Grabby baby meets mom with personal space issues
June 24, 2016 2:44 PM   Subscribe

My 7.5 month old baby explores the world with his hands and feet... I don't like to be grabbed. Help.

I'm currently unemployed the stay at home parent of our 7.5 month old grab machine. I know this will come across as neurotic but I really have a problem being grabbed (kicked, poked, or generally touched) along my torso. This didn't bother me so much when I was breastfeeding but as more time elapses from full time breastfeeding to now the less tolerant I am of grabby, pokey behavior from my son. It's easy to manage this during playtime but not so much when I change or feed him.

When he grabs me (or other stuff on this changing area) I tell him that his hands need to stay still or to be gentle with mom (which I know he doesn't understand but he will one day) and I put his hand on his chest. Once I let go he goes back to whatever he was doing before. While this is annoying when it pertains to grabbing stuff, it really sets me off when I'm the subject of his grabbing.

I need to learn to cope with this, keeping my cool until he learns not to do this. I've thought about wearing thicker layers of clothing to lessen the feeling but as summer approaches I don't think that'll work. I can't put more space between us as he's also squirmy and could roll off the dresser we use for a changing space. I don't think just putting up with it will work for me. Generally I'm very affectionate with him and am worried this could be confusing (or flip side he'll learn about personal boundaries, dunno). I'm just kind of feeling stuck which I don't like.
posted by toomanycurls to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This won't solve your problem entirely, but what about putting a changing pad on the floor and changing him on that? That would prevent the rolling off problem.
posted by radioamy at 2:45 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

What if you stashed an assortment of changing table only toys to hand to him as a distraction? I'm imagining something like a big teddybear that he really has to wrestle with to get around. Washable, of course, for the inevitable.

I totally get you, I had days where I felt totally touched out when my son was that age. Hang in there, mom.
posted by jamaro at 2:52 PM on June 24, 2016 [8 favorites]

Can you redirect? Like, maybe have specific things on hand for him to handle when he grabs at you? I know one mom who wore a necklace with a leather pendant to wean her kid off grabbing her hair.
It's generally easier to redirect little ones than to stop them.

Unfortunately, manhandling mom is a thing kids like to do at all ages. So prepare for this to be an ongoing thing! Not grabbing necessarily but as they get older they like to kick, push themselves against you, throw themselves on your lap and just generally force themselves on you in ways that feel more brutal than loving. I know I used to do this to my mom, and my two kids, at 2,5 and 5, do the same. I think it's part of a really intense need for them to really feel you. Sometimes grabbing them and squeeeeeezing them seems to help my kids feel the contact they need.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:57 PM on June 24, 2016

Your feelings are OK, but your son is doing what kids do.
I'd worry that he gets strange ideas about people/women if you push away his attempts at touching you. Kids need to be physical with their parents and I 150% get how it can be too much, but one has to go through with it.
posted by mumimor at 2:57 PM on June 24, 2016 [40 favorites]

I also felt like this a few months ago (baby is now 12 months old). Being grabbed/poked/touched made me really irritated. Whenever she did this, I tried my best not to react and tried to redirect her attention. I keep a really mesmerising toy on the changing table that she can hold while I change her. Fast forward a few months and... I think she's now way more in my personal space than ever, but I just got used to it. Or at least I'm more tolerant. I know that's not a solution... but maybe you'll find your tolerance will improve as well? I don't think that keeping hands still is something that we can really expect from babies. I can say that touches seem a lot more intentional now, so less grabbing my glasses off my face, pinching my skin while nursing and yanking my hair, and more holding onto me for balance, putting her hand in my hand for comfort, etc.
posted by ohmy at 2:58 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

I can see from the clip that you do have an extra squirmy one. In my many, many decades of childcare, I've noticed that the extra squirmy ones grow up to be smarter and more athletically inclined that regular squirmy ones so, take comfort in the fact that you will rock it at all the parent/teacher conferences. Even without your personal space issues, extra squirmy babies should never be changed on a changing table. Put him on a mat on the floor. He will roll away, you will have to catch him, but, it is still safer. While you are changing him, let him hold a no no item, like the television remote or your iPhone. The magic of the forbidden can slow down even the busiest of babies. Remember that anything you put in his hands will accidentally be knocked into your head so pay attention. It helps to have something for each hand. Sometimes the wiggly happens because they are trying to touch with both hands. Something in each hand steadies them a bit. Because he most likely is a very intelligent child, he will get bored easy. Experiment with things and change things up. Put toys in the freezer to pull out for him to hold for a new sensation. Play with different textures. My son carried around a small, metal can of tomato paste for a few months. He even slept with it. It's okay to be weird. He also had a thing for bristly things and would go crazy on the toilet brush section in Target. I found a fuzzy headed Elmo to replace the toilet brush and we carried on.

The personal space issue is a big one. All new moms have it at some point or another. You just have to regain yourself again after this big change. Insist on some time just for you, where nobody gets to ask you anything, for any reason. It's a good recharge.

It will get better.
posted by myselfasme at 3:05 PM on June 24, 2016 [44 favorites]

Oh yeah, please don't tell a baby his hands need to be still! His hands really need to move and touch things. It's so important for his development!
posted by Omnomnom at 3:06 PM on June 24, 2016 [12 favorites]

I realize this may be untenable because, as you said, summer is upon us, but what would you think about wearing a slightly constrictive undergarment under your shirt? A 'smoothing' or 'supportive' camisole with structure, or something? If you had steady, light, diffuse pressure all over your sensitive torso, maybe the grabs and pokes would feel less disruptive.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:16 PM on June 24, 2016 [9 favorites]

Could wearing a nursing necklace and redirecting the squirm to it be something that helps him feel like he's interacting with you, and you feel like your bubble isn't getting popped all day long? I've found that with almost all parenting issues "don't do x" is wayyyy harder to learn than "instead of x, do y." I'd be finding a high value toy and saving it for changing/ grabby time.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:18 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Look up "chewelry" or "chewy necklaces" on Amazon.

They are usually made of chewy, food-grade material and typically used by kids with sensory issues. You could wear one, though, and it would be colorful and safe for your baby to feel or taste.

Babies learn about their world through their little hands and mouths and eyes ... you shouldn't discourage your baby from touching things, but redirecting to a baby-safe necklace would help. You could also look up nursing necklaces to see if they would work as well.
posted by Ostara at 3:33 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

In the not too distant future you will be able to talk to your kid about personal space, respecting others' bodies, and appropriate touch. When my kid was 2 I started talking to him about these things, and enforcing certain rules (don't touch me while I'm eating -- who knew I hated that, until I had a kid hanging on me while I was trying to have dinner?). It's actually a terrific and healthy way to raise a son who respects others, including women. My son is 5 now and I occasionally have to remind him to be respectful in his touches, like when he grabs my breasts or swats my butt. Kids are energetic and have poor impulse control so it's definitely going to happen for a long time, but just be patient and he will eventually get it.

Until then: redirect and set him up for success! He's just not going to stop being grabby, so think about how you can mitigate your interactions to make them more acceptable to you. Good luck mama!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:37 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

1. This SUCKS and is my number one least favorite thing about babies
2. Change him on the floor
3. He is not going to remember anything about boundaries at this age, don't worry about confusing him.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:45 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is the stay-at-home thing a temporary thing or semi-permanent thing? My 8.5 month old is in daycare and as hard as the fulltime work and motherhood thing is, it does give me some bodily autonomy.

In either case, would building in a little breaktime help? A mother's helper situation that relieves you of some hours of babytime each week? That, in addition to the redirection ideas above, might give you a little bit of recharge time to tolerate the touchy times otherwise?
posted by vunder at 3:45 PM on June 24, 2016

Off-the-wall suggestion: what about wearing a life vest like this every time you change him? It would cover your torso in a relatively impenetrable layer and is probably easy enough to get on and off? Might add some humor to the situation too.
posted by purple_bird at 4:20 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]

For changing, you might like this SnoofyBee changing pad. It's like a Cone of Shame for babies that as a bonus keeps them from grabbing their poo-covered crotch during changes. You can hang a toy from it for baby to grab and he will think it's fun instead of a baby cage.

I second the suggestion of a nursing/teething necklace, my kids both consistently gravitated towards grabbing the necklace instead of my hair/neck/cleavage/underarm skin. Ouch.

I hear you on the personal space; by the end of the day I just want to lock myself in a sensory deprivation tank. Good luck.
posted by gatorae at 4:39 PM on June 24, 2016 [9 favorites]

My ten month old is INCREDIBLY squirmy and wiggly. I don't mind his grabbing but I come the closest to absolutely losing my shit when he won't lie down (FOR ONE MINUTE, GODDAMN IT) to have his diaper changed or go in his car seat. He fights me and his dad on both like we're trying to drag him behind the chemical sheds. So, our problems are different, but I think the solutions could be the same?

One thing I do for the diaper changes to keep him distracted is to give him something to play with that he's not normally allowed to play with, like the lotion tube (he's OBSESSED with getting to play with this), the container of wipes (this fails when he starts screaming in frustration because he can't open it), or a floppy plastic department store hanger (I know, I'm a terrible mother). As for feeding, if you ever bottle-feed, sometimes I sit with my baby between my legs and face him out, resting his back against my torso and have him hold the bottle. He likes this because he can see everything.

Does he hold his bottle when you feed him? If so, try encouraging him to hold it himself. It will keep his hands too busy to grab at you.

My guy likes to SMACK any bare skin, especially on me. I'll let him if he does it lightly but when he smacks too hard, like you, I take his hand and use it to pat me (or whoever he's SMACKING) gently and say something like, "Gentle!" or "Nice touches for mama!" I've been doing this since he was tiny and he does seem to be getting it. He immediately gentles his touches when I do this, so keep at it for when your little guy goes too far! He'll learn.
posted by Aquifer at 4:45 PM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]

Can you hold that hand? I'm not sure that works while changing. I get punched a lot while feeding, and usually only one hand or foot is the culprit, so we hold hands, or i hold the foot -- not 100% still, but I slow it down and muffle the blows.
posted by slidell at 5:15 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

He should be crawling soon, leave a lot of things for him to approach. They make mobiles for changing tables, so he could reach for interesting items. Best to you. T. barry Brazelton's book about the first 24 months of devopment month by month had a lot of answers for me about developmental stages.
posted by Oyéah at 7:30 PM on June 24, 2016

Inhale, exhale. Babies gonna baby. How are you doing? Are you getting any alone time? In about 1.5 months you're going to be all "jimmeny christmas stop touching all the other things!!!" Other things = random objects the kid shouldn't eat; pet ears; priceless artworks; etc. etc. etc. This is completely normal baby behavior. Work on reminding yourself that this is just for now, and that this too, shall pass. If you have willing assistants, squeeze in some you time. If you feel like your objections to being touched are outside of the norm, don't be afraid to talk to your doctor - you could be having unresolved postpartum depression. For now anything within arm's reach is your baby's toy, so have a few distractions around during changing time. Take care!
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 9:02 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Can you change him on the floor? I switched to this for safety reasons. For feedings, can you hold him in your bed so there are less places for him to grab (and the ones available will be more predictable). You lie on your side and hold for this. At seven months, can he use both hands to hold the bottle?
posted by Kalmya at 9:14 PM on June 24, 2016

For quite a while we changed our super squirmy infant/toddler standing up on the floor, holding on to some furniture. It was by far the easiest option for both us and the little one.
posted by meijusa at 12:25 AM on June 25, 2016

I've moved a toy to the changing table which has distracted him for the time-being. I'll look into wearing the teething necklaces I have.

Changing him on the floor is an option in the living room but not so much in his room where we get ready for naps. If redirection stops working I'll adjust the nap routine to start out in the living room.

About the asking him not to keep his hands still comment... it's only something I say when he's being particularly squirmy on the changing table. Otherwise he's allowed and encouraged to explore his surroundings with any modality that appeals to him.

The stay at home thing is until I can find a job. I was laid off while pregnant and a number of factors caused me to not pursue my job search at that time. Now I've been searching for a few months but haven't landed a job. I would rather be working outside the home right now which definitely adds to the frustration of wanting some physical autonomy. I am working through some job search related depression which makes this rather normal baby behavior harder for me to deal with.

I don't think my not liking to be touched is outside the norm -- it stems from puberty so I wouldn't couple it with any postpartum issues.

We do use the "be gentle" approach when it comes to hair pulling, accidental smacking/hand flails, and attempts to pet the cats. Usually grabbing while feeding isn't a huge issue because he generally holds the bottle for himself (but he was distracted eating right before I posted this so his hands weren't fully engaged with eating).

He's already starting reaching for everything and anything which doesn't bother me. I can set things further out of reach when we're in the living room, car, or out of the house. I'm generally doing well with the whole motherhood thing, it's really just a specific scenario that makes me irritated.

Thanks all for the input.
posted by toomanycurls at 10:36 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have an extremely clingy 18 month old boy so just a few tips for the future as your guy approaches more of the toddler age group, because this issue really does persist a long time.
- He enjoys being worn in a soft carrier, but now at this age I can wear him in a back carry. The back carry is a lot less claustrophobic for the carrier. He hates to be put down in a stroller for the most part, so this is our compromise.
- Sometimes for special occasions either a toy that does music and/or lights, or as your kid gets to be around two years old, short little videos that can be watched on your phone. With my 3 year old, trying to get her pajamas on can be a full-contact sport involving extreme frustration, maddening maniacal laughter from her, and struggling to pin down every extremity - or I can give her a 1 minute long video as a reward for good potty use or good toothbrushing and she magically lets me put her pajamas on in 2 seconds flat with zero struggle.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:21 PM on June 25, 2016

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