Babies change so quickly. It’s amazing, really. Up until this past month, I thought that the first couple of months were when they changed the most quickly. But not now – this past month has been not only the fastest that went by but also the one filled with the most changes so far.
They are eight months old and so many changes and new developments occurred just in this past month that I think a bulleted list is in order:
- Both are cross-crawling with can’t-turn-your-back-for-a-second efficiency.
- Both are pulling to standing on every stationary object at their disposal.
- One has two bottom teeth (the other still toothless).
- Both are quickly learning to hand-feed themselves small, melt-in-your-mouth finger foods.
- We took our first big traveling adventure…to three timezones away.
First, the traveling. Shortly after the Month 7 post, the four of us flew to the other side of the country to visit with family for the holiday season. We initially flew to one location where we were only going to spend two nights (in a hotel room), then we flew to a second location where we spent a little over a week (in a family-owned beach condo). I had quite a bit of anxiety about how flying with two 7-month olds was going to go. Because we were flying across the country, our day of traveling was going to take the entire day, meaning we had to take a full day’s worth of supplies – bottles, formula, bibs (plus extras!), burp cloths (plus extras!), toys, diapers, extra clothes, etc. – with us as carry-ons. Add a double stroller, two car seats, and all of Molly’s and my luggage and we were a sight to be seen! Surprisingly enough, despite my anxiety about it, the actual process of going through security and being on the plane with two infants were the easiest parts. The transitions between planes, from the airport to the car, and from the car to the hotel/condo were rough. But at least those were the most time-limited parts of the trip(s). Not that I would necessarily want to do it again, but we made it through and we all survived without any major trauma.
If only I could say the same for our experience in the hotel room. We had told the hotel that we wanted two cribs for our room, and to my surprise they were actually there. But they were the most bootleg of cribs I’ve ever seen – with gigantic spaces between the tiny metal bars and mattresses that didn’t fit snuggly in the bottoms. If the girls had been pulling to standing like they are now, that definitely would not have worked, because they would have gotten their little feet caught between the bars and the mattress! We have essentially trained them to want to lie down to go to sleep (as opposed to needing to be rocked/held to fall asleep) so we did our normal nighttime routine and placed them in the cribs. But now that they are old enough to be completely aware of and interested in their surroundings, whenever they would see us in the room, they would start screaming and crying, despite (or perhaps because of) being so exhausted. So Molly and I ended up hiding out and eating our room service dinner in the bathroom while they finally fell asleep. Luckily, they didn’t wake as we slipped into bed just a mere foot or two away from their cribs. We all got a pretty good night’s sleep, though it was a few hours less than usual due to the combination of going to bed late and the time zone change.
The second (of two) nights in the hotel room was a different story. Because we had mostly stuck to their nap schedule during the day, by the time bedtime rolled around, they were tired enough to go to sleep relatively easily/quickly, but one would wake and wail every time she saw us in the bed. That night was perhaps one of the most challenging nights we’ve had regarding sleep since…well, ever. Even though there were many sleepless nights in the first eight weeks or so after birth, that was because they were newborns and needed to eat every three hours. We’ve never really had difficulty with overnight sleep for other reasons (and I wouldn’t say waking as a newborn is a “difficulty” because that’s just what their needs are), and this experience really gave me an insight into what other parents may experience when their kids have overnight sleeping challenges.
Despite the trials and tribulations of sharing a hotel room with two infants, the quick trip to see Molly’s family was 100% worth it. We were able to have a really great lunch with her family, and this trip may have been the only time they’ll get to meet the girls as babies. They were so great at lunch, sitting in their high chairs at the table, just smiling and playing with their toys. Yes, despite the challenges, it was really a great trip. And now we know that we just need to get two adjoining hotel rooms from now on.
Once we got to our second location (the beach condo), we were easily able to get right back into our routine, because they were able to sleep in their own travel cribs in a room we could separate from the living room and Molly’s and my bedroom. My extended family and more of Molly’s family joined us at our second location, and the girls did fantastically with all of the new people and at the myriad of places we took them. Many restaurants, a botanical gardens at night, boating, swimming in a pool – so many “firsts” for them! We hardly noticed any stranger anxiety at all, and what we did notice was a tiny bit of separation anxiety, I think. But Molly and I were able to get away for a few hours here and there for quality time alone (and hot stone massages – thanks, Mom and Dad!). Although the girls won’t remember it, I am so happy they were able to meet grant grandparents on both Molly’s and my side, and we took many many photos to show them in the future.
Traveling across three time zones on the way home was more challenging, because their little bodies were used to waking up at a certain time…which ended up still being sleepy time for everyone else in our home time zone. While you can always wake them early, we’ve found there is little you can do to make them keep sleeping to get back on an adult-convenient schedule. So that’s been an adjustment period, but we’re finally getting there.
With the sudden increase in their energy expenditure, I think waking early was possibly compounded with being more hungry. Now that they are able to stay awake after lunch for at least three hours, sometimes 3.5 hours, by the time they would normally wake up from afternoon nap, it’s been at least five hours since lunch! That’s a long time – and afternoon nap was creeping down to only 30-40 minutes before one would wake so just recently we’ve started feeding a small “snack” before afternoon nap. It worked for a day or two, but we’ve also had a few days where the afternoon nap was still just as short. So I’m not sure that’s the solution, but I doubt seriously that a serving of food before naptime will hurt in any way and perhaps just enough sleep to recharge is all that is needed now.
Both are also beginning to turn in response to their names. I suspect that before now they have been recognizing their names but were often too busy or distracted to show obvious recognition through turning towards us, making eye contact, etc. But it has become very clear in the past few weeks that they are understanding a lot more of what we say to them than we realize. For example, we have a dresser with changing pad on top in our living room (where we spend most of the daily playtime), which we placed right next to a window, and there are some vertical blinds in the window that we usually keep closed. So, of course, whenever either is getting changed, they are constantly reaching over to touch the blinds. Both Molly and I have tried to be very consistent about saying, “A____, no touching” or “E____, no touching,” and while it takes two or three verbal corrections each time they reach out for them, both will look directly at you and eventually stop touching them. It really seems like they are understanding the request…especially when they protest about it.
Just within the past couple of days, we’ve started using hand signs with them. We’ve chosen a handful to be really consistent with – please, milk, more, all done, and cat/kitty. We’re mostly using the ASL signs, with some as the more simplified “baby signs.” For example, they most certainly already know and understand what we chose to be our sign for “up,” which is placing our hands outstretched and closing our fingers to our fists a couple of times – both almost universally now respond with reaching their arms upward to be picked up. We plan on using the ASL versions of other signs in the future, knowing that we’ll end up seeing sign approximations when they begin using them back. While I expect it will take a number of months before they begin signing back, I can already tell that this next month is going to be all about communication.