Once upon a time Amelia’s (and our) routine was ‘Sleep Eat Poop Repeat’. This was a rapidly cycling process occurring several times per day. We have progressed from this to what I like to call the S.E.T. cycle – Sleep Eat Teethe – which are longer cycles of changing habits with respect to these areas. In all honesty I think it’s the teething that causes the others to cycle between being really good and truly awful!
Teething is now easily recognisable by the ‘symptoms’ Amelia displays when a new tooth or two is considering popping through. The obvious feature is the dribbling, and need to chew anything within reaching distance – food, toys, furniture, knees, whatever isn’t a specific teething toy really. Her sleep becomes extremely disrupted, and her eating habits altered. Her behaviour also changes – she is more clingy, whingey and at times does what I could only describe as throwing a tantrum (which at 11 months old leaves me worried about what the terrible twos might hold). All of which leads to a really difficult period of time until the troublesome tooth causes a whitening of the gum. The actual popping through doesn’t seem to cause much bother!
The change in sleeping habits is one of the hardest. I know I go on about the sleep a lot but it really is one of the hardest aspects of parenting that I have found, on a personal level. I have never enjoyed night shifts, and once comfortably asleep have not tended to wake in the night. So being rudely awoken in the early hours by loud crying is a challenge! Especially now I am back at work. The feeling of waking at 4am, wondering how long you will be up for, and that your alarm is set for 7am (cutting it a little fine to get us all up and dressed and out of the house but I can’t bring myself to set it for earlier) is pretty miserable. We have cycled through so many sleep habits in her nearly 12 months of life. The early days of feeding every couple of hours, the treat of a six hour run of continuous sleep, the dream of 12 hours of straight sleeping for Amelia, to the cycles of teething. During these times she wakes again in the night, once or twice and for variable lengths of time. They can be up to two hour stretches where she seems wide awake and ready to play. She just doesn’t understand why mummy or daddy doesn’t want to get up and play too, and why they are so grumpy with her. These stretches can start at any time of the night. Part of the frustration is the difficulty we had trying to get her to go to sleep in the first time. I remember a period when she was struggling to stay awake much beyond 6.30pm. Now, she shows signs of tiredness but just wont go to sleep. It can be 8-9pm before she finally drifts off. Getting to this point has usually involved milk, reading with her, her climbing over us and trying to dive head first on to the floor, lots of rocking, and pacing the bedroom with her in our arms, trying to get her to go down in the cot (and stay down). It has involved her sitting and then standing up in the cot a number of times and being laid back down, and then patting her rhythmically whilst singing to her. This may then be repeated from the start again. I admit that one night I even left her to cry it out and just went in every few minutes to lie her back down and remind her it’s bedtime. She will have had medicine to try and relieve the pain of teething. It is really tough, when looking back just a few months she was a dream to put to bed. It was a simple matter of putting her down, often awake, with her comforter and leaving her to fall asleep by herself with no drama. I think her ability to stand herself up has been one of the big contributing factors because now she automatically rolls on to her front and pushes herself up. She has learnt to get herself back down again now, because previously she would cry out because I don’t think she was sure how to get herself back into a good sleeping position again.
When she’s teething mealtimes can become quite a battle too. She becomes very disinterested in food. She’s never been a big eater, and it’s a lot of time and effort to build up her appetite for food. It’s not that she wont try food – she’s actually very good at trying new flavours, and is really good at eating savoury foods and vegetables. She’s done a lot better since working on her fine motor skills and being able to use her thumb and forefingers to pick foods up herself. On a good day she can polish off a three-course dinner (of sorts!), but when she is teething she might eat a few spoonfuls or a couple of sticks of vegetable before deciding to ‘wipe’ her tray table clean and let us know that she is done for that meal. Again it becomes frustrating, because of the worry that she’s not eating enough. I know that she is getting plenty of nutrition from her milk but it still seems a bit concerning.
The ‘tantrums’ are hard work. It’s not easy trying to get things done when you have a clingy baby. But I would rather this than the Amelia that doesn’t want to be held, but at the same time doesn’t want to be put down. She is screaming because you are holding her, and then if you dare try to put her down she throws herself about on the floor screaming. It’s at this point that I reach for the medicine and cause even more drama by trying to convince her to take it. But I can only believe that it’s pain that makes her behave this way. I guess if I could throw myself around screaming if I was in pain, then I would!
The best bit about these times is that they do go away. They’re just phases that last a couple of weeks and ease off again. They are just so frustrating at the time as there’s not a great deal that you can do. They’re part and parcel of her growing up, and it’s always lovely when the tooth finally pops through because it’s just another step forward in her development. I guess it’d be more fun if she were like some other babies who’s parents report that they don’t teethe and new teeth just pop through without any trouble!
I would really like peoples opinions on the best ways to manage teething, and thoughts on amber beads to help. I have had mixed feedback as to whether they really work or not. Also, any thoughts on managing her sleep, now she tends to stand up when we try to put her down, would be much appreciated.