A room with a view

The travel blackout blind has come down, books I plan to read have returned to my bedside table and I’m now sleeping with the monitor. Yes, E has finally moved into his own room.

And I feel, to use a much over-used phrase, a mixture of emotions. I’ve shared a bedroom with my son for the last seven months, our night time bond going back longer to when his kicks and somersaults first put in an appearance. He has only moved across the hall, but it represents another milestone as E rockets through babyhood.

However, the collection of bruises on my legs from stumbling into the bed frame on a nightly basis were starting to join up and the suggestion that E might sleep better in his own room was too great a temptation*.

Rather than set a date for the move, we I just decided that now was as good a time as any.

My lovely mum had finished bunting to go across the ceiling and I, having not inherited her creative flair, bought some wall stickers. It looks a little, erm, bright, but the aim was to give E lots of things to look at, encouraging him to stay calm in his bed and even, dare I say it, help him back to sleep.

What I didn’t think about was how the decorations would impact on getting E off to sleep. He needs very little to spark his interest and now has cars, flags and trains to draw his attention away from the boring business of resting.

*four days in and it’s too soon to say if the sleep habits have improved. Well, I have seen a little light at the end of the tunnel, but am not going to jinx it. Especially after this afternoon’s overtired screaming fit…

Time for a bit of pruning

Warning – if the subject of ‘lady gardening’ is too much for your delicate sensibilities, look away now.

This week has seen two milestones in our household – E said his first word and I discovered a white hair. Not on my head.

Don’t get me wrong, my son’s first steps in learning language is very important, but for today I feel the need to offload about the shocking lady garden discovery.

I’m not a regular ‘pruner’, you see. My approach is more of a maintain-if-going-swimming-or-have-gynae-appointment.

It wasn’t always this way. In the run up to my wedding five years ago I had monthly appointments with a lovely bikini wax lady who took away my responsibility for keeping things neat. Then I moved away, took a lower paid job and the bikini wax luxury was no more.

In the three years it took to conceive E, we went through nine rounds of Clomid and one miracle round of IVF. Plenty of people to become accustomed to my neither regions and a reason to keep on top of the hair situation. But since then I haven’t really bothered. And now it’s down to my knees.

Not really – can you imagine?! But suffice to say, it’s a jungle out down there.

So this morning I decided to tackle the situation. Armed with a poorly performing trimmer I got to work – and was rewarded by the sight of a white hair. In the words of Gordon from Thomas and Friends (my new daytime viewing companion’s favourite show) ‘Oh, the indignity’.

Adventures in weaning

It’s the usual way isn’t it? Blogger starts to get more followers and in return stops blogging for a couple of weeks. It wasn’t intentional, dear reader.

Life has been a bit unsettled in the Matchsticks house over the last fortnight and, to be honest, I didn’t have the heart to write about anything. Well, that’s not completely true, I wanted to rant about the constant arguments with my husband, but I don’t think it would make for great reading. Things are back on track for the moment though and I really hope it stays that way.

Google searches since my last post may give an indication as to what’s been happening here:

‘Will my baby ever sleep?’ – I’m sure this one needs no explanation. Suffice to say I still have the world’s most alert baby who has no need for rest.

‘Can I fix my relationship?’ – because Google is also a therapist.

‘Is my dog incontinent?’ – she’s not stressed, she’s not old, so it’s either an infection or incontinence. Or laziness. Either way it involved a visit to the vet and me wandering around the garden after her this morning trying to get a wee sample. Much fun was had by all.

Anyway, on to the subject of the day… Weaning. Two of us are benefitting greatly from the (baby led) weaning process – unfortunately neither of us is the baby.

The dog has perfected her stealth mode approach – nonchalantly acknowledging E as he is placed in the high chair and then commando crawling across the kitchen as various ‘treats’ are dropped to floor. As a fussy eater, I too have benefitted from being forced to sample various foods. It’s a whole new world with chocolate, MacDonalds and pasties strictly off the menu (at least while E is awake anyway).

E however, is certainly taking his time. He will put food to his mouth, but it is all greeted with the same horrified look. I even turned to purées in a bid to see if he would swallow something, but it all ends up either on his bib or in the dog. I’m told patience is key and that food before one is fun, but having gone to the effort of preparing tasty foods (usually while entertaining E at the same time), it would be nice to see some of it ingested *adopts zen-pose and starts chanting*.

We’ll get there in the end – although both me and the dog will be the size of a house by then. Am sure that E would love a pasty if he could have one though!

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Ashamed as I am to admit this, yesterday was the first time I’d tried scrambled eggs. And it was good! E, naturally, wore most of it.

Believing the hype

Slowly descending into zombiedom, I’ve become obsessed with the lack of sleep. My eyelids are permanently on squint mode and I’m getting increasingly irritable with just about everybody and every thing. It’s not a happy place to be.

You can imagine the joy then at the contents of a series of emails I’ve received over recent weeks from various parenting and baby websites which have helpfully said; ‘Now your baby has reached six months he or she will probably be sleeping through the night.’

Umm, nope. Not even close. Who writes this stuff?

After going to be at around 7pm, E is waking on average around every three hours and after 2am every two, or even less. He has a good feed of at least 10 minutes each time and most of the time will go back to sleep, waking for the day at around 7am. He feeds regularly during the day.

I’m starting to feel unsure about my ability to feed E and whether or not it’s time to switch to formula at night. But I really don’t want to in case that’s not the issue.

This hasn’t stopped the world and his wife having an opinion on the subject, unsolicited advice has come from many corners, including an advisor from my bank when I asked for information on setting up a savings account. I guess the words breastfeeding and bank account do sound similar so can see how the mistake occurred.

Back to the helpful emails – I guess I should unsubscribe, but I’m like a moth to a flame when it comes to all things baby. This weekend I received an email which talked about the sleeping through, but in the next sentence said ‘of course, your baby may be waking more’. Nothing like hedging your bets!

Swear at my baby? Never. Swear around my baby? Trying not to.

The daily travels with my pushchair around our local town centre give me an opportunity to indulge in people watching, one of my favourite pastimes.

Pre E I didn’t notice the many babies and toddlers being wheeled around the streets, their mums and/or dads blearily pushing them and mentally willing them to sleep. I also didn’t appreciate just how slow some people walk, usually in the centre of the pavement, oblivious to those of us who can longer just ‘hop off’ on to the street to get around them.

Anyway, during yesterday’s walk I was treated to a wonderful display of one of my pet hates – people who swear at their children. I’m no saint and do have a bit of a potty mouth which I am desperately trying to rinse out with copious amounts of soap and water, but I would never swear at my child.

Growing up, the strongest language I heard until I was around 10 was a terse ‘bloody hell’, usually uttered by mum, mostly directed at her sewing machine or cooker or, occasionally, if we pushed all the right buttons, my sister and I. TV and reading materials were carefully monitored to prevent any offending words reaching our sheltered minds and there was even an embargo on Eastenders in our house for a few weeks in the late 80s when someone said the word ‘bastard’.

Of course, then I hit secondary school and was treated to a new vocabulary, although if someone actually swore in class or within a 50m radius of a teacher, it would be met by an audible ‘gasp’ from those around. Fast forward a few years after that and pressures of work deadlines which usually involved situations out of my control, most sentences would involve swearing, a helpful ‘FFS’ capturing the mood beautifully.

So now, joined at the hip to my precious innocent baby son, I am ashamed of myself any time I swear. To me, swear words are designed to shock, a verbal slap. Not something I want him to experience or try to emulate.

Back to Ms Sweary McSweary from yesterday. She seemed to have no shame with the constant and loud stream of ‘effing and jeffing’ directed at her three young sons, the youngest just two years old. The kids didn’t bat an eyelid and just carried on with whatever it was that was annoying their mum.

If you grow up thinking swearing is an acceptable way of communicating with someone, what happens when the red mist descends and you want to hurt or shock someone or stop them in their tracks? My worry is that the stakes are raised and the words turn to actions.

I’m still a work in progress when it comes to censoring my language around E, but I am getting better. I’m not naive enough to think he won’t learn swear words at some point, but I’m determined to make sure he won’t learn them from me.

Do we really need World Breastfeeding Week?

I’m not normally a follower of these sorts of things, but apparently it’s World Breastfeeding Week. Do we breastfeeders get a party? A badge? Balloons? (You could argue we already have those…)

As my son reaches six months, I’m proud to say he’s been breastfed for most of that time. I’m proud, not because the world says we should breastfeed, but because I can remember the dark early days when I cried at every feed and wondered for how much longer I could go on. Especially after a bout of mastitis which was swiftly followed by a dose of a pretty nasty tummy bug.

But I’m quite a bloody-minded person and as my ideals of a water birth surrounded by peace and calm (yes, I know) went out of the window, I was determined that feeding E would go to plan.

On the subject of breastfeeding, my feelings are very much ‘each to their own’. We have a lifetime to stress and worry about ensuring we do what’s best for our children. As long as you’re giving your child milk – be it breast or formula – that’s fine with me. Do what’s right for you. This blog post isn’t intended to make anyone feel bad, it’s me wanting to give my thoughts on how we can better support women who want to breastfeed and then find they have to give up for one reason or another.

The way we promote breastfeeding in the UK concerns me and it’s why I have an issue with World Breastfeeding Week. Messages of ‘breast is best’, ‘it’s the most natural thing in the world’ and ‘you and your baby will be more likely to suffer from x,y,z condition if you don’t breastfeed’, are not only missing the point, but worse, failing mums.

Perhaps those responsible for promoting breastfeeding could make better use of the Infant Feeding Survey, carried out every five years by the Health and Social Care Information Centre. 10,768 new mums were polled during the last survey in 2010, which makes for interesting reading.

When looking at the numbers of women who breastfed at all following the birth of their child – including those who had breastfed baby once – the figures suggest that many women want to give their baby breast milk in some form, whether it be expressed or as part of combi feeding. 81% breastfed at birth, 69% at one week, 55% at six weeks and 34% at six months.

So with the statistics showing eight out of 10 women put their baby to their breast at birth, you could argue that the majority want to give breastfeeding a go. Looking at the drop off rates and their timing with the hurdles of cracked nipples, cluster feeding and more frequent feeding at night, it’s easy to see where the focus of support should be.

And yet, despite the ante-natal classes and videos with their demonstrations of ‘nose to nipple’, I don’t recall being told about the all night feeding binge to bring in my milk, or the eight weeks of hour long feeds every two and a half hours. I was still in hospital during the long night of the first cluster feed and when I asked for help, was advised to give E some formula. Which I did because I thought my baby was hungry and I didn’t have enough milk. And so combi feeding began.

Turns out I’m not the only one who could have done with hearing a bit more about the way breastfeeding works. Quite a few people I’ve spoken to who started out breastfeeding said they went over to formula as baby was ‘hungry all the time’ during the first few weeks. You could say that I should have read more, but with footage of newborns finding their way to the breast within minutes of being born, I naively thought there wouldn’t be a problem.

So here’s my advice for mums-to-be who want to breastfeed:

If you’ve got friends who breastfed their children, talk to them - My friends and sister made it look easy and during the dark moments I blamed myself for finding it difficult. One conversation with them after the birth changed all this as they too regaled me of their trying times.

Get help – My local community midwife and health visiting service picked me up where the post natal ward failed. Two came out within half an hour of my tearful phone call – one gave me her personal mobile number so I could call at any time. It’s because of them I was able to reduce the combi feeding and exclusively breastfeed from four weeks. Remember, you’re not being a burden and you’re certainly not the only one to have needed help.

Believe other mums when they say it will get better – Chained to the sofa and being told to make the most of it, I saw my time on maternity leave being spent as one hour feeding and one and a half hours trying to fit everything else in before the next feed. I couldn’t see how this would change when suddenly we got to eight weeks and gradually fell into ten minute feeds. I then started worrying that E wasn’t getting enough milk!

Go by weight gain and nappies – You may think the constant feeding is a sign you don’t have enough milk. This isn’t always the case, so rather than trying to guess, check your baby’s nappies and go for regular weight check ups. Plenty of wet and dirty nappies? Regular weight gain? Then you’re fine.

Never give up on a bad day – I came close so many times, when I thought the cracked nipples would never heal and my baby would cry for food in the evenings less than 45 minutes after the previous feed. But instead I gave myself a week each time – if things hadn’t improved in that time then we’d go to formula. And as the weeks went on the good days started to outweigh the bad.

And finally,

Be kind to yourself – You’re tired, you’re stressed and you’re more than likely blaming yourself for not getting the hang of it. Breathe and repeat the phrase ‘This will soon pass’. Ultimately you have to do what’s right for you and baby and giving your baby formula will not make you a bad mum. Feeling crappy on a daily basis is not good for either of you – you don’t need me to tell you that this time is precious.

So, World Breastfeeding Week people, can we turn the focus to highlighting the challenges of breastfeeding and supporting mums to get through it? That would be something I’d break out the bunting for.

Hair today

Many many years ago there was a small poster which used to be plastered on the walls of one of the car parks in Truro. It featured three cartoon-style pictures of women holding their heads with the words; ‘We may be losing our hair now we’ve had our babies, but at least we’re not losing our minds!’.

As a young girl who only had to consider how she was going to pass her exams in case Plan A of becoming a backing singer for Michael Jackson and marrying Rob Lowe didn’t work out, the idea of having a baby was not something that ever crossed my mind. And yet, the poster fascinated me. What did having a baby have to do with hair loss?

Pre internet, my only option was to ask my mum, but a conversation about having babies could have strayed into sex and boyfriends territory and I couldn’t take the risk. So I pondered the question every time I saw the poster, trying to work out the link, like it was some kind of riddle.

And now I know the answer. Boy, do I know.

My baby will be six months old next week and clumps of hair are still coming out. It doesn’t stop. Strangely enough for a Google obsessive, this is one post pregnancy question I haven’t conducted a thorough internet search for.

As the only hair styling I do at the moment is to tie it back before E gets his hands on any loose bits, the steady stream of strands appearing on my clothes and in the shower are more of an irritation than a worry. But I am starting to wonder if one morning I’m going to wake up with a bald spot.

Sleep scenes

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This is the view from my car window today as I waited for E to wake from his mid afternoon nap. We spent about half an hour at the nearby beach before I started to worry that sun would be able to penetrate through two layers of clothing and a sling and burn my precious baby. Naturally, it was I who ended up with the sunburn…

The W Word

I’m a ‘by the book’ kind of girl. I’ll have all the vaccinations, share a room with my baby for (at least) the first six months, put E on his back to sleep and sterilise anything that comes within a five mile radius of him (other than the dog, her tongue has an obsession with my son’s foot).

And then there’s weaning. Nothing seems to polarise opinion more than how we feed our babies in the first year. Your child can live in MacDonalds and snack on Haribo after that, but for now, their first food forays are everyone’s business.

Save for a few weeks in the beginning where we combi fed, I have exclusively breastfed E up to this point. Helping new mums to get to grips with breastfeeding is something I feel really passionate about and this subject will make a blog post on its own at some point. We should spend less money on the ‘PR’ around breastfeeding and less time vilifying mothers who reach for the formula and instead offer more ongoing support both in and out of hospital no matter what your decision is. Sorry, rant over.

Where was I? Oh yes, weaning. Exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, that’s the rule. So my plan had been to start no sooner than E’s six month birthday. That was until I saw my health visitor a couple of weeks ago for a weight check up and she suggested I could let him try some fruit and veg. Argh – surely it’s too early?! He’s not yet six months. The books say six months. The NHS and WHO say six months. How dare anyone suggest I try to do this any earlier!

Perhaps I need to chill out a little bit. Unless I want E to develop some sort of OCD.

I like the idea of baby led weaning (BLW) and in my head the process would go something along the lines of:

Me: putting a small selection of veg on E’s high chair table and demonstrating how to eat ‘ooh look at this! Don’t they look nice?’

E: ‘how delightful, this tastes wonderful’

Weaning: Done.

What actually happened was:

Me: small selection of veg etc ‘Yum, don’t these look nice’

E: picks up a piece of pepper, puts it to his mouth and gives me a horrified look. He puts down the pepper and continues to stare at me incredulously.

Yes, looking back, pepper wasn’t the best food to start with. But to be fair – once E started to trust being able to put objects to his mouth again – carrot, banana and grape had the same reaction.

So, we’re taking it very slowly. As a lazy chef, I’m a bit worried at the prospect of having to actually cook proper meals soon as opposed to relying on take aways and not so healthy foods. And I’m trying really hard not to eat cake, biscuits and chocolate in front of him.

I’ve failed spectacularly at this point, but the will is there.

So near and yet so far!

We very nearly achieved the ultimate in baby sleeping this morning, the gold standard, the dream all us mothers of poor nappers seek – the self soothe. E went down in his cot, yawned and rolled over as I waited for the start of the familiar grumble which builds to a wailing crescendo.

But there was silence. I backed out of the room barely breathing expecting to be called back and … Nothing. A couple of minutes later I congratulated myself on a job well done (I hadn’t actually done anything different, but I’ll take these victories where I can).

And then there was the loudest of poo explosions.

I’ll admit, I did think twice about going in. E was silent and almost asleep, but the sound and the smell was a pretty good indication that this was the big one. So reluctantly, very reluctantly, I picked him up and changed his nappy.

To his credit, E made all the right noises and rubbed his eyes suggesting that the return to the cot would see a repeat of the self soothe miracle. But, I’d been lulled into a false sense of security by my wiley five month old.

Crying ensued as soon as his little body sensed the mattress and I resumed my usual position of rocking while mentally giving myself a telling off for resorting yet again to sleep props. Ah well, there’s always the next nap…