How to Clean and Sterilise a Baby Bottle

This is the second video to support ‘Surviving The First 24 Hours’ chapter in Commando Dad. I was a bit nervous and I think you can see my hand shaking at times (this was because of the camera, not because I am frightened of baby bottles). Please let me know what you think

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The Spooky Tale of How I Named My Daughter, Liberty

Naming your baby trooper is a tough business. There’s the whole issue around any name needing to be a good fit with your surname, as well as avoiding acronyms and all the names you have negative associations with (the kid at school with unsavoury habits, annoying colleagues with unsavoury habits, any boss you ever had, unsavoury habits or not etc). But the naming of my own troopers is an increasingly unusual story.
First, Samuel Robert Sinclair. Named after my wife’s granddad Samuel Lucas (or more accurately, Ernest Edwin Samuel Lucas, but that’s another story) and her dad, Robert ‘Bob’ Lucas. Both great men and two great names. Job done.
Then Jude Bonaparte Sinclair. Yes, you read right. Jude was originally destined to be called Peter Edward (using my own dad and
granddad’s names) but my wife took a bad fall when she was pregnant and we thought that she may miscarry. Then one day soon after the drama was over, she said, “I think we should change the name of this baby you know. He’s a fighter.” So we looked up the patron saint of second chances and his name was Jude.
We got Bonaparte from my other granddad, Napoleon Bonaparte Sinclair. Yes, you read that one right too. When my granddad was born there was much ado about which family names he should be given. In the end his dad declared he would be named after someone he admired to end the argument. I should add at this point that the whole family is from Thurso, Scotland.
Finally, Liberty Maeve Sinclair. Now this is the kind of story I need to preface with ‘I have witnesses’.
Naming a girl is difficult, because not only are there millions more names to choose from but every noun can plausibly be a girl’s name (Willow was in the running for a long time, for example). We knew her middle name was to be Maeve as my wife’s nanny had been of Irish descent (Florence O’ Rourke from Cork) and her auntie is a Maeve and she is a Tara. But we went through every first name under the sun and couldn’t agree on a single one.
Then one night I had a dream (stay with me) that my wife handed me a baby and said: “This is your daughter and her name is Liberty.” Now, I should tell you that we were living in Hoboken at the time and I thought, well maybe I have just picked up the idea from the Statue of Liberty and didn’t give it much thought.
Then later that morning I heard my wife talking on the phone to her sister. She too had a dream. In a very brightly lit room our son Samuel had said to her “You have to call the baby Liberty mom. Two beings made of light told me.”

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Daddy Daycare….another wasted opportunity

What do men need to prepare them for and support them in fatherhood? Maybe books written specifically for dads (I can think of a brilliant book for new dads)? NCT classes for new dads like Hit the Ground Crawling? The support of their own family? To spend time with other new dads? Or perhaps a week long crash course in childcare at a local nursery?
I’m sorry… hold it there. A week long crash course in childcare at a local nursery? Who would think that would help them to be better dads?
Channel 4, that’s who. Daddy Daycare is their new programme, and the first in a 3-part series was broadcast last night. It took three dads that aren’t used to being in a childcare environment, put them in a really busy nursery and watched them struggle, while a not entirely supportive staff of single mums look on.
Apparently, however, its purpose is not to portray men as incompetent and feckless dads. Perish the thought! No, this limited, made for TV experiment is to “Help our nation’s mums and kids to rediscover what it means to have men in their lives.”
Excuse me?
Yes, you read that right. Apparently, modern British life has spawned a generation of dysfunctional dads that are being pushed away from their families. The voiceover tells us that the idea behind the show is to take nine “Lazy, disinterested, workaholic and absent fathers for a crash course in childcare to make them better fathers.” I really am quoting here.
Putting new dads (or men thinking about fatherhood like Stefan) in to that environment will not make them better dads, any more than a learner driver would be entrusted with an Express train full of passengers to make them more able to drive a car. For a start, it takes training, it takes time and it takes experience to master new skills. So in this scenario, if these dads had the benefit of all those things, they would become great childcarers. But being a good dad isn’t just about taking care of physical needs. It’s about stepping up and being a parent. I recently read a comment from a dad who was asked if he was ‘babysitting’ his own daughters. “No,” he said “I’m parenting them.” There is a difference and it’s not made clear in the show (and if it really is aiming to help the nation, I think that distinction needs to be a matter of public record).
But the real problem I had with the show was that it was such a wasted opportunity. I know a lot of new dads that tuned in last night to watch, expecting something ultimately educational and positive. No, unfortunately it stuck to the old stereotypes: men are idiots when it comes to parenting. Which is an unfortunate message to be broadcasting at a time when there are so many more stay at home dads than there used to be, and the number is on the rise.
I don’t think the women fared much better in the stereotypes either. We are told that 98% of the childcare workforce is women, and that women are more patient and understanding. Yet, we were shown no evidence of patience and understanding for “The Men” who were so obviously out of their depth. And are we really to believe that all single mums are eye-rolling, arm crossing, judgemental individuals who think that men are completely inept as dads, “have no instinct whatsoever” and think that “it’s a women’s world?” Apparently we are, yes. Another wasted opportunity: these women are extremely hardworking, professional childcarers that are also managing a household alone. They deserve medals not tired stereotypes.
There was one exception, when Garry went home with Vivien, one of the nursery staff. Vivien has a punishing schedule: she gets up at 4.30am, has 3 hours of commuting, a full time job and is single parent to two young children. She told Garry that this schedule makes her feel like a robot, and that if she had an entire day to herself, she would sleep. They were both alike in that they both want a better future for their kids, but Vivien is not in the position of having the choice to cut down her workload to spend more time with her family. I found the two minute interaction between Vivien and Garry by far the most insightful part of the show. I think Garry did too.
If there are any inexperienced dads reading this, I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for 10 years and I’m telling you that you don’t need to go to the local nursery for a crash course in childcare to be a better dad. You need to get to grips with the skills you need with your own children. Don’t believe that as men we’re not biologically programmed to parent. It doesn’t take biology to become a whizz at changing nappies, understanding cries and all the other baby admin, it takes practical experience. And when you have the admin sorted, you get time to really engage with your kids. It may not seem like it now, but you have a really short amount of time with them (just 2000 days between birth and age 5 when they start school). Start making that time count today.

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Baby it's Cold Outside…..

All this talk about cold weather got me thinking about my Arctic training in Norway…. Now THAT was cold. That was the kind of cold that would freeze your tears. Or take your fingertips off.
Take this picture for instance. I am in a snow hole, baking in a balmy 1 degree above freezing. I should point out it was -50 degrees (with the wind chill factor) outside the snow hole.

Here I am in Cam Whites, being inspected before taking part in the 20K patrol race. That’s me on the far right.

And finally, don’t tell my own troopers (who I have spent the last week telling not to throw snowballs) but here’s me getting ready to pelt my superiors.

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Snow Day!

Here in Staffordshire it started snowing on Saturday and snowed right through the night.
The troopers loved it, and spent all day sledding, making snowmen and digging out drives. Amazingly, the same three troopers that spent eight hours playing out in the snow on Sunday were the same ones who complained bitterly about the cold (and the injustice of it all) on the 15 minute walk to school on Monday morning….
Here’s the snowman I made with Liberty. I say ‘with’ but it really entailed me doing as I was told while she sat in the warm conservatory eating an apple….
Liberty for Snowmen!
I didn’t mind that she stayed inside though, as here is the monster she had made with all the troopers on our street (picture features my son Sam, Liberty and her best friend William). Jude is sledding at this point.

We also helped out a few of our neighbours in the street by clearing their drives of snow. Here is Sam proudly modelling the spade he used to clear our neighbour’s drive (please note – he is not wearing gloves because he had just taken them off soaking wet when I asked him if I could snap him

I am just awaiting ‘action shots’ of Jude on a sled…
The troopers are all praying for more snow, and if I’m honest…. so am I.

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Heaven Can't Wait

Teddy WilliamsMy wonderful granddad Edward, ‘Teddy’ Williams died today, aged 94. He was a wonderful man, and everyone who knew him would tell you that. He lived in Guernsey all his life – apart from when went away to fight in World war II – and he loved that island so much he even wrote a poem about it (which was published).
My dad is a vicar, and he’ll be taking my granddad’s funeral service next week. We’re not expecting a dry eye in the house. My wife and I both agree that our troopers (10, 8 and 5) are too young to go to the funeral, but we are going to have to tell them that granddad has gone to heaven. And we’re expecting a pretty good reception.
The troopers have been building up quite a dossier about heaven over the last few years. It actually began when my sons learned that a young boy in their school had died, and a teacher had pointed out that they weren’t to worry as normally, little children don’t die but adults. So the troopers were upset – and curious – was I going to die? Was their mum? Why did people die? Where did they go?
I told them that yes, me and their mum would die before them but years and years and years from now. I also added that it had to happen that way because we needed to get to heaven first and prepare the party for when they arrived. This cheered everyone’s spirits to no end, and my wife and I heartily congratulated ourselves on our ingenuity. Then the party related interrogations began.
“Who can we invite to the party?” “Do they have to be dead too?” “Can we have party rings?” “Do we get presents?”
As for the last question, we didn’t want to be seen to be penny pinching on the celestial party of their lifetime so we said that yes, in heaven there’ll be presents galore. In heaven you can have whatever you want. Forever. That captured their imaginations like only endless possibility can.
Obviously we made the point that you need to be good to get into heaven. But the troopers reckon a life of goodness for an everlasting one is definitely worth it. My son Sam said “Dad, I’m even going to be good after I’ve got in!”
So in our house, going to heaven is almost the equivalent of winning the lottery.
And if that wasn’t good enough, we told them that when they have had enough of being in heaven, they can come back down to earth as someone else. “Dad, who’d get sick of having whatever they want?” was my son Jude’s sage response.
So granddad, if you’re reading this, you’ve got three great grandchildren here who want to know what you’ve ordered in for the party.
Until we meet again granddad.

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Healthy Packed Lunches for Kids

This blog was written in conjunction with Rachel Jessey, a qualified nutritionist, member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy, and a specialist in infant and childhood nutrition.
It is important that children are fed a healthy diet to promote growth, sustain energy, improve concentration and boost natural defences. At school it is especially important that a child’s lunch contains plenty of nutrients to stock up on those used throughout the morning and keep them sustained throughout the afternoon.
This I know. However, I still ended up in the packed lunch rut.

I didn’t do it intentionally. I thought I was providing great packed lunches: healthy (no chocolate or sweets), a little bit inventive (soup and a sandwich in the cold weather) and full of nutritious food. But last week I heard my son telling my mum about his packed lunches, “We have the same stuff every day. Sandwich, yoghurt, fruit, bar, crisps. Boring.”
I think part of the reason for the sameness of my packed lunches is that I need to be able to prepare the bulk of the packed lunch the night before – I simply don’t have the time in the morning to make anything more complicated than a sandwich. So I got into the habit of buying things that I knew I could easily assemble. Then I got into the habit of buying those same things without thinking.
I began to look at the contents of the packed lunches more critically. The ‘healthy’ bars actually contained more sugar than a packet of chocolate buttons. I am still getting over that revelation. The tortilla chips I gave them every day (a large bag broken down into individual, small, portions by me – not a whole bag as Sam implied) were too salty. It was ‘breakfast-cereal-gate’ all over again (more on that another time). So, New Year, New Packed Lunch Menu. Below is a list of a week’s packed lunch ideas, prepared by Rachel Jessey, a qualified nutritionist, to give me inspiration (and you, if you need it). It is based on all the things my kids like to eat. My youngest is five and so can cope with having a little pot of houmous to dip carrot sticks in etc.

  • Mini buffet – A selection of crackers, oat cakes and/or rice cakes, or slices of wholemeal bread with cheese cubes, chicken strips, carrot, cucumber and red pepper sticks, cherry tomatoes and dips such as houmous, cream cheese, guacamole or salsa
  • Apple
  • Yogurt
  • Bottle of water, 100% fruit juice – not from concentrate, or fruit smoothie


  • Wholemeal pasta mixed with tuna, cucumber cubes, red pepper cubes and sweetcorn, mixed with a little olive oil (to prevent it becoming a congealed mess)
  • Banana
  • Chopped dried apricots and nuts (if allowed at school)
  • Bottle of water, 100% fruit juice – not from concentrate, or fruit smoothie


  • Wholemeal cous cous with chickpeas, feta cheese and chicken strips and spring onions, cucumber and tomato cubes. Use 1/2 a stock cube in the water you make the cous cous with for extra flavour.
  • Box of raisins
  • Fruit in jelly
  • Bottle of water, 100% fruit juice – not from concentrate, or fruit smoothie


  • Pitta pockets or wholemeal bread sandwich with egg and cress
  • Vegetable sticks with houmous
  • Yogurt
  • Bottle of water, 100% fruit juice – not from concentrate, or fruit smoothie


  • Wholemeal wrap with chicken, salsa, avocado and lettuce
  • Small fruit salad
  • Fromage frais
  • Bottle of water, 100% fruit juice – not from concentrate, or fruit smoothie

My kids were back at school Tuesday and so far have had the ‘mini buffet’, pasta and cous-cous. All the lunch boxes came back empty, and they all agreed that it was lovely. Obviously, I realise that it is a novelty to have something different and I appreciate that I will have to keep the variety going, but it’s a good start.
My top 5 golden rules for packed lunches:

  1. Make packed lunches the night before. No matter how tired you are. In the morning you will be tired and busy.
  2. Invest in a reusable water bottle (cheaper than bottled and better for the environment) and plastic containers to put the lunch in. They’re cheaper in the long run that plastic lunch bags and stop everything getting squashed. Squashed food just isn’t appetising.
  3. Be mindful of portion sizes.
  4. Experiment with different fillings for wraps and pitta pockets that you know your troopers will like, and mix and match the ideas. Variety is the spice of life.
  5. Always check with your school what foods you are allowed to pack for your child as some prevent you from including nuts, for example.
About Commando Dad

How I became a stay at home dad

The decision for me to become a stay-at-home dad began with a pact made on the tarmac of Heathrow in 2003.
My wife and I had just touched down on a flight from New York (where we had lived for 3 years) with our two fabulous sons, Samuel (then 14 months) and Jude (then two months). We had decided to come back home as we simply couldn’t juggle work and childcare in New York no matter how hard we tried. And we tried hard. My wife earned more, but my job gave us our visas; my wife worked long, sometimes unpredictable hours, and I worked shifts etc.
So we decided that we would embrace the adventure of returning home. We had no job, no place to live and few savings.
The plane was on the tarmac when we made our pact: the first one to get a job that could support the whole family would work, and the other one would look after the kids full time. No more juggling. We went to stay with my in-laws and my wife rang anyone she had ever worked with in PR, to see if she could pick up freelance work. Within a few weeks she was working and my career as full time stay at home dad began in earnest.
Two years later our little family was living in London and I was working every weekend as a PCSO in the Met, when we heard that we had another baby on the way: Liberty. When Liberty was 18 months old I became a registered childminder.
My experiences as a stay at home dad led me to write Commando Dad: Basic Training. How to be an Elite Dad or Carer. From Birth to Three Years Old. It’s a no-nonsense, straightforward guide to all the basic skills dads need to be effective parents.
I wrote it because all the books (and classes) lead up to the birth of your baby trooper, not the entire life that comes after. The books available for dads were either novelty books (and believe me, if your parenting is a laugh a minute, you’re doing it wrong) or books that were simply too wordy to be practical. At 0-silly-hundred- hours, with a screaming trooper in your arms, 700 pages of someone telling you about their emotions isn’t the answer.
I’ve got to be honest; being a stay at home parent was – and still is – the most demanding job I have ever had. And I count being a Royal Engineer Commando, PE teacher, and a security guard at the UK Mission to the UN in New York amongst my experiences. It is definitely not easy; but then I believe that nothing worth doing is ever easy.

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Thank a soldier today – it's more important than you realise

When you are away on tour and you are miles away from home, getting a letter is a truly exhilarating experience. It makes you feel instantly closer to home and your loved ones. It is an ordinary thing to read a letter or a message, and when you are working in extraordinary and dangerous circumstances, ordinary can be a wonderful thing.
When I was in Iraq in the 1990s, there were no mobile phones or computers. We would wait, and wait, and wait to get mail. When it arrived it lifted everyone’s spirits. It really is hard for me to articulate what a huge boost to morale it was.
And you know, you don’t even need to know the soldier. I used to get letters from complete strangers talking about what was going on at home – seemingly mundane details like what was in the charts etc. – but it was such a comfort.
Now there is a website, called Thank You Soldier, where you can send a thank you message instantly to a UK soldier. No need to sign in, create an account or register. You can just send a thank you message, which can be read by soldiers serving at home or overseas instantly.
Never underestimate the power of a thank you. On the 60th anniversary of D Day my wife and I went to Normandy. At a battery we met a veteran who had attacked that very spot on D Day (as it housed guns that were firing on the British landing on the nearby beach). My wife shook his hand and said thank you, because her granddad had landed on that beach, and he had survived that terrible day, thanks in no small part to the efforts of him and his fellow soldiers. The veteran started to cry. My wife started to cry too and apologised for upsetting him. “You didn’t upset me,” he replied “it was an honour for me to serve my country and I am humbled that you thank me for it.”
Thank a soldier today.

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Kids Find the Presents? 5 Plausible Excuses to Keep the Magic Alive this Christmas

Childhood is a precious and short time, and I believe that our job as parents is to let our troopers have as much enjoyment out of it as possible. That’s why it is best to have an armoury of plausible excuses to help us out of sticky Christmas situations -such as your troopers finding the presents, or being told that Santa doesn’t exist – and keep the magic alive as long as possible.
Please let me know of any good excuses you have!
The golden rule to remember is that each of these excuses must be given with absolute and total conviction to be effective. You must believe it to make it believable.
1. If your trooper’s friend – or older sibling – tells them that Father Christmas doesn’t exist and its you that buys the presents
Excuse: Depending on our trooper’s age, you have a couple of options:
– For younger troopers, laugh heartily and seem really incredulous. “Really? No Father Christmas?” You can also rely on any other adult to join in. “You’ll never guess what so-and-so said. No Father Christmas!”
– For older troopers use the power of reasoning. Say that they must know that you’re not buying the presents as you’re really not keen on their noisy toys (trust me, this will resonate with any trooper) so if you were buying, you’d have chosen something different.
How to avoid the situation in future: unfortunately, this is unavoidable. A natural part of growing up is to realise that Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

2. If your trooper sees their present in a shopping bag or hidden in a cupboard

Excuse: Tell your trooper that you bumped into Father Christmas when you were out shopping. He told you that so many children had been good this year he was finding it hard to get around to everyone. He asked you if you wouldn’t mind bringing back some of your presents. Be sure to say you are very sorry you didn’t hide it better but you’re not used to hiding presents.

How to avoid the situation in future:
easy to say but try and shop only when there are no troopers about, such as in the morning when you’ve just dropped them off at school. Wrap them as soon as possible as it is easy to pass off wrapped presents as being for cousins, friends etc. Always be sure to keep a list of what you have bought though.
Find one excellent place to hide presents – in a house the loft is a great choice (although do not leave it until the night before Christmas to try and retrieve them). Or at your parents’ house. They have a lot more experience than you.

3. If you weren’t able to get your trooper the thing they really wanted

Excuse: – If your trooper is very young, don’t worry. I have spent many a Christmas feeling terrible that I didn’t get that ‘must have’ toy to find out on Christmas Day that my troopers are very happy with what they have. I know it sounds like something out of Dickens, but you’d be surprised.
– If your trooper is older and you have the money, but the items were sold out. Get a friend to write a note from Santa (your trooper may recognise your handwriting) to say that there was a huge demand for this toy, so the Elves were unable to make one in time. So you have left the money with you to buy one in the sales. In the meantime, he hopes you have a lovely time with the rest of your presents.
– If you just don’t have the money. From birth, some relatives will give you money to buy presents for your troopers. I save this for moments such as these. In the absence of these savings, consider asking grandparents and other relatives to contribute. Even if this means they club together and the special present comes from the family and not Santa (which is not as bad as it sounds, as you’re not getting the credit for any of it). Look into getting a used one at a reduced price. If none of this is an option, take a deep breath and don’t let this affect your opinion of yourself as a great parent.
How to avoid the situation in future: in the case of the must have toys selling out, try and find out as soon as possible what they want. Our kids start their Christmas list after Halloween. If they ask for anything, I tell them to put it on their list and Santa will decide. I also ask other parents at the school gate what the ‘must have’ toys are – some parents have a radar for such things.
If at all possible, save the money you get given for your troopers into a present fund and perhaps contribute it to yourself throughout the year.
4. If your trooper asks you why the ‘real’ Santa they met at the school, play group, supermarket etc is not the same (or if they recognise the person underneath the Santa disguise)

Excuse: Santa really can’t be everywhere all at once, and right at this busiest time of year, he is most in demand. Because he doesn’t want to disappoint children he lets people pretend to be him, but they must pass a test. When they pass this test and Santa knows that they are a good Santa at heart, he sends them a white beard from the North Pole. This contains a little bit of Santa magic.
How to avoid the situation in future: again, this one is unavoidable. In December you literally cannot move for Santas. In fact, on more than one occasion I have actually had to play Santa to my own kids! For younger troopers this is a fantastic and exciting experience. For older troopers, keep this excuse up your sleeve.
5. If your trooper wakes to find you, or your partner, leaving their presents at the end of their bed
Excuse: If your trooper is fully awake (as opposed to just waking a little, in which case you can just pretend you were tucking them in) and can see the toys, the only thing to do is to say you heard a noise in their room and came in to find that Santa had been. This will of course mean that you will have a trooper awake at some ungodly hour. Unless you can successfully get them back to sleep, in which case, please let me know how.
How to avoid the situation in future:
The only way to prevent this situation for sure is not to leave presents at the end of the bed. In our house we leave them under the tree.
If you have any other excuses to get out of these sticky situations, please do let me know. A parent can never have too many excuses.