Nitara Turns One Today

Nitara Turns One Today

Exactly a year has passed since our dear daughter Nitara came into our lives. Don’t know how fast the year has gone by. From seeing her blink her eyes trying to adjust to the new world, to her speed crawling and walking around the home and climbing up the two stories of stairs to get to the terrace many times a day, our baby girl has come a long way. She has grown up so fast and so much, the last one year seems like it all happened in a dream. And yet, it has all been real.

We have seen times of amazement and times of nerve wrecking stress, but what we haven’t missed even a single day with our daughter is the immense amount of love and happiness that she has brought to our lives.

Here’s to Nitara kicking off a new year in her life and to many many more phases of development and growing up.

Happy Birthday Nitara!

Tips for Flying with your Baby

Tips for Flying with your Baby

Are you planning air travel with your newborn for the first time and are worried that it might be a very difficult experience? Don’t worry. Travelling with babies doesn’t have to be as stressful as you think.

In the current times, travelling has become quite a tedious and stressful affair what with increased security checks and long wait times at most airports, and travelling with a baby can be one of the most unnerving things parents have to do, especially their first time with a newborn.

Our daughter has not yet turned one but I am happy to say that we have already flown long distance six times with her. All our trips have been long distance (Sweden to/from India), both with and without awkward transit connections. We have learnt a lot from our experience and here are some tips that will help make your flight with your baby much easier (in no particular order of importance):

  1. Keep your luggage (both check-in and hand luggage) light.
    By keeping your luggage light, you will be able to focus on the most important part of your belongings – your baby. Having a lot of luggage will only stress you out about managing it. Would you want to be arguing with the airline about crossing the weight limit? Aim to travel without any hand-luggage, or as little of it as possible, and carry only the baby’s diaper bag, as it would also free you up to take care of your baby during your journey.
  2. Choose an airline that is known to be child-friendly.
    The first flight we took with our baby was Qatar airways and their flight crew were so helpful and so nice to our baby that it took away half our stress the moment we boarded. They came and interacted with our baby a few times during our flight, asked us if we needed anything, happily helped us when we asked for hot water for the baby, and repeatedly told us how lovely our baby was. It makes you feel happy as a passenger when you see the crew appreciate your situation and be helpful. But there are certainly a few airlines that don’t care about the passengers’ comfort. I would strictly advise against flying with them.
  3. Don’t choose connecting flights with very short transit times.
    Choose a transit that allows you to catch the connecting flight without having to rush from the moment your first flight lands. Your baby is a little human being with lots of needs. It might be suffering from a soiled diaper or be extremely hungry at the time of transit and it would be awful to ignore the baby’s needs just because the transit time does not allow one to. On our last such trip, we had a connecting time of just under 4 hours. Though this sounds a bit high, we actually did our transit quite conveniently, ensured our baby was comfortable in her new diaper and was not hungry, and then sat at a really nice restaurant at Doha airport and had nice food and coffee and basically felt really good about the trip.
  4. Book a bassinet seat and get it confirmed early for the baby.
    Especially if it is a long haul flight, but even if it is only a few hours. Having a bassinet allows the parents to free themselves to relax when the baby is asleep and it also makes the baby feel cozy and in a bed. Remember to book early because there are only a handful of bassinets available on a flight and you need to secure your’s fast. Call the airline and request a bassinet seat for your baby as soon as you have booked your flight. On our first trip, our baby fell asleep right after takeoff and slept through the first leg of the journey. We put her into her bassinet and had an extremely comfortable flight.
  5. Arrive at the airport with plenty of time at hand. Don’t rush!
    The worst thing you can do in your entire journey is to rush it. You may not realize it but time-stressed parents make the babies stressed as well. So, reach the airport early and get done with check-in and security-checks early so that you avoid the longer queues as it gets closer to the flight timing. Keep sufficient time at the airport to take care of the baby and of yourself as well. You cannot know how many times the baby will need a diaper change or a feed on a given day.
  6. Carry sufficient number of diapers in hand baggage and then some extras for unforeseen delays.
    I read somewhere that one should follow the rule of one diaper for each hour of the total travelling time, including travel to/from airport, waiting at airport, connection times and any possible delays. We followed this rule on our first trip, and though we never needed to change diapers every hour, we did have some emergencies at times so we thought this was a good enough rule.
  7. A feeding cover/blanket for the mom might be a good idea to protect from preying eyes.
    Many moms feel insecure feeding their baby in public places and it would be a great idea to carry a feeding cover or a baby blanket that can be used for privacy when breastfeeding the baby. We carried a feeding poncho on our first trip, but on subsequent trips, we realized that a baby blanket does the job equally well.
  8. Create measured portions of milk-formula and other baby food for quick use in an emergency.
    Imagine that your baby has started howling out of hunger and you are in a situation where breast feeding her, or measuring formula powder from its box is highly inconvenient. For such emergencies, I would highly advise carrying at least a couple of  portions of measured formula powder which you can quickly mix with hot water to make milk for the baby. We bought some small containers from Tommee Tippee which hold measured formula powder and can be held inside a bottle to save space as well. In emergencies, we just dumped the formula into water and the baby’s milk was ready.
  9. Keep a thermos for hot water for making baby milk/food.
    Despite security check rules, we have always carried a small thermos with hot water and not once have we been asked to throw the water away. One time, my wife had to drink a bit of it to prove that it was nothing dangerous, but that was it. It is better to risk throwing away water at security check if asked to do so, than not carry any at all and be at the mercy of ‘friendly’ restaurants at the airport to provide you with hot water for your baby’s milk/food when you need it.
  10. Prepare the Diaper Bag one day in advance.
    Remember, your baby is the most important member of your travelling party and her convenience is of utmost importance. Prepare the diaper bag one or two days in advance and do not risk forgetting important stuff in the stress of the last day.
  11. Have an easy day before your flight.
    Don’t leave any packing for the last few hours before you leave for the airport. Don’t keep any last minute tasks that might burden you. In short, plan your time so that you don’t get tired before your journey even starts. Eat well, but do not overeat or stay hungry. Be comfortable at home, relax and set that easy tone for your trip. Treat your baby with love so that it is also ready for the journey.
  12. Familiarize yourself with children facilities at the airports of departure, arrival and transit.
    Read the websites of the airports and see what facilities they have for kids. Most airports provide a stroller for babies and it can be a life saver. Find out other facilities, like play areas for kids, changing stations, etc. in advance and use them. Keep track of what is available where so that you are not stressed and confused at the airport. Also, keep an eye out for strollers when you land at an airport. One time, we missed that the strollers were kept at the arrival gate as soon as we crossed the aerobridge. We kept walking and found no strollers after that and had to wait in line for the immigration check for over an hour with the baby in our arms and nowhere to put her down. It was extremely tiring and we learnt the lesson the hard way.
  13. Dressing up the baby.
    Don’t bother dressing up your baby as if she was going for a party. Focus on making her comfortable. Babies are most comfortable when they are in their sleep clothes. We always make our baby wear her one-piece sleep-suit and carry a blanket and socks to keep her warm since flights can get a bit too cold for comfort as time progresses.
  14. Change of clothes for the baby.
    Needless to say, but easy to forget. Even on short flights, have a couple of change can be handy in cases of diaper leaks or other ’emergencies’.
  15. One Change of clothes for self
    Interestingly, the easiest thing to forget. We have had multiple instances of having our own clothes spoilt by our little one who had had a little too much milk.
  16. Toys for calming a baby in distress
    It could be her favorite toys, or a rattle or a nursery rhyme on your phone. Whatever helps distract your baby when it is crying.
  17. Be extra nice to people you come in contact with.
    The reason here is that most passengers who do not have kids might find it difficult to empathize with your situation and some might feel easily irritated if your baby is crying a lot. Of course, you don’t need to apologize for your crying baby, but when you start a trip and say polite hellos to the people around you and be slightly nicer to them, you have a higher chance of gaining empathy from those around you instead of angry looks if your baby causes a lot of trouble.
  18. Your passports and travel documents are necessary.
  19. Travel business class, even in economy.
    This is a bit difficult to understand, but please bear with me. This is more of a psychological thing. What comes to your mind when you think business class? I think comfort, privileges and ease. So, on the days of our travel, I make sure I treat my wife to good food while waiting at the airport. I make use of whatever airport facilities can help me with an easier trip. A nice coffee for the Mrs.? Your partner’s favourite dumplings? How about taking time out to play with the baby as if today is no different? Anything that makes the trip easy and enjoyable. Take things easy. Tell yourself that you are not cattle in a mass of travelers and remember to relax. Even in the rare case that your airline does not give priority boarding to travelers with children, don’t pick up your stuff and queue up way before time only to wait for eternity for the boarding to start. Relax! And get in the queue when it is almost finished.

And remember, flying with your baby does not have to be a stressful experience. Treat it the same way as you would going out for a nice dinner, which means make it an experience you would want to remember. Look forward to enjoying the flying part as much as the destination.

Do you think I have missed anything? Do comment below and let me know what you think can make travelling with babies easier.

My Daughter Speaks My Name

My Daughter Speaks My Name

Today, something truly amazing happened. My 11 m.o. daughter, Nitara, had been mumbling a lot since many weeks, in a language that only she understood. The only two words she could speak clearly were ‘Papa’ and ‘Baby’. But today, she said a new word.

Only last night was I feeling sad that my little girl had left me all alone and went with her mom to my parents’ in India. I missed her so much and thought she would forget me over then next one month before I joined her.

But little did I know a surprise was in store for me. My mom called me at around 2am India time and asked me:

‘How often has Nitara spoken your name?’

‘Never.’ I answered, hoping that my mom wasn’t pulling a joke on me.

Mom turned to Nitara and and called out my name, ‘Shitij.’

My daughter said something but I couldn’t understand what.

Mom called again,’Shitij?’

And it was as if a hundred years passed before I heard..

‘T I T I T !!’

I couldn’t believe my ears and I couldn’t contain my happiness. So I laughed out loud. 

‘Shitij?’

‘T I T I D!’

‘Shi..tij…?’

‘T I .. TI..D!’

It just went on and on. I was so happy. My sweet little baby girl called out my name. We immediately switched to a video call and repeated it a few more times. And what made it even more special was that it was my mom, Nitara’s grandmother, who called and gave me the news that my little girl had started to speak my name.

Now I miss my sweet baby girl even more. But I am still happy.

Baby, Mommy Leave For A Long Holiday

Baby, Mommy Leave For A Long Holiday

The past few weeks have been particularly tough for us. I’ve been busy like hell at work and have had no time even to respond to texts from friends and family while in office. When I am home though, I spend all my time taking care of our daughter while my wife finally gets to take a break and focus on the home. Nitara is almost eleven months old now but all of a sudden, she has become very difficult to put to sleep at nights. As a result of all this, we have been super stressed since a while. I have not been sleeping well and could really use a break.

But on Sunday evening, it was finally time for my wife and our daughter to travel to India for over a month without me. Over the past couple of days, I was growing sad at the thought of being away from my babygirl for the next month. On our way to the airport I started to feel gloomier and it was tough for me to stop kissing her round cheeks and put her down on her stroller before she could leave for security check.

On my way back home, I tried to distract myself by listening to music on my phone and constantly reminded myself I was free to relax after such a long time. I decided to have a nice pizza and a beer that night and watch something interesting on TV. By the time I got home, my mood was quite upbeat at last and there was a spring in my step as I reached home and opened the door. Just a few steps in and all my sadness came rushing back as I found, still lying open in the middle of our now silent apartment, my daughter’s play book and the page I had last seen her looking at only a few hours back when I had picked her up and made her wear her pink jacket.

I sat down next to the open book and touched it and felt as if my sweetheart would suddenly come crawling behind me and make some noise. I felt sad again and realized that I would rather spend years of sleeplessness, being driven crazy by her antics and incessant irritating crying than to wish for a single day of alone time without her sweet presence next to me. I knew I missed my baby so much. But I was happy she was soon going to be with her grandparents who would give her just as much love as I do.

Our Little Agent of Chaos

Our Little Agent of Chaos

At around 8 months, our daughter underwent a new kind of development, and it happened when we least expected it to. Over the past few days, she had started to crawl around the home, touching everything, pulling on wires, trying to grab our Apple TV but then dropping it to the floor. While we half enjoyed this development, we thought that we would soon need to arrange “stuff” around our home so that it is out of her reach and she does not accidentally drop anything. But we didn’t anticipate that dropping stuff was only the first step in her real motives.

Back home from work one evening as I entered our apartment, I was stunned to find our living room in a mess with all the stuff stored under Nitara’s changing table scattered all over the place. Her toys box was lying on one side while the toys were spread all over the room.

“What the hell happened here?” I wondered aloud.

It turns out that just a short while back, my wife had left Nitara on her playmat just like every other day, and gone into the kitchen just for a couple of minutes, and upon returning, she found the whole room to be a mess with our little (little?) Nitara standing holding one leg of the changing table for support while all of its contents were lying strewn around. She did not feel she had the energy to clean up right away, so she left the room as it was.

Before I began cleaning up the stuff, I took a while to take in the scene.

“How did the washcloth pack get there? How could she even lift it? Maybe it just fell out of her tiny hands onto the floor and bounced that far away.”

“Why was her brush under the couch and how did her pack of plasters get halfway across the living room?”

Of course, I wasn’t angry. I was delighted that my baby girl had progressed further on her journey of discovering the world she had come into eight months back. She was doing what her curiosity what driving her to do.

I looked at my girl and tried to imagine what she must feel like. She still had no concept of language. She doesn’t say anything and probably doesn’t even know what she is feeling. She just looks innocently back at me and passes her cutest smiles. I smile back at her and picked her up in my arms and give her the kisses on her cheeks that I always do. It occurs to me that making a mess of things was something kids would do all their lives, while I, as a dad, have to take care of the situations every time. It was an important lesson and a reminder that I am a parent – a Dad.

Chasing The Phone

Chasing The Phone

A few times a day, we do a video call with our family back in India so that they can see Nitara and what she is up to. During one such video call recently, while she was sitting and playing on her play-mat, I got an idea. Nitara had recently started to crawl a bit better so in order to show my mom that, I placed the phone in a standing position on the floor, but a few feet away from her. The phone, with my mom on its screen, immediately caught Nitara’s attention. She quickly leaned towards the phone, got onto her tummy and started crawling. As soon as she was in touching distance of the phone, her one hand made an arc in the air, landed on it and lifted it up. She sat up, brought the phone close to her face and started inspecting the screen with my mom on it. Naturally, the inspection proceeded with one corner of the phone now in her mouth, so I snatched it from her, moved to another end of the living room and place the phone down on the floor again with its screen facing Nitara. She was on the move quickly again and headed for the phone, but the distance being a bit far, she stopped in the middle, rested for a few moments and then resumed crawling towards the phone. As soon as she reached it, a familiar look of curiosity came on her face and just as she was about the grab the phone again, I snatched it out of her reach and went and placed back it in the previous corner of the room. This whole cat and mouse went on for some more time after which it was clear that Nitara had exhausted all her patience and energy for the day and gave up and started crying. We had to end the show right there. As it was also dinner time by then, a bottle of milk was produced before her which contributed greatly to calming her down and eventually preparing her for sleep.

Needless to say, Nitara chasing my phone has become a regular feature of our video calls back home.

There’s A Turtle In Our Home

There’s A Turtle In Our Home

There’s a cute little turtle in our home. It’s always lying on its stomach on the floor, facing a direction that it wants to go in. It pushes forward with its back legs, but doesn’t know exactly how to use its front legs in tandem with the rear in order to move forward. And thanks to its unending efforts, it occasionally manages to raise itself slightly but then ends up rolling over onto its back. It doesn’t know how to roll back to its previous position so it starts crying and I have to rush forward to help it back onto its stomach, ready to push ahead again.

But every now and then, I take my eyes away from it for a couple of moments and when I look back, it has moved forward a bit. I look at it and it looks back at me. No movement, nothing. Then I go back at my laptop. After a while, I look at it again and again I find it has moved forward quite a bit. First it was lying on a play-mat. A few moments later, I found it on the floor. Then, in the play gym. Then under the coffee table.

Like I just said. There’s a cute little turtle in our home. It moves when no one is looking, stops when there are eyes on it. Unsuspecting Dad uses the quiet time to catch up on his work. The unaware Mom prepares dinner in the kitchen. All is well, until you hear a thud. No longer able to maintain her balance trying to climb onto the front of the couch, the turtle – our 7 month old daughter – finally falls sideways onto the living room floor and the suddenness of the fall scares her more than it hurts, and she erupts into loud screams again. I rush to her aid again, pick her up in my arms and try to pacify her, while her Mom also arrives from the kitchen and inspects the scene. Our little girl gets a bit of affection from both parents and once she has stopped crying, I put her down on her play-mat again, and hand her her toys. She is happy now. The Mom is back in the kitchen, and I back at my laptop to resume typing the blog post I knew had been pending for weeks. I write a couple of more sentences, and just as my concentration is back, I throw a quick glance around the room to find my turtle again lying on its stomach on the floor. Where is it headed now?

Rhymes On My Mind

Rhymes On My Mind

Remember how some days you wake up, get ready, step out of the home for work/school and realize that you’ve had a particular song playing in your mind, even on your lips, the whole time without you knowing or even being able to make it go away? I know its happened to me quite a lot and most times I’ve been surprized to learn that it could be the worst song I’d ever heard, or it could be one that I last heard years ago, but which had suddenly made home in my mind and just wouldn’t go away. Sometimes, this would last an entire day and I would not be able to get rid of it. Yes, I know it has happened to you too.

But, of late, things have changed a little. Last week, I woke up, got ready, was off to work and the whole day, there was a nursery rhyme stuck in my head and I just couldn’t shake it off. And the reason was simple. We were playing nursery rhyme videos on our TV, while our 7 m.o. darling daughter sat on her high chair across the room with a bib around her neck, having her meal. She finds these videos quite interesting and so they were the best way to make her eat. Imagine the look on your face if something utterly unbelievable happened at the most unexpected time. Can you imagine how your expression would be in that first instant? Now freeze that look for about half and hour and that is how my daughter keeps staring at the TV the whole time these are playing.

So, we get an overdose of nursery rhymes for a good amount of time everyday. And that is why, on some days, upon waking up, I find one of those stuck in my mind. And everytime I managed to clear my head of it, it would start over automatically. There would be an involuntary clicking of the toungue (click–click-click–click-click—-click-click) to set the base and then, the rhyme would begin:

Baa Baa Black Sheep, Have you any wool..
Yes Sir! Yes, Sir! Three bags full..
One for the master, One for the dame..
And one for the little boy Who lies down the lane…

Which is your favourite Nursery Rhyme? Share with me by commenting on this post.

Clap! Clap! Clap your hands!

Clap! Clap! Clap your hands!

Last week, something amazing happened with our 7 m.o. daughter. My wife and I had recently spoken about training Nitara to do stuff like clap her hands and one morning I tried to teach her to clap her hands but it did not work and she was not interested. However, in the evening my wife held Nitara’s hands and started clapping them together while I clapped mine to show her again how it is done. Then we let go and soon we were surprised to see that Nitara began to clap on her own. And that wasn’t all. When she stopped, I started clapping with my hands and kept on saying “clapping, clapping”. Seeing me do it, she started to clap again and we were excited at having taught her some new actions. We had fun for some time and when we stopped, I waited a short while and then just said the word “clapping”. To our astonishment, Nitara started clapping her hands at the mere mention of the word. We couldn’t believe ourselves so we did this a few times by distracting her in between. I even picked her up and sat her on my shoulders, told her we are doing “dansy, dansy” and then let her hands free and said “clapping, clapping”, and there she went clapping her hands again.

We were overjoyed at the whole development. It was a proud moment to know that our baby was responding to us by actions, that she not only heard words we spoke but also listened to them and retained them in her mind.

I was so happy that I hugged her tight and kissed her round cheeks and told her, “I’m proud of you, my baby.” Then a thought came to my mind. More of a reflection. As kids, we sometimes say that one day we would want to make our parents proud. But what we don’t know, and what I learnt today, is that parents become proud of their children much earlier than the children realize. I don’t have to wait for my baby to grow up, do well at her education, chose her career and achieve something big in order to feel proud of her. I already am proud that she is a lovely baby and is learning to do stuff even if it’s something as small as clapping her hands. Before today, I could never understand this. But now, I love it.

So, though it has been over a week, Nitara continues to respond to the word clapping. Not only that, she even does it unprovoked, and often when she is excited. It’s exciting.

Smile, My Little Baby!

Smile, My Little Baby!

From the day my darling daughter was born, the one thing I wanted to see her do the most was to smile. The first expression I saw on her face was that of fear after just having come out into this world. Then, she cried. Over many days and weeks, I kept looking at her with renewed hope that she would smile. But of course, I knew that babies that small don’t know smiling yet. And what will she smile at? She doesn’t understand what being happy means. And what could have made her happy anyway? A large supply of milk and sleeping for as long or as little as she chose?

So, weeks kept passing by but there was nothing. She got her name – Nitara – but even that did not please her enough to pass a smile. A few times, we thought we did she a smile on her face when she was asleep and then that smile would vanish abruptly. It wasn’t really a smile, maybe a twitching of muscles in her face? Maybe her brain was learning how to move those muscles in different manners? Sometimes my mom claimed that she saw Nitara smile, but I couldn’t actually count on that unless she smiled at me and I saw it too. And a smile didn’t really mean much unless we were sure that she really was smiling about something.

Finally that day came and Nitara smiled at me for the first time. It was in response to a toy that I had shown her. But even then, it was difficult to make her smile on purpose. I tried many things, made faces, made funny sounds, sang for her. And finally I got it.

What Nitara really enjoyed the most was me forming my lips into an ‘O’, opening my eyes wide, and making the sound ‘Ooooooooo’, all together. The more I did it, the more she smiled. Later, when she started to make sounds like ‘A-gooo’, ‘A-gaaa’, using her voice for the first time, I started imitating her sounds. Gradually, I found that she liked my imitation of her and she started to respond to my imitation by making more such sounds, which I imitated again, and so on, and she enjoyed this whole experience so much that her smiles this time were a true result of joy at a new discovery.

Soon afterwards, the smiles turned into laughter. Now, she has been advancing so fast almost anything can make her laugh. Just talking to her makes her laugh. Showing her your tongue makes her laugh out loud. She looks at the most simple things around her, like a photo frame of my mom and me (from when I was a baby myself) throws her into convulsions. My youngest sister, perhaps, is nowadays her biggest source of laughter. They play peekaboo and Nitara has a rocking time with her. In fact, her smiles now have a character of their own. No longer are there simple curving of lips and expansion of cheeks. Now she opens her mouth wide and makes loud joyful sounds when she smiles and you can see the joy in her eyes as well.

So, it has been worth the wait. Every time she smiles feels like the first time and makes me super happy. And, to see a baby smile and laugh and show happiness, isn’t that the biggest reward of being a parent?