Wednesday, 16 November 2016

So many blogs, so little time. Where do I start?

I follow quite a lot of blogs and websites but juggling this blog, motherhood and two businesses is sometimes too much and catching up on them all is just too daunting. But, I love reading articles and research on parenting etc and want to keep doing so. 
I’m not keen on subscribing to email notifications as I already have what feels like a million emails a day to go through. 
I've found that the best way for me to keep up to date is by liking/following their Facebook pages and then the links to articles pop up on my news feed and I can pick and choose which interest me. I can also click on the save button to remind me to read later.

So, here’s a list of some of my favourite blogs/websites and Facebook pages:

I’ll start with a shameless plug of my Facebook page! I share lots of interesting articles and of course link to new blog posts of my own:

Evolutionary Parenting:
Tracy Cassels, PhD is the founder of Evolutionary Parenting. She writes really interesting pieces all of which are evidence based. She has a background in Cognitive Science, Clinical Psychology and Developmental Psychology.

Janet Lansbury Elevating Child Care:
Once an actress and model (Janet Julian) was inspired by infant expert Magda Gerber in the early 1990’s and found her calling. Magda's theories about child-rearing, and mentorship with her changed Janet’s life. She trained with Magda for several years and eventually became a parenting advisor and teacher. 
Her book ‘No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame’ was (and still is) an absolute life saver for me. 

Gentle Sleep Book:
Sarah Ockwell-Smith is a well known baby & toddler expert and a highly regarded popular parenting author who specialises in the psychology and science of parenting, ‘gentle parenting’ and attachment theory.
Her book ‘The Gentle Sleep Book’ was a game changer for us. I highly recommend it.

Gentle parenting:
Founded by Lorraine Berry, Sarah Ockwell-Smith and Kate Sutherland. Between them they have ten children, one midwifery degree, one psychology degree, one business degree, two antenatal teaching qualifications, three published parenting books and a whole lot of passion and belief.

L.R.Knost - Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources:
Best-selling author, L.R.Knost, is an independent child development researcher and founder and director of the advocacy and consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, as well as a monthly parenting and education contributor to The Natural Parent Magazine. She is also a babywearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping, homeschooling, mother of six. 
One of her most famous and poignant quotes (which I really love) is 
“It's not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It's our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”

Aha parenting:
Dr. Laura Markham creates Aha! moments for parents of kids from babies through teens. She trained as a Clinical Psychologist at Columbia University, but she's also a mom, so she understands kids -- and parents!

Pinky McKay:
An International Board certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), with a busy private practice in Melbourne, Australia, Pinky McKay is a best-selling author with four titles published by Penguin. Her posts don’t come up in my feed quite as much as I’d like because of the time difference with Australia. I usually find they come up when I’m having a sleepless night or if I’m up at 5am!

Analytical Armadillo:
An International Board certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Breastfeeding Counsellor. Writing about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, infant health & parenting thoughts - plus anything else she finds interesting and fancies sharing.

Attachment Parenting UK:
All things Attachment Parenting related. Which means building strong bonds by responding in a timely & sensitive way, modelling behaviour & connecting with respect & empathy, relationship quality built on physical & emotional closeness and feeling your way with trust in your instinct and compassion for yourself.

This website was developed to provide evidence based information on breastfeeding and parenting. She is the mother of three children, and is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Articles are helpful and encouraging.

BellyBelly is where thinking women and men turn to for the best, evidence-based pregnancy, birth, and parenting information. It’s an Australian website so much like Pinky McKay their posts come up in my newsfeed at funny times of day.

The Badass Breastfeeder:
Abby Theuring is a blogger, public speaker, social worker, activist, wife and mother of 2 breastfeeding boys. She writes about all aspects of parenting and being a woman.

Of course there are tons of brilliant pages, blogs and websites, this is just a collection of some of my favourites. Please let me know if there’s one that you love too so I can check it out.

Dawn x

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Music for toddlers (that doesn't drive adults nuts...not all adults anyway)

Toddler D loves music. She asks for music on all of the time and whilst she'll tolerate the radio (my choice of station...I won't give away my age by telling you which) she'd sooner have 'children's music' on. The usual nursery rhymes and hokey kokeys are ok for a few minutes but in large doses make me want to cut my own ears off.

So, the quest began to find children's music that she, I and Daddy can all enjoy together. As a rule of thumb all 3 of us enjoy/can tolerate folksy style of music so you’ll find most of my recommendations are along these lines. Toddler D went through a stage of loving Björk which suited myself and hubby down to the ground but alas a few months later she wasn’t so keen and wanted to sing along…I may be able to sing along happily to Hyperballad or Earth Intruders but the lyrics really are not suitable for a two year old! 

When Toddler D was Baby D, a friend recommended Lullaby by Sophie Barker (of Zero 7). I then discovered this was part of a box set of 3 albums called The Rainbow Collections. It has a lullaby disc, one called Toy Box with nursery rhymes and Snowflake, a selection of (mostly secular) Christmas songs. It's a really lovely collection. It has a folksy vibe with a genuine band playing the music and it's generally very pleasant and Sophie's voice is so beautiful. 
A few CDs I picked up from Amazon
Here's a few others that I found in a variety of places like iTunes, Spotify and Amazon (all links below are iTunes but you can find them in other stores and streaming sites):

KIDS music for PARENTS that hate KIDS music by various artists. Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Shake it up! Shake it off! by various artists. Super fun. The song I’ve Got a Goat has a 90s indie vibe to it (I’m generally stuck in the 90s with my music taste)

Remember Lisa Loeb who sang 'Stay (I Missed You)' in the 90s? She has done some lovely kids’ music
Camp Lisa is a cute and slightly bizarre album all about going on camp.

Catch The Moon by Lisa Loeb & Elizabeth Mitchell is super sweet and one of my favourites along with:

You are my Little Bird by Elizabeth Mitchell. This one is guaranteed to cheer us up on a grey day.

Little Folks by Bobbie Lancaster. My favourite song on this one is called Bananas. A lady with a gorgeous voice singing along to a guitar.

The Apple Tree & The Honey Bee by Bari Koral Family Rock Band. Folksy and fun. Dancing Bear is a firm favourite in our household and always gets a spontaneous hop around the living room from Toddler D.

Sing Along! by Caspar Babypants. Like a kids version of Jack Johnson I’d say, really fun.

Sing-a-longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George by Jack Johnson. Everyone loves Jack Johnson and his chilled out surfer tunes.

Mary Had a Little Amp by various. Theres a few weird ones on this but it’s generally good and pleasant to listen to. Includes Maroon 5’s version of Pure Imagination and songs by Moby, Jack Johnson, Madonna, REM and Lou Reed.

Songs for the Young at Heart by various. Includes a beautiful version of White Horses sang by Cerys Matthews and The Lion & Albert poem read by Jarvis Cocker (remember Albert gets eaten by the lion so some children may get upset by it!)

Anyhoo, have you heard any of these or fancy giving any a try? Let me know your recommendations.

Dawn x

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Paintpotts - painting pottery with a toddler in Thornbury

I'm always on the look out for different things to do with Toddler D (can’t really call her Baby D anymore now she’s 2 years old) and when a new pottery painting shop in Thornbury opened I knew we had to give it a go. Toddler D, like her mummy is rather arty and crafty. She’s painted pots before elsewhere and loved it and I’d never painted any pottery myself before but really wanted to give it a go.

Paintpotts is in the centre of Thornbury in a lovely old building. When you walk in it is bright and airy with a large selection of things you can paint from tiles to jugs and figurines on display and beautiful rainbow of ‘splats’ of each colour that you can use when painting your chosen item - the colours look quite different once fired so this is particularly useful. We were welcomed by super friendly staff and they explained to us how things worked clearly. They were on hand for help when needed and were especially good with Toddler D.

I’ve been twice…so far…and will be going again very soon! 

You can simply turn up and get cracking. No need to book. They also have special sessions like toddler mornings on Mondays and Wednesdays which we went to. It’s story theme painting (we did Elmer the Elephant) followed by playtime in play zone. 
Toddler D painted a tile. We started off trying to paint Elmer but she is extremely independent and hates my interference especially when her creative energy is in full flow so I just let her get on with it. She produced a lovely, colourful abstract tile with no resemblance to Elmer whatsoever.
the artist at work

I ordered a cup of tea - yes - you can have a cuppa whilst you work. They serve a good selection of food and drinks. There's hot and cold drinks, paninis, kids foods and their cakes are extremely yummy.
I also breasfed Toddler D - mid painting - at the table, in full view of everyone whilst she wore her apron and waved a paintbrush around. Nobody batted an eyelid which was refreshing. In fact I saw another mummy across the room do the same with her toddler too which made me very happy. 
After Toddler D had finished painting she went to the play zone. It’s a brilliant play area with wendy house, books and loads of toys. Perfect to entertain little ones. And something that I especially liked about the play area is that it’s very clean. One of my pet hates in play cafés and places with toys available is that more often or not everything is grubby or even filthy. But here it’s all fresh and lovely and well maintained.
this wendy house is very popular with Toddler D

a toy kitchen is always a winner!

Another special session they do which I went to on MY OWN (going anywhere on my own for fun seldom happens) was Ladies Night on a Thursday 7-9pm. I went along with a few friends. We sat and painted to our hearts content in the lovely atmospheric room upstairs that was decorated with fairy lights and candles with relaxing music playing and you can even bring your own wine and they’ll provide the corkscrew, glasses and nibbles. I was driving so drank tea instead and had a great big slice of chocolate cake to myself. It was bliss.
I painted a jug which I’m really rather pleased with.

For the smaller children there are Ikea Antilop high chairs - always a winner for us and they also have booster seats which are a fab idea for the slightly bigger but still little kids. And the kids’ polka dot aprons are just too cute.

The toilets are immaculate complete with nice decoration and lovely pottery on the windowsill. We are at the stage now where I have to change Toddler D's nappy on the floor (I have a fold up changing mat) and I would have no hesitation here. It's spacious and spotless, you even get an individual hand towel to dry your hands.

All in all we loved it and will definitely be going again in the near future.

Have you been yet?

Dawn x

Saturday, 23 July 2016

A holiday in Pembrokeshire with a toddler (and 2 dogs)

We've recently returned home from a week's holiday in Pembrokeshire, west Wales. It was one of the best holidays I've ever had and was definitely the most relaxed I've been since giving birth 2 years ago.
In the past we've usually gone to Devon or Cornwall but fancied a change, we weren't disappointed. 
For a start it's super easy for us to get to Pembrokeshire, we just whizz down the M4 then onto A48 and A40 then you're pretty much there. Much easier than all the wiggly, windy lanes on the way to Cornwall.

We are the kind of family that likes to be out in the sticks, somewhere quiet that we can let the dogs have a good run and let our hair down. We are not ones for going on lots of excursions or visiting lots of attractions. Our days are happiest spent walking in the countryside, visiting cafes and beaches, eating locally sourced foods and generally chilling out.
Baby D never goes in a buggy - we abandoned ours nine months ago, she either walks or we carry her in a Toddler Tula. This makes our lives easier in many ways as so many places in the countryside are not buggy friendly. And if you rely on buggy use this is definitely not the holiday for you!

But trying to find somewhere that allows two dogs and is toddler friendly is really quite hard!

After scouring the internet I found Hendre House Cottages which looked perfect for our needs. It's 3 miles from Solva - a small fishing village in Pembrokeshire. And even closer to the nearest beach.
They have 3 cottages that sleep various numbers of guests, we hired the Old Chapel which has one double bedroom with space for travel cot. 
It is seriously the most lovely place. You arrive (out in the sticks on a country lane) to a long, leafy, tree lined driveway which you follow past Hendre House and to the well kept car park then you see the beautiful cottages. It's slightly isolated, which is the way we like it and very quiet. All you hear is birdsong.
The Old Chapel & corner of pool house

The Old Chapel is an upside down house with the bathroom and bedroom downstairs and the lounge- kitchen-diner upstairs. There's a little enclosed yard which was great for the dogs and a big space under the stairs which also was perfect for the dogs' beds. 

The whole house was immaculately kept with tasteful decoration and everything you could possibly need. 
We arrived to a display of Spring flowers on the kitchen table, freshly baked Welsh cakes (super yummy, they lasted all of five minutes as we crammed them in our gobs) tea, coffee and milk and a full wood store ready for the open fire complete with fire guard.

As suggested by Michelle the owner we organised a Tesco grocery delivery for our arrival day so we didn't even have to go anywhere to get all of our food for the week.

The kitchen was equipped with extras such as scales, blender, dishwasher, washer-drier, high chair, baby/toddler cutlery, plates, bowls and cups. There were a good selection of cleaning products all of which were Ecover which made us very happy.

Something I found especially helpful was a list of optional extras they can supply if you have a baby or toddler. We asked for stair gates (definitely needed) at the top and bottom of the stairs, potty, bath thermometer, bath toys and various other bits and bobs. 

There was even a jar of dog biscuits and a ready filled poop bag dispenser so our furry friends didn't feel left out!

On site, about 5 steps from the cottage there is a lovely indoor heated swimming pool. We went in it every day. There was a good selection of inflatables, balls and toys to keep the younger ones entertained.
There's also a small playground area with swings and climbing frame which were a firm favourite of Baby D, a barbecue hut and a shed that's totally rammed with entertainments for all ages. There were books, DVDs, games, puzzles, toys. Baby D was in her element choosing which books to read next. She's a proper little bookworm.
They have grounds which are good for stretching the dogs' legs, not for a proper walk but they can play ball, have a sniff about and do their business.
playground and barbecue hut
The closest beach is a 5-10 minute drive away at Newgale. It's a gorgeous, huge, sandy beach and was virtually deserted. The dogs had the time of their lives running around the 2 miles of soft sands whilst Baby D made sand castles and drew circles in the sand using the biggest stick available.
It's not the easiest beach to get onto however. Had we been a family that relied on a buggy rather than a sling we would have really struggled. There's plenty of parking and toilets right by the beach but to get to the sand you have to climb down a very pebbly and steep slope. Anyone with mobility issues would find it very hard. And I would even bother trying with a buggy.
Newgale beach
We also enjoyed walking along the sand at Solva harbour. When the tide is out you can walk from the car park (National Trust members can park there for free) all the way along the river bed to the sea. It's really magical walking alongside the boats on the sand by the cliffs to the water's edge. 
There's also walks on either side of the harbour. Ones we did were along the footpath on the right as you look out to see leading to a cafe and another up on the left up to the cliff edge and Gribin headland. The latter being quite hard going for a toddler but our little trooper managed it...albeit a wee be slowly.
Another lovely walk is along Prendergast woods which is awash with bluebells in the Spring.
Looking towards Solva harbour from the sea
Pretty much every day...sometimes more than once a day we visited our favourite dog and toddler friendly café situated by the car park on the edge of the harbour called Thirty Five Café.
They were warm and friendly, the locally sourced food was delicious and the unisex bathroom with baby changing was clean, spacious (plenty of space for wheelchair or buggy/pram) and even had emergency changing supplies of wetwipes etc. 
Baby D in her toddler Tula in St Davids
We visited the city of St David's several times. It was about a 20-30 minute drive away. It's the smallest city in the UK and is more like a small town in size. Most places were dog friendly and we enjoyed walking around the cathedral grounds and around the city streets. There are lots of galleries, restaurants, cafés, and shops.

We had such a lush time. Loved every minute.

We definitely want to go back. It was fantastic and perfect for our little family.

Dawn x

Saturday, 9 July 2016

How on earth do you brush a toddler's teeth?

This seems to be a question I see a lot on various groups and forums so I thought I'd share our experience which through lots of trial and error have found almost continuous success.

When Baby D's first few teeth came through she was only 6 or so months old so it was pretty easy. We used Brush-Baby dental wipes. You just pop the little ‘sleeve’ on your finger and wipe around the gums and over the teeth. Easy peasy…until tooth number 4 came through and she bit my finger very hard! I then needed to find an alternative.

She was teething like crazy and I tried with a tiny toothbrush but all she’d do is chew on it. Cue the chewable toothbrush. Again by Brush-Baby is the Soft Chewable Toothbrush. It’s made from silicone with soft ‘bristles’ in a curved shape that echoes the shape of the gums. You just put a small smear of toothpaste on the bristles and baby can happily chew away on it and brush their teeth at the same time. They also make a teething toothpaste in apple-mint flavour which Baby D particularly liked. It contains xylitol which is great for teeth (and natural too) plus fluoride but a reduced amount. There seems to be conflicting views on how much fluoride babys can have but I know you have to minimise swallowing so it doesn’t damage their tummies. There is no way I am going to persuade a baby to spit out toothpaste, that’s just daft. So I concluded that a reduced amount might be good at this stage.

It wasn’t until Baby D was around 1 that we started using a proper toothbrush every day. She was given one by the health visitor at her year 1 check and she immediately wanted to give it a go. We started off great guns with her happily opening her mouth and me brushing. This lasted only a week or two before she became bored of it. She then started the extremely annoying habit of clamping down on the toothbrush or refusing to open her mouth. Obviously brushing teeth is an extremely important thing to do every day so after a few days of trying and failing at getting her teeth brushed properly I saw no alternative other than forcing it. After 30 seconds of screaming and crying I realised I’d done the wrong thing and swore I’d never force anything upon her ever again. Forcing her to have her teeth brushed twice a day is not only unsustainable and highly stressful for her and me but also sends the wrong message about consent. Pus I was concerned that making this unpleasant for her may make her develop a fear or aversion to tooth related things and I didn’t want that. We had to come up with a gentle solution.

We use a variety of approaches depending on Baby D's mood, tiredness level and time constraints. We don't restrict brushing to the bathroom. We have the smallest bathroom in the UK and there simply isn't enough space for two people even when one of them is a toddler. So, it usually happens in the bedroom sat on the bed. 
We always use two toothbrushes. She inevitably wants to hold one herself and brush her own teeth / brush your teeth / brush teddy's teeth or generally wave one about. 
We always ask her first ("we need to brush your teeth now, is that okay?") to gauge which approach to use:
  • If she says 'yes' which is happening more and more we simply ask her to open her mouth and get brushing. She may well want to brush our teeth too (which I let her do but hubby doesn't) or whatnot at the same time but that's fine. It may also take 5 minutes as she randomly gets distracted and tries to do other things. If she gets too distracted we'll read her a story at the same time - having a second person at this point is much easier and she'll settle down and concentrate on the book whilst we brush.
  • If she has a little grumble about it we have to change tack and get her laughing. We used to do 'tickle toothbrush' whereby Daddy would tickle tummy or feet and I'd get brushing whilst she laughed. A few weeks ago she decided that she didn't like this anymore and like I said earlier I don't want to force anything upon her so we have to find other ways of making her laugh. The latest is by pretending to sniff her toes and exclaiming "poo-eee! Stinky!" Which she finds utterly hilarious and works a treat.
  • If she says 'no' we sit her down and explain why it's so important that she brushes, remind her of tv shows she's seen that feature brushing like Peppa Pig and Topsy & Tim, maybe have a little singsong or story then once she's happier about the prospect make her laugh using the above techniques.
  • If she gets upset immediately we know that if we push it there will be a full-on meltdown (doesn't happen very often) so we go straight in with the chewable toothbrush and ensure the next brushing is an extra thorough one.
Other techniques that we've tried and failed with include buying a special electric toothbrush which terrified her, watching YouTube clips and making up toothbrushing songs and bribery. 

So, as Baby D approaches 2 years old we successfully brush her teeth twice a day. We accept that it may take 15 minutes using various methods (albeit a bit/very annoying sometimes) but at least it is done without tears from her or us.

Do you have any tried and tested techniques?

Happy brushing

Dawn x

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

National Breastfeeding Week post: My Breastfeeding Journey...2 years in

It's National Breastfeeding week so it's only right that I talk a bit about my experience with breastfeeding. I'm now approaching 2 years into my breastfeeding journey. I'm lucky enough to have had no problems since those early days when Baby D and I were learning the ropes (see my early days post and my update post).

I was breastfed as a baby and have always known breastfeeding mums so there was no question in my mind that this was the way I wanted to feed my child. I remember saying to people when I was pregnant that I was going to 'try' breastfeeding. I said 'try' because that's what everyone else seemed to say and I didn't want to come across as arrogant or whatnot but what I really meant was 'I will bloody well do whatever it takes to succeed in breastfeeding my child'.

Breastfeeding is honestly one of the best things I've ever done in my life. I feel passionately that it's a wonderful thing and know how hard it can be at the start. Getting that support network in the beginning and being as prepared as possible was key in my success. I've been going to a Breastfeeding Support Group since Baby D was 3 weeks old. Although I didn't need much breastfeeding help as such, I needed support, a friendly face and someone to listen to my thoughts and worries. Some kindred spirits to keep me sane! It's run by Barnado's at the local Sure Start centre and is such a lovely and positive group. Peer Supporters and Breastfeeding Councellors are there to do just that: support. They are are not there to judge. They are there to listen, care, help mums identify their options and help them to help themselves. They helped me so much with my confidence, I've made some great friends and really look forward to each week when I get to sit and have a chat with fellow mums over a cuppa.

I have now trained as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter through Barnardo's so that I can help and support new mums like others have done for me.
The training itself was totally fascinating, I learned so much - more than I can ever remember learning in a short amount of time, especially since leaving school many moons ago. And the more I learned about the benefits both for mum and baby and how these benefits continue past age two (for some reason I had in my mind that this was the cut off point for benefits) the more and more I want to allow Baby D to self wean when she is ready. I have the luxury of being self employed and working from home so this is a realistic prospect.
Now as a peer supporter I help to run two breastfeeding support groups, help out at events and also help run the associated Facebook groups. It's all voluntary and I enjoy it immensely. Only today I was at an expectant parent event at Mothercare chatting to pregnant mums about breastfeeding.

Yay for boobs!

Dawn x

Here's the beginning of my breastfeeding journey, I wrote this when Baby D was 7 months old:

My breastfeeding journey wasn't easy to start off with. We got off to a fantastic start on the first couple of days then it all went downhill. Thanks to my amazingly supportive and understanding partner and the kind words of encouragement, advice (some amazing advice) and love from my friends Lucy, Rildy and Abbey I was able to get through the hard times...of which there were many. Reading the following post back to myself I'm surprised I made it through! It just goes to show how support from other people is so important in those first weeks.

Straight after the caesarean section in the recovery ward Baby D was put on my chest skin-to-skin and within 30 mins of birth she was suckling lovely. It was truly amazing that this tiny little thing knew exactly what to do. Over the next two days in hospital she/we got on better with it and because of success with feeding were allowed home. milk came in.

We got home early afternoon. By late afternoon I noticed my boobs were starting to feel uncomfortable. I then woke up in the night with the most uncomfortable, painful, rock hard, lumpy, absolutely huge engorged boobs. I went from a B cup to a DD cup in a matter of hours. My boobs were so hard that my nips went hard too and Baby D wasn't able to latch at all. Much screaming (from me as well as Baby D) ensued. Trying to feed her was extremely painful and sore and she became upset as she wasn't able to get any milk. On top of this my hormones 'crashed' and I felt utter despair and wretchedness. It felt like what was happening to me was the end of the world, that I was a horrendous mother and this was never going to get better.

After seeking advice from my totally lovely midwife I managed to express a little milk for Baby D but not enough to satisfy her hunger and had to supplement with formula so she didn't starve. This broke my heart a little bit. Not being able to provide for my baby made me extremely sad and I felt like a failure. Luckily for me I am very determined, when I put my mind to something and with amazing support was able to get through it.

After 36 hours of semi successful breastfeeding my left boob softened up and I was able to feed Baby D properly again but it took a further 24 hours on the right boob as it was particularly engorged - I had to do hot compresses and massage to ease the hard lumpiness.

We got back on track but still had to give her a couple of servings of formula a day for 5 days as I worked on increasing my milk supply (I'll write about that another day). My partner had a big part to play in helping me in the first weeks. Baby D had a very frustrating habit of putting her hands in front of her mouth just as she was about to latch on, so he would gently hold her hands away to enable her to latch on. He was always telling me what a great job I was doing and encouraging me plus reminding me of what I said to him before Baby D was born "don't let me give up on breastfeeding". There were points where I could easily have given up - I just needed that support to keep me going. I had days where I'd dread feeding her because of the pain in the first few weeks but with his help we got through it.

We had a setback when Baby D was two weeks old. Due to having copious amounts of IV antibiotics in surgery my gut flora was killed off and I developed thrush in the nipples, Baby D got it in her mouth and made her bum sore too. It wasn't a pleasant experience for either of us but after a couple of visits to the GP, some help from the trusty book The Food of Love by Kate Evans and a load of pre/probiotics it cleared up.

The first 4 or so weeks it was quite sore to latch on (although I think it would have been less sore had I not got thrush), then it became just ‘pinchy’ then at about 8 weeks no discomfort whatsoever. I did however find that the letdown sometimes was semi-painful but I'm used to that now and hardly notice. Also each time Baby D fed as is normal my uterus would contract and sometimes would be quite painful - like period or early labour pain in the first few weeks. But I felt quite happy about it as I could tell my body was doing its job and starting to shrink back down.

I'd heard people talk about the 'letdown' but had no idea what they were chatting about! I thought it was just a weird turn of phrase and didn't really think about it. I now know that it's the surge of milk you get 30 seconds to a minute after baby starts suckling - if they pull away at this point (Baby D does this all the time!) you can get milk squirting all over the place and it's surprising how far it can go.

I knew about 'milk coming in' and the 'hormone crash' but had no idea it would be so horrible and hard. I especially didn't know about the boob discomfort. I wish I had been prepared. I thought there was something wrong with me and couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel for a good 24 hours - and as a new parent this is a very long time. That said I totally adore breastfeeding now. In fact I'm a tiny bit obsessed by it. It's such a lovely and special thing to do. It's also free, no sterilising necessary and easily portable.

We are now 7 months in and had been exclusively breastfeeding since that first week until 6 months when we started baby-led weaning. It's a wonderful way to calm Baby D down if she's upset, over tired or in pain, sends her off to sleep in the day or at bedtime and helps her fight illness. We are going to keep going with it for now and the plan is to let her continue with it until she's ready to stop...I have no idea when this will be. Watch this space!

Dawn x

Here's a post with my top tips on maximising chances of success with breastfeeding.

Monday, 9 May 2016

I finally like my boobs! (updated archive post)

I've always had small boobs. It's just the way I'm built. If I put on weight the last place it goes is onto my boobs and it's the first place it leaves when I lose weight. From the waist up I'm quite scrawny and skinny...from the waist down I'm rather curvy. An English Pear.
Dresses don't fit me because they are made for someone either with bigger breasts or smaller behinds. No high street shops stock my bra size (my rib cage is super small, I wear a 28" band) so I have to buy online and all are expensive.
I don't wear padded bras because I don't want to. I find them uncomfortable and make me a strange shape.
I often look in the mirror and see someone who is very out of proportion. Either my boobs should be bigger to counter my massive bottom or my bottom should be smaller to match my little chest. Think of if you will Keira Knightly's top half and Jennifer Lopez's bottom half.

Ever since puberty I've had people tell me I'm flat chested. Like somehow because of my little boobs I am less of a woman. That I lack femininity and it's ok to be rude to my face about it.
I worked in a pub in my late teens and early twenties. I lost count of the number of times people commented on my chest: drunken men told me I'd be "all right looking if you had a pair of tits" or an inebriated woman told me I was a "flat chested bitch" because I had the audacity to make her wait her turn to get served.
Even friends playfully jibed me..."you'll have to wear chicken fillets to fill out that outfit" and other such flippant remarks.
I was told by a dear friend that I had "absolutely nothing there. I don't know why you bother wearing a bra".
Young men in the swimming pool sniggering, I heard one call me the "ugly boobless friend".
A work colleague once told me out of the blue that I had a massive bum to which I was speechless. She then proceeded to recommend to me that I get a boob job to balance me out. Hmmm. Thanks for that.
And most recently someone said to Baby D whilst I cradled her "isn't it horrible cuddling up to your mummy's bony chest?" This one hurt.
I could go on.

But, being small has its perks - pun intended. Never once have a had a man find me attractive because of my boobs. The men who think that a sizeable pair is important would never be drawn to me. I therefore generally only ever had boyfriends who liked me for who I am...or possibly my curvy derrière. My wonderful husband couldn't care less about the size of my boobies. He loves me for me. Like Mark Darcy said to Bridget Jones (sorry, guilty pleasure alert!!!) "I like you just the way you are".
I've never had anyone talk to my chest. Only about the lack of it.
I don't experience pain when I run. If I ever run...which I don't.
I don't get back pain or find it uncomfortable to lie down.

And of course the media don't really help with all these perfect women all over the place. They are always skinny with huge bosoms or skinny all over. Never like me.

So as a result I've never really liked my boobs. I wear high cut tops to try to hide them and am seldom seen in a bikini by anyone other than my family.
I made peace with them when I finally realised that my husband loves me no matter what my size. And with age I've learned that other people's opinions really don't matter.
But, it's having Baby D that has really been the game changer.
I'm a breastfeeder. Nearly 2 years in we are still going strong and she is growing well. My boobs nourish her, regulate her temperature and even help fight bugs. If she's upset or over tired they will comfort her. As if by magic they know how much milk to produce and what nutrients she needs.
They get bigger when they are full, but the untrained eye wouldn't notice at all.
Finally my boobs are doing what they were designed to do! It's like a revelation to me. They are being put to amazing use. I am now incredibly proud of my little halfway fruits. I never thought I could be so happy about my body. It's bloody brilliant.

Dawn x

Friday, 29 April 2016

Caesarean Awareness Month - Why caesareans are not easy

April is caesarean awareness month. And really I should have posted this at the beginning of the month but here we are right at the end as it's taken me an age to write! The arrival of Baby D was such an emotional time, writing about it really brought some of the feelings back and I could only write a bit at a time between bursts of tears. I thought that I’d come to terms with it but evidently I still have a little way to go yet.

Some people think having a c-section is the easy way to give birth. They couldn't be more wrong. It saddens me to hear some of the comments caesarean mums get about not pushing and not 'really' giving birth. Caesarean shaming is not ok.

All women and their experiences of caesareans are different but here's a bit about  the physical side of mine. Talking to other mums it seems that perhaps my recovery was worse/harder than others but I could be wrong. Aside from the feelings of failure and guilt from not birthing the 'natural way' the physical recovery was hard - I struggled, and still do from time to time. For a bit of background you can read my birth story here.

My main reason for not wanting a caesarean was my squeamishness. Up until Baby D's birth is never had any kind of surgery. I had a veruca removed when I was 5 and a milk tooth extraction when I was 6 but I don't think they count. The thought of needles in my spine, being cut open and stitches sent me into a panic. It had taken me a long time to get used to the idea that I'd have to give birth (vaginally) and as well as coming to peace with it I'd actually lost my fear. I did loads of research, antenatal classes, talking to friends and family, relaxation techniques and some natal hypnotherapy and upped my exercise to get myself fit for the birth. I was walking for an hour a day and swimming one kilometre every other day. I really felt ready. Then, at a growth scan I was told Baby D was in extended breech position but not to worry as 97% of babies turn before labour starts. Rather than resting on my laurels I did more research and did everything I could to get baby to turn. This involved lying backwards, upside down on the sofa (head on the floor, bum on the edge of the sofa, legs in the air) for 20 minutes, 3 times a day, moxibustion, head stands in a swimming pool, ecv. You name it, I tried it. Nothing worked. 

I reluctantly accepted that if Baby D didn't turn at the eleventh hour I'd have to have a caesarean and signed the paperwork at the hospital.

The rest you can read in my birth story but what I wasn't prepared for was the long, hard recovery.

After having had major abdominal surgery consisting of (in my case) a 6 inch incision through skin, fat, muscle, move your bladder then cut into the uterus the only pain killers you can take are paracetamol and ibuprofen. Sometimes this combination doesn't even get rid of a headache so I'm sure you can imagine that even after taking the maximum dose there is a considerable amount of pain. After a week of taking ibuprofen it started to irritate my tummy and I had to stop taking it as it caused severe cramping and diarrhoea. So I had to just take paracetamol which barely took the edge off.
Any other major abdominal surgery the patient is instructed to get lots of bed rest and usually has strong painkillers. With a caesarean you don’t get a break at all, you have to get on immediately after birth and look after another human being!

For the first 48 hours or so I genuinely couldn't move. I was physically incapable of turning onto my side let alone getting out of bed to pick up Baby D. Luckily I had a catheter so didn't have to get out of bed to wee. The problems came when my husband was sent home at 8pm on an evening from the hospital ward and I was left alone. I had one of those beeper things to call a nurse/midwife which twice slipped off the bed sheets and onto the floor. There was literally not a thing I could do. One time Baby D was in her crib (midwives kept removing her from my arms and putting her in the crib) needed her nappy changing and was screaming yet I couldn't get to get to pick her up. Believe me a tried. I thought my scar was going to split open and spill my innards over the floor. It hurt. A lot. Eventually an irritated looking health professional came to see why I wasn't dealing with my crying child. I explained what had happened but she had no sympathy whatsoever for my plight. She did however change the nappy and pass Baby D to me thank goodness.

48 hours after the birth I had to remove the dressing that was over the incision. Different women have different methods like stitches etc but mine was glued, then a large steristrip coving the whole area. What nobody knew, including myself, was that I was allergic to these dressings and my skin underneath had blistered. I was sent off to the shower to freshen up and instructed to remove the dressing. There was one mirror but it was at head height so I couldn't really see what I was doing and my massive belly hampered my view of the area so I had no idea that as I peeled the dressing away whilst tears of pain rolled down my cheeks that I was ripping away the blisters , leaving blood and raw flesh exposed. I still have the scars of those blisters nearly two years later.

Laying on the hospital bed on my back (sat up, lying down flat was agony) without being able to move for a long time hurt my coccyx. It was so uncomfortable and in the end I had bruising and a sore. It was about 6 weeks before that stopped hurting.

I'm a side sleeper but wasn't able to sleep on my side until Baby D was 3 weeks old due to the pressure on the incision as I turned. I had to pile up cushions and get as comfortable as possible but it was never particularly comfortable. In fact I couldn't even sleep flat until 2 weeks after the birth. 
Baby D slept in a sidecar cot but for weeks I was unable to turn or twist to pick her up so at every feed in the night my husband had to pass her to me.
I was also unable to bend down so I wasn't able to put on my own knickers or trousers for a good couple of weeks. Having assistance to put your knickers on is not much fun.

During surgery they pump you full of intravenous antibiotics to prevent infection taking hold. Obviously this is very necessary but it also kills all the good bacteria in your gut and a common result of this is thrush. And I'm talking thrush in the nipples and/or breasts which transfers to baby's mouth when breastfeeding. It hurts and hinders breastfeeding for both baby and mum and of course we got it. Baby D and I kept passing it back and forth to each other and it took 2 rounds of medication to get rid of.

You're not meant to lift anything heavier than your baby. Going upstairs on my own to go to the bathroom took forever. I was unable to carry my daughter up the stairs or even carry her and walk at the same time for the first few days. It was at least a fortnight before I could carry her up a flight of stairs. 

Having abdominal surgery gives you trapped wind. I don't mean what you might expect after beans on toast but what you might expect if you are 72 cans of beans in one sitting followed by it being sealed in with nowhere to escape. And it's not just in your gut but in your entire trunk from the knicker line through the rib cage and up to the boobs. I'd never had anything like it before so wasn't even aware that this horrible pain I was experiencing was in actual fact trapped wind. It wasn't until about a week later at a home visit with the midwife she examined my abdomen and was surprised to feel my abdomen and how bad it was. Luckily she suggested Deflatine which worked a treat and I had considerable relief within minutes of taking my first dose. Once that had subsided a few days later I felt so much better.

The area around the scar both goes numb and painful. The flesh in the tummy area loses sensation which feels uncomfortably weird but the scar hurts, itches and aches. You also get this horrible 'shelf' where the belly sort of overhangs the scar. And even after going back to pre-pregnancy weight my belly hasn't shrunk enough to go back to 'normal', I think I'll always have this tummy shelf and I'm not best pleased about it.
As the incision healed the scab would get tight and sore but I was advised not to put anything on it until my 6 week postnatal check. After that I was given the all clear to moisturise it (magic cream or Bio Oil) which helped a lot and made it more supple. I've been moisturising it every day since. If I forget to do it by the afternoon my scar becomes quite uncomfortable and this is nearly 2 years on.

I'm one of these women who lives in jeans, they are kind of part of my identity. I wear them 90% of the time but much to my disappointment I found that I could no longer wear my usual jeans. Where the flies are I'd find that they'd rub, especially when seated. After an hour or two of wearing them I'd be in so much discomfort I'd have to take them off. After 13 months of wearing jeggings and leggings I was finally able to wear normal jeans for most of a day again. However by the end of the day I still ache and feel sore from time to time.

The incision is underneath the baby bump just along the top of the pubic hairline. As the scar tissue grows and smooths out, the pubic hair (that they shave off before surgery) grows back through the scar and feels like tiny needles stabbing. Sometimes they get ingrown and get itchy too. I daren’t use any kind of hair removal along the scar as its raised from the skin and I don’t want to risk cutting or irritating it.

You’re not supposed to drive until 6 weeks after surgery. Some insurance policies state that you can’t drive until then too. It made me feel isolated not being able to go far alone. I wasn’t able to lift the buggy out of our front door and down the steps and wasn’t able to drive either which left me not able to do much. I did however master using a stretchy sling after a few weeks (a Close Caboo which didn’t wrap around the scar area) which helped me to get out and about alone.

So you see the physical side of caesarean recovery is not much fun at all. I’m now nearly two years postpartum and I still get twinges in the scar area. 
Another down side to having had a caesarean is that if I have another child I have two choices: another caesarean which quite frankly fills me with dread at having my scar opened again and going through the horrible recovery with two children to look after or a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) which has a small risk of uterine rupture. But the percentage of babies breech at delivery is also very small…I wouldn’t be ‘allowed’ to give birth in a midwife led unit but would have to have a consultant led birth in a very medical setting which is the exact opposite of what I’d want. It’s kind of a rock and hard place situation.

So, please spare a thought for those mums who have been through caesareans. It’s not easy. It’s unlikely to have been the birth they would have chosen but they keep on going and doing the very best they can for their babies. The scars run deep both physically and mentally.

Dawn x

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

We are a cosleeping family: How we made our family bed

I mentioned in my post about ‘How and why we became a cosleeping family’ that we are creating a family bed. Well, it is now complete. We are now the proud owners of an 8ft4 wide bed! It’s AMAZING. We, as a family are getting the best sleep we’ve had since the arrival of Baby D.
Excuse the wonky photo, here's our family bed!

We decided to go for it on a ‘proper’ bed as opposed to mattresses on the floor because cosleeping really works for us and we’re in it for the long haul. We also need some under bed storage as our home is very small.

Our idea was to get 2 of the same bed frame: one king size (to fit our current zip-lock mattress) and a single to bolt onto the side. We chose Tarva frames from Ikea as they were budget options along with being available in the required sizes. We also got a set of duvet covers to match the one we already had. Single mattresses/beds are 10cm shorter than doubles which was news to me but it doesn't really matter. In fact it makes a handy place to keep a little step for Baby D to use to get up and down from the bed easily.

Once we’d pushed them up together and one side against the bedroom wall there was a small gap between the mattresses which we stuffed with pool noodles and popped a mattress bridge that I found on Amazon on top. That’s it really, very simple.
This bridges the gap between mattresses , simple but clever!

At the moment Baby D (not really a baby anymore - she’s a fully fledged toddler) sleeps on top of the single duvet whilst wearing a Sleep Snuggler - basically a sleeping bag with legs and a toddler pillow. I don't think she's ready to go under a duvet yet.
If during the night she rolls into my space in the bed I simply fold back my duvet and allow her to sleep there then I hop onto the single bed and get under the duvet. It works really well.
If and when we have another baby we'd have to stuff the gap between the wall and the single mattress and remove the duvet until baby was toddling.

Additional bits and bobs include:
  • Under bed boxes for storing more rubbish from Ikea.
  • iPad on a flexible stand for video baby monitor app attached to the headboard.
  • Ewan the Dream Sheep (we have used this every night since baby D was a few weeks old. He works great as a sleep cue) attached to the headboard.
  • Hanging storage pouches (Stickat) from IKEA to store alarm clock, tissues etc. Hubby and I have one each hooked onto the back of the headboard.
  • Babytec auto fade lamp (precariously balancing) on headboard for night feeds…it actually fell behind the headboard before I took the photo so I need to rethink where to put that.
  • Bolster cushion for comfort during seated night feeds - sometimes I sit up, sometimes I lie down.

Do you have a family bed or are you tempted?

Dawn x

Saturday, 23 January 2016

We use Makaton in our family

I'd heard of Makaton but didn't really know anything about it until my friend's little girl started learning it as her primary communication (she is non-verbal due to development issues).
The main reason initially for Baby D and me to learn it was so that we could communicate effectively with her in the future, I didn't really think too much how it would benefit us until it started to happen.

If you're not already aware Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used with speech, in spoken word order. It's quite simple and great for children and adults alike. 

We (baby D was only about 4 or 5 months old at the time so it was me really) learned a few signs at the local Sure Start Centre 'Baby and Me' group. They encouraged us to start using signs as much as possible and we might be surprised at the results. 
I started off by doing the sign for milk - which mimes milking a cow - each time I offered breastmilk to her. I kept doing it every time until about 5 or 6 weeks later she started using the sign herself. It was great! She was able to tell me exactly what she wanted clearly and easily. This gave me the motivation to learn new signs.

I bought a pocket baby signs book from the Makaton charity website and later downloaded the app which includes short videos of how to do the signs.
She slowly but surely started picking up signs including dog, cat, food, drink, hello, goodbye, more, please, thank you, friend, funny and many others.

We also started watching Something Special on CBeebies which stars Mr Tumble and Justin who promote the use of Makaton. They teach signs on each episode and the show features children with special needs. I really like this as it shows Baby D from a very young age to empathise and embrace people with disabilities and shows that all children are special regardless of ability. And of course Baby D loves it and joins in with all the actions, it's very cute.

Baby D started talking at 11 months old. She said 'dog' and signed 'dog' too. She now uses the signs and the words at the same time which is really helpful because sometimes what she's saying isn't massively clear, as you'd expect with a little toddler.

It takes a lot of frustration away from Baby D. She can make herself understood nearly all of the time often using signs as an aid, I think that's pretty neat at less than 18 months old.

I thoroughly recommend learning a few basic signs along with your little ones, it really does make life easier!

Dawn x