Compared to the fourth month of Storm’s life, the fifth was relatively uneventful. We’ve stopped changing locations every few days, and developmental changes happened gradually. So gradually, in fact, that when I started writing this post, I was going to say that we didn’t reach any developmental milestones. But that isn’t quite true. As it happens, we’ve seen developments in intentional grabbing, body awareness, babbling, attention to food and eating, and things that bring joy.
In the past month, Storm has shown real appreciation for water. His nightly bath is now a lot of fun for him. Our NY apartment has a grown-up size bathtub, and that is where Storm takes his baths. The sensation of freely kicking his legs and arms in the water appears to be enjoyable. Sometimes he squeals with delight when Paulus splashes water on his belly. And there’s the bonus of trying to lick the washcloth, or to try and drink the water that is so close to his face. We’ve also taken to playing hand-splash with the sink faucet sometimes. Perhaps we should consider a swimming class.
Most of the time, Storm is a lot of fun to be with. He laughs at little games, especially if they involve repetition. The face-kissing game, the neck-eating game, and the belly-raspberry game are all current favorites.
When we hold him, or lie next to him in the bed, he likes to explore our faces with his hand, while cooing to us. But his favorite conversation partner appears to be himself. Around 17 or 18 weeks, he started putting together longer stretches of sounds and experimenting with different vowel qualities, which meant that we reached the linguistic stage of vocal play. He now varies both his vowels and his pitch so it almost sounds like he is singing. He also started working on his bilabials. At first, it happened in conjunction with blowing spit-bubbles. We’d hear him go ‘mmmummm, mmmbbbbb, *spit-bubble*, mmbhummm, *more spit*.
It was hard not to laugh at, because for some reason bilabials are a serious matter to Storm. He makes them so it sounds like he is swallowing the sound, probably because he hasn’t quite figured out that for a proper nasal, the air should come out of the nose. As the weeks went by he became more and more talkative, and I heard vocalizations that sounded like the beginnings of canonical babbling, that is, repeated sequences of consonants and vowels. Mostly ‘bababa/behbehbeh’ and the occasional ‘mamama/mumumu/mehmehmeh’.
Storm has remained focused on perfecting his back to belly roll. The opposite direction is still rare, but at least he seems to be enduring longer stretches of tummy time now, so we have to intervene less often.
One of the way he entertains himself while on his belly is by using his hands to move. Most of the time, he attempts to move by lifting arms and legs off of the floor and flailing them. Not a particularly efficient strategy. But sometimes, when he’s on his belly, he will get his hands on the floor instead and manage to move a little bit. Not forward or backwards – it’s nothing like crawling – but around like the clock. He moves in circles, too, when he’s on his back, but then with the help of his feet. Perhaps it won’t be too long before he manages to put it all together and crawl off to explore.
But until that time, he has his hands to entertain him. And us. In the past few weeks, he has become so much more intentional about using his hands. He has started actually reaching for things, and when he hand him something, he will take it – provided it is not a boring thing (duh!) or one that is too big or oddly shaped for him to get a good grip on.
Combined with an increased interest in participating in meal time, this has led to a need for high alert around the table. In the past, Storm would generally be content to sit in his car seat for meal times. In our current life of few possessions, it wasn’t feasible for us to invest in seats and chairs for Storm, so we’ve been using the car seat for him to sit in. During meal times, we would place him in the seat and put that on a chair, so that he would be at the same height as us, and near the table. Recently, though, this is not good enough. We get probably about a minute or two of peaceful dinner time before Storm starts squirming, fussing and crying, demanding to be held on someone’s lap. Where he will then be perfectly content with reaching for plates and cups and engaging in wide-eyed watching of our consumption of things from various vessels. Although it requires practice for us to eat one-handed, I don’t mind this development, because an interest in participating in meal time means that it won’t be long before we can start introducing solid food. Oh, the glorious messes to come.
Alongside developing his hand dexterity, Storm has also been working on his feet. Honestly, some days it seems that he can grab more accurately with his feet than with his hands. And it has been great to see him really discover his feet. I heard that babies often put their feet in their mouths. I would love to see that, but unfortunately, I think Storm’s legs are too long for him to comfortably get his feet to his mouth. But we shall see.
After finding a new pediatrician (actually a pediatrician, we had a family doctor before), we had Storm’s 4 month well-baby visit where he was measured, assessed and had his booster immunizations. I had dreaded these, as the 2-month shots caused Storm a lot of discomfort and resulted in hours of non-stop crying. This time around, he only got a bit tired, for which I was grateful. In terms of measurements, Storm is outgrowing himself in height. At the visit, he measured 69 centimeters (98th percentile!), and despite looking relatively chubby to me, his 7 kgs meant that he has has dropped a bit in weight, proportionally (now 47th percentile). Anyway, his height explains why his big toe has made holes in all of his once-piece outfits. He is simply too tall. It also means that the car seat we were planning to use until around Storm’s first birthday will be outgrown in a couple of months. Sigh. This is what comes of procreating with a Dutch man, ladies… consider yourselves warned. And on that note, I would like to let any American baby clothes manufacturers that should stumble upon this blog know how much confusion and discouragement you’re causing by using ages as size indicators, instead of measurements. Our 4.5 month old is currently in 9 month old pants and 12 month old onesies. I think you can do better.
So that was all the good stuff. Now let’s talk about sleep.
Apart from the fact that Storm can now take naps in his crib with the pacifier (and on two occasions, after waking up too early in the morning, he has fallen asleep completely on his own without any help!), his sleep is all over the place. I guess this is the four month sleep regression.
It started with increased night-wakings. We used to get a good, long block of sleep from 8pm to around midnight or 1am, followed by one or two decent blocks of 2-3 hours, and then some random bits of early morning sleep. From around 4.5 months, however, Storm rarely slept longer than 2-3 hours during the first part of the night, and indeed sometimes roused every 30-90 minutes.
We experimented with ways to get him back to sleep (patting, hugs, pacifier), but most often nursing is the only thing that ensures that he would go back to sleep instead of becoming fully awake. But even nursing to sleep is losing some of its power. Some nights during his 8pm nurse-to-sleep session, Storm will repeatedly unlatch to coo at me. A couple of nights, I’ve woke up to a fully alert Storm delivering a lengthy monologue in the early morning hours (generally 3am!). Now, if I were a smart mom, I would not engage when this happens and instead encourage him to go back to sleep. The problem with that is that his cooing and babbling is so damn cute. Try resisting a wide-eyed baby looking up at you adoringly and producing a charming narrative of coos, and you’ll see what I mean. So, I can’t help but respond and secretly wish that he will keep going. Not conducive to good sleeping, but it sure is cute (even when it is still so dark out that the camera captures nothing but sound…).
In addition to the random night wakening pattern, naps have been pretty unpredictable as well. Most of them are around 30 minutes long, but some have been as short as 20 minutes, and some as long as 2 hours (and why oh why are the long naps always the ones in the carrier??!).
Awake time does not seem depend on nap duration, however, which has not ceased to fascinate me. But this month, I guess we have seen a general increase in awake time, compared to past months. After the immediate newborn stage, we have pretty much been able to count on Storm’s awake-time being around 1.5 hours, regardless of how long he napped. But somewhere this month, awake time transitioned to closer to two hours than 1.5.
In other news, Paulus and Storm spent time away from each other for the first time this month. Paulus went to Ohio for a conference for close to a week. It took a few days for Storm and me to find our rhythm without him, but mostly it went well. We video called every night, and I must say that I’m pretty impressed with Storm’s ability to smile and engage with people on phone screens.
It was also Mother’s Day while Paulus was gone. I am generally not big on these types of holidays, but Storm made sure my first mother’s day was special anyway.
After a visit of a couple of weeks, we had to say goodbye to Opa who had been here with us in New York to help watch Storm. We made the best of his time here, taking family trips around the city to parks, museums, memorials, and to the houses of old friends where there were big dogs.
Opa also procured the UN poster that Storm has been looking at every day since.
What a pleasure it was to have him here with us, and to see him and Storm together, not to mention all the work I got done because of his help. So it was sad to see him go, but we’re comforted by the fact that we will see both him and Oma again in the summer.
In Opa’s stead one of our friends came to stay and to hang out with Storm. She and I are now working our way through the city’s bakeries (like this place), grocery stores, and yoga studios, and she and Storm are exploring the parks, the vintage stores, and the libraries. Really, it’s no biggie to move to a new city in a new state as long as you bring your friends and family with you!
So all in all a good month, although I wouldn’t complain if we were to get back to our previous schedule of only 3-4 night wakings.