Our highly sensitive toddler

With 2.5 years of parenting our daughter under our belts, my husband and I have come to believe that we have a wonderfully aware and sensitive child. I wrote about this as one of the traits we saw back at 22 months. 

As she’s blossomed further into toddlerhood and has even begun to seem more child-like, this has become even more clear. Earlier this year we learned of the term “highly sensitive child”, and it’s provided a useful construct for understanding and talking about the special qualities our daughter possesses. 

What is a highly sensitive child? 

Recognizing our daughter is a highly sensitive child means that we believe our daughter, like 15-20% of the population, has a heightened physiological response to certain stimuli. 

Highly sensitive children tend to be creative, intuitive, and empathetic in addition to being introspective and easily overwhelmed by such sensory experiences as sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings. 

If you are wondering whether your own child might be highly sensitive, Dr. Elaine Aron, the foremost researcher and author into high sensitivity, offers a tool here

Yesterday I listened to an episode of Susan Cain’s podcast, Quiet, which included a great description. By the way, if you have an introverted child, I highly recommend her podcast, a 9 part series on parenting introverts.

In the 9th episode, she interviewed a researcher of highly sensitive children who described them as Orchid children. An Orchid child is much more sensitive to their environment than the average child. In contrast to a Dandelion child, who will grow similarly well in all sorts of environments, an Orchid child’s outcomes will depend more heavily on the environment in which they grow up.

In a tough environment, an Orchid child will struggle and wilt. They may be seen as weak and may not come to utilize and value their strengths. But in a nurturing and supportive environment, they will flourish, outperforming their peers in areas like creativity, innovation, and understanding. If you have a highly sensitive child, the most valuable thing you can do is to value and help them capitalize on their unique traits. 

Why do we think we have a highly sensitive toddler? 

Highly sensitive children are not exactly alike, but I thought it might be helpful to share what we see in our daughter that has helped us to identify that the community and parenting resources for parents of highly sensitive children are particularly helpful for us. 

She is upset by other children’s crying

One of the earliest signs that we saw in our daughter was her high responsiveness to other children’s emotions. This came out most strongly when she would hear other kids, usually babies, crying. It would distress her, sometimes leading her to cry too. As she began to understand language better, it seemed to help when we would acknowledge that there was an upset baby or child and reassure her that someone was caring for them and helping them to feel better.

More recently, our daughter started in a daycare where she is in group care for the first time. There are several other babies and toddlers there, and when she describes her day to us she often talks about the crying. We’ve talked with the daycare staff and know that there’s not an unusual amount of crying there, but the crying of children at daycare ranks high on her awareness of what happens in her days there. 

She is bothered and scared by loud noises

“Too loud” is one of her most frequent phrases. From the sounds that are nuisances to most of us, like construction work or a loud motorcycle, to the more benign, like the buzzing of the machines that keeps a bouncy house inflated, loud noises make her cover her ears and she frequently stops what she’s doing and needs reassurance. It’s too the point where she is scared to see new machines even when they are off. She recently cried and covered her ears when we got a new window a/C and when she found my breast pump in a box of baby stuff. Even though the machines were off, both situations took some time and soothing to get through. 

She’s always been highly responsive to music

Her first clearly intentional arm movements, at under 2 months old, were along to the beat as a friend held her and sang a rhythmic song. As a baby she would be calmed by soothing music, and we soon noticed that she would reflect the mood of the music, even getting sad or scared when the music suggested it. As a toddler, we’ve had many a time where we are walking down the street and a car or boom box goes by playing loud music and she dances and moves to the beat. 

She is very focused and loves quiet play like puzzles, Legos, and drawing

As a baby, other kids would crawl to her and check her out, and she’d be more absorbed in the toy she was looking at. As a young toddler, she would happily play on her own more than other kids her age, engaging with her stacking rings, blocks, or board puzzles. Nowadays, she does 24 piece jigsaw puzzles (with some help) and can even stay engaged enough to do 3 or 4 of these in a row. 

And here are a few more signs:

  • She doesn’t like tags on her clothes or loveys
  • Lately, she has lots of trouble with her shoes being uncomfortable
  • She wants to change immediately when her clothes get wet
  • It’s always a struggle to wash her hair because she doesn’t like the feeling of water dripping down her face
Advertisements

Happy 13 Months

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I took the time to write. So many things have been going on – a reorganization at work, Husband started a new job, the holidays and family visits, and my daughter’s first birthday!

She seems more and more like a toddler these days. She walks well, even being able to catch her balance after wobbling on one leg, standing from sitting, and balancing in a squat while she plays on the floor.

image

Lately she is all about the couch, and she can now get up and down safely in her own. She likes to crawl around on it or to grab the Wii U remote and play with the touchscreen. She’s taken a liking to her Elmo doll. We do watch a little bit of TV, and when I turned on sesame street she was blown away to see Elmo on the TV. She turned to me, back to the TV, back to me, as if to say “Did you know about this?”

image

She has a handful of words, and babbles all the time. She regularly says Dada, Mama, cat (“atttt” or “tttttt”), up, all done (“aaaaahl duh”), that, this, and yes (“ess”). She has also said book, bye bye,¬†towel, and bed. The other day or cat had climbed up to a shelf in the closet, and her Dada was holding hey up so that she could see. She was amazed to see the cat there, and said “(c)at up”.

image

She is so much fun. She loves music and physical play and investigating objects. She puts rings on pegs and is working on the shape sorter, sometimes getting the shapes through and other times getting frustrated when she is trying to put a circle through a square hole.

We love her so much. It’s been such an amazing 13 months with her.

Learning to walk

My daughter turned 11 months old this week. On her 11 month birthday, she took her first tentative steps, and then yesterday she walked all the way across the room. It was so exciting to watch!

image

She had been very stable at standing for several weeks, and had even started rising and sitting without holding onto anything. She loved to walk holding our hands, but if she wanted to get across the room she would sit and crawl.

I felt that she had the strength and balance needed to walk, and all she was missing was the confidence. Her Dad agreed that she was scared to try. So we decided to encourage her to walk with just one of our hands. Whenever we did this, she would be upset at first, reaching for the other hand so she could speed up, but we encouraged her to try it. For a day or two, she did most of her walking this way, more slowly and tentatively than when she had two helping hands.

Then, on her 11 month birthday, while
I was sitting on the floor behind her, her standing with my arms nearby, her Daddy walked into the room and she took a couple of steps towards him! Then she grabbed my hands and we all cheered and encouraged her. She did the same thing again a few times that evening.

The next day, with encouragement she took a few more steps throughout the day. By the evening she was able to take about 10 steps, toddling across the room! She seems less scared to try now, though crawling is still her preferred method. This morning when I was getting ready for work I asked her to take a few steps to show her new skill to the nanny, and she walked towards me with a little more confidence.

I’m so proud of her for giving walking on her own a try even though she was hesitant. I can’t wait for the next chance to encourage her to persevere, despite her fears!
image

8.5 month snapshot

My daughter is about 8 and a half months old. I rarely have time to really sit and write, but I’m going to try to save a bit of memory here.

image

I’m writing now on my way to work. I am still going to work twice a week, on Thursdays and Fridays. It’s getting very hard to work at home. I try to do 3 hours on Monday and 3 hours on Wednesday.

image

My daughter doesn’t nap much. I hear from other moms about these 2 hour naps or a 45 minutes nap being short and it sounds like some other world. I am not upset about it, it is what it is. I try to extend her naps sometimes… Nurse or rock or sing or stroll, hoping she’ll go back to sleep. But it’s just not her. Once she’s up, she thinks things are too interesting to miss. I noticed this about her several months ago and it hasn’t changed. Another mom that watched her for an afternoon confessed that she thought with her practice and success with her own daughter that surely she’d be able to extend my daughter’s nap when she was up after 20 minutes, and was surprised to learn she was wrong.

image

I think long naps just aren’t in my daughter’s nature right now and that’s ok. But it does mean those 3 hours of work I try to do at home must be with her mostly awake. And now she gets into things so easily. She’s a pro at crawling and she pulls up to standing. Sometimes she even let’s go with one or both hands. She takes some tumbles most days but jumps right back into trying after a brief cuddle and reassurance. She is fearless! Her propensity to explore her physical skills is much more like me than her father.

image

One day last week she stood on her own. It was a very wide stance. We were on the grass where there was a slight Hill, she was pushing up and the next thing I knew nothing was on the ground but her feet. I sort of stared at her dumbfounded and proud.

image

As we approach the marker of her time outside the womb equalling her time in it, I’ve also been reflecting on my own changes over this time. I gained around 45 pounds with the pregnancy. I was nervous about if I would return to my former shape, but also so happy to be a mom that I felt it would be worth it even if not, so I wasn’t stressing. I also felt that modelling healthy behavior was important. And with breastfeeding and the activity involved in caring for an infant in NYC, the pounds melted off, slowly but surely. I was able to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans at about 7 months post-partum, and now I even need a belt for those. It’s so remarkable what the female body can do!

I’ve never been so happy for so long. I just adore this little girl, being a mom, watching my husband light up to see our daughter and hearing her giggle as they play together.

Life is beautiful.

image

Diving into cloth diapering

After deciding that we would try cloth diapers and acquiring several different types, I had to figure out how to prep them. We had a pay per load shared laundry room in the basement and a Haier portable washer in our apartment for which we were waiting for a replacement part.

For brand new cloth prefolds, they recommend you wash them 5 or 6 times to wash away the natural oils and get the fibers to a more absorbent state. Paying for and doing that many loads of laundry in the shared room in the basement was unappealing, so I decided to try the boiling method of prepping the prefolds. I filled my largest put with water and heated of until boiling. I then added 3 diapers, put the lid on, and boiled them for 20 minutes. Afterwards I brought the hot diapers to the bathroom and hung them up to try on my nifty new hanging drying rack. The water was a bit yellow with the oils, so I dumped it and started again.

Meanwhile, I hand washed the one brand new all in one bumgenius free time diaper. It was a dark color and the package recommended washing separately at first.

Later in the day, after I’d finished boiling all 12 Osocozy bleached Indian cotton prefolds, I went down to the laundry room and the them in the washer with some soap nuts. I put it on heavy spill and extra rinse so they’d hey add much time as possible. I also put all of the pocket diapers and inserts and the all in one in another washer with their own little bag of soap nuts. Once those loads were done I threw them all in one dryer, added extra time, and let them tumble around in there. Later I stuffed each of the pocket diapers and I made room in my diaper drawer for this new stash. By the end of the day we were ready to go with our cloth diapers!

That night I put Precious in the all-in-one. The next morning I was eager to see how it had performed and was quite happy with the results! It was wet on the inside but had not leaked and she did not look pink. Great!

Over the next few days we did have some learning experiences. I put a prefold and a cover on her for one of her usual poop times, and it was my first time trying the “angelwings” fold with a Snappi diaper fastener. That was not a good idea! I had not put it on well and the poop got everywhere.

The other nights since then I have tried different pocket diaper set-ups. One night I forgot to add a second liner. There wasn’t enough absorbency and she soaked through the diaper. Another night I put two microfiber liners in, and they absorbed most of it but I hadn’t placed them so well inside their pocket and there was a part in the back that with just the pocket diaper and no liner and she leaked through that area. Two of the nights we used a brand of pocket diaper without an inner leg gusset and they have given her a bit of rash at the leg opening, which by the way has been more on her leg itself than at the hip area where you would expect it to fall. Last night I tried one microfiber and one cotton/hemp liner, but that leaked too. I’m going to try the all-in-one again tonight.

During the daytime though I am super happy with them and I think we just need to figure out the right night system for us. I have done the dirty diaper laundry once in the shared facilities and then once with the portable washing machine once the replacement part came. Doing the laundry with the machine and then hanging in our bathroom was super easy and with that system we should save around $50 to $75 a month over disposable diapers and wipes.

Her diaper rash does seem to be improved but it’s not gone yet. We’ll see what happens as we keep trying!

Deciding to switch to cloth diapering

Have you thought about making the switch to cloth diapers but hesitated for one reason or another? Up until recently, so did I. But after a bit of learning and prep, on Sunday I put my baby in her first cloth diaper. It’s been a few days and I’m pretty happy about it so far.

Having used cloth diapers at one of my nanny jobs several years ago, I seriously considered using cloth for my baby as I was planning for her arrival. I wanted to do what was best for my baby, for our bank account, and for the environment. At the same time, I didn’t want to take on more than I could handle. We live in a nyc apartment with a shared laundry facility in the basement, so the cost and effort involved in doing laundry is significant (though not as much as it was at our last apartment where the nearest laundromat was a couple flights of stairs and several blocks away).

I researched cloth diapers and ran the numbers, and found that at $4 per load to wash and dry our laundry, the cost savings of cloth would have been negligible. There might be a little savings after additional kids, but there would probably also be extra accessories and laundry cycles for prepping and stripping the diapers that I hadn’t accounted for, and in the end the cost difference would be on the order of $100, which didn’t seem enough to convince me to make the commitment to such regular laundry.

Meanwhile the various environmental analyses, when considering the energy and water involved in doing the laundry, didn’t come out as convincingly in favor of cloth as one might expect.

The third factor, diaper rash, was something we couldn’t assess until the baby was here.

So I registered for disposables, put several cloth diapers in my “baby idea list” on amazon, and didn’t think about it again for a while. The baby came and we used disposables and tried to get through those first few bleary-eyed months.

Whenever I met New Yorkers who were using cloth for their babies, I would ask them about their laundry set up. Most admitted they weren’t saving much money with it and that they did have quite a laundry routine.

But then one day I met someone who said she had installed a portable washer in her kitchen, so she wasn’t paying per load of laundry. Excitedly, I asked her to tell me more. It turns out she had a Haier portable washing machine which uses a regular outlet and connects to the kitchen sink. I’d never heard of such a thing but it seemed it might make cloth doable for us.

In my neighborhood of Washington Heights we have an active local parents listserve, so I kept an eye out for someone to post a used one. When someone finally did I snapped it up. We brought it home and I used it for a few weeks, trying to do both the baby and adult laundry with it. It works great, and is easy to use for the small baby items. I found however that with the load size and need to find space to hang dry, I couldn’t keep up with the adult laundry with it.

Meanwhile, my daughter got to a point where she was waking almost daily with some rash, despite generous applications of Aquaphor or Boudreau’s Butt Paste and regular treatment with Triple Paste. So, I toyed with the idea that it was time to try cloth.

I asked my husband what he thought, and he said it was a great idea. His mom had switched to cloth for him because of his sensitive skin, so he felt it would be natural to do the same for our baby.

I turned to the listserve again, posting a request for used cloth diapers, and acquired about a dozen pocket diapers, 20 inserts, and several all in one’s for only about $50. What a great deal! I also had put some prefolds and covers in our Amazon cart and when my husband needed to buy something else he went ahead and ordered them.

So about a week later I had all the supplies and was ready to get started. I’ll post soon about how I prepped and what I’ve learned in the first few days.

5 months!

My daughter is 5 months old today, and what a joy.

She is getting more mobile all the time. Now if you put her down on her back most of the time she will roll over to her tummy and happily play that way. She can turn around in a circle, though she is usually trying to move forward
when she ends up turning. She really wants to crawl! She can’t quite sit on her own yet, but she is getting close.

She holds toys in her hands and brings them to her mouth. She is captivated by books and will look at the pages while you read through whole board books, sometimes several times.

She loves it when you sing to her. She especially lights up for Old McDonald Had a Farm, and she is soothed by Hush Little Baby, the Alphabet Song, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

She naps for a few hours a day, often taking about 4 20 or 30 minute naps. A nap of 45 minutes or more is on the long side for her these days. She goes to bed between 7 and 9, most often around 8:30, unswaddled but in the baby merlin magic sleep suit.
image

Sometimes I put her to bed and stay up for a bit, and other times I just lay there with her and go to sleep myself. She wakes up several times through the night and we usually get up for the day around 7:30 am.  She sleeps next to me in the bed and I love the closeness, the ease of nursing, and being able to feel her little body and cuddle her if she is upset.

She really loves to go outside and to be worn in a wrap on me. She smiles just to see me take out the wraps and is usually happy for a long time when I wear her.

She loves to look at herself in the mirror and to look at hands, whether they are hers or someone else’s.

She loves her daddy too and laughs when he plays with her. When he greets her in the morning while she lays in bed next to me she grins widely and looks for him when he leaves the room.

Being her mother is the most wonderful, amazing experience and I am so thankful to share this time with her and watch her grow!

image