All posts by Dad About Town

The worst thing about reusable nappies

I had initially planned this post to be an in-depth description of how we came to choose reusable diapers, within a few days of V. being born. My intention was to assure you we weren’t hippies. However, I was awake from midnight to 02:30 this morning with a daughter who did not want to sleep. I’m too tired so I’ll skip to the punch line.

After 8 months of reusables, the worst part (so far) is to be found in holding a used diaper over the toilet bowl and scraping half-formed stools into the water before flushing them away. Yes, folks, they don’t talk so much about this on the websites that sell the nappies. As her poo becomes more solid thanks to weaning, it becomes less practical to rely on a domestic washing machine to thoroughly wash the nappies. So this chore is a smelly and fairly disgusting new development.

It’s also why we have a dedicated pair of rubber gloves, held aloft on the bathroom tiling by a rubber-suckered clip. We also bought a special zip-up bag – with a rubber lining – that can hold 8-10 used nappies until wash day. The bag, contents and all, then go straight into the washing machine. Essential, unless you are intending to wash her nappies every day.

I wonder if reusable nappies encourages parents to move to potty-training faster?

Please let Daddy watch Zulu

Film poster for 1964 film Zulu
Film poster for 1964 film Zulu
Copyright: TBC
My dear daughter, as Mummy has gone out for the evening to celebrate a friend’s birthday, I have a rare evening babysitting you on my own. You’ve done so well with sleep training in recent months. But now I have a request.

I have plans to watch a couple of movies that Mummy won’t appreciate. No, not those kinds of movies. Mummy will indulge me when I order Thor on LoveFilm but she draws a line at a Michael Caine double bill of The Italian Job and Zulu.

So, can I please ask that you settle yourself down for the night from 8pm onwards? I can then pull up a chair in front of the tv, plug in my headphones and indulge in a probably not-too historically accurate boy’s own adventure. I am of course talking about Zulu, and not The Italian Job.

To enhance my enjoyment of the Zulu war chants, I need to find device that lets me listen to a movie on headphones but, when you cry, the sound channel switches automatically from the movie to the baby monitor. This way, I can play the movie as loud as I like without having to keep one eye out for the blinking lights of the monitor.

As a random thought, here’s some advice for any country looking for a new national anthem that will fire up a national team: you would do worse than consider John Barry’s theme music to Zulu. Play that before every international game: you’d never lose.

That track has made it to my iPod. But what I’m really after is a copy of the Zulu chants heard throughout the movie for my workout playlist.

“Do you think I could stand this butcher’s yard more than once?”

Working from home with a baby

There’s a popular image of running a small business from home: a new parent, baby bouncing on their knee, happily types away into a laptop whilst they answer calls and make coffee. This hasn’t been the experience of me or my wife. We run our personal training business from home and I can definately say that our business has been hugely affected by the presence of a baby.

The most immediate impact has been on the time available to us to work on our company together. This can only practicably happen during a working day when the baby has a nap and both of us are ‘free’ (although one of us has to be ready to go into the nursery if V. is restless). But even though the baby is on a fairly strict sleep training routine, the actual amount of time V. is fully asleep is short: a couple of hours a day. This has particularly slowed down the decision-making process when it comes to developing the business.

In addition, the time and energy demands of looking after our daughter has lead to us changing the division of labour. I’ve taken on diary management, payment processing, and customer queries so that F. can concentrate on bigger-scale projects. And for those projects to make any headway, F. needs time to concentrate. So when I have an afternoon clear of client appointments, I take our daughter for a feed, a change of nappy, playtime and a sleep. Usually this is a four-hour period of time that allows F. to work on areas such as marketing, SEO and IT. That really is not a lot of time.

We’ve also learnt to schedule a bunch of business calls to coincide with nap time. We don’t make or take calls when a crying baby could be heard in the background. It’s too unpredictable, too distracting, too unprofessional.

As childcare is not an option for us, we’ll keep on making the best of the situation. I’m hoping that this experience teaches us to our business in a leaner, tighter and more efficient way. Especially when the baby learns to type…

Broccoli Face: weaning, part 2

When it comes to baby-led weaning (BLW) it helps that I was already cooking many of our family meals from scratch. So supplying our daughter with a good variety of vegetables, meat and fruit, isn’t difficult.

I got it into my head at some point, that V. should experience good food in its natural forms before we start processing it too much. So the vegetables and meats are usually baked in the oven without oil or herbs or spices in large, easy-to-hold pieces. I avoid adding sugar, salt, seasoning, herbs or empty calories in the form of sauces. By coincidence this helps with a major side-effect of BLW: the mess. BLW writers suggest you can introduce meals such as lasagna to babies. My wife agrees that putting such a thing in the hands of a 7.5 month-old would be a disaster. It’s the same reason I’m not making V. little child-sized ‘fun’ foods. Aside from the fact that I don’t want to make her cheesy, pizza fingers that have smiling faces on them. Currently, my life is too short, I mean busy.

BLW means a lot of regurgitated food but don’t bother with bibs. Most are too small and too easily pushed aside. I recommend turning a muslin cloth into one giant bib. Tie one corner around the baby’s neck and she’s protected all the way down to her feet. She actually looks like she’s sat in an Italian restaurant, about to tuck into a plate of pasta. As much food gets dropped or knocked off the table, a tarpaulin under the highchair is a must.

Despite all this, mashed up sweet potato will end up on baby clothes every day. This has led us to label some of our daughter’s gifted clothes – the ones she was never going to wear outside the house – as eatin’ duds.

Finally, our daughter seems to forget she has food in both hands and gives her ear a rub with a strip of sweet potato, or ends up with chicken in her hair. Despite our best efforts, food will stick to face and hands and bare arms. That’s why we schedule weaning just before bathtime.

Birthday post

It’s my birthday today. I am now 44. With V. being 7 months old, does this make me an ‘older dad’? And how many new dads of my age are doing this for the first time, as I am?

Looking around me on the streets of London, I can do a quick survey of how old other dads are. Those with newborns seem to be in their late twenties/early thirties. That would correlate with the dads I see with older children – ten years old or so. They look like they are in their forties. I can’t tell V. that having her gave me grey hairs: I already had them.

So it seems to me that I’m around ten years ahead of the bell curve. Is this an advantage or a disadvantage to me or my daughter?

As she gets older, my age becomes more obvious. When she’s 10 I’ll be 54. Ok that’s not so bad. But by the time she graduates I’ll be in my mid-sixties. If she were to get married and have children at even an average age, that will make me a new grandparent in my seventies. And what if she waits longer to have kids, as I did…?

I’m not so concerned by the age gap. I am lucky to have found an amazing partner who has given me an amazing daughter. It happened when it happened. And I hope to stay young in my mind, as I watch her grow up.

Although it wouldn’t hurt to look good for my age, so I’d better keep on training.

When parenting is like Metal Gear Solid

I wouldn’t call myself a gamer, but about ten years ago, I remember really getting into Playstation’s Metal Gear Solid. As the first 3D stealth game, you made your way through the different levels of the game, often through the avoidance of armed guards.

If you were detected, the alarm would go up, the guards would get anxious and start looking for you. Your only recourse was to wait out their routine sweeps, avoid the guards’ sight and stay quiet. And you could stay like this for quite a while, until the guards eventually gave up the chase. You could then breathe a little easier. I can still hear in my head the ping the game made when ‘all clear’ came and I could and carry on with the mission.

A decade later, when V. is restless and crying at night and I’m on duty with her, I try to think of this waiting game like waiting for that ‘all clear’ ping in the game. When I have picked up V. to get her to fall asleep on my shoulder, I then have a very delicate time of it slowly returning her to her cot. I have to keep her close to my chest, bend over the side of the cot, lay her down, slide my hands out from underneath her and creep over to the nursery door. All in complete silence. Sometimes there’s a noise out on the street, or the floorboards creak or one of my bones click (!) and suddenly she’s rousing herself. I freeze, and think of waiting for those guards to give up their search for me. I have to just be patient and stick with the walkthrough me and the wife have designed.

Another time, I shall think of how to compare parenting with tossing a CS cannister into a room.

Everyone has an opinion about babies

F. experienced it initially when our daughter was just a few weeks old.

Although still not entirely confident taking a newborn out and about in early October, F. thought that meeting a good friend for coffee in the local area would be a nice trip out for her and the baby. As my wife walked along the street with her friend, V. in her arms, a passing woman said to her in no uncertain terms ‘That baby ought to be wrapped up better’. The busybody continued walking on, leaving F. stunned.

Later on, F.’s response was to be more upset than shocked. And we were astonished and angry that anyone should be that presumptive. Neither of us could understand how that woman could possible justify giving that advice in such a way. Correction: criticism, not advice. We tried to brush it off. But on subsequent trips out with the baby, I could see F.’s confidence affected and doubt would flash into her mind about her decisions.

No one told us about this kind of thing happening. And I’ve certainly not read anything in any of our baby books. But as soon as you say this to other parents, the stories come out. I mentioned F.’s high street encounter to a client, a mother of three who lives in Primrose Hill. And she happily told me of an experience she’d had when out with her youngest daughter one evening. A complete stranger had said to her “You should be at home by now, you stupid cow”. Years later, this incident was now a family joke. But, for those of you who are expecting your first baby, I can tell you it’s not funny at the time. And it really is hard to believe just how prevalent this activity is.

Up until a couple of months ago, I had not directly experienced this phenomenon. I had started to think that perhaps strangers wagging fingers was a gender-issue: mum’s being seen as soft-targets for the opinionated. But one afternoon in John Lewis, I had a mild, passive-aggressive swipe taken at me whilst queuing to return a kettle.

I was waiting in the Electricals department for service. V. was strapped to my front in her baby carrier, dozing. Although we were indoors, she still had her warm coat on as it was February and I hadn’t anticipated being in a queue for quite so long. Getting served at the reception desk in front of me was a well-spoken woman in her fifties, trying to get a spare part for her fridge. As a harassed staff member made a couple of phone calls on her behalf, she turned to look at my daughter. With a smile, she nodded to V.’s coat, ‘she’ll be warm in that’.

So, basically we can’t win. The baby’s either too cold or too hot. My advice is that, should this happen to you, ignore them.

When You Realise You’re on Your Own

Sometimes we’ve had a question about raising our baby. And we just can’t find a straight answer.

Best selling books about the subject offer conflicting or insufficient advice.

Friends with children swear by a solution that worked for them. But then don’t fully explain how the solution works.

Grandparents offer little help or forget what it was they did, when you were a baby.

Online forums are filled with ‘me too’ posters but no actual useful answers.

There seems to be a deafening silence when it comes to your question.

Once in a while, you realise: You Are On Your Own.

I have two aims with this blog. Firstly it is to create a record of my time as a new dad. My second aim is to publish useful guidance for other parents that is routed in the practical and the mundane. To offer recommendations or reflections on my own experiences that would help readers to organise themselves, prepare themselves or protect themselves.

But, as with my own experience of having questions unanswered, this blog will be unsatisfactory or incomplete for some parents. I mean, I’m posting a blog every five days that tries to cover all aspects of being a new parent..? I could write a daily blog just about sleep training alone.

So to those readers, I recommend you cherry-pick what advice you find relevant. And use your intelligence, patience and common sense to work out a solution for everything else. That’s how I’m trying to work out stuff.

Weaning

Today saw a very low-key introduction to weaning for V. And to cleaning up after weaning, for me and my wife.

It started last week when we bought a high chair. F. had assembled and installed it in our small kitchen along with a little table. It had been fun to prop V. up in the chair for a photoshoot for the grandparents. But up until today, the chair remained in the kitchen, undiscussed.

It was only today, just before V.’s afternoon feed, when F. turned to me and asked “shall we try and give her some banana?”.

So into the high chair went V. and we cut up a banana. As I had read, we cut a short length of banana and left a little skin on the bottom for her to hold, like an ice cream cone.

With cameras ready, we presented V. with her banana. She immediately took it and gave it a good suck. Particularly the skin; her screwed up little face showed she didn’t care for the bitterness.

So we looked around the kitchen for something else. We cut up some apple – which went down well – and a tomato. That was a bit too soft to handle right now.

And that was that. At nearly 6 months, babies aren’t going to do anything with food except drool on it. Most of the fruit ended up smothered over V.’s onesie or on the table. Why we didn’t put a bib on her, I don’t know why. We do that a lot: focus so much on one milestone, we forget what we have previously learned.

So after about 15 minutes, we called it a day and V. went on to have her regular feed. I’m not sure what Mrs D. and me were expecting. For the record, we handed her those pieces of fruit. Does that count as baby-led? I don’t think it does.

Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’

This last week has seen V. develop a taste for rolling from her back to her front. It’s a developmental milestone you hear about and she is bang on time. But it’s still a delightful surprise to watch it during playtime.

There’s a catch, though. She has also been doing it during some daytime naps, whilst lying in her cotbed. Rolling over wakes her up and she finds herself all twisted up in her sleep sack. V. cries and we find her on her tummy, unable to roll back onto her back. Nightime sleeps have not been disrupted in this way but we think its because she’s far too tired to be so active.

All the online advice seems to agree that this perfectly natural phase is disruptive to the baby’s sleep. The usual sources also agree that the baby will learn the skill of rolling back within a couple of weeks. To speed up the process, we’re encouraging rolling during playtime. By giving V. little nudges during tummy time, we’re hoping she’ll learn the skill for herself and will self-correct during naps. The knack with rolling is to tuck one arm under near you or lay it out along the floor, lying next to your ear and roll over that. Of course one leg has to bee thrown over the hip to help momentum.

In the meantime, me or F. tuck V.’s sleep sack a little tighter under the mattress to reduce the amount of rolling. I’ve also sewed a couple of snap fasteners into her daytime sleep sack to slightly reduce the wriggle room.

FYI the title of this blog is more Rawhide than Limp Bizkit. Although other answers I would have accepted are; Rolling in the Benjamins, Roll Out The Barrel or Rolling Thunder.