Friday, 29 January 2010

I'm a little bit big and a little bit small

Madeleine is in a really funny 'changeling' phase at the moment. At times she is such a grown up little girl, with a fierce independence and the insight and cleverness of someone who has been here before.

Tonight, though, she decided that she wanted to be a baby again. We brought her friend C home from nursery, and stopped in to see his baby sister V. She must have noticed what a fuss we were making of adorable little V, and so when we got home, Madeleine says
"Mummy I'm not a big girl anymore today. I don't want to play with my big friends because I'm only a baby now. And now I don't know how to say any words, I only say Ga ga ga ga. Okay?". 
Errr.... OK. So I played along for 5 minutes, and thought it would all go back to normal but suddenly she's demanding to wear a nappy, she won't go in her bed because it hasn't got enough bars on it, and she wants lullabies instead of her bedtime stories. ARGH!!!!!  So, 45 minutes later there I was, still trying to be firm but fair, but absolutely NOT giving in, and giving myself some sort of ulcer in the process. Just as I thought I might actually throttle her, she says,
"Actually mummy I'm not really a baby, am I? My birthday is at March and it will be 3. And 3 is big like the big childrens at nursery. I think maybe I'm a little bit big and a little bit small."
And then she zoomed off and placed the last of her pull-up pants (untouched in 4 months) on the stairs for me to take to Baby V, and snuggled down into her Big Girl Bed. 

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Cry Translator

I've just read about the most incredible development - an iPhone app that translates your baby's cries (unsurprisingly it's called the Cry Translator). It claims to recognise the broad meaning of a baby's cry within seconds, letting you know whether your little one is hungry, sleepy, annoyed, stressed or bored.

There was an interesting quote in The Telegraph -
Parenting experts said they feared the technology on the Apple phone could discourage mothers from relying on their instinct and experience.
Siobhan Freegard, of the website, told The Sun: "Learning to interpret cries is part of the bonding process and forms the foundation for good communication."

I absolutely agree with Siobhan Freegard about the importance of learning to interpret your baby's cries, but I'd love the know the original context of her statement. It feels quite negative in this context, but as a stand-alone comment it could equally be in praise of the new product. Siobhan? Care to comment?

In any case, here is my view - not as a "parenting expert", but as a mum with two toddlers and friend to dozens of other mums.

When my little ones entered my world, I didn't instantly understand what they were trying to communicate. Like many mums I know, I tried to follow my instinct but rarely felt I was getting it right.

The first few nights, every time Madeleine cried my maternal instincts and my body told me that I absolutely must feed her (and when I did she stopped crying), but experienced parents and midwives told me that I was absolutely wrong and that she most definitely should not be fed again. I'm not alone in being given "professional" advice that conflicted with what I felt was right, and being made to doubt my own judgement at such a crucial stage. Perhaps because I doubted my judgement, or perhaps because I just didn't have an innate ability to understand my baby's cries, for the first couple of months I felt a little panicky and flustered every time she cried, and found myself floundering around trying everything I could think of. Nappy? No. Burp? No. Lights too bright? No. Hungry? ...

We had a major breakthrough when my friend S handed me her dog-eared copy of The Baby Whisperer. Tracy Hogg has a brilliant crib sheet for deciphering a baby's cries, encouraging mums to stop fussing around trying everything they can think of and instead just observe their baby for a few seconds. Following her crib sheet, I started to listen properly to Madeleine's cries, look at the shape of her tongue (e.g. curled when hungry), and suddenly it all became clear. Almost overnight I was able to very quickly work out whether she was hungry, overstimulated, tired, bored, etc, and as a result there were far fewer tears in our house - from both of us!!

The crib sheet in the Baby Whisperer was put together based on a lifetime of experience with lots of different babies. I don't know what the Baby Whisperer's success rate is, but I know it worked for me and my life was miles better for it.

When the Cry Translator iPhone app was tested, a staggering 96% of the babies stopped crying when their carers followed the translation and suggestions given by the app. Mind you, it was in a controlled environment, but that is still a remarkable success rate.

Personally I think this little app, though pricey, has the potential to transform those first few weeks for any new mum, and even for experienced mums with a new baby and different cry - in the same way that The Baby Whisperer transformed my life. In a way it's just a portable high-tech version of Tracy Hogg's advice, and gives new parents another tool to help them understand their new baby, enjoy more tear-free time with their new little family. After a few days following Tracy Hogg's advice, my interpretations of Madeleine's cries started to get quicker and more accurate. Her crib sheet soon became positive reinforcement for me as a parent - I would think "ah, she must be hungry", then quickly check the list and find that my guess also matched what Tracy suggested, feed her, and feel pretty fantastic about myself and my ability to finally get what my little girl was telling me. After a couple of weeks I felt completely in tune with her. 

My gut feeling is that this new iPhone application may well help new mums and dads build their self-confidence as parents, and trust their instincts just as The Baby Whisperer did for me, and that can only be a good thing.

I'd love to know what other mums and the parenting experts think - just leave your comments below, and please forward this onto your friends.

Just a word about the comments - if you're going to slate it please consider the feelings of mums and dads who may be struggling with a crying baby. Some of the comments on the Sun's article were quite insulting and made me feel a bit, well, sad.

I look forward to reading your comments!

PS - Click here to download the Cry Translator from iTunes (UK) - If you do decide to try it out, please come back to this blog and let me know how you got on!!

P.P.S. - If you've come across this blog because you're looking for support or advice, some good sources outside of your friends and family are big parenting communities like Netmums , and your midwife or health visitor. If you need immediate advice or support, I would recommend calling the Cry-Sis helpline, 08451 228 669. 

My blog will also be available on the AppStoreHQ. If you've also blogged about it (pro or con!) add their widget to your blog by clicking here.
Best iPhone apps at AppStoreHQ

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Competition: Ghost of Café Visits Yet To Come

Just before we were due to have our first children, another NCT mum and I waddled up to the woods for a bit of fresh air. We found some seats at the cafe and were about to tuck into some delicious smoked mackerel pate when suddenly the atmosphere and the volume changed as kids began streaming in. As the clock crept closer to noon, more and more mums appeared, each with what looked like 50 kg of paraphernalia, each being tugged at by grubby little hands demanding ice cream and pom bears.

It suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t just going to have a baby to dress up in adorable clothes and cuddle. I would actually need to leave the house every now and then, work out how to feed the baby while out and about, carry around a hundred changes of clothes and baby paraphernalia everywhere I went, and know where to find the closest changing table. Worse, one day my baby would turn into a frighteningly loud toddler and would tug at me demanding pom bears.

One day I would need to know what a pom bear was.

Confronting my “Ghost of Café Visits Yet To Come” is what eventually led me to start up my  website, It's quickly becoming a valuable resource for mums and dads so they know exactly what to expect when they head out the door. No, nothing about pom bears, but we do tell you about changing tables, bottle warming, crayons and the sorts of things that can make your outings a little less stressful and much more enjoyable.

New Mums and Parents-to-be:

Are you worried about what you'll do with your days? Do you find toddlers a bit scary (I do, and I've got two of them!!)? Wondering where to meet other new mums & dads in your neighbourhood? Starting to get a little nervous about the idea of breastfeeding in public? I’d love to know what types of places you’d like to know more about so I can keep improving the website. Please add your comments below!

I’m running a little “mum-to-be” / "dad-to-be" prize draw as a thank you - prizes include some fantastic Being Dad DVDs, all-natural mummy & baby pampering kits from the Boo Boo Shop, and a home visit from a lovely massage therapist who specialises in pregnancy massage.