Long haul: co-sleeping on the move

This is the second in a series of posts I’m doing on our recent trip to South Africa and the UK.

The candelabra chandelier at out cabin on the farm. We never lit it but in winter, with a fire going in the grate, this would be gorgeous. No electricity is lovely!

When planning this trip and getting in touch with all the people we’d be staying with, the question was always, ‘oh, what about a cot for the little one?’ And the response was always, ‘oh no, don’t worry, he sleeps with us’. Most people, I think, know this is what we do.  Some probably just think, okay, whatever, don’t know why you’d do that but okay. Others probably think the ‘rod for your own back’ thing. And obviously some, who do the same, realise how easy co-sleeping can make things. Not that I’m saying I’d have chosen to co-sleep before the Dude arrived. In fact, I was staunchly against it when my midwife first broached the subject. But it has given us more sleep than trying to get him to sleep on his own in a cot, that I’m absolutely certain of. I have a dream that the next one will be like I was as a baby and sleep 12 hours a night from three months. Ha!

So, on this trip, we slept in a lot of different places (including the plane, although I don’t know I’d count that as sleeping, more passing out temporarily from exhaustion, only to be woken by a kick in the face and an angry screech). First up was our good friend’s parents’ place in Krugerstorp, just outside of Johannesburg. They have a typically South African gorgeous big rambling house with heaps of room, pool, tennis court, beautiful grounds, all surrounded by tall iron gates. We spent one night there before driving out to ‘the farm’, and we stayed in a lovely big room which was sort of outside the rest of the house, or at least the entrance was, with an ensuite bathroom across the way. The bed, we were informed, was very old, apparently made by our friend’s grandfather or great-grandfather, beautifully carved wood, but sadly only a standard double size. We have a queen at home with the Dude’s cot side-carted (he has finally started rolling into it sometimes when he’s asleep, woo hoo!) so lots more room. It was very peaceful in the room. I finally succumbed to sleep when I put the Dude down about 8:30pm and he did manage to stay asleep for a couple of hours. We dragged a big old piano stool to my side of the bed and put pillows all around, just in case he decided to roll off, and that sort of worked although he did push it away when he was really restless. Of course, because of jet lag, he woke about 2:30am and started playing around. I gave him some travel flower essence and some rescue remedy for sleep that I’d bought in preparation and let him play around a bit. Mr C, who’d stayed up far too late having beers and catching up with our friend’s brothers, was in no mood to be jumped on, but he sleepily tolerated it. Amazingly enough, Dude was awake about 40 minutes, and then I switched off the light, laid him back down and he went back off to sleep! That was pretty much the extent of his jet lag, and when you consider that Sydney and Johannesburg are something like nine hours apart time-wise, I think that was pretty impressive.

The next day, we drove through to our friend’s parents’ game farm, which is about 90 minutes away.  I sat in the back between our friend’s mum and the Dude.  He slept part of the way and was pretty good, but towards the end he got really upset and just wanted out. Of course, I’d forgotten: TIA! This is Africa! Stuff keeping kids restrained and all that! His mum said to me she’d actually prefer me to have him on my lap and that it’s no big deal, they wouldn’t get pulled over for it. I realised she was right when I noticed all the utes with half a dozen guys just sitting in the back, cruising along the dusty, pot-holed highways at 100km/hr.  So I put him on my lap, held him firmly, fed him, and he was happy. When we arrived at the farm, it dawned on us that there is no electricity. None at all. But paraffin and gas lamps, gas hot water, and even a paraffin fridge meant we had all the comforts of home, more or less. It did pose a bit of a problem arriving home after dark and having to get the Dude changed by the light of lamps, or when we were feeling too tired, our phones. On that first night at the farm, the Dude woke again around the same time, but he couldn’t get up and play because it was absolutely pitch black.  Mr C found it quite unnerving, being unable to see even your hand right in front of your face, but for me it was just brilliant not to have that distraction of electricity and technology. And because it was so dark, I think the Dude must have thought he was still asleep, so he wrestled around for a few minutes, had a booby, and fell back to sleep. And that was it for jet lag, all done. I seemed to have recovered fairly well too, but Mr C struggled the whole time, waking at 2am and being unable to sleep or see anything. The cabin we stayed in was well ventilated but no fly screens were on the windows which we left open the whole time. Luckily it cooled down nicely at night. The Dude had to sleep between us which was a bit squishy, again, in a double bed, but it worked and made things so easy without having to work out the logistics of fitting in a cot and trying to get him to stay asleep in there. The interesting thing about co-sleeping is that when I’m telling others about it, I always find they have their stories about how they did it, even though it wasn’t the done thing. Our friend’s mum had stories like that, and she’d had five kids, all grown up now.

After our five night in South Africa, we headed over to the UK for the Dude to meet his grandparents in Manchester. We had explained to Mr C’s mum that Dude doesn’t sleep in a cot, but I think she had a hard time working this out in her head as her kids had all slept in cots whether they liked it or not. She had gone to the trouble of getting us a travel cot (which was never even unpacked) and even another little blow up bed which was really cute, but again, the Dude just jumped around on it for a few seconds and then was totally disinterested. Because he’s always slept with us, he doesn’t get the concept of having his own bed and I wasn’t about to try and transition him when he’s already in a strange place. So he slept between us in the spare bed, again, a double, which made it pretty squishy. I’d forgotten how much smaller everything is in the UK, space-saving.

We’d decided we’d try and take advantage of having grandparents around and head out a couple of nights. The second night we were there, we had tickets to see Ben Folds at the Manchester Apollo.  I got the Dude down to sleep at 7pm and we headed out. Nanna was in charge. I’d warned her that he almost never stays asleep and that he won’t just go back to sleep after a bit of a grizzle.  She’ll need to go in and pick him up and rock him back to sleep, or lie down with him and cuddle him. Even that, I was pretty sure, might pose problematic. I knew he’d scream because he’s used to me being there, or even daddy coming in sometimes to lie down with him. He barely knew this person, despite the fact she is is nanna. When we got home, shortly after 11pm, the scene was pretty dismal. Nanna was exhausted, having tried everything to get him to chill out, and Dude had eventually passed out once or twice but was lying half awake in her lap. She whispered at me in horror, ‘he’s not normal!’ as I went upstairs to get him back to sleep again. I knew this would happen. It’s nearly impossible to impart to someone with such different ideas about parenting just what we do and how we do it. And I don’t think she realised that the Dude doesn’t ever back down, he never gives up, he tells you what he wants and will keep telling you as loudly as possible until he gets it! I don’t see this as a negative thing necessarily, not for an 18-month-old, as I think he isn’t aware of himself as an individual yet and is just expressing his needs and happens to be very good at doing so. My mother-in-law is of a different school of thought. She believes babies and children should be placed in their cots when the adult determines it’s bed time and the door shut and the baby left to get to sleep any way possible, even if that means lots of screaming and crying. Personally I believe this can permanently damage a child. And aside from that, I don’t agree with ignoring cries of distress from any loved one, adult or child. If my husband was afraid and confused and needing the comfort of my arms, I’d give it to him. Why not a baby?

London, man, you can’t beat it!

Anyway, the ten days or so we were in Manchester were very interesting. I know my mother-in-law doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me on many aspects of parenting, and I know she mentioned it a few times to Mr C, but to her credit, she didn’t try to have a go at me about it or start a fight. She mentioned a few times politely what she thinks should happen and why, and I explained why that wouldn’t work for us and we really just left it at that. I would love the Dude to sleep in his own bed, and yes, in his own room, I’m not going to deny that, but I know that’s not what he needs and it’s not in keeping with the basic, instinctive needs of babies and children, which dominate more than our learned behaviours, particularly at this age. One day, he will transition to his own space, perhaps with some gently assistance from his parents, but never will I force him into anything. I know someone who is now desperate for love and touch and comfort because he never received enough as a baby. I don’t want the Dude to end up that way.

The pond down the road from Mr C’s nan’s house in Carlisle. Gorgeous and icy!

On our second last night in Manchester, something interesting happened. We went for dinner with friends, leaving nanna to deal with the Dude again. When we got home, he was miraculously sleeping peacefully by himself in bed. Apparently he’d woken as usual but she’d done something different this time. She got the distinct impression that he was afraid of the dark, so she turned on the light. He saw she was there and quickly fell back to sleep! Of course, I don’t know how long all this took or what else happened, but he seemed very different. My mother-in-law said she just knew he was scared to be in the dark and as soon as he could see where he was and that someone was there, he was fine. I have had that idea before, but I can’t say it’s ever helped me, although my experience of getting him to sleep is always going to differ because I’m the mummy with the boobies! So I was relieved that MIL managed to work out how to get him settled and he was happier to be around her. I was also glad because I think she had been feeling somewhat rejected and this really turned things around.

We stayed in London with friends for the last five days of our trip. They’d asked the cot question too of course and had kindly arranged a whole bunch of other stuff for us which we actually didn’t need, like a highchair and stair gates. It was interesting because they have chosen not to have kids, so while they like them, they are happy in their lovely house, just the two of them. We tried our best to make sure the Dude didn’t trash anything and that meant turning off most electrical stuff at the wall and turning the bin around so it was less accessible. The bed, thankfully, was a queen size, so we were pretty comfortable. Of course, the Dude getting sick and vomiting in the middle of a restaurant and then later in the hallway and in the bed (luckily we’d already put towels down) was a pretty hideous way to end the trip, but what can you do? He is a vomity person, it seems.

Overall, co-sleeping worked really well for us while travelling, and saved the hassle of organising cots and rearranging rooms. Small beds are hard to deal with, and I know sometimes he is disturbed by us being next to him, but other times he is woken because we’re NOT there.  It’s hard when the Dude is between us and kicks off the covers as we all end up cold. So there are pros and cons. As I say, if I had a child who would fall asleep and then be put in a bed without waking, I’d be doing that. But I don’t. Next time we go, he’ll be in his own bed, I hope.

The next and final installment in my series of posts on long haul travelling with a toddler will be about coping with big cities and non-child-friendly places.

The thing about co-sleeping

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that the Dude sleeps with me and Mr Chewbacca and has done since he arrived. It’s not really an ideal situation for me at least because I can’t spread out in bed, can’t really turn over and get way too hot. But it is our only option.

People probably think I’m crazy or a tree-hugging hippy or just not a good parent when they find out we all sleep together. It’s not viewed as okay in mainstream society today. I’m not really sure why, given it’s a lot more logical than a baby sleeping alone, but I guess these days people have this idea that independence is everything. So it’s totally acceptable for a mum to spend at least 8-10 hours five days a week away from a baby over the age of a couple of months. People don’t seem bothered by babies not being with their mums. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but then again most aspects of mainstream society are questionable in my opinion. We seem to think that a baby growing fast, developing early, becoming an adult as soon as possible is this amazing achievement. I guess it stems from the general awareness that the job of parents is to get children to adulthood, so faster is better somehow.

These days, instead of people just saying, oh, right, your baby doesn’t sleep alone, that’s how things are for you, everyone’s different, they are so judgemental about it, like it’s some awful sin or big mistake. People are terrified of children becoming clingy. It’s bizarre to me because children are supposed to be clingy, it’s how it works, this parent-child bond. There’d be something seriously wrong if a child didn’t ever want his mum, yet there is apparently some invisible limit on just how much and how often he’s allowed to want mum. At sleep time, this limit becomes more rigid.

Let’s backtrack here: when I was having prenatal visits with the midwife, we talked about sleep and  how and where baby would sleep. I point blank refused to entertain the idea of cosleeping. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the  practicalities of it. I’ve always loved my sleep, so the idea of a baby right next to me wasn’t thrilling as I knew it would be difficult to really relax.

In addition, I had judgements about people who let their children sleep in their beds. I laugh when I think about it now. A very close friend had a baby, ten years ago now, and I distinctly remember going to her place when he was probably around the age the Dude is now. I noticed she had her son sleeping with her and her partner and I was really shocked and scathing in my comments about it, not to her face of course. I remember remarking to a very close mutual friend how weird it was that our friend let her son sleep with her and putting it down to her just being a crazy hippy. Why would you do it, I thought.

Fast forward ten years and I must be one crazy hippy! But here’s the thing: while I’m totally cool with cosleeping and mums who choose to do it until whenever the kid wants his own space, I am not doing it because I planned to, and I’m not doing it because I love it. I’ll admit, the Dude is very sweet sometimes sleeping next to me, and now he’s bigger and more huggable it’s sometimes nice to cuddle him. I’ve never been concerned about his breathing or rolling onto his front or whatever. And I very quickly learnt how to sense him waking and how to get him in positions where it’s comfy for both of us, or relatively so. But given the option, I’d put the Dude in his cot. Let’s face it though, he is 9 months, he will still wake for a feed or two. Or he would, if he were a normal baby.

But our little Dude is one crazy ass mofo, as his dad would say. He’s actually been asleep in his cot perhaps four or five times ever. And he’s not lasted more than half an hour or so every time. This is the cot that is sidecarted to our bed, so he’s literally 30cm or one roll away from me. He’s fallen asleep without boobie or being in a carrier perhaps three or four times ever, and it’s never lasted more than five or ten minutes.

I’m sure people don’t believe me when I explain just how full on he is. This is a child who screams blue murder the moment you put him down to sleep, even if he’s fallen asleep in arms or I’m staying right next to him. I read all this stuff about patting and singing babies to sleep but that’s rarely worked for him. I did manage to pat him back to sleep in the middle of the night when he was about 5 months, but it only happened a handful if times. If I try it now he just screams louder and doesn’t respond to my touch. Some babies fall asleep in their mothers’ laps with a bit of rocking or just holding. Not Dude. He occasionally falls asleep in my arms while feeding if he’s dead tired but he’ll sleep for maybe half an hour then wake crying because he’s still tired but won’t fall back to sleep. He refused dummies, just spits them out or plays with them. He’s not interested in soft toys or blankets or clothes that smell like me or breastmilk to comfort. You may as well put a block of wood next to him, that’s how much comfort he derives.

I am good at rocking babies, being as quiet and peaceful as possible, singing relaxing songs. I think my techniques would work with other babies. The Dude is the true definition of high needs. And any other person wouldn’t be able to deal with him and stay sane. There’s no way we could have done anything differently to have him sleeping in his cot. Unless I’m willing to get up every half hour, which I’m not. I know it’ll pass, but yeah, I’ll be so glad when I don’t have to cosleep any more!

Nearly 9 months

Well, we’ve really hit some milestones this month. The main one is crawling! Yes, the Dude is on the move. And now he rarely overbalances when sitting which is a relief as we were getting sick of having to prop pillows around him. His crawling is a little one-sided as he usually puts his right foot flat and then drags his left underneath but he is capable of normal style as I’ve seen him do it. He makes his way around the new house with speed and efficiency.

Food is going well. I can’t say he’s that interested in actually swallowing food yet, he clearly doesn’t see it as required and is really just playing and experimenting now which is fine. I do give him one evening meal via spoon feeding but I think I may start to change that because it just doesn’t make sense. He is happy to take pureed food off a spoon but I don’t think this is necessary. I think when he is ready to ingest food he will so there’s no need for mushing things up and spoon feeding. I’ve been giving him the stuff out of the packet, organic with nothing bad in it, but many of the ones that are recommended for age six months and up have meat in them! And dairy… And there’s no way in hell I’m giving him either of those for as long as I possibly can, preferably until he’s at least 2. He just doesn’t need either and they will do more harm than good.

I feel kind of slack that I’m not making him food but it’s a bit of a hassle. Well for someone like me it is as I am not that coordinated with meals. I should steam or roast more vegies for him but I just don’t manage it. And I know what the baby-led weaning book says, that baby can just eat what everyone else eats but I disagree on two fronts. One, we have too much spice and seasoning in our food which I think is inappropriate for someone who is developing his taste buds and two, we have meat, dairy, nightshades, citrus etc and I don’t think any of those foods are suitable for his new digestion. He requires none of that for nutrition as he’s getting all his vitamins and minerals through breastmilk. I’ve given him vegies out of my stirfry or risotto which is fine and I’m not paranoid about him trying new things. I just don’t want his body to have to work too hard at digesting complex and toxic foods yet. Plenty of time for that later.

It was nice to go to the homebirth mothers’ group this week after a lengthy break over the holidays. All the babies have grown and changed so much! The Dude crawled around and totally fitted in with all the other kids, cruising around exploring. He definitely hasn’t inherited my shyness. Which is great actually because I think being shy made things harder for me. It’s amazing to see how big the Dude is compared to others! He isn’t chunky, quite slender actually, like daddy, but very tall and solid. He’s just so there, so present, which is the feeling I’ve had about him since he was born. There was never anything frail about him, he didn’t ever have that weak, semi-transparent look that some babies have, where you can see they’re not quite here physically yet. If anything, the Dude is desperate to be more present, and very angry and frustrated that he can’t do all the same stuff as everyone because, well, he’s a baby! It’s like he’s got some big things to achieve and he just wants to get stuck in!

He fell off the bed twice since we moved to Fibroland, once because we hadn’t put his cot up yet and the second time he was sleeping alone and I didn’t know he was awake and he just crawled off trying to come and find me. So we sorted his sidecart cot and invested in baby monitors. Just the basic kind, so I can hear as soon as he wakes. It’s been awesome, I can relax and not worry. In the other place we didn’t have a problem because it was so small. And he wasn’t crawling, or at least he’d only been crawling a week when we left.

Still no sign of him migrating to his cot for sleep. I wish I could say that cosleeping has been a conscious choice and we love it etc but the fact is that I’d be so happy and sleep so much better if he slept in his cot. Our new bed is so comfy and not squeaky like the old one but it’s so annoying to not be able to move into a comfy position because it will wake him or there isn’t enough room. In addition, I miss bedtime with husband. There are times when it’s the three of us snuggled up and it’s lovely but eventually I just want to have some space to spread out and relax. And cosleeping hasn’t had a positive effect on our sex life. I won’t go into any more detail but suffice it to say, it sucks. And all my fellow natural cosleeping parents just don’t get it! In fact neither do the mainstream conservative ones! The former group are like, ‘oh isn’t it great, you have to be more inventive and have sex all over the house and you always know your baby is safe by your side and you can feed without getting up, bla bla bla…’. Yeah, fabulous, if you have a baby who stays asleep for more than 20 minutes without you and your boobs in his face! I never liked having my breasts touched much to begin with, and now they get manhandled 24/7! Yeah, I don’t really enjoy breastfeeding. Not to say I’d stop, as Dude would be even more difficult! But I just don’t like it that much. I think it’s because I’m touch sensitive. Nipples are for the enjoyment of others, simple as that.

The latter group, mainstream parents, are all like, ‘oh my god, he sleeps in your bed? Oh I could never sleep well, I’d be worried I’d squash him’. Yeah, that’s how I felt too, until I had a child that screamed the house down unless he was either being carried around in a sling or feeding next to me in bed. People don’t get it. They all have normal children. They think their babies are high needs because they have to feed to sleep. But they wait for them to sleep then they put them in bed. And they don’t wake up. For a couple of hours anyway. The Dude will ALWAYS wake when being carried to bed asleep. Always. And he wakes when I get up too soon. And sometimes I’ve been lying with him for over an hour, he seems perfectly sound asleep, I creep out, and five minutes later he’s screaming. So it isn’t ever possible to rock him to sleep and then put him down. It has happened maybe three times that we’ve managed to put him in his cot and he’s stayed asleep but every time he’s woken after ten minutes or so. So although it is annoying, cosleeping means we all sleep reasonably soundly most nights. There’s really nothing wrong with the Dude, he is just very aware and very sensitive. Which is what Mr Chewbacca and I are both like so not surprising.

Size wise I’m not sure how we’re going but last time I measured he was 76cm tall and 10.1kg. So he’s still massive. We’re predicting he’s going to be 6’5″. Sometimes he stretches out and his body is just so long! He is pulling himself up to standing on just about everything and thinks he’s awesome when he does it, it’s very cute. Being so tall he can reach virtually anything on the coffee table. He loves all the most dangerous and inappropriate things: electrical cords, the garbage bin, the toilet, the oven when it’s hot, the mop… The list is endless! I try not to leave things around that could be dangerous, not because I’m afraid he’ll hurt himself but more because I don’t want to be saying no and stopping him from exploring.

After that massive complaining rant about the Dude not sleeping, he’s actually been asleep for an hour by himself now… A sign of things to come perhaps.

Nearly 7 months

Man it’s tough parenting the Dude! I find it hard to relate to my friends in the same way as I did pre baby, as my attention is so focused on him. And he is full on! I was heartened to read Rixa’s post about her youngest’s night waking antics; not that I rejoice in the suffering of others, but it’s more that I am glad to know even she, who seems so sorted out, has to deal with challenges like that. I hope I don’t have all that to look forward to in two months! At least Inga actually sleeps in her cot though, the Dude just won’t, it’s madness! I want my bed back!

He now has five teeth, the first of which arrived just over a month ago, and the last, on the side of his front top, I noticed just poked through this morning.  He doesn’t seem to be suffering too much with the teething, despite the sudden onslaught, and I think the homepathic chamomilla, nux vomica, placenta remedy, emergency essence and Brauer teething relief have all really helped stave off any real pain.  So far he’s been eating very heartily, and would eat lots more given the chance but I’m not very good at coordinating food for him!  He’s had apples, carrots, mangos, watermelon, rockmelon, blueberries, sweet potato, potato (he grabbed it off my plate when I wasn’t watching!), bread (again, grabbed), avocado, and bananas.  He loves everything.  He’s eating his first teething rusk right now and totally loving it.  I don’t think we’re going to have any eating issues with this one.

I just took him for his six month check up with the doctor (yeah, it’s late, I didn’t book him in until now) and he is a very healthy 9.8kg, so well in the 90th percentile.  I wouldn’t say he’s a particularly chubby baby, but he is really solid, like one big muscle.  He’s very wriggly and is trying to get up on his hands and knees a fair bit.  Yesterday I came out of the shower to find he’s rolled onto his front in his sleep but hadn’t managed to pull his arm out from under himself so he was flat on his face!  I found it pretty funny actually but my husband was a bit concerned.  I just took a quick photo and then pulled his arm through and he slept peacefully on his tummy for the first time since he was a newborn.

The doctor was really not that helpful, but hey, she never usually is, and I didn’t really take him to her so she could confirm he was healthy or whatever – I knew that!  She was immediately concerned about his skin, which is actually not too bad at the moment, although it is a bit flaky and cracked around his ankles, and he has a bit of redness and irritation round his neck which comes and goes.  I am putting coconut oil on it which really soothes but it doesn’t make it go away.  Not that I expected it to, given that his skin issue is constitutional, and therefore the skin irritation is just an external symptom of what’s going on internally, so why would an externally applied thing ‘fix’ it?  The doctor was like, ‘but what you’re doing is clearly not working as he’s still got it,’ and I explained that quashing the symptoms – ie. the rash – is not my intention, and rather I’d prefer to let his body sort itself out internally in its own time.  She didn’t get it and again recommended Hydrozole and Cetaphil, acknowledging that the former has cortisone in it.  I actually purchased them both this time but I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll use them, must research more – stay tuned for a post on cortisone.

Despite the fact that he’s clearly thriving, the doc is still obsessed with the idea that suddenly at six months babies stop getting adequate iron via breastmilk.  She was stupidly obsessed with me having enough iron in pregnancy too, despite the fact that I’ve never come close to being anaemic in my life.  I asked her why and she didn’t really answer me, she just said, ‘I’m just telling you what the studies show’.  She’s such a coward.  How can you, as a professional, recommend products and practices without knowing all the info?  I thought then that I should have become a doctor!  Seriously I swear this woman is a plant by the big pharma companies, she is obsessed with all pharmaceutical products!  She goes, ‘oh, get Cetaphil, it’s a really gentle moisturiser, won’t irritate the skin,’ and I was like, ‘oh, so it’s alcohol free,’ and she goes, ‘oh, I don’t know what’s in it, but yes, it’s very gentle.’  Are you for real, woman?  You don’t know what’s in it but you’re recommending it for a baby?  Yeesh.  Anyway, she says he should be having baby rice cereal that’s fortified with iron, so I did buy him some organic stuff, and will give him a go on it, can’t hurt, but I’m not really fussed, as I think all this obsession with iron is bollocks, frankly.

Anyway, the little dude is thriving.  He says, ‘de’, ‘ghe’, ‘ne’, ‘be’ and a whole bunch of other random noises that often sound like ‘mama’, ‘dada’ and other actual words.  He also understands a lot of what I say.  He knows what ‘boobie’ is, and he knows his full name, nickname, as well as ‘bug’ and ‘dude’ and ‘little boy’.  I am pretty sure he knows what I’m on about most of the time, and his needs are so well met that he doesn’t really need to ask for anything much.  The other week he asked for boobie by opening his mouth and virtually gesturing, and then grabbing my boob when I leaned down over him on his change table!  He then smiled when I asked if that’s what he wanted.  I reckon half the time he is frustrated because I’m not doing what he asks straight away – sometimes it’s because I’m not paying attention to his clear signals, and other times it’s because I’m busy doing something else.

Back to the sleeping thing, it’s really challenged me, just on a patience level.  I now firmly believe that this baby came to me for a reason, because there’s no way anyone else would be able to retain the level of patience I have.  I’m pretty over cosleeping.  Not that it doesn’t work, but the bed is just too small, the Dude takes up a lot of space, as does his dad, and I am sandwiched in between.  I also think it’s a two edged sword in a way.  I think he wakes BECAUSE I’m next to him, and yet he’d probably wake if I WASN’T next to him.  I’ve tried time and again to get him to sleep in his cot and it just doesn’t happen.  He’s not one of those babies who just drops off to sleep with a bit of patting after a bath.  He doesn’t fall asleep with rocking.  He only sleeps when lying down in bed feeding, or when being walked round in the Ergo, that’s it.  And then if I do get him to sleep in bed (usually takes at least an hour), he doesn’t stay asleep.  If I try to put him down say at 7pm, I will be in and out of the room and lying next to him for at least two hours, and that’s if he actually does go to sleep.  So although I’d love to get him in a routine, it just doesn’t happen and we end up keeping him up til 10:30 or so when we go to bed.

Anyway, he’s currently wriggling in my lap needing to sleep so I’m stopping here…

Nearly 6 months

Can it really be six months since I felt that weird little trickle and leaked all over the bathroom floor? Six months since I had a full night’s sleep? Since I met this gorgeous little boy and thought, who are you?  Next week really does mark six months since the Dude’s arrival (although he was technically here before, making his presence and personality known by kicking the hell out of me and hiccuping at every chance).  He still kicks a lot but hiccups a normal amount these days.  He says words, although they’re not in English I don’t think.  So far, his favourite words are ‘ngeng’ and ‘geh’.  I think ngeng means ‘I want stuff’ and geh means ‘so, what’s happening?’  He has recently taken to whacking himself over and over, especially when stimulated or excited.  He rolls both ways quite easily, although I don’t think he realises yet that he is actually able to roll whenever he likes, so he still gets frustrated on his tummy and I have to turn him over.  When on his tummy he is gathering his legs under him and sticking his bum in the air, gripping onto the floor with his toes, all obviously in the lead up to crawling.  He’s been growing like crazy and it well and truly right at the top of the scale in terms of length, weight and head circumference.  We weighed him at about 5 months and he was 8.9kg!  That’s heavier than my friend’s 8 month old… yeah.

The eczema has been interesting.  I’m pretty sure my eating dairy aggravates it, especially things like milk and cheese and icecream.  So I’ve been trying to stick to the dairy-free diet, which isn’t that difficult, although my constant need to eat junk doesn’t help.  I notice if I eat any dairy (apart from good yoghurt) the Dude will sometimes throw up a bit after a feed or sometimes even between feeds, so I’m sure it makes him a bit refluxy.  The eczema has changed and I think gotten a little worse but is really plateauing at the moment, with a big concentration round his neck and under his chin, and some on his wrists and ankles that’s nowhere near as bad.  Sometimes it appears on his tummy and in his belly button, but just as red patches, not really dry or scaly.  I’ve tried a variety of things, from Hope’s Relief cream which is nice and natural but not as effective as I expected, to coconut oil which is a decent moisturiser but really doesn’t last too long.  Recently I put some paw paw ointment on which has been awesome, although not necessarily good to get rid of any itch.  Some nights he just wakes every couple of hours and feeds feverishly and scratches his chest and neck constantly, sometimes until he gets frustrated and cries, and other times I hold his hands and stop him working himself up into a scratching frenzy.

We are still co-sleeping, which, to be honest, isn’t the greatest thing in the world.  I would never want him in a bed in another room, don’t get me wrong, and it’s great knowing he’s right there and safe next to me, but our bed isn’t really big enough even though it’s a queen size, as he rolls to get the boobie and ends up taking up a third of it to himself.  And he kicks me in the stomach, wriggling and writhing, grabbing my top, pushing the boob away when he actually wants it.  He’s no good at getting it for himself really.  And he wakes so easily when we stir, it’s quite frustrating.  There are only rare times when he’s really deeply asleep and won’t stir.  His cot is side-carted alongside but he has never slept in it.  It’s just not logistically possible to get him to sleep in it, I’d end up being up all night and he wouldn’t get enough sleep.  He so very rarely falls asleep in my arms these days, and it’s usually only because he’s exhausted.  Even then, if I dare to move he wakes, it’s as simple as that.  I don’t think I’ve ever successfully put him down to sleep.  Actually I think that’s not true, I’ve done it, but it was before he was 8 weeks old, before he’d sleep through the night, when I couldn’t feed him lying down.  I don’t miss those nights!

Breastfeeding is still going well.  He is obviously thriving on my milk, of which there continues to be an abundance, and he feeds to sleep every night and some naps, unless I put him to sleep on me in the ergo which means standing almost permanently.  And now he’s about 9kg he gets heavy!  I can’t say I enjoy breastfeeding any more than I did to begin with, it is what it is, just part of the process and I’m glad it’s so straight forward for me (relatively speaking) and will do it until he seems like he doesn’t need it any more.  Just quietly, I hope that’s sooner rather than later!

The biggest milestone of late is the arrival of teeth!  Two of them in fact, about a week ago, one poking through one day and the second the next, at the bottom.  They are very sharp!  His teething symptoms have gone down a bit I guess, he certainly doesn’t have the one red cheek any more, but he is still irritable much of the time.  Some days he’s okay, others he just has bad days and I can’t really work out why.  He is just really nervy and full on and demanding but doesn’t really know what he wants.  Like his dad!  Infuriating sometimes!  I was reading SouleMama’s blog just this morning and she wrote about her littlest one who is a few days younger than the Dude – oh how different!  I’m kind of jealous actually, as he little one will suck her thumb and put herself to sleep on the couch with all sorts of noise going on around her!  Oh what joy that would be!  Currently I’m listening to the Dude getting louder and louder in his cot… the mobile (second one we’ve bought) just doesn’t cut it, and he soon gets bored and angry.  He is interested in dummies but won’t really just lie there and suck it, he has to hold it and then he pulls it out of his mouth, examines it, then puts it in sideways and chews on the plastic, then gets sick of it and throws it away.  So still a no go.  Speaking of which, I better go and get him before he gets too upset.  He’s already had a two hour sleep this morning and it’s only midday but apparently that wasn’t sufficient!!  Ho hum…

Baby goes to a wedding

So we took the I man on his first big outing last night – to a friend’s wedding.  I wasn’t sure how long I’d last with him, but I did really want to go and was thrilled that he’d come five days early so he was a month old for the wedding – ie. old enough to go.  I had been worried about noise early on, but in the last week or so have really gotten over that, as I realise he likes background noise.

It was a 2:30 ceremony and 6pm reception, up round Circular Quay and The Rocks, and we paid a stupid amount of money to park at the venue.  Of course, right on cue, dude wanted a feed just as the bride was getting out of the limo to walk into the ceremony, which was outside on a balcony.  It was pretty overcast and threatening rain, and in fact did rain as the ceremony drew to a close.  I just knew I couldn’t calm him for long enough, so I had to retreat round a corner and sat on a bench to feed him briefly.  It was a bit of a struggle, finding a dress that would fit my seemingly massive body (have I mentioned how much I hate how fat I am?!), let alone one that is suitable for feeding in, and then once I actually got the boob out and got him attached it began to rain!  And it was cold and windy, not the best environment for a young baby.  I finished feeding him and walked back to the ceremony just as they were being announced husband and wife – damn it, I missed it!

Once inside I settled in with a glass of champagne and a water, having already had an experimental glass of red wine a few days earlier which seemingly no adverse reaction from the little dude.  We found a nice comfy seat and he got a good feed, alongside another woman who was feeding her baby, a few months older than mine I think.  I just chilled out and watched the ferries coming in the Quay and marvelled at just how god damn ugly those buildings next to the Opera House really are – seriously NSW government, WTF?!

Eventually we were called for some photos, and the photographer went nuts over the little guy, we must have posed about 20 times!  He is a very beautiful baby though, if I do say so myself… soon after we all retreated to what we were assured was a ‘baby-friendly’ pub.  It turned out to be a rather large and warm ‘old man’ pub, pretty noisy with everyone talking at the tops of their voices, but the little dude slept in his pram the whole time, it was amazing!  Of course, as luck would have it, he woke just as we were leaving for the reception, which was about five minutes walk away, so I ended up carrying him most of the way.

We arrived at the fabulous venue, climbed the million stairs, and discovered a very pleasant extra room specially set aside for chilling out and baby/breastfeeding stuff.  I set to some marathon feeding and didn’t manage to really get into the reception room until after the starter had been and gone.  Luckily husband brought me my plate – seafood!!  Oh I can’t tell you how freaking amazing the oyster was, or the smoked salmon – I’d forgotten how much I missed all that stuff, yum!  Eventually I made it into the reception where we were served the main and the little guy slept in his pram the whole way through that, so I actually got to eat my meal in peace for once (delicious marinated barramundi, plus the mushrooms from the boys steaks, which they didn’t want).  Since having this baby I’ve never really been full, I’m constantly ever so slightly hungry.  So I just keep eating what’s there.  When the speeches began, and most people were a bit drunk, the little man awoke and wanted boobie.  I just couldn’t be bothered going to the room, and I wanted to hear the speeches (which went on a long time – never seen so many speeches at the one wedding).  So I just draped my scarf over my shoulder and discreetly latched the little man on and happily fed him as we listened to the speeches, it was great.

The rest of the night he slept on me, and husband, and at one point I relented and passed him to the best man who seemed somewhat less drunk than everyone else and I know he’s had a few kids and knows what he’s doing.  The baby didn’t wake up at all and husband and I got in a bit of dancing and even went outside for a very sneaky smoke!  I didn’t smoke a whole cigarette, just a few drags – again, so good, I really miss it!  But I’d never take it back up again, especially while feeding and just having babies, I wouldn’t want him exposed.  I held the little man for the rest of the night, alternating between the private room and the reception.  People were really trashed, and I didn’t like having him around them, but it was really harmless in the end.  It was great sitting quietly feeding him, listening to the ridiculously daggy ipod selection and watching the light show on the Opera House, the flames along the water and the ferries going back and forth under the bridge.  As much as I hate Sydney, that was quite cool.  I heard Toto’s Africa starting up in the reception room at one point and I just had to go out there as I knew everyone would be going crazy, especially husband and all his mates.  The little dude was chilled out but he looked like he might be waking up and I thought it was because it was so loud, but then a couple of songs later ‘woop, there it is’ or whatever it is, that hip hop from like 15 years ago started up, massive bass, and the little man just passed right out to that!

Eventually we go out of there about midnight, and although husband was a bit, let’s say ‘difficult’ on the way home and when we arrived, all in all it was a total success.  Husband was awesome during the day and evening really, looking after me and making sure I had what I needed.  It was just that tail end where he got a bit stupid, but that happens, and it all worked out in the end.  I don’t think the little man has suffered any adverse effects as a result of such a long, loud outing.  I don’t like driving with him, as he cried all the way home too last night, but it’s got to be done.  Again, I felt terrible that he was crying and I had to keep driving, but eventually he went quiet.  Although that made me feel even more guilty because I thought, ‘did we just make our baby cry it out?!  Oh no!’  I think he’s okay though.