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

 

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.

 

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.

Going abroad with my 8 month old crawler

In October last year my husband and I braved a 4.5 hour flight to Tenerife with Archie for a 10 day holiday, at which point he was 8 months old and a very competent crawler. Despite having a lovely time, if I’m honest it’s not something I’d rush to do again so I thought I’d share our experience and some things you may wish to consider if you’re thinking of doing similar.

tenerife

  • Build in more time than you think you need at the airport – I know this is a difficult balance because you don’t want to be waiting at the airport with a baby to entertain for hours but make sure you build in enough time for multiple nappy/ clothes changes and feeds.
  • Check your luggage restrictions – with most airlines under 2s travel for free but they usually have to sit on your knee and they won’t be given any luggage allowance. So consider whether you need to pay for an extra bag.
  • Carrying and making up formula feeds – for travelling days I’d recommend carrying ready-made formula bottles with you so you don’t have to worry about making it up. Then think carefully about how much formula you will need when you’re away and what facilities you need to make it up. For us personally we took ready-made bottles for the whole trip which made life very easy – apart from having to fit it all in our luggage! We did pre-order some to arrive at the Boots at the airport though which worked well so that we could carry some in our hand luggage.
  • Is your baby easy to entertain? – some babies (age will play a big part here) are fairly chilled and content sitting on your knee whilst others need constant stimulation and are not happy sitting still. Clearly the former makes travelling much easier and if yours is like the latter then it might be worth travelling with friends/ family to share the load! If not, then take a couple of toys with you for the journey but be aware that they’ll probably be more interested in the things they’re not allowed/ the people around them!
  • Transfer arrangements – do you need a car seat? – if you have arranged a private transfer it’s likely you will need a car seat. When I researched into taking our own I realised that there was a high risk it could be damaged in transit so we opted to travel by coach in the end so Archie could sit on our knee.
  • What pushchair will you take with you? – similar to the above in terms of taking a pushchair that you don’t mind potentially being damaged in transit. We took a foldable Mamas and Papas one which worked well but the steering is definitely not the same as it was to begin with!
  • Is your baby a good sleeper on the move? – this was a big one for us (and something we hadn’t considered in much detail before). Archie generally doesn’t sleep anywhere but his cot which made the travelling days pretty painful. It also meant we were slightly restricted when we were away too – see next point.
  • Does your baby have a fixed routine at home? – if your baby has set nap/ meal/ feeding times at home then it might be worthwhile replicating this whilst your away to make life easier. We learnt this the hard way and soon realised that if we let Archie’s schedule rule the roost then we were all much happier!
  • Sterilising – if you need to sterilise anything whilst you’re away the cold water systems are great and you can buy dissolvable tablets which take up less space than steriliser liquids. Whatever system you choose just remember to account for it in your luggage and consider what you would do if your luggage went missing.
  • Is your baby being weaned? – if so think about taking some food pouches with you – luckily we did because the availability in Tenerife supermarkets was very limited and we didn’t want Archie to eat too much salt by eating out all the time.
  • Crawlers and pools/ the beach do not mix well – when booking our holiday I had visions of us lounging by the pool/ on the beach in a shaded area with our chilled out baby – oh how wrong I was! Archie has never really been content sitting still (even as a fidgety young baby!) so I should have known really. Keeping a crawler in the shade and in a safe, secure area at the beach/ pool is near-on impossible so you will need to accept that you won’t be spending your days sunbathing.
  • An apartment/ villa will give you more options – yes an all-inclusive hotel is appealing because there won’t be a need to cook but it does limit your options and you will feel inclined to eat all your meals in one place. We booked a hotel which had apartment rooms with half board dining so we only had to think about buying lunch. And importantly we had a separate living space to our bedroom with basic kitchen facilities which meant we could prepare easy meals/ snacks and once Archie had gone to bed we had a space of our own to chill out. Plus we had sun loungers on our balcony which was a huge plus for daytime naps so we could embrace a little bit of that sun!
  • If not in self-catered accommodation, check your dining times – the downside of having food included is that you will need to fit around the hotel’s dining schedule although if you choose a family hotel then most likely they’ll accommodate for early diners. Luckily for us our hotel started serving dinner at 6:30 which was just early enough to stretch Archie out without any major tantrums.
  • Accept your holiday will be very different than pre-baby – this is not to say you won’t have a great time but it’s probably best not to compare it to holidays you’ve had before and to accept a new way of doing things. No you won’t be getting a lie in but you’ll be the first to breakfast before it gets picked over. And yes you might be having your dinner at a time when most are having a late lunch but at least that gives you more time to yourselves in the evening. And so on. It’s all about changing your perspective and embracing a new kind of normal – something that us parents are pretty used to anyway!

If you’ve been away with your baby/ toddler, I’d love to know your experience, please comment down below.

 

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.

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