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.