Friday, March 31, 2006

Battling on all fronts

I don't like to use a military analogy, but frankly I have sometimes felt like I am in a battle recently!

Yesterday I took the afternoon off to join Hayley when she went to have Oliver weighed (19 lbs 6 ozs) and to talk to the Health Visitor. The topic for conversation? Sleep!

Oliver is waking often in the night. He hasn't slept through more than a couple of times and they were a couple of months ago now. So we are getting rather desperate for a solution as it is taking its toll on us and (more importantly) the longer this behaviour goes on the harder it could be to change.

We discussed controlled crying with her (which we have never been keen on) but interestingly we ended up spending more time talking about his sleeping habits during the day and also about his eating habits.

Ah yes, Eating! Life isn't easy on that front either. He will eat yoghurts until the cows come home but many other foods are rejected. This is bad news as he needs to eat enough to be able to sleep all night.

The other aspect to his refusing to eat is that it is terribly demoralising for Hayley. This afternoon she spent the best part of 40 minutes making him fresh food: a main course and a dessert. He ate three mouthfuls of the main course before crying, fighting, complaining and refusing to eat any more. The dessert was no better. Poor Hayley looked crest fallen.

So what is our plan?

We need to try to get Oliver to sleep longer in the afternoon: 1 - 2 hours instead of the 20-30 minutes power naps he is taking. Apparently the better babies sleep during the day, the better they sleep at night. We also need to get him to eat three meals a day, at least two of which should have a two courses. (He is also still drinking 3 bottles of milk a day: the last one often being about 12 ounces.) Once we get to that stage we can be sure he is eating and sleeping enough during the day to get through the night and we intend to try the controlled crying if necessary at that point.

The reason I've come round more to the idea of controlled crying was down to the health visitor's explanation of why it is important. I'd been worrying about the mixed signals we were sending by loving and attending to Oliver during the day and then apparently rejecting and abandoning him at night. She pointed out to me that accepting this night-time separation is exactly what we need to teach Oliver. Going to sleep by himself - including getting himself back to sleep when he surfaces from his slumbers in the night - is a skill that he has to learn. If we don't let him learn to do this we are not only making life hard for ourselves, we are denying him an essential ability for his life ahead. And it's not as if we are going to shut the door at 7.30pm and walk away for 12 hours. If he cries we will go to him, but only within the parameters allowed by the controlled crying technique. (After all, it wouldn't be controlled would it if we just left him to it!)

Having said that we have come round to the idea of controlled crying, I am still not entirely clear on how to carry it out, so a bit more readinbg is required. It's easy to describe in simple terms, but it's the fine details that are harder to pin down when you come to try it.

Of course, there are still lots of times when Oliver is happy and life is not all slog. But the hard times will be so much less hard when we can persuade the little man to sleep and eat a little more!

Have carrier, will travel!

Hayley tries out Oliver's new carrier for the first time.

Oliver loves his new Bush Baby child carrier. So far he hasn't been further than the swings in our local park (about 150 yards away), but we plan to take him up Rivington Pike this Easter. He travelled up their last year as "Bump" when we saw someone with a baby in a carrier at the top of the hill, so we have been looking forward to taking him ever since.

His next trip will probably be a 25 minute walk up to Thge Orangery tomorrow to meet Sarah who will be celebrating her birthday.

Oliver takes his first outdoor trip in his carrier to the swings near our house.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Laurel Brown

A friend at work is riding the length of Great Britain next month, from Land's End to John O' Groats, in memory of his daughter who died of SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy) last October.

He is aiming to raise enough money to purchase a portable 24-hour EEG monitor that will help in the early diagnosis of children with difficult/complex epilepsy without the need to hospitalise them.

You can read more about his ride and how to support it here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A week is a long time...

They say a week is a long time in politics. How very short it is compared to a week in the life of a 6 month old baby. Oliver was away less than 6 days but even in that short time I noticed changes.

Apart from the obvious teething, while he was away he developed a habit of bouncing up and down on his bottom while chatting away excitedly. And on his first day back I swear he seemed to exhibit some facial expressions I hadn't seen before.

When he first came home he didn't give me his big smile and get excited, he sat in my arms looking at me for a long, long time as if trying to remember who I was. Eventually it seemed to click and he was his usual self, but it made me realise that a week really is a long time for him.

BBC NEWS | Health | Early babies dubbed bed blockers

BBC NEWS | Health | Early babies dubbed bed blockers

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mothering Sunday - a happy end to a mixed week

Today has been Mothering Sunday. Hayley had a little lie-in (with Oliver!). When she got up I helped Oliver give his card and presents to his Mummy, then Hayley and Oliver went to church while I stayed home and did a few jobs.

Afterwards we all went for a coffee (well, Oliver had his milk) and then lunch at the Heaton's Tandoori. It's the first time we've been there for a sit-down meal since before Oliver was born. The last time we went Hayley ate the spiciest offering on the menu in an attempt to encourage her "bump" to emerge into the world. Today she ordered the same house speciality but this time just for her dining pleasure.

It also gave us a chance to let Oliver try a piece of poppadum (pictured above) and also a mango lassi drink (pictured below). He sucked then played with the poppadum, but he loved the lassi drink. This didn't susprise us as he loves yoghurts. In fact some days that's the only "solid" food he will eat. That's been a slight cause for concern, but other days (including today) he will eat well, so we are trying to be patient and not fret too much about it, not least as we don't want to transmit our anxiety to him.

Today was a very enjoyable end to what has been a mixed week. Hayley took Oliver down to Wiltshire for a few days this week to visit family and friends, but this was partially prompted by the fact I was ill again. Thankfully I'm recovered now but it wasn't much fun being parted from them let alone being "under the weather" to boot.

But the real bad news came from Hayley's work, where there are going to be redundancies. It looks like about 25% of the workforce in her area will be put "at risk" in the next couple of weeks. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of our childcare decisions, being under threat of redundancy is never a welcome experience. All we can do for now is wait and see what happens. This comes almost precisely a year after my own company underwent a restructuring and several colleagues in my own department were made redundant. Job insecurity seems to be an unavoidable symptom of
the so-called "competitive" British economy.

Oliver is shaking off a sniffly cold. Bless him, he has been coughing in the night, but then goes straight back to sleep most of the time, even though we can hear on the baby monitor that he is quite "snotty".

He does seem to have started to wake and need his dummy a bit earlier recently. From as early as 4.30am (or even 3.30am this morning) he can be wide awake and need his dummy to go back to sleep. Then he may drop it several times and not find it for himself, resulting in one of us making several trips to his room. Eventually he seems to go off for a good spell, but often by this point I am wide awake and unable to get back to sleep myself. If we can just crack this sleep business life will be so much easier as I really enjoy my time with him when I've had just a few hours uninterrupted sleep. Without it I have to admit I struggle, unlike Hayley who miraculously manages to keep going! Although, even she had to succumb to a slight cold this week when she got back from Wiltshire.

The clocks went forward last night, so it's time I got back on my bike to commute to work. Here's hoping for a healthy summer!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Teething Troubles

Oliver in Wiltshire this morning with rosy cheeks.

Oliver is teething and not enjoying it much. His back teeth seem to be coming through first, which apparently is more painful.

He had a restless night last night and was very upset early this morning. His rosy cheeks and some small spots betray the fact that his first teeth are the source of his distress.

Hayley has applied some Calgel this morning. Hopefully it will ease his discomfort.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Home alone

Hayley and Oliver have gone to Wiltshire for a few days to visit family and friends. I have stayed in Stockport to recover from illness and go to work (as I've no holidays left).

It's so odd without them both here. I wandered into Oliver's room earlier and was hit by the smell of him! The place is so oddly quiet without them and I already miss them.

But it's an oportunity to get a few things done beyond the usual daily chores, for example reading the books I've bought about the rights and wrongs of daycare. Better get to it then!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sick of being sick!

A month ago we all suffered a bout of sickness and diarrhea when a nasty virus passed inflicted itself upon several families we know. A couple of weeks later I was off work with a heavy cold. For the last two days I've been suffering with the same flu-like symptoms as a month ago. I've never before been ill so often!

Maybe it's the sleep disruption and deprivation. I eat well, take exercise and get fresh air, so it's hard to know what else I can do to boost my immune system.

Hayley teased me today that I need to get myself fit again soon to get started making a sibling for Oliver! I've just eaten my first meal in 24 hours - half a bowl of soup. Here's hoping it builds my strength up.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Water baby!

Oliver has always had a pretty laid back attitude when it comes to water, but today he took it to a new level.

Hayley took him to "Swim Tots" and after the class took him into the jaccuzzi. He lay back in the water suported by her arms enjoying the bubbles looking completely relaxed. Then after a few minutes he took things a stage further and fell completely asleep! He stayed this way for quite a while much to the amusement of the other people in the jaccuzzi. Even the instructor came over to see the cause of all the laughter.

It's nice to see that he feels so comfortable in the water and trusts us so much.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

That rarest of things - an unbroken night's sleep!

On Sunday night Oliver slept through the night without making a sound. In fact I woke at 5.50am, realised I hadn't heard him and so felt the need to check him as it's so unusual for him to be that quiet. He was fine of course. The next day I felt pretty good after a relatively good night's sleep.

Sadly this is a rare occurence. He tends to always wake around 5am (or 4am this morning) and need his dummy to go back to sleep, then he'll wake about once an hour and need us to go in and find his dummy for him again. At the start of the night he tends to sleep well for a couple of hours then stir or even wake and cry. This means there's not much point going to bed until he's passed this point, which then leaves perhaps 4 or 5 hours of unbroken sleep until the 4-5am waking.

That's a typical night. On a bad night he will wake about every hour and need one of us to go in and settle him.

However, it's not all bad news. Since we have started to put a second nightlight on that let's him see around himself in his cot a little better, he has been better at getting himself back to sleep. So some nights he wakes a few times but goes back to sleep without our intervention.

The bottom line is that we are still not getting many nights of unbroken sleep. I think this is hitting Hayley harder than me as she gets up with him during the week and I get up at the weekends. Of course, once she goes back to work I am going to start to suffer more too! But when we do get a good night's sleep it's amazing how much it helps. If he could sleep through consistently I think we would truly start to feel human again.

Of course, we have a book on this subject ("Sleep: The secret of problem free nights" by Beatrice Hollyer), but we foolishly loaned it to someone when his sleeping seemed to be improving. We should have known better!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Booking up my ideas?

In an attempt tp get to grips with parenting, it's easy to imagine there is a silver bullet out there in the form of a book that will explain how to tackle every parenting situation that might crop up. Of course there isn't, but that doesn't stop me expanding the household library and VISA bill in an attempt to learn a few tricks of the fatherhood trade.

My three most recent purchases are:
  • "Dad Stuff" by Steve Caplin and Simon Rose. This is a fun book that has "shedloads of ideas for Dads". It's true! Mostly these are ways to keep kids entertained with tricks such as putting a knitting needle through a balloon without bursting it, step by step instructions on how to make things such as baked bean tin telephones and answers to questions such as "why is the sky blue?", "what causes thunder and lightning?" and even the dreaded "where do babies come from?".

  • "Raising Babies" by Steve Biddulph. I'm buying this to help me understand the rights and (according to this book mostly) wrongs of childcare and its effects.

  • "Raising Boys" by Steve Biddulph. Another Steve Biddulph book specifically about raising boys (obviously). I'm just curious to hear what he has to say.

  • Now all I need to do is find time to read them and stay awake long enough to take them in.

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Funky Dude!

    I love this picture of Oliver reaching out to grab me: one of my favourite sites in the whole world! I have it on my phone right now. I feel it just sums up what a happy little character he is.

    Home from hospital

    This morning the consultant paediatrician saw Oliver and confirmed the junior doctor's diagnosis that the episode was caused by an allergic reaction after eating egg for the first time. She said that it had not been life-threatening but recomended that we should keep some Pyriton in the house in case he has a reaction to another type of food.

    Apparently it is quite common for children of Oliver's age to react to eggs and it does not necessarily mean it will be a life-long condition. She recommended that we avoid food containing any egg whatsoever at least until he is a year old. After that we might want to start to try food with some egg content. In the meantime we will be sent an appointment with a dietician to discuss how to handle his revised diet.

    Oliver, feeling much better this morning in his hospital cot (with Julien and Gerry the Giraffe)

    Thursday, March 09, 2006

    Oliver is in hospital

    Oliver has been taken into hospital. Right now he is being kept in overnight in the Paediatric Unit at Stepping Hill (the hospital where he was born). Hayley is staying in the room with him on a sofa bed.

    This afternoon Oliver ate egg for the first time. Shortly afterwards he wasn't himself and shortly after that when he fell asleep Hayley noticed he had become very red. She quickly checked him over and found he had a rash all over his body that she later described to me as looking like he had fallen into stinging nettles.

    She called the doctor's surgery but it was engaged so she popped him in the car - he vomited just before she put him in - and quickly drove him down there and asked to see a GP immediately.

    One of the doctors then inspected him and said it was probably an allergic reaction to the egg. He told her to take him to hospital but to call me so that one of us could monitor his breahting on route, which scared us a little.

    By the time I arrived to drive them to the hospital I could see his face was swollen and he looked red and sweaty, drowsing in his car seat.

    We got to hospital around 6.30pm. Oliver was still asleep but seemed to be breathing OK. A nurse checked his pulse and SATs before giving him Calpol and Pyriton to reduce the swelling. She then told us there would be something of a wait to see the doctor but that Oliver would be kept in so we were then moved to a private room.

    After taking his medicince Oliver went back to sleep and slept on with only a short stirring until the doctor finally got round to seeing us at 10.30pm. The doctor was quite junior and she deferred to the judgement of the consultant who would be round to see Oliver in the morning, but she suspected an allergic reaction too and that the egg was to blame.

    By the time I left, Oliver was wide awake (at 11pm!) and charming the nurses. They were literally queuing at the door to see him and cuddle him, as word had got round what a cutie he was, smilng at the ladies as usual despite his ill health. He really has been a brave boy tonight and I am so proud of him. It's awful to see him suffering but he had cheered up a lot and the swelling and redness had reduced substantially too by the time I left around 11.30pm. Even so, I feel better knowing they will be monitoring him tonight.

    So it looks like eggs are off the menu for the little man. What a shame for him! We love a good egg and mushroom sandwich in our house. I just hope this is the only allergy he has and that perhaps he will lose it in time.

    Above: Oliver, asleep and improving in hospital late Thursday evening, but still looking slightly red in the face.

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    Six months old today

    Oliver at six months: still cute, still dribbling.

    Oliver is six months old today.

    I took the day off and spent it with Hayley and Oliver. After our trip to the swimming pool we visited another prospective nursery in the afternoon then popped into "Room 311" for a coffee.

    Oliver was so happy all day. He smiles back at everyone who smiles at him and just seems to be a very happy little chap at the moment. (The only tiny exception is that he has started to grizzle a bit at bedtime again but hopefully we'll crack that.)

    He can sit up now and play with toys without having to be held up which means we just have to keep an eye on him and not sit with him in order that he can sit and play.

    I find myself listing all sorts of things on here, but perhaps what I should be mentioning is just how much I love him and love spending time with him. Today has been an absolute joy. He is adorable, so happy and I love him to bits.

    Oliver enjoys a rice cake at "Room 311"

    First time at the swimming pool!

    Today I took a day off and went to "Swim Tots" with Hayley and Oliver. Our friends Sarah and Tony also came with their duaghter who is about the same age as Oliver.

    The class consisted of sitting in the very warm shallow pool and splashing about to nursery rhymes under the direction of a dude who looked like he'd be more at home on a snowboard than leading a dozen babies in sing-song, but nonetheless he did a sterling job of it.

    The culmination of the half hour session was a trip into the deeper "plunge pool" where the end of "The grand old duke of York" and "Ring a ring of Roses" was marked by dunking the babies completely under water! I wasn't at all convinced we'd manage to do this, but the instructor gave us a handy tip: to blow in the baby's face just as we are about to dunk him which causes him to screw up his face and hold his breath in surprise. To my relief this seemed to work and Oliver simply blinked a bit when he reappeared from his very brief dunking (and rest assured it was very brief indeed). We repeated this a couple of times with the same result.

    He enjoyed the whole time in there. At one point we took him in the jacuzzi and he just lay back on my arms looking up at the ceiling. I think all those fun bath-times must have done some good. Hopefully he will grow to love the water and it will hold no fear for him if we keep taking him from now on.

    Paedophilia paranoia?

    The only slight down side during our trip to the swimming pool was that we were only able to take a couple of pictures in the pool before being told we had to ask permission beforehand because of child protection rules. I have to say that I think this kind of "protection" is getting out of hand. We wanted to take pictures of our own child on his first trip to the swimming pool, but because of the fear of the media-created "bogeyman stranger paedophile" we were barred from doing so.

    A colleague at work was commenting on how good it would be if the nurseries had webcams so parents could view their child at any time, but then said that paedophikles might hack in and watch too. Well I'm not sure where this sort of fear will end. A paedophile could be walking down the street looking at our child, so should we run for cover and never let him out of the house? Of course not!

    The sad fact is that most paedophiles are trusted members of families or organisations who have contact with children. "Stranger danger" surely exists, but it is easy to get its likelihood out of proportion.

    Another day, another expert... with another view

    Child psychologist Steve Biddulph has been in the news today. In his latest book, "Raising Babies - SHould the under threes go to nursery?", he asserts that sending children under three years of age to nursery can damage "brain development and development of empathy and trust".

    It's one other piece of research and only deals with one part of the jigsaw of trying to balance work life, family life, the short-term needs and the long-terms needs of the whole family.

    I should be glad to have more information to help us make our decision, but it's already difficult enough finding a good nursery without being told the whole idea is bad from the start.

    We've been having a few second thoughts about which nursery to use. Firstly we turned up to our chosen nursery to find Oliver still sitting in the same wet bib he had been wearing when we dropped him off three hours previously, despite the fact we left clean bibs and asked they make sure he is changed. The next time we picked him up he was sitting in the same bouncy chair as he had been the previous visit and looked thoroughly downhearted. Even when he saw us he still looked upset. We couldn't help thinking he had been left there for longer than we'd have liked. All this and he has only been there three times.

    So we've been to visit a couple of other local nurseries. Elm Cottage is only two minutes walk from our house but is the most expensive we've looked at and due a rise of 5-10% in June. We visited it yesterday and were impressed by it.

    Today we visited The Orchards, where our friends Dawn and Simon have their child. It was similar to Elm Cottage but with a bigger play area outdoors and a slightly better ratio of nursery nurses to children overall (though they both had 3-to-1 in the baby rooms). On the down side it is about 1.5 miles away in the wrong direction for work.

    So the next few days will see us weighing up all the options again, safe in the knowledge that no decision is ever final!

    Steve Biddulph's website is here.

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    BBC NEWS | Health | Life of sick baby 'intolerable'

    BBC NEWS | Health | Life of sick baby 'intolerable'

    Stories like this remind me how lucky we are to have a happy healthy baby.

    Although I tend to heed the advice of the medical experts, I wonder what I would really do were I to find myself in the tragic circumstances of these parents.

    From the comfort of total impartiality, I hope I don't sound complacent or critical when I say that I think the child's quality of life should be the deciding factor, not its longevity or the parents desire to extend that.

    I just hope that all concerned find the wisdom and courage to do the right thing, whatever that may be.

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    These are a few of my favourite things

    Oliver is pictured with a few of his favourite things.
  • The purple blanket that Hayley brought back from Connecticut showing buildings in Fairfield. He has always been fascinated by this.

  • The multi-coloured knitted blanket that my Mum knitted him. He likes to pull it over his face when he is falling asleep in the afternoons.

  • Two toys from John Lewis that he takes to bed: a monkey and a giraffe.

  • Here are a few of Oliver's current favourite things to do.
  • Blowing raspberries. He will wait for the most inopportune moment, look someone straight in the eye and then blow the most enormous raspberry at them.

  • Biting Julien's nose. Actually he'll bite anything at the moment, probably because he has started teething. When I feed him his bottle he will often take the opportunity to bite my fingers when I stop to wind him. And if he sits up in my arms he will bite my shoulder.

  • Playing "rough and tumble". This involves either dancing with him by tipping him up and down in my arms, or tumbling him head over heels from the top of my head which he loves.

  • Sitting up! For the last week Oliver has been able to sit up unaided. He sometimes leans too far forward or backwards and gets himself in a pickle, but he can sit and play without being propped up as long as we keep half an eye on him.

  • Standing up! He loves to be held up right to get a good view of everything that's going on. He clearly doesn't have the balance to stand alone yet, but he has the strength in his legs to stand for short spells with us balancing him.

  • Playing on the swings in the park. He is pictured below on the swings at Bruntwood Park with his friend Niamh.