Monday, April 27, 2009

Infant Travel Issues

In early June (less than six weeks away!) we will be traveling cross-country for our college reunion. (Yes, S and I met in college. We actually met and became friends the very first week of freshman year. He asked me out early sophomore year, but I said no. Several months later, he asked again, and I caved in and said yes. Since we were friends for all of college, even before we were dating each other, we each know all of the other's college ex-boy/girlfriends. It's useful to have seen each other's dating history in person, because we both know that each other's past doesn't hold anyone at all interesting. For instance, S is totally confident that he's better than the guy I dated who's now an Ivy League law professor, since he remembers how that guy was kind of a jerk in college.)

Anyway, we'll be flying cross-country in a few weeks. The last time we traveled with LL was back in December, when he was roughly half as old as he is now. At that time, LL wasn't on much of a schedule yet, he was 100% breast fed, and he could sleep anywhere if we just popped him into a sling. We were staying with family, and we rarely left the house except to visit other family members, or for very short outings, by car, in between naps.

This trip is going to be very, very different. LL is older now, he's used to a set schedule of naps in his crib, and he's 100% bottle fed. While we do have a few friends in the area, we don't have any family members. We're going to be "out in the world" for much of the trip. The whole thing seems a lot more complicated.

We do have a few things working in our favor. One of my high school friends lives very close to my old campus, so we're staying with her, rather than in a hotel. And since she didn't go to college with us, and therefore won't be attending our reunion, she has agreed to babysit on a few of the evenings, so that S and I can go out with our college friends without needing to be home by LL's bedtime. She has also agreed to help us to round up some baby items (eg, a pack'n'play for LL to sleep in) so that we don't have to lug absolutely everything with us on the airplane. Still, there are several travel issues that I don't know to handle. Keep in mind that we're flying to a crowded major metro area, staying in a neighborhood that is a short commute away from the university, and spending our days mainly on a fairly urban (but wonderfully walkable) campus.
  • Last time we flew, LL nursed on take-off and landing, and slept the entire rest of the airplane ride. This time, none of that is likely to happen. We can make multiple bottles on the plane, but LL isn't really into the multiple-small-meals anymore, so I don't think that we'll be able to get him to eat during every pressure change. Does a pacifier work to relieve ear pressure, too? He also doesn't sleep as much anymore, and he gets antsy sitting on our laps for long stretches. How do you keep an 8-month-old from screaming on an airplane?

  • How do you handle infant carseats and taxis? In my experience, lots of taxis don't have seat belts, and I've never looked for LATCH attachments.... How do you get a carseat secured in a taxi?

  • If LL is in his infant car seat, then when we get where we're going, we can just put the carrier onto his stroller. But LL might have outgrown his infant seat by then. (He's getting really long.) But if he's in a convertible carseat instead, what do we do with it when we get out of the taxi? Lug it around the city all day?

  • One possible carseat solution is to just leave the carseat behind and take public transportation everywhere, since this particular city has an excellent public transit system. But the city where we live right now has horrible public transit, so I've never navigated public transit with an infant, and I'm not sure what the protocol is. Am I correct in assuming that we can just hold LL on our laps on buses and subways? Any problem with lugging a stroller on public transit?

  • LL is currently eating six bottles/day. We're hoping that he'll have dropped one of these by the time we go, but still... how many bottles do we pack? They're kind of bulky to put in a suitcase, no? But if we only bring a few, then we'll have to find somewhere to wash bottle parts during the day, when we're out of the house, and that seems awkward, too.

  • Since LL started napping in his crib, we've never been "out" for an entire day. LL takes three naps/day, which keeps him happy and mellow. He's starting to occasionally skip his third nap, so he might have outgrown that one by the time we go, but we'll still want to make sure that he gets at least his two naps every day. What do we do to keep him on schedule? Stay home until both naps are done? Run out and back again between naps? Skip a nap and hope that he doesn't melt down too much? Cross our fingers that we'll get him to nap in his stroller, even though he's usually unwilling to nap if there's new stuff to see?

  • We're facing a three-hour time change. LL is very very very used to his nap times and bedtimes. What do we do? I've seen a few suggestions, but I'm not sure if any of them work. Start transitioning him to the new time zone a few days before we leave? (Seems like it would be very tough.) Keep him up a lot that first day and try to transition him all at once? (Again, seems tough, because of the direction we're flying, and because of how very crabby he's likely to get.) Keep him on our home time zone, even though it will mean that he's waking and sleeping at odd times? This last one seems easiest, especially since we'll only be gone for four days, but I don't know if it works.
S and I are really looking forward to this trip, since it's been a very long time since we've been back to our old college town together, and there are a lot of college friends that we haven't seen in ages. But the thought of being far away from home while LL is cranky and out-of-sorts the entire time, from lack of sleep and total disruption of his routine and nowhere to quietly play, makes me want to curl up in a corner.

If anyone out there has experience with any of the above, I'd love to hear suggestions.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Strait Jacket Weaning

Holy cow, LL finished his seventh month yesterday. We've managed to keep up with his professional photos for each of his month birthdays, so he had his picture taken on Saturday. When LL was born, my brother got us one of those frames that has a slot for a photo of baby each month up to a year, so we searched for an inexpensive way to be able to fill in those slots each month. We ended up joining the photo club at one of the big department stores; the photo sittings are free and we just have to pay for prints. We usually just get a picture or two for us, one for the grandparents, and occasionally we send a really cute one to aunts and uncles. The whole thing is usually less than $10/month, and it's really amazing to look back and see how much LL has changed in such a short period of time. Anyway, LL giggled for the entire photo shoot this time around, and he was so cute that the photographer actually asked if he could keep two of the shots for himself, to put in his portfolio. This month was also the first one for which LL could sit on his own, which makes taking photos a lot easier, and more fun for everyone involved.

In honor of being so big and grown up, LL decided that he was through with the baby strait jacket, at least at night. Until last week, LL was always swaddled at night and during naps. He almost always worked his way out of it by the time he woke up, but he really seemed to rely on the swaddle to help him to fall asleep. Over the last few weeks, though, he was increasingly trying to work his way out of it while awake. We would put him in his crib, drowsy and almost asleep, and he would spend the next 15 minutes trying to free his arms, after which he would cry because he was unwrapped. We also started to find him entangled in his blankets in ways that started appearing somewhat dangerous. (Several times, he had worked his hands and forearms out of the blanket, then used his limited freedom to push the still-tight blanket up around his neck. Um, that's not good.) As we approach summer in our mild-but-sometimes-agonizingly-hot part of the country, we also had to acknowledge that tightly wrapping LL in a blanket was going to be unpleasant for him very soon. So, last Monday night we started our No Swaddle Experiment. (And just in time, because yesterday and today we had our first freak heat spell of the season, with temps in the 90s, and I don't think I could have swaddled him when our house was that warm.)

Our plan of action: continue to swaddle for naps, for now, but stop swaddling at night. When LL has a bad night of sleep, he still remains remarkably chipper. But when he misses too many naps, watch out! Also, missing naps tends to make him stay up at night, but not the other way around. So, by continuing to swaddle him for naps, we're guaranteeing a sunny disposition, and giving him enough daytime rest to try to encourage good sleep at night. Once he's totally comfortable with the no-swaddling at night, we'll move on to naps.

After one week, things are going pretty well. Six out of seven nights have basically been the same pattern as before the No Swaddle Experiment. We spend a little extra time soothing him to sleep at bedtime (7:00), so that he's extra-drowsy by the time we lay him untethered in his crib. He wakes up once in the middle of the night to eat, usually around 3:00am. We have had to spend a little extra time soothing him after his middle-of-the-night snack, too, but he does go back to sleep, and stays that way until morning. (The question of why he suddenly thinks that 5:45 is "morning," rather than a respectable 7:00, is a separate issue.) The extra soothing time (and his new habit of eating really really really slowly) does mean that we're up for an hour or more in the middle of the night, instead of the 20 minutes we had grown accustomed to, but still... not too bad. (Note that I said six out of seven nights have been like this. We had one really bad night when LL decided that he didn't want to be alone. Between 11pm and 6am, he cried out for us eight separate times, and only remained quiet if S stood next to his crib with a hand on his tummy until he fell back asleep. But the next morning, LL had noticeable slits in his upper gums, so I'm hoping that one bad night was because of teething pain, and it will soon soon please for the love of all that is good in the world soon be over and those damn top teeth will finally come in. But I digress.)

One unarguable perk of LL being entirely bottle-fed these days is that Daddy can be on duty all night long while I get some rest. S and I have agreed to a schedule of alternating nights, with the small addendum that if LL sleeps through the night, it doesn't count. (We added that addendum after a week in which LL slept through the night every other night, only waking up on nights when I was on duty. Which also started our tradition of always telling LL that Daddy's on duty, in the hopes that it will make him sleep. Didn't work. Instead, he just stopped sleeping through the night for both of us.)

Even though I get to stay in bed all night long every other night, I still wake up when LL gets up, so I'm only getting a little more sleep than before. And it turns out that S is a real wimp when it comes to sleep deprivation, so even though he's only getting up on alternating nights, and he's only been doing it for less than a month, S is rapidly becoming a bleary-eyed basket case.

Thus, once LL is comfortable with the no-swaddling, we're going to be moving on to the elimination of the middle-of-the-night bottle. Now that LL has recently slept through the night several times, we know that he can do it. We just need to convince him to do it more often....

Monday, April 13, 2009

Food! Sleep! Physics!

My writing lately has been fairly consumed by dealing with LL's nursing strike (which, by the way, continues. Everything I've read says that nursing strikes typically last 3-4 days, but "occasionally last a week or two." Apparently, nobody bothered to tell that to LL, because we're on Day 26 right now). Also, we had a house full of out-of-town guests for the past week, so I haven't had time to write anything at all. As a result, I've failed to record several other major changes in our lives. And since I use this blog to be my memory, there are a lot of things that I need to get written down.

It's unfortunate that the nursing strike began in earnest on LL's six month birthday, because that is also when he embarked on all sorts of new developments and firsts:

Solid Food! LL loves butternut squash. He's happy with oatmeal and sweet potatoes. He'll tolerate peas and carrots. He'll only eat green beans if fed to him by a grandparent. Other than the carrots, that pretty much aligns with my preferences as well. All in all, he gives Food, as a whole, a big thumbs up. Which is good, because he's mainly getting formula these days, and while he will occasionally gobble down a huge bottle of it and then ask for more, he often prefers to just chew on the nipple of the bottle and fuss. (Silly boy! If you like breast milk so much more than formula, you know what to do....) After forcing the kid to eat vegetables for several weeks, we're going to let him have fruit in a few days, which I expect will be a big hit.

Growth Spurt! In my desperation to find a fixable cause for LL's nursing strike, I brought him back to the doctor, even though he had an appointment less than a month ago. I wanted to rule out thrush or ear infection or any other illness that might have been undetectable a few weeks ago but causing nursing havoc now, just to be absolutely sure before I gave up trying to get him back to the breast. (It's pathetic when you find yourself hoping that your child is sick, so that at least you'll have something to fix.) The diagnosis was ... drum roll ... teething (like I didn't see that coming), and an obnoxious reaction from the not-our-regular-pediatrician who we saw that day. ("Yeah, he's teething. Just give up the nursing already. Six months is long enough." "Um, I wanted to nurse longer than this, and I thought that even the AAP recommends one year?" "Sure, if you can do it. But clearly you can't." Ouch.) LL was still mainly eating pumped breast milk at that point, so the only real change to his diet had been the addition of meager solid foods, which we'd been told often made babies stop gaining weight. My little LL, though, had gained a ton of weight since his last appointment, averaging almost two ounces/day. He has since slowed down his ridiculous gobbling of milk, corresponding with my further drop in milk supply, necessitating more and more reliance on formula, but each day he really does seem remarkably bigger. And he's starting to push the length limits on his car seat, so a new big-boy convertible car seat and non-infant-frame stroller may be looming in our future.

Sleeping! Before six months, I could count on one hand the number of times that LL had slept through the night without needing assistance. (To be precise: I could count it on one finger.) Then, he suddenly did it four days in one week. Oh, the joy of uninterrupted sleep! Of course, then he got sick and was up all night for several nights, and then the grandparents visited, so we're slowly working our way back. But, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Sitting! Yes, my lazy little boy has discovered the joys of being upright. After lots and lots of setting him on his cushy cloth diapered bottom and immediately catching him as he toppled over, I put him down one day and he sat for a few short seconds. The next day, it was 30 seconds. The day after that, he could just do it. Just like that. He's still a little unsteady... you can see him making little corrections as he lists one way or another, and eventually he gets tired and just lets himself tip over backwards, but he can sit for a good long time now. And he can reach for toys and play and laugh and talk while he's sitting, so it's lots of fun to set him down and watch him go.

Jumping! We went ahead and got a Fisher Price jumperoo, as suggested. The first two days, LL seemed uncertain, sitting uncomfortably in the seat, batting questioningly at the toys, not moving his legs at all. He laughed when I bounced the seat for him, but he didn't get it at first. Then, like with the sitting, something just ... clicked. And now he's unstoppable. We put him in that thing, and he jumps jumps jumps without rest, wearing a big dopey grin the entire time. He couldn't care less about the toys, but oh the joy of jumping through the air! He also recently discovered that he doesn't need the jumperoo in order to jump -- all that's required is something (ie, me) suspending him upright over a surface. Any time I try to hold him in a standing position, he starts jumping and bouncing like a hyper puppy.

Passover! My parents, S's parents, my uncle, and my grandfather all flew into town for Passover last week. The first seder was just the nine of us. Second seder was our usual grand affair, topping out this year at 26 people. I cooked a few dishes in advance and froze them, but I did the majority of the cooking after all the grandparents arrived on Tuesday, so that LL would have lots of people to play with while I was busy in the kitchen. I even added some new dishes this year. (The pomegranate walnut chicken was particularly well-received.) We had hoped that LL would be awake for both seders, since we were starting at 6:00 and he generally begins his bedtime routine around 7:00, but all of the excitement of four grandparents all in the house at the same time proved to be too much for him. Grandpop held him throughout the first seder, with LL drowsily resting his head on Grandpop's shoulder, sucking on a thumb, eyes mainly closed, until we rushed through the last of the service so that we could get him to bed. On the second night, LL started yawning and rubbing his eyes at 5:45, so we just kept him up long enough to say "hello" to all the guests and pour the first glass of wine. He even slept through several raucous rounds of "Dayenu!" so the poor little guy must have been really worn out. The out-of-town visitors were gone by Sunday morning, and LL spent much of yesterday trying to figure out what happened to his entourage. This week, we try to get him over his grandma hangover and back onto his normal schedule.

Physics! Yes, that's right, my baby boy is figuring out rudimentary physics. The small course corrections needed to maintain an upright posture while sitting are just one example. He has also figured out that if he pulls on the blanket, the toy that is out of reach will move closer to him. If he lets go of the spoon over the edge of the high chair, it will fall to the floor (though he still peers over the edge just to make sure). And I spent an astonishing afternoon watching him figure out how to use a tool: he was lying on his back, staring at a wooden block that was just out of reach. He stretched and stretched for it, but it was just beyond his fingertips. After surveying his surroundings, he picked up a rattle, then turned and whacked at the block. His eyes grew wide as the block bounced a little into the air and landed in a different location. He stared and stared at it some more, then got a big grin on his face as he started hitting the block over and over and over, until it had bounced within reach. He immediately tossed the rattle aside, and triumphantly grabbed the newly accessible block. Problem solved! (Ten seconds later, he discovered that wooden blocks are rather boring when you only have one of them, and he dropped his hard-won prize, but you know, sometimes it's all about the journey.)

Communication! LL has always been an extremely expressive baby. For months now, he has been making liberal use of facial expressions and squeals and screams to indicate what he likes and what he doesn't like. But these last two weeks have brought a new level of communication. When we're holding him, he grabs and lunges for thing that he wants, much more emphatically and purposely than when he's playing with toys. He grimaces and pushes things away with his hands when offered something that he doesn't want (like a bottle, or a washcloth to wipe his face). When he was sitting on the floor with his grandma, and she accidentally let him tip over backwards so that he fell onto a hard toy, we expected him to act hurt and cling to Mommy; we didn't expect him to turn purposefully to Grandma and give her an angry scowl, accompanied by an extra-loud yowl, to let her know that he blamed her for his fall. (Gotta move faster, Grandma, if you want to avoid the wrath of LL! Luckily the guilt trip only lasted five minutes. He places blame where blame is due, but he doesn't hold a grudge.) And while he has enjoyed various games for quite some time, now he's taking a more active role in many of them. Covering up and revealing his own face for peek-a-boo. "Singing" along with Mommy and Daddy. Repeatedly picking out his favorite book from a big stack, then turning reliably to his favorite page. (He enjoys all of Karen Katz's Where is Baby's Belly Button?, but he laughs hysterically at the "Where are Baby's hands? Under the bubbles!" page, every single time.)

It's very cool to see more and more of his personality developing, and also a little scary to see how independent he already is, just shy of seven months old.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cylons Need Not Apply

I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine. I have a vampire for a son, but other than that, I'm fine. To quote my doctor today: my breast isn't diseased, it's just experiencing mechanical problems. In other words: there's nothing wrong with my breast that wouldn't go away if LL were a little more gentle and a little less bloodthirsty. Both the medical assistant (once) and the doctor (twice) looked at my breast, cringed a little, and then asked me how long I was planning on breastfeeding. Which makes me laugh a little, since I'm not sure that it's totally up to me, given my strong-willed baby. But the medical opinion from my doctor is that I should, um, proceed with caution. And not let LL anywhere near my right breast for the time being, at least until it heals a bit. Which might be the final straw in our breastfeeding journey, since he prefers the right to the left. So we'll see.

Moving on... I've had way too many angsty breast feeding posts lately, which doesn't do justice to the fact that I'm having so much fun with LL these days. Time for a new topic!

A while back, I agreed to take part in a short robotics study. As it turned out, though, I needed to do the study on a day when I didn't have any childcare. The woman running the study (a friend of mine) told me to just bring LL along, and they'd help to watch him while I did the study. (They were a bit desperate because they were short on female computer scientist study participants -- go figure!) So I went in, handed LL off to some friends, and started the study.

While LL got a guided tour of the robotics lab, shook hands with one of the robots, and played with some (relatively safe) spare robot parts in someone's office, I did the study. (They didn't let him chew on lasers or anything, but movable non-pinching robot joints are fun for babies, apparently.) There were several parts to the study, but the last part was a written questionnaire testing for attitudes and biases towards robots. It's a standard survey in the robotics field, and there are a lot of oddities that should really be fixed but haven't been, so it was amusing to read through. But I laughed out loud when I got to this question:

"To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement: 'I am concerned that robots would be a bad influence on children.'"

Heh. Yes, clearly I'm concerned. That's why I didn't even know at that moment exactly which robot was essentially baby-sitting my six-month-old.

I've heard about people not wanting children to watch television, or surf the web, or, I don't know, hang out in bars or something. But are robots really high on the list of bad influences? And what exactly are these people concerned that the robots are going to influence their children to do?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

One Step Forward, One Step Back...

First, the truly great news: LL nursed last night! I fed him his last bottle before bed, and as he was finishing, he entered that wonderful milk coma state where he's almost asleep and mainly limp and the cutest thing ever and amazingly pliant. So, I replaced the bottle with my breast, and waddya know, he latched on and nursed. Yay! And this morning, I presented him just with my breast, wide awake, with no lead-in bottle, and he did it again. Yay! (Only for a few minutes, and he was doing a lot of gentle biting during that time, and he only ate from one side, and then I had to give him a bottle for the rest of his meal, but still -- progress.) I'm not ready to declare total victory, but at least there's hope. We'll see how the next few days go. Yay!

Now, the somewhat related, totally crappy news. My right breast has been on and off bothering me for several weeks. Lots of pain, then it gets better, then it comes back.... I thought it was a plugged duct, and possibly some injury from LL biting it, and moist heat was helping a little bit, so I didn't pay much attention. (And his return to nursing last night and this morning was on the opposite side, because I didn't want him to bite the one that was already sore.) Then when I was pumping last night, there was suddenly a lot of blood. Like, a lot. Like, S almost fainted when he saw it.

It's a bit disturbing to think about, but blood in breast milk is actually common. Over the last six months, I've had those moments when I realized that the milk was tinted a little pink. Totally normal. Nothing to worry about. But this....... this was different. In color, in quantity, in quality, everything. And it happened again this morning. And when I called my doctor and described what was happening, expecting the "it's normal, don't worry about it" reaction that I usually get when I call, I instead got this reaction: "You need to be seen ASAP. We'll squeeze you in tomorrow morning."

So, um, now I'm panicking a bit. LL nursed last night, and I was floating on air for a few hours. It was tempered after I pumped last night. My mood was boosted again when he nursed again this morning. And now... now I just have this horrible tight feeling in my chest.

I'm sure it's nothing. It's probably just a delayed reaction to being bitten, hard, two weeks ago. Or the result of two weeks of non-stop pumping. Or a benign infection of some sort. But still... yikes.