Baby Joan, 4-6 months
Things are moving very quickly. All of a sudden Joan is 6 months old and I'm being kept on my toes as she moves and talks and interacts in new, seemingly grown-up ways. Yet at the same time, life also feels wonderfully slow. Our world isn't cluttered and we have one main focus, our baby. Ben and I are present, taking it all in and watching each other grow and change along with Joan. Oh, what a beautiful time this is, as first-time parents with our first-born babe.
As Joan discovers the world she is showing us more of her personality. Our baby is becoming a little girl and the whole process is blowing our minds. She's interested and sweet and determined. In public she's shy, observant and sensitive. When comfortable with her surroundings she is loud and silly. In the mornings our babe is fresh and smiles wide. In the evenings she love to nestle into my neck, feeling the cooling breeze on her face while we wait for daddy to get home. And because I'm finding it hard to remember last week, let alone last month, I've been writing it down. Week by week, in a special notebook gifted by my friend, I take notes of what has happened, what Joan is doing and loving, how I felt and any milestones. Just a sentence or two, nothing particularly long or remarkable, but things I want to remember, like the way she grins and stretches in the morning when she sees our faces, and her first trip to the city. Like the way she looks around the room with curious, wide, excited eyes when standing upright with our support, and what makes her giggle at this sweet age of 6 months. I think Joan will love reading my notes when she's older.
And now, here are some notes for you. A lot has changed since those first foggy months, and I wanted to update you all on what we're doing regarding our favourite products, sleep, food and life in general. There's a lot of words in this post, and I considered cutting it right down into dot point form, however I appreciate that when you are going through things (whether car seat dramas, eczema, sleep and nap battles), it can be useful to read other people's thoughts. So here are mine (all of them). You'll find I go into a lot of detail in some areas, and this is because I do not want to give the impression that things have just happened or are easy. A little bit of an explanation helps people relate to what is truly going on and how we arrived at this point, 6 months on. Because I think you all know that I am completely honest here on the blog. I don't think too much before posting, I just share. It's real and raw and I hope that it helps you if you're going through something similar right now. I encourage you to skip over parts you don't care for, because if it's not relevant to you it will likely send you to sleep. It's a loooong post, folks, which I wrote bit by bit over the past few months. I love blogging in this way, it helps me to reflect, process my thoughts and grow. Writing these two posts about life with baby Joan at 0-3 months and 4-6 months have been valuable because our life has changed so fantastically during this time.
Our current world feels smooth and sweet. This is not to say that we don't have bumps and wakeful nights and moments when baby Joan won't settle, but recently I feel like I've "got" things. And what I mean by that is we've had a few big realisations about what works for our family and given in to them. We've also found solutions for little conundrums (like discovering socks that stayed on bubs' feet and a natural nappy rash cream that actually works) and learnt how to deal with a poor nights sleep. I suspect many first-time parents go through a similar transition sometime after "the fourth trimester", when their babies turn four months old. You're more confident, everyday tasks don't take as long, you know your baby and they know you. And despite the four month sleep regression thing (or "progression", as Pink McKay exquisitely puts it), we're functioning pretty well over here. I mean, my mental processing is sometimes (often) questionable, but at the end of the day we are mostly cozy and nourished and happy in our little world. I'd like to pass on some words and recommendations that I've received from others or discovered on my own, in the hope of encouraging more cozy, nourished and happy families. As always, each family is different so if what I write doesn't feel right, listen to your gut and do whatever works for your family. And of course seek help from qualified professionals if you're unsure about anything.
So here we go, following on from my post on the first three months with baby Joan we have some thoughts on months four, five and six. Reflecting on that looong and sometimes/often rambling post I wrote a couple of months ago, I now find myself a little more succinct and assured. I'm also kinder to myself, more forgiving and gentle, and happy to ride the wave, however our day is turning out. It's a nice place to be.
Days with Joan
I feel like the luckiest person that ever lived, as I get to stay home with my babe all day, every day. Don't get me wrong, some days I find myself begging for grown-up interaction, checking the letterbox five times and walking past school pick-up just to get a smile from the lollypop lady...but most of the time I adore being in my little world with my little lady. Ben goes off to work at 6:15am and leaves his girls to play until he gets home around 7pm. He works from home one day (maybe two) each week, which we are all grateful for, as I can call out to him to leave his office for a second if Joan is doing something particularly impressive or cute. It doesn't feel like he misses much this way. On the days he's working from home, we go for a family walk around 6pm, or when he clocks off. Joan LOVES to walk outside, it both calms and excites her. She'll sit in the pram facing the world or face forward in our Ergo 360 carrier and take it alllllll in - the trees and the flowers, the birds and dogs, the cars and people, the sky.... she adores it. Joan and I tend to go for a walk first thing in the morning (or after I've eaten breakfast if my hunger is too keen), and we will go for at least one more at the end of the day, usually in addition to a stroll in the afternoon. Walks are always my solution if she's fussy at home, even when its raining, we just pop an umbrella and get out of the house.
We naturally fell into the "sleep, feed, play routine" and it suits us well. At the moment, Joan generally stays awake for two to two and a half hours at a time. After waking she has a feed, a nappy change at some point (depending on the severity of the situation) and then whatever we do depends on what time of day it is and what we have on. If it's the morning then we go for a walk and I have breakfast and maybe a shower if we have time. Often it's a case of having a shower OR doing some washing, whichever/whoever is more stinky. After her first morning nap and feed I have a coffee, which brings me a significant amount of joy, and for the rest of the day we may have appointments, dates, a shopping list to tackle or visitors at home. I'm considering doing a day in the life post, though I am fully aware it will be interesting to some and deathly boring to others.
Most days Joan goes to sleep around 8/8:30pm, depending when her last nap was, and sometimes later if we've been out. Though having said that we NEVER go out at night, as we are always pooped (breakfast dates are our new dinner). We tried putting her to bed earlier, around 7/7:30pm, to see if she'd stay in the bassinet and sleep longer, but she just thinks it's a nap and will then be wide awake. Perhaps she can tell it's still light outside... anyway, at the moment bedtime is 8ish. As of four and a half months Joan has slept in a muslin or cotton sleeping bag with her arms out, unswaddled. We decided to transition out of her arms-up swaddle suit because she was keenly rolling over and no longer startling herself awake (much). We bought the transition swaddle (hot tip, just buy them to begin with!) and started with her non-dominant arm out. The first night was rough, as she woke every two hours needing help getting back to sleep. But the following two nights she woke only every three hours (which is our normal with the whole wakeful/chubbing-up business that's been happening). After the third night we went both arms free and she woke every three-four hours like she would if she were still swaddled. Success! It's been warm here, so Joan wears only a nappy and the sleeveless sleeping bag to bed (unless it's too hot and she will then just wear a nappy).
When Joan was four and a half months old we felt she may be getting too big for her bassinet so we transitioned her to the cot (we bought a Bloom Alma Papa cot almost half price at an expo, as it was floor stock). Oh golly, did she look so teeny tiny in her cot! She went down to sleep really well the first few nights, but since then it's been a bit of a battle to get her to go to sleep in it and so we moved her back into her bassinet. Honestly swapping back hasn't changed much, she still wakes early, but she's also growth spurting and developing a lot of skills, and as Pinky explains, that can often mean a more wakeful baby. We always put her down in the bassinet, but after her first wake (which can be anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple of hours later) we pop her in our bed. Invariably she'll have rolled over (she does this multiple times throughout the night) and it's always a battle to get her back into the bassinet, whereas if she comes into our bed it's zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz and we can all get to sleep within minutes.
You can refer to my three month post for more words on smartly and safely co-sleeping, and I also encourage you to read Dr Sear's thoughts. Every child, every couple and every family unit are different, so it's impossible to project what are right or wrong choices here. Co-sleeping works really well for our family. Joan wakes less, because when she rouses she will touch my arm, which is close by, for reassurance and settle back to sleep. If that doesn't work, I'll rest my hand on her body, and if THAT doesn't work, she has a quick suck of the boob while lying down and is out again instantly (and I am too!). As a result, all three of us wake less throughout the night and feel more rested in the morning. At about the five month mark Ben and I stopped questioning whether we should co-sleep, whether we were damaging our baby and her "sleep skill development" by having her rely on us and just gave in to what we clearly all wanted. And we love it. Joan is clearly blissed out, getting everything she wants (being close to us and the boobs), and that's all that matters to us right now, that she's secure as she grows and learns and blossoms. It's meant some adjustments to our sleeping positions and doona/pillow situation (so we are "safe"), but that's a small price to pay for three happy sleepers. It's also the reason we recently splurged on a king size bed. These days Ben hardly wakes as he is so far from Joan and I, and I can sleep comfortably despite my babe being nestled along my arm. She is dependent on me and I'm ok with that because she's secure. And when we are all ready, we'll figure out moving her into her cot or a big girl bed.
NAPS: Joan continues to sleep in the sling or Ergo carrier for most of her daytime naps.
She absolutely loves it (we both do) and she sleeps well and long this way, which makes for a happier, more rested and more productive family. Bubba will sometimes nap in the pram or the car, which mixes things up, but she never naps for super long this way so we introduced a comforter in the hope that she'd recognise it and soothe herself back for a longer nap. I purchased this comforter (Joan LOVES the feel of silky things) and started holding it between Joan and myself during feeds and naps in the sling. And it worked after just a day or so, not in the sense that she slept in the pram for two and a half hours (hold your horses), but she was able to settle herself in a situation where ordinarily, without the comforter, she'd wake and cry. Needless to say, we loved the comforter, but after Joan developed eczema we got picky about what fabric she was nestling into, and swapped it for an 100% organic cotton bunny comforter.
Despite me talking about ways to extend her naps, Joan is a pretty easy napper. She snoozes anywhere, provided she's on me, whether it's out on a walk, at the shops, at other people's houses, at a loud party or in a cafe. I follow her cues regarding nap times, and at the moment she's napping every 2 hours or so. Most days, that translates to a nap around 9am, 12/1pm, and 3/4pm and 5/6pm. Naptimes vary from 20minutes (that's rare, but sometimes she's just too alert and won't go back to sleep) to 1.5 hours (I reckon she throws a super long one into the mix around every 20 naps. One morning she slept in the Ergo carrier for 3 hours and I was amazed/sore), but they are usually between 35-70 minutes per nap. She sometimes sneaks a catnap in around 6pm if she's zonked and if bedtime isn't on the horizon soon, and we've found no real difference in her length of sleep at night if she has this catnap or not.
Do you recall my worry in the previous post over the fact that I was wearing Joan for most of her day naps and she wasn't a bassinet or cot sleeper? Well I wish I would have just trusted my instincts. Joan was hating the bassinet and I didn't want to push it, I felt that she would nap away from me when she was ready but at three months, it wasn't time. To some this may seem bonkers because many babies do sleep in a cot or bassinet, but despite doing all the things to encourage a happy sleeper (trust me), she would just cry and wake after 20 minuntes (or refuse to go down at all). And so she became a sling baby, napping on my chest, as happy as could be. I was happy too, but I did still compare and worry. It's silly, I see that now, and I should have just trusted my gut and followed my baby's lead with it all because as she older and a bit more independent, Joan started falling asleep on her own in places she'd previously never sleep. Like the car! "Huh", I thought...things were changing. And then one day, on a walk, she started yawning and getting tired while forward facing, so I flipped her around to face me. Usually our over-alert bub would need me to stay in one spot and shush/rock her to sleep (even on walks, as there'd be too much going!), but on this day I had a feeling she'd fall asleep on her own without me stopping and doing the usual routine. So I kept walking, and after a minute of looking side to side at the passing houses, she fell asleep. "Ok", I thought, "things are really changing." Joan was becoming much more independent with her sleep. Time to try the bassinet so I could eat lunch without a baby on my body. I did nothing differently in my routine to all the other previous attempts, it appears Joan was just ready to sleep for longer away from me. I fed her to sleep (which I tend to do unless she's sling/ergo napping) and put her into the bassinet, and after forty minutes, during which I'd enjoyed my lunch and taken a shower, she was waking up, looking super proud and feeling very refreshed. And I'd had a shower AND eaten lunch. Nice work, team. Now I relish her little midday naps when I get to stop, eat a little lunch and lose myself in a good book. It doesn't always work, some days I am leaning over the bassinet with my boob in her mouth trying to get her to stay asleep. In fact, just as I write this I can hear her waking after only twenty minutes. But most of the time it does.
I'm already seeing that following my gut and not worrying about creating bad habits (as so many people warn us!) is the right thing. Gosh there is so much fear talk, which is the last thing new mummas need. We just need to feel confident in following our intuition, with the knowledge that in their own time, when they're ready, babies develop skills. Some are independent early and easily and others, like Miss Joan, need to be with you pretty much constantly for "fourth trimester". And don't get me wrong, it's not not always easy, sometimes things don't go to plan and you get a curve ball thrown at you...and I am fully aware that we may need to do some serious transition work in getting her out of our bed in the future. But we might not! We will see. And we will not worry or compare.
What's that? Did I mention earlier that Joan will sleep in the car? Indeed. At the start of December Joan started tolerating car trips. Those who read my last post on Joan or follow along on instagram will know that this is a big deal!! We occasionally get an unpredictable car melt down where she'll SCREAM without any hope of settling (and I have a mild heart attack while racing home), but thankfully the days of non-stop car screaming every single trip are over. As a rule, I favour putting her in to the car when she's freshly awake, with a full belly, dry nappy and after she's had a bit of rolling-on-the-floor time. Once she's in her car seat, she'll sit back, stare at herself in the mirror or the passing trees, and will try to kick some toys I put near her feet. Joan will also spend a large portion of the car trip trying to grab her toes, which is apparently endlessly fun, but mostly she'll be making out with Dino the dinosaur who will be in her reach (bless Ben's work friends who gifted us Dino! He's one of these guys). If she's nearing naptime, I swap Dino and the toys for a silk scarf (baby loves a silk scarf to calm her down) and usually blare the white noise app. Most of the time this helps her calm down and nod off. Recently, however, Ben has found that on trips where he is in the back sitting next to Joan (she's happier if he's there instead of me, I make her cry more for some reason), he has the most success in getting her to fall asleep when he talks about investment tactics, how the stock market works and such. That talk puts baby right to sleep.
I've come to learn that Joan is like me in that her mind is go-go-go! As a result, she get's overwhelmed easily and struggles to chill out on her own. If we're not in the car, soothing her in a quiet corner with minimal stimulation helps, and when we are in the car we still need to try to minimise her stimulation so that she'll fall asleep, hence the above tactics. So there we go, car trips are much happier these days. They're especially good if they're short and sharp, under 30 minutes, and if Ben is in the back with her. I do regular 10-20 minute trips to try and build up her tolerance of the car, and I must say, it's been much nicer on my mumma heart now she isn't screaming every single trip!
What I loved about pregnancy and childbirth was how individual each person's journey is. One can never predict or plan too much, as there are so many variables. You just have to listen to your gut, trust your instincts, and go with the flow, surrendering to the process and the wild, awesome thing your body is doing. And with babies, it's the same in that they are such individuals, such different little people with their own personalities right from the start. You cannot predict how they will develop and when they will learn new skills, you just have to encourage and let them figure it out. I've noticed this with other bubs Joan's age. Some are awesome at sitting up, while Joan topples over. Some are able to reach for things with exquisite precision, while Joan gets distracted by the fact that she has hands. Our baby is all about the legs, she's got some killer thighs and is very strong. We've absolutely loved watching Joan reach these "milestones" and grow from a teeny tiny newborn to a powerful, determined baby. Rolling over happened very soon after her hip brace came off at 13.5 weeks, and these days, Joan will continue to roll over as soon as she hits the floor and as soon as she wakes from sleep. At five months she started to show interest in figuring out how to roll from her tummy to her back, and she is now doing this regularly, though still finds it a novelty, giving us a cute, shocked smile every time.
Joan also started to get fantastically close to crawling just after she turned five months. She was always super strong with her legs but could not manage lifting her belly up with her arms. Then all of a sudden I saw her on the floor, rocking back and forth on her knees and arms with her belly right off the floor. She couldn't move them in a coordinated crawl, so she simply launched herself forward and would then get up and repeat the process, slowly inching herself towards whatever toy she wanted to reach. Usually while doing this she'd be screaming with a mix of elation and frustration in her voice. In the few days before turning 6 months she really started to move, doing a few crawls in a row then dropping to her belly and then to our amazement, the day after turning 6 months old, Joan stopped dropping her belly and started to full-on crawl. And to think she was in a hip brace for half her life... I guess that only made her stronger and more determined to move! All I can really think of are the physical milestones, as she's a very driven by physical feats. She likes to sit up, but still needs a lot of assistance as she topples over reaching for toys/her toes/to move. She loves it when we help her to stand, but I'm pretty sure she thinks she's doing it on her own. At about four months she discovered her toes and continues to remain obsessed with them, holding them in happy baby pose as often as she can. And then at five months she discovered her hands in a new way - she had already discovered them, but then she suddenly kept looking at them, entranced....grabbing at things and sucking on them non stop. Let's see, what else.... She has only just started responding to her name... Oh, and food! I'll start a new heading for that...
I adore breastfeeding. Being able to feed my baby with my body has been an incredible experience and quite frankly, it still blows my mind. This little person has grown and gotten chubby all because of my mumma juice. Bonkers. But now we're onto a new chapter! It's not that I won't be breastfeeding Joan anymore, I fully plan on continuing that for as long as she wants (and practically all her nutrient intake is still coming from breastmilk), but we're now at the point where she's eating food as well, and boy, is it fun.
Initially I was not at all keen on the prospect of introducing solids. Why would I, when breastfeeding was so convenient and made her poop smell totally non-poop-like?! But after the four month mark, I started to get excited about seeing Joan try foods for the first time. I think because she was discovering the world and getting such joy out of it, I wanted to see her experience even MORE. We planned on doing Baby-Led Weaning (i.e. no purees, straight to texturally appropriate finger foods that they eat unassisted - or "play with", I should say), so I knew we needed to wait until 6 months until she was developmentally ready to handle solid food. By five months and one week Joan was starting to finally show a sincere interest in food, not just a curiosity. Meat made her salivate and she would reach out for things on our spoons, watching us munch and call out, "hey! I want that! What about me?!" I promptly borrowed a couple of books on Baby-Led Weaning from the library (this and this) and eagerly awaited her first taste of solid food.
It turns out we couldn't wait until the 6 month mark. At five and a half months we let her have a taste of avocado. It was a Sunday morning. Ben and I were eating a plate of eggs, vegetables and sourdough toast, sitting on the floor while Joan played around us. She was particularly persistent in trying to move towards our plates to see what was up, throwing her body weight around to get places and grabbing grabbing grabbing. And so we sliced her a thick piece of avocado, sat her in my lap and let her do whatever she wanted with it. Avocado is a tricky one to start with because it's so slippery - we gave her a tough gig! But sure enough she managed to grab it from my hand and bring it to her mouth, smushing it in and having a good taste. Baby Joan didn't really react to the flavour or mouth feel, she didn't push it out with her tongue, she was mostly interested in squishing it her hands. By the end of the experiment, her clothes and face her covered in avocado and my fresh white dress had blotches of green. It was awesome.
Because bubs also had some eczema crop up around this time, we decided to wait until that cleared up before properly introducing solids (more on her eczema below). Once it did clear, we offered some fingers of well-steamed carrot, which she was completely disinterested in. Another day we decided to try broccoli, a popular first food choice amongst baby-led weaners due to the ease with which bubs can grasp a stalk and munch on a floret. Initially Joan was hesitant but then she started licking the floret and munching on it. Fragments would fall all around her but she'd keep going back for more and more. At one point she took too much and gagged, which was scary but bubba sorted it out herself. They're smart like that. The following day I roughly mashed some avocado and offered it to her in a small bowl with a little spoon (which I had pre-loaded with some avocado mush). Well, little miss adored this set up, licking the spoon and working to get the avocado off it, then putting the spoon back into the bowl and picking it up again. Her "re-loading" of the spoon was completely unintentional, I'm guessing, but she was pretty efficient, and only a couple of times did I help her to put more mush onto her spoon. By the end of her lunch, Joan was completely covered in avocado - her forehead, nose, mouth, arms, chest and legs. It was so cute. The following week I bought some feeding smocks. I also really wanted her to try meat, as I just had a feeling she'd love sucking on some beef juices. One night for dinner Ben and I cooked up some tender strips and she went nuts for them, grabbing more once she'd sucked all the juice out, and even trying some grilled zucchini off our plates. At the moment Joan is very new to the food world, she's still learning how to chew and swallow, so it's mainly sucking that's happening (though she ate a lot of mashed carrot the other night, again using her spoon). Our babe is absolutely loving exploring and learning and tasting, and I can tell how excited and chuffed she is that she gets to eat dinner with her mumma and daddy. It's so much fun. I've had a number of people email and ask if I'll be sharing what Joan is eating on the blog, and the answer is yes! At the moment it's little tastes and I will certainly start sharing more in separate posts.
For the first 6 weeks of Joan's life we couldn't bathe her, as she was in a harness and brace for hip dysplasia. This is probably a good thing, in retrospect, as babies really don't need to be bathed very often, especially if they have sensitive skin. Once she was switched over to from the harness to a bar that could come off for two hours a day, she started having daily baths. We used Gaia soap, which is free from artificial perfumes and seemed to contain all natural ingredients, and we'd wash her hands, feet, bott bott and neck, as so much gunk got in those folds! It now turns out that this soap was too harsh on Joan's skin and likely triggered some eczema. Ben has sensitive skin and I have a family history of eczema (my dad has asthma and is sensitive to perfumes and dust, and I've recently learnt that my brother had eczema for a period when he was a bub), so I should have been aware but we honestly had no idea how sensitive baby's skin is. Anyway, when she was five and a half months she developed some rough, red bumps in her neck area we'd been washing. After baths we would give Joan a body massage using organic extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, so we applied this to her neck as usual, but the next day it was getting worse and had clearly developed into something else. It was also a hot weather week, so when combined with a bit of heat rash AHHHHHHH we were a bit freaked out...particularly after Ben casually said, "It's not measels, is it?", and I did what any normal idiot does and Google image searched "baby measles". One call to the maternal child health nurse line later and we had a plan (and reassurance that it wasn't measles) - keep her cool and moisterised and stop her scratching! I also put a call out on Instagram and got some amazing, helpful advice. People are so lovely and generous, we were blown away. In the end we found the locally made Ecology cream for sensitive skin worked the best for Joan. I also take this probiotic upon encouragement from Catie. I had already been taking the Bioceuticals pregnancy probiotic, but there is a specific bacteria strain that has been shown to be beneficial in providing eczema relief, so I jumped on that too. We tried giving the probiotic directly to bubs, but it was hard to get her to successfully take the powder mixed with expressed breast milk. We also developed a new bath/bedtime routine, which I'll outline now:
* Bath only every second (even third) day and for 5-10 minutes max.
* Fill some muslin cloth with oats and tie it with a band (like a plum pudding, if you get me). Place it in the bath so that it becomes moist and squishy, and give it a squeeze - the oat juice is liquid gold! I rub this over bubs, especially her neck.
* Tepid baths only.
* Put a cap of QV (or other) bath oil in too.
* Dry gently but well, and use a little muslin or microfibre towel on her neck.
* Massage her body with your chosen cream. We went through MooGoo and Hopes Relief creams before settling on Aveeno for her body after baths. In the mornings I always massage her with extra virgin olive oil (or Aveeno if her skin looks irritated).
* For her neck and eczema-prone areas, I use Ecology cream.
* Loose cotton clothing or sleeping bags - keep the baby cool!
We tried many variations of the above routine before settling on this one, including using Gaia powder as outlined in Zoe's great post, but we found this dried up her skin and so she'd wake up screaming from (I'm guessing) stinging pain. Many people sent me lovely advice and even creams and essential oils. We were overwhelmed by how caring people are. I'm excited to get into the world of essential oils, because we found them to be both a calming and energising experience. I also went to the doctor to get their opinion, because I am not anti-medical intervention when required, however I wasn't able to have the conversation I was after (for many reasons), and so I left feeling entirely unconfident regarding putting the prescribed steroid cream on my baby. I just wanted to give her a chance to recover on her own, because it was improving since I had learnt how to properly care for her skin, while boosting the process with some lovely, gentle creams. I filled her prescription in case the gentle route didn't work and prayed that I was doing the right thing for Joan. Her neck was still red and she'd scratch and itch it on occasion, so I was definitely unsure and worried, but I felt like I had to weigh up the risks and benefits and just give it a little more time... Thankfully, about a week after it first cropped up, her skin had cleared up. Phew! I now know the triggers and will get rid of the soap, care for her skin, love on Ecology creams and continue with the above routine when bathing, while also being sure she is kept cool. And I think we'll be sweet. I also went off dairy (cow's milk protein, rather) for a while, being really strict for two weeks (I had planned on cutting it for a month), however it appears Joan's eczema really is environmentally triggered. I've cut down my consumption (because I did have a lot of dairy), just in case she is sensitive to it, like some babies are, but I won't be super strict. Because some people have asked, I'll list a few substitutions I enjoyed (that weren't full of unnecessary ingredients and actually tasted good) - Nutty Bruce almond and coconut milks, goats cheese and sheep's milk yoghurt, and Loving Earth and Pana chocolate. And extra virgin olive oil in place of butter, of course. Also, I never gave ghee a go but I think I will.
♥ Anything with "crispy wings", as we call them, meaning anything that crinkles - toys and books with crinkle parts, as well as stepping on bubble wrap and packing bags (as we discovered when moving house last month!).
♥ Walks in the 360 Ergo carrier, facing forward. Since about four and a half months Joan preferred going for walks in the forward facing Ergo over the pram. We usually go for three walks a day, and I find them to be the best nap extender, keeping her calm and happily distracted for thirty minutes (whereas if she were inside she'd be very fussy!). We go for one in the morning, one during the afternoon and one before her bed.
♥ My mother-in-law purchased some water-filled BPA-free teething rings for Joan, and she LOVES them. They provide her with a lot of relief at the end of the day and she's tired and more irritable and/or less easily distracted from any possible teething pain. They get sterilised, then chilled in fridge before giving them to her to chew on. I can't recall the exact brand but you can find them at Baby Bunting stores and they're kinda like these (see the pic below).
♥ Baths and showers.
♥ Silk scarfs. We brush them over her face and she adores holding them.
♥ When Ben and I laugh and make fart noises with our mouths.
♥ Her Lamaze toys. They were gifts, each of them, and they are clear favourites. Something about this brand...
♥ Rolling over and pushing up - Joan is so strong and so proud, and is such a show-off. She's relentless with the rolling and will rarely chill out on her back. If she's lying down, she's going to roll!
♥ Pulling herself against our hands from lying down, to sitting up, to standing. Boy, does she think she's clever.
♥ The Beatles "twist and shout" and The Beach Boys. A friend told me that babies love The Beach Boys and she is so right!
♥ Bott-bott free time. I try to give bubs as much nappy-free time as possible, so after changing her I'll let her roll around on a big quilt in the living room while I race around doing housework and prepping meals. I put a towel over the quilt to stop any mess, and luckily there's been no poo explosions...yet.
♥ Her Jolly Jumper (like this one). In the week before she turned six months old we assembled the jolly jumper, thinking she'd go nuts for it. Initially she was hesitant, but on the second try she realised what it was all about and now LOVES it. Usually bubs hates anything that restrains her, but this and the Ergo carrier are the exceptions. She's gotta feel like she's the one in control, I think.
♥ When we sit her on our lap, straddling our leg and facing us to play a game my mother and grandparents played wit me. It goes, "walky, walky, walky...trotty, trotty, trotty, GALLOPY, GALLOPY, GALLOPY!", moving her up and down slowly, then a bit faster, then jiggling her happily around. She adores it.
♥ Sophie the giraffe - it's true love.
♥ Watching me brush my teeth. She'll look up at me, then turn to the mirror, then back to me, then to the mirror, with such curiosity and humour. It's a favourite part of our day (clearly, it's all about the little things...).
Things we love
♥ We continue to love the Ergo 360 carrier and the Hugabub wrap/sling thing. We only use the sling for sleeps, however we use the Ergo carrier for both sleeps and awake time. Joan adores forward-facing in the carrier, and besides going on walks, we do a lot of our housework - baby LOVES it when I (or I should say, "we!") fold laundry, put away clothes and vacuum - as well as our grocery shopping this way.
♥ Bonds organic socks - they are the only ones I have tried that actually stay up! I couldn't find them on their website but that we got them at Baby Bunting.
♥ The website hellocharlie. Thank you to a blog reader and a friend who suggested I check out their website! They stock fantastic, natural products (free shipping for orders over $150), and we've been thrilled with everything we've purchased from them (I'll list what we bought below). I just noticed that they stock gift certificates, which would be a brilliant baby shower gift idea!!!
- These nappy rash creams work really well! I bought three (GroVia (which doesn't seem to be available on hellocharlie anymore), Nature's Child and Weleda), to see which I preferred, and we think they're all great though use the GroVia more because it's a roll-on stick so super easy to apply. We'll continue purchasing all three.
- Apple Park make the most darling organic toys. We bought Joan this duck rattle, and she loves to shove the beak in her mouth and suck on it. Mum also bought her their apple rattle early on and she's always loved that.
- We purchased these swimmers from hellocharlie for Joan and found that they work really well. Joan has worn them a few times over the summer when we visited the beach. They allow her to have a dip in the water nappy-free, and they've successfully trapped two poo explosions!
- At last, a natural deodorant that actually works! Biologika fragrance-free forever and ever. Ben and I both wear this now (I'm surprised it works on Ben, to be honest, but it does!)
- We have purchased Eco brand of natural sunscreen for bubs and ourselves and we are really happy with it. It's a natural one that actually works.
♥ Story time. When she's in the mood, we snuggle her into our lap and read one of the many books in her library. Joan will touch the pages and enjoy it all for a couple of minutes (then it's "NEXT!"). Baby doesn't sit still very often, so when it happens we savour the snuggles. Our favourite is Each Peach Pear Plum, and all the wonderful age-appropriate books she was gifted by my Aunty.
♥ The old school nappy-soaking wooden paddle my mum bought me (like these), probably from the op shop or some vintage store. I use it to mix the soaking clothes and while doing so I feel like a proper housewife from the fifties and as a result I end up with hardcore meatloaf cravings.
♥ Naty brand of nappies. We love this eco, gentle brand (they actually work)! You can get them at major supermarkets and we tend to do bulk online deliveries.
♥ Ecology cream for sensitive skin for Joan's eczema.
♥ Our King size bed. What a splurge. Man, it's amazing.
♥ La Mav organic BB creme, which I was gifted through Natural Supply Co. Because Joan likes to kiss/eat my face, I have been going makeup free. However a nice, natural one is wonderful to have on hand for the days I do feel like looking a bit brighter.
♥ This play pen, which we bought (on sale!) once we realised that our baby was already on the move. Surprisingly Joan doesn't mind being in it at all. We've also ordered this mat which should arrive soon. It's expensive, I know, but it's supposed to be really great quality and last for a long time. I've visited friends houses who have them and they really are a great investment (much better than the layered towel/quilt situation we've been dealing with).
♥ Smoothies - perfect high energy, easily consumable fuel.
♥ Coffee - see above.
♥ Our Transition Farm vegetable box delivery. We love filling our bodies with stunning, organically-grown produce each week, and I am beyond excited that Joan will be eating these super nutritious and tasty foods soon too!
♥ I read the Baby Led Weaning books in research for when Joan started solids and found them to be useful (you really could get away with just the cookbook, as it contains a nice summary of all the important info).
♥ Pinky McKay's advice. So reassuring for mumma's who like to follow our baby's lead.
♥ In the few moments she is not rolling over, I'll find her peacefully lying on her side and staring at the trees outside. She'll say a few words every now and then while gazing, blissfully. And I'll stop what I'm doing and just stare at her.
Things we don't love
♥ Strangers who ask to hold Joan in the supermarket and then stick their hands in her mouth. Seriously, that happened.
♥ Motorbikes. Baby always wakes whenever one revs past us on a walk.
♥ People who come to your door and knock loudly.
♥ Having to file/cut Joan's fingernails. We can never get them smooth and short enough! Any tips. Ben cut her finger when she was 6 weeks old and since then we've been a bit terrified of cutting her.
♥ When I forget to restock the nappy bag with nappies and/or wipes.
♥ When doctors clinics make you wait for 30-40 minutes even when you called prior to your appointment to ensure they were running on time. That happens to us every single time, once for almost an hour. Time to find a new clinic, I think.
♥ People who tell you that you look tired. It's obvious and unnecessary. Let's say, "you're doing a great job!" instead.
Where I'm At
As I said at the top of this post, I'm feeling happy and confident in my role as mumma to baby Joan. We're having so much fun together, it's a really sweet age. The two of us feel like a neat little team who get to explore this crazy beautiful world every day. And when Ben is home, our team gets bigger, the fun grows and we all share in that joy.
I'm also feeling tired due to these ongoing wakeful nights. I've adapted to nights of broken sleep, however, and as a result I can do a lot more with my day. It's no longer a case of "woohoo, I showered today!", now I can do a bunch of housework and fit in fun things in too, like meeting friends, reading and cooking. I remember those early weeks (or months!) when cooking a meal seemed like SUCH a big deal...and some days it still is, and I praise our well-stocked freezer along with the defrost setting on the microwave. But mostly I look forward to getting in the kitchen and preparing food for our family. I love how Joan sits on my hip and watches what I'm doing with sweet interest. And I still have a HUGE appetite, so cooking and eating is a lot of fun. I'm actually really good at nourishing myself. It's an act of self-care that helps me be a better mum and also feel like a functioning human. Because I am definitely tired a lot of the time. Ben is tired also, as his work is busy and demanding, and despite him waking less then I do, he still does wake on occasion. Nobody is sleeping through the night here (and that doesn't make her a "good" or "bad" baby, by the way. But that's for another post...) I am constantly in awe of how my best friend gives so much to his work and his staff, in addition to Joan and I, and I tell him this every single day because I think it's important he hears it. Joan cuddles must give him super powers (they are pretty magical). Ben and I fight, mainly in the form of me getting shitty at him for not listening to me for the millionth time... or if he wakes the baby when I've put all my effort into getting her to sleep easily so I can have a few moments to myself. But we also have this deep understanding that we are only snapping at each other because we are tired from this new, wonderful, exhausting, full life, and so all is forgiven and forgotten very quickly. I remember one night I was upset with Ben...I'd handed almost sleeping Joan to him because my back was sore, and he took his time getting her into the bassinet and didn't rock her swiftly enough, so she was fell out of that dizzy falling asleephaze and woke. "Great", I grunted. I took my baby and snapped at Ben something along the lines of "Thanks, you took SO long now she's awake and I don't get ANY break", and he was shitty back to me because he was tired after work and we both knew that Joan probably would have woken anyway....so, we were snapping at each other and then all of a sudden I stopped and looked down, and Joan was looking up at me with the most hilarious look on her face, showing off her double chin with the biggest, cheekiest grin. All three of us cracked up laughing and I was so in love with the both of them in that messy, funny, shitty, blessed moment. It's hard and tiring, these days when bubs is growing rapidly and clingy, and you and your partner are trying to function as your old selves in your new world. I am thankful to have a caring and understanding partner to co-parent with. Honestly, I think that is what makes all the difference. Having family close is wonderful, but truly, it all comes down to your partner. I am very grateful for Ben. I am also very happy with my decision to stay home with Joan, as I have no doubt that working would add a whole new level of hard and tiring to the situation. Living slow and being present and not having additionally stressors like work, a mortgage or a lack of support is what makes these days sweet, even when they're hard. I do feel like we've got it pretty easy, we have a healthy baby and a good relationship and are not under a lot of strain besides wakeful nights and working hard at our jobs...but I also know that I invest a lot of energy in making sure things are as happy and easy as can be. I put a positive spin on things and I don't entertain useless thoughts (I've got a great bullshit filter), which I think is key to happy days. And having grown up with parents who are both psychologists (yes, both of them), I am a good communicator. If I need help, I ask for it. If something is pissing me off, I talk about it. This sounds a little hippy dippy, but communicating your heart and surrounding yourself with positivity instead of negativity makes a big difference in how see your day, your life, yourself...
So where am I at? I'm feeling happy and tired and excited and challenged and spaced-out and grateful. All at once. Most days I find it hard to function after 3pm, when forming sentences becomes a big deal (no, seriously). I'm also feeling confident in my parenting choices, and am constantly amazed at how beautiful and strong my baby is. And I'm excited about the future, about what lies ahead for our little family. Joan has started screaming impatiently when we take too long to give her the food she knows we are plating up. Ben and I look at each other like "Oh lordy, what monster have we created?"....we are going to have to start thinking about good behaviour modelling and patience and gentle discipline. I've made a couple of house rules, like we need to stop being attached to our iPhones and I need to stop swearing. I want us to communicate in ways we wish her to communicate. Already it feels as though we are onto the next chapter, parenting beyond keeping them alive and happy. Gulp!
Thanks for reading, folks, and for being very sweet and encouraging while I write all my thoughts down on this page. As I said, I don't plan on doing posts like this in the future for a number of reasons, the main one being as Joan becomes her own person I want to protect her privacy and not share everything. I'll continue to write about my thoughts and experiences because that's what I do, however it'll be a little different (and certainly not as long). Alright, I need a coffee...