Alpha Mom » Amalah parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Fri, 23 Jan 2015 18:14:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Too Many Big Moves at Once? Fri, 23 Jan 2015 18:13:46 +0000

Hi Amy!

I’m looking at the next six months and starting to freak out a little. My son is two and a half, and right on the cusp of two pretty big transitions – switching from a crib to a bed, and starting to potty train. So, why am I freaking out? Because my husband just got transferred at work; we’re moving to a different state in three weeks; the housing market is both crummy AND expensive at our destination and we don’t have permanent housing yet; therefore, we’ll probably be crashing with different family members for about a month while we look for a reasonable place to rent or buy. To top it all off, we’re expecting our second child in July. How in the world can I manage all this upheaval for my son so that I’m setting him up for success instead of failure, frustration, and regression?

The first and most pressing issue is the move from crib to bed. He’s mostly happy in his crib – he’s never tried to escape (beyond the normal toddler nap-resisting shenanigans), and he loves to snuggle up against the crib walls. Normally, I’d just keep him in the crib until after we move, and then as his sibling’s due date drew closer I’d make the transition. But here’s where things get tricky. We’re moving back to our home state at the end of this month, smack in between my parents and my in-laws – about a 2.5 hour drive from either. My sister lives about 30 minutes from my husband’s new work site. My husband’s schedule will be three long days on and four days off, so he suggested that while we’re looking for housing, my son and I could just visit with relatives for a week here and a week there, and he can crash with my sis and then join us on his days off. In many ways, this would be great – we’ve lived a day’s drive from my entire family for the last ten years, so I’m really excited to see more of them. The problem is, the sleeping arrangements are not ideal at any of these places. My parents have a crib set up at their house, but my mom watches my niece during the day, and she’ll be using the crib during my son’s nap time. My sister’s kids are a little older, so they just got rid of their crib, and my in-laws never got one. Ultimately, we’d be stuck with either disassembling and reassembling our crib over and over, or using a pack & play for up to a month. The pack & play would certainly be more convenient, but my son is a big kid – he’s already on the upper end of the growth charts for THREE year olds, and he’s just too long and too heavy to sleep comfortably and safely in a pack & play for any real length of time. We’ve managed with it for short visits – one or two nights, then back home to our crib. But I just don’t feel good about cramming my kid into a pack & play for a month when he’s clearly too big for it. I’ve looked for portable cribs or toddler travel beds – but so far, the porta-cribs all seem too small, and the toddler beds are just that – beds. Amy, where am I going to put this kid?!?

The other question is potty training. He’ll turn three right around my due date in July, and I’d like to have him in preschool this fall, so I know I need to start the process sometime in the not-too-distant future. I have enough sense to know that it’s not a good idea to even attempt it until we are permanently settled, which will hopefully be by March. But the question I have is this: is it even worth it to attempt to potty train him so close to his sibling’s arrival? From everything I’ve heard, a new baby is a recipe for major potty regressions. Between that, the move, and the crib to bed switch, would I just be overloading him? Should I wait until after the baby comes, or am I just way over-thinking this?

Please help me manage my life, Amy, because right now my sh*t is all kinds of bananas.


Okay, okay. BREATHE. This is going to be okay. This might not all be the most peaceful, stress-free period of your life but it’s going to be okay.

Sleeping Arrangements

First, let’s tackle the sleeping arrangements. Let’s run through your temp housing options:

Parents’ House: Has crib, but is occupied at nap times by niece (age not specified). Could your NIECE spend her naps in the pack-n-play, if she’s still within the recommended height/weight limits?

(Note that according to Graco, their pack-n-play is only for children under 35 inches in height and who weigh less than 30 pounds. If your son is as big as you say, he’s probably over those limits. Thus the pack-n-play probably isn’t even an option at this point, from both a comfort and safety perspective.)

Sister & In-Laws’ house: No crib.

But are there…beds?

See, here’s the thing: There is NO rule or law or even real recommendation that there MUST be some specialized extra step in between the crib and a “real” bed. You don’t need a toddler bed. At all. Only one of my children slept in a toddler bed and while it was adorable and all, it was ultimately a waste of money, given the tiny window of time he used it. I also had a Very Big Toddler, and the mattress (from Ikea) was slightly longer than a crib mattress — as you’ve probably noted, most toddler beds simply use crib mattresses — but he still outgrew it quickly. We upgraded our bed from a full to a king and gave him that full-size bed not long after his third birthday.

My other two children went straight from the crib to a full-sized mattress & box spring, the lower bunk of our bunk bed. For the first couple weeks, I attached a removable safety guard bar (available at Amazon or in the safety section of the big box baby stores) and put some blankets on the floor. Yes, there was a lot of getting in and out and escaping and some missed naps, but you’re going to do the same thing with a toddler bed. And again, when you’re talking about a Very Big Toddler, I double down on the advice that a small in-between toddler bed or porto-crib will be a ridiculous waste of money, especially if you’re going to spend at least a month in transition, hauling it around from house to house. (And assembling and disassembling a full-sized crib once a week or so? Then loading it in a car and dragging it inside and setting it up again? WHILE PREGNANT? Girl. No.)

If there isn’t a spare bed for him, you can simply opt for a mattress on the floor, in whatever size you choose. It can just be something inflatable and easy to take from place to place. At my in-laws’ house, there’s only one twin bed (beyond a full bed for my husband and I), and now that my children are all out of the crib, we use two twin-sized inflatable mattresses for our younger sons. They roll off, we roll ‘em back on.

Yes, he’s happy in his crib and you weren’t planning to move him for a few more months. But hey, sometimes life forces us to change the schedule. There’s nothing to be gained by beating yourself up over things you just can’t change or avoid right now. And 2.5 is a perfectly acceptable, reasonable age to make the switch, and I’m betting that when he arrives at a house without a crib, it will be more of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing for him. It’s an adventure! Here’s where you sleep at Grandma’s house, at Auntie’s house, at Nana’s house. If you’re really concerned about the lack of consistency, get the inflatable bed. Get it now, before you move and introduce it to him. He’ll probably LOVE watching you inflate it and think it’s a fun, special thing. Be prepared to stay next to him and read lots of books until he’s used to the idea of actually SLEEPING there, but hopefully he’ll catch on quickly. (If there’s an Actual Bed for him at each place, start trying out naps in your bed at home, or take his crib mattress out and see if he’ll sleep on that.)

The reality is, toddlers are much more resilient than we often give them credit for. He might get a little clingy, act out at times, and naps might go to hell (which would happen WHENEVER you made the switch to bedtime freedom, horrible freedom), but he’ll make it through this temporary upheaval just fine in the end.

Potty Training

As for potty training: I wouldn’t push it, personally, but I also wouldn’t let the possibility of a sibling regression stop me from introducing the concept once you’re settled. I potty trained both of my first two right before the next baby was born. We weren’t 100% “done” either time and there were some slips and accidents — but I wouldn’t say it was all that different training my youngest, who had similar “regressions” with no new sibling in sight. So…meh. If he’s crazy resistant, let it go. If he’s intrigued and interested, go for it. And once you’re done with the housing search, turn your attention to preschools — so you can know for sure if the potty training is even a set-in-stone requirement for a 3 year old! Some schools totally don’t expect it, and will let peer pressure help the process along.

Above all, just remember to give him lots of positive attention and love. Lots of familiar toys and transitional items. Don’t feel like you need to constantly explain what’s going on and why (WHOOSH over the head) — just offer reassurance that you and Daddy are still Here, and will be with him when you go There, no matter what.

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Little Boys in Pink Shoes Mon, 19 Jan 2015 15:05:22 +0000

Dear Amy,

I have a 2.5-year-old boy who loves the color pink. He also hates wearing shoes. Recently, I was showing him a web page with lots of different shoes on it, trying to get him interested, and I asked him which of two pairs of shoes he liked better. He picked a pair of pink shoes he saw off to the side. Just for fun, I scrolled down the page and again asked him to choose between blue and brown. He again pointed to a different flowery pink pair off to the side. I tried a third set of choices, and again, he came up with pink.

Now this doesn’t bother me in the least. I don’t care if he likes pink shoes, or pink pants, or dolls, or whatever the hell he wants to like. I don’t think this makes him weird, or gay, or whatever society deems male children who prefer pink. It’s just a color. My problem is that I don’t feel that I can let him wear pink shoes because other people/kids will pick on him. I don’t want him to be picked on. Of course I don’t. He will be starting preschool when he turns 3 next summer, and I don’t think I can, in good conscience, send him to preschool wearing pink shoes. But part of me wonders, would he be more willing to wear shoes (in general) if they were pink? Would the daily shoe wars come to an end?

Am I being ridiculous? Should I just let him wear whatever color he wants and not worry about the reactions from other people? Or should I quietly just order the brown shoes and hope he chooses a new favorite color next year?

Since you have 3 boys, I am interested to know what you would do. I don’t want stereotypes to get in the way of his happiness, but I hesitate to have people label my son, who is too young to understand, let alone defend himself if I’m not around.

While none of my boy children ever developed an affinity for pink clothing, all of them at one point pushed a pink doll stroller around our neighborhood, and my six-year-old still takes his “babies” to his friends’ houses, with one of them decked out in her finest pink party dress and flowered headband that he picked out specifically for her. And oh yeah, I fought the ridiculous daily NO SHOES battle with all three of them at some point. So I feel confident in my “what would I do” response, even if it is technically a hypothetical.

Buy him the shoes he will wear. The pink ones. He’ll be fine.

In my (three time!) experience, the 3-year-old preschool classroom is not the junior-high meat-grinder atmosphere you seem to be envisioning. It’s a classroom full of very young toddlers who are still basically babies, many of whom will 1) cry, 2) have potty accidents, 3) suck their thumbs, 4) drag a blankie/lovey around with them, and 5) do any number of things their parents are completely terrified will result in teasing, because we all think everybody ELSE’s 3 year olds don’t still do those things for some reason.

My current 3 year old attends a mixed-age classroom, so some of his peers are technically kindergartners. He also has long hair (for a boy), and at this point is quite vocal that it’s his preference to keep it that way. I asked his teacher if…you know…she’d ever overheard anyone tease him or say anything along the “YOU LOOK LIKE A GIRL” lines. She stared at me, almost a little shocked at the question. “Of course not! I can’t imagine any of these kids saying or even thinking that. This isn’t that kind of environment.”

Obviously, I can’t guarantee that your son won’t be told pink shoes are for girls, or teased for his preference. But that’s the reality of sending your child out into the world. I can’t guarantee that any of my children won’t be teased at school today, no matter what “kind of environment” their teachers are doing their best to create. My oldest son is on the Spectrum and has serious social issues, my middle son prefers the company of girls and would rather play house than soccer, and my youngest has long blonde hair and insists on wearing at least one item of clothing backwards most days. (I don’t know. I’ve stopped fighting that particular battle as well.)

What matters more, I believe, is that my children know that when they come home, to me, to their father, they will be accepted and supported and loved unconditionally. They’re allowed to like what they like and be their authentic selves. By pointedly ignoring your son’s preference (after asking for his opinion/input) for the pink shoes, YOU will be the one sending him the signal that there’s something “wrong” with that preference.

If he comes home from preschool and suddenly no longer wants to wear the pink shoes, go ahead and buy him a new brown or blue or green pair, but don’t make it a huge thing, or panic that he’s been hurt and teased and scarred for life. Buy him some pink pajamas that he can wear and enjoy in peace at home, where he KNOWS his color preference is accepted and honored. And in the end, it’s your unconditional acceptance and love that will translate into self-confidence, and the ability for him to look a peer in the eye and say “I don’t care what you think, I like these shoes, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

I always tell my boys there’s no such thing as “girl colors/toys” and “boy colors/toys” but they (at least the older ones) insist that I am wrong. The marketing gets to them eventually, so I usually just shrug, tell them they’ll understand the insidious, sexist nature  of the gender stereotyping machine someday (WHOOSH OVER THEIR HEADS), and attempt to reinforce that idea that there’s nothing BETTER about boy things or LESSER about girl things. Everybody is allowed to like what they like, and we NEVER tease anyone about liking something “different” than us.

I’m doing my best to raise sons who would never, ever tease a little boy for wearing pink shoes. I really am. I like to think I’m not the only one.

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To Budget Or Not To Budget Wed, 14 Jan 2015 20:43:52 +0000

Hi Amy,

For a change of pace, how about a question that is not baby related. It’s about the one thing possibly more stressful than babies- money.

My husband and I do not see eye to eye on budgeting. We’re in the fortunate position that we live fairly comfortably- not extravagantly, but we can afford to go out for the occasional dinner. But we’re in our early 30s with a toddler and finances are getting tighter and tighter. We’d like to buy a house, have another baby, go on vacations… but the future is a little scary. We’re fine day to day, but there is no plan for our future. We were both graduate students for years, so we didn’t have our 20s to save up. I’d like to set a budget, but admit I panic when I start trying and have no follow-through. My husband- who handles the money- thinks a budget is unnecessary and says he has it under control. I think his big fear is that a budget will leave no flexibility for fun. Most of our conversations about money end up in stress and arguments. It’s not so much that we’re having financial issues right now, but I think we could be living smarter.

So I guess my question is twofold: Do people honestly set budgets and stick to them or is our way “normal?” And if we do need better control of our finances, how do I get my husband on board?

Thank you!

-Show me da money

Is your way “normal?” I don’t know if I’d necessarily go that far, but I will guess that your way is probably pretty “common.” However, that doesn’t make it optimal, or wise.

Three fairly big red flags here:

1) No plan for the future, or even the short term. Ambitious goals (house, baby, vacations) that you probably just sorta hope will happen someday, but aren’t really taking the necessary, realistic steps to get there. I’m guessing college tuition, retirement or any sort of substantial savings cushion in case of an emergency/job loss/life event are also in the “yeah we should get on that, but it kinda stresses us out so we’ll think about it tomorrow” category.

2) Your husband handles the money so you probably have no real insight into your own financial future (or present), and the person who handles your finances thinks budgets are unnecessary and is actively resisting your (completely reasonable and probably overdue) requests that you guys get your shit together financially and set some goals and make some plans.

3) Your conversations about money end in stress and arguments. That is not a financial situation that is “under control.” Sure, you guys probably ARE fine day to day and in no immediate peril, but obviously things could be better. Most couples fight about money at some point, yes. But don’t underestimate the damage that these arguments can wreak on your marriage — finances and money issues are one of the top reasons for divorce. Deal with this sooner, rather than later.

You guys both sound like you generally find finances/budgeting in general to be unpleasant and stressful. I TOTALLY get that. But it’s part of being a grown-up. You owe it to yourselves and your daughter to get some plans in place and get realistic about your current spending/saving levels. I would highly, highly recommend you enlist the services of a third party here, since you are both in such wildly different places right now.

We use and love the online budgeting tools offer, for example, but they are self-directed and only as good as your own commitment to using them. Since your husband doesn’t think budgets are “necessary,” perhaps loading up your monthly income, expenses and spending habits into a budget template would be enough of a come-to-Jesus moment for him, or it might reassure you both that you aren’t living beyond your means in the short term. But it still won’t address his resistance to creating any sort of long-term plan for your collective futures, and your admitted lack of follow-through, if you guys don’t stick with it month to month. So perhaps an appointment with a financial planner or some of Dave Ramsey’s resources/training would be helpful for you both. You’ll need to swallow your general anxiety/dislike of these tough money-related conversations, and remind yourselves that YOU WILL FEEL BETTER WITH A FINANCIAL PLAN IN PLACE. You really will! You’ll be able to talk about money without that creeping edge of anxiety, you’ll likely meet your goals sooner than you would otherwise…and YOU as an individual will be more in control of your own financial future and not overly dependent on your husband’s money management skills and judgement. (I know it’s another thing no one likes to talk about, but marriages do end. Death of a spouse can happen. You do yourself no favors to pretend otherwise when it comes to your finances.)

By the way, you can — and totally should! — budget for fun. Fun is essential! You can include a restaurant budget, a wine budget, a special savings line just to chip away at paying for that dream vacation or weekend getaway. Household budgets often fail because people go overboard and forget to allow themselves some fun and pleasure. Keep that in mind as you tackle this issue.

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Post-Baby Foodshaming Fri, 09 Jan 2015 19:47:21 +0000

Dear All-Knowing Amalah,

Four months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy whom I love dearly. Unfortunately, pregnancy left me with extra baby weight, which I do not love dearly. It has made me feel uncomfortable about my body, so I decided to get serious about losing the rest of the weight at the beginning of the year (because that’s what we do, right?), and started a diet. I enjoy eating healthily and am loving the extra energy I have, but my diet is causing problems in my marriage. My husband is the very thin, can-eat-anything-he-wants-and-will-still-lose-weight type and he has taken it upon himself to ensure that every calorie that passes my lips is accounted for. I’m nursing a baby, so I am hungry more often than he understands and he has accused me several times of “eating all day long.” When I walk to the kitchen he asks me what I’m doing and tries to talk me out of eating. Even grabbing a quick snack unleashes a lecture on the sorry state of my physical health. It is making me crazy. I tried rationally explaining that his food-shaming is hurtful and unhealthy and when that didn’t work I tried crying and screaming that his food-shaming is hurtful and unhealthy. Still, he carries on with his self-appointed mission to make me lose weight. I love him and know that he means well, but I swear that if he doesn’t stop I might just beat him to death with my juicer (that he bought me – go figure). How can I explain that the way he acts about how I eat is inappropriate? Please help.


Desperate for a Respite



You had a baby four months ago. You are nursing. You are married to a jerk.

I mean, I’m sure he’s great and all and you love him, but this is ridiculous. You asked “how can I explain that the way he acts about how I eat is inappropriate” but I highly doubt there’s a script I could write that would get through to him. Because you’ve ALREADY explained it. Once rationally, and once in TEARS. And — call me old-fashioned and/or crazy — if you have actively driven the person you love to TEARS, and yet CONTINUE to actively engage in the same pattern of behavior that made them cry…that crosses a line into abusive.

I don’t care that he means well. He’s being controlling and obsessive and cruel. YOU JUST HAD A BABY. YOU ARE NURSING A BABY. You are a human being who needs calories to function (and 500 EXTRA calories to nurse). Weight loss should not be a priority here, for you and DEFINITELY not for him, because it’s not his damn body.

(Random aside: While many women love going on and on about the weight-loss benefits of breastfeeding, many MORE women anecdotally report that their bodies hold onto extra weight [10 pounds is what I’ve typically heard, though I’m sure it varies] that never budges until the baby weans. The more you know!)

It’s not a difficult concept for someone to grasp (especially after having been told) (twice!) that, “Hmm, my well-intentioned efforts to support my spouse in her diet and weight-loss goals do not seem to be helping, but instead seem to be actively making her unhappy and/or sending her the message that I’m grossed out by her post-baby body. Perhaps I should back off.” Since he cannot grasp that concept, I admit that I’m less than willing to give him the “but he MEANS well” pass. He’s got a great metabolism and superiority complex. And probably some hidden food issues of his own, mixed in with unrealistic expectations re: post-baby bodies.

Part of me wants to tell you to walk into the kitchen right now and just like, stare him right in the eyes while shoving an entire chocolate cupcake into your mouth in one big, spiteful bite.

But I won’t, because that’s not how grown-ups are supposed to handle things like this. Personally, I think you guys should probably consider taking this to a third party, someone who can also explain that yes, DUDE, the food-shaming is hurtful, unhealthy, and completely counterproductive. A couples counselor would be one option, especially if he’s ever shown these controlling-type tendencies about other aspects of your life or physical appearance. If you can think of any other instances that, hmmm, maybe suggest a pattern, insist he come to counseling because that pattern needs to stop NOW.

If this really truly is the one sole issue he’s decided to be a complete (but so well meaning!!) jerk about, I’d suggest hiring yourself a personal trainer. (Hey, I bet your husband would totally spring for the expense since it’s so IMPORTANT.) Preferably one who specializes in post-pregnancy weight loss. Maybe find a dietician or nutritionist. And then these people — AND ONLY THESE PEOPLE — are the ones who get any say in your diet/exercise plan and are the only people you need to be accountable to, besides yourself. Tell him this. You’ve absolutely had it with him and his self-appointed mission and it’s done and over.

If he continues to harass you in the kitchen or try to inventory your food intake or basically be the world’s most obnoxious calorie counting app, tell him it’s time for some counseling. If he really can’t see/understand what this behavior is doing to you (and your marriage), then this is a real problem, and one that might not magically go away once you hit the “right” number on the scale.


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More Fun With Potty Training Regressions Mon, 05 Jan 2015 19:16:14 +0000

Hi Amalah,

An avid follower, I know you’ve written tons on potty training. And while my 3 year old son has made it so easy for us, I read your potty training columns anyway. You know, just in case we hit a stumbling block. Well, here’s a new one for me and I’m hoping you can provide some guidance.

Until last week, my son had been doing great at sleeping through the night without wetting his pull-up or getting up to let us know he needs to go in the middle of the night (rarely and there’s a gate at his door so he needs help in and out of his room to get to the bathroom). Yayyyyyyyy, tons of praise and recognition given.

So now the stumper. For the last week, not 5-10 minutes after I tuck him in (and after 2 trips to the potty right before bed), he calls to us that he peed in his diaper. Not that he has to go potty, that he’s wet. He goes potty before bath and about 15 minutes later as the last thing before tuck-in. How, I ask you, HOW is it physiologically possible that he STILL has anything left in his bladder to do this? And I verify that he does actually go a fair amount in the toilet both times. And we don’t give liquids after dinner, yada yada, covering all the major do’s and don’ts.

And how do we get over this hurdle without damaging his precious psyche (and mine, which leads me to the answer to your next question, I’m guessing).

What major changes have occurred lately? He is changing to a new school and his last day at the old school was about a week ago a few days before this started. Though he hasn’t expressed anything but excitement about meeting new friends, I know he is/will be sad at not seeing his old friends. AND we have a 2 month old, so being a big brother is new to him. Again, not a significant change in behavior but an acceptable amount of jealousy and demands for extra attention, hugs, etc which I do all I can go meet or exceed.

So with a new baby and the accompanying sleep deprivation and exponential increase in laundry, how can I help my son overcome this potty training regression? At the though of losing more sleep or getting buried further under the laundry mountain, the frayed thread my sanity is hanging by starts to give out. Thanks!


I can already guarantee that my advice will not be what you were hoping for, but hey, the Smackdown is back from its December hiatus and feels like coming back with a bang of complete and utter apathy.

Here’s what you do: NOTHING.

Don’t stress over this. This is a blip. This is will work itself out in time, if it hasn’t already in the nine days since you wrote this email. This is a three year old doing what three year olds do best: Angling for attention in the weirdest ways imaginable.

“But he gets plenty of attention! I am an absolute fount of wonderful, positive attention!” I KNOW, RIGHT? I completely believe you. Doesn’t matter.

I’d call this less of a true “regression” and more of a new-sibling-related, attention-seeking quirk. Because unless there’s something physically going on with his urinary tract (which if so: you would likely notice the same pattern during the day that he pees, then immediately needs to pee again because his bladder isn’t emptying for some reason, plz take him to the doctor), this habit strikes me as something he’s figured out how to do deliberately. Simply because he likes that you come back into his room 5/10 minutes after tuck-in.

And most toddlers/preschoolers play this bedtime game. For some, it’s the endless requests for a glass of water, one more story, or that you check the closet for monsters. Or bring them some toy or fix their covers or correct an uncomfortable pajama-tag situation. Your son has opted to go with a diaper change. Congratulations! You’ve won a great story to tell later while shaking your head in baffled amusement.

You’re changing a lot of diapers already. He notices. And his pride in his potty training is maaaaybe wavering a little, because maaaaaaybe there was one or two times when he asked you for something and got the “NOT NOW, DEALING WITH A NEWBORN DIAPER BLOWOUT” response. Or not! It’s not even worth trying to wiggle through the reasoning here, because he’s THREE YEARS OLD. That’s enough said, right there.

So keep doing what you’re doing. Limit liquids starting two hours before bed. Make him use the bathroom. Make him use the bathroom again. Offer an incentive for keeping his diaper dry. Remind him he can get up and use the bathroom any time he needs to.

(Although…if that gate isn’t 100% necessary, maybe get rid of it? Or replace it with something he can operate himself? But that’s your call — every kid is different when it comes to when they’re ready to say goodbye to baby/toddler containment and have full-house-wandering freedom. We typically granted it around this stage — once they were capable of staying dry at night or could wake up and use the potty independently.)

When the inevitable “I’M WET!” call comes, answer it. Silently. Mechanically. Make him take his own pull-up off and take it to the trash. No chatting/talking. No rebukes, encouragement, whatever. He’s got your attention…but only sorta kinda.

He’ll tire of this game, eventually. Meeting all those new friends will probably help — a new big-kid peer group around this age typically makes potty-training and cool underwear more of a Thing, a source of pride, and he’ll prefer not to seek your attention in this particular, babyish way.

(One other idea: Downgrade him from pull-ups to a For-Real Old-School Baby Diaper until this behavior stops. Not a shaming tactic — and I don’t recommend this for any child who is physically incapable of staying dry overnight yet — but if you suspect a toddler is deliberately regressing, going back to Baby Diapers REALLY makes the game seem less fun for them.)

I have three children, and my first two BOTH reacted to the new sibling with some sort of potty-related regression. It wasn’t always immediate — in fact I think they both waited a couple months, as if it took them awhile to realize the baby wasn’t going anywhere and could be a noisy, annoying attention-hog. It was always temporary, however, and the only way through it was through. Lots of positive attention and a jaw-clenching, stoic lack of attention (positive OR negative) whenever they had an “accident.” (THAT WERE SO ON PURPOSE.)

And my youngest doesn’t have a younger sibling. But he’s three. And competing with older siblings for attention. So…yeah. I feel you. It’s just kind of normal for kids to act kinda weird at this age.


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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.

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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.


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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.

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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!

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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.)

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