Your baby’s in a routine and you’ve just got to grips with being a mum, then something happens out of the blue – here’s what to expect from the unexpected
What to expect
Babies grow at an astonishing rate, but they don’t always do it steadily. Occasionally you’ll notice a short period of intense hunger in your little one, followed by him piling on the pounds (or ounces, at least). He may polish off a bottle in record time, cry for more breastfeeds, or sit with his mouth open like a baby bird waiting for you to spoon the puréed carrot in! Your baby might also start waking again in the night for feeds, even if he’s been sleeping through for a while.
When it might happen
The most common times for growth spurts are at around 2, 3 and 6 months, but they can happen at any time, particularly in your baby’s first year of life. “A growth spurt can be hard to keep up with, but they usually only last a few days,” says Tricia Blossom, health visitor for North West Leicester. “If it goes on longer and your baby seems continually hungry, isn’t satisfied by his feeds, or is crying much more than usual, talk to your health visitor.”
What to expect
One minute your baby is lying peacefully on his back, the next he flips on to his front and the trouble really starts! Once your baby’s managed that first roll, he’ll very quickly become an expert. So watch out, as there are lots of opportunities for rolling off the bed/changing table/sofa…
Developmental milestones vary hugely from baby to baby, but rolling usually happens before sitting up, often from around 3-4 months. Once your baby’s mastered any kind of rolling, even if it’s only on to his front and not back again, don’t leave him lying unattended on the bed or sofa. “If your baby does fall, it’s easy to panic, but try to stay calm until you’ve assessed how much damage there actually is,” says Tricia. “Your little one will probably be screaming, but it may be from the shock of falling more than the pain, so see if he calms down with lots of cuddles, or possibly a feed to soothe him. If he’s still crying or seems floppy or listless, see your doctor, or call 999 if you’re really worried.”
You might think there’s no way you’ll be caught off guard by teething: from the first whimper or whinge, someone (usually your mother-in-law) will probably suggest that your baby’s teething, and might even recommend a nip of brandy in her bottle. Nevertheless, when it actually does happen, it may well take you by surprise. There’s such a wide range of teething symptoms, and reactions to it, that it’s hard to know where you are. Some babies don’t raise a whimper, while others wail, stop sleeping, develop horrible nappy rash and get bright red cheeks – all weeks before any tooth appears.
Your baby’s teeth usually start to appear any time from around 4 months old, although a few babies are born with teeth, while others don’t get their first tooth until well after their first birthday. “Teething babies love chewing on things,” says Tricia. “Try giving him a chilled carrot stick, or a teething ring – the type that you chill in the fridge can be very soothing. A teething gel works for about 20 minutes, meanwhile, so it can be helpful in getting your baby back to sleep. If he’s really suffering, try giving him a dose of infant paracetamol [from 2-3 months].”
You may feel you’ve got enough on your plate looking after a baby who’s perfectly well – but just wait until he gets a cold! A baby with a blocked nose can find it hard to sleep and to feed, will probably want to be cuddled and held more than usual and, of course, he’ll cry more.
At any time, but more commonly during the winter months. Colds so often happen just when you feel you’re on top of things, to knock everything out of kilter again!
“At first, illness can be very worrying, especially if your baby is under 2 months and so isn’t able to have any infant paracetamol, says Tricia. “As long as he’s still having plenty of milk there’s usually nothing to worry about, so just give lots of cuddles and go with the flow. If your baby hasn’t improved after a few days, see your GP.”
Tiny babies are usually happy to be cuddled by anyone, but as he gets older, your baby may become opinionated about who he wants to socialise with. This is called separation anxiety, and coincides with the time in your baby’s development when he begins to realise that he’s an individual, and that his parents aren’t always with him.
This phase usually kicks in when your baby is around 8 months, although it can happen any time from 7 months to a year. It can be problematic if you’re used to leaving your baby with another carer – such as your mum, a childminder or at a nursery – as you may get a few tears. “Try not to let a clingy phase stop you from allowing your baby to spend time with other people,” explains Tricia. “It’s healthy for your baby to enjoy a close bond with lots of other people, whether that’s family members, friends or other carers. “You may find it reassuring to know that your baby will usually only cry while he can see you. As soon as you’re out of sight he’ll more than likely settle down.”
“One day my baby just didn’t stop feeding all day – and then she woke up for one more feed than usual during the night, too. I told my health visitor the next day and she said 3 weeks, which was Deia’s exact age, is a classic growth spurt time. ”
Vanita, mum to Deia, 2 months
“I left Elizabeth lying in the middle of our bed while I went off to run her bath. It couldn’t have been for more than about 15 seconds, but as I came back into the bedroom she was just about to roll off our bed. I rushed over to try and catch her but didn’t make it in time and could only watch as Elizabeth landed face down on the floor. She immediately let out the biggest cry I’d ever heard. I felt terrible and, once I’d calmed her down, I rang NHS Direct. I was terrified that she might be concussed, but half an hour later she was sitting up and smiling at me!”
Sarah, mum to Elizabeth, 10 months
“Zachery had his first cold at 3 weeks. I’d just got to the stage where I felt I could get out of the house, and then I was stuck in again with a poorly baby. I accepted all offers of help and got my dad to do the school run with Benjamin, while my mum helped out with Oliver so he wasn’t stuck in with me and Zachery.”
Tracy, mum to Benjamin, 6, Oliver, 3, and Zachery, 4
“Whenever either of the girls were getting a tooth, I used teething gel and homeopathic teething granules: they’re fantastic! They always used to get nappy rash when they were teething, too, so I’d use lots of nappy cream at each change.”
Emma, mum to Rachel, 4, and Isabel, 2
“Kittie’s clingy phase started at her christening, when she was 9 months. She wouldn’t go to anyone, not even her dad, and I spent the day carrying her. It was hard work, and I think some family and friends felt a bit hurt that she screamed when they tried to cuddle her. But there’s nothing you can do, except wait till they grow out of it.”
Michelle, mum to Kittie, 3, and Maisie, 2
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