Posts Tagged ‘baby’

The Essential First Year

Saturday, July 30th, 2016 | Books

The Essential First Year is a parenting book by Penelope Leach. On the whole. I found it an irritating book.

It is difficult to say how useful the advice is at this stage, not having a baby yet. However, I found much of the tone very patronising. Maybe I will feel like it is obvious that I would want to sacrifice any free time and happiness for my baby. But maybe I won’t, and if I decide I want some kind of balance between caring for my family and looking after myself, that is fine too.

I think this comes from the premise that the book is baby-centric. It is about how to give your child the best possible start, at the cost of sacrificing the parents. This is a complex issue though. For example, the book recommends not letting father’s get involved with feeding.

You may hear that bottle-feeding is better for modern families because the father can share the joy of feeding his baby and the mother can sleep while he does some night feeds. Oh please! Every parent knows that feeding is the baby’s basic need and has to come before father’s joy or even mother’s sleep.

There are two possibilities here. One is that I will feel as I do now: that having a family is a compromise involving the welfare of all parties. That sometimes getting some desperately needed sleep, or bonding with your child, might equally weight in on what is best for the child, beyond the obvious.

The other, is that I accept I could feel differently after the baby is born, and that I will then agree with the sentiment expressed above. Even in this case, Leach’s writing is still amateurish and offensive. Some basic thought on the topic would suggest that people may feel this way for perfectly valid reasons, such as I have stated above, and that there is a far more effective way of winning people to your side than yelling “oh please!”.

Conventions are a bit annoying too. The book mostly uses the pronoun “she” when referring to the baby, but then seemingly randomly switches to “he” instead, and flips back between them. What pronoun to use for a gender-unknown baby is a genuinely difficult question, and perhaps it is asking too much of a book to solve it.

There is a lot of useful stuff in here: reasons for find out the gender for example, and any book that says some moderate alcohol intake is okay, which the evidence says it is, gets some points for that. Understanding what stages babies go through and a rough guide to when they will do what is also very helpful. However, this could probably have been presented in two or three pages of charts rather than a hundred pages of prose.

The production of the book itself is high quality. There are lots of full-page colour photographs to illustrate the stages of a baby’s first year.

Overall, I do not think this book was worth reading. It’s just too irritatingly patronising and long-winded. This is a shame as it does have a good evidence-based grounding. Time will tell as to whether I refer back to it after the baby arrives.


20-week scan

Thursday, May 26th, 2016 | Family & Parenting


Last week we had our “mid-pregnancy anomaly scan” where they check if everything is okay. It turns out it is. Baby seems to be hitting the predicted growth rates perfectly.

Obviously baby has massive head in comparison to its body, but I think we all kind of knew that any child of mine would be a big-head.

Five Star Babies

Thursday, May 12th, 2016 | Distractions


Five Star Babies was a two part BBC documentary looking at Portland Hospital, a private maternity hospital in London. No expense is spared. The dining is gourmet, you get your own private consultant, and the birthing suites come with a lounge area for guests.

Having not been through the process myself, it’s hard to judge some aspects. For example, sending your baby off to the nursery for the first few days. If that was an option, I think I might take them up on that. As a new parent, I imagine I am going to want all the help I can get.

Other things just seemed downright strange though. Sending your new-born off for a clean and a nappy before holding it for example. That seems like a weird rich-person thing. In fact one of the most interesting confessions on the show was when one of the nannies admitted that she almost always saw the baby’s first smile, but would never tell the parents that.

There is also something about private healthcare. My dad told about the time my granddad went private for something. He needed pain relief and the doctor, rather than recommended what would be best, just gave them a price list. The quotes for epidurals, which come in at just under £1,000 if you are interested, reminded me of that.

As the show goes on, it just becomes silly. People redecorating entire floors, bringing in their own designers, making secret entrances and spending up to £250,000 reveal a deep problem with the growing income inequality in the UK. Do you need all of that? The answer is almost certainly, no.

Fatherhood: The Truth

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 | Books

Fatherhood: The Truth is a 2004 book by Marcus Berkmann.

Compared to other books I have read, this one is not showing its age too much. It is a world away from the carefully laid out fact-type books. Berkmann writes in rambling prose loosely grouped into chapters. This means that it is difficult to pick out the actual advice and facts from the book, but does make it far more entertaining. In many places, it is laugh-out-loud funny.

True to its word, it is also an honest book. It does go into detail about all the piss, shit and sick you can look forward to in your first year as a parent (and beyond).

And the sleep. Dear god, the sleep. Of anything I have read, this book has given me the most pause for thought as to what we have actually got ourselves into. Still, probably best to keep chipping away at those hopes now so that nothing remains by Christmas.

After all that, it would have been nice for a more positive ending to the book. There was one, but I was feeling pretty depressed by that point. Still, at least it inspired me to start researching babysitters…


Finnish baby boxes

Monday, April 11th, 2016 | Family & Parenting, Health & Wellbeing


In 2013, BBC Magazine ran an article about the Finnish Baby Box: a box containing loads of useful stuff that every expectant parent is given. The idea became popular all over the world. When the royals popped their sprog out, the Finnish government even sent them a box.

In a new article by BBC Magazine, published earlier this month, they discuss various start-up companies that have attempted to replicate the concept as a business for the rest of the world.

Finnish Baby Box seems to do quite a good job of it. For £320 you get a range of 50 different items, similar to the actual box contents. Of course, there is a Moomin edition too, that clocks in at £480.

Elsewhere however, people seem to have done an excellent job of entirely missing the point. Both British Baby Box and the US-based Baby Box Co sell boxes with almost nothing in them.

From their marketing, you might be mislead into thinking that buying a cardboard box and having your baby sleep in it somehow reduced infant mortality. There is no evidence for this. It’s true that Finland does have one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. Almost half that of the UK. However, the success of their system is down to three things:

  1. When you have a baby in Finland, you go to special baby centres. Here you have all of our antenatal and postnatal care until the child starts school. It’s all in one place, making it easy to access care services.
  2. You have to go to all the antenatal services to get the box. So everyone does, even if they only want the box.
  3. The box is full of useful stuff like a mattress, baby clothes, blanket, toiletries and most other stuff you need to care for a new born.

The fact that it all comes in a cardboard box is almost irrelevant. That is not to say that some Finnish parents do not use it as the baby’s first bed. Some do. Many just use it to store baby’s things in however. Which makes total sense because, when you think about it, why would sleeping in a cardboard box be beneficial for your baby?

If people want to sell their own version of the baby box, they are free to do so. However, it is misleading to suggest that there is any evidence that the box is beneficial. Finland’s success comes from their wide adoption of their antenatal care system and high quality products given to new parents, not some kind of magical effect of sleeping in a cardboard box.

Chatting with Baby Box Co

Since publishing this article, I have spoken with Jennifer Clary, CEO of Baby Box Co. You can read more about the interview here.

BBC on baby box effectiveness

In March 2017, the BBC published another follow-up article entitled “Do baby boxes really save lives?”, raising the same questions that I discussed in this post. It includes Emily Oster, who is the author of a book I highly recommend, Expecting Better. You can read the BBC article here.

She’s Having a Baby – and I’m Having a Breakdown

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016 | Books

She’s Having a Baby – and I’m Having a Breakdown is a 1998 book by James Douglas Barron. You can tell it has been around a while because you have to get a physical copy of it: no ebook or audiobook, just one of those old-fashioned tree-based things.

It was recommended to me by a friend and is designed to offer helpful advice to men.

It certainly has the format right. It is a bullet pointed list of 237 things. That is more than the amount of pages in the book. Each has a heading and a paragraph of text to read, making it very easy to consume. You can pick it up and read a little bit more in a minute, or you can find yourself spending an hour on it, telling yourself you will just read one more entry.

I found it was showing its age. Or perhaps its target demographic. It is clearly written by an involved dad, but feels like it was from a time when that was not the usual situation.

The advice contained in it is useful stuff to know, but I don’t feel like I learned much. Perhaps it helped reinforce what I had already guessed (be nice to your wife, buy a carseat, things will change, etc) and a few things I perhaps didn’t expect, but nothing I felt I would have missed if I had not read the book. It was quite a good laugh though.


Introducing the newest Worfolk

Friday, April 1st, 2016 | Family & Parenting, News


Elina and I are pleased to announce that Baby Worfolk is on the way.

If you are wondering what we are having, we have had a scan and they have confirmed: it’s a human! It doesn’t look like one yet. It will be here by the end of year, so you will be able to buy it Christmas presents. The scan suggested it would enjoy chocolate, Terry Pratchett books and guitars.