Sorry folks for not posting recently. Things have been pretty hectic here at Sunshine HQ over the last few days – a mass of work to do, Sunshine still not going to bed properly (last night was one of the worst on record) and the fun of vaccinations on Friday. Don’t worry, I hope to be back and posting again very soon!
So, after Sunshine actually going off to sleep properly again, we’ve hit a snag.
For some reason, he’s getting tired around 6.20 (earlier than previously), then, when we put him to bed, he screams the place down, making us feel pretty flippin’ awful. It takes a LONG time to calm him down again, by which time, one or both of us is close to madness and jumping off the balcony. (I told you screams got to you.)
And then, for the last two nights, he’s also been up regularly, meaning M. has got little sleep (last night he wanted feeding every hour apparently). Could this be a growth spurt or a development spurt (he keeps starting as if someone’s attached jump leads to him)?
Is it maybe time to start to introduce the Ferber method of getting him to sleep (which will give us several days of unbearable screaming in the evenings, and that’s just from M. and myself…)? Or is there some other way to get around this?
By the way, you’ll now notice that I’ve mostly dealt with stuff from the past (there is MORE of that to come though…) and we’re now down to nitty-gritty, everyday stuff. Please comment if you’ve got some ideas, but this is not boding well for our trip away….
Picture the scene – you’ve gotten through the early weeks. Everything’s plain sailing and you’re actually doing things again in the evening. Maybe not quite a full social life again, but certainly the chance to have some supper, crash in front of the TV, catch up on mails etc. etc. The little fella is sleeping from 7-ish through to about 1 a.m. OK, not the full night, but not too bad. Suddenly, one evening, he’s up and screaming at you for ages and refuses to go to bed/sleep. And he’s feeding every couple of hours again. That evening with friends has to be cancelled, you’re at your wits’ end and close to tears.
What has happened?
This was the question I asked myself a few weeks back, when Sunshine suddenly did all of the above and screamed at us. He’d turned 4 months – was that significant? As with PURPLE Crying, there seemed to be a term for what we were going through. “4 month sleep regression”. There was a lot of stuff on the Net about it, from reading which, I was keen to start the blog to help others in a similar predicament!
It seems, according to the supporters of the regression theory, that around the 4-month mark, babies, who had previously been sleeping very, very deeply for several hours, start to become more like adults (or proper children). They keep waking up at night. Now, we do the same, every night, but we turn over and drift off again and instantly forget that we were awake. However, babies can’t do that and so they use the weapon in their armory – they cry. They need feeding to comfort themselves. Others say that it’s all a part of the development spurt which also takes place at the same time (try this: http://violet-sleepbabysleep.blogspot.de/2012/08/sleep-regression.html#.UZUrjMrmx8E).
To be honest, it seems to be a bit of both. Sunshine has, without doubt, made leaps and bounds in development recently. He’s reaching for things close to him, has begun to roll over, is looking around intently, can hold his head up without support. What does he need to make those changes? Well, food, obviously. He’s also getting cranky because he’s trying to make sense of this new stuff that he can see, hear and, moreover, do. His sleep pattern is turned on its head, he’s tired, it’s all getting too much…you know, the point where we would usually crawl into bed and pull the covers over our heads?
What can you do? Nothing. Just roll with it. Remember that you got through this stuff when bubba was small(er). You can do this again (and just picture life when they’re teething!) – it just requires a re-jig of priorities again. “This too shall pass!” In addition, on the other side of the whole episode, they can start to move their bodies rather than just uncoordinated stuff with their arms and legs. They are taking more interest in what is going on. This is what you want them to do, right?
Here at Sunshine HQ, Sunshine *seems* to have reverted to his old patterns. He’s started to drop off at 7-ish again (often with a bit of a blub beforehand…) and then sleeps for 7 or more hours. Indeed, two nights ago, he slept right the way through the night. But 7-8 hours is pretty good and as much as we adults generally need. Of course, you’re YEARS off having offspring who go to bed at the same time as you do, but 7-8 hours from, say 8 pm, is until 4 am.
For myself, I’ve developed a cold and was enjoying blissful sleep last night when His Majesty decided to start “singing” to himself at 5.15 a.m. That’s what we call the cute little noises he makes, and will no doubt make again when he’s sitting on the floor, pulling fluff out of the carpet, thrilled at his discovery. I think we’re out of the woods again though….
Throughout many of these posts, it’s possible that the impression has arisen that life (so far) with a young tot is all about negatives, trials and strife. Well that’s what this post is about – that could be further from the truth…
OK, you ARE going to find the first few weeks a strain. Maybe the first 6 weeks or so. It’s all new, you’re all still getting to know one another, and you’ve yet to work out your routine. I was counting days, silently praying for some development and the chance to interact with the being, which was, after all, my own son.
And then it happened. He smiled.
It was over lunch, M. and I were talking about this and that and suddenly the corners of Sunshine’s mouth went up and he gave us his first smile. Up until that point, the best we could hope for was a neutral expression. But then, a smile. Suddenly he was SHOWING us that he was content. His first bit of positive social interaction. I almost shouted “Look, look, he smiled!”. It’s a great feeling.
Add some sounds to that smile and things start rolling nicely. Sunshine is a great one for testing out his voice box and trying new sounds. Even though the sounds are not (yet) words of any kind, you’ll grow to love the “grrrrrrsss”, “vvvvvvvvvvbbbbbbmmmmmmmmmms” and, in Sunshine’s case, the unbelievably cute “Ooowwws” and “Aaahhs”. Recently, when lying in bed in the morning, there he is, eyes like little blue beads, staring at something, and letting out cute little noises. You just want to hug him close and forget about all the angst he’s caused you recently.
So what about imitation? That set in quite “late” with him and me. One evening, M. was out (chez midwife!) and so I was up here with Sunshine in his rocker. Music was playing on the stereo (Muse’s Panic Station, to be precise) and, idly, I was snipping my fingers to the music. I look down and there’s Sunshine, finger and thumb not in a fist but markedly in a snipping position, and he waved his arms, as if to say “Look, I can do this too!”. And the same again when I repeated the action. Woah – he had arrived!
And there’s the other imitation of his, which is one of the best things to happen to me. You’re closish, or standing above him. He’s looking around, then catches your eye. You smile. He smiles back. That smile turns into a heart-shaped beam, the eyes twinkle and then comes that amazing sound. “Guh, huh, huh, huh”. Yes, a laugh! You can make him LAUGH. He’s not just content, he’s experiencing pleasure and happiness! That never ceases to be a wonderful moment – a look at you of pure adoration, the like of which you will scarcely ever see.
As I wrote recently, he started rolling over the other day. That, like his laugh at the beginning, is still in training, but he’s certainly done it in both directions, which is neat, when you think of the fact that, until recently, he could move his limbs but not in a coordinated fashion. Suddenly, he can concentrate and tense up enough to shift his body to one side, because he WANTS to, and NOT because it just happens. I’ll keep you posted on this, of course. He’s also happy to be in a sitting position (held completely by us, naturally), and able to look at things in front of him, rather than only above. The eyes go wide, the head turns – “Wow, there’s a world of stuff here, not just 360° to the left and right, but 360° up and down too!” – it’s wonderful.
And finally, reaching. That’s also pretty neat. We’ve got a straightforward inflatable beach ball clipped onto a lanyard, keychain-y thing, which you can hold over him. Get it low enough, and the hands come out and try to hold the ball. Of course, he doesn’t yet grasp that his hands need to be at the middle of the sides of a round object for it not to roll away, but he’s actively trying to hold things, rather than just grasping on reflex as a newborn does. Am also looking forward to the day when hand-eye co-ordination improves to the extent that he can actually control his arm positions to pick up an item in a place other than directly above him. Now that he’s moving, I think that day is not far off.
In another context, this stuff would seem fairly trivial. But, as a dad, I have found (and you will too!) that such “minor” things are actually huge educational steps, even on a par with walking and talking. These are early stages on the road to those milestones, but they are things we can follow and see, rather than “Oh hey, his tear duct is no longer blocked”, and that is what us guys need. It’s not a negative turning into a positive, but a straightforward positive – things to make you feel good and want to be WITH the baby and not give him or her to someone else to be with.
So, the next time the little one throws a tantrum and you start to feel that a drop-kick into the next garden would surely be the end to your worries, think of this stuff, and you’ll feel better. When the positives start to outweight the negatives, rather than the other way round (which is what life feels like in the early weeks), then this baby stuff really, really gets cool!
Stop press! Sunshine actually rolled to one side on his own today! (And yes, we have independent witnesses!)
He’d been turning his lower limbs to one side for a few days on the changing table (causing M. palpitations about what would happen when he started shifting properly), but this morning, on the blanket on the living room floor, he shifted completely to the right-hand side. Several times no less!
Go fella! (Photos to follow…)
This was a world which was new to me before Sunshine came along. I kept hearing of a swaddling cloth (or Pucktuch in German), but had no idea what it was. For me, swaddling was someting that happened to the baby Jesus at Christmas and that was about it.
But what is swaddling? It’s wrapping a baby up tightly in a cloth to give the impression of still being in the womb. Babies remember that as a place of safety and it calms them down. However, whilst you’re still learning HOW to swaddle, it can make them scream, but that comes with the territory! We had a set of cloths given to us by M.’s parents but many of them just didn’t work as they should (they were just too stiff and didn’t stretch).
Amazon came to the rescue (a kind gift from our friend Carmen!) and a real swaddling cloth. It’s elasticy and could be pulled around Sunshine and did indeed work. Poor chap, he did look like a little parcel – but it did work. One of the funniest photos is of him, swaddled, on the floor:
Swaddling isn’t easy (particularly as, if the baby’s crying, you haven’t got long to do it in before the child goes nuts at being manhandled in this way). As such, YouTube helped out and thanks go to this guy for explaining the technique:
(Gosh, Sunshine was that small…amazing what 4 1/2 months can do!). The down-up-down-up sequence is spot on, as is his comment about sticking with it, even if the baby doesn’t like it. Soon after tucking in the cloth at the back, Sunshine would calm down.
So there ya go, that’s swaddling. To close, there is a funny little video I want to link to – I did try this, but failed and so stuck with the other method. Enjoy!
Many of these posts may make me sound like some kind of angel with endless tolerance. However, as I have written before, crying and screaming can send you nuts. And, last night, it did.
I was trying to proof-read a text, M. was putting Sunshine to bed, but he wasn’t having it. He screamed and bawled and eventually I had him in here and tried to calm him down. It didn’t work. It was agony for my one functioning ear (I’m half-deaf, if I haven’t mentioned that before) and frustrating and irritating. If he was tired, then he should drop off and dream of…hm, whatever babies dream of. But he wasn’t.
And then my manners kicked in. I was talking calmly to him and suddenly he screamed at me as if I had just threatened to drop-kick him from the balcony. I pointed out to him that I was talking and he should be polite and listen. However, the frustration took over and that became something like “Be quiet BECAUSE I AM *TALKING*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”.
As soon the words had left my mouth, I felt awful. Naturally, Sunshine screamed and wailed at the noise, M. promptly appeared and took him off to calm him down and I felt like a worm. Of course, he got a kiss and apology and seemed to have forgotten the entire incident by this morning.
But I hadn’t, and so here, for all to see, is my confession – it can happen to the best of us.
What can we do to entertain our little ones in a way which suits us? Well, of course, I can only write about what I have experienced myself. But I hope that even that would be a help!
Keep it simple. The days of complex technical skills are far off. Even stuff for digging worms out of the back garden can remain in the box for the now. What you need are bright colours (although high contrast black and white are all you need in the first months) and ideally stuff that makes a noise.
We have a box of plastic rings from the Jako-O store (http://www.jako-o.com/) which interlock in a jiffy and which have various textures. They don’t take up a lot of space and just three, linked together, are sufficient to get Sunshine’s attention. They click and rattle and whizz around and are great as a quick attention-grabber. Very portable too!
Plastic balls are pretty good too, especially, we’re now finding, inflatable beach balls. Of course, brightly-coloured and they go up and down and round and about and are big enough to grab on to. We’ve also got one which is basically just the framework of a ball with lots of holes in. Also great for little fingers to grab and pull to them.
Keep technology out of the game as far as possible. Yup, Sunshine stares in wonder at my smartphone (a thing which is bright, makes noises and seems to do everything). But there were centuries without such technology – those days are yet to come, so put the iPad down, PLEASE!
Of course, you have the best toys and interesting things on you! Your hands, feet and face. Remember, the little one has not necessarily grasped yet that it too has all these things (hands maybe…), but the fact that you can wiggle your fingers, make your hands spin and turn, open and close, you can joggle your feet and wiggle your toes…woah, that’s neat and it costs absolutely nothing. This morning, I was sitting here working, legs crossed as usual, and Sunshine was staring intently at my foot. When I MOVED my foot slightly, he let out a gurgle of joy and his eyes grew large as saucers. And your face? Well, that can make grimaces, kisses, blow air, suck air, roll its eyes…endless possibilities. And HERE, we don’t need to feel like a fool. This isn’t some facile little melody – this is direct contact between father and child. The kid loves it, you love the kid loving it and others think you’re great for wanting to interact – everyone’s a winner!
Sure, everyone will have their own patent recipe on this. I found early on that Sunshine likes NOISE. White noise is great for babies as it reminds them of the blood whooshing around the womb. Indeed, a surefire way to get him to calm down in the early months was to put him under the extractor fan in the kitchen. Worked like an on/off switch. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
Then loud music, primarily repetitive synth music, calmed him down. Being a music nerd, I have plenty of everything in my CD collection, but Jarre, Kraftwerk, OMD, Depeche Mode, Neu!, Muse and New Musik helped out quite a lot (oh and the vicious “Scary Monsters” by David Bowie). He didn’t like female voices nor soft tracks (so out were the Baroque CDs I had bought to play in the background while I worked…), but noise and sounds of life worked well.
The other thing which is a guaranteed winner is the human voice. Babies will recognise your voice pretty soon, but the key thing is to show all the amazing things we humans can do with our voices. Make weird sounds, nonsense sounds, blow raspberries, gurgle, sing, speak – babies lap it up!
This can be tricky, as I mentioned in another post. You must keep an eye on the time to ensure that feeding/sleeping/nappy-changing are kept in check. But otherwise, take the baby out wherever you go. There’s only one way to get them used to other people and the sights and sounds of this big wide world – yup, for them to experience them themselves. Ever more places welcome small children (we’ve never had any problems with M. not being able to feed him) and, providing you can manage the pram, you can go anywhere!
Rough & tumble:
Not going to write too much here, but it is important to remember that, although we are conditioned to think so before actually getting to grips with the genuine article, babies don’t break easily. They are pretty hard-wearing and enjoy being tickled and rolled around. Some of their muscles are incredibly strong and they are in constant training, at levels which would put most of us adults to shame. They can be pulled up by their arms, can hold their heads up after a while, even though their heads make up a large proportion of their body-weight!
Don’t overdo it, you can push them too far, but Sunshine loves a good tickle, or being flown around the room.
There you go, some ideas of how to entertain the newcomers to the family which won’t make you feel uncomfortable! Of course, if anyone reading this has any other ideas, feel free to comment!!!
A travel blog for holidays with children, run by an old school friend of mine, Graham Horner. Check it out. I’ll be posting in it myself soon!