The sixth month

Dearest P.,

Happy (belated, I’m sorry) half-birthday! Or, as your big brother would say, “Happy Food Day!” (he’s been really looking forward to you being big enough to start eating solid food). You can stop getting bigger any time now. It feels like I blinked and this month vanished. Yet all I have to do is look at you to realize just how much you’ve changed.

I was a little surprised at your six month appointment to discover that you’re now 27.5 inches long (still off the charts for height) and weigh 14 lb 4 oz (down to the 3oth percentile for weight). I feel like you grew so much more. I’ve started to really notice it in my back and my wrists if I carry you around the house for too long, and I’ve removed any clothes from your dresser that were 6 months or smaller. You pretty much only wear 9 month clothing now (or 12 month pants with cloth diapers on). We also switched you over to the 6-18 month sleep sacks. You’d outgrown all the 0-6 month ones (except the longer Grobags) before you were five months old, but I kept squeezing you into the Grobags because you were so far off their minimum weight. I finally had to just make the swap. You took it in your stride; in fact, I think you like having more fabric down around your feet to play with when you’re getting ready for a nap. And we moved you to the next size of prefolds (again, well before you hit the weight limit). You’re just a super lean, super long baby! Lastly, we shifted you out of your infant bucket seat to the convertible car seat. You still had a couple of inches to go in the bucket but we knew you would have outgrown it by February or March and we wanted to be able to pass it on to your cousin who’s coming along in early January. You seem happy enough in the new seat and the baby in the mirror is still there to smile at.

I know I said last month you really became a baby on the move, but that was nothing compared to what you got up to this month! Right from the very beginning of the month you figured out how to pivot on your belly to change what you were looking at, and it didn’t take too long before you were able to combine that movement with your expertise at barrel rolling to produce what we call “rolling with intent”. There’s no crawling yet, but you are remarkably fast now, and we’re going to have to thoroughly baby-proof the main floor of the house once we’re back from travelling over the holidays as I’m getting very tired of having to constantly remove you from the cat food, the water bowl, your brother’s books, the boot tray, etc. We set up the Christmas tree, put you down in front of it, and realized that we’d just provided you with even more motivation to get wriggling! You are a constant source of frustration for your brother as you roll with military precision into the train track he set up lovingly underneath the tree. You are desperate to chew on all the tiny wheels and pull apart all the carriages.

What’s impressed me the most this month is how you’ve learned how to navigate the tiny step between our kitchen and the rest of the main floor. This was the step that your brother famously face-planted off of when he first learned to crawl, just as your Daddy and I were standing right next to it discussing where we should put a baby gate. You do still occasionally misjudge and barrel roll right over (landing with a very surprised thump), but most of the time you’re able to push and wriggle and roll until you slide down feet first. You always look very pleased with yourself as you escape into the living room when I’m making breakfast. By the end of the month you could get your chest and belly off the ground entirely, or get your knees right up under your bum, and you’d mastered using your knee or foot to push yourself over rather than launching an arm into the air and hoping the weight of your head would pull you over.

Your favourite things are (in order): 1. Your big brother; 2. The (long-suffering) cat; 3. All the plastic links from your play gyms, which I’ve attached into a long chain; 4. Sophie the Giraffe; 5. The panda from your play gym (his arms and legs are perfect for sucking on, it seems); and 6. The musical caterpillar that I put in your crib to keep you entertained when I’m in the shower or washing my hands. You love banging your hands (or a toy) on the hardwood floor. You’ve also started tossing your toys over the side when sitting in your high chair. Quite often you send one sailing into the abyss and then you look at your Daddy or me and make a clear “heh-heh” chortle. You also love “reading” books. We sit on the floor and I prop you up between my legs and then you try desperately to grab the books to eat them as I read them. You start to fuss and cry if I wedge one out of your hands to read, so usually we compromise and you chew on one book while I read another.

You’re not showing any interest in sitting yet- you’re far too busy rolling around exploring your environment. You particularly enjoy wedging yourself under chairs and licking anything inappropriate (the top choices being stairs and the cat scratching post). And you’re still boasting a 100 percent gummy smile despite spending the entire month looking like you’re going to cut a tooth or two at any moment. You have lots to say, and our day is punctuated by a wide range of chortles, coos, shrieks, grizzles, gasps, and songs, but they’re all vowel sounds at this point. I’m sure babbling is right around the corner. We’re all still enjoying your full body smiles and arm flaps of excitement. You’re becoming quite a good traveller in the car. We had some longer drives this month- to go to the baby shower for your cousin (coming soon!) and to cut down our first live Christmas tree. On both occasions you were happy to just fall asleep in the car even if it wasn’t your usual nap time, and you even once fell asleep without crying in stop-start traffic (normally you prefer the smooth and steady vibrations of highway driving). We’re very hopeful this might make for relatively smooth driving over the holidays.

Finally, finally, I can report some good news when it comes to sleep. I’m not going to lie- you and I hit rock bottom this month. At the start of the month you were still waking up four or five times (or more) every night. You hadn’t put together a stretch longer than three hours since before you were four months old and I was reaching the stage where I couldn’t be a good Mum to you or to your brother. So we did something I swore up and down I would never do- we let you cry. You woke up one night at 10:15 and I checked your diaper and gave you a cuddle and put you back in the crib and sat in the room with you and told you it was bedtime and then listened to you as you cried and cried and cried. Honestly, I thought you had it figured out in the first ten minutes as your crying tapered off and you started to make sleepy sounds. But then you escalated again. This was a pattern you repeated over and over and over again. You would almost go to sleep and then you’d suddenly start to cry again. At 12:45 a.m., I gave up and fed you. You were so excited and happy to be out of the crib that instead of nursing and falling right back asleep again like you normally did, you stayed awake to smile at me and make your happy pterodactyl noises and show how manifestly not scarred you were by the experience. It was after 2:00 a.m. before I finally got you asleep again, and then you still woke up at 5:00 at your usual fussy/gassy time.

I was convinced the entire evening had been a total disaster. But then something amazing happened. The next night you didn’t wake up until after 1 a.m., and the night after that you slept until after 2 a.m.! What changed, we think, was that I started sleeping in the basement with your Daddy (he’d been sleeping down there for weeks so he could function at work), which meant we didn’t wake you up when we went to bed. When you did wake up, I’d go upstairs to feed you and then I’d sleep the rest of the night in our room. For the first few nights I kept waking up in a panic at 11:30 or midnight, thinking you were crying and I hadn’t heard you. I was so used to you getting up all the time.

The whole thing made it clear that you were ready to be in your own room, so we moved the crib a week and a half before you turned six months old. We moved it (and lowered the mattress) the same weekend we moved you up a size in sleep sacks and prefolds and changed your car seat. There were a lot of changes in a very short amount of time, but you sailed through it all. And your night sleep has continued to be remarkably good. Many nights you only wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. and then go back to sleep until 6:30 or so. A bad night now means you’re up around 1 and then again around 4, but even that’s a massive improvement over what was happening previously. And you always go back to sleep in the crib if you wake up around 5 or 5:30 a.m., which used to be almost impossible.

And, the most exciting thing of all, you now put yourself to sleep completely independently at bedtime and at naps. You no longer nurse at bedtime until you get really sleepy- we nurse with the lights on and then you go into the crib wide awake and you settle yourself. And for naps I can now put you in the crib as soon as you’re done nursing and I’ve sung you a lullaby. I don’t have to try to settle you on my shoulder until you’re very sleepy, and I don’t have to pick you back up again in the crib when you get really tired and start to cry. You just roll around and talk to yourself and play with your sleep sack until you’re ready to sleep, and then you roll over onto your right side (always your right side), bang your head against the mattress a couple of times, and close your eyes. You usually fall asleep perpendicular to the long sides of the crib. I’m still sitting in the room while you fall asleep as you’re in a bit of a pattern of producing a dirty diaper in the crib and needing a change before you can nap, but otherwise you do it all yourself, and I’m so very proud of you.

I’m not sure if you would have consolidated your naps anyway or if we have your new independence to thank for it but you’ve also settled into a fantastic nap routine this month. Your first nap is usually 90 to 120 minutes and your second one is generally an hour or even longer. We’ve been lucky this month in that Grannie was visiting at one point and your Daddy has been able to work at home a fair bit, which means I don’t have to wake you up every time to go get your brother from school. You absolutely hate taking a catnap in the late afternoon and you fight me, even if you’re really tired, so we’ve decided that if you sleep until I have to get your brother (or even a bit later if I can leave you at home) then you’re ok to get through to 6:30 when we just put you straight to bed for the night. If you wake up from your second nap before 2:50 p.m., the late afternoon is a struggle. I wish it wasn’t winter outside as I know if I could put you in a carrier and go for a walk you’d fall asleep for that last catnap, but your brother and I don’t really want to be wandering the streets in the cold and the dark. The nap routine does make it a bit of a challenge to get anything done outside the house as your awake time overlaps with when I should be eating lunch, and I can’t push your awake time at all as otherwise you go down too late to have a good nap before your brother gets out of school. But I’m not complaining- having a well rested baby is wonderful, and I’m also enjoying the chance to have a cup of tea and maybe even read a book.

We’re entering the golden age of babyhood now, and even though I know I’m going to be chasing you all around the house very soon, I can’t help but look forward to what’s coming. Your personality is really starting to emerge. You’re so cheerful and chatty and curious. You charm everyone you meet with your huge brown eyes and your cheeky smile. I never get tired of the smile you give me when I go to get you out of your crib in the morning or after a nap. Your whole body shows how much you love me. I love you just as much.

Love always,

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Filed under Letters to P., P.- the first year

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