Archive for April, 2012

Oatmeal and spoon!

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

When I wrote in January that I was struggling to decide whether to keep nursing our babies, several moms reassured me that, while bottle feeding was inherently different from breast feeding, that one could have similar special bonding moments while bottle feeding. I really appreciated the reassurance, and I believe it’s true for many women. But for better or worse, that hasn’t been my experience.

I’m not sure if it’s because I had to work so hard to overcome post-delivery anemia in order to nurse, or because after 7 years of fighting my body to get pregnant I was relieved that it would make milk, or because nursing is just really, really special. Regardless of the reasons, I get immense satisfaction from nursing (even when it’s uncomfortable) that I haven’t gotten from bottle feeding. That’s why I’m still nursing Cate and Sam four feedings a day out of five, even though they almost always need formula as well.

That being said, feeding “solids” is entirely different and I love it! I eat oatmeal for breakfast most mornings and the girls have appeared very interested in what I’m doing when I eat it. Since rice, oat, and barley cereals are the recommended first foods for baby tummies that are just learning to digest something besides milk, I decided to share a little. Starting in early April, I would dip my finger in the blueberry-oaty water in my bowl and then let them suck it off my finger. I occasionally gave them a tiny oat bit or two which prompted some really funny expressions.

Our pediatrician said babies can start solid foods once they’re able to sit up by themselves, and now they can. So last Sunday, armed with some baby spoons Gram Nancy brought us, we started practicing eating. For a few days I just dipped their little spoon in the watery blue part of my oatmeal. But on Wednesday I bought them some Happy Bellies Oatmeal of their own. I’m mixing it with the watery blueberry runoff from my oatmeal so it tastes the same, but it has a much finer texture.

Sam seemed to grasp what to do with the spoon almost immediately, and Cate worked it out over the next day or two. Now they both get more oatmeal in than out, though with the blueberry tint, the drippings are pretty messy. A big thanks to Susan and Mike for the giant Rice U bibs which not only match the blueberries, but are big enough to keep blue oatmeal off of their clothes!

Our morning routine is now nursing, oatmeal, and then formula. I’m really enjoying it and the girls seem to enjoy it, too. I’m also looking forward to feeding them new foods soon. It bummed me out that Sam and Cate’s first exposure to flavors has been fake-grape-flavored acetaminophen, fake-cherry-flavored Prevacid, and fake-vanilla-flavored lactase supplements. I’m really excited about exposing them to real flavors. And since their Dad likes to cook, he’s excited about preparing real food for them, too. This is going to be fun!

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Sharing? Not exactly…

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

My mom observed that the girls’ “ability to intentionally manipulate things with their hands has grown by leaps and bounds” in the last few weeks. Tonight I caught them demonstrating their dexterity with their favorite new (to us) toy. It’s a cloth book called Jungly Tails from one of my girlfriends (Gina or Pete?). It has crinkly cellophane inside each of the pages, and they LOVE it. Watching them “share” it makes me wonder how we’re going to teach them to take turns without grabbing.

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UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that on Friday morning, Amazon delivered a copy of Farm Tails, the comparably crinkly companion volume to Jungle Tails. We’ll work on teaching sharing another time.

Milestones: Sitting around!

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

The whole point of Tummy Time is to help babies strengthen the core muscles they’re going to need for tough tasks like rolling over and sitting up by themselves. During four months of Tummy Time, the girls have grown a LOT stronger, and in the last ten days, it’s translating into new skills.

Both girls have mastered sitting up. Sam demonstrated her new ability for the first time on Sunday afternoon (Apr 15), in front of an audience at Michael and Susan’s house. She even kept it up long enough to pose for a picture with the birthday girl, Elizabeth.

Sam sitting by herself for the first time

Elizabeth with Sam, Bob, Cate, and Ike

Cate mastered sitting at home just a few days later (Apr 20). Given that Cate has a full pound less muscle mass than Sam to put into the effort, I’m impressed that she managed to do it on essentially the same timeline!

Cate sitting by herself for the first time

Cate sitting tall

In addition, both girls are working on rolling over by themselves. Of the four rolling options, Sam mastered rolling left from her tummy to her back on Wednesday (Apr 18), and she now does it calmly whenever she’s ready to be done with Tummy Time. Cate is obviously strong enough to roll, given how readily she can transition from her side up into Tummy Time, but she doesn’t seem to want to. In fact, if one tries to help her roll to her back, she puts great effort into staying up and controlled on her tummy.

All of this newfound core strength means it’s officially no longer safe to leave our babies untended on our bed. When we sit them in Boppies, they just don’t stay. Sometimes they land happily and sometimes they don’t. But given that we sleep on a buildup, it’s a long way from our mattress to the floor.

UPDATE: Yesterday, right before the middle-of-the-night feeding, I went to pee. While I was gone, Sam pitched herself out of her Boppy, much as she had above, only she was face-down with her head over the edge of the bed. I had to run to keep her from sliding off and it scared the heck out of Bill and me. No more unsupervised bed time, period.

Bedtime and reading etiquette

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

The sleep book guy says that kids have a much easier time falling asleep when they get the same set of sleep cues everytime. Routine is essential. Putting Sam and Cate to bed has certainly gotten faster (assuming no reflux) since we started following the same ritual:

  • wind down to be still,
  • put away the bottles and toys,
  • turn down/out the light and shade the windows,
  • turn on the HVAC blower,
  • offer each girl a Binky,
  • swaddle each girls snuggly in a light blanket, then
  • hold her and bounce/rock her to sleep,
  • while singing Tom Petty’s “Alright for now”.

We do it the same way for daytime sleep (naps) and nighttime sleep. We will soon have to stop swaddling them, but with luck, the repetitive structure will hold together and still lead easily to sleep.

There’s one addition in the evening when we read bedtime stories. We start with Sandra Boynton’s Going to Bed Book and finish with Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon. I sit straddled on the bed with the girls sitting side-by-side in front of me, leaning back against my belly, while I read the stories aloud.

One or both girls are occasionally distracted by someone else moving around the room, but mostly, they are attentive to the books. And over the last week or three, they’ve continued to appear more interested, reaching for the book and vocalizing their enthusiasm. Of course they sometimes make it hard to turn the pages, but I’ve already memorized both stories, and I see any interest in reading as good interest.

But last night, something novel happened. Sam was sitting mostly quietly on the right, with her right hand resting on my right wrist, as I was starting to read Goodnight Moon. Cate was on the left, leaning in close to the book and reaching for the pages, and presumably blocking Sam’s view somewhat. Suddenly, Sam leaned left-forward, grabbed a fistful of the back of Cate’s onesie with her left hand, threw her right arm around in front of her, and essentially dragged Cate back toward me. I obviously can’t know what her motive was, but it sure looked like she was saying, “Be still now… we’re reading!”

Speed blogging: gratuitous dig

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Me, while tandem nursing: “Careful, babies. No hands in eyes. Because it’s 2:28 am and hands-in still sucks.”

Six months elapsed

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

It’s really weird how, even though hours and days often seem long, the sleep deprivation-induced memory impairment makes the months seem to fly by. October seems a lifetime ago, and I guess for our daughters, it literally is. For reference, here they are:

October 29, 2011

April 11, 2012

As Cindy said about Sonnet in October:

…six months old today. There’s so much I want to tell you, but alas, there’s no time.”

What she said!

New ‘ride!

Monday, April 9th, 2012

With respect to going places, I can still count on two hands the places the girls have been in the car:

  • hospital >> home
  • pediatrician
  • obstetrician (Cate came with me twice)
  • polling location at a neighborhood church
  • Gram Nancy’s house in Conroe
  • Baba Jean and Papa Bear Chuck’s house in Galveston
  • bluebonnets by Buffalo Bayou
  • Houston Garden Center rose garden at Hermann Park

In fact, including five trips to the pediatrician, they’ve taken just a dozen car trips (well, 11 and 13) in the last six months. When it comes time to garage sale our baby buckets, I will have no qualms describing them as “gently used” and “like new!”

Up to now, we’ve used a Snap-n-Go stroller frame that holds their buckets. For walking around the neighborhood, we either just held them or used Baby Bjorn carriers. But the girls keep growing. It looks like they will outgrow their buckets soon, and they’re certainly getting a little heavy for long-distance lugging. That means we not only need new car seats, but also a real stroller.

Fortunately for us, our friends Cindy & Paul decided to sell us their Bumbleride Indie Twin. Cindy says that Emma tended to be too interested in her little sister to keep dual rides peaceable, and we were in the market, so voila. Thank you, Farhakes! Shipping the stroller from Las Vegas to Houston continues to be a dramatic exercise in “what can Brown NOT do for you,” (which has made Cindy work a LOT harder than I hoped, and I’m grateful for all her effort!) but the stroller did arrive.

We’ve now taken it for a spin around the ‘hood twice and it’s earned approval from all of us. Sweet ‘ride!

Shiny new (to us) Bumbleride!

Apparently suitable for napping on the go



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On a totally unrelated note, I’m struck by how blue-gray the girls’ eyes continue to be, especially in bright sunlight. I remain curious whether they’ll stay this color.

Rice owlets

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Our alma mater has one of the strongest college baseball programs in the nation, and Reckling Park is one of the coolest places to enjoy a game. Or so I’ve heard. Because 13 years later, I still have yet to watch a game there. D’oh!

Our friend HeatherAnne forwarded a cute Rice Baseball onesie that has made the rounds among our friends. Thanks! I love the idea of taking them to a game, but I’m not sure that Sam and Cate will be ready in the next six weeks. I hope that next spring, some of our Rice friends will teach us how to take toddlers to a game and enjoy it.

Physical development: Feet eating!

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

In response to our hand-made hats post, both grandmothers asked whether Sam and Cate are already sitting up by themselves. At just four months past their due date, that would have been early indeed. Alas no, there were stealth hands on their torsos, steadying them upright, just out of frame.

Here’s what they’re really doing at four months (click for larger):

The American Academy of Pediatrics guide, Your Baby’s First Year, says this:

“As his physical coordination improves, your baby will discover parts of his body that he never knew existed. Lying on his back, he can now grab his feet and toes and bring them to his mouth.”

And they’re doing a lot of it. About ten days ago, the girls were sitting on our bed in their Boppy pillows. I had just given them their Prevacid and was about to change their diapers, when I glanced at them to check how they were doing. Cate seemed delighted, merrily munching on a foot in her mouth, but Sam looked vaguely discomfited. On closer inspection, I realized that the foot in Cate’s mouth was… Sam’s.

Tuesday night, after I gave the girls their Prevacid, I set them in their Boppies and went to the kitchen to start bottles warming before nursing. Through the monitor, I heard Sam starting to sound frustrated. When I came back, I found her attempting to return the favor: Sam was tugging on Cate’s foot and attempting to drag it into her mouth, but Cate was resisting and kicking her. Girls!

As you can see, the girls are interacting with each other more and more. As they get stronger and more capable, I expect this is going to get interesting.

Breakthough tactic: Getting the burp out!

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Sleep continues to be hard to come by around here. If we scarf a quick dinner during the ~35 minutes of the third nap, between 5 and 6 pm, so that we’re ready to go to bed when the girls do around 8 pm, then we can usually get 3 or 4 hours of sleep in a row before the middle-of-the-night feeding. But we still have nights that look like this:

Bob’s sleep log for Sunday, April 1, no foolin’

Getting Cate and Sam to sleep 5+ hours at a stretch is the Holy Grail of our parenting journey. In order for that to happen, a whole bunch of things have to happen right:

  • they have to be tired, but not overtired,
  • they have to be full, but not overfull,
  • it has to be quiet, but not too quiet,
  • it has to be cool, but not too cold, and
  • they cannot have reflux, and they have to burp.

Most of those are easy for a parent to manage, but that last pair has proved extremely challenging over and over again. Babies with reflux are smart enough to figure out that if burping might hurt, it can be avoided. Sometimes, we’ll succeed in eliciting a burp, but a wet one that brings stomach contents with it, that then sit uncomfortably in a girl’s esophagus. You can tell she’s uncomfortable because she’ll try over and over again to clear her throat, or she’ll fuss loudly (Sam sometimes yells about it), or worse, she’ll whimper or moan quietly.

The girls get Prevacid twice a day to block production of most stomach acid, but it doesn’t prevent the reflux. Their pediatrician said we can occasionally give them liquid antacid to provide relief. But she discouraged frequent use because it can prompt their stomachs to make additional acid to compensate, which would be bad. And worse, antacids contain aluminum or magnesium which will accumulate in their tiny bodies. Not good.

So that often leaves us with a tough choice: give a daughter some antacid, which will provide immediate relief, but poses serious longer-term risks; or soothe her until her fatigue exceeds her discomfort and she falls asleep despite the reflux, and know that she will assuredly wake ~45 minutes later when her brain shifts back into “light sleep” mode and she perceives her discomfort again.

Retained burps pose a similar ugly choice: defer sleep and keep the tired baby awake longer trying to burp her, or put her to bed and go to bed knowing that her discomfort will wake you both ~45 minutes later. Ugh. It’s incredibly frustrating.

Every burp is sacred,
Every burp is great,
If a burp’s abated,
We’ll be up quite late.

Sung to the tune of Monty Python’s “Every sperm is sacred”

Then last week, I read something tangentially relevant. It said that babies drool, in large part, because they do not yet know how to swallow volitionally. They swallow when they’re drinking/eating, but not otherwise. That got me thinking…

If you or I have stomach acid bubble up from below, we swallow hard to get it back where it belongs. But in a young baby with reflux, who doesn’t yet know how to swallow by choice, it just sits there. What if I could induce her to swallow?

So ten days ago, I added a new trick to our parent repertoire. Faced with an exhausted, refluxy daughter, too uncomfortable to sleep, I put a few milliliters of formula in a bottle and let her take a few swallows. And it worked: she promptly sounded better, put her head on my shoulder, and passed out. No antacid required. Later that night, the other daughter had reflux at bedtime. I tried it again, and it worked again, with an added bonus: she burped!

Since then, we’ve demonstrated that it works with water, too, which is nice because water doesn’t require warming the way refrigerated formula does. And while the babies still wake up from time to time, it’s incredibly satisfying to have a new tactic that we can reliably use to relieve some of their suffering and help them — and us — get more sleep.