Shopping for Baby: White Elephants and Superstars

I confess, I find shopping a uniquely tedious and thankless task. You won’t find me fondly rubbing my swollen baby while slowly browsing for baby things in a shop, no! But we did put together an entire home before Isaac was born and all the necessary purchases for Isaac fell into place slowly after that (mostly through super chop jobs and online shopping). So now, at the end of seven months, here’s our verdict on what we could have done without, and what turned out to be superstar purchases.

White Elephant 1: Bedside Cot


We bought a very beautiful, very sturdy, very well-made, very expensive bedside cot for Isaac. In our pre-Isaac worldview, we imagined that I would be nursing him a lot, especially at night, and a bedside cot would be both safe (because it wasn’t quite co-sleeping) and convenient for us. No getting up from bed, I could simply rollover and nurse him, and we can both roll back to sleep after that. Only there were a few complications. First, our bed was a couple of inches too high and the cot couldn’t be made level with our bed. Second, I completely forgot that I had two breasts, which Isaac ought to be drink alternately from. In other words, I could only rollover to nurse him every other time (and that is only if the cot can be made level, and it can’t!) and I still had to get up to put him in the correct position to nurse him. And ta-dum! The clincher was that Isaac ended up hating his cot. After the third week, he simply refused to sleep in the cot and we had to bring him to our bed. We struggled valiantly again with putting him into the cot at about five weeks, but we gave up. Maybe we didn’t try hard enough. Maybe it wasn’t the cot but the hard mattress. Maybe it’s just because Isaac smells so darn good I can’t bear to boot him out of the bed. We never figured it out. Anyway, the cot is now a big, glorified playpen on occasion, and mostly sitting in Isaac’s room looking lonely. No more cots for the next one, except we’ve already bought this one and it is probably easier to reuse it grudgingly than to dispose of it. In another life, I’ll go with a cute little Moses basket for the first few months.

White Elephant 2: Bumbo Chair


I didn’t buy the official Bumbo Chair, but got a Korean version from Qoo10 (one of my favourite websites for random things you never knew existed). There is nothing actually wrong with the seat. It is soft, a nice shade of green, well-made and looks comfortable for Isaac. I even bought the add-on tray so it could be used for feeding. But it was only useful for the short period of time when Isaac could sit with support but not on his own. This turned out to be for a duration of less than a month. Once Isaac could sit well enough to be placed in a high chair, the “Bumbo” seat was relegated to yet another decorative element in his nursery because he vastly preferred having the vantage point in the high chair and sitting with us at the dining table. Also much easier to feed him in a high chair than on the floor. So in retrospect, I would have skipped this purchase and gone straight to getting a high chair.

White Elephant 3: Baby Bottles


The thing about shopping for babies — you never know quite what they are like. Early in the day, I was going to go full on nursing and avoid buying breast-pumps and bottles, especially when every antenatal class and breastfeeding website gave dreadful warnings about nipple confusion. No bottles, because babies will get confused and start to prefer the easy flow of the bottle instead of actively suckling. So even when Isaac had to be warded early on and I had to make last minute random purchases of pumps and bottles, we choose the Medela Calma teat, which is purported to mimic the nipple at having a slow flow and making your baby work for the milk. Only, of course, Isaac hated it from the start. Ning described the first time Isaac tried the Calma — he was a starving newborn, grasping eagerly at the teat, because, milk, finally! And after a few suckles, he realised that no milk was coming out, at which point he started to cry furiously. Ning even tried the teat himself and came running to me to say that there’s something wrong with it because milk didn’t come out! We bought five of the teats, which are now happily collecting dust. In fact, we have an entire collection of bottles and teats all collecting dust because at around 2.5 months, Isaac decided bottles are not for him and steadfastly refused to drink from them since despite our best efforts to try every possible brand out there. Maybe we could have fought him harder here too but we eventually gave up. We concluded that drinking from a bottle was not a life skill he needed and just not worth the trouble. He’s now latching happily most of the times when he’s not taking solids while our little herd of bottles and teats have their merry party in the drawer.

Superstar 1: Graco Pack’ n Play


This is like a gift that keeps on giving. We bought this initially because we were flush, indulgent parents who could afford to buy two beds for Isaac, why not right? His big cot was in our room and in those early days, I would be exhausted and dying for a nap in the afternoons. Isaac actually slept well enough at that point in time for me to take naps with him. But we also discovered that babies are noisy, so noisy. They make an incredible amount of very soft, but so strange noises, even while sleeping, that goes straight into your fuzzy postpartum brain like a cold prodding finger. So he had to be somewhere else in order for me to sleep well. Our solution was this Pack ‘n Play that can be packed into the size of a small golf bag for travel (hence the name), was one third the cost of the cot, and seemed like a good second bed which we can leave in the living room so my helper could watch him while I napped. It turned out far far better. There’s a snug little sleeper which Isaac ended up sleeping far better in than his cot. Possibly because it was soft and cozy while his cot was a hard barren place owing to the dire safety warnings to never let your baby sleep with anything remotely soft or cuddly or you know, comfortable. When he outgrew the sleeper, we removed it to create a playpen for Isaac. We place him there when we want to do our own stuff. And it’s a far safer playpen than his cot because there are no hard surfaces for him to bump his head on, and no grips and footholds to help him climb out. Dang, we won’t even need that Moses basket!

Superstar 2: Bathseat


I can’t find a picture of the exact one I bought, but it’s almost exactly the same as this, except green (I am determined to make green Isaac’s favourite colour). I bought mine for $17 on Qoo10 but it doesn’t seem to be available anymore and the cheapest alternative is $33, but trust me, it’s still absolutely worth it. Because, your back will thank you. For at least an entire year of their lives, babies will not be able to stand. Which means however you choose to bathe them (and they will need baths, sweaty little things in hot humid Singapore), you will need to support them somehow. Before we discovered The Bathseat, this meant either the person bathing Isaac having to bend over the tub, supporting him with one arm while bathing him with the other (is this giving you a backache already?), or making every bathtime into a two person affair so one holds the baby while the other bathes him. Um, clearly no mean feat. Then, enter The Bathseat! You can put your baby on it! So we needn’t a tub anymore! We just plonk him onto The Bathseat, and have two hands free to bath him. No bending over, no one-arm bicep training, no two men bath-time SWAT teams, just easy showering. Now that Isaac is able to sit, he just sits on The Bathseat instead of lying on it, no dirtying his cute little bum with bacteria from the shower floor. It’s one of those magical life-changing purchases we still congratulate ourselves about. And you don’t even need this particular execution of a bathseat — anything made to support the baby so that you don’t will do.

Superstar 3: Mothercare Rompers


Before Isaac was born, his entire wardrobe consisted of this pack of seven white rompers from Mothercare. White goes with everything, can be worn everywhere from bed to chi-chi restaurants, is gender-neutral (just in case, you know), and because Isaac scanned small, we thought it could last a good while. And a good while it lasted — we bought the smallest size (NB to 3 months), and at 7 months old, Isaac is still wearing them! In fact, it looks like he should be able to wear for a few months still. Ok, maybe I’m just a boring mother who is not very fashionable, but aren’t babies in white the absolute sweetest?

So that’s that for our white elephants and superstar purchases! Do take my white elephants with a pinch of salt, though. We may have a particularly obstinate child (I knew that smooth glowy pregnancy was too good to be true!); or maybe we are just one of those wimpy attached parents. And who knows, you might have yourself a cot-loving, bumbo-chair sitting, bottle-loving little ‘un. But trust me on The Bathseat. I leave you now with a particularly adorable (so thinks his mummy) video of Isaac doing his two recent favourite activities — standing and saying “vvvvvvvv” in his superstar white romper. At least that cot videos good =P

Isaac Travels: Packing!

By now, Ning and I are so used to travelling that we’ve perfected our packing — we are completely unfazed even if we find ourselves packing at 6 a.m. in the morning, a mere hour before the taxi picks us up to get to the airport in time for a 9.30 a.m. flight. We also travel light. For as long as I can remember, we’ve always managed with two cabin luggage sized trolleys (which we have to check in because of my toiletries) plus a backpack for Ning, and a tote for me.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we can get away with that anymore now that we are travelling with little Isaac. So for our upcoming trip to Tasmania, our packing list includes:

  • 1 x carrier. We decided to forgo bringing a stroller because we intend to do a lot of hiking in Tasmania and the trails are probably not suitable for strollers. Anyway, Isaac is still relatively light (7.5 kg with a full diaper and after a feed) so that makes him a manageable carry for now.
  • 60 x diapers. We’ll be off for 12 days, so that’s 5 diapers per day (which should give us some to spare because Isaac uses about 4 diapers a day currently). This is the bulkiest and heaviest item we have to pack. On the bright side, we will run these down over the course of our stay, and we can use the space for shopping on our return trip!
  • Many many many items of clothing. I don’t even want to begin to think about this. Ning and I usually make do with just a few changes of clothes while travelling, but that’s because we don’t drool constantly or spill foods on ourselves, unlike our little man. So, many rompers, bibs, PJs, blankets, small-square-cloths (probably our entire wardrobe worth of them), and a little sun hat for the Australian summer. The saving grace is that his clothes are tiny.
  • Feeding implements. I am mighty glad that I am still nursing him most of the time, so the key item here is a nursing cover. Other than that, we’ll probably pack two spoons, two sippy cups and his baby bowl for his solid feeds. We had the wild fantasy that he would be polishing off pieces of bread with gusto by the time we travel but alas, this is unlikely to happen so we will still need to manage with some pureed, mashed, semi-solids at some point. And baby detergent to clean. And also a few jars of baby food.
  • Bathing things. Um. Can I repeat once again here how glad I am that Isaac seems to have the early makings of a traveller, what with him being light, still nursing, and not using too many diapers? He can sit very well now so we are not bothering with bringing inflatable bathtubs or bulky bath-seats along. We will just get a non-slip mat which we can place in the bathtub/shower for Isaac to sit on (so he um, doesn’t slip. And also to prevent icky stuff from touching his delicate little body.) And his baby toothbrush, and his baby shampoo and shower foam, and his powder, and his lotion (Ning thinks this is completely unnecessary usually, but definitely a must I think for the dry climate in Australia) and his ruyi oil. Eep, how did this list get so long?
  • Toys. Because how else to distract him on the long flights and drives? I don’t suppose Isaac wants to watch Serial (Bad) Weddings with me onboard the flight.
  • Protective stuff. Sunscreen for the hot Australian sun, and insect repellant for the outdoors.

Um! Did I get it all? And dare I imagine that we can still fit all these into a little cabin trolley?

My sound is ‘V’!

photo 1 (1)photo 2 (1)

Little Isaac has been experimenting with lots of sounds in the past months and quite hilariously, there is always a sound-of-the-week. He first started with a screaming week where he squealed and screamed all the time, whether he was happy, angry or just grumbling. Then the week after, he went into a fake-cough phase where he fake-cough to get our attention. The week after that was growling (!!!). Last week, in the most hilarious phase yet, he decided he would go into spontaneous fits of wonder (I don’t know how else to describe it) — he would draw a deep breath and then exhale with a loud exclaim while stretching his limbs out and repeat this several times. This was mostly in reaction to my hair falling close to his face when I lean over him, or the various ceiling lights in the rooms, whatever is dangled over his phase, or sometimes just for no real reason at all.

Then yesterday, he vocalised a new consonant! He’s been into his various grumbly vowels for the longest time, with a lot of nasal “h-s”. A few weeks back, he came up with a “meh, meh, meh” sound especially when he complains — but I didn’t quite consider that a proper consonant vocalisation because he only used it to grumble. But yesterday, he did the voiced labiodental fricative /v/! (Haha spot the linguist in me =P) And I was utterly surprised because I didn’t think that babies would vocalise fricatives quite so early. Anyway, it was hilarious because he started saying “Vvvvvvvvv” after I pantomimed a series of his soft toys to him going, “I am monkey friend! My sound is biki boka!” “I am doggy friend! I go woof woof!” Then later when I sat him up to face his various “friends”, he started going “Vvvvvvvv” at them — too cute!

In any case, yesterday was one of those random big days for him. Apart from /v/ vocalisation, he also managed to sit up steadily with no hands for quite a while! We have been sitting him up here and there over the past few weeks, mostly because he gets restless when laying down for too long. And over the past two weeks he has been able to support himself with his hands. But yesterday, he actually managed to raise his hands and wave them in laughter without toppling over, and continue sitting. He could also pick things up, even pivot to look at things to his side (see picture) while staying balanced. Yay little Isaac!

And the last big thing for him, which I almost hesitate to share because I am half afraid of jinxing it — was that he actually managed to fall asleep by himself for the first time since his newborn days! I usually nurse him, then spend around half an hour patting and singing him to sleep (tummy down) during the evenings (longer on bad days). But yesterday he was unusually spirited and had recently perfected his tummy-to-back roll to boot. So these days when he decides that he is not ready to sleep, he’ll roll out of the tummy-time position. After he did this several times last time, I decided I was going to leave him be and told him sternly that I was going to shower and if he did not appreciate my patting then he shall just play by himself without me. After my shower, I was surprised that there was not a peep from him and when I peeked at him, he was quietly rubbing his blanket on his face. At that point, I decided that I would just leave him and see if he actually manages to sleep (though I was expecting to have to intervene and pat him at some time). After a while, he did give a deep sigh which I could hear from the next room, but to my surprise when I checked in on him, his face was turned to the side and he was still. So I hid for a while to observe him and he was really asleep! Double yay for Isaac! Although of course, I am only sharing this because I think last night was a fluke and I don’t think it would happen again.

But still — it’s amazing how Isaac is developing by leaps and bounds every day. These days are really rough in various ways (which I may write about at some point), but last time, it really struck me how these baby days are really such a short time in both our lives. And later late at night, I could smell the scent of lavender, baby powder and his little sweaty head next to me in bed and I realise that I would miss him so much, when I return to work again. So I have a newfound resolve to cherish these days, no matter how difficult, because the time would come when I miss them and nothing in the world would give these moments back to me.

We must love our sunflowers the best we can, while we can =)