Baby Basics - The Elusive 'Undisturbed Night's Sleep'
One of the most entertaining things you hear while pregnant is, "Are you stocking up on sleep? You won't get any soon enough! Ha ha hahaHA!" Once you've stopped laughing long enough to draw breath, you resist the urge to reply "I'm the size of a fridge, I haven't slept since I stopped being able to see my feet, and if you don't pipe down, I WILL eat you." The good news is that while the first 12 weeks with a new baby are largely an exercise in SAS interrogation torture, for most* of us it does eventually get better. One of the key hurdles to overcome is bed time; thankfully there are things you can do to teach baby that night time is quiet time.
Num Num Dum
I have a love-hate relationship with dummies. I love them because when used strategically, they can enable you to have a more-or-less uninterrupted date night somewhere without plastic tablecloths. I hate them because the sight of a child old enough to know all the words to Let It Go running around with a neon side plate stuck to its face gives me the Epic Fear. At 5lb 12, Lola was on the small side and had nibble marks on her hands when she was born (anyone else had that?) so I naively spent 3 weeks thinking it was normal for babies to cry 829 times a day. Eventually, a friend 3 months ahead of me tactfully suggested trying a soother. It worked like a dream until a heinous cold during the 4 month-sleep-regression left Lola dependent on her sucky to fall asleep. In a nutshell, she was waking 6-12 times a night needing to be plugged back in. She was knackered, I was demented - it had to stop. Short of taping dummies to her hands/feet/cot bars/cuddly toy, I wasn't sure how to break the habit, until I heard The Three Day Nanny on Radio 2 (I love Jeremy Vine and I'm not sorry) and felt suitably fortified to implement Operation: Cold Turkey. There are a ton of stressful and emotive dummy break up stories online, so it could have gone one of many ways. I held firm, she got over it and I now pop it in her mouth from time to time, only because I like the way she briefly chews on it like a Fruit Gum, then throws it across the room. Dummies are brilliant. But as Spider-Man said; with great power, comes great responsibility.
It looks like a cuddly toy, it feels like a cuddly toy, it sounds like the morning after a weekend at Creamfields. This little beaut is designed to bunk with your baby at bed time and lull them to sleep with a cosy pink glow and choice of 4 different white noise 'melodies'. Your little one will quickly let you know what does it for them, whether it be a soothing faux-womb throb, or the addictive pitter patter of a wet weather loop. The chosen tune then lasts for 20 minutes; plenty of time for baby to happily coo and parp itself to sleep. The downside; Ewan goes through batteries faster than a branch of Ann Summers. If - Patrick Swayze forbid - you find your sheep running out of juice, get some new ones in quick; when it loses power the music becomes less lullaby, more chainsaw stuck in a washing machine..
The Princess & the Pod
As part of the pre-baby planning, many of you will have bought your baby's cot. Maybe you went 'belt and braces' so also purchased a carrycot and/or a Moses basket too. You set everything up and it looks brilliant. Doesn't it? All fresh linen and waffle swaddling blankets. You've aced it. Baby then comes home and immediately decides one, or all, of your lovingly prepared digs are unsuitable. Because wah. Having a tiny person limpeted, snore-dribbling on your shoulder is puppy-punchingly cute for the first few days, but as your post-partum glow ebbs away and you look in the mirror and begin to see a debilitated testicle where your face used to be, you know it's time to reassess. Tough love, co-sleeping, third party psychologists, going to church. There are a million routes to go down; I happened to choose the one marked 'mug'.
But hear me out. All the marketing jargon in the world can't disguise the fact that this is a pillow. A PILLOW. A pillow that I willingly dropped 100 shekels for. While I hated Dennis (yes, I named it), he quickly became my most cherished piece of baby crap collateral. Every time Lola was ready to sleep, she was decanted into the pod; whether it be beside our bed, between us on the couch, or on top of the washing machine at Auntie Linda's. I don't know if it's the satin-weave cotton shell (seriously), the sedate Swedish origins, or the ergonomic design lending itself to optimum amplification of milk-burps, but for me, this was indispensable. In hindsight, there are a number of similar offerings on the market, many with a more attractive price tag. You'll hate yourself for buying one, but sometimes you reach a point where anything is worth a shot, right?
We have a chocolate Labrador so morning walks are pretty much non-negotiable. A jaunt round the block doesn't cut it for John and Edinburgh isn't known for its sympathetic camber, so after rattling my way around Arthur's Seat, I opted to ditch the wheels and invest in a papoose. Luckily, our neighbour is 6 months ahead with their wee boy, so kindly loaned us their Baby Björn to take for a spin. Aspiring to be an Earth Mother, I grudgingly used the BB, while eagerly cheating on it with some covert John Lewis research. I enthusiastically heaved my way into the i-Angel, the Caboo and the Ergobaby, but it quickly became apparent that while slings and wraps are a great idea in theory, I have neither the patience nor the dexterity to carry one off - literally. While I sit in a corner with the rest of the sell-outs, there's a nice list here if you're made of stronger stuff.
Owing to the fact that newborns don't have a body clock, it's up to us to teach them the difference between day and night. Easier said than done, no? Select the steed that works for you, saddle up and go outside. Stick your Baby Discos, Messy Play and Tumble Tots (all great by the way) get outdoors for some fresh air, vitamin D, sensory stimulation, soothing movement and the release of positive endorphins - it's all free.
*Of course sometimes, it just doesn't get better. Some of us exhaust all options, only stopping short of booking a Skype with a witch doctor claiming they can cure infant insomnia with an elixir containing the lava-filtered tears of a bisexual chicken. If you have been condemned to life with a baby that refuses to sleep, don't suffer alone - speak to your family & friends to arrange nap cover, speak to your GP for referrals, speak to other mums online to tap into a network where nothing is absurd, neurotic or your fault. We're all in this together.