Saturday, June 25, 2011

Damien's Program 3 Weeks Old

June 18-24
2-3 weeks old

It's been another wonderful week getting to know this little joy in our lives.

His enchanting charm continues to distract me from so many other "important" things that I should be doing during the day. I am so ever-presently aware of how fleeting this time is, how quickly he is growing. I'm soaking up every minute. Painting as many mental pictures as I can. Of his tiny features, his sweet baby smell, his curious, serious eyes. The "babymoon" is going by so quickly. I want to savor as much of it as I can.

This week was not too bad, in terms of program consistency. My visions of logs filled with dozens of checks and detailed notes tends to be more of a dream than a reality.

But he is growing, developing, nonetheless. And ever so quickly, at that. Here are the highlights of his development this week:

Holding head at 45 degree angle, 2 weeks old

  • Crawling  Damien's crawling has improved noticeably since he was born.  He still doesn't seem to move his arms much, but his leg movements are so vigorous. He kicks off the sides of his track, and his toes flare out (courtesy of Babinski reflex), giving him good traction. He gets down his track probably at least twice as fast as he did when he first started, although, unfortunately, he still gets pretty frustrated with it in the process most of the time (I still think he just doesn't like the cold surface). 
The trial is often finding the right timing to put him in his track. At certain times of the day, especially his fussy evenings, he will have nothing to do with his track and screams if we put him in it. Other times, he is perfectly content to crawl down it multiple times. I think things will get better as he gets a little older and his fussiness (hopefully) improves. Right now he only averages going down the track about 2-3 times per day, spending perhaps a total of 30 minutes in it. (It only takes him a few minutes to crawl down, but he will often stay in one spot for a while). He spends a lot of time on his tummy at other times, too, not in his track. He still loves to crawl up Daddy's chest.
  • Head control  Damien's head control is still good. He can lift his head, at a 45 degree angle, and look around since 1 week old (this is a milestone typically accomplished at 4-8 weeks). He does this a lot when he is laying on our chest and checks everything out, especially our faces. It's hard to get him to lay his head down unless he is sleeping!

Holding Daddy's finger, 3 weeks 1 day old
  • Manual  Damien's grasp reflex is still pretty strong. Before I noted that his grasp reflex was stronger in his right hand than it was in his left hand. Well this week it seems to have "switched", and I think that perhaps the possible culprit is that his right hand has moved (or is moving) into the ability to release ("vital release" via developmental profile) while his left hand is still in the grasp reflex stage. The reason? Well, when I lift him as he hangs onto my fingers, his left hand is very tight now (improved!) but his right hand lets go a lot of times. An interesting and exciting development.
I mentioned last week that I have seen what looks like him attempting to use his hands - bringing them to his mouth to suck on them, "hold in" his pacifier, bat at Daddy's face. Well, he did more of this this week, particularly the batting!
  • Balance  We still have not really started doing any balance activities yet. (Still no good reason!) He still gets plenty of moving around though, being carried, rocked, moved, etc.
  • Language  Damien's language is definitely still at the "birth cry and crying" stage. His cry is strong and loud! He has many different cries, sometimes different tones or strengths, sometimes a whimpering or "whining". We occasionally get to hear other sounds from him, particularly "ahh", "eh", and "mmm". I try to remember that all sounds are language. Whenever he communicates we, of course, talk back! 
I try and have conversations with him but, so far, I get a lot of stares (to be expected from a two-week old, I suppose!) Still, it is fun communicating to him and responding to his needs, and watching his non-verbal communication, too. We try and talk to him a lot and provide an environment free of "noise clutter".
Next week I would like to start the poetry portion of the language program. My perfectionism of having the "perfect poem" has been holding me back.

  • Tactile  His tactile program has been my most consistent. I like to stimulate his little toes (after every diaper change, sometimes while I'm nursing). Something must be paying off, because like I said, he has been using the Babinski reflex to push off of the sides of his track, making crawling a lot easier.
  • Auditory  I will admit that the fact that he doesn't really respond to the sound of the clapping blocks makes me not very motivated to do it (he responds to many other sounds, he just doesn't seem too phased by the blocks). I think this is one of those "I wish somebody would have told me about this part of the Doman program" kind of things. I think that maybe the "correct" thing to do is to keep using the block-clapping sounds even though he doesn't startle, but I don't really know. 
However, it is obvious that he hears just fine. One exciting thing he did this week was turn towards Daddy's voice. I was holding him in my arms and his Daddy came home, stood right next to me and said something. Damien's eyes lit up and he started turning his head, looking around until he found his Dad.
Also, today when we were at a birthday party, during cleanup all the kids started popping the balloons. Damien became upset and started fussing, and calmed down when we left the room. I think that he is moving into stage II of auditory development - "vital response to threatening sounds". 
  • Visual  I have not been very consistent doing his light reflex stimulations, I think mainly because I have to get up and go into a dark room to do them and it's not a habit yet. But nonetheless his vision seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. He spends a lot of time daily in front of his black and white checkerboard. I try to keep the blinds open and keep the room very bright. When he's awake, there's usually someone in his face oo-ing and ahh-ing over him and talking to him. He, in turn, spends the whole time serious examining and analyzing said person's face.
There's nothing, I think, more amazing, more phenomenal, than looking into this little boy's eyes. Those precious blue-grey eyes seems to come more alive, more aware, every day. It's priceless.

    • Damien has become more of a social nurser. Not at every feeding, but he looks around and often stays awake for the whole time he nurses.
    We've caught so many smiles from him lately, both with his eyes open and his eyes closed. The most precious ones are when he is staring at us, deep in thought checking out our faces, and then bursts into a huge, priceless grin. Oh, nothing melts my heart more than those smiles!

    Sleeping, Eating, Eliminating

    This was the first week that I started trying to implement a schedule with Damien. Sometimes, at this point in time, his schedule is more along the lines of "wishful thinking", but I'm okay with that. Like I said in the previous post, I consider a schedule at this age to be more of a goal to work towards, just gentle structure and guidance that can be adapted or discarded as needed.
    • Sleeping  Damien, a lot of nights, has been sleeping a good stretch at nighttime, sometimes 3, 4, or even 5 hours. When he does wake up to nurse, he generally nurses and then falls straight back to sleep, although not always. Sometimes it seems like he wants to use me as a human pacifier and, well, it sort of hampers the whole sleeping thing. 
    • Pacifier  We changed to the Nuk pacifier this week, and oh my does this child love it. Hunter would never take a pacifier or a bottle, which made life very difficult sometimes, so for that reason I'm glad we started Damien with the pacifier early. 
    • Nursing  Nursing is going well. Damien, as I mentioned, is my little speed nurser. I usually have him nurse for 10 minutes on each side, but sometimes I think he has nearly emptied it at 5 minutes. He's growing well, and thank God, my sore nipples are completely gone. This has certainly made nursing more enjoyable!
    • Elimination  The kid still poops all the time. Every time he poops we say, "Poo poo, good poo poo, go poo poo, good boy..." etc. etc. Again, the goal is essentially to get him to associate the word with the action so that, eventually, we can start signaling him to go. Other than that haven't started anything yet, waiting till he can "sit" a little bit better.

    Damien was 2 weeks old this week

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Baby Schedules (Newborn)

    Damien @ 3 weeks old

    I have started implementing a flexible nursing / sleeping schedule with Damien since last week (just after he turned 2 weeks old), and it has been going relatively well.

    I (loosely) use the principles of Babywise, although definitely not all of them. The key elements that I take from this method are:
    • The pattern of eat - wake - sleep rather than eat - sleep - wake. The reason for this is so that baby isn't dependent on nursing to fall asleep.
    • Encouraging full feedings instead of "snacking" (nursing for a suitable amount of time so that the baby isn't hungry an hour later).
    • Encouraging full naps instead of "cat napping"
    • Having a regular but flexible daily routine, for many purposes, but a key purpose being to encourage day time / night time awareness and regularity and to promote nighttime sleep.

    I think that this is important to our homeschool program (for both Hunter and Damien) because
    1. It promotes regularity, routine, and habit in our days (and I get 100% more done with routine)
    2. Healthy sleep is essential for the well-being of everyone in the family

    Right now, this is our feeding routine:

    Nursing at
    5:00 - 7:30 - 10:00 - 12:30 - 3:00 
    5:30 - 7:30 - 9:30 - 11:30

    Sometimes he sleeps straight through until 5:00 am, sometimes he wakes up at 3:00.

    The bold feeding times are our day time feedings. After these feeding, he ideally has an awake period, followed by a short nap before the next feeding. 

    The non-bold feeding times - 5:00 am, 9:30 & 11:30 pm - are "night time" feedings, after which he goes straight back to sleep. These are the feedings that we will eventually drop, one at a time.

    It's definitely not perfect, and the times are loose. If he gets hungry sooner than one of these times, I certainly don't deprive him. I change things up a bit, as needed, without feeling any remorse. A schedule is, by all means, a tool, and nothing more.

    During most of the day, he eats every 2.5 hours, but in the evening I feed him every 2 hours. I only found out later that this more-frequent-evening-feeding is actually a technique (called "cluster feeding") used to help babies sleep longer through the night - but we actually started doing it because he wanted to eat more often in the evening and tended to be fussy at that time. However, it really does help him sleep better, so we are keeping it up even if he doesn't necessarily demand it.

    He rarely has a "perfect cycle", i.e. staying awake for exactly a half hour after nursing, and then falling peacefully asleep until the next feeding. It's flexible - sometimes he sleeps almost the whole time period between feedings, stays awake almost that whole time period at others, or splits even at other periods.

    We'll strive for more regularity as time progresses, but for now he's little and I try to go with his flow, offering only minor guidance and structure, and seeing a regular schedule as something to work towards and gently ease him into.

    And, of course, to adapt (or throw out the window) on days when the need is there.

    "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"  
    Ecclesiastes 3:1
    Damien is 3 weeks, 0 days old

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Homeschooling After Baby

    My expectations for after the baby was born - for Hunter's schoolwork, household upkeep, and other non-essential tasks - have been low. 

    I didn't quite remember what it was like to have a newborn, or how long it would take to be back to myself after birth, so I didn't want to overload myself with unrealistic expectations and be disappointed or frustrated.

    Hunter, Damien and I have spent a lot of time in bed the last twelve days since we've been home. Damien and I, nursing and napping, but Hunter joins us every now and then to read aloud to Damien (this has been his favorite activity with his new brother), listen to me read aloud, or play a board game together.

    There has been a lot of chess, and one of Hunter's new favorites, Minotaurus by Lego.

    We have been reading a lot of stories and poems from The Book of Virtues, reading from the KJV Bible, and this week started a new chapter book, Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott.

    Since the baby was born, I have told Hunter that he only has to do three independent subjects - Bible, reading, and a little bit of math. I figured this would be good for him and it takes him less than an hour a day - the rest of the day he has been getting to play with his uncle who is in town, his friends who are out of school, or occupy himself with a dozen other things he likes to do around the house.

    He has started the Encyclopedia Brown books and really enjoys them (currently, Encyclopedia Brown Carries On), is reading a chapter a day from the book of Leviticus (KJV), and a few drill sheets from Math Three.

    Next week we'll add a few more subjects back into our load, but we'll continue to keep things light for most of the summer as we adjust to this new lifestyle and enjoy the warm (ok, hot) weather.

    "And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up." 
    Deuteronomy 11:19

    Hunter is 6 years, 2 months old
    Damien is 1 week, 6 days old

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Tutorial: How to Make a Checkerboard (Infant Stimulation)

    It is now well-recognized that newborns prefer looking at bold, black and white patterns.

    Less recognized is that by looking at these patterns, baby's vision will actually grow because he is using it and strengthening his weak eye muscles by doing so.

    Newborn babies really can't see all that much so it is important that we create an environment of things that are easy for them to see (high contrast) and encourages them to use their vision. A baby in an environment of pastel tones and white walls will simply not use his vision at all - he can't see anything, so what's the point?

    Making a checkerboard for you baby is the perfect way to stimulate their very newly-developing vision and create the ideal environment for their growing senses. Since you probably can't repaint your whole house, the checkerboard is a portable visual environment that can go wherever the baby goes.

    Here is how:


    1. A 30-inch x 20-inch piece of foam board
    2. Sheet of black poster board
    3. Yard stick (or ruler/straight edge)
    4. Pencil
    5. Scissors
    6. Glue stick
    7. Roll of clear contact paper

    Foam board is ideal since it is very light-weight and won't hurt the baby if the board accidentally falls on him.

    1. First measure and cut the black posterboard into 5-inch squares. You will need 12 squares for a 30x20-inch board. Another option is to use black card stock or printer paper.

    2. Lay out squares on board in checkerboard pattern.

    3. Glue squares on one at a time. For best results apply glue to both the square and the board.

    4. Next apply clear contact paper. Since contact paper is only 12 inches wide you will have to use several strips. Cut enough so that the contact paper can wrap around the ends and sides.

    5. Wrap contact paper around the edges.

    And viola! You have a beautiful checkerboard to grow your baby's vision.

    "But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear." 
    Matthew 13:16
    Damien is one week old

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Damien Crawling at Four Days Old

    One thing that fascinates me is the little-know fact that newborn humans are actually born with the ability to crawl.

    We put Damien on his infant crawling track for the first time today, at four days old, as his circumcision is healed now.

    In this video, he goes from about halfway down the track to almost to the bottom - he actually started at the top and goes all the way down in this session. The track is on a slight incline, making it easier for him to move.

    He has gone down the track a couple of times today. It is amazing to see his determination as he moves. He grunts, groans, and whines to build up the respiration needed to move.

    When he is on his back, he just lays there, but any time I put him on his stomach, whether in the track, on the bed or floor, or even on my chest, he tries to move. And move he does.

    "Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight." 
    Psalm 199:35
    Damien is 4 days old