Bali with a Baby.

The locals say that once you’ve been to Bali, you will always kembali, (return). This is particularly true for hubby and I, who between us have visited the Island of the Gods more than 10 times. So it was only natural that we would want to bring our baby Aidan to this beautiful Indonesian island. This year, we have had 2 great trips to Bali with Aidan, (and we are going for the third time with Aidan tomorrow!) but that’s not to say we weren’t apprehensive and nervous in the beginning. After all, how on earth do you enjoy the best nightlife, spas and beaches that Bali has to offer, with a baby in tow?

Babysitters

Just because you’ve got a baby, doesn’t mean that the highlight of your holiday is eating room service dinner as silently as possible and hitting the sack at 9pm. We’ve always envied families who seem able to effortlessly enjoy dinners while their baby sleeps in the stroller or calmly flips an alphabet book. We tried bringing Aidan to the award-winning Sarong Restaurant but as it was his first time out after 8pm, we could see it was getting increasingly stressful for him. So, we sent Aidan back to the villa, where our Balinese babysitter expertly changed him into pyjamas, made him a bottle and put him to bed. Witnessing her competence settled our nerves and we used babysitting services every night, enjoying our evenings knowing that Aidan was in safe, caring hands. The Balinese are known for their gentle and calm nature; which children respond well to. On some nights we’d even come back to find his toys had been cleared away and clothes neatly folded. We highly recommend Bali Krisna Services (+62361-264-738/+6281-236-54977) as they were wonderful with Aidan and didn’t charge transportation fees nor imposed a minimum number of hours. The average cost is 50,000IDR or RM14 per hour, which is a bargain. You can also try Bali Sri Devi (+62361-926-1197), BVRS (+6281-2292-62392) or Bali Child Care (+6281-3619-8217).

Accommodation

Villa vs. hotel? Both have their pros and cons. Having tried both, our advice is to choose what suits your lifestyle and budget. Villas are great if you prefer to cook and have that homey feel. However they can feel isolated and for us we preferred an environment where Aidan could also interact with other kids. There are so many child-friendly resorts in Bali, but we can only vouch for The Marriott Courtyard in Nusa Dua where we stayed. It has an amazing kids club with a great ball pit that Aidan practically lived in. When staying in a hotel, we would always recommend booking a suite so that you can enjoy some privacy. Nusa Dua is a family friendly area in Bali with beautiful resorts, beaches, kids clubs and The Bali Collection mall complex- all within walking distance of one another connected by stroller-friendly, landscaped trails. It is far from the cultural attractions of Bali but is perfect for young children and essentially, there’s nowhere you couldn’t get to easily from Nusa Dua in a hired car.

There are plenty of child-friendly hotels in Bali.

There are plenty of child-friendly hotels in Bali.

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Safety

Safety should always come first when travelling with a young child. We recommend baby proofing your villa pool and stairs, which can easily be done by companies such as www.babyservicebali.com. You can also rent equipment from them such as strollers, baby carriers, cots, car seats and more- saving the hassle of packing bulky items. When it comes to road travel, don’t compromise on safety. In many countries we have had to use the adult seatbelt in the backseat with Aidan on our laps, but if you are hiring a driver in Bali you can try requesting for a car seat in advance. We used Mr Nyoman Ariasa who had a car seat for 0-4years old. Contact him at +62-812-4628-5612 or www.baliislandtours.com

Car seats and child proofing equipment are easy to rent in Bali.

What To Do there?

There are plenty of exciting activities for older children such as Waterbom Bali or surfing lessons but it’s a different ball game with a baby/toddler. Aside from daily trips to the beach, we loved visiting the Bali Safari and Marine Park. It is on the pricey side but totally worth it. The animals were healthy and roamed happily in their huge enclosures as you drive past in an air-conditioned Safari Tram (a short bus with large viewing windows). The hour-long Bali Agung show was an amazing highlight, depicting the story of the Gods in a world-class theatre production, although Aidan slept right through. The safari offers free shuttle services from key areas of Bali but we recommend booking your own driver for the flexibility and convenience. There are several levels of packages on offer and we found the “Jungle Hopper” was perfect. Get the best deals on discounted tickets online at www.govoyagin.com .

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Bali Safari and Marine Park.

Avoiding Bali Belly

If possible, do bring frozen home-cooked meals which the hotel will keep in their freezer. You can ask for a microwave to be set up in your room or the hotel will be able to heat up the food in the kitchen. We went into a major panic when the kitchen staff misunderstood and heated up Aidan’s entire week’s supply of frozen food on our second day, however Balinese hospitality saved the day when the front desk staff insisted they make a new batch from scratch following my recipe. Use bottled water for everything and bring sterilising tablets for your baby’s bottles and bath. Try not to give your child fruit juices, ice, exposed meat or anything that a fly has landed on – being extra careful will save you the stress and expenses of having your child admitted into a hospital abroad.

Lastly, don’t forget to bring sunblock, insect repellent and most importantly a smile; it is a holiday after all and although it helps to plan with military precision prior to departure, don’t forget to let loose once you arrive and just go with the flow.

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Amaze in the Dark by Simply See.

My first post of 2015 and I couldn’t be happier than to be able to write about this.

Simply See: Amaze in the Dark.

It’s finally a reality. It all started a few years ago when Simply See was just a seed of an idea. Fast forward to 2014 when the three of us at M&C Saatchi watered that seed and now it has grown into a young tree.

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I work in advertising (M&C Saatchi KL) and had the idea to create a CSR campaign inspired by our founding partner, Lord Maurice Saatchi’s iconic spectacles. The campaign would be all about providing accessible eye-care to underprivileged Malaysians and to spread awareness on preventable blindness. I grew up in London and it really bothered me that something as basic as decent eye-care that we take for granted in the UK is not easily available in many parts of Malaysia. As a nation, Malaysians strive to put our country on the map and gain developed-nation status, yet when it comes to basic eye-care, we are placed as a 3rd world country by the WHO.

Our bosses liked the proposal and we flew to London to share the initiative with Maurice Saatchi himself. It was an eerie coincidence for us to discover during our meeting with Maurice, that just a few weeks prior, he had suffered from a detached retina and required emergency surgery to save his eyesight. Imagine if this Legendary Adman had lost his vision – the one sense that is absolutely integral to the industry in which his empire was built upon. That would have been unimaginable.

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L-R: M&C Saatchians Johan Putra, Moray McLennan, Diyana Abbas, Maurice Saatchi (*hyperventilates!!) and Navin Rajaratnam

So we developed a campaign that we coined “Simply See”. I felt that it was a nice balance between communicating what we set out to do and also our company philosophy, Brutal Simplicity of Thought. Our focus at the time of launch is on raising awareness and funds to support mobile clinics in rural parts of Malaysia which will provide diagnosis, surgery, medication and the Simply See Adspecs. These specs were developed by Professor Joshua Silver, a physicist from Oxford University and our NGO partner are the first to bring them in to South East Asia. The lenses are immediately adjustable with silicone and can be set on the spot; eliminating the logistics and waiting time of administering conventional spectacles to children in rural parts of Malaysia such as Borneo and villages.

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To raise awareness to the urbanites in Kuala Lumpur, we decided to create an experience of what it’s like to lose your eyesight. We built a concept dubbed Amaze in the Dark in Mid Valley Megamall with the help of our NGO partner, Save One’s Sight Missions. It’s a great experience and I highly recommend everyone to catch it before it ends on 31st Jan 2015! I can’t give too much away but I can guarantee that you will be amazed. You can also get free eye health checks (until 10 pm today 25th Jan) which will tell you vital info about your eye pressure and any onset of glaucoma, diabetes and retinopathy threats. You just donate whatever you feel like giving after your experience and although we have set RM20 (just £4) as a guideline, it’s not an obligation for you to donate if you don’t feel it’s worthy of this amount.

Me and Joe (my hubby) looking on proudly as the two Malaysian Princesses chatted with Stevens Chan, the founder of SOSM. In the yellow is Yang Teramat Mulia Dato’ Seri DiRaja Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz binti Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Tunku Panglima Besar Kedah, Ahli Jemaah pemangku Sultan Kedah and in blue is Duli Yang Amat Mulia Raja Puan Muda Perak Tunku Soraya binti Duli yang Maha Mulia Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah

Me and Joe (my hubby) looking on proudly as the two Malaysian Princesses chatted with Stevens Chan, the founder of SOSM at the Launch of Simply See. In the yellow is HRH Yang Teramat Mulia Dato’ Seri DiRaja Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz binti Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Tunku Panglima Besar Kedah, Ahli Jemaah pemangku Sultan Kedah and in blue is HRH Duli Yang Amat Mulia Raja Puan Muda Perak Tunku Soraya binti Duli yang Maha Mulia Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah

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L-R: 1) Yang Teramat Mulia Tunku Dato’ Paduka Khadijah binti YTM Tunku Abdul Rahmah Putra Al haj 2) Duli Yang Amat Mulia Raja Puan Muda Perak Tunku Soraya binti Duli yang maha mulia Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah 3) Yang Teramat Mulia Dato’ Seri DiRaja Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz binti Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, Tunku Panglima Besar Kedah (Ahli Jemaah Pemangku Sultan Kedah) 4) YM Sharifah Menyalara Binti Syed Hussein 5) Mr Stevens Chan (Founder of Save One’s Sight Missions Bhd)

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Visitors at Amaze in the Dark

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For those who are not in KL but want to support #SimplySee, join in the #EyefieChallenge! All you’ve got to do is snap a picture of your eye(s), upload it to Instagram or facebook; hashtag #SimplySee, #EyefieChallenge and include www.simplysee.com.my in your caption. Nominate as many friends to take part and donate any amount at www.simplysee.com.my . So simple!

Some facts:

  • 80% of blindness is preventable! Imagine losing your eyesight when there was an 80% chance that it could have been saved!

  • Globally, an estimated 19 million children (below age 15) are visually impaired. Of these, 12 million of them are visually impaired due to refractive error, a condition that could be easily diagnosed and corrected with a pair of specs, which is what we hope to do with the Simply See Adspecs

  • In Malaysia: Major Cause of Low Vision: Uncorrected Refractive Error (48%)Cataract (36%)

Please visit www.simplysee.com.my for more info and support this cause. Together, let’s help this tree of ours to grow into a mature, life changing tree and let’s help Malaysians to Simply, See.

Travelling with an infant: Real tips you can steal!

This time last year I was being pushed through Departures at KLIA on a wheelchair, with a newborn in tow and feeling completely petrified. 50 days after I had given birth (via a rather traumatic) c-section, I was facing the prospects of enduring a 13 hour flight to London with a very young baby. I was bringing my baby to meet my family and to also spend the rest of my maternity leave in London to recover. With the flight ticket booked months in advance, I hadn’t banked on the fact that I would still be in a lot of pain and unable to walk much or carry my baby. It was, to date, one of the most daunting experiences of my life and although my mum had flown in to accompany us, it had been 29 years since she had handled a baby (her only child) and she was so nervous that she broke out in painful hives! I remember thinking that all I wanted was for someone to be able to guarantee that nothing will go wrong or at least give me real tips on what to do when travelling with a baby, instead of the standard “make sure he is sucking on something when you take-off and land”. (Incidentally, we discovered several flights later that the air pressure never bothered Aidan and for us, it was actually better to let him sleep than to wake him to drink.)

Fast forward 12 months later and our baby Aidan has been on the plane 12 times -8 of them being long haul flights. We also travel Economy class; so no flat-beds, fluffy pillows, legroom, floor space or any of the other snazzy benefits that would make a huge difference when travelling with a tot. Aidan’s travel needs have also changed tremendously in a short year, so I hope what I am sharing here will help other ‘first-time-flying-parents’ overcome those fears.

“Aidan in his in-flight bassinet”

“Aidan in his in-flight bassinet”

‘Top Tip’

If I had to share just one tip, it would definitely be “Always take a night flight.” Always. It doesn’t matter how short your trip is (we once did London for 3 days) – you’d be surprised at how quickly babies adjust to time differences. Before Aidan, we assumed that we should always avoid night flights (what if he cries and keeps everybody awake?) but what we didn’t realise was that because it was night, he would also be asleep most of the time.

‘At the Airport’

If you are travelling alone with a baby, do “request for special assistance” with your airline. They should be able to organise for lots of help at the airport – just as a disabled passenger would receive. You will get help with your hand-luggage and skip all immigration and x-ray machine queues. If you have recently given birth and must travel, request for a wheelchair so you won’t need to walk the long distances to the gate and risk post-partum injury. You will also receive assistance upon arrival.

‘While in the Air’

Aidan has never been one of those magic babies who can sleep through noise, lights and general stimulation. Our efforts to “train” him to be less sensitive have yielded minimal results as he has been a light sleeper from day 1; so we just had to make him as comfortable as possible.

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The problem with in-flight bassinets is that they’re usually fixed to a wall connected to the toilets or galley (cue flushing sounds and metal clanking during food prep). On top of that, there’s also usually another baby next to you. While there’s not much you can do about the noise, (I admit, I did stare daggers at the parents who decided to practice the cry-it-out method at 2am), babies are thankfully very sensitive to light cues. So we always make sure to have a thick blanket and duct tape with us to build a makeshift blackout cocoon on the wall over the bassinet. We get strange looks from other passengers every time, but we’d rather have those than a crying baby any day. (The duct tape is also ideal for baby-proofing the wires and sockets in the hotel room at your destination!)

“Checking on Aidan underneath his cocoon”

“Checking on Aidan underneath his cocoon”

As Aidan got older it took a lot more to keep him entertained during his waking hours. We bring lots of books, fun, interactive toys like puppets and even a full sized pillow for comfort. The mirror in the toilet also is a great distraction for when your baby is restless in the cabin. If your baby has started solids, make sure to have his food with you. We have been on flights where they have run out of baby food so best not to take your chances. Invest in a good cooler bag that can keep frozen breastmilk and home cooked food chilled throughout your flight. Planes do not have conventional fridges and the best the crew can offer is an extra ice pack for your cooler bag.

If you spy an empty row, run for it as soon as soon as boarding is complete. Your baby will be much more comfortable lying down across the seats than he would be in the cramped bassinet.

“Stretched out across a row of seats”

“Stretched out across a row of seats”

‘Lodging’

As soon as you land, follow the local time and stick to the routine you’ve established at home. Babies are happiest when they’re following a good routine and it will make travelling a breeze when you introduce familiar activities like meals, baths, naps and play at similar times, in between new ones like sightseeing and visiting new places.IMG_0676   IMG_9072IMG_9482  IMG_9766

“Travelling with a baby doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the local sights and culture”

Always contact the hotel in advance and arrange for breastmilk and food storage (minibar fridges are usually not cold enough and will switch off when you remove the keycard). So far, all of the hotels we have stayed in have been extremely accommodating when it comes to storing and preparing baby food and milk for us. If available, do ask for the ‘disabled access’ room, as you will have lots more space (designed to manoeuvre a wheelchair) and a low bathtub which makes bathing your baby heaps easier. Bring a lightweight foam bath support which will keep your baby safe and also allow for a hygienic shower on the floor if your room doesn’t have a tub. We also always book a suite, so that the bedroom can be closed off and we can enjoy quality time in the living area when Aidan is asleep.

“Safe and secure on his foam bath mat”

“Safe and secure on his foam bath mat”

‘Pack heavy’

This is something you wouldn’t expect to hear, but when travelling with an infant, it pays to pack as much of their favourite things as you can. On top of necessities like medication, portable changing mats and so on, the idea is to create a home away from home. When we recreated our living room in the hotel room with Aidan’s playmat, books and toys, it resulted in a very happy baby.

When Aidan started solids, not all our hotel rooms came with a kitchenette, so I would bring along his 2-in-1 baby steamer and blender, a portable electric hob, a lightweight pot, a vegetable peeler and a small knife which meant that I could just pop down to the supermarket and prepare fresh meals for him daily.

‘Getting Around’

Depending on where you go, bring a baby carrier and/or a stroller. Your baby will need somewhere to nap in if you will be out most of the time. We ended up having to buy another stroller on holiday because we thought we could manage without one. Some countries have a great public transport system with easy access for strollers while others do not even have pavements. In some countries, you will automatically be assigned to a taxi with a car seat (brilliant!) and in others you will need to book and request in advance. Some won’t even have car seats in which case you just have to buckle up, hold your baby tight and pray for the best.

“Don’t underestimate the benefits of bringing a stroller abroad”

“Don’t underestimate the benefits of bringing a stroller abroad”

Before I had Aidan, I was always an avid traveller and was terrified that having a baby would prematurely cap my wanderlust. Since then, my fears are fading and I believe that if you expose a child early enough to travelling, they will grow to enjoy it and become independent individuals later in life. We have just booked our first overseas beach getaway with Aidan so wish us luck for when we grapple with the messy cocktail of a sand-covered toddler, sunblock, saltwater and tropical insects!

Aidan’s First Merdeka.

So I decided to write again after a long hiatus. And what better reason to do so than to commemorate our Merdeka (Independence) Day. Today, 31st August 2014 marks Malaysia’s 57th year of Independence from the British. It is Aidan’s first Merdeka day, so we let him play with the Jalur Gemilang (flag) before hanging it on our balcony as a mark of respect. I would like to dedicate this entry to our Father of Independence, the one and only Prince Politician, YTM Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah . Our baby Aidan Putra is Tunku’s First and Only great great grandson so this piece features a collection of quotes by The Tunku that I wish to weave into Aidan’s upbringing. I want to remind, shape and guide him to become an individual who will never forget what it means to be Malaysian, and to be himself, no matter where he might end up living in the world.

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Religion and God is a topic that is of utmost importance to me. It comes before anything and anyone, and I wish for Aidan to uphold black and white views when it comes to religion, because frankly, that’s the simplest way. Islam is so easy to love and practice; yet humans make it difficult. I believe that Allah is benevolent and omniscient – He knows that people aren’t perfect and everybody commits sins. But what matters is the fact that a Muslim should never lose their faith and should always feel the need to repent each time they commit a sin and sincerely seek never to repeat it. Tunku did not make himself out to be a saint. He once said, “Yes, it is a sin in Islam to consume liquor, but it is a sin between me and God” and as uncomfortable as this might make many Malaysian Muslims, I feel he redeems himself with this next quote which carries more meaning,

“We all have our weaknesses. As long as you believe in God. And you pray…We must all pray”.

Praying to Allah cleanses the soul, strengthens the Imaan, provides clarity in times of darkness and adds to the bag of brownie points between you and God. This is something Aidan should never forget. The trouble comes when a person doesn’t even believe anymore and this applies not just to Muslims but to other faiths alike. And when that happens, they become a mere shell of a person. Constantly searching and never satisfied.

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Secondly, Aidan must be able to speak Bahasa Malaysia. Even if he sounds as awkward as I do. Or even if he has a ridiculous accent whilst speaking it. Haha. I believe that our national language is the key behind unity and when I arrived in Malaysia 6 years ago after living in London for 20 years, I was shocked (and still am) to discover that so many Malaysians cannot converse in Malay. It’s ok to choose which language you prefer to communicate in (obviously mine is English), but to me, those who are not able to speak or (understand at least) Malay after being born and raised in Malaysia is simply unacceptable. The same would apply anywhere in the world. If a person was born and raised in the UK or France for example and could not speak English or French due to their lack of involvement and immersion into that country’s culture, it would not be accepted, so why should we allow it to happen in Malaysia? Tunku said,

“Basic principle means loyalty to Malaysia and adherence to a common language”.

He also foresaw the importance of English and I wish for Malaysians to become masters in both BM and English in the near future. Many Malaysians place the importance on learning Arabic for religious purposes or Chinese for business reasons, without mastering Malay and English first.

“The sooner everybody appreciates that we must have one language for the country, the better. They should also realise that the Malay Rulers have a big say in this matter…At the same time, we have to have English side by side for years to come”

Thirdly, respect is an important value to have. Tunku said,

“We have been able to maintain peace because we respect each other”

and

“An independent Malaya must have absolute harmony among her people, no matter what their race or creed may be, so long as they are the people of Malaya and loyal to the country.”

Sometimes, what I notice nowadays is, the tension in Malaysia is not even between the races but brought on by Malaysians in positions of influence (and I’m not talking about our politicians; but more about our independent journalists or keyboard warriors) who write things in the name of encouraging a healthy debate but in fact end up causing more discord and unrest whether they intended to or not. But that’s not to say that racial tension is not real. The other day I experienced it firsthand on an online baby pageant of all places! I had entered Aidan in a Johnsons & Johnsons baby contest. The results were announced a few days ago and caused quite a furor as there seemed to be a racial bias due to the lack of Malay babies shortlisted. I, like many others, voiced my observation on the contest’s FB page, to be met (unsurprisingly) by a barrage of racially defensive feedback. I just thought that since it was a babies’ contest, each contestant therefore had a right to win as much as the next, as there are no ugly babies in this world for pete’s sake. Based on the argument that one baby deserved to win as much as the other, since the contest was not judged on the number of ‘likes’ you get, the best way to shortlist the finalists would have been to fairly represent the ethnic percentages in Malaysia. But when it was skewed 80% towards the minority, I felt that it was a bit irresponsible on the part of Johnsons & Johnsons for inciting unnecessary racial tension.

“In this country where we have a multiracial society, we have got to try and build the goodwill and harmony and friendship among all but we can’t afford to allow emotion and sentiment to get the better of us.”

All Malaysians – individuals and corporations should make this their responsibility.

Lastly, I would want Aidan to live life happily. Tunku once said,

“I am the happiest prime minister in the world”

and

“My ambition is not Mighty Malaysia but Happy Malaysia”

which suggest that he placed an importance on being happy. My dad often reminisces of a ‘less complicated’ Malaya and my grandmother still shares stories that would make a great Petronas Raya ad, haha. But so many Malaysians now are caught up in their own opinions, ideals, prejudices and dissatisfaction which are stopping them from being happy. Sometimes I feel like asking these people, “Aren’t you tired of constantly questioning, analysing, pushing, prodding, writing, debating, dissecting, discussing and the list goes on, when all this time and effort could just be spent on being, well…happy?”. Not that I would discourage Aidan from asking questions and challenging the status quo- far from it, but I would like to raise Aidan to understand that life’s not always about making a point but rather it’s about making a point to be happy.

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Malaysiaku. Di sini lahirnya sebuah cinta.

 

 

Breast is Best.

Before I go any further, I’d like to stress a million times that by no means is this post intended to be judgmental, offensive or hurtful to anyone out there- it is purely my own candid expression (pun intended) of my own experience.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a friend’s aqiqah and unlike ours, they did theirs (on time) on the baby’s 7th day birthday. We went into the bedroom to say hi and found my friend sitting oh-so-elegantly on the edge of the bed, legs crossed and her gorgeous son discreetly suckling from beneath her hijab. On the way back home in the car, I turned to hubby and said, “gosh that was such a different picture than when I’m breastfeeding”. My husband laughed and said “yeah, if we wanted to find a totally opposite breast-feeder to you, she would have been the one”. Great, thanks for rubbing it in(!) But I totally agreed with him. For many months (even sometimes now), feeding Aidan was a clumsy affair. I need loads of pillows, muslin cloths, flannels and to be in the right position, hair tied back, a drink next to me; trust me it’s messy.

Before Aidan was born, there was never a question whether I would be breastfeeding or not. And if there had been, the answer would have been a resounding, “yes, of course!” that you would have heard it all the way in Timbuktu. My mum had breastfed me until I was 2.5years and my mum-in-law (who was also an advocate of the Malaysian Breastfeeding Association) until hubby was 2, so it only seemed natural that I would do the same. All the books and online articles I read also repeated over and over the fact that Breastfeeding was the Best thing you could ever do for your baby. Ever. Talk about a whole load of pressure to live up to.

While all the books stressed on the importance of breastfeeding, they also did mention that if you couldn’t do it, it’s not the end of the world. However, I felt that this was mostly mentioned so half-heartedly that it was more like a feeble attempt by the authors to insert a “disclaimer” just in case a mother who had adopted a baby or who medically could not breastfeed (there are some cases where the baby is allergic to breastmilk, poor little mites) decided to sue them for inciting emotional distress or something. So, there I was, poring over all the possible problems associated with breastfeeding and mentally preparing myself for it, that by the end of my pregnancy I thought my new-found knowledge about nipple creams and shields, cracked and inverted nipples, blocked milk ducts, latching issues, let down cycles, front and hind milk, milk storage, manual expression, electric pumping etc etc, was enough to carry me through a fulfilling breastfeeding journey with ease. Fat chance.

What I wish I had known was:

  1. It’s not easy.

  2. It’s not easy.

  3. It’s not easy.

  4. You will fight with your husband about milk and you will cry.

  5. You will fight with your mum about milk. And you will cry.

  6. You will fight with your nanny/helper about milk. And you will cry.

  7. You will cry in your boss’s room when you tell her that you are waking up at 5.30 daily to feed and pump because if you don’t your baby won’t have food.

  8. You will cry when you open your freezer to find one pack of frozen milk left.

  9. You won’t believe your helper when she calls to say that two of your frozen milk packs have gone off (and you will only believe it after you attempt to feed your baby sour milk. And he spits it out).

  10. You will meet people who will tell you stories about how they went on business trips armed with a fisherman’s cooler box packed with dry ice and how they personally went to hotel kitchens to place their milk in the freezers because god forbid that their 1.5 year old should have anything other than breastmilk in their body. (These supermums don’t even believe in weaning on to solids until their baby is way past the 1 year mark. And you will want to gouge their eyes out for making you feel like such a failure.)

  11. Formula is not poison. You may feel that it is, but it’s not. Your baby will not suddenly fall sick and become less intelligent if you need to have a formula S.O.S moment.

  12. If your baby misses a feed, he will survive. Yes he will.

  13. Oh, and did I mention, it’s not easy?

A few weeks ago, my pump failed on me. So much for ‘one of the leading brands in the market’. It had been a bit wonky from the beginning, but this time it completely stopped working mid-pump and won’t even start. So after a lot of tears, I left this note to my helper:

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When we came home later that night, Aidan was asleep with an untouched bottle of formula. Our helper said she had tried to feed him but he just refused and then cried himself to sleep (aw, my poor baby). But what happened to me after this incident was a welcome revelation! The next day I found my milk supply had increased and the flow was good. This happened the day after and the day after that too. It has been 23 days since the day we tried giving Aidan formula and so far it’s as though my body has totally taken a chill pill since the Formula Incident and has been producing enough to feed him. Aidan drinks about a litre a day now. I think I had been carrying this enormous amount of stress and pressure and scared myself silly at the thought of formula feeding, that when it actually happened (and he rejected it), I finally could relax and breathe. And relaxing definitely does wonders for milk-flow!

What I hadn’t banked on was just how emotional the whole process would be for me. The books never really went into this side of things. In the beginning I thought what could be so complicated? – step 1: Place Baby On Breast. Step 2: Baby drinks. That’s it, right? Well how wrong was I?! My birth recovery was so traumatic that to this day, almost 6 months later, I still can’t carry Aidan for more than a couple of minutes and I can’t play a lot of physical lifting games that Babycentre keeps telling me to try. So for me, being able to breastfeed him was very symbolic. So, I couldn’t carry him until he was 4 months? It’s ok, at least I am breastfeeding. So I couldn’t hold and bond with him through cuddles? It’s ok, cos I’m breastfeeding. So I am not the one he looks for to rock him when he wants to sleep? It’s ok, cos I’m breastfeeding. So I am not the one he cries for to comfort him when he has a fever after his injections? It’s ok, cos I’m breastfeeding. And the list goes on. You see, I missed out on a lot of small mummy-pleasures due to my tough recovery; like changing his diaper or just having him fall asleep on my chest and belly; and this has been something that has saddened me.Breastfeeding Aidan has given me a sense of purpose and has been the only link I feel that I have with him- something that only his Mummy can give him and no one else can.

But on a positive side, what I also hadn’t banked on was meeting new friends and bonding over breastfeeding. I met a lovely girl who is my go-to person when it comes to milk issues. Although we’ve only physically met each other twice, we have developed a nice friendship over whatsapp and she even offered me some of her milk stock if I ever find myself in a dire situation. What an angel. (I just gotta make sure that if I do take her up on the offer, we’ll have to stay in touch until our kids are grown up so that Aidan and her daughter don’t accidentally fall in love, cos they would be regarded as siblings in Islam!). And another positive note; Aidan has also started solids and I will introduce water to him soon too, so that should hopefully make feeding him more manageable for me. I will write about that soon 🙂

In case you were wondering, the pump I’m using is the Avent comfort double electric breast pump. I honestly love it but I think I got unlucky with my unit because it seemed to have problems from the start. It retails in Malaysia from RM1899-RM2000 so I will be bringing it around to different shops soon to see if they can fix it for me.

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My aunt in London bought it for me because she said this picture reminded her of me lol!

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Since the whole pump-failure fiasco, my cousin also loaned me her Medela Freestyle and although it’s portable and quieter than the Avent, I honestly found the Avent to be better because of the silicone massage bit that fits onto the cone. It’s also less messy because I found with the Medela, the milk would go all over the suction cone too and I’d have to stop mid pump to wipe it dry.

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I also bought this Snowbear pump online as a backup – it was so cheap and was supposed to arrive 10 days ago but it still hasn’t, so I hope I didn’t get conned! If it’s any good, I’ll update my thoughts here.

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So to all fully or partially breastfeeding mums out there, I want to acknowledge and salute every single one of you. This is by far one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and if I meet my personal target to exclusively breastfeed until Aidan’s first birthday, then I will be the happiest mum in the world. To my mum, I don’t know how you did it for 2.5 years with me (I must have not eaten as much as Aidan!) hehe! Love you and thank you mama!

Hair today, gone tomorrow.

A couple of weeks ago while we were still in London, our 3 month old baby Aidan developed a particular liking to making bubbles with his drool and blowing raspberries. While this was all very cute (and messy!) my mum said, “the old folks say if your baby is blowing bubbles, that means you’re going to lose your hair soon”. I laughed at her and was like, “what??” and left it at that.

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Sure enough, Mother was right. As soon as I arrived in KL I noticed that my hair was shedding in clumps. Apparently, post partum hair loss affects mums between 3 and 6 months after they give birth. So I guess there was some logic behind the old folks’ saying, because babies start to make bubbles at about the 3 month mark!

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This came out after running my fingers through my hair 3 times 😦

Here’s what BabyCentre had to say about it:

Postpartum Hair Loss — What Causes It

Normally, the average head loses 100 hairs a day — but not all at once, so you don’t notice them. Your pregnancy hormones keep those hairs from falling out (which is why your hair looks as lush as a supermodel’s, or is so thick you can barely get a brush through it). But all good things must come to an end, and that includes your awesome new ‘do. When those hormones drop back to normal, the extra hairs drop, too.

 A note to new moms with long hair: Strands of hair can end up tightly wrapped around your baby’s tiny appendages, including his fingers, toes, wrists, ankles, and penis. This is called a hair tourniquet, and it can be quite painful for your little one. If you find him crying for no apparent reason, check carefully for tight bands of hair.

Postpartum Hair Loss — What You Need to Know

Don’t freak: You’re not going bald, you’re just getting back to normal. If you’re breastfeeding, some of your extra hair may hang on to your scalp until you wean or start to supplement with formula or solids. But nursing or not, take comfort in knowing that by the time your baby is ready to blow out the candles on that first birthday cake (and has a full head of hair of his or her own, possibly), your catch-up hair loss will be finished, and your locks should be back to normal, too.

And it isn’t just me who is losing hair- Aidan’s head was also recently shaved bald at his Aqiqah ceremony in London. Before I had a baby, I was one of the many who got religion confused with culture and thought that certain rituals were cultural, when in fact they were actually based on the Islamic Sunnah. So I will just share here a bit of what I have since found out.

When a baby is born in Islam, 7 seems to be the magic number of days that certain things should be done by. As soon as the baby enters the world, the father should recite the Azhaan (prayer call) in his/her ears. Then the baby should be named and this is ideally only revealed 7 days after the birth. Circumcision is also ideally performed on the 7th day (but we did Aidan’s on the 3rd day; whoops!). Same with the Aqiqah/Aqeeqah- which is the offering sacrificed in conjunction with a baby’s birth- also on the 7th day, ideally. 2 goats/camels/cows/sheep for a boy and only 1 for a girl. Choice of animal is based on the parents’ preference and what they can afford. Ideally, the Aqiqah meat should be divided into 3, with 1/3 going to charity and 2/3 shared between friends and family. (But we and our guests finished all the meat on the same day-whoops again!)

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Some reasons for performing the Aqiqah:

1. “Until the aqeeqah is performed, the child remains an open target to calamities, misfortune and is also deprived from virtue and blessings. After the aqeeqah the child is safeguarded from anything detrimental and anything provoking pain”.

2. “A child is a blessing from the Almighty Allah. Aqeeqah is performed as a thanksgiving for this blessing”.

3. “Until the aqeeqah is performed the child shall not be safeguarded against calamities but instead will grow up to be disobedient and rude to his parents.”

4. “When the hair is shaven on the 7th day and aqeeqah is completed, the child is cleansed from all impurities, (Allah knows best).”

And then, there’s the shaving of the head. I was reluctant at first, fearing that it will not grow back nicely but I feel a bit silly now after knowing the reasons why we should do it.

“Ibn Al-Qayem (Allah’s mercy upon him) said about the benefit of shaving the newborn’s hair: Shaving his head removes the harm from him, removes the weak hair so that stronger and firmer hair replaces it and it is beneficial for the head. In addition, it comforts the newborn and opens the head’s skin openings… And along with this is a strengthening of his eye sight, his sense of smell and hearing. Refer to Ahkamul Tifl: Ahmad Al-Eesawee 192”

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For me, the best thing about shaving Aidan’s hair is the fact that we are supposed to give to charity the same value of the hair’s equivalent weight in gold. So Aidan’s hair weighed 3 grams in total, and today’s gold value is RM150 per gram, therefore we must give RM450 to charity. The trouble now is choosing which one to give to!

After the hair has been shaved one should strictly refrain from disposing it in a filthy atmosphere, as this invites illness. The hair should be carefully buried in a safe area or disposed of in a flowing stream/river. We still have Aidan’s hair in a little plastic bag and we’re planning to bury it next to where his placenta is buried.

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Here’s Aidan freshly shaved head 🙂

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Prayer for the New Year.

On this first day of the new year, please God hear my prayer.

Dear Allah, thank you for all the blessings You bestowed upon us in 2013 and all the lessons I’ve learnt. Thank you for our healthy, clever, funny, cute little baby boy. Thank you for my family’s good health and please keep them away from harm. Please heal my wound and pains so that I can be a better mum to Aidan and so that I can do more things with him. Please continue to flood my marriage with love and also my parents’ and my family. Grant us with sufficient wealth and may we be reminded to continue to perform charity in Your name. May 2014 be even better for us and I wish and pray for you to grant me the courage to do the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life so far. If it is good for us, then please make it happen- only You will know best, the omniscient, benevolent, Almighty Allah.

Amin.

2014