Care and Feeding

How Much Should I Post on Facebook About My Baby’s Heart Condition?

I get support from other moms, but I’m worried about my child’s privacy.

Photo collage of a mom and dad looking anxious outside a neonatal intensive care unit.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by PaulVinten/iStock/Getty Images Plus and Milkos/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

Hello! I am 32 weeks pregnant and expecting a baby that has a serious congenital heart condition. We are slowly coming to terms with the fact that her infancy will be spent entirely in a hospital (the length of time is still to be determined by a variety of factors, but we will not able to take her home until after her first open-heart surgery). Our close family and friends, pretty much everyone we see in person on a regular basis, know about her heart condition and are kept up to date with phone calls and text messages as we go along. My question is about sharing her condition on social media.

The wider Facebook world knows I’m pregnant and that I’ve spent time in the hospital for an unrelated issue. My husband and I have decided not to share her condition until she is born, but how much is appropriate? We’ve hired a professional birth photographer to document her birth and first year, and I’m part of two support groups on Facebook where some other parents share lengthy daily updates with pictures and videos. I want to respect my daughter’s bodily autonomy and right to medical privacy, but I also find it extremely helpful to read through those longer posts and see what other heart families are going through. And I think if this was happening to one of my Facebook friends that I’m not in regular contact with, I would want to know so that I could reach out and try to give support. We have two older children that I post pictures of maybe once a month or every six weeks, so I’m not against sharing pictures and the funny, everyday things that my boys get up to. What do you think? Where’s the boundary between sharing serious medical information that our daughter may want to keep private as she grows and keeping our wider family and friend networks informed of this major event in our family’s life?

—Mama of a Heart Warrior

Dear Mama,

The most important thing, going forward, apart from loving and taking care of your daughter, is to always err on the side of privacy.

Lock down your Facebook so that your health updates about your daughter go to a very select number of close family and friends, not to your entire feed. When there is information to be delivered, think: Can this be delivered via a telephone call instead of a post? If so, make the call.

If the support groups are private, I think that you should feel comfortable sharing short updates (ideally without pictures), which can be deleted after a matter of time. You will want support, you have found these groups very helpful, and there’s no need to close yourself off from them completely.

We are just on the cusp of seeing the first generation to be online from birth onward without their knowledge or consent come of age and begin to express their feelings about it.

I would look into Facebook alternatives, as well. Lifecake is invite-only and has been a good option for parents who want to be able to share updates and photos of their children with trusted friends and family. Facebook’s “privacy” settings change on a dime, and I personally wouldn’t trust them with my data, or that of my medically fragile child.

I will be cheering for your daughter’s safe delivery and thinking of you during her infancy. She is so lucky to be born in 2019.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My spouse and I are the parents of a lively, curious, and intelligent 5-year-old. He hits all his appropriate developmental milestones, makes friends easily, and has no behavioral issues that his preschool or day care has had to involve us in. However, I am concerned lately about what seems to be a sort of “regression,” for lack of a better word, these past few months. Before, he was at the point where he went to the bathroom, washed his hands, and brushed his teeth and so on by himself. Now, he insists that one of us come with him to the bathroom and even brush his teeth for him. I’m not sure why this fear of the bathroom started; we’ve tried to gently get him to open up as to whether something happened at school or day care but have gotten nowhere. I don’t know if this is just an annoying but common phase or some sort of harbinger.

—He Knows How to Brush His Teeth!

Dear HKHtBHT,

I don’t think you have anything to worry about here. A 5-year-old is a kid, but one who sometimes remembers and enjoys being babied a bit more, especially as school becomes a bit more demanding.

The good news is dentists have told me on more than one occasion that parents are way too quick to hand off tooth-brushing independence to their kids. I know it’s no one’s idea of a great time, but a 5-year-old really doesn’t have the coordination or emotional commitment to do more than a barely adequate job. Your kid’s dental health will benefit from having you continue to hold the brush a little longer, and you can verbalize what you’re doing while you do it, to help provide a subconscious guide to what really brushing your teeth entails (hint: you brush all your teeth).

Suck it up a while longer, do a good job of it, and he’ll be better prepared in the long run. You might save a few bucks at the dentist while you’re at it.

• If you missed Friday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here. It’s a doozy!

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My 4-year-old son is putting us through the paces. He’s only recently been completely potty trained. We thought we were out of the woods, and now all of a sudden he’s been peeing and pooping on the floor, and I have no idea what to do. It began at the start of the summer, when we started going away to the family cabin on weekends (which he loves). Like clockwork, we get home from being out of town and he will go pee on the carpet at some point, and yesterday he defecated on the deck.

Needless to say, this makes me absolutely insane, and I am at a total and complete loss. Everything I’ve read says not to react negatively or punish him, that it’s just an attention-getting tool and he’s only looking for a reaction. But this feels like we’re letting it slide and essentially saying that it’s OK to do this. Please help!

—Tired of Stepping in Wet Spots

Dear Wet Spots,

I think he’s just being a pill because he’d rather be at the cabin. I also think that, while I’m generally fairly chill about when kids potty-train, especially boys, I do think almost 4 is indeed quite late, so I’d like you to ask your pediatrician if they have any other concerns about your son’s development. Why not cover your bases while you tackle this issue, which is almost certainly just behavioral?

The good news is you have a tool between “let it slide” and “punish him,” which is “big boys clean up their own messes.” You show him how to clean it up, you make it clear it’s his job from here on out, and you supervise him doing so until he realizes that it’s more annoying to clean up poop than it is to poop in the toilet like everyone else. The key is to do this completely dispassionately, like, “Oh, guess you need to get the paper towels and the carpet cleaner from the cabinet.” If you must remove yourself into the hall and mouth silent obscenities for a few minutes beforehand, you have my blessing to do so.

It’ll be OK.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I am a stay-at-home mom with a happy, healthy 7-month-old who loves to nurse. Milk supply is not an issue, and I love breastfeeding. I nurse the baby to sleep for naps and bedtime. Is this a problem? Most sources say to nurse when baby wakes up, not when you’re putting baby down. But fellow moms say they have nursed their kids to sleep for a year or more, and they turned out fine. It would be nice if the baby could go down for a nap without having to be hungry and tired first, though.

My husband and I did a short attempt at sleep training, but the experience of listening to my baby bawl alone in the dark, even for two or five minutes at a time, was physically painful for me. Am I screwing this up? Do I need to be tougher with myself about sleep training? (If so, how?)

Am I Setting Myself Up for Disaster?

Dear AISMUfD,

There’s nothing wrong with nursing a 7-month-old to sleep. It’s true that feeding when the baby wakes up is widely recommended, so you can do the “put baby down drowsy but awake” maneuver, but if it’s working for you, it’s working for you. Should you decide that waiting for hunger combined with sleepiness is a bit much, you can slowly start moving to feeding him when he wakes up, and then start thinking about how you want to approach sleep training.

Seven months is definitely a normal time to begin the process of sleep training, but that doesn’t mean you have to go immediately to crying it out. (I don’t actually think two to five minutes counts as crying it out, but I understand that primal reaction to hearing your baby wail.) Start with really making sure you have a good bedtime ritual and a good pre-nap ritual. That can be a brief rock, a story, a bath, a particular song, setting your baby down with a special toy, etc.—just a consistent ritual that your baby will begin to associate with going to sleep. That may include nursing; as I’ve said, that’s entirely up to you. Lots of parents have luck with night light–style toys that project stars on the ceiling, especially ones that come with a timer setting.

What you want is for bedtime to be a sweet and cherished time for both you and your baby, not something to be dreaded. Most babies will eventually need to fuss it out a little, but ideally the more you set them up for sleep success, the less you’ll have to go through that phase.

Don’t worry about “screwing it up.” The process of teaching a child how to sleep is one that fazes most of us. And yet, we all muddle through.

—Nicole

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