Katie's fifth month was really the stage in which she moved away from the cute-but-dull newborn period and started actually doing interesting stuff. I meant to write a lengthier Katie Update Post to mark this, but, as usual, didn't have time until now. So I'll make this an update on the whole three-to-six months stage, achievements therein, and hope I actually get it finished before needing to write whatever update I'll want to write at seven months. And, just for the record, I'm at least starting this on the day she turns six months. Half way through her first year.
I've already written about the rolling over (back to stomach is something she can still only manage with luck and a following breeze, but stomach to back is mere trivia for her now) and the reaching out to grab things (by the end of her fifth month she could get her hand straight to whatever she was reaching for without all the recalibration and rechecking, and, although she's still mastering the finer details of getting hold of whatever-it-is, she's getting pretty good at that as well). She can also now, if carefully positioned in a well-balanced sitting position, maintain it for a few seconds before she slumps. Here are a few more milestones from the past three months:
Being enormous. Well, in relative terms – last time we actually got round to getting her weighed she was only just above the fiftieth centile, so as babies of this age go she's pretty average in size. However, after having my mental parameters for her set on 'tiny baby' for so long, by the time she was around four or five months I was finding it quite startling to look at her and realise how big she was getting. And she is longer than average – not drastically so, but when I last measured her, a few weeks ago, she was on the 91st centile for length. This was no great surprise – Barry had already had to get the 6 – 9 month bag of clothes down from the attic a month early as she could barely fit into her Babygros. It was just the length that was the issue – she was still OK with any outfits that didn't require getting everything from her neck to the soles of her feet into a single garment, but she did have to go into the next size of Babygros a month early. She'll probably take after her father (6' 4") and end up towering over me by the time she's a teenager.
Eating solids. This is yet another item for the 'so much more relaxed second time around' list. With Jamie, I obsessed over following the WHO recommendations (six months! Six months! Not a day earlier! Got that, neurotic new parents? Six months!) until I actually read the report, realised they were based on bugger-all evidence, and moved on to obsessing over what I should feed him once I did start, feverishly researching the relative merits of different smushed vegetables and wondering just where the hell one got sweet potato in baby-sized amounts. With Katie, I noted the approach of her sixth month-ness in passing, so to speak, absently made mental notes that I probably ought to be starting some solids some time soon, and, when she got to around five and a half months (close enough, I figured), handed her a few random pieces of food as and when I remembered to do so. After I'd done this a couple of times, she tried tasting the piece I'd just given her (a broccoli floret, for the record), and was fascinated by the whole experience. Hey! When I put this object in my mouth bits of it come off! And it has a not-milk taste! Since then, she's had a go at eating bread, toast, rusk, courgette, banana, and plate (she had a very determined go at the latter before someone managed to point out to her that she was actually meant to be directing her efforts at the rusk sitting on it).
I'm really pleased that she's taking to solids so well – I'd assumed she'd be one of the reluctant babies who just didn't want to know and took months to be willing to try anything. This assumption was based on the always-unwise practice of comparing siblings, though in a reverse sort of way; she's been Jamie's opposite in just about every other way imaginable, Jamie took to solids really well as a baby, and from those two pieces of information I'd extrapolated a belief that Katie would drag her metaphorical feet on the matter. It's good to know that this does not, so far, appear to be so; and I have hopefully learned my lesson about making such assumptions in future.
Being on a routine. (For naps, that is – feeds she still has at any old time, usually often.) I started this when she was three and a half months old, the week before I went back to work, largely because I happened to have a few days when I wasn't planning to do much else other than hang around the house and I figured that I might as well try putting her down for her naps at the standard baby times and see how she got on. (For those unfamiliar with babies of the routinisable age, 'standard baby times' are – with usual disclaimers about variation between individual babies – a shortish nap two hours after wake-up time, a nap of a couple of hours at the beginning of the afternoon, and sometimes, for younger babies in this age range, a very short nap in mid-afternoon, with bedtime around twelve hours after wake-up time. Different baby books give slightly different routines as examples, but that's basically what it boils down to. A very nice summary, from Moxie, is the 2-3-4 rule – babies tend to be ready for their first nap two hours after getting up, then their second nap three hours after getting up from the first nap, then their bedtime four hours after getting up from the second nap.)
I read somewhere – probably Weissbluth – that, when babies start moving out of the phase of just eating and sleeping at all kinds of odd times of the day and night and into the phase of having a proper body clock and needing naps at fairly specific times, the development of their body clock starts in the mornings and only extends to the rest of the day later. I was fascinated to see that this was exactly what seemed to happen with Katie. She went into the morning and lunchtime nap routine like a hand into a glove – you could set a Gina Ford clock by her. The mid-afternoon nap and bedtime were a lot more hit and miss for the next couple of months. In fact, for some weeks the only predictable thing about her bedtime was that it would coincide with our dinner. Given the variability in our dinner time, I felt this was quite an achievement – I still don't know how she managed it, but, no matter how early or late dinner was on any particular evening, it always seemed to clash with that crucial window between 'not yet tired enough to have much chance of falling asleep if put to bed' and 'tired enough to go into horrible meltdown if kept up' and I would have to excuse myself from the table to sit
upstairs feeding Katie and trying to settle her. I say 'trying' because she seemed to have a much harder time getting to sleep at bedtime than she did at naptime and, with a baby that young, I struggled to know when this was just due to her having difficulty dropping off, when it was hunger, and when she genuinely wasn't sleepy. So I spent a lot of time going back and forth between nursing her more (and then changing her clothes when the extra milk that she hadn't, in fact, actually needed made her spit up) and trying to settle her without nursing, frequently ending up bringing her downstairs again just in case lack of tiredness was the problem (and, almost as frequently, discovering that this wasn't the case and that I now had an overtired and fractious baby to deal with).
Going to sleep at bedtime. The journey from the state of affairs described in the above paragraph to this particular milestone took place at my instigation, not Katie's. After a couple of months of muddling along as described above, I felt it was time for a change. Besides, her body clock development seemed to have reached evenings (at any rate, the chances of her
seeming tired and irritable rather than pleased when I tried the
bring-her-downstairs-again strategy were much higher than when this
process first started). So, when she was five and a half months old, I started what probably wasn't organised enough to count as sleep training, but comes to about the same thing; like it or not (she didn't), when it got to bedtime, she was now expected to stay upstairs and go to sleep in her cot. I was quite happy to stay with her and comfort her through as much of this as feasible, though this did have to be balanced against the fact that I have another child (not to mention a husband who appreciates my occasional presence), and so I did often leave her for a few minutes at a time while I went downstairs to see how the other members of my family were getting on, but I tried to keep those periods brief. When I was with her, I alternated between picking her up for cuddles, bending over the cot to snuggle with her, and doing other things like the laundry. (Fold one T-shirt, pick Katie up, put her down, fold one T-shirt, pick Katie up, put her down…)
Sure enough, after about a week or so of this, I had a baby who would mostly sleep through the evening. (Well, she usually wakes up for a feed or two at some point – what I mean is that she'll sleep through the bulk of the evening, settling back to sleep quickly and easily after her feeds.) I've always found this to be a far more important milestone in practical terms than the much-touted Sleeping Through The Night. Although Katie isn't even close to sleeping through the night, that isn't even an issue any more – she's now old enough for me to take her into bed with me without worrying about increasing the risk of cot death (in the interests of public safety I had better point out that this is only true because both Barry and I are non-smokers and because I'm careful about doing things like keeping the duvet away from her, so don't try this at home until you've read up on safe co-sleeping), and so I simply do that and go back to sleep myself while she feeds. But getting a bit of baby-free time during the evening so that I can do stuff like wash the pump parts and have a shower without having to juggle these activities with soothing a fretful tired baby – now that's a milestone I like.
Doing without Mummy during the day. Oh, boy, did she not like that one. For weeks and weeks, she screamed her head off nearly every afternoon when left with Barry. (I work all day, but she seemed mostly OK in the mornings – she was obviously prepared to put up with a certain amount of my absence but by afternoon had had quite enough of that business and expected Mummy to put in an appearance again.) This was, as you can imagine, just a mite stressful all round. We stumbled on the solution purely by chance; we had some of those little cartons of ready-made formula and I noticed one of them was about to run out of date in the next couple of weeks and mentioned to Barry that he might as well use it up rather than waste it, and, thus, Katie had an afternoon and a following morning of drinking formula instead of the milk I'd been assiduously pumping for her, and Barry discovered that it made a remarkable difference. She actually seemed happy without me. So we bought a tin of formula and tried it a few more times, and, again, it seemed to work wonders. So, now, she's on formula during the days that I work. (Deliberate formula-feeding and leaving my baby to cry? I look forward to seeing how much controversy I get in response to this post.)
One last mention-worthy milestone was discovered by Barry on the day after she turned six months, when he let her grab his finger and suck on it. "She's got a tooth!" he exclaimed.
"Really?" I stuck my finger in to investigate for myself. "Two teeth!" I amended a second later. Two teeth, poking through the middle of her lower gum.
So, that's Katie six months down the line from the day she emerged. Toothier than on the day she was born, more than twice as heavy, with a body clock and a rudimentary collection of skills that she didn't have then. (And I finished writing this when she was only six and a half months! Good going.)