cry it out and poop updates

I know all of you have been frantically reloading this page, wondering
1) how Project Maddie Sleep Until Morning is faring, and
2) what is the back story on Fergus and the poop (scroll down for part one of that if you missed it).

So here’s the latest. Project Maddie proceeds apace.

NIGHT ONE: Starting at 1:30 am, she cried for an hour. An HOUR. I went in at ten minutes and “comforted” her by patting her back, which only renewed her reserves of fury. Then, after forty-five minutes, she was so apoplectic that I had to go in and pick her up, and she started giving me hickeys on my cheek and neck, trying frantically to nurse. See, this is the problem with Maddie: no bottles, no pacifier, no thumb-sucking. As Cooper likes to put it, “she only likes to suck on Mommy’s bras.” (That was Parenting Mistake Number One for me, by the way. My friend’s daughter also refused the pacifier, and they just kept sticking it in her mouth until she changed her mind. For your peace of mind, and potential ability to ever put your baby down, it’s better, I think, to have your babies sometimes suck on something that is *not* one of your body parts.)

So for me to go in and pick her up, and NOT nurse her, and then put her back down, which was what happened, seriously sent her around the bend. I went back to bed and tried to read a book, my heart pounding. But then? She started to slowly wind down, like a car alarm you hear outside at night that runs so long it drains the car’s battery. “WHEAAAAAOOOWWoooooo… YOWoooo…. ooo… oo…” and then suddenly? She was asleep. MY GOD, I couldn’t believe it. She awoke again at 5:30, I fed her, she napped another hour, and then giggled and waved in her highchair at breakfast as if nothing at all had transpired between us.

“You did it!” David told me from London. “The first night is always the worst. You’ll see, she’ll hardly cry at all tonight.”

NIGHT TWO: Starting at 3:30 am, she cried for AN HOUR. I guess you could say it was an improvement because she had made it until 3:30. I went in once, she gave me a look that said “If you think you are winning this war, lady, you are MISTAKEN,” and I backed out. By 4:30, it was just too pathetic and I fed her. She went back to sleep till morning.

NIGHT THREE: 30 minutes of crying at 3:30 am, then she went back to sleep until 5:30
NIGHT FOUR: 30 minutes of crying at 3:30 am, then she went back to sleep until 5
NIGHT FIVE: 15 minutes of crying at 4 am, then she went back to sleep until 5:30
NIGHT SIX, which was last night: ten minutes or so of whimpering at 4:30 am, at which point I said what the hell and went in and fed her, and she went back to sleep until morning. Many would call this backtracking, or even an utter undoing of six nights of work. But I was REALLY tired.

So I wouldn’t call this a total victory. We had friends with a ten-month old come visit for the weekend, and he’s been sleeping through the night for like six months now. But we’re doing better than we were.

I had some interesting insight, however, from a friend of mine who is a self-described “full-time stay-at-home baby-wearing yoga teacher mom.” In other words, she takes the other side of this cry-it-out position. Here’s what she wrote to me:

Why do we always say that being responsive to our kids at night is the easy way out?? It’s funny. I am definitely no expert and I am fully aware that I am in the minority with how I think about all this, but I’m a big believer in responding to our children at night as well as in the day. Now, of course, Ihave the luxury of being able to nap during the day! Which I realize makes a huge difference in how I might see things compared to some other moms who have very different situations. But still. Also, re. the whole sleeping through the night thing, now some researchers are saying (I’ll have to find the source for you) that it is normal and healthy for babies to wake through the night for the first year of their lives at least!

If I see that research, dear readers, I will be sure to pass it along. My friend does have a point. Is getting up to feed Maddie “easier” than ignoring her? Hardly. In fact, getting up with your baby is not only exhausting, but when compounded by the grief that others give you for doing it, can be utterly dispiriting. Letting them cry it out, on the other hand, is merely heartwrenching. So I hereby solemnly swear to judge no one on this matter, and I hope you will do the same.

What’s that? Oh, the poop. On that, I only have one more fact to share with you:

MOMMY: Fergus, can you tell me more about that poop you touched at camp?


(Long pause.)

FERGUS: It was weawwy, weawwy cold.

POSTSCRIPT: I just got this comment from a reader/sister of mine, and her questions are searing and insightful enough that I wanted to share them:

I’m impressed that you’ve been able to play it so cool, because I am seriously UP AT NIGHT trying to get to the bottom of this touched-a-poop mystery. If I were there I would be following him around asking questions until I got my answers. And this clue will only make it worse. It was COLD? He touched refrigerated poop? Or was it just, like, colder than he expected it to be? What are his expectations for the surface temperature of poop?

See, I wasn’t thinking of it that way, but she is SO right. I was coming at it from more of a Columbo/CSI perspective, like: if the poop was cold, then it must have been there long enough to *get* cold, and my god this camp is just not a clean place. But maybe Fergus expected poop to be super-heated? Who can say? I keep trying, believe me I am trying, but I’m not getting anywhere with the man himself. I could ask the head counselor, but you know what? I don’t think I really do want to know.

Fergus Facts

Let me set the scene. Cooper and Fergus were sitting together at the picnic table, eating dinner, calmly munching their corn on the cob.

FERGUS: I hafta get something.

He goes inside. A moment later he sticks his head out the screen door.

FERGUS: Cooper. Did you know I touched a poop?

COOPER: Really?




Cooper and I wait for the rest of the story. But apparently, that is the whole story. So after a moment:

MOMMY: Fergus. Did you REALLY touch your poop?

Fergus looks at me like that’s the dumbest thing he’s ever heard.

FERGUS: Not MY poop, Mommy. Somebody else’s poop.



MOMMY: Somebody else’s poop that was in the toilet?

Fergus starts to lose his patience.

FERGUS: NO, Mommy! Somebody else’s poop that was AT CAMP!

MOMMY: (processing this) In the toilet at camp?

Fergus loses it.

FERGUS: NO!! Somebody else’s poop that was at camp ON THE FLOOR!!

COOPER: There was poop on the floor at camp?

FERGUS: That’s what I was trying to TELL YOU!!

MOMMY: Whose poop was it?

FERGUS: I DON’T KNOW!! I just touched it!

Cooper and Mommy take this in.

MOMMY: And then what happened, Fergus?

FERGUS: Nuffin. Nobody said anyfing.

Fergus goes back inside. Cooper and Mommy contemplate all of this in their hearts.

The End

Seriously, that’s the end. Fergus won’t say another word about it. He gets furious if I bring it up; he has said everything he intends to on the matter.

I, on the other hand, can’t stop thinking about this incident. I am haunted by its ramifications, both hygienic and psychosocial. Not to mention, wondering how a turd ends up by itself on the floor. I told my mother this whole story, and she, with nearly forty years of mothering experience, had this pearl of wisdom to offer:

“Sometimes, you just have to accept: you’re never going to get the whole story.”

if your baby is teething, watch out

I want to preface this by saying I don’t know this family personally… I received this email after it had been cc’d around quite a few times. But it seemed legit, and my Googling around seems to confirm that this story could well happen, so I’m passing on this warning about Baby Orajel:

Zane’s been teething pretty badly for the past few days, and we decided
to give him Baby Orajel on Sunday afternoon. We’ve given it to him a
few times previously, when his first two teeth cut through, and never
had a problem. Scott and I were both sitting with Zane on the floor in
his room when I rubbed a dosage on his upper gum. Seconds after I gave
it to him, he made a face as if he were crying but no noise came out. I
picked Zane up and he immediately went limp in my arms and his face
turned blueish. He was not panicking or gasping for air – he was
lifeless. This lasted for approximately 15 seconds, but felt like an
eternity. Words cannot convey our feelings during that time (or even
now, ever) as we attempted to revive our son. Without a doubt it was the scariest moment
of our lives. Ultimately, Zane ‘came to’ and began to cry hysterically.

We spent the evening at the hospital, where Zane underwent numerous
tests, all of which came back normal. We also spoke with Zane’s
pediatrician, who stated that she advises against the use of this
product because its purpose is to numb and if it gets into an infant’s
throat, it may stop them from breathing. Obviously, we wanted to learn
more about this product and why this happened so we conducted some
internet research. Interestingly, we came across some postings of
parents with similar experiences. Further, one website listed a side
effect as, ‘difficulty breathing and grey/blueish face.’ Also, when we
called Zane’s daycare to let them know what happened, the owner said
that she’s heard of this happening before. It’s surprising then that no
such warning is on the bottle and that more people do not discuss the
negative and possible deadly implications of the use of this product.

We don’t want to imagine what could’ve happened if we had given this to
him at night, in his crib, as we (and many others) have done in the
past, and then walked away (although, of course we monitor him
throughout the night).

To reiterate, the reason we share the above with you is to strongly
advise you to throw away any Baby Orajel products you have at home and
please advise your friends and family of the same. Trust us, it’s not
worth the possible side effects.

I never used the stuff anyway, but I’m certainly not going to start now.

hot fun in the summertime

Well summer is in full swing, and I am LOVING it. When my children suddenly have twice as much surface area (inside and out) over which to spread their manic energy, it can’t help but make things a little less loud in my immediate vicinity. We have a pool at our summer home, wonderful for many reasons but most of all because it ensures exhaustion in our children and those of our house guests. The other night all three of my kids were in bed by 6:15 pm. Asleep? No. But agreeably still and quiet? Yes, so who cares?

I went to a barbecue with some friends last night and there were kids the same age as ours running around this person’s backyard at 9:30 pm. When I mentioned that my three were all long asleep, considerable envy was of course displayed. However, I am sure that those children still have tousled bedhead as I write, while mine have been up for three and a half hours. YOU CAN’T HAVE BOTH, is my point. Early to bed means early to rise, and I’ll take that pain because I’d rather have the time to watch Flipping Out on Bravo, by myself, with a glass of chardonnay, than get the extra hours of sleep. I think.

I pride myself on my children being no-nonsense sleepers, so much so that I just got this email from a friend of mine, asking for sleep advice:

All is well but Sofia has started waking up every two hours!!!!! I am a little haggard and a total bitch. How did you get Maddie to sleep through the night? I am considering putting her in another room and letting her cry. What say you wise woman, mother of three?

I am a little afraid to write her back, because here’s the thing: Maddie is STILL not sleeping through the night, at eight and a half months. OK, nine next Saturday. I can hardly carry her at this point, she is so pudgy, and certainly one would think she has enough reserves to get her through a ten or eleven hour stretch, but that is apparently not the case. Last night she was up at 11 pm and 3 am, before greeting the morn at 6:45 am (which is actually blessedly late in my house).

I am ashamed of this. A baby her age should be sleeping. In fact, I first wrote about how people were aghast that she wasn’t sleeping through the night FIVE MONTHS AGO. And to all of you, I say, I know that she should be sleeping. I know that it is my fault she is not sleeping. But, if I may:

– she just got another tooth up top.
– that is her fourth tooth, which means it is the fourth round of not sleeping well in the last two months.
– she had a cough
– we were in London
– I didn’t get a good enough dinner into her
– she won’t take a bottle before bed, only halfhearted nursing
– she is therefore STARVING in the middle of the night and nurses desperately
– I need David to break her for me and he’s going on a business trip tomorrow
– I still haven’t gotten blackout shades for her room
– it was too hot in her room
– it was too cold in her room

Do any of those reasons make me seem like less of a loser for having not gotten this done yet?

Every night, before I go to bed, I think, tonight, TONIGHT we begin. Tonight I will gently pat her back and sing her a lullaby and then leave her to “cry it out” (read: scream like she is being drawn and quartered) until she passes out from exhaustion. But then, 3 am comes, she is bleating, and I think, I can let her cry for an hour, and then be up all night, or I can go in there and nurse her for five or ten minutes, and then we both go back to sleep. I choose the latter. I choose my short term comfort over both of our long term gain. I am weak, I’ve said so.

So I’m thinking tonight I will start with a midnight to 5 am ban. I’m not going to feed her if she cries within those hours. For now, before or after are fair game. Then I will start moving the clock back on both ends. Is that good? Am I thinking of this the right way? Does anyone have any words of wisdom? They would be much appreciated.

National Lampoon’s European Vacation

So, we survived. Better than that, we actually had a good time. The kids were all SO good on the 8 1/2 hour ride back from Paris, even without Benadryl.

That’s the number one bit of wisdom I have to impart to fellow parents who are contemplating a trip abroad with small children: bring Benadryl, and Tylenol, WITH you. You think the baby food over there is wackadoo? At the same Boots pharmacy in London that is peddling “Fisherman’s Bake” (scroll down for more on that horror), they offer a drug which is also called “Benadryl” but that bears no relation to the Sleepytime Syrup we know so well. Their “Benadryl” has an antihistamine that buzzes you UP instead. And, although I returned to that same pharmacy twice more, hoping that I was just not looking carefully enough, London pharmacies basically offer no drugs at all for children, let alone with a soporific side effect. If British kids get coughs and fever, they get, like, lavender poultices, and that is IT.

Not to get totally sidetracked on this Benadryl thing, but there are certainly a Mother Load of opinions out there on whether a parent should give her children something to make them sleepy before a long trip. (Check out “The Drugging Debate” at as a primer.) Those on the pro side needn’t really explain any further. Those on the con side tend towards rhetoric like “How dare you drug your children for your own convenience,” or, “I refuse to give my children a SEDATIVE when it is their God-given right to run up and down the aisles for eight hours.”

I feel like this is all kind of missing the point. I wouldn’t give Benadryl to a baby. But I wanted to make my almost-four and five-and-a-half year olds sleepy for THEIR sake. Would I, if I had a choice, fly overnight to London without one of the Ambien I smuggled home from the hospital after giving birth? Well, of course not. Who wouldn’t choose to sleep away those long hours over the North Atlantic?

But there I was, in France, sans Benadryl, so I was trying to brainwash the boys as we boarded at Charles de Gaulle. “This is going to be a LONG flight,” I told them. “A LOOOONNNNNGNNNNGNNGNGNNGGG flight. So we are all, most certainly, going to take a nap. Here are your blankies. Start huffing them now.”

Maddie did, thank the Lord. Nap, that is. And huff her blankie. But neither of the boys took so much as a lengthy blink. And when lunch was served in hour five, it was pizza. “Thank you, God!” I rejoiced.

Then I opened the box.

It had MUSHROOMS on it.

“Why, God?? Why???” I railed to the heavens, as Cooper’s lip quivered and he said, in a shaky voice, “I fink I don’t like this pizza.”

Which, of course, meant that he ate nothing for the eight hour flight, since the boys ate all the baked goods I smuggled from the hotel breakfast before we even got to the airport.

So there is my other advice to traveling mothers: BRING FOOD. Bring only food. Don’t pack clothes. Wear the same T shirt five times if you have to. But bring enough baby food, cereal, chicken nuggets, and most importantly, peanut butter, for the whole time you’re going to be gone. And for that last one, make sandwiches ahead of time, and pack an extra jar in your checked baggage. Do NOT pack it in your carry on. I packed a whole loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter for our trip to London, chuckling to myself at my own brilliance, only to have the PB confiscated as a “liquid” at the security checkpoint. I just confirmed at the TSA Permitted and Prohibited Items Website that peanut butter would have been OK, if it were less than 3 ounces. Oh, and your screwdriver has to be shorter than 7 inches. Well, at least that one makes sense.

Last thing: when you get off the flight from Paris, and your kids haven’t slept but have really behaved amazingly well the whole flight, do not, I repeat, do not say aloud, “The kids were great. This trip was SO worth it.” Because your children will reward you for your hubris by waking up, all three of them, at 2 am the following morning. FOR THE DAY.