ETCETERA / Home thoughts

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The Independent Culture
SOME NEW mothers and fathers might be offended by Lewis Carroll's notion of turning a baby into a pig in Alice in Wonderland. But I think it shows great perspicacity on his part.

My own baby son - whose name is Thomas - has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis since his birth. For the first week, I thought I had a dream baby; he did nothing but sleep contentedly, apart from brief feeds every three hours or so. In fact, I worried he was sleeping too much.

Then, in his second week, something strange happened: Thomas started to grunt. He doesn't grunt very much when other people are around - everyone still says what a good baby. (Incidentally, why is it that 'good' babies are the ones that sleep all the time? This means that most

of those I know are horribly bad.) But as soon as friends and relatives leave the room, Thomas starts grunting. He's doing it now. Having slept peacefully through my mother-in-law's visit, the minute she left the house, Thomas turned red and then that noise began. Snuffle, snuffle, grunt, squeal. An hour of this can precede a small fart; a poo takes even longer.

It is his immature digestive system, I know, I read it in the baby book. But sometimes, at four in the morning, I wonder if he has in fact turned into a small pot-bellied pig. And Penelope Leach doesn't mention anything about that in her books.

Before you mark me down as suffering from post-natal delusions ('But doctor, I only said he grunted a lot'), I would like to point out that my husband has heard this noise too. So loud is it, that he has moved into the spare bedroom - lovingly decorated for our new baby before he was born - while Thomas sleeps with me. I use the word sleep loosely; even when he is asleep, he grunts so loudly that I have been forced to resort to ear-plugs. And when I am finally fast asleep, he wakes up - ready to feed.

Curiously, the other thing that my baby book doesn't mention is his particular pattern of night feeding. Penelope Leach - whom I admire enormously, most of the time - says, on page 92 of Baby and Child: 'Keep night feeds as sleepy and as brief as possible.'

Jolly good advice - I'm all for sleepy, brief night feeds. But Thomas likes lengthy night feeds, followed by even lengthier periods of grunting, signifying his desperate, painful attempts to burp and fart.

I've just told him that he has got to go into his own room tomorrow; I'll come and feed him when he's hungry, and walk him up and down when the grunting turns to tears. But for the odd half-hour in between, I need a bit of peace and quiet. 'What do you think of that, Thomas?' I said firmly. He gazed at me with his big baby-blue eyes, and I nearly relented. And then he grunted.