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I’m trying to type this post in the middle of Benji’s uncontrollable sobbing. My stomach is churning, my palms are sweaty, and my heart is racing. I keep telling myself “think big picture, think big picture, think big picture.”

We are trying to Ferberize Benji, as Bry called it. Last night he decided to take the plunge and introduce the “controlled comforting” method, similar to Dr Ferber’s somewhat controversial method that a lot of people associate with the “crying it out” technique of sleep training. Our health nurse encouraged us to try it, especially since Benji has been waking up more than usual to seek comfort, as well as taking longer than before to fall asleep. This is going to be quite unsustainable in our household with both Bry and I returning to work pretty soon.

Using the “controlled comforting” method, we had our usual nighttime routine with him: bathe, moisturize, read a book, feed, cuddle, Bry steps in and pats Benji till he’s sleepy, and then places him in his crib. As expected, Benji started screeching once Bry left the room. Bry decided to let him cry it out for 2 mins, and then go in for 1 min to comfort him, and then leave again this next time for 4 mins, and then keep extending the time he’s left alone by 2 mins extra. I whimped out at 4 mins; Benji was freaking out so much, I couldn’t take it.

Bry and I talked about this a lot last night; he really wanted to try it. So did I, but it was a lot harder than I thought. But after doing more reading and, yes, praying about it, I decided to really commit to trying to sleep train him. We know that training him earlier will be more effective than later.

In line with my promise to Bry to really try this method, this morning, I singlehandedly rolled out the harsh treatment during his morning nap.

Hence this post. Now. I needed something to distract me from his cries and blogging really helped pass the time more easily — and it did. I was able to drown out his cries more easily than last night when I was sitting on the couch watching the clock tick.

After the 6th minute run (the 3rd interval), he finally caved in and fell asleep. He still needed me to soothe him but I think he was so exhausted from the cries that he fell asleep within seconds after I patted him and had zilch energy left to check to see if I was still around after.

I just went in to take a peek and the little screaming babiac (baby maniac) is now our little sleeping angel, looking all cherubic like he did below. Ah, if only he can sleep as easily in his cot as he does in the baby carrier or stroller.

Whew. So this method supposedly takes between 3 to 10 days to take effect. Let’s hope it works.

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Tool Benji to a “baby spa,” a place that essentially introduces babies to swimming. Being nearly 7months at that time, he was quite aware of being in a completely new environment and doing a new activity. He was so tense at first, whining and crying and needed lots of cajoling and assurance. But after about twenty minutes or so, he was able to graduate to a bigger tub and by the end of the session, kick his legs a little in the water, a sign that he was relaxing and enjoying it. I was glad too that my family: mom, dad, brother and sister were also there and got to witness this momentous occasion. At one point there were seven cameras/camera phones snapping away-kinda ridiculous but given the limited time everyone gets to spend with Benji, it’s understandable. 🙂
We are still having so much fun here. Benji just turned seven months yesterday. I sound so cliche but I can’t help saying that time is flying by too quickly.

Thank you kind people for your encouragements here and privately about Benji’s development. We will find a solution it just takes time. And money. And energy. But it will be resolved. 🙂

While we await for an appointment to see a Radiologist for a hip ultrasound/x-ray, I start to tackle the problem of Benji’s slow weight gain — increasing his milk intake and figuring out what other solids to let him try. Even though I know breastmilk is still to be his main source of nutrition and contributor to his weight gain, the Ped recommended that we start feeding him solids 3 times a day (we had started him on them late last week; an exciting milestone!). Now, does feeding him more solids help with his growth? There is little evidence to suggest it will but the Ped seemed to think it would help. In fact, it might decrease his intake of milk as he takes more solids. But since we’re at 5.5 months now, and should start him on solids at around this time, I decided to just go with her recommendations anyway (and again, I could’ve argued with her that this will decrease his milk intake but I didn’t).

So, here is my spiel on baby’s first solids – what I was told, what I read, and what I decided to do:

One other thing I really didn’t like about our Pediatrician other than the fact that she screwed up Benji’s age, failed to give us a full prescription in our first appointment for Benji’s vaccines when she said she would, and thought we were there the second time for Benji’s 4 month shots (Lady, read your case notes BEFORE seeing your patients!) was her insistence that we start Benji on white rice cereal as his first solids. Her eyes glared at me disapprovingly when I told her avocado was Benji’s first food and that he took it well. “NOnonono, I told you rice cereal first, then orange vegetables.” (She did tell me that last appointment; I guess she remembers *some* things but not others. Then continued “Avocado is too strong for his digestive system.” I was too hungry and furious with her to even rebut with the plethora of articles I read online, both research and anecdotal, suggesting that rice cereal is NOT the best option for baby’s first foods. It is the easiest (for some; personally don’t think it’s much easier to prepare than, say, mashing up an avocado) and most available. But is it the most nutritious? No. Or, that the latest research promotes starting babies on natural foods, not processed foods made of processed flour.

In fact, more research are suggesting that white rice cereal is not nutritious as baby’s first foods. Read more about why Rice Cereal is not a good first food for babies from the WhiteOut campaign by Dr Greene, a Pediatrician and Clinical Professor at Stanford University.

What about the recent NYtimes article that mentioned that Pediatricians in France recommend babies first foods like leek soup, endive, spinach, and beet. Completely natural, and delicious! I may not know my veggie color groups very well but they certainly don’t sound like orange vegetables to me.

Anecdotally, a friend, whose husband is a Pediatrician, also started her daughter on natural foods instead of rice cereal. And yes, her husband didn’t think rice cereal was necessarily the best first food.

My choices were guided by information from Dr Greene as well as other helpful sources I read on kellymom.com, Le Leche League International, and wholesomebabyfood.com . Dr Greene suggested in place of rice cereal, to start babies on sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados. If it is necessary to feed babies cereal, he recommended organic whole grain cereals instead. The Ped we saw also said to feed Benji veggies first, then fruits, to prevent babies from developing a “sweet tooth,” something which, from what I read from numerous places, is a myth, since breastmilk is already naturally sweet!

Since Benji’s weight gain has been slow, and since the Pediatrician was insistent he goes on rice cereal, I met her halfway and decided to give Organic Barley Cereal for his second taste of solids. We’re into day #7 of solids and so far, Benji seems to really enjoy both the avocado and barley cereal and has not had obvious allergic reactions to them. He opens his mouth whenever the spoon is near his mouth, and has now learned to keep the food in (lost most of the tongue thrust reflex) and swallow it. He also loves holding the spoon and trying to put it in his mouth (like he does with everything else that comes within his reach! Heh.).

Our next trial will be sweet potato and then yam. It’s all very exciting. I have also spent the last couple days reading up recipes for homemade baby foods on Anabel Karmel and am looking forward to trying them in the next few months. However, because we do highly suspect food allergies due to his eczema, I will be extremely cautious with foods we will introduce and try down the line such as beef (my brother was allergic to it as a kid) and seafood (my dad is mildly allergic to shellfish).

In addition to the solids, I have also added one extra milk feed in the day, which Benji seems to be taking quite well, too. We shall see if his weight will continue to blossom. I don’t expect it to increase dramatically the way it did in the first couple months and since both me and my husband are skinny people (we’re Asians. Shrug.) a chubby kid is not expected.

Oh, and yes, we are not going back to that same Pediatrician again!

If you think traveling with another person is tricky, imagine traveling with 3 other adults and 3 children age 4.5 months, 18 months, and 5.5 years all packed in a mini-van.

That was us yesterday. Sure, we did not go very far: Grouse Mountain, one of the closest and biggest ski resorts in Vancouver only 25 minutes’ drive away. We had not been there before and needed to since the snow season is nearly over and our time here is almost up. And it is Grouse, THE peak of Vancouver, gotta go up there at least once! Another family we know here who are rather new in Vancouver and also from my hometown, Singapore, wanted to visit the mount, so it seemed logical to do a trip together. Because it was our first trip with another family, I was slightly anxious about how the day was going to eventuate. For starters, we didn’t have any real agenda. I would like to snowboard since I haven’t done it already here in Canada (what?!!!) (we snowshoed a couple months back at Mt Seymour but that was about it in terms of winter sports) but who will look after Benji if both Bry and I snowboarded? We couldn’t possibly place Benji in their care when they already have two kids to keep them occupied. Our friends don’t snowboard but would like to snowshoe: would I be able to do it with them and maybe sling Benji the entire snowshoe activity? What if I fall? What if Benji starts fussing throughout the day and screams the entire car ride? Will Bry get to snowboard? What are the other two kids going to do if they don’t snowshoe? Aagh.

But as the title already revealed: the day went better than fine; it was a success. Here are some of my observations from this successful trip and recommendations/things to remember for future travels with other families:

1) Have a loose agenda and be flexible: So I did not get to snowboard because I decided that, between Bry and me, Bry, a more seasoned snowboarder would have gotten way more out of snowboarding in one of Vancouver’s most popular ski resorts. Of course he did. Two hours of full-on snowboarding on slopes overlooking the Vancouver city on a Tuesday in spring was great for him, as far as I could tell. It also started snowing in the middle of his rides, sprinkling fresh powdery snow and maximizing his already enjoyable experience. Originally, my back up plan was to snowshoe, but because it was quite a slippery walk for me to get to the rental office with a baby carrier on, I did not feel safe and balanced enough to make it there without slipping and hurting myself so I bailed. But experiencing the snow fall on the mountains while gazing at the city from the peak with little Benji strapped on me was a beautiful enough experience. I had no complaints. I also got to hang out and watch my friends and their kids play in the snow which was incredibly enjoyable (they, too, did not rent snowshoes because they did not have appropriate waterproof footwear to begin with).

2) Be prepared to wait and give yourself lots of buffer time: God bless our friends who went with us who were soo patient to wait for Benji and me during nursing times. In return, we also hung out when they had to run around with their restless kids who insisted on looking at something different than what we adults agreed upon. At one point during the car ride, we had to pull over to stop for my friend’s daughter, who gets motion sickness easily, nearly threw up. Traveling with kids aint easy and we all need to remember that.

3) Pack snacks and remember to take them wherever you go: This will be more relevant to parents of older kids who are already on solids. My friend was armed with a variety of snacks for her kids during the car ride and when we were up in the mountains. I did a version of that, but forgot to take the snacks with us up, and resulted to purchasing some snacks for Bry and me (plus stealing some of theirs). Having said that, it is also important for nursing moms to be well fed and hydrated. Thankfully there was a cafe serving healthy snack options but it would have been so much easier had I remembered my bag of food! Adults will be fine if snacks are forgotten but little kids with their frontal lobes still developing have little control over inhibition and theory of mind, and will probably lose it and not be as forgiving gif they are not fed food the instant they want it.

4) Pack extra plastic bags and diapers: You really never know for how long you will be out and whether your kids are going to suddenly fall ill or be extra fussy with the slightest wet diaper. Plastic bags take up little space in your bag so carry them all if you can! LIke I mentioned earlier, my friend’s daughter nearly threw up in the car and while she had a bag prepared, she thought it had some holes and therefore needed another bag for buffer. As for me, Benji did some explosive poops up in the mountains (thinner air? Shrugs) and soiled his clothes, and therefore needed more bags than usual.

5) Bring along toys/entertainment for the car ride: The iPhone is a lifesaver for many parents of kids all ages. When the kids were getting restless in the car, my friends whipped out their iPhones – one for each child – and put on songs and cartoons for them. I did not have to use mine on Benji this trip, but when we drove around Seattle, I had my iPhone out as well to entertain him. With Benji en route home from Grouse, we discovered his new fascination with the noise made from shaking a bag of chips. It was a lifesaver because he was sufficiently entertained throughout the ride despite his exhaustion from the day (it was also slightly past his bedtime by then).

At the end of the day, Bry got to snowboard for a full 2 hours, I got to play a bit in the snow with Benji, my friends’ kids got to make little snowmen, snow angels, and hang out in the snow. My friends also got to enjoy their kids’ excitement from playing in the snow, which was fun enough for cityfolk like us who grew up in tropical climates.

Have you taken road trips with other families? DO you have any other suggestions for dealing with these travels?



These last two weeks have seen me returning to some of the things I used to do pre-Benji.

1) Exercise/Fitness: I joined this fitness program for new moms, Fit42 that has classes all over BC and in some other provinces in Canada and started with the least strenuous level as I had not been exercising since Benji’s birth. Overall, the classes have been really enjoyable and went at a good pace: some slightly more strenuous circuits than others. It is a good class to ease my way in to more challenging activities in a couple months, for example, jogging.

20120413-144455.jpgI also started swimming again. It’s an exercise I have always enjoyed and still did when I was heavily pregnant at 36 weeks with Benji. So when I found out that the Vancouver Aquatic Center has child minding services Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays from 9am – 1pm, I went out almost immediately, bought swim gear (did not take it with me from Australia!! How silly!), and hit the pool. Did 15 laps which left me feeling invigorated for the next few hours…hoping to be able to do at least 25 by the end of the month or early next month. Good to have some goals.

2) Sleep: Exhaustion from the swim and taking care of this little guy drove me to stop messing around on the internet or watching unnecessary television and hit the sack early at 9pm. Which was great, because Benji only woke up at 530am and that, if I did the math right, meant I got 8.5 hours of sleep. Uninterrupted. My longest stretch since probably the last few weeks of pregnancy (I had lots of trouble sleeping from about 34 weeks on). Needless to say, the sleep was AMAAAAAZZING. I am so thankful to have gotten good rest.

3) Read: Benji has started occupying himself a bit more these days. In fact, sometimes he just wants to be left alone. Good for him AND me! I started reading again in the day and am actually able to get through about 5 to 6 pages at a go while he’s awake and preoccupied with his toy or his feet (he’s now addicted to uhm, trying to put his toes in his mouth. I am VERY concerned and will express that in my next post to come soon)

4) Dine out: Between the 3rd and 4th month, Benji was extremely fussy during the “witching” hour from 5pm-7pm. Taking him out to restaurants for our dinners was impossible because he would cry and scream and demand our undivided attention. However, since his eczema got better and he started sleeping through the night, his temperament also got better and reverted to how he was in the first couple months: relatively mellow. Seeing this improvement, we decided to take a gamble and try a family dinner out at a restaurant in our neighborhood that serves food with gluten and dairy free options!! The food was great,  and I was able to get a gluten and dairy free pecan pie with coconut ice cream dessert (YUM, first dessert in foreverrr!!) AND Benji was totally chilled out. Win!

I’m know this easy ride is not gonna last long but I’m enjoying it while I can…

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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.

Benji’s skin around the neck has now flared up. I feel like everytime he makes a little improvement, then a regression, the regressed state gets worse and worse. He woke up earlier screaming and obviously itching and in pain. I’m not sure what to make of it. The diet – if his eczema was really food allergy related 0 is supposed to improve his condition yet it’s getting worse. I might cut out grapes, bananas and even maple syrup as I have had those in the diet. Meanwhile, it’s 2am and I can hear the poor baby thrashing his head from left to right in the crib. How quickly do people see results from the TED if it was really a food allergy??? It sounds like almost immediately. Do we need to get another laundry detergent? Should I be doing something else differently? I’m going out of my mind replaying today’s events over and over, trying to find a reason for his regression.

We have a ped derm appointment next week. I have also now looked up naturopaths in the neighborhood and if things don’t look better in the next 2 weeks or so we might have to try that.

I’m finding it hard to trust that things will get better and that we will find a trigger. Maybe he’ll be one of those babies whose eczema just is and we just have to deal with steroids and medication.

I’m terribly sorry Benji we didn’t mean to sign you up for this. 😦