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Ethan’s Development Check Up

2011 October 24

I distinctly remember the day we were discharged from the St. Louis Children’s Hospital NICU (February 11, 2011). We were signing things, hugging nurses, packing up all the stuff that accumulated around Ethan’s crib in the past 6.5 weeks, and reveled at the fact there were no cords attached to our baby anymore. In the midst of the chaos, the doctors mentioned something about a follow up appointment in September. I just smiled an nodded, thinking “September??! That’s a million years away!” Here is a picture from that memorable day.

Coming Home From the NICU

But before I knew it, St. Louis Children’s was calling to confirm our follow-up appointment. When I told them we moved out of state, they encouraged me to call the Children’s National Medical Center in DC to schedule a ‘Development Checkup.’

Fast forward to last Thursday, when we made the twenty minute drive over to northern DC and were greeted by a very friendly and professional staff at Children’s National. Everyone from the parking attendants to the director of child development, Dr. Penny Glass, was downright delightful. With no idea what to expect from this appointment, we were taken to an assessment room where we discussed Ethan’s birth with Judy Brown, a wonderful Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.

Development Assessment at Children's National Medical Center

It was strange being back in this clinical environment, especially when Judy started talking about Ethan’s ‘adjusted age’, which is 7.5 months old (subtract the number of days he was early from his actual birth date). We talked about his adjusted age a lot in the NICU, but very little since he’s been home. Since even full term babies all develop differently, Stu and I decided from the beginning not to stress over ‘where he should be’, and just let him do things at his own pace. So here at the appointment, it was a sharp reminder that Ethan IS STILL a preemie and with that comes a whole list of things to watch for development-wise.

So Judy started by offering Ethan different items to interact with, such as a red cube placed inside a cup and, to my absolute glee, Ethan grabbed the cube right out. (I’m assuming that was the key to this particular exercise). For the first time I felt that weird stress that all parents must feel when their children are being tested, even when there are no ‘wrong’ actions/answers. I just wanted him to do his best! After playing with some things on the table, we moved to the floor where Ethan really started showing off.

Development Assessment at Children's National Medical Center 2

Judy was pleased with how straight Ethan could sit up on his own, and he took it a step farther by showing her some awesome tummy time. She placed a large mirror on the floor next to him and he LOVED it. He always gets a kick out of himself. He did some rolling and ‘bouncing’—his new favorite thing to do while sitting—and did some ‘talking’. Dr. Glass joined us after a bit and both women made comments about what a happy and sociable baby Ethan is.

Development Assessment at Children's National Medical Center 3

We talked about milestones, eating habits, toys, and all kind of interesting things. I actually felt like I was talking to our friend Angela Rau—I never cease to be impressed by these incredible people who work with babies. They are so patient, such good listeners, and really seem to love what they do.

Some of the things they suggested included:

  • start using the high chair, instead of the Bumbo seat, for meals
  • offer sips of smoothies or purees from a cup
  • don’t worry about giving him water—he’s getting enough from breast milk and food
  • avoid TV and electronic devices
  • use words for common actions and events, ie: “up” when we go to pick him up, “bath” when taking a bath
  • give him containers and/or cups to play with; put a toy in them for him to take out/put back
  • read the book Baby It’s You by Ann Karmiloff-Smith

Ethan’s weight at the appointment was right around 16 pounds (I’m estimating because they weighed him in his clothes and diaper), and 26.5 inches long. That’s about two pounds and one and half inches bigger then he was at the end of July.

Overall the development staff had zero concerns about Ethan’s development. It was my impression they were impressed with how mobile he is already (we just know he will crawl any day now) but of course they can’t say that.

In case you are wondering (many do) when the ‘adjustment’ consideration ends, the answer is when he’s two. All the adjustment does is give him a little extra time to do things like sit, roll, crawl, walk, talk…pretty much everything. It’s not an exact science, but helpful so we don’t worry too much when he’s not doing the same thing as other kids his age. It seems like the gap is already starting to close.

We will be going back for another visit in five months—I can’t even imagine what he’ll be doing then! Walking?! Talking? Our peanut is growing so fast…preemie or not, it all just flies by.


6 Responses
  1. Linda Johnson permalink
    October 25, 2011

    I’m so happy to hear Ethan had a wonderful visit at Children National Med. Center. I knew that peanut would show off his skills for the staff.

    Everyone is so proud of his progress and we cannot wait to see him in Novemeber.
    Way to go Ethan!!!

  2. Sandy Schon permalink
    October 25, 2011

    Way to go Ethan!! He’s doing just great and I’m sure he’ll be crawling and much more by Christmas and his first birthday Dec. 29.

  3. October 25, 2011

    I forget about adjusted age, too. No one can tell otis is a preemie anymore, I don’t have to automatically say “he was six wks early” when they ask his age! We have an appt on Monday, so excited to see how big he is :)

    Since you said Otis is about two weeks ahead of Ethan, you can expect a sudden interest in finger food. One day otis hated texture and wouldn’t touch the gerber puffs we put on his tray. then suddenly a couple days ago he refused to be spoon fed!! It was honestly over night…

  4. Amy Voboril Kohlhepp permalink
    October 26, 2011

    I cant believe how fast time has gone, seeing that picture of him when you brought him home is just amazing…he was so SO tiny! Ethan has made HUGE strides, way to go little guy! His first birthday truly will be an accomplishment :)

    He will be crawling before you know it…and then EVERYTHING changes, enjoy the non-mobile stage. Oh and the finger foods is fun too!
    We started with banana’s, cut up grapes, soy beans and now she’s way into the cheerios.

    Okay time…you can slow down now! **sigh**

  5. October 26, 2011

    Yay Ethan, Mom, and Dad! Sounds like everything is going great!

  6. Patti Voboril permalink
    October 26, 2011

    Great job Ethan and to you too Becky. Ethan’s great progress is a sign of how great a mom you are and a great dad Stu is. Ethan will do so well as he grows.

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