Recently in Parenthood Category


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We're off to Australia for a well earned holiday in a few days.  One thing we realised is that we needed a new buggy for our son as the one we already have is very good, but too heavy and bulky for an airport.  The other option would be to carry him in the Baby Bjorn sling but doing that every day for three weeks solid would get pretty uncomfortable and tiring.

So, off we went to the big Mothercare supermarket in Weybridge to spend our money.  We wanted a buggy as light as possible, that folded up as small as possible.  Being in the UK it also had to have a rain cover.  The place was quite busy, but we were able to try out all the buggies in our own time, wheeling them around and folding them up, etc.  After fiddling around with everything that was on offer, we settled with a Maclaren Triumph which seemed to meet all our requirements (in charcoal grey, not the eye bleeding bright pink which comes up on the site by default).

Then we went to the till to go and buy it, but the woman claimed she wasn't trained on buggies and couldn't help us.  The other staff were all helping other customers.  We waited around for a while, gave up and went to the Argos next door to see if they had it (they didn't), and went back.  This time a different woman was serving who just went into the back and got one for us.  We paid, shoved it in the car and headed home.  Job done.

Why did the first woman refuse to help us?  It seems daft.  We knew exactly which buggy we wanted - we weren't asking her for advice on what to buy, we just said "We'd like to buy that one please".  The only thing I can think of is that she wasn't trained for lifting stuff from the store room (despite the whole thing weighing only 6kg including packaging).

Now we need to work out how to pack all of his baby stuff into ½ a normal personal baggage allowance for the flights (luckily, the pram itself won't be counted as part of that).  Then we need to find out definitively what we need to do about baby food.  Neither the airline or airport websites are particularly helpful on this subject so I guess we'll have to phone them.  We can't take all his food ready made because 24+ hours out of a fridge is too long to remain sterile, so do we take baby bottles full of sterilised water (which are bigger than 100ml and could be confiscated) and add the powder when he feeds s we do at home, or are we forced to buy lots of those expensive little ready made cartons of baby milk?

Who's the Daddy?

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I'm back in work after a couple of weeks' paternity leave and it's about time I updated my blog.  Paternity leave has been the quickest two weeks of my life I think.  Being a parent is hard work (even without the endless stream of family visitors) and time just flies by without you really noticing.

Anyway, onto the formal announcement...

Our son Isaac was born on 27th May weighing 7lb 7oz (just under 3.4 kilograms).

Thanks to all of you who have sent messages, cards and presents wishing us well.  There are some photos on Katherine's facebook - just one on mine.  I'll stick some more up when I get some time to myself at home in front of the PC!

Childbirth Pseudoscience

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We've attended a number of antenatal classes lately.  One major focus of these is the labour process, explaining methods of relaxing and how to help manage pain.  We were taught breathing exercises, focussing on breathing out (similar to coping techniques for an asthma attack).  Various active labour positions were shown to us, as the TV sterotype of lying on your back with legs akimbo is pretty much the worst position for childbirth.

One major benefit of these classes is that it gave me the sense that I have an active and beneficial role to play, rather than just sitting there like a lemon for hours holding Katherine's hand saying muttering vague sympathies and wondering if the bloke's role should be to pace up and down the corridor smoking cigars...

I digress.  So far, the advice given is all good common sense stuff that's well backed up physiologically.

However, some other advice about pain relief made my sceptical eyebrow raise.  The teacher at the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) class recommended arnica tablets as a pain relief (though the NHS classes made no mention of this).  I didn't think any more of it until Katherine bought some on a shopping trip with a friend.  They turn out to be a homeopathic remedy (i.e. sugar pills).  All the research I can find shows them to be nothing more than placebos as would be expected if you think about it (for example -  Now you might think that a placebo has a strong effect (and indeed it is), but at over £5 for a small tub of tablets it's just a plain rip off.  I may as well give Katherine some mints.

Another method of pain relief that is on potentially dodgy scientific ground is TENS, which consists of a small machine with four electrodes on wires that are placed on particular places on your back.  The machine sends pulses at certain frequencies that are said to "block" your pain transmitting nerves (though why this has no effect on other nerves with jobs such as motor or temperature sensing I have no idea).  This was recommended by both the NCT and the NHS.

The research into the effectiveness of TENS for childbirth seems inconclusive.  I'm not sure I quite believe the pain blocking theory of operation, but perhaps a better theory is that TENS performs a bit of neurological slight of hand.  The tingling sensation could be enough to distract the brain.  The human brain can only process so much information at once, so the pain is felt less strongly.

It is (to me) quite surprising given how much TENS was emphasised by the teachers as a good therapy (especially by the NHS who really should know better about clinical trials).  However, neither therapy seems to do any harm, which is why I think they're both recommended.  I guess a few good placebos are better than nothing.

I think it mostly comes down to the fact that childbirth is not a very predictable or controlled process.  It's different for everyone, lasts wildly varying lengths of time, different people have different pain thresholds, etc.  Bascially, there are far too many differences to make a good control group for a double blind trial into obstetric pain relief with good methodology.  You can't even test the same person through two labours with and without the pain relief because so many other factors will be different that the results would be meaningless.

Child Car Seats

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Our impending parenthood looms closer and closer, so we've started to buy a lot of gear in preparation.  Most of it has been fairly simple to choose, clothes (in neutral colours as we don't know the gender of the baby), stuff to wash the baby with, sleeping bags, etc.

One thing we've had to do a bit more research on is the car seat.

My first instinct was to look at these integrated travel systems where you have a car seat which easily plugs in and out of the car and onto a matching pram base.  However, once we looked into this, it seems that it's a far from ideal solution.

With these systems it seems there are far more cons than pros.  I'll list a few here that came up in our research.


  1. Convenience - it's easy to transfer baby from the car to the pram and vice versa without waking him/her up.

...and that's about it.


  1. The car seat section is going to be very small (known as a Group 0+), which means the baby will out grow it in just nine months.  After that you have to buy a new larger seat which won't fit onto the pram anyway.  We're not planning on having child No. 2 straight away, so this type of seat would then be useless up in the loft for a while.
  2. The small seats are said to be uncomfortable for babies on long journeys as the baby will be curved into a V shape for a long period.
  3. Poorer safety compared with a dedicated car child seat (particularly side impact protection).
  4. Clips holding the car seat to the pram are another thing that can break.

So in the end we decided that a dedicated car seat was the thing for us.  After reading loads of reviews and going to see the different models in a few shops, we settled upon a Britax First Class Si Ultra, which is a Group 0-1 seat that will last the baby from birth until approximately four years.  The website even has a guide to whether it will fit in your car or not (ours is too old to have an ISOFIX system so we needed to check before buying).  We got it from which included a 10% discount.

Now we just need to research prams and cots...

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