Wednesday, 7 October 2009


This blog is temporarily under construction. It will be fixed at the end of October - it's not my fault, honest! The background images were hosted at a site that has now closed down and I don't have time to fix it right now due to looming exams. Please bear with me until my return! As a stopgap measure I will change the text to white so you can see that there are words here...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Farlin Gum Soother

I call these little guys "Chompy Bears" and they are my all time favourite teethers - easy to care for and with a satisfying spongy texture that feels good to chew, unlike the more commonly available silicone or plastic teethers.

A pleasing and attractive teddy bear designed teether. Made from high quality durable rubber. Especially designed to relieve discomfort whilst baby is teething. Each arm and leg has a different texture which gently massage baby's gums which helps to reduce any discomfort. The centre has colourful balls which rattle and attract babies attention.

I first bought them for Wombat, who loved them so much I ordered a stack of them - they were very cheap but I had to get them from England, I have never seen them in Australian stores. They seem to be made in Taiwan.

At nearly 3 years old, Wombat still loves his chompy bears... he chews on them for comfort that is as much emotional as physical. Munchkin loves them too - as does every other baby I have gifted them to.

The bear is white, and the ring in the centre is available in pastel pink, blue, yellow and green. The different textures on the arms and legs are very effective and great for sensory exploration. I often see Munchkin chomping on one limb after another until he finds the one he wants at that moment! Keep them in the fridge for some extra soothing relief from teething pain.

I replace them every few months, and you may ask, what do you do with a used chompy bear? The answer is - they make great parrot toys!

Bellamy's Baby Food

Starting your baby on solid food is always slightly nervewracking, even when your babies are as keen on the idea as Wombat and Munchkin have been. One way to give them the best possible start is to look for foods produced in an organic manner.

Bellamy's Baby Foods are based in Tasmania, and are available through major supermarkets, including Coles and Woolies. We particularly like the Organic Rice Cereal and the Organic Toothiepegs (Teething Rusks). However, Bellamy's also have a comprehensive website and online store which has even cheaper prices and stocks a wide range of other useful items such as the Foogo drink bottles and sippy cups!

"When my children were babies, I was frustrated and disappointed that I couldn't buy an Australian babyfood that was nutritious and smelt and tasted as good as that which I could prepare in my own kitchen. So I set about developing recipes and sourcing ingredients that could be gently processed into nutritious organic meals that were flavoursome and easy to prepare." Dooley-Crighton Bellamy, co-founder Bellamy’s Organic Babyfood.

You can read more about Bellamy's Baby Foods, including contact details here.

Bellamy's Baby Food is the only Australian owned, Australian grown range of products. Bellamy's Organic Babyfoods foods are pure and natural and grown without the use of chemical additives. Thier products are all Australian Certified Organic which ensures they have met the highest possible standards of organic production in the country. By using natural planting, growing, ripening and harvesting methods organic food is also more likely to be better for your baby's health because it has retained maximum levels of vitamins and minerals essential for healthy development. Organic food is simply the best choice for your growing baby. Bellamy's organic farms are committed to applying strict agricultural production standards for all their products. By using natural planting, growing, ripening and harvesting methods organic food is simply better for your health retaining maximum levels of vitamins and minerals essential for healthy living.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Rotavirus Vaccine

If I had to choose the most important thing we bought for Wombat during his first year of life, I think I would pick the Rotavirus Vaccine.

Yeti found out about through Scientific American, and we were the first parents in our area to ask for it - the chemist had to order it specially and it cost us over $100 per dose, but it was worth it - Wombat has never had a the slightest case of vomiting or diarrhoea, and while I think that is in part due to his isolation from other children, I also attribute it to the vaccine's effectiveness as well.

It is an oral vaccine, so there are no nasty needles to add to the pincushion regime that baby already faces! Just a chemical taste that is gone before you know it.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention,
Rotavirus affects virtually all children during the first 5 years of life in both developed and developing countries, and rotavirus infection is the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in the United States and worldwide.

The Australian National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) has a Fact Sheet updated June 2007, which states that vaccination will "reduce the risk of developing severe rotavirus gastroenteritis by around 85-100% and any rotavirus gastroenteritis by around 70%."

Apparently an Australian researcher first described rotaviruses as the cause of infant gastroenteritis in 1973. The virus particles are shed in faecal matter and easily transferred by contamination of hands and objects, particularly in day care centres and places frequented by children.
Almost every child will suffer at least one infection by the time they are three years old. ... In Australia, it is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 hospitalisations due to rotavirus in children less than 5 years of age each year, with rotavirus accounting for around half the hospitalisations for any acute gastroenteritis in this age group. ... In addition to hospitalisations, an estimated 115,000 children under 5 years of age visit a GP, and 22,000 children require an Emergency Department visit... Rotavirus infections follow a seasonal pattern in temperate Australia with peak incidence in mid to late winter.
(NCIRS Fact Sheet)

There was some concern about an earlier version of the Rotavirus vaccine (RotaShield) causing intestinal blockage in children, and as a result, the vaccines now available "have undergone some of the largest and most stringent testing in clinical trials ever seen for any vaccine." (NCIRS Fact Sheet) The effects with the earlier vaccine were strongest if the first dose was given over the age of 3 months, and for this reason, the clinical trials of the current vaccines were limited to the age ranges mentioned in the next paragraph. The current vaccines are quite different in composition to the earlier vaccine, and the age limits may eventually be relaxed after further testing.

There are two rotavirus vaccines available - RotaTeq and Rotarix. We used Rotarix as it only requires 2 doses instead of 3. The doses are given at 2 and 4 months of age. The interval between doses should be no less than 4 weeks. However, it must be noted that there are age limits, so don't leave it too late - the first dose must be given between 6 & 14 weeks old and the second between 10 & 24 weeks old (remembering the 4 week waiting period between doses).

I have also found a report of problems following vaccination with the RotaTeq vaccine. I have not been able to find anything negative about Rotarix, and since it requires less dosing and is the one I have personal experience with, I recommend using Rotarix if you are given a choice.

After receiving the vaccine, there is a slightly increased risk (1-3%) of baby having diarrhoea or vomiting in the following week, but clinical trials show no difference in the incidence of fever, irritability and other adverse effects between babies receiving the vaccine & those receiving a placebo. Wombat had no reaction at all to this vaccine (which is more than I can say for the needle-based vaccines he has had.)
The vaccine will not prevent diarrhoea and vomiting caused by other infectious agents but is very good at preventing severe diarrhoea and vomiting caused by rotavirus, which causes about half of all episodes of hospitalised gastroenteritis in infants and young children. ... Children who receive the rotavirus vaccine are less likely to be hospitalised, visit the Emergency Department, or see a doctor for gastroenteritis.
(NCIRS Fact Sheet)

The best news is, if you are Australian, you won't have to pay for it like we did! Starting in July 2007, the two brands of Rotavirus vaccine will be included on the National Immunisation Program.
All babies born from 1 May 2007 will be eligible for the free vaccine. Two or three doses, depending on the brand administered, will generally be given at the same time as other immunisations at around two, four and six months of age.
Australian Government media release

For more information on the Rotarix brand of the Rotavirus vaccine, visit GlaxoSmithKline Australia.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Fisher Price Link-a-doos Infant to Toddler Rocker

The Fisher Price Link-a-doos Infant to Toddler Rocker is one of the best purchases I have made for Wombat.

We got it for him when he was four months old, and chose it for its sturdiness and potential for long-term use. Wombat was already too heavy for most of the infant rockers and bouncers, and I didn't want something he would grow out of in a few months time.

It comes unassembled, but I put it together myself with no troubles at all. The instructions are very clear and it all clicks together very easily. There are only four screws, requiring a Philips head screwdriver. It took about half an hour from opening the box to sitting Wombat in it.

For younger babies and naptime, the stand folds out to hold the rocker still. In this position, baby is almost fully reclined. There are two positions for the seat back - upright or reclined - but there is very little difference between them, so I just leave it upright which is what Wombat prefers.

I was a little concerned that it would need more padding, as the seat is a piece of hardboard without a lot of foam over it, but Wombat has always found it very comfortable and never needed any extra cushioning. The seat is deep and supportive, so would be great even for a newborn (with perhaps a blanket underneath for snuggliness).

The T-shaped three-point harness system does a good job of holding baby in place, and when he is old enough to crawl in and out by himself, the harness simply slots to the back, out of the way.

The attached toys are very cute and entertaining - unfortunately we lost the rattling turtle (which was his favourite) after only a few months, but the bird and the mirrored sun are still regularly pulled out of the toybox and played with! They can be attached in various positions by velcro snaps - to the arch which clips onto the seat, holding the toys within reach of a small baby, or attached to loops on the harness and seat for an older baby. (The velcro is not that strong and a good tug by an older baby will pull the toys off - but this was around the time that Wombat was growing out of the infant stage of the rocker.) Even the arch has become a toy in itself for an older Wombat. He carries it around and holds it above his head like a rainbow!

The seat cover comes off easily by undoing a few snap-buckles, and is fully machine washable. Ours has been washed many times and shows no fading, marks or wear.

The rocker got a huge amount of daily use up until Wombat first became mobile and didn't want to be tied down any more - then he started trying to tip himself out over the side, so the rocker spent several months sitting in a corner with a teddy bear in it (he never actually made an unaided escape - it was just obvious he 'wanted out'). Now that he is walking well, however, the rocker is back in favour. Teddy gets unceremoniously dumped out, and Wombat climbs in. We never used the vibrating feature when he was a baby, but I left the battery in (a single D cell, not included) and Wombat likes to play with turning it on and off. Despite being crawled all over - and even stood up in - the rocker is very stable and has never tipped over. The rockers are very smooth and provide a good rocking action, while the rubber stops at the end are an effective barrier against toppling.

The picture below was taken soon after we bought it. It is light enough that it can be carried in one hand while carrying baby in the other, so it is quite easy to take it outside, or move it from room to room. The instructions say not to carry it with baby in it, but I have done this as well, and it has stood the test of time!

It is rated for a maximum of 40 lbs/18.1 kg so we will still get a lot more use out of it. I can foresee a two year old (or more!) Wombat very happily using it as a reading chair.

Overall, a great product, and one we have certainly got our money's worth from.

Friday, 8 June 2007

The Baby Whisperer

"Pardon me, Mum, your guilt is showing." (The Baby Whisperer, p255)

When I first read that line, I laughed out loud.

You see, I hadn't felt at all guilty about my parenting until I started reading this book. I was confused, certainly. I felt I was just muddling along, and probably doing lots of things wrong, and I was looking for new ideas.

The moment I picked up this book and started reading, I felt like I was under attack. Everything I had done up to that point, every strategy I had for dealing with my son seemed to be classed as "accidental parenting". I began to get depressed, and even seriously considered jumping in to the cycle of screaming for two weeks that Tracy Hogg said would be necessary to get Wombat (who was then 10 months old) on to the E.A.S.Y schedule (p43).

[E.A.S.Y stands for Eat - Activity - Sleep - You.]

After I had thought about it for a while, I realised that my son DID have a settled daily routine. It just wasn't exactly the same as the routine which Tracy Hogg suggests is the ONLY ONE WHICH WILL WORK. She is selling her methods, and she is very successful. She even has some very good ideas and I have learnt a lot from reading this book. However, she herself does not appeal to me. I find her "celebrated sense of humour" to be patronising and if she called me "luv" in person, I'd be tempted to break her teeth.

I can see what she's on about. If I had read the book before Wombat was born, he would have been straight onto her schedule from birth, and it might have worked. I don't know. What I do know is that I would have missed out on some of the most precious moments of Wombat's babyhood. I would never have spent those months sleeping with him cuddled up between me and his daddy. I would never have had the wonderful experience of suckling him to sleep, and hearing his satisfied little giggle in his dreams.

Babies change and grow. What is appropriate today may not work tomorrow. Parents need to be adaptive, and to explore a range of different ideas for child-rearing - not necessarily testing them all out on the child - but borrowing ideas and techniques from each to create something that suits them best. Tracy Hogg's comments about consistency and some of her settling methods for getting baby to sleep are very useful. However, I first had to wade through my resistance to her attempts to pigeonhole me and my beautiful Grumpy Spirited Touchy Textbook Angel baby.

This review is written in hindsight. It is several months since I last read any of the book, and I must admit I didn't finish it. I took away some techniques which I put into practice. I also took away a number of her "don't do"s which I DO do - for example, I feel a touch of guilt every time I encourage Wombat to finish his last mouthful of porridge - am I setting him up for future obesity??? While she makes positive comments, I find her overall attitude to breastfeeding to be dismissive and unhelpful as well. Then again, I am admittedly a "subjective parent" (p309) and probably take the book too personally.

To sum up, I think this book will either work for you, or it won't. My final impression of Tracy Hogg is as The Baby Nazi... but when I look back through the pages, I find that I am forgetting much of the positive advice I read, and only remembering the negatives which annoyed me. I have very limited experience with parenting advice books. Perhaps if I read more, this one would take its proper place in the big picture, and I would be able to keep what I needed and discard the rest. I will probably want to read it again next time I am pregnant.

In the meantime, I will return it in a much dilapidated and Wombat-chewed state to my sister (who lent it to me) with my thanks and blessing! (and just hope I never have to meet Ms Hogg in person...)

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Happy Baby Glass Bottles

I have mentioned that when I learnt about the possible chemical contamination in plastic baby bottles, I stopped using them and changed to Happy Baby Glass Bottles.

I'm very happy that I did, as apart from the all-important health & chemicals issue, glass simply TASTES better. The glass bottles also FEEL so much cleaner than plastic after they have been washed. They are microwave and dishwasher safe.

Those are the advantages, but there are a few drawbacks.

Wombat has managed to smash one - he was wandering around with it on our verandah and tripped over the wheel of his pram. The bottle broke right under his nose! I was right behind him and grabbed him before he could pick up any broken glass, and despite being so close to the impact he hardly even got a scratch (just the tiniest nick on one finger)! Since then I don't let him wander around outside with a bottle any more - we insist on him sitting down to drink. I think the bottle in that case must have hit a protruding nail - because he has thrown them over the side of his highchair many many many times onto hardwood floors, and they have only ever bounced. I guess this would be an important consideration if you had ceramic tiles, though.

Also, they don't come with a handy 'sealing' cap like most plastic bottles do. This means, if you can't be bothered fussing around taking the cap off to use the internal sealing plate (and I can't!) they do tend to leak. For some reason, warm liquids seem to 'spurt' a bit too, and baby is likely to get a faceful of warm milk if he tips the bottle too fast.

The bottles come with a cherry-shaped latex teat which does a reasonable job. It has micro air valves in the flange to allow air bubbles to pass into the bottle and prevent a vacuum. You can control the flow rate to some extent by tightening or loosening the collar, but if the collar is too tight, the valves won't work. I have bought Nuk vented teats with a large (cereal size) hole. These are a little too large for the collar, and you can struggle to get them to sit right. My parent-hack is to run them under cold water for a few seconds first - then they pop in quite easily without sticking. (Silicone teats seem to fit fine, but I don't like the sharp edges they often have on their seams.) If you are using latex teats, don't screw the collar on too tight, or you will have a lot of trouble getting it undone again!!!

You also need to remember that glass bottles are less forgiving of sudden temperature changes than plastic. Don't put a cold bottle straight from the fridge into boiling water, and don't do what I did recently - overheat a bottle by letting the water boil around it, then try to cool it in a hurry by running it under very cold water - the bottle broke in my hand - once again, though, the glass was very well behaved when broken - the bottom snapped off in one big piece with no small shards, and I was not cut. (To be fair, it does specifically warn against doing this on the packaging - doh!) A much safer way to cool milk if you let it get to hot is to add some cold milk to it!!!

Despite the problems I have mentioned, I still think the glass bottles are well worth the effort and having tasted the difference for myself, I would never ever go back to using plastic bottles. (I just wish Thermos Australia would bring out the Foogo here, so I could swap his plastic sippy cup too! I want to try moving him up to the straw version.)

If you are in Australia, the cheapest price I have found for Happy Baby Glass Bottles is Payless Chemists Online, but it looks like when I bought ten bottles recently, I bought all their stock! (At $2.45 each, they were so cheap I thought I'd get plenty now to make sure I had enough for future babies as well, in case they stop selling them!) You can pay up to $10 a bottle, so be sure to search around, particularly the online pharmacies.