Category Archives: Weaning from breastfeeding

Toddler TV: Bedtime Ally or Root of All Evil?

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To be honest, I never paid much attention to how much TV my baby watched, mainly because she never paid much attention to watching TV. Around the time she started pulling herself up on the TV cabinet and staring wide-eyed at Ant and Dec’s mild innuendos (ok, I’m a Celeb is my one reality TV weakness. That, and Dance Moms. And BGT when it’s on…) I began to wonder if perhaps I should switch off the occasional backdrop of recorded primetime entertainment during playtime. When I read that children under two are recommended not to watch any TV at all because it can impair speech development, I felt downright guilty. (It’s true, though, if you think about it… You’re not doing anything to encourage linguistic prowess when you and your child have both paused, mid block building, to stare slack-jawed at a desperate Z-lister eating kangaroo balls.)

Then we discovered In the Night Garden. Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy, Winky Wanky or whatever his name is, etc, provided a colourful, child-friendly haven of kissing, squeaking, incongruous slow-mo nodding, and a flatulent, inconsistently proportioned zeppelin. Yes, viewed by adult eyes it does make one wonder whether or not one should be on a not-so-natural high for it to make any sense. Or indeed whether its writers have been partaking of such. Yes, like many programmes aimed at young children, it plods along a pace that renders adult viewers quite incapable of watching in its entirety without a sneaky browse of Twitter, Facebook or River Island dot com along the way. But its charming narration by Derek Jacobi provides welcome comfort-food for the ear in a reassuringly old-school, Richard-Attenborough-as-Santa-Claus kind of way. You may, like me, even find yourself chirruping “Isn’t that a pip!” when spotting two aubergines of the exact same size in the aisles of Tesco of a rainy Tuesday morning.

But I think the true brilliance of ITNG and the multi-millions lining the folds of the Tombliboos’ troublesome trousers (no wonder they’re always falling down), is its symbiosis with bedtime routines. We never had a problem with bedtime until fairly recently – even when she was at the three-hourly-feeding stage, I tried to keep up a persistent routine of bath, milk and bed. When she started solids, it was dinner, bath, story, milk and bed – starting at 6pm and rounding up at 7ish. Then we stopped breastfeeding, and suddenly I was finding myself with a surplus half an hour messing up the whole routine. I was putting Lara to bed by 6.30pm, and even earlier on the nights she didn’t have a bath. Not only did the earliness mean she would put up much more of a fuss about going to sleep, she was far more likely to wake up before 6.30am the next morning. Then a friend mentioned her little boy’s fondness for In The Night Garden. Starting at around 6.25pm, it’s perfect for after-dinner viewing when it’s not bath night, and when it is, we come back down afterwards to catch the ending – which always features a song, story and the characters going to bed one by one. This brings us to 6.50pm, Lara is tired enough not to put up a fight as I put her down, and is often fast asleep by the time I’ve come back downstairs.

Sure, it’s irritating. Sure, some evenings I just want to punch Upsy Daisy right in her Daisy Doos. Sure, it may be turning my toddler into a monosyllabic robot whose mind is slowly being warped by weirdly phallic hairstyles, a rock-collecting teletubby with OCD tendencies and flatulent aircraft. But, as I type this at 7.07pm with a glass of Rioja by my side, my knees smarting from another day as my main weight-bearers, the baby sleeping soundly in her cot upstairs, it occurs to me that that is a risk we are just going to have to take.

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Daylight Saving Time f*cked up my life

Since my last moan about the difficulty of reasoning the necessity of naptime with an infant, I’m happy to say that things have been looking up. We are down to just one breastfeed a day – which I know may not seem like much of an achievement, but remember this is the child who would happily refuse all fried, crispy and chocolate-dipped solids in favour of a little boob action – which we do just before she goes to bed. I’ve figured out a new way of getting her to nap without breastfeeding or resorting to her screaming in her cot for hours – I just have to hold her and jiggly-shuffle from one foot to the other while I count to 300 in my head. She’ll usually complain when I put her down, but then she will settle and snooze for, sometimes, up to 2.5 hours at a time. She’s been going down at around 7pm at night and usually wakes around 7.15-7.30am for the day. The last few weeks she’s even made it to the territory of 8-8.30am a couple of times, blessing me with the sweet, almost-forgotten decadence of a lie-in – the likes of which I haven’t experienced since the happy weekday mornings of early maternity leave, kissing Gary off to work before snuggling back down under a floral-smelling sheet with a pillow wedged between my obese pregnant knees.

I should have known it was all too good to last.

On Sunday the clocks went back and the precious hammock cradling our lives in this delicate nirvana of sleep-fruitfulness was abruptly floored by the morbidly obese arse of that cruel concoction called Daylight Saving Time. The same morbidly obese derriere, ironically, which once granted me an extra hour in bed on many a chilly October Monday morning. Who could have known that an hour would change so much? I was expecting the 6am wake up call on Sunday. It wasn’t pleasant but I got on with it, and the flipside was that Lara went down happily for a long morning nap around 9am. That afternoon she refused a second nap. As she had slept for two hours that morning, I wasn’t too surprised – she’s never been a huge fan of the afternoon nap. That night we were all exhausted and, though I did try and keep her up till her normal bedtime, I ended up giving in at around 5.30pm and preparing her dinner half an hour early. I thought I would then draw out her dinner, bath and bedtime routine to try and get as near to 7pm as possible. The minutes ticked on, and before I knew it it was 6.07pm and I was creeping out of her bedroom, nerves shot, mind smooshed by tiredness and hand firmly extended towards the glass of rosé left over from the weekend, fully committed to trying again tomorrow.

On Monday morning (yesterday) we made it to about 6.30am before the screams to get up now, please, Mummy became un-ignorable. After only sleeping an hour in the morning, I was sure she would keel over in grateful oblivion the second I jiggly-shuffled her into her afternoon nap. Nope. I spent no less than three hours in and out of her room trying to weedle her into sleep as she resolutely screamed in my face/ clawed at my chin/ beat up every toy in her cot and then performed bear-acide over the side of the bars. Around 3pm I put her in her pushchair and walked her round the garden. She responded by trying to grab the leaves off the trees, squawking like a banshee every time I tried to rock the buggy in the soothing, repetitive motion that, six months ago, would have rendered her unconscious in seconds, and periodically twisted herself around to peer at me incredulously. In the end I gave up. To her credit, Lara managed to stay up until her 7pm bedtime without too many breakdowns, and I felt sure, by the time I went to bed myself, that Tuesday, at least, would bring a portion of normalcy back to our waking up time. These hopes were duly dashed at approximately 5.35am this morning.

I suppose, when you think in terms of babies’ sleep cycles only being 90 minutes long, you can appreciate how much an extra hour – suddenly given, unasked for and with no warning – might mess with their sleeping pattern. And, I suppose, though there are always bound to be those babies whose parents will smugly admit that the extra hour didn’t bother young Rufus in the slightest, he’s actually sleeping more since the clocks went back, I should have always known that Lara would not be one of those babies. Who wants to nap, after all, when there are stuffed animals to be murdered, kitchen cupboards to disassemble and unattended appliances to mount?

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I’ve seen the future and it’s throwing a tantrum

It’s been a busy few weeks chez the Bris-cott household. Lara has notched up the litres of foreign pool water swallowed and added Spanish and Italian to her palate, we’ve seen a hell of a lot of our families and I’m still scratching after being bitten to buggery by a variety of Mediterranean critters. The holidays have been lovely. Lara was, on the whole, very well-behaved – she did not scream too much on the flights, she performed nicely for several babysitters and generally didn’t wake up in the night too much after the initial few days. Having come home in a haze of sun-balmed tranquillity, ready to get back to the old routine and even begin taking on some freelance journalism work, I was therefore wholly unprepared for the sudden emergence of Monster Child.

I don’t know if she somehow knows that I’m planning to wean her off the boob during these, the weeks surrounding her first birthday, but all of a sudden my previously manageable – if not quite angelic – little girl seems to have regressed into a very very angry, inconsolable infant. First there’s the new scream she’s perfected – an ultrasonic rip of pure outrage, mauling your eardrums like a sonorous blade. Here’s a little taster:

Secondly, there’s a new wariness bordering on loathing for her formerly well-respected (if not quite beloved) cot. As soon as she catches sight of it, she begins to cry. I breastfeed her, she usually falls asleep, but as soon as I lower her in, as soon as one square millimetre of her paralytic, gro-bag clad form hits the mattress, she’s awake and re-mustering her assault on all ears within a mile radius. This all whilst standing and rocking against the bars, her face, showing up on the monitor, a paroxysm of rage.

She can keep this up for between 5 and 20 minutes before falling asleep with her head hooked over the bar and then, eventually, sitting back down and plunging headfirst onto the mattress and thankful oblivion. By this point I can either breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy that second glass of wine I’ve just poured (or coffee if it’s a nap rather than bedtime) or in about ten minutes or so she will start crying again, haul herself up to a standing position once more (why? When have you ever awoken from an unhappy slumber with the innate compulsion that standing upright will make everything better?!) and the whole sorry cycle will repeat itself. At night I am reminded of those first few weeks of sleep training around month five or six where I would watch the clock and pray. Now it’s just ridiculous. On Monday night she woke up at 3.30am. I left her, painstakingly, till 3.55am by which point she had put herself back to sleep and woken up again about four times, before giving in and going to get her. At 4.55am she was still feeding. Surely this isn’t normal for a healthy eleven-and-a-half-month old?!

 

Then there’s the eating. I’ve moaned about this before, I know, but since then things have developed – not the least of which her ability to work out my tricks. She seems to go through cycles of eating almost everything I give her for about a week or so, then barely anything at all. At the moment, she’s so knackered after not napping or sleeping well she’s at her most fussy and I’m lucky if I can make her something she will deign to taste, let alone swallow. Tired of cooking and wasting food, I’ve resorted to mini sandwiches, Babybel, cucumber, toast fingers, banana, nectarine and yoghurt. Anything vaguely resembling a pudding is, of course, inhaled without question.

 

Nappy changing is also a constant battle these days – gone are the moments of peaceful smiles and winsome chirping when placed upon the change mat. Long gone. As soon as we are laid down upon the mat, we scream, we writhe and we kick. As soon as we are bare-bottomed, we must escape by ANY MEANS NECESSARY. As soon as a new nappy is produced, we must fight all attempts to have it fastened to one’s rear and instead grab it and hang on with the grip of a very small Titan, using teeth if needs be. If the opportunity to get a foot or indeed any other appendage inside the dirty nappy before it is discarded and then smear the contents onto any part of the nappy-changer arises, we must seize it.

I wouldn’t mind the fussy eating, nappy battles or even the lack of sleep if it had come at a better time. As it happens I’ve just taken on my first freelance gig and am trying to scrape as much work into my Lara-free moments as possible. Which, at the moment, is proving an almighty challenge as my Lara-free moments mainly consist of watching her wage war on her cot bars through the monitor, trying to wedge the phone under my chin while scribbling undecipherable shorthand into a notebook and desperately trying to ignore the echoes of her screams as they gnaw round my lower intestines. Will it get any easier? According to my far-too-cheerful plumber, father of two grown up sons, no.

I can only hope that this horrible phase is just that – a phase – caused by a combination of post-holiday unsettledness, unusual noises in the house (we’re having a new shower and dishwasher installed, a mere 10 months after moving in) and that old, reliable tune – teeth. As it is, weaning off breastfeeding is sliding ever lower on my list of priorities right now as it is one of the only sure ways of calming her down. Plus, she doesn’t bite anymore. Which is nice of her. Hopefully, in a few days or weeks I will report back with happier news. For now, however, I see those Terrible Twos and I raise them Onerous Ones.


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