I'm taking 6 months away from my day job to look after my son, Archie, who is now 9 months old. I thought it might be interesting to share my experiences.
It was a biological milestone week this week as two of Archie's teeth broke through his gums for the first time. It's been a long time coming, as he has had one or other of his hands (and sometimes both) almost permanently in his mouth playing with his lower gum for the past five months. The poor fellow has obviously been suffering this week as we've seen a bunch of extra grizzles and some very obvious 'teething faces'. The ever useful Calpol (children's paracetamol) has helped as, to a lesser extent, has teething gel, but it's not fun watching him struggling.
A dad at play group recommended 'teething crystals', which he found worked for his kid. I'd never heard of them but, curious, I looked for them in Boots (a major UK pharmacist and retailer). I did find them but I was disappointed to discover they're a homeopathic 'remedy'. Needless to say they stayed on the shelf and my five quid stayed in my pocket. Interested as to what they might contain, I did some research on them: I won't dignify the product with a link but it seems they are lactose-based sugar crystals. Given the recommended dose of a sachet every two hours, I'd have to question the whole thing. I'm not too bothered about a placebo but would you give your baby a spoonful of granulated sugar every two hours, even if it did soothe their gums? I know I wouldn't, but it's disturbing to think that other parents are doing broadly the same thing and paying through the nose for the privilege.
When Boots themselves have said they "sell homeopathic remedies because they sell, not because they work," it seems particularly egregious that they sell the stuff to parents for babies and children. I was reminded of the protest a couple of years ago, where hundreds of skeptics organized a 'mass overdose' of homeopathic pills outside Boots stores. While their efforts haven't, as yet, had much real impact on the legislation, despite recommendations from a House of Commons Select Committee on the subject, I hope that continued pressure will ultimately bear fruit. Some good info on homeopathy can be found on the Sense About Science site.
On the subject of legislation, the UK government leaked plans this week to extend parental leave to allow fathers to share even more of the traditional maternity period. They're also planning to change the name from "maternity leave" to "flexible parental leave", which I think is a good thing. Sadly, these plans don't seem likely to be put into place until 2015, but they are an important step in the right direction.