The ninth month

Dear P.,

Nine months! I feel like nine months is a milestone, not only because it means you’re now three-quarters of the way through your first year, but also because that’s how long (roughly) I carried you in my body. My midwives told me when your brother was little that I should take the view that it’s “nine months in you and nine months on you” (although I find that teeth and the advent of separation anxiety usually means a few more months with lots of snuggles and being carried around). One of the mothers on your birth club posted the other day that 9-12 months is her least favourite stage of the first year and I was completely gobsmacked. Nine months, for me, is the true golden age of infancy. You’re fun to play with, your day is predictable, and, best of all, you’re starting to realize that you can communicate with us and exercise control over some parts of your world. You’ve been growing and changing in leaps and bounds every single month, but there’s no denying that something really special happened this month, and I’ve loved watching it happen.

By the end of last month you were pretty stable when I placed you into sitting, and you started this month absolutely determined to learn how to get into sitting from when you were lying on your tummy. At first you were only able to do this if you could push off against our legs or the step up into the kitchen but after a week or so you had it mastered. You then immediately moved on to pulling up to kneeling. By the end of the month you were very confident kneeling (you didn’t need to hold on to anything to keep your balance) and you’d also pulled yourself to standing a couple of times using the stairs. Once you even managed to get your feet up onto the second stair! I thought we were going to have to start closing that gate but you didn’t repeat it. Getting up on to your knees has meant your climbing has improved as well- now you can climb right up on to the top of a sizeable Rubbermaid bin, reach down over the other side to pick something up off the floor, and then slide back down on to your knees.

You still choose to go everywhere using your asymmetrical army crawl. This month you modified it slightly so that you were pulling with your left arm (bent at 90 degrees at the elbow) and pushing with your right foot. This change allows you to carry something in your right hand, usually a shape from your shape sorter or a pair of your socks if I’ve been foolish enough to leave them lying around on the floor. It is, quite frankly, a most peculiar way to travel and your brother spends a lot of time demonstrating to you how much faster you could be if you would “do proper crawling” (as he puts it). You can be pretty darn fast if you’re trying to get somewhere you know you’re not supposed to be! If I put you on the floor of my room while I’m getting dressed, you’ll give the baby in the mirror some kisses and then, as soon as you think I’m distracted, you’ll set off at top speed down the hall towards your brother’s room. If I don’t immediately come after you, I can be guaranteed you’ll pull over the plant in his room and try to eat the soil (a plant which, may I point out, is in his room for the express purpose of keeping it out of your reach!).

There were some changes this month to your sleeping habits. I finally broke the habit of sitting in the room while you were putting yourself to sleep at naps and at bedtime. This was more a bad habit on my part, especially at bedtime, as I liked the ten minutes of peace and quiet I got while sitting in the rocking chair waiting for you to settle. You didn’t really need me in there, so it was a very easy change. More difficult, but no less important, was the change we made this month to your bedtime. Ideally you’d go to bed at 7 p.m. after we eat dinner, but this month we finally admitted that this just wasn’t possible if I had to wake you up by 2:50 p.m. to get your brother from school. We had too many dinners where you were just yelling in protest as I ate my food as fast as I could before we both abandoned your Daddy and your brother when I whisked you upstairs. So this month we experimented with you eating an early dinner by yourself around 5 p.m., and then going to bed by 6:30 p.m. It’s not perfect: I’m always forgetting I need to think about what you’re going to eat for dinner, and having our dinner that late does mean that your brother’s bedtime routine gets a bit rushed if he dawdles over his food, but we’re all agreed it’s a huge improvement. What really made us certain this was the right thing to do was when we were visiting your Grannie for a week and your brother didn’t have school: your afternoon nap was able to run later and you had no trouble with a 7:00 or 7:15 p.m. bedtime. I wish you could eat dinner with us, but that may have to wait until the summer.

You’re still up twice a night, usually around 11 and again around 3 (although this can vary wildly). I find if the second feed isn’t until 4 or a bit later you’ll sleep until close to 7, which is much more civilized than getting up for the day right at 6 (which is what you do if I see you at 3). I probably could now take steps to try to encourage you to drop at least one of these wakings, but I’m too tired to commit to it, and I don’t want to risk you waking up your brother. I’ve learned you’re a tummy sleeper now: on a few occasions I’ve had to go in to wake you from a nap when you’re still in a very deep sleep, and you’ve been lying on your tummy with your face pressed into the mattress. It’s quite nerve-wracking to see, but you seem to be comfortable! You did set a new record this month for sleeping: 11 hours straight (6:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., including me checking on you in a panic at 4:45 a.m.). You then nursed at 5:30 and woke up again at 6. I assumed you were going to get up for the day, but you just nursed again and then fell back asleep until after 8- 13.5 total hours! Sadly no aspect of this feat has ever been repeated. I guess you were growing.

It’s very rare now that you wake up in the early evening. One night you did pop up at 8:30 p.m. Your brother was still awake and, once you started crying in earnest, he started singing the “We’re ok, P.” song with the verse “Mummy’s going to come up soon, Mummy’s going to come up soon, Mummy’s going to come up soon, and then you’ll have lovely milk!” I don’t normally nurse you if you wake up that early but he was being so kind and loving I didn’t want to disappoint him.

You are so very lucky to have such a wonderful big brother. He is extraordinarily patient and gentle with you, and he’s been so tolerant of the continual changes we’ve had to make to our environment to keep you safe. Some of your favourite toys are the sensory bottles that he made for you, and you love to follow him into his snake house behind our couch (although you usually then get stuck and can’t get back out again without help). This month you had your first bath with your brother where you sat up and I didn’t have to hold you. E. was thrilled- he said he’s been waiting for this for months! He immediately invented a game of boats with the shampoo bottles that you could both play. When your brother isn’t around to entertain you, you like to hold one shape from your shape sorter in each hand and bang them together or shake them like mad. You always have a huge smile on your face when you do this. You’ve mastered the “brainless” elephant (as we call it); you love dropping in the balls and then you’ll sway back and forth with the music.  This month also marked your first time on a swing. You loved it! You had the biggest smile on your face and you kicked your legs with joy (just like how you kick them when you’re eating something particularly tasty).

Speaking of food, things are finally getting easier. One day you ate an entire piece of toast with peanut butter on it for breakfast, which was the exact same food on which you had choked just a month earlier, leading us to largely stop the finger foods in favour of purees. It seems you just needed to grow up a little more and have a bit more time to practice as by the end of this month we were only really using purees if we were travelling (they’re just easy, especially since this month you learned how to hold the pouches and suck the food out yourself). You also learned how to drink from the Rubbermaid straw cup, which has again made travelling much easier. You’re very neat when drinking out of the IKEA glasses, although you do get very cross when I take it away when you start trying to put your fingers in it at the same time. Your pincer grip is excellent and you love sitting up at the table eating Cheerios when your brother is having his after school snack. You’ll try most things we offer you, but you have some clear favourites: hard boiled eggs, avocado, strawberries, oatmeal with cinnamon (made with large flake rolled oats as you won’t touch the baby oatmeal), and peanut butter toast.

There are signs, I think, that you might be starting to outgrow the dairy/soy intolerance. We’ve introduced it into my diet a few times without any ill effects, although when we did give you something with baked milk in it we felt you were still reacting if you ate it directly. We’ll try again in another month or so. In the meantime, I’m not quite as strict with my diet as I used to be, which has been a nice change.

Nursing has presented some more challenges this month. It’s been harder to get you to settle for a good feed unless it’s before your naps or at bed time. You often skip the first feed in the morning altogether (you’re still full from your feed at 3 or 4 a.m.), as well as the feed that came before lunch. That said, you’ve started asking to nurse in the late afternoon, rather than waiting for me to offer. At first you asked by crawling over, pulling down my shirt and sticking your head in my chest, but by the end of the month you’d mastered using the “milk” sign. You seem to use this as an all purpose sign for “drink” as you also use it at the table when you want a drink of water. When you first realized we understood what you were trying to communicate you went through a phase of asking to nurse, nursing for about ten seconds, popping off to go back to play, and then repeating this over and over again. Now the excitement has worn off a little bit and you will often settle for a good feed in the late afternoon (although you get up to some real acrobatics while doing so). It didn’t help that you cut your third tooth at the end of the month (your top right middle) as you never like nursing much when your gums hurt. I’m in a good pattern of pumping every day after you go down for your first nap as well as any time you skip a regular feed. You still love to nurse, even if you don’t always drink very much at one time.

Along with the “milk” sign we thought earlier in the month you had started signing “all done”, but it’s still inconsistent. You often signal that you’re finished by pulling off your bib or sweeping your hands back and forth on your tray like they’re windshield wipers. One day at lunch you very clearly said something that sounded just like “all done!” in context- even your brother noticed. We think that was probably just a coincidence as you haven’t repeated it. It’s clear that you’re starting to understand quite a lot. You understand the word “no”, even if you don’t always listen when I say it (especially when it involves not grabbing the cat as you just can’t help yourself). You also understand the question “Where is the cat?” and will turn your head to see where she is. She’s still your favourite member of the household after your brother. There was a lot of grabbing of her fur this month, but she brings a lot of it on herself because she knows you’re mobile and yet she still insists on sitting right next to you and bumping you with her head affectionately. I think on some level she likes the attention. This month you also started raising your hands to ask to be picked up and clapping. The sight of you applauding yourself after you’ve done something you think is particularly clever is adorable. You have a fake cough you use to get someone’s attention (usually directed at your Daddy or your Grannie), which is also adorable, but I think my favourite communication change this month is you started initiating peek-a-boo. You will “play” peek-a-boo with the baby in the lift-the-flap book by closing the flap to hide the baby and then opening it up really quickly and smiling and giving the baby kisses (which are still big vampire kisses). Then you’ll close the flap and start all over again. You also play peek-a-boo with me by hiding by the stairs and peeking out every time I ask “Where’s P.? Where’s she gone?”

You had your 9 month well baby appointment at the end of the month. You weighed in at 17 lb, 1.5 oz, which puts you in the 25th percentile for weight (although I was pleased that you’d gained almost a full pound more than your brother did between six and nine months, which I suspect is a result of your better nursing habits). You were 29 inches long, which means you’re still off the charts for height, so you’ve stayed long and lean. We’ll be moving you into 12 month clothes pretty soon, especially when you’re wearing cloth diapers. You’re also starting to look older- a number of the mothers at school have commented on this. You are still clearly a baby (especially because you still have almost no hair), but there are hints of the toddler you’re going to become.

We’ve had such fun together this month, my darling girl. You are such a cheerful little soul, and you take almost everything in your stride. I am so very glad you came to join our family.

Love always,
Mummy

 

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

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