Archive | August, 2011

Getting my babies to sleep through the night

30 Aug
I’m not sure how, or why, but it feels like getting a newborn baby to sleep through the night has become a parental badge of honour. Good sleeper = good parenting. Bad sleeper = well, I guess you can put 2 and 2 together. Now, with the benefit of actually having had two babies, I’ve decided that’s bollocks. Well, I have to say that don’t I because both of my girls (now aged 2.5 and 8 months)were pretty terrible sleepers for the first six months of their lives. When I say ‘pretty terrible’, I mean that I was getting up to feed them between 2-4 times a night at six months of age. And our bedroom is upstairs – so that’s potentially 8 sets of stairs per night for six straight months. 180 nights. Yes – it was good for my figure. But it was very very bad for my mental well-being.

 At about the 6-7months of age mark, I started to get a little desperate. I knew they were eating more than enough solids and weren’t waking out of hunger any more. It was just habit. A bad habit. I was starting to think I would never have an uninterrupted night’s sleep ever again. It was time for an intervention. So, I consulted my ‘baby bible’ (Baby Love by Robyn Barker). I have no pecuniary interest in promoting this book, I just genuinely think it offers practical and useful information about health, feeding, behavioural and developmental issues. And she addresses the topic of sleeping in some detail. I won’t go into the details but essentially her ‘teaching to sleep’ method involves getting rid of all the baby’s sleep associations (dummy, feeding, bottles, wraps, music, white noise, cuddling) and allowing the baby to self settle – in other words – offering minimal settling (a pat on the cheek, a bit of shushing) at set intervals of 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes – until the baby falls back to sleep on their own. It’s not easy. Inevitably there is crying involved. I know some people say they could never leave a baby to cry. I understand that. It’s hard. But ongoing sleep deprivation, in the long run, is even harder. However, I accept this method isn’t for everyone.  Listening to your baby cry ranks up there with fingernails on a blackboard as being among the worst sounds in the world. Fortunately, our babies did not cry for too long, and they never became hysterical. I made a deal with myself that if the crying sounded like a pained or distressed cry, I would step in and offer a feed. It never reached that point. Both girls cried a protest cry, off and on, for an hour or so on the first night, less on the second night, and very little on the third night. Within a week, they were able to sleep through the night, with a little grizzle here or there. It was a pretty incredible turn around. Some people would call this controlled crying. Other people would call it ‘teaching to sleep’. It’s neither. There’s nothing really ‘controlled’ about it, and at that age, babies are a little too young for ‘teach’ in the formal sense. I guess I would call it ‘figuring out how to self settle’. Because for my babies, that’s what it was all about, figuring out how to get themselves back to sleep without feeding. So, now that my babies are ‘good’ sleepers, do I get to enter the ‘good’ parent’s club? Not at all. My babies are the ones who did the hard yards. All my husband and I did was to give them the chance to work it out.   



A lesson in sexy from ‘The Bangles’

23 Aug
Stuck for something (decent) to watch on TV last week, I flicked onto a music video channel playing top 100 party hits of the ’80s. The video was mega hit ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ by all-girl group ‘The Bangles’. I stopped for a minute to watch. You can watch the video by clicking here. A few things struck me..

1) The women are fully clothed
2) They can sing AND they play all the instruments
3) There’s no simulation of, or reference to, sex either in the song or the clip

Despite being around 20 years old, it was a complete breath of fresh air. Even though the song is basically a load of light-hearted nonsense, the girls absolutely rock it out. They’re so confident – and to my mind – sexy, without trying to be.

Now, let’s compare them to the current crop of female talent topping the charts – Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Madonna, Christina Aguilera. Now, let’s look at the similarities between the current crowd.
1) They are rarely fully clothed
2) They can sing but don’t play instruments. (with the exception of Gaga – she plays a mean piano)
3) They constantly refer to, or simulate, sex in their songs and their videos

Where did it all go so wrong? These days, the content on music video channels verges on soft porn. What happened to the strong, confident, talented women like the girls from ‘The Bangles’ who didn’t have to rely on overt sexuality for success?

Of course, there’s one big exception to the current ‘sex-sells’ rule – and that’s Adele. Her hit ‘Somone Like You’ has spent weeks and weeks at number one. She’s comfortable with her curves and doesn’t resort to revealing clothes to sell her songs. She just relies on her awesome voice, lyrics and melody. And isn’t that what music should be about?

The City To Surf – What you don’t see on the TV

16 Aug
Have you ever been beaten in a foot race by a shark? Well, I am quite happy to say that I have. OK, well, it wasn’t a real life man-eater, it was a bloke dressed (on his bottom half) in a shark costume made of wetsuit material. On the top half he was wearing a business shirt, tie, horn-rimmed glasses and bryl-creamed hair. The overall effect was of a shark eating a business-man. I had a good chance to study that costume because I followed him most of the way along the City to Surf run. He must have been cooking in that outfit. Still, he beat me to the finish line.

But let’s rewind about an hour and a half. It’s five minutes till the start of my first City to Surf fun-run. I’ve watched it on TV plenty of times but this year I’m shoulder to shoulder with about 80 thousand other fun-runners in the middle of Sydney’s CBD. It’s a soggy Sunday morning – the first ‘wet’ City to Surf in about, oh, 20 years. Just my luck. The crowd starts murmuring, and stripping off. It’s three minutes to start time. Jumpers and tracksuit pants are removed and flung to the pavement. The Girl Guides will be along later to collect them for charity. Someone has bad aim and their jumper ends up on another runner’s head. We giggle. Everyone’s in a good mood. It’s like Sydney during the 2000 Olympics. Strangers chat. Public transport has got us to the start line in plenty of time. We’re about to run to one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. Life is good.

The start-gun fires. Not that I can hear it. We’re too far back. The guy who wins the race is downing a celebratory drink in Bondi before we even cross the start line. However, soon enough we are bolting down William Street. There is a sea of heads bobbing in front of me. I think at some point the crowd will thin. I’m overtaking enough people – surely I’ll get some space at some point? It never happens. I start with 80 thousand people round me. And that’s exactly how I finish. It’s 14 kilometres of ducking and weaving, avoiding heels and elbows. A rear-view mirror would be handy. Strangely, it’s one of the quietest crowds I’ve ever been in. Tens of thousands of people – yet all you can hear is the thud-thud of feet on wet pavement. Running is a great silencer. It’s like that for most of the way, except for the occasional burst of music from the side of the road. There are three drag Queens in Rose Bay, dressed in hot pink mini-dresses and miming to the booming strains of ‘Nut Bush City Limits’, a happy (drunk) band of smurfs (20-something year olds covered in blue body paint) are having an impromptu dance party in Potts Point, there’s a Beatles tribute band in Double Bay, a young boy is playing the bagpipes in Vaucluse, and a mini brass band made up of older folk tootles away in North Bondi. The other sound that stays with me is the crunching of plastic cups on the road as we pass the official drinks breaks. My 2 year old later asks me why we threw the cups on the ground. I don’t have a good answer. Apart from the ‘official’ refreshments, there are also ‘unofficial’ refreshment breaks along the way – little kids mainly – offering a range of treats from sliced oranges, to home-baked cookies and lollies. I can honeslty say I’ve never felt less like eating a bickie – a near constant stomach stitch makes the though of food quite nauseating. A little more appealing are the locals standing armed with their hoses for runners in need of a cool down. That’s why I need.

While running, I also get a good chance to read – other runners backs mainly. Some t-shirts are emblazoned with funny slogans like ‘slap my bum if I’m running too slow’ and others sport the names of the charities for whom they are running. Nearly $4 million will be raised from this event. I also read the signs along the road. The most welcome ones are the progress signs, marking the 6, 7, 8 kilometre mark. Parts of the route are ‘sponsored’ eg the dating website RSVP is the official ‘sponsor’ of Heartbreak Hill which means that as we slog it out up the toughest one kilometre of the route, we are confronted with signs like ‘You’re SO HOT right now. Find a date on-line’, and ‘To avoid real hearbreak, go to’. If I had a single breath left in my body, I would laugh. As it is, I feel like I’m about to have my first asthma attack – even though I don’t suffer from asthma. I just can’t get enough breath into my lungs – I need an oxygen IV STAT! Just as I think I’m not going to make it up the hill, it starts to level out. My confidence inches upwards. I think I’m going to make it. Of course, I’m only half-way there, and in the remaining 7 kilometres I see enough people collapsed on the side of the road undergoing treatment from paramedics to realise that you haven’t really made it till you get that medal round your neck on the finish line.

Six kilometres out, I see the shark. I find it funny at first, until I realise that this guy is a serious runner. He may be dressed as a half-eaten business man, but the guy can run and I’m struggling to keep up. He’s now my competition. I figure that if I can stay in touch with the shark, I’ll be doing OK. So, I do. I follow his grey flapping wetsuit all the way through Dover Heights, North Bondi and onto the finish line. The shark and I finish the run in about 87 minutes. I’d been aiming to finish under 100, so I’m happy. The City To Surf has been on my bucket list for years. And it now has a big fat line through it. Done. Next year when I watch it on TV, I’ll think back to this day, and think fondly of all the weird and wonderful things I saw and heard – all the stuff you don’t see when you’re watching it from the comfort of your lounge room.


Beating the winter Blues with a shot of Spring fashion

9 Aug
Mother Nature can be a cruel so-and-so can’t she? In Sydney last week, we were basking in mid twenty degree temperatures, vainly hoping for an early start to Spring after a winter that’s felt very long, very cold and very wet. It wasn’t to be. Mother Nature has pulled a swifty, returning us this week to another icy blast of winter. It sucks. I’m over it. I actually want to take the kids to a playground (God, I never thought I’d say that). I’m over jigsaw puzzles, and play-doh and all those indoor-type activities. But you know what I’m really sick of? My jeans. I think I’ve worn them, oh, maybe every day for the last 2 months. Sure, the rest from shaving my legs every day has been nice – but oh – I would give anything to feel the warm sun on my lilly-white gams. Yes, I will need sunglasses if I want to look at them – they are that white. But I’m actually longing to wear a pair of shorts, or, (gasp) a dress, without stockings. Last week David Jones launched their Spring/Summer fashion collection in a big hoo-ha parade featuring Miranda Kerr, who’s figure is jaw-droppingly awesome, 6 months after childbirth.

There aren’t many women whose physique is improved by becoming a Mum – but Miranda’s has – those breastfeeding boobs are fab. Let’s face it – the woman won the jackpot in the genetic lottery. Good luck to her. I’m not jealous. No really, I’m not. So, what can we expect to wear next Summer. Well, it looks like those neutral tones are out and colour is in, in a big-big way. As is animal print (when isn’t it), a bit of navy and white and for those who still like minimalism, there’s a lot of all-white around. In short, there’s something for everyone – except if you live in black, there doesn’t seem to be much of that – but we are talking summer here – black is a little hot for the Australian sun. So, to cheer myself up and fool myself that spring really is just around the corner, I’m posting some of the photos from the DJ’s parade. Sigh. Please Mother Nature, please let it be Spring. Now!


Mantras for Surviving the First 6 Months of My Baby’s Life

3 Aug

I’m starting this post with a disclaimer. Please do not interpret my comments as parenting ‘advice’. This is just my experience. Everyone parents differently and every baby is unique.  

We made it! We have survived for the first 6 months of our second little girl’s life. When I say ‘we’, I’m talking about me, my husband, our two year old daugther, and of course our gorgeous little bubba. It’s been a test, and a delight, for all of us. I think I went into motherhood for a second time assuming (wrongly) that it would all be a lot easier than the first. It wasn’t. Easier is not the right word. I still think the first six months of any baby’s life are challenging. But it’s been a happier experience, if that makes sense.

The first time, I relied a lot of books about routines and following rules to establish good habits. I know they work for some people, and that’s great. But they did my head in. My baby did not always behave according to ‘the book’. This time, I did things a little differently. Instead of trying (and usually failing) to control my baby’s routine, I decided to take charge of what I knew I could control – my own attitude and behaviour. For instance, both of my little girls have been serious catnappers. With my first daughter, I spent hours trying to re-settle her in the cot, as per ‘the book’s advice, rocking and patting till we were both beside ourselves with exhaustion. With baby number 2, I just tried to accept it. If she woke up, I might try re-settling for a minute or two, but if she was wide awake, I just got her up. It made us both happier.  

In relation to my attitude to it all, I found myself saying the statements below on a regular basis – not in a meditative kind of way – they were thoughts that kept popping into my head on a regular basis. They just made me feel better about my baby and how I was caring for her.  

1) You can’t spoil a little baby too much
2) Remember the smiles and try to forget the tears
3) I will get a full night’s sleep again – at some point
4) Life will get easier – I only have to look at my 2 year old to know that
5) Babies cry because they’re either tired, hungry, have a dirty nappy, need a cuddle, or are sick – when in doubt as to the precise cause of the crying, then treat her for all five options
6) Listen to advice but realise this – no-one knows my baby like I and my husband do
7) This first six months can only last six months – in the grand scheme of life – it’s a blip
8) Trust your instincts
9) Happy baby = happy mummy and vice versa. Therefore, pretty much anything that promotes happiness in either Mum or bub is a good thing.
10) A bad habit can be broken almost as quickly as it is formed