Hip Hip Hooray!

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A year has passed since that momentous day when Lucy was put into her luminous pink spica and I spent a long night in the hospital, sleep deprived and wondering how we were all going to cope with the challenges of the three months to follow.

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Having a cuddle on the couch

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My little purple frog legs in her second cast

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Feeding time! No small challenge keeping the cast clean while teaching a baby to eat solids…

There have been twists and turns and surprises (seldom pleasant) along this DDH journey but our most recent check up at Princess Margaret Hospital has given us some reassurance that the worst is behind us.

When the doctor pulled up her X-ray on the screen to review her progress he started out by saying that the projection is slightly different to the last one. My heart sank. Did this mean that the angle had widened, in other words, regressed again?

What he meant, though, was that the angle of the image was slightly different to the last one – PHEW! He measured the angle of the acetabula and confirmed that Lucy’s right hip was still absolutely fine (which has always been the case) and her left hip was now a perfectly healthy 21 degrees (20 +or-3 being normal for her age) – HOORAY!

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Beautiful hips! January 2015

Our check-up appointments will now be every six months rather than every three. This will probably continue until she’s about three years-old at which point they will be able to tell whether her hips have stabilised or need further intervention.

But for now – NO MORE PAVLIK HARNESS/RHINO BRACE/SPICA/SLEEPLESS NIGHTS/SKIN TRAUMA/ETC!

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Walking like a little champion!

I like to think that I have fully earned the right to a very cheesy title for this post 🙂

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Guest Post: Lynette’s Story

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My story starts just like most others in the world of developmental hip dysplasia – I didn’t know it existed.  I had heard of clicky hips vaguely but that was about it.  Little did I know that “clicky hips” meant a whole new world – a new world of parenting, of loving , of learning.

Hi, my name is Lynette.  I have three gorgeous children – Elissa (Miss 6), Harrison (Mr 3) and Jackson (Mr 1.5).  My venture into the world of DDH began with Mr 1.5 – Jack.  My unexpected miracle baby.  After fertility issues and ICSI IVF procedures with my first two children, Jack was a little surprise that was granted to our lives.  My pregnancy was normal, his growth was normal and his birth was easy.  I was smiling!  Before we left the hospital our Doctor noticed that both of his hips were “clicky” and that he would require an ultrasound at 6 weeks of age, and we were told that “he would probably be OK by then”.  No other tips or information was given to us.  Off home we went, happy, and we didn’t change anything from how we had done it with our previous children – tight swaddles, disposable nappies, narrow based Baby Bjorn carrier for occasions.

Oh how I wish I could go back to me and three day old Jack and give us some advice!

At our 6 week ultra-sound it was discovered that Jack’s right hip had rectified itself, but his left hip was “borderline” and that he would require immediate bracing.  This needed to be done in Perth.  Did I mention that we are a 7 hour drive or $250 each plane flight from Perth?  We were admitted through Princess Margaret Children’s Hospital in Perth, Western Australia, and they were so lovely.  A country girl in the big city however is a complete other story – LOL!!

I don’t think I was really ready for my journey that was about to begin.  Jack was fitted with a Correctio brace that he had to wear 23 hours a day, 7 days a week, and he cried and cried and cried.  His clothes wouldn’t fit on over the top.  He didn’t fit in the car seat of the hire car and he cried and cried and cried.  I tried to breastfeed him and it was so awkward and he cried and cried and cried.  We got home to Kalgoorlie and I fed him and put him to bed.  He looked so awkward, laying on his back with his legs up and splayed out.  That night he didn’t sleep.  Not in his bed anyway.  I sat up in the arm chair and he slept on my chest.  I cried.  I was tired and my neck stiff.  My other two children didn’t understand why I was so tired and cranky and had such a short fuse.

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Fitted with the brace at PMH

It was winter.  The Orthotics specialist who had fitted the brace said that the brace needed to go on under his clothes.  I had nothing that would fit over the brace.  In an attempt to make pants I cut up a pair of Elissa’s tights.  He looked like such a sweet angel – dressed in rags.  I was sad because he wasn’t handsome anymore.  That morning a friend looked after Elissa and Harrison while Jack and I popped off to the shops for a new car seat that he would fit in and some new clothes.  Two hours later and I had a small measure of sanity!!  A new car seat meant we could go places, and some clothes that fit meant he was handsome again!  That small accomplishment – even though it sounds so vain – was enough to make me stand tall and accept to get on with this and make it work.  So what worked for us?  Long sleeved clip crotch onesies and BabyLegs legwarmers!

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Dressed in Elissa’s tights on day 1

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More user friendly attire!  BabyLegs and Snappy Crotches!

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How did we get sleeping and breastfeeding under control? Pillows!  My Mum was the one who said, “Of course he will cry on his back. Lay on your back and spread your legs up like that.  Can you feel your hip joints and how they over-extend with no support under your knees?” WOW.  YES. Yes I can.  So I popped a pillow along so that his little legs were supported and – YES! No crying!  We have sleep!

Sleeping with one side propped on a pillow

Sleeping with one side propped on a pillow

Life plodded along for 6 weeks.  We were all happy.  And I was excited that Jack and I were headed back to Perth for our next Ultrasounds.  I was excited because I thought the brace might come off today.  Little did I know that no-one had explained to me that a DDH plan was NOT a short-term thing.  Our ultrasounds showed good news – his left hip had acceptable angles.  I was ecstatic. But the brace had to stay on for another 6 weeks in case of regression.  I am sure my face fell then and there.  Our Doctor then explained that the following 6 weeks wouldn’t see the end of bracing either.  If after this 6 weeks his hips were still fine, the brace would then only need to be worn at night time and naps for another few months.  All up our treatment plan would see Jack braced until he was 7 months old.

When I got home from that appointment I made some key life decisions:

  • I needed to see an infant physiotherapist – to aid with tummy time and the flat spot he was starting to get on his head.
  • I needed a different baby carrier as the Baby Bjorn was just not cutting it – it was so uncomfortable and its narrow base was hurting Jack.
  • I needed to carry Jack in a carrier more often to make it a) easier than trying to stuff him in the pram, b) stop people staring at the brace and asking about it, and c) stop his head getting flat.

Seeing the physiotherapist was GREAT!  I recommend this to ALL DDH families.  Simon came up with some really great and helpful exercises and plans to help Jack develop motor skills normally whilst being in the brace.  His core strength came along in leaps and bounds, as did his head and neck control.  Our infant health clinic kept Jack admitted right through until he was walking and without the brace.  They were simply amazing.

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Towels on the floor used for support during Tummy Time

Tummy time

Tummy time

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A session with Simon the physiotherapist

I researched Baby Carriers and was thoroughly BLOWN AWAY by a world of carriers I never knew existed.  I had only ever known of the Baby Bjorn as that is what is portrayed in media, and what our only baby store sold.  Little did I know how sub-optimal Baby Bjorn carriers are due to their narrow base that does not support the infant’s hips in a healthy position.

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(International Hip Dysplasia Institute)

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Optimal baby carrying positions – legs held in the M position for healthy hip and spine development

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Along with this realisation and research came the knowledge of swaddling and disposable nappies, and how babies’ hips work. “Improper swaddling may lead to hip dysplasia or developmental dysplasia of the hip. When in the womb the baby’s legs are in a foetal position with the legs bent up and across each other. Sudden straightening of the legs to a standing position can loosen the joints and damage the soft cartilage of the socket.” – International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

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(International Hip Dysplasia.org)

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Using our Ergo baby ergonomic carrier on holidays.

As I said – oh how I wish I could go back to me and three day old Jack and give us some advice!

I WISH that I had used cloth nappies to bulk out his crotch area, or even used a Modern Cloth Nappy over the top of his disposables.

I WISH that I had not swaddled him tightly in a wrap but had used hip friendly swaddles.

I WISH that I had a Babywearing wrap,  ring sling or soft structured carrier rather than the narrow based carrier.

I WISH I had discovered “babywearing” and had worn Jack LOTS to keep his legs up into the optimal M position.

Jack was only “borderline” and after 6 weeks of bracing his hips were fine.  If ONLY someone had told me to do the things above I am sure that we would have completely avoided bracing and he would have formed his own stable hips by 6 weeks of age.

There are a lot of “I wishes” and “if only’s” there, but you know, life is a journey and fate has its plan for all of us.  If I had never been led down the DDH path I would probably still have the Baby Bjorn carrier that is ridiculously uncomfortable and I definitely would not be a public infancy advocate educating new mothers about healthy hips; I would not have created Kalgoorlie-Boulder Babywearers (our local sling group) and certainly I would not be the proud owner of Gold Dust Baby, one of Australia’s Baby Wearing Retailers.

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Fast forward to beyond a year.  We have had our last lot of X-rays when Jack started walking at 1 year.  We have been given a full clearance with no more x-rays needed until he is 2.  He is a HAPPY baby who is in no way developmentally delayed – if anything he is making up for those 7 months and is a complete nut job on legs!  And I have discovered a way of life that would not have presented itself to me if life had taken me down the other path.

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Many people (including pre-DDH me) lump “Babywearing” in with attachment parenting, something seen as an all-or-nothing lifestyle, but that’s just not it.  Finding these great carriers outside of popular media has let me, Jack and my family lead an active and inclusive lifestyle.  Nothing holds us back!

Gold Dust Baby was born and this has become one of the things in my life that makes me so happy and fills me with a purpose.  I am now an educator, not only through Kalgoorlie-Boulder Babywearers, but through parenting groups and Obstetrician-held baby showers.  I wish I had been around to tell me to wear my baby in the crucial early months when stable hips are forming, to tell me to keep those legs in the optimal M position as much as possible.

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So to all of you out there who are beginning their DDH journey – yes, life gives you lemons – you just need to make some life decisions that will turn those lemons into lemonade, baked citrus tart and maybe a Corona or two!  In the end you have been led down this path for a reason.  Your job is to get yourself there and if you can take a couple of helpful hints from me to make that easier, then I am so happy that I have been able to share.

Love and BabyLegs and Babywearing!

Lyn

Gold Dust Baby

Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

Sensory Learning Experiment #3: Jelly!

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So it seems that a one-and-a-bit-year-old is still too young to enjoy sitting for any length of time to create works of art:

I give Lucy colouring pens and paper and her dad arrives home from work perplexed as to how his baby girl managed to grow a green moustache in the few hours he was away.

A bucket of large chalk pieces and an even larger piece of paper stuck on the floor? All that remains at the end of the (short) session is a blank page and some very chalky leggings.

“Stickers!” I think, in a light bulb moment while browsing the aisles of the Reject Store for inspiration, only to find that stickers lead to tears when rationed out. My little one just doesn’t understand why mummy only lets her have a few instead of the whole sheet in one sitting.

Back to the sensory learning drawing board, then.

And this time I found a WINNER!

Now this activity takes a bit of prep, a bit of setting up, a bit of forethought, and a whole lot’ve cleaning up afterwards. But I do think it’s worth the effort and you and your bub can have a memorable (for all the right reasons) time together as you grab, squish, smell, taste, discuss, smear and spread jelly all over the floor/yourself/the dog etc

The concept is a simple one: make up some batches of jelly, each a different colour and scent, then allow your baby to play with it!

You can execute this in different ways but I’ll show you how I did it:

 

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I know my child’s capacity to eat large volumes of anything delicious so rather than use premixed box jelly which would be too enticing, I mixed gelatine and water, added food colouring and then mint leaves, apple juice, and vanilla essence respectively to give the three batches a pleasant scent rather than flavour. I made up the jelly in baking trays and a muffin tin the night before and set it overnight in the fridge.

 

 

 

 

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We have a lovely large space on the kitchen floor so I stuck down a cheap plastic tablecloth (also from the Reject Store), using masking tape. The floor surface is polished concrete so it’s super easy to clean up afterwards. You may prefer to do this outside on the grass or the deck, or even in the bath.

 

 

 

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I stripped Lucy down to just her nappy to avoid any stains. To start off, I gave her just one of the trays of jelly to gauge how she was going to respond to the activity. If her attention span was going to be short-lived, I would rather hold on to the other two batches and try again on another day.

 

 

 

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It turns out she was ENTHRALLED! As you can see, she wasn’t content to simply squish it in her hands – she wanted to bathe in the stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

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So I brought out the other two batches of jelly and let the fun continue. She had a go at tasting it but – as per the plan –  didn’t find it terribly appetizing and reverted to playing with it rather than eating it.

 

 

 

 

20141104_095149We managed to get in a good half an hour of  gleeful, gooey, gelatinous fun, which – if you are familiar with the attention span on one-year-old’s – is pretty darn good going! I then bundled Lucy up in a (dark-coloured) towel and took her straight to the bath to give her a good scrub down. She loves a soak in the tub so this segment of the activity was enjoyed as much as the former, especially since she got to splash about in purply-browny-tinted water! Once she was dressed I bundled up the plastic tablecloth from the kitchen and threw that into the bath and this again proved enjoyable as the water now really turned an interesting shade of something sinister.

 

 

The highlight of all this came some time later when I messaged my family with pics of the jelly experiment and my mum replied, “I’m sure Jackson Pollock must have had a mother like you, Jen!”

Once Wikipedia had solved the small problem of who on earth this man was (go on, get your Google on…) and that my mum was handing me high praise (if you’re into abstract expressionism), it struck me that maybe I do have a little artist on my hands, she just likes to get her whole body involved when creating her masterpieces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we’re brace free! Sort of…

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After a journey involving:

*two weeks in a Pavlik harness
*a scary but fortunately short-lived stint of femoral nerve palsy
*a month in a Rhino brace full-time
*three months in a Spica after a closed reduction (cut short by two weeks due to skin damage)
*a further three months of full-time Rhino bracing
*three months of nights-and -naps Rhino bracing
*plenty of visits to the hospital complete with ultrasounds and x-rays

my fifteen month-old Lucy has finally been given the thumbs up to stop bracing!

We took her for her check-up last week and the doctor is very happy with the improvement he can see in her left hip socket.  While the angle of the acetabulum is still a bit out of the normal range, it has curved nicely which means the femoral head will sit comfortably in the socket and not slip out. He feels confident that as she becomes more mobile on her feet the left socket will gradually catch up to the right socket and even out. He says there is little to no chance that she will need any further treatment when she is older but we will continue to have check-ups every few months to keep an eye on it.

We are absolutely delighted with this positive report but have decided to keep on bracing Lucy when she sleeps at least for a couple more months in the hope that it will prevent any regression from taking place. She isn’t at all bothered by the brace and sleeps through the night most nights.  Summer is on the way, though, so when it gets uncomfortably hot at night we’ll stop bracing her. We told the doctor our intentions and he said that was absolutely fine but from about eighteen months on the bracing will stop being effective so we shouldn’t bother to continue from that point.

Lucy is growing in confidence daily with her movement. She is standing and able to walk herself along if she’s got something to hold onto. It shouldn’t be long before she is able to walk unaided. Eighteen months is apparently the age by which babies should be walking so she’ so still within normal range and we have no cause for concern that the bracing has set her back.

Last summer we weren’t able to enjoy the beach and go swimming because she was braced and in a cast – we are certainly going to be making up for lost time this summer! Bring on the sand, sun cream and sandcastles!

Flying alone with a baby: survival tips and tricks

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The idea of flying solo with my busy fourteen-month-old from Perth, Australia to Durban, South Africa terrified me! I sought counsel from friends and family who’d ever traveled with a baby and filled in the gaps using blog posts and forums for any and every piece of advice that would increase my chances of a pleasant journey.

We are now back from our fantastic three weeks visiting my family and the flights went as well as they possibly could have. Below are the tips and tricks that helped me and I hope they can be useful to others about to embark on long-haul flights alone with a baby!

WHAT TO PACK IN YOUR CARRY-ON LUGGAGE:

  • Try keep your carry-on luggage to just one bag. A back-pack is the most practical rather than a handbag or nappy bag. This way you can sling it over both shoulders and carry it comfortably, leaving both hands free to carry baby, sort out passports etc. It also has useful compartments for storing the various bits and pieces you’ll have with you.
  • Place nappies, wipes & nappy disposal bags in a smaller bag within the backpack. When you need to change your baby’s nappy on the plane, you can just take this along with you to the tiny toilet cubicle rather than lugging a bulky bag and having to rummage through it to find your supplies. (For nappy disposal, the air hostess I spoke to said I should just place dirty nappies in the normal waste disposal bin in the toilet cubicle)
  • The same principal applies to the snacks you’re planning on taking with you: gather them up in a snack bag to make them easy to locate when your bub is tired and grumpy and you need a distraction fast! (I bought a Nude Food Movers coolskin from Woolworths, Australia and it was the perfect size with flexible material for fitting into a backpack)
  • Dummies are very useful for take-off and landing so that your baby’s ears don’t get sore. If your baby doesn’t usually have a dummy, you can either breastfeed him during these times or give him a bottle to suck. It’s a good idea to use a dummy strap to prevent it falling down and getting dirty or lost on the plane.
  • Take books to read to your baby for long waits at the airport terminal or in-flight. Don’t take too many as your baby will probably be more taken with the in-flight magazine anyway!
  • A small torch is handy for locating lost items under aeroplane seats.
  • If you have a phone with the flight mode function, you will be able to use it for entertainment for your baby while in the air. There are loads of baby-specific apps that you can download ahead of time.
  • If you are planning on using your phone as entertainment, there is the risk of running your battery down and not being able to use it when you arrive at your destination. You can solve this problem with a portable power bank, such as the ones from Juice Up. I bought mine from Dick Smith for $25.
  • Buy one or two small and inexpensive gifts to wrap up for your baby and give them to her on the trip. My baby loves necklaces and accessories so I bought bead necklaces from a kids’ accessory shop. They were an absolute hit! She wore and played with them not just on the plane but every day of the holiday too! Best three bucks I’ve ever spent…
  • A lightweight blanket is handy to have with you, not so much for on the plane – the air-hostesses will provide you with blankets – but it can be used to shield a sleeping baby from glaring lights or keep them snug while you’re walking about airports.
  • Pack a change of clothes for your baby in case of a spill or leaky nappy or a messy meal.
  • Antibacterial wipes can be used for cleaning your baby’s hands or wiping down trays before a meal. Airports and aeroplanes harbour germs from around the world and the last thing you want is your baby picking up some nasty virus to spoil your holiday.
  • Pack some snacks for you, too. You will find it very difficult to enjoy a proper meal on the plane so take snacks along for yourself to avoid running low on energy in transit.
  • To help your baby sleep comfortably while on your lap, you could purchase a travel mattress from SkyBaby. You may find, though, that trying to assemble it and get your baby into it all on your own may be too much of a challenge. They can be quite fiddly with only one set of hands. I went without one and my baby was able to sleep just fine.
  • You’re unlikely to get a chance to brush your teeth so pack some good quality gum to chew on when you need to freshen up.
  • Have a pen with you for filling in the arrival and departure cards.
  • Place all passports and travel documents in one folder or plastic sleeve for easy access. It is advisable to get your partner to write a letter giving permission for you to travel alone with your baby, and take along copies of your baby’s full, unabridged birth certificate and your marriage certificate if applicable.
  • Pack pain medication for both you and your baby in case of a pesky headache or fever en route. Dymadon for babies is a good option as it is pleasant tasting so shouldn’t be met with much resistance.
  • If you are worried that your baby will become anxious and inconsolable, take along some Rescue Remedy for kids to help soothe them naturally rather than use harsher drugs.

OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS:

  • Night flights will be easiest for you as there’s a better chance that your baby will sleep for much of the journey. Trying to keep your baby entertained for hours during a day flight will be exhausting for you and your fellow passengers.
  • If you can afford to buy a seat for your baby, there is the option of taking your car seat along and strapping your baby into it on the plane. This could help settle your baby and get them to sleep comfortably for longer. Confirm with your airline that they allow this.
  • An overtired baby is never a good thing: make sure your baby has kept to his usual nap times before you fly and is as well rested as possible. For my midnight flight, I put Lucy down to sleep at her usual bedtime then woke her up after two hours to head to the airport. This meant she was rested enough to stay reasonably cheerful during the check in and boarding process.
  • When you book your flight, be sure to request a meal for your baby. Don’t assume the airline will provide one unless you’ve asked for it.
  • Eating your own meal on the flight may prove impossible as your baby will probably want to make a grab at everything on the tray. It might be less stressful for you to just decline the meals and eat at the airport before you fly and survive on snacks during the flight.
  • Consider checking yourself in to one of the airport lounges while you wait for your flight. They are quieter, more comfortable spaces to try settle your baby and get them to nap if needed before the trip. They have nicer baby changing facilities and should have snacks available for you. You’ll have to do your research beforehand to see if the airports you’ll be in have such a service available. At Perth airport, the lounges are only available to members or passengers of certain airlines but at Johannesburg airport they allow any passengers to use the lounges for a fee.
  • Once you have finally boarded the plane, you will probably have at least two more hours of bright lights, noise and activity before your baby can drift off to sleep in a dark cabin. Even on midnight flights you will be served supper and drinks. This is another good reason to make sure your baby isn’t over-tired before you fly.
  • The chances of you getting any sleep while in the air are slim to none. Try to have a nap yourself before you leave for the airport.
  • When you check in, ask if it’s possible to book a seat with a spare seat next to it. At least this will allow you some extra space either to have your bag right next to you or for your wriggly baby to crawl and stand a bit on the flight.
  • If you have requested a bassinet, there is no guarantee that you will get one. They are assigned to the youngest babies plus there are weight and height restrictions and your baby may prove too big for it.
  • When you board, ask one of the hostesses to show you which toilet cubicle is equipped with a change table as not all of them are.
  • Some airlines do not allow breastfeeding on takeoff and landing. If you’re willing to risk it, you can probably still sneak it in once the cabin staff are seated and no longer walking around checking. (If you look at the brace position they advise you to adopt when holding a baby, it’s actually very similar to the breastfeeding cradle hold.
  • If you are planning on breastfeeding during the flight, you may want to request a bigger pillow from business class to help you support your baby comfortably. Be aware that the seats are very narrow, which make breastfeeding a challenge unless you’ve got a spare seat next to you.
  • Anticipate that you will be very uncomfortable on the flight. When you baby falls asleep on your lap, you won’t want to move in case you wake her.
  • The hours of discomfort while your baby sleeps on you can be made more bearable by watching movies or listening to music. Plan ahead for this by getting the headsets plugged in and ready for use so that you can get them on without moving around too much and waking up your baby.
  • Going to the toilet is going to be a challenge for you at all stages of the journey! At airports, look for the disabled toilets as they are bigger and can accommodate a pram. If there is no sweet person who offers to hold your baby so you can go to the loo during the flight, I can confirm that it is possible to seat your baby on your knee while in the toilet cubicle!! It’s not ideal but if you are desperate, it can be done!
  • Some airports will have loan prams available for use but you may prefer to take along your own pram rather than risk having to carry your baby around for long periods of time. It also means that you will have it with you to use on your holiday. You should be able to take the pram right up to the door of the plane but check with the airline you’re using whether this is the case.
  • If you’d rather not take a pram, consider taking a sling for carrying your baby around the airport, if your baby is not too heavy.
  • If you are going through passport control, there may be quite a long wait before you can collect your pram and other luggage. Try to find a loan pram to use in the interim so you’re not having to carry your baby all this time.
  • When you collect your luggage off the carousel, you may find that your pram is not with it. Have a look at the collection point for unusual or outsize items which will be located in the vicinity of the baggage carousels and you should find it there.
  • You won’t be able to push a pram and a trolley. Neither will you be able to put your baby in the trolley – they’re not equipped for babies like the shopping trolleys you’re used to. I used a suitcase with wheels for my luggage then a duffle bag for Lucy. At the airport, I placed the duffle bag on top of the suitcase and secured it by putting the straps over the suitcase handle so I could wheel it around with one hand while pushing the pram with the other hand. It’s not easy going but I have proved it is possible! If this sounds too difficult, there are probably ways of getting assistance or a porter at the airport.
  • If you have crossed time zones, both you and your baby are likely to suffer from jet lag and the resulting disrupted sleep. The rough guideline is one night of disrupted sleep per time zone crossed. There is a six hour time difference between Perth and South Africa and Lucy had exactly six nights of poor sleep on arrival and return!

Happy Havoc

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During the course of today I have found my 13-month-old daughter

  • merrily sucking on dog food pellets (fish and potato flavour)
  • removing every single book from her bookshelf and scattering them around her room
  • eating dried up carrot peelings from the kitchen floor
  • attempting to pull a bottle of wine from the wine rack
  • climbing into the dog’s bed and giving her cuddles
  • pulling clean laundry off the clothes horse and onto the floor (several times)
  • redistributing the contents of the kitchen cupboard all over the kitchen
  • wearing my lingerie on her head

and I can honestly say that I LOVE IT! I love that she is finally cast-and-brace free and motoring around the place causing havoc, making up for lost time. It’s as if the whole world has opened up to her and she is having the best time discovering it all.

The added bonus for me? She’s sleeping so much better and I can only attribute it to that delicious tiredness that descends at the end of a busy day filled with physical exertion.

I will keep this short as I need to get some sleep. Must be fresh tomorrow for another round of Chasing Lucy…

 

 

20 Spica(and brace)-friendly Ideas for Keeping Babies Happy

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Lucy went into a spica when she was seven months old, which is around the time many babies start to crawl and get more mobile. I found it quite a challenge to keep her engaged and stimulated for three months and tried to find spica-friendly activities to do together. Some great ideas came from these sources:

* the various babycentre sites (.com, .au and .uk)

* www.thestay-at-home-momsurvivalguide.com

* www.babble.com

I’ve tried to keep the activities simple, cost-effective and do-able for non-creative types like me!  If you can get hold of/make a spica table, don’t hesitate. I think it is essential for keeping our bubs happy when they’re all plastered up.

I hope that you can find something here to try with your little one and would love to hear from you if you have activities to add to this list.

1. Visit a dog exercise area

1397618631559This is something Lucy and I do regularly because we have a dog – Stella – a Staffordshire Terrier (awesome family dogs if you’re thinking about getting one!) Lucy absolutely loves watching the dogs run around and play with each other and it keeps her entertained for ages. She doesn’t mind at all when they get boisterous and bump into the pram – it just adds to the fun!

 

 

2. Tear up a catalogue

Those annoying advertising spreads that clog up your postbox can become your New Best Friends when you realise their potential! I prop Lucy on the couch next to me and she rips up catalogues while I read the paper/have a cup of tea/check emails/whatever for a few minutes. The delight it gives her makes the tidy-up afterwards completely worthwhile.

 

3. Goodie box

1397615186394Gather a few items from around the house that you think may be of interest to your little one. Put them in a box and present it to them to open and explore the contents. I like to put a ribbon around the box for an added challenge. This can be done endlessly, as the most random thing can hold her attention more than any of her usual toys. This is one of my favourite activities!

 

 

4. Sign language

Now is as good a time as any to introduce your bub to sign language while they are forced to sit still and pay attention! Hop onto YouTube for little video clips to watch and then put the signs into practice during your daily routine. There’s a lovely Baby Einstein one that Lucy and I watch.

 

5. Go for a ride

1398057253824We have a little device called a Corn Popper which was given to us for when Lucy is older but she loves it when I pop her on the seat and hold her hands on the handlebars while whizzing her around the house or yard. The added bonus is that it provides an intense workout for your rear end and hamstrings 🙂 There are lots of different contraptions out there so it doesn’t have to be a Corn Popper that you use.

 

6. Rhyme Time

Our local libraries in Australia run a fabulous, free program for babies and toddlers called Rhyme Time. Unfortunately we’ve only made it to one so far due to nap times clashing with the sessions. I know rhymes are important for language development so we’ve come up with a Plan B: the libraries give out Rhyme Time dvd’s in a little goodie bag when the babies are a few weeks old. I pop it into the dvd player and we have our own private session of Rhyme Time, following along and enjoying singing and doing actions together. This way we get to do it when Lucy is fresh and cheerful and can stop it at any time when she’s had enough. When she’s a bit older we’ll get to the proper sessions but this is a good alternative for now.

 

7. Play dates at the park

1398058669395I’m sure you do this already as it’s a pretty obvious way of keeping mums and bubs socialised and happy. One thing I do to encourage social interaction for a spica-clad, immobile baby is to take along Lucy’s modified Bumbo for her to sit in. The other babies are inevitably drawn to this strange contraption and crawl over to investigate! Lucy has more interaction this way than if I am holding her.

 

 

8. Play with food

1397569580531Lucy is now starting to understand that things fit into different categories. I use lunch time to play around with this concept by chopping up finger foods and putting them into little tupperwares with different coloured lids. I sit her at her spica table and give her the tupperwares to explore, talking about what is in each one. We then open the lids and tip out the contents. Eventually she’ll be able to sort the foods back into the tupperwares but that’s a bit advanced for now. When I tidy up the scraps at the end of lunch, I put them back into their allocated containers and talk about what I’m doing. A lunch sitting can last nearly an hour – that’s how engaging she finds all this!

9. Play with scarves

1397615407203Colourful scarves lend themselves to all sorts of games for babies. The original idea was to tie them together and put them in a box for Lucy to pull out. It didn’t quite go to plan so I improvised and dressed up our dog instead 🙂 She was very accommodating – any attention is better than no attention!  Pull your scarves out the cupboard and see how your baby responds and go with the flow…

 

 

 

10. Wrap up toys

Unwrapping one of her 'presents'

Unwrapping one of her ‘presents’

Gather a few toys that haven’t been played with for a while and wrap them in gift paper. Put them in a bag and let your baby rummage through the bag and unwrap the ‘presents’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Read books

My little book worm

My little book worm

One of our favourite regular outings is to the local library to take out books for Lucy. The library has a huge selection of books for babies and a lovely play area too. I started reading to Lucy very early on and at one stage I nearly gave up because all she wanted to do was grab the book out of my hands. Thankfully I persevered but now stick to just the board books which can sustain rough handling and I allow Lucy to turn the pages while I’m reading. She has become an avid little reader and I often walk into her room when she’s woken from a nap and find her lying there with an open book in her hands and one on her lap. As an English teacher, I couldn’t be more thrilled 🙂

 

12. iPad games

talking-tomI confess I’m a bit old-fashioned in terms of not wanting Lucy too device-savvy at a young age. I don’t let her play with my phone or iPad even though there are lots of apps that have been developed for babies. There is, however, one app that I have used with Lucy and she absolutely loves it: Talking Tom! I figure it’s good for aiding her speech development since the cat repeats everything she says.There is a free version available but I recommend buying the app so that you’re not inundated with annoying adverts. It’s a great one to have on your phone for when you’re sitting in a doctor’s waiting room and need to keep bub entertained.

 

13. Two-handed clacking

Future drummer?

Future drummer?

This is handy for when you need to keep your bub busy while you’re cooking. I move Lucy’s spica table into the kitchen and give her wooden spoons and spatulas etc to make some noise with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Videos on on your phone

Like most parents I can’t resist taking lots of videos of Lucy being cute. I often play them back to her and she is absolutely captivated by them! When I get videos of my nephew doing cute things I show them to her too. Babies love watching babies!

 

15. Play with bubbles

There is a gorgeous video clip of a baby in hysterics watching her dog eat bubbles. If you haven’t seen it before, please pause and give it a watch – her giggles are contagious! I haven’t quite had that reaction yet from Lucy and our dog hasn’t quite eaten the bubbles that enthusiastically but I am going to persevere because, well, it’s fun.

 

16. Paint swatch sorter

Playing with paint swatches

Playing with paint swatches

Visit a paint shop and gather up a selection of free colour swatches. At home, get a yoghurt or icecream tub and cut a slot in the lid. Play with the swatches together with your baby, discussing the different colours, then show her how to put them into the container through the slot. It doesn’t matter if she chews or bends them because you can just get a fresh batch when they get tired.

 

 

17. Aeroplane

Lucy hates – I mean hates – tummy time but I know it’s especially good for her in the spica to help prevent pressure sores. One fun way of getting her onto her tummy is to do the old favourite aeroplane trick (lying on your back with your baby resting on your shins). She gets to see the world from a different angle and I sneak in tummy time without her even realising it.

 

18. Join a toy library

1400075732813This has been a lifesaver for us. After a few months of playing with the same old toys, Lucy was so bored of them but buying new ones can get very expensive. We have joined a toy library and pay $60 for a year’s membership. It is worth every cent for the amount of toys we now have at our disposal and I can experiment with different toys to see which ones she likes without having to buy them first and potentially waste a lot of money on things she has little interest in.

 

 

19. Visit the zoo or a farm – without driving anywhere!

A visit to the farm!

A visit to the farm!

A friend of ours kindly passed on a box full of toy animals when her girls grew too old for them. We’ve been having a lot of fun with them – some days we visit the farm and learn the names and noises of all the farm animals. On other days we visit the African plains where lions and zebra and giraffe roam (what noise does a giraffe make, anyone?!)

 

 

 

20. Make a collage

Lucy inspecting the items on our collage

Lucy inspecting the items on our collage

When you go for a walk, take a bag with you and collect little bits and pieces of interest as you go. When you get home, create a collage on paper or card and talk about all the things you saw on your walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would love to expand this list so please let me know what else you’ve been doing to keep your babies happy!