Search

Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Tag

Research

Got 15 minutes? International parenting survey

Giving a shout-out to the following survey conducted by the University of Queensland.

Tell Us What You Think About Parenting

Complete a 15 minute survey and you could be in with a chance to win one of twenty $20 Coles-Myer gift cards!

The Parenting and Family Support Centre at the University of Queensland is interested in parents’ thoughts about parenting and parenting programs.

If you have a child between 2 and 12 years,
we would love to hear about your parenting experiences and views
on the services that are available to you as a parent.

To find out more or to participate please visit https://exp.psy.uq.edu.au/ips/aus.

Baby-led weaning: a 2.5 month review

This is going to be a slightly technical piece, because it assumes that you, kind reader, are already familiar with the concept of Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) and are interested in a testimonial from someone who is kinda sorta practising it.

For everyone else, it’s probably snoresville unless you’re seriously interested in how Arddun takes her food, in which case… read on!

Background

Tony and I had decided for a long time that we’d try some semblance of BLW. We’d seen our friends do it, we’d heard testimonials from Tony’s colleague whose child self-feeds, and I’d read the book and thought it made good sense.

But I was also eager to get Arddun eating Chinese food. And because her pincer grip isn’t developed yet, rice was going to be an issue. Gloppy things that fall apart easily, such as steamed fish, was going to be an issue. So there was a compromise – self-feeding with spoon-feeding. Which meant a mixture of solid foods and mushy purees or congee.

Now, the purists from either camps are probably up in arms and imagining the worst because of our blended approach but in truth, it’s working really well for us. Arddun’s eating very well, her energy levels are higher than ever, she’s had a growth spurt, and she’s used to getting fed by spoon AND feeding herself effectively.

So yes, this review compares both schools of thought – traditional spoon-fed purees and BLW. It also leaves out the milk feeds, which I do before every solid meal anyway.

What did you start with?

A few slices of pear and banana. Mostly pear, really. The idea with BLW is that you give them a variety of foods to choose from. They’re supposed to take the food from your plate, apparently, but I wasn’t eating pear and I wasn’t feeding her during my meal time.

She picked up a slice of pear and it went straight in her mouth almost immediately. She bit it. And then chewed for a full five minutes, while pulling a face. And I think the effort of having to chew for that long before she had room in her mouth to try anything else was what put her off, because she wasn’t interested after that in self-feeding – until she had a taste of apple and pear puree. And then suddenly, she realised that fruits taste yummy.

Then she could not get enough.

So really, the purees sparked her interest in self-feeding. Gave her the impetus to try harder.


What does she eat on her own?

Fruit and bread, mostly. The occasional chunk of chicken. She usually eats a couple slices of fruit while I prepare her cereal, then has her cereal, then sometimes finishes off with more fruit while I have my breakfast – so we get to eat together, and read together. Breakfast is our book-reading time, because her hands have something important to do, and she’s alert and engaged and happy. I’ve given her a whole chicken piece to eat before, as well as avocado – which was a mess, and not either of our favourite. Lately, she’s started to feed herself sandwiches (sanctioned by me or otherwise!) as well as french toast, so that allows me to add more things for her to feed herself.

Does she pick from your plate? Eat what you eat?

Usually, no. And it’s purely my choice for two reasons: my lunches and dinners do not easily allow the picking and choosing of suitable ingredients for Arddun to graze upon, and I don’t trust the sugar and salt levels of cooked foods – including mine. Plus, we’re almost certain now that she has an intolerance to certain foods with salicylates (such as tomatoes and carrots), which makes it hard if we’re eating out.

Sometimes, I have a picnic lunch and she can have every ingredient that will constitute a sandwich. But most times, Chinese cooking requires cutlery.

Is it easier to do BLW or purees?

They’re both slightly fiddly in their own ways. Both require some creativity and preparation in advance – especially if you want to expose your child to as many different foods as possible. I tried for a while to give her what I ate when we were out, and she ended up just eating the same ingredients from my plate over and over, because everything else was a choking hazard. So unless I was planning to eat lots of sandwiches and salads, it actually limited the variety of foods Arddun was exposed to.

On the flip side, because I make my own chicken stock and soups (without added salt) for home cooked meals, it actually takes very little time for me to whip something up for Arddun’s meal. I also use a slow cooker, so rice porridge is bubbling away in the mornings and then voila, lunch and dinner is ready. I’m so used to Chinese cooking and the acrobatic multi-tasking it requires, that adapting it for Arddun’s meals on the fly has become, ironically, the easier option. She’s actually eating (some of) what I’m eating this way… just that it has to be spoon-fed, which BLW believers are loathe to do.

Does she overeat when you spoon-feed her?

This is one of the benefits purported by BLW, in that babies who self-feed know when they’ve had enough, and babies who are spoon-fed usually just eat when the spoon is offered to them. In other words, BLW allegedly prevents overeating and in the long run, reduces the likelihood of obesity.

Except, there hasn’t been studies to prove that explicit claim yet, because Gill Rapley only wrote her book in 2008.

My answer: I don’t know. I think this claim is over-inflated, but that’s my gut feel. In my limited experience thus far, Arddun is perfectly capable of indicating when she’s had enough when either self-feeding or when spoon-fed. And she’s also perfectly capable of scoffing every last bit of bread she can lay her little chubby hands on, until she throws up.

The opposite is also true of self-feeding – Arddun would sometimes get frustrated with self-feeding, because she isn’t efficient yet but she is still hungry for food. Milk doesn’t always satisfy her – she would want to eat food, and she’d want it in her mouth NOW. Enough with the experimentation and the exploration, lady. Crack open the thermos flask. There’d better be chicken and cous cous in there.

Does Arddun instinctively choose foods that are better for her?

No. At the beginning, she ONLY wanted fruits because they’re sugary. I think letting any child be her own dietitian is the most laughable proposition of (the narrowest interpretation of) BLW theory because given the choice, any kid would eat sweet stuff every day EVERY DAY. What we do with Arddun is to give her a limited selection. Spinach or fork-mashed peas? Bread with avocado, or bread with egg yolk? That sort of thing.

Has she choked when self-feeding?

Not exactly. There was an incident with watermelon – she literally bit off more than she could chew, and I think there was a stringy bit because it all came out in a hurry – along with lunch.

And that brings me to another point about self-feeding: sure, the gag reflexes are great in babies. And Arddun came out alright – it was a non-event, really. But did I really want her to lose her lunch? No.

Has spoon-feeding impeded her psycho-motor skills?

Because we’ve used a blended approach, I’d say not. She’s getting more effective at finishing what she has in her hands. (And *accidentally* flinging the stuff she’s had enough of outside the splash zone.) But then again, maybe she’s getting better at it because she’s playing with different toys and just growing. I mean, how does one benchmark these things?

Ultimately, Arddun is an individual. She loves her food, and she’s not a fussy eater. But I can’t bring myself to attribute these traits solely to BLW, because she enjoys feeding herself, and she enjoys being spoon fed. She isn’t too fussed about not having control, and she likes experimenting with food in her hands. Whatever. She’s a sponge at this stage – everything is new and an opportunity for learning. I’d like to think that she enjoys my mushy baby food dishes just as much as she enjoys scoffing food off my plate.

The most important thing is that she’s eating. And she’s thriving. And she’s happy.

Those who don’t do, google. Then blog.

So I’m trying to Martha Stewart my house a little. I want it to look less Salvation-Army-Drop-off-Centre, more IKEA catalogue – a place for everything, and everything in its place. After viewing ElilyMommy’s very sexy new kitchen and how cataloguesque her benchtop and counters are (NOTHING on them. And oh so shiny!), I’m convinced that Less (on the outside) is Best.

Not working at my corporate job has meant several things. No $$ for cleaners. And technically, more time. We’ve talked about how my nesting instincts never got to flap its tiny wings and soar; how they were crushed by the weight of frivolous Jilly Cooper novels, and then fed an evil elixir that made them shrink back and grow lopsided so they didn’t so much look like wings, but Nemo’s lopsided fins. (I loathe housework, BTW.)

Then Arddun came, and as long as my floor was still beigey-orangey ish and not gray, that was time enough spent on inanimate objects when the balance could be so MUCH better employed blowing zer-burps on Arddun’s belly button.

Then she starts to crawl, and it’s 2012, and the Year of the Dragon beckons. And suddenly, like the rise of the phoenix from the ashes, my nesting instincts come to the fore and now I’m like, RAWR! Needtocleanmyhouse! RAWR! Needtohavespotlessbenchtops!

Except I don’t have enough daylight hours. Or rather, I don’t have enough predictable daylight hours. Because I now live a half-hour at a time.  I have exactly 24 half-hour daytime slots, of which 1 might be spent in the shower if I’m lucky. And then it’s dinner, then nightfall, and you can’t do housework in mood lighting, really. You just can’t.

So this evening, I did the next-best thing to housework. I googled. And I browsed through my unused housework phone apps, and contemplated their return from ignominy. So if you’re looking for the proverbial kick up the housewifing bum, may I present the following tools.

1. FlyLady (Free-ish)

Yes. The big, purple fairy who sends you on 15-minute de-clutters – Super Fling Boogies – and other errands around different parts of the house  (called ‘zones’) . It’s a call to action in your inbox every day. Except the last time I tried FlyLady (it’s been years), I ended up needed a Super Fling Boogie to de-clutter my mailbox. FlyLady turned out to be SpamLady. And was the email formatting equivalent of a teenager who just discovered Geocities way back in the day. Don’t know what she’s like now, though. I hear she’s still effective, for those who love her. (Even got into merchandising. Now with calendars and De-clutter bags labelled ‘Give away’, ‘Put away’ and ‘Throw away’.)

But if you, like me, are a FlyLady drop out, then fear not! For there are excellent imitation goods around, just like in China. Such as…

2. Messies Anonymous (Free)

They send you an email with a ra-ra about jumping out of bed, jumping into action, not procrastinating by googling and blogging (probably). They tell you to tackle your Mt Vernon… by sorting your stuff into boxes labelled ‘Give away’, ‘Put away’ and ‘Throw away’. Ahem.

Offline, I hear it’s a lot like FlyLady “without the passive-aggression”. This coming from a few FlyLady drop outs. Still there’s this other program that people love, called…

3. Habithacker (Free)

I’m actually going to subscribe to this one. It has 90-day programs, where you get sent a daily email with a specific task. But it doesn’t just do domestics – there’s a  90-day program for cultivating a healthy lifestyle, and another for getting that creative project off the ground. I should probably do all three, but I’ll start with the housework and the creative project one, and see where I go from there.

It actually sounds fun. But the next one sounds like it takes the cake in the fun stakes, because it’s…

4. Chore Wars (Free, or $10 one-off payment for history and no ads)

Simply put, it’s housework meets RPG. Or something. You create a character. You invite others. You do chores. You get points for done chores. You go up levels. You get to buy gear. It’s housework for geeks. It’s gorgeous. I love the concept. I’m going to invite every single person I know who owns a house, doesn’t live with their mothers, and who might be even remotely interested in computer games. And my entire Mother’s Group, even though they’re not. You have been warned.

5. HomeRoutines (iPhone app – $3.99)

This is a souped-up reminder app, really. But it allows you to log tasks to accomplish for the day, on top of routine household chores you’ve set for yourself. And you can set zones as well, so you can tackle whole areas of your house and clean the skirting boards, for instance. Dovetails nicely into FlyLady-type prompts – just harness the gist of the FlyLady type system, and key it all in your app. Repeat weekly. Even comes with a timer for your Super Fling Boogies.

6. Errands (iPhone app – Free)

A simple app that allows you to set routines and recurring chores. The one-up over HomeRoutines is that you can set chores by calendar dates (“every 15th day of every month till 2013”). But the interface is rather Clip Art 101. And because I like pretty things, I eventually retired this app. The app icon alone was making my skin crawl and I just wanted to hide it in a deep, dark place so it wouldn’t tarnish my iPhone desktop. Vain, huh.

7. Weekly Habits Pad (Kikki-K, $5.95)

I’ve added this one, because essentially this post is about breaking old habits and starting new ones. And this nifty little pad of paper sets out to cultivate new habits.

The idea is that it takes 21 days to change a habit, especially if there’s a juicy carrot to be had at the end. So you enter the habit you want to create on the left column (say, jog twice a week), tick off the days you accomplished that task, and then enter the reward you give yourself should you meet your target.

Sometimes, I enter an emotional reward (“make Tony happy”). Other times, it’s something small and maybe a little antithesis to other habits I’m trying to cultivate (“exercise thrice a week” vs “pig out on Cafe Grande Connoisseur ice cream with chocolate-coated almonds, hamana hamana hamana *drool*…) But so far, it’s been lovely ticking off little accomplishments and I’ve been quite motivated.

Of course, this works because I love lists and ticking things off. Sometimes I draw a box and list the task AFTER the fact, just so I can tick it off. Sad, no?

 

So there you have it. My carefully researched tools for Martha Stewart greatness (minus jail time). And now, to sleep on it. :)

My list of essential baby-in-car gear

It's the little things that count.

Okay, so perhaps the previous post stated the obvious a tad. (“A pram? No kidding! A cot? Wow. You’re a walking controversy, woman.”) So I dug a little deeper and decided to come up with my even shorter list of essential baby gear… for the car.

No, I won’t add “pram”. And no, I won’t add “car seat” either, although I will go off on a tangent here and talk about Backward Babies.

There’s heaps of evidence to suggest that keeping baby rearward facing for as long as possible is heaps safer in the event of a front-end collision. Stats differ – I’ve been told 5 times safer, I’ve been told 12 to 14 times safer, I’ve been told 70% safer… whatever.

The point is, when the car brakes suddenly, the last thing you want is your baby slamming into those unforgiving straps at 80kph. They can break bones. If the straps are twisted, they can cut flesh. So yeah, Arddun’s going to be seeing the world go by in reverse for about 4 years. Longer, if I can help it.

Off my soapbox now. And – go!

1. First aid kit

After attending the carer’s first aid course, I went and bought two first aid kits – a comprehensive one for the house, and a smaller travel one for the car or the pram for walks. Not that I plan to do CPR every day, but it’s useful to have a stash of band aids and paracetamol nearby anyhow. And as Arddun gets older, I expect to add other things for insect bites and scraped knees and other (hopefully minor) misadventures. If they sold children’s band aids with Veggie Tale prints, I’m so there.

2.  Window sock

This one assumes that your car windows aren’t tinted, of course. We’ve got a 1997 Mazda, and it’s now showing its age so we’ve had to block the sun using less sophisticated  methods. I’ve tried those stick-on window sunshades which unfurl, and used them on the window nearest to the baby car seat. Useless, useless, useless. Hardly blocked the sun, kept falling off, lots of window and sun still streaming through. But I’ve moved on to the window sock and if you get a well-fitted one, it works a charm. No matter where I park, I know that Arddun’s seat is in the shade. But it’s still see-through enough for me to check my blind spot.

3. Rear window sunshade

Again, baby car seat-related. If the sun is streaming in from the back, you don’t want to come back to a toasty car seat and blistering hot car seat buckles – especially in summer. Protect the car seat. It may take a few more seconds to put up, but it saves time in the long run. Much better than standing around waiting for your car to cool enough so you don’t feel like you’re putting your baby back in the oven. Again, this assumes that your car windows are not tinted. But even if they are, I’m sure this will help.

4. Picnic mat

Great for impromptu picnics, sure. But the number of times lately we found ourselves hiking up a small green and laying out our picnic mat for an impromptu Big Diaper Change… yeah. Surprisingly handy, especially on a road trip to some country town where Parent Changing Rooms might be mistaken for an episode of Wife Swap. Even in Canberra, my mom and I have pulled over to Lake Burley Griffin to give Arddun’s bottom a fresh start, with Captain Cook’s fountain a fantastic and distracting backdrop. I’ll admit this works slightly better where I am than, say, in Singapore.

5. Spare nappy wallet

Because you never know when your nappy bag might run out. Even the most prepared mother might find herself a diaper short with one explosion too many. And sure you can run out to Target and buy a box of nappies, but then you’d have to fork over $37 and lug the whole thing thereafter. Might be easier to nip into the car and retrieve the extra nappy. Redundancy upon redundancy, my friend. Include an extra change of clothes, because if you’re reaching for your emergency stash, chances are it’s a big smelly one.

6. Spare bucket hat and sunglasses

Yes. I am one of those mothers who buys sunglasses for her baby. Plural, by the way. I keep one in the bag, and I keep one in the car. I figure if I need sunglasses in order to stop squinting into the sun, then by golly, Arddun must be having it even tougher. I don’t know what it is about the Australian sun, but I promise you it’s brighter and harsher than the sun in Singapore. Besides, she looks way cuter than that baby in The Hangover. Pity she keeps yanking them off, only to squint and complain the rest of the way home. But we try.

7. Rear rearview mirror

You read that right. The mirror you check out from the rearview mirror. Basically, the mirror faced squarely on your child’s face in the rearward facing car seat, so you can figure out if she’s sleeping or not. HOWEVER, I have tried two brands and they both suck. Correction – they don’t suck enough. I’d placed the mirror in the back left corner of the rear window and trained it on the car seat, but it kept dropping off. Short of crazy-gluing the darn thing on, I’m at a loss because I’ve looked at other brands and they look pret-ty much the same. I have to say that when they DO stay affixed to the window, it works a charm. I feel HEAPS better knowing I can see her. So if you find a brand that actually has real staying power, please let me know.

I’m sure there are heaps of other items that could make this list. But these are my top seven in no particular order, off the top of my head. I’m up for suggestions, BTW. Heaps of space in the boot.

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. :)

Bungee

The great thing about Mother’s Group is all that opportunity to try before you buy.

Arddun had a go in Jett’s Jolly Jumper last Tuesday. For the uninitiated, it’s a bouncy spring/cord thing you hang from a doorway. Your child is strapped in and half dangled in it so their feet just touches the ground. It’s like bunjee jumping without the falling off factor. Plus they look so cute.

The Jolly Jumping people take their product very seriously and recommend something ridiculous like 20 minutes a day “for the exercise”. Uh, no. It is a great babysitter, though. Arddun got quite a kick out of being able to stand “by herself”, and look around. We’re still not sure about impact to spine etc over long-term use so we remain undecided. But meanwhile, there’s a video. Of course.

Here’s Arddun, trying it out. Turn your speakers on for added effect. ;)

Banana in your ear… and other First Aid scenarios

I am a complete wuss when it comes to almost all forms of violence – exploding, shooting, stabbing, spearing, sword-fighting, animal attacks… I even turn away when Itchy ‘n’ Scratchy comes on. WUSS. Just the idea of pain and pointy objects sends my skin crawling, and if I’m made to sit through a particularly violent story or movie, I can feel physically unwell if I’m not allowed to leave the room.  It’s a wonder I ever managed to give birth to Arddun without painkillers.

Which is why it is almost laughable that I enrolled myself in a first aid course – and actually showed up.

Arddun, as it turns out, is one of ’em Active Babies. Started rolling belly to back at four months, the other way at 4.5 months, joined them both together at five months, now moving on to an uncoordinated commando-crawl and caterpillar squirm-flop at 5.5 months. Her legs just DO NOT STOP, unless she’s sleeping – which is the only way I can work out if she’s taking a snooze in the car seat. (Section past belly button no longer a blur.) And while I used to smugly tell others that I aim to house-proof my child, I now realise that I won’t always be fast enough. Or intuitive enough. Or alert enough. Or creative enough. Or obeyed enough. And it only takes the one time, before something drastic could happen. Plus if she has any of my genes, she’s going to be tripping over her own feet and getting her face smooshed by basketballs.

I needed both risk management AND crisis management plans.

Hence $150 2-day course littered with heartening worst case scenarios.

From resuscitation to poisons to dealing with LOTS of blood and embedded objects (pen in eye, knife through hand, ew ew ew ewwwww), I sat in a room with 10 other parents and learnt how to be useful when my child suffers the consequences of silly actions – hers, or someone else’s. It was a special first aid course that was geared especially for treating babies and young children, although the principles and practices are largely borrowed from the usual first aid you administer to adults.

I’m very glad I went, but the course did breathe new life into the saying, “Hope for the best, expect the worst”. I pictured Arddun in every scenario we practised, and felt my insides flop and lurch with anxiety. Every time the instructor gave an example of something her twin boys did (knives… benchtop… fighting over it… blood…), I had to mentally laa-laa-laa. The saddest part of the afternoon was spent practising resuscitation on a dummy baby – its wan, vacant expression and sealed-shut eyes an eerie reminder of cot death and a million things that could make babies go too quiet. And here I was, calmly squishing its hollow chest with my two fingers and hearing a whisper of doll’s breath wheezing out of those rubber lips with each poke.

As if that could ever be me, if I found my baby lying still as death. Not breathing.

Anyhoo – all said and done, I highly recommend the course. For while it made me squirm heaps, it empowered me more. And the last thing I want to be when my baby needs me is a useless, flapping wuss.

The magical powers of midwives

So we had our last antenatal class this evening, which was all about what to do with the munchkin once she enters the world. Up until this class, we’ve covered the grizzly details of labour and birth, including

  • a real, live placenta hot off the press, so to speak.
    In fact, we had a bonus that particular evening because we saw TWO placentas – one that contained twins. Which is like saying that we had a bonus that evening because we got served a quivering mass of raw pork livers at a crazy Chinese restaurant, and then came back for seconds. (Also, nothing like looking at something that squishy and Sci-Fi Weird to reinforce the fact that your adorable baby is, in fact, like Alien.)
  • lovely powerpoint slides about pain management, complete with diagram of epidural needle cheerfully weaving up your spine.
  • what usually happens when it all goes to crap and you need an emergency caesarean. And stitches. Everywhere.

But this evening finally got fun. Because we had a real-life 3-day-old baby in the room, grizzly from wind and needing to give a good butt-fluff. And our midwife proceeded to mesmerise the room into a common state of Awwww… by demonstrating how to bathe baby.

And right before our very eyes, we saw her transform this tetchy, unhappy, piteously crying bundle of joy who loathed his bath yesterday, into the picture of utter contentment when she deftly flipped him over to his tummy and submerged his entire body in the bath, nothing but his chin calmly resting on her hand.

He basically laid sprawled eagle like that in the bath for a full five minutes without so much as a whimper, his eyes getting droopy, his face completely relaxed, his body in utter surrender, in suspended animation. He almost fell asleep, he was that cushy. It was the funniest, most precious thing I’d ever seen because he looked like a cross between an Anne Geddes moment and a drunken frog. I wish I thought to take a photo, although I’m guessing the proud father would probably not have appreciated my randomly taking happy snaps of his son and posting them on this blog. Some people are funny that way.

But wait, there’s more! For the magical midwife also demonstrated the ancient art of shushing a baby by flipping a super-secret switch on his forehead.

In Singapore, whenever we got decked out for Racial Harmony Day at school, we tended to wear someone else’s cultural costume. You know, Malays in sam foos, Indians in sarong kebayas, Chinese in saris, etc. And as always, there’s bound to be someone to make some lame joke about the bindi, and how it’s really a mute button. Whatever.

Turns out, this midwife has always known its real powers because before our very eyes, she stroked the middle of his frowny, fussy forehead and he became as tame as a bunny wabbit. Every baby, apparently, has an “off” button.

I’m hoping Blobette comes with instructions, but I’m guessing she won’t. I’m starting to believe that’s ‘cos some midwives might be hiding the manual.

Birth plans: this century’s oxymoron

The first time I read about drafting a birth plan, I thought, “Geez. Anal-retentive much?” (Don’t get me started on how inappropriate and ironic that statement is. It has dawned on me since.) Birth plans, as it turns out, are tremendously in vogue. They are the done thing in my day and age, part and parcel of the whole pregnancy shebang. Like an internet plan with a new home, so is a birth plan with a new pregnancy. What? Your house didn’t come with ethernet ports and fibre to the premise? Get with the programme, dah-link.

Except, I still don’t quite get it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen the templates and the samples, and I can see how some of it can useful. But the biggest thing that’s doing my head in is the fact we’re encouraged to think we can control what’s going to happen, when it happens, how it happens, and why. Some of the birth plans I’ve come across read like Hollywood scripts. The baby emerges with a lusty cry after a natural, calm birth, minimum tearing and no episiotomy. Mother and child bond at once with skin to skin contact. Breastfeeding ensues. Exchange of lovey dovey looks with birth partner. End scene.

But birth plans I’ve come across seldom include the following scenarios:

  • very early arrivals
  • very late arrivals
  • babies in distress
  • mothers in distress
  • birth partner out of action (late, still trying to park the darn car, fainted on the floor)
  • I-didn’t-quite-make-it-across-the-parking-lot-help!
  • emergency c-sections
  • “no room at the inn” (overcrowding at birth centre, private ward)
  • complete and utter exhaustion coupled with zero physical strength after XXth hour

and most importantly,

  • crazy changes of the mind, because you’re in the most gawdawful and intense pain you’ve ever known in your thus-far sheltered life.

Are we in danger of setting ourselves up for a huge disappointment – and literally a world of pain – if it all goes to crap? Are we fooling ourselves into thinking we can control almost every moment of our child’s birth? Every older woman I talk to almost snorts in derision whenever they hear the words ‘birth plan’. “Yeah,” they chortle. “Good luck.” (The polite ones mock you only with their eyes.) I can see why they’re sceptical. The birth stories I’ve heard so far have all to do with reacting to the moment and doing whatever works, and hardly resemble anything the mother envisioned or articulated beforehand.

After a bit of scrounging around, I learnt that the whole birth-plan idea emerged around the 1990s with the return-to-natural-birth movement. Great. I actually like the idea of NOT being confined to the bed, on my back, whimpering softly and breathing like a choo-choo train (hee-hee-hoo!). I think there’s much to be said about birth positions that capitalise on the laws of gravity, and I’m all for involving Tony as much as possible in this tremendous journey. But as with anything the world comes up with, I am inundated with conflicting messages.

On the one hand, we’re told that we are each entitled to a natural birth, that having a baby vaginally is within our control, and that we can each facilitate a less painful birth if only we knew how.

On the other hand, we’re told that natural birth is all about losing control and letting go. Wanna have your while baby squatting on one leg and bellowing the Haka? Whatever works, hon! Wanna have your baby in the bath while the lullaby rendition of Rocky’s theme is playing softly in the background? Whatever floats your boat, ma’am. Take off ALL your clothes while you’re at it. None of us are strangers here. (Except, the doctor, the midwives, the anesthetist…)

So… wrest control and lose control. Got it?

I’ve heard of birth plans referred to as birth wishlists. In some ways, that’s even worse. My wishlist would involve any of the painless births I’ve had in my dreams – with no tearing, no pushing, and midwives in my bathtub with 1950s showercaps on. It might also result in birthing a cuddly black labrador puppy instead of a healthy baby. (Don’t ask. I don’t even want to know where my subsconscious got that bit of inspiration.)

So, where to from here?

As much as I want to bag out the whole birth plan idea, I think there’s merit in visualising success before entering into any challenge. And perhaps our birth plan can help Tony and I scenario-test the less desirable situations and talk about what worries us and what helps us cope. Hope and pray for the best, prepare for the worst. Pray for strength regardless.

As for my preliminary list, here’s a few nuggets.

I plan:

  • not to swear like a sailor, no matter how painful things get.
    This is actually harder than you think, because I can get pretty potty-mouthed like the best of them when under crazy-stress. And this will be crazy-stress.
  • not to take my pain out on Tony through verbal abuse and blame.
    The whole “Deees eees YOUR FAULT!” may be tempting – and practically a given in Hollywood births – but is unfair to the poor chap. And I know he’ll try his hardest to be there for me on the day. It’s going to be a special kind of hell for him while his wife is baying like a wounded animal and he cannot do much about much. He’s going to hate that.
  • to trust that things will work out.
    Am I nervous? Oh yes. We had an antenatal class this week where they passed around the epidural needle and my hair was already standing from that. But I am holding on to the promise that we will not be tried beyond what we cannot bear. So meanwhile, I’ll try not to rule anything out and enjoy as much of it as humanly possible.

And you know I’ll keep you guys posted. :)

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑