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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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Newborn care

Sizing things up

I think I’m slowly getting used to looking at boy things. And I’m trying to prepare myself for all that newborn crying. Arddun had heard a 3-month-old baby girl wailing today after she’d woken up from her nap, and that had turned into a teaching moment about how babies cry because that’s how they talk. Because they don’t have words yet. Crying doesn’t always mean something is very, very wrong.

A good reminder for myself, seeing how it’s been a long while since I’ve had to personally deal with the full-throttle fury of a hungry newborn who will not wait. It’s always distressing to hear a baby cry… but it’s also very natural for them to do so.

Baby crying - the song of his people

The other thing I’m trying to get used to again is the tinyness. Tiny baby clothes that can almost fit Arddun’s potty-training doll. Tiny shoes. Tiny hats. Tiny sunglasses. My gosh-aww moment yesterday was when I opened a pack of newborn nappies and realised how tiny they were next to Arddun’s most recent size.

Comparing newborn diaper to Junior girls's diaper
How tiny is that little man’s butt gonna be!

Can’t believe we’re going to do it all over again. The prospect both delights and terrifies.

What a girl wants, what a girl needs

Okay. So we’re almost at the half-year mark, which means we’ve waded through all the baby paraphernalia we’ve received as generous gifts, or gone and bought ourselves. So here’s my low-down on what we’ve found Very Very Useful.

1. Pram

Versatile, easy to use and comfortable as!

Duh, right? But to elaborate, we’ve found our Mamas & Papas Urbo gor-geous to use and look at. For one thing, it’s dead easy to assemble and collapse. For another, it’s got a basket you can actually use and easily access. It’s also really compact – tight turning circle, narrow frame, and perfect for zipping around shopping aisles and squeezy restaurants. And did I mention that it’s a rather handsome beast? Every time I see another Urbo, I think to myself, “Corr! That’s a good-lookin’ pram. Oh waitaminute… I HAVE THAT PRAM! Hoo-ah!” Seriously.

NOT one for bush-bashing, though. And definitely not a jogger. But it handles long walks around the lake and even longer walks around the shopping mall just fine. Which fits me to a tee.

2. Cot

Sleeping babies make good procreation ads.

Also another obvious one for the modern mommy, but I’ll explain – we didn’t get a crib/bassinet/cradle. Since Day 1 at home, Arddun’s been sleeping in her own cot. Seems cruel perhaps, and the SIDS people will probably have something to say about that, but we’ve been careful with blankets and swaddles, and monitor her sounds like a hawk. (Lindam Baby Monitor is therefore part of what we find Very Very Useful.)

As a result, Arddun’s always understood that the cot is her Zzz-Zzz land, and we haven’t had to read her the nursery immigration policy come Bassinet Emigration stage. Many trudges to and from our bedroom in the early days, though. But at least one of us (Tony!) got to enjoy a good night’s sleep.

3. Breastfeeding cover

Possibly the most used travel accessory for us – yes, both Tony and I. I’ve really enjoyed the ability to hide in plain sight when feeding Arddun, since I’m still not comfortable enough with my body to whip ’em ladies out in front of perfect strangers. (“You don’t know me, but hey! Here’s my bits.”) For Tony, it’s proven useful to wear so that Arddun will focus on the other important task at hand – falling asleep in a crowded room with many distractions. LOOOOVE my breastfeeding cover. Thank you, thank you ElilyMommy!

4. Change table

In Singapore, we used to place a rubber mat on the cot mattress and change the baby on it. While it’s space-saving and practical, it can fast turn into back-breaking work – especially when both parents are blessed with height and a rather *regular* baby. I thought it unnecessary at first and tolerated it, only because it came free with our second-hand cot. Now I’m so thankful we’ve got it.

5. Pouch

Up close and personal

Specifically, the Ergo. Got the Performance version, and really like it. True, it’s no Bjorn so Arddun can’t face front and take everything in… but in many ways, I’m thankful for that because I usually use the Ergo to get Arddun to fall asleep when we’re out and about. The last thing I want then is for her to have too much to look at. Also, the Ergo has a built-in hood so it’s a quick and easy sun or rain block, and it keeps Arddun’s head from lolling about when she finally does fall asleep. Which she almost invariably does in the Ergo.

PLUS, the weight of the baby falls on the hips and not the back so provided I haven’t put the straps on wrong, I can have her sleeping in the pouch while I do the grocery shop without breaking a sweat. The real test will be when she starts putting on the pounds as she gets older, but I have no complaints for now.

6. Capsule

Cannot put a price on sleep

Borrowed a Safe n Sound baby safety capsule from ElilyMommy, who bought hers second hand. Oh my word! I know the initial outlay for a brand new baby capsule seems extravagant, considering you can only use it till bub grows to 70cm or weighs 9kg or turns 6 months old, whichever comes first. But it turned out to be ridiculously convenient for us. Fewer trips to and from the house, as we threw nappy wallet, handbag and toys into the capsule along with baby… make-shift cradle for when Arddun fell asleep outdoors… Also, Arddun – like many babies, would fall asleep in the car, so taking her back into the house without waking her was a huge bonus. Now that she’s out of the capsule and in a Safe n Sound Meridian (veeery cushy), I spend a lot of time sitting in parking lots and garages, waiting for her nap to end. I miss the capsule hugely – you cannot imagine how much of a time saver it is.

If I could do things over, I would get a Maxi Cosi to click straight into our Urbo. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve hoisted her around in that capsule when it would have been so much easier to slide her out of the car and click her straight into the pram. You know what they say – don’t ever wake a sleeping baby. Amen to that.

7. Baby play gym mat

Bye-bye coffee table

If you’re trying your darndest not to let Thomas the Tank Engine or The Wiggles be your child’s babysitter, then please run out and get yourself some play gyms. I got myself 3 to rotate Arddun, just to stretch things out a little.

They cost heaps, however. Upward of $80 easy, so a few of them will put you out of pocket by a few hundred quid. We got all of ours through second-hand places, ranging from $5 to $20. But I tell you what – absolute life saver for when you need to cook and clean but baby ain’t mobile yet, which means she gets bored super-easily. Also, GREAT for Mother’s Group and entertaining Arddun’s little friends.

8. Smartphone

Preferably one with apps. I’ve read countless library books, read the bible, played too many Boggle and Monopoly rounds, chinwagged on Facebook, blogged, learnt baby sign language, and done the Christmas shopping – all while breastfeeding and/or waiting for Arddun to wake up in the car. Time moves slowly rather quickly in Mommyland. It’s a paradox, but it’s true. If you get to do three things outside your routine, it’s been a good day because man, the day slips by you lightning fast. Most times, you’re just biding your time in the name of providing excellent care for your offspring. It helps to keep in touch with the outside world through one free hand, at least.

It was especially crucial and comforting in the early days. You want answers fast, when your newborn baby is screaming her tiny lungs out all hours of the morning and you don’t know why or what’s triggered it. The number of hours Tony and I have spent sitting in our respective armchairs in Arddun’s nursery and frantically Googling baby websites on our iTouch and iPhone respectively… Don’t know how parents did it BC (before computers).

9. Nappy wallet

*Demo baby not included.

Or as I call it, Nappy Bag Lite. As much as I love life’s safety nets, I live dangerously close to the edge now and then by packing only the bare necessities in a nappy wallet – 2 diapers, small tube of nappy cream, 1 onesie, 1 face cloth, 1 small pack of baby wipes, 5 nappy plastic bags, and my breastfeeding cover. And I just throw this nappy wallet under the pram and saunter off to the shops or around the lake. More often than not, that’s all I really need.

If I really want to push this whole Minimalist Mama thing, I leave the handbag at home and chuck credit cards, mobile phone and cash in a stroller caddy. Wild, huh.


10. Muslin wrap

Meditating... *zzz

This is like the Mother’s Spit of all baby linens – it helps everything!

Need to settle your child to sleep? Swaddle your baby! Need to block off the world for a sleepy baby? Throw this over the pram! Settling the girl/boy confusion? Make sure it’s a hot-pink one!

It also makes a great emergency spit cloth, rain cover, sun shade and blanket. But get the big ones (120cm by 120cm) – you’ll get a lot more mileage out of them. I keep one in my pram basket always.

The muslin wrap is also first cousin to the Very Very Useful terrycloth squares.

11. Bag hook

I love my Brica

Another gem. If you’re like me and will notoriously walk into a shopping mall, only to do the Baa Baa Black Sheep (three bags full)… then this is most helpful. Provided you don’t overload your pram and have it tip over backwards from the baggage of your retail therapy. Also great for when you’re grocery shopping and run out of trolley space once your groceries are in green bags. I also use mine to hang my handbag off the table when I’m out to lunch.

Brica makes better ones than the one that looks like a camping snap hook.

12. Cushion insert

Extra cushion for life's bumps

If your pram or baby seat/capsule is still a little too roomy for your baby, we recommend getting one of these. We used one when Arddun was brand new, so she didn’t look so tiny and lost inside her capsule. We’re still using one for her Urbo. Not only does it keep her snug and comfortable in her capsule or pram, it helps keep her secure with the safety harnesses on, AND helps keep the mess away from the actual seat because it’s washable. We liked it so much, we went and got two Snuzzlers.

And there you have it – twelve baby essentials. List by no means exhaustive – didn’t even get into the baby bottle bonanza. But at least it’s a start. :)

Hypochondriacs R Us

I need to take a chill pill. Ironically, that might involve a doctor.

Okay, back up. Here’s the situation. In just 2 weeks, my girl’s got the sniffles. And then 10 days ago, her face exploded into a gazillion pimples so innumerous, they’ve sorta merged into one giant crusty, flaking mask of yuck across my offspring’s gorgeous face.

Baby modelling career over before it ever began.

On a more serious note, it’s really distressing to watch. Mostly because it just looks so painful. To add to the litany of skin-related woes, her nappy rash came back with a vengeance and now we’re talking major ouchy looking sores.

And I feel terribly guilty. Like I didn’t wash her face properly. Or keep her dry enough. Or hydrated enough. Or cool enough. Or warm enough. Or something.

Not enough! Nothing I do feels like enough. I feel like a man, and want to run out and DO something. Get a cream! See a doctor! Alleviate the pain and suffering. Except the books and websites all claim that nappy rash and colds and baby acne happen, and I should just sit tight and let it run its course. That medication at this age would be overkill. That it’s normal. That This Too Shall Pass.

Not on my watch! another part of the brain yells. And as with any extensive sleuthing on the internet, the worries grow. It’s probably nappy rash… but it could be THRUSH! Quick! Run to the chemist! Call the GP! Get Canesten! No wait, too strong for baby! No, it’s alright! Leave it alone! No, do something now before it gets worse! No, if you fiddle, it WILL get worse!

She has a snuffly nose. Or it could be… the FLU! Viral! It’s winter! What if it gets to her lungs! Quick! Get her booked into the after-hours clinic at the hospital! Turn up the heater! No wait, too hot. No wait, turn down the heater but turn on the humidifier. No wait, get the Vicks vaposteam thingamajig to menthol-ise the air! No wait – not advisable for babies! Might burn her lungs out. Or something. No wait – says it’s okay on the box…

She’s got a bad case of baby acne, but it could be… DERMATITIS! Or SEVERE ECZEMA! She could be allergic to EVERYTHING! Quick, change her formula supplement to soy! And change your diet so your breastmilk doesn’t taste of chilli. Or something. And run out and get this cream that everyone swears by – Aveeno. Or Weleda. Buy them both. But patch test first! But where! Which part of baby would you like to patch test on, so that if it goes balls up you can just say, “Phew. Thank goodness that was only on [insert body part here]”. Tell me that.

They never told me this was part of motherhood. I wish I can turn this part of my brain off.

Crying over spilt milk

A quick word on breastfeeding: bloodyhardwork.

This has to be a quick post, because it’s 6am and I’ve been up for 3 hours. But I’m hungry, I’m slightly stressed, and my daughter might have a cold – or so we think. And while the stress is mostly about her suspected cold, the straw that really broke the camel’s back has all to do with breast milk.

For some new mothers, their milk comes gushing forth like a savanna after a drought. Their newborns face the ridiculous difficulty of getting rained on as breast milk comes spurting out of mommy. I’ve been told it’s like trying to drink from a garden sprinkler.

I am not one of those mothers. I wish I need only sneeze to fill a milk bottle. I hear of mothers who express milk by the litres (seemingly), and have freezers full of bottles ready to go. I vacillate between wanting to shake their hand, and hitting them with it. It has taken me a full month to get to a stage where I can express 100ml – and only after I’ve missed a feed. Arddun gets a cocktail at every meal, thanks to my skanky supply: half hour from the source, about 20-40ml expressed milk, and 60ml of Evil Formula. It takes me 1.5 to 2 hours to feed her every time. I am exhausted. (And yet blogging! Which tells you where my priorities are this morning. Vent first, sleep later.)

So when I spill any expressed milk – even a smidgen, like 10ml – a part of me dies because it feels like such a colossal waste. People get outraged by news of tonnes of food from Australian household fridges going to the tip every year because of over-purchasing and bad planning. Not me. But I literally kneel on the floor moaning in pain when a milk bottle accidentally falls off a fridge shelf and splashes some.

Liquid gold. That’s what breast milk is.

Earlier this week, I was absolutely stoked when I managed to express 60ml after a feed. Only to waste it all when I didn’t screw on the teat bit properly so it dribbled down Arddun’s front. And then she threw up the rest. I was so mad with myself the whole day. I even scolded the poor chit. For spitting up! She’s 4 weeks old! That is how crazy things have gotten. Utterly ridiculous.

ElilyMommy mentioned how an acquaintance’s mother-in-law was so disgusted by the concept of breastfeeding (strange woman), that she drained all the bottles of breast milk from the fridge/freezer when her daughter-in-law was at work. I was appalled BEFORE I even had Arddun. Now that I understand how bloody hard it all is, I want to take that crazy woman to the back somewhere and explain life to her. Preferably with some assortment of torture devices like endless re-runs of Teletubbies, and an electric breast pump.

I want you to do three things when you next see a mother of a newborn. I want you to ask how the whole feeding thing is going – and listen without judging. No matter what she says she’s doing, I want you to tell her that she’s doing a fantabulous job. And if she is having low milk supply issues, I want you to hug her and stroke her hair while muttering, “there, there”.

For goodness’ sake, feed her!

Just got back from Arddun’s first Mother’s Group/Play Date! Okay, “Play Date” might be stretching it because it’s not like she sat on a play mat and networked with the other babes. No, she spent majority of the time sleeping, grizzling, feeding, getting her diaper changed, grizzling, checking out the stylistic decor, returning some milk from half hour ago on Mommy’s right sleeve. She evens that up 15 minutes later on the left sleeve. Very considerate.

Swimmingly well, all things considered. She is, after all, 19 days old.

No, the doofus of the afternoon was the Mommy, who did two silly things.

  • Left the milk bottle behind, which meant someone else now has to wash and dry it (and get over the fact that it still has drops of breast milk. Ew!)
  • Forget to eat.

The second is by far the stupider sin, because said Mommy had every opportunity to down a few slices of scrumptious cake and Rocky Road before Arddun decided to open her eyes and her stomach. But no. The Mommy got distracted, didn’t she. With all the feeding and the burping and the poo-control and the staring into Arddun’s Eyes of Infinite Depths.

And then she reaches home, and it’s 2pm, and the Mommy suddenly realises she’s famished. To the point of distraction.

So she raids the fridge and finds some leftover pork bone soup, and empties half the saucepan into a bowl, and races over to the microwave oven, and presses a whole bunch of buttons, and walks away to take piccies of Arddun because hey, she’s cute…

And then the soup explodes.

So the Mommy is caught in a quandary. Should she try and rescue the soup and start all over? Which means cleaning out the microwave oven? Or should she just cut her losses and drink the lukewarm soup?

The Mommy does both. It is the most pathetic sight, involving lots of paper towels and desperate slurping  in between. There is even a moment where she contemplates scraping post-explosion pork ribs into soup bowl but manages to hold back. Only at the very last moment.

Welcome to motherhood. It ain’t pretty. It’s a huge time suck. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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