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Things I have learned in my baby’s first year

mooTwelve months is a strangely flexible amount of time. It’s one fifth the amount of time I once accidentally paid for mobile phone insurance for a phone I no longer had. It’s around 24 times longer than a packet of hairgrips lasts before somehow evaporating forever. The twelve months my baby has been alive seem to have simultaneously passed in the amount of time it takes to say ‘didn’t I just buy hairgrips?’ and the amount of time it appeared to take your mum to have a conversation with a friend she met in the street when you were a small child.

Sometimes I miss the floppy, squidgy, dependent newborn stage. Always, I’m delighted by M doing something new. In the past week alone she had stood unaided, said ‘ball’ for the first time, started making kissy noises and learned to imitate monkey sounds. All extremely valuable skills which will serve her well as an adult.

I’ve learned a lot in the past year. Some I’ve retained. Most will terrify me with a fresh and vigorous terror whenever we have a second child.

Here, in a list sure to be essential reading for all new parents, are some of the things I’ve discovered since my husband and I first looked down at our freshly minted child and wondered how the fuck we were supposed to buckle it into its car seat.

*You can clean pretty much anything with baby wipes. The baby, the floor, the highchair, yourself, the packet the baby wipes come in that is somehow permanently sticky
*Someone needs to invent a range of baby toys that look like channel changers, small rocks, things that fell off the dog, carpet fluff, coal and bank statements. Because fuck the brightly coloured wooden shit you bought; this is the stuff your kid really wants to play with
*You’ll waste a lot of time worrying. But your kid will probably be fine. It was only a small rock it just swallowed after all. Really though, if you break your own ‘no sugar before two’ rule, nobody will die
*You won’t get everything right. But that’s fine. And how were you supposed to know your kid would choose the precise moment you took your eyes off it to get your iPhone to learn how to roll twice in a row and tip itself off the sofa?
*No matter how stupid you think the thing you’re googling is, enough people will have previously googled it for it to autocomplete
* Someone will always think you’re doing it wrong. That’s alright though. Because there are lots of ways to do a good job of being a parent but your way is the best way and everyone else is going to break their kid
*You might not always meet your own expectations, but your baby probably won’t explode because one time, when you were so tired you stood in front of the dishwasher for ten minutes looking for the ‘defrost’ function, you decided to give it an Ella’s Kitchen pouch and a handful of Cheerios for dinner and let it watch Peppa Pig
*Just when you think you can’t possibly love your child more, it will wrap its arms round your neck , tilt its face up for a kiss, say a new word, drift off to sleep in your arms or do something else so overwhelmingly adorable that you realise the amount you loved it up to this moment was woefully inadequate.

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Child benefit

Mboth

I realised the other day, that there are loads of surprise benefits to having a baby. Which since they make you poor, tired, and a user of words like ‘blankie’ and ‘sleepies’ is only fair. This is my list of my favourite post-spawning surprises; a baby version of Google easter eggs if you will:

1) Welcome to the gun show

Everyone witters on about how your body will change after pregnancy (which, actually, it might not and anyway, who cares?) but amidst all the cautionary tales of boobs tucked into socks, a tummy so stretched it could be used to gather apples and feet increasing a size (I mean really), nobody ever mentioned what a baby would do to my arms. I have used arm weights and run for years and, although it probably keeps the jiggle away, sculpted I was not. Over the last 17 weeks, I have developed the arms of a shotputter. Between holding up my lazy, can’t-sit-unassisted infant for feeds, carrying her around everywhere, lifting buggy wheels in and out of cars, pushing said buggy plus infant up hills, hefting a Moses basket up and down stairs, and generally always using my limbs for something taxing, a baby has achieved what Davina McCall and her workout DVDs couldn’t. Honestly. If Jennifer Anniston saw me in a vest, she’d be all: nice arms! And then we’d high five and possibly cause a small earthquake.

2) Precious time

If I had a free hour before having M, I’d procrastinate a bit, make a cup of tea, then lounge about watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Now, if I have a free hour, I can clean the house, make a meal, do at least one load of laundry, shower, do my make up, sterilise All The Things, write a blog, then make a cup of tea and lounge about watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Because apparently nothing increases your productivity like not knowing when, or if, you will get another free hour that day. Or ever.

3) Work it out

OK, so having a baby probably means you won’t have the time, money or inclination to go to the gym. The good news, is that it won’t matter; your day essentially becomes one long workout, as you run up and down stairs approximately once every three minutes, lift your baby (arms!), walk about seven miles to try and persuade it to nap, and generally never sit down. Unless you’re breastfeeding, in which case you’re burning even more calories just sitting there. Bottle feeding? Fear not; you’re still essentially doing half an hour of bicep curls.

4) Purely cosmetic

Man, there are a *lot* of toiletries for babies. Bath stuff, moisturisers, oils, shampoos… All of them smell glorious. It’s pretty likely you’ll accumulate a tonne, through pre-baby shopping, baby shower gifts and now-the-baby-is-here gifts. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance all the lovely products will make your baby’s skin all dry and flaky, and nobody wants an unattractive baby. So you end up using them yourself, which makes you smell great and means you don’t need to go to Boots for, like, ever. Also, you’ll never run out of cotton wool again, which anyone who wears eye make up couldn’t help but appreciate.

5) Career change

If I decide to give up PR and steal for a living, I will be awesome at it. Because nobody can move silently through a house like a person who just got a baby to sleep. I’m also great at ducking out of sight super quickly, because if a half-awake baby catches you backing slowly away from its Moses basket, it immediately becomes a fully awake baby, all coos and big, bright busy-baby eyes, even though what it actually needs, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, is a nap.

6) Germ warfare

I didn’t think this would be much of a benefit, but I’ve become that person who always has hand gel. I thought it was pretty dorky until I was at the doctors the other day and a teenager came in pale, sweating and clutching a bowl. As the Circle of Safety around him grew, I took out my gel and squeezed a barrier around M and I, a bit like you put salt down to keep slugs away. Well, I put it on our hands. Either way, we didn’t catch Norovirus, so I’m calling it a win.

That’s about it for now, although I’m looking forward to when she moves onto solids so that I can buy rusks. Not for her. Those things are basically just starch and sugar and I don’t want to fill her cute little body with all that rubbish. My body on the other hand, wants the rusks.

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To feed or not to feed?

MboobOver the past couple of weeks, you’d have to have been living under a giant boob to have missed the story about Stephanie Wilby, a mother from Manchester who was kicked out of a swimming pool for feeding her baby in the water.

I breastfeed and I’m a feminist (I can make Daily Mail journalists explode in a shower of tiny St George cross flags just by looking at them), so I’m all for public feeding. I find it mildly depressing it’s an area of debate at all and have fed my baby at the doctors, my office, restaurants, shopping centres, parks and assorted other places where I risk offending the kind of people who like to start sentences with ‘I’m not racist but…’ and were outraged by Paedogeddon. I have no boob shame. I was raised by a mother who fed me for an amount of time which would please the WHO. I’ll feed my baby wherever and whenever she is hungry, and honestly? I want someone to challenge me on it. (Although so far, I’ve had exclusively supportive experiences. How dull).

But. Here’s the thing. I don’t think we should breastfeed in swimming pools. Not because my milk or my baby’s sick might get in the water. I mean really. If you go to a public pool and think you can not swim in strangers’ hair, skin flakes, pee, discarded plasters and snot, you’re gonna have a bad time. Certainly not because it’s indecent. Please. And not because lactating is a bodily function, and if we do that in public, then we may as well just shit wherever we please. I’d like to offer the people who think this a shot of milk and a shot of shit and see which they choose. 

No, I don’t like the idea of feeding in a pool because it’s gross for my baby. I don’t want her there sucking chlorine off my nipple, head bumped by passing turds as she suckles, while someone with a verruca does laps next to us and I silently wonder if the water is harbouring Legionnaires Disease. I’m not a paranoid parent, and I don’t genuinely believe feeding my daughter in a pool will make her ill. But it’s just… unpleasant. Breastfeeding mothers have frequently had to argue against suggestions we feed our babies in public toilets. Isn’t a pool a bit like a giant public toilet that you swim in?

I will fight my own breastfeeding battles; I’ll join others in theirs. But this isn’t something I see the point in fighting for.