My Hopes for Maternity Leave vs. Reality

As I write this, I am sat in a caravan in a holiday park in North Wales (as glamorous as that sounds!), having a very welcome and needed mini break with my little man and whilst he is sleeping, I am pondering my 13 months out of work so far, the first 11 months of mummyhood and the last 2 months of maternity leave yet to come.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I envisaged a certain future for myself and my new family. Pregnancy offered an opportunity to create a life that I had always dreamt of.

I dreamt of a comfortable, glowing and trouble free pregnancy. For the most part this was the case. I absolutely loved my pregnant body up to around 7.5 months when carpal tunnel syndrome and fluid overload struck. I piled on the weight and struggled to mobilise as much as I would have liked to. I struggled to sleep and I had to stop work earlier than expected. I wasn’t able to do things that would normally bring me comfort but I knew it was temporary… even if it felt like an eternity. Nonetheless, my bump remained big and round and beautiful and I was the proudest I have ever been showing it off.

I hoped for a calm, relatively stress-free, well controlled birth and attended hypnobirthing and antenatal classes to be as prepared as I could be. In reality our baby decided to arrive 3 weeks early via emergency c-section and I was very very poorly, needing a blood transfusion and 8 days in hospital altogether. It also took my body took a lot longer than the 6 weeks to recover from my c-section and the traumatic birth. My body felt battered and bruised and not my own at all for a very long time afterwards. But I am grateful for what my body was able to physically and emotionally cope with and how it delivered an amazing gorgeous baby boy and nothing can take that achievement away.

I hoped for a fun filled, transformational maternity leave. During which time I would make at least 50 new mum friends and their babies would be best friends with my baby. I would become a social butterfly and find and grow my “tribe” threefold. In reality, I probably have a dozen new mummy friends which actually, isn’t as few as I often think. I hoped I would gain a new lease of life and energy. I think I underestimated how much it takes to be a new stay at home mum. There is a lot of sacrifices made I think. A distinct lack of adult interaction, trying to juggle baby fun time with appointments and chores, trying to socialise with other mums and babies, maintaining old friendships, relationships coupled with sleep deprivation, long days and long nights and trying to look half human and somewhat attractive is no mean feat. How do people do it? Really? Please help me!

I genuinely have the best time with my son. He is such good company and is always the life and soul of any party. He sings, he plays and he is just wonderful. Have I made the most of my time off with him? I hope so. I really do. I feel very grateful to have had so much time off work with my little boy and to have had the support of his daddy to enable me to do so. Nevertheless, I am very aware that I have spent much of my maternity leave anxious about how quickly time was going and how much I wanted/needed to do and worrying about my maternity leave ending. I think that summarises me quite well at times. So anxious about the future that I forget to be present. I hope my baby boy didn’t feel that.

The last few days on our mini break have been a revelation. Without distractions, chores and “things” that I put on myself to do, I feel like I have connected with my son more than ever. He laughs when I laugh, he holds my hand and he wants to sleep and cuddle next to me. I’m so glad I made this time available to reflect and focus all my attention on him.

I hoped that during my lengthy maternity leave I would suddenly turn from a not-so-girly girlfriend to a glamorous yummy mummy with nice nails and coiffeured hair that my partner wouldn’t be able to resist. In reality, I have had my nails done once for holiday and my hair lives in a scruffy bun at the top of my head. Hormones have played absolute havoc and my lovely strong hair is now brittle and dull and my previously dye-hidden grey hairs are now a permanent fixture. I can’t fit into my pre or pregnancy clothes and I have no idea how to dress for my new body shape. Besides hiding my body with baggy tops. I resist doing exercise because it feels like an insurmountable amount of effort to find the time, energy and motivation to do it. I resist eating reeeeally healthily because chocolate and cheese and bread are undoubtedly more comforting in the short term than a salad but then the cycle continues and my self esteems and confidence have really plummeted.

But at the same time, again, the last few days of our trip have shown me that my son won’t remember how rough I lool or rotund I am. He will remember fun mummy and good times so despite feeling pretty down about myself and how I look, I have still got out of bed, dusted myself off and we have gone swimming, had photos taken in which my chubby face and rolly polly face are clearly visible, danced and sang like nobody is watching, pulled silly faces and made silly noises without a care in the world.

But at times, it feels like such hard work and so incredibly isolating. It feels like I am the only person in the world feeling like I feel. It feels lonely. I have never been particularly social or a going out out sort person but instead have used work and achievements as a means to validate my self worth and to fulfil my identity. I’m wondering if 15 months, as lucky as I am to spend each and every day with my son, was much too long for me, my well being and my mental health. I am looking forward to January. New job. New me?

I will settle for a better balanced me. Let’s not push it and aim for unreachable expectations! Being a working mum will certainly bring new challenges but I’m excited to bring some of my other ‘beings’, as well as mummy, into play, to get moving, to learn new things

and to have a change of routine.

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Our first family holiday

I wrote this blog post almost 6 months ago and forgot to publish it. Where does the time go…

When we first booked our holiday, I really had no idea what to expect. I mean, I was excited to be going on holiday because who doesn’t love a good ‘All Inclusive’ holiday in a sunny climate! Of course, my apprehension came from the fact that, for the first time ever, we would be travelling with a young baby.

I have been lucky to have travelled a lot. I’ve travelled around the world on a number of occassions and consider myself quite the seasoned traveller. Thankfully, my many many many airport experiences and my love for organising made our holiday relatively stress free, although not completely without mishap!

Here are my tips.

  • Check in online if possible. This should make the airport waiting time relatively/significantly shorter. Remember that doing anything with a baby takes 3 times longer! You really don’t want to have to get to the airport 6 hours before departure! Beware…when you check in online make sure you are selecting seats suitable for infants. Some planes only have enough oxygen for adults + infants on one side of the plane (as we found out when TUI asked the 3 of us to move whilst breastfeeding AND whilst taxiing for take off!).
  • In the UK, babies are essentially exempt from the 100ml liquid limit and you can take as much water/milk/food as you are likely to need for the journey. Best check with the departure airport on quantities etc… though but do take at least a couple of days worth in your hand luggage ‘just in case’.
  • At most UK airports, families can use the fastrack queue at security. This makes a massive difference when you have grumpy/excited children to keep track of as well as the trillion hand luggage bits and bobs you need to take through security.
  • In the UK, you can preorder nappies, wipes and formula on Boots.com and pick it up at the airport after security, which is super handy to save on luggage space. Or if you’re travelling to a populated country, you will probably find that they have babies there too who wear nappies and use wipes. If you are like us, shop local!
  • We bought the relatively inexpensive Joie Nitro Stroller. We’re big fans of Joie and our little boy absolutely fell in love with this stroller. So much so that he slept in it every night on holiday as he didn’t like the cot.
  • Take lots of toys. Even if they can’t play with them yet, it will distract them, even if it’s for 10 seconds. It all adds up on the flight.
  • Take some baby home comforts, even if you don’t use them. It’s better to be prepared! We took a cot sheet (so he could sleep on a familiar smell) which we didn’t need because our son wouldn’t sleep in the hotel cot, his Ewan the dreamsheep which ran out of batteries on the first night and 2 fluffy blankets. One of said blankets became our son’s essential sleeping aid and when we misplaced it one day, he refused to fall asleep until we found it again. The joys of holidaying at a resort is that things can’t really go too far.
  • We also took our Motorola baby monitor for all those planned evenings relaxing in the balcony whilst bubs slept. In reality, we went to sleep almost as soon as he did and there were no balcony parties but I wouldn’t hesistate to take it again.
  • DISPOSABLE BIBS!! There are no letters big enough to highlight just how invaluable these were. It saved us from an enormous amount of washing and was I not a just-in-case-packer and would I not have packed about 20 cloth bibs, it would have also saved us lots of space. Next time I will definitely take these alone.
  • We also took Pampers diaposable changing mats but we really just used these to wipe surfaces with when baby spewed 😂
  • If your baby is prone to burning like a crisp in the sun, a Snoozeshade may come in handy. We tried using it twice unsuccessfully. Our son likes to check up on us whilst he naps to make sure he’s not missing out on anything too exciting but it’s a fantastic idea for infants on holiday. After a tip from another parent, we also bought some Baby ear defenders with the idea that baby would wear them at night whilst we were watching the resort entertainment but we didn’t really need them as we were going to bed super early but they’re an absolute must for concerts, festivals etc…
  • Take clothes for all weathers. The chances are that baby will live in his or her vest but again, you never know!

Here is my complete baby packing list. We have taken our baby away on staycations and a festival since this holiday and I can tell you that packing gets easier each time. At this point our baby wasn’t eating solids which made things a lot simpler!

I know I perhaps over packed but we had everything we needed

  1. 1 swim set with hat
  2. 1 swim onesie
  3. 1 extra swim short
  4. 1 Happy nappy
  5. 1 swim wraparound
  6. Swim nappies
  7. 9 vests
  8. 8 tshirts
  9. 2 long sleeve tops
  10. 4 shorts
  11. 6 rompers
  12. 2 trousers
  13. 2 trackie bottoms
  14. 7 onesies/pjs
  15. 10 bibs
  16. 10 muslin squares
  17. 1 coat
  18. 1 cot sheet
  19. Vapour rub
  20. Suncream and aftersun
  21. 1 pair of sandals
  22. 1 cap
  23. 2 sun hats
  24. Toothpaste and toothbrush
  25. 1 pack wipes
  26. 20 nappies
  27. 7 pairs socks
  28. 1 blanket
  29. 1 pair ear defender
  30. Washing up liquid
  31. Non-bio Fairy tabs
  32. Ewan the dreamsheep
  33. Snoozeshade
  34. 30 Disposible bibs
  35. 12 Disposable changing mats
  36. 1 first aid kit
  37. Snoozeshade

Hand luggage

  1. 1 blanket
  2. 1 hoodie
  3. 1 pack wipes
  4. 1 pack anti bac wipes
  5. 1 pair baby sunglasses
  6. Alco gel
  7. 10 Nappies
  8. Changing mat
  9. Nappy bags
  10. Passports
  11. Boarding passes
  12. Disposable bibs
  13. Muslin squares
  14. Calpol
  15. Bonjela
  16. Teething crystals
  17. Gaviscon
  18. x2 self sterilising bottles
  19. 1x water bottle
  20. Dummy
  21. 1 vest
  22. 1 extra onesie
  23. 1 romper
  24. Ipad with cartoons
  25. Stroller
  26. Baby Carrier
  27. Ipad charger
  28. Travel plug
  29. Teething mitten
  30. Toy Beads
  31. Sophie the giraffe
  32. Rattles and other toys

We also made these little notes for the passengers closest to us. Most really appreciated the gesture although they were all super friendly and kind and said we shouldn’t have…..

My daily routine with an (almost) 6 month old

We have to be somewhere by 12.30 so we have to leave by 12.00. But that’s in the middle of his nap so we should set off at 10.45 at the latest so he can nap in the car. So I should start getting him ready by 10.00 which means he should feed/have his breakfast by 9.30 and he only wakes up from his first nap at 9.00!! 🤔 Soooooo.. I should get ready and pack the car and baby bag at 8.00 when he’s napping…

This is how my day goes now. Is it any wonder the days just pass me by! One of my work colleagues told me to savour every moment because maternity leave absolutely flies by, and she wasn’t joking!

I’ve decided to jot down what our routine is at the moment, so on days when I wonder if I do enough, if we play enough or do enough exciting stuff I can look back with a resounding YES! Or alternatively, so we can mix things up a bit.

This isn’t intended as a guide in what a routine should be. It’s simply what we do and what works for us at the moment. It could all change tomorrow! No judgement or expectations.

6.00 am – Baby wakes up. Daddy cuddles and nappy change.

6.15 am – Put the kettle on, breastfeed

6.30 am – Sit baby on sofa with blanket and toys, put baby TV on, play with toys together, put kettle on again, make coffee

6.45 am – Tidy kitchen, do washing up or put dishes away, start drinking coffee whilst baby is relaxed or take baby in walker or play gym to kitchen with me

7.00 am – Practice tummy time, rolling and sitting up (baby…not me!)

7.15 am – Baby gets bored of playing on the floor. Sit in play gym, play with rattles and beads together. Hoover downstairs and play hoover noise game (switch hoover on and off and watch his change of expression!), fold clean laundry.

7.30 am – Baby gets bored of play gym. Sit back on sofa to watch TV with blanket. Wind down for nap. Start preparing tea (dinner for the Southerners reading this). Preparing weaning purees for baby.

7.45 am – Tickle and cuddle time.

8.00 am – Baby nap time. Finish drinking cold coffee. Get showered/dressed. Put away clean laundry. Tidy rest of house. Pack baby bag for the day. Write a blog post if I have time.

9.00 am – Baby awake, weaning breakfast/breastfeed, nappy change, get dressed

9.45 am – First trip out of the day to baby group, supermarket to do the food shop, walk to the park or village etc…

11.00 am – Baby nap time. Put the kettle on, forget to make hot drink. Drink smoothie. Change pukey set of clothes. Put shopping away. Finish making tea. Whatever other chores crop up. Put dirty laundry in washing machine.

12.30 pm – Baby awake, weaning lunch/breastfeed, nappy change, clothes change if needed

1.00 pm – Second trip out of the day, sometimes meeting friends for lunch or play dates or play at home. If home, then sit in walker and chew on steering wheel, then sit in play gym, play with rattles and beads together, then play on floor or sofa. Put clothes in dryer.

2.30 pm – Baby nap time. If out, then walk around or drive around until baby wakes up. If at home, tidy some more, put the kettle on and make a hot drink.

3.00 pm – Baby awake, breastfeed, nappy change, clothes change if needed.

3.30 pm – Third trip out of the day, often to the park to get some fresh air.

4.00 pm – Play together on sofa with toys, sit in walker and take baby around the house with me, play on the floor. Finish making tea. Drink cold ‘hot’ drink made earlier. Hoover upstairs.

4.30 pm – Weaning tea for baby. Cuddle and tickle time.

5.00 pm – Daddy is home! Daddy play time. Tea time for grown ups. Wash up. Tidy kitchen.

6.00 pm – Baby bedtime routine starts. Bath every few days otherwise sponge wash, moisturise and massage. Pjs on. Breastfeed.

6.30 pm – Baby put to bed and hopefully soon asleep!

7.00 pm – Shattered! Have shower or bath if didn’t manage one today. Tidy toys away. Catch up with daddy. Go for a run (only just started doing this so can’t say it’s a routine yet but it will be!)

9.00 pm – BED TIME! Thank goodness!

Anytime between 1.00am – 5.00 am – Baby generally wakes up once per night for a feed.

And….repeat!

Now, when a baby first arrives, new mums are told to forget about the housework and there is certainly a lot to be said for prioritising baby and play over the washing up, but, I’m very house proud and as stereotypical as it may sound, I love being a ‘home maker’ and cooking and keeping everything clean and tidy for myself, my partner and our baby. Moreover, for me, it’s a big part of keeping mentally healthy. It makes me feel purposeful and that’s personally very important.

Sometimes I feel like I’m rushing through the day to fit everything in and perhaps sometimes I need to slow down, take a breath and take everything in but I don’t rush time with our son. He helps me to slow down! Anyone with a baby knows you cannot rush them no matter how hard you try!

I’m also a bit of a stickler for a routine. Of course all the times above are averages, but it’s a very typical day for us. There is absolutely no chance we could keep to that exact schedule! Babies have their own agenda. As parents, flexibility is an invaluable skill to have but I do try to stick to a rough routine, particularly with his naps and bed time, which sometimes can make the day challenging…. but I think it works well for us all.

We go out, we play at home and we have lots of quality time together and when I do chores, he’s always either playing or relaxing under supervision or right by me and watching me. I give him my everything and surely I can’t do more than that! I love every minute of being a mummy, as busy as it keeps me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My breastfeeding journey…so far!

It has suddenly dawned on me that by writing this blog it may seem like I’m trying to be some sort of parenthood or baby expert. If you’re reading this, please know that really isn’t the case! I’m a first time mummy, trying my best and struggling at times but it helps me and my sanity to put my thoughts out there. If someone finds my blog useful then even better!

I’ve really been wanting to write about breastfeeding because it has been such a journey for me so far, almost 15 weeks in.

I don’t profess to know everything about breastfeeding. I can only share my experiences and opinions but I want to make it clear that in my view, and I have mentioned this before, a fed baby is a happy baby and as much as (most) babies have the natural ability to latch onto boob, they are just as capable to latch onto a bottle. A happy comfortable mummy makes a happy comfortable baby too, regardless of how they are fed. Babies want food. I expect they do not have the capability to judge us mummies on where that food comes from and so in an ideal world, we should be able to feed our babies however we feel best able to without guilt or shame.

Before I got pregnant, I was adamant I would not breastfeed. To me, there seemed to be such a breastfeeding agenda that it really put me off. I understood the benefits of breastfeeding and breast milk but I didn’t want to feel forced to breastfeed just because a midwife or a health visitor told me so. I wanted feeding to be loving and nurturing and a pleasurable experience. Not a chore dictated to me by the NHS or EU targets. This may seem like an overly political view to take on breastfeeding but this really was where my head was at.

However, as soon as I got pregnant, things changed. Seemingly overnight. Something inside me just said “Of course I’m going to breastfeed! Breast is best”. And that may be true but… if I am really really honest with myself, probably the biggest reason for me to breastfeed was that for once in my life, I had an opportunity to do something, for someone, that only I could do.

Is that a selfish reason to want to breast feed?

And in any case, is it ever a selfish act if the outcome is a positive one?

I ask this seriously because, thinking about formula fed babies, is it selfish to feed them formula if they are thriving and if mum would otherwise be stressed and uncomfortable trying to breastfeed? I don’t think so. I think, if both mum and baby are happy then it’s the right decision.

Everyone has their own personal reasons for wanting to feed in one way or another. It may be because it feels natural or for medical, cosmetic, convenience or whatever reasons.

For me, I had the boobs. I was making the milk. I had all the tools needed and yes, they could be replicated with formula and bottles but it made me feel immensely special to be able to do this for our baby. More importantly, I wanted to do this for our baby.

Plus I found formula, bottles, teats and sterilising equipment to be a minefield. Far too much to think about! There are all sorts of anti-colic, self-steralising, closer-to-nature bottles with differing flow sizes or variable flow teats 😶 not to mention cold water sterilisers, electric steam ones, sterilising tablets/ liquids/ wipes etc.. At least with breastfeeding all I had to think about was keeping two things clean and in working order. I didn’t even buy a breastpump for a good number of weeks after the birth of our little boy because I didn’t want to ‘jinx’ my ability to breastfeed. I bought some Aptamil ready made milk just in case I, for whatever reason, was not able to breastfeed our baby as soon as he was born. I’m happy that we never had to use it and that the box sits in a cupboard somewhere.

I eventually did start expressing. About 4 weeks in. Partly because other people kept asking me about it and I felt some pressure to do it but mostly because I felt that it was the right thing to do so my partner could also have the pleasure of feeding our little boy. I was very cautious because I produce so much milk that I really didn’t want to end up producing more by expressing and suffering with engorged boobs.

I initially had a Haakaa manual breast pump which collected breast let down milk that would otherwise go to waste in a breast pad. I absolutely loved this in the earlier days as it meant I wasn’t actively encouraging milk production but merely collecting what was already there. A few weeks later, I bought a generic unbranded electric double breast pump as I was producing too much milk for the Haakaa manual breast pump to collect. I didn’t want to spend £££ on a pump as my heart was invested in using my boobs to feed him rather than using bottles so it felt like an extravagant purchase. So far the electric double breast pump has been absolutely marvellous. I don’t use it every day. Only when I miss a feed or when our little boy doesn’t feed as much as he would normally and I need to empty my breasts.

I now have a freezer full of more breastmilk than I know what to do with but I see it as a “just in case” supply and I try to replace the milk we use up so we are always stocked up.

I will miss breastfeeding as and when I stop. It’s such a lovely feeling to have our son cuddling up to me, skin to skin. It makes my heart warm with love and joy to share such bonding moments with him but I imagine that if he was bottle fed, I would enjoy making these memories just as much.

Nonetheless, I have to admit that I am glad that we don’t really use bottles. Not having to prepare formula is definitely a massive plus for me and another reason to continue to breastfeed. Our son’s milk is free, always available, at the right temperature, with the right nutrients and in the right quantities, anywhere and at any point in time, day or night. Since we don’t really use many bottles, we never really paid much attention to what bottles were de rigueur. Frankly, we initially went with MAM bottles with size 1 teats that we were given gratis at baby events. We then moved onto Nuby and Philips Avent with variable flow teats once baby needed bigger bottles. I can’t say whether I believe that these bottles are the best for breastfed babies because all babies are different, but thankfully, I can confirm we haven’t really noticed any nipple/teat confusion with these bottles. But then again, we don’t bottle feed often enough for our boy to get used to these teats.

Nonetheless, the whole nipple/teat confusion issue was very much a worry for me. Breastfeeding is so physically and emotionally demanding that the thought of all my efforts being thwarted by a pesky bottle was really a source of anxiety.

For that reason, we also chose to avoid the use of a dummy in the first 4 weeks. I genuinely believed that all our baby needed was milk, nipple, breast and cuddles to bring him comfort. When we finally introduced a dummy, he really could not have been less interested. He struggled to keep it in and he would spit it out. He is almost 15 weeks old now and he doesn’t use a dummy at all. I’m not sure I know where they are even if he did start to show signs on wanting one.

Part of me envies babies that use a dummy. There is nothing more stressful or sweat inducing than a baby screaming inconsolably in public. A dummy in these cases would be sooooo welcome. With babies like ours, the lack of interest in dummies certainly makes public meltdowns particularly exciting, especially when there is nowhere to sit to breastfeed inconspicuously. In those cases, bottles and dummies are much more convenient and practical.

But again, I like not having to worry about sterilising dummies as well as bottles. Just 2 breasts and 2 nipples to keep clean with the odd bottle thrown in and sterilised in Munchkin steriliser bags that we also received as gifts. Not much to think about really. Since I started expressing we have also began using the Phillips Avent microwave steriliser as the steriliser bags weren’t big enough for all the components of the breast pump. Again, I expect these bags and sterilisers are very similar to others in the market but they have really worked well for us. The steriliser bags are particularly good when travelling!

Regardless of all my perceived advantages of breastfeeding, I have tried my best to stay open minded whilst simultaneously standing my ground. I feel that my intent and commitment to start and to keep breastfeeding has helped me through some difficult times. Particularly when my decision to breastfeed has been challenged.

There have been arguments when I have refused to express in the early days for fear of nipple/teat confusion; when I’ve shed tears because of lack of sleep and yet when my resistance to express milk has meant no-one was able to take over the feeding to help me rest. I have felt like I was nothing but a milking cow. I’ve been told to formula feed our baby so he sleeps through the night when I have complained of tiredness (incidently he sleeps like an angel most nights). I’ve had thrush. I’ve had mastitis. I have been told to give up breastfeeding because the above are signs that I should stop.

But I have persisted in the knowledge that our baby is thriving and happy being breastfed and that he is getting all the goodness, antibodies and medicinal remedies that come from breastmilk. Furthermore, as time goes on, I feel more and more confident and comfortable breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is hard. It can be all consuming, painful, isolating and overwhelming. But it’s worth it. I can’t help but think how disappointed I will be if for whatever reason I have to stop breastfeeding before I am ready to, but I have to remind myself to look at the bigger picture. Our son being fed and happy is what counts. Really, I’m hoping to continue breastfeeding well past 6 months, and maybe even past a year, if I can.

Failing as a mummy (on days like today…)

There are days, like today, when I feel like I’m failing as a mummy to my beautiful little boy. If I use the reasonable part of my brain, rather than my emotional, sensitive self, I can see I’m not failing. I can. Honestly.

But on days like today it REALLY feels like it.

Yesterday started promisingly. He woke up at 8am after a long nights sleep (go us!), full of smiles, giggles and ‘chatter’. He was in such a good mood that I thought taking him to a baby bliss class at 9.30am would be a good idea. Wrong. I felt like I was rushing him. Feeding, changing, packing his bag, remembering to take a towel (more on this later), bungling him into the car seat and car.

All the while, I was trying to justify it all by assuring myself that mixing with other babies is good for his socialising skills, that playing with sensory toys in a different environment is good for his development and that getting out and about, however early, keeps him from getting bored.

When we arrived to baby bliss he cried for 10 minutes, puked all over his towel and himself, cuddled up to me for the next 5 minutes and then fell asleep. The rest of the day was mostly tears and failed attempts to keep him happy.

Was it my fault he was so upset? On days like today it really feels like it. I knew he wasn’t ready to go out based on his usual morning routine. It was too soon after waking up. I ignored my mummy 6th sense and I ignored the ‘go with baby’s flow’ chapter of the unwritten, but inferred, parenting book.

Today he woke up slightly earlier but much in the same manner. Smiling and chatting. I was cautiously optimistic.

But no. He has been so unhappy. He has cried and cried and screamed and cried. Hardly comforted for no longer than 10 minutes at a time no matter what I have tried. Tears in his eyes almost every hour of the day. Even when he has napped he has fallen asleep crying. Thinking about it brings tears to MY eyes.

I have changed his nappy, fed him, burped him, cuddled him, rubbed his tummy, made sure he was not too hot or cold, tried to get him to nap in case he was tired, played with him in case he wasn’t tired, bounced him, played airplane, rocked him, sang to him, read to him in case he didn’t like my singing, sat him up, lay him down, made noise, made everything silent.

I just don’t know what he needs.

All babies cry. I know that. We are VERY lucky that our little boy can usually be comforted fairly easily. Even in the middle of a post natal pilates class or half way through a mum-and-baby cinema screening all he ever really needs is a cuddle and attention and he’s happy again. I don’t think he’s a needy baby. He’s our perfect little boy.

But on days like today I feel useless when I can’t help him.

Is he not feeling well? Is it a cold? Tummy ache? Or is he teething? Is it colic? A ‘leap’? Growth spurt? Or is it his reflux? What is it?

Since he was born we have believed that he has reflux because he’s very sickly. He’s sick during, straight after and then frequently long after feeding. I have asked our GP and various midwives and health visitors for advice and they have attributed it to tongue tie (now resolved), fast milk flow and ‘a bit’ of reflux. They have all told me that if he’s putting on weight (which he is) then it’s nothing to worry about… he’ll grow out of it….and not to medicate him. Normally he doesn’t seem too bothered by it but it just seems to be getting worse recently.

So much so that I have to take a towel, not a muslin or a burp cloth, when we go to baby classes or out to meet other mums and babies because there is just sooo much sick. People always ask me what he’s taking for his reflux. When I say he’s not on any medication and explain why, people generally nod in agreement.

But on days like today I feel judged. It makes me not want to go out to baby classes or to meet other mums. Of course I’m going to carry on going because our little boy deserves to be shown off for the cutie that he is. But on days like today I feel so anxious that people will think I’m not looking after him properly or that I’m not doing enough to comfort him.

Don’t other people’s babies puke this much? Am I not doing the right thing by my baby? What am I doing wrong? Should I be demanding more from the GP? Or carry on as I am? Is he in pain? Is it an allergy? Or something else and not reflux at all?

I just don’t know what to do.

It’s not just the baby sick though. I have mentioned it because it’s both frustrating and upsetting for me and I imagine, for my little boy too. It is a source of worry and anxiety for me and on days like today I feel like anyone else, even a stranger, would be able to care for my baby better than I can. I KNOW that’s not the case. I do. I give my baby my all and more and he’s thriving. He’s doing amazingly.

But on days like today it just REALLY feels like I’m not doing my job as a mummy very well.

On days like today my partner comes home after a long and hard day at work to be greeted by a puke-smelling, frumpy, less-than-chirpy, tired girlfriend as well as a crying, screaming baby wearing his 5th babygrow of the day. Yet, it feels to me that most other mums out there look like they have their stuff together. What with their immaculate hair, manicured nails, back-to-pre-pregnancy-bodies, nice smelling clothes and non-pukey, well dressed chilled out babies. I know I shouldn’t compare but on days like today I wish I was more like them.

Sometimes I feel like I’m winning at life. Most often than not really. I have a beautiful family and I’m having the best time getting to know our wonderful little boy. I have to try and remember that.

But on days like today, when I’m struggling a little and when I don’t feel great about myself, I spend much of the day trying to hold back the tears because it is sooo hard to keep it together. On days like today I don’t feel like a very good girlfriend or mummy.

BUT I don’t want this to be a ‘woe is me’ blog post because I CAN see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know I only feel this way on days like today and I know that days like these will soon be forgotten and replaced by happy and fulfilling memories. I know that I’m winging it just like every other mummy out there and I know that by giving our little boy all the love and care that I have within me that I’m being the best mummy I can be ❤❤.

Top tips as a new mum to a newborn…

Clothes

  • There is no need for mittens or booties. Most onesies come with “feet” and fold-over hand covers.
  • Babies with reflux need ginormous bibs not the cute bandana ones.
  • Babies’ hands and feet are freezing! This is apparently normal and nothing to worry about. Definitely no need to put 4 pairs of socks on.
  • The triangles at the top of vests are there so you can roll down the vest in case of poocidents so baby doesn’t get poo all over his/her face.
  • The neck of vests are wide enough so you can put them on from the feet upwards. Babies (or at least mine) really don’t like tight things over their heads. But then, he does seem to have quite a big head 😊
  • Getting arms into pramsuits/jackets is a mission. Now I just zip up the pram suit with arms across baby’s chest 😂 life is much easier that way. Alternatively you can treat yourself and baby to a Baby Star Blanket. This has been a complete lifechanger for us!
  • I didn’t buy any ‘newborn’ sized clothes but instead bought ‘up to 1 month’ which last until baby is about 10lbs. He never got to wear the one newborn outfit he had.

Sleep

  • Babies are really really noisy sleepers. Imagine a herd of farm animals and you’re close! Babies grunt, snort, neigh etc… loud enough at night to panic any new parent….but you soon learn to differentiate the farm animals from the cries that really need your attention.
  • We bought a Gro-Egg Room Thermometer. It changes colour when the room is too hot/cold according to safe sleeping guidelines but for us, all it’s done is act as a pretty (but quite rubbish) nightlight. You’ll soon find out if your baby is hot or cold, and whilst a room thermometer may give you reassurance I really wouldn’t spend too much on it!
  • Not all babies like to be swaddled or ‘restrained’ in sleeping bags like a Grobag. Our little boy likes to sleep like a starfish and only a blanket will do so I wouldn’t go crazy in buying lots of things before you get your baby home.
  • We had 2 moses basket stands. A rocking one which lived in our bedroom with the moses basket and a static one which we put in the living room for the pram’s carry cot. This meant we used the Joie Carrycot as a second moses basket to avoid carrying the actual basket up and down all day and it also meant that if baby fell asleep in the pram, rather than take him out, we could just disconnect the carry cot from the pram and move the whole thing to the living room.
  • Having said that, perhaps the best purchase of all was our Joie Travel Cot. At 6 weeks old our little man decided he wanted more space when sleeping and not wanting to move his cot from his nursery into our bedroom in case he didn’t like it, we set up the travel cot and he’s been sleeping in it ever since! We could have saved ourselves from the whole moses basket set up.
  • It is never too early to start a bedtime routine. We started our little boy’s bedtime routine at about 6 weeks old. It starts with a bath at 6pm, cuddles/massage/story and get dressed at 6.15pm, feeding at 6.30pm and then bed. On average he is asleep by 7.30pm. He is now 13 weeks old and only wakes up once between 7.30pm and 6am. This doesn’t work every day and flexibility is key but it works for us most often than not.
  • There are many sleep companions out there which claim to help babies sleep by playing white noise or heartbeat sounds. The most popular are myHummy, Ollie the Owl and our little boy’s choice, Ewan the dream sheep. I couldn’t say whether it helps our baby sleep or not but it’s now very much part of his sleeping routine and we’re much too scared to take it away in case it disturbs his sleep. Some people simply choose to play white noise on phones or apps. Whatever helps to get your baby to sleep I say!

Changing and bathing

  • Nappies have lines that change colour when there’s wee in them. There is no warning sign for poo. That’s a surprise.
  • Nappies come in lots of sizes. Starting from size 1 specially for newborns but sizes are dependent on weight. So far I have noticed a directly correlation between baby size and nappy cost. The heavier the baby the more expensive the nappy. Don’t get me started on swimming nappies!
  • If breastfeeding, you may find that after the first few weeks babies only poo every few days. Breastfed babies can go up to 10 days without having a poo. This is normal and it happens because there is no/very little waste in breastmilk for the body to expel. When they do finally poo you better hope they’re not wearing white (I’ve learned that lesson)
  • A Bath Thermometer is a must. Our baby’s first bath consisted of both myself and his daddy sticking our elbows in to ‘test the water’ before realising we didn’t really know how to gauge if the water was too hot or too cold using our elbows.
  • We used the bathroom sink the first few times and then an Angelcare Bath Support so our hands were free to wash and splash 😊

Feeding

  • Everyone has an opinion about feeding. Breast or formula? Or both? It’s a very personal decision but ultimately a fed baby is best.
  • Bottles and teats are a minefield. There are all sorts of anti-colic, self-steralising, closer-to-nature bottles with differing flow sizes or variable flow teats 😶 We don’t use many bottles as our baby is breastfed but we initially went with free MAM bottles with size 1 teats that we were given at baby events. Haha! Made decision making much easier. We then moved onto Nuby and Philips Avent with variable flow teats once baby needed bigger bottles. The great thing is we haven’t really noticed any nipple/teat confusion with these bottles.
  • Sterilising is also super complicated. Cold Water Sterilisers, Electric steam ones, Sterilising Tablets/ liquids/ wipes etc…What happened to just boiling things in water? We initially used the Munchkin Latch Steriliser Bags that we also got free and now use the Phillips Avent Microwave Steriliser. Ps. Don’t forget dummies also need sterilising! Pps. Not all babies like dummies which makes melt downs in public particularly exciting.
  • If you are not planning on expressing milk very frequently I really don’t believe that there is any need to spend £££ on breast pumps. I initially had a Haakaa manual breast pump which collected breast let down milk that would otherwise go to waste in a breast pad, and then I bought a generic unbranded electric double breast pump which has been absolutely marvellous.
  • Not knowing when I will get a chance to prepare my breakfast or lunch when I’m on my own with baby, I usually make myself a sandwich first thing in the morning when baby is a little calmer and take bites out of it as and when I can 🙈 I’m not sure that’s a healthy tip but for me, it means I do eat! Snacks are vital and if you can, hide some in strategic places where you can reach them when feeding/napping with baby.
  • I also prepare my cold drinks in bottles with sports caps which means I can have drinks on the sofa within reach and with little chance of spillages on myself or baby. I’ve not yet found a similar solution for hot drinks but I read somewhere about the use of a flask or travel mugs but I don’t feel they are secure enough to have near a wiggly baby.

Out and about

  • Buggy clips or carabiners have made my life so much easier. I hang the changing bag, shopping, my coat, umbrella and all sorts of other things on the pram with ease.
  • Some supermarkets (Aldi and Asda that I know of) have special shopping trollies with a section where you can place the whole car seat. I don’t particularly like using the trolleys with baby seats. They are usually cold and wet and they don’t look very secure. Also if you put the car seat in a normal trolley then you find yourself with no space for any shopping! These special trollies are an absolute DREAM particularly if your baby hates getting in and out of the car seat. There aren’t many of them though so scope them out before getting out of the car.

  • We have a baby carrier that I take with me everywhere…in the car, in the pram, out shopping etc… because I know that if baby has a meltdown in public and I can’t calm him down, then being close to me in the carrier will certainly pacify him without the need for dummy or boob.

I think that is it for now. If I think of any more tips I will let you know 😘😘

Things no-one tells you about being pregnant – Third trimester

Awwww the third and final trimester…or is it?! Actually not. No one tells you that the first 3 months of a baby’s life is considered to be the 4th trimester. The baby is learning to live in the outside world and mummy still looks 6 months pregnant. But enough of that for now….let’s focus on the last 3 magical months of pregnancy.

  • The last 3 months will in actual fact feel like 317382 years. Despite being exhausted, enormous, swollen and uncomfortable, I tried very hard to not wish my pregnancy away. I didn’t make it to 40 weeks as our little man wanted to make an early appearance but I can only imagine how fed up one must get!
  • Your tummy will grow more in these last few weeks than during the first 6 months. As if that was possible! On the plus side, by this stage you’ll be able to rest snacks on your belly whilst you watch telly, saving you from having to reach for anything.
  • You will not be able to reach for anything below belly button level (if you still have a belly button). And if something drops on the floor? Kick it out of the way and accept it is now lost forever.
  • Your lovely dainty feet turn into boats, seemingly overnight. No pair of shoes, no matter how wide fit you believed them to be, will fit. Unless they are flip flops and/or at least a size bigger than normal.
  • Those cute baby kicks will turn into assaults. And it hurts. Especially as they start to move down towards the birth canal but trying to figure out what makes your little one move is lots of fun! Our little boy had hiccups all the time whilst in utero, around 4-6 times per day and it’s only becoming less frequent now that we are almost at the end of the 4th trimester (see!).
  • Really strange things start happening to your body. Have we not coped with enough?! I began snoring out of nowhere at this stage. I have always breathed heavily in my sleep but this was walrus levels of snoring to the point that I would wake myself up, and my partner, and make enough noise to drive him to a different room to sleep in. I also experienced the most painful carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. Usually a condition reserved for repetitive strain or nerve injuries. My arms and hands would go numb at night, quickly followed by pins and needles and then the most excruciating nerve pain. I cried many many nights with pain and unfortunately (or fortunately?) it meant I had to finish work at 30 weeks. As if my sleep wasn’t disturbed enough, I also found myself dreaming all the time. Vivid, colourful and not always pleasant dreams. Come to think of it, the dreams were most upsetting in the first trimester…by the 4th trimester you won’t be sleeping deeply or long enough to dream so no need to worry about nightmares then!
  • Hospital bags are a hot topic by this point. Everyone will ask you if you are packed and what you have packed. We had 3 bags: 1 for baby, 1 for mummy and 1 for daddy. Despite what you may get told, you don’t need 50 baby grows for baby and 13 sets of pjs for mum “just in case”. It’s good to be prepared and organised but don’t panic. Assuming you will have a birthing partner and visitors, they can always get extras or bits you may have forgotten. Below are a few lists of what we packed. They may help somebody! I think it was a good amount of stuff for a “normal” hospital stay, unfortunately we were in hospital for 8 days so ended up needing a bit more.

    • Driving becomes a little more difficult towards the last few weeks. If like me, you normally sit as close to the steering wheel as humanly possible then I’m afraid you’re going to have to revisit your positioning and allow space for you and bump.
    • Talking about bumps, you may forget that you’re a little bigger/wider than normal and misjudge spaces and accidently bump into stuff. Chairs, doorways, people etc…it’s a little embarrassing but your baby is lovely and protected. A few bumps never hurt anyone!

    Next…baby has finally arrived! How could anyone forget to tell you so much stuff! Stay tuned 😘