She's six months old. I've put away most of her 3-6 month size clothes as she's already too big for them, and some of the French and Italian 9-month size are only going to last another week or so. Those continental babies must be much skinnier than our English ones. But as my old nanny used to say, this is a baby who pays for dressing - she looks adorable in most things I put her in.
On the day of her half birthday she looked like a 1950s baby in a little sailor dress, all big smiles, mohican hair and lots of drool. Yesterday, when we had a few friends and family over for tea she wowed the crowds in trousers and a navy shirt, covered for the first part of the party by a long-sleeved bib which was rapidly smeared with the very delicious banana and apple she had for tea. She was very good natured as she was passed from lap to lap, grinning at everyone who smiled at her, peering around me as I fed her to look at the assembled crowds. Eventually at about 5pm she'd had enough and screeched loudly until I took her up for a nap. Unusually for her, she needed me to stay with her until she settled. I patted her gently and she stared at me with slightly worried eyes until eventually, with a big sigh, she spat out the dummy, turned her head and went to sleep. By the time she woke up everyone had gone, and when I brought her back downstairs she kept looking around the room, and then looking up at me, as if to ask where her adoring fan club had gone.
She loves people. When I take her to Gymboree she spends most of the time looking at the other babies and at the instructor, giving the adults in particular big gummy grins. After she grins she usually has to hide her head in my shoulder, as if her own charm is overwhelming her. This love of faces now extends to her toys, and she shows a marked preference for dolls and animal toys. Of course the first thing she does is to stick their heads in her mouth, but still, it's a preference. Jimbo the clown is the one toy we can use to make her laugh - singing the Jimbo song (to the tune of 'Wheels on the bus') makes her giggle with joy.
She's been sitting unaided since the day of her half birthday. She'd been managing 30 seconds or so for the last week or so, but that day was the first she really sat, bolt upright, and even managed to correct herself when she wobbled by throwing out her arm. She still has a tendency to overbalance and fall backwards, so some strategically placed pillows, or Mummy's legs, are still essential. If she goes forwards she simply rolls herself onto her arms, so that direction doesn't need protection to the same extent. The arrival of the Mozart cube from the US has helped the sitting up, as it keeps her entertained while she leans forward to chew on a corner or lean on a panel, and the lights keep her watching it as she sits upright and wobbles to and fro. Our early observation that music seemed to help calm her has been confirmed by her special interest in this toy, as well as by her wondering look and instant silence if she's been screamy, when we launch into song.
She now won't stay on her back for more than a few seconds, rolling over onto her tummy is now essential. Once on her tummy, though, she rapidly gets frustrated by her inability to go anywhere - and rolling back onto her back seems not to be the point, even though she can do it if she wants to. Instead, she wiggles desperately on her tummy in one of two ways - using her tummy as a pivot she rocks back and forth, kicking her legs and waving her arms, or she plants her face to the floor and wriggles one leg forward under her hips, then the other in a crawling motion but without ever having both her hips up in the air at the same time. She will eventually pause and lift herself up on her arms with a big sigh, looking around and exclaiming loudly at the annoyances of life. Our downstairs floor is slippery enough that this motion often pushes her backwards, and this really drives her bananas as she just gets further away from the object of interest. She can, however, twist herself round on her tummy to get at something she's interested in, or to watch us as we move around her. I regularly come back from the loo to find she's in a completely different position than when I left her. We keep meaning to start child proofing, but have done nothing about it yet. I'm sure that will come back to haunt us.
I bought her a bouncer a few weeks ago and she LOVES it especially when we turn on the nasty flashing lights. It's a horrible piece of plastic tat, the kind of thing you always thought you no child of yours would ever be allowed, but we don't have any doorways suitable for one of the plain door frame-based bouncers so it was this or nothing. And it makes her so happy, who I am to deny her the flashing lights and tinny music. She loves bouncing enough that she often does it when being held upright on our laps, too, and this child is STRONG!
She was starting to babble about two weeks ago, saying 'Ma' for the first time on Mothering Sunday, followed by a selection of 'ba's 'da's and 'ya's. Since she started on the crawling motions and sitting, she's been babbling less, although I could have sworn she did a 'Mama' yesterday. Her cries of outrage also sound more like talking now. She doesn't just blow us an outraged raspberry, she articulates her frustration with a range of vowel sounds. This happens when I take her off the boob for a burp, when we aren't responding fast enough to her need for food once I've put her in the high chair, or when we've left her too long on her playmat without attention.
Feeding is going well. We started giving her solids a couple of weeks ago, and so far she's loved everything except broccoli, potato and mango (not together). Her favourite seems to be pear, with a mixture of avocado and banana a close second. I've been steaming and purreeing up a storm, and we now have a freezer full of cubes of courgette, apple, pear, sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, and pea. Today we'll give her courgette for the first time, tomorrow perhaps a second go at potato as the first one didn't mash well so she got a bunch of larger lumps in her mouth which made her gag. The solids have reduced her milk drinking somewhat - I breast feed her before each of her two solid meals a day then offer her milk again afterwards but she usually doesn't want it, or takes only an ounce. She has a huge bottle feed just before bed - often taking around 300mls (10 oz) - of a mixture of breast milk and formula, depending on how much I've pumped. And that's the big revolution around here, I've stopped pumping during the day. I started off by missing it, feeling it was a waste to leave any milk in the boobs at the end of a feed, but the extra benefits of having more time to do things, has persuaded me it's worthwhile. I've also skipped a couple of the 330am pumps, and although I'm not really feeling any less sleep deprived, I'm feeling better about starting to wean from the pump. Plus it means she gets a great feed when she wakes up, so that feels good.
The next step for us is to gradually reduce the breastfeeding. I feel incredibly proud of what we've achieved. After having successfully breast fed at the British Museum this week, and rather less successfully at the Natural History Museum - the difference being I was in private at the first, and in public at the second and BOY does this baby prefer to look around than to suck - I've managed to do what I always envisaged. I'm not ready to stop, but the looming of my return to work, and the need to start my reproductive system going again, mean it's time. I'm down to 30mg of domperidone a day, and expect to have stopped taking it by the end of the month. So far my supply seems to have persisted quite well, at least enough to get through four or five feeds a day, plus a couple of decent pumps - one in place of the dream feed and one in the middle of the night if I choose to do it. The next step is to drop a day time feed, and I haven't felt quite ready to do that yet, but I know it's necessary if we're even going to attempt giving Pob a sibling, and you know how important I think that is. It's coming. I'll miss it, but it's time.
Sleeping is better. We got her back to sleeping through the night by offering her 'hungry baby' formula at the dream feed, after her breast feed. That meant she just woke up once, usually around three, but was easily settled with a dummy and a bit of patting. Then we got ambitious. Two nights ago we decided to skip the dream feed. She always seemed to hate being woken, and it seemed worth a try. The first night she went til around 330, and after a go at settling her we gave in and fed her around 415. The second night - last night - she woke just once, at midnight, and settled after 10 minutes of patting. It seems we might be about to have a baby who sort of sleeps through the night. For a short while, I'm not counting any chickens, you understand.
What we didn't count on is how much WE enjoyed the dream feed. Although I know it's supposed to involve keeping the baby almost asleep while you feed, it never worked that way for us as by the time I'd breastfed the sleepy baby, then we'd given her the top up bottle, and changed her nappy, she was always pretty much awake. And we both really enjoyed hanging out together in bed with her. She'd be very smiley and happy, and often very cute as she drifted between sleep and sucking. When I breastfed her at this feed she's often fall asleep on me, and I'd pull her off the boob and let her sleep in my arms for a few minutes, enjoying the sneaky cuddle time that she doesn't allow when she's awake. When she'd scream because we'd interrupted her eating to burp her we'd sing to help her calm down and she'd look at us with such a look of puzzlement we'd always burst out laughing.We didn't do one final dream feed to enjoy it that last time, and so the first night we went without it we really struggled, sitting together on the sofa, moaning about how much we missed her. We don't know how to recreate that particular snuggle time, we'll have to figure something out as we're both in serious withdrawal.
Pob is a real person now, a real person who loves us and who loves our friends and family. She loves music. She loves bouncing. She's fascinated by mugs and glasses and water bottles. She sticks everything in her mouth. She loves Jimbo the clown. She loves pears and apples and carrots and butternut squash. She doesn't like being held too tight when there is a world to look at. I miss the tiny baby, but I love the explorer she's becoming. Roll on the next six months.