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 🙂

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.

Gifts for new parents/ new baby

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

new baby-parent gifts

Keepsake gifts

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

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

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

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

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

Gifts for the whole family

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

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

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

Gifts for mum

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

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

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

Gifts for baby

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

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

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

10 things I’ve learnt since becoming a mum

Ahead of Mother’s Day this weekend, and having just had my first full year as a mum, I thought I’d take a bit of time to reflect on 10 things I’ve learnt. To say it’s been a steep learning curve is a huge understatement so to be honest the below will never do it justice but I thought I’d try and pick out the main ones. I’d love to know what you think – please leave me a comment with yours 🙂

mummy and me edited

  1. Being a mum is really hard – I mean I never expected it to be a walk in the park but my goodness no one warned me that it would be the hardest job I’d ever do. The constant mental worries, the daily emotional rollercoaster, the physical strain when you’re so tired your eyes are burning and your back/ arms are aching. Of course it’s all completely worth it and makes it all the more rewarding but I don’t think I ever anticipated there would be a job where you never switch off – ever!
  2. There is no other love like it – I remember my dad telling me this before I had Archie and he said “one day, I promise you’ll see, it’s a love that’s impossible to describe. But there is nothing you wouldn’t do for your child. It’s a love that’s completely unconditional”. And of course, he was right, there really is no other love like the love you have for your child.
  3. I will always strive to be better – whether it’s providing Archie with the most balanced meals, getting his nap schedule completely right so he’s never overtired, making sure I’m interacting/ playing with him enough etc. there will literally never be a point where I feel like I can’t do better.
  4. It’s easy to forget about your relationship – it’s only natural that your relationship will take a backseat when you have a child but to be honest I never expected it to be as big a test as it’s been. And yet at the same time, I need my husband more than ever and we’ll never be part of a more significant team. The focus may no longer be on us but I do think it’s important to make time for each other and to be reminded of where it all started.
  5. No phase lasts – when things are feeling really tough and I’m not sure I can cope, I know it won’t last forever. And at the same time, when everything seems to be going to plan and we’ve had a good few days, I know to just soak it up because it also won’t last – there’s always another round of teething/ illness to get through but it’s those times that make you really appreciate the times before!
  6. My priorities have completely changed – whether it’s planning what we’re going to do for the day, planning out the future or simply who I choose to spend my time with, my number 1 priority is Archie and what’s best for him.
  7. Over-comparisons can be unhealthy – there are so many comparisons when you’re a mum – both about your child and the way you parent. Particularly from other mums – everyone wants to know about your child’s sleep, eating, feeding, pooing etc. – and of course most of it comes without malice, we’re all just sense checking to see whether we’re doing an OK job. But I do sometimes find it a bit too much and it plays on my own insecurities so I try my best not to pry too much into other’s routines these days.
  8. My support network is more important than ever – I think it’s natural that my support network has become smaller but it’s also so much stronger than it’s ever been. I honestly couldn’t cope without my closest family and friends who have got me through some of my toughest times but have made the good times so much better too.
  9. Finding time for myself is necessary – overcoming the “mum guilt” and putting myself first occasionally is something I still struggle with now. But I also know that to be the best mum possible, I need some time out sometimes to reset and recharge.
  10. There is no better job in the world – the biggest cliché going but it really is true. Being Archie’s mum is a huge privilege and there is no job more important or more rewarding.

 

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.

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.