Growth Spurts – Not Just For Newborns

If there was one thing I wished someone had warned me about before I had children, it would have been growth spurts. Because when Big Girl arrived, they were the biggest shock of all.

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And yes, I do mean even more shocking than the realisation of how it feels to birth a baby. So you know I’m talking about some serious shit right here.

I had pethidine when I was in labour with her, so for a couple of days she was a bit sleepy. She still woke for feeds every two hours or so, but in between she would slip into a deep sleep. I could even put her down in the hospital crib, and she wouldn’t make a peep.

It was awesome. Well, maybe not awesome, exactly. I felt like I’d been hit by a bus, and getting up from a sitting position resulted in an unpleasant inward shifting sensation that, dear God, I wish I could forget.

But still, a newborn baby that fed and slept, not too bad. I couldn’t shake a stick at that.

Then, day 4 happened.

And I discovered that the previous few days had given me absolutely zero preparation for the veritable shitstorm that was about to ensue.

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Oh. My. God.

Here’s how day 4 went. We woke up, and Big Girl latched on. The end.

Ok, possibly it didn’t go 100% like that. I’m sure there were breaks for pooping, and nappy changing, and outbursts of crying for no apparent reason.

I was talking about the baby, actually. I cry about as much as it rains over the Sahara.

Ahem. Moving on!

Anyway, that’s what it felt like. Big Girl turned into an insatiable demon, who could only be satisfied by a never-ending river of breastmilk. And that’s how it continued for the next seven weeks.

I became closely acquainted with the contours of my couch, and got plenty of practice in feeding one-handed. Well, a keyboard’s not going to type itself now, is it?

I wouldn’t be lying if I said that one of the first things I Googled after coming home from the hospital was, ‘baby breastfeeding all of the time.’ And I’m glad I did. Finally, I had found an explanation for this wriggling, mewling infant who screamed herself purple the second her back hit the Moses basket’s mattress and rooted frantically on any millimetre of bare skin she could find.

Fucking growth spurts.

Suddenly, everything made sense.

Although there was one bit of information which I had to respectfully disagree with. According to the many websites I read on this issue, growth spurts happen numerous times in the first six weeks of a baby’s life, and last about 2-3 days or as much as a week.

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ORLY?

Because as far as I can remember, Big Girl had only one growth spurt. And it lasted approximately seven weeks.

I’m serious.

Despite being armed with the knowledge I gleaned from the holy god of Google, it was bloody hard going. Some days, I barely made it off the couch. I ate what I could grab out of the cupboard and throw down my neck one-handed.

Oh, and I felt like a shrivelled-up raisin that had been forgotten at the back of the cupboard. (You all find those raisins, right?)

But we made it through. And although I’m sure she had a few more growth spurts during her first year, either I’ve lost them in the haze of sleep deprivation, or they weren’t that bad.

Now, Little Girl and Squeak’s growth spurts. Well, I can’t really remember them at all! In my defence in the case of Little Girl, I’m surprised that I can remember anything about her first year. I definitely remember the fuzzy-head, almost drunken sensation of surviving on two hours sleep a night, but growth spurts? Not so much. By the time Squeak came along, I was just shoving her up my top at the slightest peep, and promptly forgetting  about her until she vomited spectacularly into my crotch.

Do you know, as I typed that I recalled exactly the toe-curling, revolting sensation of pooling milk sick as it cools in your crevices. Shudder.

So there was no clock-watching, or noting down of feed times. Hell, I didn’t even try to remember which boob’s turn it was to be fed off. I just plugged her in and got on with the requisite arse-wiping, packet-opening, fighting-children-separating and nose-wiping that comes with having older kids.

I’m sure they happened, like. I just didn’t really notice. In my defence, she fed soooooo much that I’m not sure it would have been possible for her to cram in any more feeding time.

Well, that’s baby growth spurts covered. They occur numerous times during a child’s first year of life, and then everything is just peachy.

But no. For as the years have passed, I have come to a realisation. A horrible, demand-causing, purse-squeezing realisation.

There are child growth spurts too.

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I. Know. Right?

Never before did I think I would grow to appreciate the growth spurts of a newborn. Because breastmilk? That shit is free. When you’ve got a desperate six year old ransacking the cupboards before, after… hell, during meals, you got problems.

Big Girl seems to be on a permanent growth spurt at the moment. It all started last year.

You see, today marks the passing of a year since Big Girl was hospitalised with Guillain-Barre syndrome. It’s hard to believe that such a short time ago she was stuck in a hospital bed, unable to walk, sit up or use her hands properly. I am thankful every day that she appears to have made a complete recovery.

But I am not thankful for the growth spurt that has resulted.

You see, she was ill with a virus for over three weeks before being admitted to hospital. Obviously she couldn’t eat much, as she was lethargic and battling a high temperature. Once you factor in that time, plus the hospital time and the recovery time afterwards, she didn’t really eat properly for two months.

Boy, has she been making up for it though.

It was at its worst once she began to feel better. This kid was having three massive meals a day, and snacking twice between each meal. And still she complained of being hungry! At one point she was eating more than me, and guys, I can put away a shitload of food.

Obviously it isn’t as intense now as it was. But Big Girl lives for food. She can inhale a plate of pasta in second, and beg for more. I don’t know where she puts it, as she’s pretty skinny. She is growing upwards like a tomato plant in a heap of cowshit though.

And my fruit bowl is permanently in need of replenishment, the cupboards are frequently bare long before I’d contemplated shopping again, and I never have leftovers to shove in the freezer.

Please God, let Little Girl sidestep this stage, because I don’t think I could inflate my food budget enough to cover that much food!

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A Child’s Guide To Sharing

Sharing is an odd thing. It’s a complete social construct, which we spend an excessive amount of our children’s formative years trying to teach them. “You have to share, darling!” we trill as they engage in a death battle over some Lego. And they completely ignore us.

In my opinion, it’s not so much that it’s hard to learn to share. It’s more that children have their own ideas on what sharing is all about.

Their motto is, ‘What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine.’

And they don’t give a crap if you don’t like it.

Sharing Food

The kids have got it pretty good here. I make meals that they like most of the time. Apart from the occasional junk, they get healthy, balanced food. It doesn’t taste that bad either. So if this is the case, why does each mealtime follow the same routine?
We sit down to eat. Everybody has the same food. I am starving, and looking forward to tucking in.

So far, all good.

Suddenly, I see a movement out of the corner of my eye. There is a Little Girl hand, silently sliding across the table towards my plate.

I look up. There on her face is an innocent-looking, winning smile.

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“What are you doing?”

“Can I have a piece of your chicken?” The grin widens.

“No honey,” I reply, ” You have some chicken on your own plate.”

“Pleeeeaaaaaase?”

“No.”

“Waaaaail!”

Obviously, food stolen from a parent’s plate tastes a lot better than the identical stuff on your own. Especially if said parent really, really wants to eat it.

Added to that, I have Squeak bent double over the highchair, reaching and stretching as far as she can, saying, “Eh! Eh! Eh!” When you also consider Big Girl making puppy dog eyes at any opportunity, you must realise that mealtimes are not exactly a relaxing experience.

And don’t even get me started on the drama caused by me eating cake, at the same time as them.

Sharing Your Personal Space, a.k.a. The Couch Creep

Kids like to be close to you. Like, close. And that’s ok some of the time. Everyone loves a cuddle, right?

But once it gets to the point where your molecules start to meld, it’s gone too far.

I’m sitting on the couch. For once, the kids are feeling chilled. They’re reading, watching TV, or playing a bizarrely elaborate game involving Papa Smurf and Cinderella. Or, you know, whatever. The point is, they’re sitting down too.

With no demands on my time, I’m grabbing a minute to, well, do what I’m doing right now. The blog doesn’t write itself, you know!

I can feel a small body shuffling across the couch. Ah, I think. How sweet! I’m totally getting a cuddle.DSC_0355

The child advances until she is tucked up against me. It’s a lovely feeling, which lasts approximately 3 seconds.

Because she keeps on coming. And on. And on.

I find myself wedged in a space about half the size I need. A toddler couldn’t fit in there. There’s an elbow digging into some vital organ, and breathing is slightly more difficult than it was before. It’s not comfortable.

I’m not sure of the purpose of it. Surely touching is close enough?

I guess not.

Sharing Your Bed

As babies, the girls have always slept with me. Big Girl flirted with the idea of a cot for a few months, but other than that they have been at their most contented snuggled up next to me.

Big Girl sleeps in her own bed all the time now, unless she has a nightmare. And she’s actually quite nice to share a bed with. She wraps an arm around you and stays still and peaceful for the rest of the night.

Little Girl takes a slightly more unconventional approach to cosleeping. Her preference is to place one hand on each side of your face and sleep nose-to-nose with you, periodically shifting to kick you in the thigh.

Squeak still sleeps with us. She’s not that bad overall. When she wakes up, a simple feed is usually enough to settle her.

It’s the time before we come up that’s the problem.

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I settle her down at 8ish, and then spend a couple of hours downstairs. Apart from the numerous re-settlings, of course.

And it doesn’t matter where she is on the bed when I leave. I can guarantee that when I come up to bed, there is only one place she will be.

In my pillow space.

Horizontally.

If I’m having a particularly lucky day, she will end up on Mark’s side instead.

So I end up perched on the end of my own bed, shoulders sagging, eyes drooping, waiting for Squeak to stir so I can slide in quietly next to her.

That is not sharing.

Sharing With Siblings

Sorry, what?

No.

Things Babies Eat

There are two things that cause first time parents the most anxiety. Eating and sleeping. I know, I’ve been there. Is my kid eating enough? Why does that kid sleep so much better than mine? It’s stressful. The benefit of spawning more clones is that you begin to realise that you have absolutely no control over any of it. The baby has the power!

Today I’m talking about the eating side of things. Babies like eating. But it’s not always the things that you want them to eat. I have compiled a list of my children’s favourite foods as babies. If you’re expecting to see banana, yoghurt and blueberries, expect a surprise!

1. Milk

I’m going to start positively, with something which is actually edible. Milk. No matter what the source, babies love the milk. And research has shown that milk  is tastiest and highest in nutrients between the hours of 12am and 5am.* In that case, aren’t babies clever to sense this, and seek it out intensely between those hours? Honestly, pure genius.

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*not 100% true.

2. Stones, leaves and other organic matter

Organic is good. Organic matter, not so good. But babies love it.

You tend to see this most often when a baby has started walking, and takes those first few forays into the park or the beach. (Although if you have older children, it’s from the moment your baby can haul its under-developed muscles across the room.)

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There they will find a plethora of mouthing opportunities. One of Little Girl’s favourites was stones. You couldn’t take your eye off her for a second, or she’d be crouched in that weird, bum-skimming-the-floor way that toddlers do, cramming them in by the handful. I don’t know what she found so compelling about them, be it the taste (ewwwwww) or the texture, but she carried on doing it long after she should have grown out of it.

Squeak loves autumn leaves. The girls have been collecting and discarding them around the house for weeks, and she’s never happier than when she’s got a mouthful of bitty, disintegrating leaves.

Sand is another, and it is the one that baffles me the most. We all had a mouthful of sand on a windy day at the beach. It is gritty and, quite frankly, revolting. But I had to stop taking Little Girl to the beach for a while because of this routine: eat, grimace, gag, cry, rinse and repeat.

I comfort myself with the fact that they are giving their immune systems a massive kickstart. Maybe.

3. Wipes

I don’t know what they put in baby wipes to make them so addictive to babies . I suspect crack. Whatever it is, look me in the eye and tell me you never saw your baby’s eyes light up when they saw a packet of wipes. Yeah, *that* was convincing!

Squeak is pretty good at playing on her own. For short periods, anyway. And I like to grab those times to do nothing at all. Or write this. Now, over the years I have developed a heightened sense of hearing. Whatever I am doing, I always have one ear open, ready to activate the ‘someone is fucking with something’ radar.

So Squeak is sitting on the floor, playing with some toys. She’s babbling to herself and banging things together. I think, Wahey! And settle down to do something inane and time-wasting. Next minute, I sense something. Silence. The thing which every parent claims to desire, but knows should actually be dreaded. Then, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. I look up. Squeak has abandoned her toys, and is ripping the wipes out of the packet at a rate of knots. I drag myself up off the couch to rush over and stop her. She stops, and makes eye contact. She can see I’m on my way. Her bounty is about to be confiscated. So she does the only thing she can think of. She jams it into her mouth and starts sucking the life out of it.

The inevitable happens. The seizure of the ill-gotten goods. The outraged howls. And, as ever, my complete confusion. I mean, surely they taste like crap?

4. Small toys

It doesn’t matter how many times you say to your older children, “Please keep the small toys out of reach of the baby,” they always forget.

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Do you ever wonder why babies follow their older siblings around? Some people say it is because they look up to them.

They are wrong.

Babies are not so much looking up as looking down, and waiting for the drop. The smaller the better. Swallowing size is good, but even if it is too big to swallow there is something very satisfying about rolling a tiny toy around your mouth. I assume there is, anyway, because Squeak never bloody stops doing it!

I have perfected the hooked finger method, much to her rage. In fact, she is now primed to run away as fast as she can (which is, thankfully, still pretty slow) as soon as she sees my hand approaching.

I always win, though. Choking = baaaad.

5.Fluff and crumbs

It isn’t until a baby acquires the pincer grip that you realise how shoddy your vacuuming technique actually is.

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You’re sitting there, beaming with pride at how good they are at rolling, commando crawling or whatever. And then you see their forefinger and thumb come together to grasp something on the floor.

Your first reaction is, wow, that’s so clever! Then, ugh, what is that?? And it doesn’t matter if you are sitting so close to them that you are touching them, you will still not manage to stop them before they shove it straight into their mouths.

Favourites are: hair, dustballs and small pieces of plastic wrapper. A special treat is biscuit crumbs, the Holy Grail of all floor-related matter.

Sure, I could vacuum more, but where’s the fun in that?

6. Crayons

Anyone with a child older than about 18 months has crayons in their house. Fact. And another fact is that they are never where they are supposed to be.

Ours live on the multi-purpose storage area that is commonly known as the floor. If by some chance they do make it into their intended box, Squeak soon comes along and tips the lot onto the floor. And as we have already established, babies love to eat off the floor.

I don’t know quite how she does it. In my opinion, crayons are pretty hard. But all I know is, I have a boxful of crayons with the ends bitten off, and a baby with blue drool. ‘Nuff said.

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7. Your food

It doesn’t matter what you’re eating. It’s irrelevant if they have the exact same thing on their plate. All that matters is that you like it. And the more you like it, the more they will strain across the highchair, squawking at you, desperate for a bite.

Man, this pisses me off. There’s nothing that spoils a nice meal more than a whining monster trying to steal it off you.

Does anyone remember the film K-9? There’s a scene in it where Dooley gets in the car with a cake that he’s bought for himself. He takes a bite, and the dog starts yowling and nudging him so much that in the end he’s all, “Take it! Take it!” and shoving the cake in the dog’s mouth.

This is my life.

Sigh.

Oh! Before I go, just one last thing.

Things babies don’t eat:

1. Their food

So you’ve prepared a healthy, delicious meal. It’s got all the food groups, it’s attractive, you’ve tasted it and it is good. You put it in front of your baby.DSC_5935

They eye it with suspicion. They poke it. If you’re extremely lucky, they may even take a small bite.

Then, they sweep the lot onto the floor. And they lock eyes with you. And smile.

Babies are evil.