And in the end…

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It’s been a long time since I last posted anything here. There’s a reason for this.

I have realised that there comes a time when there is nothing left to post. Babies all start off with roughly the same requirements, but, after a few months, that changes and they become individuals, meaning that sweeping statements are simply no longer possible.

Right now, parenthood is a real trial. The cute little tiny baby who sleeps on your arm is gone and Sunshine is fine during most of the day but turns into a tiny monster in the evenings. He is now 9 1/2 months old, and, currently, is driving us nuts. We’re still waiting for teeth #3 & 4 to come through, which they just don’t want to. We’ve had almost sleepless nights, worry about his weight (he’s very active but not putting ON any weight), he’s still not crawling but rolling all over the shop and moving backwards, just never forwards.

Other babies can do some of these things or all of them. They’re all different. As such, I think the time has come to draw a line under this blog.

I’m going to leave it up for perpituity as the comments for pregnancy and the early months still hold very true. However, there is too much varied information these days to be able to make statements that x or y holds true for all children. I hope though that the blog as it stands will be useful to fathers in the future.

As such, I’ll leave you with the 9-month picture of Sunshine and then go back to helping M. to try to get him to go to bed!

All the best,

Dave

Sunshine 9 Months

Just a little pinprick?

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Right, this is basically an appeal to common sense. However, it’s also a minefield of opinions and sensitivities. We’re talking about vaccinations.

A friend called us recently as her daughter was about to be vaccinated. She was worried. Could she really let somebody else jab a needle into her daughter? Should she believe what she had read on the Net? What should she do?

My message was and is simple. What do you want? A quick jab and a bit of screaming? Or your child catching one of the nasty scourges that the vaccination stops, crying continuously, getting fevers…paint your own picture of what could happen…

Sure, it was painful to M and myself when poor little Sunshine had a needle stuck into his leg. Nothing you could do. His unblemished skin was now changed forever. Yes, he screamed, yes he got an increased temperature for a day. Yes, it was unpleasant. But that’s that. That’s it for hepatitis, polio, measles and the rest of it.

I was not vaccinated against mumps. I caught it when I was 5. Since that time (31 years ago), I have been half deaf as a result. I could have been completely deaf or sterile. That is not going to happen to Sunshine.

I am not trying to preach – I am simply appealing to your common sense. The benefits outweigh the risks massively. Talk to your doctor if you are worried. But please, do this thing for your child. The possible consequences if you don’t are too awful to think about.

Ch…ch…ch…changes

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Yes, yes, I know. It’s been positively ages since I last put fingers to key in the blog cause. There has been a mass of stuff going on, the weather has been scorchingly hot and young Sunshine has been quite a handful. Also, life just goes on, and regular readers will notice that things will start to concentrate more on the present than the past. After all, pregnancy and the birth are a good 7 months ago now and life with a baby is something which changes and develops every day.

So, what’s happened? Well, Sunshine is now on to three meals a day. The lunchtime meal is still veg + potato + meat (pork has worked very well), evening has been semolina, sometimes with some puréed apple, although we’ve tried some instant oatflakes as well. And then came the third meal, firstly tried in the afternoon, but then deemed more sensible for mornings. We’re still trying to decide exactly what to do for the meal, although it’s some kind of grain product with fruit, as the guides suggest. We tried some puréed strawberries as the fruit, but they were a little sour, so now we’re moving on to nectarines (although apple has always worked).

He’s also got into the habit of moving, which is, of course great, but can be somewhat trying. It took us 6 or so months to get him to roll over, and now it’s as if his centre of gravity has shifted and no sooner is he laid on his back, than he’ll roll over and support himself on his arms. The periods of support are slowly getting longer, although his little arms are still not able to support him for more than about 15 seconds at a time. He’s not mastered rolling back again yet, so he gets quite frustrated after a while. Of course, with the temperatures being what they currently are, he gets sweaty and even more frustrated…. As such, it’s no longer safe to put him on narrow surfaces, knowing he’ll just lay there and gurgle. Nope, it’s down and roll now… And soon we know that it’ll be time to get the house safe when he begins to coordinate his limbs and starts to move….

In addition, he’s had his vaccinations against various nasty bugs and complaints. This is a subject I do want to deal with in a separate post, as it is an important one and one with not a little controversy. Luckily, that’s a weight off our mind for the time being.

We’ve also changed our car to good, solid “family vehicle”. A wonderful thing to have so much space to store things in. That may seem boring to those without children, but as soon as you have offspring, you understand just how much stuff a child requires. Especially a tiny tot. Of course, it was a bit of a wrench to say goodbye to the old VW Golf, which had taken us all over Europe, was there on our wedding day and on the day of Sunshine’s birth, but such things must be. And now we can get the pram in without piling stuff up and the tinted windows at the back help to keep the sun off Sunshine.

So, there it is. Those a few of the changes we’ve been experiencing recently. Many of my other projects have been completed now and so I intend to devote more time to the Babysunshineblog. 🙂

For now though, here’s a picture of young Sunshine on his 7-month “birthday”!

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Couvade – truth or fiction?

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Yes, this post is a BIT out of the order so far, going back to the world of pregnancy, but it is something I have been meaning to write about for a while.

OK, strange word, huh? Couvade? What’s that? Well, some would call it a “sympathetic pregnancy”. Maybe the penny’s dropping a bit now. “Oh yes, that thing that weirdo fathers get, those who’ve maybe got a screw loose and think they’re pregnant too.”

No. That isn’t quite right. It’s definitely not weird. Some say that up to *90%* of fathers-to-be will experience some of these symptoms. Sure, you won’t be pregnant – YOU are not going to have a baby, but you are empathising to a certain extent with the mother. A major chunk of it is also circumstances. But we’ll come to that.

The first symptom is weight gain. Suddenly that trim you you remember from 6 months ago is gone. You’ve put on quite a bit of weight (I put on no less than 6 kg!). Nope, you haven’t got a little one, you’re safe on that front. But suddenly, her changes in diet mean there are different foods there. And, well, can you honestly resist the temptation not to grab a few of the ones you like? After all, you’ll be stressed through all the changes coming up, including the nervous tension about what being a father will actually mean. And people often beat stress by snacking.

For example, in our case, M. had a positive desire for unsalted nuts. We were getting through a kilo a week, more or less. Why did SHE want them? Because they were quick providers of energy, which she needed to help Sunshine to grow. Why did I want them? Um. Good question. They were there – I like nuts, and, well I also do the cooking and there they were. I was experiencing all the trips to the gynaecologist and seeing how things changed and seeing the new time in my life advancing towards me. So I snacked (the walnuts were very tasty!).

Of course, you might experience something else. But, chances are that you will give in to some form of temptation. Naturally, you then have to get the weight back off again (something I’m still working on!!!!). Coupled with this, you may feel ill. Again, stress and the additional food will be contributing to that…

And what about sleeplessness and worry? Hey, that’s perfectly ok. Your life is about to change. And in a big way. (If you’ve been reading these posts, you’ll have seen what I mean!). Those trips out, just the two of you, are off the radar for a while. You’ll be getting less sleep, you’ll have a screaming little creature in your home who hasn’t heard of politeness and manners (and goodness, I so wish children were born with some sense of fairness and reason…but they aren’t…). This is an experience like NOTHING else you’ve ever had before. You’re bound to be tense. Apparently, it is also possible hat you’ll get aches and pains as well. I say apparently, because I did not. Once again, treat it as tension.

The best remedy for much of this is to go with the flow. Talk about it with friends and your partner. The best of all is to find other fathers-to-be (yes, they do exist, even if you often feel that it’s just you!). You’ll be surprised what a relief it is to talk through lots of this stuff. It’s a blast to start comparing just WHAT you have been forced to spend your hard-earned cash on rather than that new Dolby Surround system. You’ll see that you are not alone. And it does all pass, believe me… After that, well, then you’ve got the baby, and things are VERY different 😉

Boiled beef and carrots…

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Here’s an update on the food situation.

We’ve been through various combinations of foodstuffs with Sunshine. Some have been successful, some not. So, here are some suggestions and ideas for you. Don’t forget that your own situation may be different, so these are only suggestions!

If you remember rightly, we started with parsnip, then moved on to pumpkin. The pumpkin was not a success, so we left that one behind. Carrots were more successful, although sweet potato wasn’t. You’ve really got to let the little one show the way. If they don’t like it (and they’ll show you that they don’t!), then stop feeding immediately. Of course, you can try the next day, but if you get repeated showing of distaste, then put that food on the shelf marked “Experience”. (Don’t forget that you’ve got years to reintroduce it, in flavoured forms, in the future…)

I then added potato, to up bulk and add some carbs to Sunshine’s food. That worked pretty well, although the starchy consistency did tend towards lumpiness! But then I actually started digesting (appropriate choice of word there!) the information I had been reading and put a little sunflower oil in the next batch of carrot and potato.

Voom! Hot cakes have nothing on this! Sunshine wolfed it down and even seemed to enjoy it (I also got praise from M., who said it was the same consistency as if out of a jar!). As such, we repeated this formula a couple of times, and then it was time to add meat.

Why meat? Well, unless you’re a vegetarian, and want to avoid such things (which is, of course, perfectly fine if you are), then meat is a good way to add protein and minerals, such as that essential iron. By 6 months on breast milk only, the little one will be more or less iron-free, so you want to start building that up again. We started with a little bit of beef, mixed in with the parsnip and potato.

And then, again, I read some more stuff and added a drop of juice (apple), which helped to add smoothness and some vitamin C. Once again, the purée went down well and we’ve moved a step forward. Today, we tried chicken rather than beef, and he seemed to enjoy it.

So, a few ground rules we’ve learned:- Stick to a few simple foods and then develop your “repertoire” gradually.
– If they don’t like it, don’t force it.
– Remember those vitamins and minerals. Bubba will thank you for it. 🙂
– Consistency is important – the smoother it is, the better. Just use a blender and all will be well!

6 months…

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Sorry everyone that I haven’t been in touch for so long. Life has been tricky recently, with my PC more or less collapsing on me and going in for repair. But I shall be in touch more regularly from now on, as there’s lots to tell!

But first, it’s time for celebration – our Sunshine has reached the grand old age of 6 months. It seems quite amazing that all the worries and all the anxieties are all more than half a year in the past.

Would we want those 6 months back? No. I can’t honestly say we would. It was all quite a change and a real strain on the nerves. These days, things are much quieter and regular. Sunshine’s eating more and more puréed food, talking to us (in his own inimitable way…) and things are slowly changing in the mobility department.

But for now, let’s just revel in getting through the first six months!DSC07536

Parsnip, (sage, rosemary and thyme)… (sorry!)

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Sunshine’s reached the grand age of 5 months (and a bit) and so it’s time for us to add something to M.’s magical milk.

Opinions differ widely about WHEN you should actually start to switch from purely milk to “solids”. The World Health Organisation says that babies should be breast-fed/bottle-fed for 6 months. Other guides says it’s ok after 4 months. So what is true? Hm. This is a problem we’ve been dealing with recently. The WHO recommendation is for the whole world, based on the various standards of hygiene found across the planet.

However, in the “Western” world, you can be pretty safe, it would appear, from 4 months onwards (that is to say when the baby is 4 months-old). We decided to go for the middle road and chose 5 months.

So what DO you give a baby as the first meal? (Note that we’re only 9 days into this, so this is all purely experience-based and will be continued! However, I have done a lot of research over the past weeks, as, of course, I want to get it right too!!) Well, much as you’d like to have baby share your favourite meal with you and down a large portion of lasagne, it doesn’t work like that!

Babies’ digestive systems are not, at first, equipped to take the foods we eat. Cow’s milk is not an option as it contains proteins a baby is unequipped to break down. Sugars are not possible, honey contains dangerous enzymes…the list goes on, making you wonder what you can do!

If you’re a multi-national family like we are, then you’ll also get conflicting information about what to do. It does indeed seem that different countries and cultures say different things. After all, you can’t honestly imagine Indian mothers being told to avoid the use of spice, or Alpine dwellers avoiding the milk from their own cows.

As such, we decided to stick to the rules here in Germany and use vegetables. You’ve got to chose your vegetables carefully too. Remember that mother’s milk is pretty sugary and sweet, so you’ve got to try and imitate that AND avoid constipation through excess fibre. As such, you’re going to be looking at things like parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes and the like. You’ll also want to start to introduce water into Bubba’s diet and wean them off of milk.

We started with parsnip, steamed and then with a little extra water added. I turned that into a purée and then Sunshine got it. He took about 5 half-spoonfuls on the first day, 8 the next, 11 the one after that. Even though we might love variety, babies haven’t got a clue what that is, and so you need to try maintain some kind of consistency (remember, they’ve had milk several times a day, every day, since birth). You’ve also really got to avoid seasoning the food straight off, and salt is, sadly, a no-no. Remember that all this will evolve and change over time and, before you know it, you’ll be wiping tomato sauce off the cheek of a little romper who has just enjoyed some lasagne!

We moved on to pumpkin (as the books over here say it’s a good choice). Neither M. or I really eat pumpkin, and Sunshine turned his nose up at it too. We persevered for a couple of days, but he really was fed up with it. I then moved back to the parsnip, and chucked in some potato too. Once again, he wasn’t thrilled, probably as mashed boiled potato with no salt, no butter and all the goodies, is pretty dang dull.

However, today I seem to have hit the jackpot. Carrot and potato, steamed again, with a drop of oil to aid consistency. Gosh, Sunshine ate the whole portion and even had some seconds! This is pretty neat. Of course, we’ll be giving him that for a couple more days and then freezing the rest (you should avoid storing puréed veg for more than 48 hours). A friend gave us a tip of putting the purée into an ice cube holder, so that you can get what you need out in “bite-sized” portions.

The next step is to add some meat, which I’ll probably be doing on Tuesday – information will follow on that!

About a month after introducing lunch, you should move on to supper, which, over here, is suggested as milk and semolina. That is pretty pappy and palatable and offers variation as you can maybe add a tiny pinch of cinnamon after a while. From there, it’s an afternoon meal. Over here, they suggest some kind of cereal flakes with fruit. Of course, I’ll be in touch about that when we get to it.

It’s all quite an experience, and also a chance for us chaps to get involved. There is little magic in steaming or boiling some carrots for 10 minutes. Sure, remember to get the fibrous core out of such root veggies, but that’s about it. Get your stick blender out, make a beautiful purée and watch the offspring get used to something YOU’VE created. 🙂

Getting away – The low-down

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Now we’re back from our trip and the dust has settled, I have time to write up what we learned from our journey and what could be of use to others.

As I wrote in one of the posts, improvisation is one of the key aspects of such a trip. As our car is not on the huge side, we decided to leave the travel bed at home. Sunshine has been falling asleep in the pram anyway, and we had heard from a friend that their son had done the same. As such, that meant less luggage in the car. Indeed, Sunshine actually slept well in the pram, despite some screams. One night, he slept for 10 1/2 hours at a stretch!  As such, forget about how you USED to travel – this is different.

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The journey was ok. On the trips there and back, we got about halfway and then Sunshine got edgy. In such cases, your nerves will certainly be tested, especially if there is nowhere you can stop. Screams will ensue from the back seat and there is little you can do. M. sat in the back on the return journey which helped to reduce the tension slightly. Gone were the three-hour stints between breaks to fit in with how we wanted to travel. Adults can grab a drink from a bottle or eat a piece of chocolate. Little ones can’t.

It’s necessary to time your journeys to ensure that Bubba will not get annoyed quickly. We always tried to leave when Sunshine was on the cusp of falling asleep OR when he had slept, was fed and was happy. One surprise was that, even though we went to a party (in the heavy rain!) last Saturday and were petrified of a 50 km journey back to the hotel in a car full of screams, Sunshine, though moaning a little, was actually pretty quiet. But that was because we noticed his signs of fatigue/sleepiness and promptly left! (Luckily, our friends are parents of a little one too and so understood the issues!)

(In addition, I have found that, although we greatly enjoy listening to audio books in the car, Sunshine has an aversion to voices coming from places he can’t see them. As such, Mrs. Christie had to wait… (it’s no different at Sunshine HQ either though…))

As I mentioned in one of the other posts, we had a problem with the babyphone not getting a signal at the first dinner. Also (and if you’re new parents, you’ll have felt this), we felt that other diners were getting annoyed by Sunshine’s moans, being picked up, taken for a walk, etc. etc. As such, we felt pretty awful. There was talk of going home, of giving the holiday to someone else, of trying to make as little impact as possible.

But this was primarily simply the fact that we were in at the deep end. We were 230 km from home, with one room to call “home”, had no extra quiet place to be with Sunshine if he got edgy and were constantly aware that, through Sunshine, we were “in the limelight”. There was no hiding place. And, after a night’s sleep, things improved. Talking to others helped us to see that people were NOT annoyed. Babies cry and whine, that’s simply accepted. Parents of older children have an in-built forgetfulness mechanism (explaining why people have multiple children, even if they go through hell with #1!). Indeed, everyone thought Sunshine was great and was surprised that he did not scream MORE!

This helped us to gain in confidence and will also help you. No, you’re not a bad parent, yes many people are or have been parents of a tot, yes, if you need help, people will help. After all, there’s nothing you can do about it! At the hotel we stayed at, it was not a problem to cancel the half-board and switch to eating in the older restaurant, where the babyphone did work. Remember a little tip: “This is not YOUR fault. You are not jabbing pins into the little one to make it cry. It is crying and it’s not your fault.”

Feeding or changing nappies? Nope, usually not a problem either, particularly if you just check. Need some hot water to clean a dirty bottie? No worries. And this is all a point about improvisation again. The nappy-changing space varied from the case storage shelf to a sofa in a bar. Not a problem. Places to feed? Quietly in a café, in the back of the car in a car park or even on a train. Just be quiet and unassuming and no-one will even notice.

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Another key thing is to do this as a team. We suffered chronic rain for two days and just had to make the best of it. Sunshine was under the plastic cover for the pram and we trudged around under a big umbrella. You’ll find that some shops or sights are unsuitable for prams. Oh well, put it off for another day. If Bubba needs feeding, work out a plan to make that possible. If you are soaked through, go to a café and get some nourishment. If she’s tired of pushing the pram, you do it. You’ll be surprised at what you can actually manage.

We took a walk down to the lake on the last day and then chose to get on the boat to the next town. Hm, could we manage it? We had the pram, nappy-changing stuff, sufficient money – we were kitted out. So we did. And it worked. If a feed was required, we arranged it. When Sunshine’s nappy needed changing, we managed it. A mixture of teamwork and improvisation, as I have said.

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This is not a holiday, its just a change of scene right now. It won’t be wildly restful, but you’ll cope. This too will pass  and before you know it, you’ll be going away with a walking, talking little darling 😉

Getting Away #3

So, the last night of our trip is at hand. The weather DID improve and we’ve learned a lot. Of course, the full travel report is still to come, but we can certainly say that we’ve learned about Sunshine and about ourselves.

I would say that the key thing is confidence. After the terrors of Day #1, things improved greatly. Sunshine started sleeping more (for no less than 10 hours from Sunday to Monday!), we got the babyphone to earn its keep and applied the key parenting skill – improvisation!

In addition, a key aspect is to stop considering everyone else as hostile. That was probably our main problem at the beginning: the consideration that everyone was looking askance at us because Sunshine was not constantly a bouncing baby. Once we started talking to them, we realised that, not only did they not mind, but that they sympathised with us!

Also, such a trip makes you realise what you are capable of doing. Today, as we were armed with the pram,changing bag and sufficient nappies, we left the car behind and caught the ferry to the next town. Spent a couple of hours there and got the train back. Hey, this was doable!

So, that’s enough for now. We’re off home tomorrow, and I’ll be able to post in full about the trip!

Getting away #2

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And so we’ve made it and are on holiday. I’ll be writing in more detail about this when we get back, but, if you haven’t tried it, a holiday with a 5 month-old is a, um, challenge. Particularly when it is pouring with rain (as it has been all day)!
Problems encountered so far:
– Babyphone not synching when in the dining room, meaning desperate dashes back to the bedroom. Followed by cancellation of half board for the remaining nights!
– Sunshine realising, on entering the swimming pool/spa area, that it’s hotter than normal in there, and that he doesn’t like it. This entailed me then taking him back to the room and getting him to calm down AND cool down.
– Just where do you go on a rainy day by Lake Constance to feed a baby and change nappies?

More soon!