15 months progress report!

 

I must apologise for my lack of new blog posts recently. Work and life have caught up with us, and time to myself has been lacking. However, Amelia is currently snoozing and will hopefully remain that way so I can squeeze in an update!

I can only describe Amelia as busy, very busy! As such it leaves Daddy and myself also very busy monitoring her activity. Over the last 6 weeks she has progressed from tentative steps on occasion to walking at all times. There was a short period where she would drop to her knees and crawl if she needed to be somewhere really fast (such as when the fridge door is opened), but now she just walks at full speed instead. It’s great that she’s walking because I think she feels independent and far less frustrated. But there are downsides. We had expertly taught her how to climb down the stairs and steps with a ‘feet first’ policy. It was going very well and she was relatively safe under observation. However, now she walks she tends to walk to the edge of the step and then try to step off. As such she must have someone in front of her ready to catch her as she attempts to walk down stairs. She also tries walking up stairs on occasion and doesn’t really appreciate that her legs aren’t long enough to undertake said activity just yet! She’s confident on her feet and pretty fast, and it’s really fun to watch her wandering about the place.

Once she started walking I took the decision to invest in some shoes. This was an event in itself because it turned out she didn’t find it as fun as I did. With respect to shoes she doesn’t take after mummy at all. I personally love a good pair of shoes…or 10! Amelia on the other hand screamed the shoe shop down when we tried to put the pair on her feet. It was like this for about 3 weeks every time we put them on. Then suddenly one day it wasn’t a drama anymore. Now she accepts them being put on and perhaps quite enjoys wearing shoes now….there’s still hope that we will be able to share a love of shoe shopping!

As for talking – she chats, mostly incomprehensibly, all the time now. She makes conversation, and at times you can make out a word that allows you to grasp what she’s trying to explain. She does have a few words – Mumma, Dada (or Diddy), yes, no, dog, der (for there), ta (for thanks) and on the weekend she clearly said scooter twice! She supplements her talking with plenty of pointing to help us understand what she’s trying to say. She also signs for milk, food, bird and duck. It’s amazing the dialogue we have despite her lack of words (it could just be that I make up her side of the conversation a little too much though)!

Where eating is concerned she is doing really well. There was a period where she seemed to take little interest in food. She would try a variety of foods but never wanted much more than a few spoonfuls. But now she eats good amounts regularly throughout the day. I am actually so grateful for nursery because they have really encouraged her with eating, and she has such a variety of foods there. It has inspired mealtimes at home, and it makes life a little easier for me as I am not having to think of brand new meals every day! It is tough trying to come up with 3 meals and 2 snacks per day and trying to maintain plenty of variety. I’m sure I over think it but I’m so conscious of introducing her to as many new foods as possible. I know that when cooking for just myself and Daddy I tended to end up in a routine of rotating the same meals, and therefore buying the same stuff every week. Nowadays I try to add at least a couple of new foods to the basket each time to create variety. It’s easy to tell what she does and doesn’t like because if it’s on her list of dislikes she eats all the bits she like and then places those that she doesn’t to the side, or more annoyingly she likes to drop them on the floor for me. It’s at this point where I wish we had a pet who might like to munch her leftovers from the floor! She takes her time and eats at her own pace. I try to follow advice such as putting a small amount on her plate at a time and offering her more if she eats it all. I don’t try to force feed her. When she lets me know she’s done (and she does this by trying to mush the food up with her hands or wipe it onto the floor) then I take it away. I don’t push it at all. Most recently she really enjoys it if I load a bit of food onto a spoon or little fork and let her feed herself. I’m trying to introduce her to the use of cutlery so that she starts to get the idea of how to do it.

Finally, her sleep. That ongoing saga! When she’s not teething or unwell then she sleeps really well. And for maybe 2 -3 weeks she has been completely germ free and not teething. In the day she is transitioning to one longer lunchtime nap. This has thrown up a need to alter mealtimes but it is more consistent now and it means we can start engaging in morning groups because they don’t start at just the time she would be ready for a nap! The one aspect of her sleep that I would like to work on is getting her to go to sleep by herself a bit more. From about 6-9 months of age it was easy to put her down awake but tired and she would drop off by herself. Once she started being able to stand up it became difficult because as soon as you’d put her down she would stand up and start crying. The separation anxiety added to this situation because she doesn’t like being left alone. A couple of nights in a row she woke at 3.30am one night then 5am the next. I was just so tired I decided to leave it a little longer to see what happened. It took 45 minutes of her whingeing (not screaming because I couldn’t have put up with that) but she went back to sleep. If we had gotten up with her then she would’ve been up for a good couple of hours, or if waking at 5am wouldn’t have  gone back to sleep. The night following these two she slept through completely. So I know that she can settle herself. I’ve been a bit tougher the last week or so. If she has dropped off in my arms or its clear she’s tired I have put her in the cot and left immediately. She has stood up and cried for 5-10 mins but then gone to sleep. I think I need to continue doing this a little more to encourage her to settle herself to sleep.

She’s at a really great age. She changes on what seems like a daily basis and it’s fun to watch. It means that you can never really switch off until she’s fast asleep in bed because if you dare to look away for a matter of seconds then mischief has occurred. Daddy learnt this the hard way when she got the lid off the Metanium ointment and smeared it on the carpet. He had to explain what had happened, and watch helplessly as I frantically tried to clean it up. No one was in my good books that day. Luckily the carpet looks ok now (apart from the slight jaundiced appearance in certain lights).

Has anyone else had similar incidents? Should I just accept that my carpet is unlikely to survive her childhood stain-free?

 

A new S.E.T. of challenges – Sleep, Eat, and Teethe!

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.

 

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All I want for christmas is a good night’s sleep!

 

IMG_1876_1024There is so much to say about sleep! So I will need to break this into multiple posts. Otherwise I will be even shorter on sleep.

I cannot remember the last time I had a really good nights sleep. What is a good sleep? For me, it’s a period of approximately 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, with nothing on my mind. Though I’m not sure when this may next be occurring! Many have told me “you’ll never sleep the same again”. Though I still live in hope. During my pregnancy the most frequently given advice was “get as much sleep as you can before she arrives”. I tried my hardest to follow said advice. However, having a gigantic tummy, a bladder that seemed to have shrunk to the size of a pea and a baby with a full head of hair providing me with terrible heartburn led to some bad nights’ sleep.

Then, like a whirlwind, Amelia arrived. She doesn’t sleep like a log, and for the first few weeks behaved like the princess and the pea with respect to where she would sleep. As a result, for most of the last five months I have rarely had more than 4 hours continuous sleep. The sleep I do get is very light with frequent waking to check she is ok. I am very fortunate to have a husband that really helps out where he can, and two sisters who took turns to come and stay during the first weeks. Whilst here they were helping with more than their fair share of night feeds. In addition, we had plenty of grandparents willing to come and provide cuddles whilst we napped. I was really lucky to have such good support. I am breastfeeding Amelia and this does add to the pressure as even if I had expressed milk I needed to make sure I was feeding or expressing regularly. This was to ensure I maintained a good supply, and so that my breasts didn’t feel like they were ready to explode (which would be the case if someone had kindly undertaken a nightfeed or two)!

In preparation for her arrival we got all the right equipment for sleepy times – moses basket, swaddles and Ewan the dreamsheep (who had nothing but rave reviews). Fast-forward to night two with Amelia. Trying to get her to settle we decided it was time to introduce her to Ewan. Daddy spent the early hours of the morning (around 3am) frantically searching for AAA batteries to bring Ewan to life. We were not as prepared as we thought and their first meeting had to wait for the grandparents to bring us batteries the next day. We spent many hours over the first few nights sleeping (uncomfortably) on the sofa, in her nursing chair or on the lounge floor. Once Ewan was alive and kicking he did, and continues to, provide some assistance.

We couldn’t convince her that the moses basket was a good place to sleep. At times she would agree to sleep in the bassinet top of her pram (bought with the benefit that the bassinet could by used as a travel cot, we had no idea just how useful it would be). Most of the time she was only happy to sleep on us or snuggled up in our armpit. We went against all advice for safe sleeping most of the time (unless my health visitor is reading this, in which case we followed all advice) – she was sleeping in the bed with us (she was never more comfortable than sleeping on our mattress), we were falling asleep on the sofa with her on our chest and we were putting her down on her side (she hated being on her back). We knew it was not ideal – I was ashamed to admit it and found myself being very defensive and having to justify myself when we did tell people. We were staying up late and not retiring to the bedroom with her until past midnight.

Then one friday, when she was about one month old, my weekly copy of the British Medical Journal landed on the doormat. By chance it had an article about cot-death and included statistics showing increased risk with having baby in bed with you, and sleeping on the sofa with baby. Combined with tiredness we realised it was time we established some routine and safer sleeping practices.

One of the first things was to work out how to convince her to sleep in the moses basket. We couldn’t. So we resorted to fooling her. If Daddy gave her a night feed he would lie her on the mattress for the moses basket whilst feeding and we would rock her to sleep on it. Thus when we put her back down she did not realise she was not in our bed or our arms! We were also recommended the Sleepsense guide by a colleague of Daddy. We read it and the most interesting part was learning about baby sleep patterns. It was really helpful to appreciate that a baby’s sleep cycle lasts 40 minutes and that babies up to 3 months (thereabouts) need to nap after 90-120 minutes of being awake. Armed with this knowledge we were able to manage Amelia much better. We were able to recognise irritability associated with tiredness and anticipate it. We developed a bedtime routine which ended with aiming to have her asleep by 8pm upstairs. It was tough for the first week and we were up and down the stairs like yo-yo’s trying to settle her to sleep. We would rock her and pat her bottom, and try to put her down drowsy but not asleep. We didn’t let her cry, as you’re not supposed to do this at such a young age. But she gradually took less time and less intervention to settle to sleep. The harder part was the daytime napping. I was frequently going against the advice and feeding her to sleep. I would then be stranded for long periods lay on the sofa with a sleeping baby on my chest. If I moved she stirred. If I put her down she cried. It was difficult for guests – they had come to visit and have cuddles with her, and I was being militant about it being time for her to have a sleep. But it was worthwhile persisting because we rarely have a grumpy baby as we anticipate her tiredness. Plus we are getting time to be adults in the evening.

 

Anyway, sleep tight for now and I will talk sleep again soon!