4 Aspie Parenting Challenges – And How To Face Them

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I’m not a veteran parent, but I’ve realized during my short experience with being a mom, that parenting is a special challenge–whether you’ve got one kid or ten, with or without Autism. However… there are some unique things that I face as a parent on the Spectrum. With some helpful advice and trial-and-error, I’ve found a few ways to deal with them, too. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

Struggles with Noise
Probably for survival purposes, a baby’s high voice seems almost specially made to cut through obstacles–like multiple insulated walls, shooting-range earplugs with foam muffs over them, and Los Angeles smog. This is great for getting your attention when they are in need or in danger, but not so great when it’s simply nap time, nothing is amiss, and they just want to keep playing (yelling). And loud, sudden noise can sometimes trigger panic or even a meltdown for me.
How to deal with it: I use earplugs. I can still hear little one well due to my very sharp hearing (and her very loud voice), but it’s less painful for me to respond to her when she’s tantrumming, and I can concentrate better on her needs rather than my throbbing eardrums! Just make sure that
1)
you’re watching your child closely,
2)
you aren’t wearing these all the time, and
3)
you can still hear them well enough to respond and interact normally with them.

Getting Alone Time
If you are an introverted Aspie, you probably recharge your energy most effectively by yourself in a calm environment. “By yourself” and “calm environment” may have gone the way of the dodo with the beginning of parenthood–but the more moments you can grab to refocus on calming your mind and body, the better you will feel for both your and your child’s sake.You need to take care of yourself to better care for others!
How to deal with it: You may need to call on a friend or family member to watch your little one(s) while you go to a quiet room or leave the house for a bit. You could also try hiring a babysitter for a few hours if needed. If you can’t get help right now, common advice is to “nap while they nap”, if you are able. Or, you can use this time to pursue your favorite calming interest, whether that’s reading, listening to music, or heck, collecting insects. Unless housework is your interest, it can wait. A little time spent doing what I love works wonders for my mood and makes me a better mom to my daughter.

Changing Routines
It seems like it’s common for us Aspies to need a steady routine to function best. In a previous post, we talked about how having a child can turn this upside down (and why that’s a good thing!). It’s great to set up routines like regular nap times and bedtime rituals for kids, and it’s been proven that they feel safest with some structure. But we need to expect that there will be things that suddenly upset the routine, so that we can be ok with that. Kids teach us that it’s ok to color outside “the lines” sometimes.
How to deal with it: This isn’t easy in the moment, but it also helps to consider all stages as temporary. They won’t wake 5x nightly forever. They won’t be teething forever. They won’t be taking your car without permission forever (ha!). The one thing you can reliably expect is for your child’s routine to eventually change as they do. So don’t get too used to bedtime at 6PM, or regularly having to clean carrots off the walls. This too, shall pass!

Making Eye Contact
Do you struggle with making eye contact with people? I do. It feels intense and awkward to me, and often I either can’t look a person in the eye, or I stare. I feel silly about this, but my daughter has a pretty intense, unblinking stare that I find a little uncomfortable, even though she’s just an infant. Babies love their parent’s faces, and eye contact is seen as beneficial to help our kids to bond with us. Making eye contact with them also helps them learn how faces and emotions work, and teaches them patterns and responses of other people. Along with eye contact, it also stimulates baby’s development to make different facial expressions at them.
How to deal with it:  I’m still working on this challenge, but I’ve gotten better as I push past my comfort zone. I can relax knowing an infant hasn’t developed the social expectations of an adult, and won’t think I’m weird while I try to find the appropriate amount of eye contact! And there is so much I can see about my daughter when we look each other in the eye. I can see her developing personality and curiosity peeking out at me. This link has some wonderful tips on how to meet people’s eyes in various situations (the last one on loving someone may be the most relevant).

Do you recognize some of these issues? If you have some tips to share, or would like to mention a unique challenge you’ve faced, feel free to comment below!


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Sensory Issues : 6 Tips For More Comfortable Breastfeeding

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Hoo boy, this one is tough. Breastfeeding felt like a constant assault on my boobs, which is pretty normal for some women, particularly in the beginning. But there were some things that made a big difference in our nursing routine and may help you too:

Nipple shields: If you are very sensitive, you may need nipple shields, which reduce sensory over-stimulation or pain with a thin rubbery piece that baby can latch onto over your nipple. They gave me one at the hospital, and I got another from a lactation peer counselor.

Lanolin: This funny-smelling, natural soothing gel helped prevent cracking from hour-long nursing sessions. I got a couple tubes of it from the hospital after delivery. If you are really brazen like me, you can ask for a tube of it each time you get a new nurse in your room with their shift change, and stash them to take home with you, since lanolin is expensive (hey, you are already paying for your stay!). If you decide to use an electric breast pump, lanolin is an excellent buffer against the plastic nipple shield and the strong suction, and may help create a better seal.

Organic Coconut oil : This considerably better-smelling natural oil is a great moisturizer for your nipples, safe in your baby’s mouth and it may even prevent thrush with its fungicidal properties. A little goes a long way.

Scratching: Babies may be born with practically microscopic fingernails, but they are often razor-sharp already. They can accidentally scratch themselves with them, and scratch you too. You can trim them, carefully, with a tiny baby nail clipper (don’t use the full-size regular clippers, which are too big). The nails grow fast and break easily, so check baby’s fingers daily for raggedy nail edges. Secondly, if you are nursing and those sweet little fingers are like pins and needles on your boobs, you can put a baby mitten or sock on their hand. Make sure it’s not too tight around baby’s wrist and remove it when you’re done.

Tongue-tie: If breastfeeding hurts and it’s NOT getting better, baby is acting like they’re not getting enough but you know you have a decent supply, or when you take baby off breast it looks like your nipple has been squashed and “creased”–please see your pediatrician a.s.a.p. and ask if your baby may have “tongue tie”.
This is so important, as a tongue tie will make baby unable to eat properly, nursing will HURT, and it will be harder for you both to learn to breastfeed right unless it is fixed. It can also cause eventual speech impediments. My wee one’s tongue was attached to her mouth in such a way that it wouldn’t extend past her lips, which made her bite my nipples, and frustrated her. An E.N.T. Doc fixed this easily in a quick-in-office procedure, and nursing became immediately easier.

Lactation Consultants: Breastfeeding may not be automatically natural for you. There are an awful lot of things that play into it–don’t assume it’s your fault if it’s not working. No one knows how to do something without some practice, babies are not all born knowing just how to latch perfectly, and there can be physical challenges that are unavoidable, like tongue tie or inverted nipples. Make sure to get some help if it is uncomfortable for you or your baby. Although we eventually stopped breastfeeding due to several separate issues, I got a lot of helpful advice from WIC Lactation Consultants and from my own mother, who had struggled with some of the same things I did. You may also be able to find a Lactation Consultant through your hospital or pediatrician. But most importantly, don’t worry that you are a “bad mother” if you do determine you can’t breastfeed. Just love that baby and do the best that you are able to for your situation, that is what matters!


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Sensory Issues: Odors

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Hope everyone is having a good New Year so far! Today, we go over a sensory trigger that some Aspies may have particular struggles with.

Do you have a sensitivity to odors?
Many moms mention the sweet scent of a newborn, but we all know what other scents naturally come with having a tot in the house–dirty diapers, sour milk and spit-up, and other smells can be pretty overwhelming.While most of these odors are largely unavoidable, there are a few things that have worked for me to lessen their impact.

To prevent that yucky sour-milk smell that ends up most everything baby and I wear, I try to do a load of laundry every day I’m able (of course this isn’t always possible!) and clean up any spills or leaks from either of us with just a washcloth, dish soap and water. For laundry that has sat for awhile, some recommend 1/2 cup of baking soda or 1/4 cup of vinegar added to your wash load. It’s easier to remove spit-up before it dries, but water, an old toothbrush and dish soap (can you tell this is my go-to cleaner?) works well to remove wet or dry spit-up that’s seeped into clothes.

If your baby is like mine and has reflux, or a pool of milk collects around their neck with each feeding, this will get stuck in their neck “folds”, gets putrid pretty quick and can also cause them skin irritation. If you don’t have a bib handy you can tuck a soft washcloth/burp rag under their chin–I used to do this with every feed due to how much ended up outside rather than inside my daughter’s mouth. The terrycloth bibs with velcro closure and plastic backing are great and affordable, and baby may like the “crinkly” sound they make. My pediatrician suggested applying a bit of diaper rash ointment on my wee one’s neck (in the folds where she doesn’t put her fingers), this created an effective barrier from the milk and helped clear up any irritation.

Babies are capable of having bad breath like adults, for a variety of reasons. However if you notice a particularly “sour” scent, this can be a sign of infant reflux/GERD, which is something you would need to mention to your pediatrician.

Finally, the diapers. These tend to get smellier with the addition of solid foods. An interesting speculation–diapers from breastfed babies reportedly smell less stinky. All poo is stinky to me, so I’ll let you be the judge of that! I don’t have a “diaper genie”, but a regular trash bin I use only for diapers, in a corner of the nursery works fine for me. I use a kitchen-size bin with one of those lids that opens with a foot tab. A scented bag or deodorizing spray also helps. I use a homemade lavender-oil air mist every time I change the bag in the diaper bin.

Have any tips for dealing with obnoxious odors? Comment below!


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Sensory issues: 8 Ways To Handle Intimacy

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I don’t know every Aspie, but it seems a lot of us struggle with touch in one form or another. And if you struggle with the over-stimulation of touch already as an Aspie, post-partum intimacy is something that may take a little time for you to build back up to. So today, we’ll be discussing that “taboo topic” that is post-baby sex and how to get back into the swing of things. This may be an uncomfortable topic for many women to discuss–but it’s more uncomfortable to NOT discuss it!

Your significant other may want to be intimate again after delivery, but for some of you the sheer thought of it may be as appealing as a root canal, and equally scary. Although it IS possible to get pregnant relatively shortly after you have your baby, nature has basically set your body up to be as unfriendly to sexy time as possible right now. It’s still depleted from pregnancy, and it would be risky for it to start growing another child right away. You may get so little sleep that you don’t feel like it, then you’re constantly being laid on or yanked on, and you may not be making enough of those lovely hormones you need to have your previous libido. Not fair.

Your doctor will likely tell you to wait 4-6 weeks to resume having intercourse. But don’t feel bad if you end up needing a bit longer–it took 9 months to get to this point, it actually takes months to fully recover. Go slowly as you feel like, you delivered a whole human being into the world, and you have every right to wait until you’re ready to be frisky again–or stop if you’re uncomfortable.

When you’re ready to try, here are some suggestions you may find helpful:

Communication
Firstly, make sure to let your other half know exactly what your body has been through, especially if they weren’t in the room with you when you delivered. Did you tear? Do you have healing c-section trauma? Strain some muscles? It helps them be more understanding if they know what you’ve survived, how it feels to you and WHY you’re not feeling up to it–and that you’re not just “rejecting” them. Using illustrative analogies (“Imagine how you would be afraid of friction if your  _____ tore?”) may also help.

Cuddling
This helps nourish the connection you have with your partner, even if you can’t do “the deed” yet. This is a great expression of your continued love for him!

Inspiration
Hey, even if you’re not the romance-novel reading type, have a look at some of those “juicy” books with graphic sex scenes that you may have read as a teen. It could help you get into a mood you thought you’d never have again!

Sleep
I know, you’re not going to get enough. But the best time to try may be when you’ve had as much as you can get. I don’t know about you, but if I am tired enough I will recoil at any kind of touch, even if it’s just an attempt at a gentle hug.

Lube
Teehee!! I feel like a naughty-minded 12-year old again. Use a lot. If you think you’re using enough, use MORE. One which has a cooling/menthol effect may be helpful in numbing any tenderness.

Positioning
Every person is anatomically a little different, so here is an article with some moves to try that may work for your individual post-delivery condition: Best Sex Positions Post-Partum

Scheduling
I know, it sounds about as sexy as making a doctor’s appointment…but scheduling lovemaking can be surprisingly helpful. It gives you and your partner something to look forward to, gives you plenty of chance to get “in the mood”, and ensures that you make time for each other regardless of the crazy schedule right now. Find a day or time that you both agree on, and if it doesn’t work out, have a back-up time/day planned.

Be in the Moment
When your libido is raring to go and you feel ready, take advantage of this! It may happen at an awkward time, but if you want have a go at it, let your partner know!

I’ll re-iterate that you CAN get pregnant as early as a few short weeks post-delivery, and even exclusive breastfeeding is not 100% effective at preventing it. Here is a source which explains it more thoroughly: Natural Child Spacing & Breastfeeding

Also check out this link, which explains when you need to start watching for the return of your period (and using your preferred birth control method).

Have you experienced any intimacy issues post partum, or have some advice for those who do? Let us know with a comment below!


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Post-Partum Care “Down There”: 5 Ways to Prevent Discomfort

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Why yes, I DID feel weird searching stock photos for pictures of “underwear”…

Pretty much everything in my nether regions HURT for weeks post-partum, which is perfectly normal considering what they went through. But that’s also at least partially avoidable. Some things I prepared for, and some I had to figure out the hard way. Here are some no-holds-barred, extra-descriptive tips:

1. I don’t know if it’s like this for those who didn’t get perineal stitches, but peeing HURTS if you did. Like battery acid. And later while you heal, there will be intense crotch itching that will make you feel like scratching like a shameless ball player in the dugout. Ask your OB/GYN doc about a numbing ointment called Nupercainal (it’s so good, it even deserves to be in bold). It might cost several dollars, but it is worth every penny. Do yourself a favor, get the ointment.

 2. Lean as far forward as possible when you go, gravity will help here to keep stitches dry. You may also get some flushable personal wipes with aloe (probably available at your local grocery supercenter or pharmacy store) to cover the area behind while you lean forward. It helps, trust me.

  3. Stock up on more than one kind of pad. Your post-par “flow” (called “lochia”) is like a HEAVY period that lasts 4-6 weeks. It may vary from day to day after a couple weeks, and you probably won’t want to feel like you’re wearing a diaper all the time when you’re already changing enough diapers as it is. Thin pads with wings and non-plasticky surfaces feel more comfortable and catch everything later on after the flow has lightened up a bit. Oh, and just when you think you’re done, it might come back with a vengance, so be prepared for the possibility of going from paper-thin-origami-folded singles back to industrial diaper pads in one day (and maybe several times).

4.  Painful constipation is common post-partum, ask the hospital if it’s safe for you to take a stool softener and to use it when you go home. Very worth it.

5.  When I was still in the post-partum ward and had that awful first bowel movement after delivery, it helped me to pull up the small bathroom wastebin, put it on its wider flat side and set my feet up on it so they were raised off the floor a few inches–so that it felt like I was almost squatting over the toilet (but still sitting my butt on the seat). You will feel silly but it will help align your colon and make things go smoother…no pun intended. I later purchased a stool which mimics that same squatting position and have used it ever since with no regrets.

How about you, moms? Have any tips for dealing with post-delivery discomfort? Let us know with a comment below!


Image by Melodi2 on Morguefile.com.

Sensory Issues: Dealing with Noise

The world to an Aspie is TOO much of a lot of things. Too much noise, light, texture, scent. A new baby will bring with him or her a whole onslaught of new and overwhelming triggers to your senses, from the overpowering odor of a full diaper to the intimate skin-to-skin contact of breastfeeding. So I’m starting a series on dealing with sensory triggers. Learning to cope with these both wonderful and unpleasant sensations will make us better parents–better able to focus on our kid’s needs while struggling less with our own anxiety and discomforts. And a happy, relaxed mom makes for a happier, more relaxed baby!


  Today’s topic: Dealing with noise issues.

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A major contributor to my postpartum anxiety was the sound of my baby’s crying. My husband simply couldn’t understand why I would run from the room with my hands over my ears when she started bawling. This was a trigger for me that caused a horrifying, almost electric jolt of adrenaline and instant heart pounding, akin to the feeling of falling when going down stairs and missing a step. According to the Sight And Hearing Association, the sound of an infant’s cry can damage hearing in a matter of minutes. And that’s even if your hearing isn’t super-sensitive! My little one pretty much used the same frustrated, eardrum-piercing five-alarm scream the instant she woke up or any time she was uncomfortable, or hungry, or bored, or tired, with little or no warning. I’m sure this is normal for a lot of infants. But I just could. Not. Stand it. Hubby would calmly pick her up and soothe her while I felt tempted to book a flight to Tahiti (not really, but I could dream…). Her “angry” caterwauling would make ME angry, and I didn’t want to feel mad any time my baby needed me. I had to find a way to keep calm so I could help her instead of getting more agitated and feeding HER anxiety. And helping her meant approaching the noise instead of running from it.

    What helped:
    Firstly, I needed to realize my unexplained anxiety was partially due to PPD. (There will be a post on this later, I promise!). When I treated this crippling issue, it noticeably improved my reaction to noise, although it was still difficult.

•   Realizing that all babies must communicate this way also helped. It must be really frustrating to be born with one sole means of communication for a wide variety of problems. Hungry? Waaahhh! Tired? Wahhhhh! Tag making my neck itchy? Wahhhhh! Imagine if adults did this! Think about if you had a specific problem that you were incapable of fixing by yourself, or had a very rough day, and you could only ask for help or talk about it with one sound–and that happened to be an annoying sound that most people didn’t like. Just like Aspies can find the world to be overwhelming and stressful, baby does too because they’re simply too young to have developed coping skills, and every sensation is startling and new and sometimes scary. It’s not baby’s fault, and you’re not a bad parent if your child cries despite your best interventions. They’re not crying AT you– they’re crying FOR you because they need you.

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“This is the only thing I know how to say right now!”

Also consider if you were so stressed or depressed you needed the release of a good cry, and then someone kept trying to shut you up like that was a bad thing? It would be very frustrating and you would never get that relief. Sometimes even if you’ve done everything in your power to help your baby (and you’ve made sure they are not in need of medical attention), he or she may just need to cry.

   Of course it’s nice to understand baby better, but it doesn’t solve the issue with noise! So, for the next tactic: EARPLUGS. Whenever my wee one would start building up to her famous screech, I would pop in a pair of soft foam earplugs and dial everything down about 30 decibels. Then I could more calmly tend to her needs. Please note: You need to be able to hear your baby to know when there is a problem–don’t wear them all the time!!

    And finally, when I got particularly bothered by the sound, it helped to make sure baby was in a safe place and then step outside for a few minutes, take some deep breaths and go back in with a slightly calmer outlook. I found nature to be especially calming, not to mention actually removing myself from the noise.

What strategies have you used to handle crying or other noises as aparent? Let us know with a comment below!


Image one bjzlomek and image two by aophotos, from MorgueFile.com.