Half a year. Has half a year gone by since the babies were born? Yes, I already understand the days are long but the years are short.
The girls’ sleeping and eating patterns are still stable from Month 5 and uber predictable. About a week after my last post, the one who hadn’t yet rolled over in her Miracle Blanket finally did after putting them down for the night. So we put her in a sleep sack like her sister has been wearing for weeks and wow did that go poorly. We finally put her in a Swaddle Me on top of the sleep sack, but with it wrapping under her armpits so her arms were free for when she rolled over. I guess she just needed the feeling of containment or something, because it worked like a charm. She’s also now become a tummy sleeper. We’ve been putting the Swaddle Me on looser and looser and someday soon we’re going to try her without it to see if she can learn to sleep in only the sleep sack.
Sitting supported is a piece of cake for both of them, and they’ll both tripod sit unsupported for maybe 15-20 seconds or so, maybe more if they’re in the right mood. However, one has quite the habit of, without any warning, throwing herself backwards from a sitting position – either while on the floor or when she’s on a lap. The trusty internet tells me this is normal on the pathway to unassisted sitting, but it can be really scary! She doesn’t seem particularly bothered by it, and I encourage her to sit back up on her own so I guess this behavior is serving some kind of function.
Their interaction and communication with the world, each other, and us has just taken off. Starting two or three months ago we began putting our hands out towards them and asking “Up?” before picking them up, then proceeding to pick them up when they reached their arms back at us. At first, of course, it was more just asking “Up?” then waiting a few seconds to get their attention, then picking them up. But as they began reaching more for objects, they began reaching for our outstretched arms/hands, probably just because they were an object within their reach. Then it progressed to obvious excitement when cued and now they both will raise their arms and reach out when asked “Up?” Adorable. We’re all looking forward to starting basic baby signs…starting with those for food!
We are still on five liquid feedings per day, though they’ve been ready to drop the middle of the day one (directly preceding afternoon nap) for a few weeks. At just over five months old, we switched from slow flow #2 nipples to medium flow #3 nipples. It definitely took a week or two of spitting most of of the milk out the side of their mouths before they had gotten the hang of the faster flow and I was convinced they were actually capable of sucking on them properly. We’ve been hesitant to drop the middle of the day feeding – which despite them being able to use the faster-flow nipples properly, they still dribble most of that feeding down their chins – because we knew we were going to start solid food soon and wanted to only make one change at a time. We were originally going to wait until after the official 6-month mark (today) to start food, but Molly’s parents visited this past weekend and we thought it would be a fun thing to do while they were here. At this point, a few days doesn’t make any difference at all and six months was our goal anyway. We went with Earth’s Best Organic Whole Grain Rice Cereal, created a slushy soupy mixture, and hoped for the best! Based on their respective showings of interest these past few weeks, we had our suspicions on which one was going to be more receptive to the cereal. But, to keep us on our toes, their initial reactions were the complete opposite of we expected. One was reaching, opening her mouth, and swallowing the cereal with minimal aversion while I’m pretty sure the other thought we were trying to poison her. The unmistakeable look of disgust and betrayal on her face was just priceless. The addition of sweet potatoes (Earth’s Best Organic 1st Foods Sweet Potatoes) to the rice cereal mixture improved her frosty reception, though there is still much convincing to do.
Six months also means Molly has reached her breastfeeding goal – it was a long, difficult, tiring, and often frustrating journey for all four of us, and I am incredibly proud and in awe of her for sticking with something I most certainly would have given up on considering the challenges involved. During and after the imminent weaning process, I can only hope that she can rest well knowing that every day was an accomplishment, that she provided them with six full months of the best nutrition available, and that they will be healthier for it.
Another interesting development in both the girls is stranger anxiety. We noticed the first signs of it a few weeks ago, but it has very recently become obvious that is what is going on. First it was when two friends came over and they both got fussy whenever they saw our friends (who have been over a handful of times since the birth but probably not enough to be familiar faces to them). Then, when I brought them to Molly’s work for lunch last week, they did OK for the first little bit, but they both obviously wanted to keep either Molly or me in their sight. They both eventually melted down, but I figured that could also have been due to the large number of people around them and the massive amount of stimulation they aren’t used to. But the biggest example is when Molly’s parents just visited – both girls (though one more than the other) would instantly turn from happy, bouncy baby to warning pouty lip followed quickly by crying and turning towards Molly or me. Stranger anxiety if I’ve ever seen it before. They both warmed up rather quickly the day her parents arrived, and even more quickly the next morning. By the second morning, both girls greeted Molly’s parents with smiles and giggles. The babies are just getting to the age where we can take them out and do things, but that is corresponding to the beginning of stranger anxiety. So I imagine it must be difficult for family and friends not to take it personally. Hey here’s my cute baby(ies) that can sit on your lap and laugh and finally interact with the world but oops they see you and start balling. Yeah, super, those are the kids I want to hang out with. In this respect, I kind of feel bad for our family and friends. But on the other hand, I have to admit that it feels so amazing to be one that they look to for comfort in those situations. Not that I ever really doubted it, but they truly are bonded to us, they definitely know who we are and that we are something, someone(s), special in their lives. To them, I am irreplaceable. The same goes for Molly. And there isn’t any other word I can think of to describe that feeling except simply amazing.
This past month has also been all about confidence building for Molly and me. I had to go out of town for a few days, leaving Molly to do the morning and evening routines. Similarly, our daytime nanny was out for a few days this past month, leaving me with solo daddy days. When they were just tiny little things, both Molly and I found it difficult to feed/burp both of them each on our own, partly because of one of the girls’ latch/reflux issues but also because honestly, it was just difficult. So, until this past month, we’ve been moving our schedules around so that neither one of us would have to feed both of them by ourselves. Back when they were 11 weeks old, I went to a conference out of town, and we arranged it so that Molly’s best friend flew out to visit and help while I was gone. But this month when I had no choice but to go out of town for four days and no one was available to come out for a visit, Molly was forced into doing it herself. Similarly, when the nanny was out sick for a few days, I was forced into doing by myself. Apparently that’s both what we needed, because while feeding both girls alone used to be an anxiety-producing thought, we both learned this month that feeding both at the same time has gotten much easier than just a couple of months ago. A lot of that has to do with major strides in latch, head and body control, and clear communication regarding needs and wants. But for me, I believe some of it comes from a place of improved confidence in myself that I really do know their behaviors and actions the best, I really do know how to take care of them, and as their parents no one can take care of them like we can. It’s a powerful and joyful feeling for sure, but also one that comes with its own set of challenges, particularly around letting others make decisions about their care that I may not have made myself. I know this is a common experience for most parents and that this is only the beginning.