Week 24

Ava is 24 weeks old

Please excuse this rather strange picture of Ava squinting and sticking her tongue out. It might not show her face in any great detail, but it’s a good portrayal of where we spent the better part of the last week.

In the background in this shot is the idyllic hamlet of Prince Albert in the Klein Karoo, where the three of us whiled away five long days and nights in a self-catering cottage on a goat-and-sheep-and-vegetable farm to celebrate the long weekend.

I wish I could say that we relaxed and slept and chilled, and came back feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world (or, at least, the next three months until our December holiday).

But of course we didn’t. We drove for almost six hours in our little car, at least one of which Ava spent howling (from now on, I’m sitting in the back with her for long car trips – car sickness be damned – anything is better than sitting in the passenger seat, listening to her bellowing with distress without being able to do anything to help – at least if I’m in the back she’s able to see me) in a tiny space.

We got to our little cottage after what felt like days. We unpacked, put up the camping cot, changed and fed the baby, and hit the dusty, wide streets of the town. We bought boerewors from the butcher, farm bread from a deli, and chutney and olives from the farmers whose land we were staying on. We wandered among the amazing vegetable garden, and picked handfuls of crisp, deep-red-veined beetroot leaves. We put Ava to sleep, lit a braai fire, and proceeded to work our way through three bottles of red wine that we’d brought with us. Let it be noted that my half of this was a bottle and a half minus a glass more than I’ve drunk in 14 months.

We fell into bed.

We were woken up at 3am by Ava crying. This is highly unusual. We put her back to sleep. We were woken at 5am by Ava crying, more urgently this time. Again, highly unusual. Again we put her back to sleep. For about 20 minutes.

The rest of the day went by in a headache-y blur. It is an indication of how I was feeling that for breakfast I had an array of junk food that would make Bridget Jones proud (egg-and-cheese jaffle, coffee, lemonade, a pancake, olives and a candy apple). I bought Ava eyedrops from the pharmacy – the dry air in the Karoo made her eyes quite itchy and sore – and then – BIG MISTAKE – walked out. I didn’t turn around and remember that we’d left the Panado baby syrup (that we were given at our baby shower and have only ever used once before) at home, so I didn’t buy another bottle.

That night, Ava cried. She took forever to go to sleep, and when she did, it was never for very long. She was up at 2am and 5am and then, on Sunday, didn’t go down for a nap until after lunch. She wasn’t very hungry, didn’t want to play, didn’t want to be pushed in her pram, didn’t even want to see the angora goats or the turkeys! This was all so unlike her that I had an epiphany (almost exactly 24 hours too late) – I stuck my finger in her mouth and, lo, felt two sharp little teeth poking out of her bottom gum. Teeth! Her very own teeth! Sometime in the last 24 hours, she’d gone and sprouted her own little shards of tooth. No wonder she’d been so impossible.

Of course, now the one pharmacy in the whole town was closed (being a Sunday) and we didn’t have anything to give her to soothe her. We needed to take the teething relief up a level – the little teething ring she was chewing on didn’t seem to be helping much. As a last resort, we stuck her in the carrier on Dylan and went on a koppie hike – which is where the picture was taken. It put her to sleep, which was great, except that it meant that when we got back, she’d slept and so kept us awake with her crying all afternoon. Poor thing – she didn’t have a fever at least, but she was obviously really struggling. She’s usually not very sensitive – she doesn’t mind bright lights or loud noises or even eye drops in her eyes – she seems to take life pretty much in her stride (or, more accurately, in her wobble). But she really didn’t like those teeth pushing themselves out.

So, in the absence of any other remedy (we really were unprepared), and at the end of our collective wits, we dunked her dummy in a glass of wine and gave it to her to suck. It soothed her a lot, and I felt her body relax almost immediately. She went to sleep not long after. This only a day after I’d cringed inwardly at the garagiste wine farmer telling us about parents sticking their babies’ dummies in their wine glasses while at a tasting to get them to calm down – I was like, ‘that’s insane! I’d NEVER give my baby wine!’. It just goes to show – when you’re desperate, you’ll try pretty much anything. We made ourselves feel better by telling each other a few times that gripe water and rescue remedy are predominantly alcohol anyway.

The next day we bought Panado syrup, which she really hates the taste of (let’s be honest, none of us would choose the sickly minty stuff over wine, would we?), but which worked much better than the wine, without putting her to sleep, so at least I didn’t feel like I was drugging her.

And so, just in time for us to leave, Ava cheered up and calmed down. By which time we were exhausted and emotionally wrung out, neither of us having had any practice with a ‘difficult’ or niggly baby before, really.

The things I learned from this ‘holiday’ are as follows.

  • Always be prepared. Pack medicine.
  • Don’t drink too much when you have a baby. It’s not worth the tiredness or the headache.
  • Don’t go on a road trip with a teething baby. In fact, don’t go anywhere with a teething baby. Just stay at home and sleep while you can.
  • It’s really easy to shower with a baby – almost easier than bathing her. And Ava really liked it. So at least she appreciated one thing about her first ever holiday.
  • Good cheese and olives and chutney and kudu salami and farm bread and fresh vegetables and an incredible, tart, chewy fruit roll go a very, very long way to making up for a baby’s grumpiness. So if you’re going to take a teething baby anywhere, make sure it’s somewhere with incredible fresh produce, and you’ll emerge (almost) unscathed.

Week 23

Ava is 23 weeks old

Good idea: using the first day of warm weather to play fun-in-the-sun-chilling-by-the-pool with your baby.

Bad idea: being so excited to do this that you snatch your baby up from her nap at the first sign of her waking up without giving her time to get used to being awake, especially when your baby, like you, takes a long time to wake up properly.

Good idea: dressing your baby in her adorable, colourful polka-dot bathing suit from your friend in London so that she can look the part while she’s having fun in the sun.

Bad idea: Dressing your baby in said bathing suit while she’s still half-asleep, especially when she *hates* being dressed and undressed and fiddled with at the best of times.

Good idea: Slathering your baby in kiddie sunscreen before taking her outside.

Bad idea: Spending so long and being so thorough doing this that by the time you are finished your baby is annoyed and squirming and bored, and freaks out when you try to put her bonnet on her head so that you end up sticking it on skew and not doing the little strap thing up properly.

Good idea: Having a little mini photo-shoot with your baby once you are outside as this is a momentous occasion, her first day by the pool.

Bad idea: Taking so many photos that your baby, now tired and hungry and pretty frustrated, starts crying and (aside from her distress) ruining the photos so that she’ll always look back on them and think that she must have hated swimming and/or her parents when she was a baby.

Good idea: Putting your baby in the pool feet first and very slowly so that she doesn’t get a fright at how cold the water is.

Bad idea: Putting your baby in the pool at all when it is even too cold for you to put your own feet in.

Good idea: Soothing your baby when she starts screaming at the temperature of the water that you just stuck her toe in by rocking and cuddling her.

Bad idea: Cuddling her in her bathing suit (which she cannot wear with a nappy on) rather than putting her in a warm bath immediately, so that she wees in her bathing suit, and on you.

Good idea: Trying to figure out what’s wrong with your baby an hour after her post-fun-in-the-sun bath when she is still upset, by trying to feed her and then trying to rock her to sleep.

Bad idea: Doing any of these things rather than giving her baby Panado and putting her down in her cot – which is the only thing that worked, eventually.

Ah – don’t you love summer? 🙂

Week 22

Ava is 22 weeks old

As you can see in the pic, Ava has discovered the joy of being able to feed herself. She’d started sticking whatever she could get her chubby little hands on into her mouth (her toy rabbit is her snack of choice, but anything within reach will do – Dylan’s chin, my hair, her bib, a handful of the cat’s fur), so I gave her an organic baby biscuit one afternoon, and she was thrilled. She sucks it to within an inch of its life and chews on it with her drooly gums. I suppose, if she is teething, that it soothes whatever pain she’s got in her gums.

And we finally had to put the Moses basket into storage. It made me quite sad, actually. It’s such a small, cute thing that our small, cute baby has slept in every night for the last 5 months. Dylan’s mom bought her a fancy camping cot that we’ve got her in next to our bed now. As soon as I put her in it the other night for the first time, she started giggling. Having a new bed is obviously very exciting!

She’s big enough now to face outwards in her carrier, which makes going for our long walks and hikes much more fun for her. She used to grizzle a little when we first strapped her into her carrier before setting off, but now she’s happy from the word ‘go’.

This time next month, she’ll be sleeping in her own room (to prevent SIDS, it’s recommended to keep babies in your room in their own bed until they’re 6 months old), will be totally off the boob, and will be sitting in a high chair while she’s fed her beloved orange porridge (butternut + rice cereal + formula).

She’s just changing so much. I am loving this age – she’s sleeping and eating well and is so responsive and affectionate and adorable. Getting a wide grin and a happy squirm first thing in the morning means nothing can go wrong in my day.

Week 21

Ava is 21 weeks old

At five months, Ava is such a funny little thing.

She loves blowing raspberries, has an excellent sense of humour, thinks it’s especially hilarious when we smell her feet and tell her how stinky they are (a lie, by the way, seeing how her feet never get used), loves lying on her back and grabbing her bubbly toes, spends ages jabbering to her orange monkey nightlight when she should be asleep, annihilates her rice cereal for breakfast and butternut-puree-mixed-with-rice-cereal for supper, thinks trees are the most interesting things in the world, especially when their leaves wave in the breeze, puts everything in her mouth, including leaves she’s ripped off of the trees, won’t roll over (even though she’s trying with all her might), and has a fringe that’s grown down past her little ginger eyebrows – we have to comb it sideways so that it doesn’t look too freakishly long.

Still no sign of teeth, or of a successful tummy-to-back roll. In some ways, she’s ahead on developmental milestones chart (bringing objects to her mouth, jabbering) and in others she’s behind (the rolling is a big one). But she’s in the 50th percentile for weight and height, so in all the ways that matter she’s a perfectly average baby (with an above-average cuteness factor, of course).

The things I couldn’t do without

Dylan’s love for Ava is obviously the number-one thing I couldn’t live without. Obviously.

Inspired by a post by a fellow baby-mama that contains plenty of good advice, I thought I’d make a list of things that have been essential for us in keeping Ava happy (and, to be crude, alive).

Books and websites tell you that you actually need very little, which is all good and well, but means you’ll probably be back in the shops within six weeks, when your baby’s not a newborn any more and suddenly needs more than just a place to sleep and two baby-gro’s.

Sleeping

  • A Moses basket. We paid a fortune for ours at Baby City, and while it’s served us well, you could very easily get one made by someone who can weave – or whatever you do with – wicker, and then get it lined with cotton, and get a carry-cot mattress to fit inside. Ours is on a stand and it lives next to our bed, where Ava has slept since she was a week old. Some of them have stands with wheels. Ours doesn’t.
  • Baby monitor. We bought the fancy sound-and-movement monitor, but have never hooked up the movement pad, so we just use it as a sound monitor. The nursery unit has a thermometer, so you can see what temperature baby’s room is, and you can adjust its sensitivity. We’ve literally used it every day since we brought Ava home. It’s especially great for when we’ve got the TV on and she’s asleep in her cot in the nursery. But because she sleeps on her tummy in her cot (not her Moses basket, obviously – and yes, I know they’re not supposed to, but she sleeps much better that way – and we all survived on our tummies, right?) I like to keep checking on her every half-hour or so, just to make sure she’s breathing clearly and there are no blankets near her face.
  • Swaddling blankets. Ava loved a good swaddle as a newborn. Any blanket works if you fold it into a triangle, but the ones that are specially designed are much more effective.

Clothing

  • Baby-gro’s that are onesies and open with poppers down the middle. Ava hates having clothes pulled over her head, so these are the best.
  • Beanie-hats – essential for a winter baby.

Feeding

  • Philips AVENT electric pump plus AVENT bottles (in different sizes) and microwave steriliser. This may not be the cheapest option, but has been really worthwhile for me. I started expressing when Ava was about a week old so that she’d get used to taking the bottle, and so it was important to me that the pump was really quiet and gentle, and I could manually set the speed. We still use AVENT bottles for Ava, but the teat sizes we use are smaller than they recommend – she can’t handle the 3+ months variable teats – as Dyl says, it’s like she’s drinking from the end of a fire-hose! She’s still on the size 2 teats for now.

Bathing/grooming (haha, makes her sound like a pet)

  • Tiny baby nail scissors – biting baby’s nails might work for some people, but I personally find it a little gross. And dangerous – human mouths are pretty dirty. The little nail scissors I use on Ava are very blunt and work well – but only if she’s fast asleep when I cut her nails.
  • Enchantrix Organic Baby Bum Balm – we bought two tubs of this before Ava was born, and are still using them. They last forever, smell awesome, and Ava has never had a nappy rash.
  • Cherubs paraben-free, unscented baby wipes. This is the best alternative to cotton-wool and water. This is the only brand I’ve found in SA that does paraben-free wipes – in the UK, there are loads.
  • Pampers nappies. Still haven’t whipped out the shaped cloth nappies we’ve got – I have good intentions to start them from when she’s 6 months old – and Pampers are just the best. As I say, she’s never had a nappy rash.
  • Plastic bath on a stand. This is especially nice for Dylan because he doesn’t have to bend down too far to bath Ava. The bath we have is moulded into a little seat which Ava has fit in from newborn (and still does), so we’ve been able to bath her with both hands free.

Getting around

  • A decent baby-carrier. We’ve gone through five different ones and none have been as good as the one we’ve got now – The Hug Helper – which, of course, was not the cheapest (but not the priciest either). The cheap ones just don’t work. And that Baby Sense sling one? We might be doing it wrong, but it really doesn’t work for Ava.

Advice

  • Marina Petropulos’s book, which says that you should change a baby’s nappy before feeding them when they wake up at night so that they don’t “associate waking up at night with the pleasure of a feed” – I’ll never forget that line – which is what I did with Ava from the beginning, and it seemed to work, because she dropped her night feeds relatively quickly. Hoorah.

Toys

  • Mobiles and hanging toys, especially above her changing mat (these are such a boon – Ava loves being changed because of these toys).

Medicine

  • Saline solution for when she’s got a blocked nose, and Reuterina drops (probiotics have been shown to prevent eczema). She’s never once been sick or had a fever, so I figure we must be doing something right.

If you’ve got a bub, and there’s something that’s not here that you couldn’t have lived/live without, tell me about in a comment – knowledge-sharing is very hip right now. 😉