Friday, June 27, 2008

Looking Back at Twelve Weeks Old

Note: Enough of calling him "the baby". Since my wife wants to keep his name off my blog I've decided to nickname him Smiley here in the blog.

On Sunday Smiley will be twelve weeks old. It's time to look back and remind myself about what those weeks were like, before I forget.

First Four Weeks

The first four weeks were the most difficult. We avoided using a bottle during this time, until Smiley was quite used to nursing. Since my wife's milk supply was a bit low this usually meant he went to bed slightly hungry and thus not smoothly. Fortunately we had family staying with us for this time, so there were more people to take turns rocking and singing Smiley to sleep.

Initially an infant is what a friend's pediatrician humorously calls a "crib potato". Newborns are a finite state machine with six states. They do not do much besides look around, eat, sleep, soothe, and use up diapers.

Parenting is exhausting but not terribly tricky. A content newborn is resting or looking around at the world. An unhappy newborn needs attention, a changed diaper, feeding, or soothing (usually all four in that order). So there is not a lot to keep track of, but also not a lot of reward from interaction with the new baby.

Soothing involves the Five S's of swaddling, positioning on the side, soothing with spoken words or song of volume comparable to the baby's noise, using rocking or jiggling to keep the head slightly moving independently of the body, and soothing with sucking.

I have one of those foam contour pillows that has both a concave edge and concave side. Even now, when Smiley seldom needs much soothing, I still put him to sleep by swaddling him, sitting with the pillow on my lap with the concave edge around my belly, lying him on his side upon the concave side, talking or singing softly to him, gently bouncing his back or the back of his head with my right fingertips, and letting him suck on my left pinky. (I've noted before that my right hand can take a break to change pages on an e-book.)

Smiley always liked bouncing while resting upright on someone's shoulder. Since my wife and I are swing dancers, the easiest bouncing for me is a swing dance basic step. Smiley's favorites are the Charleston basic and the Willie Desatoff (break time) Balboa basic. During those first four weeks I did a lot of those.

Weeks Five and Six

At five weeks we started supplementing Smiley's nursing with pumped breast milk and formula when needed. His growth jumped from half an ounce each day to an ounce per day (where it has stayed ever since).

Suddenly it was easy to put him to sleep. Once full he feel asleep quickly without any of the fuss to which we had become so accustomed.

On the other hand, he still had the very limited routine of what he did and what he wanted.

The first four weeks seemed quite long enough. Starting with week five, if Smiley only aged half as fast I would not have minded at all. He was easy to care for and I could see how these New Baby Days were passing quickly.

Week Seven

Week seven saw two changes. Most exciting was that he began to smile. Also nice was how his metabolism began its first change towards solid food: instead of a half dozen small poopy diapers each day he henceforth has one or two big ones.

For his first week of smiles they were cute and heartening but not actually social. Almost randomly he might respond to a tickle, smile, silly noise, or funny face by smiling. His early smiles were more of a challenge for photography than a developmental milestone. Yet it was gratifying to see him visibly happy for the first times and not merely content versus unhappy.

The seventh week was also when he decided to become picky about his position in space. Henceforth he might be in a mood to be on his side, or upright, or sitting. One more type of thing to check for when he starts fussing. (I suppose he could conceivably at times want to be upside down or spinning rapidly, but we've never checked for those possibilities.)

Weeks Eight and Nine

A lot happened during the eighth week.

The smiles became regular things instead of random maybes. Initially this was an emotional trap for us parents, who were now tempted to feel responsible that he always would be happy beyond merely being content. Of course, no one is so happy they always giggle. But little Smiley does smile an awful lot.

He also was finally able to bring his hands to his mouth whenever he wished. This allowed him to self-soothe much more. The weather also was nice, so he could spend a lot of time outside in his swing being alternately content and happy as he looked around and put his hands in his mouth.

During his eighth week he also learned to "coo" and play the "echo game", as I described earlier. This was truly delighful.

Weeks Ten and Eleven

Smiley might be starting to teethe. It is too soon to know for sure, but he has increased in his drooling and his desire to chew on things.

Fortunately he is not confusing sucking (for eating and soothing) with chewing (for entertainment and perhaps teething). Nursing would become problematic!

At ten weeks he enjoyed chewing on a stuffed animal if we put it in his mouth and kept it there for him. His otter's tail was the perfect shape.

By eleven weeks he was drooling and chewing on my shoulder any time I carried him upright leaning against it.

And at eleven weeks he was holding his stuffed animals in his mouth by himself.

At ten weeks he also became picky about which parent he was with. Now he sometimes is in a Be With Mommy mood or a Be With Daddy mood. Yet one more thing to check when he starts fussing.

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