Alpha Mom » Amalah parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Wed, 17 Dec 2014 19:33:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How To Solve Your Toddler Mealtime Battles With Snacks Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:56:35 +0000

Dear Amy,

We have followed the Ellyn Satter book rules more or less from the start with our now three year old at dinner. I will not short order cook, and as a family we value sitting at the dinner table together every night. Etc.

Here’s the thing. Our three year old is ON TO US. And so he eats a big breakfast, a morning snack at school, an enormous lunch, a glass of milk or water after nap…and no dinner. Two bites if we are lucky.

This is his choice. Fine. I won’t play his power games. I provide the food, he decides whether or not to eat it. But here’s the thing – I control and cook various things for dinner. I mix it up. Every meal is reasonable –I’m not trying to serve him things that no three year old would eat. He pretends not to like spaghetti (liar) or hummus (scarfs it at school) or whatever, but there’s always something on the plate he would have happily eaten as a two year old. There’s plenty of variety and meals are healthy and balanced (not perfectly, I’m no saint, and we have takeout at least once a week, but we try).

The real problem is that this has been going on for months, with no end in sight, and there are two reasons why I feel like something has to give.

First, he now is really hungry by bedtime (7:30 pm). We know this because 2-3 nights a week he will call for us to help him go potty ten minutes after lights out because his tummy hurts. I’m 90% sure this is actually hunger. He’s also a MONSTER when he wakes up in the morning and needs breakfast ASAP. We can deal if he sleeps until it’s time to wake up, but sometimes he wakes up hungry at 5am and, well, I have a baby who still nurses in the middle of the night. I can’t make a toddler breakfast at 5am. I just can’t.

Second, his babysitter feeds him lunch, and I can’t control how that goes. I’ve tried. Please take on faith that she’s an excellent babysitter, the pros outweigh the cons, and after many attempts I know I can’t change this. So for lunch he has either a PB&J or a grilled cheese sandwich, as much of a vegetable serving as she can bribe him into (and it’s always steamed mushy veggies), and as much fruit as he wants (usually second helping of fruit is the bribe for the vegetable). She also will give him a couple bites of her lunch, which is always a frozen meal of the highly processed kind, usually drenched with fake cheese.

Because he doesn’t eat dinner, he eats most of his daily calories at lunch — sometimes he’ll have a second sandwich, he always has multiple servings of fruit, and sometimes he’ll ask for a cheese stick after he’s eaten everything else. Because there’s no variety to his lunch, and it’s not always as balanced as I’d like, I’m pretty sure he’s turning into exactly the kind of picky child following the Satter method is supposed to avoid. And I think bedtime (or, more accurately, the 45 minutes following bedtime when he’s not actually asleep) would be smoother if he ate more food at dinner.

So what do we do? I don’t want to give in on dinner, I don’t know how to fix lunch. The only thing I can think of is trying to give him “dinner” in the form of a healthy snack as soon as I get home from work, when the stakes are lower, and then still have him sit with us for family dinner. But I don’t have time to make that snack nutritionally varied/successful/whatever while also cooking dinner to be served 80 minutes later (it would have to be yogurt or hummus, basically).

For what it’s worth, at his three year old checkup last summer, when this was already a problem (though I still had hope it was going to be a quick phase), his doctor told us just to ignore it – he’s normal height, on the skinny side, not starving himself, developing normally. But. STILL.

Anyway. Halp. Thanks.

-Tired of This Three Year Old Nonsense Already, And Only Halfway to Four

PS I drafted this before the latest advice smackdown, on a very similar subject, went up…but I’m sending anyway because, well, THREE YEAR OLDS MAN .

Add at least one more planned snacktime, pre- or post-dinner. BOOM. Problem solved.

And this comes straight from Satter, by the way. PLANNED snacks, not handouts, spaced at regular intervals between meals so your toddler isn’t going more than two or three hours without eating something. (Which your son definitely is, in the later part of his day.) And yes, you can have a snacktime scheduled in the post-dinner pre-bedtime window. It’s NOT dessert, it’s NOT immediate, and it happens when YOU say it does, not because your child is whining and begging for food five minutes after you gave up on him eating any dinner. (“I’m sorry you’re hungry. Dinnertime is over. You have to wait until snacktime now.”)

If there isn’t enough time between dinner and bedtime, then do the small pre-dinner snack like you mentioned. (Or both!) Don’t worry so much about making it perfect or varied: milk, cheese, yogurt, hummus are all fine. Anything that can get him a smidge of protein without a ton of sugar is great. But mostly just aim for good-enough nutrition, honestly.

My kids all have a snack once they’re home from school, but tend to choose the sweetest carb they can find in the pantry — granola bars, toaster pastries, graham crackers, etc. And then naturally those foods don’t really “stick” with them and they’re completely ravenous an hour or so later. I used to be a hardass and make them wait for dinner (which could still be an hour or two away, depending on my husband’s schedule), thinking that the hungrier they were, the more they’d eat at dinner. I discovered that actually, that’s not necessarily true. It really mostly meant they bothered me while I was cooking, were constantly begging/running underfoot/ etc., SUPER cranky by dinner, and more likely to whine or just be generally unpleasant at the table.

Adding a small, protein-rich snack in between the after-school snack (at 3:30) and dinner (6:30) had zero effect on their dinnertime food intake, but a WONDERFUL effect on their behavior.(And maybe even whets their appetite? Gets them more in the mood for non-sweet/savory dinner foods?) Our pre-dinner snack is small and sugar-free — a scoop of natural, chunky peanut butter on a spoon, lollipop style, or a bowl of nuts/seeds/trail mix, some sharp cheddar cheese slices, etc. Keep him seated for the snack, both for choking/supervision reasons and to underscore the fact that this snack is a Planned Formal Thing Mom Is In Charge Of, rather than a random run-by begging for scraps. If he finishes and asks for more, tell him that snacktime is over, but dinner will come soon and he can eat more then.

To be honest, my three year old still doesn’t eat much dinner every night. Some nights, sure, but there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it. Familiar, acceptable foods get rejected just as often as brand-new offerings. He knows he won’t get dessert; he doesn’t care. We don’t have a post-bedtime snack but he seems okay with that — no tummy complaints or begging for breakfast at 5 a.m. So Imma assume our current schedule of meals and snacks is working for him and he’s getting enough calories and nutrition despite his frequent OH SO THREE YEARS OLD dinnertime strikes. (He’s also growing and gaining weight just fine, like your son.)

Adding a planned snacktime or two — something he will reliably eat — to the later part of your son’s day SHOULD solve your problems, since it sounds like he’s going an AWFUL long time without eating anything — even that enormous lunch and post-nap milk aren’t going to get him all the way to bedtime without hunger pangs. (AND  I KNOW, HE SHOULD JUST EAT DINNER, BUT YOU KNOW THREE YEAR OLDS MAKE NO SENSE.) He should be offered meals and snacks spaced every few hours throughout the entire day to keep up with his never-ending energy-burning. And maybe, hopefully, with time, his body will come to prefer smaller amounts of food all throughout the day (including dinner), rather than trying to get the bulk of his calories at only breakfast and lunch.

As for the lunch issue, I wouldn’t get too worked up over it. You could always pack him a varied, bento-style lunch at night for the sitter to feed him the next day, but it’s probably best to accept that you can’t really control what he eats when he’s in the care of another — he might refuse to eat what you packed, the sitter responds by short-order cooking for him because it makes her job easier, thus undermining your food goals even more. This will always be true, once he starts all-day school or hanging at friends’ homes, so you might as well just Zen out about it now. My 9 year old has probably eaten a version of the same two or three lunches every day of his entire life, and has still managed to break through the picky eater barrier and accept a wide variety of foods at dinner. (And don’t even get me started on the variety-wasteland that is breakfast around here.) You’re at pretty much Peak Pain In The Ass About Food at his current age, but it will pass. And provided you stick with your plan and stay consistent, everything is going to be okay.

]]> 11
All He Wants For Christmas Is A Princess Toy Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:58:35 +0000

Thanks for considering this question. My 7 year old nephew has been asking (literally crying) for pink and sparkly princess toys. He lives in a politically conservative, evangelical Christian family, with his mother, her parents, and his older sister. When he asks to play with his sister’s “girl” toys his mother gently redirects him to “boy” toys, his older sister has been highly outspoken and viciously negative, and his grandfather (who has recently moved in) would likely respond with confusion and probably some disgust. He lives in a small home, shares a bedroom with his sister, and wouldn’t have the space to play without being observed. His sister is allowed to play with his toys, which is an upsetting double standard for my nephew.

My nephew’s birthday is at Christmas time so I’ll be buying him two gifts. Do I get him some princess toys? I don’t know what would be worse for him– not having pink and sparkly toys or the reaction of his family if he were to receive them and then want to play with them.

OUCH. This letter hurts to read. Hey parents? Please don’t be These Parents.

This is a super tough situation (DUH), because you are correct: It’s not as simple as just buying the poor kid the toy he wants. He’s living with — essentially — a built-in set of bullies who might shame or humiliate him, or take the toy away as soon as you leave.

You don’t mention your relation to his mother, or whether there’s ANY chance you two could have a nice heart-to-heart about this: The double standard with the sister’s play choices, the outdated ideas about masculinity (and I’m going to guess a feared [for her] correlation between toy choices and sexual orientation), and the casual cruelty of telling a child that there’s something wrong with him for simply wanting to play with with a human-shaped doll as opposed to a anthropomorphic truck with eyeballs.

Or in place of a nice heart-to-heart, a simple, “Dude. Chill out. It’s a hunk of plastic. Let the kid be.”

The real solution to this dilemma sadly requires change/education/open-mindedness on the part of his family, which you can’t make happen via a toy store purchase. What I’d encourage you to do is to think long term, and what kind of role you can play in this little boy’s life. Can you provide a judgment free zone for him? Take him to see the princess movies? Have both of the children over and have princess toys on hand, and calmly inform your niece that the “rules” in YOUR house are that everyone can play with whatever they like, and that nothing you have is a “boy” toy or a “girl” toy? They’re “everybody” toys! Let’s all play together!

I worry about your nephew, as I’m sure you do. Today it’s princess toys, tomorrow it could something else that’s outside his family’s gender expectations. Or even if he loses interest in the pink and sparkly, that the damage will already be done — that he’ll feel ashamed of liking what he likes, and attempt to change himself to fit in or avoid being judged or bullied. I hope you can find a way to be there for him, to be his cheerleader and his unconditionally accepting advocate, however and whenever you are able. Even if you can’t solve his Christmas morning, you have the potential to play an important and much-needed role for him, simply by letting him know you love and accept him, NO MATTER WHAT. The family he lives with are supposed to do that, and clearly don’t care or understand that they are kind of sucking at it, no matter how “gently” they redirect him back to what they’ve deemed “acceptable.”

As for this Christmas, I’d probably find out what his favorite “princess” movie or show is, and buy him a “complete” set of the characters — males included. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, Hans AND Olaf. Beauty AND the Beast. Rapunzel AND Flynn. Sofia the First’s full family, along with her brother. He likes the movie or show, so of course he needs all the characters to properly act it out. Just like you need a Lightning McQueen and a Mater AND a Sally to act out Cars. No big deal, Family, nothing to see here.

Then get down on the floor with him and play princesses to your hearts’ content.


]]> 25
My Toddler is Jerking Us Around At Bedtime Mon, 08 Dec 2014 17:52:43 +0000

Hi Amy -

Here’s my deal – mother of 2 – daughter – 5 1/2, son 2 1/2. Kids have separate rooms and shocking (I know) they are different. I not going to say my daughter is perfect, but when it comes to behavior, rules, and sleep habits, she’s a breeze. She’s terrified to be in trouble and claims that lounging is one her favorite things to do. Since birth, bedtime has never really been an issue and even we switched her to a bed, we gave her the clock that changes color and I doubt it crossed her mind to challenge it.

The boy on the other hand, not so much. He’s always been more difficult to get to sleep, but we pretty much had our routine down (in crib by 7:30 pm-ish) most nights. Then we moved and got rid of the crib. Granted it was a little early to get rid of the crib, but hey we’re super parents, we’ll figure it out. We’re in charge, right!?

Cut to 4 months later…he’s still a major jerk at bedtime. I love him, but still a jerk. No matter what technique we use – (Supernanny stay in bed technique, threats/actually taking his lovey/blankie, and lying down with him), he seems to have endless amount of energy/fight and is usually not asleep until 9pm- which sucks. Short of actually locking him in his room which we’ve basically done a few times (sometimes he falls asleep on the floor and sometimes he just starts playing with his toys), I’m running out of ideas.

He’s in full-time daycare that observes an 1.5-2 hour nap. I know not having the nap would help, but honestly he still needs it and I really don’t have a choice during the work week.

I’m so anti-starting bad habits, and really don’t want to spend forever lying down with him at bedtime or spending an hour every night putting him back in bed. Seriously my husband and I have tv shows to watch and wine to drink! Any chance he’ll just “grow” out of this? Like he’ll wake up at 3 and decide – “Hey, I’m going to stop being a jerk today”? Or do we pick a technique, go hard-core, stay consistent…and hope it works? I’m open to any and all suggestions.

Fellow Amalah

Well, there are probably a few schedule-y things you could re-jigger here, but it depends on your own reading of your kid. To me, it sounds like he’s just a bit of a night owl — he sounds more genuinely NOT TIRED as opposed to OVERTIRED ZOMBIE ON INEXPLICABLE THIRD WIND, so 7:30pm might just be too early of a bedtime for him. If you agree that his energy isn’t some kind of adrenaline-fueled second (or third) wind, what about moving bedtime to 8 or even 8:30? If 9 p.m. seems to be the only consistent bedtime variable, I’d probably roll with that and see if I could at least knock off some of the fightin’ time.

If you disagree with that assessment and suspect he IS actually very, very tired and just trying very, very hard to mask that fact, then move his bedtime earlier. (Then read on for some ideas to minimize the hours o’ battling. )

No matter what, though: You DON’T want to mess with the nap — I don’t think that would help at all. You’d DEFINITELY have the aforementioned overtired zombie on speedballs rather than just a energetic kid who isn’t tired yet. The afternoon nap probably isn’t the root of this particular problem.

I’d suggest you start changing both your expectations and your level of involvement in his bedtime. You’re micromanaging his falling-asleep process and becoming accidental Dictators of Sleep by insisting he get in bed, stay in bed, go completely silent, and be reliably sound asleep by a certain time. And he’s responding to these methods by throwing a nightly coup of the regime. Ergo, it’s become a power struggle.

In my experience, the best way to win a power struggle is to temporarily disengage. This may sound nuts, but once my kids are in their rooms with the lights off, I don’t really care what they do. Some nights everything goes silent and calm five minutes later, other nights I have one kid drawing comic books with a flashlight at 9 p.m. while another is still quietly bashing Ninja Turtle figures together. Sometimes the two roommates chatter and talk for awhile, sometimes one conks out first while the other hangs off the bed upside-down singing TV theme songs until he’s ready for sleep. None of this interferes with our TV and wine time — we might hit the pause button and go upstairs to take the flashlight or Ninja Turtles away once it’s officially “too late, go to sleep,” but I haven’t actually been in the room for the full falling-asleep process in years.

Basically since we did sleep training, a division of responsibility appeared, similar to our approach to mealtimes: I provide everything they need for a good night’s sleep. An age-appropriate bedtime, a regular routine, a quiet room with minimal distractions and a lighting level that they’re comfortable with. After that, though, I can’t MAKE them go to sleep. Neither can you. “You can’t make a kid eat, sleep or poop.” Truer words were never spoken, and this mantra remains true well after the “baby” stage is behind you.

So repeat after me: You can’t MAKE him sleep. Not at 7 p.m., not at 9 p.m., not even if he’s still wide awake and wired during the final commercial break of The Walking Dead.

You can give him what he needs to sleep. Play around with bedtime and see if he needs something earlier (or later) to even out his energy levels. Keep his routine consistent, INCLUDING your exiting the room and the sleep process once stories are read/songs are sung/whatever. Just like when you’re trying to teach a baby to self-soothe — your constant presence and over-involvement becomes more of a problem than a help, even if you’re just showing up to yell at him, because he’s seeking that negative attention. Make sure the room is lit for sleep and not play (but not so dark it’s scary), and do what you can to minimize his distractions. Move toys to a playroom if possible, leave only/mostly books within his reach, and have the lights arranged in a way that he can’t turn on anything you’ve turned off/unplugged.

The only rule I enforce after I exit my children’s room is that I expect them to stay in their rooms, unless they need to use the bathroom. Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you FOR SURE what they do after that. I have absolutely found my toddler asleep on the floor or in his toy box full of stuffed animals and moved him back to bed. I have absolutely found my oldest still wide awake hours later because he just can’t settle down for some reason — I typically offer him a head rub or a suggestion that he read a non-comic, non-illustrated chapter book for awhile, but I recognize that I cannot “make” him fall asleep simply by ordering him to, or by threatening to take away toys/privileges.

(Even though I might be rightly irritated with him, because he’s figured out all my lighting tricks and will turn lights back on and sneak out of bed to play/draw, only to realize hours later that he’s still awake and can’t turn his overstimulated brain off.)

But for the most part, this hands-off approach has served us well. Most nights, everybody is asleep within 15-30 minutes of lights off. My kids are not exhausted sleep-deprived crankpants and bedtime is only slightly chaotic because of the sheer number of children we have, but not because it’s this long, drawn-out battle of wills.

Surprise your son tonight by NOT playing his bedtime game. Pajamas, brush teeth, story, kiss goodnight. Then leave. Let him know that your only expectation is that he will stay in his room. No coming out except for potty (unless he’s still in diapers). If you hear him come out, take a deep, calming breath and then SILENTLY lead him back into his room. Not even all the way back into bed, if you want to shock the heck out of him. Just back in, door closed, done. No lying down with him, no threats/conversations/bargaining. I’m not a fan of locking children in rooms — too many worst-case scenarios that make the practice seem dangerous to me, plus it’s completely impractical for potty-training — but there certainly are ways to childproof doorknobs and such and everybody has to do what they have to do, if only until you’ve solidly broken the habit of the coming-out game.

Worst case, he still stays awake until 9 p.m. But if you remove yourself from the hour and a half time period between bedtime and sleep, it won’t suck so hard. He  enjoys jerking you around, because toddlers LOVE attention and have yet to really distinguish between positive and negative attention. Heap tons of love and praise on him during the initial bedtime routine, then VANISH. Once you remove the attention altogether, you all but neutralize the jerk.

]]> 22
Commuting With Babies Wed, 03 Dec 2014 23:30:17 +0000

So my favorite boss in the whole world left our company in the suburbs to work in the heart of our large city. She has offered me a SIGNIFICANT pay increase and a wonderful career opportunity. It’s the kind of situation I just can’t (and don’t even want to) pass up. The problem is that I’m a single mom of the sweetest little 4 month old boy and I don’t want to negatively impact his life. He is currently in daycare from 6:30am to 4:30pm every day. And while I’m sure I could find childcare that would take wonderful care of him for the extra 90 minutes that my commute would add (so almost 12 hours of every day) I don’t know if that’s the right choice for us. I could move into the city but I don’t feel like that is a good fit either. So now I’m strongly considering bringing him on the train downtown with me so we can spend the commute time together and he could be in daycare in the heart of the city. Am I crazy? Do people commute into the city with little ones?


Girl, if you can dream it, someone has done it. And likely lived to tell the tale just fine. YES, people commute into the city with babies, toddlers, children. On trains, subways, buses, bicycles. People commute out of the city, from ‘burb to ‘burb, there and back again…all with their children in tow. You do what you gotta do.

I don’t think your plan sounds crazy at all, especially once you add up all the positives here:

• Great boss
• Great career opp
• 90 minutes of one-on-one time with your baby that you would otherwise probably spend playing Candy Crush, or simply staring blankly into space thinking about your baby.

So I say go for it, or at least decide to give it a trial go. See how the new job goes and how you feel about the commute in general in six months or so. See how you like the new city daycare compared to the old one.

In the meantime, focus on streamlining. Consider commuting with your son in front-carrier like an Ergo for now and put off schlepping a stroller on the train. (That’ll probably come later once he’s a toddler, although who knows! He might become a seasoned, totally chill traveler just since he’s getting an early start.)

Store as many baby-related accessories as you can at the daycare and invest in a really good (i.e. lightweight, utilitarian, compartmentalized) bag to pack everything else you need for the day: bottles, wallet, laptop, lunch, etc. Try to avoid carrying a diaper bag plus a separate purse or laptop bag, and instead look for something that can pass as professional that will also hold an insulated bag for bottles and/or a few other necessities for your son. I’d personally probably go for a backpack so my hands would be free (plus there’s nothing more awkward than having your bag slide off your shoulder and beaning your fellow commuters in the head), and then swap my wallet to a wristlet style so I could still have something small and cute-ish for coffee runs, lunches with coworkers, etc.

If you pump, leave your pump at work in a desk drawer and store the parts in a plastic bag tucked inside a discreet lunch-style tote in the company fridge with your pumped milk. There’s really no need to haul the parts home for sterilization every single night.

If your daycare needs a restock on diapers, formula, baby food, etc., try to buy that stuff in the city and drop it off during your lunch hour or when you pick him up — basically do whatever you can to keep your commuting load down to the absolute bare minimum. If you tend to be a little scatterbrained in the morning, tape a checklist by the front door and go through it before you leave. Keys! Formula! Laptop! Baby! Pack up whatever you can the night before.

I’d also recommend that you still keep a closer-to-home childcare option on hand. Will his current daycare or a nearby at-home center allow for the occasional drop-off if you’re sick or can work from home, or is there a friend/relative/neighbor-with-a-nanny who can help out? From experience, I can say the daycare-close-to-work arrangement can work just fine (no rushing/fighting traffic to make the pick-up time, the ability to stop by during the day for whatever reason, etc.), but there IS a drawback if, say, Mama gets the norovirus and wants to die but has to spend the day being Mama because the daycare is oh so far from home.

But don’t stress about it. You’re going to be just fine. Every situation has pros and cons, but I think the potential pros are definitely worth making this leap. Good luck and much success!

]]> 26
Baby Food Rebellion Mon, 01 Dec 2014 20:05:24 +0000

My 7 month old won’t eat solid food. She used to, at least in a “Well, this is fun and interesting to be sitting in a high chair. Put that in my mouth! Wow, that’s super weird and I’m not sure I like it so I will spit most of it out! Now put more in! Yes, this is still very weird!” kind of way. But then came the ear infection from hell and along with it a couple full runs of antibiotics multiple times per day and a case of Roseola that required Tylenol or Motrin every 3 hours for a couple days. And this kid HATES medicine. Screaming, flailing (and she’s strong!), mouth clamped shut, people a mile from our house probably think we were torturing someone. And when I say “we”, I mean my husband, because I literally could not give her medicine and I ended up in tears even when he did it. It. Was. Awful.

Somewhere along the line with all this medicine, she stopped trusting us with anything that came near her mouth (I’m clearly guessing here, but this is definitely what it seems like). Because for over a month now, any time a spoon of food comes near her mouth, she clamps it shut and screams and flails around, just like when we gave her medicine. It’s now been a couple weeks since her last medicine, so after taking over a week completely off from trying to feed her, I had high hopes that we’d be back to where we were over a month or so ago (that she had forgiven us or forgotten about the medicine, I guess?). But no. No food can get anywhere near her mouth still, and she is clearly miserable about the whole eating thing now. This is really sad and frustrating to me, as I was very much looking forward to this stage of the kid game. I have the adorable frozen cubes of homemade sweet potatoes and peas and green beans in baggies in my freezer to prove it. But now they just taunt me.

Things I’ve tried:
Giving it time off (9 days off seemed to do no good whatsoever)
Trying briefly every day (stopping when she seems upset, which was always before the spoon was within 6 inches of her face)
Giving her a teething biscuit (thought this would at least put her in control, even if the nutrition was questionable, but she wasn’t into it either)
Giving her the food to play with as she sees fit (adorable messes of bananas and then sweet potatoes resulted, but these were the only time she’s ever kept her fingers out of her mouth).

What am I doing wrong? Please tell me there’s something I’m doing wrong so I can fix this. Ugh!! Any suggestions or ideas would be welcome. Should I have daycare try? She starts at a new daycare next week, does that impact the advice at all?

I tried explaining the issue to my typically awesome and understanding pediatrician and her response was “keep trying.” Not super helpful (the alternative being we just don’t ever give her solids and send care packages of breast milk with her to college?).

Not sending breast milk to college.

First things first: BREATHE. CALM. This is not a harbinger of eating/weaning doom. At seven months, she’s barely a month past the recommended age for introducing solids in the first place. And that “introduction” can be a long-ass drawn-out thing for most kids, full of fits and starts, everything from a complete lack of interest to a full-scale revolt. And no matter how the introduction to solid food goes, breast milk still needs to be the primary source of calories and nutrition until she’s 12 months old.

And really, pureed vegetables hardly even count as true “solid” food. And I say this as a big, big fan of homemade baby food: Spoon-fed purees are basically training wheels for real food.

And purees are a completely, 100% skippable feeding stage.

I’m going to go ahead and disagree slightly with your pediatrician to “keep trying.” Stop trying to spoon feed her. Stop offering the purees. Spend some time today Googling “baby-led weaning” instead. The BLW method basically skips purees and spoon feeding, but instead offers age-appropriate foods in a manner that allow your baby to feed herself. You follow your baby’s cues for interest level, meal timing and portion size, and much like the Division of Responsibility from the Satter method — your job ends when the food is properly cooked/cut/mashed and placed in front of her. You do not put the food in her mouth for her — that’s her job, her learning process.

This is what I WISH I had done with my firstborn, who also had a terrible hatred of the spoon and being spoon-fed. Instead, I “kept trying.” Over and over and over again. I didn’t know what else to offer him, so I went with packaged, processed finger foods that were helpfully labeled for babies because…I don’t know. He was a baby and this says “baby” here on the label so I guess this is a good food for a baby.

I should warn you that some of the more vocal proponents of the baby-led weaning method can be a bit…intense. You might get flashbacks to the breast vs. bottle wars, listening to people who think pureed baby food is A Terrible Awful Stupid Thing and that Their Approach To Feeding Is The Only Correct Way to Feed A Baby. And then the people who can’t even IMAGINE offering a baby anything other than rice cereal as a first food are all, BUT UR BABY IS GOING TO CHOKE AND DIE U NEGLIGENT MONSTER. Around and around it goes. Whatever. I’m too tired to have a rigid philosophy about this stuff anymore. I’m about anything that makes mealtimes less stressful for both parent and child, you know?

(The recipe/feeding website Wholesome Baby Food has a nice, non-insane overview of BLW.)

But I do think a baby-led approach will be better for you — it’ll take the stress off of you trying-trying-trying, and give your daughter time to put the medicine trauma behind her. You had the right idea with the teething biscuit and the banana. You just need to not give up after a couple attempts, and continue to think outside the Boxed Food With A Picture Of A Baby on it. It’s ABSOLUTELY FINE if the food doesn’t make it to her mouth and she simply squishes chunks of steamed sweet potatoes into oblivion. (Soft chunks, yes, a nice grabbable size — NOT pureed or super-tiny, since she’s probably not master the thumb/index finger pincher grasp yet.) Breast milk is her proper, primary source of nutrition right now. Solid foods are simply a learning process right now, and it’s a process that can’t be rushed.

Give her time to feel comfortable in her high chair again, to understand that you really and truly won’t be trying to shove a spoon near her face anymore. Put her in her highchair during YOUR mealtimes, so she can watch you eat. Offer foods that she can feed herself, size- and texture-wise, that don’t pose a big choking hazard risk. (Think bigger foods for her to gnaw/gum on, not tiny/chopped-up things that she can swallow a few of at a time and get lodged in her throat.) BLW websites will give you more ideas on what you can offer (and how to best cut/cook/present) it, but always use your best instincts when it comes to choking hazards. Do not ever turn your back when there is food in front of her, even if it’s not going into her mouth. Stay very attentive. (Editor: and, for peace of mind and confidence please be up-to-date on how to help a baby that is choking and infant CPR).

If she remains uninterested, THAT’S OKAY. She is still very, very young. Sure, she had a pretty rough go of it with the medicine, but that will fade with enough time.  You don’t mention anything about her expressing the “classic” signs of being ready/interested (intensely watching you eat, mimicking chewing, grabbing for your plate or food, etc.), which means she might not have been super into it even when you guys did have a couple positive experiences pre-illness. Again, BLW will help you relax and wait for her signals that she’s interested.  And she WILL get interested, eventually. Even the pickiest, tiniest, latest eater alive won’t go to college needing breast milk care packages. Who knows! Daycare might be a whole new “thing” and the highchair/feeding experience there will be completely separate for her from the medicine force-feeding, and watching her peers get fed might spark an interest you haven’t seen at home yet. Take it day by day and FOLLOW HER LEAD.

She may never eat those frozen cubes of vegetables, honestly, and that’s also okay. Lots of babies skip the puree stage, either on-purpose for cultural or BLW reasons…or just sort-of because they just aren’t that into the whole spoon-feeding thing and would rather skip right to the food off your plate. I mean, let’s be honest, I’d rather eat a nice real dinner than pureed green beans too.

(Pro-tip: Save the purees for later, when you can hide them in pasta sauces or homemade nuggets and stuff.)

]]> 25
Too Many Baby Shower Hosts! Fri, 28 Nov 2014 22:28:59 +0000

Hi Amy,

I’m a big fan of your blog and the Smackdown! Thanks for all your advice!

I have a question for you. I am pregnant (with twins)! We have had an outpouring of support from our friends. Three different people have offered to throw showers for me. I (graciously, I hope) accepted offers in from the first two. When the third person asked, she said, “Has anyone offered to throw you a shower?” I replied, “Yes, and I’d love it if you are able to attend. I’ve requested that (the host) invite you!” Her response was disappointment that she hadn’t offered to host sooner. Then, she asked if she could host a not-official-shower gathering for a group of friends that I probably would not have invited to one of the official showers. (Basically, the group is my husband’s college friends, who we love to see, but usually only manage to see once or twice a year.) I accepted her offer, and she threw a very nice not-official-shower. Also, that whole group of friends went in together and got us a very nice gift.

So, now the question is – should I still invite the not-official-shower host to one of the official showers? On one hand, I told her that she was going to be invited. On the other hand, she has already done so much, I don’t want her to feel obligated to attend and/or buy another gift. I am not sure how to proceed and would appreciate your feedback!

Trying to Follow Proper Etiquette!

Okay, so first of all, I’d recommend you drop this whole “official vs. unofficial” shower thing, as it seems to be making things overly and needlessly complicated. You’re having three baby showers. Three different hostesses, three (I assume) different guest lists.  One down, two to go.

What your friend did was lovely, and there’s no reason her gesture should be thought of as anything other than what it was — she hosted and organized a small totally-real-and-meaningful shower for you. You write her a very nice thank you note for all her efforts and tell her what a wonderful treat it was to see all those friends at the shower, blah blah blah.

As for inviting the hostess of one shower to another shower, it’s really up to you. Typically you want to keep guest lists unique for each shower, but plenty of times that’s just not possible, so it’s not like some big breach of etiquette. Close friends and family members — or members of the wedding party, in the case of bridal showers — are often invited to more than one shower, and Emily Post makes it clear that they are NOT obligated to bring a gift to each and every shower. If you’re invited to more than one shower, you bring one gift to the first shower and that’s it.

(Although if you feel odd showing up completely empty-handed, Emily Post suggests bringing something very small, like chocolates or something homemade. And the guest-of-honor/bride/mother-to-be should make a mention of their earlier generosity, in this case, a public thank-you to your friend for organizing the get-together and the group gift.)

Since you did mention the other shower(s) and told her an invite would be forthcoming, it’s probably best to leave her on the guest list, but have a talk with her about first. Nothing huge, just a casual heads up: Oh hey, so remember how I mentioned I put you down on the guest list for another shower before you offered to organize one yourself? I think invites will be going out soon, so please know that 1) You’re totally still welcome to come, but 2) There’s ZERO obligation to attend if you don’t want to or just can’t make it, and 3) you’ve already gotten me a gift so NO GIFTS THAT’S AN ORDER, ha ha lol ttyl. 

Basically, make sure she knows she is welcome and hasn’t been mysteriously booted or demoted from the guest list, but ALSO impress upon her your gratitude/recognition for everything she’s already done and that there are no further expectations from her (attendance or gift-wise), other than to keep being such an awesome, sweet friend.

]]> 1
Breaking Bad Family Mealtime Habits Mon, 24 Nov 2014 12:14:20 +0000

Hi Amy!! Have been following you forever and love your Smackdown advice. Please be merciful with my situation:

When I was home on maternity leave last winter with a colicky newborn I got into a bad habit with my toddler: *whispers* I started giving her most of her meals in front of the TV *hangs head in shame.*

At the time it didn’t seem like that big of a deal because it was the polar vortex winter of doom and I spent a lot of time pacing with and nursing a screaming infant. But now the screaming infant is a pleasant 10-month-old who eats nicely in a high chair and my toddler (now just turned three) just can NOT sit still and eat at the table.

I work part-time and she attends a home daycare while I am at work and is able to sit and eat properly there, even trying new foods, etc. Daycare lady reports no problems. But at home she will not sit in her seat, runs around the kitchen, and is generally disagreeable. Usually she asks to be excused and bring her plate to the couch to watch something. By that time I’m usually frazzled enough to be all: fine! She kind of zones out in front of the TV and will peacefully eat whatever’s on her plate. For what it’s worth, she’s a picky eater and kind of small/thin for her height but nothing outside the realm of normal.

I knowww what needs to be done, I just need advice and support about the terrible few weeks (months?) it will take to get there. I even bought Ellyn Satter’s book and I totally understand/agree with/want to emulate her advice. I am worried that I will repeat the same mistakes with my younger daughter and we will never have the lovely family dinners of my dreams. Is that unrealistic with two young kids anyways? My husband shares my concerns but works kind of late so it’s usually me and the girls for most meals. He will be totally on board with any plan of action.

So basically this isn’t a question about my toddler, it’s more about me. What are the actual words that need to come out of my mouth? I am prepared to have her skip some meals (dinnertime is the worst and she does much better at breakfast and lunch). Can she never eat in front of the TV again? Should I cut TV out all together? Help! I need some tough love.


PS I am a children’s librarian. Not even kidding. Oh, the irony!!

PPS This might sound defensive, but also wanted to note that we don’t watch crazy amounts of TV at our house — we do a good amount of reading, crafts, playing, running errands, normal stuff. TV is kind of now tied to dinner, which makes it … worse? I don’t know.

So before we get to the Most Righteous and Proper Smackdown-ing, let me be clear that I am only sympathizing with you here, not judging. We’ve ALL done stuff like this. We’ve ALL introduced (and then ignored) a less-than-ideal habit, usually out of exhaustion or desperation. And I’d bet that 99.9999999% of those bad habits we cave to are either food or sleep related.

I’m the biggest Satter Method tub thumper you’ll probably ever meet, but that doesn’t mean I’ve never made mistakes or fallen face-first into the very behaviors she warns about in the very first chapter.

When we first decided to go Full Satter, we were basically in your shoes. I had a picky, stubborn 3 and a half year old and a pleasant, agreeable baby. Our particular bad habit was short-order cooking for the 3 year old and caving to his super-limited list of acceptable food items — night after night of boxed macaroni and cheese or PB&Js, usually. I considered it a dietary success if I was able to hide some of the baby’s pureed vegetables in his pasta sauce or a smoothie.

And like you, I kneeeeeewwwwww. I knew this wasn’t ideal, or even really “okay.” He was living on salty cheesy carbs and little else. And he kept getting pickier and pickier, more likely to freak out at the sight of something unfamiliar on his plate, and I could already see the baby’s good eating habits starting to head down a similar path. Why was his brother getting THAT while he was expected to eat THIS?

I read Ellyn Satter’s book, read a few pertinent sections out loud to my husband, and we agreed to ditch the short order cooking and embrace the “division of responsibility” instead. (It is our job to put food in front of him. It is his job to eat it.) We went pretty much cold turkey. He got the same food we ate, presented in an accessible format and portion size. If my husband worked late and I did make a “kids’ meal” separate from ours, it was still comprised of “off-list” foods. (Challenging things like…chicken nuggets! Meatballs! Frozen peas! I was the MEANEST!)

He refused to eat dinner for a few days, yes. Just straight up would not eat a bite.

“Okay,” we said. “Clear your plate, you may be excused.”

Then we turned our attention back to our meal and his brother.

Note that nine times out of 10, he was already up from his seat and pitching a fit. We did not institute the “fine, don’t eat, but stay here at the table with us” rule until much later. Baby steps! Telling him to clear his own plate and reinforcing the idea that his meal was over once he left the table was a really effective place to start, and helped curb a lot of the control-based battle-of-wills temper tantrums. He felt like he “won,” but he really didn’t, because WAIT NOW I’M JUST HUNGRY. AND EVERYBODY IS IGNORING ME. CRAP. NOW WHAT.

So if your daughter gets up and wants to eat in front of the TV, tell her no, we eat at the table. If she gets up, her dinner is over. She can take her plate into the kitchen and then play quietly, but the TV. Stays. Off. Full stop. Maybe have some music playing quietly instead, and use that as a secondary excuse — we are all enjoying this music and we won’t be able to listen with the TV on. (And yes, I would insist on zero meals in front of the TV, at least for a very long time, or until you’re confident the “expectation” of eating there has been broken. I wouldn’t cut out TV completely, just reframe it as an activity completely separate from food, meals and snacks included.)

If she decides that no, she’s not sitting at the table, not eating, no no NO, take a deep breath and remind yourself that it ISN’T YOUR JOB TO MAKE HER EAT. No more caving, no more frazzled “FINE!” Let her make the choice to not eat. Do your damnedest to not give a crap about that choice. You did your job. She will not starve. There’s nothing to be frazzled over because you a freaking Zen Master of Calling Dinnertime Bluffs. If she continues to throw a tantrum over the TV, respond however you typically respond to tantrums (simply ignore, time out, go to her room, etc.). Consistency is key here, across the board.

My son caved by night four or five. He was really hungry and finally aware that we were not going to back down and give him something else. He ate an entire plate of fish sticks and carrots. Hardly a nutritional masterpiece but at the time it was HUGE.

Fast forward to now. I have three children who all sit (mostly) politely at the table and (mostly) eat the same family meal.  (Our 3 year old recently went through a big “I don’t like this I’m getting up I’m driving you crazy” phase — we got through it basically following the advice I just gave you, paying particularly close attention to the NOT GIVING A CRAP Zen Master mode and ignoring him completely once he bailed on the meal.)

Family meals are absolutely a realistic goal, and one that I really believe is worth fighting for. Dinnertime is pretty much the one time of the day when all five us can really be together, and focus on each other — rather than the TV or our phones or homework or housework or breaking up sibling squabbles. I genuinely look forward to dinnertime now, instead of dreading it because of the merciless whims of a picky or defiant child.

Last night I made salmon with a barley/fennel/brussels sprouts risotto. (Two of them had seconds on the salmon, one had thirds.) The night before was Thai chicken meatballs in a slightly spicy curry sauce and rice noodles. (My formerly most-picky eater asked for more noodles, but was completely fine with me dumping more curry sauce on them first.) This morning I made chicken tikka masala in my slow cooker. Tomorrow night I’ll probably make them a frozen pizza or something so my husband and I can have a later, romantic dinner together. And that’s cool, because they know the next night it’ll be back to dinner as usual.

So chin up! Stay strong! It’s not going to be fun at first, no, but oh my God, IT WORKS. AND IT’S SO WORTH IT.

]]> 10
Potty Training Sans Peer Pressure Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:07:37 +0000

Hi Amy,

I’ve been a loyal reader of your blog and the Smackdown since before I had my almost 28-month old son, (who incidentally, seems to be a clone of Ike, awesomely crazy hair and all). Any time I need to win a parenting argument with my husband, I just quote you FTW!

I know you get a million potty training questions, but here’s another desperate one. My son goes to daycare fulltime during the day and will pee in the potty all day there. He wears pull-ups, and has a whole impressive routine where he marches into the bathroom himself, climbs up onto the big boy toilet (no potty seat!), pees, wipes, gets down, puts back on a pull-up and pants, then washes his hands. All. by. himself. MAGIC! I swear, this woman is a miracle worker. He still won’t poop in the potty, but he’s starting to sometimes try to. I think he still doesn’t have as much control there, so we’re not rushing it.

The problem is that he won’t use the potty at home. Like, outright refuses to. It’s probably our fault because we were kind of lazy about it at home at first, but now that we’re actively trying, he won’t do it.

He’ll often tell me he has to use the potty when we’re out, or over at grandma’s (though there I think it’s just an excuse to go use the upstairs bathroom, which is usually forbidden), but at home, nope, no go. He’s an incredibly stubborn kid (plus really big and strong at almost 35 pounds), so there’s really no forcing him to do something without it getting ugly really fast. Plus, I don’t want him to have negative associations with our potty.

I’ve tried regularly telling him we’re going to the potty and trying to get him to go with me into the bathroom. Nope. I’ve tried asking him if he needs to use the potty. Nope. I’ve tried bribes with gummy bears (a treat he doesn’t usually get), which worked the first few times, now nope. An offer of a mini cookie worked once or twice, but again, it failed after a few times. We haven’t tried a sticker chart, but I honestly think he’s not going to get the association. I’ve tried telling him we’ll do something in advance and it usually leads to him thinking we’re going to do it now, then having a meltdown when we don’t.

So, where do we go from here? I want to have him working towards being fully potty trained, but I don’t want to undermine his good work at daycare by souring him on the whole thing at home. Should we do a no-pants weekend and try to do a 2-3 potty training marathon at home? Are there other techniques we’re missing?

Thank you!

Hmm, this IS a different flavor of potty stubbornness. Peer pressure at school is often a huuuuuge help, but usually we assume the effects will carry over at home, at least a little. I’m assuming you’ve spoken with the Miracle Worker at daycare about this? Maybe asked for her take or advice on the situation? Because yeah, I don’t want to undermine what she’s doing. But at the same time, given everything you’ve already tried, the only remaining suggestions I can think of would likely involve some changes at daycare as well.

Because I’d suggest ditching the pull-ups. I assume that’s what he’s wearing at home? And I assume his daycare prefers he wear them just in case, or because pooping on the potty isn’t quite 100% there yet? But I don’t know. In my experience, pull-ups can really be more of a hinderance than a help for some toddlers, particularly if they continue to wear them after having repeated, sustained success at using the toilet. They’re a nice backup for us adults, but they can ALSO send a really mixed message to a toddler. “Yep! You’re a big kid who uses the potty…buuuuuttttt it’s still kinda optional, because nothing really dramatic happens if you decide to just go in your pants.”

(I remember buying the ones with the disappearing design on the front to indicate wetness. I cannot even express how little of a crap [PUN!] my child gave about those dumb stars or moons or whatever.)

Since he’s proven himself to be capable of using the toilet at school and when you’re out, and not really receptive to positive rewards or incentives (those are NOT bribes), your best bet is to call his stubbornness bluff and let there be some natural consequences by his refusal to go at home. In this case: wet pants.

When I first start potty training, I typically go from diapers to a no-pants, bare butt stage, just because the whole “getting to the potty on time and getting your pants down” is more of a stage two for kids just starting out. Since your son has mastered that at school, I’d skip the no-pants weekend and buy him some underwear. And then dress him as he usually dresses for school. I would ALSO talk to his daycare and see if they have any super-strong resistance to him wearing underwear there, just so everything stays consistent.

I know the poop thing isn’t super consistent yet, but he IS trying, so maybe underwear will help him in that department. At least there’s not a HUGE difference between stripping off a soiled pull-up and tossing it in the trash vs. sending soiled pants home in a plastic bag. (And let’s be honest, we’ve all gotten those Bags o’ Disgusting sent home at some point — multiple points! — even AFTER our child was technically trained and in underwear full time. It shouldn’t be anything his daycare doesn’t deal with on a regular basis.)

This was the advice, by the way, we got from our own preschool Potty Training Miracle Worker. She recommended no pull-ups (though the slightly absorbent cloth training underwear was okay for just starting out). And when our little ball of stubbornness decided to train for a week…and then promptly untrained for a solid month, she advised us to keep him in underwear and then — when an accident happened — to NOT immediately strip off the wet clothes. Basically wait until it bothered him.  Or until he wanted to go somewhere or do something, and we could point out that nope, we can’t do that with wet pants, sorry.

He STILL tested us at home for about two days, but only to a certain point. He’d initially tell us that nope, he was clean and dry and fine even when he was so clearly, obviously NOT. But then, when we didn’t argue or move to change his clothes, he’d only make it about 20 minutes before giving up and taking everything off. At which point I’d promptly dress him all up again in underwear and pants (so no consequence-free puddles on the floor, or anything). Then it was 15 minutes, then five. Finally he was like, SCREW THIS, I WILL JUST GO SIT ON THE STUPID TOILET.

Every kid is different, of course, but I will say there’s no way we could have finished training that stubborn child using pull-ups, and maybe your son will be similar. Same deal if he’s wearing diapers at home, since your letter wasn’t clear if daycare and home are different — it’s time to banish the training wheels, so to speak.

Keep it SUPER POSITIVE, by the way — don’t purposely add to any distress over the wet clothes by shaming or scolding. Be as matter of fact about it as you can. When you pee in your pants instead of the potty, your clothes get wet and it’s not very fun or comfortable. I mean, it’s a fact we all have to live with.  Let him choose when to remove the wet clothes, but hold firm on the expectation that he will get dressed again and he will wear underwear again — there are no diapers or pull-ups left in the house anymore, another fact of life that no amount of stubbornness or tantrums will change.

(Hopefully he won’t just strip his clothing and underwear in a fit. If he does that, and has an accident on the floor, make sure he knows he’ll be expected to help clean it up, every time.)

Good luck!

]]> 11
Your Toddler’s First “Real” Christmas Fri, 14 Nov 2014 21:25:10 +0000

Hi Amy!

I have a somewhat seasonally appropriate question for you (since Halloween is over the only thing we could possibly be thinking of now is Christmas, right?)

My daughter will have just turned 2.5 when Christmas day rolls around (she is exactly 1 year younger than your youngest, Ike!) so I think this is the first year she’ll really understand what’s going on around her. Last year she was thrilled to eat Christmas cookies and get fun new toys, but really didn’t get the bigger picture. She doesn’t know anything about Christmas or what is to come– at this point she doesn’t even know who Santa is.

Basically, my question is: What is the best way to introduce everything to her? My husband and I are very subdued and practical people. While we do celebrate holidays, we tend not to make big deals out of them. We live modestly and certainly within our means. So we don’t want to go overboard with this Christmas stuff, but we also don’t want to be Grinches about the whole thing. We want to be sure she has fun and enjoys the holiday, but we don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with focusing only on presents or overdoing the special events etc.

Do you have any age-appropriate tips to get my daughter excited about and involved in her first real Christmas, without overemphasizing the hectic, crazy, and materialistic parts?


Honestly, there’s really no need to overthink this one, or to suddenly CHANGE ALL THE THINGS about the way you like to celebrate holidays. Keep doing Christmas the way you do Christmas. It sounds just lovely, honestly. Cookies, some pretty decorations, and a couple presents — what’s better than that?  At 2.5 years old, she’ll still likely be too young to really remember anything specific about this Christmas, so think of it more as building a gentle foundation of nice fuzzy-but-vague happy-time memories for next year, when she’ll see a Christmas tree and suddenly start talking about cookies or having a fire in the fireplace, so you know she’s starting to connect the dots.

That’s not to say that having a child means NO NEW TRADITIONS or anything. But you can still keep it simple. A new set of Christmas jammies to open on Christmas Eve, followed by a holiday TV special like Olive the Reindeer or Charlie Brown, or just playing some holiday music and reading a special Christmas book at bedtime. She’s probably too little to help with tree decorating, but she can help pick a tree out, either at a lot or a farm. Make it a fun outing, even if the whole purpose of it goes over her head at the time. Bake cookies and let her pour in the chocolate chips or “decorate” some sugar cookies. (They will be the ugliest, messiest, most precious cookies you will see. Take a million pictures!)

We started the Mall Santa Photo tradition right from the very first Christmas, first as kind of a joke (tiny confused bored-looking baby + cheesy Mall Santa = hilarious), and then it sort of…stuck. Now we do it every year and the kids genuinely look forward to it, and I admit I love looking through our collection of goofy photos every year and seeing how much the boys have grown. Some kids are (justifiably) weirded out or scared of Mall Santas, though, so again, don’t feel pressured to drag her to GO SEE SANTA!!! if you’d rather not. Read her books about him instead, if you’d like the Santa story to be part of her Christmas at some point.

My almost 3.5 year old STILL doesn’t know who Santa is, though, if you ask him. He was your daughter’s age last year and was still mostly confused about a lot of what was going on. He loved our Christmas tree, the cookies, and dancing to a musical Charlie Brown tree over and over and over. That was really enough for him. I’m looking forward to this year, just to see what exactly he’ll remember or if it’ll be all new, all over again.

We bought him exactly one present for Christmas morning (besides some trinkets and treats in his stocking), but thanks to friends and relatives his bounty under the tree was still totally ridiculous for a small toddler. So don’t worry about being grinches if you stick to just a small number of presents. Two years old = two presents, plus a stocking is more than enough. Ike got tired of opening gifts last year so I let his older brothers open them for him. Let your daughter take a break as well, or open gifts slowly, one at a time, rather than a big videotaped frenzy where she’s not allowed to play with or even look at one present for very long before you’re egging her on to open the next one. (I admit we’ve done this. Then I watch the video like, “CALM DOWN CRAZY PEOPLE. GIVE THE POOR KID A MINUTE.”)

One final tradition to consider: Taking your daughter to a toy store to buy a toy for Toys for Tots or an Angel Tree every year. Do it this year just because it’s a kind thing to do, and each year she’ll slowly come to understand what you’re doing, and hopefully it will temper the GIFTS GIFTS GIFTS ME ME ME stuff with a little real-world experience in giving without the expectation of getting anything in return.

]]> 12
The Postpartum Visitor Guilt Trip Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:35:08 +0000

I am 32 weeks along with my first baby. My husband and I are from the Midwest; he is in the military and we are currently stationed in the Southwest, about 1,400 miles away from family and friends, which sucks but we are doing the best we can with it.

My mom and in-laws were talking about coming to visit us a little after our daughter was born but we ran into a few problems: my mom is terrified of flying, and a couple months ago told us she may not be able to come because her fear of flying was so strong (which I told her I completely understand). It turns out my MIL has the same extreme fear and would not want to fly unless FIL was with her. He’s not able to make it because he has too much traveling for work.

My husband and I talked about it and decided it would maybe be a better idea if we had no one come visit us. To clear this part up – my daughter will be born the end of December, my husband is getting out of the military, so we will be home for good by the end of May. We thought it would be a little easier on everyone else if we just waited till we came home for everyone to have an equal opportunity to see her at the same time. There are other reasons too: we do not have the room for people to come stay with us, my family cannot afford a hotel room, it will still be the holiday season when they visit and plane tix will be expensive. There were a couple of friends we’ve already told this to and they completely understand our reasons.

My mom, however, is extremely upset and is taking this decision as “I don’t want her around” which couldn’t be furthest from the truth. I tried explaining all this to her and she says she just doesn’t understand and is devastated that I “don’t want her here.” I don’t want her to be upset and to understand and respect my decision. I was wanting a little advice on how to better explain things to her. And my question is: Is this right for me to say/do? Am I truly being cruel to my mom?


Holy guilt trip, Batman.

Let me get this straight: Your mom already told you that hey, that hypothetical visit we were talking about? Probably won’t happen, because of a fear of flying. So you know, heads up that you probably can’t count on her 100% for postpartum support/help. You graciously explain that you understand, it’s okay.

So then you and your husband talk things over and come up with an alternate plan that works for you and your current living situation, AND a plan that doesn’t put any guilt or pressure on people who don’t want to fly. And your mom freaks out over a trip that she already told you might not happen and is now twisting your words and intentions for maximum Bad Daughter Guilt.

You know what? Whatever. This is my least favorite Mom (or MIL) Move and I am fresh out of patience for it. I sense you could explain and explain until you’re blue in the face and it won’t make a bit of difference, because your mother has gone Full Drama Queen. You are not being cruel; she’s being more than a tad ridiculous.

Sure, it’s understandable that she’s disappointed that she’ll need to wait a few months to see the baby in person. It’s a bummer, but it doesn’t really make sense for her to go so overboard when the trip was already kind of iffy. And her disappointment doesn’t make it okay for her to make you feel like crap. Sure, I completely understand that some folks are deathly afraid of flying, but…what did she expect you to do? Buy her a ticket and then just sort of hope she’ll get on the plane? (Or even better, hope that she doesn’t spend the rest of your pregnancy making you feel guilty about the plane trip and the anxiety and the stress of it all.)

I also can tell you from years of Advice Column Experience that there are a ton of daughters out there who would straight up FREAK OUT over their moms using a fear of flying as an excuse not to come see them after giving birth, and would insist/beg that their moms find some way to conquer their fear (therapy, Xanax, etc.) for the sake of the baby. You gave your mom a pass on that and, after further reflection, decided it was probably for the best. I see nothing wrong with this.

Maybe this isn’t the first time her fear of flying has caused her to miss out on something momentous, and rather than realize that “hey, this is an irrational level of fear that needs to be dealt with somehow,” she’s deflecting blame onto you. Maybe she’s got a victim/martyr complex and thinks you’re “punishing” her for something she “can’t help,” but…you’re not. That I feel like I know for sure. Your reasons for no postpartum visitors are sane, sound and perfectly reasonable. I assume you guys are used to bridging the temporary distance with frequent phone calls, photos, Facebook, Skype, etc. This really isn’t the end of the world. This isn’t because you “don’t want her there,” it’s just the way things are right now. Cramped, far-flung, and soon to be in a massive state of flux. The same no-visiting rules apply to everyone, and no, that doesn’t mean your mom isn’t still super special and won’t be missed. But this is you being the grown-up, making grown-up decisions about how you and your new family would like to spend the first few months together.

What’s important is that YOU feel good about this decision, independent of how ANYBODY else feels or what they think. You no longer need to defend it to anyone. Stick to your guns. Stop trying to re-explain things. Change the subject when she starts guilt-tripping you with “I don’t understaaaaand” and such. Maybe one last, “Mom, this isn’t about us not wanting you there and you know it. Stop making me feel guilty about this decision, because it’s final. Moving on.”

And then file this little tantrum away for future reference, once you’re all moved back home and in regular, closer proximity to her. I’m guessing this pattern of behavior will repeat, as will your need to recognize it, stand strong and not let it get to you.

If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

]]> 26