Sun and Bugs

With the return of the warm weather parents have started asking me what to do about their babies regarding insect repellants and sunscreens.


Mosquitoes and midges agree that babies are delicious and will ignore the adults and exclusively hone in on the youngest human with the softest skin. Babies primarily need to be protected from contact with them by avoiding outside exposure in the evenings and sleeping with insect nets over their cots.

The spray-on repellents should not be used at all under 2 months of age and after that, it should not sprayed directly on to the baby’s skin. Use not more than 10% DEET (or picaridin) and spray it on your hands and transfer it from there to the baby’s clothes. Definitely don’t put it on their hands (they might put them in their mouth or rub their eyes) or near rashes or cuts. Also don’t use them in combination with sunscreens as this increases the absorption of DEET through the baby’s skin.

Regarding sun exposure, babies have very little melanin (the natural skin pigment) in their skin for the first few months and hence burn very easily. As UV radiation causes damage to the skin and the dose accumulates over a lifetime, minimise exposure in babies.

For a baby the best sunscreen is a physical barrier. There is no better sunscreen than a tent or light cotton clothes with long sleeves and leg coverings, and a big bonnet.

Also avoiding sunshine in the hottest part of the day when the UV radiation is

Do you have a good baby?

“Do you have a good baby?” Says the sweet-faced old lady to you in the shopping centre.

Just to be clear, this is code for “Does your baby sleep for long periods of time and not feed too often or at inconvenient times?”

How to answer? She means well, so perhaps “Yes, she is. She cries when she is hungry and sleeps when she is tired” is a bit abrupt.

Instead how about giving her a short enlightening lecture?

Here are the critical points:

  • Babies are just foetuses who are outside the womb. In comparison to other mammal babies, they are remarkably immature. Hence they need constant protection, care, food and love without reference to the time of day.
  • Trying to teach them to alter their behaviour in the first months is a waste of time. They do not have to ‘learn’ to sleep alone in a cot, or settle themselves. Babies can’t ‘manipulate’ their parents.
  • The other side of this same coin is they cannot be spoilt. There is no such thing as excessive caring behaviour from a parent. Caring for your baby to keep her contented will never create ‘a rod for your back’.
  • Babies regulate their appetite spontaneously by feeding on demand. In the breastfed this produces the correct volume of milk for the babies’ metabolism. It also helps them feel secure and loved, and prevents later eating disorders and obesity.
  • Generations past were brought up to believe that enforcing routines, rather than responding to their babies needs, produced quieter, better-disciplined children. This belief has been now

Mouth to Mouth

I was bewildered by all the Internet chatter about the picture of Victoria Beckham kissing her children on the mouth. The horror and the outrage!

That same day I was discussing feeding babies spoon foods, and a mother wondered what they did before blenders. Good question, because these two things are connected.

Transitional feeding seems to be necessary for humans from around six months of age. It is a time when breastfeeding doesn’t yield enough iron or protein to maintain optimal growth in babies.

In many animals the mother prepares soft foods by chewing it herself and then transferring it into the baby’s mouth. It’s called pre-mastication.

This mouth-to-mouth feeding occurs in many animals right up to primates. It was prevalent in the human in the past, and still is in some of the developing world (and occasionally Hollywood1).

It is also called ‘kiss-feeding’ and has been suggested that it is the origin of kissing people we love, though with the vast number of sensitive nerve ending on the lips I suspect we would have discovered it anyway…

But pre-mastication of food has advantages to little humans not just because of the access to a broader range of foods, but it also seems to boost their immunity. By contact with the different germs and proteins from their mother’s mouth, their immune system develops a wider variety of useful antibodies. This effect, and a decrease in the incidence of food allergies, has also been described in those babies whose mothers clean their dummies, not by formally sterilizing them,

A Conversation about Childcare.

II had an interesting conversation with a friend a few days ago.

He sighed “We are having such trouble getting our little girl into childcare – there are so few places available. We are feeling so stressed and guilty that she might not get the early education and sociability that she needs?”

Time for a reality check.

  • Humans are amongst the most social species on the planet. We have been honed by countless generations of ancestors who selected themselves to reproduce by their ability to socialise. It doesn’t need to be trained into us. It’s inherent.
  • In our first couple of years we need to learn security and confidence with our parents (especially mother) and loved ones. We learn love from the people around us who love and interact with us. Strangers don’t count.
  • This ‘emotional intelligence’ is the bedrock of our personality and underpins our ability to learn. It’s how we learn how to learn.
  • Cognitive functions like learning colours, numbers and how to label objects are of secondary importance.
  • Children do not play with each other or benefit from their company until three years old. Until then, they steal each other’s toys and walk on each other. Other kids are just objects.

So childcare is not a necessity and it’s certainly not advantageous, unless the home is bereft of stimulation and devoid of love.

If childcare is needed to allow the mother to work, it’s fine (but choose the best you can, with the best child/carer ratio). But let’s not pretend that it’s recommended to make a better

Travelling with a Toddler: It’s not all bad.

UUp at the crack of dawn to try and get the timing of the baby’s nap to coincide with the plane taking off. But she, like a pet dog, knows there is something big afoot. She would rather walk around than eat breakfast.

At Sydney Airport: First send in handsome son-in-law to check-in counter. We get a big smile from airline lady and get assigned seats with lots of extra empty seats around us. Cool! Then when we hit the queue for border control with the little one in the lead, a nice official tickles her chin and hurries us through, bypassing the crowds.

Having a toddler seems to be a major advantage so far…

We take off on time and settle in. Clearly no one in the American Academy of Pediatrics has ever flown with a toddler. ‘No screens until Two’ indeed! Hah! Peppa Pig keeps her nice and quiet.

Two hours in the air, a breastfeed and we get a 2-hour nap (she never naps for 2 hours!), her parents watch movies. This is so easy! (Note to self: download app of the white noise of Boeing 777 for the future).

Then she’s awake and wants to walk up and down the aisle, and up and down, and up and down. Then she reads a book about Sophie, watches videos of herself, and is found sucking on a small bottle of hand steriliser, alcohol-based. She seems very cheerful. Hmm.

Another feed, another several books and she is put in her carrier and at 7.29pm falls

By |February 16th, 2016|0 Comments

Toxins in Breastmilk


II’ve had a question about the article that appeared in the ‘The Australian’ recently about the ‘build-up of chemicals in breastmilk’.

It comes from a report from Grandjean et al in the Environmental Science & Technology Journal on August 20th. See this reference for the press-release. It also contains the reference for the original article.…/breastfeeding-may-expose-inf…/

Prof Philippe Grandjean is a world expert on the issue of industrial toxins in our environment. After a lifetime of work in the field in 2013 he published a book on the subject :“Only One Chance, How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development—and How to Protect the Brains of the Next Generation” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).,

His latest study, is about the passage of PFASs (chemicals used to waterproof clothes, in packaging and lubricants) through breastmilk. It is yet another wake-up call to the global community that we are poisoning our planet.

However many press reports have concluded that we should limit the duration of breastfeeding. That is another matter and not a recommendation of the Grandjean article. “There is no reason to discourage breastfeeding, but we are concerned that these pollutants are transferred to the next generation at a very vulnerable age. Unfortunately, the current U.S. legislation does not require any testing of chemical substances like PFASs for their transfer to babies and any related adverse effects,” said Grandjean in a press release from Harvard School of Public Health (above).
The study was not (as some comments have suggested)

Important Things About Your Baby’s Skin

NNow that the first few weeks of new grandfatherhood have passed, during which kissing my granddaughter was not advisable (see my previous blog “Six Guidelines for Grandparents”), after three months she became old enough to cope with germs from other than her parents. So now I can succumb to the yumminess of her chubby cheeks.

The thing is all babies are designed to be kissable, and huggable. It’s all part of the kindchenschema, a word that describes the face of a baby that we intrinsically find appealing at a very deep level. The big head, the enormous clear eyes, the button nose, small chin, cupid lips, chubby cheeks and soft skin all converge to make a pattern that specifically triggers in our brain feelings of love and the need to protect.

The softness and smoothness of the skin is an intrinsic part of it. Their skin is finer, with a thinner more fragile outer layer. That fineness provides the most sensitive organ of communication for your baby. They rely on and relish tactile sensation especially with the body of their mother. Right from the moment of birth, babies have been observed to calm when placed on their mother. Then, without help and if not interfered with, they will actually crawl up their mother’s body and find and attach to her breast. But as this process takes on average about an hour and a half, most mothers will instinctively help their baby to their breast to start them feeding.


More Guidelines for Grandparents


With my burgeoning experience as a grandparent and the response to the recent ‘Six Guidelines for Grandparents’ ( ) I’ve thought of a few more, which I hope will help the older generation tread the fine line of assisting the new parents without interfering.

1)            Names. You named your babies, now leave it to them to name theirs. If they want to call him T-Kool…. smile, nod and don’t say a word!

2)            Always ask the mother whether you can touch or pick up the new baby. As a grandparent you don’t have the right (and mum’s are sometimes emotionally very delicate.)

3)            Always wash your hands before handling the baby. It’s clean and indicates thoughtfulness and respect.

4)            If you haven’t had a Boostrix vaccination in the last 10 years, get one. Immunity from vaccination (or infection) to whooping cough wanes fairly rapidly. Certainly childhood immunisation does not last until adulthood. Babies cannot be vaccinated against whooping cough for a few weeks and they rely on everyone around them being immune and not harbouring the germ.

5)            Don’t forget that parenting style and baby management practices have changed a lot since you had yours. For instance, a generation ago it was standard to use firm hand-off routines to run your new baby’s day. We now realise this is unnatural and unhelpful. If mother wants to carry the baby in a sling all day and bed share with the baby at night, it’s fine and the parents’ decision.

6)            If you are staying

Load More Posts