Time Alone 

Today is a Teachers’ Day holiday for us and  am thankful that my mom was more than willing to go through it as if it was a normal ‘work’ Thursday. That’s because I do want to have some time to clear some work. There’s also just so many things on my mind that kept me up until 2am so now I’m paying the price by feeling totally hungover.

I think about…

  1. Nat’s safety. It’s really impossible to ensure no ‘accident’ happens and that he doesn’t hurt himself. I think for now we can only abide by certain cardinal rules which is to never leave him unattended (duh right) and to always have him within touching distance when he’s on the high chair or crawling etc. I’ve been so bothered by this to the extend that HJ told me I woke up one night uttering some words of caution to him about Nat’s safety. I was also kept up last night because I kept playing a scene of him hoisting himself out of his crib (once he can walk?) and falling 4 feet to the floor.
  2. Work matters. There’s so much to be done and deadlines to be met. I know that’s the norm but it is mildly frustrating when my work momentum gets a bit thrown off in view of the long weekend. The inertia to get down to finishing some pieces of work is real while the deadline looms over my head.

So at 2-3 am last night, I was just struggling to calm down and fall asleep because everytime I closed my eyes, my mind would wander in circles about the same issues.

Maybe I should also not work out and/or go for exercise class at night? It really opened up too much of my mind such that I could not stop thinking. The adrenaline was too much.

Sigh… and I think HJ summed it up very aptly, he said, “welcome to motherhood.”

– CK

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Food Testing 8-9 months

So the food testing has somewhat decelerated for Nat because we have done quite a bit of tests throughout the 5-7 months. The fun part to his current menu planning comes in thinking of appetizing ways to cook and test his food. Sadly, even though some of the recipes taste quite nice, it gave him some gas so we’ll try them again in a few weeks. 

The Experiment: 

Two examples of foods that we recently tested that didn’t sit too well with Nat’s tummy was corn and asparagus. 

Instead of serving just the puréed form, we made them into soup via adding a bit of milk and for asparagus, potato to enhance the taste. This is only possible because Nat already tested for the other vegetable. 

The Observations:

For corn, his poop was a bit soft and he kept passing gas throughout the day. For asparagus, he had a bloated stomach until night time.

The Conclusion:

Under such circumstances, the above doesn’t count as a food allergy but perhaps, Nat is more sensitive to certain foods so we’ll re-introduce it to him again next month. 

This happened too for blueberries, which resulted in some red spots (rashes?) on his hands but our PD says we can try introducing it after a few weeks. 

Menu Planning for 8-9 months

In terms of his menu planning, we also started varying his meals into Chinese vs Western, with the former being porridge and the latter, baby pasta. 

Strangely, we also observed that minced meat (beef/pork/chicken) somehow remains very dry even after you steam/cook it and Nat really loves his fish, especially salmon belly compared to threadfin.

 As such, we started mixing a tiny portion of minced meat and fish inside all his Chinese or Western meals. This way, it’s not too dry nor is the smell particularly fishy, which is the case if we use either minced meat or fish. 

So now, we have somehow reached a ‘sweetspot’ of a formula for his meals. 

Porridge/pasta 

  • 1x tiny ball of minced meat
  • 1x piece of fish (approx 2 by 1 inch)
  • 3 tiny portions of vegetables – squash/carrots, spinach and wintermelon*

*only for porridge 

So moving forward… as Nat approaches 10 months, I need to quickly start thinking of other food ingredients to test and come up with various food combinations for his menu. 

Like HJ jokes, it’s like some project with research, Googledocs and MS word calendars but I guess that’s why I enjoy it. 

– CK 

Why so sticky? 

Nat was being all sticky yesterday and I thought it was the fall but maybe not… usually he can be left alone to his own devices but he’s a tad clingy now. It’s like he really knows when we put him down and walk away and he will start fussing because he wants to be carried. Apparently babies go through this thing called ‘separation anxiety’, but I’m right there??

So I found myself in particularly sticky situation last night. HJ went to exercise and buy dinner back. It was 7pm and Nat probably got restless/tired/clingly – basically all of that combined.

I could not leave him in the playpen to go and prep his wash up basin and towel because he would start crying.

Usually I’ll let him fuss for a few minutes because I don’t believe in responding to his every beck and call. Typically, he’ll calm down on his own but yesterday was just out of the norm.

So I just placed him in the carrier while I went to prep his wash up items. At least my hands were free and Nat was quiet since he was stuck to me.

Sigh. This is quite strange. Then I came across his article about separation anxiety.

Before the eighth month, it’s almost as if your child has no short-term memory. “If you take a toy away, it no longer exists to the child; or if Mommy or Daddy leaves, she or he is forgotten,” explains pediatrician Ari Brown, MD, coauthor of Baby 411: Clear Answers and Smart Advice for Your Baby’s First Year (Windsor Peak Press). That’s why a 4-month-old has little trouble going from the arms of one adult to another. Several months pass, and baby turns an intellectual corner. “As a baby’s brain matures, she realizes that things still exist even though she can’t see them anymore,” Dr. Brown says.

This means Nat probably recognises us, which is great but it’s also really hard to do things when he’s awake. I guess this isn’t an issue per se as Nat is still relatively very easygoing. For instance, he has no reaction whatsoever when we leave the house for work. Somedays I don’t think he really knows who we/I am like I can be gone for the entire day/evening and he’s totally okay – which is very good news for me/us actually. I think I’ve gotten too used to that that’s why now, I have to adjust a bit since he’s starting to become more clingy in the evenings.

I just hope he doesn’t throw a tantrum the next time we leave the country to travel without him. I really don’t know how to package it or explain it to him in a ‘nice’ way. I mean to be really honest, I/we just need a break, to get away from this country and be in a bubble for a few days – a bubble with no obligations or responsibilities for just that short period, I call it my la la land. I can only wish he doesn’t get to that point of comprehension so soon.

– CK

Crawling 

One day, HJ said to me that he thinks Nat isn’t crawling enough i.e. I “protect” him too much because I don’t want him to knock his head. So I tried to find out about the crawling and whether it is really that crucial? There’s of course two sides to the coin on this. Some experts will attest to the importance of crawling while others say that skipping it altogether is no issue. Choosing to err on the side of my usual caution, I decided to let Nat have more floor/crawling time daily.

This article presents both sides to the issue but, “no matter where experts stand on the crawling issue, one point they all agree on is the importance of tummy time”. 

Previously, before we shifted out his playpen, Nat had a lot of tummy time on the play-mat. So we decided to take out the play-mat again but open it in Nat’s room instead since the playpen is occupying the living room. This way, he will get his individual playpen time and also some floor time.

I guess HJ was right in the sense that my mom and I are too “protective” of Nat because he had already fallen off the bed twice – once when he was 6 months and the most recent time was when he turned 9 months. So we’re really paranoid about letting him crawl on the concrete floor. At least, with the play-mat, there is some cushioning should be fall and hit his head. Last time, we all just crawled on whatever type of flooring there was in our homes. Nowadays, I can’t help but notice that we tend to be more anxious about potential injuries and baby-proofing our homes when our parents were not so uptight about them when we were babies/toddlers.

– CK

Day 3 

Today’s the 3rd day managing things mostly on our own and surprisingly, we’re fine. Maybe because it’s only day 3 but as tiring as it is trying to squeeze in some household chores, food prep and email clearing when Nat naps, I am quite happy doing it. These few days also made me realize how much I need and value my time alone to get things done, the way I want them to be. 

Our day in summary… 

AM: Nat’s usual morning routine

  • 630am rise and shine.
  • 7am milk, followed by 8am breakfast (fruits and yogurt combo).
  • Storybook + playmat time to crawl and tire himself out before his morning nap at around 930am. 
  • Once he slept, I prepped his lunch porridge before taking a nap too. 
  • After Nat woke up around 11am, I bathed him and we waited for my mom to pick us up to go for lunch. 

LUNCH: @ Waterway Point today 

  • We walked around a bit after lunch and did a quick grocery run before heading home.
  • As per our norm, we only head out in-between his AM & PM naps and ensure we make it back home in time for his 2nd nap. 
  • If he’s not tired yet like what happened this afternoon, I’ll give him more floormat and/or playpen time.
  • Now at 9 months, Nat can stay awake for 3-3.5hours and needs to be sufficiently tired enough to be ready for a nap. 
  • The moment he sleeps, it’s time to steam his fruits for tea and his post-dinner dessert. This is also the only opportunity to cook his evening porridge. 
  • If I’m lucky, he will sleep for at least 1.5 hours (like today yay!) and I get to fit in some work.

DINNER: @ my mom’s place  

  • Once Nat woke up and his meal cooked, my mum came by again to bring us over. 
  • I wanted to pram him and walk (she lives just 1.5km away) but it was too sunny. 
  • HJ joined us for dinner after work and we brought Nat back around 8pm. 

Actually, this is pretty much what I do on those days I don’t go into office so nothing was drastically different or more challenging. 

I think I will miss this once I return to work full-time. So even if can’t really slack around and binge on Netflix because there’s more household chores and baby-related prep to be done, I’m glad that I can do all these for him. 

– CK 

Just Us 

In a nutshell, our helper is on home leave for 10 days so we have to do things a bit more efficiently now. This is especially so for Nat’s food prep because he eats 4 solid meals a day with a fruit dessert after lunch & dinner (that’s like 6 meals) so I can’t possibly be steaming his food every other hour haha!

So in the morning while Nat is taking his 1st nap, that’s when all the ingredients for his subsequent meals are prepped.

Top-left: steamed fruit combo for dessert after lunch and dinner

Bottom-left: butternut squash and carrots chopped and ready to cook

Right: throw everything into the rice cooker to cook congee

Previously our helper and my mom would do his food prep 3-4x a day before his meals but seriously… I can’t afford the time for that on the days I’m alone with him. However, we only pre-chop the vegetables and steam the fruits for that day so the freshness is not so affected.

Anyhow, I quite like this situation. It reminds me of the weeks just after Nat was born when we both handled everything in the way we know best – divide and conquer.  No doubt the floor doesn’t get cleaned everyday but twice a week is fine with me.

– CK

Hong Kong 

Our HK trip in summary – some history and scenery but mostly walking, shopping and eating. Next time, in a few years, we will most probably be back with Nat but with a very different itinerary. I’m excited to go home tomorrow because I could do with a break from all the sweet and oily food and of course, see our monkey, Nat 🙂

In terms of visiting HK, here’s some tips we picked up along the way.

1. Decide which side you want to stay – Kowloon or HK island. 

  • Previously, when I visited HK with my family in 2010, I stayed on the Kowloon side. This time, I decided to stay on the HK island side for something different. 

2. Book a hotel NEAR an MTR exit. 

  • This may sound straight forward enough but there’s a difference between somewhere that is “2 minutes” walk from the sub vs. “5-8 minutes” walk, especially during the summer heat! Originally I booked at Butterfly on Hollywood Road but changed it to Kew Green Hotel Wan Chai as the latter was a much shorter walk from the Wan Chai MTR exit (2-3minutes). Although, Hollywood Road is nearer to the central part with all the food and nightlife/bars so it all depends on your preferences.

3. Sheung Wan/Central/Admirality was where we ate mostly.

  • Prior to the trip, I already knew where I wanted to go and eat. Most of the places was recommended by this blog entry. It is a shorter list compared to this other HK food guide that has 20+ listings but it was useful cross-referencing both of them during our pre-trip planning. 
  • In retrospect, I think the bulk of our trip was about locating these ‘must-eat’ places in HK and walking off the calories via shopping. 

4. Causeway Bay, TST and Citygate was where we shopped.

  • This one is really to each his own because HJ and I are not a fan of markets – Ladies Market, Stanley Market etc. Basically, any street market isn’t our cup of tea. That left us with mostly shopping malls in the above mentioned areas. Most of Nat’s items were bought from this mall called iSquare. They have both Babies’R’us and Mothercare! We also found clothes for him from Zara Kids @ Central that costs SGD$5 for a shirt?! 

5. Visiting between Oct-Dec may be the best time.

  • The next time we visit, I’d pick the cooler Winter months for the following reasons: 
  1. August is quite hot as it is still summer with temperatures ranging from 31-34 degrees. 
  2. We would have liked to see some horse racing for fun but found out there are no races during the summer months of July and August as it is too warm for the horses.
  3. September is the typhoon period for HK so even though it’s not as hot as July and August, there may be typhoons and/or heavy rain. 
  4. The seasonal flu season in HK is also from July to August although this year saw HK’s flu season begin a bit earlier in May/June. We both took our annual flu jabs earlier in the year so hopefully we don’t come down with anything. 

One ‘hidden find’ we came across was a legit and good foot massage place @ Central called ZEN Massage and Foot Massage – 98 Wellington St. 

  • We went there on the evening of our 2nd day because we had really walked TOO MUCH. Sometimes if our designated location was inbetween MTR stops, we’ll walk there instead of taking the train. If the location was 2 stops away by bus, we would also rather walk since it’s technically very near. So by the end of day 2, we abandoned our plans to go to the hotel gym because I think all the walking made up for all our eating! 

All in all, I think we have had enough city trips for 2017 so I guess our next escapade out of Singapore should be somewhere more relaxing? 

– CK

Work & Guilt 

So we’re off again! This is our 2nd trip without Nat, and it won’t be the last for the year since the mister prefers not to travel with a baby until he’s toddler age. Then having this time away from home made me realize something – it made me think about what will happen once I return to work full time in a few months. This was when I started to feel some guilt for wanting to work but I can’t not work either. Hence, I will just have to accept and adjust to the fact that I won’t be his de facto caretaker anymore and I need to be okay with that. 

The Nat, having his morning playground routine when I’m in the office

 
This is not to say that I am unhappy with the current childcare arrangements. In fact, they could not have been better. Both HJ and I can leave for work in peace knowing that Nat is well taken care of by my mom and helper. 

His general daily routine when we go to work is as such; 

  • 730am – pick up from my place 
  • 8am – visit to the playground 
  • 830am – breakfast 
  • 9am – nap 1 
  • 1130am – outing to run errands or deliver lunch to my Grandpa
  • 12pm – lunch 
  • 2pm – nap 2
  • 3/4pm – tea break 
  • 545pm – dinner 
  • 6pm – I come home and take over 

There’s also reading and regulated TV time in his routine as well. Regulated TV time is because he only watches The Numtums at either 11am or 2pm. They are basically animals with numbers on their tummies haha! 

So I have no qualms with my current work-babycare arrangements. In fact, I am considering going back to office 4x a week instead of 3x a week starting from October onwards since all is well at home. 

Moreover, the norm that I will return to in 2018 is that I’ll be going office every weekday. As it is, I know being able to take a part-time scheme is a privilege – not everyone has alternative babycare arrangements and not everyone can afford to take a pay cut for a prolonged period. 

However, being away from home and Nat during this short trip just made me realize how independent and easygoing he is

Nat does not have attachment issues to anyone? He is able to be taken care of by almost everyone as long as he is familiar with their faces. 

A lot of people have told me that this is a good thing but some days I also wonder whether does he really know we are his parents? Perhaps we don’t refer to ourselves as his ‘Papa’ and ‘Mama’ often? We really cannot stand talking in the third-person haha but maybe we have to start somewhere. 

The only consolation is that at least his de facto caretaker and the person he will be closer will be my mom, not the infant care personnel or any other non-family member.

On this note, I came across an article that is so so apt… 

I know the fatigue that sets in when all you feel is guilty: guilty that you like going to work, guilty that you want to go home early to be with your baby. Guilty when you miss a milestone or guilty when you have to stay late to catch up on a project. Guilty when you forget about an upcoming meeting or guilty that you have to leave early because the baby got sick. Guilty that it’s been three months back at work and shouldn’t this feel normal by now?

I know that am very blessed that I did not really have any big struggles returning to work. 

I also look forward to work because it helps me to focus, it drowns out any baby or household-related issues that I may be feeling sian about, it gives me a sense of purpose and of course, financial security. 

I won’t and can’t give up my work so I guess I will just have to adapt and try not to give myself so high expectations on both fronts. Like HJ said, I can’t be a good worker and still want to be there all the time for Nat. I simply can’t. 

– CK 

Hungry or Habit

My take is that for Nat, at this current age, any MOTN awakening is due to habit. This is also considering how he was able to sleep through before. For 4 nights last week, Nat woke up randomly ard 2 or 3 or 4am, and HJ offered him some milk. Worried that it might form a new habit, I subjected Nat & myself to another round of sleep training i.e. trying to soothe him back to sleep w/o feeding. So far, we’ve had 5 days of relatively peace, thank God.

I hope this regression phase is over. His 8th month did not come with easy nights.

  • Week 1: Nat had 2 more teeth sprouting out so that made napping and sleeping uncomfortable
  • Week 2: Randomly standing up in pitch darkness when it’s time to sleep
  • Week 3: Waking up in the wee hours of the morning (which is fine) but we chose the quickest fix of offering some milk when we don’t really know if Nat is drinking out of habit or hunger?

To answer the question whether it’s out of habit or hunger is a hard one…

Previously when Nat was a younger baby (under 6 months), if he woke up in the motn, we would assess based on his cries whether he’s hungry.

How to tell if it’s hunger? A hunger cry won’t be placated despite any method of soothing. You can pat him, rock him or carry him and the fussing continues – that’s how we determine if it’s real hunger. If it is, we would feed a small amount (usually 30-40ml) to help him last until 630am.

However, since Nat is considered an ‘old baby’ (above 6 months), I know for a fact that he has tanked up sufficient calories in the day so being hungry in the motn should technically not be the case. He eats 4 solid meals a day with milk feeds in-between so his daily milk intake averages around 500ml.

That was when I started to consider other reasons for his random awakenings and fussing. This article was very helpful in corroborating what I already suspected.

Our friend falls into the 1st category of being dependent on a sleep prop.

The official name is “sleep association” but these are more widely known as “sleep props” or “crutches.” This is something your baby “needs” (using that term loosely) in order to sleep.

For Nat, his sleep props are:

  1. The bottle – he gets drowsy after drinking some milk (40-60ml) so it always gets him in the mood to sleep
  2. Hand patting – he sleeps the fastest after getting consistent pats on his butt from us

As a result, I highly suspect that when he wakes up randomly in the motn, he fusses or cries because he is trying to get back to sleep but is finding it hard to on his own.

I think the confirmation for this is that when I resisted giving him any milk until it was the last resort, he was able to go back to sleep after some patting. If Nat was genuinely hungry, the above would not have been possible. Waking up randomly is not the issue, since babies have a different sleep cycle from adults so I guess what is more crucial is actually knowing how to get back to sleep independently after one wakes up in the motn.

This is also not to say that one must not give any top-up milk at all, but instead, to make the assessment based on baby cues and what you know to be true for your baby.

If hungry, feed. It’s only when you suspect it’s not hunger, then one can proceed to eliminate other plausible reasons.

It’s really not easy. That’s why for a few nights, HJ just gave some milk top-up because it would instantly calm him down and he would fall back asleep. However, a new habit may form out of that. So faced with not much choice, I had to try and sleep by 11pm, in order to standby at 4 or 5am to soothe Nat should he wake up. Any sleep training was of course easier during maternity leave when there was no need to wake up for work but it just has to be done, for the sake of the long term and for continuous sleep! This may also push back my initial plans to shift Nat out into his own room because getting up to soothe him back to bed if and when he wakes up is much easier if the crib is just next to my bed.

I guess now we’ll hopefully get a short break before the next milestone?

– CK