Looking for support and advice for dealing with a "spirited" baby - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 03-07-2014, 07:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have been having SUCH a hard time with my almost 8 month-old lately, and I would love some thoughts, advice, support, etc from moms who are going through, or have gone through, similar experiences! She is very bright, active, engaged, fun, and silly -- MOST of the time. But when she gets angry, she gets SO angry! She has been like this since birth. Lately, I just feel I have been losing my patience with her and am feeling burnt out. Because she is such a high-needs baby, I have been doing my best to meet her needs and be as responsive as I can, but in doing that I have been ignoring my own needs, and I feel I just can't do that anymore. We have no family around, and my husband works full-time and doesn't help out at night because he needs to be well-rested for his job (he is a carpenter, very physical work), which I am mostly OK with -- it is not stable work and he will lose the job if he doesn't do well there.

 

The thing is, she is very calm and happy when we leave the house, doesn't matter where we go -- the store, the back yard, a friend's house, etc. But at home she is just SO difficult -- fussy, irritable, easily angered. I take her out every day, but with the weather being so cold and miserable it's such an ordeal to leave the house so we usually just do one outing a day, after her first nap, plus with the sleep deprivation (she is NOT a "good" sleeper, not surprisingly) I have no energy to do anything, which also contributes to my impatience. Is it normal for babies at this age to be irritable at home but super calm and happy elsewhere? We have lots of engaging toys and things for her to play with, and while our place is pretty small, I certainly think there's enough to stimulate her.

 

I just feel like a crappy mom lately because mornings have been so miserable with her, and I don't know what to do. I have two friends with babies around her age and they are SO chill, they can't relate at all to what I'm going through. Part of me wonders if she would benefit from a daycare situation -- she loves being around other babies/children, but she would not be able to nap there as she either nurses to sleep or we wear her in her carrier and bounce/pace/vacuum (yes, vacuum) her to sleep, and we really can't afford the extra expense. I'm an RN and I work one shift a week, on the weekend, and I would really love to work 2 shifts a week, but with her being such a difficult sleeper I know she would have to "cry it out" at daycare, and that is not something I feel comfortable with, and for me to pay a babysitter to be with her while I worked would also not really be worth it financially. Gah. I just feel frustrated.

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#2 of 11 Old 03-07-2014, 01:59 PM
 
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Please don't beat yourself up about feeling overwhelmed or like a "bad mom" with a spirited baby. My oldest son was and is the same way and he is 2 now. He is always happier somewhere other than home, and it's crappy weather a lot here, too. He was happy in daycare a couple days a week because frankly he was bored with just me! It helps to find playmates with similar personalities, then you can feel normal with the parents, too. We don't take him to daycare anymore, but we have playdates with another kid like him. Parents with only chill babies do not understand. If you are still considering daycare, consider interviewing places about how they handle fussy babes at nap time. You will be able to tell if they are fibbing. You could also try to find someone who has a home daycare. For just some occasional relief (and you need it - don't feel bad about that!), you could hire a teen for a cheaper rate if that works for you. You could try a childcare trade, too.

 

I also remember my son would quickly melt down after feeling frustrated or thwarted, and it was pretty intense to manage, especially when he was too young to use language. We would distract him sometimes by changing the scenery completely (as in, go on the porch, go do laundry, something totally different), but he would have what seemed like tantrums early on. As his desires became more complex, his tantrums were much more intense and I thought sometimes there was something wrong with him neurologically, or that it was my parenting. I think now that it is temperament. You can do all the preventative stuff you can, but if you get a fiery one, that's just the way it is. When she gets more language, you will understand more about who she is. She will tell you about what she just can't stand or what she wants to happen and you will realize that if that's the way she felt or wanted things, there was really no way you could have anticipated it and prevented her suffering by being some kind of "amazing mom" when she was 8 months old. 

 

I recommend getting outside in the morning at least for 20 minutes, even if the weather sucks. It always seemed to make nap time easier for us and keep me saner. You can also try to do errands in the morning. Now that our oldest son is 2, mornings either have going outside, doing errands, or doing some kind of art project or novel experience. I still cope by drinking coffee and prioritizing me over housework. Spirited children are energy intensive, and the leftover energy should first be spent on replenishing you, in whatever form that takes. Hugs to you, mama! Please reach out for support from us whenever you need it!

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#3 of 11 Old 03-07-2014, 02:30 PM
 
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My son is SO similar. He also just turned eight months yesterday (32 weeks-can ya tell I'm a ftm? Lol.) No one believes me that he can be fussy and high strung because he is *usually* an angel when we go out. The only explanation I can think of is because he's so intelligent and full of energy, he gets bored at home. Like you we've been sidelined by the cold, and it is plain exhausting dragging the car seat up and down (we live in a second story apartment, which doesn't help.) I'm looking forward to spring and taking daily walks with my son in the Ergo carrier.

 

So, no advice really, but I can commiserate! Hope it gets better for both of us.

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#4 of 11 Old 03-08-2014, 08:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you both so much for the support, I really appreciate it. I just feel like my empathy and compassion has taken a nosedive lately -- when she would get upset months ago, I used to immediately go into nurturing mode, but now my first reaction is "OH MY GOD DO NOT CRY AGAIN SHUT THE #$%^& UP." I mean of course I'm still caring and supportive, I don't just ignore her, but...you know. I'm burnt out. I am a lot less compassionate when doing, for instance, a diaper change and she is screaming like she's being abused -- my attitude is just like, "I have to put on your pants so you don't freeze when we go outside, you can deal." I know that's not very supportive or attachment parent-y, and I really was like that for so long, but I'm just burnt out! I have definitely lost my temper on a number of occasions too -- I've never done anything to her of course, but I have gone around the house slamming things, throwing shoes at the wall, and I've definitely screamed myself in frustration on several occasions. I've had to leave her crying in a room and go to the other room to hit a pillow against the bed because I have so much frustration I need an outlet for it, when she just would NOT stop crying, and I've had essentially no sleep -- I feel bad about doing these things, and my friends with babies cannot relate at all. I guess she just feels things really intensely and has a fiery personality. My parents tell me I had bad temper tantrums when I was little, and my husband has a temper now, so I guess that's where she gets it...gah. 

 

I will try to get out every morning, I think you're right that that will make a big difference -- I just have zero energy due to sleeping so poorly. I've been letting her cry a little bit more in the middle of the night -- we cosleep so I'm still next to her, cuddling her so it's not CIO, and I only do it after nursing her so much that she won't nurse anymore! I used to get up in the middle of the night when she wouldn't settle and bounce her on the yoga ball or walk her around, but now I'm just done doing that -- I nurse her as much as she wants, but when she's done nursing, I don't get up with her. That's my new rule -- she stays in bed all night long. I think she's at an age where I'm able to start putting in some limits, like not getting up out of the bed at night. She has actually fallen asleep without nursing on several occasions after not too much crying, so I think that's progress...anyway, good to know I'm not alone!!!!

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#5 of 11 Old 03-13-2014, 02:28 PM
 
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Just remember that you are doing the best you can. My son, once he could talk, would have tantrums in the middle of the night abut wanting his shoes on or wanting to hear chainsaw sounds. Not much I could do bout that. Feeling upset with you kid doesn't mean you are suddenly a bad mom, or not practicing attachment parenting. What I have found to be true is that when I get really irritable with my son, it is a sign I need a break. Even as small as 15 minutes of DH taking him out go the house on a walk or errand. Do this! And don't worry about how it reflects on you. I remember when my son was this age I would be checking the clock all the time hoping it was nap time and fantasizing about the two glasss of wine I had when I got him so sleep at night. I also had a 10 minute "leave me the heck alone time" after putting him down at night so I didn't feel ambushed by DH seeming "needy." Make these spaces for yourself if it helps. Wish I could just visit you and give you a break myself, but you are really far away.

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#6 of 11 Old 03-13-2014, 03:28 PM
 
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I second what all these ladies say, and I just wanted to add that I used to have a home daycare and frequently kids who were poor sleepers at home napped just fine with me, even the ones who were used to being nursed to sleep, or had a certain lovey, or needed things exactly right at home. Even that young, kids get that things are different with different people. You deserve a break so you can be replenished and enjoy your daughter again, and a good caregiver who will love your daughter help her interact with other children might be just the thing. My understanding of Attachment parenting isn't that you ignore your own needs--that are important too. Recent research on the importance of strong Secondary Attachments in fostering resilience in children is pretty compelling.
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#7 of 11 Old 03-13-2014, 07:13 PM
 
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It's not unheard of for a cranky baby to be simply manifesting sleep deprivation as well. Is she getting 11-12 hrs at night and 2-4 hrs in naps? I think that's what I've seen as appropriate for her age. If she is far off from that, I would begin with getting her well rested. I know that my daughter powers through fatigue when excited/stimulated (like outside) but gets very cranky as soon as she is tired when just playing at home (less exciting for sure!) 

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#8 of 11 Old 03-13-2014, 07:21 PM
 
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Also, I should say that attachment parenting doesn't need to be the be all end all of how you evaluate yourself as a mother. There's plenty in Sear's "The Baby Book" that I choose to ignore because I believe babies are more resilient than that. There are other things I take to heart as reminders of her tenderness. It's all about balance. 

 

Also, I have sometimes seen parents going a step to far with reasoning with their child when they are tantrumming. Like I do believe in talking out feelings, etc. But sometimes I see moms just DOTING on these hellions and I can't help but wonder if all that wonderful attention is part of it. I do ignore my daughter's light fusses and I do not feel bad about that AT ALL. For example, I take away her spoon to scoop up some food for her, and she gets angry that I took the spoon. Too bad. Moving on. She is being less and less impatient about that now. In contrast, I realized one of the reasons she was wailing when I changed her was that I was wiping her face with an icy cloth after meals. So I started using a warm cloth, out of kindness. Boom. Crying at changes stopped 100%. 

 

OF course, there are many times I question how I should react to her negative emotions. I am still sorting out lots of stuff that I can't decide wether to take the stoic route or the responsive route. 

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#9 of 11 Old 03-14-2014, 08:11 AM
 
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Ah yes, I have two high-strung little girls myself.... and doesn't it drive you crazy when other people say, "Oh, what a good baby!"  or "What are you talking about?  She's such an easy kid."  My first daughter was, I'm convinced, the worst sleeper there ever was, as a baby/ toddler.  (And a drama queen from the first few minutes of life - really.) I didn't, and don't, understand it: how could this baby need less sleep than I do?!  She's five now, though, and, you know what?  ALWAYS sleeps soundly through the night, for 11 hours, and has only had a couple tantrums since the summer.   (At two and three years, especially, I was regularly kicked/punched/smacked/ and deafened by screaming....) We worked hard at creating a quiet, restful environment, good sleep habits, etc., appropriate responses to things that ARE NOT TRAGEDIES (like getting her pants on) and it's finally paid off, mostly.  (So there's hope!)  She's still just by nature high-strung, high-needs, super sensitive, and deeply emotional, but those are (mostly) now things that seem like character traits rather than... flaws, and things that may one day become positives about her.

Now we're dealing with the second.... I am often saying in my head, as well, "Are you ****in' kidding me?  What the **** is the problem now?!"  I don't think parenting choice (be it attachment parenting, or whatever) should mean ignoring reality - including the reality of how you feel (and it's perfectly reasonable to be saying those things to yourself in that circumstance!)  OR ignoring your particular child's idiosyncrasies and needs.  Some of those needs include - a restful sleep environment, which may not necessarily be one in which she's strapped to you in a sling while you spend hours in a rocker or doing laps around the house (and no, I'm not advocating cry-it-out, so everyone can keep their clothes on) and the need to learn what is appropriate behavior in the wide world, as well as respect for other people's needs, including her parents'.  No one's needs should trump anybody else's. It's okay to make space for yourself now, so that you can be the attentive and caring parent you want to be, and when she's older, to say, "Mommy's having some quiet time right now.  When the big hand gets to the _____, I'll be happy to play with you."  I know a few homeschooling moms with large families who designate a period of time - for one mom, it's a solid two hours in the afternoon - in which the kids know to leave Mommy alone, except, of course, in an emergency.  I wish people would advocate for simple common sense parenting. 

And, I wanted to add, I have been there many, many times, punching the pillows or screaming/crying to myself in the basement after a particularly frustrating episode.  It can feel like crazy behavior (I've often thought afterward, if anyone saw me... I'd be committed) but again, normal response to an abnormal situation.  And you'd be surprised by how many moms admit to the same.  A friend I never would have guessed - very patient, soft spoken - recently told me she locks herself in the car and just screams when she really feels like she's about to lose it. 

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#10 of 11 Old 03-15-2014, 04:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Again, I really appreciate all of your support and advice! It is so helpful to hear that others out there, other GOOD, caring mothers have done the same as me and just freaked out and screamed and punched pillows and all that, because my friends with babies just can't relate, so I feel alone in that! I am trying to be forgiving of myself, and also trying to work on my patience with her. Cynthiamoon, I love that approach you described of not encouraging the little meltdowns about non-tragedies (diaper changes, taking spoons to put more food on them, etc) by giving tons of attention -- I completely agree, I think that you can be sensitive to your kids' needs and emotional experience while also acknowledging, and helping them to understand, that putting on pants really is not so much of a tragedy. I do think that the Dr. Sears book can set up unrealistic expectations for parents to make them feel like failures -- or me, I should say, keeping this personal -- like it is NEVER ok to not be holding your baby while he/she is crying (of course this is ideal, but what about the times when we feel like we're going to lose our minds???), etc. I think the book also led me to believe that by cosleeping, breastfeeding on demand, babywearing, etc, my baby would be so chill and happy all the time. NOPE. Haha. I hope that when she learns to communicate verbally she will be less frustrated, though maybe that will just bring its own new set of challenges...In any case, I really appreciate your support!

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#11 of 11 Old 03-16-2014, 11:37 AM
 
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Yeah, I wish people would realize Sears is a mixed bag, as is anything and anybody, and that there's NEVER one-size-fits-all for any child.  It's weird (and a little scary) how he's garnered this cult leader status.  Why would we all agree that this one guy is all right on all aspects of child-rearing?  (Not drinkin' the kool-aid, thanks.)  I've long been disturbed by the implications of attachment-parenting-by-the-book for mothers in particular.  I really think it sets women back at least 100 years, and creates overwhelming pressure on them.  I also (again) think it does children themselves a disservice, most of all - if they never learn to self-soothe to a degree, or how to act appropriately (so that EVERYONE'S needs are met,) they remain perpetually needy, immature and unable to fulfill even themselves - let alone, someday, a partner, their own children.  I'm an educator, although no longer full time, (actually, not at all this year, who'm I kidding?) and I've seen the frightening product of this "oh, whatever you do, don't cry!" and "my child is never wrong" mentality on behalf of some parents.  Their children make life miserable for all the other children in the classroom, as well as everyone else in their orbit, and THEY are obviously miserable too.  And finally, I think the approach is often inconsistent.  We're told about babywearing, for instance (and hey, I have three carriers and hold my kid a lot, so it's not as if I'm dumping her in a play pen all day) that it's something humans have always done, look at traditional societies, you can't undermine deep-seated primate behavior, etc.  But you know what?  That's not true across the board, I don't think most of us wish to go back to living in huts and spending twelve hours in the fields (we're all on our computers, after all, and reading his book...) and in many traditional societies (in which I've visited, lived, and heard friends' accounts) as well as primate family groups, it's par-the-course, for instance, to smack your kid around.  I don't think any of us, least of all Dr. Sears, would advocate that.  (And the urge to smack somebody, based on my oldest's behavior, as well as many students, is pretty primal!) So what's the best rule?  Love your kids and use common sense.  And meet THEIR needs, and your family's needs, not someone else's standards. 

 

P.S. From one mother of two high-spirited kids who were/are terrible sleepers, I think what you're doing, keeping her in bed next to you instead of getting up to walk her back to sleep, is perfectly reasonable for ALL of you.  We discovered my oldest in particular was just very easily over-stimulated and easily awoken; eventually she moved to her own crib, on the other side of the room, and then finally to her own room, where she slept much better.  That's just her, I have no problem with co-sleeping (I did and do it,) and I'm not saying this is what you should do, but the take-away is this: we finally had to realize that this is actually what's best for our child.  This is actually what will meet her needs.

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