Category Archives: 3-6 Months

The big one… part II

Pip’s birthday swiftly followed Elphie’s and accordingly, I have been reflecting over the past year. It’s true what they say: I don’t think anyone ever thought the first year of their baby’s life went slowly! Of course, there have been slow moments… very slow moments, but on a day to day basis it has gone by in a blink.

first birthday cookies

I second all of Elly’s advice and have a few bits of my own to add…

1. Go out every day

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Red red wine, stay close to me

Ah the heady days before baby, when I could have a few large glasses of wine after work, share a bottle with a meal or finish the night with a wee dram or two; a sudden withdrawal from alcohol was always going to raise suspicions of pregnancy in those around me.

Luckily while pregnant, I just went off the stuff. From occasionally actually craving a glass of wine, I went to not being bothered by it – I would have a sip of Fred’s tipple just so I knew what I was missing, but that was enough. I was paranoid that Elphie would be born with fetal alcohol syndrome as a consequence of the extra drinks I had at Charles and Laura’s wedding following a negative pregnancy test that I mistakenly thought had put me in the clear. Fetal alcohol syndrome has a number of nasty growth and mental retardation symptoms alongside facial abnormalities like the below courtesy of an article by Warren, Hewitt & Thomas. There is speculation that Jade Goody and George W Bush shared these facial characteristics but I’ll leave you to play Dr Google on that one.

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Sleep is for the weak

One of the first questions people tend to ask you when you have a baby under the age of one is “Is she a good sleeper?” or “Is she sleeping through?” or, more simply, “Getting much sleep?”. I don’t mind these questions, don’t get me wrong, I will more often than not ask them myself as to talk about babies and not mention sleep is like talking about Gordon Brown and never mentioning his little Tony problem. So is Elphie a good sleeper? Well it’s pretty hard to say.
Picture credit: Anne Geddes
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Out on the town

There is a belief, which people ram down your throats while you are pregnant, that once a baby arrives your evening social life heads into rigor mortis. From that point you will be stuck at home for the rest of your life until you are willing to give up your child to the care of a babysitter and even then you will only get your pre-baby life back at most once a week.

But it doesn’t have to be like this, at least not in the beginning, because young babies are surprisingly good wingpeople.

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Take your daughter to work

Harriet recently pointed me to The Guardian’s coverage celebrating your friend and mine, Italian MEP Licia Ronzulli, and her daughter Vittoria’s two year stint within the European Parliament.
Ms Ronzulli certainly deserves respect for wrangling an infant and then toddler while still doing her job – I am not sure Elphie and I are quite cut out for it…

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Perchance to wean

One session of my recent NCT postnatal course was devoted to the topic of weaning our babies.

What is weaning?

I think the word “weaning” in this context is slightly misleading, as it often tends to be paired with “off”; for example, “I weaned myself off cake”. The definition according to Google (my new favourite dictionary) is indeed a bit contradictory:

wean wiːn/ verb

  1. accustom (an infant or other young mammal) to food other than its mother’s milk;
  2. accustom (someone) to managing without something which they have become dependent on: “the doctor tried to wean her off the sleeping pills”;
  3. be strongly influenced by (something), especially from an early age: “I was weaned on a regular diet of Hollywood fantasy”.

In the case of weaning a baby, it does not mean automatically stopping breastfeeding, unless you want to or need to for other reasons. A baby is not supposed to have cow’s milk as a drink until they are a year old, due to digestive issues, so if you remove breast milk from the equation at any point in their first year you will have to replace it with formula. Weaning a baby means moving them “ON” to solid food, which is ingested alongside – not instead of – milk. I for one didn’t understand this until I became pregnant, and a couple of people I’ve talked to since have also assumed that any breastfeeding beyond six months is for kicks rather than any real nutritional purpose (one source of confusion might be the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of “exclusive breastfeeding” for the first six months – the key is in the word “exclusive”!)

When to start?

The class leader asked us when we thought a baby was ready to start eating solid food – in other words, an opportunity for her to explode some apparent myths around the subject:

“When he shows interest in me eating.”
Reaching out for and staring at your food looks he wants to eat, but babies show interest in everything you do, and you eating is no more exciting for a baby than you washing up or drying your hair. It’s also true, I suppose, that a baby would not necessarily connect your eating activity with hunger being satisfied. This does make me feel better that at the moment I usually eat breakfast while Pip himself feeds and grab lunch while he sleeps. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that babies also love to copy, so when weaning starts you can eat alongside your baby to encourage them.

“When he starts waking more at night.”
Understandably, one of my classmates suggested a baby starts needing food when milk does not seem to sustain them through the night any more (if it ever did!) – but the teacher pointed out that in terms of calorific content, the foods a baby eats at first are far less filling than milk. Bites of fruit and veg and maybe a spoonful of baby rice aren’t going to tank up your baby enough to make a difference. Apparently it isn’t until a baby is around 8-9 months old that the amount and nature of the food they eat can actually fill them up to the point where they do start to need less milk – more of which later.

The three main things you do need to ensure are in place before commencing weaning are:

  • Good head control;
  • Can reach out to something, pick it up and bring it to their mouth;
  • Baby is around six months old and definitely no younger than 17 weeks.


Essentially, there are two types of weaning, commonly known as parent-led and baby-led.

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The most important job

“How insulting is it to suggest that the best thing women can do is raise other people to do incredible things? I’m betting some of those women would like to do great things of their own.”
Why have kids, Jessica Valenti

If you’d asked me six months ago what I thought of the above statement then I would have probably said that I wholeheartedly agreed. If I had the potential within me for greatness in some field then I wanted to achieve that greatness alongside having a family. Gone should be the days where only men with families can be successful.

But now, four months into motherhood, I am a lot more conflicted.

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Teething troubles

Why aren’t all babies born with teeth? It would surely save all the grief of painful teething. The answer? What else but breastfeeding! In fact, most mammals are born without teeth in order to comfortably nurse; as with us, their milk teeth emerge later (exceptions include the platypus, which never develops any teeth at all!)

For infant mammals of the human type, the average age for teething is around 5-6 months old, but some babies don’t get their first teeth until much later, and other little nippers are born with teeth. The usual order is the bottom front teeth, followed by the top front teeth. Then, the teeth either side appear, and on it goes until the back molars come through (apparently the most painful as they are the biggest). Most children have a full on grin of milk teeth by the time they are two and a half years old. Yes, teething lasts for TWO years! The photo below shows a tooth beginning to emerge at the lower right hand side of the baby’s mouth (and check out the beautifully untied tongue too!)Teething_2

How do you know it’s teething?

At nearly four months, Pip doesn’t actually have any teeth yet, but he has recently appeared to be in the “pre-teething” stage which commonly happens around now: babies can experience symptoms for a couple of months before they get anything to show for it. Signs of teething include the following, all of which Pip has shown so far:

  • red flushed cheeks or face
  • heavy drooling
  • gum rubbing, biting or sucking
  • rubbing the ear
  • irritable and unsettled

Other common things to watch out for include fretfulness at night, and disturbed feeds: fortunately, we haven’t had either of those (yet). However, one side effect Pip has had is a bit of nappy rash. This is not an official symptom of teething as the link hasn’t been proved; notes that “it is unclear why teething can lead to nappy rash although it is thought that it is due to your baby producing more saliva.” Certainly, in terms of nappies, Pip has gone from a once-a-day baby (occasionally even missing a day) to a three-or-four-times-a-day baby. It can’t be a coincidence! Anyway, Metanium seems to do the trick.

So what can we do about it?

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Figure it out

The NHS run an Infant Feeding Survey every five years; the last one was from 2010 published in 2012 and found the following:

  • Prior to birth, 75% of mothers want to breastfeed
  • At birth, 81% breastfed at least once
  • At one week, 69% are breastfeeding at all, 46% exclusively
  • At six weeks, 55% are breastfeeding, but there has been a big drop with only 23% doing so exclusively
  • At six months, 34% are breastfeeding but only 1% exclusively (despite Health Organisations’ recommendations to exclusively breastfeed until six months).
  • Why are so many women who wanted to breastfeed falling by the wayside?

    Bah! I want to do something about this – to let them keep the faith even when it’s hard; to investigate problems and not take “you’re fine” for an answer; to feel free to do it whenever and wherever they choose; to reach out to all those who have gone before them and ask for help and for us to help them.

    Who knew a year ago that I would be so passionate about this?!