Devin has been incredibly spoiled. So spoiled that even now, at 9pm on Boxing Day, he still has two unopened presents under the tree, after opening the majority yesterday and another two today. That’s what happens when the only grandchild also happens to live five hours away from Grandma and Poppy for most of the year.

I am extremely grateful for my parents’ generosity, to all three of us. I could say much more, but I’m reluctant to talk about gifts for much longer. With no religion and no desire to be religious, Christmas (as irrelevant as the name is to us) is basically left to be about food and presents (to those brought up in a christened-but-actually-agnostic family, in a Christian-majority country), and it’s nice to have a family to have that with.

It’s raining, I’ve had far too much chocolate (but I want more) and I’m not sure what we’ll do tomorrow. My mind isn’t relaxed, and I’m still anxious about a lot of things, but I feel very thankful.

Make somebody happy today. Mind your own business.

You know what is no one’s business?

How a mother decides to feed her baby.

I feel silly even writing it, because it’s common sense, right?

Apparently not.

There are the (minority) extreme breastfeeding proponents who will unleash a barrage of disapproval or even hate at the mention of baby formula, yes. But what actually irks me more is the subtle digs at bottle feeding.

I see it a lot when women flaunt their successful breastfeeding. And I say flaunt, because while I completely understand their pride in this difficult task and their desire to share their happiness, I don’t appreciate sentiments such as “I wouldn’t feel this close to my baby if I weren’t breastfeeding”, or, “The inconvenience of bottle feeding would be terrible. We can feed anywhere we like!”

Breastfeeding organisations aren’t much better. Any pregnancy or parenting magazine you pick up will have at least one article on why breastfeeding is so much better for your baby. Every once in a while, you may find one that says, if you have to, formula feeding is ok.

This quote from a local newspaper was part of an article about a breastfeeding group, which did a very good job of making me feel both inadequate and cranky.

No matter what size or shape your breasts are, they are capable of producing all the nourishment your baby needs for the first six months of life.”

Because, see, mine weren’t.

The size and shape of breasts doesn’t determine their capability of breastfeeding, no, but merely having breasts does not mean that you will be able to breastfeed your baby.

We had trouble from the very beginning. I sought help from several nurses in the days and weeks after Devin’s birth, and while their suggestions made things slightly less difficult, they didn’t make it easy.

Armed with the information from a thousand books and magazines, I carried on, assuming that, as they all said, it would get better.

At the time, I thought it did. I thought that dreading every feed a little bit and holding awkward positions just to get the baby to stay on was normal. And, though Devin was average length but well under the curve for weight, he did keep gaining weight.

I’d reached the end of my rope after three months. I felt stressed and discontent, Devin was always fussy and still quite small, and I’d had enough of being stuck on the couch, struggling to just feed my baby.

Finally pushing my guilt aside and switching completely to formula was relieving. I was much happier and more relaxed, Devin settled down and steadily put on weight, and I’m sure Jene felt better by association. In the end, I don’t think I was producing enough milk. In less than a week, my boobs had forgotten they’d ever been involved in providing human sustenance.

SO.

Breastfeeding – great. We are all well aware of the benefits by now. If you can do it, good for you. I’ll stand up for your right to do it anywhere.

If you can and don’t want to, that’s fine, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If you can’t do it, hey, that’s normal, too.

It might take a village to raise a child, but the village can mind its own goddamn business when it comes to how the parents nourish it, because it’s not the villages body, it’s not the villages mental health, and the village isn’t getting up at 3am in the freezing cold to feed the screaming baby.

Breakfast at Deviny’s

Every morning when Devin and I get up, I make a coffee and some toast with Vegemite, and share the crusts with Devin.

For the uninformed, Vegemite is very messy. It’s thick, sticky and black, and even when I scrape most of it off Devin’s pieces, he still gets it all over his face, hands and clothes. And toys. A stuffed bunny (the first toy we bought him) had to have a little adventure in the washing machine because someone decided he’d like a meal of rabbit after his toast.

I still do it every single day.

If, on the rare occasion, I feel like peanut butter, I give Devin a dried apricot to distract him from the fact that Mum is eating toast and not sharing.

Dried apricots? Also very sticky.

Also high in fibre.

This happened recently – one piece of toast was sliding around and fell off the side as I was putting the plate down.

Luckily, ugly rental curtains and the backs of toast are actually Velcro in disguise.

Who knew?

P.S. If, by any chance, you happen to be reading this and have never had Vegemite but are thinking of trying, I’d strongly advise that you don’t spread it on as thick as it is above. It will burn your mouth.  Most people I know have half or less of the amount I prefer.

I think this is where a fair amount of newcomers who end up hating it go wrong. Of course, there are those who just don’t like it, which is completely understandable.

A perfectly average life.

The climate here is driving me nuts.  It can’t decide whether it wants to be hot or cold, but it definitely knows it wants to be humid.

Let me tell you, there is absolutely – ABSOLUTELY – no weather I hate more than cool humidity. The combination of being both cold and sweaty is disgusting. Just be cold, damn it!

In the above picture, Devin is surrounded by blankets on his little play area. That was during a cold spell. Last week. You can also see that I had to bring the airing racks that are loaded with nappies inside because even undercover, it was too wet for them to dry. (Though it wasn’t raining.)

And this was today. It was hot and sunny. There were flies. We were outside long enough to hang out the clothes on the line and take a few pictures. Then we retreated to our generally fly-free and completely shaded house.

(He is looking at one of the garden sheds. He looks at it often. I’m not sure what’s so interesting about it. Possibly the fact that it’s shiny?)

These are his keys. They were the first thing I bought him specifically to chew on. (I couldn’t figure out where they kept the teething stuff at the shop and found these in the toy section. I later discovered that teething rings and other soft chew toys are kept near the feeding items. Of course.)

The little three key set is still one of his very favourite things.

A lot of things, though, are not his very favourite things. He is at an awkward stage in development – he really, really wants to get going places. He wants to look at and touch and play with everything. Well, everything that is not placed directly in front of him to entertain him.

But he can’t go anywhere. He’s stuck sitting on his play mat. When he gets frustrated with this, he has a little wobbly and throws himself backwards, so that he’s not only stuck on the play mat, he’s stuck on his back on the play mat.

This means I am often wandering around the house with him on my hip, either doing jobs with one hand or just slowly pacing rooms. If I stay still for too long, he spots something that he wants and is trying to squirm away. If I put him on the floor to examine what he wants, he (of course) gets fussy and wants to move again.

I wrote his name and drew the picture one day, and added the rest another, particularly grumpy, day.

Just after he was born, Devin could lie down in this basket. I would hang the wet nappies out and leave Devin inside with Jene, and when the nappies were dry, I would carry Devin outside, slowly take the nappies down with one hand, put Devin on top of the dry nappies, and carry the basket inside. Now, he can sit in the basket.

I was surprised by his red hair when I first saw him. I thought he would have dark hair. I was sure he would have dark hair, because both Jene and I do.

Just above his right eye is a raised birthmark. It would, apparently, disappear on its own by the time he is four to eight years old (!), but because it could potentially interfere with his visual development, it needs some intervention. We are currently waiting to hear back from a paediatric dermatologist on the best course of action.

Heinz baby Pumpkin, Potato & Beef is Devin’s favourite. It was the first thing he ate properly off a spoon, and I have to admit, for baby mash, it is pretty tasty. (Hey. Someone has to test the temperature.)

Mostly I make Devin’s food, but it’s also good to have some ready-made stuff handy. When the supermarket had a 5 for $5 special, I almost just scooped up five of the PP&B. (He truly loves it. He makes little “mmm” noises when he eats it. This evening, I only knew just how tired he was when he wouldn’t even finish half a jar of it.)

Then I decided that I didn’t really want to cultivate any early picky eating habits, so I bought two different flavours.

(The parsnip, carrot & sweet potato was gross. The smell was just the beginning. Fortunately, Devin liked it well enough.)

Devin. He puts… the chew back in Chewbacca.

(I may have taken this picture just so I could write that.)

*groan, groan*

Bright, shiny, scrunchy, squeaky, rattly toys often have tags on them. Devin prefers the tags.

I am a neat person. I can’t help but clean. Messes really bug me.

But I’m realising that babies come with mess, and that’s that. Baby stuff is difficult to contain. I try not to fight it.

Sometimes (often) the only way I am able to fold nappies and clothes with Devin is to put him on our bed and put two pillows over him like this. As you can see, he finds it terribly exciting. To amp up the exhilaration, I put an unfolded nappy over the gap so that he can’t see me, then I fold a few items while building up the suspense – “Where are you, Devin? I can hear you, but I can’t see you! Are these your feet?” – before pulling the nappy away and saying “boo!” or any variation thereof.

I folded this one night when Devin was in bed, and I was trying to use the Internet but was getting frustrated with my computer. I folded while waiting for pages to load, things to open, things to close, pages to scroll…

I don’t get enough sleep. I stay up too late at night, because it’s a long block of time I have to myself, and I lose track of time, and forget that Devin wakes up early.

In fact, I should be in bed right now.

Liss

And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.

Happy Christmas. It has been raining non-stop today, and it is fantastic. I’m in central west NSW, in summer, and I’m a little chilly. Outrageous!

It was Devin’s first Christmas, and unfortunately, he had a bad night beforehand, so he was swinging wildly between happy and grumpy all day. For him, it was a just a day where there was more crunchy paper than usual, and where he got to suck on some ham… perhaps the truest meaning of Christmas. This (the ham, not true meanings of Christmas) leads me to the purpose of this entry, which is solid foods. (Or, my baby wants more than milk now, and I am consequently torn between excitement and melancholy.)

About ten days ago, at the same time that we bought some solid food feeding paraphernalia, we picked up this Tommee Tippee Fresh Food Feeder.

Devin seemed interested in putting food in his mouth, but we weren’t sure how he’d handle ‘eating’, so this was a handy compromise. (Or there could be some underlying issue to do with laziness and pulping food myself, I don’t know.) (No, it’s probably not that. It really is handy.)

It is handy, but very messy. Obviously, being only four and a half months old, he hasn’t perfected that hand-to-mouth coordination, so we have to help him. He either holds the ring and we put the mesh to his mouth, or he mushes the mesh in his fist and tries to shove it in. Either way, he gets at least a taste of what’s in there. Banana was first. (“This is a strange, flavoursome thing,” said Devin, scrunching up his face. “But I just can’t stop putting it in my mouth! I guess I must like it.”) Watermelon was a few days later. (“Hmmm,” said Devin. “I’m not sure. I might be too tired to try this properly. I’ll just use it stain my bib.”) Then we put nectarine in it. (“Interesting,” said Devin, pulling the banana face again. “It’s kind of sweet, but kind of sour. Yes, I can abide this. I might eat it all.”) And he did eat most of it, by putting as much as he could in his mouth, then chomping down. Hard.

In amongst all this, he’s also been trying non-mesh-mushed food. Jene and Devin shared a plate of real leg ham, where Devin would gum and slobber on a piece of ham that Jene would valiantly finish before they moved on to the next piece. I wasn’t there, but today I saw first-hand the entusiasm with which Devin embraces a ham opportunity when I offered him some off my plate.

The kid likes ham.

A few days ago, I tried to offer him a small piece of banana out of my hand. He wasn’t having anything to do with it, so I put him on my hip and continued to eat the banana. Devin, apparently overcome by a sudden and premature sense of ownership, decided it was his banana, grabbed a piece of skin and shoved it in his mouth. Then he got both hands around the fruit and crammed it into his mouth. And kept going. He was making a huge mess, and chunks of banana were being flung far and wide, but he was loving it – he’d just wanted to do it himself.

We tried Farex, as an introduction to eating from a spoon, but it would never get past the back of his mouth. It was like trying to sink a ping pong ball. He hated the taste. This evening, we gave him some pureed pumpkin, potato and beef, which was much more successful. The ‘eating’ is (surprise!) not very efficient because he eats like he’s drinking a bottle. And after I managed to get some food in his mouth, he would shove his fist in there after it. But he seemed to like the taste. The rest is just (hopefully) practice.

Evidently, we’re not following any guide to feeding. We don’t have a paediatrician. I relay things I read or hear, but usually we’re just making it up as we go. Perhaps the salty ham isn’t ideal, and maybe introducing fruit first could make it more difficult to start vegetables. But clearly, we’re all having fun.

Liss