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Benji is a week away from turning 9 months. Whoah. These last 3 weeks have been kind of hellish. You know this whole sleep regression that people say happens at 8 months? Well, he got it. Yes, just after he got sleep trained. It got progressively worse really quickly. I remember very shortly after the first night he started waking up for a feed, he started waking up more and more, and refused to go back to sleep. One of the nights he was up for almost 2 hours. Last night he was up every other hour! We have stopped letting him cry it out because he has now learned to throw up, and also every time we go in to the room he would either be sitting up or, as he has learned in the last two days, standing up in the crib.

We are beyond exhausted. I think I can see a top tooth coming out, but it might just be my own imagination, trying to search for some consolation that this might pass soon.

Some people say it comes and goes within a week or two but we are now into week 3 and Benji shows now signs of progression.

Having said that, other than sleep, everything seems to be developing exponentially. He’s now crawling much quicker, lifting himself up with anything and everything he can use to support himself, babbling a whole range of consonants (even non-English ones!), playing with the old pots and pans we had meant to get rid of but that he found stashed in a corner, and taking formula in the daytime.  Being so mobile now, Benji has also started exploring everything he can in the house. This means: we need to babyproof our place!!!

He has also been going to daycare twice a week for three weeks now…and well, he has a ways to go with settling in to that environment. Separation anxiety is at its peak but he also has lots more giggles and is so playful when around us.

Every age is interesting with kids. And this one, is definitely the most so far…and one that’s also kicking our butts really hard. Every night I pray that he will learn to sleep like he did just 3 weeks ago. I’m still waiting.

Meanwhile, I just made an appointment with our Maternal and Child Health Nurse for a check-up to make sure his sleep regression is really just developmental, and that there’s nothing more healthwise instigating this mania.

More updates later.

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Music has been reported to benefit baby’s brain development by creating new pathways and at times also soothing them when they’re fussy. We have been playing lots of children’s songs and classical music to Benji and he really enjoys listening to them. But let’s be honest here: how many of us are going a bit crazy now having listened to “5 little ducks” for the hundredth time?!!

We are always on the prowl for new music for him and a friend of mine sent me to this totally rad website: Rock-a-bye baby, that sells “pop” music for babies. I laughed so hard for the first few minutes after landing on the site. Lullaby renditions of rock music?!! They were actually really enjoyable! Not that I liked Bob Marley’s songs before, but with Rockabyebaby, we can now listen to Bob Marley without feeling guilty or feeling like we need to censor any lyrics.

I’m actually eyeing the one for Weezer. Also digging the cutesy graphics on the CD cover. Only about $17. Soon daddy and mommy can enjoy their favorite tunes and share them – guilt free – with Benji!

This little guy had been trying desperately for almost two weeks to roll over from his back to his belly. He would whine and even cry sometimes when he was not able to flip over. He has also been enjoying being on his tummy waaay more than he did before and would cry for us to put him on his belly to get a different view of the world. Sure, he did flipped over once from his back to belly at the end of March but while both Bry and I were ecstatic when he did it, we knew it was more of an accident than anything.

Yesterday morning, however, was different: I was upstairs cleaning the bathroom and suddenly noticed that Benji had stopped cooing and kicking his rattly toys in the play gym so I rushed downstairs to check on him. This was what I saw: my little spunky guy on his belly with a big flashy smile on his face.

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I knew he made it and from his excitement, knew that it was no accident. In fact, he proved it to us once more in the evening by rolling over again with both Bry and I present.

Checking off another milestone!

20120410-201424.jpgBenji’s coos are getting louder and louder, and his repertoire continues to increase. Between now and the next couple months he should start babbling. Meaning, he should start adding some consonants to his sound system (e.g., saying “bah-bah” and not just “ah”). These days, his crazy mom has been babbling lots to him using all the consonants in the English sound system. At times, I have also been babbling using Mandarin consonant sounds. When I do that, I notice Benji’s eyes attentively looking at my mouth, watching how it purses and releases, or how my tongue lifts and drops. It’s fascinating watching him watch me or his dad when we speak.

Reading has also become very much a routine in our household. No matter what we do, we try to read at least one book a day to him. Some days, I don’t even read the words in the book but just take a book and look at the pictures and describe them. At this age, it’s not so much the content; it’s more the act of reading. In fact, I also highly recommend picture books to parents because that gives parents the freedom to label the picture and even come up with an imaginative story themselves. (It’s also a great way to facilitate narrative skills in toddlers or pre-schoolers who cannot yet read.)

Language – speaking and listening – is the foundation for reading. A lot of parents don’t realize that, but a lot of kids who eventually go on to be good readers (except the ones who are diagnosed with dyslexia) have a good background in language. They know how to speak and understand and know how to manipulate sounds (e.g., do rhyme). That’s why when you look at speech development checklists from health nurses or pediatricians, they often ask if your child is babbling or using a variety of different sounds. This is a good speech and language development checklist I found for parents with infants or toddlers if you don’t already have one.

The first time I read a book to Benji, I’ll read the words. I use my finger to track the words I’m reading so he pays attention to the print. After that, I read the same book over with him for the next week or so (I usually have about 2 – 3 books in rotation during the week) and try other ways to explore and read to him from the same book. Here are some:

Labeling things in the book. When we read the same book again – and we do, many times over – I look for other things to talk about in the book. There are lots of other things to talk about: the color of the boy’s shirt, or the type of dog, etc. Repetition is a great way to help a child learn new words.

Playing silly word rhymes, e.g., when I see a page that says “7 pups pounce…” I go “and 7 pups bounce!” (even if they’re not part of the page) and “7 pups hounce,,,” Yes, “hounce” is not part of the English lexicon but it rhymes with pounce and bounce, and that is what I want to expose him to. Word games can be so fun and educational at the same time. Little kids especially from their toddler years LOVE them. Most little kids innately find silly rhymes funny (that’s why Dr Seuss books are such a hit!).

Using lots of action words when talking about the pictures in the books. E.g., “The puppies are pouncing!” “The puppies are rolling the colorful ball!” Nouns and action words are the first types of words that kids pick up, and it’s best to use the -ing version of the action word instead of just saying “He sits” say “He is sitting.” Developmentally, we want children to be able to use the “is + -ing” structure by around 2.5 years old (a lot of kids will developmentally say “He sitting” first and then progress to add the “is” in between). We also use slightly longer structures to extend the kid’s sentence structure, but not too long.

And as always, being animated and constantly moving because we know the little ones can’t sit still for too long.

Here are some other good websites to find suggestions on promoting literacy with your little one. Remember, language AND reading go complement each other. Read AND talk about the books with your little ones to get the best literary experience.

Make Reading First. Lots of suggestions on ways to read to your child.

Caring for kids. It also has a literacy milestone chart you can use for your child.

Zero to Three. An excellent article about the roots of literacy: language!

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That’s right! Benji turned the big 4 months about 4 days ago! Exciting developmental milestones in the last week or so:

  • He flipped over from his back to front which totally caught us by surprise so didn’t get to take a video of it. (Still waiting for another flip to happen, btw.) 🙂
  • He LOVES this yoga pose of pulling up his legs to mid air so he can look at his feet…and that really keeps him entertained for a while.
  • His 4 month sleep regression seems to be over. THANK GOD. Benji has now reverted to sleeping his usual schedule of about 8pm – 3am which gave Bry and me our quiet time together again.
  • He has more vowels in his coos. Instead of just going “ayy” Benji has started going “eee” and I might be making this up but I was pretty sure I heard a couple of weak sounding “m”s in his coos. His coos have also gotten louder and he’s gurgling more frequently than before.

Benji also had his 4 month immunizations and thankfully did not react too badly to them. He might have had a very mild fever but was not too cranky neither did he need any tylenol.

AND the biggest plus is his skin has gotten SO much better since we started him on the prescribed topical medication (Hydrocortisone Butyrate 0.1%). I have no doubt that the elimination diet is also helping because Benji hasn’t had new huge flare ups since the diet began. More about my diet in the next few posts.

Thank you all my friends and family for your prayers and concerns especially when Benji’s eczema was really really bad. God answers prayers.

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So we had to cross the border to Seattle to get an early enough appointment with a Pediatric Dermatologist (the waitlist here in Canada is crazy long – about 18 months for BC residents with health care cards and even for private pay patients we have to wait 1.5 months !!!!!) and decided to make use of that trip to also do some sightseeing around the town since I had never been there before.

Overall, the trip was plenty successful. We got to see the doctor, he prescribed some stronger topical steroid creams for Benji which seems to be working really well. It also cost us a fortune so yeah it had better work. His wounds have now completely stopped weeping and looking less inflammed. The doctor however was adamant Benji’s eczema is Atopic and is NOT caused by allergies and would not hear of any allergy testing or the fact that for some people, eczema is really exacerbated by some kinds of allergic reaction. Shrugs. We took it with a pinch of salt. I’m still confident Benji has some kind of food allergy – while it may not be a cause, it certainly is a trigger and I’m determined to hunt it down.

We also got to do some outlet shopping, grocery shopping at good ol’ Trader Joe’s and sight see. The weather when we were there was also pretty amazing. What a blessing!

Because we were traveling, I had a lot of difficulty sticking to my total elimination diet. My poor husband didn’t get to eat at nice restaurants because of me but he took it really well. We would go to restaurants and all I’d order is chicken – without seasoning – and rice. Our second meal, I caved and ordered sushi, salmon sushi. So yes, I introduced salmon into my diet and Benji seemed to take it okay. No new flare ups. For the rest of our trip, we just did take out meals from the Whole Foods cafe.  Rotisserie chicken with just natural herbs and plain quinoa? Just my kinda meal.

I’ll post some photos from our trip later…but from the two photos above, you can see a happier Benji and therefore a happier mommy! 🙂 Thank GOD Benji’s skin is looking so much better. He’s also been itching less and I am SO relieved and grateful that we had the means to get him seen sooner than later. After we returned from our trip, the local Pediatric Dermatologist’s office rang and said we got an appointment early May. We will go for a second opinion with this local specialist who is also an Allergist/Immunologist. I’m interested to hear his views on eczema and allergies.

We’re also keeping my TED and will work more with the naturopath on it.

Crossing all fingers and toes.

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After a week (more like 7 weeks of steady decline of his skin) of watching Benji go through breakouts of rashes everywhere and getting increasingly fussy because of itch, I decided to do it: TOTAL ELIMINATION DIET.

Not just dairy and eggs and shellfish n red meat as in my previous post, but any food that has been known to cause allergies to rule out as quickly as possible if he is allergic to foods I’ve been eating. That on top of using new all natural laundry detergent, wearing and coming into contact with ONLY cotton, and getting our place spring cleaned tomorrow with all natural products.

It was a very tough decision for me (again I LOVE my food too much! And one of the ways Bry n I bond over so much is through food) but watching my poor baby so uncomfortable with rashes and having bound hands to prevent him from scratching is an even more difficult feeling to stomach. We need to get down to business faster.

Popularized by Dr SearsDr Sears the diet is made up of: millet, rice, rice pasta, organic lamb chicken turkey, squashes, and pears. I m going to modify it a little to include quinoa, apples and spinach lettuce and Chinese leafy veggies. Calcium n omega 3 supplements should also be consumed to keep up the nutrients.

I hope to follow through for at least two weeks and pray to see some noticeable results so we know there is a trigger and can work it out from there rather than simply relying on steroids medication n worse of all continuously having to bind his hands and watch him like a hawk.

Let’s hope it’s just food allergies. Goodbye junk food, cakes n cookies, cereal, cheese….etc for awhile!!

Meanwhile mommy needs to try to chill out.