Archive | November, 2011

Tuned-in parenting

29 Nov

Today was a typical day. I was up and dressed before my son and husband woke, so that I could then enjoy breakfast with them without stressing about getting showered and dressed. I have to leave at 7.25am, so I try to be organised in the morning. I’m not an organised person by nature but have worked hard at it. The only downside to being dressed with two pajama’d up people is that I have to careful about my son leaving me a porridge souvenir somewhere on my clothes (it’s usually a shoulder…I’ve had some funny looks in meetings before I’ve realised that what someone has mistaken for snot is actually the remains of my son’s breakfast on my top!).

Once I’m at the office (where I work 4 days a week) then it’s a non-stop round of getting on with work, and reacting to queries/issues/problems that all need to be sorted now, right this minute (to the detriment of my poor, unending to-do list!). But then, who’s ever on top of work? It’s just that today was particularly non-stop. Anyway, off I rushed at 5pm, through the rain, to pick my son up from the childminder. Picking him up is my favourite part of my working day. As soon as he sees me he starts running, little legs and arms going like pistons, a smile on his face. He hugs me around my legs and then I scoop him up and it never fails to lift my spirits, whatever sort of day I’ve had at the office.

It’s the very moment when I try to switch off whatever may have been going on during my office hours and tune-in to my son. Tuning-in to this little person who can’t yet speak properly but who can, if I’m listening and watching, get his point across just brilliantly. It still amazes me that I’ve never had a proper conversation with this little person I gave birth to, but yet I feel I know him (and he knows me) better than anyone else. Off we trot to make a start on dinner before my husband arrives home on his bike.

Tuning-in means we don’t have the TV or radio or go on the internet until after our son’s in bed. It’s our time to talk, and read (both our own books and books with the boy), and mooch around, catching up on our respective days, before eating together.  It’s funny, as before our son arrived myself and my husband had a tendency to always have background noise (mostly the radio, but also the TV) or be on the internet when we were home alone. Tuning-in to our son means we also tune-in to each other more. We have a space that allows us to round off the day with some good time together. It makes all the organising and commuting and work stressing and rushing around bearable and worthwhile!



Sunday night ramblings

27 Nov

I am utterly knackered tonight. In fact, if I didn’t want to jot down a quick post I’d be heading to bed! Though I’ve had such a lovely weekend that I don’t mind the bone-crushing tiredness (and baby is nice and active, which makes everything, even blogging,  more fun – it’s that stage of pregnancy where you’re really aware that a new person is wriggling away inside getting readier and readier to make his or her appearance).

Yesterday my sister (also married to an American) and her two girls came to celebrate a belated Thanksgiving with us. Before they arrived we had a frenzy of cleaning. I’m strict about food hygiene (a relic of years of waitressing through university) and like general tidiness (so toys and books get put away every night) but I’m otherwise pretty relaxed about cleaning. Which is the polite way of saying I generally can’t be bothered with “proper” cleaning! As my husband said yesterday, if people didn’t visit us regularly I doubt we’d clean as often as we do…

Anyway, our bout of dusting/window wiping/hoovering/mopping paid off and the flat looked spiffing when we all sat down to our turkey dinner. One of the things I love about Thanksgiving is how sweet the dishes are. My husband makes a mean sweet potato with marshmallows that we enjoy only at Thanksgiving (reckon our teeth would fall out if it were a regular treat!). The pumpkin pie my sister brought was a great mix of spicy and sweet. Our son did us proud by scoffing a big slice of of pie (he also seemed particularly taken with cranberry sauce, which meant he spent the meal looking like he was bleeding from the mouth as cranberry sauce ran down his chin!).

This morning we headed to London Zoo to see Father Christmas. At 20 months, our son had little clue what was going on but the reindeer were cute (much smaller than I imagined) and we enjoyed seeing the penguins and the playground. We’re members at the zoo, so go fairly regularly. We hummed and hawed about going so early, but decided that since today is the first day of Advent (and all of our weekends between now and Christmas are busy) a trip to Father Christmas wasn’t totally ridiculous. I then had yet more pumpkin pie this afternoon when I popped to a friend’s for coffee and a catch up. Dinner consisted of turkey & stuffing sandwiches, which is one of the treats of a big roast meal (sometimes the leftovers are even tastier than the main meal!). It whet my appetite for those days after Christmas when you can subsist on leftovers (and chocolate!).

I’m reading The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer at the moment. It’s been on my to-read list for a long time and I’m enjoying it, although I’m also finding it incredibly moving. The fact that our culture has become so removed from this natural process, leading to so much heartache and stress for so many babies and their mothers, all for the pursuit of profit and some sort of “scienceification” of life, makes me sad. It’s also stirring up memories of the start of my own nursing relationship with my son.

I didn’t anticipate any problems with breastfeeding (despite hearing plenty of horror stories about shredded nipples and the like when I was pregnant, usually from the same people who like to tell birth horror stories…). I assumed that I’d find it a breeze and got off to a great start in hospital, even with recovery from an induced labour and a c-section. Instead I ended up with bleeding nipples, undiagnosed thrush, and then infected nipples. Feeding was terribly painful for the first couple of months of my son’s life. Even worse was the guilt I felt as I started to dread feeds and the toe-curling pain they meant…But I was determined to get help, and found great resources like Kellymom, Mumsnet and the Breastfeeding Network, as well as local drop in sessions in Haringey and Islington. It paid off and by 12 weeks we were enjoying pain-free feeding and went on to feed until my son was 19 months. I really appreciate that we got to enjoy such a lovely nursing relationship in the end, and reading this book is making me even more grateful that I could get over the initial problems.

I’d like to post a proper review of The Politics of Breastfeeding at some point.

Nature in North London

24 Nov

Today was a beautiful clear, sunny day in North London. If you ignored the temperature and the bare trees and only focused on the bright blue sky it made summer feel a little less far away…

We had a lovely morning in Finsbury Park. We went along to Jeremy’s singing session in the cafe. This is a massive hit with my 20 month old son, who loves the mix of songs, stretches, bubbles and dancing. It’s also a big hit with me, since Jeremy plays some rock classics alongside the usual children’s tunes (today it was Blondie’s Heart of Glass and the Stones’ Satisfaction). Always good to be reminded that little people can groove along to classic hits as well as things like Sleeping Bunnies!

We walked home via the Parkland Walk. This is such a wonderful place for a nature walk and is a safe, car-free space for my son to run about. I feel so lucky that it’s right on our door step. We use it to walk or cycle into Crouch End or Queen’s Wood in Highgate. At various times of the year it’s full of blackberries, nettles, elderflowers and crab apples so is a great place to forage. Although you wouldn’t recognise it as a place of bounty at the moment, as it’s looking a little subdued:

But there’s still a little Autumn colour around, as these oak leaves show:

There were also some signs about how mild Autumn has been so far, like these blackberry blossoms:

Top reasons for using real nappies

23 Nov

While I’ve made it clear that I love washable nappies I thought I’d set out some the reasons for choosing to go real on the nappy front. 

 1. Environment
Each baby who uses disposable nappies is responsible for 300lb of wood, 50lb of petroleum feedstocks and 20lb of chlorine in its first year. This is in addition to adding to the stinking mountain of nappies sent to landfill every day (8 million disposables a day are thrown away in the UK) where they sit for hundreds of years (if not longer, since we don’t know how long they’ll take to break down). These sorts of stats make me feel a little depressed and I just couldn’t be responsible for making such a decision on behalf of my baby. So I decided to skip the bin bags of stinking disposables and invest in 24 washable nappies instead. 
According to the 2008 update to the Environment Agency’s Life Cycle Analysis on nappies, washable nappies can be up to 40% better for the environment than disposables. You can maximise the benefits of choosing real nappies by modifying your behaviour, eg washing your nappies at lower temperatures, only line or air drying, reusing your nappies on a second or subsequent child. Check out Go Real’s site for good advice on how you can make sure you’re getting the best for the environment by using washable nappies. 
There are also environmental benefits to using nappies made from hemp or bamboo, which are less demanding of water/pesticides than cotton. Or, if using cotton, sticking to organic cotton. You can also find nappies made under ethical conditions and made in the UK or Europe, to minimise nappy air miles. 
2. Money 
Real nappies definitely involve a lot more upfront cost than using disposables. But there are significant savings to be made over using disposable nappies (particularly if you choose to buy premium “eco” disposables). 
I estimate that we spent about £300 pounds on nappies/accessories plus £54.15 voucher we got from Haringey council. There’s also the cost of laundering (which I’ve never calculated!). But we chose quite expensive nappies (mostly Bumgenius and Tots Bots birth-to-potty options) on the basis that we can use them until he toilet trains and can also use them on our next baby. 
You may prefer to spread the cost of your nappies by using sized nappies, where you only purchase new sizes once your baby reaches that size. Or use prefolds (or muslins) and wraps, which I think are the cheapest option. 
Many local councils offer incentives to use real nappies (because of the landfill burden caused by disposables) so it’s definitely worth investigating where you can get a voucher or cash back on a purchase. There’s also a thriving second-hand market for real nappies – check out Cloth Nappy Tree.  Buying second hand is very cost effective and has the added environmental benefit of getting even more use out of real nappies. 
We also use washable wipes, which helps cut waste but also helps add to your savings in the long term. 
3. Ease of use
Modern washable nappies are easy to use, look and feel fabulous and are very little extra work. Using something like a Bumgenius or Tots Bots Easyfit honestly feels just like using a disposable, except that you’re not chucking them out afterwards! The modern velcro or popper fasteners that are super easy to use, even with the wriggliest baby. I’d have to recommend poppers over velcro, as after 20 months of use our velcro is looking quite worn. And my son can also open the velcro very easily, which is not always ideal! 
For me, the biggest proof of how easy they are to use is the fact that my mother (a complete and utter real nappy skeptic after raising 6 children in terry cloth nappies and plastic pants and having no fond memories of them at all!) is a convert. She loves how easy they are to use (and how cute they are) and wishes that her older grandchildren had been in them too. We’ve also never had a problem with childcare providers using them and in fact a positive response to real nappies was one of the key things we looked for when checking our childminders and nurseries. 
4. Helping to tune into your baby 
A washable nappy helps you to tune into your baby’s weeing capacity much more easily than a disposable (which always feels dry!). This is particularly reassuring in the early weeks of establishing breastfeeding as you have tangible (and soggy!) evidence of your baby getting enough to drink. It also helps if your little one gets sick, as you can get an indication of impending illness by drier nappies (or impending recovery by wetter nappies). 
There are also reputed benefits in terms of earlier potty training, but since we’re not at that stage ourselves yet I can’t say whether it’ll apply to us! 
Of course you can always choose to try elimination communication and attempt to avoid the environmental impact of nappies entirely. 

I Love Washable Nappies

22 Nov

I appreciate the title of this post reveals me as a total saddo but there you go! I can’t resist the cuteness of real nappies (as ably demonstrated by my son in the picture below!).

My son aged 6 months on a sunny beach in South West Portugal

We’ve been using washable nappies on our son since a few weeks after his birth (I had a c-section, so disposables worked for us for those very early days) and they’re great. Since it’s European Week of Waste Reduction I thought it was time that I revealed my love of cloth nappies…

Deciding to go real on the nappy front actually caused me a bit of stress when pregnant. Almost everyone I mentioned it to reacted negatively. I was told my life would be dominated by laundry, by endlessly boil washing stinking buckets of soaking nappies, of pricking my fingers (and my baby’s skin) on nappy pins. I was told that disposable nappies were a Great Leap Forward for feminism and going against this grain made me anti-feminist (this was the most irritating, as I’ve been a feminist, and proud, since I was a small child! I’m sure I’ll write more another time about my thoughts on environmentalism and feminism). Even my husband was reluctant. His brother and wife had used a laundry service when diapering their two sons in the ’90s (they live in the States) and advised us to do the same.

Of course this reaction just made me even more determined to use cloth nappies. In London we’re lucky enough to have Real Nappies for London so I could use our voucher to buy several nappies to get a feel for what we wanted before having to fork out the quite big upfront cost of buying enough nappies to see us through.

We ended up mostly buying Bumgenius v3 all-in-ones and Tots Bots Bamboozles for nighttime use. We then got some Bumgenius Flips once our son was about 9 months and this combination has worked really well for us. Our main issue is drying time, as we don’t have a tumble dryer but do have a garden with a washing line. We needed nappies that dried quickly and the Bumgenius dry almost overnight, even on a cold radiator. The Bamboozles take longer but we have enough so that while some are drying others are in use.

Now that I’m pregnant with no 2 (22 weeks and counting!), I want to try some prefolds and wraps for the early months. I was a little nervous of prefolds first time around, but I’ve now used some on my son (and nappi nippas mean that nappy pins are a thing of the past) I’m quite excited about them.

For anyone considering using cloth nappies I’d highly recommend finding a local nappuccino where you can learn about different types of nappy systems and find out what would work for you and your family. There’s also loads of good information on the web (check out Go Real or Nappy Go LuckyNappy Ever After or Twinkle on the Web for loads of info and tips).

Buy Nothing Day: Give your wallet a rest!

17 Nov

Source: Adbusters

Buy Nothing Day is on 27 November and it’s as simple as it sounds – the aim is to not spend any money for 24 hours. It’s a great way to remember that weekends shouldn’t just be all about shopping, especially with Christmas looming and TV groaning with adverts to try and get us to spend, spend, spend.

Buy Nothing Day highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism. Particularly the fact that those of us in the developed countries – only 20% of the world’s population – are consuming over 80% of our planet’s resources. Anything that tries to get that message out is A Good Thing in my book.

I try to regularly have buy nothing days, though this isn’t so much a choice as the simple fact that I don’t have much time for shopping on my daily home/work/childminder/home loop! But Buy Nothing Day is a day to celebrate conscious unspending. And unspending is fun if you get creative about it.

We’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving, London-style, this Buy Nothing Day (my husband’s American). So we’ll have to be sure that we don’t run out of anything last minute or we’ll be doing without!

Buying less stuff for baby

15 Nov

There’s a great article in today’s Guardian about one London couple who’ve chosen to buy as little as possible for their son. It’s great to see low impact, minimal parenting getting coverage.