Advice to my new mum friend

Advice to my new mum friend

I was at my anti natal class last night and we were talking about any worries or questions around giving birth, and one mum-to-be said that she was more concerned about what to do with the baby once it arrived! And that got me thinking; what would I honestly say to any friends setting out on this crazy journey of motherhood.

1. Firstly, you will get A LOT of ‘advice’ and opinions from others. Some will be decent stuff you can use, lots will be complete toss. Some will come from friends and family and much will come from people on the street, the checkout lady, old Mrs Whatsherface down the road. And a lot of this advice you will not have asked for! At first I found this hard, and with every new piece of advice I spend ages reevaluating how I was parenting, and thinking I should be doing x, y or z. But I’ve since learnt that everyone parents differently, and just because it worked for your mum, or your best friend, or some know-it-all on net mums, it doesn’t mean it will work for you and that you need to try it. 

Instead, trust your gut. When your baby cries, pick him up and give him a cuddle. Do what feels right to you, that motherly instinct kicks in for a reason and it knows far more than you realise! 

A great skill to master is the ‘smile and nod’ and the mental face punch. Outwardly accept the unsolicited advice, internally ignore it and if needs be give them a mental punch in the face. Trust me, it will make you feel better.


2. Chuck out those baby books that tell you how to parent. They’ll just make you feel like you’re failing if your baby doesn’t follow this unknown script. And remember that people like Gina Ford and Supernanny have never actually had their own babies, so when they’re telling you to leave them to cry their little hearts out- they’ve never experienced that as a mother, only as an employee. 

If you want some books, go and buy The Unmumsy Mum and read that cover to cover- that woman tells it like it is! And if you still want something more ‘parenty’ then get the Wonder Weeks (book or app) which talks about mental leaps your baby regularly goes through- so when you think your baby is broken and you’ve driven yourself insane trying to settle her but to no avail- the app will probably say, yep- completely normal at this age, do not panic! 


3. Take the advice of health visitors with a pinch of salt. Yes, they are great; they come to you when you can’t face leaving the house, and they spend the time seeing how you’re doing. But personally I found some of their advice to be pretty outdated. Remember, you know your baby best and if they’re suggesting something that doesn’t sit right with you, just ignore it. Nod and smile, let them go, then push the comment out of your head and crack on as you were.


4. Breastfeeding can be hard at first, but it’s so worth it. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I just thought I’d latch my baby on and be away. Things were trickier, things were more painful, but the benefits last much longer than any of that. But breastfeeding doesn’t have to be the be all and end all: Do it for as long as is right for you. If you’re finding it all too much (hello, who isn’t, motherhood is hard work and 24/7!!) pump some milk and get your baby used to bottles (if you want) so that you can have a break. Get your partner to give some formula and go get some much needed sleep or get out of the house. Alone! Nothing bad will happen, look after yourself as well as your baby! 


5. Some babies just don’t sleep well! Some babies barely sleep at all!! My son finally slept through at 21 months and for the first half of that period I drove myself insane, crying to myself and anyone who’d listen “what am I doing wrong?! Everyone else’s baby sleeps now!” And that’s truly how it felt. But there’s so much more to it. Just know, your baby will sleep eventually, and it is not your fault. I repeat, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! 


In the end, the aim of those first few weeks is survival. Get through each day; keep yourself and your baby alive and enjoy those gorgeous tiny baby snuggles- but don’t put any pressure on yourself to do anything more than that. Get help wherever you can, whenever you can. And no guilt, ok?! 

My breastfeeding journey: Pinky

My breastfeeding journey: Pinky

My Breastfeeding Journey

The other day Pug suggested that we should share our breastfeeding stories, in the hope that it will help a new mum or mum-to-be to know what we didn’t know when we began feeding.  Breastfeeding isn’t something I tend to shout about, but equally I’m not embarrassed to about that fact that we are ‘still’ feeding at nearly 22 months. (#NormalizeBreastfeeding all the way!)  So that’s the purpose of this post.  It is pro-breastfeeding, but it’s also pro-choice and it is in no way intended to make anyone feel bad for any feeding decision they have made for their family.  So, with that in mind, this is my experience of breastfeeding my son:

I always knew I would breastfeed. I don’t know why but it wasn’t really a decision so much as a given. My mum breastfed me and my brother so I guess I just did the same.

When I was pregnant I researched it and thought I’d be a pro. I knew my milk would come in ok as I had to wear breast pads from week 20 of my pregnancy!! And I’d read that it only hurts to feed of baby isn’t latched on right – so if it hurt I’d just ‘latch him on right’. Yeah, easy!!
What I didn’t realise was that, when that little baby is placed in your arms, and you’re knackered from the marathon that is labour, neither you or your baby actually have a clue what you’re doing! Sure, newborns have the instinct to feed- but if they don’t manage pretty fast they get mightily frustrated (or at least mine did, though to be fair he still doesn’t have a lot of patience!!) and trying to latch an upset baby is a gazillion times trickier!
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No no baby, not quite right!
So for 3 days Pinky Jnr and I stayed in hospital, attempting to feed every time he woke, and attempting to pump colostrum (really fun, in case you wondered!) whenever he was asleep, and at one very weird point even being milked by a nurse. Yep- I really lost all inhibitions after labour!
So finally he latched! I have photographic and video proof! It was a big moment!! We were allowed home! Once home we did much better. Don’t get me wrong, the hospital staff were A-MAZING; patient, encouraging and always there to try to help.  But sometimes you just need some time to get to know your baby, to remain calm together and just work out what the heck your both meant to be doing. So, yeah – sofa, baby, husband on hand to bring you snacks and drinks (you’ll be able to impressed him with your new found ability to down a pint (of squash!!) in 3 seconds flat, as a thirst you’ve never before experienced takes over!!), easy TV and time together – that was my winning recipe. Then pretty much stay there for 2-3 months!!!
Snuggles
Milks and snuggles = Happy Mummy and happy baby :o)
The other thing I didn’t realise pre-baby, was that for the first couple of weeks breastfeeding hurts! A lot! I remember crying to my husband one night when Pinky Jnr had woken for a feed, I could face feeding him again. I just wanted to cry.
But!!! A couple of weeks later, my hormones settled down a bit, we were starting to get the hang of what we were doing and things were looking up. Now, I look back on those early weeks so fondly now; hours and hours of sofa time and tiny snuggles with my feeding and then milk drunk bubba!
Milk Drunk
Conked out: Peace at last!
There have been other hard times along the way:
Cluster feeds when I was convinced I wasn’t giving him enough milk to make him happy – actually nature was just telling my boobs he was due a growth spurt so to get cracking on producing extra milk!
Learning to breastfeed in public. Even once we’d just learnt to latch, it still took a bit of time and effort to get it just right, which would have involved a fair amount of flashing the general public. The first time I fed in public I was out with my NCT group- I just put a baby blanket over my head so I could sort us out in privacy! Soon I discovered the trick of wearing a vest under my top – pull down vest and bra cup under tshirt, get baby on position and hoick up your top- boom! No one sees a thing!
Ice Cream
Soon a pro at feeding in public! (And making the most of a breastfeeding Mum’s appetite!)
Sleepless nights- and there have been MANY!! He slept through for the first time at 21 months after some gentle night weaning at 20 months. (I’d highly recommend ‘Nursies when the sunshines’ by Katherine Havener, if anyone’s looking for a gentle way to explain night weaning to their toddler.) Night feeds have been a blessing and a burden, but I got so used to sleeping and feeding that I slept well in between the requests to switch sides, and getting him to sleep in until 7am or even 8am at the weekends was no problem. Now he’s night weaned we’re up to greet the sun…
But in the end, I’m proud of our beastfeeding journey, and the fact that we are still feeding at 21 months.  I have, however, come to view breastfeeding as a bit of a double edged sword. It has become such an integral part of my relationship with my son and has given us an incredibly strong bond. However, breastfeeding has also been a huge commitment and has meant that I have had to be there for bedtime every single night since he was born – not once have I had dinner out with friends and with no family locally my husband and I have only managed one date night in 21 months (and even then we were out at 6pm and back by 8pm for ‘milks’). Constantly breastfeeding through the night has interrupted my sleep every night too. But on the other hand it’s so easy- when he was tiny I never had to plan where I was going or what bottles or formula I would need during our time out. My boobs always came with us and were always ready with milk at exactly the right temperature. If my son hurt himself when we were out, or if he was tired, or having a tantrum, or just bored, I could plug him in and resolve the issue almost instantly. It’s a huge sacrifice in some ways, but one I always wanted to make, and in the end it becomes a way of parenting and it’s one thing I wouldn’t change for the world.
Toddler Cuddles

So that’s my story, and coming soon is Pug’s.  But in the meantime we just want to say that we believe that the decision to breastfeed or not is personal for each and every couple, but ultimately each mum, to make for themselves. We hope our stories help some mums-to-be to come to that decision and to feel empowered to do what’s best for them and their family.

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A List of Things I Proudly Declared BC…

I used to spend hours thinking, plotting and watching. I would watch others parent their children and think how I would do it differently. I observed as people’s toddlers had tantrums, the arched back laying on the floor type, and smugly think how my child would never do that. I would be calm, collected and take motherhood in my stride. Ha… I declared all this to my friends and family who already had children. They all nodded and smiled. Bless you all for being encouraging, you must have wanted to scratch my eyes out.

So here is what my confident and cocky list looked like…

1. My child will sleep through from day one.

Hahaha…

2. As soon as he is mobile he will learn the meaning of no and not touch anything he isnt supposed to.

All my candles and ‘crap’ have been removed from the fire place and surfaces which are within reach. It’s all too tempting for my pint sized dictator and I’m fed up of shouting no!!

3. I will never bung him in his cot with the iPad balanced on the shelves next to it. Erm… Where do you think he is right now?! 😉

4. I will never use CBeebies as a babysitter. Ha- how else do you think I manage to drink a hot cuppa?!

5. My child will not have a snotty nose and he will most certainly NEVER have crusty snot on his face.

We leave the house like this most days!

6. Parents who raise their voice or swear at their darlings should not be allowed to have children.

Let’s be honest a good old, stern ‘will you just shut up *) lets off a lot of steam when he just won’t go sleep 😉

*and worse

7. My parenting will always be consistent, child centred and loving.

Yep- I totally range from overbearing, lovey dovey Earth mum to aggressive psycho mum within minutes.

8. I will always get down on the floor and play with him for as long he wants/needs me to.

Erm, another reason why I put CBeebies on is so that he’s distracted from bringing cars and books over to me and will let me lay on the sofa!

9. I will never drive around for hours to get my child to sleep. My child will learn to sleep at home in my loving arms!

I’ve used up more petrol since I’ve ‘been at home’ than I have when I was commuting to work!! But those car naps are blissful and bring peace to a hectic day!

10. I will love my child unconditionally from day one.

Truth is those early days were abit of a haze of sore bits, constant feeding and raw anxiety. There wasn’t much room for feelings. It was abit of slow burner but I really do quite like him now, most of the time, sometimes 😉

The ideas we had pre child are all well and good but we have so many more factors to contend with now. Sleep deprivation, hormones and an actual real life child who comes with their own agenda. My parenting is not how imagined it would be. I find myself doing things I said I would never do. I contradict myself. I’m inconsistent. Sometimes I leave him to shout in his cot so I can have a PIP (pee in peace). Sometimes I get cross with him during the night when he wont settle. Sometimes I ignore his little arms reaching up for me because I just want to check Facebook one more time. And I think back to my list and feel so very guilty. But then I look at my little chap who smiles, laughs, kisses, cuddles, walks, babbles, sleeps well, eats like a beast, flirts with the check out lady in sainsburys and I think that I must be doing something right.

So if like me your parenting is so very different from what you imagined and you doubt your methods don’t be hard on yourself. If your child makes it to the end of each day and is still breathing that’s good. If they crack a smile and giggle then chances are you’re doing fine.

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To the Mummy on the edge today

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To the mummy on the edge,

Don’t fret, don’t feel guilty, we’re all there some days. Let me take a guess; rubbish night? Depleted energy stores? Crabby baby who’s suffering from teething or a cold, and is sharing his struggles with you? All your normal tricks that distract your toddler from near-melt-down just aren’t cutting it today. Argh!!! Some days just suck!!

Today your normal happy, I’ve-got-this-motherhood-lark-in-the-bag self is losing the will. You really need some space from your baby, but they need the opposite and just want you. So instead of swearing and locking yourself in a dark room, you take a deep breath and tell yourself that you’re the grown up, you’re the mummy and you can get through this.

Just know that we all have days like this. When you’re desperate for some space from the screams that rattle your brain and drive you insane, know that it’s all part and parcel. Today is hard, but hopefully tomorrow will be better. Only worry about getting through the next half an hour though, don’t think about the whole day. Get through this activity and just get to nap time, or go for a walk, or a drive, or whatever will give you a moment’s peace to regain some sanity.

It’s hard, but you’ve got this.

Love from another mummy on edge today xx

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All hail the NCT friends

 _A sweet friendship refreshes the soul._
The NCT group… It’s a cliche isn’t it?!!
BC I was apprehensive about joining such a group. I didn’t want to be part of a clique who just met to discuss and compare and, let’s be honest, show off, about which baby is doing what first. I imagined a group of middle class women kitted out in Joules scarves with mini mes at their feet. This is the NCT group we all think of right? Truth is though these women saved me from insanity in those early few months. They aren’t kitted out in Joules attire. They are my friends and I love them.
The most important thing for me in those early days and weeks after having Junior Pug was having friends who were going through it with me. Friends who had older children were great because they understood but I needed people who were going through it at exactly the same time. Friends who were up at 2am too. Friends who had been shat on three times in the hour just like me. Friends who when we met for coffee were excited about having clean nickers on too! My NCT group were exactly this. I remember one morning we met with the greatest intention of walking round the park. We met at a cafe. Stupid to think we would leave there really… We sat and stuffed our faces and moaned about the babies and our husbands.
I see these groups a lot. In coffee shops. In restaurants. In the park. Mummies wearing dark glasses and clutching lattes. Mummies laughing with each other, encouraging each other. Mummies holding each other’s screaming babies so they can at least eat! Mummies mopping up each other’s tears. They make me smile. In fact Pinky and I were out with the boys recently and we saw one of these groups. Of course we started talking to them (we were too nervous to mention the blog though). We told them to keep going and keep the friendships!
Truth is this isn’t exclusive to the NCT group!! My best friends are two colleagues who happened to fall pregnant three months after me. I squealed over their scan pictures in the staff room then we met for coffee and I shared with them how I was wearing my hubby’s boxers because my nickers were too small!!! Then the babies all started arriving and we sent messages through out the night. We meet for coffee, we chat, we share, we laugh and cry together. Our babies all recognise each other and are friends already. I can’t imagine how I did life without them!!!
And of course there’s Pinky… But I think you know how that little love story is mapped out 😉
The moral of this blog post is to surround yourself with friends. NCT friends, colleagues, people you meet in the park or the children’s centre. Whoever they are or wherever you find them share with them, off load onto them. Tell them about your lady bits and your huge swollen milk filled boobs!!! Cherish them and support them. Promote them to best friend status because, my goodness, you are going to need them!
This post is a shout out to my mum, sister and sister in law; my NCT tribe, Lisa and Natalie, and of course Pinky. You’ve all inspired me, encouraged me, listened to me and loved me! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!
Follow mine and Pinky’s journey on our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/PinkyAndPug
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Why ‘SHOULD’ is ruining motherhood

It feels like you can’t do anything in motherhood without everyone else giving their opinion. Sometimes it’s well-meaning friends and family telling you how they did it, implying that you should do the same. Often it’s those friends who don’t have children yet, who think they understand (don’t judge them too harshly, we’ve all been there – we were all perfect parents until the babies arrived!) And sometimes it’s random people in the street who feel that it’s their place to tell you what you should be doing. Even when these people aren’t actually saying it out loud, or to your face, you can still feel the judgement.

It happens at every stage of parenting. When you’re pregnant you hear all about what you should and shouldn’t be eating, how you should be sleeping, how you should be preparing for your new arrival. When that tiny newborn baby is born, and you want to be left alone to trust your maternal instincts, you’re being offered advice about how often you should be feeding, how many nappies you should be changing, how your baby should sleep, the routine you should have. And it continues…

Of course, some of these ‘shoulds’ are important health guidelines for you and your baby, and we do need to hear them. But we don’t need them rammed down our throats by everyone we meet. The medical world changes their minds so often on what’s right anyway, can’t we all have a little freedom to look after our own children how we believe is best for them and us.

I’ve had my fair share of ‘shoulds’, and sometimes I’m feeling strong enough, or sure enough about the issue, that they just wash over me. But sometimes, when I’m struggling with the issue myself, or I’m sleep deprived and don’t really know if I’m coming or going, they leave me doubting the choices I’ve made for me and my son. And really, this gig is hard enough without the Mummy-guilt!

When my son was a couple of months old, he HATED his buggy. He would get so upset and the only thing that would soothe him was to feed – not always entirely practical when you’re out and about! So one day a good friend suggested trying a dummy. Pre-baby I’d always said I’d never use them, and I wasn’t convinced I wanted to give him one, but then I thought, if it helps him to settle when I can’t physically do it myself (breastfeeding and buggy pushing don’t really go hand in hand) then it’s worth a shot. That dummy hadn’t been in his mouth for more than 30 seconds when an old lady came over to let me know how she thought I ‘should’ be parenting. ‘Oh you’re not giving him a dummy are you..?’ she said with this big disappointed, judging look on her face. Luckily I’d been having such an internal dialogue in my head, that I spilled the whole thing out on her and she shut up fairly sharpish.

Currently, however, I am struggling to decide whether or not I should end my breastfeeding journey with my son. I always said I wanted to feed him for a year, and that marker came and went in the summer and we are still going strong. Part of me would quite happily wait until he naturally weans, but I feel really uncomfortable knowing (or at least believing) that so many people think that this is wrong and that he should be fully weaned by now. I suddenly feel this immense pressure from all around me telling me what I ‘should’ be doing. I’ve heard everything from ‘he shouldn’t need to breastfeed anymore’, ‘he should be able to go to sleep by himself now’, ‘he shouldn’t need to feed in the night anymore’. Should, should, should…! Can’t I be left to make this decision based on what is right for us? I think I’ve done pretty well raising him so far, so I think I’d rather trust my instincts than listen to other people’s ‘shoulds’. But in the same way that it’s so much easier to believe something negative that someone says about you, over a compliment, the same is true here. You have your own beliefs, but the ‘shoulds’ always stay there at the back of your mind, undermining your confidence.

So can we please all stop ‘should-ing’ all over new mums. Offer an opinion if they ask for it, but if they don’t can we instead tell them about something that they are doing well. Let’s build-up new mums, not knock them down. Just think of the confident children they will raise, when they are allowed to trust their own choices and do what’s right for their family.   
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Mummy Mantras

Sometimes motherhood can test your patience, and push your frustration levels to their absolute limits. During these moments I rely on my ‘Mummy Mantras’- things I can say to myself to ease the burden, and remind me that it won’t always be this way. If you’re having one of those days (or nights), stay strong and I hope these help in some small way.

1. The one I tell myself most often is-

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I read this when my son was very young. I don’t remember who said it, but it has helped me to calm my frustrated-self on many occasions and it really it easier to just be tired and not frustrated if you can.

2.

This is an oldie but a goodie – Sometimes when things feel hard, they feel like this will be your life forever.  Instead I try to think about how fast my son is growing up and the moments I will miss once he’s much older (and those that I won’t!!).

3. Mantra4

This is like the classic – What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger.  I find it helpful to remind myself that when things are really tough, I am learning from it and what I learn will help me in the future.

4. Mantra9

And by the same token, you need those bumps in the road to learn from.  Without them life might be easy, but it would also be dull.

5. Mantra5

This one we need to shout from the rooftops! Comparing your life, your baby, your family, your situation, or your struggles to anyone else will only make you feel so much worse.  OK, so you’re having your 400th sleepless night and it feels like everyone around you has perfectly sleeping babies, and you just want to scream and cry about how it’s not fair!? We’ve all been there, but it’s SO not helpful.  Those mums who babies’ sleep will be having their fair share of issues, whether they present them to the outside world or not.  Don’t compare; just know that this is hard, and that we’re all doing what we can to enjoy our babies and survive the rest.

6.Mantra11

In the world of motherhood, there is way too much unwanted advice.  Even when advice is given by a well meaning friend or family member, unless you whole-heartedly agree, then just nod and smile and forget all about it. You gotta do what’s right for you.

7. Mantra7

Just tried something and it blew up in your face?  At least you tried…

8. Mantra8Before children, we all have those pictures in our head of perfect family moments.  Sadly, life with babies is so much harder than anyone predicts, but those amazingly perfect moments are there.  Don’t lose sight of them, and every so often try to stop, and commit them to your memory – they’ll help when all hell breaks lose and you wonder what on earth you’re doing with your life!!

9. Mantra6

Choose wisely – don’t make it the washing up!!

10. Mantra10

That.

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