I live in Babydom. It’s a land populated entirely by babies and the people who pander to them. It’s a muffled maze of invisible interconnected bubbles that exist within normal society. Citizens of Babydom wander among you looking like average folk but they’re not.

There’s a whole baby sub-culture out there that goes unnoticed until the day you need to shop for a baby and realize that at least 15 pieces of equipment are required just so a baby can go for a nap:

  • cot/moses basket/warm section of floor
  • mattress protector
  • sheet
  • muslins
  • babygrow
  • baby sleeping bag
  • gro-egg (cute little egg shaped plastic thing that changes color with the temperature of the room)
  • humidifier
  • musical mobile
  • star projector
  • night light
  • cuddely toy
  • pacifier
  • book (to look up explanations for why your baby won’t sleep)
  • mobile tablet device (to look up explanations for why your baby won’t sleep and/or buy books that will explain why your baby won’t sleep)
  • repertoire of random lullabies/hymns/jingles (for when your baby won’t sleep)

You need another entirely different set of equipment for feeding the baby, even more stuff for changing the baby and don’t even mention traveling with the baby. On our first trip back to Dublin when Baby A was seven weeks old, I was packing for both Baby A and myself and Mr Oh suggested that I should try to bring just a small carry-on bag and not check anything in. I genuinely thought he was joking and when it became clear that he was, in fact in earnest, concluded that he must be either insane, delusional or blind.

The amount of stuff required for babies is so significant that its production could fund the recovery of a mid-sized South American economy. In Babydom, the consumer megaliths Chicco, Lamaze, the Gro company, Dr Browns and Tommee Tippee are household names. Annabel Karmel is the celebrity chef every mother turns to for baby weaning recipes (I didn’t even know there were over a hundred ways to make puréed vegetables). I personally don’t know how I
lived without my Boppy pillow and Lansinoh cream before (although the fact that I wasn’t breastfeeding a 7 kilo barracuda might have had something to do with it). Our apartment is now full to the brim of stuff that Mr Oh and I had never even heard of ten months ago - nasal aspirators, Caldesene, gro-bags, steam sterilizers, Aptamil, baby gyms (we have two), bouncers, sock-ons and more muslins than can be produced by China in a week. For something so mid-sized, he needs a lot of stuff.

This small butter-mountain of obscure paraphernalia tends to provoke bemused looks in the older generations and the seemingly irresistible compulsion to say something along the lines of “We didn’t have/do X in my day and babies still survived”. On the one hand, they have a point but on the other hand I can clearly remember Milton sterilizing units, bouncy chairs and large piles of muslins when my brothers were little so I think the older generation have just chosen to block out the madness. In reality I’ve discovered, people forget things very quickly. When I met my nephew, Baby T, for the first time last month, I was ashamed to admit that I’d forgotten how to hold a newborn despite the fact that it had only been five weeks since Baby A’s newbornhood. There’s also the fact that Baby T seemed more fragile than Baby A, who - at almost 10 lbs -was born half-reared and punching.

As well of masses of hitherto unknown staple goods, Babydom has its own religious sects. One can choose to worship at the Church of Parent-Centred Parenting, the Synagogue of Attachment Parenting, the Temple of Letting-Them-Cry-It-Out, the Mosque of Winging It and the Commune for the Organically Obsessed. I’m an á la carte Attachment Parent which I reckon is a bit like being an iconophilic Evangelist.

One of the biggest hot-button topics in Babydom is the issue of co-sleeping. In my Pre-Baby-A days, I discovered that friends of mine still let their three year old daughter sleep in their bed. I remember observing (and not silently either) that this was a ridiculous situation and one that I would never tolerate once I had children. They just smiled silently - I now know why.

Baby A does not like his cot. Well, actually, I don’t think he minds it really but it is Baby A’s view that the big soft place where the sheets are pre-warmed, the cuddles are cheap and the milk is on tap is a far better deal. Baby A also has a rule where he will only fall asleep outdoors on the move or alternatively indoors on human. If it is indoors-on-human, he will not stand for being moved into his cot before midnight. All pre-midnight sleeping must take place nestled in the arms of…well, anyone really. He’s fussy but not a total despot. Once midnight has passed, he will allow himself to be placed (gently) in his cot - but he likes his parents to be near by. If he doesn’t sense at least one of them, he wakes up and protests. He’ll usually demand more milk as well, just for the hell of it.

He will stay in his cot until anywhere between 5 and 8am. Then it is time to move in beside the mama where he lies like a Winston Churchill shaped starfish in the middle of the bed. All previous habitants are either shunted unceremoniously off to work or forced to lie shivering and clinging precariously to the outer edges. He likes to wake the mama up by poking her in the eye with his nails.

He is not allowed to lie in between his parents for fear that one of them will roll over on him (we know which one that is likely to be). While Baby A is robust, he is still mini in comparison to Mr Oh. Mothers are known for their ability to sleep without really sleeping and always being aware of where the baby is and what mischief he is up to (or ‘to which he is up’).

There are some people who say that co-sleeping is dangerous and parents should never fall asleep with their babies in the bed. There are others who say that it is natural, healthy and, if done properly, entirely safe. I have no strong views on it either way. The one thing I’ve learned from living in Babydom - other than how to tie a stretch wrap sling - is that it tends to be a fairly judgmental and polarized society. I’ve seen other mothers frown (and visibly bite their tongues) when I tell them that Baby A doesn’t go to bed until midnight (even though he usually sleeps until 10/11am). It works for us. I’ve been frowned at for many things - not using cloth nappies, supplementing breastfeeding with formula, letting him sleep in the bed, not having a nap-time routine and not giving him Vitamin D drops regularly enough (although it’s only Mr Oh who frowns at me for that). There’s a lot of frowning in Babydom (it’s all quite passively judgemental). But every morning Baby A is happy and smiley and clean(ish) and healthy and perfect so I must be doing something right.

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