Your Baby and Social Media

Anyone who knows me will testify to my willingness and frequency for sharing photos of Beckett online. I regularly share photos to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Of course I often get asked am I not worried about privacy. And to be completely honest, I don't. I have always made sure to keep my privacy settings up to date and I am always careful about adding or connecting with people. Beyond that I just make sure that the photos I share are suitable to be put out in the public sphere.

So what do you need to know about sharing photos of your kids online?

Firstly, if you are even slightly concerned about people seeing your photos who aren't your friends or family I would suggest that you don't share any. The easiest way to make sure that your photos stay 100% private and secure is to not put them online. Simple. However, if you do want to share photos of your baby then follow these simple rules:

  • Make sure that you are only connected to / friends with people that you know and trust
  • Set your profile to not be publicly viewable
  • Ensure that any photos you do share do not reveal any personal details
  • Do not share photos of your child in any sort of state of undress
  • Always ask the permission to share the photo of anyone else in the photo, especially if there are other children in the photo

As simple as these 5 rules may be, it never fails to surprise me how many people don't follow them.

Remember though, as I said above, if you want to be 100% certain about the privacy of your photos then don't share them.

Holding Your Baby

Flicking through the channels this evening we saw one of those stupid US shows about teens (or very young adults) with babies. I moved straight past it but something caught my attention and I had to look back. The couple on the show were sitting in their kitchen talking. The mum was telling the dad that he needed to spend proper time with their son and that he needed to hold him more. She then asked him what the longest he'd gone without holding their son. '4 days', he said.

4 days!?!

What the hell kind of parent could go a single day, let alone 4 days without holding their child?? Obviously I'm thinking about a situation where both child and parent are in the same house and same room during that period.

The guy in question tried to say that he was doing it to teach his son to be tough and not be dependent. What total nonsense. I immediately disregarded the guy as being an idiot. Still though, it got me wondering. Do some dads actually go for days without holding their children? I really hope not.

Picking up and holding Beckett is the best part of my day. I wouldn't give it up for anything.

How to Sterilise Feeding / Teething Equipment

Most people these days will have some sort of dedicated sterilising equipment that works specifically with their chosen bottle brand. While I wouldn't suggest that you go against the manufacturer's instructions or directions, there are instances that you may want to sterilise something and it simply will not be possible to use that equipment.

In those cases the vast majority of people will fall back on trusty old Milton. And again, I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with Milton or that you shouldn't use. I just thought that it would be worth sharing what to do if neither of these usual avenues are available or suitable.

Truth be told, if you do find yourself in this situation it is fairly easy to sterilise anything so long as you have a pot large enough to submerge it in.

  • Wash the item as you would normally wash any of your feeding or teething equipment - hot, slightly soapy water. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the items to remove all soap.
  • Place the clean item in a large saucepan on the back burner of the stove.
  • Add enough water to cover the item, making sure there are no air bubbles.
  • Bring the water to the boil, and boil rapidly for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the stove and allow the water to cool down.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before you handle the item.
  • Take the equipment from the saucepan and shake off any excess water.
  • If you are not using the item straight away, store it in a clean container in the fridge.
  • Re-boil the item if it is not used within 24 hours.
  • Alternatively it is ready to use immediately and will be completely sterile

Washing and then boiling will kill any contaminants and microbial organisms on an item. Obviously this is for non-porous items and should not be used on anything that cannot withstand boiling temperatures.

Baby Monitors

There was a time when a baby monitor was basically a walkie-talkie that sat in the nursery and broadcast to a receiver wherever mum and/or dad were. Then there came video. Your baby monitor was now a little camera and microphone sitting in your baby's cot giving you a live video feed or your sleeping cherub (albeit a very poor quality monochrome one). Then came baby monitors with movement detection and heart beat monitoring. Certain things in my opinion that are just totally unnecessary.

However, when you consider that the general cost of technology drops each year as tech gets older and more commonplace (and cheaper to manufacture mostly), it's no surprise that basically everyone now will be likely to buy a video baby monitor. But which is best?

When it comes to tech I almost never go by brand or 'container' manufacturer. The truth is that the parts inside generally come from the same handful of places and all you're paying for is someone else to stick their name on it. So once the guarantee is good and the specs give you the service you want, I say buy what suits your budget. The only caveat being that I would suspect you'll want to spend somewhere between €50 and €100.

Strictly speaking though, a baby monitor is not the only option when it comes to baby monitors. What I mean is that there are other video and audio devices out there that perform the same function but are not sold as baby monitors. Take for example the Tenvis IPRobot3 (pictured above). This is an IP Camera meaning that it runs through your home network (wifi or wired in the case of the IPRobot3). It is also significantly higher spec than most baby monitors and definitely a lot cheaper for the specs it has than a baby monitor of similar calibre. The IPRobot3 offers a MegaPixel camera operating in Ultra HD. It also has stunning night vision that provides perfect view in absolute darkness. What I especially like about it is that it can be remotely controlled to rotate on an X and Y axis meaning that you can adjust the camera angle through 360x360 degrees to see in any direction around it. Oh, did I mention that it streams to your smartphone or tablet through a secure protocol? So no matter where we are we can login to the camera and check on Beckett.

The IP Camera route does take a small amount of tech knowhow but it's basic and it shouldn't be difficult for anyone to follow the video instructions provided. In short, I would definitely go this route. The Tenvis IPRobot3 cost US$80 including P&P. Great value in my opinion and definitely what I recommend to anyone shopping for a baby monitor.

Learning to Swim

For us, living beside the sea, swimming was always something we promised we'd make sure Beckett learned from an early age. Of course, it's one thing to talk about these things and it's one thing to make it happen. So really the best thing to do, pardon the pun, is to take the plunge and just do it. We did the research and basically we decided that there were three options open to us: 1) Do it ourselves and just take him to the pool, 2) the second option was Water Babies, and finally 3) Swim Safe Academy at a local swimming pool. While I'd consider myself an excellent swimmer and Jules equally so, neither of us have any idea about teaching someone to swim. So it was going to be option 2 or 3.

Water Babies is certainly well known but, to be honest, no one I know actually had any great things to say about it. Plus the cost seemed to be quite high given that no one seemed to have anything positive to say about it. So we looked into option 3 and were delighted to immediately find that several different couples we know have used the service and had nothing but high praise. Swim Safe Academy was €75 for ten weeks (ten lessons) and the class size wasn't too big (ten to a dozen babies per week). So off we went on the journey to teach Beckett to swim.

Each week either Jules or I would get in the pool with Beckett, and the instructor (one of two different girls) would go through a series of exercises for us to work through with him. The setting was good in that the pool was clean and warm. However, I'll be honest, it became clear after the fourth or fifth lesson that we would be doing the same exercises for the whole ten weeks. Not that the exercises were bad or that Beckett wasn't learning, but I'm a smart guy and after week one I could have happily gone through the exercises with Beckett without the need to be at the classes.

The funny thing is that the whole thing might be beside the fact given that we discovered on week one that Beckett is an absolute fish. He loves the water. Kicking and paddling through it. Ducking under the water. Sailing on his back. An absolute fish!

So, did we make the right decision with Swim Safe Academy? Well I'd hate to give a definitive since we never tried Water Babies, but the whole experience did leave me with a strong feeling that anyone who is a confident and competent swimmer themselves could probably pick up what they need to know from a book to be able to teach a child the basics. Certainly to teach them enough to get them in the water with you and splish splash around.

Baby Led Weaning

Beckett was always zero trouble when it came to feeding. From day one he took his bottles without fuss or upset. In fact we've both had people comment to us several times when we've been feeding him out and about that it practically takes more time to make a bottle than for him to take it! We count ourselves very lucky. From before he was even born though, we both agreed that when it came to introducing solid foods, that's exactly what they would be - solid. No mush or liquidised stuffs. In addition, we want him to take part in eating and to be the one, as much as possible, feeding himself.

For those unfamiliar with Baby Led Weaning, it was originally coined by Gill Rapley, a former health visitor and midwife, and is the process of allowing your child to feed themselves from the very start of weaning. Now if you think about this it's obvious that for a child to feed themselves they will have to be eating foods that they can pick up and do not need cutlery for. We're talking vegetable sticks, rice crackers, toast, pita, baby biscuits, fruit etc.

Beyond the foods that Beckett can pick up himself we also make a point of letting him try everything that we eat. Of course there's a consideration for spicy or salty foods but generally speaking he gets to try it all. He's had curry in Wagamama, Homemade Burgers, Beans on Toast, Pasta in the local Italian Restaurant and numerous other dishes wherever we eat. Our thinking is that if he is exposed to as much food as possible he will grow up with a healthy and diverse pallet. Plus, we both love cooking so it's a joy to think that we have someone who loves to try new things and enjoys a wide variety of foods.

The one thing I would say is that it's always a good idea to keep some stewed or steamed fruit in the fridge and freezer. While I don't advocate creating mush or liquidising food, certain fruits will be very difficult for baby to eat if you don't do something with them. Depending on the apple or pear variety they can be quite crisp. In those cases what I like to do is to peel and cut them into manageable segments (long enough to hold and thin enough to chomp through) and steam them over a a pot of water with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a few cloves. The segments will want to be flexible but firm enough to handle. These make a great snack for baby that you can take out with you. I also like to stew certain fruits that simply cannot be eaten raw. A favourite of Beckett's is rhubarb. I wash the rhubarb and cut it into two inch long batons. I peel a couple of apples and cut them into segments. Finally grab a handful of frozen raspberries and rinse them. Put a small amount of water in a pot (0.5cm high) and a sprinkle of cinnamon and brown sugar (very small sprinkle). Add the fruit and allow it to cook over a gentle heat. The rhubarb and raspberries will disintegrate on heating but by not stirring the mix too much they should retain some texture.

A stew like this is great for breakfast or lunch and can be frozen and quickly defrosted. Depending on teething you may also find that baby likes it quite chilled. Try out different fruits and see what works best for you. Just don't over stew it!

Planning. Planning. Planning.

The uninitiated could well be of the misguided impression that the real work doesn't start until baby arrives but ask any new parent still in the pregnancy and they'll tell you just how much work there is. Creating and furnishing a nursery. Choosing how baby will be fed and what feeding system to use. Buying (and finding the money to buy) a travel system, a travel cot, clothes, changing supplies, cleaning supplies, feeding supplies and so on. The list is almost never ending and the whole period before baby arrives can be super stressful.

The best advice is to start early. As soon as you know that baby is on the way start deciding which room will become a nursery and what items are needed. Measure out the room and put the details on a piece of paper or enter them in your phone. This will be invaluable as you start to look at cots, dressers, wardrobes etc. Figure out what you need to feed baby when they get home from the hospital. Will you be breastfeeding or bottle feeding and what equipment is required. Then create a space (in the kitchen most likely) where these items can be stored. You'll never want to have to go looking for feeding equipment when there's a hungry baby - it needs to be where you know it is and ready to go. Consult your car manufacturer or the staff of a baby equipment retailer (Mothercare, Eurobaby, Mamas and Papas etc.) about what car seat is best for your car. Then look at stroller systems and decide what will work best for you from a size and finance point of view. Here's a hint - ask to bring a display system out to your car and see if it comfortably fits in your boot, and if it can be put down and put up by one person. Before baby goes into their cot you will also want a Moses Basket and stand.

We decided to go for a very simple and elegant decor in Beckett's nursery. White furniture and playful wall decals. Rather than buying an actual changing unit, we opted for a sturdy set of drawers and simply placed a changing mat on top of it. Not only does this give you a very firm and hard wearing piece of furniture that you feel safe putting your baby on but it also means that once baby gets older, you have a set of drawers they can use. We choose to use IKEA for his wardrobe as this allowed us the greatest flexibility to design a system that works for us. You can decide how many rails you want, what drawers or shelves you want inside and how many doors you want. Believe me, the wardrobe design options are absolutely brilliant. Finally then we choose a rather simple cot providing two heights as a cot but also doubling as a first bed (detachable sides).

Finally, the most important thing to remember is that nothing is set in stone and don't be afraid to roll with the changes. For all the planning in the world, once baby arrives you will discover that certain things just don't work the way you thought they would and work better another way. Especially with regard the nursery, remember that baby will be in their Moses Basket until around 10 weeks so there's some additional time to work on the nursery - however, apply a giant caveat in that you won't have a huge amount of free time! Once your baby has a place to sleep and you can feed them, everything else will work out. Don't freak out or get too stressed. You have no idea how amazing this adventure is going to be. For all the lack of sleep and poop filled nappies, you won't regret a single moment!

The Start of the Greatest Adventure...

On the 22nd August 2014 my life changed forever. Beckett Keeley-Hughes came into the world and with him changed the lives of two people for the better in a million different ways. His mum Jules and I had no idea what to really expect. You think you know. But you don't.

Weighing in at 9lbs and 2oz, Beckett stole my heart immediately. In an instance I knew that I would do anything in the world for this little being, and I would never let him want for anything I could provide. Before he could even open his eyes, he had me wrapped around his fingers.

So here we are nearly 8 months on and, while there's still a lot of road to travel and many lessons to learn, I think there's a lot that we can share with anyone who's a little further back on the trail of their own adventure. Be it insights into laying out a nursery, the things we've discovered about how to buy baby furniture and equipment at reasonable prices or what foods to try and what foods to avoid.

So what better way to share what we've learned and discovered than through a blog. This blog. It might be updated several times a day or once a week. Sometimes it'll be a recipe or a link to an online store, and sometimes it'll be simply our insights into what's worked for us when it's come to Beckett. Whatever it happens to be, hopefully you enjoy it and find it beneficial.