Moving house with a toddler

I’ve been a little quiet on the blog recently for a few reasons – but one of those is because last Monday we moved house! Everyone always says that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do but moving with a toddler in tow brought that to a whole new level! Luckily, we received some great advice from others who’d done it before which definitely made it easier so I thought I’d share on here. And although it was stressful, we love our new home so I have to say it was all worthwhile (in the end!).

moving house

  • Hire a removals firm and get them to pack for you – It might be expensive but this is the one bit of advice I could not have been more thankful for. We always knew we wouldn’t hire a van and move ourselves (it would probably end in divorce!) but I always assumed we would pack ourselves until a few people told us to look into the option of having the removals company do it for us. And luckily, it worked out very reasonable cost-wise and meant we didn’t have to plan so much in advance in terms of making sure we didn’t pack the things we needed a few days before. Plus, I realised packing with Archie around would have been impossible – he’s like a moth to a flame as soon as anything new appears in a room and makes it his mission to investigate so having lots of boxes around would have caused mayhem!
  • Pack an overnight bag for your first night – Part of me thought I was being a bit overcautious when I packed a bag of literally everything Archie would need on his first night and day in the new home. But when we finally arrived in the new house with all our boxes at 5pm I was seriously appreciative of having everything we needed to hand – especially because despite labelling the boxes most of them inevitably ended up in the wrong rooms!
  • Ask someone to help look after your toddler – My mum and dad very kindly offered to help us on the day of the move and having another pair of hands to help with Archie was a godsend. Naturally with all the activity going on, Archie was highly intrigued and kept trying to get in on the action with the removals team! So having someone else there to distract and entertain him was a must in hindsight.
  • Pack a bag of food for the day – For the adults, we ate on the go and grabbed what we could but for Archie I packed him quite the bag of supplies for the day so he had enough food to keep him going.
  • Accept your toddler’s normal routine might go out the window – Archie’s nap was never going to happen on moving day despite my best efforts to get him to drop off in the car. Clearly the intrigue and excitement was too much for him so we went with the flow and just tried to make sure bedtime went as smoothly as it could.
  • Set up their new room as close to the old one as possible – I know this sounds obvious but if you make sure the major elements of the old room are the same as in the new one then the environment will be more familiar to them and it should help them to settle. I’ve been amazed at how easily Archie found the transition to be honest and I’m sure this is a big reason why.
  • Once the removals firm have left, focus on making a couple of areas of the house safe and toddler friendly – Clearly you will want your whole home to be safe for them eventually but it’s likely to be a good few days before you’ve got through enough boxes for this to be the case. For us, aside from his room, we prioritised the kitchen so that as soon as he was up in the morning, we knew he had somewhere safe to eat breakfast, chill and play.
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20 facts about me

I was recently tagged in a “20 facts about me” on Instagram and my goodness was it tough to think of that many things that might be of interest to other people! But here it is for anyone who wants to know a bit more about me.

cropped-mbw_3256

  1. My name is Jo and when I married I became Mrs J Lowe (which I still cringe about!)
  2. Before High school I was always known as Joanna (my full name) but on my first day someone introduced me to the class as Jo and it’s stuck ever since!
  3. I live in Milton Keynes but grew up in Nottingham
  4. Scarborough feels like another home to me because my grandparents lived there and we visited a lot when I was younger
  5. I’m a typical Virgo – I like routine & order, I’m not great with spontaneity and I’m a natural worrier!
  6. I’m a big fan of musicals – my fave is Wicked which I’ve seen 5 times!
  7. I changed Universities after not settling at my first. I felt like such a failure at the time and debated for a long time about whether I was cut out for Uni
  8. I met my husband at Uni in a lecture. It wasn’t quite love at first sight – I had a boyfriend at the time 😬- but we had such a spark and were best of friends instantly
  9. When I was 9 I got really into the Euros football tournament and very shortly afterwards my dad bought us season tickets for our local team (Derby County) – and we’ve been regularly ever since!
  10. I’m a big chocoholic and eat (at least) a little bit pretty much every day
  11. I’m incredibly soppy and cry at pretty much everything!
  12. New York is my favourite city and is where I got engaged
  13. I hate having my picture taken but I love having photos to look back on so I’m trying to get better!
  14. I lived in London for 5 years and surprised myself by loving the city life but knew I didn’t want to settle there forever
  15. I’m scared of most animals (even though I think they’re so cute to look at)
  16. I love playing netball – I gave it up when I was pregnant but would love to take it up again at some point in the future
  17. My dream car growing up was a Mini Cooper and I was over the moon to own one before having Archie
  18. My favourite meal is a Sunday roast and I’m lucky to have a mum who is the Queen of them!
  19. I’m a complete lightweight – so much so that it puts me off drinking 😉
  20. I’ve always wanted to be a mummy and knew my life wouldn’t be complete otherwise ❤

Sleep training

Before I had Archie, I hadn’t given much thought to how I’d get him to go to sleep and I’d certainly never heard of sleep training before. About 4.5 months in and having endured 5 consecutive weeks of literally no sleep, the 3 of us were all completely miserable and my friend said I should consider sleep training. I’m so glad she did because it was a huge turning point and we’ve never looked back since.

sleep training

4 month sleep cycles

At around 4 months all babies go through a development change whereby their sleep cycles change and become more like that of an adult’s. It won’t always be hugely noticeable as some babies cope better with the change than others. For us, when Archie was just over 3 months old he started waking every 45 mins-1 hour in the night and was pretty much refusing to nap in the day.

I’ll admit that we made a few mistakes which didn’t help. Firstly, we never put Archie down to sleep when he was awake. Mostly we would feed him to sleep and in the daytime would hold him during naps or at bedtime we would have the fun battle of trying to put him down without him noticing! But after a while, babies will refuse to feed to sleep and so we began singing and rocking him instead but this quickly became exhausting when it took around 45 mins for him to actually fall to sleep.

He slept OK in the car but rarely slept in his pram. So after 5 weeks of literally no sleep, I was completely desperate and was lucky enough to speak to a friend who talked me through sleep training and ultimately gave me the push I needed to try it.

Sleep training in action

Sleep training is essentially just a way of teaching your baby to self-soothe so that when they wake up in the night they can soothe themselves back to sleep. It’s an important milestone for your baby to learn and some won’t need much encouragement whereas some will need your help to learn.

The very next day after speaking to my friend, we decided to put Archie in his own room and start sleep training. I appreciate not everyone would be happy to put their baby in his/her own room at this age (4.5 months) but we realised that we were all waking each other up in the same room and given we had a movement sensor/ monitor we were happy that he would be safe.

In terms of the sleep training method we used, essentially it goes like this:

  1. Put baby down awake (make sure they are well fed and dry first)
  2. Give them a kiss on the head and say “It’s night-time/ nap-time now” and walk out of the room
  3. If baby is crying after 2 mins, then go back in and repeat step 2
  4. Double the time you go back in each time, so after you went in at 2 mins, if they are still crying after 4 mins (6 mins in total since step 1) then repeat step 2
  5. And so on….

Essentially you can do any routine you want in step 2 but the key is to repeat it every time you go into the room and do not pick them up. That way, eventually they will understand that there’s no benefit in crying and they will fall to sleep more easily.

Of course, the above all sounds so simple in theory but in practice it can be very emotional and it will be very difficult for you to hear your baby crying and to not pick them up. The first few days were really tough but I made sure my husband was around for morale support and that made the world of difference. I also made sure I kept busy and away from his room (with the monitor) during the times when he was crying so I didn’t solely focus on it.

But to be honest, I was amazed at how quickly Archie took to it. Within a few weeks, he was mostly going down without crying at all (or very little) which I would never have believed previously. And even at the worst times, Arch would usually give in just before the 16 mins milestone (so 30 mins in total).

Nap times were probably the hardest because I would always doubt whether I called it wrong and maybe he wasn’t tired enough but it soon became a lot easier to know when he needed his sleep and his cues became more and more obvious (for him it was usually when he was becoming agitated for no apparent reason and when he rubbed his ears).

Sleep training on reflection

I completely appreciate that the above is not for everyone and if you’re not completely desperate and can find another way then that’s great. But for us, it was literally a life-saver. Sleep had always felt like such a battle and it was so draining that I never really felt like I was coping before. The change in Archie was also huge – his development came on massively as soon as he was getting the sleep he needed and he was generally just so much happier. We’re lucky that he’s been a pretty good sleeper ever since and the only downside is that he rarely sleeps anywhere but his cot which can be a bit inflexible but for us, we’d rather just work our days round his routine for a happier life.

 

Our weaning journey

Now that Archie is fully weaned (and entering the “fussy toddler” stage – more to come on that another day!) I thought I’d write down some things we’ve learnt along the way in the hope that they might be useful for someone else. If I’ve missed anything, please feel free to let me know in the comments.

Please note that the below is based on my experience only – I am not a health professional. Seek a dietician’s advice where necessary.

weaning

I have to say that weaning is very much like parenthood in that it’s an unknown world where you’re thrown in with very little advice and you’re expected to just “learn on the job”. It can be pretty overwhelming and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve worried about whether we’re doing it right and whether we’re making any progress.

One thing I would say is it’s very easy to forget where you started and us mums are renown for giving ourselves a hard time so if I could offer just one piece of advice it would be to try and be as relaxed as you can about it. You will get there and as long as you’re giving your baby a variety of different tastes and textures then you’re doing a great job!

So, where to start?

Personally, we started with some baby rice and smooth fruit purees. Then we added in some soft finger foods such as banana, sweet potato, peach, avocado. Moving to pieces of buttered toast, crumpets, teacakes which he would mostly just suck.

Once he’d had a taste of a variety of single flavours, I made a few mixed vegetable purees and gradually added in protein (beans, lentils, chicken etc.).

In terms of making batches of purees, I tried to make 1 or 2 batches each weekend which I then froze in small pots as I found this the most manageable way of doing it. I also mixed in some pouches to add variety and for ease when out and about.

What to buy?

  • Highchair – The Ikea Antilop is by far the best in our opinion and very reasonable too
  • Bibs – We prefer the popover bibs as they can’t be pulled off – these ones from Sainsburys are great
  • Spoons – Longer ones tend to be easier for you to feed your baby and the shorter ones when they can feed themselves – I’ve linked the ones we prefer
  • Hand blender/ blender – Any hand blender will do the job but may leave behind lumps so in the early days I just used our Nutri Ninja
  • Free-flow cup – In the early days we used the Tommee Tippee first cup and then moved on to a Munchkin 360 to avoid spillages when on the move
  • Tupperware for batched food – you can use ice cube trays in the early days but I found I needed a bigger portion size so I used the Tommee Tippee food pots
  • Face wipes – if your baby has sensitive skin like Archie did, then it’s well worth looking into some cloth wipes rather than using baby wipes which can irritate the skin
  • Recipe books – not essential (and lots of recipes online) but I found this one by Annabel Karmel really useful

From around 6 months

  • Some good first foods include:
    • Baby cereal/ rice (once your baby is 6 months, then Ready Brek is great mixed in with some fruit puree)
    • Cooked fruit and vegetables, pureed
    • Soft fruit as finger food – banana, mango, melon, avocado
    • Mashed or as soft cooked vegetable sticks – sweet potato, potato, carrot
  • Finger food:
    • Sticks should be the about the size of your finger – big enough for baby to hold in their fist
    • Make sure to halve anything round in shape (tomatoes, grapes etc.) to prevent choking
    • Should be soft enough to crush on the top of your mouth so some fruit and veg will need to be steamed (and possibly skins removed)
  • Introduce a cup of water with food (free-flow cup)
  • If not formula feeding (and also as soon as baby takes less than 500ml of formula) you may need to give your baby a daily vitamin supplement – check with your health visitor
  • Small amounts of whole milk can be mixed in with food plus your baby can have other forms of dairy as food – cheese, yoghurt, custard
  • Check with your health visitor any foods to be avoided

From around 7-9 months

  • Your baby will gradually move to 3 meals and you can start to drop milk feeds – for reference we moved to:
    • 4 bottles at 7 months and 3 meals a day
    • 3 bottles at 8 months and 3 meals, 1 snack a day
  • Try to make sure that each day they have a variety of: fruit and veg, starchy foods (bread, rice, potatoes, pasta), protein (meat, fish, beans, pluses, eggs), dairy (yoghurt, cheese, custard)

From around a year

  • 3 meals a day – generally eating what you eat
  • Your baby can have whole milk as a drink
  • For reference, we moved to:
    • 1 bottle at 12 months (bedtime) and 3 meals, 2 snacks a day plus milk in a cup in the morning
  • Your baby may want to start feeding him/ herself

A few things to remember

  • In the early days don’t worry about set mealtimes – you will still need to fit food around your baby’s milk feeds (until they’re eating enough to drop a feed) so don’t worry if they’re eating porridge at 3pm!
  • Gagging is very normal– if you’re worried about choking then I would highly recommend doing a first aid course to put your mind at ease and so you can recognise the difference between gagging and choking
  • Pouches are fine but check the label – personally I don’t see a problem with adding pouches into the mix for some added variety and convenience but it’s worth checking the label because often the savoury ones contain mostly fruit and should be considered more of a sweet (e.g. this Ella’s Kitchen pouch suggests it savoury with the name “Broccoli, pears and peas” but in fact it’s 79% pear!)
  • Include finger foods alongside purees – I know it can be daunting in the early days because of the fear of choking but it’s so important that they have a mixture
  • Don’t be afraid to try new textures as soon as baby is willing – because of Arch’s strong gag reflex I think I probably didn’t push him enough on this so he was slow to adapt to new textures
  • Mess is annoying for you but generally a good sign that your baby is enjoying his/herself so try to just go with it!
  • Make eating a social event – the more relaxed an environment you can make it and the more they see everyone else eating and enjoying food, the more interested they will be
  • It may take a few tries for baby to like a new food – it can be really disheartening when you’ve gone to the effort of making something and then your baby won’t even entertain it but don’t be afraid to try again – sometimes it takes a while for them to become familiar with new foods
  • A note for reflux babies – Arch had reflux as a baby and I found his gag reflex was pretty strong so he couldn’t tolerate some textures – scrambled egg, rice pudding, egg mayonnaise – I just ensure he is having egg elsewhere (in scotch pancakes etc.) to try to prevent allergies
  • Try as many tastes and textures in the first year as possible – after a year they tend to become fussier (I can definitely vouch for this!)
  • It won’t be a smooth upward journey – illnesses and teething can sometimes feel like you go 10 steps back but don’t worry about it, let your baby guide you, they will go back to eating when they feel ready 🙂

 

Bonding with your baby

When I gave birth to Archie, I was lucky enough to feel an instant bond with him. When I first held him, it was like I’d known him for ages and I just felt an overwhelming sense of love and protectiveness towards him. Unfortunately, a few weeks later and (I’m ashamed to say) that I no longer felt like his mummy and the initial bond we had seemed to be fading. 

bonding with your baby

I know I’m one of the lucky ones for feeling an immediate bond with my baby because not everyone does. I think partly it was down to the fact that he was 2 weeks overdue and there were honestly times when I thought I would never even meet him! So I just fell immediately in love with him and I know it sounds strange but I felt like we instantly knew each other and were just meant to be mummy and son.

I’m sad (and embarrassed) to say that over the next few weeks, I really struggled to connect with him and we grew further and further apart. It stemmed mostly from my inability to satisfy his hunger with my own milk (read more about our feeding journey here). He was constantly angry about this (understandably!) and would scream for hours on end unless attached to me. I felt like a complete failure and dreaded every moment I had to be alone with him.

It definitely wasn’t the way I’d read about it in the books or heard about it from other breastfeeding mums. They spoke of the amazing bond they felt with their baby when feeding. For me,  I just never felt this way.

Breastfeeding seemed to just tear us apart. I felt so disconnected from him. It was like I’d been handed someone else’s baby and I just didn’t feel like his mummy anymore.

I looked forward to the times when other people were around and could hold him for me. To give us some physical distance. And he seemed so much happier in other people’s arms which made me feel like such a failure (in hindsight it’s probably because they didn’t smell of milk like I did).

Luckily, introducing formula and (ultimately) bottle feeding helped to bring us closer together. I realised I could do so much more for my baby beyond feeding him. I became better at comforting him and knowing what he wanted. Simply making him smile/ giggle was (and still is) one of my favourite things to do!

It took a good few months to feel like we’d bonded again and it breaks my heart to even admit that we were so disconnected for that long. But I wanted to be honest and share my experience in the hope that it’s of comfort for anyone experiencing similar. And to know that there is hope – it really does get better and I can honestly say it hasn’t affected us in the long term.

Combination feeding

When I was pregnant I was constantly told I had 2 feeding options – breast or bottle. I had no idea that some people do a mixture of both, known as combination feeding. For a short while, this is what I did with Archie and so I thought I’d share my experience on here for anyone unfamiliar with it like I was.

combination feeding

I’ve written in detail about my feeding journey with Archie previously (see post here) but essentially Archie was a very hungry baby and for whatever reason my own milk supply just didn’t seem to satisfy him. So, at about 4 weeks in, we introduced formula.

At first, I intended it to be just at the bedtime feed to slow down the evening cluster feeds. But because of my poor mental state at that time I quickly lost faith in my own milk and I was topping up more and more with formula at every feed.

At one point I was either breastfeeding or bottle feeding at every hour of the day to ensure I was switching from one to the other and keeping Archie satisfied. That was most definitely not sustainable and I wouldn’t recommend it!

At about 10 weeks old, Archie refused to breastfeed and from then on we moved purely to formula. It was an incredibly emotional time for me and in those first few months I felt like I’d failed Archie. His constant hunger translated into hours and hours of screaming a day and this really affected our bond.

Luckily, moving to formula feeding really helped bring us closer and it was no longer a battle – he was finally satisfied when feeding even if he did still feed every couple of hours.

A year later and I’ve learnt that actually combination feeding is very common. In fact most of my breastfeeding friends gave their babies a bottle of formula at bedtime – even if they kept it from the health professionals who wouldn’t approve!

I’m honestly shocked that my health visitor wouldn’t contemplate adding in formula to my situation given the state I was in. But I’ve since learnt that the health professionals will only support breastfeeding – and won’t provide advice on anything else.

Looking back, I do wonder what would have happened if I’d continued with just formula at the bedtime feed to begin with. Perhaps our breastfeeding journey wouldn’t have come to an end so quickly. Maybe not but who knows.

I do know lots of mums though who said combination feeding worked well for them. Some gave their babies formula at the bedtime feeds and also whenever they needed someone else to take over. I’m not sure every baby would be this amenable but it’s worth knowing that for some it really can be that flexible!

So if I’m lucky enough to have a next time, I’ll definitely consider combination feeding as another option if breastfeeding isn’t working out for me. And if not, having seen how much Archie thrived on formula, I won’t beat myself up about it if that is the way we need to go again.

What are your thoughts on combination feeding? Is it something you did as well?

 

Gifts for new parents/ new baby

When we had Archie I was blown away at how incredibly generous our friends and family were with gifts. So many people asked us if there was anything we wanted and we’d bought so many practical things for the baby that we couldn’t really think of anything at the time. So, with hindsight in our favour, I thought I’d put together a little list of ideas for anyone who needs some inspiration. 

new baby-parent gifts

Keepsake gifts

Newspaper of the day baby was born – I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t ask someone to buy this for us because I’m seriously sentimental and I think it would be a lovely keepsake to show Archie when he’s older. You can buy back copies but they’re not cheap so it’s worth asking someone to do this for you if you’re the one expecting!

Photo frame – I know this is a little old school but I love having photos printed and put up around the house so a photo frame is right up my street.

Baby record book – Some organised mums-to-be might have bought one already so it’s worth checking first but it makes such a lovely sentimental gift and a year later I still love filling Archie’s in and looking back at the entries so far.

Imprint kit – I’m sad that we never got round to doing one of these and the off-the-shelf ones are inexpensive so it definitely makes a lovely present for anyone wishing to cherish those tiny fingers and toes!

Teddy bear – We received quite a few of these which is lucky because Arch is a big fan! But it might be worth checking with who you’re buying for so they don’t have too many. The personalised My 1st Years ones make a lovely keepsake.

Gifts for the whole family

Homemade meal – when you’re a new parent the likelihood is you’ll be grabbing more convenience food than you’re used to so some homemade food – whether that’s a whole meal or just some snacks – will be seriously appreciated!

Food box subscription – when Archie was small we invested in a weekly Hellofresh box for a few months and it was brilliant at getting us back to cooking at home. The recipes were very simple to follow with the ingredients pre-measured (very important for sleep-deprived parents!) and we were surprised just how healthy and tasty they were. I think it would make a great gift for any new parent – whether they’re competent at cooking or not.

Newborn photo shoot – this will not be high on a new parent’s priority list but it makes for some lovely memories that you can cherish forever so again I think this would make a lovely sentimental gift.

Gifts for mum

Pamper kit – you can buy ready-made ones specifically for new mums – the Elemis gift sets are great – but they tend to be pretty pricey. It’s very easy to compile your own – personally I’d include a face mask, lip balm, hand cream, body oil – anything that feels a little luxurious and is really moisturising.

Loungewear – new mums will likely spend a lot of time in clothes that resemble PJs but are slightly more appropriate for leaving the house in! Next do some lovely ones as do ASOS.

Something with Mum/ Mummy on it – whether it’s a mug (the Emma Bridgewater ones are my personal favourite), a piece of jewellery (this Next necklace is lovely) or a slogan top (I love the Selfish Mother ones) most new mums will be so proud to flaunt their new role!

Gifts for baby

Outfit/ Babygro’s – It’s worth bearing in mind that for the first few months a baby will mostly live in Babygro’s so if you’re choosing a cute outfit then you might want to size up for when they’re a bit older. Remember to consider what season it will be when the baby’s at the age too so you don’t buy something impractical for the weather.

Muslin cloths/ bibs – From someone with a sicky baby, there were never enough muslin cloths or bibs clean in the house despite owning enough to put a normal retailer to shame! For bibs, any soft round bibs with a popper fastening are great for the newborn days (save the more stylish dribble bibs for when they’re older). And for muslin cloths TK Maxx do some great ones and I really don’t think you can beat the Aden & Anais ones for quality.

Blanket – Particularly for a winter baby, a blanket makes a lovely gift. My most used one was this Chenille one from Asda as it was super soft and washes well. But for something a bit more special I love this personalised My 1st Years blanket.