Fatherly Advice: Wrestle With Your Daughter and Don’t Sweat the Floppy Sphincter

Some parents are a bit standoffish with girls, but rough-and-tumble play is good for kids. Period.

“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email advice@fatherly.com. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.

 

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Hey Fatherly,

I have a six-year-old girl who loves to wrestle, but my wife always tells me I’m being too rough with her. It doesn’t seem like it though. My daughter is always laughing and I try to be as gentle as possible. Should I stop wrestling with her or is there a way to make sure she doesn’t get hurt?

Louis
Albuquerque, New Mexico

***

Roughhousing is the best. I used to love roughhousing with my dad, who was a state wrestling champion. And that love has translated to mixing it up with my two boys. They’ve yet to lick me. I mean, they have in the literal sense because they fight dirty, but I remain unpinned and unvanquished. Of course, as you’re likely about to point out, we’re all dudes. And that may be part of your wife’s concern because roughhousing is commonly thought to be a boy thing. It isn’t. Get that idea out of both your head and hers.

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As it turns out, the benefits of rough-and-tumble play not gendered. They are, however, very real.

First of all, when your girl is wrasslin’ her pops, she is getting a physical workout. Or she should be, at least. If she isn’t huffing and puffing between the giggles then you actually might want to step it up a bit. She’s also learning a lot of what her body can do — developing coordination and balance.

But the benefits aren’t just physical. By roughhousing with you, your girl has to think creatively about how she’s going to come at you. This is literally building her brain. But she also has to keep an eye on you. She has to look at your face and read your expression, which boosts her emotional intelligence.

But there’s a benefit for you, too. As you wrestle around with your daughter in close proximity, both of you are being flooded with a hormone called oxytocin. This is the hormone that promotes bonding and emotional closeness. That’s only a good thing for your relationship.

As far as safety is concerned, it’s important that you pay close attention to your daughter’s neck and head. Right now they are a bit heavy and out of proportion, which can lead to some nasty injuries. You can help mitigate this by getting her enrolled in a martial arts class where she can learn how to fall in a way that is less damaging. Also, try not to swing her around by her limbs. Those little joints are still developing and things can get out of whack pretty easily.

Finally, you may want to suggest that your wife get into the fray. In fact, start by telling her all the good things your daughter is getting out of wrestling. And then add in the fact that it gets better with mom in the game. A new living room floor adversary just presents new challenges.

Now get back in there, champ.

 

Yo, Fatherly

My wife and I are about ready to start sleep training our little girl. But I’m having a hard time trying to figure out where I’m going to fit in. What’s the best way I can help make this whole thing go smoothly?

Ken
Nashville, Tennessee

***

The good news, Ken, is that Dads are actually pretty integral to sleep training. So you will have plenty to do and (spoiler alert) most of it will get done in the middle of the night.

The best way to get involved with sleep training is to help make a decision about which method you want to try. There are a ton of different sleep training methods out there, and which one will be most successful depends largely on who you are as parents (plural) and your baby’s temperament. It’s not enough to just punt the decision to your wife. When you get involved on the ground floor you will be far more invested and those late nights might not be so painful.

Once you’ve figured out what method you’ll use, it’s time to split up who’s on duty when. The thing about sleep training is that it requires two distinct steps each night. The first step is the bedtime ritual. This is the light-dimming, feeding, reading, rocking and singing that puts the kid on the train to sleepyville. The next step of sleep training (depending one method) is responding to late-night wakings. This is where dads can really step up.

Many children are deeply connected to mom for both food and comfort. That is just the way of things. So if your wife goes in to soothe, the crying and soothing will likely be prolonged. However, if you’re the one who comes in to offer calm support, then the kid is likely going to lose interest a bit sooner and go back to sleep quicker.

The way my wife and I wound up splitting these duties was that whoever didn’t put the baby down would get the night shift. Then we would alternate the next night. Even with sleep training in our past, we will trade off who is putting the kids to bed. It works well for us.

But some parents prefer to split it up so that mom is always doing the bedtime ritual and dad is always up at night. Other split it up between weekdays and weekends. It’s just about what happens to be right for you and your wife. (And try not to put too much stock in the fact that you might not wake up when your baby cries. Studies have found that there is such a thing as “mom hearing.” It’s not you, it’s your biology.)

 

Fatherly

My baby seems to spit up all the time. Is this something I should be concerned about? And how can I make it stop?

Thomas
Las Vegas, Nevada

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Thomas, the answer to your question depends on what you mean by “all the time.” If you mean that it happens after every feeding and you are super worried, then you should stop reading this and call your pediatrician. If, like me, you are prone to a bit of hyperbole and exaggeration, then you likely just need to calm down. Babies spit up. It’s just how they’re made.

The issue lies in an anatomical feature hilariously called a “floppy sphincter.” This is the gateway between the esophagus and the stomach and it’s just not strong enough to hold back the milk in a full belly, particularly if it’s fighting gravity, giggles or crying. But, luckily for you, and your shirts, spit up should decrease as your kid starts getting into soft food other than milk.

That said. There are some signs that spit-up isn’t actually spit-up and might be part of a larger problem. For instance, when your baby spits up, it should not look like the projectile vomiting scene from the Exorcist. Vomiting is not spitting up. Further, if vomiting is paired with fever, weight loss, prolonged crying or colic, it’s time to call the doctor.

Now there are a couple of ways to keep the spit-up down. First of all, try feeding your kid less volume, but more often. Then, after feeding, do your best to keep your baby upright for about 20 minutes. No jostling or bouncing. That should help things out a bit.

Other than that, you may just want to buy more burpees.

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