Bethany is ten months old and everything suddenly seems to be coming together. We are rapidly heading towards the end of babyhood and the start of toddlerdom.
For the past week she has been letting go of furniture and taking one or two uncertain steps. Then she either falls over or suddenly realises she's not holding onto anything and sits down. Yesterday she took six steps before she fell over. Walking cannot be far off now.
A couple of weeks ago, she also finally got the knack of eating. I gave her rice cakes, bread, roast chicken, and she methodically bit bits off, chewed, and swallowed. She is also no longer averse to some spoon feeding. She has got the hang of drinking out of cups and Mount Franklin water bottles (not baby bottles), and to a lesser extent some sippy cups. You have to hold them up for her, but she drinks with minimum spillage - except at the end of a couple of mouthfuls where she thinks it's funny to blow raspberries.
With the skills of eating and drinking finally under her belt, I decided to address the night feeding. Because I work two days a week, she completely reverse cycles on those two days and feeds 6-10 times a night. That pattern holds for a couple more days until I can finally cram enough high-energy food (nuts, mostly) into her to get her back to 3-5 feeds. Then I go to work and we go back to square 1. I'm just finding it too exhausting. Plus, I'm conditioning her to just expect high fat solids.
I have decided I am ready to stop her grazing all through the night. To be honest, I was ready a few months ago, but her eating skills were so poor that I didn't think it was very fair. Now I have also been trialling her with drinking formula out of a cup, and she can take 100-200ml during the day that way, so if we're stuck or she's gone off food, that's an option. I am dismally hopeless at expressing, and there's no time to express while I'm at work. Even though I'm committed to breastfeeding, and would like to breastfeed her till she's 2, I think a little supplementary formula when she's getting about 6 breastfeeds is not likely to accidentally trigger weaning.
I took her to the doctor and checked she didn't have any ear infections or anything like that. Then I recruited my husband and my mother in law to help. The plan was to stretch her for 7 hours during the night without a feed. I picked midnight to 7am, cause I thought it would be easiest to understand that food returns when we get up for the day. I did not care whether we rocked, patted, cuddled, or completely woke her up and distracted her. The point was to get her little tummy used to going that stretch without food and encourage her to take in more food during the day.
I had tried to stretch her night feeds out before, but it was slow and hard, and watching the clock meant that I got almost no sleep, so after a few nights I was exhausted and gave up. That's why I decided to do the 7 hour stretch. Apart from simplicity, the thing about a 7 hour stretch is that I can go and sleep in another room while someone else does the shift, so I am at least ensured enough sleep to persist. So I recruited my husband and mother-in-law, and we took it in turns. I did the first night, MIL the second, I did the third, my husband the fourth... I was hoping we'd have it sorted by then.
The first night she fed at 12.30, and woke at 2.30 wanting a feed, and was very cranky. I managed to distract her. We got up, walked around, had a drink of water, walked around some more, watched stuff on the ipad, walked around, and eventually she fell asleep in my arms at 4.30. We slept together and she woke at 6.30 pretty happy, although by 6.50am she really wanted boob. I gave it to her at 7am. She napped a bit more than usual during the day, and ate more than usual, but otherwise seemed happy enough. It was noticeably very different from when I tried controlled crying. Even though it only took her about 10-20 minutes to settle using cc, when she woke she was vague and kind of zoned out. This time I am sure she was angry, upset, and frustrated, but her behaviour was completely normal.
The next night, my mother in law said she woke at 2.30am for about 15 minutes and was quite upset, and she patted her back to sleep, then she slept till she woke at 6.30am. I fed her at 7am.
The third night didn't go according to plan. She fed at 11.30pm and I woke at 1.30am to a gagging sound and a cheesy smell. She was half asleep lying in a pool of vomit, and still vomiting. By the time I had changed the sheets, and her, and me, she was well and truly awake. I didn't know what had caused the vomiting, but as I figured she might be ill, she had lost a lot of fluid, and her last feed was before midnight, I decided to feed her back to sleep. She slept till 6am and I gave her another feed and she slept till about 8am. I found some solid chunks of grapes in the laundry the next day, and I think that's what she threw up. She seemed well otherwise.
She fed at 11.30pm the next night, so I fed her at 1.30am before handing her over to my husband. I don't want to force her to go longer than 7 hours, so if the feeds get a bit out of order like this, I'd rather give her the extra feed. He said she was pretty restless, but nevertheless, we got to 7am before she fed.
Last night she went down at 8.30, fed at 10.30, and then did not wake till 5am. I remember rolling over to look at the clock and I couldn't believe it. She spontaneously did 6 and a half hours! That's unheard of. I fed her and she went back to sleep. She woke at 6.15 and I cuddled her back to sleep. I think she was cold. She rolled away from me at about 7am and did another sleep cycle on her own mattress.
A spontaneous stretch of six and a half hours is sleeping through in my books. Yes, I know it's not the entire night, but it shows that this is not a settling / sleep association problem. She really was hungry. And now she is at an age where she can easily eat more during the day, she adjusted to less feeding at night pretty easily. But for the throwing up, I think she would have adopted the new pattern by the third or fourth night.
Now she's suddenly eating enough to make it worth cooking for her. I give her stuff off our plate, but sometimes what we eat isn't that healthy (like if we order pizza). Last night we had sausages and three veg. She methodically threw all the steamed vegetables we gave her on the floor, ate a bit of rice, and would happily have eaten lots of sausage, but I didn't think salty offal, sawdust, preservatives and whatever the hell else is in cheap Woollies sausages was a great baby food, so I only gave her a taste. Today, I went to the organic store, bought mince, broccoli, tinned chickpeas, onion, and mushroom. I sauteed it all with garlic, paprika, some grated carrot and a tiny amount of stock, then mashed it a little bit to squash any chickpeas that might be choking hazards. And waalah - she ate vegetables! I froze all the leftovers in 10 baby sized containers, plus I had a bowl that will keep for dinner tonight.
I also attempted my first wholegrain bread in the breadmaker, and apart from being a little crumblier than normal bread, the taste and consistency was good, and Bethany loved it.
Right now, the whole house smells delicious - and I feel awake!