29 June 2013

Babies' Page, I

As I'm now a new Grandma, it's time to bone up on what to do when I'm chief sitter.

The first test was when little Ania (not her real name) was born, trying to remember what we did over 30 years ago - and realising that so much has changed. 

When our first-born arrived, babies were put to sleep on their fronts, then when our second one appeared, babies were laid on their sides.  
Now they must be put on their backs - and the baby must stay in the parents' room for the first six months.  I found one night of the snuffling of a tiny baby was quite enough and she was relegated to her own room (and no baby monitors in those days!).  This did make feeding her in the night much easier as it was away from my husband, so didn't disturb him.  

We used terry nappies with disposable liners. It was not a lot of work as we threw away the liners, together with any 'deposits', then soaked the nappies in a covered pail of salt water until they were washed.  Very few people had automatic washing machines, so half a day at a time was spent by the twin tub: washing, rinsing, spinning, then hanging them out in on the line to dry.  This was not time away from baby as whilst the machine was doing its bit we could play together and then when I was carrying out an operation we incorporated that into the play too!

And the lovely fresh-air smell when the nappies were drying outside in the breeze was wonderful, although it wasn't so great on rainy days when nappies were draped throughout the house.  

I even had a friend who had no washing machine.  Everything was washed in the big Belfast sink, then run through the wringer, before drying.  Yet another friend did all her washing in the bath, including sheets, then hand rinsed before hanging on the line.

The reason for using terry nappies was because disposables were expensive and not very leak-proof in those days.  So they weren't even worth considering.  Now that disposable nappies are more reliable, the new mum is able to enjoy the convenience of them (if you excuse the pun).

As to price, I'm not too sure as apparently setting up with terry nappies is very expensive.  Perhaps they cost more because few people use them, whereas years ago towelling ones were very cheap.  And the nappies were very useful afterwards for many other chores, such cleaning the car.

When babies travelled around in the 70s and 80s they were put in their carry cots, which were then strapped to the car seat belts.  In case of an emergency stop, the baby would have had no chance and probably have flown out of the window!  So, when travelling, it was safer to sit in the back seat of the car and hold the baby on one's lap, which is illegal these days. 

Then, when babies could sit up they were put into their car seats to travel. Nothing swish like these days and the seats couldn't be removed from the car.  So if the baby was asleep when we arrived home, we either left her in the car for a few minutes - or woke her up (one not-happy toddler usually resulted!).

Car seats are so much better now, being able to clip her in and then, at our destination, merely unclip the car seat and carry her around - marvellous!  Although I understand that babies shouldn't be in car seats for more than about 40 minutes at a time - must look into this.

Taking babies and small children on public transport was much more difficult - several steps to climb to get on the bus; pushchairs and prams were only allowed on if they were folded (try carrying baby, pushchair, bag of nappies etc, handbag and perhaps some shopping!) and there was nowhere to store the pushchair or pram once on the bus.  It's no wonder young mums didn't tend to go anywhere!

Whereas now there's only one (low) step to get onto the bus (and lowered pavements) and there are spaces to leave the baby in the pushchair next to a seat for Mum, or other carer.

There were few if any facilities for feeding and changing babies in public.  Women (and it was always women) had to change their baby's nappies on their knees whilst sitting on a public loo, or put the baby on the (probably disgusting!) floor.  Another alternative was to actually change the baby in the pram - and prams in those days were capacious enough for manage that.

Feeding babies when out was often done whilst sitting on a public loo seat (yuk!), or very discretely in the corner of a cafe or park bench.  But that could be hazardous as people were likely to complain.  
Ewan the Dream Sheet
There are so many useful (and unnecessary) gadgets around now which help make being a new parent so much easier.   One is 'Ewan' the Sheep: when pressed, each of his legs emits a comforting sound to sooth the baby - heart beat, vacuum cleaner/hairdrier, white noise or music.  'Ewan' has come into play several times already and baby is even now less than four weeks old. Another sound which halts baby in her tracks when she's crying is the hairdrier.  It's set to low/cool and directed away from her and it works well, except that it's difficult to hold the hairdrier and change baby at the same time. 

Every family of small children had a playpen: somewhere where the child was safe and had his/her own territory, with toys, where grown-ups couldn't fall over them. 

If the phone or doorbell rang it was possible to plonk the baby or toddler into their playpen and know that they were all right.   It meant that Mum (and it was Mum then) could cook the dinner without worrying about burning baby - or tripping over him.  And when gardening the toddler could enjoy being outside without the parents worrying about how much earth and poisonous plants they were ingesting.

Used sensibly, they were marvellous.  Yet these days parents don't seem to have pay pens although someone did tell me that many parents use their travel cots for the same purpose.  That sounds like a good idea.

Every morning baby was wrapped up warmly, put into her pram, with the cat net over, and put outside for a nap.  It was felt that the fresh air was good for her.  But I haven't heard that parents do that these days - why?  Safety?  Time?

A quick aside:  When our older daughter was about 11 months old we had a Japanese student staying with us for a few weeks.  He was a trainee Paediatric Neurosurgeon needing to learn English to help him with reading the many text books needed for his studies.  One day he put older daughter on his knee, felt her all over, especially her head, and pronounced that she was 'very good'.  Reassuring - and free advice!

to be continued ....

Robert de Niro and Ben Stiller in Meet the ParentsWhilst we're on the subject of parenting, this site looks like a good place for new parents, a humorous (but sensible) take on which irritating advice to avoid!: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23056843.  I hope I don't come under 'The Undermining In-Law'!!

Apparently bring up a baby in the 1970s and 1980s was easier as there was less pressure, see: http://www.babyexpert.com/family/life/1970and146s-and-80and146s-were-the-and145golden-agesand146-to-bring-up-baby/327.html

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