Third trimester –preparing for baby number 2!

I can’t believe how quickly this pregnancy is going and now I’m well into the third trimester I thought I’d share some preparations we’ve been doing for baby number 2 – both practical and emotional 🙂

preparing for baby number 2

Preparing Archie for his new sister

Given his age (currently 20 months), we haven’t really explained to Arch that he’s going to have a baby sister because we feel he’s too young to understand and any mention of it seems to go ignored at the moment! But he has started going to nursery for 2 mornings a week to get him well settled in before she arrives. This is the first time me and him have really spent apart and selfishly it wasn’t something I was too keen on but I think it’s definitely best for the long-term. My attention will obviously be split when the new baby arrives and I want to make sure he gets enough stimulation and social interaction. Plus I’m already finding that I can be more focussed during the time we do spend together so hopefully it will benefit him in both ways.

Practical preparations

The new baby’s nursery is coming together well and although it’s not necessary for it to be fully ready as soon as baby is born (because she will sleep with us for the first few months) it’s something that I want to do so I can feel fully organised. All the furniture is in and it just needs a bit of organising and a few pictures up for it to feel finalised. I’ve also been sorting through all of Archie’s old clothes and seeing what we can reuse or anything new we might need. I’m yet to start the mammoth task that is washing it all though – eek!

Although I plan to try and breastfeed, I’m also getting everything sorted for bottle feeding (new teats and bottles, setting up the Perfect Prep machine and sterilisers) so that we have a Plan B should we need it.

We’ve now bought the adapters for our pram (iCandy Orange) so we just need to work out what combination will work best for it to be converted into a double.

I’ve also read that it’s a good idea to get all toys/ equipment out for the baby 2-3 weeks before our due date so Archie has a chance to familiarise and will no doubt lose interest in them by the time baby arrives.

Childcare during labour

Although we don’t have family who live near us, my parents are about an hour and a half drive away and have kindly offered to stay at ours and look after Archie when the new baby arrives. This is a huge weight off my mind because it’s a potentially unsettling time for Arch but I know with my mum and dad around he will be spoilt with attention and probably won’t even notice we’re gone. My husband commutes daily into London which is about an hour and a half away too so I’m just hoping if I go into labour, I will spot the signs early enough for everyone to get to me in time! Having been induced last time, and because I laboured quickly, this is something that’s playing on my mind a little but I do have some lovely mummy friends locally who could hopefully hold down the fort in the meantime, if it really came to it!

Introducing the siblings

I’ve been giving this quite a lot of thought and although in my head I always pictured a sweet moment of Archie meeting his little sister in hospital, I’m now thinking it’s probably best for Arch not to come into hospital at all. I think it would be really unsettling for him, especially if we have to then say goodbye and I can’t leave with him. So hopefully I won’t have a long stay in hospital and we can bring his sister home to meet him instead. I’ve read up some tips on how best to introduce your second born to your first so I thought I’d share these in case they’re useful:

  • Don’t hold your baby when first introducing– make sure your arms are free to give your first born as many cuddles as they need for reassurance
  • Introduce baby as “your baby sister”
  • Try to make the environment as non-medical as possible so it’s not frightening
  • Ask firstborn if he’d like to stroke or cuddle his new sister but don’t force it
  • Allow and accept any reaction – it’s a big confusing moment for them
  • If you want to document the moment then get someone else to take photos/ videos – you want to be there to support your firstborn as much as possible

Preparing to feel all the mum guilt

Ah this is one which I’m already feeling to be honest with you but I know that it’s just the beginning! I think it’s important to know it’s totally normal to feel like this though and that it just reflects how much you care and love your children. The below are a few areas of guilt that I’m expecting to feel but no doubt the reality will be slightly different:

  • Turning Archie’s world upside down and any negative reaction from him
  • Not being able to devote as much time to the new baby as I did the first time with Archie
  • Breastfeeding guilt – something I experienced quite badly first time round so I’m hoping to be much kinder to myself this time if breastfeeding doesn’t work out
  • Feeling like I’m not doing anything well and we’re just about surviving!

Interestingly that last point is something I felt constantly during Archie’s first year and I found striving purely for survival quite a depressing prospect to be honest. But having lived through it, I know that things do get easier, the good days do get more frequent and parts of your old life (before children) do come back again so I’m hoping that I don’t forget this easily and it can help get me through when everything feels a bit overwhelming.

Expecting chaos!

It’s strange looking back to the first few months of having Archie because I remember feeling like things were chaotic then and a bit all over the place (I’m a typical Virgo in that I love routine so this was tough!).

But this time round, I know there will be plenty more chaos in the house! And I’ll probably rarely feel on top of everything which is a bit daunting but I’m hoping that maintaining Archie’s structure (of sleeping, eating, nursery, classes) will help to give me a bit more of the routine I craved last time.

One thing I’ve heard from speaking to other mums is that it’s easy, particularly in the early days, to let someone else look after your firstborn whilst you get to grips with the new baby. But that actually this can be unsettling for your firstborn so it’s important to give them as much love and attention as you can as a way of reassurance.

I’m also aware that the firstborn can display a few behaviour changes as they deal with the emotions that can come from having a new baby in the house. This could be being more clingy than normal, not wanting affection from their parents, eating regressions, problems sleeping, increased tantrums etc. So I’m preparing myself for this and will try to be as understanding and as empathetic as I can, knowing it’s not personal, but just a time of adjustment for us all.

Self-care

It sounds a bit cliché and self-care seems to be the new buzzword, but one of the main things I’ve learnt since becoming a parent is that to be the best mum I can be, I need to take care of myself and ensure that I’m not always bottom of the priority list! For me, doing some form of physical exercise has always helped with my mental health so I’m hoping I can get back to doing maybe just one quick HIIT workout a week or a short run every now and again. But more importantly just finding a little “me time”, even if it’s just 5 mins of time to myself to clear my head and gain a little perspective – it’s very easy to get caught up in the bubble and lose sight of the bigger picture.

Are there any second-time parents out there who can offer more advice/ reassurance? I would love to hear it 🙂

Why it’s OK not to love the newborn stage

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

newborn stage

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

Dealing with so much change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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?