Lifesavers

Several blogging award ceremonies are now upon us. Every year, we nominate and then vote for our favourite bloggers – sometimes spending hours on one category because the category has three of your favourite blogs in it.

But where would we be without the little parenting lifesavers that have got us through the day so we could carry on blogging?

So without further ado, I present my Top 10 parenting lifesavers.

Breakfast biscuits – For when a proper breakfast is not going to happen. Without them, I would likely go hungry thanks to a mis-timed feed.

Bottle of water – ‘Nuff said.

Coffee creamer / whitener – For when a hot, milky coffee is not going to happen as soon as you’d like it. This stuff keeps hot drinks warmer for longer.

Nipple cream – In the early days, this stuff was liquid gold, especially the ones that didn’t need to be washed off before a feed.

Twitter – I’ve kept my sanity chatting to the lovely ladies and gents of Twitter. There’s either someone having the same day as you, or someone who just fancies a chat. I’ve spent many feeds stuck in the sofa with just the company of Twitter. It’s great.

Frozen meals – During the first few weeks we saved up left over portions of dinners so that if I was having a hectic day, I could just whack a meal in the oven. This has been a huge help with zero effort as all it took was cooking a larger lasagne, for example. This also saved our wallets (and waistlines) from buying takeaways!

Vanish – For those white to yellow vest days. I need to take out shares in this stuff.

Nursing Pillow – Apart from it’s obvious use, it’s also good for being a neck pillow for a last minute nap after a feed and T is on my chest. No more cricks in your neck.

Baby TV – Not my proudest life-saver, and when I caught myself letting him watch the TV I cried a little bit, but within the ten minutes I let him watch the telly during a challenging day I got to go the toilet and prepare some (decent) food. Although it is only ten minutes I still feel guilty about doing it, trust me.

My stretchy wrap – Probably my biggest life-saver. For when T doesn’t want to be put down, and I want to cook dinner. It also means I can nip to the shops without packing up the pram.

What are your parenting life savers?

K

The Self-help Guide to Baby Brain

You get it when you’re pregnant and I can almost guarantee you it won’t ever go away. Baby brain.

  
For me, the most extreme case of it was when I was pregnant and I put the kettle in the fridge after making tea. More recently, I’ve walked half way to my mums to find I didn’t grab the changing bag. There was also this one time I tried to hand S the baby but there was no baby in my arms and was therefore cradling nothing – but I think that was linked more to sleep deprivation.

To help me (somewhat) combat baby/mum brain here are a few things I now do on a regular basis.

Lists. I cannot get enough of these. Paper, the blackboard in the kitchen, even the notes section on my phone – there are lists for lists. Shopping, housework, even where I have to go in a day are all written down.

Planning ahead. S knows it’s no good springing something on me that needs doing last minute. I won’t remember. So now we have to make sure either a) she asks me a week in advance, or b) she tells me that morning and then sends me a reminder text that day. I also make use of the family calendar/planner to write… Everything. .. Down.

Alarms. Like said lists, there are several alarms on my phone reminding me to do something, not to mention apps that note things down for me like; when T last fed, what his nappy looked like, what boob I used last. It’s all written down.

Talk about your day. It’s so easy, especially whilst on maternity leave, for days to blend into one. Talking about your day; no matter how dull it may have been, will help differentiate the days from each other.

Overdoing it. If you all know me well enough by now, you know that I rarely just chill out and sit down. I have to do something in my “spare” time. Now, however, I’m learning not to over do it otherwise I run the risk of forgetting something. I burnt the steamer the other day by letting it burn dry – all because I thought I’d be able to steam some veg and also “quickly” change T – but this then turned into a poonami and full clothing change. Awesome (!).

  

Baby brain is no laughing matter (it’s hilarious). If you know someone with baby brain, love and support them… They’ll get through it… Hopefully. If they don’t, get used to burnt dinners, late pick ups, and someone who thinks it’s still Tuesday when it’s Thursday.

K

The Good Baby

“Is T a good baby?”

I’ve never really understood this term. How can babies be “bad”?

Is there an assumption that because they wake up at night or cry during the day that they’re bad? I don’t think so. I can’t imagine that what they’re doing; whether it’s crying at 4am, is intentional because they’re naughty.

Babies cry. Babies wake up at night. Babies sometimes require feeds throughout the night. I doesn’t make them bad babies – it means they’re growing babies, and that’s GOOD! Heaven forbid T ignores his soggy nappy in fear of being thought of as a “bad” baby.

Last week I was asked twice in one day whether T was a “good” baby, and it really annoyed me. Within a space of a few seconds I had to decide how to answer. Do I say yes and submit to a term I hate in fear of them thinking that T is a “bad” baby? Do I say no and hate myself for calling T a bad baby just because he wakes in the night and because of this, apparently classes as being a bad baby? Or do I stand up against the term and say that, actually, T isn’t a bad or good baby – he’s just a developing baby.

In the end I didn’t answer and just said that he works hard at just being a baby, and that I couldn’t be prouder. T is an awesome baby regardless of whether he cries at night or not. Sure, he has good days where he’s happy for me leave him or put him down, other days, not so much – but that’s fine because that’s him having a bad day, not because he’s a bad baby. They don’t exist.

 

Deciding whether to be bad today… yeah right.

 

Looking after the “Us”. 

Me and S have been just “us” for a long time. We’ve always had the freedom to accept invites to parties and stay out late. We wouldn’t have an issue going out for dinner or having a lay in at weekends.

On top of this we were often able to be quite romantic and spontaneous.

IMG_3909

So when T arrived, everything we once had went out the window. Of course we didn’t mind, it’s what we always wanted, but we had to make sure that it wasn’t lost forever and that we as a couple weren’t lost.

On top of this, it’s very easy, especially when you’re tired, to turn on each other and snap, and there have been occasions where S and I have done this. So to make sure we weren’t on a downward path, adaptations have already been made to make sure we’re still Sharon and Kate…

IMG_6134-0

Work as a team. We’ve always done this, but it’s more important now that T is around. During the night feeds, for example, I’ve recently agreed to S going to get T from his Moses basket and changing him whilst I slowly wake up and get myself ready. By the time S has finished and brought him back in, I’m awake and ready. S then goes back to sleep whilst I feed him. Other things include S doing dinners at weekends, and walking the dog before work. This team work makes everyone feel involved and it means we’re sharing the workload.

Avoid talking about T (all the time).  We love T dearly, but dinner times, especially now, are dedicated to non-baby stuff and more “us” stuff.

Going to bed early. We don’t want to wipe our evenings out, but going to bed early sometimes gives us a chance to just snuggle and chat. We still sometimes have evenings on the sofa catching up on shows we’ve missed, but going to bed instead some evenings mean we get time to ourselves without the distraction of technology.

Seeing the romance in things. It may just be being given an extra sausage at breakfast (ooo err), or saving your last rolo, but little romantic gestures like this make all the difference.

Over time, and once I have a regular expressing pattern, we hope to leave T with his nan and go on a proper “date” with each other. This may, at first, start off as just having an afternoon to ourselves at home or a cinema date, but we aim to one day have a whole evening (and night) to ourselves!

Don’t get me wrong, I already feel guilty about planning on handing T over or talking about how we want to be alone, but I really value the alone time with my wife as well. We’ve worked hard to make us what we are so I certainly don’t want to lose it.

K

The Breastfeeding Chronicles – Expressing

Now that T is over 6 weeks, I’ve started to express properly now. There’s no particular reason why as I still intend on breastfeeding, I just feel it would be benefical to have a stash in the freezer in case all of a sudden I can’t feed. There’s also the occasions where S and I fancy may fancy getting my mum in to babysit, or when I may want S to feed T.

We already know, and are incredibly lucky, that T can bounce between bottle and breast, so on the occasions when he is bottle fed, I’m pleased knowing I can still breastfeed him after.

Timing 

I’m trying to express either after a feed around the 2am/3am mark because I find I’m quite engorged by then, or at 6am before T’s 7am feed. Apparently your milk supply is at its peak between 3am and 5am. I’ve tried to express in the evening after his last feed but I find I’m not getting as much out – probably because my body now knows no milk is required after 9pm.

Generally, it’s really hard to decide when to express. Pumping before a feed means that T will then feed on hind milk straight away if I feed him straight after, however it means the expressed milk will be mostly foremilk. Expressing after a feed, however, means that I may not get as much out, but the bottle itself will be hind milk.

At the moment I’m often getting 3-6oz a session which I think is pretty good. Hopefully as time passes, I’ll get more.

Equipment

I’m currently using an electric dual pump by Lactaline. I wasn’t too sure about spending the extra cash on a dual pump at first, but during the early days when I suddenly forgot to clean the first pump and bottle it was useful having a second on standby. I’ve used the two pumps at the same time once or twice but I often can’t concentrate on the two, and I end up looking like this:

I actually enjoy expressing, mainly because there’s something about getting something for free! But joking aside, I’m always worried about my supply, especially on days when T cluster feeds and just doesn’t seem satisfied. The thought of suddenly drying up scares me so I definitely want to make sure I’ve taken and stashed away as much as possible.

Here are a few tips if you’re thinking about expressing:-

Learn how your baby feeds.

Before you start expressing it’s good to know how your baby feeds so you can mimmick the action to get the milk flowing freely.

Know when to stop.

Your baby will come off the breast when they’re finished (hopefully) so learn to do the same, or risk a sore nipple.

Get comfy. 

Although you have the luxury of stopping if you need a wee or a drink, it’s still worth getting yourself comfy as it may have taken you a while to get the flow going.

Storage. 

Most expressing kits come with lids for the bottles, but I recommend getting breastmilk freezer bags. They’re easier to store than the bottles, whether you stand them up or lay them down, and it means you can empty the bottle into the bag and continue expressing.

Time your sessions

If you know your baby feeds at 8am don’t start expressing at 7.30am, unless you know you can express enough and be ready for baby in that space of time. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a sneaky session and your baby suddenly wants a feed. You have to quickly pack everything up,

From timing your feeds to storing the milk, BE CAREFUL. Expressing is one of the only activities where you run the risk of ACTUALLY crying over spilt milk.

K

The Breastfeeding Chronicles – Feeding On The Go

It’s hard enough learning how to breastfeed in the first few weeks without the thought of having to then do it outside.

At home you have the comfort of being able to whip your boob out without wandering eyes. You don’t have to worry about what clothes to wear, where to sit, or even about putting it away after feeding.

So when S suggested going out within the first week, my first thoughts were feeding T. Would the place be breastfeeding friendly? Would I have to go outside? What would people say? I certainly wasn’t resorting to sitting in the toilet but at the same time this was completely alien to me.

At first I was nervous. Would I be skilled enough to whip it out without people noticing? What should I wear? Would T feed outside comfortably? Turns out it was easier than I realised. We still took an emergency bottle of formula, but we didn’t need it.

The first time I did it I was in a mothercare feeding room so not too daunting, but it was still an experience doing it in front of other women as well as doing it without the comforts of my cushions and pregnancy pillow. It took me a while to get comfortable, but in no time T was latched and I was sat chatting to three other ladies who were also feeding their babies. It was actually really enjoyable.

The next time I did it I was in a country pub, sat outside. This one was a little more trickier. Although I had a nursing top on, I still had to manage unhooking my nursing bra and being discreet at the same time. Thankfully, the table we were sat at was in the perfect position and I was well hidden, so well hidden in fact that the waitress didn’t notice I was feeding when she came to clear our plates.

I’ve since fed T a few times now whilst out and about. I’ve fed T in parks and cafés, as well as on a dog walk. I still sometimes prefer to feed him in the backseat of my car before we start our day out if there is literally nowhere to go but it’s not the worst place in the world.


Saying that, I do still get frustrated with myself at times when I don’t find the courage or feel comfortable feeding outside, I guess I worry there’ll be confrontation. But as someone recently said; “…every feed completed outside is a step forward. Take baby steps” and they’re right. I need to stop beating myself up.

Here are a few of my tips to feeding outside:-

Wear a suitable top. I’ve done it already, I’ve gone out in my favourite t-shirt (I haven’t worn it in 9 months!) and realised I need to feed T. Out comes the gut and spare tyre. It’s not so bad in the car or a feeding room but it’s not something I want to put on show in a café or restaurant. Try and wear a button down shirt or nursing top. A zip up hoody had also come in handy as I can zip myself up with T inside once I remove my arm from the sleeve.

Pack an extra muslin. If you’re still not confident or quick enough to whip it out before anyone notices then an extra muslin is a good way to hide everything discreetly but also send a message as to what you’re doing. A separate one to one you probably already have will mean you don’t have to have a milky/messy one sat near your nostrils.

Expect people to stare. It shouldn’t be the case but it still is, unfortunately. As long as people don’t say anything you’ll soon get used to people giving you a quick double take as you start feeding. With this in mind, it’ll help if you perhaps don’t choose to feed in somewhere like The Ritz – we all know that’ll definitely attract attention.

Power in numbers. Leading on from the above, feeding in numbers means people are unlikely to say anything anyway. You’ll also feel more confident if you’re just starting out as you can see how other mums feed.

Don’t rush. You take your time with your meal, why shouldn’t your baby? If you know a feed is due, find somewhere you’ll both be happy to stay for a while. Likewise, if you find yourself in a café make sure you take your time drinking that coffee otherwise it’ll cost you a fortune!

Get comfy. Similar to the above, find somewhere with comfy seating or a view – you’re going to be there a while.  Likewise, if you’re not sure about the weather don’t plonk yourself outside!

Accessorise. No. I don’t mean putting a boob shaped hat on your baby, I’m talking about your accessories. Make the most out of the time in between feeds and whack that nipple cream on. Take extra nipple pads with you or even a spare top or bra in case spillage happens from you or baby.

Remember:- Breastfeeding is not indecent or illegal.

What are your breastfeeding-on-the-go tips?

K