Tag Archives: Z

Rude Awakening

Z threw up in the middle of last night.

A week ago, the girls both got sick, one after the other, with a very high fever that lasted a day. After a day of recovery, both were back on their feet. When Z inevitably came down with it, his fever never seemed to get as high, but he maintained it longer. He didn’t get over it after one day, or two. That’s how he ended up on antibiotics for the past five days.

Antibiotics are a real boon to civilization, don’t get me wrong. However, not only do they get rid of any bad bacteria that is making you sick, they also eliminate the bacteria that lives in your guts and helps you to digest food properly. This can lead to intestinal discomfort, vomiting, or diarrhea.

All of which hit Z about 1am.

We co-sleep with him (as we did with the girls), so when the baby gets sick in the night at our house, it means the mess happens in our bed. If we’re lucky, it’s between the Wife and I. If we’re unlucky, the baby is snuggled up to one of us when he does the technicolor yawn.

The Wife and I are old hands at this by now. This is not our first rodeo, nor our first barfy baby in the bed. That fact doesn’t make this kind of event any more splendid, but does help us shrug off the initial shock and disgust so that we can immediately move on to taking care of business.

(I will also say that the first few times you are woken up in the night by your child making a wet “HRUUP!” sound, it may take a minute for you to fully come around and process what’s happened. Then you have to drag your consciousness up from the depths like an anchor from the bottom of a dark sea. You just want to sleep but now you have a gross mess and an unhappy baby to deal with and it’s such a pain. Fortunately, by the time you’re on your third child, you never really get very far from the dividing line between sleep and wakefulness anyway. Day or night, you’re either about to pass out or constantly being woken up. This kind of interruption is just more disgusting than most.)

“You take care of the baby,” the Wife mumbled, “and I’ll take care of the bed.” Teamwork is essential at a time like this.

The most challenging aspect of having a messy baby is that the mess won’t stay localized. Oh, no. Babies will immediately begin transferring the ickiness to every surface within three feet of them while simultaneously making sure their own body gets entirely covered. Usually while crying and rubbing their face. So there’s no point in trying to clean up if you haven’t cleaned the baby first.

Yet, at the same time, the vomit (or whatever your midnight mess happens to be) is already soaking through the sheets and into your mattress. Yes, of course you own a mattress protector for just this reason. But you never got around to putting it back on after the last time you had to wash it, did you? So stripping the bedding needs to be done ASAP, too.

I’m not going to bother you with the revolting details of the cleanup, like how Z’s left ear was entirely covered in mess or how he was also having liquid poops. I’ll just say that it was pretty gross and leave it at that.

Once I’d bathed Z and the Wife had gotten the sheets and pillowcases into the washer, we swapped. She held and comforted Z while I the bed put back together. All in all, we handled it as efficiently as you could expect for the circumstances, which means it only resembled the light-hearted slapstick of a Marx Brothers routine rather than the violent incompetence of the Three Stooges. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the time that MeToo kept being sick and we had to do this shtick twice in one night. But it was bad enough.

Boy, I’m tired. Anyway.

Z’s tummy is going to be unhappy for a little while. To help, we’ll be feeding him things like yogurt and kefir that can get healthy probiotic bacteria back into him. Bananas will help soothe his belly and replace potassium while toast will be easy to digest.

In the meantime, the Wife and I decided to stop giving him the antibiotics, even though he was supposed to be on them for ten days. He hasn’t had a fever in four days and his breathing is normal again (prior to starting antibiotics, he was breathing as if it hurt or was uncomfortable). Whatever was ailing him seems to be gone. As always, when we give our kids medicine we must weigh the benefits against any adverse side-effects. Dehydration can hit babies hard and fast. If “intestinal discomfort” means Z having another week of diarrhea, then the cure would be more harmful than the disease. Which it seems to have cured already.

Yes, being a parent can sometimes mean being up to your elbows in liquid poo at 2 o’clock in the morning…

Um. Yes.

I wrote that intending to balance the first half of the statement with a more positive assertion about how a lot of the time parenting is also very rewarding and/or fulfilling. However, while that is very true, I just can’t summon up enough brainpower to make it sound good and not like some limp platitude stuck on the end of the post to wrap things up.

Man, I am so very tired.

Making an Evil Mastermind

Baby Z is in the process of morphing into Little Boy Z. He’s almost walking, kinda talking, and definitely exhibits a distinct personality with his own opinions and desires. For example, today he pointed at his nose and said, “Nosz.” Then at library story time, he stood next to me while I sat on the floor, his hand on my shoulder, and waved at some of the puppets. That’s some pretty cool stuff.

On the other hand, his developing personality is starting to show some disturbing trends.

I know that young children have to experiment and try things out as a way to learn about themselves and the world around them. On top of that, it’s easy to read too much into any single incident at this early age. Just because your little boy always points at pictures of a guitar doesn’t mean he’s going to be the next Johnny Cash any more than the fact that your little girl’s habit of constantly pulling her clothes off indicates a future career as a stripper. I know this.

Nevertheless, I’m starting to worry that I may be raising a future diabolical mastermind.

Take last night’s bath time for example, when I caught Z practicing his evil laugh. He was leaning forward, watching his reflection in the tub’s faucet, while saying, “Ha, ha, HA! Ha, ha, HA! Heh, heh, HEH!” I’m pretty sure he was rubbing his hands together, too. Seriously, for a kid who’s never watched a single James Bond movie, he was doing a pretty good impersonation of Ernst Stravo Blofeld. (A little hammy, but not full-on Dr. Evil.)

Am I being an alarmist? Making a mountain out of a molehill? Reading too much into his obsession with Lex Luthor?

Perhaps. But let me relate the incident that got my thoughts started down this track.

I had been sitting on the couch with Z in my lap, trying to read to him. Meanwhile, his sister, MeToo, had ridden up on her popper and started playing with some toys on the far side of the coffee table. Soon, though, she was drawn in by the book and climbed up beside me. At that point, Z slid down out of my lap, grabbed onto the edge of the coffee table, and began to slo-o-o-o-o-wly head over to MeToo’s toys.

(These are paid actors re-enacting the scene.)
(These are paid actors re-enacting the scene.)

Z was just starting to work his way around the corner of the coffee table when MeToo realized what was up. Her brother was about to play with toys! Toys that she’d been playing with a minute ago but had abandoned to go do something else! To a kid, of course, that’s the same as yanking it right out of her hands. MeToo took off like a shot, but she had to go the long way around the corner, circumnavigating the corn popper-mobile.

That’s when Z’s sinister genius revealed itself. He reached out to the popper, casually as if he were going to hold onto it for support, and pushed it into his sister’s path just in time for her to collide with it. MeToo tripped, and while she was wailing on the ground, Z calmly finished getting around the corner of the coffee table and reached the toys.

(Re-enactment)
(Re-enactment)

That was probably the moment when he realized that he needed to figure out how to laugh evilly.

It would have been easy to write the Corn Popper Incident off as mere happenstance if it wasn’t so perfect. Z’s canny use of his environment to thwart his big sister was executed with precise timing. You may scoff — it does sound awfully sophisticated for a mere twelve-month old — but I saw it with my own eyes.

I can only hope that his mother and I can guide Z to use his nefarious cunning for wholesome, worthwhile pursuits. But, honestly, have you ever used the words “cunning” and “respectable” to describe the same person?

Maybe instead I’ll just try to make sure that when he grows up and successfully holds the world’s nuclear stockpile for ransom he’ll remember to use his ill-gotten gains to set his dear, old Dad up someplace nice.

How to Survive a Nursing Strike

[Note: Any time I use the word “milk” in this post, I’m referring to breast milk. Whenever I talk about a bottle, I mean a bottle of breast milk. I’m not trying to be down on people who use formula. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you read “bottle” as “a bottle of formula” everything still makes sense. However, we don’t use formula. I just want to be clear about what I mean, because breast milk is all we have around here to put into the baby’s bottle and therefore it is all that tends to come into my mind when talking about such things. Also, I hit my quota for using the word “breast.”]

Gather ‘round, everyone and I’ll tell you the story of the Great Nursing Strike of ’15.

It was back in October and Baby Z was a fussy little man. He had been going through another wonder week and seemed to be teething pretty fiercely (at least, he was drooling like a St. Bernard), so it wasn’t a shock that he might be having a rough time. What made it especially trying was that Z didn’t nurse at all from 10am until 1pm the following day.

We’ve never had a nursing strike like that before. Z previously had one lasting about 12 hours and I’d had the impression that we might have weathered a small one from MeToo once. In retrospect, that might have just been her not feeling terribly hungry one afternoon. This was the real deal.

Z would seem as though he wanted to nurse (he probably did, I suppose), and would eagerly get ready to, but then balk at actually latching on and taking milk. He’d be crying, his mother would be full of milk (painfully so, after a while), but Z just wouldn’t have it.

Now, don’t think that Z was starving. He was having real food in addition to breast milk so he had stuff to eat at mealtimes. Still, he usually nursed about eight times in a 24-hour span, and soon I could tell that in addition to all the other messes he had going on, he was hangry, as well.

The Wife tried everything she could think of. She showed Z videos of babies nursing. She tried to nurse him while he was sleeping, while he was in the bathtub, lying in bed, sitting in a chair, and while holding him like an infant instead of his usual positions. His big sisters pretended to nurse. The Wife was planning to go to a friend’s house to nurse her baby in front of Z.

What finally did the trick was the Wife putting peanut butter on her nipple. Once Z was enticed into actually putting the nipple in his mouth, the spell was broken and he was back to nursing.

(Yes, the Wife gave her permission for me to share that.)

Nursing strikes like this are not out of the ordinary. In fact, if a baby is going to have a nursing strike, it will often be when they’re between 6 and 12 months old (Z fell right in that range). During that time, babies are becoming much more aware of the world around them, so they go through periods when they are very sensitive. Your baby still wants milk but something has thrown him or her off stride. (In Z’s case, he was having a difficult day as I described above, plus he took a tumble while climbing around that seemed to have really spooked him — but since he wasn’t talking, it was hard to know exactly what his deal was.) The important thing to keep in mind is that this does not mean your baby is ready to wean.

If you are, like me, a dad and therefore largely a helpless spectator to this kind of event, there are some other things you should bear in mind.

A nursing strike essentially plays out as a crisis between mother and child. Mom is the subject of the strike, after all. This is bound to be accompanied by emotional turmoil. Even if a mom knows better she will probably feel rejected, especially if it is a lengthy strike. On top of that are worries that the baby is simply done with nursing for good or would rather take milk from a bottle instead of her. (This, my fellow dads, is why you shouldn’t be the one to suggest giving the baby a bottle. Let it be her idea. And be ready for her to burst into tears when the baby sucks the bottle down after refusing to nurse all day.  Not that my authority comes from firsthand experience.)  Finally, if she hasn’t nursed for a while and hasn’t expressed or pumped any milk out, she’s going to be sore. So be careful when you give her that reassuring hug, and watch your elbows the rest of the time.

Oh, and she will no doubt feel frustrated and helpless because she can’t fix this problem. You will certainly feel helpless since you can’t do squat to resolve it, either. But you can’t even nurse the baby when all is right with the world, so you just have to suck it up and try to provide support and comfort to the two parties directly involved.

One of the best ways to be comforting and supportive during this trial is to remind the mom of exactly what I wrote a few paragraphs back. Namely, that nursing strikes happen every now and again, and that she is not being rejected by her baby.  Tell her you love her.  Tell her you are proud of her.  Tell her you know it is not easy, that it takes a strong woman to nurse a baby.  Thank her for giving of herself to feed your child.  Tell her she is beautiful in her strength.

It’s worth repeating that a nursing strike does not mean your baby is through with nursing. Maybe your child is having mouth pain or a stopped up nose, or maybe there has been some distracting change in their environment. Whatever the exact cause, a nursing strike happens because something is wrong from the baby’s perspective. It is just a symptom of whatever the underlying problem is.

You’ll also need to comfort the baby, too. Your little one isn’t being difficult just for the heck of it. This might seem like a simple situation to an adult — if you want milk, just go ahead and have it! Keep in mind, though, that there are many things which seem obvious and easy to an adult that are incomprehensibly strong and complex to someone who is less than a year old (and still getting their brain’s functions sorted out). Your baby would tell you what’s wrong if they could understand and communicate it. Your baby would deal with the issue differently and express themselves differently if they had the capacity for it. Babies don’t enjoy a nursing strike any more than anyone else and need just as much help through it as everyone else involved.

By way of wrapping this up, let me leave you with some things to try if your baby is on a strike.

* Try nursing in a different position. If you two have a favorite position that you normally use, change it up. Try to nurse sitting up, lying down, or even standing if you can manage it. Hold them like newborn or have them sit up on your lap. Whatever you can think of.

* Change the environment. Do you typically nurse in the bedroom or living room? Go into the kitchen. If you normally have the TV on, turn it off (or vice versa). When your baby is having milk, is the environment usually quiet or is there background noise? Is it dark or bright? Well, whatever it is, make it different the next time you make an attempt to nurse.

* Try during a different time of day (or night). This is just a variation on changing the environment but it’s worth pointing out. Don’t worry about keeping to your regular feeding schedule; you can work on reestablishing that once the nursing strike is over. Also, babies can be more willing to nurse when they’re sleepy (or asleep).

* Provide some examples. When you’re ready to nurse show your kid some videos of babies at their mothers’ breast. If they don’t seem interested in emulating what they see on YouTube, do you have any friends who would come over and nurse their baby in front of yours? You might try nursing someone else in front of your baby, another one of your children or a friend’s. This might make your baby jealous (“that kid is eating my lunch!”) but maybe that’s the motivation they need to get back on track.

* Peanut butter on the nipple. Okay, it doesn’t have to be peanut butter. The idea here is to do something that will hopefully induce your baby to put the nipple in his or her mouth rather than turn away.

La Leche League has a FAQ and resources page devoted to the topic of nursing strikes, and there’s lots more information available elsewhere. We hope that you and your child never have to endure a nursing strike yourselves. If it happens though, just remember: it is normal and it will pass.

Wonder Weeks 2: Electric Boogaloo 

Right on schedule, Z has entered another big wonder week. Although, this “week” lasts about a month. He’s definitely experiencing the three C’s of a big developmental leap: he’s crying, clingy, and cranky. Looks like I became a stay-at-home dad just in time!

This leap lets him understand the world of relationships. Mostly, this means spatial relationships. His little baby brain is now noticing how things can be near or far, and how objects can be positioned relative to each other. I can hear him being fussy now, probably because I am too far away for his comfort.

[Brief interlude.]

Z is a very different baby already since the last time I wrote about Wonder Weeks. He’s not really crawling yet, but he’s clearly working on it. He can roll and twist and kick himself enough that we can’t just put him down and go do something for a minute. Like a killer from those old slasher movies, while you’re watching him it seems like he’s barely moving but he can get all over the damn place once your back is turned. He’s like a tiny Michael Meyers* but instead of wanting to kill Jamie Lee Curtis he keeps trying to toss himself over the edge of the bed.

He’s able to grip and grab things now. He likes to shake a rattle or hold a ball. Most of the time, though, he uses this skill to pull the pacifier out of his mouth and then gets upset.

These and other skills and interests have developed over the past month; Z’s earlier wonder weeks have borne fruit!

Unfortunately, I think the little guy is also teething on top of everything else. He’s drooling more than a hungry St. Bernard. He’s been getting congested — which could be due to teething or just all the pollen in the air — which can make it hard for him to sleep at night, even when he’s a super-tired mess. And for a little while today it seemed like he was wanting or needing to nurse more frequently than his normal two-hour intervals, so he could be hitting a physical growth spurt, to boot.

We’ve got more growing pains around here than Nick at Night!

Fortunately, this is not our first rodeo (it’s our third rodeo, if you’re counting). Being an experienced parent doesn’t give you any secret way to soothe a baby going through this stuff. The process of transforming from a cute-but-immobile lump to a little person who can toddle around and makes talky noises and has teeth is one that involves periods of discomfort, no two ways about it. Having done this before, I know that this is normal and nothing is wrong with Z. That helps some.

What helps a lot more is to develop ways to help calm yourself down when your little one is going through one of these phases. Hearing a baby cry and scream is intensely distressing. In fact, it’s hard-wired into human beings for that sound to be the most stressful thing you can hear. Prolonged exposure to it, especially when you’re failing to soothe the baby and get that noise to stop, will make you upset, angry, irritable, burned-out, or depressed. To get through that, you’ve got to increase your distress tolerance.

What’s distress tolerance, you ask? Why, that’s just a fancy term for the things you think about or tell yourself to help calm down.  The things you promise yourself you will do as soon as this baby is sleeping, whether that’s have a glass of wine, take a bubble bath, or watch an episode of “The Walking Dead.” (Wait — don’t they have a baby on that show? Maybe that wouldn’t be very calming, after all. Perhaps it would be better to watch a show that doesn’t routinely involve children being in danger. I hear “Game of Thrones” is good.) People are able to soothe themselves in upsetting situations (you know, like having a screaming baby an inch or so from your ear for an hour or two) are less likely act irrationally, snap at their spouses and children, or have blood shoot from their eyeballs.

So when your bundle of joy becomes a shrieking ball of tears just remember: this, too, shall pass. That tooth will come in. This wonder week won’t last forever. In the meantime, take care of yourself.

*The one from the Halloween movies, not the one who ruined The Cat in the Hat.

Wonder Week

Little Z has seemed a little extra fussy the past day or so. He wants to be held more. This morning, he had a four-hour stretch where he didn’t nurse — usually when he’s awake, he gets hungry every couple hours. He didn’t take much milk throughout the rest of the day. What’s going on? Is he getting sick?

No, he’s just started going through a “wonder week.”

If you’ve had children, you’ve probably noticed that they grow in spurts. You just wake up one day and their clothes don’t fit anymore — it’s like they gain a quarter of an inch overnight. The same is true for a baby’s mental development as well. They’re going along fine and then — BAM — they undergo a dramatic neurological change and their brain reorganizes itself. Once that happens, they are suddenly able to experience more of the world. From their perspective, they wake up and everything seems different, the world isn’t the same as it was before.

That’s enough to make anyone upset.

Fortunately, a husband and wife research team collected 35 years’ worth of data on the the development and behavior of babies (and other primates as well; they started out with Jane Goodall observing infant chimpanzees). Once they had analyzed all their information, they found that babies experience fussy periods at predictable times that coincided with their developmental leaps and the resulting change in behavior.

What’s even more fortunate (for me, anyway) is that they wrote a book for parents about all this called The Wonder Weeks.

The Wonder Weeks is usually the first purchase I recommend to new or prospective parents. I figure other people will give them good recommendations for more standard things, but no one else is likely to mention this book. A crying baby is one of the most difficult things to endure as a parent, and it’s made even worse when you can’t figure out the source of your child’s distress. Knowing that my baby was undergoing a developmental leap — one of those wonder weeks — gave me immense relief.  Even if there wasn’t anything I could do, at least I knew why and I knew it was a phase that just had to be weathered.

Any time they go through a wonder week, your baby will have a period where they cry a lot and are extra clingy. It’s the kind of behavior that can get annoying to even the most loving, patient mommy or daddy. I was able to be more sympathetic towards my little ones when I knew this was because their universe was being upended and they needed comforting.

A newborn only experiences things in the moment and doesn’t know much beyond their basic needs. But just when you, the new parent, get the hang of meeting those needs, they suddenly acquire more without letting you know. Your child becomes able to be bored. They start to have opinions about things they didn’t seem to even be aware of before. They grow capable of understanding that when they don’t see Mommy in the room it means that she’s gone and they are powerless to do anything about it. Imagine what it’s like for a baby when that realization sets in. Sorta explains why one would suddenly start crying whenever Mommy’s not right there, huh?

Little Z is now going to be able to experience things about his environment he wasn’t able to notice before. Once he gets over the shock of that, he’ll also find he has a new set of skills he will slowly start to grow into. To the rest of us, he will start to act differently and have a wider range of behaviors.

According to my copy of the book, the signs of the particular leap Z is due for include: craving more physical contact (check), crying more easily (maybe), taking longer to get used to new people (dunno, haven’t had the chance to test that), wanting to be entertained more (not that I’ve noticed), and wanting to be breastfed a lot but not really drinking much (that’s a big “yes”). The Wonder Weeks also tells me some of the new skills or behaviors we’ll start to see in him. Sure enough, he’s holding his head up much better, shifting his weight forward while sitting up, making short grunts or repetitive sounds.

The book devotes an entire chapter to each developmental leap, detailing the new way your baby sees the world and the new things he or she has going on in that expanding mellon. There’s a handy section on how you are likely to be feeling when your tyke is going through his cranky period (here’s a hint: it’s not any different than when your child has been a wailing mess for any other reason). It also includes activities and games that will emphasize the new skills he will start to develop now that he’s leveled up. If your three-week-old doesn’t seem to particularly get it when you play peek-a-boo, just wait another three months.

There is a Wonder Weeks app, which is no substitute for the book but is a handy accompaniment. You can put in your baby’s birth date and it will make up a calendar to track their state of wonder weekage. When Z was extra fussy and not really eating, I remembered to whip my phone out and check the app. Sure ‘nough, the chart had him at the beginning of a stormy phase. I could skim the abbreviated information the app had until I had a chance to pull the book out and read the relevant chapter.

The good news is, he should only be a mess for another eight days or so. The other news is there’s another wonder week due right on heels of this one. And so it goes for the next year.

In fact, it looks like he’ll start perceiving “the world of events” during our upcoming trip. Speaking of which, I likely need to downshift my posting rate soon as we will be on the road. But stay tuned! I’m sure to have some tales about our first time flying with three children that will be hilarious to those who didn’t have to live through it.

Evil Baby

Sometimes when we are out with our infant people will ask, “Is he a good baby?” How do they expect me to answer this? “No, he’s awful! Just last week he had three blow-out diapers and took the car without our permission! That gas station condom machine owes me a refund!”

What they really mean, I think, is “Does he sleep through the night or does he cry a lot?” But why does that make him good? And if he does cry a lot, that makes him not good, right? As in bad? Is there an old wives’ tale that fussy babies are more susceptible to the dark side of the force?

I’m no scientist, but I don’t think infants don’t cry just for the heck of it. How else are they supposed to get their needs met? Sure, it sucks for his parents if it happens to be 3am when he’s hungry or his tummy hurts, but it’s not like he was saving up his problems for when mommy and daddy are asleep.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure he chuckled when he peed on me last week…