Just over a year ago Jenny and I welcomed into this world little Oliver Fey. The last year has flown by and the little fella is now starting to walk, talk his own language, and mimic all sorts of animal noises from hadedahs to pigs. He has brought so much happiness and laughter to our lives that it’s quite difficult imagining what life would be like if he hadn’t arrived.
We have been slightly unconventional parents, and have followed our instincts more than others advice. Jenny is the most relaxed mother I could have wished for. From the moment she got over the initial shock of an unplanned pregnancy, it was one big laugh. It’s was a phone call consisting of tears for 5 minutes followed by half an hour of laughing together over the phone. The happiest day of my life was either that day, or the day that I first saw Jenny after we found out about her pregnancy.
We have been extremely lucky with Oliver. He has probably been about as easy as as a baby could be. That doesn’t mean that it’s not challenging at times, but it’s definitely a lot easier and more fun than I thought it would be. You can’t really say how much of it is luck, probably a lot, but I will share my 5 cents worth of what worked for us. This post is also a bit of a memory of Ollie’s first 14 months.
To the mothers out there, Respect!! You guys are amazing. You will only understand that when you’ve had a child. From a mans point of view, please relax during pregnancy. Don’t assume the worst, because as a husband there’s nothing worse than having a stressed out wife. I don’t know what impact stress can have on a baby on the womb, but if it has any impact then I’m sure it’s not good. All Olli has ever experienced in his life, including in the womb, is laughter and happiness. We made the most of it and had great fun during the pregnancy. Yes ladies I know it must be uncomfortable but you need to be light hearted about it.Men, you guys must look after your partners and give them lots of foot rubs and back rubs. Be as supportive as possible, because the stuff they do, especially early on, they deserve a medal.
As a father it’s is your job to give your child their “environmental vaccination”. Mothers don’t actively encourage babies to put dirty things into their mouths. Mothers don’t strip a baby down and put them in a mud puddle. Mothers don’t feed their babies food that has fallen on a dirty floor or in the mud. Fathers, that is your job. Make sure they are exposed to as many germs as possible! Obviously use your common sense here, we don’t want our children getting some nasty disease like cholera. As for the other vaccinations, the more important ones. There is a pretty good reason that all these horrible diseases hardly exist any more.
Babies love the outdoors! You realise this when you take a baby into the forest for the first time. It’s like they have trees in their DNA. When Olli is being difficult or is crying, 99% of the time if you take him outside, he immediately stops crying. It’s like a miracle! Fathers this is your job. When mother says he’s got something wrong, just try take your baby for a walk. If you have trees or a pretty garden close by, then that is an almost guaranteed cure for a crying baby. Show them some flowers, that’s usually a great distraction. Mothers often think that there’s something wrong with the baby, meanwhile it’s just cabin fever. Cabin fever is definitely the most common ailment affecting Oliver.
Another tip is to blow gently on their face. That’s a good way to stop them crying, although it’s short term solution once you run out of breath. Also please remember the miracle position, for it really is a miracle position. It works works really well for the first few months until they start getting too heavy and then the pouch becomes a very handy piece of equipment. You can drive bakkies or motorbikes with a baby in the pouch. Olli practically spent his first 10 months in the pouch before moving on to my shoulders. The pouch is a great way for them to see the world around and for goodness sakes please let the baby you face forward so they an see what’s going on!
Taking a baby outdoors is a whole new experience. I take Olli out on to the farm with me daily, and he absolutely loves spending time with me in the cabbages or in the pastures. The fun part now is teaching him the names of different things, and teaching him the noises they make. It’s incredibly rewarding watching him learning something new every day, and it definitely makes one look at the world through different eyes. When you are splashing around in a river with your little one, you realise how much they are almost an extension of yourself. Seeing them happy and having fun must be the most gratifying thing as a parent.
Babies often like a bit of independence. My way of looking after Olli is often seen by mommy as neglect. What I like to do is take him outside and let him either just sit under a bush or crawl around the garden. Obviously I keep a close eye on him, but essentially Olli thinks he’s alone and doing his own thing. Often if you put him down and leave him, he just sits and observes, like when we are in the cabbages. He can be quite content sitting in one spot, destroying his cabbage, and observing everything going on around him.
Bath time is my job. I try and be there for every single bath time. It’s a lot of fun splashing around and making a mess in the bathroom. We try and time it for when he is starting to get niggly and tired. It’s usually his last bit of fun for the day before he hopefully passes out for the night. Apparently he wakes up a once or twice every night, but either I don’t hear it or it pretend not to hear it. The saying “sleep like a baby”, should read “sleep like a husband”.
Feeding time is a time of great entertainment for us. Jenny and I have both been on the Banting diet for several years. We are not particularly strict about it, but the general change in our diet has been a revelation for our family. For those who don’t know the Banting diet, it’s basically cutting out sugar and refined carbohydrates, without limiting and intakes of animal fats and protein. We bought the book written by Prof Tim Noaks called “Raising Super Heroes”, and Jenny got some great ideas about feeding babies. I won’t go into too many details but it is quite different to the way most people rear their babies. No sugary food, other than fruit, no refined carbohydrates such as porridge or easily digestible cereals, lots of vegetables and as much food high in fat and protein as he will eat. His typical breakfast is: pork sausage or boerewors, fruit such as kiwi fruit, peaches, or strawberries. His lunch is typically some meat, cheese, raw or cooked vegetables with some more fruit. His dinner is much the same as lunch. Basically whatever we eat he should eat. They call it baby led weaning and thats exactly what has happened. He was on mothers milk for 4 months. The we introduced mashed up solids along with formula. Then you introduce whole foods that initially he plays with but eventually he rejected mashed up food, and ate the whole food only. Only when weeks ago he decided that water tastes better than formula or fresh milk. He has now completely weaned himself and eats exactly what we eat. Olli is not exactly a large baby, in fact he’s below the average growth curve, but he’s happy and healthy. They don’t all have to play lock or flank one day. Scrumhalf is good enough.
So far Olli has yet to see a doctor. He has had slight sniffle twice and once he had a slight temperature. These episodes seem to coincide with times of extreme teething, but he has never been genuinely sick despite contact with numerous sick people and a flight to New Zealand and back.
I guess his diet plays quite an important role in his health, but then again maybe it’s just luck. I thought babies got sick all the time? Maybe our turn is still coming or maybe babies are not supposed to eat sugary and easily digestible starchy foods. It’s the easiest thing to feed a breakfast cereal or porridge with a bit of sugar in it. Babies love the stuff, but maybe with a little more effort we can get our babies to eat real food and be healthier for it.
Jenny and I both grew up on a farm. The freedom one has as a child growing up is priceless. I have no idea how children are entertained in the cities? Oh yes I forgot. Now days there is TV and computer games, neither of which we have. One day he may be slightly computer illiterate compared to his peers, a bit like daddy who failed basic computer literacy 3 times at university. I think I’ve turned out just fine for my lack of time spent on a computer as a kid and there’s certainly not going to be a shortage of computer technicians one day to fix what I need fixed.
One thing I reckon is that one day in this world there will be a premium for people with hands on practical skills. Look at how many kids there are out there who’s favourite activity is watching TV or playing computer games. That is their only real passion! This is believe I one of the biggest causes of unhappiness, a lack of a hobby or something they are passionate about. It’s no wonder that so many people spend their lives searching for the meaning of life, or searching for themselves, instead of living life to the full. Because it’s the only life we have.
I hope that any new parents or prospective parents get a few tips. It’s been a fabulous 14 months. Its just one new adventure after the next. To sum it up: Keep it simple, spend time outdoors, and feed them real food. That is the secret to a happy baby.