JUST LIKE YOU -- to live with us, be taken care of by me, and to mess up all your stuff. Isn't that GREAT?!" Not really. In fact, pretty sucky. That's how your toddler feels (at least some of the time).

And yet: The sibling relationship has the potential to be profoundly important. Think about it: We have the longest relationship of our lives with our siblings. Siblings can understand each other like no one else, because of the shared, early experiences of our families of origin. For these reasons, we WANT our kids to get along.

Know this: Parenting a toddler AND a baby who are fairly close in age (anything less than 3 or 3 1/2 years apart) is really, really hard. In fact, IT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING I HAVE EVER DONE.

I’m here to give you two messages: 1) Don’t worry – it’s common and typical for toddlers, little kids, and even big kids to fight like cats and dogs. It’s a drag for parents, and not usually anything to worry about, BUT, 2) we have our work cut out for us, if we want to maximize the potential good relationship between our kids. There are lots of things we can do to make it smoother – maybe not so much now, but for the future.

That said, keep these things in mind:

• Safety, of course, is Job One. Never, EVER, leave a baby alone with your toddler (at least up to age 4), even for a second. The toddler can't help herself -- and you're not allowed to get mad at her if she starts hitting while you're not looking. She’s just too young for you to expect more.

Adopt a "matter-of-fact" attitude. In normal circumstances, your toddler isn't a sociopathic maniac, and your baby isn't a traumatized victim. Baby is tougher than you think, and Toddler is less evil than you fear.

Expect your toddler to TRY to hammer away at the baby -- it's simply human nature – but let everyone know you won’t allow her to hurt the baby. Your mission is to convey this: “I can’t let you hurt the baby. Tell me you’re mad, but hitting isn’t allowed. It looks like you’re mad because Baby got to sit next to me. Am I right?” Guide the interaction towards talking. This is the perfect crucible to grind out the issue of talking about feelings – instead of acting them out. Political correctness, manners and grace come much, much later (ages 6, 7 and beyond). In the meantime, expect to be there as protector -- and try not to get disappointed, worried, or critical of your toddler. She's just really bummed about having to share you.

Resign yourself to breaking up fights -- sometimes constantly. I know it feels like you're a referee all day sometimes, and it's easy to worry about the future implications of the sibling relationship. "Will they always attack each other like this?!" They might, for a really long time -- and that might actually be a good thing. Family is the pressure cooker of life, and siblings have the opportunity to work out lots of life's big issues together: Sharing, patience, and cooperation.

But you've got to emphasize the positive. When they DO get along -- notice, praise, and reward. "What nice sharing, you two! Wow, what a lovely time you're having together. That looks really fun." Even if it's only a brief interlude in the action, make a point of praising.

Finally, make it a point to regularly schedule “special time” with each of your kids – ideally, with each parent, separately and together – to get some time where that one kid can be the focus. Nothing fancy -- even if it’s just a trip to the market while the baby is home with grandma, it will help.

Smoothing out the rough edges in their relationship -- over and over -- will eventually help them create a stronger relationship.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert Sign up for my Newsletter and Follow Me:

Dealing With Sibling Rivalry: When A Toddler Bashes Baby (or Preschooler Bashes Toddler)

Shawn poses as this unassuming urban Dad who backpacks around with his two young kids while his wife toils away at a high-powered job.

But in reality, he's scary-smart, this close to getting his PhD at Stanford, in philosophy -- of all things. He can write (and backpack) circles around me, and in the couple of years we've both been blogging he's built up a massive following and hob-nobbed with all the big online names. All while I'm toiling away in obscurity, 2500 miles away from the action. (Don't feel too bad, though, since I'm in Hawaii.)

So I was happy to oblige him when he asked for a guest post -- that is, until he suggested a topic that has been argued and written about for thousands of years -- sibling rivalry. Typical philosopher. I reminded him that HE'S the one who still needs to finish his dissertation, not me. But last I heard, he had bailed out of the library and was headed down to the Happiest Place on Earth, so it looks like that PhD will be claimed another day.

But I hope you come check out my advice to him over at Backpacking Dad, because I gave him some ideas that should help you smooth out the relationship between your young kids, too. Toddlers bash on babies, preschoolers bash on toddlers, but there ARE things that we, as parents, can do to minimize the bashing (and maintain some semblance of our own sanity.) And thanks for the guest spot, Shawn. (Now -- get back to work!)

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Enter to Win Free Parent Coaching, BabyShrink Style!

Got a baby, toddler, or preschooler -- and a dilemma? Want some feedback -- geared towards your hopes, needs and family style?

I've helped thousands of families, and by popular demand, I'm opening Parent Coaching up to my BabyShrink audience. To kick it off, I'm launching a contest. Sign up by commenting below -- tell me why YOU deserve a free BabyShrink double session with me -- one hour, by Skype, by phone or in person -- a $150 value. Be as detailed as you can. Tell me:

Your child's exact age and your specific problem ~

What you've tried that hasn't worked ~

Anything else that might be impacting your child (health, family changes, etc).

Remember: Parent Coaching is NOT therapy -- just real-world solutions for everyday families. All of my suggestions are based on solid science -- plus my experience as a Parenting Psychologist, and raising 4 young children. Entries will be accepted in the comments section of this post until MONDAY, OCTOBER 4. And if you don't need Coaching, please VOTE for your favorite entries by commenting too.

I'd love to talk to you in person and help you out of your dilemma. Enter now, and I hope to talk with you soon!

Aloha,

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

Sleep & Nap Issues: Tips For Your Child To Sleep Successfully

It's hard to believe, but 6 weeks ago I was in agony, being awakened 6 or 7 times a night by a 7-month-old baby who seemed desperate to nurse each and every hour over night. I was at DefCon 7, or 8, or 47, or whatever the highest possible number might be for Maternal Sleep Deprivation. Worse, this is our 4th baby. My fantasies of finally getting a baby who was a good sleeper were shot to hell, and I was MAD. YES!!!

Going the "babywearing" route -- responding to every need -- wasn't working -- it was making things worse. So I undertook the most rigorous "Sleep Training" program I've tried yet. And it worked.

Now, I'm not advocating that you try Sleep Training -- and by that, I mean some variation on the "Let Them Cry Longer Than You Normally Would" theme. No, please don't take this as something I'm necessarily advising you to do. Just hear me out for a minute:

Some babies do very well with "babywearing" and co-sleeping. Mine don't. They either get all aggravated with the extra body contact -- they want to be "free" -- or think sleeping with Mommy and Daddy means fun playtime all night long. It seems they want to sleep in their cribs, because they're wonderfully well-adjusted (and much more well-rested when they finally "get it"), but they need help in "getting it".

So I used my Shrink's Crystal Ball and devised a perfect sleep plan just for her that worked immediately. Hah! I wish. No, seriously, I thought about her specific age (7 months), her temperament (loud and excitable, but resilient and forgiving), and our family's needs (3 older kids who need to have a reasonably quiet house at night plus 2 working parents), and went from there. It was 6-ish weeks, with 2 or 3 of them being fairly challenging, but I am happy to say that the plan has worked fabulously well. Miss Nighttime Partier is now sleeping 10-11 hours at night.

This combination: Your baby's age, temperament, plus your family's needs, all get put into my formula for improving any parenting problem with your baby -- not just sleep. It's a personalized approach that goes way beyond a checklist that you might find in a parenting magazine. It's developed for you and your family. That's the basis for my Parent Coaching service that I'm preparing to offer online, and I'm really excited to be able to help families far beyond my little island home out here in the Pacific.

So stay tuned for more details on BabyShrink Parent Coaching, and in the meantime, comment or email me for more specifics on your little nighttime partier.

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

Toddler Behavior: What Do You Do When A Baby Prefers One Parent Over The Other?

Dear Dr. Heather, Our 25-month-old granddaughter has an unusually strong attachment to her mother.

Don't Take It Personally, Dad.

Her parents have been very responsive to her since her birth. Our toddler is easy with other people including her regular caregiver, grand-parents, other extended family and just about everyone else. The problem is that when her mother is around she has a strong preference for her, to the exclusion of most others. This happens about 60% of the time.

Her mother and father are gentle and kind and fun-loving. They respond to her emotions and explain the world to her. They are consistent with their house “rules” and explain the world to her so that things make as much sense as possible. She is a bright, articulate, inquisitive, active little girl and appears to be developing normally. Again, the problem is just that she clings to tenaciously to her mom. This is trying on her dad and also tiring for mom.

Any tips on how to reduce the clinging and increase her involvement with others when her mother is present?

Thanks very much.

Grandma ~~~~~~

Dear "Grandma",

What you're describing is the sign of a healthy attachment to her mother. Babies at this age have a hard time being in intense relationships with more than one person at a time. Strong parental preferences are COMMON. Unpleasant at times, inconvenient often, but COMMON and NORMAL, at this age. The first step is understanding it, the next step is rewarding her when she works well with her father, you, or other adults. She should be gently encouraged and praised for steps in the right direction, but never scolded if she prefers mom, since this will only work against you.

Your granddaughter is at a stage of venturing out into the world, and then coming back to her "base of comfort" as needed to "refuel", emotionally. As she gains confidence this will naturally abate. Also, as she grows closer to age 3, she will be more curious about the different activities her father and you can share with her, and this will help too.

I can certainly relate, as I am currently on both ends of the preference spectrum with various of my own children. I'm top of the list with my 9-month-old and 4-year-old, and bottom of the totem pole with my 7 and 9-year-olds -- Daddy is their current favorite. All of us need to be understanding about the temporary preferences that our children express -- please don't take it personally, nor should her father. Your time (and his) will come...I promise!

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