Last night, Saturday night, I was walking round my newly installed and decorated kitchen, getting ready to make our dinner. Thanks to my (genius) subscription to one of those companies for lazy, uninspired people who still want a nice non ready meal of an evening, it came ready measured with a handy recipe card. Basically I was feeling pretty smug. Nice new (tidy for once) house, husband I fancy, cute kid. Life was good. I told my husband and he said “watch it, you know our luck, it can’t last long”. Pessimist.
Here are some shortcuts and other tricks we have found that make our lives as parents a bit easier
Prep bottles, for the night and the next morning, before bed
Every night before bed I sterilise all the bottles, fill them with cooled boiled water and measure the formula into the dispensers so that when I get up bleary eyed at bitch o’clock in the morning, I can make bottles without burning my fingers off, spilling formula all over everything or having to boil a kettle and have my child get into a screaming huger frenzy waiting for it to cool. It also helps my husband to make bottles because unless something is in plain sight with a neon sign pointing to it, I have “hidden” it and it is lost to him forever.
Don’t call the mum police on me but I put the bottles in the microwave for 30s before I add the formula. As long as you make sure to shake the water to distribute any hot spots and test it before you feed it, you’ll be fine.
Have a separate laundry basket for baby things
Keep it within throwing distance of the baby changing area. That way you separate baby vomit, wee and pooh from your clothes which are (possibly) not covered in these things. If you’re like me, most of your clothes will go on a dark wash but for some reason people get offended when I dress my child in black. I was battered into submission by all the pink clothes I received as gifts so I am now a raging gender stereotyper and most of my baby’s clothes are pink. Stick the whole lot, sheets, sleeping bags and your pink t shirts on a 1 load non-bio wash when the bag gets full. Easy laundry life.
Use fairy lights
1. Babies are mesmerised by them, allowing you to place the baby into their cot at sleep time, ensure they are transfixed and then slink out of the room (you may need to do the “drop and crawl” at first. I tried emplyoing the “bed commando roll” once but the bed creaked and blew my cover).
2. Unlike a lamp, they only illuminate the baby, so in the night you can easily execute the “one eyed baby breathing check” without having to dazzle yourself or risk waking your bedmate/s.
3. If you use pink or red, the glow is meant to soothe the baby as it reminds them of the womb (if I was saying this to you in person I would be doing a lot of air quotes and a bit of eye rolling but Ewan the dream sheep works on the same principle so I guess I’m a believer)
4. It feels a bit like Christmas
Keep wipes in every room
(Other brands are available….).
Your life as a new parent is/will be pretty skanky. Sick, poo, other fluids etc. will find their way on to every item of your clothing and furniture and dusting will take a necessary back seat. While I am not and never have been houseproud I can not bear limescale, water stains, and I realised that I needed a clever plan for dealing with stains and dirt when I told one of my friends that I was excited about my parents coming to visit because I could clean. I was actually looking forward to cleaning the bog. My little solution – which fits in quite neatly with my love of buying cleaning products – is to buy wipes for every room and leave them in there. Loo cleaning wipes for the loo, multipurpose wipes for the kitchen, cheap baby wipes to clean vomit etc. off the sette etc. So when I do get a quick moment to nip for a wee (and I mean the deliberate sort – not the sort where you get a bit post-baby leaky) I can wipe round the loo afterwards and feel a bit more relaxed about people coming over to visit. Honestly, you’d think I was best friends with Kim and Aggie the way I’m talking. My mum will tell you I’m not. Or you could just pay a cleaner to do it – which you should seriously consider if you can afford it.
Engage in some role play
Sorry, I couldn’t find a properly illustrative picture. Anyway what I mean is that if you are co-parenting your child, or if you can regularly rope in a mate or parent, try to assign a regular task to them. For example, it could be Daddy’s job to give the baby a bath every day. That way he bonds with her, and you have 15 minutes to disappear and do something you want/need to do. Or you could agree that your partner will do the morning/night feeds on a particular day. That way you share in responsibility and both have time to bond with the baby in a way that limits how resentful you might feel, and which gives you some precious time to yourself.
If you live in a house or large flat you might want to consider setting up 2 changing stations. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to pretend I’m not lazy (I am), but running up and down the stairs every time my baby needs a change is neither practical nor fun. I therefore have the following in both her room and the living room – changing mat, wipes, nappies, tissues, sangenic changing bin, toys, change of clothes, blanket, bottles, feed, muslins, dummies. So far it has saved my knees, back, and several hours of my baby crying.
Buy some medicine and a syringe
What I mean is Calpol, though other brands are available. I think.
Anyway if your baby can take it, buy some before his/her first jabs. S/he might not need it but it will save a dash to the chemists by a confused partner and precious time while your little one is crying. You’ll also have it in your arsenal of supplies should s/he need something to help him/her along. I’ve found having a syringe to give medicine invaluable. There’s a syringe in most packs of Calpol. Firstly, it measures the dose more accurately than a spoon and if you are as paranoid as me it helps to reassure you that you aren’t poisoning your baby by accident. Secondly, it’s a darn sight easier than using a spoon. Giving a baby medicine is, however, still like trying to nail jelly to a wall so either invest in some kind of baby medicine giving device (they do exist) or try squirting some of the stuff in their mouth, giving them a dummy or finger to suck immediately, then continuing until it’s all gone.
I recently flew to Canada with Izzie on British Airways (BA) so she could meet my family. As she was born in London, no one from my family other than my Mum had met her yet.The idea of travelling with such a young baby terrified me so much that I started planning our adventure 2 months ahead of time. I was adamant I needed to know everything about flying with an infant, especially considering my husband was staying behind. I looked at every website and blog I could find to ensure I knew exactly what I was allowed to bring on board with me etc. Being a notoriously heavy packer, I knew I had to somehow consolidate my clothes and toiletries, the plan was to stay for 3 months so that meant I somehow needed to fit everything in, including Izzie’s extensive wardrobe of 3-6 month clothes. I finally managed to fit everything into two suitcases weighing 23kg (EXACTLY) each and shoved everything else into our 3 carry-on bags including her bottles. I knew I would not be allowed to carry large amounts of formula through security without having to open the sterile ready-feed formula bottles to taste them, so I opted to purchase all of the Aptamil I needed, plus some, from the Boots through security at terminal 5.
Getting to the airport was easy. My husband took us to the check-in counter and carried our bags. I chose a back pack, my Storksak nappy bag and the bag that fits on the front of our Stokke Xplory pram, as my carry-on bags as they all attach to the pram so I knew I would not have to carry anything and balance the baby as well. We figured out a way to wedge the car seat under the pram seat so it stayed put and off we went through security. The tricky bit started when we arrived at the gate.
What they don’t tell you when you are travelling BA is that if your need to take a bus to your aircraft, you first have to collapse your pram. This presented a problem as my pram was holding all three of our carry-ons, my baby and the car seat. There was no way I was going to be able to manage it all on my own, in addition to carrying my collapsed pram and pram seat. I started to panic. What was I going to do?!?!
No, I said to myself, I will not panic, I will become supermum and pull this off. It was fine, really, I’ll just balance the baby, one bag here, then put the seat under that arm… oh crap! I was royally screwed!
Except, luckily, I was flying a BA flight with a superb crew that day!
As I was collapsing my pram, a lovely lady working at the desk offered to hold Izzie while I sorted everything out. Another gentlemen offered to carry my pram and car seat onto the bus for me. Great I thought, but how do I get it all off again?!?! No problem! I don’t know why I was worried, I was flying BA.
When we arrived at the aircraft, the bus driver, kindly took my pram and car seat to the drop point so it could be loaded on the plane. I then had to climb the stairs to the aircraft, this was by far the most difficult part of our journey as I did have to carry our 3 bags and my daughter up the stairs – bearing in mind 3 months of formula I bought at the terminal. Do not fret however, I was flying BA, it got easier. When I arrived at the door I was greeted by the most lovely air hostess I have EVER met, Katie (KATIE!). The air hosts greeting us at the door all saw we were struggling and Katie was the first to spring into action. She took Izzie and one of my bags for me and escorted me to our seats. Katie, promptly assisted me in getting everything I needed for take-off out of my bags and helped me get settled quickly and effortlessly. As I settled into my seat Katie kept hold of Izzie and reassured me that everything would be fine (did I mention I was a panting nervous wreck at the thought of flying across an ocean with my newborn?!?!).
Once all the passengers had boarded, Katie brought me Izzie’s safety belt and talked me through everything I needed to know to keep her and I safe, and comfortable. She explained I should feed Izzie during take-off and landing to help her ears and that I should leave it as long as possible before I began the feed. When the seat belt signs were switched off, Katie quickly got me a cot for Izzie and secured it in front of me so she and I could both rest comfortably. Throughout the flight she would check on us and would watch Izzie for me while I used the loo. She was wonderful!
When we landed in Toronto deplaning was just as easy. Katie assisted me in taking all my bags to the aircraft doors where my pram and car seat were waiting and she again held Izzie while I assembled it all. Katie went way above and beyond to assist me and make our flight as enjoyable as possible – A SAINT! Katie and the rest of the BA staff were absolutely wonderful and made my journey home with Izzie as easy and comfortable as I could have ever hoped for.
So from my experience I have compiled some of my top tips for flying with a newborn:
1) If you are not exclusively breastfeeding, bring all your bottles pre-sterilised and pre-order ready-made formula from the chemist on the other side of security (click here to learn more).
2) Use bags which attach easily to your pram as your carry-ons. This frees up your hands and gives your shoulders a break;
3) Bring lots of baby wipes in your nappy bag. These come in very handy when your baby is touching everything and potentially picking up germs from all over the world that they are not immune to, but they also come in handy when the air pressure and altitude cause poo-plosions and baby sick incidents (trust me!);
4) Sleep when your baby sleeps. This is especially important when you are flying long haul. As tempting as it is to stay awake and watch that new release, it is unlikely that your baby will sleep through the length of the flight and you need to re-energise to keep them entertained when they do wake up;
5) Fly BA and ask for KATIE!
(HOT TIP: Unlike some airlines, when you fly BA with a child under 2 you do not pay a percentage of the adult fare if the child is travelling in your lap (this includes seats with cots), all you pay is the taxes.)
I realise that i’ve used Amazon a lot in the last four months (tax dodging b**tards… but cheap nappies!), and Ebay, and Gumtree, oh and Freecycle – basically any route to getting slightly cheaper than extortionately priced baby things – but I’m a bit worried I’ve now lost my entire online identity. My spam mail used to be a healthy mix of penis enlargement, big prize wins, cheap flights and bank queries but now I get Pampers, Boots parenting club and, randomly, adverts for family activities in New York Harbor?! Not that I don’t, mostly, enjoy being a mum but I’d rather not be completely defined by it. So, next time the baby is asleep I’m getting straight online to order some punk rock, car wheel trim and glow sticks to rebalance my profile.