Monthly Archives: December 2012

Baby’s 5-star New Year’s Eve

Despite my fear of being in public with a screaming, uncontrollable baby, Mrs D. and I celebrated New Year’s Eve with a refined afternoon tea in the world’s number 1 bar: the Artesian at the Langham Hotel.

No cocktails for us, but the bar is a good location to people-watch and we have good memories of the place: F. stayed there the night before our wedding. Not me, of course.

I did say I had a fear of V. having a public display of apoplexy. Truth be told, it adds an element of nervousness to being out with her. Visiting a 5 star hotel intensifies my anticipation that my daughter will kick off, big-style.

It’s not something I’m proud of. F. has no such problem. So I take my lead from her and don’t let it stop me from going anywhere we like save a library or regular movie screening. As it turned out, during our visit, V. was mostly out like a light. When she did wake up, she was due for a formula feed. That kept her quiet.

Goodbye 2012, hello 2013. Goodbye, the year of her birth, our home birth, trials and tribulations of breastfeeding, first immunisations, two-hourly feeds. Hello to potty-training, weaning, learning to walk.

“Baby Carrier Makes Christmas Shop Slightly Less Difficult” Shock

So this is what all my training is for. The hours spent following strength training protocols, interval training and SAQ work come together for a purpose. I always thought I was preparing for the zombie apocalypse but no, it was in fact, so that I could shop at Waitrose on the night before the night before Christmas.

Today was our big food shop before the in-laws arrive tomorrow. We had a list. We checked it twice. We still forgot things. And the mayhem was not just limited to Waitrose. Because our local Waitrose happens to be the one in John Lewis on Oxford Street, central London, so we had the pleasure of experiencing 6 floors of middle England going apeshit over cashmere jumpers.

And V. came along for the ride courtesy of a baby carrier. We’ve used both a wrap and a front-loaded carrier and both have been invaluable for two reasons. Firstly, we live in a flat on the 4th floor and there is no lift. The wheel base for our pram stays at the bottom of the communal stairwell and it can be a pain to walk down four floors carrying baby along with the top half of her pram. Secondly, we live in central London, just off Oxford Circus and yes, the streets are very busy much of the time. You really can weave in and out of crowds, cross the road and take the escalator much faster. Compared to pushing a pram, it’s like being the Flash.

So V. saw the whole thing when I was forced to buy brussel sprouts on a stalk. There were no bags of brussels. If I leave it to tomorrow, everywhere may have run out. And I’ve got the in-laws. I had to do it. Yes, V., your dad paid top dollar for a vegetable that is only semi-processed. The things we do when fear stalks the aisles of Waitrose.

Merry Christmas!

Reusable Nappies

People we’ve told about our reusable nappies look at us with either admiration (from those of our generation) or dismay (from our parents’ generation). And everyone assumes we’re doing it from an eco position. Which we’re really not.

Very early on after V.’s birth she developed nappy rash, which, if you read the books, is quite early. We tried the three most recommended creams to help clear it up, with limited success. Her mother and I felt that if we didn’t solve this problem our daughter would be suffering for a long, long time.

F. continued to use the creams but began looking online at better solutions, including reusable nappies. She had never like the disposable nappies we’d be using since birth. She felt that they were plasticky, couldn’t breathe and were more of an irritant than most people let on.

So we decided to give reusable nappies a try because they were mostly made of natural fibres that grew softer and more absorbent the more you washed them. We ordered 15 pairs from two different manufacturers. They were one size its all, so should last V. all the way to toilet-training. The waist band and overall sizing are altered through plastic poppers.

The nappy itself is a soft, light fleece outer shell with a water-resistant backing. Inside the nappy is a fleece lining and two or three detachable layers that are added either through more poppers or inserted between the inner and outer layers.

Reusable nappies seem to work just as well as disposables in capturing what they need to capture. Once the nappy is taken off the baby, it is disassembled, and stored in a waterproof, zip-up bag. We keep ours in the bathroom. When the bag is full (around 8 nappies or so), the contents – plus the bag – go into the washing machine.

It’s at the laundry end where reusable nappies are a lot more work than disposables. You’re generally looking at one extra wash every other day. And it will be a long wash: our used nappies go through a 36 minute rinse, the a 2 hour cotton wash cycle, and finally – if it’s a rush job – a one hour tumble dry. The nappies then have to be assembled which takes us a half hour whilst sat in front of the TV. It’s the constant washing that makes me doubt the manufacturers message that reusables are cheaper than disposable diapers. I haven’t done a calculation, but based on the amount of energy we’re using to keep these things clean, I doubt we’re saving any money. And even if that were true and they were a little cheaper. So what? We all pay more money for more convenience, anyway.

If you’re taking baby on a trip, these nappies will raise one or two logistical questions. They are quite bulky and will need to be washed whilst you are away, depending how long you are away for. I wouldn’t leave them in the nappy bag for too long. We forgot about a nappy we left in a travel-size zip-up bag for 3 days; when we took it out, it was pretty rank.

After a month of using these nappies – plus finding the right nappy rash cream – V.’s nappy rash has completely cleared up. Could a simpler way have been found? Perhaps. But we’re happy to have found a formula that works so we’ll be sticking with reusable nappies.

We now sleep through the night

V. is four months old this week and she has, for the past couple of weeks, been sleeping through the night more or less from 7pm to 6.30am. The looks of surprise I get from other people, makes me think this is a rare occurrence. Here’s how we did it.

It all started when we realised that V. was growing out of the Moses basket we bought in June. She was getting ready to bust her arms and legs through the reed sides of the basket like some tiny pink Hulk.

We had a cotbed ready for her but it was never going to fit in our bedroom, so a move out of the Moses basket also meant a move into the nursery. So we thought we may as well bring sleep training into the mix as well and try it in one go.

We had already dipped into the several books on baby sleeping and the one we’ve ended up following (mostly) is Alison Scot-Wright’s The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan.

That’s the first time I have directly named a product. It’s not an endorsement because it may not work for your baby. But I thought it was important to give you the opportunity to judge the process we’re following for yourselves. We’re not following Scot-Wright’s suggestions to the letter. Like issues of breastfeeding, reusable nappies and baby-led weaning, sleep training has devotees in every corner. Don’t listen to them. Take every miracle solution offered with a pinch of salt and try it out for yourselves.

Time and time again, when it comes to raising babies, I think of the Bruce Lee quote “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is useless, and add that which is essential that is your own”.

Back to the sleep training. As I understand Scot-Wright’s basic approach, you put the baby down for regular naps during the day, regardless of how much the baby cries. Same goes for the evening, after bath and final feeding of the night. The parents are allowed back into the room time and time again to comfort the baby should the crying/screaming get too much. But you then have to vacate the baby’s room to allow her learn this skill of putting herself to sleep.

So far, it’s been working well. There are still some much disrupted evenings and daytime naps. And it is hard to say goodbye to her for a full 10 or 12 hours. But she seems happier getting all the sleep.

Baby-led design

A lot of baby-related products seem to have been designed with a mood-board of purity, simplicity, cleanliness, innocence, delicacy. Colours used are often white, or off-white, or cream white, or milk white. A kind of dreamy, christening-gown aesthetic.

I was going to call this approach baby-led design (in the spirit of baby-led weaning) and feel fairly smug about my clever name. Except, this issue isn’t stemming from babies, it comes from – I presume – product design teams aiming to appeal to adult buyers of baby products. And I don’t have a clever name for that situation.

Anyway, an example came to me several weeks ago although I’m just coming around to writing about it. It’s the size of silicone teats on formula bottles. The type we use have the size range – 1, 2, 3 etc – faintly etched in an opaque shape found, with great difficulty, at the bottom of the teat. It’s even more difficult at 3am, under a weak kitchen counter light as I try to give my daughter a ‘dream feed’. There was no reason for the designers to have made it so difficult. They could have indicated the age range of the teat by making it bright green.

It’s a bit like that egg-shaped baby monitor I wrote about recently. Looks nice. Feels nice in the hand. Deeply impractical.

How we chose our baby name, part 2

Three months before our due date, the name game had become more complex.

Things had become really interesting when a friend recommended the US name site Baby Name Wizard. We then found the UK version, England and Wales Baby Names. I loved these sites because you could use the information about past popularity of names to see the likelihood of a name coming back into popularity or whether it was declining. This was particularly interesting to us because we didn’t want a name that was coming back into fashion any time soon. We wanted V. to be the only one in her class. I had a feeling, though, that no matter which name we chose, other examples would immediately come out of the woodwork.

Just weeks before V. was due, we had a shortlist of 26 names. We wrote each one on a sticky note and put them up on the wall. A separate sticky note for each first and second name. Sometimes the notes would be in columns, sometimes arranged in a random cloud effect. Once in a while, one of us would take two names and place them side by side in front of a sticky note that had our surname on it. This combination of three names would stay up on the wall for a couple of days while we mulled it over in our heads.

Strong contenders made it to a shorter shortlist. Weak combinations got cut. We approached it as though voting on a reality show: if you have to choose between two names, who stays to the next round and who goes home? It was just such a technique that presented us with V.’s final names.

We’re very happy with our daughter’s name. Sometimes, we can’t believe we went ahead and called her V. Although it fit all our criteria and was right there from the beginning of our search, it’s still pretty unusual and feels a bit daring. We’ve been feeling sightly smug over our choice, but the announcement of a royal baby this week has us slightly jittery. Perhaps my prediction of V.’s name appearing everywhere will come true and our daughter might possibly spend her entire life explaining that “no she was not named after the princess but in fact was born a year before her”. Fingers crossed it’s a boy.

How we chose our baby name, part 1

I have heard that it’s quite common for mum-and-dad-to be to write their own lists of favourite names, then come together to have a (ahem) discussion about which to choose. This didn’t happen with myself and F. In the early days of the pregnancy, we made two lists; one for boys and one for girls. The names mostly came from our own imagination. I had a couple at the top of my lists that I have always liked and thought that they were reasonably unique. Little did I know. ‘V.’ was on both of our lists from the very beginning.

It became clear that F. shared with me similar thoughts on names. We both had favourite names, a handful of which matched. It also became clear that not knowing the sex of the baby left us with a lot of work. I felt that constructing a list of baby names that would become completely irrelevant (when we learnt the sex of our baby at our 12-week scan) might feel a bit disappointing. So the name game took a break.

A few weeks later, when our scan revealed we were having a girl, the list-making began again in earnest. As we ran out of names from the top of our head, we brought in some baby name dictionaries. Every so often, one of us would sit down with a book to read out a letter of the alphabet. I’d read out all the names that started with a ‘B’ and I’d get a shake of the head or a nod of approval. Or a long discussion if we weren’t sure about a name. It was fun.

By this time, though, we had created quite a few criteria that a name had to pass before it reached the shortlist. Here were the more non-negotiable:

1. Our surname is unusual, not immediately obvious how to spell and not particularly attractive (which was noticed at school). I wanted a first name for my daughter that that would always ‘run interference’ on the surname. A name that had enough impact so that people would focus on it rather than her surname.
2. A name that wasn’t so girly or babyish, that the grown-up CEO of a company couldn’t use, or doctor, or nobel peace prize winner.
3. No names that could be shortened easily by her school friends to something awful
4. No unisex names
5. No names in the top ten

There were plenty of others. In part 2 of this blog topic, I’ll tell you the best online resource we found for baby names and why the announcement of a royal baby this week has me a bit nervous.


If you had some interesting criteria for choosing your baby’s name, leave a comment, I’d love to read about it.

We have clearance, Clarence.

Since V. moved into her own room last week, we’ve been putting a baby monitor through its paces. This gadget was leant to us by my sister and it does make a world of difference to our domestic life, knowing we have an attentive little device keeping watch over the baby. However, one or two problems have emerged. So before you buy one yourself, read on.

Our monitor consists of a Baby unit that stays near the sleeping baby – basically, a microphone – and a Parent Unit; the speaker. The Parent unit sits in a cradle and needs recharging in that position every few hours. We’ve found that, to keep the Parent unit charged and with us at all times, we have to keep unplugging the cradle and carry it from room to room. From the kitchen, to the front room and then to the bedroom for overnight use. Are we the only ones who find this very annoying? Ideally, the Parent unit ought to stay charged enough to stay out of its cradle for several hours. So I would recommend finding a Parent unit that either guarantees 9 or 10 hours of charge time away from its cradle, or have a Parent unit that works on replaceable batteries.

And while you are at it, find a talkback function that has volume control. We use ours so that mum and dad can communicate with each other when one of us is in the nursery. But if V. is asleep in the same room, that communication becomes one sided because the talkback function is so loud. (Admittedly this hasn’t stopped me signing off each sentence with “Roger, Over.Kercchh.” when I’m on the mic.)

Finally, I recommend getting a Parent Unit that has a belt clip. Ours is shaped like an egg. I’m sure it was designed to look nice, but is a royal pain to carry around with you.

If anyone knows of a monitor with these functions, let me know! “Over.”

Breastfeeding for men

Breast is best. Babies can’t get a better start. The mother and baby bond is stronger. All true.

What they don’t tell you about breastfeeding is how frustrating, painful and upsetting breastfeeding can be. And how sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan. In fact, if you look at the statistics, most of the time it doesn’t go according to plan.

At our NHS antenatal class, I remember F. raising a question with the midwife about breastfeeding. What if it’s painful? The midwife said very definitely, that it should not hurt if you are doing it right.

F. gave birth to our daughter at home and with no pain relieving drugs. Not even an aspirin. And she did it with an amazingly positive attitude throughout the labour. So when she tells me, in floods of tears, that the let-down and the latch-on she experiences when breastfeeding are both too much to bear – then that is what it is.

However, my wife is also a determined woman. And she had decided that V. was to be breastfed. We tried different positions for breastfeeding, for both mother and baby. We read books, and watched demonstrations on YouTube. Nothing worked. And for two months – several times a day – F. endured the pain and discomfort, even though it was getting worse and worse. Finally, F. would wince even before she put V. to her breast.

Finally, we found an understanding and experienced lactation consultant. She told us we were doing everything we could. She suggested a plan to try block feedings. Her proviso was that this approach reduced the number of feeds per day and that possibly we might experience a reduction in milk supply. But it might also ease the pain. We would supplement V.’s breastfeeds with formula. The strategy worked. Its been six weeks since then and the pain associated with breastfeeding has almost gone.

At that antenatal class, the midwife was a perfectly fine teacher. But, when it came to breastfeeding, we experienced a dogmatic response that seems quite common on this subject.

Guys, if your woman is having problems with breastfeeding, don’t let anyone else tell her she’s ‘doing it wrong’. She’s trying her best. That’s enough.

Panic at the Children’s Disco

Our first children’s party – as parents.

A very good friend of ours invited us to a party for his son’s 3rd birthday. The venue was in a lovely function room above a lovely pub in Canonbury.

There’s been little opportunity for us be part of a social network of parents. So me and F. saw this Sunday afternoon slot between 2:30 and 5:30 as a rare opportunity to observe parenting en masse. And party etiquette. We took notes.

My first observation is that there seems to be a dichotomy when organising a children’s party. At its centre is a child, plus friends. But the parents’ presence means that adults have to be catered for too. Which turns the party into a standing about, milling kind of event. Like a wedding; kids running between a forest of legs.

If I’m to be organising these shindigs for V. in a couple of years, perhaps I should have turned up in time to catch the children’s entertainer and got his card. I heard he was good.

Back home, V.’s party bag was raided by her mum and dad. We shared her tiny Toy Story chocolate bar. I then mercilessly crunched through her Chuppa Chup before practising with her new plastic tin whistle. She was asleep.

So, no real panic and not really a disco. I just liked the title.