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Physical Education

So, Is He Normal or Not?

Last Tuesday, Theo had an appointment with the Preemie Department at Kaiser to test his development at 6 months. He was not born premature, but he was in NICU for most of his first week. I guess any baby in NICU gets this special check-up.

Theo saw two doctors. The first one tested his fine motor skills and related behavior. She brought out small toys and placed them in front of him while he sat on my lap. She rolled a ball to him to see if he would figure out how to roll it back. I mentioned that he has a preference for using his left hand and she verified and made a note of that.  She tested his reaction to a bell ringing just out of sight. She saw how he responded to objects being dropped off a table ledge out of sight. She gave him a mirror to look into. She made notes on a checklist.

The doctor told me that Theo is way too young for handedness, that this should occur at ages 2 or 3. We need to help him strengthen his right hand, she said. Offer him toys on his right side instead of the left, for example.

Theo started getting fussy due to hunger, so I fed him. Then the doctor tested how he responded to various stimuli while sitting. He was sitting up very well, considering what a new skill this is for him. However, he wasn’t turning at the torso to respond to my voice. Then she laid him on his tummy for further tasks, and he promptly spit up. He didn’t have a chance to demonstrate his rolling-over skills. She ended the session and cleaned up the mat.

The doctor told me that we should cease all use of the Jumperoo. She told me that it exercises muscles that are not helpful in the development of crawling and walking skills, and that it takes away from time he needs to spend on the floor. We’re also supposed to stop holding him in a standing position on our laps, for the same reason.

The second doctor tested his reflexes with the rubber mallet, and checked whether or not he put his arms out in a protective gesture when spun one way or another in a sitting position. He did not, but she said that babies typically develop that later. She reiterated the warnings about the Jumperoo and standing positions. We should get a full report in about two weeks.

I walked into that appointment very proud of my son’s physical development, and walked out chastised and worried. I also felt like they didn’t provide Theo enough motivation for some tasks. I see him accomplish many of the things at home that he failed to do at the clinic. For example, he was probably too immersed in the newness of the images on the wall he was facing to turn to see Mommy when sitting. At home, he easily twists and turns while sitting. I also felt like he would have responded differently to the small motor skills tasks if he had been offered familiar toys he loves.

In any case, we’ve started making changes. I asked Vlady to give Theo no more than 10 minutes per day in the Jumperoo, and to give him more floor time for sitting, rolling, and tummy time. We’re handing him things to his right side whenever possible. When walking, I now hold him on my right side rather than my left, freeing up his right arm for exploration. When sitting, I try to stick with holding him in positions which will help develop his torso. One way that the doctors suggested was holding him up, facing out, with his ankles crossed swami-style. This makes him work his torso as he keeps himself upright. In general, he needs more exercise in twisting and strengthening his trunk.

Theo had a second appointment this week, his regular pediatrician visit for six-month-olds. I expressed my concerns that Theo seemed to be far behind because the Tuesday doctors didn’t tell me anything about what Theo was doing right. Theo’s pediatrician read the report on the computer, which stated that in almost all cases he was right on track for his milestones. This made me feel a whole lot better. I’ve also noticed, as I mentioned, that in my later observations Theo seems to have a fairly well-developed ability to twist and writhe. He’s an expert in turning and wiggling out of my lap.

Nevertheless, I have taken Kaiser up on the offer of an appointment with a physical therapist on December 22nd. What I’d really like is more ideas about how to help Theo develop all the skills he should. And perhaps they can get a better gauge of his gross motor skills if he doesn’t spit up next time. I doubt we need more physical therapy sessions beyond that. We can figure out the rest on our own. Theo will have a follow-up with the Premature Group in June.

Om Nom Nom

Theo’s tastes are changing. Well, at least what he is tasting is changing. He stills gets the bottle regularly (as he should until he is a year old,) but he’s been trying out more and more pureed food. I also like to offer him a chunk of honeydew melon to gnaw on. He is very interested in putting straws and cups into his mouth. We bought him crackers called Baby Mum Mum, which dissolved quickly on the tongue. He tried these for the first time at his Thursday appointment, and he even fed the cracker to himself. So exciting!

Pook has graduated to a size four nipple, the largest size. He can down 6 ounces pretty quickly now. Unfortunately, he has been eating very little for the past two days. This plus the appearance of more-than-typical crankiness leads me to believe he may be cutting a new tooth.

Vlady selected and fed an entire container of pureed prunes to Theo earlier this week. When he picked up T from Miss Gina the next day, she handed him the baby’s sleeper in a plastic bag. “You might want to burn this.” I didn’t, but it did take some work to clean out the explosion from the diaper blowout that apparently resulted from massive prune intake. The sleeper has been salvaged and is in good condition.

Music Music

On Friday, December 3rd, my friend Crystal invited us to a Music Together sample class in Roseville. It was a 45-minute class for children, and Theo and I joined in. In the middle of the activity rug was a largish drum that the older children walied away on. The teacher was young but very organized and dynamic. Theo couldn’t take his eyes off of her. We learned all kinds of songs, and danced, and played percussive instruments. We enjoyed it very much so I’ve signed us up for another sample class closer to home in Davis. If we like the teacher as well there, I’ll pop for the $175 10-week course. If I don’t, we may have to drive to Roseville each week. That teacher was really great. Both places have classes geared just for babies, as well as mixed-age classes.

The following Sunday, one of the mommies from our Mommy and Me group held a potluck. This was also a lot of fun for Theo and me (Vlady decided to stay a hermit.) Kelly, our host, had a small set of bongo drums. I held them in front of Theo as he sat in my lap. Somehow he figured them out right way. He began banging on both of the with the flat of his palms. Clever boy! I have responded by buying him a baby drum, a baby xylophone, and rhythm sticks for Christmas. Okay, I gave him the sticks a little early.

Santa Dawn and Santa Vlady

Speaking of Christmas, what an exciting time for it to come. Theo is now 6 months old, which opens a whole new world of toys to him. I can’t seem to stop buying him new toys “from Santa.” We’re going from a meager selection of rattles and plushies to puzzles, button-pushing activity centers, and balls that roll themselves to encourage little ones to crawl.

Baby Eagle

Theo has a favorite new sound: a high-pitched squeal that reminds me of a baby eagle. It just lasts and lasts. He seems to revel in his ability to make this voluminous noise.

I’ve been listening carefully to hear more sophisticated sounds. Every once in a while, the squeals turn to babbling and I’ve heard some consonants like Ds and Gs in there from time to time. A few nights ago, T started chewing on his tongue, poking it in between his left-hand gums. He does this while sporting a wide grin/grimace that is just odd. I’ve read online that this is simply another mouth workout for a developing talker.

Hocus Pocus

T’s hand gestures has gone from dreamy swirling to some serious twirling. Sometimes he lowers his head a bit and grunts while he does this. It gives him the appearance of a wizard conjuring up a spell. So I have now dubbed this activity as Hocus Pocus (alternately Alakazam, or Abracababra.)

Here is a video Vlady took today with a little bit of everything: teething crankiness, smiles, exploration with hands, Hocus Pocus, foot-grabbing, squealing and grunting, and rolling and twisting.

2 replies on “Physical Education”

I love reading your updates on Theo. Maybe more so because we are both “older” Moms and have babies close in age so the development issues are something we have in common. Sounds to me like he’s moving along just fine in the right direction. Trust your maternal instinct, take the specialists observations under advisement but continue to do what you’re doing. You are a great Mom, and Theo looks to be a very happy healthy little guy!!

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