Friday, October 29, 2010

Is Prevention Better than Cure?

I hate injections. Not to the point where I'll avoid them, but I do get myself into a bit of a state if I know I need one. It's especially bad now that I have a child who needs them on a fairly regular basis for the first few years of his life. Despite my reservations I've made the decision to go and get a flu vaccination next week. Mainly because I'm spending a lot of time in schools and playgroups, surrounded by children, these days, and also because the years when I haven't had the shot, I've been so sick that doctor's visits were a weekly occurrence. I'm in two minds about whether or not to give J the flu vax as well, and I'm not sure I can explain why.

The issue of vaccines for babies and children generates heated debate and impassioned argument, and has a tendency to divide opinions. Despite advances in modern medicine and the number of serious illnesses that have all but been eradicated because of vaccines, there are still people out there who don't believe in vaccinating themselves or their children. We recently watched a documentary about it which basically made the naysayers look like complete idiots. One mother argued that since polio is virtually non-existent, there was no point continuing to vaccinate against it. She seemed oblivious to the fact that the disease is rare because of vaccines. There was also footage of an anti-vaccine protest where protesters were driven by the "links" between the MMR vaccine and autism. One scientist published one article several years ago (which has since been retracted) discussing this alleged link which lead to a world wide backlash against vaccines. His theories have since been disproven many times over but a lingering doubt remains.

Type the words "vaccine and autism" into Google and you'll be hit with an overwhelming number of sites dedicated to the argument over whether or not there is in fact a link between the two. It's quite scary, so if you're a worrier like me, don't go there. I did however, read some interesting statistics while doing my "research." In the early 1900's whooping cough (pertussis) killed 5 in every 1000 babies before their 5th birthday in the U.S. When a vaccine was introduced the number of deaths declined by 70%. In the US, due to the backlash against vaccines that has occurred in recent years, the number of cases is again rising, to the point where they declared an epidemic in California last year. The World Health Organisation estimates that world wide 300,000 children die every year from this preventable disease, making it one of the leading causes of death in the world. Prior to modern vaccination, the child mortality rates for now preventable diseases was horrific (and in some countries it still is!). The number of alleged vaccine related autism cases pales into insignificance in comparison. I admit there is nothing insignificant about having your child diagnosed with autism, but the risks just don't add up when you consider the alternative: a world where the general population is no longer inoculated against these terrible diseases.

I'm aware that I'm at risk of sounding like I'm sitting on the fence with what I'm about to say, but I'm not. I'm very clearly pro-vaccine but I do at times understand the point of view of those on the other side of the fence. Despite the fact that I consider myself to be quite rational, and knowing that vaccination is so necessary, I still feel slightly uncomfortable with the idea. It was tough watching my brand new baby being injected with a vaccine to prevent a disease he may never (god willing) be exposed to. A few days after he was born he was given a BCG shot to protect him against tuberculosis, an injection that creates a wound that stays around for months, and leaves a nasty scar that will be a permanent reminder that our son started life in a country still grappling with this terrible disease. Having my son vaccinated wasn't an issue for me, until he arrived. While I was pregnant I read about a young baby that had died after contracting whooping cough. She was too young to be vaccinated against it but happened to live in an area (northern rivers, NSW) where many parents had chosen not to vaccinate their children. She contracted it from a toddler who was visiting. If nothing else that story should be enough to convince anyone with doubts about vaccines that they really do save lives, so why isn't it that black and white?

Personally I think it has more to do with the vaccines themselves than with the diseases they prevent. As with any medical treatment, I don't believe that we should accept vaccines without knowing what they do and what they contain. The arguments against vaccines that contain things like mercury (Thimerosal) as a preservative, are very valid, and we do have a right to know what's in them and why. Again, in the documentary we watched, there was a lot of blah blah about pharmaceutical companies and the money they make out of vaccines and it all being some sort of scheme to rort the public out of millions of dollars. After working in the pharmacy industry for several years I don't think this is a completely ludicrous suggestion, but it isn't enough of a reason to forego vaccines altogether. The schedule of vaccines is also used as a reason for not vaccinating. There have been times when I have wondered if it's really necessary to vaccinate against several diseases all at once.  It seems like an awful lot for a little body to cope with, and it's no wonder some children have reactions after their jabs. At the same time, I think I'd rather watch my son suffer the mild discomfort of an injection rather than the lifelong effects of hepatitis, or struggling for breath with whooping cough.

So I guess after all that my point is this: vaccines are necessary, not just for the health of your own children but for the health of others, but we should also make it a point to inform ourselves about them and to keep the medical profession on their toes. I think the fact that we do argue about whether or not to vaccinate our children is a good thing; it proves that vaccines have done their job. If smallpox was still prevalent in society today there's no way we'd be arguing about vaccines; we'd do whatever we needed to do to protect our children.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What's in a Name?

It's not uncommon here, in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia, for people to choose a more "western" sounding name for themselves. Some try and find a name or word that closely resembles their actual name, like Chun might choose John, or Mei Lin might be Merilyn. Others often choose names that aren't all that common these days, like Doris, Albert or Kelvin. Then there are a few people who obviously put a lot of thought into the meaning behind the name they choose, and instead use actual words from the English language. In the recent past I have met, or heard of the following names: Rainbeau, Twinkle, Sugar, Suspense, Ice, Dolphin, Pop, Zenith, and Sunshine. Celebrities have been using unusual names for years (Apple, anyone?) but I have to admit that I do have a giggle when Breeze asks me to fasten my seatbelt, or when Diamond takes my coffee order. I've been thinking about it a lot lately and even though some of these names may seem strange to us, I think we put just as much thought into the names we choose for our children.

I had my son's name chosen before I was even pregnant. I actually based it on a character from one of our all-time favourite TV shows. I know it sounds a bit corny but West Wing fans will understand. The character was a really good guy and I liked the way the name sounded. Our son's middle name was always going to be my maiden name and we loved the way the two names went together. As a teacher I found choosing names quite difficult. There was always some child who I thought of when a name was mentioned. There were quite a few names I was opposed to purely because I'd met one or two naughty children with those names. I also realised that I almost always had preconceived notions about a child based on their name. A Cosmo was bound to have a very different upbringing to a Christopher, and I anticipated different behaviours from both. Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised but not always. J's name was one of the few that I had no association with, I only knew nice kids with that particular name. I also wanted a name that would suit both a child and an adult, one that couldn't be used to tease him later on, and one that wasn't so common that there would be 5 others with the same name in his class at school.

Even though I had my heart set on this particular name, my husband and I still spent hours poring over baby name books, just in case our baby came out and he didn't look like a J, or if he was, in fact, a she. We always said names out loud with the middle name and surname; we called it the Prime Minister/President test. If it didn't sound like the name of a future leader, it was dismissed. I had a really hard time finding an appropriate girl's name that I loved as much as I loved the name I chose for J, so we were lucky in the end that we had a boy, because a daughter may have remained nameless for a few weeks while we debated over the endless number of ways to spell Katelyn/Caitlin.

We've known people who have the name of their child picked out months, even years, in advance like us. While I was pregnant I had a lot of people ask what names I had picked out but I was always very reluctant to share with some friends. Not because I was worried about them "stealing" the name but because most people are quite honest when it comes to their opinions on names. I mentioned a few potential names to some and was met with responses like, "Oh, I really don't like that name," or "I once knew a girl called ... and she was a complete b@#%h." One friend accused me of being a bit precious about it, and didn't think it was that big a deal ("people have babies every day!") but I knew it would always bother me if I gave my child a certain name knowing that friends or family members hated it. I decided it was better to wait until it was too late for them to comment. After the baby was born they would have to lie and say they loved it, right?

Whether you're a Prince or a Peter, Mary or Mermaid, the name you have reflects who you are, and most of the time, a lot of thought has gone into it. In a way I like the idea of choosing a name that reflects a quality or even an object that you admire. Who wouldn't love a Hope or a Faith? I have no plans to name any of my future children after precious gems or confectionary, but I'm keeping an open mind.

P.S. 16/4/10 - I recently learned, thanks to a young man named Promise, that some names that might seem unusual to us, are simply the English translation of a Chinese name. The meaning and thought behind it are the same, and that makes me like these wonderful names all the more.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's Not Me, It's You

I'm ashamed to admit it but I cheated this week, and it was good. I've been seeing a physiotherapist, G, for lower back pain for a couple of months now, but after a visit last week that did nothing for me, I decided it may be time for a change. This left me wondering, how can one affect this change without feeling the guilt of betrayal? I called to make one last appointment with G, to give it one more shot, but the day I was hoping to book turned out to be G's day off. Serendipity had smiled upon me! I had no choice but to make an appointment with someone else. I was able to make the break I had been contemplating, safe in the knowledge that I wasn't going to get caught. I went along yesterday, relieved to know that G wouldn't see me waiting to be treated by someone else. Any doubts about my indiscretion were quickly brushed aside as J massaged and stretched my aching back with expert hands. I came out of there feeling better than I had in months.

I'm no expert when it comes to physio, but I know enough to know that it's a physically demanding profession that can often require some pretty serious manipulation and massage. I'm not sure if it's a cultural thing but G is Chinese and was very conservative when it came to remedial massage in more sensitive areas. In the half a dozen times that I saw G, she would only ever touch me between the waistband of my shorts and my shoulder blades, which was a problem given that the pain was in my pelvis and hamstrings. Now I have to work out how I can schedule all of my appointments with J on days when G isn't in. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I can't bring myself to explain that it just wasn't working out.

I know for a fact that it's not just me; I have spoken to friends who have had similar reservations about trying someone new. I witnessed a genuinely awkward moment at the doctor's last week. While I was sitting in the waiting room, one of the GPs came out and started chatting to the woman waiting next to me. It was obvious they knew each other well, and the woman seemed almost embarrassed when she admitted that she was there to see another GP. She hurriedly made an excuse, "I'm just getting a flu shot, it's nothing, I didn't want to bother you with it, you're so busy."  She was obviously feeling the same "cheater's remorse" that I'm trying to avoid. It's not just healthcare professionals either; cheating on your hairdresser can cause all sorts of grief and guilt as well. It's especially difficult when your new "expert" is in the same practice or salon as the old one. I used to see a hairdresser here in HK who was recommended by a friend (another potential minefield!), but after several cuts and no "wow" factor I decided I couldn't keep spending the money (he was really expensive!). One day I decided to try one of the lower-ranked stylists at the same salon. The new guy was cheaper and better, and I still go there, but only on the days I know the first guy isn't in.

Why is it that we can't just admit to our service providers that we're no longer happy with their services? They are professionals after all, surely they can take the criticism. Perhaps they might even take note and make an effort to improve what they're providing. Do we sneak around, afraid of stepping on toes and hurting feelings out of our own sense of guilt? Or is it that we're hoping that if things don't work out with the new person, we can just slip right back in where we left off without any awkwardness? I've decided that whether it's my health or my hair, I'm not going to settle for anything less than the best, but only on Mondays.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Topic Close to My Heart

Today I’m going to talk about boobs, among other things. My male readers will be disappointed to know that this post won’t be as titillating as you’re hoping, but reading it might encourage you to help out someone you know. 

I know many mothers, and women in general, who don’t take the time to look after themselves. They get so busy juggling work and family, and running around trying to do everything for everyone, that they forget about their own needs. Sometimes it’s as simple as not making time to have coffee with a friend or getting a hair cut, but other times we ignore minor health issues because we don’t “have time” to go to the doctor. Admittedly I can’t put myself in that basket yet. I’ve been a complete hypochondriac since my son was born, mostly out of fear that something terrible will happen to me and I won’t get to see him grow up. I think it stems from a need to worry about something, and worrying about myself is far less terrifying than worrying about my boys.

One of the things that drove me to the doctor’s office in a state of panic this year was a lump in one of my breasts. I was still breastfeeding at the time, so I knew it was probably related to that, but in the back of my mind was a niggling doubt that it might be more serious. After driving myself crazy looking up my symptoms on that most professional of medical databases - Google (I know, REALLY bad idea!), I saw my GP and she referred me to a specialist. I had an ultrasound and they actually found two more lumps, which did nothing to allay my fears, and the doctor drained them on the spot. He assured me it was “probably nothing” and sent me home to wait for the results. It was the longest three days of my life! In the end, the doctor was right, they turned out to be benign cysts, but I need to have another ultrasound in 12 months time, just in case.

Breasts seem to be one of those body parts that most women are never happy with. They’re either too small, or too big, lopsided or droopy. We envy others who have what we want, and half the time they’d prefer what we have! I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with my boobs. I’ve been flat-chested all my life; the boys at school teased me and said I resembled an ironing board! It didn’t help that my Mum laughed out loud when I told her I thought I needed to start wearing a bra… As an adult I’ve learned a few tricks to avoid looking like a 12 year old and I’ve accepted that bikinis are not for me. When I was pregnant “the girls” looked impressive but failed to live up to expectations when it came to breastfeeding. Then the thought that something might be wrong with them made me realise just how attached to them I am (figuratively speaking).

This experience frightened the living daylights out of me and has made me much more vigilant in checking for lumps on a regular basis. I don’t have a family history of breast cancer and I’m in a low-risk category, but I don’t want to take any chances. And neither should you. There are a number of great events in support of the Breast Cancer Foundation this month (including the sale at Bralicious, which I went to a few days ago) and I’m urging all of you, whether you’re a teeny-tiny A cup or a magnificently buxom DD, to check for lumps, have mammograms, do whatever you need to do to keep yourselves fit and healthy. And husbands, if you’re still reading, don’t let your wives use the excuse of not having enough time. Take care ladies and have a great weekend x

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's a Dog's Life

Those of you who know us well have probably been wondering when I was going to mention the other member of our family, the P dog. Until J arrived she was our "baby" and the newest member of the family turned her little world upside down. I had no intention of adopting a dog but was doing volunteer work at a shelter a few years ago when I came across a scrappy, beaten up little thing that looked like a cross between a huski and a badger. I walked into her cage, she rolled over and put her head in my lap and my heart was hers. I signed the adoption papers five minutes later and then had to work out how to tell my husband we were now dog owners.

We were a couple with a lot of love to give, and she was a broken animal in need of TLC; it was a match made in heaven. We overcompensated for her rough start in life by spoiling her rotten, and there was no hesitation when it came to bringing her with us when we moved to HK. She has adjusted well to life here and is a completely different dog to the one I found that day at the shelter, even if she is still a little funny looking. We knew that having a baby in the house would be a big adjustment for her and we planned to make some changes before J arrived, to ease the transition for the dog. We were much stricter and she was no longer allowed to sleep on our bed or have the run of the house. The first day she responded by hiding under the bed for hours but after a couple of days she seemed resigned to the fact that a new regime was here, it was as if she knew she'd had it good and had been expecting the change all along. Friends with dogs warned me that I wouldn't have much time for the dog once the baby arrived, and told me that I would probably lose my patience pretty quickly. I found that almost impossible to imagine and I swore that I would still love P just as much and would never neglect her.

Then we brought J home and we were so busy all our training and promises to P went out the window. She took advantage of our sleep deprived state and started sneaking up onto the bed in the middle of the night, she jumped up on visitors and barked at anyone within a 2km radius of the house. We tried to give her a little bit of attention every day but there were days when I had battled for hours to get J to sleep, and the thought of having to attend to the needs of another small creature was more than I could bear. She has woken him up on a few occasions and I have often contemplated turning her into a nice pashmina. She was again evicted from the bedroom recently, much to my husband's disgust. He doesn't believe it's fair to make "our daughter," as he refers to her, sleep in the study. Since we don't let J sleep in our bed I think it's a no-brainer.

When it comes to the baby/dog dynamic, we've had to work hard to placate the dog with treats and rewards whenever we show J a lot of attention. It's gotten to the point now where she wakes us up or makes a fuss when she hears him wake up. She still doesn't seem overly keen on him but he adores her. It's his first case of unrequited love. P was quite put out when J started crawling and could chase after her, and she had no idea what to think when he started growling at her! He thinks it's hilarious when she barks and he encourages her by shouting out something resembling "woof." Now that she realises he's not going to hurt her, and that standing under his highchair at dinnertime is highly beneficial, she's starting to come around.

Watching them together is quite sweet most of the time but I have to admit I do find myself losing my temper with the dog more often. She was sick last week and it was like having two children, it was that much work. On the weekend I had to look after them both by myself, which was fine, until the dog rolled in something disgusting while we were out walking and I had to bath her while trying to convince J to go down for a nap. For the rest of the morning I locked the dog between the two gates on the stairs as silent punishment, it was like a doggy version of purgatory.

I'm really looking forward to the day when J is old enough to walk and play with the dog and I won't have to worry about either of them, until then it's a delicate balance between keeping the baby safe, the dog happy and me sane.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hidden Gems and New Discoveries

You've probably gathered by now that I'm not very adventurous. For that reason I can't take any credit for the "new discoveries" of the title. Everything I'm going to mention in this post has been recommended to me by someone else. Having gotten that out of the way, I want to tell you about some fantastic new resources I've learned about recently. Apologies to my non-HK based readers, there's not much in this post for you I'm afraid!

For locals of Lantau island there is a brand new library and municipal building in Tung Chung. The library has a great selection of books in English and a huge children's library on the ground floor. One bonus of signing up for library membership in HK is that your card is valid in all libraries in the city, including those cute little mobile libraries. I'm not generally a fan of libraries. If I love a book I prefer to keep it, so I can read it again and again. I don't like the idea that someone has already turned the pages and I hate giving back great books. But J loves storytime and being able to try different books each week gives us some much-needed variety, and saves loads of money. I highly recommend you join a local library today!

For more info see

Adjoining the new library in Tung Chung is a new municipal building and sports centre. On the 2nd floor, hidden away is a soft-play area. It's a huge room with padded walls and floors, and it's virtually impossible for little ones to hurt themselves running around in there. A great option for an outing. The centre also has rooms for hire and I'm told there are pilates classes now running.  

Another great resource I've just heard about is a website called Little Steps (thanks H). It is fairly new and has lots of information for parents on things to do in HK, places to go, and where to shop. It's high on my list of favourites and is top of my bookmarked list.

This week in the sidebar I've briefly mentioned Mum-trepreneurs: Mum's who run their own businesses at the same time as raising kids and, sometimes, working in full-time jobs as well. These are all women who have found a niche here in HK and are using their business skills or creativity to do something about it. Here are some of my favourites:

Suzanne Goodwin Photography - high quality (and affordable) maternity and family photos, taken by someone who has a great eye and a friendly manner that puts you at ease. It's clear that she loves what she's doing and that shows through in the finished product.

Bralicious - When the ladies in the lingerie department at Marks and Spencer put me in an A-cup at 6 months pregnant a friend referred me to Nicki at Bralicious. She correctly fitted me (as a D-cup!) and sold me a great selection of maternity bras. She also does regular lingerie, pajamas and shapewear. This week they're having a sale and 5% of every sale will go to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

And then there are the two businesses I've listed in the sidebar. Hip Little Bubba is run by Nicole and offers a lovely range of imported clothes, bags and nursery accessories for stylish mums and bubs. Attic Lifestyle is Simone's business on the side, and she sells gorgeous homewares from around the world. They share a space in Aberdeen and both have websites that you can see by clicking on their images. 

Well, I may not be the first to have discovered these resources but hopefully some of you out there are reading about them for the first time here, and can benefit from my sharing them. Have a great week everyone x

Thursday, October 7, 2010

For Everything there is a Season

This week marked the start of the relatively short period of cooler weather here. There are really only two seasons here; the wet (hot) and dry (cold). The temperature starts to rise around April and stays hot until October. There's generally very little warning that it's about to get cooler, and after such a long period of warmth it comes as a bit of a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. People who haven't been here before are generally surprised to hear that we do have a winter here. We were surprised ourselves when our first winter here turned out to be the coldest in 50 years, with massive snowstorms north of the border taking the temperature below 10 degrees (50F) for most of January.

One of the things I miss about living in Australia is the very definite change in the seasons. Autumn was always my favourite time of year and I love being in places that do all four seasons in style. I was fortunate enough to be in New York this time two years ago, and the "fall" was simply spectacular. Walking through Central Park on a crisp morning surrounded by trees in gorgeous shades of red, orange and yellow, was my idea of heaven. We don't have anything like that in Hong Kong, everything just dies and turns brown. It can be quite depressing. However, I do have to admit that the start of summer is pretty amazing here. After just a few days of rain the jungle that the city was built around comes to life and the islands, especially Lantau, are suddenly green again.

Regardless of the lack of a proper autumn, the weather is still cooler at the moment (by cooler I mean 27 (80F) deg instead of 34 (93F). I was in town on Monday and there were actually people walking around with jackets and scarves on, which I thought was a bit extreme but we are talking about a city where people wear jeans year-round. It's one of those things about this city that still baffles me. In fact there are a lot of things that still baffle me, and there are a number of adjustments to life here that I have yet to make after three years of living here.  These little things remind me on a daily basis that I'm a very long way from home.

Despite the fact that it rains for a fair part of the year here, I still haven't gotten into the habit of carrying an umbrella with me all the time. Last week I went into Central with a couple of girlfriends for a night out. As we were all meeting up, very early in the evening, it started to pour, and not one of us had an umbrella. It had looked like it was going to rain during the day so it shouldn't have come as a surprise to me, but it didn't even occur to me to pack a brolly. I guess I was just so excited to be wearing make-up and heels! The same goes for carrying a cardigan or scarf. The air-conditioning in shops and on public transport is set to about 15 degrees (59F) all year round and it can be freezing. Most of the locals are prepared and have something to throw over their shoulders with them all the time, but I always forget. When I'm sitting on the ferry shivering away it's a mistake I always regret making. At this time of year when the temperature is dropping slowly it's always so much colder inside than you expect it to be. I'm sure it's a deliberate move on the part of the retailers to encourage shoppers to buy the ridiculously oversized, and completely unnecessary in this climate, cardigans, sweaters and coats that are on sale from July - the hottest month of the year.

Another aspect of daily life here that I haven't gotten used to is the hours people keep. Every day of the week shops open at 10 or 11am. We are often out and about earlier than that and I always plan to pop in to a few places and get things done nice and early, but it's simply not possible. Yesterday morning we went in to Central to take J to the osteopath and I planned to do some shopping as well. It wasn't until we were wandering around a deserted IFC mall that I remembered nothing would be open for at least another hour. A few weeks ago we caught up with friends for breakfast at one of our favourite cafes in Central, and learned that they don't actually start serving breakfast until 11am. A place with that kind of policy wouldn't stay open a week in Sydney! The upside to it all is that places stay open late and if you happen to be out and about at 10pm and need a new cardigan there'll be plenty of options for you.

There are many other cultural differences and annoyances (like the bank being closed on a Wednesday!?!) but this blog was never meant to be a forum for my gripes and grievances so I'll save them for another day. For now I'm going to enjoy the fact that the cooler weather makes it much more pleasant to leave the house, and get ready to take my little man to playgroup. And I'll be sure to pack a sweater for both of us and an umbrella, just in case.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Slave to the Routine?

When I was at uni I used to babysit for a couple, friends of mine, on the odd occasion that they decided to trust someone else with the care of their only child, a 2 year old boy. They started their family fairly late in life and it was a battle to bring their little one into the world, so understandably they were very protective of him. They didn't leave the house until he was well and truly asleep and phoned every hour to check in. During the day everything they did revolved around his routine. Eating and sleeping were all carefully timed and were always done at home. The child was very sensitive to any changes in the routine but I was never sure what came first; did his parents develop the routine because he was a sensitive child, or was the routine so carefully planned, and his parents so highly strung, that the child became dependent on every day being exactly the same?

I was barely out of my teens at the time so I had no concept of what it takes to develop and maintain a routine for a small child. All I saw were 2 previously easy-going people letting a child determine absolutely everything they did and how they did it. I simply could not understand it. When I fell pregnant I spoke to friends with kids about what they did each day. I was surprised to find so many different opinions and methods just in my small social circle. It seemed to be a very personal decision, with most people swearing by whatever it was that they did. I decided a routine wasn't for me. I didn't know what the alternatives were but I thought we'd figure it out.

I've probably mentioned this several times before but when J arrived we battled with breastfeeding. He was naturally a 3-hourly feeder but it would take an hour and a half to get through each feed. Sometimes he fell asleep afterwards, other times, he lay awake until the next feed, sometimes he'd just cry for an hour, it was different each time and utterly exhausting. He never napped well, and would be overtired by 5pm, sending our evenings into complete disarray. It didn't take long to work out that he needed decent naps during the day to get a good sleep at night - oh, the irony! After 8 weeks of this I decided that maybe a routine wasn't such a bad idea and I started doing some research. We tried EASY (eat, activity, sleep, you time), and it wasn't. Then we tried some of the Baby Whisperer's suggestions, which were very similar, but wholly dependent on having a compliant child, which ours wasn't. I wanted something that was based on what our child needed, and I realised that the only way to get that was to work it out myself.

We fed him by the clock and if he fell asleep during a feed, we didn't wake him. We bathed him at the same time each day and made sure he didn't nap after 5pm.  It was hard work some days and we had some bad habits in place at times but suddenly at around 12 weeks J started sleeping through. We managed to muck that up when we went to Australia for a month, but we saw the light at the end of the tunnel and are always working towards that, even now. Over the last 6 months we kept working on it and perfecting the routine, and every time we thought we had it all figured out, everything changed again. For a few weeks there, J and I would get up together around 6, he'd have a feed and we'd curl up together in the big bed and nap for an hour or so in the morning. It didn't last long and I still miss those days! He kept growing and changing and as he did he needed less and less sleep. We went to 4 hourly feeds, then solids and 3 meals a day, and now finally we're down to 2 naps a day.

J is pretty flexible about when and where he sleeps during the day. If we're going out and he's tired, he'll nap in the car. As long as he has one long sleep in his cot every day he's happy. He does like to eat at the same time every day, which is fair enough, so do I. He's also pretty happy to eat on-the-go so that's flexible too. The only part of the day that I don't waiver on, ever, is bedtime. We have our nighttime routine so perfectly down pat, that I don't dare do anything to upset the balance. He has dinner, a bath, some dessert, a bottle, story-time and is in bed by 7.30pm at the latest. There was a time when I couldn't get him to go to bed for the night before 9pm so I am hanging on to this routine for dear life. I cherish my son and his company, but I love the time of day when he is in bed and I can sit quietly with my husband and not have to worry about anyone else. Our helper knows the routine and I know if I leave J with her, the evening will go down exactly as it would if I were here. But I have recently been faced with the dilemma of dinner invitations that include J as well. I find myself cringing at the thought of taking him out with us and disrupting the flow of our perfectly orchestrated bedtime ritual.

I haven't yet decided if one night is going to make a difference and throw off the whole week, or whether J will sleep regardless of where we are and what we're doing at his designated bedtime. It has been such a challenge to get to this point and it has always seemed like a fragile set up. I hear stories of children who don't go to sleep until 9, 10, even 11 o'clock at night and I'm terrified that that's just around the corner. I'm starting to realise that despite my earlier reservations about routines, we really need one; not for J's sake but mine.