Saturday, 18 September 2010

Almost as bad as semolina

I've been attending a New Parents session at my local Sure Start centre. Three lunchtime slots covering topics as varied as benefits, childcare options and minor illnesses. I think a lot of it boils down to common sense, but I'm all up for information: bring it on and I'll sift through and file what's useful. I have what I think of as a mental filter. A piece of information arrives at my ears, perhaps briefly amuses or arouses interest, then the filter kicks in: is this piece of information going to be useful for future occasions? Yes - file it. No - ditch it. I'm rubbish at pub quizzes.

This week I discovered that we may be eligible for child tax credits, which astounded me. The current threshold for household income is surprisingly high: £66k. As a bonus, the first £100 of your SMP (statutory maternity pay) doesn't count. This means we could be £90 better off (can't remember if it's per week or per month). It's not going to buy that Porsche but it's still £90, which buys a lot of nappies (or icecream). Possibly not the most thrilling bit of blogging I've done, but maybe it'll help make someone's life a little more comfortable.

I've blogged before about motherhood being about liquids, and inevitably this topic arose. If you'd asked me a year ago, I'd never have guessed I could be part of a ten minute conversation about the methods of removing snot from the nose of a three month old child. For the record, going into the bathroom and turning the shower on was a popular solution (the baby equivalent of sticking your head over a bowl of boiling water), closely followed by saline drops (which make baby sneeze, seems a bit harsh to me). We all admitted to simply pulling them out on occasion - gross but true.

Still on the topic of liquids, we covered what to do about diarrhoea, vomiting and constipation (yummy...). The first question that sprung to mind is how on earth do you tell if your little one has the runs?! I guess it's all relative. The solution for the first two is to keep fluids going in: for formula fed babies introduce a little cooled boiled water; for breastfed babies increase the number of feeds. As for constipation, it's not an issue if they're going several days in between as long as it's soft coming out. If not, it's more boiled water for formula fed babies, and for breastfed babies? Prunes for mum. Nightmare memories of school dinners come flooding back...

Image: riganmc /

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Importance of Icecream

I've struggled with my weight most of my life. I started secondary school overweight and put on extra since university. I've never been huge but certainly slipped into the obese category on the BMI charts. I say "struggled" but, truth be known, I put very little effort into dealing with it until recently.

The big push came last year: I decided that it was soon going to be time to start a family and if I couldn't lose the weight before having a baby I certainly wasn't going to lose it afterwards. I also wanted to make sure I was as healthy as possible in pregnancy. I lost just over two stone from late January to September; nothing meteoric, but a good steady, maintainable pace. I came off the pill, waited for my first real period and then we started trying. Father Badger was rather disappointed: we'd told ourselves that it could take months of trying and he was looking forward to the process, but I was pregnant within a few weeks!

Morning sickness kicked off the weight gain: I was never sick, but required regular doses of "absorbant" food (such as Marmite on toast) to suppress the nausea. By month four the nausea had been replaced by permanent hunger and by the time Baby Badger arrived I was three stone heavier. I told myself that pregnancy was not the time to worry about it, nor were the first few months after the birth.

My period of grace is over... I've lost a stone and a half of the weight through the birth and retained fluid gradually leaving my system. Breastfeeding has no doubt also played a huge part in controlling my weight as I feed my continuingly large appetite. I have, unfortunately, developed a passion for Ben and Jerry's icecream, and I'm just not willing to go cold turkey so I've had to resort to exercise!

This evening I managed my fourth post-baby jog around the village (a mile and a half), this time without slowing to a walk, and I've signed up for a 10km road race in December. I fully expect to be last across the line but if I am it doesn't matter - it's something to aim for, something I'm doing purely for me.

Image: Idea go /

Monday, 13 September 2010

Just an innocent murmur

Baby Badger's eight-week check went almost without incident. (This was, of course, several weeks ago.) Feeding and weight gain were coming along nicely; hips were fine (although it was a little disconcerting to be told by the doctor that she was "trying to dislocate them to prove that they wouldn't"); the fontanelle (soft spot on the head) was the expected size. The only slight concern was a heart murmur.

Unsurprisingly, my own pulse raised a little when I heard this. The doctor told me that Baby Badger would be referred for a further examination at the local children's hospital. She went on to reassure me that one in four babies have a slight heart murmur at this age and she'd probably be made to look an idiot when the murmur had disappeared by the time the referral came through. As promised, a few weeks later a letter arrived and I was given a choice of hospitals I could attend for the examination together with a number to ring to arrange the appointment.

That appointment was today. Father Badger was working so my mum came along for some company. To be honest, I wasn't particularly worried - I make it a policy to assume the best case scenario until proven otherwise, as it leads to a much happier experience of life - but it was nice to have some company in the waiting room. Although we weren't kept waiting too long, Baby Badger was starting to get a bit hungry (and therefore cranky) - it had been a couple of hours since the last feed due to the time it takes me to get from our rural area to the hospital via the park and ride. I prepared myself for the inevitable screaming when the sleepsuit was removed and cleaned my hands in order to provide my little finger for sucking!

The doctor arrived and I made to hand Baby Badger over only to be told to keep hold of her as she'd be nuch happier. I cradled her in one arm while the poppers [a.k.a. press studs to the Americans reading this] over her torso were opened and braced myself for the scream and... nothing. The doctor was cooing and wiggling her eyebrows and Baby Badger was smiling beaming back at her! The whole appointment went smoothly as the stethoscope was applied across her chest and back and her pulse was taken at wrist and hips.

The outcome? Baby Badger has an "innocent murmur": the heart is fine and it's actually the blood flow that's being heard. As she puts on weight, there will be more body mass between the heart and the stethoscope and eventually the murmur will not be heard. Phew!

Image: jscreationzs /

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Baby vs The World

I've always tried to do my bit for the environment. I recycle as much of our household waste as possible. I give away things I no longer need on Freecycle rather than send them to landfill. I do my best to switch off appliances and lights, and I try to buy items with minimal packaging. I'm hardly an eco-warrior, but I probably fit in the "above average" category for environmentally sound gestures.

Baby Badger, on the other hand, is definitely a consumer to challenge my (pale) green principles.

Father Badger and I decided before Baby Badger arrived that we would use disposables at first, while the sleep deprivation and ineptitude was at its worst (and while the daily turnover of nappies was likely to be at its highest), but aim to move to a more eco-friendly alternative as soon as possible. Baby Badger is now three months old, so we're overdue. We've bought a handful of different modern washable nappies (Itti Bitti D'Lish, Bumgenius Flip and v4, Bambooty EasyDry and FuzziBunz OneSize) and tested them with similar results: they absorb wee for a good few hours, but Baby Badger has yet to test the leg holes to capacity, if you get what I mean...

It seems logical that reusable nappies must be more eco-friendly than disposables, but there are so many factors such as the energy used to produce the nappies and the energy and detergent used to clean them. There are lots of sites online where people trade and sell pre-loved nappies, which goes some way towards dealing with this; Cloth Nappy Tree is one such site. You can wash the nappies on half or quarter dose of detergent, and most are fine at 40 degrees, but use of a tumble dryer makes them almost as bad as disposables [although I honestly can't remember where I read this]. Experience of our trial nappies tells me, however, that even with a decent day for the washing line these nappies take a while to dry, so over winter we can expect soggy nappies on indoor airers.

Cue knight in shining armour: the Nappy Laundry Service. The county council website reliably informs me that our area is covered by a Nappy Laundry Service. They deliver a week's worth of nappies and take away the previous week's soiled nappies and wash them to suitably high standards. I'm telling myself that the fuel used to shift the nappies around must be offset by the ability to bulk wash the nappies in an industrial washer because the idea of being green without the ick factor of having to wash them myself is, quite frankly, highly attractive.

We've also trialled some "eco-disposables". These are nappies that are produced in a supposedly more eco-friendly manner (bleach-free, etc.) and also decompose in a more timely manner. Some, I've heard, may even be compostable, but I've yet to find the evidence. I'm hoping that we can end up combining the magic Nappy Laundry Service washables with eco-disposables for emergencies. Watch this space...

Baby wipes, the chief weapon in any mother's armoury, are equally onerous in landfill. There are brands that claim to have a lesser impact, and then there are the reusable, washable variety. I bumped into a mother at a Nappuccino (I kid you not) that uses flannels and a spray bottle containing water, tea tree and lavender oil to clean up. I'm not sure I'm quite at the stage of being able to cope with that when a poo-nami strikes.

There are, of course, many other ways in which to lighten your little one's impact on the environment. Gratefully accept second hand baby clothes; after all, what is the point of brand new clothes that last a month? Pass on clothes that no longer fit to other mothers - NCT nearly new sales are one way to do this. Minimise the number of toys that require batteries. Try public transport rather than drive everywhere with your little one: I managed a trip to London single handed on the bus, train and tube with only a baby carrier and rucksack and it actually wasn't that bad!

So... my plan of attack? Firstly get Baby Badger cloth bummed, then give the flannel a go (once I've worked my way through the baby wipe mountain in the cupboard*). After that? Who knows.

* The baby wipe mountain is courtesy of Father Badger, who became slightly over-enthusiastic when he spotted an offer at the supermarket and ordered packets totalling in excess of 1,400 wipes. Seriously.

Post inspired by imperfectpages:

Image: Phiseksit /
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