Monday, December 29, 2008

Hibernation Issues in Wombats

Elijah is now almost 5 months old. I know. I can't believe it either. And ever since he was 3 months, the first question anyone asked us was "And how is he sleeping? Is he sleeping through the night? IS HE?!!!!"

I don't know why sleeping through the night is the ultimate measure of how good an infant is. It seems that if the baby IS sleeping through the night, people are satisfied with his progress in life; if he is not, they give you a ton of advice, hoping, apparently, to help you progress his current station. I wonder at what point sleeping through the night no longer becomes a yardstick for your accomplishments - 1 year? 2 years? In a way, I wish it lasted into adulthood - darn it, if judged by sleeping through the night, I should have multiple awards. I can sleep with the best of them; always could. And there wasn't even any place to mention it on my college application (although it's not too late to list it on my resume).

Anyway, at our last pediatrician visit, the doctor asked if Elijah is sleeping through the night, and, upon hearing that he wakes up 2-4 times, told us to research baby sleep issues. Specifically, he told us to read "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. I read the book, and thought I'd expand my thoughts on it here.

Dr. Weissbluth presents results of studies of sleep in babies, and then uses those results to propose some sleep training methods for your child, who is behind in his sleep progress (obviously. Otherwise, why would you be reading his book?). The research is interesting and useful; the methods are interesting and scary. Research first:

1. 5 Elements of Healthy Sleep:

  • Sleep duration: naps should be at least 45 minutes; night sleep is best uninterrupted. Night waking usually disappears around 9 months.
  • Naps are important: 3 naps up to 9 months, then 2 naps (morning and afternoon) until 12-21 years and 1 nap until 3-4 years of age.
  • Sleep consolidation
  • Sleep schedule
  • Sleep regularity
2. Sleep is controlled by 2 biological mechanisms, which do not always talk to each other:
  • Homeostatic sleep control: a biological system that tries to restore sleep when any sleep is missing. It is involuntary, and controls sleep much in the way that our bodies control their temperature.
  • Circadian timing system: switches specific genes on and off in response to the light/dark cycles. This molecular clock is set by sunlight (although it seems to be set to a 25-hour cycle rather then our 24-hour day).
3. Biological Rhythms control sleep:
  • Sleep/wake rhythm emerges immediately after birth
  • Body temperature rhythm (temperature rises during the day and drops at night)
  • Cortisol peaks in early morning and has lowest concentration levels around midnight (develops by 3-6 months)
  • Melatonin surges at night and helps support the sleep/wake rhythms (completely controlled by the pineal gland by about 6 months). It is produced by human brain starting around 3-4 months of age and both induces drowsiness and relaxes the smooth muscles encircling the gut
4. Good sleep is important
  • Night sleep, daytime sleep and daytime wakefulness have rhythms that are partially independent of each other. Before 4 months, they are not in synchrony with each other at all. This means that the sleep rhythm can be in "deep sleep" stage, while wake rhythm is in "alert" stage instead of "drowsy". So the kid can be completely exhausted, yet wired and unable to fall asleep.
  • Naps differ in quality by the time of day. Morning naps provide more REM sleep, while afternoon naps provide more deep sleep.
  • Naps dramatically reduce levels of cortisol (stress hormone) present in the body.
  • After 4 months, naps should be 45 minutes to 1 hour to let the body relax. 30 minute naps do not do the trick.
  • Most common sleep-deprivation complaints are headaches and stomachaches. If you are experiencing either, try sleeping better.
Now the scary part. From this research, the Doctor concludes that sleep is obviously extremely important (no disagreement there), and that therefore you must make your child sleep NO MATTER WHAT. We must stop at nothing to make him sleep!! And the best way to do that is to leave him crying so he learns to fall asleep on his own. In fact, the Doctor goes as far in his book as to suggest that if you should turn off your baby monitor for the entire night; that if your kid throws up while crying for you, you should not clean him up until morning, and that if he falls down while trying to get you, just let him stay as he falls. That'll teach him not to try it next time!

On top of that, the author adopts a condescending tone and frequently makes interesting passive-aggressive comments about the rest of the family of the sleepless child. Here are my 2 all-time favorite passages from the book:

"Practical Point: A parent who keeps a baby up past his natural time to sleep may be using this play time with the child to avoid unpleasant private time with the other parent." A practical point indeed! Let's make the parent not only exhausted, but also paranoid! Why is my husband so happy to be playing with our son in the evenings?! I used to think it was because he misses him all day, but now I suspect it's due to his secret hatred of me!! It's all clear now!!!!

"Why Can't I Let My Baby Cry? I enjoy my baby's company too much at night. This may be because you are not a good sleeper yourself." Yes, this makes sense. Not only is your child a failure in the making, you yourself are also a ruinous sleeper. Right. This guy could make a second career as a motivational speaker in addition to his pediatrics practice.

It's pretty amazing how often looking at lots of data results in your losing all common sense. There really should be rehabilitation programs for these people.

Anyhow, I am trying a slightly earlier bedtime with our little Wombat. And I'm trying to normalize his naps somewhat. But overall, he can keep waking up through the night for now. Beware of white coats bearing research, to paraphrase Warren Buffet. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Animal Tales by Simon Rich (The New Yorker)

See the original at Shouts and Murmurs.  Courtesy of the fabulous New Yorker, all rights, of course, reserved.  Personally, Dalmatians story is my favorite. 


“Hey, can I ask you something? Why do human children dissect us?”

“It’s part of their education. They cut open our bodies in school and write reports about their findings.”

“Huh. Well, I guess it could be worse, right? I mean, at least we’re not dying in vain.”

“How do you figure?”

“Well, our deaths are furthering the spread of knowledge. It’s a huge sacrifice we’re making, but at least some good comes out of it.”

“Let me show you something.”

“What’s this?”

“It’s a frog-dissection report.”

“Who wrote it?”

“A fourteen-year-old human from New York City. Some kid named Simon.”

(Flipping through it.) “This is it? This is the whole thing?”


“Geez. It doesn’t look like he put a lot of time into this.”

“Look at the diagram on the last page.”

“Oh, my God . . . it’s so crude. It’s almost as if he wasn’t even looking down at the paper while he was drawing it. Like he was watching TV or something.”

“Read the conclusion.”

“ ‘In conclusion, frogs are a scientific wonder of biology.’ What does that even mean?”

“It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Why are the margins so big?”

“He was trying to make it look as if he had written five pages, even though he had only written four.”

“He couldn’t come up with one more page of observations about our dead bodies?”

“I guess not.”

“This paragraph looks like it was copied straight out of an encyclopedia. I’d be shocked if he retained any of this information.”

“Did you see that he spelled ‘science’ wrong in the heading?”

“Whoa . . . I missed that. That’s incredible.”

“He didn’t even bother to run it through spell-check.”

“Who did he dissect?”


“Betsy’s husband? Jesus. So this is why Harold was killed. To produce this . . . ‘report.’ ”

(Nods.) “This is why his life was taken from him.”

(Long pause.)

“Well, at least it has a cover sheet.”

“Yeah. The plastic’s a nice touch.”


“Hey, look, the truck’s stopping.”

“Did they take us to the park this time?”

“No—it’s a fire. Another horrible fire.”

“What the hell is wrong with these people?”


“Well, it’s another beautiful day in paradise.”

“How’d we get so lucky?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care.”

“I think I’ll go walk over there for a while. Then I’ll walk back over here.”

“That sounds like a good time. Maybe I’ll do the same.”

“Hey, someone refilled the grain bucket!”

“Is it the same stuff as yesterday?”

“I hope so.”

“Oh, man, it’s the same stuff, all right.”

“It’s so good.”

“I can’t stop eating it.”

“Hey, you know what would go perfectly with this grain? Water.”

“Dude. Look inside the other bucket.”

“This . . . is the greatest day of my life.”

“Drink up, pal.”




“Hey, look, the farmer’s coming.”

“Huh. Guess it’s my turn to go into the thing.”

“Cool. See you later, buddy.”

“See ya.” ♦

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Boing Boing Boing

We received a door frame jumper as a gift, and tried it out with Elijah, who loves to jump.  So you would think he should loooove the jumper.  But not so fast.

He also loves to swing.  But doesn't like his swing, and only uses it as a chair.  After exploring this paradox, we realized that what he does not like are the American safety standards.  When he swings, he wants to go fast!  With real acceleration, swinging dangerously close to the ground and then really fast back high up!  None of your silly speed-controlled mosying-along Fisher-Price Rainforest boring-along swings, thank you very much.

And he loves to jump.  As in, to be thrown high up in the air (preferably up and across), and then caught by Dad in free fall.  Oh boy.  So we received sort of a lukewarm response from the jumper.... but only because he has not yet figured out how to push with his toes to get the spring to really compress and the jumper to really lift off.  Oh I am sure he will.  Thankfully, not yet though.  Ah, 4 months old and already an adrenaline junkie.... BOYS! :) Here is a video of him evaluating his new jumper (taking it quite seriously I might add).

Elijah in the Jumper! from Olya on Vimeo.

Monday, December 15, 2008

4 Month Checkup

Elijah's 4-month checkup was last Friday, and we have confirmed some suspicions about our little Wombat. He is very long, in the 92 percentile for his age. And he is getting heavier! :) The checkup did not confirm our suspicions that he is quietly making fun of his parents - although that is probably in the 50th percentile for any age. :)

Here are the vital stats:
Height (length): 26.5 inches
Weight: 15 lbs 2 oz

And here is a recent photograph of our little 4 month old wonder:

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Quest for Mobility

Wombat has started to pursue rolling over.  He has mastered the rollover on soft surfaces, such as pillows and couches, and is now moving on to the olympic event of Rolling Over on Hard Surface.  This is extremely challenging, as the budding athlete has nothing but his coordination and the strength of his legs to carry him through.  Plus, our little one has decided to compete in "rolling back to tummy" event, which is notoriously more difficult than "rolling tummy to back".  What an overachiever! :) Wombat is valiantly trying, but having a hard time and so becoming a bit frustrated.

It's pretty amazing to watch him get new skills.  Sometimes it seems like he just wakes up one day and decides "That's it.  I'm rolling over this week.  I'm gonna do it.  They can't stop me." All of a sudden, overnight, the kid develops an intense interest in something.  And goes and does it.  I wish I had the determination and drive of my baby son, I guess, is what I'm saying.

Well, if he keeps it up, he'll be rolling over before we know it.  Every time he does roll over he has this huge smile on his face and giggles and looks up very proudly, propping himself up on his little arms.  Here is a music video of him rolling over successfully on a couch pillow, his bad self. :)

Roll Over on Soft Surface Event from Olya on Vimeo.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Encounters of the Lamb Chop kind

When I came to the States, I used to watch the Lamb Chop's Play-Along show all the time. Lamb Chop and Charlie Horse were my favorite characters and largely contributed to my mastery of the English language (including the fuzzy concept of the knock-knock joke). Our friends Paul&Cecilia made my day when they gave us this Lamb Chop doll! And now Lamb Chop has more loving admirers. :)

The Little Schemer

Yeah, I know, horribly CS-y pun. Couldn't resist. :)

Halloween Pictures

Our little Pirate. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Three Months, 100 Days

He turned 3 months old on November 8. (Our engagement turned 6 years old at the same time, but we forgot about that completely. :) And he is turning 100 days old on Sunday - which, in keeping with the Chinese tendencies he seems to be displaying (see earlier post), we are going to celebrate. :) Here is a recap of the exciting first months:

Born on 08/08/08. Takes over the hearts and minds of all who meet him. :) We come home from the hospital on 08/10/08.

Begins to hold his head up in first week! For the first week or two, only wants to be held and never put down. But sometime in week 2 warms up to the sling - sling becomes our new best friend. After the first 2 weeks of Wombat's life my parents take off, and we are left on our own as new parents, for the first time ever. To cope, we take Wombat to Georgetown and Great Falls Park - t introduce him to yuppiness as soon as possible. He takes to it very well.

First Month Milestones:
Holds Head Up: from Day 1.
Smiles in his sleep: in the first week.
Follows an object with his eyes: 08/27 (2.5 weeks)

In the second month of Wombat's life, he begins to really like to bathe. We start bathing him every night before bedtime. During this month he begins to become interested in toys: starts looking at his black-and-white mobile and becomes ok with being in the swing for a little bit at a time. He also becomes big enough to move to his crib (instead of sleeping in the bassinet next to Mom's couch). :) He begins to sleep 6 hours at night, and outgrows our sling. We move him to the Ergo carrier, buy him a whole lot of new clothes for his long legs and come to terms with the fact that he is no longer a newborn.

Second Month Milestones:
First Social Smile: 09/14 (5 weeks old)
Lifts head when on tummy: 09/07 (4 weeks old)
Grasps a toy: 10/06 (8.5 weeks)

In the third month, he becomes very active and begins to pay attention to everyone and everything. Starts to laugh. Disturbingly, often laughs after watching his parents for a while. (We thought that was not supposed to start until he became teenage). Begins to like being in a sitting position and enjoys his first sit-up stroller ride. Begins to prefer stroller to carrier as you get to see more stuff - tries out forward-facing carrier (Moby Wrap) for the first time and likes it. (Lemmesee! Want to see stuff!!) Does better and better at tummy time, lifting his head very reliably. Loves high-adrenaline stunts, like being thrown in the air, swung through the air and bounced. Loves to fly like Superman with Dad. Begins to wear big-boy outfits which emphasize his expanding cuteness. :) And, finally, participates in the historic election of Barack Obama and witnesses the democracy at work. :) A busy month.

Third Month Milestones:
Recognises Mom & Dad reliably: 10/14 (9.5 weeks).
First Laugh: around 10/20 (in response to being tossed up in the air).
Discovers Fingers: around 10/20 (and immediately sticks them into mouth)
And here is a shot from 6 years ago - of the thing we forgot about. :P
I love you baby.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chinese Baby

Born on the 08/08/08 - the lucky-est Chinese number, also happening to be the first day of Olympics in.... China. And, in daycare, where each child's stuff has a color sticker, Elijah was assigned.... Red. :)
We should probably learn some things about Chinese culture given that our kid seems determined to be part of it. :) Hey, with the way the world is shrinking, may not be a bad thing! Heeeee heeeee.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dances with Wombats

Grandpa Rock from Olya on Vimeo.

Beatles with Dad from Olya on Vimeo.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thrill Seeking

Here is some footage of our 3-month-old adrenaline junkie. Dad makes an excellent jungle gym and amusement park. :)

Horsie! from Olya on Vimeo.

Swinging It from Olya on Vimeo.

Elijah's Sun Salutation

Unswaddling in the mornings. :)

Unswaddling from Olya on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Something for Everyone

Today was the day to let Uncle Bismarck have his share of fun. We took him and Elijah to Bismarck's favorite Georgetown dog park, which is 1) not really a dog park, but shhhhhh, and 2) is right next to Patisserie Poupon, which makes excellent pastries. Oh what a gorgeous time.

Leaves on the trail

Papa with Uncle Bismarck

Elijah in the Moby Wrap (supervised by Uncle Bismarck)

Autumn Sky

Our little family pictures

Ingy kicks up the leaves on the trail

More fall gorgeousness, enhanced by presence of Bismarck. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Colors of the Season


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Swaddling Reviews

Since we brought the little Wombat home, we have tried many different things to help him sleep comfortably. Many things help, like having a steady routine every night, walking outside with the baby or bathing the baby before bedtime, feeding right before, etc, etc. But the one thing that is absolutely crucial is swaddling. With it, sleeps like.... well, a baby. Without it, resembles a windmill with arms flying all over the place and wakes himself up with jerk movements.

We tried almost every swaddle on the market, and we have a very clear favorite. Here is a quick review of the swaddles we tried with their benefits and issues.... hope you find it useful!

General Swaddling Info
You can swaddle the baby in any piece of fabric. What makes these swaddles special is their special adaptations to make the wrapping easier. The simplest adaptation is.... being square! A square blanket is better for swaddling because, just like in origami, it lends itself to easy symmetry when folding. :) Here are some good instructions on swaddling folds.

Next come blankets that have been specially engineered for swaddling - beyond the square. They usually consist of a pouch of some sort and then one or two "wing" ends, which are intended to keep your baby's arms down at baby's sides, Army-style. This is important because young babies fling their arms around in their sleep, and will wake themselves up with their own arm motions. At the same time, their legs should be allowed to move freely - all the blankets reviewed here have leg pouches that are wide and will not constrain your baby's little footsies. :)

Square Swaddling Blankets
A good plain-square-piece of fabric swaddle is Adan&Anais swaddling blankets. These blankets are muslin and will keep baby warm when its chilly and cool when it's hot. There are lots of other swaddling blankets sold, and you can simply make one yourself by getting a square piece of any fabric.

  • Can be the cheapest option (depending on your choice of fabric of course); you can also make one yourself.
  • Can be used as a burp cloth, sitting blanket, general purpose blanket.... you get the idea.
It's a bit tough to get the baby to stay in the swaddle. You will need to tie this blanket with ribbon once the swaddle is done. There is absolutely no way in the universe you are going to secure that blanket to itself otherwise. Your little one is going to wiggle his way out, and you will find him in the morning either a) wearing only a diaper, waving his arms all over the place and turning a shade of chilly blue, or b) having pulled the fabric up over his face and freaking you out with the potential breathing issues.

"Winged" Swaddling Blankets
Miracle Blanket

This blanket was our least favorite. It works by pulling fabric over baby's arms, and tucking it under baby's back for arm containment. There is nothing actually holding the blanket together, other then the weight of the baby. Well, our Wombat got his arms out of that in no time by rocking himself side to side and pulling arms out at the same time. We read reviews on Amazon that said other people's babies couldn't get out of this blanket - clearly, those babies do not have engineering in their genes. Ours does and so is using the laws of physics to his advantage. :)

  • Light cotton material; won't overheat baby.
  • Many colors available.
  • The swaddle is difficult to get right (for us, anyway). It disturbs the baby with how many pieces have to be tucked under and around him, and easily comes undone.
  • There is no mechanism for securing the fabric other then simply tucking it under the kid. Rest assured the kid will get it untucked. :)
  • A bit pricey: $30.
The company promises that your little one will not wiggle out of this swaddle. While that was true, our little one did manage to loosen it, and then push it up onto his face. I felt uncomfortable waking up and seeing the swaddle covering up his mouth and nose.... and sometimes had to stay up watching him sleep to make sure the swaddle did not interfere with his breathing.

  • Velcro attachment makes it impossible for baby to completely unswaddle.
  • The material is thick cotton (not fleece), which is great if you are looking for a slightly thicker swaddle.
  • The velcro is not quite in the right place. The blanket wraps around the baby like a spiral, up to his face, and secures the last piece of blanket on his chest. Frequently, Wombat would wiggle enough that the swaddle would loosen at the velcro attachment, ride up on him and cover up his face. It would not come completely undone, but still, a baby with a blanket over his face is not good. It happened no matter how tightly we tried to wrap him.
  • The Velcro is rough. If somehow your baby manages to get the velcro up against his skin, he could irritate his skin by rubbing up against the velcro I guess.
  • Also pricey: $40.

This swaddle is the best we've found. Everything about it is great. There are 2 pieces of velcro: one on the body pouch, and another on one of the wings. The velcro is soft but strong, and most importantly, the placement of velcro makes the blanket very easy and safe to put on. You simply wrap the wings around baby's body and arms and secure with velcro as tightly as your baby likes. Our Wombat has not been able to wiggle out of this one!

  • Comes in 3 fabric options: Light cotton, cotton flannel and micro-fleece.
  • Has lots of color choices if you care about that sort of thing.
  • Velcro is in all the right places!
  • Velcro is very soft and would not irritate skin even if the baby somehow managed to get in contact with it.
  • Should the swaddle somehow come undone (never happened for us), there doesn't seem to be any possibility of it riding up on baby's face; it would just fall to the sides. The wings are too short to pose that danger.
  • It has an access slot in the back so you can swaddle the baby in the carseat (although we never needed to do that).
  • Easy and quick to put on baby, resulting in least displeasure from Wombat. :) No need to tuck fabric around his arms or under his back or any other contortionist procedures.
  • Price! $10-12. Readily available in lots of shops, including large chains like Buy Buy Baby.
Cons: None.

:) That's it! Wrap'em up! :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008


These were taken when Wombat wasn't even 2 months old yet. Notice the resemblance to his gorgeous father. He just can't look away from his Dad. I can't either. :)

Walk in the Park

We headed out to Ken-Gar to enjoy the weather with the little Wombat. Oh what fun. :)

Wombat is fascinated by the leaves.

But still finds some time for the camera. :) Meanwhile, Grandpa and Bismarck are on squirrel watch.

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