Sunday, May 25, 2008

Custom T-shirts for kids in India

Don't y'all love the Tantra shirts for their slogans? I find some funny, some sarcastic, some in bad taste and certain offensive. But overall, they are pretty good. Though personally I don't wear t-shirts I'm always on the lookout for some good ones for The Seniol and for my brother if he were in India. Now, there's one more gentleman to the elite boys' list - Lil' General.

We went shopping today evening to replenish the monthly quota of Lil' General's t-shirts. He outgrows his dresses faster than I finish my monthly quota of pickles. I found a good one though not very appropriate for a child to be wearing it. It was too small for him and they didn't have a bigger size - it had "Love made me written on it". A few years back The Seniol wore one which read "Life is sexually transmitted". How ironic and true! Now imagine the boys wearing them together :)

Whose idea was it to have a baby? I mean seriously. What was I thinking? Most days I'm happy to have Lil' General in my life but then there are days like today when he drives me nuts, up the wall call it whatever you like.

Till he was 11 months old, he took about 3 naps during the day each spanning between 1 hour and 2 hours. This gradually gave way to 2 naps each spanning between 2 and 3 hours until yesterday and I hope that continues. He naps between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. and again in the afternoon from 2:00 p.m. and 4 p.m. There ought to be something externally disturbing that will not put him to sleep. Else it is a pretty much fixed routine - sleep time, happy play time, feed time followed by nap time.

I've no idea what got him so excited this morning that he has been 10 times more active than he usually which by itself is a handful. Climbing over the sofas, turning on the TV, pulling down the curtains, scattering his toys around the living room, pulling his neatly folded clothes from the closet, jumping on the tummy of his very tired mommy, tasting garam masala in the kitchen and rolling the utensils - there is never a moment of rest and at times I just feel like jumping out of the window. Imagine staying up matching his energy levels without a break from 7:00 a.m. Thank GOG..he is asleep now and that interferes with his park time. Anyways so long he gets rest he will wake up charged and not cranky which means a good happy evening lies ahead of us. Time to recharge myself. Over and out!

The involvement of The Seniol in LG's daily activities is worth mentioning and the benefits show up in all spheres. Ever since the day he was born until now, not a day has passed when he hasn't played with him or changed his diapers atleast once a day. They bond so well and I suspect LG is this naughty and active because of The Seniol's enthusiasm which has just rubbed off onto him. It would have been difficult if we had a not so sociable clingy kid who required my presence at all times during the day. That would have just driven me up the wall. As it is with such a easy going kid, I have trouble staying home all day.

But you know what, come to think of it - it's a lot of fun. And their enthusiasm for life has rubbed of on me that we shake a leg now every time "Mauja hi mauja" plays or some crappy song with beats to which LG initiates his moves and we follow soon after. Just when you'd think the chips are down and LG can't stay awake even a minute longer he'll surprise you by doing this favorite pillow thing - putting the pillow on our face and shouting "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" from the other end. Silly games but great stress busters just the kind we need at the end of the day. Because of Lil' Genera; I know a lot of people around the neighborhood now. He waves at every stranger and persuades them to until they give in. The tough nuts who don't give in disappoint him but that doesn't kill his spirit to try again.

I doubt very much if it were not for The Seniol's coming home early every evening and spending adequate time in the mornings and religiously taking him for a morning walk day after day and with just my involvement LG would have been the same. Mothers who complain about clingy and not so sociable kids often have husbands who work late leading to a lesser interaction time for the kids with their fathers. This leads to more stress for the mothers as they don't get a break even when the husband is home as the child is clingy for one and requires to be attended to even if the mother is busy cooking. So all you fathers, if you are reading this maybe it's time to get more involved!

Reference article : The Hidden Benefits of Being an Involved Father

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nursing the extended family

We have a bunch of soft toys that have stayed with us for over six years now - long before Lil' General came in to our lives. These toys are like real people to The Seniol and I. I mean we used to get up and greet "Good Morning" to them and they would watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S with us every evening after work. We had real conversations with them and sometimes they served us mediators in the conflicts that The Seniol and I had. It was a perfect arrangement to keep us entertained and amused all these years. They are all of different ages, some related to each other and they come in different sizes, shapes and colors and have fancy names such as BK - The trader, Polu - the fisher, Stuart - the scientist, King Kid00 - the peacemaker, FU - the cook, granny, mbki, pilu-molu - the twins, buco - the actor etc.

They continue to be a part of our lives even after Lil' General came along and we interact them as much as we did before. LG likes some of them more than the others. He has got some of his own now that we are not quite fond of - there is no connection you see. Anyways, so all the members of this extended family are now being fed food - real food at regular intervals by LG. Every time he has porridge, granny takes a sip too. It is funny how he sights the bottle in my hand, first walks up to the bed where granny sleeps all day, picks her up places her on my lap and feeds her first and then goes on to finish his bottle :) I believe it is a part of his growing up...we are one big happy family now.

Monday, May 19, 2008

When mom turned into a barber

About 3 weeks back, Lil' General was sleeping rather restless. He would sleep for 30 minutes and then wake up cranky from deep sleep for no apparent reason. That's when I found what was bothering him. He would sweat profusely on the head and would soon be found to lie in a pool of water under his head - the sweat irritated him causing him to wake up. No amount of air and cooler gave him any relief. Which is when I took it upon me to cut some thick growth of hair on his sides - he sleeps mostly on his sides. I got a little adventurous and one thing led to another and before I know I had made a mess. Damage control just got worse. Being a Friday, The Seniol had to go into work and didn't have the time to take him to the saloon. A day had to pass this way and I was ashamed to take him to the park that evening. I mustered the courage and eventually did take him only to be reprimanded by his huge fan followers of the neighborhood. My attempts of passing it as a footballer cut didn't work. Anyways, the barber hesitantly cropped it close to make it a bit the growth is back and it's time for another cut. Should I get adventurous or take him to a professional?

Of all the baby accessories, a nursing pillow is one thing that would have helped me the most. Seriously. I wish I had known something like this existed. I struggled hard every time I fed Lil' General at the hospital trying hard to latch him on right. I just couldn't get it right and it was so tough the first few days that I invariably sent someone to get me the nurse who would help me with the position - she would prop up an ordinary pillow, help me sit right etc and this whole exercise lasted 10 minutes every two hours or so until I got the hang of it after a few times. And, there was so much drama around the whole thing. The doctors at the hospital apparently discouraged the use of pillows so the nurse would close the door and help me with it all the time keeping an eye for an unforeseen visit by the Doc.

This is one useful thing that every MTB should posses to overcome latching problems. It comes in so many shapes so choosing one for your size shouldn't be difficult.

Related sites:

Top 7 Breastfeeding Pillows
Best Breastfeeding Support Pillows

Lil' General took his first step unaided when he was two days short of turning 15 months old. He has been walking around the furniture since he was nine months old. But the delayed walking milestone - the biggest of them all was a huge concern for everyone around - his grandparents' in particular.

I wasn't too worried as his Paediatrician rightly pointed out when he was about six months telling me to anticipate a slight delay in all his milestones - crawling, sitting, walking etc. attributing it to his weight. He doesn't look healthy so to say... but it's there somewhere. National Geographic ran an interesting series yesterday on kids and how they reach every milestone of theirs. One particular section dealt at length about the relationship between kids with heavier (larger whatever you call) heads and the delayed walking milestone. The reasoning sounds logical and simple. The heavier the head, the difficult it is for the kid to find his center of gravity and stand up unaided. It takes so much longer as his shoulders broaden and can support his weight down enabling him to take the first step. LG has a huge head something that everyone notices first in him. So it's CG doing the trick :)

Here's a good site I found on growth and development of kids.

It's raining stories on parenting in the newspaper - reams and reams are printed critiquing lifestyles of parents, analyzing their career choices that leave them time-starved for their kids, studies that expose the insensitive side as many put their children in boarding schools within cities. The debate is just endless and choices umpteen - stay-at-home mom, work-from-home dad, part-time, daycare facilities, grannies-as-nannies and a flexible (read: less demanding and no promotion) job. Yet nothing substantial comes out of these discussions. It's personal to every family. They know their circumstances, commitments, aspirations and temperaments best to make the right choice for themselves and their kids. Sure, they might be wrong at times.

What good is it to publish some meaningless study all the time on the front page of the dailies just to multiply the guilt factor by a thousand times. Already working parents live day in day out with the guilt of not being able to attend every PTA meeting, worried as hell when their kid is sick back home but still got to clock in the hours at work to meet the deadline or over burdening their parents with the responsibility of staying home to take care of their food while they get food on the table and keep the family wheels running. All statistics as this one sound good for research but how much of truth do they really convey?

NEW DELHI: Working parents have more reason to feel guilty about their kids.

A recent survey says that couples, if both partners are working, spend not more than 30 minutes a day with their children. Even more alarming is the finding that fathers may not even get that half an hour to interact with their kids.

Not surprisingly, the surveyed parents come down hard on themselves, with a staggering 60% of women wishing for a part-time job so that they can concentrate on their offspring along with their career.

Of course, gender bias still makes a strong statement in the survey. Most working dads felt that a homemaker mom was the ideal situation. But the idea was not as popular among working mothers.

The survey, carried out on a sample 3,000 working couples in various companies across cities by Assocham’s Social Development Foundation, found that couples spent a majority of the time in office.

"A working woman spends nearly 10 hours in office, over 2.5 hours travelling, 6-7 hours sleeping and three hours doing household chores. This leaves her with barely 30 minutes in a day for her kids," says Venugopal N Dhoot, chairman, Assocham.

With little supervision from parents, children are turning to other options, says Dhoot. "TV, computer games, DVD and junk food are popular with kids, instead of outdoor activities," he says.

"Parents who work long or irregular hours are not available for children after school, especially to help with the homework, not able to attend school functions or sports days and not even able to do things together on weekends," the survey points out.

3000 families is not even a handful to conduct a research on to come out with a report to pass a blanket statement that working parents do not have even 30 mins for their kids. If these are urban families then they are also more than likely to have maids and a cook to help them with the household chores. So take some out of the three hours.

There is a disturbing thing that I've been observing of late - lesser involvement of fathers in the upbringing of their child. It is a common practice for most gentlemen in IT to come late from work and let their wives know they were busy. Having worked in this field if not too long atleast long enough to know how busy their days could possibly have been. Seriously. Ok there are days when you would be lucky to take a minute to breathe. But all days? Some folks spend on an average 2 hours every day to reply at length creatively to every forward they receive or spend 2 hours playing TT to de-stress while the wife back home shuttles between the doctor and home tending to the child and getting the chores done. For some weird reason if the wife stays home, she doesn't have the privilege of hiring a cook, why? Is she a glorified maid now that she stays home or is that your idea of cost cutting?

There is yet another breed of parents who are so busy chasing the next thing in life that they don't have the time their kids require. So much so that they are putting them in boarding schools next door and claiming that their kids are actually happy. Happiness is so goddamn relative. Obviously they would be happy being in the company of some other human beings than staying alone at home. The whole thing i beyond my comprehension. What are you really working for - personal satisfaction, good life for yourself/kids- if you don't have the time for your own selves or your kids?
These are the very folks that keep the self-help industry in motion - when they turn 50 they will rush to find meaning in their lives and when they have the time for their kids but the kids are too busy to stop and take notice.

On a closing note, it is time India Inc. stops harping about work-life balance all the time and wasting reaps of paper and start doing something about it. Just a bunch of companies with a conducive environment for working mothers does not make the entire industry friendly for this section of the workforce. And you know what, you give them some, they will give it back to you more than what's due - that's the commitment you'll get.

If there's one thing I regret immensely to this day, then it is not breastfeeding LG exclusively for the first six months. I started on supplement food (Nan formula two times a day) when he was 9 weeks old. A number of reasons attributed to supplementing then - his colic state, bleeding while feeding so much so that I could no longer latch him on without screaming in pain and his incessant demand to be fed like more than 10 hours a day. LG's weight gain was above normal and his Paed reassured me once every 3 days that I need not worry about lack of milk being the reason for his crying. But that was the only way he would keep quiet. Nothing else worked. I remember distinctly the weekend of Feb. 9th last year when I was totally exhausted from the running nose, fever and head ache. And LG's colickyness (is that word?) was at its peak and he just wouldn't sleep until 3:00 a.m. Doctor had advised me not to handle him much and stay away until I recovered from my fever which meant mom kept rocking him through the night. I felt so bad for her for he just wouldn't keep quiet even for a second if she sat down. And it just got worse as the evening progressed. Running out of option, she would hand him over to be fed. I just couldn't take it no more after 5 days passed this way ....and that's how the supplement began with the advice of his Paed. Even then once I healed I consciously tried to get down his formula intake and up mother's feed.

So this is my advice.

  1. See a lactation consultant. I'm not sure if you have lactation consultants in India. I'm positive the metros should. Consult one at the earliest even if you are confident about all aspects of feeding your baby. Expert advice never hurts. There wasn't one in Trichy and they offered little help in teaching the right position to feed a baby. Believe me that matters a lot and if I had known in the beginning, it wouldn't have gotten so worse. Latching techniques if learnt right can make it easier for the baby and the mother.

  2. Colic child: Get to know the symptoms. It is said there is as such no cause for colickyness. However, there are things you can do to help a colic baby. Consult your Paed and try not to calm him by feeding all the time even if he is not hungry.

  3. Do not give into the lure of formula. Formula is like substance addiction according to me. It is easy and fast. Once you get used to it, it takes high mental resolve to get out of it. And even if you do, it is unlikely the baby would. It takes less effort on the baby's part to get more milk, so why do all the hard work of sucking. Natural right? These days formula come with DHA - a key component of mother's milk. But nothing man-made can replace what is natural. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to continue feeding and educate yourself much before the baby is born. You won't have the luxury of time to learn after the baby is born.

This is one topic I could just go on and on and still never get over the guilt. Here's the article on how breastfed children have higher IQs. It's not so much about the IQ for me as it is about the immunity and general health of breastfed babies.

Children who are breastfed after birth are smarter than those who aren’t.
According to the world’s largest study on lactation and intelligence, that followed 17,046 children for six and a half years from birth, children whose mothers exclusively breastfed them during the first year of life had consistently higher IQ and an improved cognitive (thinking, learning and memory) development.
Scientists from McGill University and the Montreal Children’s Hospital conducted a randomized trial involving patients from 31 maternity hospitals in Belarus. At age six and a half the children in the breastfeeding group scored an average of 7.5 points higher on tests measuring verbal intelligence, 2.9 points higher on tests measuring non-verbal intelligence and 5.9 points higher on tests measuring overall intelligence.
Michael S Kramer, lead author and professor of pediatrics at the university, said: “Our study provides the strongest evidence to date that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding makes kids smarter.” Kramer was, however, unable to pinpoint what caused this association. He said: “It remains unclear whether the observed cognitive benefits of breastfeeding are due to some constituent of breast milk or are related to the physical and social interactions inherent in breastfeeding.”
Reacting to the study, Dr Arun Gupta, national coordinator of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, told TOI: “This study shows that if Indians can increase exclusive breast feeding rates from 25% at present to 100% in the near future, it will greatly benefit the country’s intellectual capital. Unfortunately, breast feeding rates have hardly improved in India since 1992.”
Dr J P Dadhisch, pediatrician and former secretary of the National Neonatology Forum, added: “India recommends breastfeeding within one hour and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months for every child. However, just a quarter of the children born every year are fed breast milk exclusively till they are six months old.
“Two reasons could link breastfeeding and IQ. Mother’s breast milk contains fatty acids like DHA and AA that play a vital role in brain development. Even thou-gh neurological cells exist in kids, its these fatty acids that help nerve cells to send signals.” The study has been published in the May edition of the ‘Archives of General Psychiatry’.
Breast milk contains fatty acids like DHA and AA that play a vital role in brain development. Breastfed children scored seven points higher on IQ tests than those who were put on supplementary diet within a year of birth
Other benefits of breastfeeding
During breastfeeding, nutrients and antibodies pass to the baby and the maternal bond also strengthens. Research shows a variety of benefits of breastfeeding an infant. These are:
Reduces risk of diabetes, diarrohea, asthma, upper respiratory tract infections, extreme obesity, urinary tract infections
Fortifies the immunity system of the baby
women giving birth annually in India don't follow optimal breastfeeding practices
women begin
within one
hour of birth
infants are fed only breast milk for the first 6 months

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Master of Imitation

I could proudly hand over a Master's in Imitation degree to LG. It all started with answering the phone back in January. At Trichy while drinking milk, the neighbor's phone rang. Yes they have their tone so loud that anyone in the apartment can hear it and sometimes even passers by down on the road. He threw his bottle, jumped up to the phone picked the receiver and duly handed it over to my mom for answering. When she tried to reason that it wasn't ours ringing, it was futile and he calmed down only after she faked talking. This habit of his continues to this day..of course now he pesters me if it's our phone ringing and I ought to answer t come what may even the telemarketing calls I'd love to avoid. After all these months he is still unable to say "hello", he picks up the receiver and says "ou, ou". And he imitates The Seniol by holding the mobile and walking while talking. So now The Seniol and I answer calls with "ou" or "oua". It's fun :)

There are days when I'm really coughing or sneezing. Taking it as a cue to amuse him, he imitates by fake coughing with that mischievous grin to the point that he sometimes starts choking.

Operating the TV remote is something that comes easily. Only that he thinks just pointing the remote in the direction of TV will change channels. How I wish that were possible! As a result of imitating our actions, he has now learnt to switch on the Aqua Guard and the Microwave.

When it's bath time, he rubs his hand over his body to show what I'm going to do next - oil massage that he quite enjoys.

Every day is a new day with him as he surprises me with something he has learnt.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Flying with infants to get expensive

Reads the news item:

Even a one-day old baby will have to pay ticket charges if the infant is travelling in a plane. Infants under the age of two years have to pay 10 per cent of the applicable fare, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has said. Children between two and 12 years will have to pay 75 per cent of the fare on international routes and 50 per cent on domestic routes.

How many of you buy a separate seat for your children under 2 years? I once read on someone's blog stating she has been buying a separate seat for her son always even when he was only a few months old. I don't know if there's a regulation preventing parents from buying one for their newborns and toddlers. I always assumed it was more to do with safety of the child than parents worrying about spending on their baby's ticket. Which sounds fare enough because they can't yet handle themselves. No doubt, it's a pain holding a very much awake, curious and active toddler in your seat when all he wants to do is crawl around or jump over to the next seat. Airlines on the other hand are worried about parents' not buying tickets for their older children. On a trip from Delhi to Pune when the airport was teeming with people with no standing space, the airline staff insisted on seeing Lil' General to confirm he was 10 months old. I was standing in the Security Check line which was over a Km while The Seniol got our boarding passes. The Seniol promised to have LG crawling around the next time to assure the lady of his age!