Tuesday, March 20, 2012

4 Month Round Up

On Thursday, Walter will be 5 months old. Unbeweevable.

His fourth month was eventful and very well documented. Here are some highlights:

Walter joins us at the table!
The last days of the bouncer
We knew it was time to retire the beloved rain forest bouncer when Walt started to do crunches in it--lifting his head in a way that screamed "I am going to flip this whole thing right over!"  Also, his feet were hanging off the edge.  It was hard to say goodbye to the bouncer.  He loved it. We did, too.  Sean named all the creatures on the activity arch.  Walt anticipated the arrival of the arch with many a happy shimmy.  We watched in amazement as his fine motor skills developed.  And we soon realized that Sean and I could sometimes eat meals together at the table if Walter was bouncing with his rain forest friends.

First days of the bouncer
As usual, Walter led the way and we eventually figured out what he was telling us.  He started ignoring his rain forest arch friends and started watching us intently during meal times.  Aha!  It was time for the high chair. 

Even with a trayful of toys within grabbing and gnawing reach, the high chair is not nearly as fun as the bouncer.  Mostly, we think he's frustrated he doesn't get to eat with us.  Next month, baby!

The high chair means we eat dinner together, and pray together holding hands before meals.  It's a good thing.  But the real inheritor of the bouncers "greatest thing ever" title is ...
The Exersaucer!
Yes, the exersaucer! This is clearly the next big thing in terms of independent fun and learning.  Walter loves it.  His little legs get a great workout with lots of bouncing.  We watch in amazement as he figures out all the activities--even how to get one of the stations to only play the song he likes best. It is also a very, very reliable way to overcome any kind of constipation he might be experiencing.

You wouldn't know it from the picture above, but this was also the month that Walter started to ...
Wear clothes!

Walter lived in one-piece footie pajamas until last week.  They're warm, comfy, and easy to get him in and out of.  When I worried out loud that we were holding him back from milestones (finding his toes, crawling, etc.) by keeping his feet covered, his daycare teachers encouraged us to hold off until warm weather arrived before switching him to more complicated outfits.  As you can see from the naked exersaucering picture, warm weather has arrived!  Thrilled, I picked out some very cute outfits, laying each one out tenderly, ready for the week.

And none of them fit.

You can see it in the picture ... the crotch part of the overalls wouldn't snap.  Around the same time, Walter started having blow outs every day at day care and often after exersaucering sessions, too.  This happened shortly after he stopped sleeping through the night and started eating more often.

Growth spurt!  We moved him up to size 4 diapers and 12 month clothes.  As with every other size move, Walter seemed to grow even more, expanding and lengthening to fill out his new clothes.  I bought 18-36 month socks which were too big one day and a perfect fit two days later.

Getting him dressed and undressed is more complicated now, but he sits up pretty well and actually shakes his little head to help me get the shirts over his noggin.  He's less helpful with the pants (kick kick kick! giggle giggle giggle.) Of course, when it's 80 degrees outside in March, pants are kind of superfluous (a point that Sean has been arguing for years.)

And so, the pants come off and the baby ...
Finds his toes!
Now, Walt has been aware of his toes since the day of his baptism (January 8.)  But now he has found his toes.  He spends as much time with them as he possibly can. He grabs his feet and rocks from side to side, rolling from his back to his side to his back again.  He is this close to getting the toes in his mouth and trying very hard to get there.  He's very keen on chewing on things these days because he ...
Has teeth!
Two teeth, on the bottom right in the front ... so far. He seems to be working pretty hard on bringing more teeth to the surface.  Teething is unpleasant.  It seems to make him mucus-y, so even though he's gotten over the colds that were clinging to him this winter, his nose is a goopy, congested mess.  It makes him drool-y.  His fingers are constantly in his mouth, feeling his gums, which makes him throw up sometimes.  Sunday night was the first night he seemed to be in really, really bad pain.  Which was bad timing, because Sunday night was also his first night in ...
His own room!
My folks came up this weekend, which gave Sean the opportunity he needed to finish up Walter's room.  We're still working on some decorations, but even with some work still in progress it's the most finished, wonderful spot in our house.   Walter seems to like his crib and loves having so many interesting things to look at. Sunday the 18th was his first night in his room; it was also one of the worst nights ever for teething, being hot and sweaty and uncomfortable, and wanting to eat pretty much all the time.  Transitions are hard.  At one point I suggested that he just sleep in our room forever.  I think we'll persevere, instead.  Last night was much better, and this morning he rang the bell by his changing table with pride and glee.

Speaking of transitions, I need one to move us to the next topic. Walter ...
Loves his dog!
Hank the Dog has always been a big Walter fan, but when Walt first arrived he didn't seem to realize Hank existed.  Hank would lick the top of his head or his feet and Walt would blink, but never look to find the source of the licking.  When Hank was right in front of him his eyes wouldn't focus on him, and even Hank's over protective barking seemed to have no impact on Walt at all--the presence of his very devoted dog friend just didn't register.

But now!  Walter sees Hank, smiles at him, follows him around the room with his eyes, and reaches out to touch him.  He occasionally does some grabbing, which we stop and turn into gentle petting.  The exersaucer puts Walt at eye level with Hank, which they both seem to really enjoy.  Hank likes to lick the spit/boogers/milk off Walt's face ... and Walt responds by grabbing Hank's face, bringing him in closer, opening his mouth, putting out his tongue and licking Hank right back. Ick. Babies and dogs are so gross. We're trying to discourage the face licking until Walt is a little bigger and has better sense than to tongue kiss the dog.  That said, I'd been pretty proud of myself earlier this month for teaching Walt how to give kisses ... and now I realize he was imitating the dog, not me.  Ah well. Well done, Hank!

Finally, in a month of many accomplishments, Walt's greatest accomplishment has got to be ...
OK, OK.  Walter can't read.  Yet.  As far as we know.

In fact, story time is a little stressful these days because he won't let us hold the book or turn pages--he wants to be in charge of the whole process.  We've been reading to him while he exersaucers and during tummy time to distract him from trying to take the book from us and eat it.

One of Walt's teachers at day care always says, "There's nothing holding that boy back."  I can't wait to see what the next month will bring!
Go, Scooter, go! Grow, Scooter, grow!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The important things in life

Sleeping, eating and pooping.  A baby's day (and night) really depends on those three things going well.  And there are many competing schools of thought out there on all three.  At the risk of scandal, here's where Sean and I stand on these important issues (and on the sleeping and eating, too.)

"And then she put a new diaper on and I pooped AGAIN!"
The least controversial of the three.  Pooping itself is not at all scandalous, although we do try to bring it up whenever the pre-teen and teenaged young women of my congregation oooh and ahhh over Walter. ("He's so cute!" "Yup.  And he pooped ALL over me yesterday.  It was yellow and sticky.  I still kind of smell like poop ... here ... smell ...")  It's really how you collect the poop that can be a litmus test for parents. We use disposable diapers. Knowing that I have some crunchy granola tendencies, people are sometimes surprised by this.  But the amount of water we already use on laundry is obscene, and I can't even wrap my head around the laundering we'd have to do (or pay someone else to do) for cloth diapers.  Ideally we'd use those disposable diapers you can plant in your garden.  But, ideally, we'd also be made of money. 

Modern disposable diapers are ridiculously advanced.  The moisture wicking technology keeps Walter very dry and comfy and that's very good for his sensitive bum.  The disposable diapers are so good and comfy that Sean's thinking we should switch to cloth when potty-training time comes as a motivator.  But, for now, we are Pampers people. Size three (although those are starting to get a little snug.)  Movers for the day, night-times for the night.  Walter's timing for peeing right on Mom and Dad: impeccable. Blowouts: frequent. Baby's face when he's peed on Mama while she cleans him up after a blowout: so proud.  But where does all that poop come from?

A little privacy here, please?
Definitely a touchy subject.  Walter is exclusively breast milk fed.  I can't tell you how lucky I feel to be able to say that.  It makes me superstitiously nervous to even put it down in words, just in case something happens and I can't keep breastfeeding him.  Breastfeeding has not been easy, but like I said, we've been lucky.  The most persistent problem I've had is over-supply and fire hose levels of pressure which makes him cough and gag when he's eating.  Sometimes he has green poop and other signs of GI distress that's probably related to this problem.  But even this problem could be worse (*walks around the house frantically knocking on wood*) and usually our mealtimes go well. I love feeding Walter.  It's so relaxing for both of us, it makes us both so happy.  At 3:30 this morning I picked Walt up to feed him and he did his happy shimmy, gave me a hug (he really does give hugs.  It's incredible!) and then planted a kiss on my cheek.  He's been working on his kisses for awhile, but this was the first time I realized what he was doing.  Previous to the kiss I got this morning I was pretty sure he was just hungry and trying to eat my face.  But, this time, he touched my cheek with his open mouth, then brought his head back and said, "Mwah!"  I kid you not.  It was unmistakably a kiss.  This is a long way of saying that I really look forward to mealtimes, and Walter does, too.  He's very good with a bottle and Grandma and Grandpa and Daddy have all had great bonding times feeding Walt.  But nursing is very special Mommy/Baby time, no doubt about it.    

I have an office with a solid door that I can lock, the flexibility to pump when I need to and a safe, easy place to store the pumped milk at work.  I have a flexible enough schedule that I can nurse Walter once during the day at daycare.  I have a spouse and family members and colleagues and church staff and congregation members who support breastfeeding and who specifically support my breastfeeding.  I have a really nice breast pump which is an expensive piece of equipment that makes it possible for me to keep my supply up and Walter's bottles full while I work full time.  I am undeniably, unimaginably blessed.  And lucky.  And any of those things could have been different and led to us needing to switch to formula.  And it could still happen. And I would be sad, but I would not feel guilty.

At Walter's one-week visit to the pediatrician, Dr. L said this: "I think you know the benefits of breastfeeding. I don't want to understate those. But I don't want to overstate them, either. If breastfeeding is not working and your relationship with your baby is suffering, then breastfeeding is not the best thing for you and your baby. Don't be hard on yourself.  Whatever works best for you and your baby is what is best for you and your baby."

And a sigh of relief was heard throughout the land. 

Dr. L recommends we put off introducing solids (including cereal) until Walt is 6 months old, because that seems to help with preventing some food allergies.  Two more months seems like a long time to wait, especially considering the intense interest he's shown lately in everything Sean and I are eating and drinking.  My favorite recent moment was at coffee hour at church.  I was eating a cookie.  Walter watched me intently, folded his hands very politely and gave me a "please?" look.  I smiled at him. He smiled back and reached for the cookie. When I yoinked it away he barred his tiny teeth at me.  

Two tiny teeth, to be precise.  They showed up right in the front on the bottom on Friday, March 2, which was also the day of his 4 month well-baby visit. His stats: 20 lbs, 4 oz; 26 3/4 inches tall.  95th percentile for everything including noggin size.  Charmed everyone in the doctor's office with his big smile, even giving some big smiles after getting his vaccines. Dr. L said: "He's healthy, happy and growing like a weed.  If I tell you to do anything different than what you're doing now, ignore me."

Which brings us to ...

We take the literature we get from the doctor's office pretty seriously, and our 4 month take home sheet said we should gently let Walter know we're there when he wakes and cries at night, rather than rocking, holding or feeding him.  We tried it out and had good success right away: a full almost 8 hours of sleep with a couple wakings that were easily met with an "I'm here, baby" here and an "It's OK, baby" there.  Since then, though, not a lot of luck with this approach.  He's been waking up really angry--every hour or so early in the night, then settles down a bit--and we scoop him up and comfort him with rocking, feeding, lullabies, limericks ... whatever works. 

So many things wrong with this picture
Just thinking about all the conflicting advice out there about babies and sleeping makes my head hurt. I don't know if Sean and I really subscribe to any particular philosophy on this.  We don't co-sleep because we're big  people and heavy sleepers who do a lot of rolling around ... and the idea of it just makes us nervous.  We try to follow the anti-SIDS guidelines but Walter seems to breathe and sleep better on his side than on his back, and sometimes there's a blanket involved, and the blanket inevitably ends up right up by his face where he seems to take immense comfort from it.  We always respond when he cries.  When I have the time and the opportunity, I like to hold him while he sleeps.  Sometimes we snooze a little together in the rocking recliner I like to nurse him in.  He sleeps much better when he's held than when we put him down in his play yard.  When I put him down in the crib he grabs my arm to stop me from pulling away; often, he wakes up and cries.  We try to keep him up and active during the day, but if he sleeps and stays sleeping, we let him, even if it means a more wakeful night. 

There are probably things we could be doing better or should be doing differently.  I've gotten great advice and lots of help from friends who have been there and done this before.  We try new things, we try to be flexible and responsive, we try to pay attention to what's changing with Walt.  Funny story about that.  We read somewhere sometime before Walt was born that he could/should sleep in a bassinet in our room until he was 6 months old.  Great!  Plenty of time to get the nursery ready after he's born! At about 2 am on March 1 I woke up to some squeakings from the bassinet.  When I investigated, I found Walter had rolled over onto his belly and was doing tummy time exercises, lifting his little head and shoulders proudly.  "Oh no," I said.  "No more bassinet for you."  As I scooped him up, he gave me a huge smile and a look that said clearly: "Accomplishment, Mama!  Accomplishment!"

The nursery is almost done, thanks in large part to help from Auds and Curt and a young man from our congregation--B is coming back tomorrow evening to help Sean assemble the crib and get some final basic things together so we can make the big move by the end of the week.  For now, Walt is sleeping in his playyard in our room (in the bassinet setting, which is deep and wide enough that we're not worried about him rolling out/tipping the whole thing over.)  Some nights are hard, some nights are pretty great.  Almost every night, something funny or wonderful or absurd happens.  One night last week, I sang Walt his lullaby and it worked.  Like in the movies or on sitcoms.  As soon as I started singing he stopped crying, listened intently, and then his eyelids got heavy and he did this perfect slow blink right into sleepyland and 7 straight hours of independent sleeping.  Glorious.  The next night I tried it again and he laughed at me.  Not just little giggles--big, huge belly laughs.  Almost maniacal.  I think there was at least one "bwha ha ha" in there.

Tonight I came home from midweek worship sad and worried (see this post from earlier tonight.) But I also came home to a hungry baby, who nursed sweetly (no biting!), fell asleep, stayed asleep for the arms-to-bed transfer, and is still sleeping.  I can hear him snertle-ing away, not too far from me.  I was able to pray while I nursed him and rocked him to sleep, and that somehow made me feel more connected to my dear ones far away, and to God who is nursing us and cradling us and watching over all of us tonight.

Sleep well, children of God.  And blessings on all of the other important parts of life, too.  

I will lay me down

I've always kind of rolled my eyes at the Simon and Garfunkel mega classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water."  So maudlin.  But the other night I was rocking in my chair with a sleeping baby listening to Simply Folk and it came on and BOOM: weeping.  That song, by the way, is totally about rocking your sleeping baby while listening to folk music on npr.  That's why I never got it before. 

Tonight my sister M. is at her mom's hospital bedside--she's been there for days, now, through several emergency surgeries.  Years, really, if you count all the bedside watches she's been on since her mom was diagnosed with cancer. Tonight, I think that Simon and Garfunkel song must be about M. and her mom. I can imagine her mom singing it to her, and M. singing it to her mom, and I'm singing it for M., tonight, too.

We all know the words, but here they are:

When you're weary 
Feeling small 
When tears are in your eyes 
I will dry them all 

I'm on your side 
When times get rough 
And friends just can't be found 
Like a bridge over troubled water 
I will lay me down 
Like a bridge over troubled water 
I will lay me down 

When you're down and out 
When you're on the street 
When evening falls so hard 
I will comfort you 
[ Lyrics from:lyricsfreak.com/s/simon+and+garfunkel/bridge+over+troubled+water_20124580.html ] 
I'll take your part 
When darkness comes 
And pain is all around 
Like a bridge over troubled water 
I will lay me down 
Like a bridge over troubled water 
I will lay me down 

Sail on Silver Girl, 
Sail on by 
Your time has come to shine 
All your dreams are on their way 

See how they shine 
If you need a friend 
I'm sailing right behind 
Like a bridge over troubled water 
I will ease your mind 
Like a bridge over troubled water 
I will ease your mind