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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Things I’d tell my sleep-deprived-new-mum-self

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Things I would tell my sleep deprived self about baby sleep in baby’s first few months. I say ‘few’, we’re currently at 18 months without a single night of sleeping through! It’s hell, it’s frustrating beyond anything I’ve ever known or even imagined, it becomes a badge of honour, it’s knackering…..it’s normal.

I expected to be tired. I expected my newborn not to sleep. I was prepared for that. And although I can’t say I enjoyed the 2am (and 3am, 4am, 5am etc) parties, I found ways to cope; to embrace the cuddles, to feel proud that I was there for my baby boy whenever he needed me. But as the weeks turned into months, and it never seemed to get any better and it felt like everyone around me had a baby who slept better (not hard at this point), I found myself asking ‘What am I doing wrong?!’ I sent myself half insane. I googled, I requested library books, I scoured amazon, I saw my health visitor, I spoke to everyone I could – pleading with them all to MAKE HIM SLEEP!!!

A year or so down the line, sleep is marginally better some nights, but other nights it still downright sucks. But I’m over it. Who needs sleep anyway!

So what’s different?

I’ve given up hoping that he’ll sleep through. I know that one day (please God!) he will, and in the meantime I’ve learnt ways to cope. We still breastfeed, we start off in our own beds but as soon as he wakes we get into bed together and sleep and feed until morning. This is not my perfect scenario. I spend half the night being steam-rollered, crawled over, whacked around the face, and I always have one cold boob. But it’s a lot better than tearing my hair out and attempting to put him down 300 times and getting 20 minutes in my own cold bed before he wakes for me again!

I wish I could go back to those earlier days and tell myself what I’ve now learnt. I think it would have helped me to feel less of a failure, and I hope in some small way it might help someone else.

So this is what I’d say to my sad, tired, worn out, new-mummy self:

  • IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!
  • Some babies sleep and some do not. Yes you can do certain things to encourage them to sleep a bit better, but ultimately it comes down to luck. Get over the guilt, stop fighting it and resign yourself to getting as much rest as possible.
  • Each sleepless night done is another that you never have to do again!!
  • Everyone has completely different ideas of what sleeping through the night actually means. Many websites state that babies should sleep through from 3-6 months, BUT sleeping through is classified as a 5-hour stretch! Perhaps your baby isn’t doing as badly as you think?
  • When people say that their baby sleeps through they may well be exaggerating. They may not be, and good for them, but many times I’ve heard people bragging (maybe not, but when you haven’t slept for weeks that’s what it feels like!) about little Billy-Bob sleeping through and then the next time you see them you over hear them mentioning that they’ve been having awful nights. At least if your baby doesn’t ever sleep through you’re under no illusions!
  • Some babies just don’t sleep well and it’s developmentally wrong to expect them to. In the same way that some babies walk at 9 months, but some don’t until they’re 16 months. We don’t expect the mums of the later-walkers to just leave their babies on the floor to cry until they learn to walk by themselves. No, we expect them to carry them and care for them until they learn the skill at the right time for them. So why not the same for later-sleepers?!

The best thing you can do is find some support of other mums going through this brain-frying, teeth-grindingly, head-slamming-against-a-mental-wall, internally-screaming-but-desperately-staying-calm-on-the -outside journey and offload and support one another. I have 2 such friends. They’re from my NCT group and we boast not a single full night’s sleep between us. It sucks. But we’re in it together.IMG_5902

 

An open letter to my sister…

-POP

 

I’m so sorry for thinking I knew what it was like to have children. I’m sorry for all the times I didn’t help out, for the times you asked for help and I said I was busy. Internally I told myself ‘but she chose this life’. I now realise how immature I was!

I’m sorry for the time that you were ill and asked me to stay over and I said I had uni work to finish and that I hadn’t spent much time with my hubby. Now I know; now I know hard it all is, now I know how selfish I was being!

I’m sorry for feeling cross when you snapped at me that evening when I phoned the land line and woke my nephew up! I didn’t understand! I had absolutely no idea how hard it can be to get a baby to sleep and how soul destroying it is when the peaceful slumber is broken by a naive sister phoning. Now I know!

I’m so sorry for not asking how you were after those sleepless nights; for not bothering to give you a hug, make you a cuppa and send you back to bed. I’m sorry that I had absolutely no idea what sleep deprivation is really like. You weren’t being a moody bitch like I thought, you were shattered and I’m ashamed I didn’t get it. I do now!!!

That time you talked to me about how and when you should have weaned your eldest… I told you what I thought you should do!! I now realise it was a rhetorical conversation and I should have kept my non child opinions to myself. Heck, I shouldn’t even have had an opinion because back then I knew nothing!!! I now realise how ridiculously hard it is to listen to someone give their opinions when they don’t have children!!

And then when it was my turn you never once said ‘I told you so’. You were the first one to mop up my tears when I cried about how hard it was and how tired I was! You nodded and took him off my hands. You bought me Guinness (for my iron levels!!!) and my favourite magazines. You lent me your sling when he wouldn’t let me put him down. You took us both out for a walk. You even took him off me at soft play that time so I could have a coffee on my own even though you had your two with you!! You listened and you encouraged. You told me what a great job I was doing. I’m so sorry that I didn’t do this for you. But I get it now, I get it in way I couldn’t have done back then. I’m tired and drained and occasionally moody too 😉 Motherhood is hard and I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I wish I had known, I do now!!!

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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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Our Story

Our Story

We met 10 years ago while at uni. We were on the same course, Psychosocial Sciences, so from that we thought we knew all about child psychology and development… and parenting too!! Our friendship continued after we graduated, with the odd night out in Chicago’s on cheap cocktails thrown in for good measure 😉

We fell pregnant within three months of each other. We were excited. We spent a lot of time together comparing sick stories; yep Pinky threw up after a curry and Pug really did spew up baked beans all up her stairs!! We compared bumps and dreamt about the little loves that were growing within, picking out matching outfits whenever we went shopping. We spent hours talking about the parents we would be; Pinky bouncing on her birthing ball and Pug taking deep breaths to avoid the sickness that just wouldn’t fade! Of course we were going to amazing. Surely it couldn’t be that hard?! Oh the naivety!!

And then the babies arrived. Junior Pink first and two and a half months later along came Junior Pug. This was when our friendship moved to the next level. We breast fed together, of course we compared latches and milk flow! We sent text messages throughout the night ‘are you awake, this baby will not sleep’. We cried, we laughed, we mopped up baby sick. All the while texting and talking and keeping each other sane. The middle of the night photos of exploding nappies and rants about Mr Pink and Mr Pug are what kept us going. We used to say that we should start sharing our conversations to help other mummies like us. And this is where ‘Life. According to Pinky and Pug’ was born. Oh and by the way the funny names are childhood nicknames, details in another post for another time!

So please share with us and journey with us. We are two best friends attempting motherhood together. Join our tribe 🙂