January 18, 2007
Don’t hold your breath on plans for baby
Nothing is more exciting than finding out that you're having a baby. The moment I found out I was expecting, I began making grand plans. I read the books, spoke to pregnant friends and questioned all the new mommies I knew. Then I made some big decisions.
Disposable diapers were clogging the landfills -- I would use cloth. Baby foods had preservatives -- I would puree my own. Cavities begin before teeth appear -- no bottles in bed.
There would be no junk food, no TV, no yelling, no spanking, no spoiling, no bribing. I would provide only classical music and educational toys. I would never use food for reward or punishment. My baby would never use a pacifier or learn to suck his thumb. The list went on and on, and then our precious son was born.
Shortly after we came home, our son started an interesting habit. When upset, he would cry very hard, turn blue around the lips and make no sound. Then the bluish color would spread until he hysterically gasped for air and turned pink again. I got somewhat used to this routine until he progressed to the point of passing out.
"He's a breath holder," the pediatrician said calmly.
"The books said nothing about breath holders," I wailed.
"It's not very common, but it happens," he said. "Don't worry. He'll start breathing again as soon as he passes out. Just don't blow in his face."
"They used to say that if you blow in the baby's face, he'll catch his breath," the pediatrician said. "But it really doesn't work; it just makes him madder."
He paused right before administering the vaccination.
"When I give him his shot, he'll probably start crying," the pediatrician said as he stabbed the needle into my baby's thigh.
Sure enough, the crying began, the lips went blue, the face grew ashen and my baby passed out. It happened again with another shot in the other thigh.
As I packed up the diaper bag, sniffling back my own tears, the pediatrician warned me: "Don't let him manipulate you, or he'll use breath-holding to get what wants. He'll grow out of it eventually. See you next month."
From that moment on, my grand promises were cast aside. Attempting to avoid crying and fainting episodes, I broke my own rules. I kept pacifiers everywhere and shoved one in his mouth at the smallest whimper. When he tired of pacifiers, I taught him how to suck his thumb. When he wanted up, I picked him up.
Diaper changing was a particularly tricky time. He'd be happy and bubbly for the first 30 seconds or so, but if it took any longer than that, he would become frustrated at being on his back and begin to cry. Since I could change disposable more quickly than cloth, I fired the diaper service. Once I had crossed the diaper line, it was easy to give in on anything.
I developed a do-what-works attitude. Why be so rigid? Jar food was just fine. In fact, he ate so much that I switched from organic to whatever was on sale. I used generic wipes on his tender tush. One time, I found the dog licking his face after a messy spaghetti meal. My son loved it. From then on, I sat him on the kitchen floor and let the dog clean him up after he ate. A mother must find clever ways to make her job easier.
As the doctor predicted, the breath-holding eventually subsided. By the time my second son came along, my child-rearing methods had evolved considerably.
Potty training? M"&"Ms for a tinkle in the toilet. Television? How did we grow up without videos? Spanking? Watch your toddler dash into oncoming traffic and then tell me you never spank. Yelling? Ever seen a cheesecake after 10 minutes in the microwave? Bribery? Try taking two toddlers to the market and see how long it takes before you say: "If you're good, mommy will buy you...."
That breath-holding baby is now 16 years old. A few thousand dollars in orthodontia fixed the overbite that the thumb caused. He regularly uses the potty without expecting M"&"Ms. The last time he had a shot, he hardly let out a peep.
The only time he holds his breath is when he's swimming, and the bribery item of choice has progressed from cookies to car keys. He does, however, still eat his way through the grocery store.
So, have your baby, make your plans, set your limits, follow your rules. And when things don't go the way you expected and the mess is just too big and you feel like crying until you pass out, do what I did -- put the baby on the floor and let the dog clean up.