Category Archives: New dad

Baby carrier review

I mentioned just before Christmas that we were using a baby carrier for short trips out and about in our local area. Now, at five months, V. is a little bigger, has better neck control and is more robust. So the baby carrier is becoming a more useful alternative to our pram. It doesn’t hurt that it comes in a military green colour and kinda has the feel of a flak jacket when you put it on.

What’s suprising me, though, is how much my back starts to complain after just a couple of hours of wearing this thing.

As a personal trainer, it’s a matter of professional pride to eliminate this weakness from my performance. Yes, this is how personal trainers talk. It’s also disappointing because, in my professional life, I focus a lot on maintaining a pain-free, flexible and healthy back.

I suspect that this problem is common no matter which baby carrier you have. Ours is the best baby carrier on the market – a present from my Dad. It has many adjustable straps, padded waist belt and a support bar that runs down the spine.

The manufacturer’s own website shows the waist belt being positioned around the belly button. As I have always adjusted rucksacks so that the waist belt sits on my hips, I did the same with the baby carrier. I feel this allows some of the weight to be taken on the hips and not by my lower back or shoulders. Another issue to look at are the shoes I wear when I have the carrier on.

Any shoe or boot with a heel will tilt your hips into an anterior pelvic tilt. This can put undue pressure on the low back as the lower vertebrae go into hyperextension. Could those hiking boots I sometimes wear also be contributing to the soreness? I’ve switched to flatter shoes when wearing the carrier.

Both of these strategies have helped relieve tiredness and stiffness in my back when carrying V. around.

But I see a problem further ahead. As the baby gets bigger, its common to turn her around in the baby carrier so that she can face forwards. That is great for her experience. However this means that a heavier baby has now moved her centre of gravity forwards, away form yours. As far as I understand it, this means even more demands on the back and shoulders.
Nothing new to pregnant women, of course.

Clearly, I need to think about a dedicated workout to help cope with the stresses and strains of the new dad experience.

Putting her down for her mid-morning scream

Daytime naps are proving more difficult that sleeping through the night.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that we’re loosely following Alison Scott-Wright’s system for sleep training. This means baby gets two naps during the day. The first one occurs after an 11am feed. She then gets one after the 2.30pm feed.

It’s the morning nap that V. is not taking to. She simply does not want to go to sleep in the middle of a bright, sunny morning. In an attempt to tire her out a little more before putting down for a nap, we’ve increased playtime activities. It’s difficult to judge whether we’re tiring her out or showing her how much more fun she’s missing out on if she lets us put her down.

We only have a couple of months to go before our system recommends to drop one of the daytime naps. Of course, it’s the afternoon one that is supposed to go. We shall see how this goes down with the little lady.

Any baby-rearing system you care to try out – be it for sleep training, potty training or weaning – is only going to work by the grace of your baby and some major tinkering about to fit your personal circumstances.

Using a baby list of things

My wife and I are inveterate makers of to-do lists. We’re better at making to-do lists than actually completing them. Up till now this has been a hobby. Now, though, after 5 months, baby brain has left us unable to even remember something as obvious as packing a clean nappy in the nappy bag.

So our lists have finally come in handy. It takes thinking out of the equation and we fret less that we’ve forgotten something essential or otherwise.

Here’s our top three list of the lists that are proving most valuable to date:

• 1st breastfeed of the day – allows us to arrange the nursery with nappy change items, cloths, glass of water, cue up an audiobook on the mobile phone et al

• Nappy bag essentials – our bag contains 26 separate items. Pointless trying to remember them all.

• Weekly Domestic chores – spreading out the chores over the week

These lists are printed up and posted up on the nursery wall, next to the front door and in the kitchen.

Laundry tubs are bags of fun

With the reusable nappies firmly part of our daily lives,

With a growing baby’s wardrobe plus continuous resuable nappy use, laundry has rather taken over the flat. And my laundry skills have been lacking. Once in a while we’ve find ourselves without muslin cloths or a baby towel for bath time or an insert for one of the nappies or any underwear for the grownups.

Buying more linen and clothes isn’t advisable. Knowing myself and F., we’ll just end up with larger piles of laundry.

So at Christmas, my wife gave me a set of plastic tubs in a variety of colours. You know the kind: flexible ones that seem to be on every building site nowadays. I already have one for our tiny roof garden. Now I have a set to help organise the laundry. They’re tough, but very light, flexible (for shoving into corners), wipeable and stackable.

The first step was to colour code the tubs. There is therefore no need to sort out a laundry load in front of the washing machine. It’s all in one tub. The other advantage is that it becomes very easy to see what type of washing is building up and therefore ought to take priority. The nappies have their own zippable bag which essential to keep the smell in until they are washed. Everything thing goes in a tub.

I’m now working on a laundry schedule. My aim is to cut down the number of washes we do on the week and to maximise exactly what goes into each wash.

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.

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.

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

The ‘Tiger in the Tree’ Hold

Tiger in the Tree hold.Image reproduced from BABYCALM by Sarah Ockwell-Smith with kind permission of Little, Brown Book Group.
Tiger in the Tree hold.Image reproduced from BABYCALM by Sarah Ockwell-Smith with kind permission of Little, Brown Book Group.

I don’t think many new Dads know how to hold a baby. And even fewer know about the ‘tiger in the tree hold’. I had even forgotten about this position, when I first learned about it at an NHS  pre-natal class. The teacher handed out a grainy, photocopy of a line drawing showing this hold. A few weeks after my daughter was born, though, her mother and I were having difficulties soothing her. Rocking didn’t work and neither did patting her on the back or ‘shh-shh-shh-ing’ I discovered the NHS handout from under a pile of papers and we gave it a go with great success.

Usually, the tiger in the tree hold is recommended for soothing colicky babies. But we’ve been using it for weeks now with V, who doesn’t have colic. It can work a treat for a variety of my daughter’s gripes: from full blown apoplexy to nothing more than a mild case of squirrely baby syndrome. I just flip her over to lie in a prone position along my forearm, her chin resting in the crook of my arm, and she calms right down. Of course, I’m finding out in these early weeks that results with a newborn do vary. But like the man said; 60% of the time, it works all the time.

The only downside to this position is dribble on the forearm and an aching shoulder.

This hold was especially useful to discover as V. has not proven to be a fan of the classic ‘bum cradled in the crook of the arm’ position. This is the go-to hold for all the Grandparents. But perhaps tiger-in-the-tree is new to western society? Quite a few parents I’ve talked to either don’t know this hold, or seem reluctant to use it. And even after I have demonstrated the power of the tiger, the Grandparents still prefer to sit V. upright, chin resting on her chest like a grumpy Winston Churchill.

Here’s a decent video from Cheshire mum Claire Lancaster and another, more advertorial, video showing the same hold with more of a newborn infant (the hold is demonstrated from 00:30).

 

 

 

It’s a two-handed world

In the eleven weeks since V was born, there have been many times I’ve had to do chores around the house whilst holding the baby.  And I have very quickly found out that some chores are made way more difficult by baby-friendly products that turn out to be not very print-friendly products.

Baby feeding bottles, surprisingly, do not seem to be very parent-friendly. We’ve used three different makes; Medela, Tommy Tippee and, at the moment, Philips Avent. With each of them, they have worked very well with feeding V.

But when you are trying to make up a formula or breast milk at 2am, whilst holding a rapidly-waking child, these bottles become complex 3D puzzles. For some reason, they all come with caps that are too tight to flip open with a thumbnaill. You then need to unscrew the teat to be able to pour in water or add formula. But as the bottles are too wide to grasp between your teeth,  unscrewing the top is impossible without two hands. And finally, when the water and formula are in the bottle together, the teat needs to be screwed back on and the cap snapped into place to give the bottle a shake…

If bottles are to remain screwtop, snap-fit and wide, then I suggest someone designs a rubber mount that attaches to the kitchen counter top. The base of the bottle slips into the mount, holding it firm like a vice. You can then screw and unscrew the bottle with one hand.

In the meantime, my advice is to completely make up the formula, shake it up then leave the cap loosened before going to get your baby.