Handy Hints and Helpful Tips.

This week I thought I’d take it down a notch and rather than scaring the pants off everyone (as I’ve been lead to believe that I’m doing), I thought I’d compile some handy information that may actually be useful and practical to some. This list is probably something that I will revisit in the future as my son grows and goes through different stages, but so far everything below is either something that I have used, developed myself, or sourced from other people. So enjoy.

Google Nothing! When you first get that little newborn home they will display characteristics you never thought were possible or likely for a baby. They will have moods, physical reactions, and basically act nothing like what you thought babies are supposed to be like. So of course you turn to your old friend Google. And before you know it, your baby DEFINITELY has some sort of rare and ancient disease, never before seen by the likes of man. Over the last 15 months I thought my son had GORD, a leaky oesophagus, a punctured lung, epilepsy, autism, cancer, milk protein allergy, ringworm (actually, he did have that one), and other various ailments. And looking back he’s literally only been sick three times with not too severe colds (yes, I know I’m very lucky for that. Don’t hate me). If you think your child may be ill, I strongly recommend leaving the computer alone and just taking them to the GP. If still concerned then take them to a child health nurse, or the local children’s hospital.

Ryan’s Rule. (This is for Queenslanders only). On the subject of worrisome conditions, did you know that if you feel your concerns are not being heard or taken seriously by health officials then you can invoke Ryan’s Rule. This is for the state of Queensland only and more information can be found here: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/cairns_hinterland/html/ryan-home.asp.

Also on the subject of computers, I’d suggest staying away from “Mummy” forums. Ok, yes I know there are some really wonderful and supportive groups out there. But sometimes as a new parent you can feel a little overwhelmed, so you decide to seek out fellow mums for advice and assurance. Unfortunately you can sometimes come away with feelings of inadequacy and further insecurities. I’ve come across mothers who will brag non-stop about their children. That’s not a bad thing. In fact I love to brag about my son all the time. But you have to be careful in what context you’re bragging. If you come across a forum where a mother is desperately seeking answers about why her child is crying non-stop, won’t eat, won’t sleep and they are feeling generally down about being a “terrible parent”, now is probably not the time to chime in with how your child was sleeping through from two weeks old, never cries, is a perfect angel, and how fantastic your life is. Also if you’re worried about your child’s development, it’s probably not a good idea to go on these forums only to be confronted with “My child walked at 10 months” or “My child was toilet trained by one year” because all of a sudden, you’re consumed with how “behind” you child is now. Seriously, just stick to the information booklet given to you by the hospital. Children will do things in their own time.

Ever heard “Sleep while the baby sleeps”? Forget that, it’s rubbish. I prefer, “Rest and relax while the baby sleeps”. And even that’s not all that practical a lot of the time. A lot of people will tell you that all the housework (cleaning, cooking, laundry) can wait. I do agree with this to some degree. But if you’re like me then you really don’t want to do this type of stuff at night after bub has gone to sleep, or after you’ve arrived home from work. That’s “Me” time. I’m lucky that I’m at the stage where day time naps can last between 1-2 hours. Currently I might rest for a bit, feet up on the couch, read a bit of internet, watch some TV, then go and do a bit of baking or hang the laundry. The newborn stage is a little trickier as they tend to sleep more but for shorter periods. But hopefully you have a supportive partner or friends and family to come and assist. If not, remember it’s important to still take care of You as well. Give yourself some time to rest. I’m sure the dishes can wait a couple of extra hours.

Invest in a bouncer. Depending on size and agility of your baby these usually last around 6-8 months. Mine was great. I’d stick Stormaggedon in his bouncer and he’d watch me hang the laundry or put it away. All the while I would talk or sing to him. It’s good bonding time, and they still have a nice view of the world.

Once the bouncer is gone, invest in a playpen! Seriously, do this. Ok, so depending on the size of your living arrangements it might not be practical, but if you have the space, please get one. I actually didn’t put mine up until Stormaggedon was about 11 months old. Why didn’t I do it much earlier?! It gives you peace of mind when going to the toilet or doing other household chores that they’re not trying to kill themselves when not in your field of view. Though then again, Stormaggedon isn’t big enough to climb out of his yet….

To everyone either about to have a baby, or if you’ve just had a baby I suggest reading The Discontented Little Baby Book, by Dr Pamela Douglas. I cannot recommend this book enough. This book is designed for parents with babies that are newborn up to 16 weeks old. I only read this book when Stormaggedon was already 9 weeks old, and lamented that I didn’t read it any earlier. Then found out I didn’t read it any earlier because it had literally been published two weeks prior. This book was a godsend and practically everything Stormaggedon displayed in his newborn months was described in the book, and how to deal with it. It helped me keep my sanity and was my first introduction to “It’s not just me that has experienced this!” It gives sound parenting advice, but is not consigned to “This is what is wrong with your child, can be the only thing that is possible wrong, and use X to fix it and nothing else”, which is how a lot of other parenting strategies tend to be advertised.

On the subject of books, if you’re just about to start solids then I also recommend reading Food Babies Love by Emily Dupuche. This book has over 100 recipes, and gives you a really good step by step guide on how to introduce solids, and how to help you child develop a good relationship with food. I’ve managed pretty successfully so far as my son will eat practically anything you give him, and he has a very wide range of good healthy foods in his diet. Though I am completely aware that no matter how great the start to food introduction, it is still likely to go completely pear shaped once they hit about 2 or 3 years old. I guess only time will tell for me.

Get yourself a stick blender. If you’re going to be one of those mothers who has every intention of making all baby food and purees from scratch, firstly good on you for you efforts, and secondly if it doesn’t work out or you’re not intending to do that good on you anyway, because regardless of how you do it you are feeding your child. And feeding your child is always good no matter how you do it. But if you were like me and decided from an early stage that it would be far cheaper to just make all the food (and trust me, it actually is) then you can’t go past a stick blender. It’s quick, easy to use, easy to clean, there aren’t a million parts like in a food processor, and will actually pulse your food up to a nice smooth blend (unlike most food processors, which will still leave them a little too chunky for the pallets of 5-8 month olds).

In addition to the above, if you’re making soups or purees I also recommend using a general hand masher first. This way when you go to pulse it with the stick blender it won’t splatter up on you. Which can be a painful experience if you’ve just taken your food creation off the stove.

Have you ever read those ridiculous lists of things parents do that you SWEAR you will never do yourself. The only one I ever came close to was warming up face washers under a hot tap to clean my son’s bottom. But I do have a good excuse for this one. Stormaggedon was born in the winter. A new born babies poo a lot. And if they have colic or other unexplained tummy pains, their poos are actually quite sore and stingy. So heating up a washer under the hot tap may have been a little excessive, but it really helped to calm him down and was also a great help at preventing nappy rash, which can be caused by some of those chemical filled nappy wipes. But if you can’t be bothered doing this (which is fair enough), I’d also recommend Naty Wipes, which can be picked up at your local Coles. Organic, bamboo and 100% eco friendly.

Have you ever noticed that in the winter, regardless of how long you’ve held your baby and rocked them until you were sure they were fast asleep, the second their body hits the crib or cot mattress they’re awake and crying again. If you’re not up for co-sleeping and you desperately want to get them in their own bed, I thoroughly recommend getting a heat pack (one of those wheat packs), heating it up in the microwave for 2 minutes then placing it in their bed to pre-heat it. When you go to transfer them, take the heat pack out and place them on the warm spot. Yes this takes a bit of practise, or having a handy partner on call is very helpful. But it really works a treat. I’d also suggest finding a pack that has lavender in it, as lavender is very calming.

If you’re intending to use cloth nappies, and have managed to find super absorbent night nappies that don’t leak and can be worn all night, then you are a super genius and I must know your secret! If not then don’t feel any guilt for resorting to disposables for the night time. In the middle of winter Stormaggedon would wake up, cold, hungry and saturated, and screaming for a feed. It would take us a good 15 minutes to change his nappy, change his clothes and change his bedding before I could finally get him settled into the boob. Sometimes sticking to a planned parenting decision just isn’t worth it. 

Santa Claus. And yes, I’m going to be a bit preachy here. If you’re going to participate in the ritual that is Santa Claus (as the majority of people do), just remember that some people are worse or better off than you. Perhaps let Santa gives your child the normal every day gifts, like colouring pencils, books and small toys. Because if Santa gives your kid a 10 speed bike, an iPad and designer sneakers, but the kid next door a ball and bucket and spade his parents are going to have to try and explain why Santa is an asshole.

And last, don’t listen to any advice. Including mine. People will jump out of the woodwork and go out of their way to give you parenting advice. Some of it good, some of it bad. Listen to all, but don’t feel you have to take it all in. Take things that may work for you, or just give them a try. All information is valuable, but it’s up to you what you do with it.

And as always, what handy parenting hacks have you used? Any useful tips you’d like to pass on? Feel free to add anything to the comments below. 

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