Speedy reading

Spam – Not Always Bad for You!

Spam isn’t always bad for you. Who knew?

No, not that horrible canned stuff (which is apparently haute cuisine in Hawaii, by the way). I am talking about spam of the email variety. Recently, I received two spam messages. That in itself is not unusual; however, these stood out because they were from the email accounts of old friends who (or is that whom, I always mix that up) I had not been in touch with for many years. Six years and three computers ago, I think… Anyway, I previously tried to find them on Facebook, but to no avail.

I don’t even recall what the spammers were hawking in this case, but I did make a note of the email addresses and sent brief messages back. Both friends responded and, thanks to junk mail’s younger and more malevolent sibling, we are back in touch. I am pretty sure my email address book remains unscathed to boot! It’s nice to know that something constructive can occasionally come out of one of our modern annoyances.


Baby Formula Blues

So, our little pookaboo is sustained on a combination of breast milk and formula. We have primarily used Enfamil’s A+ product with iron and Omegas 3 and 6 in spite of the fact that it is more costly than store brands. In part, this is because it has higher amounts of said Omegas and it is easier to measure out. Some of the store brands tend to clump and stick.

When we can’t get our hands on the Enfamil Value Pack, which is the norm, we typically buy the 730 gram carton. The retail price is normally $28.99 (or $0.397 per gram), but we usually get it on sale for $24.99 (or $0.34 per gram).

Enfamil has now introduced a plastic tub with 663 grams at $28.97 (or $0.437 per gram). Two refills with a total of 992 grams are available at a cost of $39.97 (or $0.429 per gram). The packaging states that it is “easier for moms” (I guess dads don’t feed their kids?) but, in effect, Enfamil is now offering less product at a higher cost.

The one improvement is that the tub and refill system should reduce the overall amount of waste – assuming that the refills are consistently available and that parents remember to hang on to the tub. At the end of the day, however, an already pricey product is now even pricier. One would assume that Mead Johnson, the maker of Enfamil, is saving on packaging costs, but they chose not to pass any of these savings along. This makes me want to shop the competition…

As a side note, Enfamil currently has launched an online $10,000 Tub and Refill contest, but I can’t even look at it because it is not optimized for mobile devices. Sigh…

Hey, I’m not such a freak after all!

So, I signed up for this e-newsletter on Baby Center (US spelling) when my wife was pregnant.  It would email me every week, tell me that my kid was the size of a particular fruit or vegetable, and describe whatever the fetus was currently working on developmentally.  

Incidentally, it’s because of websites like this that all of us guys in the prenatal class were able to pinpoint to the month and day precisely how far along our wives were in their pregnancies.

Anyway, back to me not being a freak…  Baby Center continues to send me emails outlining my little girl’s growth and development.  The latest one is entitled “Wondering what’s behind some of your baby’s strange behavior?”, with the subtitle “See why babies bite, bang their heads, grind their teeth, go on strike & want only you”.

My daughter isn’t exhibiting any of these behaviors – yet – but I was interested to read the article on head banging.  You see, I am a reformed head banger.

I banged my head on my crib so hard that it would move clear across the room.  I would also bang my head on the living room wall and on the piano bench.  My mom asked our family doctor about it, but he just responded that he had a kid that did that too.

It’s not totally surprising, but head banging and rocking are apparently normal, self-comforting behaviours.  One in five babies bang their heads, with boys being more likely than girls to do so.  Girls seem to have far more sense than boys about these kinds of things…

The good news is that I have outgrown banging my head on hard objects.  On occasion when I am REALLY, REALLY concentrating, my co-workers have caught me rocking back and forth in my chair, though.  It’s very comforting.  You should try it.

Hmmm, I wonder what quirky behaviours my daughter has up her sleeve…

Parental leave

In the latest Healthy Families e-newsletter from the BC Council for the Families, an article on parental leave caught my eye. The writer cited two studies that suggest that extended parental leave does not positively affect child development. The question, then, is why is parental leave so important?

The writer goes on to state that the second study, carried out by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) showed that lengthier parental leave is associated with lower incidences of maternal depression. Maternal depression clearly has a negative effect on family functioning and well being; therefore, the writer concludes, extended parental leave contributes to healthier families.

While this resonates with me, it also has me thinking about “new normal” families and how fathers’ roles are shifting over time. My wife and I are blessed with the opportunity to both be at home with our newborn daughter, at least for the first six months. While this has meant sacrificing some income, the benefits for me as a new dad far outweigh the costs:

– Learning curve: a valued friend pointed out that my wife and I would be on the same learning curve with our newborn. She stayed home with her first child, while her partner had to return to work right away. Consequently, her childcare skills quickly outstripped those of her partner, which was problematic and frustrating for both of them.

– Co-parenting: related to the learning curve, having both of us at home means that we can truly co-parent. We can both take ownership of our transition to parenthood, and can also spell each other off when one of us badly needs a break!

That’s not to say that our roles are completely interchangeable, breastfeeding being one example. Being at home, however, does allow me to truly understand how much work it is for my wife to nurse our daughter. It isn’t as easy as the television sitcoms might have one believe, but at least I can be here to provide as much support as possible.

– Bonding: I don’t know what it’s like for dads that have to go right back to work, but I expect that I will have created an enduring bond with my daughter before I return to my cubicle warren. My father didn’t have that luxury. He generally worked away during the summers and my mother told me that, as a baby, I had to get to know him all over again when he returned home for my first autumn.

I am sure that there are a number of other benefits of parental leave that I haven’t even thought of. I am also very conscious of the fact it is a privilege for me as a new dad to be able to stay home for a while. For me, this highlights the importance of policies that support women (given that the work of childcare is still disproportionately performed by women) as well as policies that support the family unit as a whole (e.g., so dads can continue to take on more responsibility for childrearing).

Things I didn’t know about babies…

So, I’ve heard the one about baby’s not coming with a manual. For the most part, I dismissed this – how hard can it be? Keep the baby warm, dry and fed, and we should be good to go. It turns out that there were a few other that would have been helpful to know…

Their hands may be cold (or, no, your child is not freezing) – our daughter always seemed to have cold hands when she first came home, and I was constantly worried that the poor thing was freezing. It turns out that newborns just have poorer circulation in their extremities. No need tobthrow on extra layers (which could potentially overheat the baby).

Their little bodies feel like furnaces (or, no, your child is not burning up) – paradoxically, while my little girl’s hands were cold, it felt like her body was throwing heat. A baby’s temperature is somewhere between 34.7 and 37.2 degrees Celcius using the auxiliary method (i.e., armpit). Even though she felt hot to me, baby’s temperature was always within the proper range.

They might sneeze at first (or, no, your child did not pick up a cold during labour) – I was surprised at how much our newborn daughter sneezed! At first, I worried that this might also be a sign that she was sick, but the nurse assured us that our baby girl was simply clearing the amniotic fluid from her sinuses.

They breathe faster than we do (or, no, your child is not hyperventilating) – it seemed that our baby girl was breathing so quickly. Was she sick, was she too hot? Not to worry, babies breathe much faster than adults (40 times per minute or so). The other surprise was that our baby’s breathing would slow when she was sleeping, and would sometimes be irregular – all normal. We eventually gave up on hovering over the bassinet to ensure that baby was okay.

They are more resilient than I thought (but continue to handle with care) – I had never handled such a new baby. At first, I coddled her like a delicate china teacup, and I obsessed over ensuring that her fingers weren’t caught when we were dressing her. Within a few days, I had the football hold down, and was handling her much more confidently.

My daughter continues to teach me every day. Now that she is around three months old, more and more of her personality is coming out. I am sure there will be a number of other surprises along the way, and hopefully I will capture a few of them here.

Keeskee is, well, even a bit more keeskee than planned

So, once again, I have been neglecting my little experimental blog. This time, I have a somewhat better excuse. Back in September, we found out that my wife was pregnant (yay!). We then got caught up in “get ready for baby” mode. Newsflash – you can never be ready for baby, and none of it looks like it does on television!

We welcomed our daughter in May (she was in her stroller with us at Darts Garden from my last post) and are just starting to come out of the fog that is having a newborn. The exciting thing is that we managed to make it work so that both of us are off for at least the first six months. We’re getting to know our daughter together, and we can help each other through the “what do we do now?” moments.

As I write this, it is five in the morning, and my little girl is curled up on my chest. As you may imagine, there’s a good chance Keeskee will continue to be attended to in a sporadic manner. When I do get to it, chances are some of the subject matter will change, too.

I will continue to hit on things to do and places to go, but with a more decidedly baby friendly focus (I miss you, outdoor rock concerts!). More than likely, I will also touch on our adventures as a new family, as well as brilliant gadgets, hacks, services, etc., that make parenting so much easier than when my ancestors carried their babies around in moss lined bags.

Oh, I will continue to seek out good, hot cups of coffee (but only when my wife is holding the baby). I will also continue to love the CBC, and am already working on indoctrinating my daughter in Radio One’s programming…