Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Baby Food For Thought

Everywhere I turn at the moment, people are talking or writing about Cheryl Cole.  If you can’t beat them . . .
I’m not going to go on about the X Factor Axe, either side of the pond – a difficult week for her, but I’m sure we’ll hear from her again.
The story that fascinates me is her diet.  Allegedly, she, and various other famous females, are eating jars of baby food!  I just don’t get it!  We babies are always making eyes at people around the table, willing them to give us a bit of whatever they’re eating.  Even a small bit.  A taste, then.  A lick?  We want to enjoy our food and it’s all about taste, texture and trying new things.
How funny that our mummies are worried about our weight, but generally because they want us to put on more, whereas these super-skinny waif-like creatures are doing everything they can to lose as much weight as possible.  Funny then that we eat the same thing.
It might be a fad for Cheryl.  I didn’t eat orange slop for more than a couple of months before I started wanting something I could get my first two teeth into.  You don’t have to chew much baby food, so I suppose it’s quite easy to eat if you’re in a hurry, and there are a lot of different flavours to choose these days.  They’re not very calorific, which I guess is the appeal for skinny grown-ups.
Just beware, scrawny ladies – don’t spill even the smallest bit of baby food on your incredibly expensive designer wardrobe because there is no stain-remover known to man that can shift the orange marks.   Perhaps I’ll start a campaign to get them all swigging formula instead – nutritionally balanced, at least for little babies, and just rubs in to most clothes.  Believe me, I’ve watched Mummy do it!
Bon app├ętit!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Sure Start Chops Start

Hampshire County Council has just confirmed huge cuts to their Sure Start Centres budget.  No closures at this time, but massive cuts to spending.  Other councils are bound to follow suit.
I understand that a lot of people think they are a good place to start saving council money, but they do provide an invaluable service to those that need them.  Mummy and I are firmly in the “Support Sure Start” camp.
That comes despite plenty of heated debate, and calls for middle class families to be banned from them.  We would fall under the middle class bracket, and to be honest, we’re proud of that.  Mummy and Daddy both have good jobs and they work hard to make sure Big Sister and I have happy, fulfilling days.  I don’t think class has anything to do with income, post code, bank balance – it’s all about attitudes.
And for me, that’s where these issues arise.  Middle class women are often used to getting out and doing things for themselves.  They’ve had to be independent, and they don’t expect to be handed things on a plate.  It matters not a jot whether you buy your groceries in Waitrose or Asda, but it’s whether you have chicken breasts or Turkey Twizzlers in your basket that gives you away!
When they were set up, the Sure Start centres were intended to focus on the poorest parents, though the middle classes would be allowed to access the services provided.  And that’s exactly where the problems began.  On seeing the positive pregnancy test, the middle class woman probably booked herself onto antenatal classes, researched pregnancy and childbirth, and started planning the future for her new family, while others thought about giving up fags and booze for a while, then forgot about it.
If the object is to target “solely the disadvantaged,” then the centres are probably not the best solution – again, I’ll remind you that I think this has nothing to do with material wealth, but the truly disadvantaged child will be the one whose mother can’t be arsed to get up off the sofa and get the two of them to the centre.  If they do, the target mummies have probably left it so late that the classes are booked up, and they then whine about the middle class mummies who knew about the sessions when they were first advertised and reserved their places then.
When Mummy and I started going, it was to get us out of the house.  We went to a weighing session (me, not her!) and it gave Mummy a time to aim for to be out of the house.  An appointment to keep.  I don’t think many people would consider my mummy vulnerable, but without her goals, like having something in the diary at least 4 days a week (the weigh-in was one),she might easily have become withdrawn and possibly even depressed.  But no-one would have known, because she wouldn’t have been visiting the centre.
I think that is my primary point.  Are we suggesting that no middle class mummies get post-natal depression or need help with parenting skills?  Or that middle class babies never have learning or development difficulties? That’s a relief, Mummy will be pleased!

We didn’t use the centre all that long but it did give us a chance to meet other people. For a while, we were going just because no-one else was and we wanted to make sure the centre didn’t close through lack of interest.  If you start making them available only to those who are “really poor,” or “really at risk,” then no-one will go – who is willing to put their hand up and say, “Yes, that’s me!” or allow that label to be put on their child so soon?  I hope "They" are thinking about that.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

10 Things Being A New Mummy Will Teach You

I was out to lunch today with Mummy, Daddy and some friends, and one of the ladies there is going to have her first baby in the Autumn.  Naturally, she wanted advice about what to expect, and it got the mummies thinking about what they wish they’d known beforehand and what they’ve learnt since the babies were born.  Here’s the top 10:

1. The day your baby is born is only the best day of your life until they sleep through for the first time.

2. Mummies can function on four hours sleep. Pre-baby, being up half the night would have meant a ‘sick day,’ ill or not.  Now there is no option so you have to just get on with it.

3. Six hours sleep a night is normal and eight makes you feel like a new woman.

4. Getting to drink a cup of tea that is still hot when you get to the bottom is a Facebook-worthy achievement.

5. Lunch is no longer sometime between 1 and  2 o’clock. It's midday, on the dot!

6. Work is somewhere mummies go for a rest.

7. A bump on the head hurts much more if someone’s watching.

8. Mummy is prepared to wage war against anyone who wakes me up.  She’s talking about having Hairy Dog stuffed, or his head mounted at the very least, because it’s usually him.

9. Changing a nappy once your child can roll over requires a level of skill and manual dexterity completely unknown to those without children!

10. Look out for the handful of dog food - it always means I have a mouthful too!

What would you add to the list?


Saturday, 28 May 2011

An Appropriate Pyjama-Code?

I read this week about a headmaster who’s told the mummies that they have to get dressed before they drop off their children in morning.  Of course they have to get dressed!  I was stunned that he was even put in the position where he had to think about it!  And then, when he also commented that they were collecting the children, still in their pyjamas, I had to check the date to make sure I wasn’t an April fool.

Leaving the house in your pyjamas is wrong on so many counts.  Firstly, they’re the clothes you slept in.  Being seen in public in your nightwear shouts very loudly,  “I’ve not had a wash yet today.”  Yuck.  I know Mummy tries to keep me clean and once I’ve had breakfast, there’s no way she’d be able to take me out in my sleepsuit.  I know grown-ups are more adept at eating than I am, but don’t you guys sweat at night?
The only time nightwear is ever acceptable in front of anyone other than close friends or family is when the invitation clearly states it as a dress code because you’re going to a pyjama party.  Surely  otherwise that’s why we call it a ‘dress’ code – you have to get dressed.
I’ve seen my mummy trying to get everything ready in the morning, and believe me, some days it’s not a pretty sight, but she always finds time to get dressed.  How long does it take to put on jeans and a jumper?  I get that it might not be worth doing a full face of make-up and Cheryl Cole-style big hair just to do the school run or to nip to the shops, but have the decency to put some clothes on.
We always get dressed in our house.  Sometimes if we’re having a ‘lazy day,’ we might not get dressed till later on, but that’s only if we haven’t left the house, and we certainly wouldn’t entertain guests in our jim-jams.  When I was very new, Mummy set herself a targetof being dressed by midday during the week, even if we weren’t doing anything.  This made sure she had a focus and something to aim for, otherwise it could easily become a downward spiral of not looking good, not feeling good, and so on, which is a dangerous game when your hormones are raging.
And when they’re not, there’s absolutely no excuse! Show some self-respect!  If you don’t, why on earth should anyone else take you seriously?

The 'Genderless' Baby

A couple in Canada have stirred a big stick into the ever-controversial hornet’s nest that is the “nature versus nurture” debate. It was reported that they are raising their baby without a gender.  So, unisex clothes, and toys (maybe no big deal for the first few months) and not even close friends know whether the baby is a boy or a girl.
I understand that they want to give their child the freedom from societal stereotypes, but it does seem to me that potentially they are storing up far more problems for him or her than if they just dressed him in pink or blue from now.
Whatever path ‘it’ follows, he or she will face gender stereotypes.  Like it or not, that’s how the world is, and always has been. Men are expected to behave one way and women, often, in a completely different way.  Sometimes there’s a biological reason for that, and even this Canadian family can’t change that.  How awful to be referring to a child as ‘it’ – immediately removing an identity, in my view.
The parents will allow the baby the choices when he/she is older about when to cut its hair, or how to dress.  All well and good, but what about when he/she has to start interacting with the rest of the world, say, by starting school.  Children can be very cruel at times.  Bullies target people for being different – don’t give them an obvious opportunity.  It can be very difficult for the gifted child, or the one who wear glasses, or even the one who wears the wrong brand of trainers, so it would be near impossible for a child who is uncertain of their own identity or somewhat out of the ordinary.
I have a boy cousin and a girl cousin, both raised by the same parents in the same house.  They play together with the same toys.  At this age, they don’t understand the gender stereotypes so if the boy cousin wants to wear pink, he does, but he does so while he’s wrestling with the dogs, while his sister, who wouldn’t dream of getting so dirty, plays quietly in the corner with her doll and her brother’s digger.
Children do start expressing opinions early on and understanding what they like.  Mummy often lets me pick clothes in the shop – she’ll hold up a couple of things in my size and I choose the one I like.  That seems to me the best way of letting me find my own identity.  Some days, I look like I conform to gender stereotypes, other days I don’t, but I’m confident in myself.
My mummy’s friend has a daughter that she is scared will become too traditionally ‘girly’ so she very rarely wears pink.  The little girl wanted some pink shoes but her mummy said no because they had too much diamante decoration on them.  What message does that give her – that she’s not worth pretty things?  That her opinion doesn’t count?
Going back to the Canadian family, they’re saying they’re doing it so the child has permission to make choices for him or herself, but in a way, they’re taking away its right to choice by forcing their thoughts on to the baby.
 To me it feels that ultimately, it is the child who will suffer for an ideological experiment.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Wake up and smell the coffee!

New mummies, you’ll just need to get used to the fact that you won’t get to enjoy much in the way of hot drinks for a while, so remember the smell.  As sure as night follows day, we babies will do whatever we can to make sure it’s cooled right down before it gets to a point where you might be able to lift the mug anywhere near your lips.

For starters, caffeine’s bad for you!  Didn’t the doctors tell you to cut down on it before we came along?  Don’t revert back to bad habits now! Especially if you heap loads of sugar into it.  We’re doing you a favour.

The same goes for tea, not just coffee.  I know the cuppa is a national institution, but there’s no need to have it hot, surely?  Besides, it’s good sport trying to watch you keep us occupied long enough to snatch a few sips.

Listen up, new babies – this is a great trick. Spend a few weeks listening to the routine of tea-making; your mummy will run the tap for water, open the cupboard for a mug, put it on the counter, probably open the fridge for milk.  In the meantime, the kettle’s boiling.  You'll begin to recognise the sounds.

You’ll hear the click of the switch as it turns itself off, then water pouring into the mug.  My advice to you – wait another couple of minutes, to allow enough time to brew and for the journey between the kitchen and your mummy’s favourite chair.  Then SCREAM!  For me, best results are achieved when she thinks I’m sleeping.  By the time I’ve cooled down, so has her drink, so it’s safe enough for her to have without risk of burning her mouth. 

It’s important to consider every possible risk to their health and make sure all sensible precautions are taken.  Think about it; she’s probably carrying you, she’s tired anyway from getting up several times in the night so her concentration is poor, and the chances of her spilling in on herself, or you, are greatly increased.  You know it makes sense.


Monday, 23 May 2011

Don't bottle it!

Mummy’s trying to be a bit sneaky at the moment.  She’s been waving a cup at me and leaving it around strategically so it suddenly appears when we’re doing stuff.  I know what she’s up to.  My birthday’s not all that far away now, and either someone’s told her, or she’s read in one of her baby books (I wish she’d just start the fire with them!) that toddlers should not drink from bottles any more.  Now, does that mean that if I’m not walking, it doesn’t count and I can still have my lovely, familiar, comforting bottle?  Hey, crawling suits me just fine!  And I’ve figured out a way of carrying things and still getting around.
But seriously, a ‘toddler’ can be anyone from about 10 months, and that seems far too young to me to be having to relinquish the bottle.  I decided when I’d had enough of The Boob, and I’d like the freedom of choice to decide when I’m ready to go it alone without the bottle.  Next she’ll be telling me she wants my dummy back!
I’ve heard all the excuses; a shark ate them all, a new baby needs them. . . whatever!  Do you grown-ups think we’re stupid?  I really don’t think the odd bottle now and then is going to be apocalyptic.  I’ll learn to talk, I’ll look after my teeth, I promise.  Everything else is happening at such speed developmentally, just let me hang on to that little bit of reassurance a bit longer.  Please.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Sleep is for the Weak

I’ve been telling Mummy and Daddy this for a long time now. I will not be dictated to by your grown-up conventions!  Why should I sleep just because it’s dark outside?  And what happens in the summer when it’s still light at 10 o’clock at night?  There, you didn’t think that through, did you?!

Mummy has a lot of books about babies and what to expect, what to look for, what I should be doing by various milestones.  Thankfully, since she met me, she takes them as a guide only and not Gospel.  Without fail, they have big chapters on sleep; how long I should be sleeping, when, where.  Come on!  Only a bit later comes the chapter that says I’m an individual.
Mummy and I used to go to our local Children’s Centre quite a  bit when I was little, and I heard so many of the ladies there giving Mummy ‘good advice’ like “Sleep when your baby sleeps.”  Ha ha!  It was quite funny watching them looking at her disapprovingly when she told them that I don’t sleep during the day (sleep is for the weak, I told you).  I smiled sweetly from her knee, looking up at the huge bags under her eyes, big enough to carry all my nappy changing gear.
I did feel for her a bit, but not too much.  She’s a strong lady.  The healthcare professionals used to tell her not to worry about doing the housework and focus on catching up on sleep.  True enough – why do chores when you can play with me?  And so I don’t nap.  I want to make sure she doesn’t miss anything, it only seems fair.  It stresses her out sometimes – she says we live in chaos (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome) but she’ll get over it. 
The books say I should be reducing my nap times now anyway, so maybe I’ll conform eventually.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Tips on dealing with nappy rash

Nappy rash is a bit of a bummer.  A pain in the butt.   It often comes on without any warning, and contrary to some people’s beliefs, it isn’t necessarily down to poor hygiene; if you’re following a good routine changing nappies, don’t beat yourself up when you see it.  Just be thankful it’s on my bum and not yours!   It does vary in severity, from a little patch of red skin to really sore, burning, spotty skin.  And that might make us a bit grumpy for a while.
The most common cause of nappy rash is urine coming to contact with the skin, and given that we babies tend to wear nappies a lot of the day, it does happen to most of us at some point.  Thankfully, there are things you can do to help:
-          Change nappies regularly – it’s wet or dirty nappies that are the main culprit when left against the skin, even the ‘best’ disposable nappies that claim to last for hours
-          Keep up a good skin care routine – we have delicate little botties, so it’s important to be thorough.  Some wipes can be a bit harsh, so warm water and a pat dry is often the best way of cleaning up.
-          Use a barrier cream, like Sudocrem or Bepanthen (and there are lots of other brands out there) because as the name suggests, they keep the nasties from touching the skin.  Just remember, it will rub off so you will need to reapply regularly.
-          Give us as much nappy-free time as you dare!  Getting air about it definitely helps, just remember that we don’t really have much control about when we ‘go’ at the moment.
-          Use water (without soap) to wash the area – sometimes even the most sensitive wipes can sting a bit
Of course, if you’re doing everything I’ve suggested and it’s still not getting better, make us an appointment with the doctor.
There are things that might trigger a bout, so keep an eye out.
-          Teething.  I’ve heard everything blamed on teething so far!  But there might be some truth in this.  It might be that we’re swallowing more saliva, making things a bit looser down there, and so more squishy and likely to stick.  Or, it might be that babies that drool a lot with teething, so urine is stronger and more potent when it touches the skin.  Who knows?
-          Diarrhoea. As above – squishy nappies = more skin covered.  Yuck!
-          Antibiotics.  The very thing that might make one illness better could trigger nappy rash.  They can sometimes upset the delicate balance in our tummies, so watch out.
Some babies will hardly be affected at all, others get it so badly it bleeds.  It’s one of those occupational hazards of being a baby.  No-one said it would be easy.  At least I’m more likely to get away with scratching than you!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Helping your baby to sleep

Today, I’m talking about the subject of sleep – you grown-ups do go on about it an awful lot!  It’s almost always the follow-up topic that strangers broach with new parents in the street; shortly after, “Aww, how old is he?” they’ll ask, “Does he sleep well?”  You’re all obsessed!
It seems that all the baby books have a section pretty near the front on how to get your little one to sleep, but in case you’ve missed them, here are my tips, and I give these to you as a nap-resistent baby.  I do sometimes feel for my mummy when I hear people telling her, “sleep when your baby sleeps” – she would, if I did!  Chores can wait – I don’t want to miss anything.
When I was much smaller, Mummy and Daddy used to get me to sleep by putting me in a sling and walking round and round the garden.  The motion was quite effective, and it did give them a well-deserved break, not to mention the exercise.  Other babies succumb with just gentle rocking in someone’s arms, while other are more hard core and insist on being taken for a ride in the car before they can fall asleep.  Even I will admit that this shouldn’t be a long-term solution for parents because it’s just not practical for one of you to be cruising round the neighbourhood every night.
My parents never resorted to the car at night, but I know Mummy has taken scenic routes to places in the day to let me sleep longer.  Rocking your baby, or any other motion, is a great soother to us, but probably best not to rely on it or use it every time you want us to head to Snoozeville.  It is important to do what’s right and appropriate for your family though, so bear that in mind.
A classic mistake parents make is overstimulating their babies when they want them to go to sleep. You might even be guilty of it yourself!  Many babies have a lovely nursery, with lots of wonderful toys and things to look at, and who can resist some of the gorgeous cot mobiles on the market these days?  And there’s the problem – they’re so distracting!  They move, they make noise, they’re brightly coloured . . .  Not really conducive to teaching a small person about sleep and nighttime.
Make the room as dark as possible, so we can tell the difference between night and day.  That way, we’ll start to learn about naps and long sleeps, too.  Don’t worry about being scared of the dark – we haven’t developed that concept yet.  You might find a bit of “white noise” helps us nod off; something like a desk fan, for example.  There are special white noise CDs available now, or try a fish tank, like one of my friends!  The dull sound can be reassuring, but it also helps drown out any other noise around the house.
I’m off for forty winks.  Sweet dreams!