Sleep Training... what happens next?

Sleep training... what happens next?

As I did my fair share (and by fair share I mean it consumed my life) of Googling sleep, babies sleeping, sleep regressions and sleep training... but very few explained what happened in the long term once your baby starts sleeping. Does it last? What happens when they’re poorly? What happens when you go to someone else’s house?

The first time I embarked on properly sleep training, it took 22 minutes of Oscar crying and I went in four or five times. He has now been sleeping through the night almost three months and I can honestly say since that first night he has never cried like that, he has never gone longer than 12 minutes on really rough nights, but on average his ‘crying’ was around 5 minutes for a fussy night. Other than that, he has very very few tears. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have the articles of damaging their brain and them feel abandoned stuck in your mind. Every single time he has cried I have wondered if I’m doing the right thing and if I’m screwing him up or if he’s sat in his bedroom thinking I don’t love him anymore. I definitely haven’t been numbed by this whole experience and it does break my heart every single time I have to force myself to just leave him an extra minute to see if he’s close to falling asleep.

The first month of sleep training I was very hard on myself and had to be strong and had to get through the tough part of him learning to be in his crib because I couldn’t bare the thought of co sleeping anymore and worrying about squashing him or him falling out the bed or getting caught under the duvet. The bottom line is, I believe, a crib is the safest place for him. So I knew, for us, this way was working and I needed to stick at it to get him comfortable with his crib. For the first 3 weeks he cried everytime I put him in his crib and walked out. It was horrible and I hated it and tried to stay cheerful as I left him and sat on my bed next door listening to him cry. It only took 30 seconds before he went to sleep but those 30 seconds felt like an eternity.

It was then after three weeks, that for the first time, I led him down in his crib and he did nothing. He didn’t cry, he didn’t grab my arms. He just looked sleepy and his eyes were drifting off as he stared up at me. I couldn’t believe it. I stayed in his room and stroked his hair as he went to sleep. It was the moment I’d been dreaming of this whole time.

Around this time I had been speaking to a friend who talked about routine and how maybe he’d still crying because he doesn’t know when I’m going to put him in his crib so it’s a shock and upsets him. So with this I made sure we had a firm routine. Bath, pjs, playtime, sleeping bag on, teeth brushed and read a few books on my lap. The crucial part of this new routine was that I held him and rocked him with his head on my shoulder and sang/hummed ‘Rock a bye Baby’ twice and on the third time put him in his bed, stroked his head until the third time finished and then walked out.

This helped so much as it made him sleepy before he went in and calmed him down from all the running around and playing with toys. I think it was also a good indication for him that he was about to go into the bed so he knew with that song he was about to go to sleep. Where as previously I had just picked him up, sleeping bag on, white noise on and plonked him in. Which now I think back was pretty cruel and I don’t think I’d like that either!! This way felt much more loving and gentle and made me feel less like a monster!

I quickly realised however that I was becoming softer and softer and as the weeks went by I was singing four, five... six rock a bye baby’s! I was going in every time he woke up within seconds, not waiting it out at all and singing to him and cuddling him and rocking him. I only realised what I was doing when one night he fell asleep on my shoulder because I’d been singing for ten minutes over and over and when I tried to put him in thinking he was ‘drowsy’ but still awake, I woke him up and he screamed bloody murder! I had realised I’d not only undone some/most of the sleep training as he had been getting used to getting so so sleepy on me and not by himself, but I’d also ruined the routine I started of singing! I needed to reign it in because I was only confusing him as there was no structure to bedtime now! I started again with singing it twice and putting him down on the third and he was not happy I walked out but I needed to get him back to being as independent as he was at falling asleep! This lasted only a few days before I realised I wasn’t up for going through it all over again and he was sleeping through so what’s an extra ten minutes at bedtime aslong as there’s no crying. So for the past week I have been putting him in his crib, sitting next to his crib with my arm through the bar and singing to him as I stroke his back and head, waiting until he’s fallen asleep and then walking out.

And you know what, I think we needed that strict month of sleep training as much as we both hated it, to break the habit of being fed/rocked to sleep and we can now enjoy a loving, peaceful bedtime, even if I am rubbing his back and waiting there with him, I feel secure that he’s going to sleep feeling loved, especially since he’s teething and at the end of falling asleep he’s in the safest place for him- a crib. I don’t think it’s essential for a baby to be plonked in their crib and fall asleep by themselves but for us the goal I wanted to reach was that he could stop night feeds and sleep all night in his crib. And we did that! We got there. So what else matters. I can’t wait for one day to sit in a big boy bed with him and read stories and tickle his back so I definitely don’t mind sitting with him until he falls asleep.

I don’t think sleep training is for the faint hearted and you can’t guarantee how long it will take and how long it will last. I’m glad I did it as I don’t think either of us would be getting much sleep if I hadn’t. I would say that anyone considering it but worried about it being cruel or damaging, you can just do what I did and be strict for a month just to set the new ‘ground rules’ of sleeping in the crib all night and then go back to being a complete softy and pandering to their every need. I feel content with having the best of both worlds. I don’t have it in me to keep up sleep training as I can’t and haven’t ever shaken the feeling of him feeling abandoned or unloved, so even during sleep training I’ve always gone in as much as I can to comfort him but still make sure at the end he is back in his crib.

Im still really happy with my decision to sleep train at 11 months as I don’t think I could bring myself to do it any younger and I wouldn’t have been able to go through with it if he could speak and scream and tantrum and/or get out of his bed/crib and bang on doors and beg to come in my bed. 

So...

What happens at other locations?

Oscar has slept over at Luke’s parents house twice. The first time I was a wuss and wanted to stay in their spare room incase anything went wrong and the second time he stayed there without us. I was dreading it thinking he would have a complete meltdown because he was in a different place, a different crib, everything was different. I imagined I’d have to sit outside with them and embarrassingly admit ‘okay and now we just wait outside for him to stop crying’ dreading it could be another 20 minute fiasco but he went STRAIGHT TO SLEEP! It was a bloody miracle and I was so relieved, it wasn’t even me that put him to bed either. He even had a nap in his crib at theirs in the morning with no fuss. I couldn’t believe it! He’s since stayed there once more without me there and slept through with no tears!

What happens when they’re poorly?

On days when Oscars been tired or poorly he might have needed an extra few cuddles but I think after our ‘training’ he’s still quite happy to go back in his crib. And that’s the main thing. Before, he would be inconsolable and end up in our bed. But now, if he’s poorly I might end up going in more than often, picking him up, giving him a cuddle but he still goes back in his crib and stays there all night.

How I stopped breastfeeding at 13 months

I did it!! I stopped breastfeeding. I can’t believe I finally bit the bullet and went cold turkey. Thankfully it went really smoothly so I know I made the right decision as Oscar has taken to it really well- you wouldn’t even notice. In fact, his behaviour has improved. Within a few days he was eating more (obviously) but actually playing by himself too, far less clingy and just getting on with his day like a happy chappy. 

I always knew I wanted to stop around a year, even before I started. Absolutely no disrespect to anyone who wants to continue feeding past one, but for me, I didn’t want him to get old enough to be able to ask for it, have a name for it, help himself down my top in public... you get the gist. For me, I knew that was something I didn’t want as I didn’t see our relationship getting to that stage and me still be comfortable feeding him. The older he gets I see him as more of a toddler and to me, breastfeeding is very much something for a baby. He was getting way too big for my arms and the fact we were still having naps where he would fall asleep on the boob and cry anytime I tried to unlatch him was getting a tad ridiculous. He also went through a phase of having a really rubbish latch while he had new teeth coming through and he only just got back to having a normal latch where it wasn’t painful and ‘toothy’ so I wanted to quit while we were ahead and he had a break between getting new teeth and started biting again. 

It was a huge relief for me to reach his first birthday as the advice given is then that past one year babies don’t nutritionally need breastmilk as they should by now be on three meals and two snacks a day that should be providing them with adequate nutrition. I wanted to stop feeding (on a bad day) about 10/11 months. Of course there were good and bad days and I remember being told never quit on a bad day so I soldiered on and soon enough there was a good day that followed every bad day and I returned to loving breastfeeding and the sweet cuddles and closeness of it all. 

When we reached one year I knew I could stop and decided to allow myself a handful of good days where I still wanted to stop feeding. I wouldn’t be quitting on a bad day and would come to terms with my decision as I was really worried I would stop feeding and a moment would come where I really wished I hadn’t and wanted to feed him for comfort and my milk had dried up. Or my biggest worry if he got poorly and wouldn’t eat, would I panic not having that tool to ensure he was hydrated and filling his tummy in some way. Having said that I do feel like in our circumstances Oscar was actually worse off still breastfeeding as he has been sick (vomiting) more in the last month than ever before simply from being so full of milk that he doesn’t need. Everytime he woke in the night he was taking a full feed and would eventually just projectile vomit where his stomach was bulging with fluid. 

I told myself I wanted to continue feeding until after he had had his one year jabs as I was anticipating he would be poorly afterwards and would want the comfort and could possibly feel under weather so had that back up plan if he wasn’t eating solids. 

Oscar’s naps were a disaster and I had told myself I wasn’t ready to continue the Ferber method, as I had been doing at night, with him in the day because I liked our naps too much, I liked taking that hour out of my day to snuggle with him on the sofa or in my bed and that I wouldn’t have those cuddles with him if I stopped breastfeeding. But the naps were soon becoming frustrating. Every time I went to unlatch him to get comfortable or change his position, he would wake up and root for the boob and be really upset until I finally fed him again, so he had to be ON my nipple for the duration of the nap, not sucking just, with it in his mouth. This for me wasn’t painful or physically uncomfortable but more so frustrating that he was so dependant at his age. I felt bad getting annoyed at him but I was annoyed, it was completely my fault and of course, he’s a baby, but it just wound me up that at a year old he still had to be latched onto me for the duration of his nap for him to be able to sleep in the day.

I had had a stressful morning of taking a while for him to finally fall asleep and me getting annoyed every time I tried to unlatch so the morning hadn’t gone well. I think at one point I just put him on the floor to compose myself because I couldn’t take it anymore and just wanted to scream, he of course cried and I felt awful and fed him to sleep again.

I then booked his jabs over the phone and they didn’t have an appointment available for another MONTH and I just thought OH HELL NO I’m not doing another month of this, I’ll put my head through a brick wall. And the fact I couldn’t bare to hang on another 4 weeks I knew it was my time to stop as I was so sick to death of it! He was feeding for comfort and had a major sleep association and it wasn’t a necessity for his physical health anymore. I wanted my body back. I wanted to keep my clothes on and my top up all day for once, I wanted to buy nice bras and not have him pulling at my top. So all in all, I didn’t let him self wean at all, it was a ‘mother led’, decision to stop. And I’m O.K. about that.

In my head I had been making such a big deal out of stopping, but it was the ‘big deal’ that I was making it, that was stopping me from actually feeding. I fed him that morning at 11, booked his jabs  and then made our way to a soft play. I confessed to my Mum friends I wanted to stop and just couldn’t bring myself to as everytime he got fussy I just caved and let him feed. And a friend snapped me out of it and just said “Look, just let this morning be your last feed and be done with it! You’re stressing yourself out trying to decipher how and when to stop but you know full well you want to so just be done with it! Don’t make a big deal out of the ‘last feed’ there doesn’t need to be violins and cherubs flying in the air, it’s just when you choose to stop. You’ve done a year of breastfeeding there’s no way anyone can say you haven’t given it your all so just stop if it’s making you unhappy.”

And so, I did! 

On the way home from soft play I stopped at Tesco and bought a TON of snacks. And from then on anytime he got fussy, instead of feeding him, I picked him up, first tried to distract him by pointing at something or walking him over to something and if that didn’t work I offered water and then finally a snack. I realised how lazy I had previously been that instead of trying to work out why he was fussing, I would just pacify him with a feed. Which explains why he would only get fussy 20 minutes later only for me to feed him again and say ‘oh God he just wants to feed all day’ well no, I’m just feeding him thinking he’s being clingy and wanting it instead of actually finding out if he wants something proper to eat, water, a different toy, is too hot/too cold/tired. And believably, he became an utter joy to be around in the day. He had gone from a clingy, fussy baby that wouldn’t play independently for longer than 5 minutes to a strong independent woman (just kidding) but he seemed to grow up overnight and to see him play and be content because I had got off my arse and worked out why he was upset was unreal that I hadn’t been doing this before. 

Due to doing the Ferber method for the last two or three weeks, he actually hadn’t had a breastfeed right before bed in over a week, because his bedtime routine was dinner, bath, book so I was just plonking him in after the book- not giving him a feed waiting for him to fall asleep… so tackling that was no issue. He eats very well so it’s reassuring to know I am putting him down with a full stomach - I definitely couldn’t have stopped feeding him had he not been such a good eater. But having said that perhaps a child that doesn’t eat well is due to the fact they are breastfeeding and are full of milk. Hard to say. I think judge it for yourself if you’re in the same shoes. Try cutting down on feeds and see if their eating increases.

I feel like the timing of me choosing to do the Ferber method went really well with my decision to stop feeding, I only had to cut out day feeds as the night feeds had stopped due to the sleep training. I felt like because I had moaned so much to my friends about wanting to stop that I told myself once I left that soft play it would be the last time I moan to them about it, because to be honest they were probably sick of me saying it and doing nothing about it! 

What nobody prepares you for is how sore your boobs will get and how the hell to ease the discomfort. My top tips for stopping cold turkey are to be well equipped with: snacks for the baby, a good beaker that he/she is used to drinking water out of for meals, an alternative milk (Oscar has Soya Growing Up Milk because we don’t drink cows milk), frozen peas (for your sore boobs), a really tight compression/sports bra with wide straps to make it comfortable, a Hakka pump (not essential but I had one anyway and it massively helped).

I spent a week of being uncomfortable. I didn’t have this magical list of how to make it less comfortable so it took me 4 days to get a tight sports bra, 4 days for someone to recommend a Hakka pump and 3 days for me to get so desperate that I shoved frozen peas down my top.

The most frustrating part of stopping cold turkey is being uncomfortable and knowing that if the baby just fed, or you used a pump, you would be empty again and so much more comfortable within a matter of minutes - but if you pump, or the baby feeds- you of course won’t ever stop feeding. For me I didn’t have the patience to gradually stop, I was so sick of it I just wanted it over and done with as soon as possible. This is when the beauty of the Hakka comes in, the Hakka uses a light suction using a plastic bulb to take the edge off of your boob. It’s supposed to be used to attach to the side you aren't feeding on and collect the let down. Which is why it’s perfect to ease the discomfort - there’s no active pumping so it’s not sending any signals to your body to produce more milk, as a breast pump or a baby feeding would do. It just took the edge off anytime I was feeling full and uncomfortable and would drain about 15mls or so. I wish someone had told me sooner because it was such a relief! 

 Hakka Pump

Hakka Pump

 

The frozen peas and taking hot baths/showers also really helped to numb the pain and the tight sports bra just made them so numb you barely noticed them. They were HARD and really uncomfortable for a week, I couldn’t play with Oscar on the floor because if he climbed all over me and touched my boobs it really hurt. Finally after a week, one morning I woke up and they were empty. Boom. Done. Gone.

I will get real with you right now, my boobs are the saddest, smallest, most pathetic excuse for boobs and I miss my giant, milk filled bosoms. BUT, I do not miss breastfeeding at all. I look at Oscar now and the thought of him climbing on top of me and sucking my nipple literally freaks me out so much! It took two weeks of doing all his naps (twice a day) in the pram or the car for him to cut his association with feeding to sleep for his naps and once he got over that, I now rock him on my shoulder and place him on my bed. Which means I still get my cuddles!!! If anything, Oscar actually cuddles me more. And that’s probably my favourite part about the whole thing. He will sit on my lap, wrap his arms around me, climb over me and play on the floor, have tickle fights and nuzzle his head into me. I feel like he’s actually appreciating me for me and not just wanting to get down my top all the time. 

Im so so happy with my decision to stop and he’s still eating really well, sleeping amazingly and is such a pleasure to be around all day long. At no point have I wished I was still able to feed him, I'm still able to comfort him when he falls, cuddle him when he's poorly and he drinks milk when he's feeling suggly and sleepy in the mornings. He has 300ml of Soya Growing Up Milk in a sippy cup cold as soon as he wakes up and will sip it intermittently watching some cartoons and playing with his toys and that’s all the milk he has. He wasn’t interested in the milk for a week or so, I tried it warm at first but the only thing that worked was it cold in a cup and offering it as soon as he woke up when he was thirsty that he just drank it and day by day got more and more used to it. 

So if you’re reading this and you want to stop breastfeeding- it’s O.K. to put your needs first if you’ve done everything you can to give them what they need. Do not feel pressure to carry on if it’s something your heart’s not totally set on. I am so glad I didn’t start a new habit while trying to stop breastfeeding. So many people suggested formula, suggested pumping and using bottles, cutting down feeds gently. I read SO many articles and nothing ever said just stop. Just - STOP!! You owe it to yourself after a year of feeding and sacrificing your body to stop when you want to.

P.S. Don’t get your boobs measured for new bras until you’ve stopped feeding, anyone want some 30DD bras? My -AA boobs don’t fit into them. *cry*

How I got my baby to sleep through the night

It’s taken a while to muster the balls to write this post, but I feel I owe it to my readers (all two of you - ha! Just kidding, there’s at least three). I’ve been totally honest while blogging about my whole pregnancy and the past year of Motherhood, and yet my most recent parenting decision makes me want to hide under a rock. My hypocritical, guilt ridden, “desperate times call for desperate measures” rock. Why? Because Oscar now sleeps through the night.

Did we get there naturally? Did he wean himself off the breast? Did I gradually and gently cut out breastfeeding in the night? No. Do I feel good about how we got to this stage? Not enough to shout it from the rooftops, but if anyone reading this was feeling how I felt this time last month, I feel I owe it to you to tell you how I got here.

Night times had got to THE worst they had ever been. Oscar would eat his dinner around 5:30/6:00, have a bath and we would put his pyjamas on. It was at this point I had no idea if he would be asleep within ten minutes or an hour and a half. I didn’t know what time or how long it would be until I was able to eat my dinner, or start my evening. Or if it would end up being one of those evenings where he’s back downstairs after a failed attempt and playing in the lounge at 8pm while I eat and restore my energy to try again.

Oscar was boob OBSESSED. He could not fall asleep and stay asleep without feeding. Every time I tried to unlatch him, if it had been less than 5/10/15 minutes after he had fallen asleep on me, taking him off the boob would wake him up. This meant that the timer went back to 0. I never knew if it would take him 5 minutes before he wouldn’t notice me unlatch or 20 minutes. Thank God I had my iPhone to entertain me while I sat and waited for him to be in a deep sleep. Once he was in a deep sleep and I was able to unlatch, I then had to figure out how to stand up with him and place him in his crib and let go all while keeping him asleep. This could take up to 6 attempts before he could be placed in his crib and I could sneak away. Every time he would wake up it was so frustrating to have just wasted all that time feeding him, rocking him, gently placing him in, slowly taking my hands away and carefully putting a blanket over him, only to have to start again because he’s awake. My Mum suggested getting into the crib which I ironically said “I don’t want to start something I’ll have to do every night” which was CRAZY because I was already in this ridiculous routine of getting Oscar slowly into his crib without moving a muscle that was taking me all evening, only for him to wake 45 minutes later and me have to go up and feed him again, accept defeat and go to bed myself, and do the same every hour until I truly gave up at 2am and he slept in my bed with all access buffet to the boob. We then all woke up to Luke’s 6am alarm after yet another shitty night and started our day. 

And so, I started climbing into the crib. I would put Oscar in, climb in myself, lie down next to him, let him feed until he fell asleep, unlatched and then crept out. One night I actually fell asleep in there for half an hour. IM 24 AND I FELL ASLEEP IN A CRIB! What the hell am I doing with my life. Everyone I was meeting up with that had babies were all sleeping through after letting them cry and I just couldn’t do that. I had read too many articles about how bad it was and couldn't come to terms with how they were letting their babies cry. But how else was he supposed to sleep better?

The reason Oscar was waking so much was clear, every time he would come to the end of a natural sleep cycle and come to, he would be alone in his bed, when the last thing he remembered was falling asleep in my arms, so would stir and instead of waking and going back to sleep he was waking and FREAKING out. 

After a horrendous week of sleeping in the crib, snapping at Luke because I was stressed, crying because I felt like my baby was broken and not sleeping when everyone else’s was, being fed up of having someone attached to my boob so much, being puked all over constantly because Oscar was over filling himself with unnecessary milk, changing bedding at 11pm from the puke, the list goes on… I decided to try it. The worst that could happen was it was absolutely horrendous and he cried his eyes out (I had decided I wouldn’t let him cry longer than half an hour, no way could I see myself waiting an hour for it to work, I didn’t have it in me, and if he was getting HYSTERICAL that I knew it wasn’t for me)

The times I have tried getting him to fall asleep in his bed by himself before I would put him in and sit the other sides of the bars stroking his head, shh-ing him, singing, humming, lying him down over and over, which never lasted more than a few minutes simply because I couldn’t bare seeing him, hearing him and feeling so so awful and helpless… but I read while researching my POA that this was ten times worse for him as I was there but refusing to hold him, effectively teasing him, he wouldn’t give in because I was right there and would think to scream louder so that I would pick him up. So I tried the Ferber method, going in the room at 2,5,10,15 minute intervals until he was asleep. I had loads of Christmas wrapping to do next door and Luke was working late so I didn’t have anything to lose. I gave him his last feed, put him in his sleeping bag, turned on the white noise, closed the door and walked out. 

He cried hard for the first 2 minutes, started coughing as he normally does, and threw up over the side of the crib onto the floor, at this point I had geared myself up so much to do it that I just went in, cleaned the sick up, gave him some water, wiped his nose and face, stroked his head and walked out. I couldn’t believe before how I had read “If your child cries until they are sick just go in change the sheets and walk back out” I thought that was the worst thing I’d ever heard of and how cruel for the child, but Oscar had been sick SO many times over the past month simply because he has had too much milk in his belly, that it didn’t phase he or I, it was just milk and he was no more  upset after than before he was sick, so I carried on.

He cried after the 2 minutes hard for another five, and his cries began to get quieter and less frequent. I read that intermittent crying is temper and non stop crying is pain. I went in at the 5 and stroked his head and led him back down. He stood back up again (I was watching him on the video monitor) and continued to cry. He then slowed down, and sat down in his bed still holding onto the bars with one hand. He was whimpering but looking around. He then stopped, and fell asleep, sat up holding the side of the crib! It took 22 minutes in total from me first leaving the room for him to fall asleep, including me going in twice and 5-8 minutes of hard crying. To my surprise, I actually wasn’t as phased by the crying as I thought I would be, at a year old I know his cries. He has cried harder in his car seat, when he has hit his head, when he has fallen over or wanted a feed really badly and I couldn’t get my shirt down fast enough. This was a different cry, it was still an upset cry but not hysterical. It took him 7 minutes for him to eventually flop forward and be lying on his front. I  couldn’t believe it. I had hoped this was the start of our new lives. 

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 I made a note on my phone about what was happening when he was waking, but didn't actually go into his room between 11-6 which was incredible.

I made a note on my phone about what was happening when he was waking, but didn't actually go into his room between 11-6 which was incredible.

 

He slept for three hours which I could not believe. He then woke up and I waited the 2 minutes to go in, after going in the first time his cries immediately settled. It was as though (and I like to think so) that he knew I was there, knew he wasn’t being abandoned but that it was just bed time, I wasn’t there to cry to and he was tired so off to sleep he went. He woke a few times in the night for thirty seconds and I would watch from my bed on the monitor, he would sit up, look around and go straight back to sleep. I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! Just that sense of waking up where he remembered going back to sleep, allowed him to go back to sleep himself. To think I was feeding him a dozen times a night and he went the entire 12 hours without milk and a few sips of water that I offered at 10:30 was unreal to me. 

The next night our bedtime routine was a little later and he had had a busy day so was really tired. I was expecting a battle as we continued with the new way of going to sleep but it took THIRTY SECONDS for him to go to sleep. THIRTY SECONDS. He still woke a few times in the night but again, took no longer than a minute to go back to sleep. 

I could not believe it had taken me this long to try this method, thinking it wouldn’t work and it would be unbearable. Having said that I feel like i needed to reach the stage of desperation, I needed to know Oscar was having 3 meals a day and a feed before bed to fill his tummy enough to last all night without milk, I needed to know the difference in his cries and that he was strong enough and capable enough to manoeuvre his way around the crib. Had I tried this when he was 9 months old he would have been really unsteady on his feet and been bashing his head everytime he tried to get himself down and I would’ve had to intervene. At 11 months and 3 weeks old we were both ready, I just needed to let my guard down a bit and trust that he was able to go to sleep by himself and that the routine we were in was just bad habits I was allowing us to keep. It wasn’t Oscar’s fault and my baby wasn’t broken and the Mums who let their babies cry weren’t monsters. I am far too swayed by things I read on the Internet and needed to realise that sleeping is sometimes more important and you have to do what you have to do to get to that point. Oscar used to wake up yawning and nap sometimes an hour later, the broken sleep wasn’t doing he or I any favours.

It has now been two weeks (well, thirteen days) since the first night and Oscar has never taken more than 5 minutes to go to sleep. He still wakes around 1am and 5am but will go back to sleep within a few minutes. Depending on his cry sometimes I have gone in and fed him and put him back in his bed awake and he’s gone straight to sleep and sometimes I have offered water. At the end of the day, even adults get hungry/thirsty in their sleep and sometimes I just like to go in anyway to let him know I’m still there.

The first night he slept through I was desperate to get him and cuddle him as it was the longest I had ever gone without holding him and as soon as he woke at 6:30 I rushed in to get him. My boobs were still making mega milk so I did express twice in the night the first night about 6oz total but by the second night they didn’t produce as much. If they are still sore these days in the night I will go in and feed him, I like to think I’ve taken a gentle approach to it and still feeding him if he or I needs it is me bending the rules because I want it to work around us.

So, I apologise to all those I have judged and HARD about letting their babies cry, I still don’t agree with this method for a young baby and feel like Oscar was mentally and physically able to sleep through the night.

The video that convinced me was by Emily Norris who is a YouTuber I love and she even said, she is the softest Mum in the world and hates to hear her baby cry in any circumstance but something HAD to be done! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOqKw11AEEs

So for the Mummies reading this who still don’t think they could do it, that’s fine. Do whatever works for you, but if you’re reading this and have been tempted or are at your wits end and don’t know where to turn, then by all means do your research and try this method because I honestly feel like my relationship, my health (mental and physical) and my perspective of Motherhood has changed so much. I feel like I can breathe again and having a baby isn't all that bad. I feel like a good Mum again, despite it being a mixture of emotions and feeling like the worst Mum to get here, I feel like we reached a milestone together.

9-12m Christmas Guide!

Happyland figures -

I came across these while searching through Amazon's Best Sellers for babies around his age and started with the London Bus set which came with 5 characters! They're so solid and don't have any fiddly bits that I'm happy for him to play with them and put them in his mouth. They all stand up so it's fun to put them in a line and a few have even crept their way into the bath which make good bath toys. I've since got him a set of another three people and a cat and a dog. On Black Friday the Happyland sets went half price on most of the sets which was such good value. They have a ton of cool sets like farm, police, train set, pirate ship... so many and they're so cute! I'm going to wait to see what Oscar gets for his birthday and Christmas from other people and scope out some more Happyland sets in the January sales!

https://www.mothercare.com/search/?q=happyland

My Firstyears -

My Firstyears had such a good Black Friday sale that I managed to swipe a few bits. I got Oscar a blue rucksack with stars on that has his name engraved on the back. (Something I'm fine with now but not sure I would want his name so big/on his bag if he was walking home from school or something, for obvious reasons) It's the perfect size for his day-bag for when he goes to his Grandparents, has two side pockets for snacks and a water bottle and enough room for a change of clothes a few nappies and some other bits and bobs. I also got him a beautiful lilac/grey dressing gown. He actually had this gifted to him at his baby shower in the 0-12m size which has lasted him so well, and has his name embroidered on one side, I loved it so much and think the colour is so lovely that I bought it in the next size up exactly the same. I also got him a grey fabric toy 'bag' with "Oscar's Toys" embroidered on it. It's reversible and his nursery is grey so was absolutely perfect to go in there. I've already given him the bag and the box as he is too young to know when/what Christmas is anyway so were more convenient for me to use from when they arrived. I also bought a pair of grey slippers with penguins on for my Secret Santa, a little boy called Bertie, and engraved his name on the back. And also a PVC apron with the name engraved on the front in pink, with a floral reverse which came with a set of paints too for my friends 2 year old to paint with!

https://www.my1styears.com/personalised-grey-fleece-robe.html

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Not on the high street - 

From www.notonthehighstreet.com I got Oscar a personalised sack with his full name on, I love this as it feels so authentic and will be something we can use every year to keep his presents in. It's not as big as I thought it would be so considering most of his presents are big as they are toys in large boxes, it fits about a dozen presents. If it were an adults sack it would fit plenty but his toys are pretty bulky. I also got a personalised stocking, in hindsight as he has a common name I probably could have found one in a shop and paid less, but I love the design of it and again, is something we can use year after year.

https://www.notonthehighstreet.com/harrowandgreen/product/personalised-christmas-sack-ampleforth

Toys - 

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The Fisher-Price Bright Beats Dance & Move BeatBo - he is one catchy mother fucker. It dances around and sings songs as its stomach flashes different colours. It took Oscar a while to come around to it but now he holds on to the sofa and bounces up and down with his knees dancing to it. It's a good distraction toy. If he hurts himself by accident or gets moody about something its a nice and bright toy to distract him and make him happy again! 

 

 

Vtech learning activity table. This has been a great toy to get Oscar more confident in standing as it encourages him to play while standing as opposed to sat down. I like to put it just a foot or two away from the sofa to encourage his walking from the sofa to the table and back again. Again, it's a little annoying but what kids toys aren't.

 

 

 

Clothes - 

I have got Oscar some 12-18m clothes from various shops- Zara, H&M, Mothercare to name a few. It's something he needs anyway so makes a nice gift to have it all ready for when he is big enough for that size. I got him some Christmas pyjamas to wear on Christmas Eve and spend the morning in on Christmas day from Matalan.

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I got given some jeggings a while ago and still squeeze him into them because I love them so much and haven't found anything similar yet - until I got told to try checking the girls section!! So today, Oscar got three new pairs of leggings from the girls section - NO SHAME IN MY GAME! I also got him two Christmas jumpers from ASDA and one from Mothercare - they're too cute not to! It's crazy because they are both from the boys section because he is now size 1-1/2 years which is just crazy!

Range Rover - This a silly present as we have a Range Rover so it's just novelty. I got two name signs from the pound shop and stuck them on as 'private plates' which look super cool. He also has a red race car walker from Toys R Us which has been amazing and he absolutely loves it! It's helped with his walking so much and he goes so fast around the kitchen in it! 

https://www.tesco.com/direct/childrens-range-rover-evoque-ride-on-car-toy-white/727-8294.prd?skuId=727-8294&pageLevel=sku&source=others

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'Thats not my' books... A lady sent me a link to get a set of 5 Christmas themed 'That;s not my' books for an amazing price. They're normally worth £7 per book but this website had these 5 for £20 including postage! 'Thats not my donkey, Santa, Elf, snowman, reindeer' worth £34 plus postage!! https://www.lowplex.com/christmas-collection-x-5-special-touchy-feely-5-board-books-set-thats-not-my-elf-snowman-donkey-santa-reindeer-42183-p.asp 

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When breastfeeding goes tits up...

I’ve been breastfeeding on demand now for a total of 11 months. That’s 334 days of providing nourishment for another human produced by my own body. Thats 8016 hours of having another human dependant on me for what my body produces. 

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It’s a shame that in this day and age, I genuinely feel like I couldn’t write a blog about how much I love breastfeeding (which I do, most days) because I feel it would upset those who struggled to breastfeed or would be seen to be bragging to those who bottle feed, thinking I’m writing about being superior for whatever reason - which totally isn’t the case.

I’m going to put it bluntly and let it be said, that I have no problem with formula whatsoever and in most cases you cannot tell the difference between a breastfed baby and a formula fed baby. The technology these days for a powdered drink to be as similar to breastmilk is amazing and I truly am an advocate for ‘fed is best’. I see no point in a Mum being depressed, unhappy or feel pressured into breastfeeding if it is not making the Mum mentally or physically happy. However, that being said, what I don’t agree with, or like to see, is babies being stuffed with thick ‘Nighttime hungry baby milk’ to make them sleep, babies crying and shaking their head while Mum’s force feed them an 8oz bottle while chatting away to their friends or babies being left to feed themselves either in a carseat or rocker while the Mum gets on with something else. I believe this to be unsafe, unhealthy and lazy. More power to you if you bottle feed and avoid these traits - feed that baby!

Breastfeeding is an incredible science and if you take the time to read how it works and how the Mum produces exactly what the baby needs, it is truly mind blowing. A few examples: on a hot day, breastmilk will change its consistency to be much more watery so that the baby stays hydrated. If a baby is poorly the milk will turn blue in colour where the milk is full of antibodies, within 20 minutes of someone sneezing or coughing around the Mum, antibodies for that virus will be in the Mums milk in order to protect the baby (this does not mean breastfed babies do not get colds- believe me). Breastmilk is rich in melatonin which induces sleep - although breastfed babies tend to wake more because breastmilk digests in 20 minutes, it’s so helpful to have that sleepy milk to get them to drift back off to sleep.

I would say my breastfeeding journey has been average. To have a premature baby not latch onto you for the first week of their life and to have to establish your supply using a pump is no easy task. Your supply is best established at night, which I’m so glad I was correctly informed about. Had I given birth, pumped a few times in the day and then gotten 8 hours a sleep a night while Oscar was in NICU - my supply would have been seriously compromised. It was really tough and I was getting about 40 minutes of sleep between pumping, sterilising, storing, tube feeding and nappy changes over night, setting my alarm for every 2 and a half hours to start expressing. Although those first few weeks were tough, I have been so lucky not to experience any hardship since. Breastfeeding has been a breeze for me. 

Oscar cut his first tooth at 6 months old and has been teething ever since. This is really rare and for him to have 8 teeth by his age now (11 months) is a lot. Yes, you heard correctly, he has 8 teeth and I’m still feeding him. There has been some issues with him readjusting his latch while his new teeth come in. When the shape and feel of his mouth changes, to him, he’s like “What the crap? How do I suck on this nipple now?” And it takes a few days/weeks of him working out how to latch on. This is uncomfortable but bearable. When he is in a playful mood is the worst, luckily I can anticipate when he’s going to bite me as he goes in teeth first rather than a wide mouthful, so I usually pull away and tell him “No!” and he grins at me like he’s hilarious. Luckily, he’s never bitten me where I’ve bled. But I do generally feel bruised and it hurts for him to initially latch on. And of course, somewhere that is bruised is difficult to heal when it’s continuously being harmed in the same place.

Cut a long story short, nobody tells you how difficult it is to STOP breastfeeding. Yes, the support to breastfeed in the first place is everywhere you look. “Breast is best” “#normalisebreastfeeding” yes, yes, we get it that breastfeeding is great but where’s the help when you want to stop? Babies don’t “need” formula or breastmilk past the age of 1 and by this point should be having a balanced enough diet that they can get all their nutrients from food. Any sooner than 1 and if you wanted to stop breastfeeding it would be quite simple, I imagine, to wean your baby off the breast and swap their feeds with bottles. But what happens if you breastfeed till 1 and then want to stop? How do you explain to a baby that can’t communicate, “Oh sorry, now you’re 1 you don’t need milk so I’m going to stop feeding you - also it’s so painful to feed you so I’d like to stop anyway” 

To naturally wean a baby off breastmilk, where by it is their decision as they tend to lose interest, would usually take you to breastfeeding a child until they are around 2. The thought of breastfeeding for an entire year more sends shivers down my spine. I want my life back, I want my nipples back, I want my body back. I’ve sacrificed my body for a year which is more than enough and no one can say I didn’t give it my all, hell, I even pumped for another baby. But to breastfeed until 2 just isn’t in my future. But how the bloody hell do I stop?

Oscar hasn’t ever slept through the night and definitely has a sleep association with falling asleep on the boob. He still has about 5 feeds a night minimum. I really don’t mind getting up that much but I am so bruised I really wish I could stop and it be easy. Due to the fact that I’m not naturally weaning him off the breast, it’s purely my decision to stop feeding rather than his or ours, there will undoubtably be tears. When I got rid of the dummy it was fine because instead of having the dummy to suck, he had me to suck. But now, if I take away the boobies, from a baby that is used to that comfort all night long - oh man am I in for a treat. 

Oscar has a cold at the moment and a really snotty nose which is why I’m not planning on doing any night weaning for the meantime (at least, this is what I tell myself - really I’m just too much of a pansy, I can’t bare to hear him cry and do nothing about it). I’ve been to a breastfeeding support group and the woman advised that Oscar ought to have his last feed before bed, and then before he falls asleep on the boob, to be placed in his crib and left to fall asleep. My God, this is easier said than done. I hate hearing him cry and I hate knowing it’s my fault. I simply don’t have the strength to fight ALL my natural instincts to go to my baby when he cries and leave the room or let him cry himself to sleep. I have tried sitting next to him with him in his crib, rubbing his head, his back, shh-ing him, offering water, picking him up, putting him down, but ultimately, he will not settle unless he is being held.

I would really love to look back at this post in 6 months time and be writing a new one about how I got my baby to sleep and stopped breastfeeding gently, with minimal tears and maximum cuddles. It breaks my heart to think of stopping cold turkey, but then am I confusing him by allowing him to feed at night sometimes and not others? One night when I was determined not to feed him throughout the night, he woke 5 times between 6:30 and 11:30 and each time I rocked him successfully back to sleep. Had I fed him the first or second time, I believe he would never have woken 5 times as he would’ve been knocked out from the milk and been in a deeper sleep, so just rocking him definitely keeps him in a light sleep. I lasted until 11:30 because by this point he was grabbing at my top and opening his mouth while crying, I knew he wanted feeding and by this point he just looked desperate. I fed him and he threw up. I think he fed like he knew he wasn’t going to be fed for the next 5 hours again and took far more than he needed resulting in him puking everywhere with a crazy full belly.

Before I go to bed, I am full of energy and ready to stand my ground and commit to stopping nightfeeds, I am prepared for a few tears and lots of rocking. When night falls and I’m cosy and warm in my bed and have to get up for the tenth time, while peeling my eyes open, I have zero willpower and will feed him ten times if it just means going back to bed. The past week I have TOTALLY given up and he has slept in my bed, with me, having an open buffet all night and no sight of his crib.

I would love to stop feeding at 1 year but right now it seems like the impossible. It would appear I am for fed is best by 1, as breastfeeding is no longer what I want to be physically doing any longer, and if he is on three meals a day, I am happy with him being fed, even if the recommendation is to feed till 2.

I daydream about the day I’ve stopped breastfeeding and can wear pretty lace bras without a hideous clip, the day Oscar starts sleeping better at night because he doesn’t need to be fed, that he can spent the night at his Grandparents (who have been offering for months!) and his Dad and I can have our bed to ourselves and not to mention a few glasses of wine!

Stay tuned... I pray I will be posting a blog in a few months about how I stopped breastfeeding and how smoothly it all went and how glorious life is now. Ha.

"What do you do all day?"

“What do you do all day?” You know, I’m getting really sick and tired of hearing women say about how they argue with their partner about who’s had the worst day or who’s more tired (myself, included) “What do you do all day?” is the most infuriating question to be asked when you’re physically and mentally at the brink of exhaustion. It’s a welcome change for me from, “What, your degree is only in fashion?” I won’t bore you with the details but my degree was NOT easy. 

First things first, whether your day was a walk in the park and you went to a baby class, the baby was peaceful and lovely all day, napped on time and was a breeze to look after - you’re still looking after a human being that is completely dependant on you. In my eyes, a great day means, well done, you fucking smashed it. All those books, articles and hours you spent researching on how to keep a baby happy paid off. Let’s not forget this easy day, followed yet another sleepless night. A sleepless night that followed 300+ (in my case, as I have a 10 month old that has never slept through) sleepless nights. Combine this with the fact that your incredibly dumb baby brain, that maintains information worse than using a tennis racket as a sieve, has made it through another day and kept a human alive - and you’re on to a winner. 

Even with an easy day with a baby, it’s only 9-5 so try not to gloat too much to your partner as the baby bathes itself and climbs into its own crib just before saying ‘Goodnight’. Oh wait, no, that’s right, being a Mum DOESN’T end at 5! It’s never ending. It is literally never. Ending. It’s a literal 24 hour job, with a few three hour stints of sleep thrown in.

Let’s run with the concept of an easy day, an easy day still doesn’t mean you get to poop by yourself - oh no, you have a tiny human crawling towards you. You can’t sit peacefully on the throne and do your leisurely business, maybe even watching a few Facebook videos - oh no, you’ve got to stop said tiny human from crawling towards the toilet brush, destroying the toilet roll, touching ANYTHING in the bathroom, getting their finger caught in the door, using the walls to stand and making sure they don’t fall on their ass and or/head, picking them up before you flush so the water doesn’t spray their face, then walking away pulling your trousers up one handed. Either this or just - not peeing, until nap time or they are in the baby prison that is - the Jumperoo. 

An easy day still means you make 7 meals a day (11 if you’re me and have two dogs too!!) which means cleaning the kitchen four times a day. Cleaning the highchair three times a day. Sweeping up most of the food you prepared as it’s all on the floor three times a day. Cleaning plates, taking out bins, food shopping to feed the five hundred, thinking of meal ideas, thinking of HEALTHY meal ideas, thinking ‘What the hell do I feed him other than something on top of bread three times a day’. Remembering to preheat the oven in time for the food to be cooked and not forgetting cooled, serving it to the baby, before nap time and enough time after a feed that he’s actually hungry and not just going to play with the food you slaved over.

An easy day still consists of lugging a nappy bag full of everything you MIGHT need because you bet the one day you forget a spare vest is the day he shits through his. The day you forgot you used your last wipe yesterday is the day he sneezes and six inches of snot trails down his face. The time you forgot to pack a packet of Mini Cheddars is the day you go for lunch and the food takes nearly an hour to come. You lug a carseat, assemble a pram up and down five times a day, make sure all clips are done up, not too tight, not too loose, pram wheels aren’t dirty before you wheel it into your house. 

An easy day still means you had to arrange your entire day around the baby napping. It just means you did it well. Need to go to the bank? Well, the baby needs a nap, where’s he going to sleep? What if I put him down in his bed and he has one of those random two hour naps and I’m stuck at home? (Ah wait, don’t worry, it’s O.K. because I have that MOUNTAIN of laundry, that never ends, to do. I’ve got those dirty dishes and carpets covered in dog hair to hoover. Don’t you worry I’m not short of things to do while the baby naps.) What if he falls asleep in the car on the way? Then I spend 45 minutes sat in a carpark because he wakes up if we get out (I miss the newborn days when they slept through anything) What if we stay in and the postman comes while he’s sleeping and the dog barks for the nine millionth time that day and I shit my pants just a little that it’s woken the baby. 

And thats a good day. A BAD day, is a clingy, snotty, teething, crying baby that won’t let you put him down, arches his back when he goes in the car seat, bites you, claws your hair, pokes you in the eye, doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat and has the worst consistency of nappies known to man, crawls away half way through a nappy change so poo goes EVERYWHERE. 

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Whether the day has been good, or the day has been a disaster - the baby sleeps exactly the same. And in my case, this is - terribly. So not only is the day tough, but the day is spent surviving on a shitty nights sleep. Which makes your patience as near close to zero as humanly possible. In all honesty I can’t actually believe I’m still alive and functioning on how little sleep I get. I never thought my body would still work getting up 8 times a night. Not forgetting I now have a tiny human with EIGHT, yes eight, teeth feeding on me all night with no signs of letting up.

Not that I don’t LOVE being a Mum but my God, it is difficult sometimes. I can’t imagine doing all this for a baby that wasn’t mine. The only thing that gets me through is knowing how much I love him and that he is my baby and the way I take care of him moulds him into the person he’s going to grow up to be. That everything I’m doing is because he depends on me and at the end of a tough day he is still smiling. It is without a doubt unconditional love! 

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Yes, some days are spent on the sofa watching TV but we all know daytime TV isn’t all that desirable. You may still be in your pyjamas at 11am but that's not because you've been lazing around, it's because you genuinely haven't been able to get dressed. So the next time someone asks what you’ve been doing all day, or says you ought to cook dinner because THEY’VE been at work all day - you take those dirty, soiled nappies and you THROW THEM IN THEIR FACE!

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Getting rid of the Dummies

WE DID IT!!!!! It’s gone. Bon voyage! I have never wanted to fast forward time more. I knew it was going to be a rough week/couple of weeks without a dummy so I was fully prepared for the potential nightmare ahead of me. I attempted to get rid of the dummy when Oscar was 6 months old and we did two nights of him lying in his crib with no dummy seeing if he would self settle (at no point did I let him cry, he was quite contently laying there) the first night it took 45 minutes of babbling and a little bit of fussing and then alas, he fell asleep without being cuddled or with a dummy! The second night it took 20 minutes and still no crying, I couldn’t believe it! I thought I would start gradually and just take the dummy away at bedtimes and then still give it to him if he wasn't settling in the middle of the night because lets be honest, it takes a lot of strength to continue any form of new routine (especially one that works) in the middle of the night when your eyelids are stuck together and all you desperately want to do is go back to sleep. 

Night three came and Oscar wasn’t himself, he was really unsettled and miserable. I couldn’t work out why, until I looked inside his mouth and saw two tiny teeth on the bottom gums coming through - two at the same time, bless him! I gave him some Calpol and his dummy and he went to sleep. And that was that! The teeth didn’t stop coming until he had 6 in total and so the dummy stayed! I couldn’t bring myself to take it away as it brought him so much comfort and was the only thing that seemed to help him sleep better! 

Fast forward three months and we’re at a 9 month old with 6 teeth who is now a dummy monster. Don’t get me wrong, he could be a lot worse. He has it in the car to avoid car meltdowns and help him drift off to sleep without any fuss if he’s sleepy, he has it for naps, bedtime and then all night, plus in and out messing around when he comes in our bed to watch TV in the mornings. When you list it like that, you’d probably be thinking when doesn't he have it?! 

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At 9 months and 6 teeth it seems like we are in the all clear for teeth. I can’t see or feel any new bumps or ridges in his gums and after fighting off a bastard cold for two weeks, he is FINALLY sleeping better. After a few nights of only waking at 2am and 5am, then up at 7am which is a really good night for Oscar… what does Mummy do? SHE FUCKS SHIT UP and takes the dummy away. Yep, yes I did. I mean, if you’re reading this and thinking, why would she do that when he finally started sleeping better? Doesn’t this woman want to sleep? Is she crazy? 

Yes, yes I am crazy. But I knew that if he had his dummy until he was 2 and I tried to take it away with the ‘dummy fairies’ and his sweet little face looked at me and said “Please Mummy I miss my dummy, please can I have it, I can’t sleep without it.” My little heart would melt and give in and he would have his dummy until he was 15. So it was now or never. At 9 months he isn’t old enough to have a word for his dummy therefore couldn’t beg for it at night, say if I had left it until a year for example, I also plan/hope to stop breastfeeding just after a year so at this age he still has that comfort for him to fall asleep with and find some comfort even if he’s not feeding! 

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Without a doubt, and Google even says so, if you’re going to take the dummy away it’s advised to do it about 5 months. This means you skip all the teething and the baby isn’t old enough to know you’re taking the dummy away and is probably still feeding a lot so able to still have that comfort. The struggles that came about trying with 9 months were that he was strong enough to now arch his back and have a total melt down if he didn’t want to be rocked. He can also stand in his crib so it’s not a matter of ‘put the baby lying down and let him fuss’ because at 5 months he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. But at 9 months, Oscar can get onto his hands and knees and use the bars of his crib to stand up and try and destroy anything in his path! This made it much more difficult to find ANY way of soothing him.

I’ve done a lot of research and read a lot of articles about the damage ‘cry it out’ can do to a baby and how when they are left to cry they release the same stress signals to the brain as though they are having a panic attack, the baby literally thinks they are going to die. So with that said, I wanted to do this in the most gentle way possible. This meant preparing myself for a lot of sleepless nights, lots of cuddles and lots of boobing. I was prepared for this but in the same sense, I still felt dreadful that the sleepless nights HE was having - were my decision! He would cry and cry as I rocked him, shh’ed him, rubbed his back and stroked his hair. It took a lot of will power not to just breastfeed him every time as of course, I didn’t want to start a new habit of ‘hey lets breastfeed you fifteen thousand times a night now you don’t have a dummy’. This was about him learning to sleep without it.

The first few nights were bad, considering normally when I put him to bed, I watch the video monitor all evening, carrying it around with me if I go to the toilet or the kitchen, making sure he’s breathing every now and again by focusing on his torso and watching it move up and down, then any second he starts crying or fussing, I sprint as fast as I can up the stairs to soothe him while he’s still in his sleepy phase as this normally takes far less time to get him back to sleep. I’m definitely not one for letting him cry, I hate it, I can’t deal with it. If we’re driving and he’s crying I’ll pull over, sometimes even feed him, I just feel like it’s my role as a mother to fix his needs as soon as I physically can, because why would I let him be upset if I can fix it? 

I knew it would take some tears before he got used to not having his dummy. And I will say, there were some remarkable moments that really made it worth while. I still haven't reached the ‘getting rid of the dummy was the best thing I ever did’ stage, because it’s only been a week - but I can see it happening. The first few nights it took a few minutes of crying while being rocked for him to fall back asleep, at the time when he’s crying I envisage this crying going on for hours and that this is the end, when really it only took a few minutes before he settled down again. I was singing, humming, bouncing, rocking, swaying, shh’ing - you name it. So I knew he was only crying because he missed his dummy and that was O.K. and something he would get used to.

I did have a wobbler on day 4 and was organising my birthday evening out in a few days time with Luke and then another dinner the following night. I got all worked up in the middle of the afternoon that I had taken the dummy away at the wrong time and it’s not fair on him to not have me in the evenings for two nights in a row and that I was being cruel and then started to replay all the times he had been crying while I was rocking him, thinking I was being a terrible parent, being that there is a perfectly good way of settling him and I was point blank, refusing to give it to him. How evil was I? It took some calming down from Luke to reassure me that in the long run I was doing the best thing for him - it would help his speech, help his teeth and make him a less dependant baby on something to fall asleep and that if anything, maybe it would be better for him as he wouldn’t smell my milk and want to bed fed the whole time to get him off to sleep.

On night four, he stirred in his sleep a few times between 7pm and 11pm while I was downstairs, and whereas usually he would wake up, get onto all fours, climb over to the bars and pull himself up, then cry out for me and tug at the bars while crying… he simply got on all fours, cried, then led back down again on his front and went back to sleep. I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT! I was usually doing 4 trips up and down the stairs to put the dummy back in an evening, to then spend all night up and down, feeding and soothing, putting the dummy back in. I couldn’t believe he had now learnt to put himself back to sleep. And I didn’t do any cruel techniques of leaving the room, ignoring him, letting him cry, I held him and soothed him the entire journey and it WORKED! He self soothes!!! MY BABY SELF SOOTHES! 

I can now enjoy my evenings. He sleeps all evening from 7pm until 2am again, finally, but this time - I don’t even have to go in to put the dummy in. I’ll admit, when I tell people he used to sleep 7pm till 2am I didn’t include the times I put the dummy in which was about 5 times, so I guess I was lying. But now he REALLY sleeps 7pm till 2am, he stirs but puts himself back to sleep! It’s like watching David Blaine, I tell ya. Unreal. MAGIC. 

I’ve also noticed that not having the dummy while driving in the car, he actually now sits in the back and babbles to himself, chatting away absolute nonsense. First off, its quite nice feeling like I’ve got company and I love hearing him talk, but also, how crazy to think had he had his dummy in the car for however many more months/years, he would be missing out on developing his speech every journey. He now chats and babbles all the time, all day long.

I’m glad I took the dummy away, it was emotional, difficult and really hard work but worth it. As I said, I’m still not at the stage of it being the best thing I ever did - as he still wakes in the night and I’m working on getting those wake ups to be less frequent or at least not need to be fed back to sleep. But after meeting with my health visitor for his 10 month check up she said it might be a bit cruel to take his dummy away AND stop night feeds all at once. So after he is used to not having his dummy and starts sleeping better - YEP I’m gonna fuck it all up and try to wean him off the night feeds, as my HV said if he’s still feeding in the day from me and also on three solid meals a day he will only be waking out of habit/for comfort rather than actually being hungry. I’m in no rush to stop the night feeds as I think if he needs comforting, he’s a baby, I’m not going to deprive him of feeling comforted. So maybe one day we can get it down to just being a cuddle and he dozes back off!

I didn't cut the dummies up, intact they’re still sat in their plastic Tuppaware grave, as I knew if he was hysterical and it really was unbearable that it simply wouldn’t be worth it to put him through, but all he really did was have a little cry and a moan and was back to being fine. The health visitor told me that if I was going to take them away I had to stick to it, as it wouldn’t be fair on Oscar if I kept giving in and giving it back but then taking it away for a few days and then giving it back - it would really confuse him and not be productive at all in helping him sleep without it!

So to sum up (this post is frickin huge - I must admit, Oscar wasn’t sleeping so I took him for a drive to get him to nod off this morning and I’m sat in my driveway on my laptop using my wifi while he has his morning nap, so forgive me for getting a bit carried away - word vomit)

  1. If you’re thinking of getting rid of the dummy, aim for 5 months.
  2. Never change a baby’s sleeping routine/habits while they are ill or teething, it’s just too cruel
  3. If you’re going to get rid of them - stick to it! Be strong
  4. Be as prepared as you can, you wont get much sleep so choose a time if you can where you partner can help and you know you don’t have anything important to do that week that you can’t be tired for
  5. Soothe your baby in every other way possible - it will pass, but let him know you're there
  6. Don’t cut out bottle feeds/nightfeeds at the same time as getting rid of the dummy, take one away at a time

I went cold turkey but it’s totally up to you if you want to cut it down by not having it in the day and only at naps/bedtime and gradually cut it down. Just don’t go cold turkey then confuse them in bringing it back after a few days only to do it all over again!

NB- I have LOVED having a dummy to help us get through the newborn days. He was given one on his second or third day of being in NICU to encourage him to suck and would also be given his dummy after being tube fed to associate sucking with feeling full so although many say a dummy can interfere with breastfeeding, for us it was an absolute saviour. Over the past 9 months the dummy has lead us to many a peaceful stretch of sleep, soothed a teething and poorly baby, been a saving grace when he's upset and all in all I couldn't have raised a baby without it - shout out to you dummies - you the real MVP! 

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Good luck Mamas - try and get some sleep!

9 Month Limbo

Babies work in a weird and wonderful way, just when you thing you’ve got it all figured out, you’ve finally cracked nap time and some sort of routine, they sense your glee and fuck shit up.

The newborn days, I had done so much reading I really had it figured but as the months go on, I genuinely have NO idea what I’m doing - and thats O.K.

 In the back of my mind I have the nagging thought that soon I have to raise a toddler. How the hell am I going to grasp what’s going on in his head to find out why he’s acting the way he is. How am I going to make sure I'm consistent in my parenting, my discipline, am I going to give him enough attention? How to I raise a toddler not to be spoilt but at the same time give him everything he deserves and more? 

As the one year mark approaches there are so many new expectations and rules to having a baby. No bottles after 1, no night feeds once they’re on three meals a day, food should not replace their main source of nutrition until 1… The pressure to have hit certain goals is unavoidable, with what seems like everyone else baby sleeping through, who’s baby is walking yet, who’s baby is talking, who’s “still” breastfeeding and those babies that never took a dummy are now revelling in the fact they now don’t face the pressure of weaning them off one!

The past few months have brought so many changes, that Oscar seems like a completely different baby and BOY has it caught me off guard. We have slowly but surely mastered three meals a day, he’s figured out how to plonk and land on his bum so thank God there’s less bumps to the head and he’s finally started sleeping better. But alas, as one area of motherhood goes swimmingly well, another falls spectacularly to pieces. 

I’m being bitten alive, more so than when I went backpacking through the jungle, by my own child. 6 teeth and an enormous chomp down every time he latches on - no, thank you! We got rid of the Sleepyhead Grande in Oscar’s room so it was a week of him getting used to ending up on all fours when trying to roll over, hitting his head and getting his arms and legs stuck between the bars! To top it all off I’ve decided while he’s not teething I’ll boycott the dummy! As I write this we’re on night 2 and I’ve got everything I can cross, crossed that it won’t be too bad.

It got me thinking that with every trial and tribulation that comes with parenting and raising a tiny little human, it’s O.K. to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing. You and your baby are getting to know each other a little bit more everyday and it’s important to take it day by day. No matter how hard the days are, when that little cherub is asleep at the end of the day, it’s all a blur, and you’ve learnt what worked and what didn’t from that day, to remember for tomorrow. You will get by, you’ll survive and your baby will, without a doubt, always love you! The most you can do, is your best. Being a Mum is so difficult, but the most rewarding job there is. 

With our ten month Health Visitor check up this morning, Oscar's gone full steam ahead through his assessment and we've just to conquer 'Mama' 'Dada' and clapping and he'll be all caught up to the average 10 month old (with 13 days to spare). We've added into the mixer to stop night feeds, that he doesn't need them as he's on three meals a day. But that as we are going through getting rid of the dummy, to do one at a time because it would be a bit mean to totally rid him of all overnight comforts! 

I aim to stop breastfeeding around 1 year and 5 weeks. 1 year because this is how long I aimed to feed for and 5 weeks because he was 5 weeks early and part of me still thinks of him as my vulnerable little preemie and I need to make sure he gets all the goodness right up until a year past his due date! The Health Visitor had very little advice about the biting other than to try unlatching, saying 'No. Don't bite Mama' in a firm tone and starting again. 

So the next two months has a few little milestones left to hit before he reaches 1 year old and I finally get my boobs back! No dummies, no breastfeeding, just me and my cheeky, chappy toddler to be! Wish me luck...

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Snotty Baby

So as I type this I am sat, in the carpark of where I take Oscar swimming. Its been aL O N G  12 days (yes, I’m counting) that we’ve both been under the weather. The worst of it has definitely been and gone and Oscar is left with a slightly snotty nose and still coughs occasionally. I did my part as a good citizen and kept him away from my friends with babies and all baby groups as I didn’t want to pass on any of his germs and least of all his cold to any other babies. But now we are sat in the carpark, waiting for our £13 a time swimming lesson to start and I’m still wondering whether to take him.

Will I submerge him underwater and he’ll come up with snot streaming down his face and the teacher and all other Mums will look at me in horror and disbelief that I brought him swimming. Or will the pool be full of other snotty kids who's Mums DGAF. We missed last weeks swimming and I was gutted - its the best fun we have all week! What’s more important? Oscar getting a good nap in (he’s asleep in the back) and fighting this cold in his own time without being dunked underwater while keeping all other babies safe, or does he deserve cheering up, a bit of socialising and getting out the house at the expense of others catching his cold! 

I decided against it… we’re back at home now eating Mini Cheddars while his lunch cooks and watching Sing. I can understand maybe having second thoughts about going or not going to a group after twelve days of a bastard cold and steering clear of other babies but why do parents take their babies out in the midst of a cold? I get it can be a little tedious staying in the same room playing with the same toys - but thats Motherhood! Apart from going to ASDA, a few dog walks and seeing family the past fortnight, we have done SOD ALL. But I’d rather that than meet up with a Mum-friend because if someone turned up to meet Oscar and I with a snotty kid I would be really annoyed!

This cold has been the death of us, we’ve both been totally wiped out. I definitely would’ve gotten better sooner if I was able to have 8 hour sleeps to rest and recuperate but alas, Oscar has other plans. Being up every hour to crying, coughing, snot, sneezing - isn’t fun! My heart breaks for him as he coughs his lungs up not knowing what’s going on. It took a few days for him to let me anywhere near him with the Nose Freda (snot sucker) as my first attempts were met with screaming and back arching. I think it took for him to see how much better he felt after I’d sucked all his rancid snot out his nose for him to realise I wasn’t trying to attack him but help him!!! (Silly Oscar) 

I will say if you’re reading this now and have a little one, even if they don’t have a cold, go out and stock up on everything you can! Oscar’s cold struck about 9pm and we had nothing! I took him to the doctors to check it wasn’t anything viral on Day 2, it can be and was really scary the first night as he was hysterically crying and wouldn’t settle at all, which is really unlike Oscar and I had no idea what to expect from a baby’s first cold.

I called 111 on the first night as I was in such a panic that he wasn’t settling and he seemed to be screaming in pain. I know they try to do a good job but unsurprisingly I didn’t get many answers. Among the questions they asked, some relevant, some not, they asked if he had bumped his head in the last week. (My brain quickly pictured the thousand bumps he had had in the last week, 4 big ones in particular) “Yeah, he bumps his head all the time, he’s learning to pull himself up” this then spirals into her asking how many bumps, any blood, any concussion, any lumps… no, they weren’t bad they were just bumps, he had a little cry but stopped once I distracted him. Through all this talking Oscar had exhausted himself and fell asleep in my arms so I couldn’t answer any more questions about how he was being because he was asleep, so they told me they’d ring me back within two hours (it was already 10pm) and by the time they rang back we were both asleep! 

All in all, I wouldn’t say I have much advice (sorry!) but that you’re in for a rough ride. When I went to the doctors on Day 2 he said it would last roughly a week to ten days, I couldn’t believe it. But twelve days later HERE WE ARE! I’ve been going to bed when Oscar does which helps a little and but the nights are still pretty rough.

 All in bed at 8pm!

All in bed at 8pm!

But please, keep your babies at home if they are poorly! I have turned down a lot of Mum-dates the last few weeks which has left me feeling pretty bored but I'd hate to pass anything on to other babies especially younger than Oscar! I would also hope anyone you plan to meet has the decency to tell you they're poorly and suggest to rearrange. It might seem extreme and I'm on the fence about babies 'being exposed to germs to get them used to them' but surely avoiding a cold is better than getting one!

Whether its coincidence or not, he has started sleeping better than he ever has done in months as his cold has lifted. I’ve been using a humidifier in his room to help him breathe better so maybe that’s the key! Am still using the Sleepy lotion by lush which I truly believe really helps and have taken the Sleepyhead Grande out of his bed and he’s been sleeping on his front since. 

As rough as these past weeks have been I have liked the cuddles and having him rest his head on my lap or chest and I rub his hair is really one of the best things about being a Mum. He’s finally at an age where he will wrap his arms around me when I carry him and nuzzle into me. He's been using his dummy more than usual so I'm glad I didn't boycott it a few months back when I attempted to as its been a real comfort for him.

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Shopping list: Ibuprofen, Paracetamol, BabyVix, Olbas Oil, Humidifier, Calpol plug in, Nose Freida, Soft tissues, White Zinfandel Rose Wine.

Sleeping like a baby

My first baby friend and to this day my bestie baby friend, in fact, the one who got me drunk and convinced me having a baby was a good idea, used to tell me tales of how her daughter wouldn't sleep. She’d never slept through the night (bare in mind we met when her daughter was about 1). I knew nothing about babies sleep patterns but by the way she spoke about how bad it was it made me think her baby was something out of the ordinary! Why wasn’t her baby sleeping? I wasn’t even pregnant at this point nor read a single baby book so my advice was dumb but I wanted to at least pitch in to show I cared ‘Have you tried a blackout blind?’ ‘Have you tried no TV before bed?’ Yeah right like she hadn’t tried doing that, what was thinking. 

As time went on and I became pregnant and began reading all these baby books, her daughter got older and still wasn't sleeping through the night - I couldn't believe it!! 'Have you tried getting rid of the dummy?' 'Have you tried putting her down drowsy but awake?' Yes, yes and yes to anything else I might suggest. 

I sit here now, with a 9 month old child... has he slept through the night? HEEEELLL NAAAAW! How naive and dumb was I pre-baby to be thinking it was something my Baby Momma friend was doing. Kids just don't sleep! They don't! And the ones that do! Their Mums really ought to STFU.

As if my Baby Momma friend hadn't tried everything under the sun to get her baby to sleep. That extensive list of desperation is something I've made my way through much the same in an attempt for better sleep. 

Black out blinds. White noise. Loud white noise. White noise with ocean sounds. White noise with rain sounds. White noise with rain sounds and lullabies on a piano over the top. Lullabies with the sound of a heart beating. Night lights. No lights. A fan. A humidifier. A moving star projector. A stationery star projector. A late bedtime. An early bedtime. Self soothing. Boobing to sleep. Rocking to sleep. Dummy. No dummy. Bed sharing. Side crib. Big crib. Own room. Our room. Calpol before bed. Calpol in the middle of the night. 12 hour nappy. Nappy change at 3am. Grobag. Blankets. More blankets. Less blankets. Amber teething bracelet. Calpol plug in. Sleepyhead deluxe. Sleepyhead grande. Extra mattress. Blanket that smells of me. Breastpad that smells of my milk. Baby massage. 'Sleepy' lush lavender body lotion. Lavender bubble bath. Calm bath before bed. Exciting bath before bed. Story books before bed. Dad putting him to bed. Me putting him to bed. 

YOU NAME IT. IVE TRIED IT. And in the grand scheme of things has any of it made a huge difference? NNNNNNOPE! 

Along with trying to get your child to sleep comes with all the pain in the ass advice and morons delivering guilt trip advice. "Don't feed your baby to sleep or he won't learn to self soothe" "Don't give him a dummy he'll never get rid of it" "He needs to learn to fall asleep by himself". If it works - DO IT! Recently I've thrown a deuce up to any of these sayings and just thought you know what, you don't see 15 year olds being breastfed to sleep. You don't see 12 year olds with Dummies. You don't get an 18 year old waking up every 45 minutes. These things are all things babies grow out of with or without your input. So stop wasting all of your energy on doing what you 'should' be doing, and just get the damn kid to sleep no matter what it takes! 

We give these babies far too high expectations. A baby has constant attention all day long. They need fussing over every tiny little thing, help with everything they do, to be taught how to do something over and over. Why should that be any different at night? Why do we expect a tiny baby to be ok with having the door closed on them for 12 hours and see you in the morning! (Granted if this started happening I'd be so thrilled. Adios Amigo.)

Even if Oscar did sleep through from a young age, I'd worry about him. I'd miss him. Is he getting hot under that blanket? Has he wet through his nappy? Is his bedroom too cold? How would I know all this if I closed the door and didn't see him ’til morning. I keep reminding myself this every time I go in to comfort him. That it's a chance for me to check everything's OK. That his blanket hasn't been pulled over his face, that he hasn't sunk down into his GroBag, that the white noise maker hasn't imploded and set the room on fire. 

Oscar has always been a ‘good sleeper’. But what does it mean to be a 'good' sleeper? YES he sleeps for 12 hours, is it in a row? No. Is he up several times? Yes! But he is in his crib for 12 hours, tired, wanting to sleep and I think that's pretty damn good. Only on the odd occasion (maybe 5 times in his life) has he woken up around midnight and wanted to ppppaaaartyyyy. These times are not good times. I don't do partying anymore. Least of all at 12am. So yeah, he may not sleep through but he goes back down every time I snuggle that MOFO or give him the ol' boob. 

Oscar has been a good sleeper because he goes to sleep. It took a while to realise but if he doesn't want to sleep, instead of trying to force it, give him half an hour, 45 minutes downstairs playing and try again and he’s much more inclined nod off. He goes to sleep at 6:30pm and always has! He’s always done a really good stretch at the start of his sleep and then from about 2pm it goes out the window and he’s up every hour! This has always been the way. My Mum’s always said I should put him to bed later and that long stretch would be further ahead in the night meaning I could get some sleep, but I really value my baby-free evenings with Luke where we can have adult conversation, a peaceful dinner and a break from the annoying songs baby toys make. 

Oscar started to sleep really well and when he woke up at 6am he would be awake for an hour and go straight back to sleep for another few hours - ahhhh those were the days. I wouldn’t leave bed in the mornings and could have a morning cat nap and feel human again ready for the day. It wasn’t long before the 4 month sleep regression hit. It hit us late, about 5 months old and suddenly he was waking like a newborn. He was feeding every single time he got up and some stretches were only a mere 45 minutes before he was up again. It was then that we decided to put him in his own room, when he was 5 and a half months. It was really tough for me and took it as a huge deal and the first night I was really anxious. I hated having no one next to me in a little crib and it meant I couldn’t wait for him to wake up because I missed him so much, which helped soften the blow of all the wake ups!

From the 4 month sleep regression we never looked back. It was pretty shitty from then. Not forgetting the hideous phase of 5:30am wake-ups - Oscar, what the hell was that about??

  Now, at 9 months, we’re finally getting somewhere! I think we went straight through hell with the 4 month regression, nothing improved and we went right through the 8 month regression to find ourselves here. With a blackout blind, white noise, in his own room, a 6:30 bedtime and yes he is FED/ROCKED to sleep. He now, sleeps from 7pm and wakes about 2pm and 5pm and will be up for the day at 7pm. I can’t complain!

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And as for my Baby Momma friend, you’ll have to ask her over at www.Momish.co.uk cause that hoe blogs too! (Spoiler alert: still not sleeping through but HEY thank God we have wine) 

So if you’re reading this and your baby sleeps through, go pour yourself a glass. If you’re reading this and your baby doesn’t sleep, you deserve a bigger glass! But stop feeling the pressure to stop yourself doing what you ‘shouldn’t be doing’. The most important thing you can do is survive. Get naps in wherever you can to catch a break, follow my sleep deprivation tips https://www.oscarsmum.com/blog/2017/8/14/survival-tips-sleep-deprivation and stop listening to the BS you hear from other Mum’s that make you feel worse about your baby’s sleep.

WE CAN DO IT!

Baby Led Weaning pt.2

Highchairs, Bibs and cutlery

I used the Tommee Tippee spoons, starting with the 4m+ spoons that were really rubbery and super bendy. I liked these ones because they weren’t stiff at all so if he really clamped down it wouldn't hurt his gums in anyway it would just bend flat. They also have a really long handle so are great for learning how to hold a spoon and for passing over. I think a good trick is to have two spoons per meal so that you can entice them to drop the first spoon by holding another spoon full. This makes meal times more pleasant as you aren’t snatching spoons out their hand the whole time and theres less chance of them flailing the spoon around which will lead to it being dropped (ie. less mess) as the spoons are in constant flow. We then moved to the 7m+ spoons once he had mastered using a spoon. (NHS expect children to be able to independently use a spoon by 2 years old). At 8 months we’ve now recently started using a fork and he’s taken a few mouthfuls so far from it! I wanted to wait until I knew he knew what he was doing and wasn’t going to ram it in his mouth and hurt himself! 

For bibs I love the Tommee Tippee learning bibs as they have a huge lip to catch food that drops. I only recently found it and it has been amazing at saving the spillages on his trousers! Saves a WHOLE outfit change… I also like the £3 Sainsbury’s fabric bibs for meals like Spaghetti Bolognese or something you know is going to make a huge mess so you can just throw it in the washing machine afterwards! 

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We have the IKEA Antilop highchair which for us has been perfect. It comes with straps but it is advised for BLW not to use straps incase of emergency and you need to get the baby out the highchair to give them back blows if they are choking! Its really easy to clean, the tray comes off and fits in the sink perfectly and then I use one of those amazing scrubbing brushes that your pour the fairy liquid down the handle! I make sure I wash it as soon as we’re finished as not only does that obviously avoid mess but it’s easier to clean when liquids are wet rather than dried and stuck to the chair. I read about the chair not being perfect as it doesn't have a foot support, so babies can have the blood rush to their toes and can get fussy because they’re uncomfortable so I tie a muslin around the front two legs to create a little ledge for him to rest on. We bought the highchair with the cushion that comes with and it has been perfect but found it really frustrating to clean as it’s fabric and isn’t that convenient to keep putting in the wash. Luckily, I saw a really great hack online that said sellotape sandwich bags on the arms of the cushion so that it can be a wipe-clean job! Now that his legs are bigger he doesn’t need the sides of the cushions to wedge him in, so I put the cushion upside down so that he can still use the back of the cushion to prevent him from hitting his head on the back of the chair if he launches himself back!

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We have wooden flooring which has made the mess and clean up a lot more bearable but if you have carpet a great hack I’ve read about is to buy a shower curtain and put it under the highchair for easy wipe clean or spray down outside job. The mess was something in the early days that was so outrageous but I knew this was the fastest way for him to learn and to just relax about it. I didn’t feed him meals in public for a long time as he was so messy! And also didn’t bother making anything with my heart and soul as I knew it would just end up on the floor. He now still makes a little bit of mess which is expected but the way he eats is so fascinating and amazing the way he has improved it has all been totally worth it!

My favourite meals are the Annabel Karmel oven/microwave ones (I always oven cook as they come out nicer). They are great portion sizes and also a great place to start as there’s lots of meals that have a mash potato topping or a sauce which aren’t too lumpy if you're nervous about big chunks. I also like the ‘Little dish’ toddler meals. I use these as part of a meal alongside vegetables if I haven't cooked something for myself that I would want to give him. For me, I eat a lot of bread - I’m happy to have two slices of toast for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch, but it’s advised to not have more than two pieces for little ones so these meals are a great way of him getting a good lunch while I just have a sandwich!

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Oscars first foods: Grapefruit, Melon, Spaghetti, Banana, Baby Sweetcorn, Cantaloupe, Porridge, Breadsticks and Philadelphia, Watermelon, Corn on the cob, Crusty white bread, Orange, Strawberries, Greek Yoghurt, Bagel, Broccoli... 

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Meal ideas... 

Head over to my Pinterest page to have a look at the BLW recipes I've pinned! My favourite has to be the Banana and Blueberry oat muffins as they are SO easy to make, healthy and easy for babe to eat. (this is my third batch and I added strawberries... don't add strawberries! Stick to the recipe!!  http://www.wingsandroots.co.uk/sugar-free-blueberry-banana-and-oat-muffins/ ) 

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These are great to cook in bulk. I have to admit it does look impressive but I could not have cooked all this without my parents both watching Oscar while I was destroying their kitchen for four hours! I was brand new to all the recipes so could probably half that time next time! 

A great reason to choose BLW is how easy it is to simply make what you're making and feed it to your baby! Here are a few ideas of meals I've eaten over the past few weeks and how I've made a smaller portion and cut into fingers for Oscar!

 Beans on a toasted bagel. Oscar's bagel I have smooshed the beans down using a fork!

Beans on a toasted bagel. Oscar's bagel I have smooshed the beans down using a fork!

 Haddock fishcakes from LIDL, chunky chips with sweetcorn and peas.

Haddock fishcakes from LIDL, chunky chips with sweetcorn and peas.

 Scrambled eggs on a bagel for me, scrambled egg, avocado and a cream cheese bagel for Oscar

Scrambled eggs on a bagel for me, scrambled egg, avocado and a cream cheese bagel for Oscar

 Pancakes made with batter. Oscar's pancake the fruit was added when it was in the pan! - Blueberries smooshed flat, chopped strawberries and sliced bananas

Pancakes made with batter. Oscar's pancake the fruit was added when it was in the pan! - Blueberries smooshed flat, chopped strawberries and sliced bananas

Some quick and easy favourites...

 Tuna pizza bagels...  Toast the bagel, add tomato puree, grated cheese, tuna and sweetcorn and put under the grill!

Tuna pizza bagels...

Toast the bagel, add tomato puree, grated cheese, tuna and sweetcorn and put under the grill!

 Eggy bread (blueberry muffin on the side)  Whisk egg, milk and cinnamon in a bowl and coat the bread, cook on either side in frying pan

Eggy bread (blueberry muffin on the side)

Whisk egg, milk and cinnamon in a bowl and coat the bread, cook on either side in frying pan

 Omelette, blueberry muffin, cheese and brocolli muffin and breadsticks with philidelphia 

Omelette, blueberry muffin, cheese and brocolli muffin and breadsticks with philidelphia 

Baby led weaning for us has been so much fun and it's incredible to watch how Oscar now eats. I hope this post has been some help as it can be a little daunting! Watch out for salt content, a baby can have 1g of salt a day so when buying readymeals just check the salt content is 0.0.... and you should be fine! I have tried the microwave meals that are in the baby food aisle and they are all a bit watery and truthfully if I wouldn't eat it I wouldn't give it to Oscar! The frozen meals are really tasty! Since we also got the blood test results back I have been giving Oscar spinach, apple and broccoli purees cold just served like I would yoghurt so that I know he's getting plenty of iron in his diet. I don't think purees are anything to be feared or looked down upon as I originally thought and if you're worried about intake it doesn't mean you can't do BLW. 

To puree or not to puree? Pt.1

Weaning was a big thing for me. I was really nervous, over whelmed and undecided about the whole thing. I heard and read so much conflicting advice I couldn’t decide which route to go down. Do I wait until Oscar’s corrected age is 6 months or go ahead when his actual age is 6 months? Do I wait until the exact day Oscar turns 6 months or whenever is convenient around the time? Do I choose baby led weaning and skip the purees, do I do a mixture of both or do I start with purees and only purees? 

The conflicting advice I had heard that worried me the most, was that ‘strict’ baby led weaning was to give your baby exactly what you were eating. What if I was eating a bowl of blueberries (choking hazard), cherries (choking hazard), pitted olives (choking hazard) a rare steak with blue cheese sauce and a runny egg. There HAD to be a limit and I was desperate for some ground rules instead of just ‘give your baby the same as you apart from honey’.

I went to a BLW (baby led weaning) class at my local Children’s centre which was really helpful and also read the ‘bible’ of BLW, the Baby Led Weaning book. At the class they gave us some great ground rules. Until the baby is 8-9 months avoid foods like blueberries that could get stuck in their throat. At the same age a baby develops the pincer grip at this age, their oesophagus size increases and blueberries are no longer a choking hazard. Thus, if they are able to pick up the blueberry they are able to eat the blueberry. Until then, smush the blueberry so that it is flat, cut it or bake with it.

The rules I have heard and follow are: No honey for under 1s, All food must be cooked well done until the age of 5 (eggs, meat) no whole nuts (choking hazard) under age 5.

I also follow the food rules I used when I was pregnant just because most of them I wouldn’t want to offer him anyway, but if they run risks while pregnant I’d rather avoid them. So - No mouldy cheese. No undercooked meat. No pate or cured meats (Parma ham/Chorizo). Eggs must have Red Lion Stamp. Not too much tuna in a week.

A lot of the BLW Facebook groups have really aggressive and angry admins. I remember reading someone comment their little one having veg and sweet potato mash and the admin went crazy saying the baby must have exactly what you are having so the fish/meat the adults were having the baby must have. Their reason for this was so that the baby can watch how you eat and learn. 

I think this is utter crap and through my experience can confirm it is utter crap, for a number of reasons. Reason number 1- I am eating my meal with a knife and fork therefore Oscar cannot mirror what I am doing as he is eating with his hands. It would make sense in the sense that if I was eating a carrot stick with hummus on the end, he could watch me hold it and eat it. But I rarely eat sit down meals with my hands.

Reason number 2 - It would be impossible for me to eat at the same pace as him and therefore be eating the same food as him throughout the meal, i.e. if I am chewing a piece of steak and am cutting it up into small slices and chewing, but then use my fork to eat mash potato and scoop it into my mouth. How would Oscar be able to exactly mirror this, he may take 5 minutes to chew the steak. What is the point in having exactly the same on my plate if he cannot keep up with me, I’m not going to show him how to chew steak until he chews and swallows his - and then we both move onto our mash - ridiculous. 

Another passive aggressive admin trait that I have found on the Baby Led Weaning Facebook groups is that if you do any form of puree it is not Baby Led Weaning - it is then just ‘traditional weaning’. I also think this is utter crap. A BLW baby can have yoghurt, apple sauce, soup, using a spoon, so long as the spoon is ‘preloaded’ and left on the tray. 

For me, I didn’t see the difference in yoghurt or a puree. Throughout our meal times I have given Oscar the spoon. But have put anything and everything on the end of that spoon. Whether it be an Ella’s kitchen puree or a teaspoon of Greek yoghurt. I got way too wrapped up in ‘how bad purees are’ and that they can apparently cause babies to be obese because they don’t learn to stop when they’re full as opposed to BLW when they decide when they’re full. I actually started to look down on purees and couldn't believe if someone I followed on YouTube were using them or a friend was telling me about using them, I just got so overwhelmed with people commenting on the BLW Facebook Groups at how ‘bad’ they were that I became really cynical of them. I hadn’t even weaned my child- or any child, how could I have such a strong opinion.

At the BLW group at my local children’s centre, it was a week before Oscar turned 6 months. I was pretty confident in my choice to do only BLW and no purees. One of the Mums sat next to me had started her baby before 6 months and was feeding him from a pouch and was telling me how its fine to do both. At the time, I couldn’t believe was I was hearing and was taking no notice (lol). The ladies who were doing the course were an array of nurses and health visitors from the NHS so I felt really confident with them there and asked about a thousand questions. 

I told the ladies that we were waiting till next week to give Oscar solids and that it was going to be Father’s day so we were going to have either a healthy cooked breakfast and eat with him or have a roast dinner in the afternoon and eat with him, but that I was really anxious to do so. 

So, they told me that nothing happens over night when your baby turns 6 months, so if he’s able to sit sturdily in a highchair and is around 6 months he will be fine. I told them about him being 5 weeks early and they explained that the stomach starts to mature the second it begins digesting breastmilk and so that his stomach was 6 months old and ready for solids and that there was no need to wait till he ought to have been 6 months old, five weeks later.

They had put out about 20 low level highchairs and we were all sat on the carpet and then came round with trays of sliced peppers, slices of orange, celery sticks and cucumber sticks.

I decided therefore, that even though it was going to be really special trying foods together that with all these nurses around and me being terrified of gagging and choking, that I would start him on solids there and then. I felt way more safe and able to ask any questions, plus, have someone who knew first aid nearby, as opposed to it just being me and Luke in our kitchen having no idea what we’re doing! 

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With what I know now, after having weaned Oscar for a good few months, is that those types of foods are more foods that they would just gum and use to get used to holding at that age. I definitely wouldn’t expect them to bite, chew and digest any of it at 6 months with no teeth. But at the time, I didn’t know that. I then felt really underwhelmed at how it wasn’t really a meal time, as nothing was going in or down. I got home and tried some more food with him while Luke was with me, and again he just bit the food and wasn’t really interested. I then started to get into a real panic that he wasn’t going to eat anything for months and that he needed all the extra nutrients he could get because he was premature. 

From being the most uptight, stick up my arse, BLW advocate, I had turned into a panic pants and went out and bought purees. How hypocritical! I must’ve looked like such an arsehole. What I didn’t realise, was that the foods I was offering him, in my head I thought would be good because they were sturdy and easy to hold, but that meant they were really hard and difficult to chew. Had I started with toast, or avocado, banana… something a little softer, although more difficult to hold, I would’ve seen him actually chew and eat a lot more.

For the first few weeks we did a mixture of purees and finger foods (This is actually what the NHS recommends). I told myself it was still BLW as I was putting puree on the spoon and holding it in front of his face for him to grab and feed himself. I know a lot of people wouldn’t have persevered with this as it made so much mess, but I knew it was a learning curve and that for him to learn we had to practice, so was fully on board with all the mess. 

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The mess - oh boy, the mess - I have to say, at the start of weaning your child I wouldn't recommend spending much time cooking beautiful meals, as they all end up on the floor more or less. (Pictured below is Oscar after having had an Ella's kitchen Spag Bol)

It’s so disheartening when you feel like they’ve eaten quite a lot and then you’re able to fill an entire dustpan with food on the floor. But don’t worry, it slowly (very slowly) gets better and when they have a meal they really like (cottage pie/fish pie are some of Oscar’s favourites he would lick the plate clean if he could) they won’t waste a drop. With BLW you have to sit with your baby at all times so that you can make sure they aren't choking, which is a good way of also trying to minimise what’s about to be dropped. I have since weaning, become a ninja at grabbing food he drops before it hits the ground. For me personally, we have laminate flooring so anything that does get dropped I wont put back on the tray, but if you have carpet or just have OCD and put a mat or shower curtain down every time they eat I guess you could put back up whatever gets dropped but its personal preference, I have two dogs so I just know my floors are filthy. 

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The most difficult thing for me when I started to wean Oscar was the timings. I felt like I had just got to grips with a schedule of breastfeeding, naps and playtime. Which then all got turned upside down by trying to fit in a meal. Even one meal felt challenging. 

Until a baby is one, milk (whether it be formula, or breastmilk) must be their main source of nutrition so as much as possible you have to feed your baby milk, and then wait 30-45 minutes before you feed them any food. This way, they’re filling up on milk (the best goodness for them) and topping themselves up with food. It would be no good, and no surprise, to feed a baby a burger and chips first and then say, oh, they wont drink their bottle. It just doesn’t work that way. But this was a tricky window for a six month old, you basically had a two hour window where they would be happy and any longer they need a nap again. Which meant you fed them when they wake up from a nap, wait 30-45 minutes and then have to cook or prepare whatever you’re going to give them, wait for it to cool, and then feed it to them, which leaves about ten minutes spare until they have a meltdown because they’re over tired. In the beginning there were a few meal times where he was just not playing ball and I knew there was no point trying to cheer him up or distract him to get him to eat, I just had to pack up and get him to bed. Which most of the time meant I had to pick up a crying baby covered in tomato sauce and yoghurt and cover myself in exactly the same. Oscar has had a few naps covered in whatever he was eating because I simply couldn’t bare to put him through being wiped and changed because he was so miserable. 

The gagging was very scary to begin with. “Loud and Red - let them go ahead, Silent and Blue, they need you” basically means if your baby is coughing and going red in the face, because they are able to cough it means their airway isn’t blocked as they are getting enough oxygen to speak effectively and enough blood to go red in the face, so the only time you need to worry is when they are silent, unable to cough and blue in the face. Statistically, there is the same chance of gagging with purees as there is solid foods, which I can totally vouch for as Oscar gagged with both. I won’t go into detail as I’m not a scientist but from what I’ve read, it totally makes sense… the gag reflex is higher up and far more sensitive at 6 months, so its better for a 6 month old to learn to move solids round their mouth while their body has a really low threshold for what can get past their gag reflex. For example, if a baby takes a bite of food that is too big or their body isn't used to the consistency (bananas and avocado always made him gag more so than other foods as they were quite lumpy) they will gag (which looks terribly scary) and spit the food out. Sometimes they gag so ferociously it can cause them to vomit their previous milk feed up, which can be really really scary and has happened a couple of times, but it’s just Oscar’s body’s way of protecting him. I would say for anyone starting weaning, to watch videos of babies gagging on YouTube (there are hundreds) just to familiarise yourself with what it looks like. If a baby is gagging (which is totally normal and they should be left to it) and you intervene by either patting them on the back or sticking your finger in their mouth to hook the food out, through your actions you could turn gagging into choking, so its really important to know the difference so you can know when to help and when not to. Another point to mention is when your baby is gagging, which will inevitably happen, is to stay calm, this means lots of smiling and encouraging words. This in itself can stop you from getting too worried but is also really important for the baby to have a positive experience while eating. Have you ever had a baby bump their head and look to you for what to do next? If your face crumbles and you rush to them saying, “its ok!” they’re more likely to cry, but if you smile and say ‘ut oh!’ in a happy voice and then distract them, its more likely they’ll forget about it. Same thing with eating, if your face while they're gagging is total panic, they’ll panic too, which could then lead to choking if they’re distracted from ‘working it out’ as they say. 

In terms of foods, cutting foods up and what foods to have, I’m happy to post in another thread my meal ideas, what products I bought that helped (cooking tools, bibs, spoons etc) and general pointers about our journey so far but feel a little worried about giving specific advice on exactly what to give your child, so please do your own research and decide yourself! Am happy to answer any questions but again, can only repeat what I’ve been told or experienced myself which doesn’t make it right. What may be right for my baby, may not be right for yours. 

The 8 month itch

The 8 month itch, nobody tells you about. I lasted 8 months being the "perfect" textbook Mother I always dreamed of being. 8 months in I have now I've reached my limit and succumb to being a regular, doing whatever-the-hell needs be to get by, Mum. I now feed my child Pombears while I do the laundry to keep him quiet, I suddenly am desperate for bedtime to hit for a glass of wine- not even for the wine itself but to hold a wine glass with a cold beverage and sit on the sofa, undisturbed watching anything but Baby TV. I put cartoons on Channel 5 at 6am and watch Disney films on rainy afternoons just for a bit of peace and quiet. I've fed him bits of my chocolate cookie and let him lick my strawberry ice cream- because who am I to deny him of these delicious wonderments when he reaches for them.

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I realise how judgemental and naive I used to be and how everyone is simply just doing their best to keep their baby happy and remain sane. It is enevitable in my opinion that you will become that Mum. It makes me wonder what I'll be like with a screaming toddler in the middle of ASDA... I already have thoughts in my head of 'I won't bribe my child with sweets and chocolate to finish a meal' 'I wont use 'no iPad' as a punishment' or 'I won't give in and let them have what they want at the shop because they're having a temper tantrum' - Ha! I will no doubt do all of these. I'd like to think I'll try not to at first but fuck it- if it happens, it happens. Whatever it takes to make it through parenting alive!

I really feel 6 months and above is the mark when it gets tricky and really difficult to do ANYTHING. Hours can pass by and I will have achieved so little. When the baby naps it becomes about doing things that are impossible to do with the baby awake. This can mean my hair goes without being washed for a week because I need to use those naps to organise his clothes, sort through cupboards, take out the bin bags, pick up dog poo in the garden. The changes that make your baby go from being a baby baby, to a colossal, climbing clingy monster (just kidding, love you Oscar) are the following:

Nappy changes

Oh boy, oh boy. Ok - so I was warned that when you start weaning the poos get so much worse, but it took a long time for me to see HOW bad they really get. When I started weaning Oscar they pretty much stayed the same, changed consistency a tiny bit, maybe the odd different coloured nappy and a sweetcorn lump here and there, but on the whole I wasn’t that disgusted by them. Oh holy hell, was I in for a treat. Now that he is on three meals a day, and I mean adult meals like fishcakes, cottage pies and pastas, his poos are UNREAL. They’re like human, no not human, COW shits, that get sat on while he's in his highchair or carseat, and turn into cow pats. They are horrific. It’s unbelievable that such a cute, tiny, precious little baby can create such enormous, adult poos. Take that, combine with the fact that they now won’t lie down or stay still when you try and change their nappy, results in a lot of squirming, frustration and poo everywhere, unless you’re on the off chance quick like a ninja. I’ve found the only way to get Oscar to lie still is to give him a small, intricate toy. Like a small rubber duck from his bath set. Anything bigger and he will quickly get bored. I’ve also changed to pull up nappies because once you get the feet in, since he’s now on his feet, I stand him up and pull the nappy up, meaning there’s less time I have to get him to lie down! I don’t know if it’s just Oscar but at this age, he seems to be pooing as soon as we get in the car, or as soon as I put him in his chair for breakfast/dinner. I don’t think I’ll have any problems potty training him because that boy loves to sit and shit!

Crawling

Crawling is a bitter sweet milestone. It happens oh so gradually so it’s something you have a while to get used to the changes. It’s the most amazing thing and I am so proud of Oscar. He started with an army crawl which is in some ways worse as they can go even faster! He soon started whizzing around getting into everything he shouldn’t. This means the days of putting him in a safe place so I can go for a quick wee or grab something from another room are gone. When I first went to the baby shop to baby proof the house I didn’t really have any idea what I was looking for. I found plastic stoppers for plug sockets and some rubber stoppers for the edge of furniture, I took one look at the dressing room when I got home and these stopped about 2 of 200 hazards in the room. It took a lot of moving plug sockets in reach, finding an alternative plug and having an extension cable in a safer place, getting rid of all the junk that didn’t have a place, so just ended up on the floor (which has actually motivated me to organise the house properly and get rid of unwanted crap) and most importantly, keeping and eye on him at all times! It seems to make no difference whether I put out twenty toys or three toys, he still wants the coat hanger, my phone, or handles on drawers. We’ve had to get a hideous, multicoloured, huge, plastic baby fence in our lounge because there was simply far too many hazards, including a fireplace, so we now have a big pen for him and his toys. Luke naively thought that the pen meant I could leave him in there with some toys and get on with something elsewhere while he happily played by himself. Not quite. He is still quite unpredictable when he crawls and can often fall on his face or into toys when he tries to go from sitting to crawling. And when sitting is still a bit wobbly so can often bump his head or fall on the floor from sitting, so leaving him is out of the question! He is full time work!

The crying

Oscar was a really content baby so this is the first dose of crying I've really had to deal with. You can't help but feel bad when they're bumping their head or dropping toys on their face a hundred times a day- but when they're crying for what seems like no reason it can get frustrating! The whole day seems to centre around distraction.

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If they bump their head you find a new toy or pick them up and show them their reflection in the mirror. If they really hurt themselves you'll know but otherwise I think most of it is the shock. Oscar was sat in the lounge and fell into a stacking cup that was facing upwards and he screamed his lungs out. It was such a heart breaking cry and there was very little that could stop him crying. He got a big purple bruise in a curved line down his cheek so I'm not surprised he cried after seeing the bruise it left! His face was so sore from the bruise I couldn't wipe the food off without hurting him so I just had to let him be covered in yoghurt!

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Most times that he has cried in the highchair while eating can usually be dissolved by offering him yoghurt (yoghurt is his favourite, I think if he's crying because his teeth ache that the yoghurt cools the gums and therefore the pain) but if it's that he's getting bored or tired, a little bit of BabyTV calms him down long enough for me to either get him to finish his meal or clear up just so the kitchens always moderately tidy. Too many times I've just picked him up when he's crying and disappeared upstairs and found the food on the highchair I left either eaten by the dogs or covered in flies. So I now take the time to try and calm him down and tidy up properly before we leave the table, it also means I don't end up covered in food by picking him up! 

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Teething

Teething is a nightmare. It's so unknown. It's a total guess whether they're fussing because they're teething or it's because they're just being fussy. And then bam, the teeth pop through and it explains everything. Oscar is 8 months and has 6 teeth. Which I believe is early to have that many! I tried everything and in the end found really only Calpol works. Distraction in the day, Calpol at night. I even tried an amber teething bracelet to wear as an anklet for him but I'm not convinced it's worked. He can go a day without it and act the same if not worse as the before, or wear it and have a really good day. I'm not sure how much the bracelet has to play in his moods but when you're this desperate for him to be out of pain and a little more settled, you'll try anything.

Sleeping & Clinginess

I feel like I really missed my window with getting him to self soothe. I started swapping our bedtime routine around when he was 6 months and would feed him first, then do bath and into pyjamas and then put him in bed and he would babble and have a little whinge and then fall asleep. He then started to teethe and all hell broke loose. I had to scrap all the sleep training and comfort him through the pain. Now that his 6 teeth have cut and it doesn't seem any are coming, I’m trying to get him to fall asleep independently but it’s happen to fall at the same time he goes through a clingy leap. Where if you leave a room he screams bloody murder. He hates being put down and cries, only to stop crying the split second you pick him up again. So far I’ve been able to simply cuddle him to sleep so at least the sleep association with breastfeeding has sufficed. He is still sleeping well from 6-12 and then gets up every two hours from then. I can’t complain as he is only ever awake for about 10 minutes and I’ve never been up in the middle of the night trying to get him to go back down for hours on end.

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Grabbing and touching

It’s no secret that babies are obsessed with car keys, iPhones and TV remotes. We have recently bought him ‘Baby’s first gadget kit’ so that he has his own to play with as we’re both slightly fed up of the channel being changed or turned up too loud. He is always touching things he shouldn’t. He doesn’t touch other babies or our dogs gently and is always taking a fist full of whatever’s in front of him whether it be a clump of dog fur or another babies nose. He also enjoys grabbing hair - whether that be hair on your head, Luke’s chest hair, Luke’s beard - you name it he grabs it - and won’t let go easy! If he’s not grabbing your hair, he’s beating you up - whether it be a kick to the tit, a kick to the throat, grabbing the skin of your throat, smashing a remote into your head, smashing a remote to his head! It’s all a nightmare of bumps and bruises and the worst thing is you can’t get annoyed at a baby! How can you! You just have to grit your teeth and bare it because he means to harm and has no idea what he’s doing! 

Having an 8 month old is extremely exhausting, it’s exhausting all night and exhausting all day - but SO rewarding. He now has such a dirty laugh whenever he is tickled and gives the biggest smile whenever you catch his eye. He really has such a cheeky personality and I’m so excited for him to start walking and talking. Oscar you might be going through a lot and be a miserable butt munch sometimes but I love you!

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Getting around with a baby

Getting out and about with a newborn

The biggest shock to the system for me that I felt most overwhelming and tricky with a newborn was how small tasks turn into the biggest ordeal. I had always heard that ‘you wont be able to leave the house in 5 minutes like you used to’ and was always baffled by this as, as long as I had nappies and wipes and a spare vest, I was pretty much good to go (thank God all I need to feed him are my boobs, and I never forget them).

The most life-changing, (and yes I say life changing because life soon becomes about going ASDA) is how inconvenient it is to shop with a baby. I remember the first time I needed to ‘nip into’ a Tesco Express by my house and had this tiny baby in a carseat. I actually got mild anxiety thinking of the possible scenarios that could play out. This may sound daft to you if you don’t have a baby, but to me, it was so difficult to grasp the concept. 

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Before having a baby a normal person would park their car, get out their car, walk in, maybe pick up a basket, get their items, pay and leave. When you’re alone with a baby, it sure as hell gets difficult to carry a carseat (have you ever carried one of those things? They’re crazy heavy) AND carry a basket (because lets face it there’s no way you’re going to be able to hold those items and carry the carseat, so you pick up a basket). But wait, how do I get the items in the basket, both my hands are full? Ok, ok so I put the car seat down every time I want to put something in the basket. The basket then gets heavy, the carseat is heavy and suddenly both my arms are bright red. I’ve then got to get to the till, put basket down, put baby down, get my purse out, pay, take the bag of shopping and the baby, head back to the car and put both in and drive home! HEEEELL NA… Must be an easier way…

Round 2… Lets try the pram. I hate this thing, the less I need to get it out the boot and clip the carseat in the better. Realistically, I ought to just get a grip and use the pram more as it saves me breaking my back and getting sore arms from carrying the car seat. It just seems so much upheaval for a trip to a Tesco Express. Hey ho, here goes. Take the pram out of the car and unfold the wheels, take the carseat out the car and put onto the wheels. Go into Tesco, carry a basket with one arm and try and push the pram with the other hand, basket becomes heavier on one side and basket begins to tip… end up wheeling the pram into the food aisles due to being unbalanced. I also become unnecessarily paranoid that the basket will pick up and almighty force and begin swinging to and fro and into the baby’s head (this would never happen but my Mum-brain works in strange and mysterious ways)

Round 3… Lets try putting my shopping in the bottom of the pram. Ok this seriously looks like I’m shop lifting. How about using a Bag for Life, the buggy clips, and taking a spare bag to unload the first bag and pack it back into the new bag… too many bags right? The bag for life works great when using the ‘Scan as you shop’ in a big Tesco, but alas, I AM AT A SMALL TESCO…

Round 4… A trolley, one trolley big enough for a car seat, outside. Can fit less shopping in than a basket and is the opposite of discrete but IT WORKS… that is until you get to a different express and they only have the tiny, stupid trollies. 

I used to sit and daydream about Round 5… what I wouldn't give for Oscar to be stable enough to hold with one hand so I could nip in with him on my waist, run in and grab a few bits, pay and leave… Little did I know this is impossible because if your baby isn’t stable enough and needs two arms holding him, this leaves no hands for your shopping and if he is stable enough it means he's old enough to want to touch EVERYTHING in the shop

To sum up, Tesco express with a baby can just GET FUCKED… if anyone has cracked it let me know. 

Getting petrol.

This I have avoided like the plague. I have tried to always get petrol when I am giving someone a lift in my car so that they can stay in the car with the baby while I pay, or I have used Pay at Pump so that I don’t have to leave him. The times I have left him, when he was smaller and/or asleep the thoughts that have gone through my head are like no other. I know very little about phones in petrol stations and why you have to turn them off but I just know that you have to, something about the sparks and the fuel… I’ve really no idea. But the thought of a petrol station EXPLODING is the only thing on my mind when I get fuel with Oscar in the car. That, and someone kidnapping him, the car overheating, the car locking and I can’t unlock it - the sheer anxiety of what could, but probably would never, happen is another level. I’ve left him a handful of times, only when I’ve parked on the pumps closest to the checkout, waited in my car until the queue had completely gone, dashed in with the exact amount of cash, THROWN IT at the man behind the till and ran back. Even typing this gives me heart palpitations. Now that he’s older, if I’m not in a rush I will get him out and take him in, get a drink and make it a leisurely affair. 

The big food shop

This gets more difficult as time goes on. It took me a while to realise that trollies exist that you can put your carseat on top of and actually strap in, I thought this was GENIUS the first time I found it. Tesco and Lidl have these and are exceptionally high, they have a car seat rack on top of a standard trolley. Although its a great idea because it means you can shop without disturbing your baby, have an entire trolley’s worth of space, you can’t see where the hell you’re going. I have hit many a small child by not knowing where I’m going. ASDA - however, are right on the money. They have low trolleys, with wide handle bars and a carseat rack. If ASDA met Tescos, and had the perfect trolley and Scan as you Shop - Holy moly I would be one happy Mama. 

When Oscar got old enough to sit in the trolleys with the child seats and have his legs dangling I was buzzing. I felt like he was a proper little boy, theres tons of space in those seats so I always either stuff his blanket around him or grab a thick wooly cardigan before I leave if its a hot day to use. I find it makes him less 'grabby' and not wanting to touch everything on the shelves if he's a bit more wedged in. This doesn't, however, stop him from putting the metal clip that you insert into the trolley in front afterwards to get your £1 back, I can't imagine the filth on there. Once the novelty has worn off of how exciting it is to have your once tiny baby, sat up in a trolley, it soon becomes THE most annoying thing on the planet, to have to concentrate on doing your shopping but also to make sure your child doesn't touch or eat or lick anything, this includes trying to bite the handlebars, touch everything that crosses his path as you put it into the trolley and touch the car keys and put a few of those in his mouth as you hang them up. 

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Shopping in town

Manoeuvring a pram around town is bloody hard. Nearly nine months later and I still make a royal ass of myself. I almost always smash the front wheels into the side of a door frame or the door itself, always go into mannequins or clothes rails. Pair this, with the fact you’ll need an extra large changing room and can’t go up the FUCKING escalator anymore so spend half your time at the back of the shop to get to the lift. 

Meeting anyone or doing anything near bedtime

This for me, is just a big fat Ha Ha NO. If someone wants to meet me outside of my house, and it’s anywhere near 6 o’clock, I invite them to challenge Oscar not to fall asleep in the car on the way there/home. Believe me, I’ve tried not to be the anal bedtime Nazi that stops me from meeting up with friends, but I just can’t help it. Once you become obsessed with naps, bedtime and timings, it’s game over. 6-8 months for us was the best age to leave the house at 11, and arrive at a lunchtime destination, have slept in the car, be sociable for a few hours, and have a nap on the way home around 2, aaaah the 11 and 2 o’clock naps, I miss you old friends - you were so convenient. 

Donating milk/what is cluster feeding

Donating milk had been something I heard about while on a car journey with another Mum. We were discussing how we were both really fortunate by pure luck to have really healthy and what appeared to be, above average supplies. Through surrounding myself with the world that is breastfeeding through books, Facebook groups, discussing with other Mums and most importantly experiencing it myself, I have come to realise that a lot of women struggle to use breast pumps well enough to make a full feed in one session. Some mums can spend hours hooked up to a breastpump and only achieve a few drops/ few ounces and others can make ounces in minutes.

 

When I was in NICU I went straight to the pump, which may be why I'm able to create such a high supply but may just be luck. I truly believe, through speaking to a number of women and seeing multiple Facebook posts, that it really is just luck. You can either do it or you can't, sadly. Some women believe eating oats and taking supplements are a few of the ways you can increase your supply and others say purely by having your baby feed more will increase your supply- no supplement or type of food will help. I have never needed to and therefore never tried these supplements, but if my supply was dipping or I believed I needed to make more milk for my baby I would try everything under the sun- so no judgement here. I'm simply repeating what I've read!

 

A lot of times during the early days, Oscar went through phases of cluster feeding and had I not been properly informed through reading up about the subject or being told by my experienced breastfeeding mama friends, that although it seemed like both my boobs were flat, deflated, empty and I simply couldn't produce any more milk- this was impossible. Breastmilk is a river not a reservoir, as they say. You will always make more milk. Cluster feeding is combined with all sorts of leaps and growth spurs that your baby is going through so it's a tricky time to have faith in yourself and your milk. A lot of women see cluster feeding as that their baby isn't satisfied with their milk and that they're crying because they're starving or that they're sucking and nothing's coming out. Believe me I thought this too when it first started happening. This can then lead to a lot of Mums falling into 'the top up trap'. When you're well informed about cluster feeding it allows you to understand what's happening in your babies life. When a baby cluster feeds it's known as 'putting their order in for the next day'. So if your baby is likely going through a growth spurt, their bodies are smart enough to know that, right, Mum, tomorrow I'm gonna need to feed double what I had today. And how do they do that? By cluster feeding. By feeding over and over and over they're sending all sorts of signals to your body to pick up the pace and that they're hungry. Come tomorrow, your body will start producing more milk to support this growth spurt. Cluster feeding happens every 6 weeks or so in a newborns life. If you've read my previous posts it's all about getting prepared. Having great films to watch, plenty of snacks and water around you and getting comfy in bed. Oscar once cluster fed for three hours. The first time I didn't know what the hell was going on and thought I can't possibly be making any more milk. I was also desperate to go to sleep so I was willing for him to go to sleep even more so.

 

The 'top up trap' is an unfortunate cycle where by a mother thinks she isn't providing enough milk for her baby due to cluster feeding and wonders why they're feeding so much and not falling asleep as they used to after a big feed. Then they go and buy a bottle of formula to a) fill their babies tummies because they feel like their milk isn't enough b) make the baby sleep.

 

By skipping cluster feeding and going through the long and tedious process of feeding, baby falling asleep, waking up as soon as they're put down, feeding, falling asleep, waking up, feeding AGAIN, falling asleep, waking up, feeding AGAIN... you get the picture. Instead of going through this process and carrying out the signals needed to be sent from their baby to their boobs, effectively, their body WONT make more milk. The baby will be full of formula, sleep and the Mums supply will remain the same. They make wake up the next day and want to continue their breastfeeding journey exclusively and come night time the baby will do the exact same thing, why? Because their body didn't get the signals needed from their baby to produce more milk for the next day. Their baby went to sleep, skipping all that vital cluster feeding and having a belly full of formula that takes a lot longer to digest than breastmilk, thus letting the baby sleep for longer. Sleeping baby = happy Mum. Skipping cluster feeding for sleep = Mums supply won't increase.

 

If the Mums supply then doesn't increase and the baby tries to cluster feed again. If the Mum is ill informed about cluster feeding and thinks its 'Night 2 of me not making enough milk for my baby', the Mum will most likely make another bottle of formula. And come night 3, 4 or 5 will go for formula straight away. By missing those lucrative night feeds the Mums supply WILL drop. She then WILL not be making enough baby for her milk and WILL choose formula full time for their baby. (Everything they dreaded in the first place and could have avoided) It's a sad, vicious cycle and sadly does cut a lot of Mums breastfeeding journeys short. There's nothing worse than feeling like you're not enough for your baby and having to swap to formula despite it being the last thing you intended. By being well advised, well prepared and having faith in yourself and SCIENCE - it should all work out.

 

Formula fed babies also cluster feeding and this can lead to a lot of Mums putting their baby on 'hungry baby milk' as they mistake a baby trying to cluster feed for a baby that's 'extra hungry'. This is simply a marketing ploy by formula companies that take advantage of Mums that will buy a thicker, higher calorie formula to fill their babies tummies to stop them crying for more food (the way nature intended). It is the only thing that truly upsets me when I read other Mums putting their baby on hungry milk, 'bed time milk' or rusks in their bottles just to get them to stop crying/sleep more. Breastmilk digests in 2 hours roughly in a newborn and formula takes a lot longer and therefore baby is more 'content' supposedly. However I would much rather my baby fuss a little to increase my supply, and be breastfed, than fill their little tummy with a powder based milk just to get them to be quiet. (If a Mum tried everything they could to breastfeed and simply couldn't, I don't judge this, but formula just to get some sleep, makes me sad!)

 

Anyway, enough about cluster feeding and rocking the boat with my formula opinions. Back to pumping. I have never had any trouble with pumping and have always had a great supply. A lot of women who struggle ought to check the 'flange size' this is the size of the hideous bit that goes over your nipple. The pump needs to mimic your baby suckling, a flange too small and it will only stimulate the end of a nipple. And breastfeeding works by the baby suckling way further back and getting a flow from the back of the breast. A baby doesn't suck on the end of a nipple so a flange needs to not just 'tickle the end'!! Too big a flange and the machine won't be able to produce a big enough force when mimicking sucking as there will be too much air/space around the breast for the machine to really latch on. So finding the right flange size is crucial.

 

Having the right settings is also important. Most machines (I've used two- one from the hospital and my own Medela double swing) and both have settings available where you can start the pump on short, quick bursts of pressure to stimulate the breast and encourage flow. It's also a nice gentle way to ease you into a pumping session instead of going HAM straight away. Once you've done a few short, high pressured pumps (not a lot will come out during these pumps but it's important to stimulate flow) you can swap to long, medium pressure, exaggerated pumps. This is when the pump reeeeeally starts to sound like a cow in a field mooing to the lasted Electro House track. This is when you should start to see the milk coming out. It should feel tingling but by no means painful.

 

When I decided to donate, Oscar was 8 months old, so instead of trying to increase my supply drastically, I simply let him feed on one side during the night so that I woke up with a FULL side and pumped that, then when I put him to sleep and he began his stretch of around 5 hours sleep, after 2/3 hours I would pump half one side and half the other. These sessions I was able to pump for 7-10 minutes and get 5oz each time. This is something I almost feel embarrassed to share as so many women struggle to get that amount. But I'm sorry, can't be helped! I think by donating it made me feel like I was putting my super strength pumping abilities to better use and really making the most of them.

 

I wrote on the Facebook page Human Milk 4 Human Babies UK and stated my age, smoker status (non-smoker), good diet, no health conditions and where I was located. I had two women contact me, one was a woman who struggled to breastfeed and baby had really bad reflux so was vomiting a lot of her feeds back up and also didn't take very well to formula so the woman was searching for a donor, the second woman who contacted me lived a little further away than the first, but her baby was born 6 weeks premature, was now 4 months old and was fighting some health conditions. This 'case' was a lot closer to my heart as I know exactly what the Mum went through and couldn't imagine her pain not being able to feed her baby. But thought it was amazing that she went the extra mile to find donated milk for her baby as breastmilk has so many more beneficial factors over formula and will improve the likely hood of her daughter getting better due to the properties of breastmilk.

 

I ended up pumping for two and a half weeks and donated 150oz of milk. She drove an hour to me and I met her 20 minutes from my house in a pub carpark.

 

Using the Facebook group to donate milk meant there was no guarantee of the health of the person donating. I felt a lot of pressure to make sure I cleaned my breaspump thoroughly inbetween every use and made sure every 5oz bag I pumped went straight in the freezer so there was no chance of any of it being left out too long.

 

One day I came downstairs in the morning and found the freezer settings had been tampered with and the box had started to melt so I went down to Currys and bought a chest freezer thinking mine was broken (OH came home and fixed it at the end of the day in seconds after all that) I lost 10oz but just fed Oscar them in a cup and pumped the feeds he would have had.

 

I'm so glad I was able to give back and do something for the 'premature community'. I stopped after two and a half weeks and donated 150oz and then went on holiday two days later so I'm glad I didn't set myself a goal too high, pump loads and make my supply double only to be left uncomfortable or have to pump on holiday!

 

Pumping that much brought back all the memories of pumping in NICU and I am so glad we were able to ditch the pumping and just breastfeed because I forgot how tedious it all is! But so worth it.

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Having a premature baby

A premature baby is a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy and despite Oscar being 5 weeks early, I haven’t actually come into contact with him meeting any typical characteristics of a premature baby. He was born perfectly healthy and since having been discharged, albeit a few dips in his levels regarding vitamin/iron/phosphate, has been a happy, healthy, normal baby. To me, he was just born small, otherwise I have had no other reason to feel any different than if he were a full term baby! (Once we were discharged of course, nothing compares to the first 10 days in the NICU) 

I will never forget others reactions when I would say how old he was, as he was so small. I would, for that reason, introduce him as ‘Oscar, he’s 2 months old but he was born 5 weeks early so he should only be three weeks!’. When he got to around 5 months old and I started going to more and more baby groups, I realised that Oscar had quickly caught up with those his age. Oscar is intact bigger than other babies older than him. He has absolutely thrived and I couldn’t be prouder (or more relieved!) When he got to 5 months I stopped explaining that he was early and just said how old he was!

You can’t help compete as a Mum, if your baby can do something before someone else’s you feel smug! Oscar has done so well in his development so I can’t honestly say how I would have coped if he had been behind. The “he was five weeks early” seems to be an excuse as much as it is a boast. If he fails his driving test when he's 17 will I say, “Oh, er, well he was 5 weeks early” but if he gets a First in his degree will I say, “Yep.. A first, AND he was 5 weeks early!!!” When will it end? Right now, it’s the biggest thing that has ever happened to me. Nothing has been more traumatic or out of my comfort zone so in 20 years will it still be something I talk about or will the newborn days be a blur?

Depending on which side of the bed I woke up on, people’s generic comments can make me feel one of two ways. When I explain he came early, or that he was due in January but came 5 weeks early, if I’m in a bad, defensive mood, comments like “he just couldn’t wait to meet you” or “he was too excited for Christmas” I think are a serious blow over of a really serious, scary situation. If an adult spent 10 days in hospital hooked up to wires, you wouldn’t laugh at “Oh well, at least you got some time off work” or “At least that coma meant you could get some rest!” because 10 days in hospital is usually something really serious you wouldn’t joke about, especially not to a stranger! If I’m in a forgiving mood, I brush it off as I just assume they don’t know what else to say and are trying to make me feel better about it.

Most people when they hear my story, react far worse than I ever did at the time. Just by describing my story I’ve had people nearly in tears, wondering how I ever went through it. It’s crazy that other people can feel more hurt by it that me. It makes me think, am I emotionless or did I just cope really well? I had no other choice but to be okay with it… who was I helping, what was I changing by being upset by everything that was happening? When people hear that he was early they all assume that I went into labour and gave birth early, but are shocked and horrified when I say that it was an emergency c-section as though this is worse. I would far rather have had a medical intervention, a c-section and have been in hospital from the second they knew things needed to press forward than have my waters break unexpectedly and be rushed into hospital! 

Before having Oscar I knew nothing about premature babies. I didn’t know the mass number of reasons that a baby could be born premature and how that effects the Mum and/or the baby. I hope that by writing about my experience it can make it a little less scary if anyone finds themselves in my shoes as I think so rarely you hear about the positive side of it. The same goes with labour stories, we all know “that one woman” who had an awful labour but nobody tells the story of their friend who had an average labour, nobody wants to hear about average! 

 

You wouldn't even know Oscar was premature, he has come so far and I am so proud! 8 months later and we are still breastfeeding... here are a few comparison photos from his first few days to now, 8 months old! 

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NICU Aftercare

I was hesitant whether to discuss the after care I have received after Oscar left the NICU. I feel like it would be such a bitter post to complain as all Doctors and Nurses, I’m sure, are just doing their best. It’s been so complicated having Oscar registered with a Doctor’s Surgery, where he has his immunisations just like any other baby, but his aftercare lies with the NICU. The Doctor’s Surgery don’t have any experience or knowledge, per say, on premature babies - so they don’t deal with any aftercare. This would be fine, if the NICU, took full responsibility for the aftercare of their previous ‘patients’ if you will. 

When Oscar left the NICU he was prescribed with 4 large glass bottles of ‘Phosphate medicine’. Each bottle expired after a week of being open and all opened bottles had to be kept in the fridge. It was a clear liquid and I was given a dozen syringes to administer the medicine. The odd thing was, nobody explained to me what Phosphate was (I still have no idea) and just explained that it’s ideal for Oscar’s phosphate levels to be optimum in order for healthy bone development. Oscar had scheduled blood tests every 3-4 weeks to check if his levels were improving. These blood tests began as a heel prick test.

The heel prick test is pretty self explanatory, they prick the baby’s heel which causes it to bleed and they squeeze the foot so that blood comes out and they collect it. The most frustrating thing about coming in for these blood tests was the temperature outside, compared to the boiling hot temperature of the toasty NICU. It was the middle of winter, early January so to take the baby out the house I had to dress him in several layers, gloves, hats - you name it. To bring a baby into the NICU, take him out what I imagine is an already uncomfortable carseat, undress him while he squirms around, to then prick his foot, slap a plaster on and get him dressed again - was an ordeal.  Sometimes he would be asleep or have just had a feed so would sleep straight through the blood test and that was a good day for everyone. But, sometimes he would cry and I just felt dreadful. 

After his first blood test, it then came back that the medicine hadn’t improved his phosphate levels in the way they had imagined, so they asked me to double the phosphate medicine and increase the Abidec from 0.5 to 1ml twice a day. “What’s Abidec?” I asked. Abidec, was a multivitamin that had been prescribed and not given to me when we left the NICU. I couldn’t believe it, we had been discharged for 3/4 weeks, in which time he needed to be taking a vitamin supplement and hadn’t because they forgot it. I even checked our records and the Doctors notes said Abidec - I of course read these notes when they were originally given to me, but of course the word Abidec meant nothing to me.

The worst bit of Oscar’s aftercare was that the Doctors had no real idea how much to increase the medicine by. Everytime they would take a stab in the dark, “Hmmmm… ermmmm…. ok….. so….. maaaybe… increase it by…. double?? Twice a day?” for them to be so vague about the medicine I was putting in my premature, tiny little baby was worrying to say the least. It was as though the dosage didn’t correlate with how much his levels were increasing/decreasing. It was all one big guess. 

Oscar was diagnosed with Jaundice when he was in the NICU which is easily identifiable by the baby’s skin being unusually tanned. It also causes babies to be very sleepy, which initially was why he couldn’t breastfeed for long as he kept falling asleep. To treat jaundice they use a blue light on a crane, above the incubator, then the baby is kept in their nappy so as much skin is showing as possible and they wear small white goggles to protect their eyes. Oscar’s jaundice levels improved after a couple of days worth of light treatment and they were happy his levels weren’t of any concern. To test that the jaundice had gone, or that at least his levels were improving, he had to have a blood test and a urine sample.

For this blood test, it was at the hospital rather than the NICU so it was all new to me. We went in and had the blood test in a tiny, pokey office. Instead of doing a heel prick blood test, they took his hand, bend his wrist forward, inserted a needle into a vein on the back of his hand, let the needle hang out his hand while blood dripped out the other end, that they collected. This was really traumatic and he cried, and I cried. It seemed so much more invasive and brutal than a quick heel prick test. We then had to get a urine sample. They told us to take his nappy off and just wait with a plastic cup until he wee’d and catch as much as we could. We couldn’t use the office we were originally in so they booted us out to this random common room. They gave us a puppy pad to lie him on incase the wee went everywhere. We sat and waited, and waited - 20 minutes had passed. We then got told that they needed room to do a training session and the volunteers hosting it seemed really annoyed we were there. We then got screened off and they continued to use the room. So we were in the corner of a random room, with a naked baby, waiting for him to pee. He then started to get hungry so I had to feed him. This meant keeping him naked, feeding him, having the puppy pad on my lap to catch any spills, and Luke sat with the plastic cup waiting for him to pee. We finally got the sample after 40 minutes. 

In terms of blood tests, I have always been told ‘No news is good news’. This was true throughout my pregnancy too. If the hospital were concerned about the test results, they would ring, so if you don’t hear from them it means they have no cause for concern. With the jaundice test results, nobody told me anything but Oscar still looked alarmingly orange.

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I presumed that because I hadn’t heard anything in over a week - he was OK. So I rang to check. They informed me that he was still jaundice but that his levels weren’t of any concern and that his body was capable of levelling out itself. I would have thought that if the baby was still jaundice, this would warrant at least a courtesy call to fill me in - but I had to chase up the results myself.

A couple of blood tests went by - the older he got the more alert he was. I dreaded taking him. It was so infuriating that they were guessing the dosage of the medicine willy nilly and just waiting to get the blood tests done to see how accurate their guesses were. To them, a blood test was nothing, to me, it broke my heart. It seems the heel prick was only the way the NICU did it because every external blood test at the hospital was the horrible method in the back of his hand. Sometimes he would have just had a feed and even be asleep and with a bit of numbing spray on the back of his hand, he didn’t even wake. They would use a tube of sugar water and put it in his mouth which would distract him as of course it was super tasty for babies.

At one appointment, the nurse was really blunt with me. Oscar was in a good mood, happily sucking on his dummy. She abruptly said ‘OK well he’s hungry so do you want to feed him?’ I felt really pressured, and guilty that she would insinuate I hadn’t fed him when he needed it. So I took my boob out in front of the two nurses in the tiny office, sat on a stool and started to feed Oscar. His little face, looking so content as he fed away, eyes closed looking sleepy and milk drunk, they took his arm and put in the needle. He screamed and pulled off from feeding immediately to cry and cry and cry. I felt so awful - like I had tricked him into a false sense of security. That I had manipulated and blackmailed him into this horrible blood test. I tried getting him to feed again to make him feel better but his mouth was too busy wailing, wide open in complete hysteria. I started to cry and couldn’t help how bad I felt. I was alone, so it was just me and Oscar and I felt completely useless. I then fed him again outside in the waiting room apologising and stroking his hair, I felt absolutely awful. Even when he didn’t react I would still be a blubbering mess, he hadn’t even flinched one time and the Nurse said “Is he your first? Don’t you just wake up every morning thinking how lucky you are and how much you love him?” I was so full of emotion I just burst into tears - “YES I DO!”

After a few blood test results had come back to say that Oscar’s phosphate levels still weren’t what they were hoping for, they decided to test for Vitamin D. This meant taking two capsules of blood rather than one. Seeing that much blood being taken from my baby, when he had such a tiny body anyway - made me feel sick. His Vitamin D levels came back that they were really low and he was given a Vitamin D supplement. Turns out that the phosphate needed optimum Vitamin D levels to work - why wouldn’t they check for this the first time around?

This meant that Oscar was now on three supplements twice a day. Each doctor just told me to put it in his bottle and that babies didn’t have taste buds so it didn’t matter. I couldn’t believe how ignorant they were being. The Abidec in particular was revolting. It was orange in colour and looked like iodine - it stained EVERYTHING. Walls, clothes, my hands, Oscars face. He only had bottles when he was being looked after by family so for the sake of being able to put the medicine in bottles, it wasn’t worth expressing two bottles a day so I just put the syringe in the corner of his cheek as he would feed and squirt a tiny bit at a time. This meant my bra, my breast pads, my BOOB, his clothes and his face were all covered in this stupid bright orange, disgusting smelling and tasting medicine. 

When Oscar had his Vitamin D supplement prescription written up, I had to collect it from the Doctors, so while I was there I asked my GP if she could explain a little more about Vitamin D levels - “Vitamin D is really tricky to get from foods and would otherwise be generated by babies and adults being in the sun, what with this weather it’s actually really common and most babies and adults across the UK are deficient in Vitamin D. It just means that without optimum levels of Vitamin D he is likely to be a bit sleepy and we obviously want what’s best for him so that he can be nice and lively”. I felt relieved, that it wasn’t anything serious and that the supplement would really help him up his levels. 

I then had a routine check up, his 4 month NICU follow up - this was routine for all babies that stayed in the NICU. This was a brand new Doctor I had never seen before. We went over the most recent blood test results and he sounded really concerned about his Vitamin D levels. I told him what my GP said and he could not have looked more shocked and concerned. He told me that low levels of Vitamin D were really serious and if low enough, research has shown it can have links to cancer. I could not believe that the GP said the baby would just be sleepy, but the Doctor said he could get cancer. For perhaps the millionth time, I cried driving home. I cried with frustration, with guilt, worry, sadness, concern - I felt horrendous. I couldn’t believe all this was going on inside Oscar’s body. He seemed so healthy and happy you would never know anything was wrong with him.

Finally his phosphate levels were at the right levels, thanks to the Vitamin D supplement. The Vitamin D levels then reached the right levels. When I received the call that the Vitamin D AND Phosphate levels were both exactly what they were looking for in a healthy baby. I felt so relieved, finally, he could stop all his medicine, his little body was fighting for itself. I couldn’t believe all the blood tests could finally end. “We will book in a blood test in 6 weeks to check that his body is sustaining these levels while on no medication” I couldn’t believe there was still MORE blood tests to come.

Oscar is now 8 months old and he had this final blood test two days ago. He was an absolute dream and was smiling and happy the whole time, he or I didn’t even realise the needle went in! I had the same nurse again who said would I like to feed him and I said “No thank you I will feed him when I leave.” Knowing full well I never wanted to betray him like that again. I wish I had stood my ground the first time. A day later, a man at the Doctor’s surgery rang. “Hi there, I have just received blood tests back, I think they’ve gone to the wrong place though as I don’t deal with NICU out patients… Did you know Oscar was anaemic?” “No… No I didn’t” “Oh okay well yes, he is anaemic, so I think you should ring the doctor now that ordered these tests.” “Ok… it was supposed to be a vitamin D test, has that come back?” “No, sorry it doesn't state his vitamin D levels, just that he is anaemic, ok? Bye then” I could not believe it. I couldn’t get hold of the doctor at the NICU for a good hour. I Googled it (why, why do I always do this) and scared myself shitless researching anaemic babies. I finally got hold of the Doctor who said, “Not to worry, his iron levels aren’t alarmingly low, just a little lower than we would have hoped to see. That will be sorted with a supplement in no time”

And so it continues… I have no idea if he has been able to sustain his Vitamin D levels as of yet and he is now anaemic… 

This post is by no means to criticise the NHS staff as I know they all work really hard, have a lot on their plate and get paid far less than they should. But the number of phone calls I have had to make to chase results and appointments, the way they dish out blood tests like they’re a walk in the park, guessing their doses, and nobody taking any responsibility for Oscar being under their care and for the information to be so different from one Doctor to the other… my mind is blown how any of this would affect a baby that was seriously ill, with anything other than just ‘low levels’.

Survival tips: Sleep deprivation

Morning

When you wake up after a L O N G night. And your eyes feel drier than the Sahara Desert. It stings to open them and your body feels weak and heavy. Last nights make-up is gluing your eyes together and you’re wondering how the hell you can do this. Here are my tips for when you first wake-up (anything before 6/7am is still considered night time, keep lights off, soft/quiet voices or even don’t speak at all, no eye contact - baby needs to be reminded this is time to sleep not play).

Mint body wash - Take a shower first thing, it will make you feel so much more awake. Sometimes this is easier said than done so I would suggest giving your baby a big feed and putting her in a chair in the bathroom that plays music or vibrates (battery operated of course) and talking to her the entire time, singing songs, making eye contact. Once in the shower, this body wash will make you feel A L I V E. Definitely get a body puff to really lather the product up and ensure you get a good wash.

Brushing your teeth - I do this in the shower. A) to save time and B) because for some reason a minty fresh mouth makes me feel so much more alert and ready for the day than a warm, morning breath mouth (gross ha). I would get a toothpaste that is so minty it takes your breath away and then brush brush brush.

Make-up wipes for eyes - I keep make-up wipes on my bedside table. I find that wiping my eyes in the morning just freshens them up. It stops them from being sleepy and wanting to close again by waking you up. It gets all the left over make-up off and leaves you feeling cleansed. They’re quick and easy and something you can do while feeding the baby/the baby sleeps without having to get out of bed (just yet)

Get jobs done in the morning - no guilty naps - For the first few weeks you will feel like, and people will tell you, not to do the jobs around the house and to soak up your baby and enjoy these days. But lets be honest sooner or later you need to get off your ass and do the dishes. If it’s your first baby you’ll have a lot of time on your hands, especially if you can’t drive for 6 weeks if you’ve had a c section. If you have a reasonably content baby you can definitely find time to do housework and take care of yourself.

I can definitely recommend, after a morning routine to get you out of your sleepy state and feeling fresh and awake - to get your jobs for the day done first thing. This leaves for a guilt free day. If I have to do dishes or laundry, or normally both, but I fall asleep with the baby at 1pm, and 3pm- you can guarantee they would’ve been guilty naps. Naps where I don’t deserve them and still have the thought of all my jobs on my mind on top of looking after a baby. Although its a huge struggle to get them done sometimes, if you aim to have them done before midday, it leaves for a whole afternoon of being a lazy slob/cuddling the baby/sleeping when the baby sleeps. If you have a busy morning it will also make it easier to have an afternoon nap as you’ll be so zonked you will just sink into that mattress.

Easy on the coffees - Although you may think a coffee is the first thing you want to dive in head first to in the morning, it can be counter productive. I would definitely recommend Arbonne Fizz Sticks instead of reaching for the Caffeine or a Red Bull. Arbonne Fizz Sticks are sachets of powder that you mix with water to create an energy drink thats good for you! You can have two a day, unless you’re breastfeeding, then you can have one a day. They are delicious, make you feel so much more alert, wont stain your teeth or give you the shits. You can buy them here in Citrus or Pomegranate flavour: http://www.arbonne.com/PWS/OliviaAmes/store/AMUK/product/Energy-Fizz-Sticks-Pomegranate-UK-2079,6479,486.aspx

Quick wash - Tits, pits and bits - If you don’t have time for a shower, definitely just have a quick wash over the sink. It’ll take seconds but make the world of difference and also stops you from stinking.

During Nightfeeds

Repetitive film, no bright lights - During night feeds I would use the TV as a light. It was far enough away that it wasn’t in the baby’s face and would light the room ever so slightly - enough for me to wake up but not so bright that the baby wakes up. I feel like had I put a big light on it would’ve fully woken up the baby and risked disturbing that sleepy state which enables him to (hopefully) fall back straight asleep after a feed. If I used a really subtle light it wouldn’t be bright enough to keep me awake. If you have a hallway or an en suite, keeping a light on in there and cracking the door is also a great idea.

Instead of watching TV or a series, or anything new - I would watch a film that I had seen a few times, and simply replay it over and over every time I woke up. I found that if it was something I’d seen a million times, it didn’t keep me awake enough because I knew exactly what was going to happen/all the words. If it was something I hadn’t seen before, it was too much to concentrate on at 3am when you’re too tired for words. So a film I had seen a few times was the perfect amount.

Don’t get too cosy/warm - if it’s winter, sometimes the heat of your bed is something you never want to escape. We all know the feeling of being in bed and just snuggling back in when your alarm goes off. It’s crucial that you fully wake up to feed your baby as you could fall asleep with them under the duvet - God forbid. You need to stay focused! Sometimes undressing ever so slightly or pulling the duvet off can be a good way to stay awake if you’re slightly chilly you’re more likely to stay awake. 

Stay hydrated - Before bed, I use an Arbonne water bottle - http://www.arbonne.com/PWS/OliviaAmes/store/AMUK/product/Water-Bottle-UK-2045,2225.aspx - because it is PERFECT for this. It has a wide neck which means you can fill the bottle to the top with ice and screw the lid on. This means that as the ice gradually melts, every time you wake up you have cold, fresh water. Nothing worse than either forgetting to bring a drink to bed completely, or waking up in the middle of the night and the only water you have is luke warm. 

Bedtime

Take off all make-up - if you have gotten around to wearing make-up in the day, definitely remember to take it off at night! There is nothing worse than crusty eyelashes in the morning after not having taken your make-up off. It’s also really bad for your pores/skin to leave make-up on so the last thing you need on top of post-partum healing is bad skin. I don’t know about you but nothing makes me feel more ready for bed than putting on fresh Pjs and taking my make-up off. 

Don’t use your phone before bed - O.K. O.K. I know this is easier said than done as we are all glued to our phone but reducing screen time before bed allows your mind to relax and you’ll find it easier to fall asleep. The last thing you need is your brain still ticking over when you’re trying to get as much sleep as you can before the baby wakes up for its next feed.

Go to bed when the baby does - I worried so much about spending time with my partner to make sure we still had a healthy relationship, that I would stay up in the evenings when the baby was sleeping. I soon realised this was stupid because it was valuable time I could be sleeping. I breastfed so the feeds were all really down to me. Luke was still working 9-6 so I couldn’t expect him to help me with night feeds. What worked really well for us was catching up about 10pm. I would go to bed about 7/8pm when the baby did, and manage to get a few hours sleep, which just felt like a nap. I would then wake up to feed the baby and it was the same time he was going to bed. So we would watch an episode of something together and chat for a bit around 10pm and then we still got to fall asleep together like a normal couple. I think the most important thing to remember is these sleepless nights won’t last forever, the first few months are rough but the baby soon settles and/or you get used to sleepless nights and don’t know any different. In the newborn days its all about survival. Do what you need to do to survive! Everyone will soon forgive you if you ignore or don’t have time for them - even if it is just to sleep - you just need to survive.

Newborn Days

Newborn advice

The thing that surprised me most about myself through pregnancy and this whole experience was how much reading I did. I fell pregnant during the last week of my exams to pass an NVQ Level 2 in Beauty Therapy - this was what sparked my love for reading. For a change, I was interested in what I was reading. I couldn't get enough, until I found baby books! I have never read so much in my life! I am obsessed with finding out as much information as possible in order to make the best decision possible with Oscar's best interest at heart. 

Difference between day and night

I read this tip in a book and I feel like it has really helped us. In the daytime I would make sure Oscar was asleep in the daylight, even if he slept better in the dark, I would refrain from closing the blinds or curtains to help him drop off. This meant that he learnt to fall asleep no matter how light or dark it was. It was also important to teach him the difference between day and night, in the newborn days this isn't crucial as they pretty much just feed and sleep, but by making the daytimes light and the evenings/night times dark it means you can start to teach the baby that light is daytime, time to play, time to talk, time to be awake. When it is dark, it is time to be quiet, to sleep, be calm and settle down. This helps (sometimes) if the baby wakes early once they're a few months old and want to play, you can remain quiet, keep the room dark and reinforce that it is still night time, time to be quiet, sleep, be calm and settle down and they should (lol) go back to sleep. 

In the newborn days we kept the changing table in our bedroom. I did this out of pure laziness but also meant that Oscar would stay in the same lit and temperature room when he would wake to be fed and changed. He was born in the winter so can imagine that if I had got him out of bed, in our dark, cosy warm room, taken him out into a bright, cold hallway and then into another room to change his nappy, you can bet he would've woken up. He slept in a GroBag which meant that again, when I picked him up, I wasn't removing any heat from him by removing blankets, as the blanket effectively came with him when I picked him up to feed him as he was wearing the GroBag. I also used minimal lighting, mostly just the light from the TV in the corner of the room, as I knew that if I switched on a lamp or even a ceiling light, that the baby would fully wake-up and be stimulated by the light and struggle to go back down. 

Sleeping/Feeding

This is personal preference, however I read enough articles on the effects of sleep training under 6 months so was strongly against it. For the first 6 months I would feed Oscar on demand and tend to him within seconds of him stirring. A baby's only way of communicating is vocally and I really believe that a baby cries because they need something/someone. A baby that is ignored will eventually stop crying because no one is coming. This increases the risk of SIDS as a baby will stop communicating if there is a problem.

Once he reached 6 months I began trying to settle him without the use of a dummy/being picked up and would start to just soothe him by placing a hand on his stomach and/or letting him fuss and send himself to sleep. Oscar started teething at 6 and a half months and the dummy was the only thing that soothed him, so the dummy stays however, I will feed him before his bath, then just cuddle him to sleep, so that atlas, he's not being fed to sleep which will help when I plan to night wean him. 

Anyway, I'm rambling, as a newborn if Oscar seemed unsettled I would feed him straight away. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby, sometimes it may seem like they are 'eating' loads, but it could just be suckling to increase your supply if they're going through a growth spurt. Once you are a few weeks in, it's a good idea to work out how often your baby is feeding - we were put on a 3 hour schedule by NICU so this is what I stuck to. If I left the house, I made sure I was either back, or somewhere I could feed him well in advance of him getting hungry. I would look out for feeding queues (see below)

and anticipate his hunger and feed him before he got fussy. This is easier said than done but before you know it you will know your baby. 9 times out of 10 Oscar would get fussy and could be soothed by feeding. I love breastfeeding so much for this reason as I had, in a matter of seconds, food. I know really little about bottle feeding but I would presume you would make up a bottle just before you anticipate the baby getting hungry rather than waiting for them to get fussy and then trying to calm them while you make the bottle. I think the green label at the bottom is really important, to soothe a baby first. If a baby has been in tears and is really worked up, they won't want something shoved in their mouth, they are only tiny and can only concentrate on one thing at a time, being upset, or feeding. It breaks my heart to see babies crying their eyes out and just have a bottle shoved in their mouth. Sometimes they just need a little reassuring with a cuddle and calming down before they feed.

"Sleep when the baby sleeps"

While I was pregnant I remember women reading about how ridiculous this was and how they didn't have the time to sleep when the baby slept - O.K. I can understand this if you have more than one child but if I were to of slept when Oscar slept, ALL I would've done was sleep. It took until he was 3 weeks old to interact at all. His routine was to sleep, wake up, nappy change, feed and would then fall asleep again. He was always sleeping. I loved him sleeping on me, as long as I was wide awake. Lucky, he slept like a dream in his Sleepyhead. This was a life saver for me as I was able to put it anywhere! The dining table, the breakfast bar, in his bedroom, in my bedroom, round other peoples houses. It was a bed, anywhere you wanted! I can't recommend it enough. 

Over stimulation

The understanding of over stimulation I have found crucial to having a placid baby. There was a big poster up on one of the walls in NICU saying "The best stimulation your baby has is you". As a tiny baby, just trying to grasp the features of your face is a lot for them. Sticking them under a play mat with multicoloured toys, singing, flashing and moving will easily over stimulate a baby and cause them to get fussy/tired. Over stimulation can come from all of their sights being interacted with and for too long. We would always joke when Oscar would fuss and say "Ahh! It's too colourful!" and take away the toy and he would calm down. I can imagine the worst thing to do would say, "it's okay! It's Mr Bunny!" and try to change his mind about the toy by making it wave or using a soft voice. If they're getting fussy it's too much. Take it away! Limit stimulating your baby to a small amount and gradually build up the older they get. Even now, at 7 months, Oscar can get over stimulated if he's been playing with toys for too long. 

Tummy time

Tummy time can be as simple as lying them on your chest and encouraging them to lift their head up. When Oscar was a newborn he was far too busy sleeping and feeding and I only managed to squeeze in maybe one 'tummy time' a day if I remembered. When he started to get a bit more alert I would interact with him while he was on his back, roll him over for a few minutes and then roll him back. At the start they just face plant the ground and don't like it but over time you can see them get better and better. Using a breastfeeding pillow for him to rest on helped a lot with his neck strength as he didn't have his face in the carpet which would distress him.

Bedtime routine in winter

I would say a bedtime routine is definitely easier in the summer, or at least in a warm house! Our house was warm enough for us but definitely too cold for a baby without blankets. I used to heat up his bedroom using a heater while I did his bath, then put the heater off and in the corridor, then do a bit of baby massage, put him in his pyjamas, milk and bed. It would definitely have been easier in summer! Using cellular blankets really put my mind at ease that he was warm but the blankets were still breathable. I began a nighttime routine when he was 3 months old. 

Post Partum Hormones

The days of having a newborn seem like a blur. The topics that spring to mind straight away when thinking of writing this is the fear of other people holding your baby, the feeling of being away from him, the non-stop nappies, the sleepless nights and the feeling of thinking, “is this really happening?”

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As a person, I’m pretty laid back. I won’t get annoyed about anything unless its seriously annoying. I let the little things go and generally try to get along with everyone. I like to think I’m a pretty reasonable person. The emotions of a new Mother are unexplainable. It became apparent that I had this uncontrollable urge to have the baby in my arms at all times. I was so glad I was able to say that he should avoid cuddles until his due date, but even so, close family, Luke's parents, even my own parents, holding the baby, I just couldn’t wait for it to end. I was so used to holding him every second of every day it just felt so unnatural for me to be watching someone else holding him. It wasn't even, for the most part, the worry of someone else ‘doing it wrong’ by not supporting his neck or disturbing his sleep or making him unhappy, it was just the thought that he wasn't coming back, or would be away from me for more than a second, I just couldn’t shake the feeling. I knew it was irrational and that my hormones were all over the place but I just wanted to shut myself out, in a room alone with the baby. It made me snappy with other people and I knew I was being a dick but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted him 100% safe in my arms. I wanted to know the baby could smell me and was safe and I could feed him in a second. I think that’s a huge part of why I love breastfeeding, that I am the source of nourishment. If the baby is hungry, he HAS to come back to me to feed, and I can even excuse myself to another room to feed. Not for privacy but for my own damn selfishness.

I discussed with a few of my Mum friends and they said the feeling was very mutual. It doesn’t matter who they are, once it’s been longer than a few minutes, you want the baby back. I became so over-protective. I didn’t want any second hand smoke around him, no one with germs, no dogs around, no one with the hint of a cough, everyone that held him would sit still and do so quietly, no walking around with the baby, nothing. Just sit, hold him, and give him back. It became all I could think about when any was holding him, “When are they going to give him back?” I bit my tongue because I knew I was being irrational but I couldn’t explain it. I knew that it was both our parents first Grandchild, that everyone was so in love with him and he was a part of their family as much as he was mine. But I just craved to have him back. I thank God I had breastfeeding as an excuse. Even if he was fussy and didn’t need feeding, I would say he might be hungry just to get the baby back. I became possessed like Gollum over the Ring.

As time went on, as expected, it became a lot easier for others to cuddle Oscar. Especially when he started to gain head control and wasn’t so floppy. I wanted to stay happy and polite but it’s difficult not to leap into action when someone doesn’t support his head properly.

I was really lucky that everyone kind of ‘got it’. Nobody asked for ‘five more minutes’, nobody whined or moaned that they had to give him back. Nobody questioned my motive that I wanted him back, and I’m so relieved it wasn’t a big issue. I don’t think anybody knew what was really going on in my head. I knew it was hormones. It was like having a split personality. I had to control my inner self and remain polite and human on the outside. I used to have to exclude myself to wind down and relax once I got home from visiting others or others had visited me, after getting so uptight and worked up about the time someone would hold the baby. It was madness. I was battling this crazy, obsessive personality inside me.

About 6 weeks after Oscar was born I was having my usual day of tidying the house, changing nappies, messaging my friends, watching TV. I remember everything was reasonably tidy, Oscar was asleep and I was just staring into space. I felt really, really down. I couldn’t for the life of me put into words why. I went to type to my friends asking for advice or comfort but I felt silly as I couldn’t say what was bothering me. I just felt like I had a cloud over me and my day. This came and went over a few days and I knew it was just a dip in my hormones. The only thing that helped was knowing that it was completely normal and it wasn’t just me. I just decided to be at peace with the cloud and let myself feel low and not force myself to feel better. 

The most bizarre feeling of all was how different I thought I would feel and life would be. I think as Oscar has always been a breeze, he has slotted really nicely in to my life. I just ate and watched TV the whole time. It was the nights we spent watching the TV with Oscar in his pram (he didn’t have a bed for a week so slept in his pram) in the lounge with us. When he was sleeping it was like nothing had changed. After 8 months of being pregnant, an emergency c section, ten days in the NICU, here we were, back where we spent every evening, in front of the TV. I expected everything to be SO different but it felt exactly the same. Everyone describes birth and motherhood as such chaos and you don’t have time to shower or brush your teeth. I was preparing myself for hell. It was a breeze. I’m not suggesting everyone should start saying babies are easy, but maybe stop saying ALL babies are difficult. The newborn days are changing nappies, feeding and sleeping. Eat, shit, sleep, repeat. It’s cosy, quiet, surreal and the days blur into night.

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I think as a new Mum I didn't expect to feel so many NEW emotions. I have never felt like I couldn't explain my sadness, I've never felt like I was possessed and over protective, I thought that I would stay the same person but instead I developed all these new traits. I think it's important to take every day as it comes and try not to force yourself to get back to normality or feeling like 'you', just run with it. Your body will sort itself out, the dust will settle. It's all new and I think as Brits, we are very self conscious of being polite 24/7. We don't want to upset other people so we excuse our behaviours and feelings. I'm so glad I spoke up and asked for Oscar back when I wanted him in my arms again as I would've driven myself mad if I had stayed quiet just to be polite.