I have no clue who I am anymore

Dear Is This Normal,

My husband says I’ve become a different person since becoming a mom, that he’s last on my priority list. I try to justify it by saying I have three boys, all of which are not old enough to take care of themselves, but he is so I shouldn’t have to worry about him too since I also work full time. I am a different person now though, I have to worry about how my kids will turn out, if I’m doing enough for them, or am I doing too much for them. I’m constantly feeling like an awesome mom and then next second I’m a failure. I know I’m not the same person I was before I became a mom, but is it normal to feel like I have no idea who I am as a person anymore?!? My identity is my kids’ mom, but outside of that I have no clue…does anyone else feel this way? How do I remain my kids mom, my husband’s wife, but then also have some left over for me?

Signed,
A Changed Woman

Dear Changed Woman,

Yes, you are 100% a different woman now. There’s no other way to slice it! As humans we are constantly growing and changing—we’re not the same people we were at the age of 15, or 25, or 35. But the evolution that begins with motherhood is extraordinary. That change encompasses every aspect of your life and who you are/were as a person. And because it’s such a monumental change, the adjustment to motherhood and the rediscovery of your old self takes time. It’s so normal to not know who YOU are anymore, after completely changing yourself in order to be their mom. I think we all feel this way at one point or another, and some of us are still trying to get to know the person we’ve become.

As you navigate your ever-evolving identity, try to ditch the “out with the old, in with the new” mentality. There is room in your life, and yourself, for both versions of you. The experts at The Motherhood Center of New York, who provide supportive services for new and expecting moms, focus on the idea of integration. It’s not so much about leaving your old self behind and focusing on who you are now; rather, it’s important to honor your past self and understand the way that she informs your present self, after all, your collective experience has made you into the mom and person you are today. You are one in the same, just on very different trajectories.

We can’t go back in time, and we can’t ever go back to who we were before we became mothers. You can’t unring that bell, as they say. But, as The Motherhood Center says, what you’ve described is so very common, and we all (at one time or another and in one way or another) go through this same process. And it IS a process. It’s so important—maybe the MOST important—that you are patient with yourself, and that your loved ones give you space and patience to figure this out, too.

Talk to your husband about what you both feel is missing in your relationship, and take the time to reintroduce yourselves to one another (which sounds weird, since you’re married). Set aside some time for just the two of you, and get to know each other again. Think back to some of things YOU enjoyed pre-kids, and try to add them back into your new life where they fit. If you used to read a lot, join a small book club and give yourself that outlet. Miss going to the gym? Find an hour or two in your week, early in the morning or after the boys have gone to bed, and get back to what made you feel centered. There is room in your new life for the old you and the new you and your boys and your husband. Give yourself time to see how all those pieces fit, and don’t feel guilty about reclaiming some of the identity you lost in the last few years. You may be a mom and a wife, but you are still a woman and your own person, and all of those things will meld together. 

What first foods should I start my baby on?

Dear Is This Normal,

My daughter just turned 5 months, and our pediatrician gave us the green light to start solids. We’re excited, but also nervous, because I have no idea where to start! Given the report on heavy metals, we’ve decided to skip grain cereals and go right to fruits and veggies. But there are so many to choose from, and it seems like everyone I talk to has a different opinion or advice! Can you help us narrow down the best foods to start our baby girl on? 

Signed,
First Foods Confused

Dear Confused,

I hear you, mama! There is TONS of info out there about starting solids – it can be super hard to parse what’s legit and what’s not. Especially since there really are no wrong answers! OK, let me take that back. There are definitely wrong answers, like don’t give your 5-month old a t-bone steak and let her go to town. But every family starts on the solids journey in a different way, and it’s really about finding the way that’s right for you and your little one. This can take some trial and error – you’d be surprised how many foods some parents try before finding one that their little will actually scarf down, which is totally normal. Since you’ve gotten the go-ahead from your doc, let’s break down some of the best first foods for your babe, to hopefully take some of the guesswork out of this process.

You mentioned you’ll be skipping grain cereals and going right to fruits and veg, which is great!  At 5 months old, there’s no reason your daughter can’t start with simple, smooth purees made from fresh, organic ingredients. But deciding on WHICH fruits and veggies to start with can be overwhelming. There are just so many, and all of them are tasty. To narrow it down, it might help to pick a fruit or two, a green veggie, a starchy veggie, and a fat. 

For purees, apples and pears are solid first solids (see what we did there), as are veggies like zucchini and butternut squash. When my girls were babies, I also added some prunes into their diet once a day, just to keep things moving. Constipation is really common when babies first start solids, and prunes just keep things moving right along. Plus they’re delicious. 

And listen, not to come off as braggadocious or anything, but I happen to know of a service that can check all those boxes for you (plus so many more 😉). Little Spoon offers single ingredient purees in four fruit and two veggie flavors: apple, pear, mango, prune, zucchini, and butternut squash. That’s your first six foods right there! They’re also organic, non-GMO, prepared fresh, and delivered right to your door every two weeks like clockwork…and made with a whole lotta love. A service like Little Spoon can really help take the stress and guesswork out of picking the right foods and then figuring out how to make them—with a team of pediatricians and nutritionists at the helm, you know that the foods you’re getting are just what your little one needs.

Now that we’ve covered purees, there are a couple of foods you can also throw into the rotation that you probably have both of these sitting in your kitchen right now! Avocado and banana are awesome first foods  when mashed; they’re nutritionally dense, easy to gum down and swallow, and easy to digest. Plus, the texture is a nice contrast to what you get in a fruit or veggie puree, and it’s important for babies to experience different textures and get used to the mouth-feel of different foods. But mom to mom – don’t freak out over the first post-banana poop. It’s going to look like little black worms, and it is NOT little black worms, but holy eff is that scary if you don’t know it’s coming. See also: post-beet and post-blueberry poop. You want to know these things, trust me.

My last bit of advice (not as important as the post-banana poop, but close): have patience. Parents can be so excited to start on solids, and when their kid doesn’t take to it right away, tend to get discouraged. Don’t! Don’t give up. Understand that it can take time for your babe to get into this whole solids thing. That is 100% normal, and you just have to keep trying. Her spitting out a food doesn’t mean she doesn’t like it; it just means she has no idea what you just put in her mouth and needs some time to process it. Try that food again. And again. I promise you, she’ll hit her groove. Before you know it, she’ll be eating a whole serving in one sitting and still begging for more spoon airplanes. Have fun with this, mama! 

Your First Foods Guru,
Is This Normal

My baby is sleeping 8 hours a night. Is that normal?

Dear Is This Normal,

Is it normal for my 1 month old baby to sleep 8 hours in the night without waking up for a feed? 

Signed,
Too Much Sleep

Dear Too Much Sleep,

This is one of those things you almost don’t want to ask about, right? Because your baby is sleeping through the night! Months ahead of when most babies even sleep in six-hour stretches! The tricky thing is that while experts will tell you what babies “should” do or “typically” do at any given age, there really is no hard and fast rule on baby sleep. BUT, there are some pretty important guidelines in how much a baby should be eating, so if that’s being impacted by these long sleep stretches, it’s time to change things up a bit.

Now, I wouldn’t call your baby sleeping eight hours at a time at night ABnormal, but it’s certainly not what parents usually expect with a newborn. At one month, many babies will start to sleep longer stretches, like 4-6 hours, but still wake up to feed every four hours or so. In a 24-hour period, babies that age need about 14 hours of sleep, and that’s throughout the day—nighttime and naps included. So if your baby is sleeping eight hours at night, how much are they sleeping during the day? Again, there’s no right or wrong answer here, but you want to make sure they’re getting enough sleep throughout the day.

Breastfed babies will typically (there’s that word again!) nurse every 3-4 hours at one month old. Formula-fed babies should be eating approximately four ounces of formula every four hours. Even though they don’t actually do anything, they need a constant supply of calories and nutrition to support their growth and development in these crucial first few months! So food math tells us that a formula-fed baby should be getting about 24-30 ounces of formula in a 24-hour period, while a breastfed baby will nurse approximately 8-12 times in 24 hours. It might be a good idea to track your baby’s feeding for a couple of days, to see how much they’re getting in their waking hours. Also keep an eye on how many wet or dirty diapers they have in a day – that’s going to be a good indicator for whether or not they’re getting enough to eat.

If your baby is eating as much as they should, and has six or more wet diapers a day, and they’re gaining weight and hitting their growth milestones, all while sleeping eight full hours a night? Well, mama, it sounds like you’ve got yourself a unicorn baby. BUT, if they’re not getting enough to eat during the day, or aren’t gaining weight at the rate of about 1½ pounds a month, or they’re not sleeping at all during the day, then it’s time to check in with your pediatrician and come up with a game plan that may involve a nighttime routine. I know the old adage says never wake a sleeping baby, but you can 100% wake your sleeping, HUNGRY baby to fill them up before putting them back down again. If your ped agrees, set an alarm to go off four hours after they’ve gone to sleep, feed them, and put them back down. One feeding in an 8-hour stretch is perfectly normal, as they should be eating every 3-4 hours. 

I would still recommend giving your pediatrician a call regardless, just to let them know what’s going on. You can do a quick weight check to make sure your baby is hitting on their markers, which can offer some peace of mind. But for now, try waking your little one up every four hours for a feeding, and then putting them back down. I know it seems strange to want your baby to sleep less, but parenting is just like that sometimes! 

Rise and Shine!

Is This Normal

Where are all my friends now that I’m a mom?

Dear Is This Normal,

I had my first baby 4 months ago, and so far everything has been pretty great. Hard, but great! But I’ve noticed that since I’ve been pregnant and especially since I had the baby, some of my friendships have changed a lot. I had a few friends who I considered to be close friends, and suddenly they’re nowhere to be found. Texts go unanswered for days, phone calls have stopped, and I haven’t seen them in weeks. I knew my life would change when I had a baby, but I wasn’t expecting to actually lose friends I’ve had for years, and I’m really hurt by it. Is this normal?

Signed,
Friendless in the City

Dear Friendless,

Oh mama, my heart goes out to you, it really does. I have been there! I think that if you polled parents all over the world, you’d find that a pretty good chunk of them have been there, too. It’s such a weird time in your life—all these massive changes! Your life has changed, YOU are changing. It makes sense that some of your relationships would change, as well. But it doesn’t make it any less sucky. Losing friends, particularly at a time in your life when you need them the most, sucks. And it never gets easier, I don’t care how old we get. 

So obviously, when you have a baby, your social life takes a pretty major hit (at least in the beginning). You’re not really available for an impromptu coffee date or bar-hopping on the fly. “Unplanned” no longer works in your life. If it is not on your calendar at least two weeks ahead of time, it ain’t happening! 

Even the planned stuff only happens about half the time. Doesn’t matter if you have pit tickets to see your favorite band of all time—if your baby has a fever, your mama radar dings and you accept that those tickets will be going to someone else that night. So in this sense, it totally makes sense that your more social friendships would dwindle out after you have a baby. You have different priorities now and there is nothing wrong with that. 

You may also lose friends who aren’t exactly … how shall I put this … kid-friendly? People who don’t like kids, don’t like being around kids, and generally don’t enjoy the company of small people. 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that either! Kids are not for everyone. Lawd knows they aren’t even for me sometimes, and I have two of them. Those friendships will diminish, and you just kind of have to shrug your shoulders and roll with it. You shouldn’t expect someone else to adjust their personal feelings or comfort for your benefit. 

However, when you lose a friend you thought was a real, through-thick-and-thin friend? That’s a blow. And that hurts. But sadly, it happens. The truth is, you’ve changed! Whether you realize it or not. And sometimes, this new piece of our puzzle doesn’t fit exactly right with our old pieces.

There are so many reasons a friendship ends after you have a baby. But remember, just because you’ve grown apart for now, doesn’t mean your friendship is over forever! It could be they’re just giving you the space you need to adjust to this massive change in your life. If these are friends you have a true bond with, people you shared real intimacy and love with, I wouldn’t completely write them off. Check in with them, let them know you’re still here and miss them, and see where it goes from there. 

But here’s the silver lining in all of this: becoming a parent is going to open you up to a whole new world of friendship possibilities! Now listen–making friends is hard, especially as an adult. I am TERRIBLE at making friends, I get it. But as your little one gets older and you start going to mommy and me classes and join the preschool PTA board and spend all your time doing kid stuff, you’re going to meet some new people! People with whom you will already have a built-in connection: your children. These friendships, when they strike the right chord, will become some of the most special relationships in your life. And if you’re really lucky, your kids will grow up as friends too and GAH to watch your little person and their little person bond over time is just something. 

Give yourself some time, Friendless. And give your maybe-former-maybe-on-a-hiatus friends some time, too. Having a child is a huge thing, and it sends shockwaves across every aspect of your life. Those fleeting friends, the ones you have a real bond with, they may be back sooner than you think. But you’ll also have the chance to add some pretty amazing friendships to your life in the meantime.

Oh mama, my heart goes out to you, it really does. I have been there! I think that if you polled parents all over the world, you’d find that a pretty good chunk of them have been there, too. It’s such a weird time in your life—all these massive changes! Your life has changed, YOU are changing. It makes sense that some of your relationships would change, as well. But it doesn’t make it any less sucky. Losing friends, particularly at a time in your life when you need them the most, sucks. And it never gets easier, I don’t care how old we get. 

 

So obviously, when you have a baby, your social life takes a pretty major hit (at least in the beginning). You’re not really available for an impromptu coffee date or bar-hopping on the fly. “Unplanned” no longer works in your life. If it is not on your calendar at least two weeks ahead of time, it ain’t happening! 

 

Even the planned stuff only happens about half the time. Doesn’t matter if you have pit tickets to see your favorite band of all time—if your baby has a fever, your mama radar dings and you accept that those tickets will be going to someone else that night. So in this sense, it totally makes sense that your more social friendships would dwindle out after you have a baby. You have different priorities now and there is nothing wrong with that. 

 

You may also lose friends who aren’t exactly … how shall I put this … kid-friendly? People who don’t like kids, don’t like being around kids, and generally don’t enjoy the company of small people. 

 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that either! Kids are not for everyone. Lawd knows they aren’t even for me sometimes, and I have two of them. Those friendships will diminish, and you just kind of have to shrug your shoulders and roll with it. You shouldn’t expect someone else to adjust their personal feelings or comfort for your benefit. 

 

However, when you lose a friend you thought was a real, through-thick-and-thin friend? That’s a blow. And that hurts. But sadly, it happens. The truth is, you’ve changed! Whether you realize it or not. And sometimes, this new piece of our puzzle doesn’t fit exactly right with our old pieces.

 

There are so many reasons a friendship ends after you have a baby. But remember, just because you’ve grown apart for now, doesn’t mean your friendship is over forever! It could be they’re just giving you the space you need to adjust to this massive change in your life. If these are friends you have a true bond with, people you shared real intimacy and love with, I wouldn’t completely write them off. Check in with them, let them know you’re still here and miss them, and see where it goes from there. 

 

But here’s the silver lining in all of this: becoming a parent is going to open you up to a whole new world of friendship possibilities! Now listen–making friends is hard, especially as an adult. I am TERRIBLE at making friends, I get it. But as your little one gets older and you start going to mommy and me classes and join the preschool PTA board and spend all your time doing kid stuff, you’re going to meet some new people! People with whom you will already have a built-in connection: your children. These friendships, when they strike the right chord, will become some of the most special relationships in your life. And if you’re really lucky, your kids will grow up as friends too and GAH to watch your little person and their little person bond over time is just something. 

 

Give yourself some time, Friendless. And give your maybe-former-maybe-on-a-hiatus friends some time, too. Having a child is a huge thing, and it sends shockwaves across every aspect of your life. Those fleeting friends, the ones you have a real bond with, they may be back sooner than you think. But you’ll also have the chance to add some pretty amazing friendships to your life in the meantime.

You’ve Got a Friend In Me,
Is This Normal

Why isn’t my son responding to his name?

Dear Is This Normal,

My son most of the time doesn’t respond when I call him by his name. He only responds to “baby”. When I call him by his name it’s a hit or miss . He refers to himself as baby. He’s 20 months old. Is this normal?

Signed, 
No Name

Dear No Name,

So, I have two kids, 9 and nearly 6. Nowhere near being babies, either one of them! But the youngest, well, she’s the baby still. And we still call her The Baby from time to time. “I have to register The Baby for kindergarten!”, or “The Baby needs a bath tonight before bed.” It’s a hard habit to break, but she’s the last one, so she’ll sort of always be The Baby, you know? It’s a term of endearment that’s stuck around for years, even though she’s a walking, talking, school-going kid now. I feel like this is a common thing in families with more than one child, and I’m wondering if that might be the case here.

Do you have older children? Is your 20-month old the baby of the family, even if he isn’t technically a baby anymore? Was “Baby” a term of endearment you used regularly with him from infancy? It sounds like your son is used to hearing “Baby” more than his actual name, which could be why he’s less likely to respond to his name when called. And also why he refers to himself as “Baby”. At this age, toddlers are developing language, speech, and identity markers at a pretty rapid pace. But they’re still a little iffy on actually using the proper pronouns and language when referring to themselves. That’s why toddlers often refer to themselves in the third person, rather than “I”, or “me”. They haven’t heard enough real-world uses of the correct pronouns to be able to use them comfortably or properly, so they’ll call themselves by their first name, or in the case of your son, by the name he hears the most.

You didn’t mention anything about his speech or other areas of concern in terms of his language or hearing development. If you do have concerns, such as him not talking very minimally or not at all, not responding to any verbal cues or commands, or possible auditory problems, my advice is to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician so he can be evaluated. Every child develops at their own pace, and it’s hard to know if your kid is on track, but delayed language and speech development can be an early indicator of several spectrum disorders, and early intervention is incredibly important.

But going off the information you included in your letter, it sounds to me like your little guy is responding to (and referring to himself by) the name he hears the most. He responds to his name some of the time, so he knows his name! But he’s used to being called “Baby”, so that’s what he responds to the most. Try to limit your use of “Baby” when referring to your son, and correct him when he calls himself “Baby”. Use his first name exclusively, and anytime he calls himself Baby, respond back with his name and tell him, “Your name is XXXX”. Get him into the habit of using his own name more when he talks about himself, and make sure that it’s what he hears the most! Toddlers respond well to repetitive language and speech patterns, so the more you call him by his name and correct him when he doesn’t use his own name, the sooner it’ll click in his developing brain. And make sure there’s consistency in his environments – his name should be used at home, at relatives’ homes, at daycare, anywhere he’s spoken to or about. He’ll start to get the hang of it once it’s all he hears consistently!

What’s In a Name,

Is This Normal

Is it normal I can’t orgasm?

Dear Is This Normal,

Anyone unable to reach orgasm during pregnancy and postpartum? Currently 9 months postpartum and still nothing!

Signed,
Where Did My O Go?

Dear No O,

Pregnancy and postpartum really is the gift that just keeps on giving, isn’t it? You start to feel like you’re finally getting back to your “normal”, and then something else comes along and you’re like, what the actual eff? The physical, mental, and emotional side effects of pregnancy and postpartum recovery can last at least as long as the pregnancy itself, and oftentimes, even longer. And it can start to feel like you’re never going to be YOU again. I get it, I sympathize, and yes, this is pretty normal and really common (unfortunately).  

So many women experience loss of sexual satisfaction or ability to climax after they have a baby. But it’s hard to pinpoint an exact cause, because it’s different for every woman! It can be physical, or psychological, or even emotional. For example, if you’re breastfeeding, you may be experiencing vaginal dryness from the hormone changes associated with breastfeeding. That can make sex painful, and it can also seriously impact your ability to climax. Or you may be suffering from pelvic floor weakness as a result of your pregnancy and childbirth; the pubococcygeal muscle is located in the pelvic floor, and that muscle controls orgasm. So if it’s overtaxed or even damaged from pregnancy and childbirth, your ability to climax will be affected. Women who suffer from postpartum depression may experience sexual dysfunction or a loss of sexual desire. 

Hell, even just the day-to-day of being a new mom can take its toll – you’re tired, you’re stressed, and your body may respond in varying ways to exhaustion or stress levels. There’s this little part of your brain called the amygdala. It controls your fears, thoughts, feelings, and anxiety. All of which are sort of out of control after you have a baby! In order to have a pleasurable sexual experience, your amygdala needs to STFU and allow you to focus on the pleasurable act. If it doesn’t, you can pretty much kiss that orgasm goodbye. 

The good news is, your O is more than likely just on an extended vacation, and with a little work, you can convince it to come (heyo!) back. First things first: make an appointment with your OBGYN for a full work-up: blood work, pelvic floor evaluation, the whole nine yards. Your doctor will check your hormone and thyroid levels, and make sure that everything is on the up and up (low testosterone can also impact your ability to orgasm). If there’s something amiss with your hormones or pelvic muscles, your doc can help get you back on track! If you need a little extra something in the lube department because of breastfeeding, your doc can recommend a lubricant to use, or even prescribe one that can increase sensation at the same time. 

But getting your groove back may also require you to switch things up a bit in the bedroom. Increase intimacy with your partner – focus less on the act of sex and more on building on shared intimacy and desire. A lot of women have a hard time orgasming with penetration alone after pregnancy and childbirth, so if that was your usual route before, change it up a bit! Use a vibrator during foreplay for clitirol stimulation, or even during sex for continuous stimulation on your clitoris. Finger and oral play should also VERY much on the table – sometimes, literally on the table! If you’re in a rut, get yourselves out of it, and go out of your comfort zones. 

Whether you’re missing O is a result of physical changes or the mental and emotional toll of new parenting, I know you’re anxious to get it back. It’s important to have that connection with your partner. And let’s be honest – it just feels freaking amazing. Don’t write it off entirely just yet. I have a feeling it’ll come roaring back when you least expect it.

Missing O Search Party Reporting for Duty,

Is This Normal

Should I be worried about heavy metals?

Dear Is This Normal,

My pediatrician just told me my daughter can move to cereals and even puréed veggies. She is 5 months old and with the whole baby food having metals and arsenic I’m so afraid to buy baby food although I’ve read making your own baby food will cause the same issues. I’m told to try one veggie at a time for a week to make sure there are no allergies. First time mom and I don’t want anything to hinder my child’s development. Any advice on what’s best? 

Signed,
Worried Feeder

Dear Worried,

Oh, do I ever hear you on this. There are plenty of things to worry about when you have a baby, but when that report showing heavy metals in many of the most popular brands of baby foods came out, it’s like our worries and concerns got turned up to 11. And for good reason! We all want to do what’s best for our babes, and to find out that what we’ve been doing is potentially harmful? This whole parenting journey can be so hard to navigate, especially with all of these roadblocks and speed bumps. 

Starting solids is such a fun milestone, and you should be excited about this! But I 100% understand your concerns and hesitation. There’s so much information out there about solids and infant feeding, and a lot of it is contradictory, so it’s hard to know what to do, how to do it, when to do it … you get the idea. My biggest piece of advice is to follow your gut and do what FEELS right for your baby. And work closely with your pediatrician when it comes to figuring out your plan! You know your baby best, and your doc has probably been in her life since she was born. You’ve got the go-ahead to start solids, so now it’s time to formulate a plan that you’re comfortable with. 

Let’s first address the elephant in the room: heavy metals in baby food. Obviously, a cause of major concern (and hopefully a catalyst for changes in the industry!). I want to acknowledge that it’s really not feasible to achieve a zero level when it comes to some heavy metals like inorganic arsenic and cadmium; these elements occur naturally in air, water, and soil, and generations of pesticide use means that the heavy metals have been absorbed into the soil and groundwater and remain even decades after they were banned from use in pesticides. Additionally, some fruits and vegetables are naturally higher in some heavy metals, like sweet potatoes and carrots. These root crops tend to absorb more heavy metals from soil and water. However, the biggest culprit in the heavy metals study was found to be rice; nearly all the baby foods that contained rice tested positive for heavy metal contamination. Rice is particularly susceptible to contamination because of how it’s grown and processed. 

So what are worried parents to do with this troubling information? Our babies have to eat, right? Even though there is no perfect solution that’s going to eliminate 100% of all heavy metals from the foods we eat and the foods we feed our kids, we can definitely take precautions and make choices that significantly lower our exposure. For starters, I’d skip the rice cereals and avoid any baby foods that contain rice – opt instead for organic oats, chia, hemp, or buckwheat. Companies that mimic what you’d do at home, with fresh, organic ingredients and minimal processing like Little Spoon is a great way to go. Little Spoon’s BabyBlends are made by hand, in small batches, using 100% certified organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients. Their foods are not subjected to extreme heat, lengthy commercial sterilization or processing on heavy machinery. Plus, because they only partner with local farms that perform regular testing on their ingredients and crops (and because Little Spoon runs third-party lab tests on every single batch of food that comes out of their kitchen), there’s a level of traceability and accountability with Little Spoon that you won’t find with other companies.

Another way you can minimize exposure is by feeding your girl a varied diet! Carrots and sweet potatoes have a lot of nutritional value, and experts aren’t suggesting eliminating them completely from your baby’s diet. But, they shouldn’t be a staple, or all she eats. Introducing her to a wide variety of foods at the beginning of her solids journey can decrease the risk of heavy metal exposure. Plus, it helps her develop a more adventurous palate! I totally understand your concern about allergies – I think all parents share those concerns when their babies start solids, food allergies are no joke. But unless you have a family history of allergies, experts say there’s no reason to introduce one food at a time, even in the beginning. If the foods she’s eating are easy to isolate (say, zucchini in the morning and pears at lunch), you would still be able to narrow down the culprit in the event of a reaction. Incorporate foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin C, and iron – these nutrients can actually help block the absorption of heavy metals. Broccoli, bell peppers, chia, spinach, and blueberries can all be amazing first foods for your little one.

Parenting is one worrisome thing after another, mama. Are they eating the right foods in the right way? Are they sleeping enough? Hitting the milestones they should be hitting? Our worries never really shut off. But our gut, our maternal instinct, our intuition can be such a force in guiding us to do what’s best for our kids. You’re asking the right questions, Worried, and hopefully I’ve been able to give you some answers that can help ease your worries, just for a bit.

Here to Ease Your Worries,

Is This Normal

I’m having issues with my mother in law

Dear Is This Normal,

I don’t have a great relationship with my mother-in-law and she keeps saying “mommy’s so mean” to my one year old. For example, if I try feeding my son something new that he doesn’t particularly like or if I take something away from him that he shouldn’t have she will say “mommy’s so mean” I hope she’s just joking but I really don’t want my son hearing that! Can I say something without making it a big deal or should I just let it slide?

Signed,
Not Mean Mommy

Dear NOT mean mommy,

Oh mama, this is so incredibly NOT ok, I can’t even put it into words! I’ve read my fair share of nightmare in-laws stories, and no matter how many I read, they will never not blow my mind. I just cannot fathom what makes people think they can behave this way! Especially when it comes to actual family. You have every right to be upset, and you have every right to be concerned about the message your mother-in-law is sending your son. He may only be a year old, but kids at that age are sponges, and if this continues, it’s only a matter of time before he starts repeating or emulating the same behaviors he sees from his grandma. You and your partner need to nip this in the bud, and NOW.

Have you talked to your partner about their mother’s remarks? You mentioned not having a great relationship with her already, and it sounds like there’s more going on than just this latest example. If that’s the case, you and your partner need to get on the same page and deal with this together. Since she’s your partner’s mother, I would suggest they be the one to address it with her initially; I hear you on not wanting to make it a big deal, and it doesn’t sound like you and her are in a good place to hash this out yourselves. So your partner needs to sit down with their mom, and make it very clear that her insults and criticisms of you (especially in front of your child!) will not be tolerated. And then, once that boundary is set, you both need to present a united front and say something anytime she gets out of line. If she can’t handle that? Well, that’s too bad. If she continues to behave this way, then your next step may be to limit her interactions with her grandson. When you put it to her that way, chances are she’ll get the hint and knock it off. Stop calling you mean to your son, or she doesn’t get to see her grandson anymore! Shrug emoji, she’ll deal or you’ll deal with it.

I know you know this, but in case her hurtful words have started to seep into your conscience, let me make something very clear: you are not a mean mommy. You are not mean for wanting your son to try new foods, or expecting him to follow rules and listen when you tell him to do or not do something! That’s not being mean – that’s called being a parent. Jokes, in moderation, and in the proper context, can be fun for grandparents to crack, but they still need to respect your rules as the parent and support your parenting choices and decision. If your mother-in-law cannot do that, then I’m sorry, she shouldn’t be allowed to be around your son and be given ample opportunity to undermine you and your authority as his parent. 

This is one of those things that you should make a big deal out of – if you don’t, it will only get worse, and as your son gets older and continues to hear this type of nonsense from your mother-in-law, he will start to exhibit the same behavior toward you as she does. Hard line on this one – don’t back down. It’s for your benefit, and your son’s benefit, that this be addressed ASAP. You’re not a mean mommy, but your mother-in-law is certainly acting like one, and it needs to end.

Time to Get Mean (With Your MIL),

Is This Normal

My children are very picky.

Dear Is This Normal,

My older children were great early eaters as toddlers. Now that they’re 8yrs old and 5yrs old they are both VERY picky. It drives my husband and me insane and we’re not sure how to handle it. They don’t want to eat their veggies, they don’t want to try new things and our 8yr old is always too full to finish dinner but has room for dessert. HELP!! 

Signed, 
Food Fight

Dear Food Fight,

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way. Kids’ tastes and preferences change, and you can’t really gauge what their eating habits are going to be later in life. 

It might be helpful to keep in mind that your picky eaters not wanting to try new things or eat their veggies could be an assertion of independence. It could also be just a little phase they’re going through together. Remember, even though they’re individuals, they’re siblings. So they probably understand how power in numbers works. It’s not unheard of for the younger child to mirror or mimic what big brother or sister is doing.

The good news is, this is likely just a phase, and they will eventually outgrow it. Until they do, you want to make sure you’re approaching this in the best way possible. 

As much as you want to fight with them over what they eat—or assert your own authority and force them to eat—I would strongly caution against it. Will they sit at the table and dutifully eat three bites under your watchful eye? Sure. Will that create a lot of mixed feelings about food and their relationship with food, and create some unnecessary hostility in your relationship? Damn right it will. So don’t make food or meal times a battle, and don’t use punishment, pressure, or anger to get your way. 

On the flip side of that, don’t use rewards or bribes to get your way either. You mention your 8 year old always has room for dessert.  But if they’re not eating nutritious food, dessert shouldn’t even be on the table! And they CERTAINLY shouldn’t be getting it after not eating their dinner. If they’re hungry enough for dessert, they were hungry enough for dinner, and they’ll be even hungrier at breakfast! Take away? Don’t take away dessert as a punishment, but also make sure its not necessarily the reward, either.

Until they outgrow this current food stage, there are some things you can do to make meal time easier, and even entice your kids to broaden their horizons and try new foods. Like I mentioned earlier, don’t force your kids to eat. At these ages, it’s important for them to learn when they’re full by listening to their bodies’ cues. You don’t want to teach them to ignore or override those cues. Make their portions smaller, and if they want more, they’ll ask for it. 

Include foods that you know they will eat, as well as one food you want them to try. They’ll be more likely to try the new food/veggie if they have familiar foods on their plate. But don’t turn yourself into a short-order cook. One family, one meal, no exceptions (allowing for allergies or special diets, of course). If you start making meals for fussy kids, you’ll set a REALLY hard precedent to break down the road. 

It can also help to give your kids more control over the foods that end up on their plates. Take them shopping with you, let them explore different produce or meats or grains, and allow each child to pick out one new thing to make for dinner. Then get them in the kitchen with you and let them help! 

Another big help is to stick with a routine when it comes to meal times: same time (ish) everyday, no distractions, just a quiet family meal. Finally, don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen when it comes to new foods and veggies. Put veggies in things they wouldn’t expect to have them, and highlight how versatile foods can be when you think outside the box. 

But the biggest piece of advice I have for you is to just be patient. I know that’s frustrating to hear. We hear it so much when it comes to kids! But they move in and out of phases like this all the time. And when it comes to food in particular, patience is key. It can take kids, even older kids, 8-10 tries of a new food before they actually deem it acceptable to eat. Try to keep your cool and just continue introducing new foods and making food exciting and fun. They’ll come around eventually. My older sister lived on buttered pasta between the ages of 9-13, and now her favorite food is sea urchin. They’ll come around, when they’re ready. 

Make Dinner, Not War,
Is This Normal

I want another baby – now!

Dear Is This Normal,

Is it normal to want another baby so soon after having my first baby? It was like as soon as she was born, I just wanted to keep re-living the whole experience—aches and pains and all. I’m ashamed to tell people this: I know it’s insane. Even with how exhausted I get with her at two months old now. But I’m also afraid. . .how can I love another baby as much as I love my sweet daughter? 

Signed,
Ready for #2

Dear Ready,

Dear Ready,

OMG, this is so incredibly sweet and pure. Is it insane? Maaaaaaaaybe a little. Is it normal? YES! It’s normal because it’s how you feel. Every emotion and feeling we have about our own motherhood experience is 100% real, valid, and totally effing normal. 

Pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood are wondrous and awesome and transformative. You’re still in the first stages and honey it gets even more beautiful. And harder! It gets harder. 

But that doesn’t mean that what you’re feeling now will diminish or lessen as your little one gets older. Some people just really, really love the experience. The process. There is nothing wrong with that and you should not feel at all ashamed for feeling the way you do! When to have another baby is a decision between you and your partner and should depend SOLELY on what’s best for your family, not what anyone else thinks based on some made-up social rules about second pregnancy planning. 

I will say, two kids is a whole different ball game and it might be a good idea to talk to some parents whose kids are close together in age. My own girls are four years apart and spaced that way semi-intentionally, but plenty of parents have kids back to back and love it! 

But the beginning can be … challenging. It can be done obviously, parents of multiples are out here running the world every damn day. But it’s always a good idea to know exactly what you’d be in for—you can never be too prepared when it comes to parenting. Think: TWO TODDLERS AT THE EXACT SAME TIME. 

As far as being scared you won’t be able to love another child as much as you love your daughter, that’s a fear all parents have. And it’s trite, but true: you don’t have to make room in your heart for another baby, your heart just grows in size to love them both (or all) the same. 

You may be surprised by how that love is different, though. A lot of parents are much more relaxed the second time around, so you may find yourself being able to appreciate the little things you missed with your first baby. And your babies will likely be very different, too! So your second will have quirks and traits and do little things that your first didn’t. You may fall in love faster with different aspects of your second baby. It’s familiar but totally new, which is completely wild and sums up this whole parenting thing pretty well. 

You’ll know when you’re READY ready for a second baby. And whenever that is, you’ll wonder how you ever lived that long without them. 

It’s Just As Great the Second Time Around,
Is This Normal