Monday 17 December 2012


In conference

By all accounts words didn’t come easy to F.R. David. Sadly, this didn’t stop him writing one of the most annoying pop songs of the ‘80’s, a song which pops into my head every time someone mentions ‘words’... which at the moment is surprisingly often as words are currently dominating Marty’s life!

The rate at which his vocabulary is growing is frankly astonishing. Every day he seems to add at least three or four more words to his repertoire. I’ll grant you that they’re not the largest of words - ‘repertoire’ doesn’t feature for a starters - but these days virtually everything you say around him comes back seconds later at a higher pitch.

Of course his enunciation still leaves something to be desired and it does take a degree of imagination to translate his words - which is often helped by the fact that he’s stabbing a finger at whatever he’s talking about. The biggest barrier to translation is that he still struggles with certain letters of the alphabet, mainly the letter ‘P’. So we have ‘Tigger’, his little pink mate ‘Tiglet’ and their bear buddy who, according to Marty, is called ‘Mmmn’. Meanwhile, the word ‘Bear’ can be either a soft fruit or an animal that defecates in dense foliage – allegedly – and the sky above Lincolnshire is full of ‘banes’.

The oddest of all though is his word for Snowman, which is something along the lines of ‘Bow-bar”. Go figure!

As you might have gathered I’m rather proud of all this so it was with some dread that we all went to a kiddies birthday party attended by, amongst others, his nemesis. This is a lovely little girl who is about 5 months younger than Marty and is light years ahead of him; when he could barely sit up she was crawling, when Marty had learnt to crawl, she was walking, when Marty was walking, she was doing hand stands in the corner of the room....

So I entered the party fully expecting Marty to be running around the room, stabbing at the wallpaper and screaming ‘Tiglet’ whilst this young lady sat down at her high chair, turned to her mother and said “Mother dearest, could you possibly pass me some cutlery, I have an urge to dissect this pomegranate.”

But not a bit of it! If anything Marty has a better vocab! I was well impressed.

There is a downside to all this though, words after all have power. Marty should by now be fast asleep but as I write I can hear a tiny, mournful voice echoing from his room, “Tigger? w'are you? Daggy? w'are you?” The temptation to race into his room and cuddle him is almost overwhelming, but I suspect the clever little bugger knows that J

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Moving in to his own room

Marty's Nursery Mural

When Leanne was 6 months pregnant she suggested that I start the process of transforming the spare room into a nursery for our forthcoming baby. Maths has never been my strong point but even I could figure out that we had at least 3 months to sort this out. We also didn’t know if we were going to be blessed with a boy or a girl, an essential piece of information when it comes to decorating themes. Reluctantly Leanne relented and we decided to wait until the baby had arrived, after all it was only going to take a couple of days, maybe a week at most, to convert the bedroom.

Marty duly arrived and settled into our bedroom. This was fine as he took up little space and we all felt happier sleeping close together. Alas, there was a rather large fly in our otherwise blissful family ointment, a fly that started buzzing annoyingly a few days after Marty moved in. And it was this; whilst Marty was a picture of happiness and delight during the day he cried a little a night, then he cried a little more, then he started to bawl, then scream and then, before you knew it, morning arrived.

I valiantly coped with this by moving to the spare room.

This was of course the ideal opportunity to start decorating the room and moving Marty in, and I would have done this it wasn’t for my wife and what, during my days in I.T., used to be referred to a ‘scope spread’. It turned out that whilst a nursery was good, a new downstairs bathroom and shower would be great... and whilst I’m at it why not insulate and lay a wooden floor in the utility room? And, come to think of it, if I’m laying a wooden floor in that room why not re sand and varnish the floors throughout the house? And wouldn’t it be nice if the conservatory had some radiators.... As if this wasn’t bad enough I’d also told Haynes Publishing that I’d write a manual for them! Oh yes, and I had to go to work!

To cut a long story short, this weekend I finished the mural on his wall - which on reflection was probably a tad ambitious bearing in mind I hadn’t painted in 10 years and had never attempted ‘art’ with vinyl matt emulsion before. With that done it was just a matter of plumping up the pillows in his cot, arranging Tigger and his soft, cuddly, minions on the floor and inviting Marty in to cut the ribbon whilst daddy drank the champagne.

And so yesterday was his first night in his own room! Much to my surprise he seems to have taken to the idea straight away, which would suggest that he was finding us as hard to sleep with as we were finding him. We’ve put in a night light and a small radio, set very quietly to classic FM, and the combination seems to lull him quietly to sleep with little or no bother at all.

So what’s the most surprising thing about all this? Well Marty is still only 21 months old. At one point I thought that he’d have buggered off to university before I’d finished his nursery

Thursday 1 November 2012

Carrying baby

We all need a papoose in life!

One of the most troublesome aspects of young children is their inability to do much in the way of moving. Yes, they might be able to crawl a bit, they may even be able to walk a little but, for the first few years at least, you can’t really go anywhere and expect them to keep up. 

And so we bought a push chair for young Marty, then we bought another, and then another. I questioned my wife as to why we only seemed to have one child yet owned a pram for every day of the week, and the answer turned out to be rather long and tortuous.

Firstly we had a pram that allowed Marty to lie down or sit up as the feeling took him. This wonder pram also came with three huge wheels which allowed us to go ‘off-road’ during the morning walks with the dog. Sadly, it was also just a little too big to fit into the car boot and was a bit of a nightmare to dismantle. So we bought a lighter, smaller, easier to pack away pram for shopping trips and general wanderings around the town.

This was all well and good but then spring arrived and car-boot sale season began. Within weeks we had filled the house with push chairs of every description, which were all apparently ‘bargains’ and offered something unique in the way of perambulation. Sadly, they all failed on one point. My main hobby is collecting wild mushrooms for which wandering woods is pretty much d’rigour and whilst we had a variety of prams that could handle muddy footpaths none of them were truly ‘off-road’. How were we going to go on a family mushroom hunt?

First off we tried one of those baby rucksacks. You know the kind, look just like an ordinary rucksack but instead of filling it with sandwiches and sleeping bags you can stuff a baby inside instead. They looked kind of cute but they put a hell of a strain on the old back. The problem was that Marty could lean back in it and, using the general laws of leverage, double his weight as and when the feeling took him. They were fine for about 10 minutes but any longer was agony.

So we tried a baby sling, or papoose. Our one was basically an enormous long sheet of soft, slightly elasticated, material that you wrapped around you. Initially it took me the best part of half an hour to wrap this thing around me and you could generally bet that within minutes Marty would be swaying round at about knee level whilst hanging on for dear life. 
This was all marvellous for comic effect and photo opportunities but next to useless as a form of transport. Fortunately, once you got the hang of them they proved to be brilliant.

Because they hold the baby very close to your body the weight is much easier to handle, there’re no hard bits to poke and prod you and they keep both you and baby snug and warm, in fact you effectively wander around in a permanent hug, which is all rather nice.
The only downside is that once Marty got taller I couldn’t put him in it in front of me as his head kept hitting my chin. You can arrange them so the kid is wrapped around your back but I needed at least one person to help me get him in and several to help me get him out. I dare say some people can manage it a bit more elegantly but I am not one of these elite few.

So for a while we were a bit buggered and me and the dog had to wander the woods alone. Then Leanne found a neat little thing on Ebay – an online car boot sale. It was a rucksack that you could put your child in but it was also a push chair! This sounded brilliant! We could heave Marty around on my back when we were hacking our way through the undergrowth and then push him along once we reached a footpath.

What we actually got was a “Mothercare Back Pack Carrier and Stroller”. Sadly they don’t seem to do them now but you can still find them on-line. Of course the problem with things that attempt two functions is that they tend to not be much good at either but I think this has managed quite well, although it’s a much better as a rucksack than it is as a pram - the wheels are too small, the whole thing tends to be a little too low to the ground and you tend to get a muddy bum if you convert a few times during wet weather.

On the plus side it’s very easy to convert from one to the other, possibly because when it’s a rucksack it looks as if you’re carrying a push chair on your back and when it’s a push chair it looks as if you’re wheeling along a rucksack.

Monday 22 October 2012

Death Wish

It’s an astonishing fact that there are now about seven billion people inhabiting this planet. That’s seven thousand million of us! And what’s the most amazing thing about this – other than that there are an awful lot of people having an awful lot of sex? Well, it’s that every single, solitary, one of those seven billion people had, from the age of next to nothing until at least 4, an uncontrollable urge to try to kill themselves! How on earth did we reach seven billion when every single kid on the planet seems to have been born with a death wish? 

Take young Marty as an example. In the early days, when an inability to move much tended to cramp his style, he would contentedly dice with death with mundane acts such as choking on his own vomit or trying to eat his pillow. However, once he’d learnt to move, a world of opportunities for an early demise where his to grab... or suck, or poke, or eat.

Put him in a room filled with soft, cuddly, perfectly safe toys and he would, within minutes, be throwing Tigger and his sidekicks aside and making a bee-line for the electrical socket in the corner of the room where, if left to his own devices, he would spend the morning trying to get the cover off so he could electrocute himself in spectacular fashion.

From the very moment he learnt to walk it became clear that his sole aim was to go as fast as he possibly could. This achieved, stage two was to go as fast as he possibly could into wholly immovable objects. Not a week has gone by where he has not been sporting at least one enormous bruise.

We recently returned from our summer holiday – We went to Wales so treat the word ‘summer’ in its loosest possible sense. On the very first day Marty managed to almost knock himself out by running head long into the dining table, a collision that resulted in him sporting an enormous black eye for the whole of the holiday.

Not content with concussion he diligently went to work on the gas fire – which, despite being a ‘family’ caravan home, didn’t actually have a fire guard. We spent hours building elaborate barricades around the fire and Marty spent hours trying to thwart our defences. On the last day of our stay, whilst his parents were busy packing everything into the car, he finally broke through and achieved his holiday goal – he got burnt!

As I write I can hear the battle going on between him and his mum; she wants to cook dinner, he wants to climb into the oven! I tell you now, if we all followed young Marty’s guide to health and safety there should be no more than about 20 of us on this planet... and 9 of those would be in hospital at any one time.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Going Gooey

I always expected Marty to change - after all, a complete failure to grow-up and develop would have condemned the poor boy to a career in politics. What has been a surprise though have been the changes in me.

Of course you’re told by everyone who’s ever had a kid that “You'll change” but they usually mean the trivial things like looking as if you've had a good eight hours sleep, or possessing the ability to leave your home in under an hour, or popping out to the pub for a beer, or basically doing anything on an impulse. I’ll grant you that at 4 in the morning ‘sleep’ doesn’t feel like a trivial matter but, when you think about it, feeling knackered is hardly the stuff of philosophers and poets.

No, what I’ve noticed are things like going “Ah!” when I hold up my boys tiny little coat, or suddenly finding myself smiling in that vacant parental fashion when I see other young children. In other words, I have gone surprisingly - and slightly worryingly - gooey.

I hadn’t really realised this until I was actually putting some of Marty’s clothes into his draw and finding that I couldn’t even get my hand down the leg of a pair of his trousers to turn them right-side out. I knew he was vertically challenged but I hadn’t realised just how astonishingly small he was. It was at that point that I actually heard myself saying “Arh! He’s soo cute!”... I was shocked I can tell you!

Then I thought about it. Over the last year or so I’ve found myself feeling tearful listening to things on the news that involved small children and getting positively lachrymous at the sort of films I used to scoff at.

Before Marty arrived I’d always regarded small children with supreme indifference or, if that wasn’t possible, then with extreme reluctance. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them it was just that, at best, I couldn’t see much point in them and at worse they were rather annoying, irrational and noisy little things that I just didn’t understand. These days I seem to find all little kids delightful. I dare say I’ll discover some exceptions to this new rule but so far all kids suddenly seem to be cute.

I suspect part of this new found gooeyness is because Marty is at a perfect age; he’s learning to talk but hasn’t learnt to answer back, he knows how to cry but has yet to learn the full on tantrum. Even his walk is part locomotion and part comedy routine, in other words he’s just plain gorgeous at the moment.

I have a horrible feeling that this will all change in the coming months – he’s already using the cry to get an awful lot of what he wants and, if he’s anything like his dad, he’ll soon have an answer for absolutely bloody everything... so I may soon be looking at all children with a feeling of dread before the years out.

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Baby development

Marty 5 months ago

Well it’s all go, go, go on the developmental front at the moment. 

The most obvious one is that Marty has now learnt to cry very loudly and is intent on practising at every opportunity – usually at, or around, bed time. He’s always been able to cry but just recently he’s managed to take it up a dozen or so octaves and increase the decibel output to something between Concorde racing down a runway and a Space shuttle launch.

Of course the advice you get from everyone is that you should just ignore it. We try, honestly we do, but it’s like trying to ignore the fact that someone is attempting to saw your leg off. I think soundproofing is the answer, that or we locate Marty’s bedroom in a concrete bunker several miles from the main house.

The walking has come on a treat. He now races around on two feet, only stopping to jump up and down, turn around, and then crash head long into some immovable object. He’s got so many bruises on his forehead and shins that I was thinking of buying some Arnica oil for them all. Sadly, they don’t sell it in ¼ ton pots, which is the bare minimum we’d need. Ideally we’d just hold him by his toes at bedtime and dip him in it.

The most obvious gains recently have been with his talking. He now understands pretty much everything you say to him. There is however, one important caveat to that statement: he now understands pretty much everything you say to him... when he wants to! If you say something he doesn’t like, just as “Bed” or “No! Marty” he suddenly claims Lithuanian descent and can’t understand a word your saying - which he expresses with a quizzical look and the word “Ay?”

Marty today
He seems frustratingly close to the basics of conversation, he’ll say “I love Mummy” – with enough prompting. He can say “Bye, bye” and “Hiya” and wave at the appropriate moment. For some reason he knows the word “Pineapple” but he’s still reluctant to say the word “Ball”. This is despite the fact that he has about 200 balls in his room and has barely seen a Pineapple. Go figure that one!

Sadly, he’s still not able to put anything into a sentence. I keep feeling he’s almost there but I suspect we’re really months and months away.

One of the weirdest things is just how much he’s changed in the last few months. I was looking at some photos from 5 months ago and you’d struggle to think it was the same child; his hair has changed from red to blonde, his face shape has altered, even his nose seems a different shape now!

I was wondering why we hadn't noticed all these changes and then I remembered that we usually only see him through a thick covering of yoghurt.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Learning to Walk

And he's off..
The two major baby milestones are learning to walk and learning to talk. Sadly, Marty still says very little other than “Ikea” or “Aky Arr” – translation seems to depend on how keen you are on flat packed furniture stores. However, he has finally learnt to walk!

It’s been a long old slog though. I knew that it takes a baby, on average, about a year to learn to walk. What I hadn’t realised is quite how long a year can seem. A foal is up and about within minutes, yet it took Marty months just to learn to sit upright! Frankly I found it hard to regard this as a genuine success.

“Oh look he’s sitting up all by himself!”
“It’s a major breakthrough!”
“Eh? He’s sitting. Even politicians can manage that! What do you want me to do, ring Mensa?”

Marty seemed to enjoy it though, so much so that it was many more months before he felt the urge to move.

How he went about his first ventures into motion was largely determined by our flooring; downstairs all the rooms have either tiles or varnished wood flooring. This is great when Marty is throwing yoghurt around the room but it’s a far more difficult surface to learn to walk on, and far less forgiving when things go amiss.

Marty, however, soon realised that if he lay flat on the floor in his full-body romper suit he could reach out and slowly but surely drag himself over to those toys out of reach. He seemed very pleased with this development and I must admit I was impressed with his grit and determination.

From a parental point of view it changed things a little. We had got used to the idea of being able to find our baby pretty much where we’d left him. With the development of the ‘drag’ this was no longer a given. Fortunately it was a slow and laborious form of locomotion, so if he wasn’t exactly where we’d left him, he was still pretty close to exactly where we’d left him.

We’d expected that the ‘drag’ would be a brief interlude en route to the ‘crawl’ but this was not to be. Again the flooring played a part here in that Marty attempted a full crawl quite early on but forgot to move his arms at the same time as pushing forward with his legs. The end result was an unforgiving nosedive into solid pine, a painful memory that seemed to put him off the whole idea for many months.

I hadn’t realised how far behind Marty was until we went to a party and he sat there looking bemused as his slightly younger compatriots crawled around him with lightening pace. To make matters worse the host had a home fitted with wall-to-wall carpeting, a surface wholly unsuited to the intricacies of the ‘drag’.

The shame and ignominy of being out performed by children that were months younger seemed to spur us all on. That very evening we spent 30 minutes practicing movement across the bedroom carpet and within a few weeks Marty had grasped the essentials of the crawl.

Of course this was just the incentive the competition needed to learn to walk. The very next party saw Marty crawling around the room whilst the opposition teetered about the place on two feet!

Marty seemed entirely unmoved by this development; crawling got him from A to B with all the alacrity required of a 1 year old who doesn’t even own a watch. What was more it made a lovely noise on wood flooring.

There was certainly something very endearing about being greeted by a grinning, giggling bundle of fun, slapping his hands as loudly as he could on the floor as he crawled across the room towards me. Once he’d reached me he’d grab my trousers and use them to climb to his feet. Once there he’d give me a big satisfied smile and lift up his arms to be picked up. I guess there are better ways of being welcomed home but I’m struggling to think of any.

I felt I fully understood Marty’s reluctance to walk as it seemed very like my attitude to snowboarding; I’d learnt to ski, finally got good at it, and now everyone is saying I need to start all over again and learn to snowboard! Why? I like skiing, I like going down black runs as fast as I can. Why do I want to risk pain and injury trying to get down a mountain on an ironing board?

Whatever the reason, Marty reached the grand old age of 14 months before deciding that bipedalism was the future. Sadly the adage “You need to learn to walk before you run” was entirely lost on him. As far as Marty was concerned the only advantage of walking was the extra speed it offered, and so from the very beginning he combined walking with jogging and jumping.

This is all very impressive and we are immensely proud of him. The only downside is that he still tries to overcome a loss of balance by running faster. Sometimes this works, usually it doesn’t. The end result is that barely a day’s gone by when he hasn’t been sporting at least one bruise on his forehead.

Monday 2 July 2012

The day my child exploded

Marty prepares for his world famous
David Dickinson impression
Over the years I have suffered from tennis elbow and housemaid’s knee – or heroic plumber's knee as I prefer to call it. However, I am currently suffering from ‘Dad’s arm’, am extremely painful condition brought on by holding a small child at arm’s length for a protracted period of time. To be honest it’s all my own fault, a classic example of naivety followed by panic.... And here is the tale.

Once upon a time a little boy was racing across the bedroom carpet on his hands and knees, giggling away, as his idiotic father pretended to chase him. This was all prior to bedtime so his father shouldn’t have been getting him all excited in the first place. He ought also to have remembered that said child had eaten only an hour before. However, they were both thoroughly enjoying themselves, blissfully unaware of the disaster that was to befall them.

Let’s take a quick break at this point to discuss some of the fundamentals of parenthood. Yes, it is marvellous and a young child is a delicious bundle of wonder, joy and delight. However, basic biology cannot be denied and the golden rule of ‘What goes in must come out’ is rigorously applied.

Regardless of the number of roses you use to tint your glasses,  dealing with number two’s is not a pleasure; it’s unpleasant when you’re expecting it, it can be damn right terrifying when you’re not.

So, back to the unfolding disaster.... As Marty crawled between my legs I grabbed the end of his trousers and allowed him to wriggle free, listening to his squeals of excitement as he did so.

“These are a bit heavy” I thought, as Marty made his break for freedom... And then two things hit me; first the smell and then the realisation that Marty was leaving brown marks on the carpet with every crawl.

Fortunately Marty doesn’t understand Saxon vernacular of the four letter variety, which is just as well as he ears might have fallen off. I grabbed him before he could destroy any more of the carpet, held him at arms length - for fairly obvious reasons - and screamed “LEANNE!!!!” Sadly my good wife was serenely gardening at the time and didn’t hear that scream or any of the ones that followed. Marty was becoming distressed at the colour of his father’s face and my arms were beginning to give way.

Finally, after what seemed like hours but was probably only a few minutes, sense reared its head. I raced into the bathroom and with little or no ceremony dumped Marty in the bath and turned the shower on him, praying to God that the household plumbing was up to the job.

Being a typical child, finding himself covered from head to toe in crap didn't bother him one little bit. However, the moment you try to shower him down with warm water he starts bawling his head off as if he's about to melt!. Fortunately Marty's screams seemed to reach across the garden with little difficulty at all and sure enough Leanne wandered into view.

I couldn’t believe how unmoved she was by it all. I believe she actually used the sentence “Oh, come on! It’s only poo!”.

Only poo? I could be the parent of a small child for the next 100 years and I’d never reach the stage were the words ‘only’ and ‘poo’ comfortably fitted into a single sentence.

Anyway, the panic was finally over; clothes were removed and thrown in the bin, baths were sluiced down, carpets were cleaned and Marty was once more racing around the room as if nothing had ever happened. It seems I was the only casualty; I can barely lift a pint my arms hurt so much!

Thursday 17 May 2012

Baby Talk

Lost for Words

I have come to the conclusion that the age at which a child is deemed to be able to ‘talk’ has little to do with the intellect of the child and an enormous amount to do with the imagination of the parents. You hear it all the time:

Mother: “Oh listen to the dear, he just said ‘Terrapin’. He’s very advanced you know!”

No he isn’t, he just said ‘Terrr Hin’. He's got wind! Get a grip woman!

In the sense that he rarely shuts up from the moment he wakes up to the very second he drops off to sleep, Marty can be said to ‘talk’. But is he talking English? Well if he is I fear he must be Scottish because what comes out of his mouth makes little or no sense to me at all.

His favourite word for many months was “G”, and to be honest it’s still a popular choice. I was rather hoping that this would be the start of a systematic approach to language and that he’d slowly acquire more and more letters of the alphabet until one day I’d arise to be greeted by my lovely child asking “If papa would care for a cup of tea and a digestive?”. Sadly, this was not to be. Instead Marty has opted to articulate a series of seemingly random words and phrases and the trick as a parent is to try to figure out quite what it all means – if it means anything at all.

Aggy Ann” is a popular phrase and one that took us a while to solve. It turned out that the young lad was merely displaying all the diplomatic tact of his father, in that he waited until Mother’s Day before he started shouting it out as loud as he could, a look of profound concentration on his face as he did so. This of course was fine, right up to the point we realised that he was trying to call his mother “Aunty Leanne”, a phrase he’d picked up from his 2 and 3 year old friends who compete to see how loudly they can scream this the moment Leanne enters their home. Needless to say his mother was less than impressed, not that this has dissuaded him one iota.

Ikea” is another favourite but we haven’t a clue what it means. I grant you that he might be talking about the famous store of that name but I think the odds of a 1 year old child taking a keen interest in flat-pack furniture is pretty slim.

To be honest I think GCHQ would have a hard time deciphering most of Marty’s remarks. Often the only clue you get is when he tries to sing the lyrics to songs – you might not recognise the words but you do recognise the tune. This favourite song sadly belongs to that vile, purple dinosaur “Barney” - a loathsome creature with a horribly catchy tune. 

It’s Leanne’s fault that Marty latched onto the song “I love you, you love me...” as she spent most of the journey from Kent to Lincolnshire singing it too him. Of course Marty has played around with the lyrics a bit: “I ya.... G, Eee ya.... G, ayy, eee, aya, aya... G.” 

Elton John eat your heart out!

But what about ‘Mummy’ and ’Daddy’? Of course these are the ones you really listen out for and he does use them quite regularly - which is hardly surprising since we’ve been repeating them too him, ad nauseam, for months now. Sadly he doesn’t seem to associate anyone or anything with the words yet – He’ll often shout out ‘Daddy’ when I come home from work but just as I turn to him, delighted in having been recognised, he’ll turn to the fridge and greet that as ‘Daddy’.

Oddly enough, whilst his enunciation might be minimal, his understanding of what you say to him is pretty impressive. When he was just 6 months old you could ask him “Where’s Tigger” and he’d immediately start looking around for his toy, pick it up and wave it at you in triumph. I found this as worrying as I found it astonishing and have tried my level best to moderate my language around him ever since... with limited success.

I’ll just die if his first real, clear, unequivocal word is “Bugger!”

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Baby Illnesses

I thought baby illnesses worked like this...The tiny tot is born into the world with very little immunity other than that supplied by the mother via the placenta. As he or she drinks their mother’s milk more immunity is passed on from the mother. However they are still very susceptible to things like the common cold and so will get lots of them in their first few years. Meanwhile mum and dad will smile on serenely in the full and certain knowledge that they are already immune to that variant of the common cold.

Alas, it turns out that that is all a load of bollocks! Ever since Marty entered the house we have all of us been going down with colds like there’s no tomorrow – I have had more this year than in the last decade!

How come? I can understand that Marty will catch everyone of the 100’s of different cold viruses floating about the place but by now I should have built up immunity to 80% of them, surely? Yet every time Marty has caught a cold the entire house has gone down with it. Instead of sharing my home with a cute and cuddly bundle of joy I appear to sharing it with a 2ft tall bio hazard!

Ok, I can understand the mechanism by which I might catch one of his colds. He has a nasty habit of waiting until my face is about 3 inches from his own and then - with absolutely no facial clues whatsoever - sneezing. I’m no medical man but I’m fairly sure that having your face regularly drenched in snot and phlegm is a sure fire way of picking up infections – as well as offering Marty some mild amusement. But surely I should still have immunity?

My only conclusion is that there are two distinct types of cold; the common cold which floats around in the air, and the kiddie-cold, a virus which resides in flooring. As we grow up we get fewer and fewer kiddie-colds because we’re growing away from the source of infection. However, add a toddler to the home and things change; the toddler picks up the cold from his close proximity to the floor, and then shares the joy via unprovoked sneezing.

It all makes perfect sense. In fact I may contact The Lancet with my medical breakthrough.

Monday 16 April 2012

Baby Led Weaning

The wonder of Spag-Bol

There was a time when babies just started eating pretty much what they wanted, when they felt like it. Sadly science and society got involved during the Victorian era and all sorts of odd notions have sprang up ever since, notions that seem to be based on little or no common sense. The most dramatic result of this was babies eating mushy nonsense as early as 4 months old, a time when their digestive system was still geared to milk but when the baby food manufacturers felt that kids needed to start pulling their weight economically and consuming pureed pear for the sake of their shareholders. To be honest I wouldn’t mind all this profiteering and scientific mumbo jumbo if the end result was well nourished adults with a sound relationship with food but, sadly, that has not been the outcome.

Fortunately there is an alternative – baby led weaning. This is really just a common sense approach that works on the fact that for millennia babies have known when they want to make the change from milk to solids and are more than capable of achieving this with little more than a little guidance and care from their parents.

For me the advantages seemed clear. Firstly, you don’t have to spend months force feeding the poor little buggers, a process that is as distressing for the parents as it is for the baby. With baby led weaning you just start off giving them food they can pick up easily and letting them get on with it. Yes, most of the food ends up on the floor but they have fun, improve their dexterity and learn to enjoy their food.

Secondly, you’re feeding them proper food. I can’t imagine that anyone in their right mind would opt for baby food. It’s not so much the ingredients as the fact that they seem to feel the need to convert everything into a mush. I like steak and chips but not once the chef’s ran it through the blender and poured it onto my plate!

Thirdly, was the idea of starting my kid off on processed food from day one. Ok, most of the manufacturers these days try to be at least vaguely responsible with their ingredients but you’re still never absolutely sure what your child is eating. Just look at Cow & Gate’s “4 month mango surprise”. The surprise turns out to be that it’s mainly apple!

Ok, there’s nothing wrong with apple but at the end of the day you are putting the health of your baby into the hands of large multinational companies that put profit ahead of everything else. For example, many manufacturers make food specifically aimed at 4 month old children despite all the evidence showing that this is too young and can be bad for the child’s health. Sadly, because it’s also bad for profits, this scientific evidence is routinely ignored!

Baby led weaning seems much more natural. Marty largely eats the same food as we do – which has improved our diet as well as his. He learns to handle solids when he’s at an age when his gag reflex is much closer to the front of his mouth and, because he’s in control, he learns at the very beginning to listen to his own body and stop eating when he feels full and not when the jar or the bowl is empty.

As a fortunate aside it’s also a much cheaper approach to feeding your baby... unless you have an expensive shag pile carpet in your dining room, in which case it’s going to cost you a fortune. We have wooden floors and a dog, which has made it a wholly painless experience.

If you want to find out more about it there are umpteen websites, just enter “baby led weaning” into Google. Alternatively, we bought the book cunningly entitled “Baby-led weaning” by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett.