Saturday, 12 December 2009

Shoot for the stars

I haven't been posting lately, mainly because the bond between father and son is too beautiful to write about. Our magical family moments are like shooting stars, so dazzling and yet so brief; who am I to drag them back to earth?

Ok ok, I'm just really lazy. Happy now?

Luca's been very busy though, learning, amongst other things, to style his own hair:

He's also been working on a range of new and slightly demented facial expressions, the favourite being the 'laugh-cry', a Mona Lisa-inspired tilt for when he can't decide if he's happy or sad.

And eating. Oh the eating. Any adult who's ever sat through a crap meal must be jealous of the way he can subtly express his displeasure by spitting the offending dish into his hand and rubbing it into his own eyes.

Most of the time he loves food. When he doesn't, we nurture him through mealtimes with the sheer force of our goodness. Either that or just stick the laptop on and stuff food into his mouth before he has time to think about it.

Don't judge us. 'Pingu Goes Snowboarding' is actually very educational.

Having a quick check around my favourite baby blogs, I am amazed and a bit ashamed to note that Mum's yoga and baby buddy Emily is still posting on The Shock of the Two almost daily. Despite have twice as many babies and even more chaotic mealtimes. Some bloggers are just dedicated.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

The silver lining

There's only so many times I can complain about not sleeping. There's only so many depths of hallucinatory, rage-inducing, reality-altering sleeplessness a man can plumb.

It's making us fairly fraught and I see no good reason why you fine people who read this blog should have to put up with it, neither of you.

So put the misery to one side and join me instead on a whistle-stop journey around the things that ARE still brilliant about having a baby son.

Last Sunday we sent mum packing to a well-deserved day of pampering at The Sanctuary in Covent Garden. She came back looking good, smelling fine, and with a aura of calm that lasted at least till Luca's 18th unscheduled wake-up in the early hours of the next morning.

I hung out with the boy, visited friends, took him to the shops, and generally swelled with pride. My only issue was the many people we passed who failed to coo over him, or even acknowledge him. Simpletons.

Yesterday I got back from work in time for bathtime. I jumped in the bath with Luca, splashed around and we generally had each other in stitches. I play a game with him called, for want of a better word, bumsplash. (I realise that this is the only time in my life where it will not be very weird to say things like that.) He stands on my belly, and then then gets quickly and vigourously dipped in the water, bum-first. He usually takes a moment to look puzzled before bursting into rapturus giggles. And he NEVER gets bored of it.

Finally, food. What he lacks in sleep, he makes up for with a gloriously indiscriminate attitude to everything we put in front of him. And the sight of him gurgling a mouthful of blended vegetables while simultaneously trying to suck his thumb, grab for the next spoonful and bury his face in the bowl is enough to reduce the hardest heart to mush. Long may it continue.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Luca battles the bomb

So Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. What on God's green earth has this go to do with my blog, you ask? Because Luca is clearly going to win the Nobel himself one day. We've already cleared a space in the cabinet, alongside one for an Oscar, the Booker prize, the World Cup and Robert Mugabe's formaldehyde-preserved head on a stick. If you've yet to notice the obvious all-conquering genius of my son, then here it is. It's in the eyes, see?

As this blog is about being a new daddy without a clue, I'm going to venture into another area that I'm even less qualified to comment on: nuclear war. It's really not as bad as everyone thinks.

Just kidding. Nuclear weapons are evil in a pretty straightforward way. They kill people on the grandest possible scale. They were despised and feared, Frankenstein-style, by the very man who invented them.

Unless you were unlucky enough to
live in Japan towards the end of the Second World War, then they have never been a particularly immediate threat.

But if a shadow has loomed over my generation and the one before, then nuclear bombs are it.

It brings me back to a familiar theme of vague, pantomime-like threats of my pre-daddy life that I could never seem to feel
that worried about. And I don't want to be a sanctimonious old bore but these things are more important now the boy's here. Ban the bomb, make the world a better place for the kids, man.

Could he grow up without the bomb, or even with things heading gradually towards disarmament instead of proliferation?

Maybe. The last few weeks have seen unprecedented moves, led by Obama
shelving plans for a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, getting rid of a major source of bitterness between Russia and the US - hence the Nobel Prize thing.

And others have followed, probably just to bask in Obama's reflected glory, but followed all the same.

Gordon Brown has promised to keep less nuclear submarines, and even the Russians are smoking the proverbial peace pipe.

This isn't any old news. This is big important people making seemingly genuine attempts to make the world a better place. Bring it on.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

How we learned to stop worrying and love the madness

Luca is eating! Actual food! Thanks to our meticulous planning he is now on a regular diet of breast milk, formula milk, baby rice, gooey baby fruit stuff, and the odd finger-dab of ice cream, yoghurt, strawberry or whatever else we happen to be eating. Sod the routine, sod the gradual introductions to new food, time to get messy.

Being used to bottles and breasts that keep on giving, he's struggled with the concept of solid food from a spoon. Specifically, the three seconds in between mouthfuls, when he demands to know why the hell the last spoonful wasn't immediately followed by another.

But I'm happy to say that he takes after his dad in eating anything and everything we put in front of him.

This is the way it's going. We're not ignoring the advice of books, health visitors, and breastfeeding counsellors, we're just mixing it up a little. Our latest theory, which will change at least eight times in the next 24 hours, is that instinct should win out over routine.

People are chaotic, tiny people even more so. He is nowhere near learning how to sleep through the night. But instead of listening to him cry at 4am in a vain effort to 'teach' him, we just feed him every time he seems to want it. Everyone sleeps more, everyone's happier, and Gina Ford can kiss my hairy white ass.

We are also the proud new owners of a Tiny Love Symphony in Motion Mobile. Apparently it might help him get to sleep on his own. He might yet learn to love it, but he might not.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

The gates of hell

Finally, it comes - bloodshot eyes, apocalyptic rage over trivial matters, crying that pierces the cavities of our brains, 15-minute stretches of screaming that feel like hours and carry us to the brink of insanity.

Come in sleepless nights, we've been expecting you.

I've had 12 hours sleep in the past week and I have literally felt the flames of hell on my toes. Fuck off sub editors, I DO mean literally.

Luca has cried his way through the nights and made us question everything we thought we were doing right. The bath-massage-feed-bed routine is laughing at us. The other night he screamed through every step of it. Then screamed at what seemed like three-minute intervals for the entire night.

What's worst, impossibly, is when he IS sleeping. When he's calm for half a priceless hour, and my mind is telling me, pleading with me, that now is the time to sleep.

In case you've never heard it, it's almost impossible to sleep to the din of your own mind's impassioned reasoning. 'Sleep now man, sleep while you have the chance. Sleep now or never again!'

Then, before I know it, it's 5.34am, Luca's at it again, and the prospect of getting up for work in two hours looms like a slow dance with Satan himself.

Yes, I was warned. Yes, we've had it pretty easy up till now. And if you want to say you told me so, then I'll agree and shake you by the hand. Except my hand will be like Freddy Krueger's, and I'll shake you by the neck instead. Sorry, I'm just having nightmares. Or am I? I don't even know any more. Night night.

PS. Parents, psychics and anyone at all with an opinion, if you want to offer any life-saving advice on how to make the boy sleep, please use the comments box, we need you!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Fun in the sun

Some might call my son a show-off. I say if you've got it, flaunt it.

Like so much, holidays with the little one take some getting used to; different, but brilliant. Gone are the marathon drinking sessions and forging of deep, meaningful, one-night friendships on the miraculous premise of meeting someone else from London. Gone are the lie-ins and five-hour reading/napping/tanning sessions on the beach.

In come early starts, wide-eyed wonder, meticulous planning and religious application of baby suncream.

Luca was a joy, smiling, squealing, into everything, and taking the odd siesta.

The evenings were mixed. One was spent eating dinner on the floor of our en-suite bathroom, trying to keep the room quiet and dark enough for him to sleep in. It didn't work. So the next night we put him in his pram and painted the town red with him in tow. And by painting the town red, I mean gulped down pasta and downed wine before traipsing gratefully back to the hotel. He slept right through.

So, to summarise, babies will not sleep in a peaceful darkened room, but they will sleep in a noisy sea-front restaurant with the buzz of Vespa motors drilling into their tiny dreams. You've got to admire nature's fine-tuned sense of irony.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Life's a lido

Tucked into a quiet corner of Tooting Common is a beautiful, sprawling mass of life and Britishness; dads reading sports pages, mums reading fashion pages, babies sleeeping, kids screaming, teenagers checking each other out, grown-ups checking out teenagers they probably shouldn't be, dropped ice creams melting into cartons of chips, cans of Stella snuck past lackadaisical security guards. It's all there.

A family flies past, leaping one by one off the side of the pool, each striking a diffferent pose in mid-air before crashing into the water; slim kids diving, fat kids bellyflopping, Luca taking in the scene with cool indifference.
On the way there I explained to Mum why the country was so gripped by a fear of England not winning the Ashes, despite being in a position where it is almost impossible to lose. I know precious little about cricket, but I don't want to miss anything, so I kept checking the score on my phone. Mum was unmoved.

We found a spot next to another young family. They looked cool. We remembered when we might have conceivably looked cool, then we noticed a pram behind them, from which they eventually pulled a screaming one-year-old. Excellent.

In between increasingly frantic attempts to calm the angry baby, he was explaining to his wife that Australia needed to score more runs than any team ever has in a second innings.

"So how can England lose?" she asks tiredly.

"It's England. They always find a way to lose."

A few hours later another dad, flanked by rampaging toddler and weirdly thoughtful eight-year-old, is staring dreamily at his phone and explaining to his family that England really have won the Ashes. They don't care.

On the way home I go to the shop to get the Guardian and milk. There's two people ahead of me in the queue, and they are both buying the Guardian and milk.

When I was younger, I fancied I was bit different from the rest, a bit special, that life should and could have more glory in store for me than most. Years later, with my new family in a sun-soaked lido, I realise that we're essentially all the same.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Leaving Luca

I'm back! You didn't notice I was gone? Fine, whatever.

Lots going on recently. Luca had his first babysitters while me and mum went for dinner and a film. Or, more accurately, we talked about him, worried about him and constantly texted the babysitters, while dinner and a film went on in the background.

I had butterflies in my stomach from the moment we left the house. It was pathetic. Poor little thing, we thought, he's going to be lost without us. Not so. Apparently chilling at home with two young ladies isn't so bad after all. Vic and Sonia, respec'.

There's been all kinds of unfatherly things going on recently: a beautifully drunken and silly stag trip and a full week away from the boy while him and Mum were visiting Auntie in Edinburgh.

I'm not going to say a week of having no responsibilities wasn't fun. It was brilliant. But I am going to swallow my macho pride and say I missed my little clan something horrible.

If you're a new dad, and worried about what you're missing out on, have a week off. Drink, have poker nights, watch endless football, whatever does it for you.

After a week of this, you will be sick of drinking, sick of yourself, and have a whole new perspective on just how good family life really is. It's the old "So you wanna smoke boy? Well you're not coming out of that closet till you've chuffed all 200 of those dried out Lambert & Butlers, then see how you like smoking."

Well I'm out of the closet, so to speak. Bye bye bachelor week, hello family, I could get used to this.

Friday, 31 July 2009

The baby dropping festival

And you thought Michael Jackson was bad.

On the surface, flinging your terrified toddler from a great height is pretty weird. In fact, it's fu**ed up on lots of different levels.

But this ritual at the Baba Umer Durga in India has been going strong for 700 years. Apparently it brings a lifetime of health and luck to the babies. And with parents like that, those kids need some luck.

I'd like to reassure all my friends and family that Luca will be doing no flying or falling any time soon, he'll be lounging on the sofa, which happens to be one of his dad's favourite activities. That's my boy.

Stop being evil!

So you're a new parent. Life is a potent cocktail of joy, mayhem and incessant, niggling questions about what is best for baby. Adverts like this beam out at you, beacons to the insecure.

'Don't worry,' they coo, 'everything's going to be fine. Just give us some money and we'll boost your child's immune system.'

Or, to take it to its logical conclusion: 'If you don't buy this, your child will almost definitely die of swine flu, you scumbag.'

We know adverts can be misleading. As a bumbling youngster I learnt the hard way that wearing several gallons of Lynx deodourant will not, it turns out, lead to sex with a bevy of untamed beauties on a Pacific island. Shaving with Gillette razors did not make me a hero, and my last Rolo meant fuck all, no matter who I gave it to.

Adverts twist, lie and exaggerate. It's the nature of things. This one says it will make Luca healthier. Surely they wouldn't lie about that? But Cow & Gate's claim is unsubstantiated. Their poxy follow-on milk does not support the immune system. Despite a frantic effort to prove otherwise to the Advertising Standards Authority, they were forced to pull this ad.

This is a depressingly familiar story. Nestlé still agressively markets it's formula milk around the world, despite its campaign directly contravening World Health Organization guidelines and provoking a 30-year boycott of the company. They stand accused of not only failing to help babies, but actually damaging their health on a global scale by undermining breastfeeding.

Nestlé, Cow & Gate, if you are reading this: Stop. Being. Evil. That is all.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

This book will save your life

Luca has been going to sleep on his own, and staying there, for a couple of weeks now. We have a 'routine' that seems to work: bath, play, baby lotion, big bottle of expressed milk, quick burp, bed.

If I knew how smooth this could be three weeks ago, I wouldn't have believed it. So if you have a baby, and he's being a nightmare, things will improve. Believe.

When he drifts off he takes most of our troubles with him. He sleeps, so he's happy, so we're happy, so we're relaxed, so he relaxes, and so on. The cycle continues; life broken down into the essential elements, everyone getting what they need.

And the mornings are glorious.

Me and Mum are getting time alone together, wine, beer, uninterrupted dinners, wine, telly, online poker, beer and wine. It's my perfect family scenario, like the opposite of Eastenders, with more wine.

The truth is that he's just a really good, easy baby. But my policy has always been to credit our brilliant parenting for the triumphs, and blame nature when things aren't going so well.

We also owe a small debt to Sleep: The Secret of Problem-free Nights. I had my reservations. It looks like it's from 1962, and tends to dictate rather than suggest: "From the first time he sleeps a core night, never feed your baby again during those hours."

Not even if it's 2.3oam, he's screaming like a Banshee on fire, you're too tired to know who or where you are, and he's giving a look that clearly says "Mummy, daddy, what have I done to deserve this? Why are you starving me?".

Because life's tough, son. It says so right here in this book. Bollocks. Obviously when this happened Mum just fed him.

But the book's mantra is right, and I recommend it to all new parents: babies want to sleep, and you just need to find a way to let them do it.

This means putting him down while he's still awake, and letting him go to sleep on his own. Then when he wakes up he isn't surprised by where he is, and can see himself back to sleep.

It is also about not 'rewarding' him for waking too soon. In practice, this means letting him cry and feeling like an evil bastard. But it works.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Nappy changing - The Director's Cut

I changed the messiest nappy in the history of babies. I mean full to the brim. It was already a mess when I unwrapped him, and my beautiful little boy simultaneously pooed and pissed, again, on the changing mat, creating a little brown pool to dip his pyjamas in. He was serene throughout, and ecstatic after. Almost worth getting shat on for.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Swine flu and babies - don't panic

Swine flu is here. But before we all rush into an apocalyptic orgy of looting and happy-slapping, let's look at the facts.

Swine flu is different from the normal flu virus. It is new, so science and the human body have not had time to develop immunity - everyone is at risk.

In the UK, there are 100,000 cases and counting. Pregnant women and children under five are likely to be the most vulnerable.

In it's current guise, swine flu is not particularly deadly. The virus has claimed 29 lives in the UK; regular flu kills around 6,000 a year. It could mutate into something more lethal, but there is no sign of this.

News like this just didn't hit me before Luca. I'm not on crack, too soft to be in a gang, and I like my odds of not getting hit by a nuclear bomb. National and global threats seem to come and go without much impact. I watch the news, feel sorry for the victims and boo the baddies, but it never seems like I really need to worry about it.

Now I look at Luca; asking only for food, sleep and love. What do we do if he gets swine flu? More importantly, what can we do to stop him getting it? This is a haphazard summary of what I've gathered so far.

Wash hands frequently and keep kids away from crowds. If you or baby get flu-like symptoms, be ready to recognise them:
  • sudden onset of fever
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • diarrhoea
  • headache
Most of these are fairly obvious to spot. If you see the symptoms, visit the National Pandemic Flu Service website, or call them on 0800 1 513 513.

Stay at home so you don't spread it, drink lots of water and take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve symptoms. The latter are available in baby doses, but ask a professional exactly what you should do.

Don't listen to scare stories. Do use freely available information from the NHS.

Most cases will clear up without drama.

Friday, 17 July 2009

He sleeps!

Luca is now sleeping in his cot, after I bottled-fed him his last meal of the day, which Mum expressed. I'm never one to overplay my own achievements, but move over Neil Armstrong, Diego Maradona, and Mahatma Fucking Ghandi, because I am the greatest. That's how it felt at the time anyway.

Mum makes this kind of landmark achievement almost every day, with grace and not a hint of self-congratulation. Good for her. I was part of something big tonight.

Incredibly ordinary situations, like drinking an uninterrupted bottle of wine with Mum, take on the glow of privilege. We are here, he is sleeping, all is well.

But I don't want to jinx it and condemn us to months of screaming, so I shouldn't get smug and complacement. Oops, too late.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Long day, little tantrum

I saw a man swear at the driver as he got off a bus and kick the door as it drove away, all with a sleeping baby in his arms while the mother watched. Fairly disgraceful behaviour. The main problem is that the man was me, and the baby was Luca.

Ashamed? Thoroughly. But what is wrong with London bus drivers? They are a miserable bunch of ****s, that's what. No, I shouldn't generalise. But they are. Each and every unhelpful, ignorant last one of them.

This particular driver point-blank refused Mum's request to get off through the front doors, forcing her back through an assault course of other prams, rowdy teenagers and elderly folk of limited mobility. All while I looked on helpless, trying to prevent Luca from waking up and realising how long it had been since he last fed.

Given the opportunity to ease the passage of fellow Londoners with the simple press of a button, most of us would press the button. Most of us.

It had been a long and hellish day - a round trip across London and through throngs of people on broken public transport, all on a 'glorious' hot and sticky day in the city.

Although it was worth it to meet a new arrival and Luca's youngest friend:

Getting on like a house on fire and not, in any way, slung together for a cute photo opp to amuse the grown-ups.

Mum sailed through the long, long day with her usual heroic calm. Luca was only mildly annoyed at the extended use of a boiling hot tube:

I thought I was fine. Then I threw my toys out of my pram, almost literally. You live and learn.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Milk and the machine

Every baby deserves mother's milk. It is the best possible food, strengthens the maternal bond and reduces the risk of long and short-term illness for mother and child alike. It is simply meant to be. And it's inspiring to watch, even during a slightly awkward moment in the middle of Pizza Express:

It is also nature's way of fighting back against gender equality. It's a binding contract for mummy to always be the one who gets up in the night, to never stray too far or too long from baby's side.

I sometimes feel guilty about this, maybe even a little inadequate, but mostly just grateful.

Can I help? No? Shall I just carry on picking my nose and playing online poker then? Sweet. Far be it from me to argue with nature's whim.

All well and good. Until the machines take over:

It could only be the Philips Avent ISIS iQ UNO. Mummy attached it to her boob and squeezed the handle a couple of times to mimic Luca's feeding action. I then watched in horror as the machine continued on its own, mechanically extracting milk from the mother of my firstborn child. And I just stood there and let it.

When I come home from work one of these days to find it sitting in my chair, snuggling up to my woman and ordering me to fetch it a cold beer, I'll probably just do as I'm told.

Threats to my masculinity aside, I have to admit that it's amazing. It let me feed my baby for the first time - magic.

We now have a growing stockpile of frozen milk and we are on the road to revolution. Whisper it, but one of these days we might even get a babysitter and go on an actual date.

At the very least, mummy can go out and let her hair down and I can have a night in, just me and my boy. I just know he's going to love poker.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Sign of the times

I believe in the nanny state. If people want help, give them help. But it can go too far. Like here:

So you're changing a nappy. It's late, it smells, and you'd rather be somewhere else. But do you really need a sign to tell you not to walk out of your baby's life forever, mid-nappy change?

As for this one:

Don't slam your child head-first on the floor! Thank god someone told me.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The nightmare before breakfast

Luca let us sleep in till 11:30 this morning. Happy fathers' day to you too, son. The only drawback to this rare and glorious pleasure is the vividly macabre dreams that morning-sleep brings.

This one involved a baby who was not exactly Luca (but at the same time was Luca, in that infuriating way dreams have). His face was blackened with bruises. He had been savagely beaten and the person who did it was still after us.

I was trying to get my family away from him. When he got close I variously fought him off with an iron, a laptop and a frying pan.

The dream had no coherent plot that I can remember, just a shuddering montage of my most terrifying insecurities writ large.

At one point Luca said his first word: 'fuck'.

Where do I get this stuff from?

I woke with my heart in my stomach. Then reality dawned: Mummy asleep next to me; Luca in the middle, slowly waking up with his customary squeaks and wriggles; the sun coming in through the window; a lazy Sunday beckoning. No bad guys, no swear words. Life is good.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Is your baby on crack?

A mother of two baby boys confides: 'I'm glad his baby acne cleared up, because he looked like a little crackhead when he was all crying and spotty. He was a little bit harder to love'.

Don't call the social workers, I think she was joking. But you can almost hear the collective intake of breath. A mother feeling anything but endless love for her child? A barbaric concept for purists, a familiar one for actual parents everywhere - every frazzled, red-eyed, pissed-on last one of them.

Another mother, of six- and 15-year-olds, stares coldly across a restaurant table when someone suggests that every parent imagines throwing their child out of a window at least once. 'I've never even imagined that', she replies, 'and I never would'.

Is it wrong to think dark thoughts? Of course not. As long as you don't do them. We've all imagined doing nasty things to school bullies, bad bosses and Ashley Cole - it doesn't make us bad people.

I still find Luca impossible to be angry or annoyed at, but I know the day will come. And if staying in touch with my dark side helps get through the tough times, so be it.

Am I evil? Before you judge me, ask yourself this: Could you love an angry crack baby ALL the time?

You could? You are also on crack. Stay away from my family.

Friday, 12 June 2009

It would never have happened in my day

I used to think grown-ups talked rubbish. Especially the ones who went on about how everything was different in their day; better; more civilised; kids were quiet; no happy-slapping.

I was convinced that the world never really changed that much - people just got older and forgot what it was like to be young.

The other day, as we sat in A&E waiting five hours to see an obstetrician (St George's has no appointment system for this), a young, wounded man burst through through the treatment room doors and asked: 'Am I dead? Am I dead though? No. Well then', before strutting off, closely followed by his police escort.

That, I thought, would never have happened in my day. Kids thumped each other, stole things and did drugs. Now they spill off the front pages of newspapers and into A&E, settling disputes with guns and knives, bragging about the mere fact of not being dead.

Not something that ever bothered me before, it just seemed too far removed from my own life. But now these people are in front of my son. My perfect, innocent son.

Is this the kind of people he'll be mixing with, or running from, if he grows up in London? Will he have to learn to swagger? Will he talk violence as if it was sport? Will he act gangster-minded when he's actually an insecure adolescent? Will he get stabbed or shot for no reason, like poor Ben Kinsella?

I love london, but sometimes I don't know if I want to bring up my boy here.

Monday, 1 June 2009

The joy of poo

Sometimes, changing a nappy can be a truly relaxing experience. The poo, the wool, the water and the wipe. Where else are life's problems so simple? What could ever come close for job satisfaction?

It gets quicker and easier, especially if you're this guy, perhaps the world's only Jujitsu nappy changer. It makes our attempts at post-bath massage look tame. Will definitely try some of his moves.

Then there's the times where you get the nappy straps tangled up, it's 3am, he screaming blue murder, Mum has fed him six times and he's been walked and bounced and burped to no effect.

It's so, so worth it. But sometimes it's hard to see that.

Not that Luca's bothered, swiftly moving onto his first date:

Molly didn't seem so keen, but he's got time to learn.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Do what feels right

One brilliant toy to recommend before more on the getting-baby-to-sleep debate: The Tiny Love Playground. Luca loves it. Or at least he lies still and stares intently at the monkey for a bit. At two weeks old, that counts as love:

Anyway, back to sleep. Two people recommend that I read Gina Ford, the baby guru who says routine is a sure route to more sleep and happier families. I started reading The Complete Sleep Guide for Contented Babies and Toddlers before Luca was born and must admit I found it a little bossy. She is single-minded and tends to divide opinion, but her methods are popular enough that I feel obliged to read more.

The temptation at 2am is to do anything it takes to get Luca to sleep, which so far means letting him sleep on top of Mum or in between the two of us. On the first night, this freaked me out a bit. 

Posters in St George's maternity ward say it increases the risk of cot death, but when we asked the midwife she said this only applied if we were drunk.

Militant Gina Ford routine or go with instinct? We're going to err on the side of instinct, at least in the early days. This was better summed up by dad of a few weeks James:

'She was sleeping so good at first and then went through a bad patch of not wanting to go down. In the end we discovered the only way is to spoil her (from the reading material this seems to be ok for first 6 weeks). Carry them everywhere, let them sleep on you (as they still feel kind of connected to a body) and feed them all the time.'

My sister Aiscia, mother of 2 boys aged 1-18 months, agrees:

'Tread lightly amongst the literature brother, there is a lot of mud to wade through. My advice: if it gets you through, its the right thing to do!'

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Time to get serious

Now that I'm a dad, life is a lot more serious. My problems are serious, my triumphs are serious, and this blog is pretty freaking serious. So I'm grateful that people are finally starting to give it the respect it deserves. 

The Ibiza Baby CD is all well and good, but there comes a time when every man has to leave childish things behind. I want ideas and products that can genuinely help me be a better dad, not provide cheap laughs to share with my mates.

So thank you Marylou for being the first to send me something genuinely useful. Click here if you want to share the wisdom, but only if you're ready.

In other news, Luca is still conquering the world one nappy at a time, and we have added a new form of transport to the family stable:

If you think it's a pram trying desperately to look like a Ferrari, you're right. But it's not my fault Ferrari don't make prams. It does have the annoying habit of letting more air into some parts of the tyres than others, giving it what can only be described as a limp. And Luca gets so upset when he's in it that we usually have to switch him to the trusty Baby Bjorn Carrier.

But when you look this cool, who cares?

Actually, I'll tell you who cares: the old ladies on the 155 bus who I have to ram out of the way to get the thing on. And anyone else with sensible pram who finds that our Phil & Teds monstrosity is taking up the floor space of the entire bus. Can't say I recommend it.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

How do you make a baby go to sleep?

Luca is not a perfect child. There, I’ve said it.

Don’t get me wrong, he is perfect in most ways, and is showing early signs of prodigious talent at pretty much everything. Whether he becomes a captain of industry, world leader or all-conquering sports star depends only on his whim.

If anyone thinks this presumptuous for a week-old baby boy, look at him:

Genius. Can’t you see it? Are you blind?

In the first few days we genuinely thought he was flawless. He slept from midnight to 10am with only one feed, spent a glorious morning with me while Mum caught up on the hardest-earned sleep ever, and generally failed to do any of the annoying things new babies are supposed to do.

We dared to believe we might have hit the jackpot: a baby that lets his parents sleep. We were wrong.

Last night he was happily dozing and feeding all day, but when we got in to bed he was a different creature, wailing and looking desperately unhappy; grabbing angrily at the boob instead of taking a proper mouthful.

It was the first time we had been unable to give him what he wanted and it was a horrible, guilty, gut-wrenching feeling. Our only tactic is to feed him to sleep, and as far as this goes the buck stops with Mum. It’s irrefutable, decreed by nature. 

I feel bad when she tells me to go to sleep while she soldiers on, but also grateful. Very, very grateful. She was up with him till the early hours while i dozed. I’ve been trying to make up for it with the lion’s share of cooking and nappy-changing. Honest.

To make things worse, we then discover that breastfeeding him to sleep is not a good idea in the first place. Apparently it instils bad habits. All I can say is that this is sound, long-term advice, and it's not easy to think long-term at 2.30 in the morning.

So I'd like to ask anyone reading this the most obvious and unanswerable question in all of parenthood: how do you make a baby go to sleep? Please keep your answers to 140 characters or less, so I can test them immediately and tweet them as my own.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Shout to all the ravers

'Chilled-out lullaby versions of Ibiza classics'. Who knew?

Thanks Nursing Times for sending me this modern wonder, featuring 'classics' such as 'Music sounds better with you' and 'Sing it back' - remixed, slowed down and using chimes instead of words.

Some might see this as a cheap way to exploit midlife-crisis stricken new parents desperate for a way, any way, of retaining some hedonism in their tame lives. 

I wave my glow stick and white gloves in these people's faces. Luca raved all day. So much that he finished the night by pissing, shitting, puking and crying all at once. If that's not the sign of a good rave-up, I don't know what is.

Also useful was the Baby Bjorn Air Carrier:

Not only simple to assemble and comfortable for daddy and baby, but the most effective baby sleep-inducer I have ever seen in my five days as a parent.

He was restless, and our family trip to the post office - the second and most ambitious excursion yet, looked doubtful.

What if he started screaming? Would we be able to publicly extract him from the Baby Bjorn? Was mummy up for getting her baps out on Tooting High Street?

Throwing caution to the wind, we went for it. He crashed out as soon as we left and didn't stir till we got back two hours later. Baby Bjorn, I salute you.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

The greatest day of my life

Thursday 7 May 2009 was the the greatest day of my life and this is why:

Luca Frederick Holborn Fleming is four days old. His arrival laid to rest any lingering insecurities I had about the direction my life was taking. 'Direction' seems a silly concept now, meaningless next the simple fact of my son and girlfriend dozing together on the sofa behind me, all peace and mumbles.

Like many men I had fantasies about what I wanted to be: footballer, rock star, ninja. Like most men they remain unfulfilled, although having two left feet and all the rhythm of a steak pie made this easier to accept.

And now, with a nine-to-five and a family to look after, I may concede that the opportunity to develop the pinpoint reflexes and agility necessary to become a ninja has passed.

Having said that, when Luca unleashed a proud arc of piss into the air while I was changing his nappy yesterday, I managed to catch at least 20% of it in a small clump of cotton balls. Pinpoint reflexes? Check. Ninja-like agility? Check. The rest of the wee still ended up all over both of us, but I'm just saying.

Before I became a dad the main reasons I picked up a newspaper or switched on my computer were politics, sport or poker. All of which have an impossible amount of news and blogs to digest, and I could lose days with them. Fatherhood, which I hear is a popular pursuit, has nothing like it (although a quick search revealed some great stuff here and here, and I'll keep looking).

I understand it could never have the impact of a Champions League semi-final or MPs' expenses scandal, but being a dad happens to quite a lot of people, and I want to share this world of wonder. I also want help. Lots of it. 

For my money, the just-do-what-feels-natural school of parenting is absurd to me. Why go alone where billions have gone before? Let's share the glory and the gore. Please comment or email me with hints, tips and old wives' tales. Tell me if you agree with me; tell me if you think I'm a rubbish parent. In return, I'll post as often and honestly as possible on the triumphs and disasters my new family finds along the way.