Rhythms of life

By the time your child is crawling, you will be a much more experienced parent, having had months of practice. By now you will have discovered some distinctive patterns in the baby’s day. There is often one longer sleep, hopefully at night time. There will be times when your baby seems particularly happy and active, and perhaps predictably cranky times, as well. Each baby’s patterns are unique and sometimes, when you think you’ve understood what is needed next, it all changes and you have to think again. Don’t despair — after a few months, you get to know how long your baby can stay awake before needing another nap, the average length of nap periods and how many they’ll have in a day. Julia’s pattern At seven months, little Julia:

– Wakes between 6.30 and 7 am.

– Is fed breakfast, dressed and plays until about 10 am.

– Sleeps for 30 to 45 minutes.

– Is up again about 11 am, changed, played with and fed lunch.

– Has an afternoon nap of 30 to 60 minutes at about 2 or 3 pm.

– May have a short nap around 6 pm.

– Has her evening meal, then a bath with her dad, between 6 and 7.30 pm.

– Has her evening breastfeed and goes off to bed at 8 o’clock.

During the night, she wakes once or twice for a quick breastfeed. Her parents keep the room dark, so she doesn’t wake too fully. They are careful not to talk to her or change her nappy, in case she thinks it’s play time. Because she sleeps in a cot at their bedside, they can easily lift her into bed and she doesn’t get lonely, or cry or fuss. At 6.30, the day starts again and she won’t be fooled into going back to sleep.

Julia’s cousin Ben is eight months old and he has slept 10 hours every night since birth, with two long naps in the day, as well. Scientists are trying to isolate the gene which controls this wonderful quality!

Another child at the same health clinic as Ben had been waking for a feed every two hours, 24 hours a day for the first 10 months. Then, within the space of a week, he grew his fourth tooth, refused the breast and began sleeping through the night.

Do you get the message that all babies are different? ARE YOU RECEIVING ME, OVER?

About this time, you might find you can distinguish between the crying sounds your baby makes, to know whether:

– They are hurt, from banging their head on something.

– They are angry that someone has taken a toy away from them.

– They are hungry.

You are forming a clearer picture of the baby’s personality. They already show distinct tendencies towards being peaceful and placid, or alert and active, or friendly and co-operative. Some babies prefer people, some prefer toys; some are adaptable, while others are sensitive and easily upset. They are no longer a sponge-like newborn infant, soaking up the world. They are starting to be active and show their preferences. If you can figure out their needs, it helps you to plan for an easy time. You may decide that the trip around Australia had better wait a year! Bored? Play games!

There are times when a baby will become bored or impatient if expected to sit still — in a queue, on a bus, in the doctor’s waiting room. Remember that babies love action. Together you can have fun almost anywhere. Tickles. Peek-a-boo. Hiding behind a couch or door and jumping out. Tugging their clothes. Making funny faces or sounds. Using your hands like puppets. Letting them pull your hat off and looking dismayed. Holding their hand, pushing it on your nose and saying: ‘Beep beep.’ Lying them on the floor on their back and dropping a small, soft toy on to their tummy. Blowing raspberries on their tummy. Looking into a mirror together. Pointing out any animals. And whatever else you can think of.

Here they go, off and about — looking, touching, grabbing, tasting, dropping, banging and exploring everything within reach. At the same time, the baby is getting to know their own body and how to make it work. Many hours are spent practising new skills — babies will rock on all fours, delight in arching their back, so only their hands and feet are on the ground, and look through their legs.

Later, they will insist on being helped to stand and will take both your hands as supports, making you walk all about as they totter along.