9-Month-Old Issues

This advice may or may not be good enough to return to. But I spent some time putting it all down is someone else’s “comments,” and figured I would tuck it away in my archives for future reference.

The main content is in response to a three questions raised by the mother of a 9-month-old:

  1. Katherine frequently screeches as loudly as she can…I’ve been trying to figure out why and if there’s a pattern…it seems to be when she’s frustrated or mad or annoyed. Is there any way I can teach her not to do this? And/or teach her a better way of expressing herself?
  2. She has started squirming all over the place when I try to change her diaper or her clothes. When I lay her on her back, she flips to her tummy and scoots away. How can I train her to hold still while I’m changing her?
  3. She’s really mobile and crawls like a sprinter. She loves to explore and get into everything…especially the cats’ food and water dishes. We have a Pack-n-Play, but that’s where she sleeps at night, so I don’t want to use it as a play pen – I want to keep her play space and her sleeping space separate in her mind. I feel like I can’t get anything that requires thinking done while she’s awake because I’m constantly diverting one disaster after another. I’ve taken to staying up wicked late to work on things after M and K are asleep, but then I wind up tired and grouchy in the morning…because as soon as Katherine wakes up, I’m up for good too.

My response:

For “physical discipline” before K is ready for “flicks” or whatever, I defer to a friend of mine who primarily uses immobilization (e.g. holding her hands between yours) for a number of counts.

As Kathy points out, the primary purpose of disciple is memorable discomfort (I think she actually uses the word pain, but it doesn’t have to be painful (in the literal sense) to be memorable.

That said, I wouldn’t use “discipline” for any of these three issues yet. Not at 9-months.

For #1, definitely start working on the please sign. This should cut down on the frustrated screeches.

However it will do nothing for the “thwarted” (my preschoolers are quite familiar with this word) screeches or the “I’m glad I’m alive and have found my voice” screeches that are delightful in their own way, but never comfortable in the hard-surfaces (loud) home I understand you to have.

For the times when you don’t like the attitude of the screeches (I did this with a wild 3-y-o just a night ago, so it has broad application) you can Puh! a pop of air in her face (instant/temporary mute) and use your cue-phrase. Ours is “low voice” and we still use it with our older kids when the volume gets just too big.

When it’s a happy screech you can encourage clapping, “wah-wah” her mouth with your hand or hers to break up the sound and/or encourage a new one, or model a lower pitch to express delight. (pitch exchanging, like sound-copying/exchanging is a good thing to do with your kiddo).

You could introduce (though expect it to take decades to nail-down) the concept of indoor-voice, allowing special play-time outside to use/encourage the outdoor voice.

#2: Never make her go through a diaper change empty-handed.

Yes, sometimes the squirming is defiance, but sometimes is the roar of “No fair! You’ve got candy (mobility) when I don’t!” And that will drown out *any* attempt at discipline. She only knows she can’t do what she wants most in the world.

Give the kid something to do. Be creative. It will be a long time before she understands the delayed gratification diaper changes are an example of.

This is the age I wouldn’t flick/slap yet, not even if you think it’s defiance. I do all my diaper-changes on the floor, and (when necessary) I hold down the upper body with my feet.

Side note: I think if you start the physical discipline too soon, the child learns too soon it’s your big gun, and how if they can tough-it-out it’ll unnerve the parent.

This isn’t the age where you want to be asking yourself, “Am I hitting hard enough? Do I need to do it more?” when (and she won’t yet– I think this is still too young to truly make the connection) she doesn’t modify her behavior in line with your efforts.

#3 Get an ergo. All the stuff about 3rd-world moms being wonderful b/c they wear their babies all the time is connected (in my mind at least) to the reality that most of them don’t have other options– who wants to set their babies down in an un-safe place?

That may sound snarky about those moms (I don’t mean it that way of course), but praising necessity… well, it has its purposes I guess…

You may already have a challenge getting started with this, because I don’t know if K’s been “confined” regularly up to this point, but the earlier you start the “Normaler” this will be for her.

As long as you’re actively working around the house (and afraid she’ll get into trouble), I’d say wear her.

Definitely for “witching hour” (that challenging time of dinner and transition in the afternoon/evening) if no other time, you’ll find it useful to have her on your body.

As to letting her play in bed, I differ from what seems to be general consensus so far. I think she should play there at least a bit.

Baby Whisperer brings it up, and I think it’s valid, that you want baby to have positive associations with her bed, and if you can get her used to being there as a play place (depending on her personality) you may get more sleep time because she won’t feel the need to get out to start playing. A few crib-safe toys or (eventually) a snack-trap of cheerios could keep her entertained that blessed 5-15 minutes extra your snooze button doesn’t offer any more.

Naturally you want to keep those play times as obviously distinct from sleep times as possible, and I wouldn’t use the bed for time-out’s or any punishments for that same reason– wanting to keep as positive an association as possible with bed.

And, yeah, I know that’s long, but you did ask. ;-)

This entry was posted in Advice.

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