Tuesday, 07 August, 2012
This post is for all my friends who have asked me about babies—who have said to me, “I know nothing about babies. How could I ever become a parent?” (to which I've laughed and said, “Before Astrid, I didn't know anything about babies either. You just learn.”) I don't claim to be an expert on babies (just an expert on one baby: Astrid). But what I want to do in this post is provide a bit of a cheat sheet on babies—concise information that I wish I'd had before Astrid came along presented in a way that would have been helpful to me. Pre-Astrid, babies were like little aliens: I had no idea what they were like or what to do with them. Now I feel a bit more confident about them: I feel like I understand them a bit better and would know what to do if someone handed me one (not that people do these days, but anyway …)
As I said before, I'm not an expert! I don't know everything. I may get it wrong, so it's important to check that what I say is right (or at least on the right track). Also, it's worth stressing that everyone's experience of babies is different; a lot of what's in this post is derived from watching Astrid, so it might not apply.
Also, even though I own The Wonder Weeks, I didn't read it all, and didn't really track the different developmental stages they talk about in my observations of Astrid. So a lot of what I'm going to say here has to do with physical development rather than mental and emotional stuff.
The other thing I should say up front is that when I talk about the “challenges” of each stage, I don't mean to say that they are “bad” things, just that they are challenging (or that some people might find them challenging). There are some parents who hold the sort of attitude towards other parents that goes “This is what you signed up for. Just suck it up, princess! It will be over soon enough, and then you'll miss these days and wish you'd made the most of them.” They have a point. However, challenges are still challenges, no matter what you call them. I want to be realistic about parenthood (well, as much as I can be!)
Okay, here we go.
(To compile this bit, I re-read my post on Astrid's initial weeks.)
- What they're like:
- Babies just after they're born are usually very sleepy. They don't do much—just feed, wee, poop, sleep and cry when something's wrong. They don't require much stimulation. (They can't see very well at this stage anyway.) They don't start waking up until about the sixth or eighth week.
- They can maintain eye contact for a little while, but then it gets too intense for them, so they will look away.
- But they know what faces are. They know that they also have a face. They know, for instance, that they have a mouth just like you have a mouth, so if you open their mouth at them and they can see it, they will open their mouths too.
- They're usually not awake for longer than an hour; after that, they need to go to sleep, otherwise they get overtired and really really cranky.
- They're used to life in their mother's womb, so they like being wrapped, they like being close to mum—hearing her voice, smelling her smell, being carried by her—because all of that reminds them of being in utero. They probably recognise dad's voice too since his would be the one they hear most often apart from mum's.
- Their necks are floppy because they have no head control, so they need to be held in such a way so that their heads are always supported. (Head control comes later: the idea is that you start giving them tummy time [first on your chest, then on their tummies on the floor—perhaps supported by a rolled up wrap—and they learn to lift up their heads and strengthen those neck muscles. I think of it as the baby's version of exercise. Which is probably why they hate it! ;P)
- Because they can't move much, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a big issue: if they get stuck in any bedding, they can't get themselves out. (Good thing they then usually cry for help!)
- Because they don't do much, they don't get very dirty, so you usually only have to give them a bath every other day. They don't like baths because they don't like being unclothed, so bath time can be accompanied by much crying.
- Depending on their size, they wear 000-size clothing and up.
- Breastfeeding (if you choose to do this): It's supposed to be “natural” but it isn't; it takes a while for mum and baby to get the hang of it—if at all. Some women have found it's impossible for them to breastfeed. Some women end up getting mastitis—usually because of blocked ducts in the breast (ow!). Sometimes the problem is the flow: it's too little for the baby, it's too much for the baby. Or the baby gets reflux and can't keep it down, etc. etc. Unfortunately if your baby has feeding problems, that affects everything else (like nappies, sleep, your sleep, your mental health, etc.) I'm really grateful that Astrid and I didn't have any.
- Learning to distinguish their different cries and what they mean (I'm hungry, I need a new nappy, I'm overtired)
- Getting them to go to sleep (as babies have to be taught to do that). What helps: putting them in a dark room, removing all stimulation; wrapping them; making sure they're warm (but not too warm); helping them to feel safe and secure (i.e. familiar environment with familiar people); rocking them/putting on hand on them and gently moving them back and forth, etc. We found that music helped: I created several playlists of classical music to lull Astrid to sleep, and she gradually learned to associate the music with sleep.
- Sleep deprivation: Newborns usually wake every two to three hours around the clock to feed as their little stomachs can't hold that much, which means they keep getting hungry. When they grow larger and their stomachs are able to hold more, they can sleep through the night better. (Theoretically! Other things then wake them up.) Also at this stage, feeds can take anywhere from 20-50 minutes, which makes the sleep deprivation worse, in my opinion.
- Dealing with the relentlessness of it all. (You don't get a day off. There are no such things as weekends. Every day is the same. Any non-baby time you get has to be carved out, and is largely dependent on the help of others.)
- Recovery from the birth (regardless of what kind of birth experience you had).
- Limited mobility (for the mum): Going out can be a challenge—especially when you have to learn to use all the equipment (carseats, prams, etc.) and figure out what you need to bring with you in the nappy bag. I didn't leave the house for the first eight weeks, I think, and then initially only when Ben was able to come with me.
- (For new mums:) adjustment to motherhood/parenthood and all that that entails—mourning the old life, learning to embrace the new life, trying to shake off other people's judgement, trying not to feel trapped by the 24-hour cycle, wondering what one ought to be doing with oneself. (Usually you can't do much else aside from tend to the baby, so housework falls by the wayside.) For me, this mental shift from childlessness to parenthood was the hardest thing of all.
- (For already mums:) dealing with sibling rivalry, with the elder child(ren) often acting out on their feelings of being supplanted, having to share their parents' attention, etc.
- Dealing with the impact of the baby on your marriage
and all that entails. (This is ongoing.)
- Things that make it easier (believe it or not!)
- If you're breastfeeding, the baby's food is already there. No preparation necessary! No need to have a microwave or stove on hand! No extra expense!
- The baby sleeps most of the time (if you can get your baby to sleep), which gives you a bit of time and space to adjust to everything.
- People tend to help out more when you've got a newborn because they understand that it's hard and that you're adjusting to everything.
- The baby is way less mobile (compared to a toddler), which means that taking him or her places with you is relatively easy. Also, newborns don't weigh much, so carrying them around (for example, in a sling, if they will let you put them in a sling; sometimes it take them a while to take to slings) is not such a physical drain. If you are able to get your baby to sleep in the car or in the pram, this increases your mobility and allows you to do things that are good for your mental health (and therefore help you in the marathon that is parenting).
Four to six months (roughly)
(To compile this bit, I re-read my post on Astrid at six months.)
- What they're like:
- They're more awake now, and are much more aware of the world and the people around them.
- Their day nap times change—sometimes getting fewer or at least shorter. I think Astrid was up to three day sleeps—one mid-morning (except that often she wouldn't have woken up properly so it was kind of tacked onto the night sleep, which was good for me as it meant I could rest a bit longer before getting up proper), one in the middle of the day and one in the later afternoon. Her day naps were anywhere from half an hour to two hours long.
- They may start sleeping through the night around this stage—because their tummies are now bigger and they may have started solids, which take longer to digest and therefore keep them full for longer. (Please note: the technical definition for “sleeping through” is sleeping for five consecutive hours or longer.) I remember Astrid went for a whole week of sleeping from 7pm to 7am every single night. That didn't last, of course, but it was a very nice reprieve!
- They “play” by putting everything in their mouths, sucking on things, waving things around, etc.
- Because of tummy time, their necks are stronger, and they can hold up their heads on their own.
- Depending on where they're at physically, they might start learning how to roll over. (They usually master going from back to tummy before going from tummy to back.) Rolling over means that they can get tangled in their bedding. I was always very fortunate that Astrid liked being wrapped as it was one of the techniques we used to get her to sleep. But as soon as she learned to roll, I realised I couldn't do that any more and so had to start training her to sleep without her arms wrapped. Infant sleeping bags (like Grobags) are really helpful at this stage as it means they can move around their cot without kicking off their blankets, then getting cold and crying.
- They start eating other things. The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months, but those guidelines are for everyone—particularly mums in developing countries where the water quality isn't as good (and therefore formula isn't as helpful for babies). I have heard that experts now recommend starting babies on solids at around five months (or even four months) because breastmilk doesn't contain enough iron. Furthermore, some experts recommend that babies be given certain things early to ward off allergies. I have no idea if that works. Anyway, the thing about solids is that they take longer to digest, I think, which means that the baby feels fuller for longer, which means that the baby doesn't wake as much in the night (theoretically! There are other reasons why they might wake.) When introducing solids, the goal is to teach the baby to eat. (Yeah, babies have to be taught to eat too. Babies have to be taught how to do everything!) Most people start solids with rice cereal, but sometimes this doesn't agree with babies as it's high in iron, which means they get constipated. Babies usually reject everything new first off because it's unfamiliar. You usually have to offer new foods up to 10 times before they will accept them. Also, they cannot handle all foods at once; you usually introduce them in the following order:
If your family has a history of certain food intolerances, experts recommend keeping a close watch on the baby when introducing those foods and ceasing to offer them if the baby displays any adverse reactions (there's a certain pattern they recommend—offer for the first couple of days, then stop, etc. Look it up.)
- Stage 1 (when the baby is 4-6 months old): Fruits and vegetables (cooked and puréed/mashed—with the exception of banana and avocado, which can be eaten raw), plus rice cereal.
- Stage 2 (when the baby is 7-9 months old): Add meat (including fish and eggs) and cereals (bread, pasta, rice, cous cous)—again, mashed, but you can start introducing soft lumps because if your baby has got teeth, he or she can start using them to process the lumps (and even if there are no back teeth, they can masticate with their gums). Some even say you can introduce yoghurt at this stage.
- Stage 3 (when the baby is around 10-12 months old): Add dairy and fats. Depending on where your baby is up to, he or she may be able to start handling finger food (which means you don't have to spoon feed them!)
- They may start developing teeth around here. This may mean more drooling, more irritability and whinging (because of the pain), fever, biting mum while breastfeeding (ouch!), more difficulties in settling, more waking in the night. When Astrid started teething, we started using teething rings (the kind you can keep in the fridge) a LOT—along with Bonjella and even baby Panadol. And breastfeeding, of course; amazingly, that also helps!
- Teeth also mean you start brushing their teeth—first with a brush that fits on the end of your finger, then later with a proper toddler toothbrush.
- If they've been sleeping in a bassinet or Moses basket up to this point, they may now be too big for it and will need to be moved into a cot. This takes a little time as you have to help your baby to get familiar with this new environment—familiar enough so that they feel safe enough to fall asleep in this new place. (A good tip someone told me was to put the baby in the bassinet in the cot for the first couple of nights, and then remove the bassinet.)
- They wear size 00 clothes (or up, depending on their rate of growth). This means a whole new wardrobe. Fortunately you can often get other people's hand-me-downs, or find good stuff secondhand.
- Because they're awake more during the day and for longer, life may become draining for those mums who find constant baby contact draining.
- Introducing solids opens up a whole new world of headaches, mess (which can be a challenge, depending on how you feel about mess) and extra labour. (I remember how much time I spent steaming/boiling/mashing/freezing little pods of food for Astrid.) It can be demoralising spending all this time preparing nice and healthy food, only to have your little bundle of joy vomit it up, spit it out at you, throw it halfway across the room, throw it at you, etc. Food was the most frustrating thing of all when it came to Astrid: I got her to eat rice cereal just fine, but then she started refusing it and other solid food, and then went back to newborn sleeping/waking/feeding habits, which really knocked me around. I later worked out that she wanted her own spoon (even though she didn't have the physical skill to use it). Once I gave her her own spoon, she was a lot more cooperative with the eating solids thing.
- Ongoing fatigue from sleep deprivation.
- Ongoing fatigue from the relentlessness of it all (particularly if you are still breastfeeding).
- A moving baby means you need to start babyproofing your house (if you haven't already).
- Teething babies mean cranky babies, which really test your patience (especially if you're already sleep-deprived). Teething babies may also wake more in the night.
- Things that make it easier:
- Your baby sleeping through the night. Even though it's just five consecutive hours (or more), it will make a big difference to you—if you are able to take advantage of it!
- Breastfeeding your teething baby: breast milk helps with their pain!
- Breastfeeding doesn't take as long as it used to.
- Depending on what you choose to do, you may start weaning your baby at this point—gradually replacing feeds during the day with solid meals, or offering solids first and then breastmilk. This may give you a bit more freedom because then it's not as essential for you to be around during feeding time as someone else (like daddy) can spoon feed your little one. (Those pouches of baby food that you can get that you can squeeze onto a spoon to feed to your baby are really useful when you're out and about. Most of them can be eaten hot or cold.)
- Your baby still has about three day sleeps (which gives you three breaks. Don't use them for housework! Use them to rest.)
- Your baby's mobility still being limited means that they are, in some ways, still quite portable. They have to go where you go; they can't go running off on their own. If you can time it right, it means that you may still have a bit of freedom in what you can do (in comparison to when they're older, that is). For example, mums and bubs sessions are still a possibility at this point; once they start crawling, it's harder because they don't want to be confined or kept still.
- Watching your baby master physical stuff is pretty cool. (And also funny at times.)
- Having a more alert and curious baby is also pretty cool; he or she may be up for more interaction before getting tired.
Seven to nine months (roughly)
(To compile this bit, I re-read my post on Astrid at eight months.)
- What they're like:
- Physically, they can do so much more. At eight months, Astrid could roll over (back to tummy and tummy to back), crawl (backwards only), sit up, pull herself into a sitting position from crawling, bear her own weight standing (if you held her up) and eat solid food without pushing it out with her tongue (the tongue extrusion reflex).
- Sitting up meant that she was able to sit up in the bath, which meant bathing her was a bit easier as Ben didn't have to support her entire body with one hand anymore.
- Playing at this stage is more about interacting with objects rather than imaginative stuff (that comes later). A lot of stuff still goes into the mouth first.
- They may be able to fall asleep better—perhaps not quite by themselves yet, but they're on their way there.
- They may start waking up and be raring to go earlier in the day. I remember this being very hard on me because in the past, I could get Astrid to sleep a bit longer so I could sleep a bit longer. Once she started waking proper, more parental sleep became impossible.
- Their day sleeps may drop down to two and only go for 40 minutes each. Sometimes they may look like they need more, but won't resettle for more (very frustrating!)
- Depending on where they're up to with solid food, they may be having less breastmilk/formula and more solids. You may be down to two or three feeds a day. You may also be starting them on different liquids—e.g. water or juice (diluted with water), if they're ready for it. This means they need to learn to drink in a different way to when they feed from the breast.
- They may be crawling by now—first backwards, then forwards.
- Crawling may mean they get dirtier and have to be bathed more.
- According to The Wonder Weeks book, they go through a number of different developmental stages in this period
where a lot of stuff is going on mentally. This may mean they start waking in the night again.
- They may start wearing size 0 clothes (i.e. whole new wardrobe—*sigh*).
- 40-minute day sleeps may mean you don't really get a proper break during the day (because what can you do in 40 minutes?!!) I remember that drove me a bit batty. More awake time also means more baby contact, which means mums may find life even more draining.
- Constant adjustment to a new schedule.
- Dealing with a cranky baby who is cranky due to all sorts of seen/unseen factors—teething, growth spurts, night waking, etc.
- Having a more mobile baby may mean that certain things are no longer possible (e.g. attending mums and bubs movie sessions).
- Further babyproofing to accommodate your crawling baby. This may also mean more vacuuming too, as your baby may be the kind of kid who likes putting anything s/he finds on the floor in his/her mouth.
- Ongoing fatigue from sleep deprivation—especially from unexpected night waking due to growth spurts/teething, etc.
- Ongoing fatigue from the relentlessness of it all.
- Things that make it easier:
- Your baby may continue to sleep through the night! (Or at least not wake as often in the night.)
- Ongoing breastfeeding means you start losing the weight you gained during pregnancy.
- Fewer breastfeeds due to more solids means more freedom for the breastfeeding mum: it is now physically possible to leave your baby with someone else and do non-baby things!
- It's still really cool seeing your baby develop and learn new skills. Also, they're funny to watch.
10-12 months (roughly)
(To compile this bit, I re-read my post on Astrid at ten and a half months.)
- What they're like:
- Physically, they may have mastered all sorts of new things. At 10 months, Astrid could crawl forward, stand up by herself (sometimes unassisted for very short periods of time), fall over without hurting herself, and move from a sitting position to a standing position and back again unassisted. She could also clap (which I thought was hugely cool as clapping requires a fair bit of coordination). At around 11 months, she started walking and talking. (NB: Girls tend to walk and talk sooner than boys.)
- Standing means shoes—usually of the soft-soled variety. Once they start walking, they'll need shoes with proper soles.
- Ongoing teething!
- They may have intermittent grumpiness due to growth spurts. Here The Wonder Weeks was both helpful and frustrating as often I had no idea when the last growth spurt had ended and the new one had begun.
- They may be shy around strangers and therefore more clingy.
- At the same time, they demonstrate a great deal of curiosity about everything and a desire to explore everything. (Astrid hated being confined.)
- They may sleep through most nights and only wake once. They may know how to fall asleep on their own as well. When Astrid got to 10 months, because we knew she could do that without us spending ages patting her, we tried to encourage that by implementing controlled comforting/crying. It was a painful process, but when she finally got it, it made the bedtime routine so much easier. Even now she goes to bed pretty easily.
- They may be on yet more solids of different varieties, and therefore less breastmilk. They may also be having (full cream) cow's milk and other dairy products.
- They may start having just one day sleep—but a longer one. Or they may still be on two short day sleeps. For Astrid, because she tended to wake later in the morning than other babies (i.e. 7 am instead of 6 am), her second day sleep tended to coincide with dinner, which meant that we usually only gave her one day sleep and then hurried to give her dinner before she was too tired to eat it. I don't know if that was the best way to maintain routine, but we didn't really know what we were doing at the time.
- They may need more disciplining as they know what they should and shouldn't do, yet do what is forbidden anyway (e.g. you tell them they're not allowed to touch the television and you can tell they understand that, but they will touch the television anyway—and sometimes they will even look at you with a worried look on their face when they do it!) They're watching to see if you'll be consistent—testing and pushing those boundaries.
- More mobility means more babyproofing! Having a fully vertical baby means that s/he can reach so much more—which means moving things even higher out of arms reach. It also means removing things or blocking access to things that the baby could potentially pull down on top of himself/herself.
- Ongoing fatigue from sleep deprivation and the relentlessness of everything. (Yes, parenting is still relentless!)
- Frustration from your mental space constantly being full of baby things. (Though I guess this depends on the mum; I found it frustrating but you may not.)
- Having to be consistent in discipline all the time. Sometimes it's tempting to turn a blind eye and not enforce the rules. But you're the parent: you have to. (Think long-term: you're training your baby to listen to you and respect your role as the parent.)
- Dealing with clinginess, tantrums, etc. (My impression from talking to other mums is that boys are clingier than girls, but I don't know that's actually true.)
- Things that make it easier:
- Your baby may be sleeping through the night! Your baby may also be good at settling in the evening so the bedtime routine is less of a chore. (Interestingly sleep tends to breed sleep, whereas delaying sleep tends to make for a cranky baby who won't settle. This is why sleep routines as so important.)
- If your baby is down to one day sleep, it might be a long one (i.e. two hours or so), which means you can have a decent break/rest in the middle of the day.
- Weaning/your baby being on more solids may mean more freedom for you as you don't have to be there all the time to breastfeed your baby.
- They're still in size 0 clothes—at least for a bit longer!
- It's still delightful seeing them master new things and become more of a person. Also, they're very cute. (I mean, they're always cute, but they seem to get cuter. A friend once told me that she thought 1-2 was the cutest age; they have to be that cute because you get so frustrated with them!)
Toddlerdom: One year old and up
Here things tend to be less clear for me, so I'm not even sure if I should be writing this bit, given I'm still in the middle of the toddler years. A lot seems to happen but it's hard to pinpoint when it does; I don't think there's any predictability. I know I haven't written an Astrid post in a while (so what I've put below is compiled from reading over Astrid at 12 months and Astrid at 18 months), and that makes it hard to remember what's happened since. Anyway, I'll give it a go and more experienced mums can correct me!
- What they're like:
- Physically, they can do so much more! They can walk! They have better spatial awareness! They can run, jump, spin, climb, use playground equipment with less assistance from you (which means playgrounds suddenly become more fun!), and because they can do more, often they want to explore more and do other things.
- Also, they're ticklish. And they don't know how to tickle back yet! (mwahahaha …)
- They will often imitate others in their play. Playing seems to be their way of working out life.
- Imaginative play starts becoming more of a thing. These days, Astrid will initiate her own imaginative play (e.g. making see saws out of apple slices), but a couple of months ago, she would just copy me. So I would do things like arrange the stuffed toys for a tea party, put the kettle on the play stove in the play kitchen, make play tea with play milk and play sugar, and get the stuffed toys to drink it. Sometimes we would also have dinner parties or picnics. I soon noticed Astrid copying what I did—e.g. putting things in the microwave of the toy kitchen and then exclaiming, “It's ready!” and taking them out again.
- They start saying a lot more. Usually this starts with pointing (proto-declarative action). One of Astrid's first words was “that” because she would point to something and I would say, “What's that?” She would shortcut the process by pointing and saying “That!” and then I would say what it was. These days, she wants me to notice particular things when we are out and about, so she will point to the thing and say its name (e.g. “Astrid's pram!”) again and again until I acknowledge her. The number of words Astrid knows astounds me now. I have no idea how she learned some of them! She can string words together in a sentence. (Her first complete sentence was “That is a ball”. “Very Hemingway!” said a friend.) Sometimes her sentences are part babble-part intelligible. But I've noticed that I can understand most of what she says more often these days.
- In tandem with the speaking is the singing. Well, that's the case for Astrid: she loves singing. (In fact, these days she will even shut me up and say, “Astrid sing!” if I try to sing with her!) I'm not sure if it's because I sing to her a lot or because it's something all toddlers do. She knows almost all the words to whole songs—the alphabet song, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, etc. Sometimes when we put her to bed, we can hear her singing to herself as she falls asleep.
- Related to the speaking thing, I wonder if her verboseness is linked with our reading to her. Now she wants to be read specific books at bedtime. Sometimes it's the same book every night for weeks at a time. The favourite book will change too: it used to be Where is the Green Sheep?, then it was The Very Hungry Caterpillar, then Outside Over There, then Shh! Little Mouse, Green Eggs and Ham, Fox in Socks, and I'm sure I've missed a couple there and/or have lost count. There are some books that we have read to her so often, not only can she fill in the words at certain points when we pause, she can say whole sentences from them. At the moment, we are definitely deep into Dr Seuss territory, and I am bringing out old favourites of mine that still bear my childhood scribbles.
- Again on the speaking front, Astrid knows certain things—like letters (probably because of the alphabet song, but she can also recognise individual letters), numbers (because I would count the stairs as we go up and down them, and also because of the Sesame Street videos I play her), animals, objects, sounds (she knows when a plane flies overhead), and even people. (She can recognise most of the people in our extended family as well as kids at church. Oh, also our cleaning lady. Some people she still has trouble with, but then that's a lot of names to remember!) The other thing worth noting here is that Astrid is proficient on the iPad: she's pretty much mastered tap and swipe, tap and drag, etc.
- Her attention span is longer, which means we can read her longer books and she can follow a TV program for longer. For a while I would put on a DVD Minuscule when I was in the shower, and that would enthrall her because those clips don't go for longer than five minutes each. Now she can sit through a whole episode of Play School. (Though I suppose that's still broken up into five-minute segments, so maybe her attention span isn't increasing as much as I think it is.)
- They can take simple instructions—e.g. “Put those things back in this box” or “Drink your milk” or “Give that to me, please”. Of course, they can choose to disobey or ignore you. The important point is that they can understand you and what you want them to do. This means you can start giving them simple chores to do to help around the house (for example, if I'm hanging out the laundry, I ask Astrid to pass me hangers. If I'm putting away the dry clothes, I ask her to pull out all the clothes that are hers and put them in a separate basket. She can't fold them herself, but once I've folded them, I try to get her to put them away herself.)
- Unfortunately the toddler years are not all sweetness and cuteness; toddlers like to exercise their wills, and don't understand why they can't have their way sometimes. At around 18 months, I noticed that Astrid was having more tantrums, which meant that I had to be firmer with her and introduce more disciplinary measures (e.g. time out, counting to three before getting her to do something, withholding something good before she does something she doesn't like so much). Unfortunately this sort of behaviour also spills over into the way she socialises with others: she often will not share, and she will push, shove and hit other kids who get in her way. I guess this all comes from her thinking she's the most important person in the universe. Part of my role is to show her that she's not—that she must be kind to others and that it is unacceptable to treat other people like that, even if they have been unkind to her.
- Clothing-wise, at 12 months, they may be into size 1, then at 18 months, in size 2 tops but size 1 bottoms, etc. Last year I knitted a whole bunch of cardigans for Astrid in size 2; this winter, most of them are too small in the arms, so I've had to knit more. I've been knitting the new ones in size 3-4, which means that the arms are long, but they generally fit (except for one that I knitted too big. Ah well, we'll have to wait a little while before she can wear that!) Amazingly, Astrid isn't that picky about her clothes. I expect that will change!
- Growing means longer hair, which means haircuts. I think we gave Astrid her first haircut at around one year old. A friend of ours who works as a hairdresser did it. I've got a video of her cutting Astrid's fringe. Amazingly Astrid sat quite still for most of it, and then at a certain point, just burst into tears and was inconsolable. (She was really tired!) The video still makes me laugh
- They have almost all their teeth! This means the teething period is almost over. It also means more tooth brushing, and teaching them how to brush. (Astrid hates that!) Often it's a fight to get them to brush. We have two toothbrushes: one for her, one for us. (We don't use toothpaste; just water.) She has a go, then we do it properly for her. If she resists, we bargain with her and say she can't have a bedtime story unless she lets us brush her teeth. She's probably due for her first dentist visit soon. It will be interesting to see how that goes! (My dentist friend says that usually they just sit in the chair and go up and down, and the dentist just checks out how their teeth are going.)
- Their routines are way more regular. For Astrid, she wakes at around 7/7:30 am, she'll eat breakfast, then morning tea at around 9:30/10 am, lunch at 12 pm or so, then her one day sleep, which can go anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on how tired she is. (She is also a bit flexible with her day sleep, which means that we can put her down a little later in the day sometimes if we're doing something.) Depending on when she wakes, she may get afternoon tea, but most of the time she doesn't need it. She eats dinner at around 5:30/6 pm, then we try to get her in bed by 7/7:30 pm. She hardly ever wakes in the night now.
- Eating-wise, most toddlers should just about be eating what you eat. Most of them have been weaned from breastmilk (though some mums choose to keep going for longer for the health benefits) and will be onto water, cow's milk, juice diluted with water, etc. Toddlers can be really picky about what they eat, and may reject much of what you offer them. Sometimes they won't eat much at all. (More than one parent has told me that toddlers sometimes seem to live on just air.) We had a few eating struggles with Astrid where she would refuse healthy stuff in favour of snacks (i.e. what we would give her for morning and afternoon tea). This meant we had to reduce or cut morning and afternoon tea, and try to build her appetite for main meals. Some toddlers refuse to eat foods that have been mixed together (e.g. fried rice), and prefer to have all their food segmented out. (Sometimes when Astrid refuses to eat, we do that—we take the bowl away from her, then pick out and offer the things we think she might eat if they weren't with everything out. So we will put all the carrot in a little pile, all the chicken in a little pile, all the peas, etc.) New foods are usually still rejected straight off, but sometimes they will take to them immediately (e.g. chips!)
- Related to eating, toddler bowel movements may become more regular (e.g. occurring just after main meals). At a certain point, you can start toilet training them. (NB We haven't reached this stage yet so I will say no more on this subject!)
- Needing a never-ending reservoir of patience and not having it. Toddlers require so much of it! They don't do what you ask of them (even though they understand what it is you want them to do). They have tantrums—often over silly things (e.g. wanting to carry a carton of milk by themselves even though it's too heavy for them). They are picky about food and won't eat healthy. They will say “No” to everything. I once had this conversation with Astrid:
We had that conversation about three times within half an hour. Finally because it was getting late, I was firm with her and insisted that she come and have her dinner. She cried and threw a tantrum, but then once dinner was in front of her, she ate it. You need patience to deal with the tantrums without losing your temper; to bargain with your toddler so that she/he will do what you ask; to discipline your toddler so that she/he won't hit that other kid; to toilet train (or so I've been told). More patience means more energy, which, of course, is harder when you're tired (especially if your toddler still wakes in the night!) The relentlessness of it all makes it harder. I don't know how mums who are at home every day with toddlers do it. I think if I didn't have childcare, I'd go crazy.
“Astrid, are you hungry?”
“Would you like some dinner?”
“You must not be that hungry then!”
- Toddlers babbling and saying the same thing. Furthermore, they often want your attention more. A friend of mine finds it challenging the way her toddlers fill up her mental space—to the point where they crowd out everything else.
- Greater mobility means (you guessed it!) even more babyproofing! However, you want to give your child some freedom, so it may mean rearranging parts of your house so that they are more child-friendly instead of just banning your children from them. We still have a safety gate for the entrance to the kitchen, which we keep shut when the oven is on or when we're not around to supervise. But a couple of months ago, I rearranged the cupboards so that the main one is full of plastic stuff that Astrid can pull out and play with if she's in there when I'm chopping stuff. In the mornings, she now gets out her breakfast bowl and spoon. The other thing I did was buy a play pen. We'd gotten by so far without one, but I felt it would be useful for things like Time Out (which it is). I didn't foresee that it would also be useful for things like keeping Astrid away from the heater when it's on, from any knitting that I'm blocking on the floor, and at Christmas (presumably), the Christmas tree.
- Greater mobility changes the activities that you do together. You start trying to find things that you can do together, or things that will suit the toddler's active little body. At around 18 months, I found we were going to the playground (or indoor play centre when it rained) so much more than we used to.
- Playing with your toddler can be a challenge if play is not natural to you (and it isn't for many first time parents). There are a lot of blogs out there that are helpful for this. A friend pointed me in the direction of The Imagination Tree, which I quite like as it's a blog about play and different kinds of play activities. (I love her article on the central importance of play, which is about different kinds of play and what you can do with children of different ages.) Reading it doesn't take long and sparks all sorts of ideas of things I could do with Astrid. Before Astrid was capable of imaginative play, I found it much harder to play with her. Then I realised she needed me to get her started and that she liked to copy me. One thing that helped me was giving her my old toys—like my Hello Kitty tea set (yes, I am a bit of a tragic; I couldn't bear to part with Hello Kitty!) Then I started remembering what I used to do with them!
- Sickness. I think this is more of an issue for me now because Astrid goes to childcare three times a week, and so is exposed to a lot more germs. Fortunately it's just been colds so far.
- Toilet training (so I have been told!). I am not looking forward to doing this.
- Things that make it easier:
- You are more used to your child and the routine is more predictable. Things don't change as much.
- They can be more flexible. Astrid is, anyway! We are very lucky in that we can take her to a friend's house in the evening, put her to bed in a spare room, and then wake her later when we're ready to go home. I've taken her to a friend's house for an all-day playdate (the friend lived an hour away). I've also taken her on beach mission. Also, holidays away from home. And childcare.
- Because your toddler usually doesn't need breastmilk now, this increases both their independence from you and your independence from them. It is now possible to spend an entire day apart from your child!
- A long daytime nap means a proper break in the middle of the day for stay-at-home mums.
- They eat what you eat (mostly). This means no more separate cooking. (Ben and I now split the cooking. We cook every other night and make five portions: two for us one night, two for us the second night, and a bigger one for Astrid that gets split into four for lunches and dinners for two days. But she gets fed at childcare too.)
- Because they can eat what you eat, eating out is more of a possibility. When we were on holidays (which I must blog about), we ate out a fair bit, and Astrid soon got used to sitting in a high chair for extended periods of time (and the better restaurants would provide coloured pencils/crayons and activity sheets for her, and if she got bored with them, we would give her the iPad), and eating new foods. Sometimes she'd reject things. Sometimes she would take to things, which surprised us. It was just lovely for the three of us to sit and have a meal together in relative peace.
- A longer attention span means that they can be engrossed in certain activities for longer—for example, play dough: instead of being bored after 15 minutes, Astrid can now be content with play dough for up to half an hour.
- Some toddlers can even be trained in independent play, which means they don't need parents to entertain them, but will instead play happily on their own. Astrid will do this when I am doing chores.
- It is really really cool to see them saying new things, mastering new tasks (e.g. climbing, going down the slide by themselves), learning new things, singing songs back to you, making observations about what is going on (e.g. “Daddy is in the shower!” or “It's too hot! I'll blow on it”) and so on. You really start to see them coming into their own as a person with their own preferences. Also, you can relate to them more as little people.
Congratulations if you've reached the end! I hope some of that was helpful. Please let me know if it was! And if I missed anything, please let me know in the comments.
/Karen/ had a thought at 7:51 PM
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