Category Archives: Five a Day

Please be seated

“Car seat” was on the list of things to investigate during our last visit to the Baby Show back in February. I had a vague idea that Group 0 got too small at around 9 months old and you were then supposed to move to a forward-facing seat, so although Pip was only 7 months it seemed like a good plan to see what was out there. As it happened, we were encouraged by two separate experts (at Maxi-Cosi and Britax) to use our current car seat (which as it turns out is actually Group 0+, so lasts a bit longer – till around 15 months) as long as we possibly could. The reasons for this seemed to be twofold:

  1. Rear-facing infant car seats are safer in general;
  2. New safety regulations are currently being phased in, so we should wait and buy one of the new, safer seats which are rear-facing until age 4.

As you do, we then forgot about the car seat thing for a while. We don’t really drive much and I have in fact only ever driven twice since having Pip; both of these were 10-minute hops to the garage down the road and one of them didn’t even involve him at all as my parents were coincidentally staying so babysat him. This hasn’t been a conscious decision (as in, “OMG now I am a mother I am incapable of getting behind a wheel”). It is more a combination of several things, such as our daily activities involving 90% walking and 10% public transport, and the fact that Mr Cath prefers to drive so unless we are going on a particularly long road trip, which we haven’t done since becoming parents, he does it all.

baby on board

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Red red wine, stay close to me

Ah the heady days before baby, when I could have a few large glasses of wine after work, share a bottle with a meal or finish the night with a wee dram or two; a sudden withdrawal from alcohol was always going to raise suspicions of pregnancy in those around me.

Luckily while pregnant, I just went off the stuff. From occasionally actually craving a glass of wine, I went to not being bothered by it – I would have a sip of Fred’s tipple just so I knew what I was missing, but that was enough. I was paranoid that Elphie would be born with fetal alcohol syndrome as a consequence of the extra drinks I had at Charles and Laura’s wedding following a negative pregnancy test that I mistakenly thought had put me in the clear. Fetal alcohol syndrome has a number of nasty growth and mental retardation symptoms alongside facial abnormalities like the below courtesy of an article by Warren, Hewitt & Thomas. There is speculation that Jade Goody and George W Bush shared these facial characteristics but I’ll leave you to play Dr Google on that one.

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Sickness in Surrey

There’s nothing like a spontaneous holiday – hopping in the car and driving somewhere, looking up hotels en route and hoping they are still serving dinner when you get there (or you can find the local Chinese takeaway before it closes if they are not – but I digress).

Some say that such spontaneity is impossible once you have a baby as they require so much clobber. Well “Pah!” I say to that. If your sense of adventure is still intact then anything is possible with a bit of ingenuity and a Tesco Extra.

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To B(CG) or not to B(CG)

Due to the long waiting list in our borough (and admittedly, my not booking the appointment straight away) Pip’s BCG vaccination is next month. I’d assumed this one would be like all his other routine vaccinations – a bit of distress but a quick recovery, putting our trust in the NHS and ultimately not really thinking about it that much. I am not opposed to vaccinations in the slightest; in fact I believe we are incredibly lucky to live in a country that offers them, and it had never occurred to me to think about turning one down until now. Surely the benefit outweighs any perceived risk? The whole anti-vax argument exhausts me, and I’m not squeamish either about the necessary evil of essentially injecting the virus into yourself (and thanks Elly for sending me this sensible article debunking such scary-sounding vaccine ingredients such as latex rubber and formaldehyde).

But last week, one of my NCT friends announced that at the eleventh hour she had cancelled her baby’s BCG appointment. This completely threw me! I therefore made the resolution to do some digging in an attempt to make a slightly more informed decision than usual.

What is the BCG vaccination?

Embarrassingly, until now I didn’t know that the jab was to combat tuberculosis. Tuberculosis, or TB, is a serious lung condition which can also lead to meningitis. A brief background: Messieurs Calmette and Guerin developed the vaccine around a hundred years ago in Lille, and the first BCG was administered in 1921. The letters BCG stand for “Bacillus Calmette–Guerin” and the syringe consists of a live bovine tuberculosis bacillus.


So far, so delightful. Interestingly, the jab is not generally given to people over the age of 16 – and never above 35 – as it doesn’t seem to be effective in adults. The BCG is not just another routine baby immunisation, however: it seems to be a completely different syringe of fish to the others on the schedule and not just because it is administered into the baby’s arm rather than the thigh.

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The milky way

Now we have embarked on this weaning lark, I am suddenly becoming a bit more cautious about the foods I buy and am pondering the benefits of organic food all of a sudden and checking ingredient lists and contents for cyanide, sugar and other undesirables I am suddenly paranoid are being slipped into our foods.

Amongst the many conflicting guidelines provided on weaning (how can something that has been done for centuries be so controversial?!), the introduction of cow’s milk is a point of contention. As far as I can work out and supported by the Baby-led Weaning book, from six months cow’s milk can be introduced as a food but allergic reactions should be watched for (and if there are known allergies in the family don’t introduce it) and it shouldn’t be given as a drink until the baby is a year old as it could dull the appetite for breastmilk or formula. But what type of cow’s milk?

I generally drink semi-skimmed milk, believing it to be a bit healthier than full fat and tasting better than both full fat or skimmed. But Elphie should really have full fat milk, so what do I do?

Well interestingly according to this article that you should all read by one of my favourite bloggers, the Analytical Armadillo, we’ve got it all wrong – the healthiest option is the full fat version and that actually high fat foods are not what causes us to be fat, carbohydrates are the culprits.

So my decision not to buy a pot of clotted cream to have with our scones for tea on Sunday was foolhardy – should have just had the clotted cream and done without the scones! And all my years of skinny lattes were completely pointless.

I guess it’s the blue top from now on! Now to find some organically fed wagyu cows to provide me with that milk…

Waving not drowning

After various failed attempts to turn Elphie into a water baby in Sardinia (I do not believe that the temperature of the unheated pool or equally unheated Mediterranean sea were quite up to her standards), she is now enrolled in swim school in an attempt to recreate some idyllic watery scene much like the cover of Nevermind without the weird money hook (or the penis for that matter).
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Yellow cap

Like many babies, Pip’s hair has been falling out and new “baby” hair is sprouting up to replace it. This is mostly happening at the front of his head, leading to a charming mullet effect as it is still comparatively long and luxurious at the back.

I initially thought his hair was changing from brown to blonde. I now realise, as the new hair is coming in thick and fast and unmistakeably brunette, the yellowness I’d seen is actually a spot of cradle cap!

Cradle cap, or seborrhoeic dermatitis to its friends, is scaly patches mostly found on a baby’s head, although it can also occur on other parts of the body. It’s fortunately completely harmless and according to the NHS it “does not usually itch or cause discomfort to the baby”. It is also a really common condition and most babies seem to get at least a small area of cradle cap at some point, usually during the first couple of months.

The suspected cause of cradle cap is the typically overactive sebaceous glands on a baby’s head, and Babycentre also blames our old friends the postnatal hormones!


I’d heard of cradle cap before, but what I wasn’t sure about was whether one should do something about it or just leave it.

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Massage attack

We have done our first Relax & Stretch class and I’m pleased to report that it was a positive experience. The teacher was lovely (I’d been worried about having to feed Pip during the class, but she encouraged us to behave as if at home and just watch anything we couldn’t participate in) and the exercises weren’t too strenuous or weird. It even involved some singing of old favourites such as Hickory Dickory Dock and The Wheels on the Bus!

I can definitely see the benefits of the Yoga/Pilates part of the class – the bit for the Mums – which focuses on core strength and abdominal muscles. However, Pip looked a bit bemused by the baby massage and while he loved the singing and cuddling bits, I’m not so sure about the squeezing and wiggling. Is there really any point in baby massage? It’s not like he has experienced any stress (unless being born counts!)

Reading around this, it sounds like there are actually loads of benefits for the baby. Babycentre lists just a few:

“Massage may help your baby to:

  • strengthen her attachment to you
  • stay relaxed and not get upset
  • cry less
  • sleep better

One study showed that massage may reduce the number of illnesses your baby has, cutting down on the need for trips to see the doctor or nurse. We need more studies to be done to confirm this, though. There’s also a theory that touch and skin-to-skin contact help to stimulate your baby’s brain development.”

I didn’t realise that although it’s a physical activity, baby massage can support the brain as well!


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Fitness first

Now I’ve passed my six week check and have finally been officially discharged after a lingering infection (best not to ask), I’m keen to start getting active again. It turns out I gained a lot more weight than I thought during pregnancy – I shouldn’t have listened to all those people who told me I looked “well” as in reality they meant “lardy”! No idea of the exact figure, but considering Pip’s weight and my huge placenta I expect it was around three stone. Ah well – je ne regrette rien – I enjoyed every cupcake!

Now for the reality check though of potentially not being able to fit into any of my old clothes. I haven’t attempted jeans yet (although pleasingly, a maternity pair I bought late on in pregnancy that were too tight at the time now fit perfectly, with the added bonus of a nice tummy-flattening belly band). Along with the scales, they are staying in the loft for now as I figure what I don’t know can’t hurt me! Before trying to squeeze into anything or for that matter buying much of anything new, I want to clock up some proper exercise. My doctor told me to stick to gentle activities, then went on to say I should listen to my body. My body is telling me to strap on running shoes and sprint, so I feel a happy medium is needed. With gym workouts ruled out for now, I’m going to have to get creative, especially as with a baby in tow things become somewhat more complicated!

If all else fails, I can just gaze lovingly at my feet: one small but significant positive is that after suffering from enormous cankles in late pregnancy, that whole area has never looked more svelte! In the meantime… here are my plans for how to apply myself this autumn:


I have signed up for an NCT-run class called “Relax and Stretch with Baby“. As far as I can tell, this will involve learning baby massage while incorporating Pilates for the Mums. My doctor wholeheartedly approves of Pilates so even though I’ve never tried it before it seems like a good place to start. We’ll see how it goes… there will be music and singing involved which could go either way (fun and uplifting or rather embarrassing)! Hopefully it will be better than my pregnancy yoga experience at least.


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