Cough cough

So, we did that thing, you know, where you take an ickle baby to church on Christmas Day. Unlike the carol service the other night, which we had to abandon after 20 minutes due to said ickle baby screaming his ickle bright red head off, he slept through it and all was well. We had a zillion people cooing over him. One dared to make some reference to the ickle baby Jesus. We winced.

Anyway, having sat next to two coughing old ladies swapping tales of their antiobiotics, I wasn’t dead chuffed about shaking their hands for the peace-be-with-you bit. However. It did give me a new theory about religion. It all makes sense now: religion has nothing to do with spirituality and everything to do with epidemiology.

Shaking hands to share peace. Communion. Sharing the body and blood. It’s all about sharing germs. Your close-knit community of old shares its germs and raises its collective immune system. Except now we all only come together at Christmas. So steer well clear of the coughing old ladies.

In other news, we’re having Christmas just the three of us as a fambly [/Dickens]. Thanks to Louis this will almost certainly mean us eating in separate sittings like every other day. But anyway: thanks to a surfeit of Marks and Sparks vouchers I got in trade for some old mobile phones, our entire Christmas spread has cost us 82 pence cash. Beat that, Robert Peston!


Parenthood and its discontents

As if having a baby wasn’t exhausting enough, the received wisdom on looking after the little blighter is a nightmarish minefield of theory and counter-theory. The chief debates are these:

  1. ‘On demand’ vs ‘routine’. Theorists abound and create whole industries around their bestselling books. On the left, I give you attachment parenting: William Sears, Margot Sutherland et al. They say a baby should be given everything it needs when it wants it, and favour things such as co-sleeping (see below) and carrying them around everywhere in a sling. The debit side is that it can be very punishing on parents, and leaves their needs forgotten. On the right, the ‘controlled crying’ etc brigade, led by the dreaded Gina Ford, who advocates dividing your day into 10-minute chunks and forcing the baby to fit in with it, heedless of neurologists’ observations that night waking/feeding helps babies’ brain development.It’s notable that Sears has 8 children, and apparently Ford has… none. Tracy Hogg (‘the baby whisperer’) claims to tread a middle path, but is really a Fordite as far as I can discern.
  2. Breast vs bottle. Paediatricians don’t seem to give a toss for the breast, and in hospital happily try to foist formula on anyone who isn’t producing milk, or whose baby is ill and needs extra feeding (we were lucky as Oxford has a ‘milk bank’ and a stern ward sister arranged for donated milk). Meanwhile midwives are ardent breastfeeding campaigners and it’s hard to get them to admit how miserable and gruelling it can be, or help you consider alternatives.
  3. Dummy or no-dummy. Dummy use has been shown to be a preventative factor against cot death, but then again it can also lead to more ear infections, and in some babies seems to cause ‘nipple confusion’ making breastfeeding even more complicated than it already is.
  4. Co-sleeping or separate room. Western cultures don’t like the former as it disrupts the mother-father relationship in bed, and there’s the fear of squashing the mite (though this is extremely rare unless alcohol or drugs are involved). There are potential cot death risks for either argument, and in practice most people have a cot next to their bed.

Oh, and a special note for Dunstan Baby Language, whose nice-little-earner-DVD identifies 5 different cries baby makes and claims that all their needs can be met by spotting them and responding appropriately. Yeah, right. (There does seem to be something in it – but babies need more than five things.)

There’s probably more I’ve temporarily forgotten, addled with sleeplessness as I am. Anyway: it’s all bloody depressing, and I suppose going with one’s intuition is as good as anything. Of all the books I’ve looked at so far, one called Fatherhood… The Truth, although somewhat melancholy, is by far the sanest I’ve read. It’s by Marcus Berkmann – yup, the one who used to write for Your Sinclair. Surely, surely, if you can program a Spectrum, you can raise a child.