26 November 2010

It's 3am, baby's crying/feeding again, no one is awake, what do I do?

The hours between 2am and 4am are very lonely hours. Prior to having a baby, I used to spend those hours sleeping or in my much younger years out on the town (aaahhh!).

While some babies bless their parents by sleeping through from an early age, many (inlcuding mine) do not. Being up at all hours of the night to feed and resettle can be difficult, if not soul destroying. There was many a time when I found myself sitting up to feed Layla, in the winter night cold, feeling very low and sad.

When would she sleep through?
Why was she awake?
Was she really hungry?
 How long would she feed for?
Will I be able to get back to sleep?
When will she wake again?
Is this normal?

All the sleepless nights were well worth it!
I found that having someone to talk to provided comfort and reassurance. I used to SMS other new Mums at all hours as I knew that they'd be up struggling with the same issues. Other than your late night Mummy friends, there are a number of 24-hour help lines that operate in Australia, especially designed to help parents just like you. It is ok to cry to them, ask the burning and sometimes silly questions and seek support. Receiving conflicting advice can be very difficult when your baby is small and for this reason, it is important to remember that you are the expert on your child. The people on the end of the line may have some helpful advice and can offer support when everyone else is asleep. The numbers can be found on the back of your blue book but I've included them here as well:

Karitane Mothercraft Society   1300 CARING (1300 227 464)

Tressilian Family Care Centre   1800 637 357 (Sydney metro area 02 9787 0855

Australian Breastfeeding Association 1800 MUM 2 MUM (1800 686 2 686) [Optus phones drop the final 6] . This help line is manned by breastfeeding counsellors who are breastfeeding Mums. They operate 24 hours a day and are happy to take calls during the night. Given that they are also Mums, it's a good idea not to call them in the middle of the night to ask a question that could wait until the day.

Tressilian also now offers an online live help service (Tressilian Live Advice) through Facebook. Search for Tressilian Live Advice and add the application to your Facebook page. The service is only available during the day but can be very good for gaining advice when your baby is asleep and you want to keep things quiet.

25 November 2010

Getting to do the simplest things

It is truly amazing to realise how much time it takes to care for a baby. From feeding to changing, nappies to settling, all the free time you once had seems to disappear. Trying to get the simplest things done can be a monumental challenge. Here are a few tips on using your time effectively in order to get the simplest things done:
  • As soon as baby goes down for her first sleep on the day, brush your teeth. I know this sounds like no big deal but time can easily slip away before you realise it's 2pm and you have not got around to brushing;
  • A friend with 5 children (soon to be 6!) once told me that you need too get dressed as soon as possible after waking. This applies even if you plan on going back to bed when baby sleeps. It seems strange to dress and then get back into bed, but it can be done. This way you'll be ready for visitors or getting out of the house at a moments notice;
  • It is never too early to start making dinner. Meal preparation needs to be broken down into small disjointed steps so that you can stop and start when you have time. Dealing with onions and garlic first thing in the morning can be a little tough but so can soiled nappies. You'll get used to it!;
  • Make double portion meals. It takes no additional time to cook double quantities but will save you cooking tomorrow. If you're not into leftovers, you can always freeze the additional food for next week;
  • Invest in a slow cooker. There are heaps of easy and quick recipes for slow coookers that can be put on first thing in the morning with nothing further to do until you sit down for dinner that night;
  • I always used to shower in the mornings before heading off to work. Since Layla's arrival, I've switched to night time showers. I find that if I shower after she goes to sleep, I can take my time and enjoy some relaxing 'me' time before bed;
  • Lists, lists, lists. Sleep deprivation has a nasty effect on your memory. Start making lists so that your remember the things you need to do. Position paper and pen in a number of locations (kitchen, baby's room, next to your bed, next to where you feed) so you can always jot down ideas or things to remember wherever you are;
  • An oldie but a goodie is to sleep/rest when baby sleeps. It can be hard and frustrating to get into bed, be falling asleep and then be woken by a crying baby but anytime you can find that allows you to rest (and hopefully sleep) is well worth it.
I'm sure there are plenty of tips from other Mummies on how to get the simplest things done. Post a comment to share your tips.

24 November 2010

Love it , Love it - Love Me Baby Wrap Me Up

We all know the importance of swaddling a newborn baby. By wrapping a new bub, it makes her feel secure as if she was still in the womb. A problem arises when hands get lose or your baby does not want to cooperate during the wrapping process. This is where this amazing product comes in handy.

The Love Me Baby Wrap Me Up is a fantastic swaddle solution that ensures your baby stays swaddled when sleeping. Layla slept in hers every day and night until she was 5 months old when I stopped swaddling her. She knew that when I put her in the Wrap Me Up, it was bed time. They wash and dry easily and also allow for baby to go into her car seat without having to take off the wrap. I love them so much that they have become a staple gift for all my friends with new babies. I would have been lost without the Wrap Me Up. I have piles of muslin wraps that I never used as nothing was as effective. I tried other swaddle solutions but found this to be the best.

Love Me Baby - Wrap Me Up

Their website blurb explains everything....

"WRAP ME UP is the original & innovative first swaddle, that allows your baby to sleep in their natural position, with their arms up.

When swaddling, don’t deprive your baby of access to their hands. Swaddled babies who have access to their hands can settle better and sleep longer

Super fast and easy to use. Most importantly WRAP ME UP helps your baby stays wrapped all night long! Even dad will be a wrap expert!"

Love Me Baby has just released a new Organic Wrap Me Up in white and beige (so chic!) and has announced that as of 14th December 2010, a new version of the Wrap Me Up will be available in stores. The 50/50 will have removeable 'wings' so that you can transition your baby out of the swaddle into a sleeping bag....brilliant!

16 November 2010

Hospital Visitors

Many years ago, I used to get very excited about going to visit friends in hospital after the arrival of their new baby. It seemed like such a privilage to be able to see this new little life. What would it look like? Who would it look like? Would it be awake or asleep? Would I get to have a cuddle? What should I take - gifts or food? Then one day my opinion of hospital visits changed forever.

We went to see one of my husband's cousins shortly after the birth of her first son. When we arrived, we were excited to learn that another one of his cousins had also recently given birth and was in the same hospital. What luck - two babies in one visit! We proceeded to find the cousin and surprise them with a visit. We knocked on the door and went in. What we saw next changed my mind forever about hospital visits. There she was, sitting on the bed looking exhausted. Her new baby son was hungry and crying for food. She was trying to breastfeed this tiny new baby and was having no luck. There she was with her boobs hanging out, red eyes from crying, a screaming child. Her husband also looked like he had been hit by a truck and had been lying on the floor trying to get some rest when we arrived. It was at that point that I realised the time a women has in hospital after giving birth is a private and important time. It is a time to start bonding with her baby, a time to learn about breastfeeding and a time for parents to come to terms with their new role. I also realised that my insatable need to visit was all about what I wanted and not much about what was best for the new Mum.

When Layla arrived, Daniel and I had already decided not to have visitors. We restricted visitors to immediate family only. Within half an hour of giving birth, I had 8 family members plus Daniel, Layla and I in the delivery suite....wow....full on! By day two of just family visiting, I said enough. My room was very small and I became overwhelmed with all the people coming and going. In the end I further restricted my visitors to by husband and my Mum.

Layla (2 days old) deep in thought

Always remember why you are in hospital. You are there to rest and recouperate, to learn how to establish breastfeeding and bond with your child. You're not there to entertain. If you were, we would give birth in a restaurant or function centre!

The decision as to whether to have visitors or not is a very individual one. With the joys of modern technology, an SMS and email can be sent with photos of your new arrival which should satisfy many. Over time when you are feeling up to it, you can have visitors pop round to see you at home. I know of some women who prefer to have all of their visitors in the hospital so that when they get home they can restrict guests. No matter which you chose, remember to make your decision based on what is best for you. Everyone else will understand. There is no shame is saying "sorry, no visitors". It is very important that you learn early on how to put your needs first at this time. Make sure to discuss what you want to do about visitors before you give birth so that you can advise family and friends in advance.

15 November 2010

All the things you're not supposed to do

It's amazing how many things you are not supposed to do with a new baby. The books, professionals and experts all advise on the things you should not do. This list includes some of the following:
  • don't rock your baby to sleep as they'll become dependant on you;
  • don't offer a dummy as it acts as a sleep crutch and will prevent self settling;
  • don't breastfeed your baby to sleep as he/she will only ever be able to go to sleep this way;
  • don't take a baby to bed with you as you may roll on top of the baby and suffocate it;
  • don't leave a baby to cry as it will have long term negative effects on it's emotional development;
  • don't go to your baby when it cries straight away as he/she will learn that you'll always come running;
  • a baby should not need to be fed more than X number of times in a day or before every 2/3/4 etc hours.
What you realise once your baby comes along is that you need to do what you need to do in order to survive. Forget the things you're not supposed to do. Rocking your baby to sleep or breastfeeding to sleep so that you too can get some sleep is not a bad thing. Giving a sucky baby a dummy will not be the end of the world. Doing these things now and then will not form a habit. Even if a habit is formed, babies are amazing at being able to change their habits with a little guidance and training from you.

Remember, you're not being marked on this assignment. It's ok to do things in order to get through the tough times. When you are less tired then you can confront any issues and make changes. Until then, just do what you have to do that is right for you and your baby.

12 November 2010

The exciting journey into first foods

Over the last month or so, Layla and I have started the exciting journey into first foods. I remember receiving bibs and cutlery as baby gifts when Layla was born and thinking that the introduction of solids would be a long way away. In less than the blink of an eye, here we are with solid foods featuring in our everyday routine.

Layla (7 weeks) blissed out after a breastfeed. The thought of solids was a long way away.
 Good quality wholefoods have always featured as an important part of my shopping and cooking vision. Creating fun, wholesome and low GI food has been a guiding principle for me since I established my own home. I've always seen cooking as one of my creative outlets even when my energy levels faulted. As a kid, my Mum always made sure we ate good food and the evening meal was family time together. Most nights we ate as a family on the kitchen bench, discussing the adventures of the day and bonding as a family. Meals were always diverse in flavour and origin. We were encouraged to try new things and get involved in food preparation. Now that I'm faced with raising my own child, I want to make sure that meal times are fun and healthy creating a wonderful start in life.

I must admit that when Layla was born I had given very little thought to what I would feed her. I assumed that I'd follow my general food principles. What has become apparent is that a child's tastes are formed during the first years of their lives. As such the example we set as parents is oh so important. For that reason, we have decided to avoid added sugars and salts as well as junk foods from Layla's diet for as long as possible. I cook most of our meals at home and only rarely do we eat out or get take away. As such the next logical step for us was for me to prepare Layla's meals rather than resorting to commercially prepared foods.

Preparing baby food has come along way from rice cerial and mashed bananas. Our freezer is filled with ice cubes of amazingly diverse foods that Layla is enjoying and I am taking pleasure in seeing her explore good food. Here is how I got started:
  • My friend Alizah sent me a great book by Annabel Karmel that has really helped with the introduction of solids, helped me get creative and understand how to move into this new world. Her book "New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner" features over 200 quick, easy and healthy recipes for your baby. Great baby gift that is much more helpful than another jumpsuit! In addition, her website http://www.annabelkarmel.com/ has heaps of great recipes and ideas;
  • My former colleague and good friend Susan has a wonderful blog called My Little Yummy Tummies (http://www.mylittleyummytummies.blogspot.com/) where she features fantastic recipes for not only kids but the whole family. Her recipes are easy and healthy, avoiding additives and preservatives;
  • I listened to a wonderful podcast from New Moms, New Babies which featured a woman from the USA based organic food company Happy Baby Foods (http://www.happybabyfood.com/). She discussed how to make your own home made baby foods. I then went onto their website to see what food combinations they had which in turn got my mind racing. Some of the combinations they inspired include sweet potato and pear as well as spinach, mango and pear. Both have become Layla's favourites;
  • The website www.homemade-baby-food-recipes.com/ has also provided me with great ideas and recipes as well as www.kidspot.com.au/best-recipes ;
  • www.wholesomebabyfood.com/ is a great site that considers all different types of foods, when to introduce them, how to prepare them, the nutritional benefits as well as recipes for each food type;
  • I looked at the range of foods from Organic Bubs (http://www.organicbubs.com/) for ideas on what foods to combine in making interesting and healthy food for Layla. Their range is really interesting and fun. They have a e-newsletter available on their website that features great information on meals and nutrition;
  • Another great podcast from New Moms, New Babies discussed the idea of baby led weaning where instead of giving babies purees, they are given real whole food to experiment with and learn about. Since milk still provides babies with most of their nutritional needs during their first year, by letting babies experiment with food they self feed from an early age developing a better understanding of food. I was so interested that I bought the book! It arrived today and can't wait to get into it. Details of the approach can be found at http://www.baby-led.com/. Download their free booklet on how to let your child dictate their first introduction to food [www.baby-led.rhgdsrv.co.uk/pdf/blwleaflet.pdf ] . I've started by giving Layla wholemeal toast in the morning as a part of her breakfast as well as apple and carrots to gnaw on before her teeth break through.
So far our journey into first foods is going well. Everyday is a new adventure. What is most important is that we're having fun as you can see from the photos!

Layla at 6 1/2 months loving her dinner and enjoying helping to feed herself
I hope the resources in this post help to get you started. Making baby food is not only healthy, but it's fun, easy and much cheaper than buying commercially available products. This way you know exactly what your baby is eating and it helps you shape their tastes and palette for life.

11 November 2010

No Outfit Is Complete Without a Handbag

Many of us know that a great handbag can complete an outfit. A handbag is also of great value to make sure that you have all of your necessary goodies with you when you need them. Like any other young lady, Layla never leaves home without her handbag.

Layla's handbag full of her essential travel goodies
 My wonderfully creative sister Jacqui made Layla a small drawstring bag from super cute teddy bear fabric that has become known as her 'handbag'. This special little handbag accompanies Layla in her pram wherever we go. Since we live close by to a major shopping district, we tend to walk rather than take the car. As such, Layla spends plenty of time in her pram and needs to have her special things on hand. Her handbag is filled with all of her essential travel goodies - dummy, rattles, teething rings and rusks as well as her favourite 'hello' book. The handbag's drawstring ribbon also provides hours of enjoyment!

Layla's handbag is packed and ready to go!
 Drawstring bags are easy to find in shops like Mr. Tablecloth or from sellers on http://www.etsy.com/ at reasonable prices. By having such a bag filled with baby's special things, I never find myself out without an essential item. The bag stays in the pram and is always ready to go. Layla has learnt how to help herself to her goodies and looks to make sure her handbag is with her whenever we head out.

Why not put together a handbag for your little person and make sure you're never caught without essential entertainment when you're away from home.

10 November 2010

The Battle to Breastfeed....Are You Ready?

I'm yet to meet a Mother who does not want the best for her child. Most pregnant women I know want and plan to breastfeed their babies. The natural process of breastfeeding is rarely discussed by professionals during pregnancy with few first time mothers really understanding the demands that breastfeeding will place on her emotionally and physically. Dealing with changes in hormones, exhaustion from labour and the exhilaration of becoming a Mother is overwhelming enough without adding the additional demands of needing to establish breastfeeding.

Layla (4 days old) and I. Both of us looking a bit tired and worn out already!

While breastfeeding is the natural way to suckle a child, it needs to be learnt by both Mum and Bub. This can take time, trial and error. The days spent in hospital are supposed to be spent learning the fine art but in all honesty there is not enough time to truly get the hang of it. From cracked and grazed nipples to engorgement and leaking as well as attachment issues, the art of breastfeeding is not always glamorous. Having your breasts exposed while a nurse tweaks, pushes and prods is a unique and not always welcomed experience. Many women are unable to breastfeed or find it all too hard ted to switch to formula before the WHO recommended 6 month mark. There was many a time when I too felt like throwing in the towel. I'm not going to bore you with the details of my ordeal (yes it has been an ordeal) but I will say that 6 months on, we are still feeding and finally enjoying the experience.

When I first started to have feeding issues I was shocked and amazed at how many women disclosed the problems they had had once I started to discuss my dramas. Breatsfeeding is emotionally and physically draining yet the demands of breastfeeding are rarely discussed with expectant mothers. Why is it that breastfeeding problems are kept such a secret?

If you are pregnant and wish to breastfeed, here are some tips to help you prepare for the 'challenge':
  • Attend a breastfeeding class while you are pregnant. We had a small component of our parenting classes devoted to breastfeeding but it was not nearly enough. Most hospitals run classes as well as the Australian Breastfeeding Association. HIghly recommended;
  • Find the name of a good lactation consultant and have the number handy for when you go home. Some LC also run classes for pregnant women;
  • Find out whether there is a community lactation consulant (read 'free') in your area that you can drop into see either at the hospital or your Early Childhood Centre;
  • Join the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). They do great work and can offer a lot of assistance. They have also have a free support line manned by Breastfeeding Counsellors who are also breastfeeding Mums - 1800 MUM 2 MUM / 1800 686 2 686 (Optus phone lines drop the last '6');
  • The ABA has a great online breastfeeding forum which is a really good place to discuss breastfeeding issues;
  • Take a tube of Lansinoh cream with you to hospital. This pure lanolin cream is essential for maintaining good nipple condition and is safe to have on your nipples while breastfeeding;
  • Buy a breastfeeding pillow and take it to hospital with you;
  • Discuss breastfeeding with your partner and family.Make sure they are supportive as you will need their support when and if the going gets tough;
  • Put some disposible nappies that have been wet lightly into the freezer. They will act as wonderful cold packs on your breasts when your milk is coming in and if you run into any pain issues;
  • Buy a wheat pack that can be heated in the microwave as heat can be important in helping the milk let down;
  • Buy a squeezy water bottle that you can operate with one hand. It's important to drink plenty of water while feeding. Having a bottle you can sqeeze and not having to fiddle around with lids can be really helpful;
  • Make sure you have a good chair to feed in. You'll be spending a lot of time in the chair so make sure it works. The back needs to be upright and arm rests can be really helpful;
  • Get a small foot stool. I got a plastic one from K-Mart kids department that is normally used for kids to stand on while they brush their teeth. The foot stool will let you elevate your feet and knees which helps with positioning and attachment, especially in the early days.
Breastfeeding can be both a wonderful and an awful experience. While things have now settled down for me, some of my darkest days were due to feeding problems. Ultimately I was not prepared for what was involved and hope to spare others the problems I had. Saying that, I also have a number of friends who have had no problems at all with feeding. Good luck with your breastfeeding journey - I hope it is a wonderful bonding experience for you and your child.

09 November 2010

Love it, Love it - Totspot

As a new parent, I have and continue to spend a lot of time awake during the middle of the night. Whether it is searching for lost dummies or checking if the baby is asleep, fumbling around in the dark is neither fun nor glamorous.

I received this gem of a freebie with an order from Nursing Angel (http://www.nursingangel.com.au/) last year and almost threw it out without realising its value. The Totspot is a non-invasive LED light that won't wake a sleeping baby. It can be clipped onto your top so that you can attend to the baby and see what you're doing all at the same time. The light has a rotating pivot head so that you can position the light away from sleepy eyes - both yours and bubs.

The Totspot is currently on sale for $9.95 from Nursing Angel and is a must for new or expectant parents. http://www.nursingangel.com.au/p/510310/totspot-portable-night-light---clearance.html

I leave mine on the bookshelf at the entrance to Layla's room so that it's handy at any time in the night. It's funny how something so small can be such a big help. Love it, Love it!!

08 November 2010

Made by hand with love

It could be said that your baby was hand made with love by you.

Freshly Made - Layla (4 days old)
While there are an endless number of fantastic and beautiful childrens products available, nothing really beats a hand made product, individually made with love. It can be difficult to find such beautiful things unless you know where to look. I am blessed to have very creative sisters and a fabulously creative Mum. Layla is a very lucky girl to have received stunning handmade toys, a quit, clothes and a wardrobe full of funky and cute knitwear.

Me (8 months pregnant with Layla), my Mum and my sister Jacqui at one of my Mum's Shnookies Knitwear Parties
Layla (6 months) sporting a new stunning knitted vest courtesy of my super talented & creative Mum
If you're looking for where you can find beautiful hand made creations for your hand made creation take a look at:

http://www.etsy.com/   : US and global sellers of hand made goods and supplies;
http://www.madeit.com.au/ : Australian based sellers of hand made things;
http://www.mathildasmarket.com.au/ : markets that only sell hand made goods. They are on facebook and will send you updates on their next markets. My Mum hopes to feature her Shnookies knitwear at the markets in 2011 (http://www.babyshnookies.blogspot.com/ ). Very exciting!

Layla (5 months) - the Shnookies Supermodel!
Where do you like to buy special hand made goodies from for your little ones? Leave a comment and share your secrets.

07 November 2010

Things to do just before baby comes

Most women realise the value of stopping work a few weeks before their baby is due. Whether it is due to exhaustion, pain or legislative requirements, the break is usually welcomed. If you're anything like me, I was hanging out for the break and then bored 5 minutes after it started! I ended up running around doing so many things that I really did not rest enough. Oh how I long for those days of being able to sleep in, take an afternoon nap and just dream the day away.

Pregnant with Layla - 34 weeks
 Anyway, if I had my time again these are the things I would do just prior to bubby's arrival:
  • Have a hair cut, colour, waxing, facial, manicure/pedicure, massage and any other beauty treatment you usually indulge in;
  • Make time to see your friends for a quick catch up;
  • Stock the freezer with a few emergency meals;
  • Speak to your friends to work out who can and will cook you a meal in an emergency (actually forget the emergency. just cook for you!);
  • Buy a new pair of running/walking shoes. This will be great motivation to get you out of the house and walking;
  • Finish organising the baby's room, your hospital bag and a bag for the baby with stuff you'll need to bring him/her home;
  • Spend some quality time with your partner. Go for dinner, movies, a walk. Make special time;
  • Buy any gifts and cards for up coming birthdays in advance to save on worrying about these things;
  • Attend a breastfeeding class at the hospital, with a lactation consultant or the Australian Breastfeeding Association;
  • Have some nice photos taken of you with a very pregnant belly. It won't take long before you forget how you looked. Even if you are huge, swollen, tired and generally not looking your best, you will treasure these photos in years to come;
  • Try to have an afternoon nap EVERYDAY. You never know if you'll go into labour in the middle of the night or have a long labour. Make sure you are well rested.

Me pregnant at 38 weeks with my sisters Jacqui (centre) and Michelle (right)

What other things would you recommend? Leave me a comment to help expectant Mums.

05 November 2010

Does this baby come with an instruction manual?

My Mum has always said that children don't come with an instruction manual. If this is true, then why are there SO many books written about babies and children?

When I first found out I was pregnant I remember going to Borders and standing in the pregnancy and new baby section. I was gobsmacked as to the number and variety of books. I remember leaving empty handed and completely confused. When I told Mum of the pregnancy, she instantly went out and bought half the books on display at Borders that had bamboozled me! I read all of the books she bought (plus the ones I subsequently bought) and began to study up on the little being growing inside me. As my pregnancy continued, I started buying baby books in anticipation of the imminent arrival. Again, I started reading and getting ready for Layla's arrival. Given my academic and professional background, I was following the logical path of studying before commencing any new challenge. I wanted to be ready, to know what to expect, be 'fit' for the race I was about to run. Despite all my reading, I still have and continue to come across challenges that no book has prepared me for.

A small selection of my baby & pregnancy books

I recently asked my wonderful Mummy friends to tell me about their favourite Mummy things so that I could include them on my blog. My friend Deb gave birth to the gorgeous baby Ava 7 weeks after Layla's arrival. Deb's advice was not to read all the baby books. She says:
"I would suggest to new parents not to read all the textbooks!
You learn more about parenthood through experience, trial & error than getting frazzled about what the textbooks say you should be doing. Stay cool and go with the flow

I completely agree with Deb's comments but that did not and has not stopped me from regularly buying and reading baby books. Ultimately the books are only advice and opinion. As per my post on being an expert, you are the ultimate expert on your child not the author of the book you just read. The books nevertheless provide you with guidance, ideas, solutions and confusion that are all necessary on this journey. When you are at your whits end having tried EVERYTHING, it is only natural to seek information that may work and end the nightmare.

Given my extensive library, I thought I'd share with you my favourite books that I regularly consult:
1. General : Baby Love by Robyn Barker. Great overall guide reference book.
2. Routine: Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall. If you think you want to do the whole routine thing, this is a good place to start. It is less intense than Gina Ford's books but follows a similar theme. Remember your baby is not a robot and may not conform to the prescribed routine. The book will help you get organised and figure out how to structure your day;
3. Development: The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt, Ph.D. and Frans Plooij, Ph.D. (see previous post - LOVE IT!)
4. Labour: Birth Skills by Juju Sundin & Sarah Murdoch. Great book to prepare you for labour. It's hard to know what labour will be like and what to do. This book is a great guide and really helpful for natural birth (with or without drugs);
5. Food: New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner by Annabel Karmel. A gift from my friend Alizah that has been fantastic in the past month.

Given my appetite for books, I have found that http://www.booko.com.au/ is a wonderful way to find the cheapest price for books from across the world.

Got  favourite book? Have an opinion on baby/pregnancy books? Leave me a comment and share your thoughts.

04 November 2010

What Really Makes An Expert?

[This post is for a pregnant friend you was bamboozled by an expert yesterday and is stressing]

When I was pregnant I began to realise that there is an excessive amount of information available about babies.

Whether it was books, blogs, shops, pamphlets, goods or services, the baby industry is massive.
As my pregnancy progressed and since Layla's arrival, I have read countless books on babies and children (I have a blog post coming on books!). Many of these books are written by so called EXPERTS. Their expertise is drawn from the medical profession, their own children or their years of helping parents in need. Many offered helpful advice, conflicting information, scary consequences and more knowledge than I could process based on their expertise. When things went 'wrong', I was the first to turn to the expert lactation consultants, mothercraft nurses, parents help lines, authors or doctors for the answer.

Layla with her books - aged 4 months
 What I have now come to realise is than I AM THE EXPERT on my child. I spend more time than anyone else with her. We have been practically inseparable since conception. All the information out there is great advice but deep down no one knows your child like you. Read everything, listen to everyone, seek advice and then make your own decision on what is best for your child. Don't doubt yourself. Even on the day you give birth to your child remember YOU are the mother and YOU are the expert.

The Sound of Silence

Getting and keeping a baby asleep becomes an obsession for most new parents. Whether it is lighting, temperature or noise, there is a strong focus on making the environment conducive to sleep. Perhaps it is sleep deprivation sending us around the twist that makes this focus so intense.
Layla (2 days old) asleep with Daniel in hospital

When it comes to noise, the pursuit of silence is often misguided. Babies are used to hearing and sleeping with a range of noises while in utero rather than in complete silence that as adults we often crave. One of the most annoying noises to an adult is that of radio static. You know the one where you have not properly tuned the radio and a hissing noise is heard. Amazingly this static sound is wonderfully calming for babies especially when they are distraught and inconsolable. This kind of noise is often referred to as 'white noise'. White noise helps to block out general noise like traffic, construction and gardening noise that always seems to start just as you go to put your baby down for a sleep.

There are countless CD's, iPhone apps and MP3 player downloads available featuring white noise to help your baby sleep. The one I found that really worked features white noise with a faint heartbeat in the background that emulates the sounds of the womb. The track can be downloaded for FREE from this link...

I burned the track multiple times onto a CD so that it ran for a couple of hours...worked a treat!

Have you had success with using white noise to help your baby sleep? Share your experiences by leaving a comment.

03 November 2010

But darling, I never pay retail!

Let's face it, kids stuff is CUTE! There are amazing things available for babies and children. There are more things than you'll ever need, you'll ever be able to use or you can afford to buy. That won't stop you wanting to shop! The good part is that many, if most, things you can pick up online are far cheaper than retail. If you're into bargain shopping (like me!), here are a few ideas:

1. Sign up for sale email notifications. Here are a few links to get you started:

2. Find out if your local baby shop has a discount or loyaly program. For example Baby Bunting gives 5% discount if you join their loyalty program. Baby Village in Bondi Junction gives you a $30 discount after you've spent $300.

3. Ebay is your friend! Ebay can offer you many alternatives.
  • Many ebay stores sell baby stuff for cheaper than retail. I bought my Phillips Avent Baby Monitor brand new for a fraction of the RRP;
  • People sell unwanted gifts on ebay. I found my Baby Bjorn really cheap. It was a brand new unwanted gift still in the box;
  • I'm generally not a lover of used goods especially when it comes to baby things. However there are some exceptions. I bought our baby bath and stand on ebay for $25 instead of over $100. BARGAIN!!
4. Shopping in the USA is way cheaper than here. The variety, prices & sales far exceed what you can find locally. Many sites now ship to Australia and even with the shipping costs, things often work out cheaper. If a site won't ship to Australia, USA based freight forwarders will send things onto you in Australia for reasonable shipping charges. Check out http://www.hopshop.go.com/ or http://www.ishop-america.com/ .

Layla looking adorable in some of the clothes I bought online from GAP in the USA

5. Find baby good sellers on Facebook and either join or like their pages. This will mean you'll be notified of pop up sales and great opportunities. Purebaby has a Friday Facebook sale each week with great bargains.

Happy shopping !

02 November 2010

The Wonder Weeks - the answer you've been looking for

After reading all the books, you think you know what to do when things don't go as you expected. The reality is that most books are only guides rather than instruction manuals. There are times when you've tried everything but nothing seems to be working. You've fed the baby, burped the baby, rocked and patted, walked and even contemplated taking the baby for a drive. Still your baby won't settle. You're tired and frustrated and the sound of your crying baby can take you close to the edge. The mistake here is that we often forget what our new baby is going through herself. Babies go through such massive changes that can be both scary, confusing and challenging for them.

When Layla was 8 weeks old, my parents were overseas and nothing was working. Layla was waking to feed every 2 hours through the night, night after night. I was emotional and exhausted. In my desperation, I turned to Google. My search delivered a book which has changed my life and outlook on my child's development and behaviour. What I learned was that Layla was dealing with a mental leap that was challengin her, hence the change in her behaviour.

The Wonder Weeks by Hetty van de Rijt, Ph.D. and Frans Plooij, Ph.D. scientifically predicts fussy periods based on your baby's mental development as they face the 8 (now 10!) predictable leaps.

The blurb from the website says:
Ever wondered why your baby drives you crazy during certain times? And that, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to make him happy or comfort him? Or , that he doesn’t eat well; doesn’t sleep well? Have you ever thought – based on your child’s erratic behavior - that there’s something wrong with your parenting skills? The Wonder Weeks explains this all, based upon decades of scientific research.

There is a new edition of the book out now (from end of October 2010) that includes 2 additional leaps taking it from 8 to 10.

The book is available here in Australia but I found it to be a bit pricey and hence cheaper to order from overseas. Check out http://www.booko.com.au/ for the best price. The book explains each leap as well as offering parents signs to look out for and activities to help your baby as they face each challenging period.

Their website http://www.thewonderweeks.com/ features a newsletter email alert subscription where you are sent an email just prior to your baby reaching the next mental leap so that you're prepared for an unsettled period. There is also an iPhone app available from the website.

When all else fails, I turn to this book. It gives me peace of mind when I feel that things are starting to unravel. It's just wonderful!

01 November 2010

How to photograph your baby with brilliant results

The world of amateur photography has changed significantly since I was a child. No longer is there the single carefully compiled baby album but rather digital cameras, computer, memory cards and USB sticks filled with countless photos of our precious bundles. Digital photography means we take so many more photos than we used to. There is always the hope, that the all elusive 'perfect' shot is gained the more we snap away.

I was recently listening to an episode of the podcast 'New Moms, New Babies' on how to photograph your baby that featured the acclaimed professional photograper Nick Kelsh. Nick is one of the America's leading experts on baby photography. Nick is the author/photographer of nine books including Naked Babies with Anna Quindlen, How to Photograph Your Baby, How to Photograph Your Life, and The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson. He has appeared on Oprah! and The Today Show multiple times. His photographs have appeared on several of the covers of the prestigious Day in the Life series and in dozens of major magazines.

In the podcast, Nick offers the following tips on how to photograph your baby:
  • Parents have the best access to their babies and as such should make better photographers than professionals. You know when they are at their best, most relaxed and ready to be photographed;
  • Pick a day/time when your baby is well rested and happy to be photographed;
  • Pick a location where there is plenty of natural light. Photos are best taken in the morning or afternoon rather than at midday when facial shadows can be unflattering. Take photos near open windows and doors that let the natural light flood in;
  • Turn your flash off;
  • Pick a plain background. Put up a sheet or use a blank wall so that items in the background don't ruin a great photo;
  • Get in really close, closer than you may usually get so as to fill the frame with your baby's face, body or both;
  • Keep clicking. Take heaps of shots in the hope that one of them will be really special.
Taking Nick's advice, I set up a photo shoot of Layla the other day to mark her 6 month birthday. Here are a sample of the results.

I took over 60 shots with my point & shoot Canon IXUS 110 IS and am so happy with the results. I now plan to replicate the shoot on her monthly birthday so I can capture how she changes from month to month.

The 'New Moms, New Babies' podcast can be downloaded from iTunes or their website http://www.newmomsnewbabies.com/  

Anne Gedes also has some great tips on photographing your baby http://www.babycenter.com.au/advertorials/anne-geddes/tips-for-taking-photos/
The question remains as to what we do with all the great photos we now have of our darlings. Some people use digital photo frames, others keep photos hidden on their computers, some prefer to print and frame their photos while others use them as phone or computer wallpaper. Personally, I'm working on a photo book for Layla of her first year. I plan on using the photos I've taken together with text I've written that captures my memories of the day she was born, coming home from hospital, our first months at home getting to know each other and all the exciting milestones to come such as her first tooth, crawling and walking. There are plenty of online providers that can help you put together photobooks of your child. I've included a few links taken from my google search to get you started.

(Note: I have not used any of these companies and cannot recommend their products.)

Good luck and happy snapping!