6-month update

My dear baby is six months old today! I absolutely love this age.

Age: 6 months
Weight: 19 lb. 3 oz.
Diapers: Size 3
Clothes: Some of the 6-month clothes are getting tight, some still fit, and a few 9-month items fit
Hair: Light brown, thickening, with bald spot on back of the head!
Eyes: Blue with brown flecks
Asleep between 6:30 and 7 p.m.; wakes once (sometimes not at all) to eat; up for the day between 6 and 6:45 a.m.; early morning nap, early afternoon nap and late afternoon (short) nap
Noises: “Ha,” “Hoo” and high-pitched “Ah”s are the most common
Nursing: Still at least 5 times a day when I’m not working
Solids: Started 3 days ago on brown rice cereal and tried a little sweet potato today
Teething: Probably? He drools a lot and puts everything in his mouth; no teeth yet though
Sitting: Too wobbly to sit on his own – always tips over after a couple seconds
Mobility: Rolls from back to front all the time; wants to crawl but nowhere near capable yet
Essential items: Sophie giraffe, Fischer Price Jumperoo, cloth books

Here are 12 milestones and memories from Corban’s sixth month:

1) He is always, always reaching and grabbing. Then, if possible, whatever he grabs goes in his mouth. This includes burp cloths, clean diapers, hands (ours or his) and even cats’ tails (see #3).

2) His hands are in a constant state of opening and closing. If there’s nothing to grab, he’ll rhythmically and lightly scratch whatever his hand is on (mattress, wall, table, etc.)

3) He is becoming more and more interested in the cats. If given the opportunity, he will place his hands on them and, of course, grab (see #1). This usually results in a fistful of fur and a kitty trying to make a quick exit. Biggles is slightly more tolerant of him; Basil just stays far away. He also loves just watching them move around.

4) He gets distracted really easily. I can no longer have conversations with Peter while nursing because Corban’s head will snap up to watch us. This morning I tried to get his attention to get him to try the sweet potatoes, but he would not take his eyes off Biggles, who was rolling around across the room.

5) Sometimes while nursing (if he’s not super hungry) he’ll pull back, look up at me, smile and then return to eating. And then I melt.

6) This month I got hardcore about healthy sleep and instituted a nap schedule of sorts. It was looking pretty hopeless at first, but after a couple weeks of nap training, things are pretty good now. The key for us was to maintain a similar wake time every morning by not letting him doze in bed with us after he wakes up for the day. We also started letting him cry it out for naps, and as hard as it was (and still is sometimes), it works for us. We aren’t Nazis about it and we know Corban well enough to know when he needs a little extra soothing and when he just needs to soothe himself. Now we’ve got a pretty good routine of going down for a nap between 8:30 and 9 a.m. and between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. (depending on how long the morning nap was). He also usually needs a short late afternoon nap too.

7) The Jumperoo is such a help in the mornings! I usually put him in it while I eat breakfast and start getting ready, and he stays entertained bouncing and playing with the toys on it. Of course he also loves being talked to while bouncing, and will look up and give me a big grin every time I say something to him. It’s a good way to start the day, and it gets him nice and tired for his morning nap.

8) Corban still does really well with strangers. No separation anxiety – yet. He actually thrives in big group settings where he’s being passed around between eager sets of arms. At my sister’s bridal shower, he even fell asleep on a friend’s shoulder amid the din of the party.

9) He laughs the hardest when Peter roughhouses with him (a baby version of roughhousing, of course). He saves those big belly laughs for Daddy.

10) His thighs are so juicy! I could squeeze them all day. I’m also constantly amazed by their softness.

11) He still loves to “fly,” and without fail makes an open-mouthed, rock concert “Yeah!” face every time he swings in close to my face.

12) At bedtime, he almost always falls asleep nursing. I like to take a few extra minutes and sit there, with his sweet, snuggly body in my lap, and stare at his precious sleeping face before placing him in his crib. It’s one of my favorite moments every day.

Corban’s first solids

At Corban’s four-month checkup, our pediatrician gave us a bunch of information on starting solids (purees) and gave us the go ahead to start whenever we’re ready.

Three days shy of his 6-month birthday, we finally started.

I knew C wasn’t quite ready at 4 months. He didn’t show any interest in food and was doing just fine on breast milk alone (and by just fine, I mean he was gaining weight like crazy, had chipmunk cheeks and sported sausage link thighs.) Additionally, based on the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization, I wanted to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months.  I was surprised to learn that only 10-15% of American babies are exclusively breastfed until 6 months, but nevertheless, I felt this was right for us.

For the past few weeks though, it has become clear that Corban was ready for some real food. He started grabbing for food when we would eat with him in our laps, and would stare us down while playing across the room when we had food or drink in hand.

Because he is so grabby and loves putting things into his mouth, I started researching baby led weaning (BLW), which I’ve heard a lot about in the blog world. Basically, baby led weaning skips purees and starts your child on finger food right from the start, but the start isn’t until he can sit up on his own, so usually at least 6 months of age. The child then feeds himself (with parental supervision, of course). This lets baby control the feeding experience and helps him learn to chew and swallow at an early age. There are a lot of other benefits, including not having to puree foods or buy baby food, and being able to eat alongside baby instead of spoon feeding.

I am definitely sold on giving BLW a shot, but since Corban still can’t quite sit up on his own, we decided to start with brown rice cereal from a spoon and see how that goes before trying baby led weaning.

Did you know you can make your own brown rice cereal? It’s really easy! I’ll post about it tomorrow.

Now the fun part: feeding time!

His first reaction was that of curiosity. He was excited to put the spoon in his mouth, but didn’t quite understand what was coming off the spoon.

To stick with the BLW concept of baby learning to feed himself, I tried to let Corban control the spoon. This was fun, but he wasn’t quite coordinated enough to get the food off the spoon and into his mouth. It just kind of ended up everywhere, so we helped him out quite a bit.

I think he liked playing with the spoon more than actually eating the cereal.

There were lots of fun faces though.

And a big mess at the end.

We’ve had two more cereal feedings since, and he doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of brown rice. I’ll continue for the next couple days with it, but probably switch to something more exciting like sweet potato or avocado slices by the end of the week. I think he’ll enjoy picking up chunks of food and tasting them himself.

Here’s a video of our first feeding – probably only entertaining to our family, but there’s a cute kitty interaction in the beginning (before we kicked Biggles out so he wouldn’t try to steal Corban’s food).

Question: If you have kids, how long did you exclusively breast feed? If you have future kids, how long do you plan to exclusively breast feed? I know there are conflicting recommendations and studies on this subject and everyone has their own preferences, so I’m just curious!

Nursing is like ‘a hug’

I know, I know. The Time magazine cover showing Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her almost-four-year-old son is so last week, but, while I won’t weigh in on the supposed controversy surrounding it, it does make an interesting segue into a topic I’ve been thinking about over these past couple months:

I can totally see why one would be reluctant to stop nursing at six months or a year or whenever seems like the norm in your world.

I don’t say that because of the health benefits, although the antibodies and nutrition breast milk provides are awesome. I’m talking about the emotional benefits to breastfeeding.

I’ve gotten to the point in my breastfeeding adventure where it’s actually really easy and enjoyable. I love the time I spend just sitting snuggled up with Corban nursing. He is so content, and it’s relaxing for us both. I love how I am instantly able to both comfort and nourish him, and when I get home from work it’s so nice to unwind with a little quiet one-on-one time (after a bunch of playing if I get home early enough).

I plan to continue nursing until he is somewhere around a year old (of course we’ll just have to see how things go and figure out what’s right for us – and I know everything will be way different at that age), but thinking about ending our nursing relationship does make me a little weepy.

It’s funny, because in the beginning breastfeeding was not enjoyable for me. It was physically challenging, painful and taxing, and therefore emotionally frustrating.

I am so glad I persisted despite not understanding how in the world anyone enjoyed it and how it could possibly get easier. As Corban grew, we both got better at it and nursing sessions became shorter and less frequent. Now that we have it down, we both enjoy not just the food aspect of it (him: getting fed; me: having food instantly ready any time, anywhere when we’re together), but the closeness we get to share while nursing. Having five or more snuggle sessions built into our day (when I’m not working) no longer feels like a burden, but a really sweet bonding time. This is especially true now that I’m working and away from him 2-3 days a week.

So while I don’t see myself doing extended nursing, and I understand why people are creeped out by seeing an older kid at the breast, I also understand why, from a bonding standpoint, one would want to continue as long as the child still desires. Grumet, the girl on the cover of Time, says she remembers her mom nursing her at age six and it felt like “a hug.” That’s how it feels right now for me and I love the thought that Corban feels that too even at his young age.

Baby items: What you really need in the first weeks

There are lots of baby items out there, and if you read any of my posts around the time when we set up our baby registry, you know how overwhelmed I felt about all the choices.

Now that Corban has been with us a whopping FOUR weeks (!) I can say with confidence that most of the stuff on your typical baby registry isn’t necessary from the start, and there are definitely some items you might not even think about that you want to have on hand from the day your baby comes home. Aside from the obvious (car seat, diapers, wipes) here’s a list of what I’ve found to be newborn and new mom essentials.

Newborn essentials:

Pack ‘N Play: No, you don’t need a play yard for your newborn. What you do need is a bassinet and a changing table, and our Pack ‘N’ Play provides both those things. For the first few days, we would keep it in the family room during the day for easy diaper changes and move it into our bedroom at night. Now we just leave it in our bedroom. Since the nursery (and big changing table) is on the opposite side of the house, it is so nice to have it all right next to our bed for nighttime feedings and diaper changes. The one we ended up purchasing is similar to this (floor model for a discount – score!) but I can’t find the exact model online.

Sleep Sack: Our hospital sent us home with a Halo sleep sack, and my grandma gave us one as a shower gift. Baby should be warm and swaddled at night, and these things make that super easy.

Bottles: I registered for bottles, but if we hadn’t been given them I don’t think I would have felt the urge to buy them before baby’s arrival. I was planning to breastfeed, after all, so why would we need bottles in the beginning? Well, when C got jaundice at only a few days old, the doctor instructed us to supplement him with formula for a day, to get his digestive tract moving and grooving and expelling bilirubin. I’m glad we had the glass bottles I picked out on hand.

Medela micro-steam bags: This is another registry item I didn’t think we’d use in the beginning, but I’m so glad my cousin (a new-ish mom herself) got them for us. They allow you to sanitize bottles, breast pump parts and other things in the microwave. Way easier than boiling!

“Feminine hygiene products:” Um, yeah, pads. Go buy some of those right now if you’re pregnant. The hospital will probably send you home with some that are bigger than your baby’s diapers, but after a couple days you’ll be fine with thin ones. But buy a lot, because you’ll most likely be wearing them for a few weeks, and this is probably not an item your husband will want to go out and buy for you.

Cradle or baby lounger: Our Pack ‘N’ Play also came with a cradle attachment that was so nice in the first few weeks. While you want to hold baby as much as possible, you simply can’t hold him every minute, so it provides a cozy place for him to lie. We recently bought the Boppy newborn lounger (Peter calls it the “Bopper”) for a smaller and more portable option, and it’s really nice too.

Baby Connect phone app: I swear by this app! It keeps track of and charts absolutely everything for you – feeding times/intervals/sides, pumping, diaper changes/poop colors, sleep, weight, activities and much more. It was so handy when the pediatrician asked how often and long he was eating and how many diaper changes he was needing (they ask at every appointment) to be able to open the app and know the exact answer. At $4.99 it is pricy for an app, but a total steal considering how useful it is. It will remain helpful beyond his infant months too.

Diaper rash cream: We didn’t start using this until it was too late and C was crying every time he pooped from the pain of a chapped butt. Now we use it at every diaper change – either Burt’s Bees or Carter’s brand depending on if we change him on the Pack ‘N’ Play or in the nursery.

New nursing mom essentials:

Breast pump: The hospital sent me home with a brand new set of tubing and accessories, so even though I had done nothing with the hand-me-down breast pump my friend gave me, it was good to go when Corban’s pediatrician recommended I pump for a feeding to see if my milk had really come in. There are actually quite a few scenarios when you would want to try pumping in the early days, so it’s probably good to have one from the start if you’re planning on buying one at all. And, side note, after using a breast pump, I realize there is nothing to fear about using one second hand. The pump itself doesn’t touch the milk – even the tubes don’t. Only the bottles and the suction things you attach to the breast come into contact with the milk, and you can probably get those new for free from your hospital.

Lanolin: If you’re pregnant, go buy some now just to be sure you have it from the moment you start breastfeeding. Lanolin is a soothing Vaseline-like gel that helps heal and prevent nipple irritation. Use it after every feeding and for sure before pumping. Lansinoh brand is great and you can buy it in the nursing/feeding aisle at Target. I’ve also heard it works great for chapped lips.

Bra pads: This is definitely one of those things I didn’t really give much thought to. I put them on our registry, certain that no one would buy them, just because they were recommended along with the other breastfeeding supplies. But as soon as your milk comes in (3 to 5 days after birth, I think) you will need them or you’ll be going through a lot of bras and shirts! My friend Litzy coincidentally did purchase them off our registry and gave them to me (along with a disclaimer that it was the weirdest thing she’s ever bought someone) when Corban was four days old. Perfect timing! I should also mention that if you’re using lanolin, the pads function to protect your shirt or bra from getting stained.

Camis or nursing bras: I have to be honest, I wore nursing bras for a few days, then realized they were kind of just getting in the way because you have to wear a nursing friendly top anyway. Now my nursing mom uniform is a cami with built-in bra and a cardigan. My favorites are my Gap maternity camis. They are long, fitted and supportive (if you’re not huge-chested).

Breastfeeding pillow: You can definitely just use a regular pillow on your lap, but I love the (unfortunately-named) My Brest Friend pillow. It is the perfect height for a newborn to rest on while feeding and it has a pouch to store your lanolin or whatever else. It also buckles around you, so it stays securely in place. I still haven’t figured out how to make the Boppy helpful for feedings – it’s kind of bulky and awkward at this point – but some people love it.

Unless I’m forgetting something, that’s pretty much all we needed for the first couple weeks. Really, not much. Baby just eats, sleeps and poops (hopefully) for the most part. I’ll do another post soon on the other items we’ve started using now that C is a few weeks old. And the next installment of Corban’s birth story will be up soon too!