A bang on the head

THE LITTLE Mister is probably the happiest person I know. He flashes his huge gummy smile indiscriminately – at strangers, at paintings, and toys, at light bulbs. So I wasn’t at all worried about today’s photo shoot. Until we go there.

I hadn’t brought along jeans – and this is what the photographer wanted him to wear. She didn’t want him in the cute onesie I had packed, so instead he stayed in the ugliest tracksuit bottoms he owns. I know he’s still lovely, but it mattered to me. He had been in his worst clothes so he wouldn’t dirty his best ones for a photo I had hoped would take pride of place on our wall.

The Little Mister didn’t like her. He didn’t smile. The flash freaked him out. And then, while sitting up, he toppled over and banged his head, hard, on the wooden floor. He screamed. I wanted to. We left very soon after.

We’ll take a look at the photos next week – and maybe I’ll be surprised and there will be one that is right. But what a day. It’s strange how much it mattered to me, given how many photos we have and take of our baby. Tony has promised me we’ll do a proper shoot at home. Or we could go somewhere else, because that might never happen.

I suppose it’s because he is growing so fast, and changing so much every day that I want to keep hold of how he is now. Which is funny, because every day that he changes I somehow love him more than before. Even though I didn’t know the day before that I could.

Anyway, I’m glad our day is over. And I just hope that bang on the head wasn’t as hard as it sounded.

Bob Dylan at Bed Time

TONIGHT, as the Little Mister fell asleep to the sounds of Tony playing him the guitar, I learnt that everyone has their own way of doing things. And just because I’m used to doing things a certain way with the little boy, it doesn’t mean that they’re the only way that’ll work.

I love putting the Little Mister to bed. The process starts way before I step in. A little before six, Tony baths him. This is their time. I potter around in the background, getting laundry sorted, tidying up, arranging things for dinner, finding clean pyjamas. And then Tony dresses him in front of the fire, giving him a massage along the way. Story books follow. Our current favourites are The very hungry caterpillar (still) and Goodnight moon. Then (a recent and highly successful development in terms of the sleep that follows), the Little Mister has a big bottle of formula which sends him half to sleep.

I bundle him up into his sleeping bag and take him into his room, which is already dark, with the radio tuned off station and humming static in the background. I might feed him some more if that’s what he wants, but either way, we’ll sit in my chair and have a delicious sleepy cuddle until he drops off. Quietly, I’ll put him down in his cot, make sure his bunny is within reach, and tip toe out – silently cursing the noisy door handle on my way.

But tonight, I watched Tony on the monitor, Hal, and what he did was very, very different. I even went in and offered to put Milin down myself. I was turned away. Tony and Milin have their own routine. They perfect it two nights a week, when I am at work.

Tony put Milin in his cot, wide awake. He picked up his guitar and started to sing to him. It turns out that Milin likes Bob Dylan. So much so that he listened quietly for a while, and then turned on his side, jutted his chin into the air, and assumed his sleeping pose. Tony stopped playing, the boy wanted to sleep. Tony left the room. The boy was asleep.

To me, there had been so many things wrong with this scenario. Milin didn’t finish the bottle – he will be hungry and not sleep – I thought. Except he’s already done a longer stretch than  normal at this time. Too much stimulation at bed time, I thought. Except that it put him to sleep. He needs a cuddle, I thought. Except, clearly, he had already had enough cuddles.

As Tony pointed out, he didn’t learn the trick from a ‘how to be a good parent’ book, he didn’t steal it from his baby club mates, and he didn’t pick up the advice from facebook. He did things his way, and did what he felt would work. It did. I already knew the books don’t have all the answers. But tonight, I figured, that between us, we’ll get things right by the Little Mister, just by going with our instinct. And sometimes, that might mean, singing a little Bob Dylan at bed time.

 

Banana-stained Success

TWO MONTHS might be the magic number. That’s how long it took, of trying every day, for the Little Mister to take formula. And that’s how long it has taken, of trying every day, to get the Little Mister to eat. Now, at nearly seven months, I can say he has had his first real go at solids.

I don’t know what happened to change things today, but I’m notching it up as a success. Breakfast went as it does everyday. Milin refused his puree. (Today it was pear.) He pursed his lips, arched his back, and tried to squirm out of his high chair.

At lunch, he threw his rusk ceremoniously on the floor, reached for my salad, and started drooling. Caught short with none of my fancy creations defrosted, I decided my balsamic-drenched quinoa and raisin bowl wouldn’t be the safest thing to try him on, so I mashed up a banana.

The Little Mister allowed me to guide the spoon into his mouth. He probably ate almost a tablespoon worth. At last.

Perhaps not-so-secretly, I have spent the last month or so gazing enviously at other mummies as they feed their babies. I’ve wanted to join in with Milin. I’ve watched studiously for tips – what have I been doing wrong? I’ve taken books out of the library – and renewed them because if I read them a second time I might figure out some answers. I’ve ordered my baby-led weaning book – and still plan to do a little of this, because my boy clearly prefers feeding himself.  And now, finally, (unless this was a complete one off, but I’m being optimistic), I can start making the meals I’ve been eyeing up in Annabel Karmel’s book that has been gathering dust on the shelf. I’ll hopefully also stop being consumed by this obsession that is centred on getting the Little Mister to eat.

And if the first month of his life was milk-stained, this seventh month may be characterised by the brown smudge of banana. It’s horrible.

I know babies aren’t tidy. Our house is already filled with Little Mister themed clutter. And I know it’ll get worse once he’s mobile and pulling things off shelves. But the mess that comes with eating is going to take some getting used to.

We both learned something today. The Little Mister learnt that eating off a spoon really isn’t that bad. In fact, he almost grizzled once the banana was all gone. And I learnt never, ever, to feed him banana while he is wearing his cutest cardigan, and while I am wearing cashmere.

Post banana high

In other news, because I know there is more to life than solids and my obsession with them will now wane, the Little Mister is getting pretty good at sitting up.

Breakfast Time at Our Place

The spoon goes in

We play the same game every morning. I give Milin a spoon to play with. He smiles a lot and babbles to me about how he’s on to me. I try and put a spoon laden with food into his mouth at the same time. He won’t let me.

The end result is that the food goes everywhere, and I might manage to get an eighth of a teaspoon between his lips. We have fun though. I laugh at Milin being so stubborn, and he laughs at me being so useless at trying to feed him. But, I reckon it’s progress.

You might think from this that Milin actually ate his cinammon-infused apple puree on rice cereal. He didn’t

On another note, another super fun game we played on Tuesday was at Space – it was water play week. Milin thought getting to splash around in the sunshine was pretty exciting.

Bedtime Antics

THE LIST of things you should and shouldn’t do when bringing up a baby is endless. Depending on what book you are reading or who you are talking to, you are sure to be doing something wrong.

These last few days, the list has been on my mind. There may as well be a whole sub section on sleep. Everyone’s got an opinion. Overwhelmingly, there seems to be a consensus over how to put your baby down to bed. Do it while they’re awake, the apparent best advice is. Don’t put them down asleep, or they’ll never learn to settle themselves. Well, as far as I can tell, lots of us big people must have been put to bed already asleep and we all put ourselves to bed at night now.

It’s become really clear to me over the last couple of days that the Little Mister can’t put himself to sleep. He was doing it until about five months, but since we’ve stopped swaddling him, he just can’t figure it out.

I have a choice when he needs a nap – either let him scream and get incredibly worked up – or feed him to sleep. I always choose to feed. Maybe then, this is why he can’t put himself back to sleep when he wakes (repeatedly) at night. Maybe it’s why he has started refusing to go into his cot in the day when he’s awake. Probably. The daytime aversion to his cot is definitely new. He starts getting worked up if I take him into his room and the curtains are drawn. He just doesn’t want to go to bed. I don’t blame him, he might miss out on stuff – no-one else is asleep. So begins the crying. And then the feed. And then the darling, floppy, blissfully content and full Little Mister falls asleep mid cuddle.

But, I’m prepared to believe it’s something he’ll grow out of. At the moment, I’m not ready to subject him to “sleep training”. It’s in vogue, I know. But right now, it doesn’t feel right for us. If the Little Mister needs cuddles, (milky) treats, and to feel like he’s really cosy and secure in order to drop off, then that’s what he’s going to get. I’ll save the training for when we’re really exhausted.

 

Four hours good, two hours bad

THE FOG of exhaustion has lifted. Thank you Little Mister, thank you.

Life has been getting easier these last two weeks. It’s because Milin is sleeping better. And Milin sleeping better means we all sleep better and the house is a happier place.

I am convinced this sudden improvement is down to the Little Mister finally succumbing to drinking formula. For the last fortnight, he’s dropped his dramatic two-month rejection of S26 gold, and he is now happy to guzzle it from the bottle during the day. At night, he still quite likes his mum, thank you very much.

He’s still not drinking anywhere near the recommended quantities, but he is clearly not going to bed hungry anymore. Instead of waking every two hours, which he did for two months, he has spent the last fortnight letting us get more sleep. He is still sleeping from 7pm – 7am, but now with only two night-time pit stops for feeds. That’s down from about four wake-ups. It’s making quite a difference to my life.

When you have to keep getting up every two hours at night, the next day is a foggy, confused, hazy experience you bumble your way through. You have whole conversations with people and moments later cannot remember what you talked about. You walk into a room with no idea what you were looking for. It’s not worth trying to concentrate on anything. When that goes on for two months, you become a zombie.

The difference between getting up every two hours and getting up every four is phenomenal. I’ve realised I can, once again, string complete sentences together. I don’t spend the night time feeds fighting sleep while holding my baby. I don’t wake up in the morning with no recollection of how many times I got up in the night – because I was doing it while half asleep.

Tony thinks I’m tempting fate by celebrating the Little Mister’s improved sleeping patterns. That’s ok. Even if he goes back to frequent waking and this is a short-lived blip, at least it’s been a much-needed and much-enjoyed reprieve from exhaustion.

If the Little Mister’s bright red cheeks and constant gnawing are anything to go by, we could soon be embarking on a road of teething adventures. Tony points out that these are likely to bring with them another run of sleepless nights. But, again, that’s ok. It’s what we signed up for.

;

;

Downward Dog and Baby Yoga

The Little Mister is starting to practise yoga. He’s got happy baby pose down. Legs in the air, he is getting adept at grabbing his toes and pulling them towards him, knees splayed wide. It’s easy to see where the pose gets its name. Except in the true baby version the toes go all the way into the mouth.

While protesting about being on his tummy he gets himself into cobra and then looks up at me with pleading eyes which say ‘please turn me over’. Sometimes, though, when he’s feeling quite happy on his front, he tries to get himself into a position resembling downward dog. In Milin’s version, his bum sticks high up in the air, but he’s on his elbows rather than his hands. This position, quite frankly, terrifies me.

He’s obviously not got downward dog sussed. He’s a long way from doing that. At the moment he’s mainly just sticking his bottom up in the air. But the reason I’m terrified is because in this position, Milin looks like he wants to go places. He wants to crawl.

I’m not ready for this. In my head, probably because the Little Mister truly is such a little one, I had thought he would be very late to crawling. I’d told myself it would be months and months away. Maybe, however, it won’t be.

Every day, our fire burns brightly to heat up our home. It is not behind a fireguard. We use heavy pebbles as door stops. Exposed wires hang from our telephone and router down to plugs at ankle height. I leave a bottle of toilet cleaner on the bathroom floor. The house is very, very far from being crawler-proof.

I think I will be a little sad too when Milin starts to crawl. I guess I’ll get over the terror – making the house safe won’t take too much work. But once the crawling milestone is reached, my little baby really will be on his way to growing up. Gone will be the days of him lying in one spot under the toys hanging over his playmat. Gone will be the days of me saying “don’t go anywhere”, and giggling to myself at my bad joke. So yes, I think the excitement of such a huge milestone reached will also come with a little sadness too.

The Little Mister is, as well as trying to go places, also getting incredibly close to sitting up unaided. Now this I am excited about. I think he’ll love being able to sit and play, instead of spending so much time lying down. It’s a precarious activity, sitting, at the moment. And he needs to be surrounded by cushions or the waiting arms/legs of me or Tony to fall onto – but he seems to be enjoying it. Many attempts end with his face splatted forwards after over zealous attempts to reach his toes, but every so often he lasts a few seconds upright. Sitting up, it seems, makes reaching toys so much easier. And for Milin, that’s what the day is all about.