Tagged Babies

How Parents of Babies and Toddlers Are Bad for the Environment

smoke-258786_1920It has come to my attention that parents of babies and toddlers are perhaps just a little bit bad for the environment. Or maybe it’s just me. Either way, here are my ten reasons why.

 
1. Disposable nappies

I think this one speaks for itself. There are nappies. So many nappies. Admittedly cloth nappies are available. Environmentally responsible people use these. For the rest of us, there are just two issues with that idea: (1) see point 4; and (2) no, just no.

 
2. Everything is plastic

Everything. Everything in the whole house. The endless toys, obviously. But it’s worse than that. It’s the cups, the plates, the bowls, the cutlery, the coasters, the place mats. Things that used to exist in non-plastic varients are now non-breakable plastic. Of course, as well as non-breakable, it’s non-biodegradable.

 
3. Paper napkins

Well, who hasn’t ever entertained the children by giving them paper napkins to play with in cafes and restaurants? Children are easily entertained. Yes, the rainforests are a worry. It’s just that, well, being glared at for having badly behaved children is also a worry. There is a variation on this activity involving the provision of straws (or ‘wands’ as the children believe them to be). This is no better: see number 2.

 
4. Washing machines

The washing. The washing is endless. Particularly when you forget to dry it and have to wash it again.

 
5. Boiling the kettle

Apparently, one should avoid repeatedly boiling the kettle, as that is bad for energy consumption and the environment. Yes, sorry about that. The correct number of boils to time to cups of tea made ratio for parents of babies and toddlers is: boiled ten times in four hours, no tea made. Before you conclude parents are solely responsible for climate change, it should be noted that, on at least three of the occasions the kettle is ‘boiled’, they will have forgotten to plug it in. Every little helps.

 
6. Wipes

Baby wipes are not good for the environment. We’re so terribly sorry. But did you know how bloody amazing they are? You can use them for pretty much anything. And we do.

 
7. Drawing

Back to the rainforests here. This time all the drawing paper that received one tiny crayon mark before being declared ‘finished’. It’s not always quite as bad as it sounds: sometimes there is a tiny crayon mark on the other side too. Parents can try to mitigate the impact of this one by presenting the barely marked paper as ‘fresh’ paper at the next drawing session. Sadly, toddlers are experts at detecting tiny crayon marks on a piece of paper: ‘It’s dirty!’
‘Turn it over then.’
‘This side’s dirty too!’ Bugger.

 
8. Food waste

They just don’t eat it. But it really isn’t considered acceptable to stop serving your children food because they won’t eat it (despite eating this exact meal three days ago/asking for it 20 minutes ago). Parents’ hands are really tied on this one. Sometimes the issue is compounded by the making of further food that does not get eaten in a futile attempt to get the children to eat something. Again, I really must reiterate in our defence that feeding your children is considered to be the done thing, and not an optional element of parenting.

 
9. Noise pollution

No, sorry, we can’t make it stop. Yes, it is annoying. Yes, and loud. No, we don’t know why they’re making that noise. We think they like it. Yes, we know you don’t like it.

 
10. Excessive battery consumption

This is really VTech’s fault.

Parenting Never Have I Ever

tea-1105113_1920Who knows the drinking game Never Have I Ever? Each person states something they have never ever done, and anyone playing who has done that takes a drink.

Who wants to play parenting Never Have I Ever? Below are twenty never have I ever statements. For each one you have done as a parent, you should take a drink. This is the parenting version, remember, so that drink should be a sip of cold tea. Everyone ready?

 
1. Never have I ever… Sniffed a bum in public.

2. Never have I ever… Sucked snot from a nose.

3. Never have I ever… Pretended to be a cabbage in Costa coffee because my toddler was putting ‘magic spells’ on me (with a straw).

4. Never have I ever… Cleaned sick off an entire outfit with a baby wipe instead of changing it.

5. Never have I ever… Done the above with my own outfit.

6. Never have I ever… Read every other page of a book on the tenth reading of it that day in order to finish it faster, since they’re not listening anyway (despite demanding it must be read).

7. Never have I ever… Said, ‘You are to come here by the time I count to three. One…two…two and a half…three…Right, I’m going to count to three again. If you don’t come here by THIS count of three, you’ll be going on the naughty step. One…two…two and one sixteenth…two and two sixteenths…’

8. Never have I ever… Called a top and leggings a dress and ‘special tights’ to get a dress-obsessed toddler to wear it.

9. Never have I ever… Pretended to have lost all copies of Cinderella and Peppa Pig, and to have never heard of Topsy and Tim at all.

10. Never have I ever… Hidden the Lego.

11. Never have I ever… Been sent to the naughty step by my toddler.

12. Never have I ever… Answered queries about getting the play doh out with, ‘Que? No hablo ingles.’

13. Never have I ever… Upgraded the status of raisins from ‘dried grapes’ to ‘magical bribes’.

14. Never have I ever… Answered the phone with, ‘Hello? Yes…(No, it’s not Grandad – shh!)…Sorry, could you repeat that…(Shh!)…Sorry, what…(NO YOU CAN’T SPEAK TO GRANDAD! IT’S NOT GRANDAD – IT’S THE OPTICIAN!)’

15. Never have I ever… Sung any song from Mary Poppins in a public place. Whilst marching.

16. Never have I ever… Informed my toddler that he can’t cuddle a pigeon.

17. Never have I ever… Informed a pigeon that it can’t cuddle my toddler.

18. Never have I ever… Occupied my child by giving her a baby wipe/receipt/empty wrapper to play with.

19. Never have I ever… Wondered why I ever bothered to buy any toys, when my child loves her baby wipe/receipt/empty wrapper the most.

20. Never have I ever… Presented my children with a clearly possessed, evil-looking doll that moves during the night, and told them, ‘It’s a fun family Christmas game: please stop screaming.’

 
Right, everyone managed to drink an entire cup of cold tea? You’re welcome.

 
 

(If anyone is wondering, I have done some of these, not all. I’ll let you guess which ones.)

Child Safety Kits Are Out to Get Us

stairgateSo, you have children, they start moving around, you childproof the house, everyone goes about their business in safely padded bliss, right? Right? Wrong.

Child safety fittings are out to get us. Child safety fittings are frankly dangerous. I have evidence.

 
1. Drawer latches

You know, the ones that let the drawer open just enough for the children to trap their little fingers in them. Repeatedly. Because they don’t learn.* You see, they believe the next time will be the time they get the drawer open and don’t just trap their fingers. They have faith. They have determination. They don’t have common sense. Or any survival instinct.

Still, at least they can’t get anything out of the drawer, right? Right. As long as everything in the drawer is at the very back of the drawer. Ridiculously, The Toddler and The Baby like to prise open the living room drawer as far as the latch will allow, fish around as far as they can reach, and pull out…the spare child safety latches that were left in the drawer.

(*Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that if children get hurt doing something silly, they’ll learn and won’t do it again. They won’t learn. They will do it again.)

 
2. Child gates

In fairness, these have worked pretty well so far. Once places they would actually fit were identified. And the entire house had been remodelled to make the places they would actually fit useful places to have child gates. And the error of having a gate with a death trap/step over bar at the top of the stairs had been rectified.

It should, however, be noted that child gates are at their most effective for containment of grandparents, not children.

3. Padding for furniture corners and edges

Unless you bubble wrap all of your furniture, there will be parts left unpadded. Those are the parts children bang their heads on.

As for the places where there are pads? Removing those pads is the single-minded relentless goal of any toddler. And it will be achieved. Ultimately, those ‘protective’ pads will not prevent damage to little heads, but they will cause damage to furniture when forcibly removed by little hands.

Plus, of course, the children will take themselves out on the coffee table having tripped whilst tearing towards the coffee table because they have spotted padding to remove.

4. Fridge latches

Fridge latches can withstand five attempts to open the fridge without undoing the latch because you have forgotten there is a latch. Then they fall off.

5. Plug covers

There appears to be some contention as to whether plug covers are necessary or even should be used. They are effective at stopping children getting to the plug sockets, however. They stop adults getting to the plug sockets too. Have you ever tried to remove one of those things? If you need to use a plug socket you have put a cover into, I suggest you install a new set of sockets. It’s easier.

Furthermore, plug covers seem to deal with a largely unnecessary issue. Children are not that interested in empty plug sockets. Children are interested in plug sockets with plugs in them. Playing with empty sockets is much less disruptive to the functioning of the house than randomly unplugging every household appliance. And you just can’t superglue your plugs into sockets, you know. Apparently, it’s not safe.

6. The items that are never included

Fully stocked with these impractical/hazardous ‘safety’ solutions, I have noticed that the safety kits never have anything to improve the safety of two of the most dangerous household objects.

Cushions. Cushions are very dangerous. Children use them to climb. This is not sensible. Cushions make for precarious step ladders. Furthermore, children believe cushions make throwing themselves on the floor from a height safer. That’s true, actually. They also believe they will land on the cushions. Less true. What ingenious solution do child safety kits offer for dealing with the hazards posed by these deadly household items? Nothing, that’s what. How have they all missed this gap in the child safety market?

Nor do they address the threat children pose to one another. Children are very dangerous to each other. They never look where they’re going. But do these kits ever supply padding to stick on the children? No, they do not. Never mind the corners of tables, what about when The Toddler collides with the hard edge of The Baby’s forehead?

 
 
Therein lies the problem, if you ask me. We are trying to childproof houses. We should be childproofing children. My innovative new child safety kits will include mittens, superglue for feet, and forehead padding.

You’re a Good Winner: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week

It’s Ten Funniest Things time, and The Toddler wants to eat Christmas trees but not The Baby’s bum.

Taking a brief break from meal planning, here she is:

1. On being a winner
The Toddler has taken up Rocky style encouragement: ‘Go on, Mummy, you can do it! You’re a good winner!’ The activity The Toddler is encouraging so enthusiastically? Getting her a biscuit.

2. On pandas, hers
Silly Mummy, The Toddler and The Baby are waiting in the queue at the Post Office. The Toddler has become inexplicably paranoid that other customers want to steal her top, which has pandas on it. She is occupying her time pointing at her top and informing various strangers in the queue: ‘This is not your panda. My panda!’

3. On herself, needing to get cracking
The Baby is wandering around the living room with her bag. Silly Mummy asks The Toddler, ‘Can you help The Baby to put things in her bag?’
The Toddler looks up: ‘No, I can’t. I need to get cracking.’
Silly Mummy did not know The Toddler had plans: ‘Have you got things to do?’
‘Yes, I do.’

4. On talking, never stopping
The Toddler is chattering away, mostly to herself, when she announces, ‘I’ll never stop talking.’ Silly Mummy thinks this sounds like a threat.

5. On Grandma, very clever
Grandma is visiting. Silly Mummy, The Toddler, The Baby and Grandma are going for a walk. Grandma has mentioned that she will just go and get her coat from the car. Later, walking past the car, The Toddler is very insistent that Grandma has to get something from it. Silly Mummy and Grandma assure The Toddler that Grandma already got what she needed. The Toddler is suitably impressed: ‘Oh, very clever, Grandma. Good girl.’

6. On mishearing requests
The Toddler is making demands. Silly Mummy says, ‘Don’t be demanding.’ The Toddler is confident she is able to comply with Silly Mummy’s request, mostly because she misheard it: ‘Sorry, Mum. I’m not doing mountain.’

7. On Christmas trees
The Toddler was 19 months old last Christmas. She appears to have remembered certain aspects of it. The fact that there were chocolates around, mostly. Whenever she hears mention of Christmas she starts talking about chocolates and the lights. Silly Mummy asks her if she remembers the Christmas tree. The Toddler nods: ‘Christmas tree, yes…can I eat it?’ Silly Mummy thinks The Toddler possibly does not remember the Christmas tree. She may be thinking of something else. The Toddler continues: ‘Need to blow it first. Need to blow candles.’ Definitely thinking of something else. Birthday cakes, it appears.

8. On both of herself
The Toddler and The Baby are being naughty. Silly Mummy says, ‘Can both of you stop doing that, please.’ The Toddler becomes concerned about how many of her are being naughty. To be safe, she confirms, ‘Yes, both of me stop.’

9. On babies, why they cry
Silly Mummy, The Toddler and The Baby are walking along the road. In the distance, a baby can be heard crying inside a house. The Toddler asks, ‘What’s that noise?’ Silly Mummy informs her it is a baby crying in one of the houses. Despite not knowing what the noise was seconds before, The Toddler is suddenly remarkably well informed on the subject of the the crying baby: ‘Oh, it doesn’t like having those hiccups.’

10. On The Baby, not eating her bum
Silly Mummy is changing The Baby’s nappy. The Toddler is providing the following commentary, a strong contender for this year’s prestigious It Goes Without Saying, Thank You, The Toddler Award: ‘We don’t eat The Baby’s bum. Can we not eat The Baby’s bum. We don’t eat The Baby’s stinky poo.’

Some other posts in the ‘Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last Week’ feature
Week 5: Don’t Do It
Week 15: We Are Not a Stinker
Week 18: A Spinny Armpits
Week 19: Clock

A Message to Anyone Who Feels Confused or Bullied About Breastfeeding

baby-21167_1280

(*Note: I wrote one post about breast or formula feeding, actually about how we should not even bother to debate it because it does not matter, and did not intend to write more on the matter. However, I have recently read some news reports about pressure and bullying some mothers have felt over how they feed their babies, and it makes for quite upsetting reading. So, at risk of debating the issue myself, I am writing this one further post.*)

 
 
This post is specifically aimed at new mothers or prospective new mothers. Because, if you found this post, you have probably been looking online for advice or support about breastfeeding. And, if you’ve been doing that, you are probably unsure about what feeding method you want to use, or you are struggling with breastfeeding. You may have found some great support and advice. In which case, carry on as you were. But there is always a risk, if you have googled advice about breastfeeding, that you have been dragged into a guilt-ridden swamp of ‘information’ about the magical properties of breast milk, without which your baby will surely die and you will be branded with a ‘worst mother in the world’ stamp right across your forehead. If you have found your way into this swamp, and now feel more vulnerable and confused than you did when you started, do please read on.

Breast milk is not the Elixir of Life. It does not have magical properties. It’s great. It’s an amazing substance. But, actually, so is formula. Some very clever people have made it so. They have manufactured a substance that is capable of being a substitute for breast milk and nourishing a baby. So that’s pretty amazing too, right?

Yes, breast milk has immune benefits. Yes, it is probably easier on the gut. In the scheme of things, these are not really massive differences or benefits. Breast milk isn’t making anyone invincible. It’s not curing ebola.

Does breast milk make children more intelligent, thinner, more successful, or any of the other claims put forward by the breastfeeding lobby? No. It doesn’t. The apparent correlation between breastfeeding and improved outcomes for children in those areas is coincidental. It exists because there is a correlation between those outcomes and greater socioeconomic advantage, AND there is a correlation between higher breastfeeding rates and socioeconomic advantage. The privilege and opportunities afforded in society to the group of women who make up the majority of breastfeeders result in the apparent benefits for their children, not the breast milk. But, of course, it is difficult to conclusively prove that the breast milk is not responsible, because to do so would require experimenting on babies and forcing certain groups of mothers to feed in a specific way . That would clearly be unethical, and so the evidence of correlation between breastfeeding and positive outcomes in areas such as intelligence remains, ready to be preyed on by the breastfeeding lobby as evidence of the benefits of breast milk, despite being almost certainly nothing of the sort. If you look at the children of mothers who, in all respects except for breastfeeding, fit the same profile as the breastfeeding mothers, their children will show the same outcomes. I am such a child.

You will not condemn your child to stupidity, obesity or failure by not breastfeeding. Talk to your child, read to them, play with them, hug them – all the things you obviously intend to do anyway! These are the things that make a difference to development. And genetics, of course. Can’t do much about those.

It is nice to encourage breastfeeding, of course it is. But not ever to the extent that anyone is made to feel panicked or vulnerable, or anyone is encouraged to make a decision that puts them or their baby at risk. No one should be told, as I have seen happen, that taking unregulated breast milk from strangers in Internet exchanges is better than using formula. Of course it isn’t. Do you know that is breast milk? That the mother doesn’t drink alcohol? That she has no blood borne illnesses? That she properly sterilised the pump and containers? Do you know where the milk was stored? For how long? It’s reckless, and no one should be telling worried mothers to do that. If you cannot, or do not want to, give your baby your milk (or milk from one of the regulated milk banks), give them formula. It is fine.

No vulnerable woman with mental illness should become so convinced that her baby needs breast milk that she stops taking medication she needs in order to be well. A baby does not need breast milk that badly, but it does need a healthy mother. No one, in short, needs to be listening to suggestions that breast milk is the be all and end all. That is not true.

So this is my message for new mothers, or prospective new mothers, who are worried about this, who have been panicked by what they see on the Internet, by what the so called ‘breastapo’ say. It is nice to try breastfeeding, if you can and you want to. But it is not that important in the scheme of things. Your child will not end up horrendously disadvantaged by not being breastfed. Don’t tell anyone, but breastfeeding isn’t even the norm in this country. The biological norm, yes, but not the norm in practice. Perhaps that is why some women are being so aggressive about this: it’s insecurity and defensiveness. Trying to validate themselves by putting others down. Because, truth be told, breastfeeding mothers, beyond the first few days or weeks, are a pretty small minority. That is a bit of a shame. But it isn’t your problem. You don’t have to be the one to take responsibility for improving the statistics. You have to do what’s right for you.

And I will tell you – as someone who is a breastfeeder, who has exclusively breastfed two babies long term – no sensible, intelligent, reasonable, relatively caring woman (breastfeeder or not) will see you struggling and tell you that you must breastfeed or your baby will suffer. Not ever. She will never tell you to panic over this, to be stressed about it, to cause your baby to feel stress about it, or to feel guilty about it. She will never tell you that you are selfish or harming your baby if you don’t breastfeed. She will not tell you breastfeeding is easy and everyone can do it. Anyone who tells you those things is not someone whose advice needs to be listened to. Good advice, helpful advice, will always encourage you to do what you can do, what you can cope with, and not to look back. Focus your energy on your time with your baby instead.

Why Breast v Formula Should Not Be a Debate

baby-105063_1280 We all know the breastfeeding versus formula feeding debate. We’ve all heard the passionate, and often outright hostile, arguments on each side. Many of us probably have an opinion one way or the other. Well, this post is not going to be about mine. No, I am not here to wade into the debate, I am here to ask whether it should be a debate at all.

I think not. You see, in this country (and the rest of the developed world), both breast and formula feeding are valid options. This feeding dilemma is not, in fact, a dilemma. It is a choice. An extremely fortunate choice between two options that are both ultimately safe and acceptable.

Yes, breastfeeding is obviously what nature intended. No, it being a natural process does not mean that all mothers and babies can do it. That is not how nature works. In nature, in all species, there are young who are unable to feed effectively. They die. It is natural selection. We as a species have developed to the point where we deem it unacceptable for some of our young to simply be allowed to starve. As with so many aspects of life, we have interfered in nature and developed alternatives. That’s great. But some of us seem to have forgotten along the way that, of course, not every mother and baby is able to breastfeed just because it is nature. We should appreciate the amazing alternatives that have been developed, rather than insist that all mothers must be able to breastfeed if they really tried.

About these alternatives. So they aren’t natural. A lot of things in modern life aren’t. They have been carefully formulated, used for generations. They are safe. They work. Formula fed babies grow up just fine. Yes, there are certain benefits to breast milk that formula milk cannot replicate but, in the developed world, the difference won’t be life or death, the impact is not significant.

Breast milk is cheaper, it’s quicker, it’s ready prepared. Of course, it puts every feed onto the mother. That is not always very convenient or practical in a modern world. Mothers do not sit in a cave and suckle young these days. They are expected to do things, see people, go out, often work. 2-3 hourly feeds, requiring the partial exposing of body parts, can be a strain. Formula, meanwhile, is more difficult to prepare, costs money, doesn’t benefit the immune system. On the other hand, feeding can be shared with other people, and no one feels awkward about doing it in public. It’s swings and roundabouts. There are positives and negatives to both options.

The key is that we have this choice. We have a choice and it really doesn’t matter which option we choose. Not in the grand scheme of things. Whichever way you decide to feed your baby, there will have been pluses and minuses, and your baby will have received nutrition, will have grown and thrived.

This is not a dilemma. There is nothing to debate. A dilemma is when you are HIV positive (communicable through breast milk), and have no option but to breastfeed your baby or allow it to starve. A dilemma is when formula milk has been aggressively pushed as an alternative by the formula companies, but there is no clean water to make it with, no sterilisation facilities, and you cannot afford enough formula to properly feed your baby. A dilemma is when you are too weak yourself to effectively breastfeed an infant, but have no other safe options available.

The choice we have in Britain is between two non-harmful, acceptable alternatives. Yet, we manage to fight about this choice. For some women in the world, their choices are between which potential cause of death they want for their baby. AIDS? Deadly water borne infections? Starvation? That is a ‘choice’ people should be fighting about.

Arguing over breast or formula, judging and criticising others for making a different – but still perfectly safe – choice for their child, is surely a monumental waste of time and energy. Preaching to another British mother for feeding in a different way from you is pointless. Nothing is achieved. She won’t appreciate your interference. Wouldn’t that energy and passion for the cause be better spent campaigning for those mothers in the world who desperately need help to be able to give adequate and safe milk to their babies? They would appreciate your interference.

Put the effort into a real crisis, a debate worth having. Make a difference. Because irritating Cheryl next door over breast being best isn’t making a difference to anything, except maybe Cheryl’s Christmas card list.