Category Archives: New dad

Alternative Transport to the Pram

Tumbler 750x499
Am I the only one who makes sports car noises when manoeuvring a pram along the street? Ok, how about an indicator clicking on and off as I pull out into the pedestrian traffic? Just me, then. Living in the centre of a city presents many obstacles to using the pram. Getting on and off buses and the Tube (yes, we do use public transport). Roadworks, A-boards, street furniture, meandering tourists. So I’m offering up my experiences with these three alternative transport options.

Buggy

Buggies (aka strollers) seem to dominate the baby moving market, certainly from toddler age.

We bought a modestly-priced buggy when F. had to travel down to her parents by train and the pram was just too unwieldy. The relative lightness and collapsibility are positive factors. But there are a couple of down sides. Moving from inflatable tyres to solid ones has meant that the lightness is lost to friction. And our buggy has a fixed height handle. If there’s a height discrepancy between yourself and your partner, then one of you is going to find the buggy handles too high or too low. Between Mrs F. and I, there is such a discrepancy. My silence tells you who it is.

Buggies also seem less stable for the purposes of hanging bags on them (nappy bags, shopping bags, coats, scarfs, hats, cloths, books, toys etc). If you’ve made the decision to bring along wheeled transport (which cannot be left on their own should they get stolen) they should at least offer the benefit of helping you with your bags. You can still peel away from the pedestrian lights with a wheel spin noise.

Backpack

Our baby carrier started out as the front-loading type for younger babies. Whilst convenient in some ways (ask kind of nice to have the baby’s head just under my nose), it took just 20minutes to start to bother my low back. Now at 20 months, we’re able to attach a new piece that functions as a toddler seat that isstrapped to the adult’s back.

V. took to the riding position immediately and has a great deal of fun. Our backpack is smaller and lighter than the metal frame versions that are made by outdoor mountaineering brands. With the backpack I have, the child sits lower down with her head about the same level as mine.

I’ve tried it about fifteen times now, for trips lasting half an hour to the whole morning. My back has felt much more able to carry the baby. Our first trip was to Columbia Road market. Knowing how busy it gets (the whole street is a bottleneck) I didn’t fancy barging through with even a stroller. And it’s perfect for my post-flower market trip around the corner to Brick Lane to pick up a dozen bagels for the freezer and a salt beef bagel for lunch.

A neat feature I recommend is a pull-out head cover the fixes over the child’s head when she’s asleep on your back. The cover supports the head so it doesn’t roll around or jerk backwards. One drawback of having the baby on your back, if you are on your own, is what do you do with your nappy bag? You can’t carry anything else on your back.

Reins

I was under the impression that reins were frowned on by certain parents. But an online search through a couple of parenting forums suggests that this is not the case. An urban myth, then. Perhaps you don’t see reins being used that often because parents are self-conscious of what other parents may think. If so, the more modern incarnation of reins are those toddler backpacks that have the option of a rein attached to it. V is not that much of a bolter but she still wriggles her hand out of ours often enough. I don’t see any downside to reins. But do look for an adjustable wristband. The reins are not designed to take her bodyweight but inevitably when she trips, you can pull back on them to slow her descent and inevitable crashing onto her hands and knees.

So there you go. Alternative modes of transport for the growing toddler, none of them the Batmobile.

By the way, in order to use this photo, it has to be for the purposes of reviewing the Batman film so here is my review: Dark Knight Returns: brilliant.

A Farewell to Breastfeeding

This week, V. turned 18 months old. And the very next day, her Mum stopped breastfeeding.

I’ve detailed in previous posts our on-going difficulties with breast-feeding. Looking back, the issue that was most difficult to surmount was the pain breastfeeding caused, the impact on our daily routines and the massive drain on my wife’s energy. Pain came if the milk wasn’t all used up, if the feeding routine was changed, or the length of time of the feeding. There was pain when the baby changed position or became distracted and looked up, breaking the attachment. The distractions became such an issue, that F. had to retire to a quiet room on her own yo perform a successful feeding. With feeding in public a distant memory – despite the colourful nursing covers we had bought – F.’s own routine became curtailed when we also had to consider getting in the baby’s naps. So some days she didn’t get out of the house. That idealised picture of the woman breastfeeding whilst vacuuming the carpet or taking a phone call? Never happened. In a year and a half.

And pro-breastfeeding sources didn’t help. The advice our prenatal class teacher gave can be summarised as ‘if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong’. And breastfeeding books didn’t address any other scenario other than complete success. Their answer is; just keep trying.

What was really the clincher in F. deciding to finish breastfeeding, was just how darning she found breastfeeding, both physically and mentally. Good nutrition, sleep and supplements, didn’t seem to help with the tiredness. So much so, F. went for an anaemia test. When we found it out she didn’t have anaemia, it was another step towards deciding to stop breastfeeding.

The process of weaning V. off breast milk turned out to be fairly easy for her. Although V. had been breastfed from the beginning, the rocky start we had meant that she had always been fed formula as well. Many pro-breastfeeding sources take time to describe why formula and bottle feeding is so bad. But unless both baby and mother immediately take to breastfeeding – and considering the staggering drop-off rates for breastfeeding, I doubt if there are too many instances of this – you’re going to need formula. Otherwise the baby is going to be in the position of not putting on enough weight according to your doctor. FYI about formula: they’re not all the same. You may have to find one your baby likes.

And when V. really started with the solid foods, breast milk became more of a lifestyle choice. So the baby didn’t complain that much when my wife began to reduce the frequency of feeds to twice a day, then the length of each feed. It was a low-key, smooth end to an extremely bumpy ride.

Perhaps you don’t choose breastfeeding. Breastfeeding chooses you. Because up until recently, if my wife had told me she was stopping breastfeeding, I would have been relieved. Because breastfeeding can be a bitch. I have an appreciation of what she’s given up and an understanding of how sad this closing chapter is for her. But I also have a gladness that my wife may return to her usual levels of energy. As the bystander, I haven’t experienced the closeness of mother and baby. I have to take my wife’s word for it that she believes that breastfeeding has contributed to us having a healthy toddler.

As an addendum to that final point, one of the proposed advantages of breastfeeding his that it helps protect baby from illness. How, I don’t know. But the day after she quit, V. got a cold, as did her Mum. But then again, so did I.

Standing is the new rolling

V. has learnt to stand up. It’s hugely enjoyable watching her clamber up onto her feet and wobble about. However it has lead to an unexpected regression in her night-time routine.

During the initial couple of hours in her cot, V. is waking at the end of each sleep cycle, pushing herself up onto her hands then climbing onto her feet. Unfortunately, she’s yet to learn how to sit back down unaided. So at this point she cries for help. It means we’re back to the situation we had a few weeks ago when she was rolling onto her front and getting similarly distressed. That all seems like a year ago, by the way.

We’ve decided for the time being, that as soon as the baby starts to cry, myself or F. goes into the room to pick her up. We rock her back to sleep in our arms. When she does nod off, we then gently place her in the cot and slide our arms out from under her, creep across the bedroom floor and close the door behind us. At all stages, she could wake and we’re back to the beginning of the process. It’s the creaking door that wakes her up the most. Even with oil on the hinges.

We know that there is a potential for the baby to quickly learn that this as the only way to get to sleep. That would undo weeks of hard work we (and that includes the baby) have gone through to have her put herself down.

We are also aware that, when she is put down, her sleep will be lighter than if she self-settled. Therefore creating a greater chance that she’ll wake again. But we needed a quick solution to get a chance of some sleep through the small hours of the night. Until V. learns to lie down by herself so she can return to sleep, her mother and I will have to regress our self-settling approach to V.’s sleep training.

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.

Playing

I’ve become more confident about playing Rambunctious Dad, now that V. is stronger and more robust. She definitely enjoys playing ‘aeroplanes’: being held aloft under the armpits as though she is flying. Although, I’m not throwing her up in the air, a bit of up and down movement gets a big grin from her. Sometimes the odd squeak of enjoyment.

I have no idea if this type of play helps with her development or in learning anything. But it’s fun for both of us. It’s nice for me to give her a sense of floating around, weightless. Sometimes I add a jet engine noise to her ‘flights’ so she can pretend to be Ironman. But that’s probably for my own amusement.

If I’m lying on my back at the time, I will rest her body along my forearms, just to make it more comfortable for her. And when I’m standing, I remember to pull in my abdominals as V. is lifted above my head. To support the low back from the long lever I’ve created with my arms. A habit from my fitness training.

A word of warning: when your daughter is held aloft, and you’re looking up at her, keep your mouth closed. Particularly when she’s drooling. Some of that drool might come out of her mouth, forming a long drip of spittle that breaks off and falls into your own mouth. I’m just saying, you might not want that to happen.