My experience of baby classes

Before having Archie I had no idea what types of baby classes were available and which ones I’d be interested in. I remember ‘googling’ for ones in my area and feeling pretty overwhelmed. So I thought I’d share our experience and a few ideas which might help to narrow down your search.

baby classes

Firstly, I’d say that in the first 12 weeks you’re unlikely to have any form of routine which might make attending classes difficult and a bit overwhelming. Plus most babies benefit more when they’re at the 3 month mark than any earlier so don’t put pressure on yourself unnecessarily.

Also I’d try not to do more than 2/3 classes because as much as it’s good to add a bit of structure to your week they can be quite tiring and again it can become a bit overwhelming.  For us 2 classes a week seems to work well and allows us to still meet up with friends/ family and do “unplanned” activities.

Most companies will offer a trial for their classes so I would recommend starting with this first because classes will vary massively depending on instructor/ location/ group size and so on. And for context of the following we’re based in the Milton Keynes area.

Baby massage – we did a 5 week NCT baby massage course when Archie was 8 weeks old and to be honest it just wasn’t for us. Archie suffered from reflux and hated being naked so making him lie on his back with little clothes on usually led to him screaming from start to finish! The sessions were too long I would say at 1 hour 15 mins and being a hungry baby Archie would need a feed so the amount of time I actually practised any massage technique was probably about 10 mins in total across all the sessions! I think it’s totally personal preference as I know some people who’ve loved it but mostly it seems to be a love or hate thing. And with hindsight I think 8 weeks was too early for us – I wish we’d left it until he was at least 3 months old – but I still wouldn’t do another course again.

Music classes – we went to a 3 week trial of Music Bugs when Archie was 8 weeks old but again I think I was being a bit too keen and it was too soon for us. So we signed up properly when Archie was 6 months and it’s now one of our absolute favourite classes (it goes up to the age of 4). The classes tend to be really sociable, high energy and of course involve lots of dancing and singing with a few props/ instruments thrown in for good measure. It really is worth giving it a try because it’s hard not to leave feeling better than when you arrived. There are quite a few other franchises that run music classes– Jo Jingles and Monkey Music are a couple I know of if Music Bugs doesn’t operate in your area.

Baby swimming – we started swimming lessons when Archie was 3 months old. There are loads of different companies to choose from but we opted for Water Babies because of the time/ location (we wanted to go on a weekend so Daddy could come with us and the options were more limited). The first term went well and it really gave us confidence to take him into the water by ourselves. However the second term was a bit of a disaster! Archie just hated every minute of being in the water. I think there were a few reasons – he suffers from eczema and his skin used to flare up in the chlorine, the times of his nap had changed and he was super tired plus the class had become very busy and the noisy environment just added to the chaos! To be honest looking back the content of the second term was very similar to the first – it’s all designed to get you confident in the water with your baby so I don’t think we will sign up again until he’s much older and can learn some techniques. Plus the sessions are expensive – around £14 per half an hour class – and it’s very easy to miss a few due to sickness.

Baby sensory – we started going to Baby Sensory when Archie was 3 months old and although he probably didn’t really benefit from it until he was older I did enjoy taking him and found the class structure worked really well for us. There was 20 minutes of structured play, following by 20 minutes of free play (which is where you can socialise with other mums/dads) and then 20 minutes of structured play again. In the structured sessions, these are instructor led and the activities stimulate pretty much all of your baby’s senses. We’re lucky to have an amazing instructor here in Milton Keynes (Sophie) and as well as being a fun and interactive class it was also very informative and gave me lots of ideas for things to try at home. The class is up to 13 months although we stopped just before Archie turned 1 because he was starting to become a little disruptive (mainly because he was walking and didn’t want to sit still!). The follow-on class is Toddler Sense which we’ve just started and we love that already too!

Baby college – we went to a trial of our local baby college class and although we enjoyed it I found it too similar to baby sensory to make me want to sign up. It’s maybe something I’ll try again when Archie is a bit older.

Messy play – we first tried a Little Learners messy play class when Archie was 9 months old. In terms of the format, there are lots of trays laid out on the floor with various “messy play” materials in each and it’s a bit of a free-for-all in terms of just letting your baby dive in to the ones they like. We went to a few classes and Archie did enjoy it but because he was teething everything would end up in his mouth – his favourite being a pencil or paintbrush! So I think with hindsight he was a little young and so it’s definitely something I will try again when he’s older.

Outside of baby class courses (where you need to commit for a full term) there are lots of things which operate on a pay-as-you-go basis and I like to add these into the mix on the days when we don’t have much on.

Baby gymnastics – several local leisure centres run baby gymnastics sessions where babies are free to run wild in the gymnastics area with toys and a bouncy castle. It’s a good one for meeting up with your fellow mummy friends and letting your babies play/ explore whilst you have a catch up. We regularly attend the Arabian Gym at Bletchley leisure centre.

Health centres – your local health centre will run coffee mornings/ play sessions so it’s worth asking your health visitor for more details

NCT Bumps and Babies (check your region) – weekly informal get-togethers for new mummies

Local village halls/ churches – often there is a weekly coffee morning/ play group held in these so if you have one near you it might be worth a look

Garden centres – there are lots of baby/ child friendly activities held at garden centres such as story/ music sessions so worth checking out your local one

Library – similar to the garden centre, usually there is a weekly story/ music time so worth checking out on your local council website

I really hope this has given you some inspiration if, like me, you didn’t really know where to start and I’d love to know how you get on if you attend any of these.

NCT Antenatal course – Is it worth it?

A couple of weeks ago one of my pregnant friends asked me about my experience of my NCT antenatal course and whether it was worth the time/ money. So I thought I’d share my experience on here too for anyone thinking about signing up.

pregnant antenatal

Please note all views are my own and are not endorsed by NCT or anyone else. 

NCT Antenatal courses

For anyone not familiar, NCT stands for National Childbirth Trust and they are a UK charity set up to support parents in their first 1000 days through a number of resources – one of which are their antenatal courses. NHS antenatal courses vary considerably by region so lots of parents-to-be choose a private course like the NCT ones.

There are a number of different courses to pick from but we opted for the NCT Signature course consisting of 2.5 workshop days over 2 weekends. The cost will vary depending on where you are but for us it cost £200 which is quite expensive so I did debate whether it would be worth it. However, I didn’t know anyone locally in our area and I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet 7 other mums with babies due at a similar time. We attended the course about 2 months before my due date and partners were encouraged to join.

The 2 full days focussed on labour/ the first few weeks of parenthood and the 0.5 day focussed on breastfeeding. Following the course, the instructor helped facilitate a reunion at which we all met up at a future date post our babies being born.

So, would I recommend it?

In terms of the content, I’d say it was too focussed on labour/ birth. It covered a lot of detail about the various scenarios you may be faced with which was useful for background but I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed and scared afterwards! And when the time came the reality was very different to the ‘textbook’. Plus there wasn’t really enough information about what to do after you brought your baby home – I definitely could have done with a few more pointers!!

The fact that they can only cover breastfeeding (and not bottle feeding) was something I didn’t even question at the time but is now something I find really disappointing. A bit of background on how to sterilise, the different bottles/ teats, how much to feed, how often etc. would have been really useful.

However, in terms of meeting my initial goal, of meeting other mums locally with similarly aged babies, it really was a godsend for me in those early days. For the first couple of months we regularly messaged on our WhatsApp group and it was so reassuring to hear others asking the same questions/ sharing the same struggles. Even during the night feeds there was usually someone there at the end of the phone which was such a comfort.

The reunion was a really nice touch and it was so lovely to get together as a group again. Sadly we haven’t all met again since and there are only a couple of mummies who I regularly see/ keep in touch with but they have become really good friends so I don’t think that’s bad going to be honest. So all in all I am so glad I did it and I would recommend it if you’re looking to meet other mummies in your area.

If it’s too late for you to join an antenatal course and you’re looking for ways to find new mummy friends then please don’t panic! I’ve made some of my closest friends outside NCT through various different baby classes. I’ll cover off baby classes in a separate post for anyone interested but in the very early days (first 8 weeks) you’re unlikely to feel up to committing to a class. So here are a few ideas for meeting new mums in your area:

  • Health centres – your local health centre will run coffee mornings/ weigh-in sessions so ask your health visitor for more details
  • NCT Bumps and Babies (check your region) – weekly informal get-togethers for new mummies
  • Local village halls/ churches – often there is a weekly coffee morning held in these so if you have one near you it might be worth a look
  • Garden centres – there are lots of baby/ child friendly activities held at garden centres such as story/ music sessions so worth checking out your local one
  • Library – similar to the garden centre, usually there is a weekly story/ music time so worth checking out on your local council website

I really hope this is useful for anyone considering an NCT antenatal course and I’d love to know how you get on.

 

My separation anxiety

You’ve probably heard of separation anxiety from the perspective of a baby/ child. But I’d never really thought of it in eyes of the parent before – and now it is something I really struggle with. As much as I know it’s healthy for me to spend some time away from Archie, I find it really hard to leave him and the anxiety I feel before sometimes makes me question, is it really worth it?

separation anxiety

The answer of course is most definitely yes. It’s not good for me or him to be permanently attached to each other. And when I do manage to spend time away I do actually enjoy myself but it’s certainly not as easy as it was before.

Last week I was lucky enough to go to the spa with my mum and we had the loveliest time. I really switched out of mummy mode for a while and it was nice to have a break. The few days before though I was feeling really anxious – barely sleeping, mind racing, feeling overwhelmed.  I’ve only ever left him with my husband or my parents and I’m certainly not worried about whether they’ll be OK looking after him as he usually has the best time and they are more than capable, so what am I really anxious about?

This is something I’ve been trying to figure out and I really can’t put my finger on it.

I think part of it is because Archie has become my little comfort blanket. When we’re out and about he is the topic of conversation and everyone’s attention diverts immediately to him. So when he’s not there suddenly I feel very exposed and not quite sure what to do with myself. I worry about making conversation without him being the natural distraction and I just feel a bit lost without him.

I think some of it is because I’m a stay-at-home mum and he’s my whole world now. I used to be pretty career driven and would passionately chat about the industry I worked in but now I feel a bit disconnected from it all. When I’m not in mummy mode, who even am I? I’m not sure I’ve figured that out yet.

And if I’m being truly honest I think that part of me is being selfish. I want to soak up every moment with him. And I want him to “need” me. I know it’s so irrational but I worry that if anyone can look after him (and effectively do my job) then what if he actually doesn’t need me after all. And is what I do really that purposeful?

I know it sounds crazy and it’s something that I really need to get on top of. I’ve been making a conscious effort to leave Archie on a more regular basis (where practically possible) because surely the more I do it the easier it will become? I’m so worried about the impact it has on him, I don’t want him to suffer as a result of my own struggles. I’m really hoping I’m not alone in this. Can anyone else relate? Any words of wisdom you’d be happy to share? I’m all ears 🙂

Tips for surviving the fourth trimester

I’ve mentioned before about my struggle with the fourth trimester and whilst I believe nothing can prepare you (and everyone’s experience is so different) I do look back and wish I’d done a few things differently. So, as always, I thought I’d share in case it’s useful for anyone else.

foruth trimester

I always knew the fourth trimester would be difficult and it’s one of the reasons I was so anxious in the latter part of pregnancy. But nothing prepared me for the physical and emotional strain it had on me when the time came.

As well as my struggles with breastfeeding (see post here), I was overwhelmed by the feeling of not knowing what I was doing and not feeling in control of what was happening. My life was being dictated by a tiny little human (!) and I felt lost without any structure to my day/night. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a control freak and I love routine so this was really hard to deal with. Not to mention the ridiculous number of hormones circulating in my body and a body which was still recovering from a pretty intense labour.

I felt like I was just about coping until my husband went back to work 10 days after Archie was born. Suddenly I felt solely responsible for keeping our precious baby alive and well and it all got a bit too much. Looking back there are definitely a few things I could have done to help ease the pressure:

  • Accept that it’s just a phase and it will get easier – this is probably the most important and something my mum told me a lot but I just couldn’t see the woods for the trees at the time. Your baby will change quicker than you can ever imagine and I can assure you there will come a time when things feel so much easier. Parenthood is all about riding through the changes – nothing stays the same for long so when things feel too much just be reassured that it won’t last for long.
  • Remember you’re not alone – the support from your family and friends will be a massive lifeline – don’t be afraid to ask for help or to tell someone you’re struggling. Finding mummy friends with similar aged babies is also really helpful – just having that reassurance that you’re not alone in your thoughts/ feelings will be such a godsend.
  • Have a breastfeeding back-up plan – health professionals (and probably many others) will tell you that if you really want to breastfeed you can. But what they often forget is that there are 2 parties to satisfy here and you can’t always predict what your baby is going to do or how you’re going to feel when the time comes. Have a back-up supply of things you will need to bottle feed (bottles, steriliser, and formula) just in case.
  • Be kind to yourself – when you’re feeling overwhelmed imagine what you would tell a friend in a similar situation and tell yourself the same thing. Often we’re so much kinder to our peers than we are to ourselves and now is not the time to be self-critical.
  • Try and find just a little bit of time for you – I know it will seem almost impossible but even just giving yourself 5 mins in the day to enjoy a hot coffee will make such a difference to how you feel.
  • Get out of the house as often as you can – don’t go overboard with this one because you can definitely overdo it but just going for a 15 minute walk and getting out of the house will make the world of difference to how you’re feeling.
  • Don’t just eat junk food – it will be very tempting to eat everything in sight and you will no doubt have a treat box next to your bed for the night time feeds (I’d recommend this if not!) but try to make sure you have some fruit/ veg in there too because it will only make you feel worse in the long run.
  • Invest in some easy meals – whether you batch cook and freeze before baby arrives or buy ready meals to have on hand it will make your life so much easier in the first few weeks not to have to think about what to cook.
  • Believe in yourself – no one knows what they’re doing – even if they look as if they do. You are just as capable as everyone else so just keep the faith and believe in your own ability. Yes you’ll get things wrong but so does everyone. There will be plenty of differing advice/ opinions from those around you (including health professionals) so you can rest easy there isn’t a right way of doing anything! Have the confidence to do what you feel is best and don’t be afraid to go against the crowd.

You may be thinking I’ve missed one important one – the magic word of SLEEP! But I’m pretty sure I don’t need you to remind you to sleep when you can because you will be doing it already 🙂

If you’re pregnant and have read through to the end then thank you and I really hope I haven’t scared you. It’s tough but also a really precious time. You’ll soon look back and think where did my baby go?! Why didn’t I just embrace the chaos and every sleepy cuddle whilst I had chance?

Archie’s 1st birthday party

Ah I still can’t believe my baby is officially 1! I’ve been an emotional wreck all week but we started the celebrations off with a small family party at home which was just lovely. I thought I’d share a few details on here in case anyone needed some inspiration.

singing-happy-birthday.jpg

In terms of the guest list we invited our closest family and a few of my mummy friends with their children. We kept it small because we hosted it at home and it worked out really well. We told everyone to drop in anytime between 11am and 3pm so that the parents could work it around their bubba’s schedules!

For food, we loaded up from M&S the day before! We had pizzas, sausage rolls, crisps, sweets, crudités and we made sandwiches in the morning.

We also pre-ordered the cake from M&S – it was a rainbow cake and tasted delicious – much lighter than I was expecting. Arch was a huge fan too as you can probably tell! He also really enjoyed being sung Happy Birthday to – helped by my mum doing a very ‘original’ dance which was making him laugh! Sadly I didn’t capture the dance on camera but I did get some of his reaction on video – it’s on my Facebook page for anyone interested.

collage

In terms of decorations most of them were from Asda but the star of the show was a Chalkboard which I had made in a “Sing” theme because Archie is obsessed with this film! I thought it would make a nice keepsake for when he’s older too. His birthday balloon was also a major hit  – in fact it’s his favourite present to date – thank you very much to my Auntie. Oh and one final detail was his top which I absolutely love – again from Etsy – which had a 1 and his name on it.

And that was it really – the kids played with all of Archie’s many toys and the adults just chatted and let the children do the entertaining! It was the perfect way to mark the occasion and I’m so glad we kept it low key – we can save all the expensive parties for when he might actually remember them…!

A letter to Archie: 1st birthday

Dear Archie,

Wow a whole year old! Happy birthday my gorgeous boy.

first birthday

This year has gone surprisingly quickly and yet it’s hard remember a time without you. Thank you for giving me the best job in the world and for making me your mummy.

You are growing into the loveliest little boy. A little boy who is officially a toddler. You took your first steps just before Christmas and now there is nothing stopping you. In fact you run more than you walk most of the time!

Although you’ll always be daddy’s little mini-me you’re starting to look more like me now which I love. You have the most gorgeous blue eyes and cute little kiss curls at the back of your hair which is getting fairer by the day. I’m pretty sure you’re going to be a blondie like daddy.

Your love for food is also something that daddy and I share with you although unfortunately for you, I think you might have inherited our sweet tooth too! Your favourites are yoghurts, chocolate brioche, Philadelphia and any kind of fruit!

You love to be independent but also adore spending time with your family. In fact you save most of your smiles/ giggles for the ones you love which makes them all the more special for us.

You’re definitely not one for cuddles but you’re becoming more affectionate and the attachment you have for your little cuddly toy Doggie is very clear to see.

Your favourite toy is definitely a ball – you could spend all day chasing one round and you’ve even started to kick them – which has got daddy and grandad very excited that you might be a footballer when you’re older!

Your love for music just gets stronger by the day and you love to clap, sing and dance along! We’ve recently started to watch the film Sing together (on repeat) and it is by far the easiest way to get your face to light up (that and In the Night Garden but mummy doesn’t share your love of this!).

You’ve also just discovered how to play chase and the little look you give me before you turn around and run off is just the cutest.

You’re definitely a little boy who knows what he wants which I’m hoping will be advantageous as you grow up. You also have the most tenacious nature of any child I know – you’re always desperate to explore and are so determined – you will practice, practice and practice until you’ve achieved what you were trying to do.  This means you’ve already achieved a huge amount in your first year and we could not be prouder.

I cannot wait to see what life holds for you. You are by far the best thing that’s ever happened to us and we will do everything we can to give you the happiest life you deserve.

Love you to the moon and back,

Mummy xxx

 

Am I a good mum?

A little while ago, I was chatting to one of my mummy friends about what it means to be a good mum and how I hope one day I would feel like one. It got us chatting about self-doubt and how it’s so easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling at the time. When in fact it’s probably the furthest from the truth.

goodmum

I’ve touched on this before but becoming a mummy has led me to doubt myself more than at any other time in my life. I guess being a first-time mum brings with it a whole new vulnerability – it’s completely natural for you to have no idea what you’re doing but for some reason you can feel like a failure for being that way.

I think partly it’s because looking around at the other mums they often look like they have it all together and you only notice when your own baby/ child is crying/ playing up.

Plus motherhood leads you to make so many different decisions and each time you have to make one there’s so much room for doubt. I’m a big believer that there’s no right way to “mother”. You have to make decisions that are right for you and your family. And only you (and your partner) are the ones that can make them. But the pressure when you’re making a decision for the most important thing in your life can sometimes feel a little much!

Almost a year later and I’ve started to open up more and more to a few of my closest mummy friends. And it’s clear that we are all in the same boat. Even with my nearly one year old, I still feel like I’m winging it every day. Every stage is new – weaning, teething, crawling, walking etc. – so it’s no wonder I don’t feel like a competent mummy yet. Do you ever get to a point where you feel that way I wonder?!

I look at my own mum and think of how amazing she is and how it all seems to come so naturally. But of course I never saw the early days when perhaps things weren’t as easy as they are now with 2 daughters who have grown up and fled the nest.

What I would say is the fact that EVERYONE has an opinion when you have a baby doesn’t help you to build self-confidence. I have no idea why but for some reason when women are often at their most vulnerable, people think it’s OK to judge and inflict their own (often strong) opinions on you – even strangers! And ironically, more often than not, it’s other women who have been first-time mums themselves once upon a time.

I hope that I never get to a point where I think I know better just because I’ve done it once (or even a few times). Because each person’s experience is different and each baby/ child is different too!

At the start of the year I vowed to believe in myself more. And if I’m being honest I haven’t done so well on that so far. We’ve had a raft of illnesses which seem to have set us back a bit and I’m fully aware that self-confidence isn’t something that happens overnight. But I am determined to work on it and I think the more honest I am about it is a decent starting point.

I once read that if you’re worrying about whether you’re a good mummy or not then the chances are the fact that you’re even worrying about it, means you already are one. I’m going to remind myself of this every time a bit of self-doubt creeps in and I’ll keep you posted as to how I’m getting on!

How to parent with your partner

My husband and I are one of those couples who always said we would never work with each other. We’re complete opposites, which is great for our relationship, but means we would drive each other crazy in a work environment. When we had Archie we didn’t quite anticipate how being parents would essentially mean doing a job alongside each other!! Learning how to parent with your partner is a definite skill and I’ll admit that we haven’t got it cracked just yet. But here are a few things we’ve learnt so far.

parenting

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  1. Don’t compare who has it hardest – it’s so incredibly easy to get into the trap of doing this because, like most things, the grass often seems greener on the other side. But trust me, it’s not useful for anyone and you could probably bicker about it until the end of time. What’s more productive is accepting that you both have it hard in different ways. Parenting is always about sacrifice and compromise. So try to see it from your partner’s point of view and the things they are having to compromise, as well as your own. Clearly this only works if it’s a 2-way street so feel free to refer your partner to this post if necessary!!
  2. Don’t feel you have to do everything together – in the early days in particular, you will probably want to do every nappy change, night feed, clothes change, bath etc. together and that’s fine until you’ve got the hang of it. But once you’re both perfectly capable of doing these things it’s important to give each other a break by sharing out the load. I know it’s not always practically possible but even if it’s just letting each other have a lie in every once in a while, it will remind you that you’re not doing this on your own.
  3. Accept that they might do things differently – yes in an ideal world they’ll do everything exactly how you like it but the probability of this happening is probably close to zero! As long as they’re helping then does it really matter that it’s not in the same order as you do things? And yes it might take them 10 times as long to change a nappy, but who’s it really harming?
  4. Be kind to each other – this was something my Auntie told me was the secret to a happy marriage. Giving each other the benefit of the doubt is not easy when emotions are heightened which they often are with a baby/ child around. However, it is so important to try and see things from your partner’s perspective and remember that they might not be finding it easy either.
  5. Don’t forget to communicate – this is where my husband will be rolling his eyes because I’m particularly bad at this one when I’m feeling stressed. I often assume he knows I need help with something rather than just asking. Which means I’m usually a bit more stroppy about it when I finally get around to saying something!
  6. Make time for each other – sometimes it’s so easy to just be parents and forget about the fact you’re in a relationship with each other too. Try and get out for the occasional date night or make the most of your evenings together. Sometimes having a couple of hours without your phones is particularly helpful because then there’s no distractions (Daddy Lowe – this one’s for you!!).
  7. Be a team – Have each other’s’ backs no matter what. Agree on how you want to do certain things (discipline, routines etc.) and then stick to it. For some reason once you have a baby everyone feels they can have an opinion on EVERYTHING and they’ll let you know about it. So make sure you stick to what you and your partner agrees on in the first place. This will be particularly important when your child is old enough to play you off against each other too!

I’ll be the first to admit that the above is so much easier said than done. In fact, my husband will be laughing reading this saying “yes, you might want to listen to your own advice!” But it’s all a learning curve! So if you have any other pieces of advice, please feel free to share 🙂

Bottle feeding shame

Until recently I wouldn’t have been brave enough to share this photo. I hated the thought of being judged because I was bottle feeding. Looking back, I know that most of it was driven from my own paranoia and my own insecurities. But if you’ve ever wanted to breastfeed and not been able to then I’m sure you will know that it can be a bitter pill to swallow.

bottle feeding

I never knew my desire to breastfeed until it didn’t work out for me. I’ve talked in detail about my journey before (see post here if you’re interested) but essentially I had a very hungry baby and for whatever reason I just couldn’t seem to satisfy him with my own milk. And it was seriously taking its toll on my mental health. Despite some unhelpful comments from a few health professionals (and a few fellow mummies in fact), I had an incredibly supportive family around me, including my husband who ultimately made the decision I was too afraid to make. We started to introduce formula (at around 4 weeks) and we combination fed until Archie was about 3 months old, at which point he decided he’d rather just have formula.

So that’s how our bottle feeding journey began. And almost 9 months later, as much as I still feel a sadness that breastfeeding didn’t work out, I know that we 100% made the right decision for us. Archie was a much happier baby, so much more content, and has thrived ever since.

But for a long time I remember feeling ashamed that I was bottle feeding. I dreaded people asking the question as to how I was feeding. My answer always involved a detailed explanation as to why breastfeeding didn’t work out as if to justify my choice. But it never felt like a good enough reason.

If I went out on my own, I remember timing my outings so we were never out of the house for more than 2 hours (which is how often Archie needed feeding) just to avoid having to feed him in public. I would carefully place the bottle I took (for emergencies) at the bottom of my bag so that if I opened it no one would see and hopefully no one would know.

I was nervous about seeing friends that I hadn’t seen in a while because I didn’t want them to judge me. I didn’t want them to assume I’d taken an “easy route”, especially because they hadn’t seen the impact the whole experience had on me.

And what’s crazy is that apart from a handful of people, most had never judged my decision. It was mostly self-inflicted driven from my own paranoia and the feeling that I was a failure.

Of course, the constant endorsement of breastfeeding doesn’t help. I completely understand the need to promote it but sometimes it feels it’s at the detriment of the mothers who can’t or choose not to. Yes encourage those who can and who want to but there doesn’t need to be a counter effect to that. And often the praise handed out to mums that breastfeed can feel like a critique to those who can’t (or don’t want to). It would be great if there was equal support for both. The fact that the NCT can’t cover it as part of its antenatal course says it all.

So for any bottle feeding mums out there that are struggling with this too, I want you to know that bottle feeding doesn’t define your ability to be a good mummy. You never need to explain yourself or worry about your explanation being good enough. As long as your baby is happy and thriving that’s all that matters. Well actually that’s not entirely true, YOU matter too. Your happiness is just as important. So don’t waste time feeling bad/ ashamed/ any other negative feeling. As long as you are making the best decision for you and your family then ultimately you are doing exactly the right thing and should be proud of that. And I, for one, think you’re doing a great job.

Baby shopping list

One of the most exciting things about preparing for a baby is shopping for all the essentials you will need. But I also found it pretty overwhelming. Establishing what you need (vs. what’s in vogue) can be difficult. So here I’ve put together a list of what we bought and where relevant a very short review of whether it worked for us. It’s pretty comprehensive (because we got sucked into buying everything!) so I’ve split into sections. I really hope that it’s useful for any parents-to-be!

baby shopping list

Please note that all views are my own, products paid for by myself and there are no affiliate links.

Sleeping

  • Bedside crib
    • Snuzpod – worked well for us but we didn’t use the co-sleeping functionality which is its main selling point so any crib (as long as it fit the Sleepyhead – see below) would have worked fine in reality.
    • Sleepyhead – it’s hard to say whether this helped Archie sleep any better because we used it right up until he was about 4.5 months (at which point he was in his main cot so he didn’t need it). However, he was a snuggly baby so I think he would have been too exposed in the Snuzpod without it. Plus when we travelled we took the travel cot and put the Sleepyhead inside it which maintained some consistency for him so I think that worked well. It’s also useful for daytime naps as it’s easily transportable. It is an expensive purchase and definitely not essential but we found it worked for us.
    • Sheets – the Sleepyhead ones are ridiculously expensive so if you’re using I would recommend maybe having the one and using a muslin cloth over the top which you can then wash instead. For the actual crib we bought the official Snuzpod ones and they were useless as they barely fit the mattress. So I would probably try a standard bedside crib sheet from Mothercare next time.
  • Main cot/ cotbed
    • Mamas and Papas – we bought a fairly standard cotbed and it’s been brilliant. I’m not sure you can go too far wrong although I’d look at the size of the space/ drawer underneath as it’s useful for storage. The mattress needs to be bought separately and costs almost as much as the cotbed itself! We went for a Pocket Sprung Dual Cotbed Mattress one from Mamas and Papas.
    • Fitted sheets – the ones from M&S were the softest and washed well in our experience but I think they’ve since stopped selling them..! We tried a few from Mothercare and they were pretty good too.
    • Mattress protector – recommend getting 2.
  • Swaddle/ sleeping bag
    • Swaddle – some babies like to be swaddled and some pretty much hate it! But we found Archie couldn’t sleep without one for the first few months as he had such a strong startle reflex. Would highly recommend a wrapover one to start with and then moving on to one with an arm up position.
    • Sleeping bag – some babies will prefer this from birth so probably worth having one on hand and seeing what works. Archie has used sleeping bags from about 5 months and we love them because he’s such a wriggle bum that a blanket is totally pointless! We personally prefer the ones which zip up on the side and you can get them from so many different places but we like the Sainsbury’s and The White Company ones. They come in different togs so I would recommend buying a couple for the summer months (1.0 tog) and a couple for winter (2.5 tog) – make sure to buy the right sizes for the seasons!
  • Monitor
    • Angelcare – this is completely personal preference but I really wanted a monitor which had a movement sensor for peace-of-mind in the first few months and Angelcare are renowned for theirs. So we bought one which had a camera and wireless monitor with it which has been particularly useful since Archie moved into his own room (at about 4.5 months). Most have a thermometer built-in which is also handy.
  • White noise
    • MyHummy – for the first 6 weeks we used a 10.5 hour YouTube video of background car noise which worked well but drove us crazy! We already had a Ewan the Sheep too but the noise only worked for a short amount of time and you had to keep pressing it back on again which also drove us crazy! So we caved and bought a MyHummy which has a sleep sensor that activates the white noise if baby starts to stir or if there is an increase in background noise. It was an expensive purchase but has been a godsend for us. I’ve since seen that’s there a Ewan the sheep deluxe which does a similar thing and is cheaper so that might be worth checking out.

Feeding

  • Bottles and bottle brush
    • We tried the Tomme Tippee bottles but then quickly moved to Dr Browns as we found they helped to prevent wind. I probably wouldn’t buy any of the small bottles because they will become redundant as soon as your baby drinks more than 5oz. 6 bottles is probably fine to begin with and then you can see how you go. Make sure to buy the right teats – level 1 for newborn usually – but then as your baby grows you can start to increase the flow by moving up to the other levels. I’d recommend the Boots bottle brush over the Dr Browns/ Tommee Tippee ones.
  • Steriliser
  • Formula
  • Breastfeeding essentials
    • We bought the Medela electric pump as it was the best reviewed online when I purchased but I didn’t use it enough to be able to review it properly (it’s probably something you can wait to buy).  
    • I found the Lansinoh breast pads were far better (and more absorbent) than the unbranded ones so if you can find them on a deal it’s definitely worth investing. Some mums find they don’t need to use them at all so buy just a small pack to begin with and see how you go.
    • Nursing bras – I was shocked at the selection when I came to buy these – Mothercare and M&S have a small range and you can get fitted in store. But personally I found the Emma Jane bras the most comfortable and I wore them when I was pregnant too.
    • Nipple cream – In the early weeks this will be essential and I recommend the Lansinoh one.
  • Nursing chair
    • The official nursing chairs are expensive and quite clunky in my experience so we bought an armchair from Ikea which has worked fine.
  • Muslins and bibs
    • If you have a sicky baby you will go through a lot of these so definitely worth buying a few to start with. We found the muslin cloths from TK Maxx were great (any brand) and for bibs we went through so many that I stocked up from Tesco/ Sainsburys (the popper fastenings are better than the Velcro in my experience).
  • Dummies
    • Completely personal preference and some babies won’t take to them (like Archie!) but can be very soothing so might be worth having a couple of newborn dummies to hand.

Travel

  • Car seat and isofix base
    • There is a huge choice so it can be overwhelming – we went for the Maxi-Cosi Pebble Plus as it was the only one which was i-Size compatible at the time. It’s useful to choose one which fits onto your pram (although most do with the right adapters – usually sold separately). The car seats which swivel can be useful for getting baby in and out of cars but not all fit onto prams. I’ve since learnt that there are in-car safety centres where you can book a consultation and get more in-depth advice on what would work best for you and advice on installation so that might be worth a look.
  • Car mirror
  • Pram
    • Again an overwhelming number to choose from! I’d recommend trying a few out in the shops and getting a feel for what you like. Most people go for a “travel system” which incorporates a bassinet for the first 5-6 months followed by a seat which can last as long as needed. It’s handy to have one which a car seat can fix onto too (to avoid any transfers when baby is asleep!). Go for one that’s not too heavy, has good suspension, is easy to fold, has a good sized basket and fits easily in your car boot! We went for the iCandy Orange and we love it for all of these reasons.
  • Blankets
    • Have a few for the different seasons – cellular for summer and warmer ones for winter. Would highly recommend the chenille blankets from Asda.
  • Baby carrier
    • Some babies will like and some won’t (Archie fit into the latter!). Useful if you can borrow from someone to try out initially or there are quite a few sling hire services where you can try before you buy. For indoor use a fabric one usually works better and for outdoor use you will need something harder-wearing (e.g. Baby Bjorn).
  • Travel cot, mattress and sheets

Changing/ Bath time

  • Change mat
  • Change table
    • We didn’t have one and I’m glad because you only use them for a very short time (before baby is too big/ wriggly). Changing on the floor has worked fine for us!
  • Change bag
    • Not essential to have an official changing bag although they usually have lots of pockets/ compartments which are handy. I got one in the sale from Cath Kidston and would recommend. Usually come with a portable changing mat.
    • Items to include – nappies, wipes, nappy sacks, nappy cream, spare change of clothes, bottle and ready-made formula (if formula feeding), Milton steriliser wipes, dummies (where using), hand sanitiser.
  • Nappies
    • Completely personal preference in terms of brand. Pampers are great – a couple of packs of size 1 should be fine to start off with. As Archie’s got older I’ve moved to Aldi’s which I would also recommend.
  • Nappy sacks
    • You can’t really go wrong with these as they’re all pretty much the same but I like the close system on the Aldi ones.
  • Nappy bins
  • Wipes
    • Again completely personal preference so worth trying a few brands. I found Water Wipes too wet so we use Pampers now.
  • Nappy cream
    • We use Sudocrem at every nappy change which is great and prevents rashes. For stubborn nappy rashes we occasionally use Bepanthem which is very effective.
  • Baby bath
    • Would highly recommend the Schnuggle Bath which has a raised support so baby can sit comfortably and makes bathing so much easier when they’re small. Archie outgrew this at about 4 months.
  • Bath support
    • For use in the main bath, we bought the Angelcare bath support which has been great and made hair washing so much easier!
  • Baby wash and sponge
  • Bath thermometer
  • Hooded towels
    • Any would work fine – I bought a couple from TK Maxx.
  • Medicine kit
    • Colic relievers – Infacol/ gripe water – neither worked well in our experience but if your baby is colicky then it would be definitely worth trying.
    • Paracetamol – Calpol (2 months+) – useful to have on hand when baby is old enough for teething, colds, and vaccinations.
    • Cold remedies – Snufflebabe vapour rub, nasal aspirator, vapour plug-in – all useful for when your baby is really suffering with a cough/ cold
    • Teething – The only medicine (aside from paracetamol) that has worked for us has been Anbesol Liquid (over-the-counter).
    • Thermometer – very useful to have – we bought a digital one which inserts into the ear and has an age adjustment feature.
    • Cradle cap – not all newborns get cradle cap but lots do. I would recommend the Dentinox cradle cap shampoo.
  • Manicure kit
    • Nail scissors – wouldn’t recommend any of the child ones – I just use the blunt side of ours. Nail clippers are a definite no-no for me.
    • Hair brush – We use a standard one from Boots.

 Clothing

  • Sleepsuits
    • It’s so much easier to dress newborns in these than actual outfits so I would buy a few packs of these (with in-built scratch mitts) – in newborn, 1 month and 0-3 month sizes. Sainsburys/ Tesco/ Next/ M&S do a good range.
  • Vests
    • Either long- or short-sleeved these should be worn under sleepsuits (unless very warm) so buy a few packs of these too.
  • Pram suit (winter)
  • Socks
    • If you do buy any outfits you will need socks so maybe have a pack of newborn socks to hand.
  • Hat
    • It’s so hard to judge the size of this until your baby is here so maybe buy one newborn and one 1 month to start off with.
  • Cardigans
    • I was lucky enough to have a Nana who knitted us several cardigans for Archie and they were great for adding another layer. We also had a soft jacket from Tesco which was brilliant.

Play time

  • Bouncer
    • Our bouncer was an absolute godsend in the first 3 months because Archie generally didn’t like to be put down but liked the vibrating sensation of sitting in this. We bought the Joie Dreamer Baby Bouncer (when it was on offer – which these tend to be a lot of the time) and I would highly recommend.
  • Play mat
    • This is also useful from around 3-6 months so not worth spending a lot of money on but useful for providing stimulation and for tummy time. We bought a very bright coloured one from Mothercare (also on offer) which was great.
  • Toys
    • Pram toys – useful to have a few of these (ones which play a lullaby are useful for newborns) and I’d recommend the Bright Starts range.
    • Teethers – You probably won’t need any until around 4 months when babies start chewing on everything! I’d recommend the Matchstick Monkey which you can sterilise easily too (Sophie la Girafe is popular but is bigger so better for when they’re older and also it’s harder to wash because it can’t be submerged in water).