Six months old: sleeping through the night and traveling to the sun

by Veerle

I just love the summer holidays. So do the children. After a windy and at times rainy week at our Belgian seaside, the weather has taken a turn for the better again. Tom is back at work – he even works on our national holiday. I’m not too happy about that at first, but it’s one less day he has to take off when we leave for Northern Italy in two weeks. In the mean time, the children and I just enjoy how the days pass quietly. We go for walks, run errands together, go to the park and playground, have school friends to stay over,… It’s all good. And Isolde sleeps through the night like she used to again.

Via a friend, I’ve found a swimming instructor for our Daphne. In Italy, we’ve rented a house by a small mountain lake, so it would be nice if she could swim by the time we leave. I’ve arranged 10 sessions of an hour and Daphne absolutely loves it. During her last lesson I take Alexander and Isolde to the hairdresser’s and Isolde now looks like a little Joan of Arc ;-).

It’s been years since we’ve last been on a big holiday, and obviously, we didn’t have three children then. So, the idea of driving 1200 km. with a full back seat, even if we do spread it out over two days, is quite daunting to me. Planning and organising our holiday is quite fun, but stressful at the same time. There’s so much that needs to be done. The children have to have a so-called kids-ID, we need a decent travel first aid, and so on. And I still breastfeed Isolde five times a day. Luckily, my elder sister, an authority on travelling with children, steps in as a bit of a saviour and lends me her travel to-do-and-to-pack lists - we’re a list making family - and before I know it, we’re all set to go.

Our first day of driving is the longest: 800 km. But I’m a prepared mother: armed with all sorts of games, snacks, and little surprises for the children, I’m sure we’ll make it to the hotel easily. And we do, actually, with regular stops at large rest areas, the travelling is going great… for about 550 km. Then, Isolde gets completely fed up with her car seat and she starts screaming her lungs out. It’s the most frustrating thing: we can take stops and settle her all we want, but it doesn’t alter the fact that eventually, she’ll have to get back in the seat until we reach the hotel. Alexander and Daphne bravely try not to let Isolde’s crying bother them too much, but I can just see how difficult it is for them. When we finally reach the lovely Bayern hotel, we’re all a bit worn out, and we gladly let the friendly staff pamper us. Isolde, all cried out, falls asleep at the breast that night. Poor thing. Hopefully, she’ll have forgotten about all the commotion by tomorrow morning…

Miraculously, she has, for most of the final 400 km of our trip. We manage to drive quite far while Isolde’s sleeping, and only have to put up with a bit of crying towards the end. In the afternoon we finally arrive at our destination. Beautiful location, nice little house, friendly neighbours. Let the relaxing begin!

We soon find out relaxing is what we’ll be compelled to do for the next two weeks. Apparently, Isolde has a better memory than we thought. Even driving to the local supermarket is near impossible, unless we want to put her through the ordeal of crying in the car all the way there and back. So, groceries are now run by Tom (and the kids) and, it’s the end of our planned daytrips. Every morning, Tom takes out the travel guide, saying: “Ok, let’s see where our virtual trip takes us to today”. I feel a bit sorry for him. I know how much he loves exploring all the towns and visiting their places of interest.

Ah well, the whole idea of a holiday was to relax, and that’s exactly what we do: we go swimming in the lake, have long aperitives while cooking, we take siestas, play in the garden, read books,... We’ve also chosen not to take any dvd’s with us, so it's a completely tv-free holiday for the children, and they don’t seem to miss it all that much. As for Isolde, we give her all the space and time she needs to adjust after her slightly traumatising drive here. She wakes up every other night for a feed and falls asleep right after it. I can hardly complain about that, can I? During the day too, there’s no discernable schedule in her feeds and nap times (except one morning nap), and with the weather being this hot, she asks for more feeds than usual, so I follow Isolde’s lead and it seems to work out just fine that way.

I do, however, feel like Isolde may not be getting enough any more from only my milk. She’ll be six months in a week’s time, so, time to start with solid foods. I figure, what better time to start than thoroughly at ease in the Italian sun? And what an unexpected success! The first day she eats 30g, the second 40 and by the third day she eats the whole jar of 80g.

I don’t know how it is in other countries, but over here, many mothers feel the need to apologize for feeding their baby jarred vegetables and fruit. The fact that I bring it up is proof in itself. Once we’re home, I will happily steam and mix fresh food, but in all honesty, I no longer feel the described guilt. And anyway, even with the best blender, I just can’t prepare baby food as thin and silky-soft as they prepare it in the factory.

As our trip home is appproaching, Tom and I briefly consider booking a flight home for me and Isolde, but soon decide this won’t be as easy in reality as it may seem to be on paper. Also, this time round, the drive is split up in two almost equal parts, so we won’t have to race against the kilometres to get to the hotel. All goes well during the first day, and on the second day we decide to spare Isolde and her brother and sister of all the stress they had to go through last time, so as soon as she starts crying, I move to the back seat and feed her. The breast seems to offer the only way to calm her down, and this way, at least we get to drive. It may not be the most responsible method of travelling, but it’s the right thing to do for all our mental healths.

I have to say, as much as we all enjoyed our Italian holiday, I admit I’m happy to be home again, and I’ve got a sneaky feeling the rest of the family feels the same way. Next time, we won’t go looking for sun and rest at such a distance. As it turns out, we’re all a bunch of homebirds… and proud of it ;-)

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