/karen/

Astrid (at ten and a half months)

Wednesday, 29 June, 2011

I started writing this post a month ago but never completed it. I think I'm going to have to rewrite it now. Ah well.

I tend to make notes on these posts in Evernote, and then when I think I've accumulated enough, I start writing them. Even so, I fear this will be a bit disjointed and rambly. Apologies in advance.

Development

Developmentally, Astrid is forging ahead with leaps and bounds (err … not literally). She finally mastered forwards crawling, and the day she did, she was so pleased with herself. (The day she did, she started sleeping through again—much to my relief!) Standing up came not long after (again, accompanied by many self-satisfied grins). Furthermore, she is able to fall over without hurting herself, and she has managed to work out how to move from sitting to standing and back again safely. Recently, she's started trying to stand unassisted, though she usually can't manage that for longer than 10 seconds.

The other significant thing is clapping, which requires a fair amount of coordination, I think. Her clapping is officially the cutest thing ever, and it cracks me up when she does it (e.g. after she's finished one side of a milk feed). Sometimes she will clap if she sees us clapping—even dropping whatever she's holding to do it. Sometimes she clap to get us to clap with her, and when we do, she is terribly pleased and laughs.

In terms of teeth, she's up to six—two bottom and four top. I have been bitten a couple of times (she's often keen to test out biting and will clench her teeth together quite intently and seriously), but with a lot of hollering on my part, she's learned not to do that any more. (Thank goodness; being bitten there is REALLY PAINFUL.)

In terms of other developmental stuff, on Kel's advice, I bought the book of The Wonder Weeks, which has been quite helpful because it's written a bit like Kaz Cooke's Up the Duff. It's based on research that scientists have done observing babies, along with diaries that the mothers keep of what their children do, and it centres around the idea that there are 10 predictable and obvious developmental leaps that all babies go through in their first couple of years of life. It seems to explain those leaps, the signs those leaps are about to happen, what's going on in your baby's brain and the things you can do to encourage your baby's development. I haven't read the whole thing, but the chapters I did read were, on the one hand, helpful (in terms of some sort of explanation of what was going on when things were driving me crazy), but also a bit unhelpful sometimes as the authors can only talk in general terms so not everything applies, and sometimes I wasn't quite sure where Astrid was up to. (Not that it matters heaps. It's just comforting to know when things get frustrating. Not that Astrid is a particularly frustrating baby; she's comparatively placid most of the time …) It's just useful to know that when Astrid isn't behaving the way she normally does (e.g. no longer sleeping through, refusing solid foods, getting upset when we change her nappy, being cranky), there's usually an explanation behind it all. That helps me to be more patient with her instead of just getting annoyed.

The other thing worth noting in this section is that we decided to get Astrid to take part in a study run by ERiC (the Emotional Resilience in Infancy and Childhood working group). One of the mothers in my Mother's group referred us to it because our babies were all hitting the nine month mark and they just happen to be running a study on nine-month-olds on the development of childhood shyness. So we drove to Sydney University and I was with Astrid in a room for about an hour—over the course of which, the researchers did various tasks with her—like recording the tracking of her eyes when pointing out the stuffed bears on opposite walls using different tones of voice; observing her reaction upon being ignored by someone walking into the room, talking on her mobile phone; seeing what she did with the mechanical dinosaur that walked across the table and roared, and whether she was scared of it (she wasn't scared of it). It was interesting for me because, I confess, I don't often get to observe her that much; during day-to-day life, there's a lot of stuff that needs to be done (feeding, changing nappies, housework, etc.) so somewhat surprisingly, it can be rare for me to actually sit with her and watch her do things. I was surprised to see how much she looks to me for guidance in certain situations—surprised because she's pretty independent. It was also interesting to see her gravitate towards certain toys in the box—probably because we don't have them at home (e.g. toy cars). Anyway, we go back when she's 18 months and they do a bunch of other stuff with her. Then we get given a DVD of the footage they recorded.

Oh! Thought of one more thing: Astrid's personality. It has been interesting seeing it develop. I love that she is very much her own person—so confident and independent. She thinks of herself as being worthy of attention and love. Nothing has spoiled that for her yet, and hopefully nothing will! (I must admit being quite envious of her self-assuredness.) She can be stubborn (for Ben and I can be quite stubborn at times), so if you try and make her eat when she doesn't want to eat, she digs in her heels and won't budge. She's curious and adventurous—she likes going exploring all over the place (and will usually get into things she's not supposed to). She loves rough play—like when I spin her around in my arms, or tip her upside down, or have her on my legs up in the air when I'm lying on my back. Gravity has little meaning for her. Maybe she'll love rollercoasters like her dad. She doesn't like being confined sometimes (so if she's in the pram for too long, she starts getting a bit narky). Also, she's funny about us showing her affection: we can try to hug and kiss her, but often she will push us away like she's too cool for such things. I do think she secretly likes it though, because if we go over the top and do it, she laughs and squeals.

Funny: she's not a heaps clingy baby. I don't know whether it's because she's a girl (I've heard that generally speaking, boys are clingier), or because she has so much self-confidence, but it's been rare for her to cling to me and follow me around; usually she's quite happy to do her own thing, and if I pick her up, she pushes on me like she wants to get away.

Sleep

Now that Astrid is crawling forwards and standing up, she's gone back to sleeping through most nights—sometimes not quite in the period of the night that I'd prefer (e.g. sometimes she sleeps 9 pm to 3 am, which is still technically “sleeping through”). But I'm thankful that in general, she only wakes once during the night, and she's quite a good sleeper so that after I've done that night feed, she usually goes right back to sleep.

I was getting a bit fed up when she wouldn't sleep during her day sleeps, and getting her to bed in the evening was becoming a bit of a trial. I knew that she was able to self-settle and fall asleep on her own, so we started implementing controlled comforting. (It's also called “controlled crying”, but I don't like to call it that, and besides, you can't really “control” a baby's crying.) Basically we do the sleep routine with her, we might sit with her for a while after lights out, then we firmly say goodnight to her and leave the room. After five minutes, if she's still crying uncontrollably, we go back in and try and soothe her, and then leave again after a couple of minutes. After 10 minutes, we do the same thing if she's still crying uncontrollably. Ditto 15 minutes. It was hard because she cried so piteously and we felt awful for doing it, but we knew that this would be good training for her so that she would learn to put herself to sleep without us (after all, we knew that she could do it; she just needed encouragement). Initially she wouldn't fall asleep until the 15-minute window, but now she's getting better and has started to fall asleep without many tears in the evening (and depending on how she is during her day sleeps, she can do it with no tears at all). I realise that not all parents would want to do this, and I'm not saying that they should, but for us, I think it was time, and it was also a case of balancing our needs against hers. Certainly it's made things a lot easier for me during the day and the night—that I can do the sleep routine and leave her to it, then go eat my dinner/have a shower/take a break, etc. without worrying about her.

Away from home, I've found that she will go to sleep in the pram with the sun shield down (that's worked in church on a number of occasions), she'll sleep in her carseat (so sometimes when she's still been asleep and I've driven somewhere, I'll drive around for a bit longer, or I'll pull over and wait in the car until she wakes up). We've also had some success in portacots as well—taking them to people's houses when we've had dinner there, and putting her to sleep in them. When we went away on holidays recently, we also borrowed a children's tent (which was a bit like a KinderKot but not). I tested it out on her for a few nights before we left, and though she found it a bit strange, she did go to sleep in it, and she managed to do so away from home too.

Food

As I said in my last post, I've started Astrid on meat and dairy—on full cream milk during the last month or so. She hasn't had any allergic reactions, but then Ben and I don't have any either. The only thing I'm worried about is wheat, which I've deliberately held back on because Ben has had a few minor problems with it and his grandmother was diagnosed with coeliac disease very late in life. But she's started having wheat cereal and it seems to be okay for her, so yay!

Her food is still quite basic and simple: steamed meat and vegies with no herbs or spices. I've started introducing lumps in her food now that she has the teeth to chew them (and she does well with them), but now I've started making “proper” meals for her—things like risotto and spaghetti bolognaise (which I then blend and freeze). She's not quite up to unblended food yet; she coped quite well with the arborio rice, but it still had to be fork mashed and mixed with pureed vegies for her to be able to eat it comfortably. I guess that makes sense; she hasn't got all her teeth yet—particularly her back ones—and that must make lots of chewing a bit hard.

Currently the meals work like this:

I also give her liquids—water or full cream milk with just about every meal.

In addition to that, she still has breastmilk—exclusively in the very early morning (she will wake anywhere between 4 and 6 am—sometimes even 3 am), throughout the day usually about an hour after she's had solids, and just before bed, and sometimes again in the evening after she's completed a sleep cycle or two. She'll also tend to have shorter feeds during the day (1-3 minutes each side) and longer at night (anywhere from 5-20 minutes each side).

I'm still confused about the whole weaning thing but I get the sense that not all babies do it the same way, and that most will do it around 1. I get the feeling she won't take too kindly to a bottle, so I'm happy to keep going until at least she's 1, and then after that, reassess.

She doesn't always require milk, though, so there have been times when Ben has taken out for 3-4 hours in the afternoon and she's been fine without breastmilk. She's crying for it when she returns though. (This means that when she's been away with other people, she tends to cry upon returning back to me, which is a bad sad for me, but anyway …) Recently it's varied a bit: sometimes she wants more feeds throughout the day; sometimes she's happy with just one or two. It's weird how it keeps changing.

Equipment

Hmm, I don't have much to say under this category. Astrid is still wearing size 0. I made her a cardigan using this Debbie Bliss pattern but I sized it for 12-24 months. She still wears it anyways with the sleeves rolled up. I'll put up another post detailing the “making of” later.

We were also given a pair of shoes (Max & Tilly, I think), and even though she's not walking yet, I find it useful to put them on her because it prevents her from pulling off her socks, and it's also another layer of warmth for her feet in this cold weather.

I've realised that I don't need to stress too much about clothes because people have given us a bunch—both new and secondhand (e.g. from my stepsister's children). I just need to concentrate on filling the gaps (hence warm cardigans like the above; it's been really good for winter. I should make her some more).

Speaking of portacots (above), after much fuming and swearing at the thing, I've finally worked out how ours operates. It was given to us by my cousin because he and his family didn't need it anymore, and it drove me crazy because it would mostly assemble fine one day, but not the next. The rule is click the sides into place first before you push down on the base; if you push down on the base first, the sides won't click into place. There.

In terms of babyproofing, rather than buying more equipment, we've been moving some things around and using other bits of furniture to block access. We've created a safe space for her in the lounge room all the way to under the dining table—moving coffee tables out of the way, strategically placing chairs in front of power points and other things she's not allowed to touch. She can crawl around quite freely, and we know that if we have to go to the bathroom or put on the next load of laundry, we can leave her there unsupervised for a bit without her hurting herself.

Illness

These last couple of months have also marked the first instance that we've had to deal with sickness. First Ben got sick, then Astrid got sick, then I got sick. Then I got sick again (and Ben hadn't quite recovered, but I think he also got what I had the second time around). Astrid and I have had our flu shots for the season, but what we were dealing with what the common cold (which I have learned to hate). From reading Jennifer Ackerman's, Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body, I was interested in what she had to say about colds in The New York Times. Unfortunately once you have one, there's little you can do to get rid of it; you just have to ride it out and try to avoid infecting others. Most medicines don't work on it, though you can reduce the impact of the symptoms (e.g. through antihistamines and ibuprofen). Of course, when you're breastfeeding, you have to check everything carefully before you take it because of the possible danger of passing stuff on to your baby through your milk.

The sucky thing is that when you're sick and you have a baby, you can't stop; you have to keep going. You can't sleep in bed all day—particularly if your husband isn't around to help out. Mums don't get sick leave. This means it takes longer to recover, and the ongoing fatigue that comes from parenthood doesn't help. When I caught the first cold, I got it bad—so bad that it stuck around for a full week. Perhaps I should have been more demanding in my need for help so that I could sleep (I was worried that if I slept during the day, I wouldn't sleep at night), but I noticed during the second cold I caught, there was one day when I was able to sleep for most of it because Ben took Astrid out for the afternoon to a social event, and then I recovered from that much faster. (The effects of that one weren't as bad though.)

Astrid being sick was much worse though. It was her first brush with illness, so we've been very lucky up until now. Unfortunately we had nothing on hand that would help. This meant the first night was pretty hellish. Now I understand why parents dread their offspring getting sick—particularly when they're young. Did you know, for example, that babies prefer to breathe through their noses? This means that when they can't, they tend to get upset. They also can't blow their own noses until they're around four (it's a developmental thing, apparently). So for that first night when Astrid had a cold, I made up the bed in her room so I could be on hand to help her, and she woke every single hour after just one sleep cycle because she'd try to breathe through her nose, find it was blocked, get upset and wake up. She'd do that again and again and again. I don't think I got more than four hours of sleep in total that night.

People on Facebook were very helpful with advice though, so from then on, we tried things like tilting the mattress so that the mucus would move away from her head (she did not like this because it meant she couldn't roll over); putting a saline spray up her nose to unblock it, then using the nasal aspirator on her to get the mucus out (which she totally hated; she'd scream each time we'd do it, and one of us would have to hold her down while the other—usually me—applied the spray and the aspirator, which was very difficult because she'd squirm and keep moving her head away); rubbing her chest and back with Euky Bearub just before bed (which is supposed to clear a stuff nose; I'm not sure how effective it was, really); and breastfeeding (which meant she'd get more of my antibodies that would help her little body fight the cold). She ended up recovering pretty quickly (and sleeping a bit more normally within a few days), though she was stuffed up for a bit longer than that. I envied her because I was slower to recover.

Her second bout of illness came in the last week, and it was gastro. I don't know where she got it because we had been away on holidays and, to my knowledge, hadn't been in contact with any other sick babies. Anyway, thankfully she only had a mild case of it: diarrhoea (and it must be said that baby diarrhoea is The Grossest Thing Ever, IMHO!), but no vomiting. I think I also had it a bit mildly but it didn't slow me down, whereas for her, she slept a bit more during the day, refused solids, increased the number of milk feeds she wanted and was generally a bit cranky. She seems to be just about over it now, thank goodness, but I decided to keep her home from mother's group so she didn't spread it to any other babies.

Holidays

My mother and Peter very generously paid for us all to go away for four nights, so the other week, we went up the coast to Terrigal, staying in a rental apartment. It was quite nice, but obviously it's very different going on holidays with a baby. After asking the members of my Parental Facebook group for advice, I wrote a packing list just for Astrid's things. It includes baby food (supermarket stuff as we did not intend to cook), disposable nappies and medical stuff. Then I set aside a whole day to do the packing for both her and us. We just managed to fit everything in the car. It was a little hard because the pram was taking up so much of the boot, but even though my stepsister had given us a pram that folds up into a knapsack, we figured it was good to take our normal pram because it had the bug/sun shield and rain covers, and Astrid could sleep in it if need be.

The holiday went a bit like this:

This was the first time we had ever been on holidays with a child, and it was very different. I felt like I had to be “on” almost all the time, and of course, she still occupied a fair amount of my mental space as I would be continually calculating when she needed feeding/changing/to be put to sleep, etc. It was also a bit draining because I didn't get my regular non-Astrid periods that I normally do; in hindsight, I should have probably insisted on some of that time—sent Ben off for a walk with her or something, and then I could have done the same for him, so that we could do our introvert thing and recharge. I'm beginning to think that that's the way of it—that if you're around someone all the time, it's inevitable you will get sick of each other and require breaks. Maybe it's different for extroverts …

These holidays also taught us that the importance of taking breaks from the everyday, even if you can't afford to go away anywhere. When we returned, we both sat down with the calendar and booked out two more weeks later in the year when we can do something similar—have a staycation (i.e. stay at home), but use disposable nappies and supermarket baby foods, eat out, take day trips to fun places, and almost completely neglect the housework. Being in Sydney will also mean that we can call in babysitters and take some time for ourselves. I think such breaks are good for one's sanity.

Day by day

The weekly timetable hasn't really changed much, so I won't reiterate it. I was thinking instead I'd try to outline what happens day-to-day (obviously generally speaking since every day is different):

7-8 amAstrid wakes up properly and has cereal for breakfast. If I've slept enough the night before (and Astrid hasn't woken much), I get up and do this, and then eat my breakfast after hers. If I haven't slept enough, I poke Ben so that he will get up and do it.
1 hr laterIf I haven't woken up yet, Ben will wake me up to give Astrid a milk feed. Then I'll have my breakfast and we will take turns having a shower while the other watches Astrid play.
10-11 amAstrid usually wants her morning tea around this time. (Sometimes we're out so I take it with us.)
Around 4 hrs after initial wakingDepending on when Astrid has woken up, she'll usually want a sleep (sometimes with a milk feed just before). This can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. I try to eat my lunch and avoid the housework during this time—not because of the noise, but because I regard the time when she's asleep as being mine.
1-2 pmAstrid's lunchtime (usually post-nap). Sometimes I give her afternoon tea at around 3 or 3:30 pm if she seems hungry. Usually she doesn't need it.
4-4:30 pmAstrid's dinner time. This is the only time slot in the day that is pretty much non-negotiable; we've found that if she doesn't have her final solid meal by this time, she's usually too tired to eat, and will sit in the highchair with her head flopped to one side, pounding the table tray. So we can't really leave it to any later than this.
5 pm If it's bath day, she'll have her bath around this time. Sometimes she has it a bit earlier if she seems to me to be too tired. Then we get her dressed for bed. She might play for a little while after this.
6-6:30 pmI give Astrid a feed and then she's usually tired enough, so we try to settle her to sleep with a story. Sometime she will want to cluster feed—that is, I'll feed her, then read her a story and put her in her cot, then she'll cry uncontrollably and won't settle, but it's usually because she's still hungry and wants to feed more, not because she's tired, so even though 15 minutes has passed, I'll feed her again. She may resume crying after I put her in her cot once more, but then she will settle and go to sleep. I think that happens because she can't get as much as she wants out of the breast and has to wait for them to fill up again or something.
1-2 hrs laterOften she will wake up again for another feed (a dream feed) and then go straight back to sleep. During this early to late evening, we can finish the housework, watch TV, relax, etc. This is also the time when I try to catch up on certain admin-y tasks/answering email/computer things.
Around midnightThis varies, but she often has another dream feed at around this time. Because of this, I find it hard to get to bed early. I often can't sleep any earlier than this anyway.
3-5 amShe often wakes for a dream feed somewhere in this period, but then goes straight back to sleep. Fortunately most of the time, it's just one night-waking for me.

And then the whole thing starts again.

Motherhood

As always, I have been reflecting about the whole state of motherhood. Here are a few thoughts:

Right. I think I've rambled on enough. Now to finish with an obligatory cute pic (taken last month):

IMG_2150

Seriously, when she smiles and laughs, it makes it all worthwhile. Clichéd, I know.

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