18 months old and all the emotions

If you follow my Instagram account, you will know that the last few weeks have been challenging to say the least! Since turning 18 months, Archie has been incredibly emotional and is crying way more than before. Out of frustration, anger, separation anxiety and probably lots of other reasons that I’ll never know. Speaking to lots of my mummy friends, it seems to be very common at this age so I thought I’d share some tips I’ve learnt along the way for dealing with an emotional toddler.

emotional toddler

  1. Be understanding – it’s important to remember that most of a toddler’s frustration stems from two things:
    – Their inability to clearly communicate what they want/ what’s annoying them
    – The fact that they don’t understand (what you’re telling them and why)
    So as much as dealing with an emotional toddler will really test your patience, try to be as understanding as you can and communicate with them, rather than just getting annoyed.
  2. Offer comfort – I know some people feel you should ignore the tears and wait for your toddler to calm down before approaching them. And if they’re physically lashing out then I think this is totally understandable. But if not, a hug and some gentle words might be all they need to feel a bit better.
  3. Give explanations – Rather than just tell your toddler off or say no, try to explain why you are doing so. It won’t be an instant fix but eventually they might understand why and it will help build a connection between cause and effect.
  4. Provide a distraction – This is probably our most effective method with Archie – finding a different toy to play with, making up silly games with a toy, singing songs etc. – is a good way of distracting them from the original problem.
  5. Routine – If you have a good routine then your toddler will know what to expect and this should help to alleviate some of the problems. I also find if Archie is well napped/ slept (and fed!) then his mood is considerably better than if he hasn’t.
  6. Give them a little bit of independence – A lot of a toddler’s frustration is because of a lack of control in so many situations e.g. when they eat, what they eat, where you go etc. So allowing them a bit of independence in the right circumstances can help them to feel a bit more in control. For example, Archie enjoys helping me around the house so I always try and involve him where I can by asking if he’d like to help me, such as folding the laundry away, putting his shoes away, getting the changing mat out. It’s obviously his choice whether he wants to help me or not but most of the time I find he wants to and he enjoys the praise I give him afterwards.
  7. Get fresh air – Where possible, it’s good for both you and your toddler to get out into the fresh air at least once a day. Usually I like Archie to have at least a good hour or so in the garden to give him a good run around and I find it massively helps his mood.
  8. Be kind to yourself – This one is so important because dealing with an emotional toddler can be really hard. Take help where you can so you can have a break. It will give you time to reset, gain some perspective and you’ll probably be much more patient and understanding afterwards.

 

 

Advertisements

Choosing a day nursery

From September, Archie will be starting at a local day nursery for a couple of mornings a week. It’s been a tough decision because selfishly I’d quite like to keep him at home with me 24/7 but I know it will be really good for him because he’s so sociable and loves exploring. Choosing the right nursery was quite a long process and it’s actually the second time I’ve done it as I’d chosen one where we lived previously too. I thought I’d share the main things I considered as part of the selection process in the hope that it might help you if you’re just starting out in your research.

day nursery

Location

Clearly this is crucial in making sure you’re not too far away in case of emergencies so consider whether it’s better to be closer to home or at work (should these be different).

Owner managed or a franchise?

Some nurseries are privately owned by one or a few people whereas some will fall under a larger national franchise chain. There are pros and cons to both here but it’s worth looking into how the nursery is structured and how much flexibility they have to make changes. It’s also a good idea to look at their history because it’s quite common for franchise chains to take over privately run nurseries and it can take them some time to embed their ethos/ structure.

Ofsted rating

It can be tempting to use this purely as your selection process and I think it’s a helpful guide (Excellent or Very Good ratings are generally preferred) but you have to take into account the date of the inspection, what was highlighted in the report and to bear in mind it’s only part of the overall picture.

Do they have a waiting list?

Some nurseries will be very popular so it’s common to have a waiting list. Usually nurseries will take more new entrants in September (coinciding with those starting school) but once you’ve decided on the nursery it’s worth getting your child’s name down as early as you can, especially if you’re returning to work.

Which weeks of the year is the nursery closed?

This is important if you’re working so you know the days when you won’t have childcare but it’s also a useful indicator of how their staff holiday works. If they close for so many weeks of the year, it’s generally a sign that staff won’t be allowed to take holiday at any other time which provides a level of consistency for your child.

Timings for drop-off and pick-up? Do they offer half-days?

Again pretty vital that you know the drop-off and pick-up times from a work perspective. And it can be useful to choose somewhere that offers half days to provide added flexibility.

Cost (inc. registration fee)

Clearly important and can vary a lot! Having looked at my local area (Bedfordshire) I’d say that around £70 a day is quite typical.

How big is the outside space and how often do the children play outside?

For me, this was key because Archie loves playing outside and I think it’s great to have somewhere they can run around and burn off some steam!

How many children are in each group and how are they grouped?

I’d say around 10-15 children per group (class) is quite standard and mostly it’s done on age but it’s good if they consider other development factors too such as ability to walk, talk etc.

What’s the child to staff ratio? And what’s the staff turnover?

Most nurseries will go by the statutory guideline:

  • 1:3 for 0-2 year olds
  • 1:4 for 2-3 year olds
  • 1:8 for 3-5 year olds

In terms of staff turnover, clearly you want this to be as low as possible to provide consistency for your child.

Will your child have a key worker? How is the key worker chosen?

It’s quite typical for a nursery to assign your child with a key worker who is their (and your) main source of contact. But it’s worth asking how that person is chosen and whether there is flexibility should your child build a better relationship with someone else.

How can you see your child’s progress and how do they log this?

Most will operate some form of online system where you can see photos and snippets of their day’s activities plus a more simplified paper daily report which summarises what they’ve eaten, how long they slept for, general mood etc.

Is food cooked on-site? Do they cater for allergies etc.?

Generally it’s better if food is cooked on-site and it’s great if they have a sample menu for you to look at so you can ensure there’s enough variety and that they cater for any allergies.

What kind of activities do they do? How is the day structured?

Most will do some form of outdoor play, indoor play, story time, music time, baking, colouring, painting etc. but it’s worth asking about how this is structured – clearly you want a bit of structure but too much can be difficult for younger children.

What’s the sleep environment like?

Some nurseries will be quite flexible and, for example, be happy to push your little one in their pushchair to get them to go to sleep. Whereas others will have a designated area for sleeping, which might just be a specific space on the floor. Speaking to my friends’ experiences though it’s worth bearing in mind that they will probably nap differently at nursery than they do at home – often they’re so stimulated that they tire themselves out enough to sleep pretty much anywhere!

What’s their discipline policy?

Personally I think it’s important to know this to ensure your discipline practices at home match what they do at nursery, otherwise it can be pretty confusing for your child.

How many settle-in sessions can you have before starting?

Some nurseries will offer a set amount of settle-in sessions whereas some will be very flexible and offer as many as your child needs before they’re fully comfortable.

Other external sources of recommendation

Personal experience is so valuable in providing you with a realistic view of what the nursery is like so it’s worth trying to speak to a few mums locally or asking on an online local mums group.

Overall impression when visiting

This is probably the most important and is a bit like buying a house. What’s the general feel of the nursery? Do the children look happy and engaged? Is there a good level of cleanliness? Are the staff friendly and how do they interact with the children?

If you get a good overall feeling about a nursery and you’re comfortable with all areas covered above then I don’t think you can go too far wrong. I would say the more you can communicate with them about your expectations and any specific needs you/ your child has the better – it has to be a two-way relationship and a joint effort to making it work.

A letter to Archie: 18 months

Dear Archie,

I can’t quite believe we’re 6 months past your first birthday – time just seems to be flying!

Archie 18 months

We’ve not long moved house and it is fair to say you are loving your new surroundings, particularly the garden which you would play in every minute of the day if you could 🙂

We also found out recently that later this year you’re going to be a big brother! I’m so excited for you to have a sister to share your childhood with, like I did. And I know you’re going to be the best big brother because you already have such a lovely, kind and caring nature.

You’re still a bit wild (!) but we wouldn’t change that for the world. People often comment how confident and full of life you are – noting how you never sit still and that you’d rather run than walk! Your playful side comes out most with the people you know well (but you’re not shy of those you don’t) and you love being tickled/ chased.

You are such a sociable character and will soon be going to a local nursery for a couple of mornings a week and I think you’re going to love making new friends and exploring a new place.

Despite being Mr Independent, your affectionate side is coming out more by the day –you’ve started offering us cuddles and are visibly excited when you see Daddy walk through the door.

Looks-wise you are definitely a proper little boy now and have lost many of your baby features. You are still very much Daddy’s mini-me except you’re actually quite tall for your age (something I’m pretty sure you don’t get from Daddy!).

You’ve become much fussier with food since your first birthday and definitely know what you want (and don’t want!). But if there’s a snack or something sweet around, you can guarantee you’ll be the first to notice and get in there!

Your understanding has come on enormously in the last month or so and I love being able to interact with you more. You like helping me with jobs around the house and you’re constantly babbling, even if most of the time I’m not sure what you’re saying.

Aside from the obvious first words (mumma, dada etc.) you have a few favourites – birdie, ball, car, cake– which definitely relate to the things you like most.

You love being sung to and you love music in general – we often sit and watch Disney songs together on the iPad. You also sing/ babble away to yourself in your cot to get yourself to sleep and I love listening to it on the monitor.

I know we’re incredibly biased but Mummy and Daddy are just so unbelievably proud of you. We constantly say “What did we do to deserve you?” and we really don’t know but we thank our lucky stars every single day.

Love you to the moon and back,

Mummy xxx

 

Why it’s OK not to love the newborn stage

I remember in those early months with Archie so many people telling me, “enjoy it now, it’ll only get harder”, “wait until he moves, THEN you’ll feel tired”, “wait until you’re weaning, that’s a whole other ball game” and so on. And looking back, I’m shocked because that’s the last thing a first-time mum wants to hear. When things are feeling tough, being told the unthinkable that’s it only going to get harder is ridiculously insensitive and probably not true.  

newborn stage

I know that not everyone has a negative experience of the newborn stage but for those that do, it’s OK to admit it and it’s not something to be ashamed of. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad mum or that you love your baby any less. Becoming a mum is a huge change to your life so it’s bound to take a bit of adjusting. I remember the endless guilt I felt because I wasn’t enjoying it “like I should” and it’s only now I can see that I had nothing to feel guilty about.

Dealing with so much change

As I came to the end of my pregnancy, my anxiety went through the roof because I knew the hardest bit was yet to come (and I’m not talking about labour!). But nothing could prepare me for just how much my life was about to change.

Before having Archie I was a marketer for a financial services company in London. It was a fairly high pressured job and I worked long hours on top of a 3 hour daily commute. I’ve always been someone who’s pushed themselves mentally so I enjoyed the complexity of the industry I worked in and the constant dialogue I shared with others in the company.

Going from this environment to: long days alone at home with a baby; feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by my new responsibility; scared to leave the house because of all the prep that entailed and worried about how I’d cope when I was out; the general feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing; a lack of adult interaction and overwhelmed by the constant lack of routine was a real struggle.

And in those first few months, my perspective was totally skewed from sleep deprivation. I couldn’t see the woods for the trees. It felt like my old life was a distant memory. Of course, I can see now that those hurdles were most definitely temporary and things settled down much quicker than I ever thought they would. But at the time I just couldn’t see things clearly.

My experience wasn’t helped by a few things – one being that my family lived far away and the fact I didn’t know anyone in my local area. My husband also works long hours so the days were longer for me at home too. Our feeding struggles and the effect that ultimately had on my bond with Archie also had a huge impact on how I was feeling.

But I honestly take my hat off to anyone who can go through the transition into motherhood without feeling that there are some elements they just don’t enjoy. In fact, I’d be amazed if there is anyone else there that feels this way, even if your experience is overall a positive one.

It’s a major upheaval to your life. And of course, it’s ultimately for the better and over the long-term you’ll forget how tough you even found it. But if you’re going through it now and you’re worried because you’re not enjoying it. Or that it’s going to get harder. Then please don’t. This stage is purely about survival and clearly you’re doing just that so give yourself a pat on the back. And know that this phase is just that. A phase. It will pass and in time you’ll have a completely different perspective to the one you have now.

 

Baby number 2: We’re having a…

…girl! Yes we had our 20 week scan recently and they told us that Archie’s having a little sister 🙂 I still can’t believe it to be honest because, although you never really know, I did have an inkling that we were having another boy. This just goes to show I should always go with the opposite of my gut (as I got it wrong last time too)!

gender reveal

The scan

Whilst all went well with the scan, we did learn a very important lesson in that next time we won’t be taking Arch with us! He freaked out the moment I got on the bed and couldn’t understand why mummy couldn’t hold him (he’s going through a particularly clingy phase at the moment). So Daddy took him out of the room for a while but nothing really consoled him until right at the end when I could eventually pick him up. Luckily we had a very understanding sonographer!

Time to pick a name

Before we knew we were having a boy last time, we’d picked a girl name which I’d had in mind for a very long time – way before we’d even thought about having children! So this time, although it would seem like the obvious choice, we’re not 100% sure. With Archie, once we’d decided on his name it just seemed right straight away but this time we’re not quite settled on it. So if anyone has any name suggestions to throw into the mix, please feel free to send them my way!

And time to go shopping!

Despite not having a preference on gender, we’re thrilled to be having a daughter and feel that much closer to knowing more about her. The only slight downside (in Daddy’s eyes!) is the extra expense it incurs! I’m not going to lie, I am pretty excited to go shopping and pick out some cute girlie outfits. Although I’m still going to get as much wear out of Archie’s clothes as much as I can and have no problem in putting her in a blue sleepsuit for bed.

I’ve also started to make a list of things we need to buy ahead of her arrival. So far on the list:

  • Cotbed and mattress (Archie is still in the cot version of his and I don’t want to move him out prematurely)
  • New bottle teats (and bottles where our others have worn out)
  • Pram converters – we have the iCandy Orange which goes into a double but we need to buy the right adapters
  • Second monitor/ camera
  • White noise toy – Archie loves his MyHummy teddy so we might purchase another one of these or try something else

Mums of multiple children, is there anything else I’m really missing here? I’d love to hear your second-time essentials.

Pregnancy update

Other than that, I don’t think there’s too much else to report. My bump hasn’t grown much since the last post and I’m already getting lots of comments about how small I am but I’m sure I’ll pop at some point….! Baby girl is growing nicely at the moment so I’m trying to not let it concern me and I’m appreciative of the extra monitoring. The irony is that although Arch was a fairly small baby (7 pounds 3 so not exactly tiny!), we now get constant comments about how big he is for his age so I think it’s best not to take these things to heart too much, as long as everyone’s healthy.

If there’s anything else you’d like to know, please feel free to ask in the comments!

18 week pregnancy update

I can’t believe that in a couple of weeks’ time I will be officially half way through my pregnancy! Where does the time go? I thought I’d do a quick update to share with you; my bump progress, baby movements, whether we’re finding out the gender, my low PAPP-A level and what it means, and any pre-baby preparations so far.

First signs of a bump

As mentioned in last week’s maternity style post, I am definitely still more on the tubby side of things and it’s not obvious that I’m pregnant yet. But at the right angles there is the first sign of a bump so I’m just holding on to that and hoping that soon I will properly pop!

18 week pregnant

Baby movements

With Archie it took until about 24 weeks for me to feel him moving around but I’ve definitely started to feel some very faint movements already this time, which I think is more common in second pregnancies. At my recent midwife appointment they struggled to get a heartbeat reading because he/ she was such a wriggler which is exactly how Arch was (and has been ever since he was born!!).

20 week scan

We will soon have our 20 week scan and the option to find out whether Archie’s having a brother or sister. We will most definitely be finding out if we can because we’re so impatient! And, for me personally, I found it really helped me to bond with Archie during pregnancy last time and I think practically it will be very useful this time. I’ve kept all of Archie’s old clothes so if we’re having a girl there will be a lot of sorting and passing on to friends/ charity!

I’m really undecided as to what I think I’m having. Last time I was convinced I was having a girl but I have no idea this time and as I’ve mentioned before, I really have no preference. I’m just wishing and hoping for another healthy baby.

Low PAPP-A level

This is a little bit niche but I thought I’d mention because when I was pregnant with Archie I received a letter which said I had a low PAPP-A level and I would need extra monitoring but very little other information, which to be honest just terrified me. I have a low PAPP-A level again with this pregnancy and having been through it before, I feel much calmer and understand more about the implications.

Essentially, pregnancy associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) is a hormone that is made by the placenta during pregnancy. And if you have a low level you’re at a higher risk of:

  • A lower birth weight baby as your placenta may not work as well
  • An increased chance of having an early birth
  • Miscarriage in the second half of pregnancy
  • An increased chance of developing pre-eclampsia

However, having said that, for most women they go on to have a normal pregnancy so it really is just a case of extra monitoring (additional growth scans between 28 and 40 weeks and being under consultant care) and taking extra pre-cautions. I’ve also been prescribed a low dose of aspirin which I need to take daily until the baby arrives.

With Archie, I was lucky enough that it didn’t really affect my pregnancy/ birth/ after-birth so I’m hoping that it will be the same this time. Arch was technically a small baby according to the weight percentiles but at 7 pounds 3 he was very healthy and after 24 hours of monitoring in hospital we were allowed to go home as normal.

Baby number 2 preparations

From a practical perspective, we haven’t done too many preparations but we still have plenty of time and it will just be a case of re-setting up the nursery and going through Archie’s old things. But I have been doing some reading up about how to prepare yourself and your firstborn for the new arrival.  “The Second Baby Book” by Sarah Ockwell-Smith has been particularly useful – it talks you through practical preparations, how to tell your firstborn, childcare during labour, the various feelings of maternal guilt and dealing with difficult behaviour once baby is here. As mentioned, I have so much anxiety about the negative impact on Archie and so I will be trying everything I can to reduce that where I can. If anyone has any other recommendations, I am all ears 🙂

 

Maternity style

Although I’m still in the ‘tubby’ phase of pregnancy (if you know, you know!) I am slowly starting to see the first signs of a bump. So at the weekend, I dug out my maternity clothes from last time and it reminded me of how frustrating maternity shopping can be. There are very limited options in-store so you have to order mostly online and often your style changes quite a bit to accommodate for your change in shape so it can become a bit of a minefield!  I thought I’d share my favourite maternity finds for anyone who may be having a similar struggle 🙂

I’ve grouped by my 4 favourite maternity retailers (UK) and listed the clothing types I’ve found to be the best from each one, with a few specific examples linked. Please note all views are my own and none of the links are affiliated.

Topshop

topshop jeansSkinny black jeans

I always shop in Topshop for my jeans because I personally prefer a skinny fit and I like the fact that they offer different leg lengths. Usually I wear the Jamie Jeans but in maternity these seem to constantly fall down and lose their shape very easily. So I much prefer the maternity Joni Jeans – both under the bump style (for early pregnancy) and over the bump (for later in pregnancy).

H&M

h&m skinny jeans


Super skinny blue jeans

I usually prefer black jeans to blue but when I found these maternity ones I literally lived in them because they are so incredibly flattering – I could not recommend them highly enough.

 

h&m vests


Vests

I’m not sure you can go too wrong with a vest but I liked the length of these and the fact that they are nursing appropriate for post-birth.

 

 

h&m jersey dress 2

h&m jersey dress 3


Jersey dresses

Pregnancy for me is all about comfy jersey dresses – especially the bigger the bump! Last time I found some lovely long sleeved ones from H&M but their Summery ones are just as nice – number 1 and number 2.

 

Tights

Clearly very seasonal but I was pretty shocked to find that my trusty ‘tights source’ M&S don’t stock maternity tights. Luckily the H&M ones are fab and fit really well – I tried quite a few other brands which constantly fell down and it drove me mad!

ASOS

asos topasos top 2
Tops

I always like ASOS for tops because they tend to be really affordable and a nice twist on a basic – number 1 and number 2.

 

asos top 1asos jumper
Sweaters

Who doesn’t love a comfy sweater and in the UK they’re needed in pretty much all seasons. I personally prefer these ASOS ones to many I’ve tried – number 1 and number 2.

 

maternity bra


Bras

Underwired bras were really uncomfortable for me from around 20 weeks so I found these Emma Jane non-wired ones which also double up as nursing bras for post-birth. They are so comfortable and are seam free so work well under any top – I could not recommend them highly enough.

Seraphine

seraphine
Formal dresses

Seraphine is definitely more high-end but they have great sales so it’s worth keeping an eye out because the quality of their dresses is so lovely and flattering. I picked up this dress on one of their offers, specifically because I had quite a few Xmas parties, and I had so many compliments – most were disappointed it was maternity only!

leggings
Leggings

I didn’t wear leggings as much as I thought I would but these were very flattering and comfortable so I would definitely recommend.