Scarlett’s First Birthday

It was almost a month ago now but I decided it was well past time I wrote a little post about Scarlett’s first birthday!

Her actual birthday is August 12.  But it all started on Friday, August 10 – baking day!!

I made two batches of cupcakes and one decadant chocolate cake, and somehow it managed to take me ALLLLL day!!  Bubba helped out by sleeping while I did most of the baking, and then licking the spoon when she woke up 🙂  By the end of the day I was exhausted and the kitchen was somewhat the worse for wear…

Chaos, anyone?

…but I had done it!!  It wasn’t the beautiful shiny cake I saw so many other friends making… but it was made with love and I was proud of my efforts.

The next day was Scarlett’s birthday BBQ (held the day before her actual birthday because Saturday is just more convenient for people when you live 40 minutes from the CBD).  We don’t really have close friends with children here in Perth yet, so it was more an adult celebration – but hey, Scarlett didn’t mind being the sole centre of attention!

We invited people over for midday in the hope Scarlett would have just woken up from a morning nap… of course she didn’t sleep all morning and was ready for a nap as people were arriving!  The joy of an adult party was that it didn’t matter – she napped and we watched the footy and caught up with everyone for a while.

Once she had woken up, she indulged in her favourite food – strawberries!! – and stunned everyone with her ability to eat a whole strawberry in one mouthful!

Then we headed to the park for cake and cupcakes.  Scarlett absolutely DEMOLISHED her piece of cake!!  She loved it!  She also enjoyed opening all her presents… although she seemed more fascinated by the cards!

After all that sugar, she wriggled off to use off some of that energy!

She had a great day and the adults enjoyed some chats and bevvies after she had konked out for the night, exhausted 🙂

The next day, Saturday 12 August, was her actual birthday.  We just had a quiet day at home, but we saved the pressies from Mum and Dad until her actual birthday to make it a bit special.  She wasn’t quite sure about the dolly, but she loved the name puzzle and especially loved the Bop N Pop lion!  Both the puzzle and the musical lion toy are still some of her favourite things to play with.

Sometimes I wish I was one of those mums that made perfect cakes and made lovely themed decorations and let millions of babies and children run rampant through my house… but I figure I just have to accept that’s not really my style and just make the best of the mum I am.  I think she enjoyed her days and I know she enjoyed her cake! haha!  I think she knows how special she is to us, and I guess that’s what counts, at the end of the day.

Happy birthday once again, my little monkey!  I can’t believe you’re turning into a real little girl now!

Scarlett Rose: The First Year

This is a little ode to Scarlett – a compilation of photos from the first year of her life that I have been working on.  I’ve watched it about a million times and it makes me teary every time!

This has been such a rollercoaster year.  It hasn’t always been easy.  I didn’t take to motherhood as instantly as I had always thought I would.  There have been hard times and dark days.  But she has always been amazing.  She is such a good, happy, funny little girl.  She has such a nutty personality and watching it unfold and grow is just amazing.

I would say that things have gotten steadily more enjoyable for me as a mum since about 7 months old, when she started being able to move around on her own.  Since then, I have found myself enjoying her more and more.  I genuinely love hanging out with her, she makes me laugh constantly, even when I’m grumpy.  I love the way she chats and babbles and giggles and dances and squeals.  I love that big cheeky grin.

Becoming a mum has been a challenge and a struggle and a massive learning curve for me.  But it has also opened me up to a level of love that I never knew was possible.  My heart bursts at the seams with how much I adore her.  Even when I’m struggling, I know that it’s me that’s the problem, me that has a lesson to learn – she is always perfect.  She is my teacher, not the other way around.

She has changed so much in just one year – I can’t imagine what life will be like in another year’s time, who she will become.  But I’m just so goddamn blessed that I get to go along for the ride 😀

11 Months: Chatting

In the past couple of months, I feel bubba’s main development has been in her language.  She’s more confident in pulling herself to standing and scooting along the edge of the couch, and then crouching back down to the ground again.  But her strongest steps forward have been in her talking.

Bubba has a chat with Dad

Not that she’s “talking” in the sense of using words with meaning yet.  A silly little pet peeve of mine is when people claim their child’s “first word” when actually they are still babbling.  Sounds like “dadadad” and “mummmmm” are just babies playing with their mouths and voices for a long time.  I personally consider a “first word” to be the first word a child uses with intent – consciously knowing that making this mixture of sounds is semantically linked with a specific object, person or meaning.

So I guess, in a way, Scarlett has kind of said her first word – “ta” (for readers in the northern hemisphere, we use “ta” to mean thank you, or in the sense of “ta to Dad”, meaning “give it to Dad please”).  She now says “ta” whenever she wants something, and that something is usually food!  Whenever she sees the punnet of strawberries (or as I like to call them, Scarlett-crack), she cracks a huge smile and starts expectantly chanting “ta! ta! ta! ta!”  The other day I was cooking her some fritters and I gave her a bit to taste.  As soon as she finished it, she looked up at me and started going “ta! ta!”  So while “ta” may not be a complicated word, and she may not be strictly using it in the sense of “thank you”, she has still figured out that a certain combination of sounds has a meaning that can be used to communicate her desires… so I guess her first word is “ta!”

Strawberry!!! Ta! Ta! Ta! Ta!

She also likes to babble away in her own Scarlett language.  I love to hear her chatting!  She makes sounds I’ve never heard a baby make before – she really likes to explore all the noises her mouth can make.  One of her favourites is “gud” (which sounds disconcertingly like “good”).   “Gud gud gud gud gud” never fails to make me laugh.

I like it when she sits with her books, telling her own little stories.  She is growing to really love her books.  I am a bookworm to the core and I have always derived a great deal of enjoyment from books, so I would love to be able to share that with her.  Her favourite book so far is Hairy Maclairy, a children’s book by a New Zealand author that reminds me of my own childhood.  I love it how she sits there listening, turning the pages and pointing to the pictures.

Reading a story with Dad

She has her moments, but she really is, for the most part, a happy chatty little girl.  I am incredibly blessed that most nights (touch wood!) she sleeps straight from about 8 pm to 7 am (sometime with the odd grizzle for the dummy back in, but resettling only takes a few minutes these days).  She loves daycare – hanging out with the other kiddies, getting dirty in the sandpit and eating lots of yum food.  She’s learning to give dad kisses on the cheek – well, they’re more like open mouthed slobbers, but still!

In two weeks it will be her birthday and I can’t believe it!  Life has changed so much and yet in some ways the time has flown.  I am so blessed to be mum to such a beautiful little girl.

Love my baby girl!

Cluck Cluck Cluck

I am clucky as a barnyard full of chickens at the moment.

It’s crazy, isn’t it?!  After my painful, drawn out birth experience… after how incredibly hard I found the first few months… even with how I still struggle to learn patience and to give up my alone time… even though my brain is in full knowledge of all of that….

I want another one.

Two!  Can you imagine me with two?!  My brain says it’s a ridiculous idea.  My brain says to wait at least one or two more years.  But everything else – whether it’s hormones or maternal instinct or I don’t know what the hell it is – just wants to make another baby.

I think part of the reason I had such a tough time in the beginning with Scarlett is because I was mourning the life I lost.  I was mourning sleep ins, quiet hours reading my book, uninterrupted cups of tea, nights out on the town without a second thought, doing what I want, when I want…. I was mourning a life which revolved around ME.

It was a hard transition for me to make.  I really struggled in those first few months.  If you had asked me then, I would have said Scarlett was going to be an only child and I was NEVER doing this again.  Ah female hormones are wonders for handing out rose-coloured glasses 😛

And yet, I think one of the things that made it so hard for me was the fact that I didn’t realise how rewarding it would get.  I had no idea how much I would really come to enjoy it.  From about six months onwards, I have found bubba so much more fun.  She moves around, she initiates laughter, her personality slowly becomes revealed, she smiles when she’s having fun, she chats.  She’s fun to be around.  She make me laugh all the time, even when I’m grumpy.

Seeing her amazing little personality begin to shine more and more each day, it just makes me think – we made a person!  And… we could make another one!  What would our next little person be like?  What would his/her personality be like, what would make them laugh, what would they find fun?

I’m never going to be childless again, and I feel like I’ve already mourned for that and come to terms with it.  In some ways, maybe that is the hardest part over for me.  For the first few months, the words “mum” and “daughter” didn’t feel right in my mouth.  I still didn’t identify with it – it sounded like someone else.  Now I hear a baby cry and instantly move as if to react – even if Scarlett is not around.  Now telling people I have a daughter is the most natural thing in the world.  I have accepted my new role, my new identity – Mum.

Which is not to say I have lost who I was – rather that who I was has been expanded upon, added to… made better.  Being a mum makes me a better person every day.

Life doesn’t revolve around me anymore – it revolves around her every second… and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  She adds the dimension to my life that I had been missing all those years of lostness and searching.  Even when it’s hard, I know my life is better for having her in it.

I would love to go through the whole thing again with the knowledge I have now – with less of the unknown, being able to enjoy each step a little more for knowing what comes after it.  Savouring each bit a little more.  Savouring that initial excitement of being pregnant.  Savouring the big fat waddling stage.  Savouring the birth – yes, even that.  Savouring that newborn time when they are needy and teensy and just eat and drink and sleep.  Savouring every bit in that bittersweet knowledge that it lasts just such a very short time in the scheme of things.

I would hope that I would cope better this time around, with the newborn stage, with all of it.  But adding a toddler into the mix… well, that’s just a whole new ballgame isn’t it?!  Who knows… but I really would like to find out.

But don’t go getting too excited, we’re certainly not trying yet, the timing isn’t quite right for us yet, and my IUD isn’t going to be letting in any “accidents”.  So I will just sit and cluck a little longer and enjoy my mini munchkin as she grows.

Cluck.

The Milestone Trap

As a first time mum, I try as much as possible to avoid falling into what I call The Milestone Trap.

At times it can seem like all around me there are babies who are rolling, crawling, walking, joining mensa… you know, reaching all those big milestones, while my own baby is nowhere near it.  As a first timer, it can make you start to question… “Is something wrong with my baby?” “Why isn’t my bubba doing that yet?”

When I find myself falling into that trap of comparison, I have to remind myself that there is a huge range of “normal” when it comes to children, especially babies.  Even physiotherapists have been known to say that “there is no abnormal under 1”.  I’ve heard of babies walking at 7 months, and I’ve heard of babies that didn’t crawl until they were 11 months and then were off and walking two weeks later.

The most important point to remember is that neither way is better.  Doing it earlier doesn’t mean the baby is cleverer or that the parent is somehow doing a better job.  Doing it later doesn’t mean the baby is slow or dumb or that it’s due to slack parenting.  All babies develop on their own schedule when it is right for them.

Some parents find themselves wanting to rush their baby along – to “teach” it how to crawl, to stand, to walk.  I think, if you do this, you run two great risks.  Firstly you risk pushing the baby out of alignment with its own natural line of development and pushing it into skills its not ready for.  And secondly, by always looking ahead and wanting your baby to be doing the next thing, the next thing, the next thing… you risk not being able to stop and appreciate your baby just exactly as they are right now.

So your baby doesn’t crawl yet?  Unless they’re over one or show other signs of developmental delay… who cares?  There are lots of advantages to having a baby that can’t get into the kitchen drawers!  Just enjoy it.  Enjoy who your baby is.  Enjoy watching your baby develop on its own timeframe.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Because the time will come when you look back on this age with a kind of aching nostalgia and wish you could go back and hold that sweet still infant on your lap again and smell their head… without being punched in the face.

This is a video I absolute love, of a baby called Liv as she develops the skills of rolling over and crawling in the first year of life.  What I absolutely love about this video is how it shows all the tiny little steps that lead up to the bigger milestone – placing her feet together, kicking the floor… little things that may go unnoticed but are actually crucial stepping stones in the learning process that eventually end up in the big action you’ve been waiting for.

Another thing I love about it is the look of absolute pride on her face when she learns to roll over.  Another risk of trying to teach a baby something it’s not ready for is that you deprive it of that proud feeling of acheivement babies get when they figure something out all by themselves.

At the moment, Scarlett has just learned to pull herself up to standing while holding onto the couch.  Every time she does it, she gets the biggest grin and laughs.  It’s the cutest thing ever!  She’s so proud of herself and so amazed at what she just made her body do.

And so I try not to get caught up in the big milestones.  They aren’t the only milestones anyway.  I remember the day she smiled for the first time, without it being followed by a burp or a poo…

Bubba’s first smile at 10 days old 🙂

I remember the day she lay and examined each individual finger one by one, as if just discovering that they were separate from each other…

Hrmmm, I found these little sausages on my hands…

I remember the first time she laughed at something because she found it funny, not because I was trying to make her laugh (I sat her up in the bath for the first time instead of lying her down – she slapped the water and thought it was the most hilarious thing ever!)…

Baths are fun!

I remember so many little funny gorgeous things… things that aren’t in most baby books or developmental emails, things only a mumma would notice.  And somehow that makes them all the more special to me, those little milestones, those tiny moments frozen in time.  And they’re all part of the process, all part of her learning about herself and her world, just as much as the big, well known milestones like crawling and walking.

Whenever I catch myself comparing her to other babies, I just use it as a trigger thought to remind me to appreciate her for exactly who she is, as she is.  She is my Scarlett, she is doing things her way (as is every baby), and why would I wish her any different?  She is perfect just as she is.

Oh Child Asleep Upon My Knee

When my bubba was very small, my mum sent me this poem she had heard years ago.  It brings tears to my eyes everytime I read it.  Screw the washing and the cleaning – my small excuse, you’re growing too fast.

Oh Child Asleep Upon My Knee

Oh child asleep upon my knee
what will your memories be of me?
When you are grown and think of now,
will you stop and remember how
the floors were dusty as you played
and dishes seldom put away,
I rarely got to make those beds…
or all those books we read and read?
Will you remember on the chair
the pile of wrinkled nappies there
that seemed to stay forever, or,
the other things I had time for?
You might recall my face was plain,
hair unkempt and apron stained,
or how from school back home you’d tear
safe knowing I was always there.

Oh child asleep upon my knee
you’ve made my life such luxury.
If not for you I’d have to do
the cleaning and the ironing too,
I couldn’t move at my own pace,
I’d have to join in the rat race.
From nine to five in stiffened clothes
 with clipped-up hair and powdered nose.
You fill my life with many reasons
for being lazy through the seasons.
But with each autumn as you grow
I think it’s such a shame to know
my small excuse, you’re growing fast
this peaceful life, it will not last.
But perhaps when I am old and grey
my grandchildren will come to stay,
and with housework neglected then
my house I know will shine again.


9 Months: Clapping, Waving, Standing

Well, we are almost at the end of another month and bubba is becoming such a little person.  I feel like she has gotten so much bigger recently… not necessarily physically, just less… baby-like.  My little baby has gone!  In her place is this little girl who gets cleverer and more independent by the day.

Early in the month she figured out clapping all by herself – and decided to express her love for food by applauding every mouthful.

The daycare lady had been trying to elicit a wave from bubba for ages and drawing only blank “what the hell are you doing” stares.  But once she had discovered clapping, she soon decided waving was good fun too.  Although she doesn’t quite grasp the “coming and going” sense of it, more just that it’s a fun way to flail your arms around and get people to exclaim happily in high pitched voices.

And then a few days ago, we discovered that she could stand against the couch all by herself!  She has always loved to be held into a standing position – but one day I let go and she just kept standing there!  Holding onto the couch mind you, but still… she was pretty darn proud of herself and I couldn’t believe what a grown up little girl she looked.

The next day she even pulled herself into a standing position.  It’s only happened the once so far, but I was pretty surprised!  Clever monkey!

A funny thing happened the other night.  I’ve never really played peekaboo with her cos she never really seemed to “get” it – she would just look at me like “seriously?”  But then the other night, she was down the end of the couch and she started peeking over the top, cracking up laughing and dropping down again.  She did it over and over, it was so cute!

I feel like she has changed so much over the past few weeks and I feel like I’m settling more and more into motherhood.  As she grows and becomes more interactive and more like a little person, I find myself enjoying it more and more.  Yes, I still get frustrated.  But I’m learning that the trick is to alter my expectations.  If I don’t expect to spend an hour reading my book, if I don’t expect to sleep through the night without interruption, then I don’t have to get frustrated when those expectations/desires aren’t met.  And when I do happen to get a moment with my book or a good night’s sleep, then I can just enjoy them as happy little bonuses.  All in all, I’m starting to see what this motherhood thing is all about. 

The older she gets, the more rewarding it gets.  I would say I’ve definitely enjoyed this age the most so far.  The only thing I’m not quite sure of is whether that’s actually because of her age or because of my own personal growth.

Understanding Breastfeeding Aversion

Yesterday I came across this post about breastfeeding on the alivingfamily blog.  In it, the author describes her feelings of breastfeeding aversion while feeding her toddler, which surfaced while pregnant with her second baby.  As I read the way she described the feelings, I felt this massive surge of relief wash over me.  And then I turned to google and started researching breastfeeding aversion, which I had never heard of until now.

The reason I felt these feelings of relief and almost excitement, is because the feelings of aversion while breastfeeding that she describes in that post are exactly how I have always felt about breastfeeding, right from the beginning.  I have written on here once before about my love/hate (and to be honest, it was more of the latter than the former) relationship with breastfeeding.  At that point, I was in the middle of my breastfeeing experience and trying to come to terms with how I was feeling, trying to maintain a positive outlook on it, as I knew I had to continue until at least 6 months (we were moving interstate when bubba was 6 months old and I felt that breastfeeding would be a lot more convenient for the move!).

For this reason, I don’t think I was entirely truthful about my feelings, even in that raw and honest post.  After reading Sheila’s post on alivingfamily, I started googling like mad and hungrily reading up the limited information I found.  While there seems to be little official information, the web is filled with desperate and confused women describing all the feelings I had while breastfeeding.

“when my son wanted to feed I dreaded having to do it, felt almost repulsed the whole time, it made my skin crawl, I felt ‘wrong’ and it lasted during the whole feed, sometimes getting worse during the feed.” (source)

“Some people go as far to say that feeding feels like they are being ‘molested’. Another mother says ‘After the feed I’m angry at myself, but during the feed I’m just sitting there resenting **** and wanting to hit him’ whilst another responds ‘ it’s hard to admit that sometimes you really do want to hurt your baby. Except that, at the same time, you really don’t.'” (source)

“I felt an overpowering urge to stop nursing, immediately. It was a visceral, gut reaction like an itch, making me tense, anxious, cranky, and agitated.” (source)

“…it was so instinctive to recoil from nursing that I really almost couldn’t help myself. I had a strong urge to pick her up and throw her off of me and run away from her. I was in no way prepared for it and I felt like the worst mother on the planet” (source)

“For months I’ve been dealing with more than feeling touched-out, more than just being a bit antsy. I’ve had a genuine dread of breastfeeds, a feeling like breastfeeding is like being touched by a creepy uncle, that it’s wrong and it’s weird and it must stop now.” (source)

I wish I could accurately portray to you the feeling of relief I get reading these words coming from other people’s mouths.  It makes me feel validated, it makes me feel understood, it makes my whole breastfeeding experience finally, finally make some kind of strange awful sense.  Apparently this is more common in women who continue breastfeeding through pregnancy or are nursing an older child – but I certainly experienced this right from the very beginning of breastfeeding and surely there must be others out there like me.

I never even questioned, while I was pregnant, that I would breastfeed my baby.  It wasn’t a decision, it was an assumption.  I expected to enjoy it, for it to be the magical bonding experience so many women seem to love.

I wasn’t prepared for the pain in the beginning, but pain can be overcome.  What was worse was what came after the pain.  Other people’s words above have described it perfectly – the feeling of wrongness, of skin crawling antsy-ness, of wanting to fling your baby away from you and scream GET THE HELL OFF MY BREAST!!  My favourite is the last quote above – where she describes dreading breastfeeding and a feeling like you’re being touched up by a creepy uncle.  That’s exactly it.  Molested is a harsh word but there you go, I said it anyway – it feels like being violated, like doing something physically that every visceral piece of you doesn’t want to do.

As one of the mothers quoted above said, “I felt like the worst mother on the planet”.  All these other women seemed to love breastfeeding, to find it a special bonding experience, to do it past infancy, to not want to stop.  I have been looking back lately, wondering to myself – do those women just have a very different experience of breastfeeding than I did, or are they just better at coping with it?  Are they just better women – better mothers?

Having stumbled across this information about breastfeeding aversion, discovering that other women have felt what I felt about breastfeeding, makes me feel like yelling from the rooftops: I AM NOT A BAD MOTHER AFTER ALL!  It’s a genuine experience that some women have, it does not mean you don’t love your baby or that you don’t have the right maternal instincts or that you lack some kind of essential mothering ability.

Experiencing breastfeeding aversion does not make you a bad mother.

I just want to say it over and over again, for myself and for any other woman who has ever had this confusing, gut wrenching experience.
Hating breastfeeding does not make you a bad mother.

One of the hardest things about writing about this, is that describing feelings of wanting to fling your baby off you or hating having them at the breast may make it sound like you don’t care for your baby or you lack some attachment to them.  This is so far from the truth.  In fact, that’s what makes this experience so difficult, so confusing.  You love your baby, you want the absolute best for you baby – that’s why you put yourself through these feelings over and over again, multiple times a day.  I remember how much I couldn’t stand feeding and yet when she looked up at me with those eyes…

… oh god, she NEEDED me, she needed me and how could I fail her?  How could I have those feelings about doing something so beautiful for someone so incredibly beautiful?
Even now, looking at that photo makes me well up with tears.  She needed me so much – oh my little one, I did the best I could for you.

In the early days I contemplated weaning but found I still had an instinctive need to keep breastfeeding – and the feelings were at a manageable level.  But it got worse as time went on.  Once she got to about 5 months old, the long nighttime feeding sessions were like an incredibly unusual form of torture.

I held on to 6 months and as soon as we arrived in our new city, I began the switch to bottlefeeding, which thankfully went quickly and easily.  My boobs shrunk quickly and my bubba was happy on bottles.  I was happy with her on bottles.  Oh the relief.  Oh the immense relief to leave my breasts inside my bra all day and not have anyone suckle on them.  Oh the relief to hold my baby and feed her without my breasts being involved, to feel nothing but love.  Oh I can’t even describe to you the relief.

If I ever have another baby, I will spend the whole pregnancy freaking out about breastfeeding.  Because I really do believe in the importance of breastmilk in the early months.  But the thought of having to do it again makes me feel like putting on a steel bra with a lock and throwing away the key.  It makes me feel like crossing my arms tightly across my chest and curling into a corner.

I felt I needed to write this post because I feel like I want people to be aware of this issue, to know it exists, to understand.  I want the staunch breastfeeding activists to read this.  I want people who judge those who bottlefeed to read this.  I want anyone who has ever had or who is currently having this experience to read this.  I want them all to understand that this is a real phenomenon, and that it can be unbearable.

I want to tell them –

– I want to tell myself –

– hating breastfeeding does not make you a bad mother.

4-8 Months: The Big Move Out West

It is beyond time for an update!
We survived the great move across the desert to the wild wild west when bubba was 6 months old and have spent a couple of months settling in.  The house was ready almost as soon as we arrived and we moved in after only just over a week at Daddy C’s sisters’ house.  I’m loving the house, the area, the city, the weather – everything!  I even have a part time job Mondays to Wednesdays now, which is great for a bit of grown up time… not to mention pocket money!  I’ve also met a few local mums.  Daddy C has a high falutin new job and it’s safe to say the move is suiting us very well so far.

We still have a bit of furniture to buy to kit the house out and the front and back lawns need landscaping… so it will be fun to get those things underway and see the house come together over the next few months.
Bubba has grown up a crazy amount.  The difference between 4 months and 8 months is immense and amazing!  Seeing as I have let this blog lapse for far too long, I thought I would do a little month by month update of the last little while.
Baby on a Plane!

4 MONTHS: At four months, she was definitely still a baby.  She couldn’t sit unaided, roll or move and still hated tummy time.  We started a bit of spoon fed solids around 4.5 months which she absolutely loved.  Vocalising consisted mainly of squeals and some giggles.

4 months old and not to sure about this whole Christmas thing…
5 MONTHS: Right toward the end of five months, she started sitting forward a little bit when propped to sit on the couch.  However, she was definitely still way too unstable to sit on her own unsupported and there was still no rolling or movement.  She was still enjoying her spoon fed mash and was starting to try to steal the spoon to do it herself.  At the end of the month, we packed up the house in Melbourne, shipped our stuff, and then went to New Zealand for the week.  Her sleeping started becoming very disturbed during this period – I’m not sure if it was an age thing or if she was sensing all the changes happening, but we started having difficulty going to sleep and night time wake ups again (after sleeping through since 9 weeks old!).

5 months old and gorgeous 🙂
6 MONTHS: Bubba had her 6 month birthday on the plane from New Zealand to Perth!  For the first week and a half, we stayed with Daddy C’s sister and niece while the house was being finalised.  During this time, a lot of things happened in bubbaland!  She started to prop herself up with her hands in a sitting position, although was still a little wobbly.  She learned to roll from back to tummy and started sleeping in a side-lying position.  And she got sick for the first time, with a head cold.  That was a particularly awful few days, all she did was cry and sleep and her nose was all stuffy.  She would sleep for only 30-40 minute periods before needing cuddles and consoling again, right around the clock.  It was exhausting and heartbreaking at the same time.  Luckily it only lasted for around 3-4 days until she was back to her happy self.  This was also the time that I weaned her from breastfeeding to bottle feeding, which was surprisingly easier than I expected, but I plan to write about this separately soon.

My poor sick baby 😦
By the end of the month, she was starting to sit better unaided , although still tended to fling herself backward without warning and get upset when she hit her head!  She was also rolling happily both ways.  We also got a highchair and began a fully Baby Led Weaning approach, with her eating only foods she could pick up herself.  She absolutely loves it and it’s surprising her manual dexterity in getting food to her mouth.

Beautiful clever girl at 6 months old
7 MONTHS: During this month, bubba’s sitting became much more confident, so that towards the end of the month, she was easily able to be plonked down in sitting position without fear that she would fall backward or sideways and hurt/stun herself.  She started moving around in circles while on her tummy.  And finally, a few days before her 8 month birthday, she figured out the inchworm maneouver!  This move has come in leaps and bounds from the moment she figured it out and she now scoots all over the place, mostly in attempt to get at the power cords and playstation controllers, which are far more interesting than her actual toys!

7 (almost 8) months old and learning to inchworm… all because she wants the power cords!

At around 7 months , Mum got her part time job and bubba started going to family daycare three days a week.  This is where another mother takes some children into her own home during the day, as opposed to using a big childcare centre.  I am really happy with this smaller, more one on one approach, the lady lives just around the corner from us, is absolutely lovely and I feel her approach to caring for babies is similar to mine.  I feel really happy leaving bubba there and I actually feel that she is thriving on all the stimulation and contact with new people and things.

Enjoying her food at family daycare!

8 MONTHS: Well, now bubba can commando crawl, there’s no stopping her!  She may not have figured out the “all fours” concept yet, but her funny little dragging frog-swim motion gets her surprisingly far!  If it’s on the ground, she’s gonna find it… and probably try to eat it.  Speaking of eating, she loves her fingerfood and eats like it’s going out of fashion – she prefers solids to a bottle most of the time!  She now has four full teeth and four little half-teeth inching their way out of her wee gums.  Her babbles consists mostly of “Dadadadad”, “Mummmm!” and “bubub”.  She loves a good chat!

My very cheeky monkey at 8 months old

 Some of her favourite things include: fresh plums and strawberries, power cords, harrasing the cat, turning down the surround sound while we’re trying to watch TV, pulling mum’s hair (and dad’s!), trying to play with the Wii remotes, trying to eat paper… and basically anything that involves being a cheeky little wriggler or eating food!

Adjusting to parenthood has been a hard road for me.  I think I didn’t realise in the beginning, having never spent much time with babies, how rewarding it would become.  She is such a little person now, and getting so big.  She is so funny and makes me laugh every day.  It’s still hard and I still get frustrated every day too.  But she is beautiful and fun and crazy.  And now that I’ve walked the path, I even miss her snuggly little newborn days, despite the lack of sleep it came with, and wish I could go back and appreciate her more rather than be so wrapped up in my own struggle.

But I can’t go back.  So I just love her now.  I’m not perfect… but she is, even when she’s not.  She’s growing up so fast, I can’t even imagine what it will be like when she’s walking and talking… but I guess I’ll find out soon enough!

Where did my little baby go?!

Introducing Solids

I believe in evidence based parenting.  This means making each decision along the way on the back of your own independent research, not just because it is “the done thing” or because other people do it or someone told you so.  This external influence can come from all directions, which is why I think it is dangerous to label your parenting style.  Whether you consider yourself a “mainstream mum” or a “natural parent” or whatever other labels are out there, there is a danger of making choices based on what the current buzz topics in your circle are, rather than your own independent thinking.

This was brought home to me by the issue of solids.  I considered myself a baby-led mum, striving to take an instinctive approach and make choices based on what was developmentally appropriate for my baby, taking her cues.  Nothing wrong with that in and of itself.  Therefore, the idea of baby led weaning seemed logical and appropriate to me.  The basic tenets of this philosophy are to wait until the baby is sitting unassisted and is able to put food into their own mouth before starting solids.  It also rules out purees and the like, advocating giving baby only whole foods in their natural state, such as sticks of soft veggies to start with.  Generally, this means waiting until at least 6 months to begin solids.  In fact, even the World Health Organisation advises waiting until 6 months to introduce solids.

Purees are a no-no under the baby led weaning approach

However, once Bubba reached 4 months, I started to get the feeling she would like to try some food and was ready for it.  No she was not sitting unassisted (still isn’t) and wasn’t stealing food from our plates, but I still got an instinctive feeling from her that it was something she would like to try.

So I started to do my own research, using Google Scholar and focusing on medical journals and research.  I was interesting to find that the WHO recommendation to delay solids until 6 months is actually based on very limited research.  In fact, the main conclusion I draw from their evidence is actually that it is detrimental to introduce solids before four months of age.  This study found that later introduction of solids did not have a protective effect against allergies, and this study actually found that delaying introduction of cereal grains until after 6 months may actually increase the risk of wheat allergy.  If you are wanting to extended breastfeed, this study found that “breastfeeding duration was not associated with infants’ age at introduction of solids.”

This 2009 literature review sums it up neatly:

Recommendations in developed countries of reducing this risk [of developing food allergies in children] by avoidance of allergenic foods until the child is of varying ages past 6 months have been challenged by recent population studies. Where the risk of allergy is a key consideration, currently-available research suggests that introducing solids at 4-6 months may result in the lowest allergy risk. When all aspects of health are taken into account, the recommended duration of exclusive breastfeeding and age of introduction of solids were confirmed to be 6 months, but no later. (Anderson, Malley & Snell, 2009).

 My overall conclusion from my research on the topic was that 4-6 months was an ideal window to begin slowing introducing my baby to solid food.  For me the focus was on fun and the experience of tastes and textures, not giving her a “meal” per se.  And really, for me, I feel happy with this approach.  We don’t wait until a baby can put the boob in her own mouth before we give her breastmilk.  Being baby-led is all well and good, but at the end of the day, babies are unable to do a lot of things for themselves that we do for them until they develop the ability to do it themselves.  As parents we have to make a lot of decisions on behalf of our children every day.

I have absolutely nothing against baby led weaning and think it can be wonderful choice for many families.  I still intend to incorporate some of these principles when Bubba gets to about 6 months. I do believe in the value of babies handling food in its original state, not always mushed to oblivion.

But for now, we are really enjoying mushed food.  Right from the start, Bubba has enjoyed exploring food and has never coughed, gagged or spat food out, which to me was a good indication to continue.  In fact, she very quickly learnt what the spoon was all about and began excitedly kicking her legs and opening her mouth when she saw it.  As soon as she stops opening her mouth for more, I stop the feeding.

Basically, my main conclusion from all this was the importance of allowing yourself to be led by your baby.  So I guess, in a way, I do believe in “baby-led weaning”, but not in the sense that the baby has to do everything itself.  Rather in the sense that you can trust your mother’s intuition on what your baby is ready for.  Some babies under 6 months may gag, spit or get upset when tried on solids – I consider this a good indication to wait a little longer.  But if you feel your baby over 4 months is ready for a little taste, I don’t think there is any harm in it, and there may actually be some good.  Above all, trust your baby – if you can attune to their form of communication, they will tell you what they are happy with and what they aren’t.