Monthly Archives: June 2008

Seven Months: The Start Of The Interesting Bit

I’m going to try to shoot for doing monthly updates on Katie.  That strikes me as possible.  Theoretically, at least.

The ‘interesting’ in the title is meant quite genuinely, not in some sort of quasi-euphemistic ‘May you live in interesting times’ sense.  The interesting bit, as far as I’m concerned, is all the stuff that comes after the first six months, which I think of as a sort of rather dull but necessary prelude.  As you can imagine, I looked forward to Katie reaching the six month mark; I approached her seventh month with high hopes that from this point on she would start doing more noteworthy things.  I am pleased to report that she rose to the occasion in fine style. 

A summary of the things she did during her seventh month of extrauterine life:

Sitting up alone.  Although she is still a mite wobbly and prone to suddenly ending up supine (that’s one of those delightful contradictory phrases, like ‘certainly possible’), she can now sit for several minutes at a time.  In fact, she can now multitask, reaching out for toys and playing with them while still maintaining herself in sitting position.

Sitting in a high chair.  I had a week off in June, and used it, among other things, to finally get the high chair cleaned up from the state that Jamie left it in.  (Yes, I am well aware of how badly it speaks of our housekeeping skills that it took me that long to get around to it.)  Jamie had great fun helping me clean it and Katie now has great fun sitting in it, when I actually get round to putting her there (I am shockingly bad at remembering that feeds for Katie these days are supposed to involve something a bit more than simply plonking her on my breast while I browse the Internet).  I give her some bits of toast, or cheese, or microwaved vegetables, or liver sausage, and she has a grand old time working her way through it (except the liver sausage, which was still fun to play with but which she didn’t seem too keen on actually eating).  And, as far as I can estimate from mentally subtracting all the bits that I later collect from her lap/the sides of the chair/the floor from the size of the portion she started out with, at least some of it does actually end up inside her.  My mother, who predated the baby-led weaning movement (isn’t it good when doing things in the easiest way possible actually has an official name and backing as something with, supposedly, positive benefits?), is extremely impressed that she’s bypassed the whole business of spending months working her way up through progressively lumpier purĂ©es, and has concluded that she’s a child prodigy.

Trying out the baby bouncer.  Not only did she enjoy this one, but her big brother did as well.  “Swing Katie!” he squealed excitedly, pulling her back for a massive push forward.  Barry and I both leapt towards him with hasty yells of caution which were, of course, totally unwarranted, since Katie loved it.

Having her teeth brushed.  Another item for the “Damn, I forgot we’re now meant to do this as part of the routine” list.  So far I have managed to remember to brush them twice in the month since they came through.  Must improve on this track record before she has a full set.  Talking of which, there is a certain “Wow, was that it?!” factor to brushing the teeth of a child who only has two when you’re used to performing this service for a child who has the full twenty.  I use some of the time on running the brush over her gums as well, in hopes of getting her used to the idea that this is eventually going to be a more extensive process than it currently needs to be.  She loves it.  (That sentence does seem to be popping up a lot, now that I think of it – good to know that she’s also enjoying all these new developments in her life.)

Talking in syllables.  Her previous vocabulary of squeals and gurgles has now been enhanced by utterances of “Ma-ma-ma-ma!  Ba-ba-ba-ba!  Mba-mba-mba!”  This one, we love.  It sounds unbelievably adorable.

(Good gracious – I have actually managed to finish this post within a mere four days of her turning seven months.  This bodes well for the future.)

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Filed under Here Be Offspring, How quickly they grow up

Insert eye-related title of your choice

I just remembered I didn't get a post up about Jamie's latest orthoptist appointment.  Not through lack of trying – I started writing one that same evening (it was on Tuesday just gone), and got half-way through when Typepad did one of its occasional crash-and-burns and lost the post.  Fortunately I hadn't written that much so it was no more than a minor annoyance, but, as I was falling asleep in my chair by then, I couldn't be bothered to start over and decided I'd do it the next day.  And then forgot, of course. 

Anyway, don't get too excited (oh, you weren't?  Oh, well), as I record it only for the sake of completeness; it could best be summarised as Same Stuff, Different Day.  The visual acuity in his squinting eye is still not quite as good as that in the other eye, but the difference is apparently minor and Pat now thinks that, rather than continually hoping that we'll be able to correct it with enough patching, we should accept that there is going to continue to be a difference and simply aim to maintain it at the level it's at.  She did float the possibility of taking another break from the patching, but, as much as I like that idea, I do have to face the fact that the last time we tried that his vision got worse and I do not want this to happen again.  So, following a bit of discussion, we both agreed that the patching should continue for now.  There is now some light at the end of this particular tunnel; Pat thinks that if we can stick to the patching assiduously enough now then we should be able to leave it for good by the time he starts school.  So we shall hang in there.

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Filed under Adventures in Squint Correction, Here Be Offspring

Adolescent Of Our… no, wait, shouldn’t that be *Child* Of Our Time?

Over the past month, I've been watching an episode of 'Child Of Our Time' which looked at gender roles in children.  (As you can gather from the fact that it took me this long to watch a one-hour episode, this was something squeezed into ten-minute slots here and there, around everything else; however, as this particular episode was actually produced by my sister I wanted to get to see all the bits she's been telling me about working on.  Besides, she does some of the interviewing of the children and so every so often while watching the programme I suddenly hear her voice coming from off-camera to ask one of the children something, whereupon I can yell "That's Ruthie!  That's Ruthie!"  Which is pretty cool.)

Anyway, the other day I was squeezing in yet another brief segment of watching and got to the bit where the voice-over told us that one of the girls, Megan, would now have to confront gender roles in a new way because "Megan has a boyfriend."

Er, no, she bloody well doesn't.  She's seven

One of Megan's many friends happens to be a boy.  And, yes, she and her friends probably are getting a bit silly and giggly about her 'boyfriend', because that's the sort of thing kids do.  Why on earth are the adults playing into this misnaming?  Megan's mother professed herself unbothered by the whole thing because, after all, he obviously wasn't really a boyfriend and they were just kids having fun.  Which is totally reasonable.  But why not point that out to the children?  The lesson that, just because one of your friends happens to be of the opposite sex it doesn't automatically mean they're your boyfriend or girlfriend, is such an important one to learn.  Why miss the chance to convey it?

If Katie or Jamie, in prepubertal years, tries telling me they have a boyfriend/girlfriend (says she with the confidence of someone who's not yet dealt with this stage of parenting and therefore knows exactly how to deal with it), then I will gently correct them:  No.  You have a friend who happens to be of X gender.  Having a boyfriend or a girlfriend involves more complicated stuff.  There is a difference.  Being friends with a boy, without making them your boyfriend, is perfectly OK, and will continue to be so, no matter what messages anyone else may give you to the contrary.

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Filed under Grr, argh

Now We Are Six (Months)

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.) 

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Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite, Here Be Offspring, How quickly they grow up