Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My daughter ensured she got only mommy's milk!

At my very first prenatal appointment, my OB/GyN asked me: "Do you plan to breast feed?".

Even with a planned pregnancy, the strip turning pink is a huge surprise - with nervous excitement, my husband and I had gone in for the appointment. We were awkward, not knowing what to expect. Visions of parenthood had only included huggable cherubs and all things cute and pastel. The doctor's apparently routine question threw me off-guard. There was so much I had not even thought about. I very hesitantly replied, "If I am able to I will, as a first preference."
I spent the next nine months reading anything and everything related to breastfeeding. I attended prenatal classes where they taught the various holds and even bought books with graphics! The more I researched, the more I dreaded the idea of breastfeeding. While the benefits were undeniable - Latching problems, flow problems, stigma of public feeding - there seemed to be a thousand and more deterrents to what seemed initially the most natural maternal instinct. (Actually this makes me realize that there are so few positive stories floating around - we mostly hear about horrors - all of which maybe genuine. But, we need more feel-good stories so that new mommies know that positive experiences are just as real and common).

With unresolved conflicting emotions I went into labor. Immediately, after the big bang birth, the attending nurse asked me if I would breast-feed now. "Now? So soon? Am I ready?" With the most gentle smile ever, she placed my baby in my lap, helped me into a nursing position, and said, "The baby and you both are ready." With my heart booming thud thud, I brought Manya close to my chest and she did one of those miracles that only babies can do, she latched on and began sucking as if it was the most natural thing to do. All my worries and trepidation faded into oblivion, in seconds. I became a proud breast-feeding mommy. My daughter ensured that.

Our feisty little angel turns 9 months next week, and we are still going strong. Though M was a pro from the word go when it came to nursing, we haven't been without our share of struggle. My daughter took the meaning of on-demand feeding to a whole new level - she was a frequent nurser (still is) but in the initial months, she wanted to feed every 2 hours - day and night. To add to that she was a reflux baby, the nursing frequency went even higher on most days - then there was cluster feeding for weeks and months at stretch. 

And boy, did my daughter know what she wanted. She refused to take expressed milk from the bottle - never ever giving me the chance to give her formula for even a single feed. We were literally stuck to each other for the first 6 months - till we started off on solids. I fed her in the car in parking lots, in doctors' waiting rooms, and even in trial/changing rooms! My husband used to joke that I am our daughter's 24-hour milk bar with anytime, anywhere access. 

As if the "real" issues were not enough, there was no dearth of non-supporters, from quarters I had least expected. "Manya always looks hungry." "Do you think your milk is enough for her?" "She is so thin (hinting that maybe I should try supplementing)." "Is the reflux because of you feeding her?" "Why don't you force train her on the bottle - then you can get a break, and others can feed her." "What's the harm if a baby gets a tummy full of formula feed every once in a while?"

Thankfully, we have a doctor who is extremely supportive and advocated on-demand nursing all through. To be honest, there were times I'd fling my hands in the air in despair, order formula and bottles, and try feeding her - I'd cry in desperation when for hours together the only break I'd have would be a nature break and a glass of water. What pulled me through? My daughter. She'd not budge from my bosom when she was hungry and she refused any other form of milk - she made sure it was only mommy's milk she got - straight from the source. (Yes, this little girl had done her homework well :))

Whatever doubts and fears that would develop every now and then would melt away when I'd see my determined cherub sucking for dear life, only to take a break at regular intervals - to gaze at me -sometimes in wonder (wow, this woman always comes with the milkers), sometimes in delight (this is what I exactly needed right now), sometimes (though very rarely) in gratitude (only this can soothe me), sometimes (actually very often) in agitation (couldn't you have given this a few seconds earlier), sometimes breaking into a cheeky, gummy grin (guess what, I am not hungry, I just wanted some comfort and alone time with you), sometimes in frustration (this is not fast enough or too fast for me) - but mostly her gazes are peaceful - as she drifts into a calm slumber that only drunkenness from mommy's milk can cause!

The lesson I learnt: They are actually right when they say it's best to follow your baby cues - she knows best. I credit my breastfeeding ability to my daughter - she was forgiving with my clumsiness, she taught me, by example, patience (nursing a baby is no joke), skill, determination, how to enjoy nursing, and most importantly she taught me that absolute love is possible.

Friday, July 26, 2013

First haircut

As if it was not enough that mommy has become a manicurist/pedicurist, she is experimenting with hair styling too!

Yes, you heard that right. Manya had a first haircut and I did it for her, right at home, in her bath tub. Before you start hyperventilating, hear me out. It's nothing great. I just combed her shampooed hair straight down onto her forehead and chopped it off straight. Similarly the long strands at the back that have been irritating her for a while were also cut off. Ofcourse, it's a far from perfect job, but it serves the purpose, for the time being.

Her hair was all over her eyes and ears and I had had enough of pushing it back a million times during the day. M herself had started getting irritated - so Vish and I decided it was time she got a trim. We inquired at a few kid salons - but they don't take children less that 1 year of age. Even then, I read a lot of horror stories about even the most expensive hairdressers nipping off the ear every once in a while. So finally, after enough encouragement from Vish and my mom, I took advantage of an exceptionally happy bathing time, when M was busy playing with her water toys. It was simple and quick, and Vish actually said he quite likes it. So, there, I too was happy with the end results.

By the way, history does repeat itself. My mom did exactly the same for me. Infact, she was my hair stylist till I was almost 2. :)

[For those wondering about the hindu ritual - "mundan" (shaving of the head hair completely) - Vish and I have decided not to go for it for various reasons. 1. I come from a family where this ritual is not practiced for girls - and I personally find it quite scary (so even if the ritual was there, I wouldn't have gone for it). The whole idea of a blade all over that sweet little head gives me the shivers. Why to unnecessarily subject my baby to crying and stress? | 2. I don't agree with the religious explanation behind the ritual (previous birth memories, dirty hair from the womb etc. etc.) | 3. There is no scientific proof that hair grows "better" or "thicker" after shaving it off - I have confirmed this from quite a few hairdressers and doctors, even though some moms claim that hair grew more evenly after the shave - but that will anyways happen, I guess. M has decent hair, in any case.]

Monday, July 22, 2013

No screen time!

You'll hear most parents lament the fact that all the techniques and disciplining mantras they had always sworn by go kaput when the baby actually arrives. It is really really true. So many "rules" are bent and worked around to allow for individual spaces (that is a very polite way of saying to give into stubborn infants/kids). (But that would be a different blog post.)

However, Vish and I have, as parents, stuck to some basic principles that are more-or-less non-compromisable for Manya (and have remained such in the 8 months so far - phew!). Out of these, one is no screen time till  M turn 2 (years) - so we have 16 more months to go. We follow this quite strictly - no screen time means no TV, no computer/laptop/tablets, no phones - basically nothing with a "screen". We also minimize any "background exposure", which means if she is around there'll be no TV running in the background. Music is okay. There are two exceptions to this rule. (1) She is allowed Skype time with family and friends. (2) Once in a while, we do show her photographs.

Our reasons are very simple. Babies and infants do not have the ability to correlate motion picture with the sound (low cognitive retention, and all that dense scientific lingo too), and when they start doing so (as they grow), they "learn" to become passive observers rather than proactive participants. Even after two, I personally feel screen time should be kept to a bare minimum and should always be supervised (not only to supervise the content but also to engage the child in understanding and relating to the content). 

I come from a home where mom and dad were very strict about TV watching in the growing up years. Even in high school and senior school, we were allowed only half an hour to an hour of TV everyday - and a movie on the weekend. It was in college that finally this rule was "lifted" mainly because we got quite out of hand by then :D. I can't really compare on how I have turned out vis-a-vis those who watched TV at will - but I do know that when I look back at my childhood - it is filled with vivid memories of lively family conversations, lots of books, board games, picnics and playing and running about. Strangely, the tears I shed because I was not allowed Batman AND Small Wonder AND Star Trek on the same day, are all forgotten (and forgiven :D)

Growing up in today's times with technology having encroached in all private spaces of our being, I know "controlling" will be more difficult than in the 80's and 90's - but I will try - really hard. Screen time can be a lot of fun, play and learning and I will ensure it's used only for that - and not as a substitute for real life, real people, and real play.

Aah, but what really made me write this post was that because of this rule, guess who's suffering the most - yours truly. I have to steal in my screen time to coincide with her naps - and most of that time goes in FBing and blogging, leaving little room for TV or movies :(. Your own rules come at a price, huh? Just when I thought I was "THE" parent and "I" would "MAKE THE RULES" :P. Sigh!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Seeking cute babies

That was the subject line of an email I received. The body of the mail content began with 'Do you have a cute kid?'

If you haven't guessed as yet, it was a photo contest invite. The winners are promised modelling opportunities, city trips and stardom tours (whatever that implies) apart from other goodies, that in my mind, would be typically useless to a baby really.

So, what's the big fuss about, you ask. 
Well it is this. Ofcourse I have a cute kid and just in case you didn't know I also find her the cutest. And I say it unabashedly because I know every mother feels that way about her baby. My problem is how will you judge which kid is cuter than the other. Even before motherhood happened, I found all children equally adorable. I couldn't ever compare and sorry you big-baby products-corporate, I refuse to let you judge my baby.

Actually, most baby photo contests put me off completely, and what irritates me even more is when parents rush in to send pictures of their baby, making such contests a huge roaring success for the advertising companies. The final nail in the coffin - when you get that mail or FB message saying, "please vote for my baby". Since, a personal response befitting my true feelings would be downright rude, here's a general message for all parents and parents-to-be:

"Dear mommy/daddy, Your little munchkin is absolutely gorgeous. There are no ifs and buts to that statement. If I could, I'd "like" the picture a trillion times and more (because apparently unique likes are not what counts) so that your baby wins the contest, but you know what I am thinking? I am thinking why would you want to make your apple-pie "compete" for a victory that's already under his/her belt. You look at your babe and tell me if he/she is not the sweetest cherub ever? That modelling contract, that hollywood tour, and that personal website - all will happen when they have to. As of now, keep your camera busy and capture the fleeting childhood the best you can - they will be a constant source of joy now and forever for you and all your near and dear ones - why let advertisers make hay at your expense?"

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Of newer feats

A quick update on M's latest:
  • She is getting quite chatty, I must say. No meaningful words yet, but that does not stop her highness from having a lengthy, animated conversation with you, especially if she is in the right mood.
  • Finally, madame's bringing her hands together to clap! The first time she did it I was so so amused - so no guesses what are favorite song these days is. Ofcourse, it is "If you are happy and you know it - CLAP your hands" :D.
  • Though we have installed child gates at the staircase, we had left the first set (of three) open for M to practice climbing within a safe range. She's really taken the challenge to heart. She climbs three stairs in less than 30 seconds. Isn't it amazing how kids figure out things themselves without anybody showing them the way? She's yet to learn how to climb down though.
  • Oh, and someone's discovered (err, rediscovered) gravity. One of her favorite activities is to throw things - her bib, food on her tray, toys, down from the couch or her high chair. And then, if you innocently pick it up and give it to her (thinking she dropped it accidentally), she will plunge it right back to the ground, give you a disapproving nod, and then look down to see where the item finally landed - after spotting it, she'll give you a victorious smile. The cheek, I tell you!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Two-thirds of a year...

...And I still don't know another way of saying that time is flying!

Well, let's see if I can recall everything that's happened in the month gone by:
  • M's on the prowl - she is a pro at crawling fast and when I say fast, I really mean FAST.
  • She is sitting pretty without support and is able to pull herself to a standing positing using little support. She tries to take a step or two but ends up tying her legs in a knot and then doesn't know what to do - so she plonks herself back! I keep telling her walking can really wait, you know!
  • It is official that we have a picky eater to deal with (I am so dreading her 9th month physical checkup - I am dead sure to see a percentile drop - damn!). She has no clear favorites, even though she does try anything new that I give her - but how much she eats of it is a matter solely of her own personal choice. Paah!
  • We hear ha-ha, pa-pa, ba-ba, ta-ta, da-da, aa-kaa, ha-ta, ta-da - no signs of the 'ma' syllable :)
  • Her favorite playing station is the kitchen floor and her favorite toys are wooden ladles and extra tupperware! Seriously, I could have saved a fortune not buying all those play-gyms and activity centers!

Monday, July 1, 2013

The beginning of anxiety...

For the last couple of days, we have seen a marked change in M's behavior - the earlier babe who would play for 20-30 minutes on her own has now become a wee bit clingy and needs mommy or daddy to be constantly around - in her immediate line of sight. She will either bawl or crawl upto wherever we are. It's kind of cute most times, but sometime ofcourse when things get to whiny, we are flustered. Separation anxiety is a social development milestone and I am not really complaining, but let's see how long this lasts.

Close on the heels of separation anxiety comes stranger anxiety - which has also become increasingly obvious in M's case. If she is approached by someone for the first time, her face shows signing of tearing up - she takes a while to warm up, which was again not the case till a couple of weeks back. The strange part of this is that she smiles at random strangers when on her walks or in stores, but when somebody directly approaches her or talks to her, then she gets all clingy and bothered.

Like they say, this too shall pass.