Why two small feet mean a world of difference

How difficult must it be to find a tasteful christening present for a nephew who’s future king? (Especially when you have written a book called ‘Celebration’).

Faced with this challenge, Pippa Middleton’s obvious choice for baby George was,wp1155.jpg according to The Express, casts of his own (small) feet. Made of solid silver and designed, surely, for the mother ‘n’ baby with everything, they reportedly cost P Middy a toe-curling £7,000.

But whilst I’m sure George’s treasure trotters will have entranced the royals, this week a venture by the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania shows that small feet could also be the key to helping mothers in first world countries care for their premature babies.

Despite major reductions in infant mortality in the last century, one in ten babies around the world will be born prematurely – before 37 weeks gestation – and over a million of those will die. Yet basic actions like skin-to-skin contact for warmth and regular breastfeeding in the very early days can make the difference between life and death. 80% of the one million deaths are in South Asian and Sub-Saharan Africa, and so educating the mothers of premature babies in these areas is vital.

_70967560_baby_feet_304inThe initiative works like this: health visitor volunteers in remote Tanzanian villages show a laminated picture of two different sized newborn feet. If a baby’s feet are smaller than the smallest foot (67mm) in the first two days of life, the mother is urged to take him straight to hospital for care. If the baby’s foot falls between the smaller and larger foot, advice is given to the new mother on how to care best for her child. It’s working: with this information, new mothers gain confidence and often keep a baby alive that would otherwise have died.

I watched the brilliant This World: Don’t Panic – The Truth About Population this week and am in utter awe of what has happened to the human race in the last 50 years. Whilst the population has doubled and is now at 7 billion (bn), it seems we are not destined for a population of 30bn sometime in the next century; just a mere 11bn – and most of those will be ‘oldies’ who will die off, leaving a modest 7-8bn again. The heroes in managing the world’s population? Health visitors in developing countries educating mothers in birth control and infant health.

If Prince George has a sibling, he will be in good company: the average family size in the world is now 2.5 children. However, it also seems likely that where George might get fleeting pleasure from his solid silver plates, for billions of babies in the future, a humble laminated image of feet could prove to be priceless.

You can read more about the Mtunze Mtoto Mchanga – which means “protect the newborn baby” strategy in the BBC Health Check report.


7 things I’ve learnt since giving birth

Bea is now three weeks old. Some things I have learned during this time:

Kirstie Allsopp rules daytime TV

Which is annoying, but her inability to put a cardigan over a dress without it looking like she’s thrownurl-1 a tantrum with oil paints makes me feel a little bit better about not being able to put clothes on at all. The visual metaphors in Location, Location, Location are also wonderful: when Kirstie sagely says, ‘let’s hope they don’t pull the plug on this one’ before draining a small ensuite basin, I am strangely happy.

There is no substitute for sleep

And if my husband and daughter get more than me – which they always do – I am a bit resentful.

Breastfeeding means constant hunger

Mainly for chocolate and bread.

Not to watch scary things

Thanks to Luther and the last episode of The Returned I got even less sleep this weekend.Bea babygrow

Some adverts are ridiculous

Forget the payday loans and no win, no fee lawyer ads. The really mindless ones include the ‘bee strong’ shampoo one with Nicole Scherzinger and the Boss one with Gwyneth P – both phenonenally stupid. The only good one is the O2 ‘Be more dog’ ad, which does deserve a prize.

Monotony is mild torture …

Today, for example, has involved: changing, feeding, changing, taking a nap (Bea and me), feeding, changing, going for a short walk, changing, feeding, napping, changing, lunch (me – cut short by Bea crying), lots of burping, feeding, changing, feeding some more and napping (I hope, though it will probably be more feeding. Or changing).

… but I’m happy to do it for a bit longer.

This part doesn’t last forever, I’m told. And while it’s pretty draining, it’s also pretty wonderful.


NEWSFLASH: Kate Middleton has NOT had a baby

As I write, Kate Middleton – the Duchess of Cambridge – has NOT had a baby.

This should not be news, but in the frenzied build-up to the new heir’s  birth, speaking as someone who was due, as Kate is, to have a baby ‘mid July’ (my due date was 17th) but gave birth nine days early, and as someone who has felt rather frustrated by the media coverage of the ‘impending birth’ over the last nine months, this morning I feel huge sympathy for her.

Look at the ladders. See the reporters drink their tea. It is a zoo. Someone has even put a sign up outside the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, saying ‘do not feed the photographers’.slide_307666_2678989_free

And in the meantime, we as the waiting public are ‘fed’ snippets: the Queen wants the baby to come before she hot-foots it to Balmoral. Camilla wants it ‘by the end of the week’. Carole has ‘indicated (the baby) will be a Leo‘, suggesting the birth date could not be due before 22nd July.

article-2367618-1ADBBC3A000005DC-521_964x689Ease up everyone. I’m quite sure Kate has had enough of all this. am quite happy to have had my baby before his or her royal highness popped out simply because it means the name I have chosen is obviously not a ‘copy’ of Kate’s, as I feared it might be. But the surprise and relief of having a baby a little bit early, compared to a friend of mine whose due date is also 17th July and who has still not had it is immense. Not only would it be fairly hideous still to be pregnant in this heat; the expectation and enquiries from well-wishers would have me grinding my teeth even if I wasn’t the Duchess.

urlI hope Kate is comfortable, not too scared about the prospect of birth (it’s fine. Really.  Gas and air, Lucozade and a strong-armed husband – which I assume William is – went a long way to help me) and getting lots of sleep. Because whilst the baby will likely want for nothing, if we are to believe what we read about Will & Kate being ‘hands on’, that’s one thing Kate can never get enough of.