Mind the gap!

There’s almost exactly four years between B and A.  Three years and 353 days to be exact.  For those who can’t be faffed doing the maths, A was born twelve days before B’s 4th birthday!

Some people think this is quite a big gap to have.  It’s certainly a bigger gap than most of our friends have, and of our antenatal friends from when I was pregnant with B, we were the last to have a second baby (apart from one couple who aren’t planning another).  But according to a recent article in The Times, we’re not that unusual.  The article says that the average age gap between siblings in the UK is now 3 years and 8 months.

We didn’t originally plan such a big gap.  Even before B was born, we spoke about having a gap of around two and a half years, and I remember when she was tiny and we were in that sleep deprived fog of the newborn days anxiously asking hubby “You do still want another one don’t you?”!!!

But things changed, we decided to wait, and then it took a bit longer than we had hoped, and I sadly had a miscarriage before A was conceived (more about all of those things one day I’m sure!).  But putting aside the fact that their birthdays are so close together (imagine a birthday party for 21 four year olds in a church hall when your baby is 17 days old….!!), I think the four year gap is working out pretty well for us so far.

Of course every family is different, and there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ gap.  I know there are pros and cons whatever gap you have, but here are some of my favourite things about how our wee family has worked out.

One of the biggest positives is the fact that I am on maternity leave during B’s first few months at school.  I can drop her off every day, and pick her up (a real bonus for the first three weeks when she has only been in mornings – what a faff that would be if I was working!).  We don’t have to worry about after school care, I can sit and do homework with her in the afternoon, rather than at 6pm when I’m trying to cook tea as well, and I just generally feel happy that I am getting the opportunity to help her settle in without having to juggle work as well.

I’m also very grateful for all the time I had to devote to B on her own.  I was very lucky – I had nearly 14 months off work after she was born, and when I went back to work it was only three days a week, so we’ve had lots and lots of one on one time.  I like to think that she has benefitted from not having to ‘share’ me with a younger sibling until she was 4, and I will always cherish that time we had just the two of us.  And of course now B is at school, I will get that one on one time with A as well – not quite to the same extent, but more than if we’d had a smaller gap.

At four, B was already pretty independent in a lot of ways by the time A came along.  She could go to the toilet by herself, get herself a snack from the cupboard, get dressed pretty much by herself…  She was also very good at entertaining herself in the early days when I was constantly on the sofa feeding A.  Yes we had lovely quiet times snuggled up reading stories, but she was also quite happy to take herself off to play with her dolls house or do a puzzle in the playroom for fifteen minutes.  Of course there was the time when I told her to play quietly while A had his feed, she disappeared through to the playroom, came back dressed as Merida, and started firing suction cup arrows at the patio doors….!!

I was worried that B would be jealous of a new baby, given that she had been our one and only for almost four years, but other than a few stampy feet and shouty moments in the early days, she’s pretty much taken it all in her stride.  We involved her right from the start – I will never forget the excitement on her wee face when we showed her the 12 week scan pictures and told her she was going to be a big sister.  She’s so proud when people ask her about A, and she’s enjoyed showing him off to all her new friends at school.  They are doing phonics and for each sound they learn they have to take something starting with that sound into school – for ‘A’, she took a photo of her brother!  She reads him stories, sings him nursery rhymes and just generally chatters away to him nineteen to the dozen!

And for his part, A absolutely adores his big sister.  His smile when she comes through to see him in the morning is lovely, and him giggling as she tickles him is one of those memories I have locked away in my heart (to recall on the days when they are fighting like cat and dog in a few years!!).

Of course it hasn’t been plain sailing the entire time these last nine and a half months.  I couldn’t count the number of times I’d just got A off for a nap only to have to waken him after 10 minutes to take B to ballet or gymnastics.  And then there were the days me and B would start baking, or doing a craft project, only to be interrupted halfway through.  Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know that A is not a particularly great sleeper, but now I have to be up at 6.40am five days a week, regardless of if I’ve only had four hours broken sleep, to get B to school on time.  And of course B’s days of daytime naps were long gone by the time A was born, so when they were both at home all day I got no down time at all until they were both in bed!

I suppose I do wonder whether they will be close growing up, particularly as a girl and a boy rather than two girls or two boys.  Will we be able to find things to do on weekends and holidays that will occupy and entertain them both as they get older?

But for now, things are working out pretty well with our 3 year and 353 day gap!!

Would love to hear what the best and worst things about the age gaps other people have are!

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Tomorrow.

Tomorrow.  For most people, an ordinary Tuesday.  But not for me and B.  Tomorrow I will wave my wee girl off at the school gate for the first time.  Tomorrow feels like the start of a new chapter, a chapter that will see her spend more time in the company of other people than she does with me, a chapter that sees her never need me in quite the same way again.

How did we get here so quickly?  When I was pregnant with B, people told me time and time again how quickly kids grow up.  But you don’t appreciate just how quickly until you’re living it.  It feels like the last four years and almost nine months have gone by in a heartbeat.  And now my clever, hilarious, bossy, gorgeous chatterbox is ready for school.  But what if I’m not ready?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for her.  I’m excited that she’s excited.  I see how animated she gets telling me about something new she’s learned at nursery, I see how much satisfaction she gets out of writing a new word, and I know she will thrive in the classroom where every day is filled with new discoveries.  I’m excited for the new friends she will make, for the opportunities that school will give her, and I’m excited to see her grow as a person.

But at the same time, the growing up scares me.  I know I have to let her spread her wings and make her own way in the world, even though she is only four.  But it is hard.  I don’t think I have ever been this emotional as a parent.  I can’t help worrying.  What if she struggles to make friends?  What if she doesn’t like her school dinner?  What if other kids are mean to her?  What if she falls over in the playground and hurts herself?  There are a million what ifs, stretching way into the future.

But all I can do is hope that we have brought her up, and will continue to bring her up, to be able to handle whatever life throws at her.  And to know that on the days when it feels like she can’t, that she can always turn to us for support and for love.

I suppose that’s my greatest wish as B grows up.  That she will always come to me when she needs to – to share in her triumphs, when she needs advice or a shoulder to cry on, when she needs to know that someone is in her corner, fighting her battles right alongside her.  And I hope that she will know every single day how proud I am of her.

And if tomorrow is the start of a new chapter, then I guess today is the end of a chapter too.  So let me just say how lucky I feel to have been part of the first chapter of my little lady’s life.  I often tell B that I’ve loved her from the second I knew she was in my tummy.  I’ve watched her grow from a teeny tiny newborn, to a clingy toddler who wanted mummy to do everything, to an inquisitive and energetic four year old who most definitely knows her own mind.  I’ve watched her adapt to life as a proud big sister, and she amazes me constantly.  And although I can guarantee I’ll be crying my eyes out as I walk home from school tomorrow morning, I cannot wait for the next stage of our adventure together.

Activity Overload?!

For someone who is only four, B has a pretty busy wee life.  As well as two full days in nursery (from 9am til 5pm), she also has a ballet class, a gymnastics class and a drama class.  She’s learning to ski, and although she doesn’t have proper swimming lessons, hubby is teaching her to swim and they tend to go to the pool once a week.  Add into that playdates, trips to the library/park/garden centre, it’s a wonder we have time just to hang out at home!!  I do think it’s important to encourage interests and hobbies from an early age, but how much is too much?

I’ve been very conscious for the last couple of months that things will change once she starts school.  Going from two days a week at nursery to five days a weeks at school (albeit shorter days) will be a big change for her, and I expect for the first term at least she will be pretty exhausted.  She’ll have homework and new friends to get to know, playdates, birthday parties, existing friends to try and fit in as well.  Something will have to give.  But what?

The first decision we had to make was about her dancing.  I will confess to encouraging her dancing, because it was my ‘thing’ when I was younger.  I did ballet, tap and Highland until I was about 10, and I did Scottish Country Dancing from the age of 6 until I was 17, and actually qualified as a teacher!  Anyway, when we got back from Center Parcs in May, we had a letter from the dance school about classes after the summer holidays.  B is currently in the pre-school ballet class, so obviously a move to the P1/2 class makes sense.  However, the letter said that “most children” choose to do two types of dancing – ballet and either tap or jazz.  Hmmm, well the dance school would say that, at more than £6 for a half hour lesson!!  I didn’t even really give it much consideration.  B’s current class is on a Tuesday afternoon, and the P1/2 class runs straight after the pre-school one, and we will probably have to go straight from school.  Another class on the same day would mean B not getting home until almost 6pm, which is a long day if she’s been at school since before 9am.  It’s also pretty expensive – not just the cost of the class, but the outfit and shoes, costumes for shows, exams and all these things will soon mount up.  So we’re sticking just with ballet (so are her friends who go to the same class, so I don’t know who these “most children” are!!).

Next up, gymnastics.  B has been going to gymnastics for just over a year now.  She does a little bit of badge work every week, and now has four badges, then the rest of the 45 minute class is kind of free play around the gym equipment – balancing beams, trampolines, climbing stuff, plus mats for forward rolls and stuff.  There are two ladies who supervise, but apart from the badge work bit they don’t ‘teach’ the kids anything as such.  B loved it when we first started going, but recently has found it a bit boring – repetitive I guess.  She was offered a place at the next class up, but it’s at 3.40pm on a Wednesday – the centre is right at the other side of town, and it would be a major rush to get there from school, so we said no thanks.  I didn’t think B would be too fussed, but the last couple of weeks before the holidays, they were taken through to the “big girl’s gym” with all the proper gym equipment, and she got to jump in the pits which she thought was super exciting, and now she is really keen on sticking at it!! I’m sure we could probably find a class on a Saturday, but that would mean giving up drama.

We started taking B to drama at the start of this year, partly because she loved the Xmas show she did at nursery last year, and partly to see if it would give her a little bit more confidence, as she was quite shy.  It’s an hour on a Saturday, and there are two things I really like about it.  The first is that it’s a ‘pay as you go’ affair – you don’t have to pay for a whole term in advance, so if we’re away for a weekend, or if she has a birthday party or is not well, it really doesn’t matter.  The second is that I tend to leave A at home with hubby, which means I get an hour to sit in the café and read my book!!  😉  But the main thing of course is that B really enjoys it.  There’s singing, dancing, dressing up, games, and if she stuck with it, she would have the chance to take part in shows.  I’m not a pushy mum at all (at least I really hope I’m not!!) but B loves singing and prancing about, and I want to encourage her to enjoy those things before she’s at an age where she’s self conscious about it.

Because drama is just a drop in class, she sometimes misses it to go to a skiing lesson at the dry slope near our house.  Skiing is very much hubby’s thing.  He was brought up very close to Ben Nevis and could go skiing every weekend during the winter.  He’s tried to teach me; it almost ended in divorce!!  I’m too old and too scared – if we ever went on a winter holiday I’d be sticking to the après ski!  Anyway, B absolutely loves it and is actually very good.  She’s had several private lessons now, and actually has her own skis and kit!  She could join the kids’ ski club which I think you sign up for in blocks of 12 weeks, but hubby seems to think the private lessons are still the way to go for now, probably once every four or five weeks.  While it holds absolutely no interest for me whatsoever, I think it’s great that she will have the opportunity to learn as a child.

The other thing I’ve put B’s name down for is Rainbows.  There was no such thing as Rainbows when I was a kid, but I was a Brownie and a Girl Guide.  The one I have her name down for is at the community centre beside her school, so I’m hoping it will give her a chance to socialise with some of the girls from her class (she doesn’t go to the school nursery so will only know one or two kids when she starts P1).  She has to be 5 before she starts though, so that won’t be as soon as she starts school.  Although now I come to think of it. it may actually clash with her ballet day.  Hmmm, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

So that gives us ballet and eventually Rainbows on school days, and drama and possibly skiing on weekends.  I really think this is plenty when she is going to have to adjust to the school routine, and if it looks like being too much for her then we will rethink.

I would love to know what other people’s pre-schoolers and school age children do outside of school.  Do you think we do too much?  Not enough?!  Would love to hear your views!

 

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The dreaded Miss Elliott – B’s journey with DDH

When I tell people that B was born with both hips dislocated, there are two common reactions – most people look horrified, while others (more than you’d think) say “Oh I know someone that happened to”. Some people think it happened during labour, some think she must have been in incredible pain.

The proper name for the condition B was born with is Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip, or DDH. DDH refers to a range of abnormalities in the hip joints.  It occurs in approximately 0.1% of babies, although a double dislocation is more unusual.  It is most common in breech babies, first born girls and babies where there is a family history. B fell into two of those categories – our first born girl was undiagnosed breech and basically sat inside of me with her bum down and feet in front of her face. No wonder her hip joints didn’t grow properly!  Anyhow, I am by no means a medical expert on it all, but if you are interested in knowing more, there is good info here and here.

The first sign we had that something was wrong was during B’s paediatric check the day after she was born. The paediatrician bent her knees  and wiggled her legs about, and said she thought there was a problem with her hips and she was referring us to the hip clinic. I had heard of ” clicky hips” before but was recovering from an emergency section and didn’t really take it in or understand properly the implications of what the doctor was saying.

We went to the hip clinic at the kids’ hospital for the first time when B was 7 days old. Hubby had done some reading up and so was better prepared than me for what lay ahead. First of all came an ultrasound scan of B’s hips (during which she had a leaky nappy and was sick!!).  My recollections of this part are actually pretty sketchy – I think there was some discussion about ball and socket joints and angles, but it was all completely over my head.

We then had a long wait to see the consultant.  Miss Elliott.  They say first impressions count – well, after four and a half years I have actually come to quite like Miss Elliott, but my feelings towards her will always be coloured by that first meeting.  She came into the room, got the scan pictures up on the screen and said “So neither hip is in joint, they are both dislocated”.  No beating around the bush.  Then she looked at me and said “Don’t worry, it’s nothing you’ve done”.  Well, thanks for that, it hadn’t actually crossed my mind that it could have been my fault, but now you mention it, what about all those hours I spent bouncing on my birthing ball??  By this point I was quite emotional and B was hungry, so we were left for a wee while so I could feed her without trying to take in what was being said at the same time.

When Miss Elliott came back, she was carrying a mass of Velcro strapping – a Pavlik harness.  She explained that this would hold B’s legs in a ‘frog leg’ position to allow the joints to grow correctly.  It was to be worn under her clothes 24/7 and shouldn’t be adjusted by us at all.  Before I knew what was happening, my tiny toot was stripped off and bundled up into the harness.  I don’t actually have any pictures of her just wearing the harness because I hated it so much, but there is more information about it here.  When I went to get her dressed again, I could see straight away that her babygrow wouldn’t go on without pushing her legs out of the position the harness was holding them in, so I just had to fasten it halfway and leave the legs dangling.

Once the straps had been adjusted to Miss Elliott’s satisfaction, we sat down again and she explained we would need to come back the following week for a check up, and that the harness would remain on for at least 6 weeks.  She asked if we had any questions.  Hubby asked sensible medical questions – what was the success rate of the harness, what if it didn’t work etc.  I asked what I was meant to dress her in.  The reply was that she would just have to wear dresses.  Without tights.  In December….  Then I asked how I should hold her to feed her.  Miss Elliott said “The same way you usually hold her.”  But that would involve her legs getting pushed together as she lay across my lap.  To me, Miss Elliott had absolutely zero bedside manner – she came across as very clinical and not sympathetic at all, and I was basically told I’d just have to manage.

And that was it.  An appointment was made to come back the following week to check on progress, then we took the harnessed-up B home.  My mum came round and I cried.  I felt quite alone with nobody to turn to to ask for advice, and I wish we had known support organisations like STEPS existed.

Those first few days were a learning curve.  Nappy changes were interesting – we couldn’t hold her ankles to lift her bum up, instead it was a case of putting a hand under her bum to lift her and hoping for the best!!  None of her newborn clothes fitted her because they would push her legs out of position, so my mum designed and made several pairs of ‘trousers’ with Velcro and poppers that would fit over the harness.  We struggled to find breastfeeding positions that worked, but we muddled along (although it probably contributed to my dislike of breastfeeding).

Two days after the harness was fitted, I met up with my antenatal friends for the first time since all six babies had been born.  We lined them up to take a photo – three boys and three girls.  I remember a pang of jealousy as I saw all the others next to B – they were all in the cute newborn clothes, while she was all happed up in the harness, legs akimbo, wearing her funny little makeshift trousers.  It seemed so unfair – why had this happened to us?  Looking back I know that sounds terribly superficial, but at the time it really upset me.  You kind of expect your baby to be perfect, and when they’re not and everyone else’s around you is, it’s kind of hard to take.

By the time we returned to the hospital for our next appointment however, we’d adjusted pretty well.  B was so little that she didn’t know any different, and for us that first week pre-harness seemed almost like a distant memory – a week is a long time in new-parenthood!

The first check up after a week showed some improvement on the right hand side but not much on the left.  When I was getting B dressed after the scan, I was horrified to discover that behind B’s knees were all sweaty and gunky 😦  After that I wiped behind her knees gently every day with a baby wipe, and to this day I always wash behind her knees in the bath.

We were back at the hospital again after 2 weeks, 4 weeks and 6 weeks. Of course during these visits we saw kids much worse off than B, and came to realise that if this is all we have to deal with, we really should be extremely grateful.  The 6 week check was the day after my birthday and I got the best birthday present I could have hoped for – the news that there had been sufficient improvement for the harness to come off!!  🙂  It was replaced with a plastic splint that went on over B’s clothes and was much less restrictive.  Miss Elliott said it could come off only for nappy changes and baths for the first four weeks, and then if progress was good it would be worn only at night.  I was beyond happy!

That first night without the harness B was actually really unsettled, we think just because she had grown so used to it that the freedom to actually move about felt strange to her.  But she soon got used to it, and the second day without the harness, at seven and a bit weeks old, she had her first bath and loved it!

The plastic splint stayed on constantly for four weeks, and at night for another six weeks.  I remember the day we were told it could come off all together – I thought that would be the end of it and we would be discharged from the hip clinic, but Miss Elliott wanted to keep monitoring things as the hip joints were still shallow.  I was very disappointed.

We had regular check ups at the hip clinic for the next four years.  For the most part, the hip joints continued to grow well, although the left one always lagged behind.  Outwardly you would never know B’s history – she was slow to roll over and never crawled, but walked at pretty much the same time as her peers and now does ballet and gymnastics (and in fact is super flexible!).  But still each appointment filled me with dread – what if things weren’t progressing, what if she needed more treatment??  Sometimes we saw Miss Elliott, sometimes she sent one of her minions!!  There were nearly always medical students though – I’m not sure if it was because of the double dislocation, or because of the success of the Pavlik, but she seemed to be a case of interest!

Just after B turned 2, progress seemed to have slowed down a bit, and the socket part of the joints were still shallow.  There was talk then of putting her under general anaesthetic and injecting dye into the joints to get a clearer picture of what was going on (it was possible that the harness had actually slowed the flow of blood in the joints making growth slower – talk about damned if you do and damned if you don’t!).  That was one of the occasions we saw Miss Elliott herself, and we made a joint decision to wait six months and see if things picked up again.  Thankfully when we went back that summer, progress was good and no further procedures were needed.

When A was born last year, he was automatically referred to the hip clinic because there was now a family history.  My heart sank when at the first appointment they said his hip joints were shallow (although both in joint, unlike B’s) and they wanted to see him back when he was 3 months old.  Thankfully at the second appointment, the joints had ‘matured’ nicely and we didn’t have to take him back.

After two trips to the hip clinic with A, we were back again last month with B.  She had her x-ray done then we were put into one of the consulting rooms, wondering if Miss Elliott would grace us with her presence this time!!  In she breezed, full of smiles and chat about how grown up B had got.  She didn’t get the x-ray pics up on the screen which was unusual, but she went on to say that both B’s hips were now completely ‘normal’!  The joint development has completely caught up with where it should be for someone of four which is obviously great news.  And the best part of all?  Miss Elliott was happy that there was no need for B to be seen again, and we have been discharged from the hip clinic!!!  I was so relieved.  We went home where my mum was looking after A, and I cried again!  😉

So our four and a half year journey with DDH is at an end.  Of course we know now that we were extremely fortunate – early diagnosis of DDH and treatment with the Pavlik harness meant a relatively easy ride for us, avoiding the need for far more invasive treatment when B was older.  And for that, I will forever be grateful to the dreaded Miss Elliott.

 

Time to eat my words?!

This time last week, I was determined to wait until A was 6 months to start him on solids, so we could do baby led weaning. This week, I’ve kind of changed my mind. Well, there’s no kind of about it….

We’ve had a bit of a hellish week. B came down with some hideous virus on Sunday and even now, on Thursday, is not 100%. So between A being up every 2 hours during the night most nights, and B being up not well, on Monday I was like a zombie. I did my Tesco shop online in a sleep deprived haze, and for some reason I decided to stick some Ella’s Kitchen pouches into my basket. In the end, I was at the doctor with B when the shopping was delivered on Tuesday, so my mum, who was minding A for me, unpacked everything. She left the pouches sitting on the worktop, where they remained until yesterday morning – a morning which followed another sleepless night.

I remembered that before we’d started weaning properly with B, I’d let her play about with baby rice on the tray of her high chair. OK, I thought, let’s let A puddle about with some fruit puree at lunchtime. OK it’s not BLW, but it’s not spoon feeding either. Lunchtime got closer, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Then had an attack of the guilts that B’s first foods had all been homemade, and I decided I couldn’t give A something out a packet (nothing against Ella’s Kitchen, B still loves a “fruity pouch”!!). I had some pears in the fridge so I whipped up some pear puree. As you do.

I made myself a sandwich and popped A in his highchair – he’s been sitting at the table with us for a week or so now. I spooned some of the pears onto the tray and waited with great expectation. Nothing. He didn’t even notice they were there! Our highchair isn’t great for self feeding as the tray is quite high, and we’d planned to get another one after our holiday next week, so I helped him get his hands on to the tray and dipped his fingers in the puree. Still completely non plussed, and his hands fell back into his lap. Then I remembered reading about pre loaded spoons as part of BLW, so I got a spoon from the drawer (he’s been playing with a spoon and a cup while he sits in the high chair), loaded it with pear and held it out to him. He took it straight away, and put it straight to his mouth. A look of surprise crossed his wee face as he got his first taste, then he kept chewing on the spoon. We repeated this process five or six times. Some ended up on his face, some ended up down his front, but some definitely went in his mouth!! I was quite excited (and also hoping hubby wouldn’t be mad that I’d done it when he wasn’t there!).

Last night, A woke up at 11.20pm, which is a wee bit early for his night time shenanigans to start. Hubby went through and managed to settle him back to sleep, and I though that might buy us an hour or so before he woke for a feed. Next thing I was aware of was B at my bedside asking for Calpol. I looked at the clock. 4.45am!!!! I was so surprised I actually went to check on A before I saw to B. Needless to say he was fine, and he remained sound asleep until 6.15am, when I took him in beside me and he dozed off again until after 7am.

Now it could have been complete coincidence. I also had no caffeine yesterday for the first time in ages, so that could have been a factor in better sleep too. But I’m not taking any chances!! At lunch today, he had carrot puree (same process, pre loaded spoon) and a slice of avocado (which I think pretty much all got spat out!). I hadn’t planned to give him anything at teatime, but he was grouchy so I gave him a bit of broccoli from my plate. He ended up chewing on three bits of broccoli – again, some of it was spat out, but I think a wee bit went in.

So I’m not sure what kind of weaning we’re doing, but safe to say the process has begun, even if it is three weeks earlier than planned. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks we’ll lean more towards BLW, but in the meantime we’ll just take it as it comes (and hope for a few more good nights!!!). And I’m sure the Ella’s Kitchen stuff will come in handy next week when we’re away.

A big week for my wee man

It’s been a pretty eventful week for us this week.

First off, at the ripe old age of 18 weeks and 6 days, A cut his first teeth.  Not one, or even two, but THREE of the blighters.  He’d been pretty out of sorts at the end of last week and over the weekend – horrible cough and cold, dodgy nappies and just not quite himself.  Well now we know why!  He’s been dribbly and stuffing anything he can get his hands on into his mouth for a good few weeks now, but I didn’t think we would see any teeth for a good couple of months yet.  Wrong!  On Tuesday afternoon, he was chewing on my finger when I felt something sharp in his mouth.  I had a wee look and was momentarily confused because I couldn’t see anything.  Turns out that’s because, not content with getting three teeth in one go, he’s also decided to bypass the normal front teeth first route and go straight for the sharp pointy eye teeth.  So the two bottom eye teeth and one of the next to middle ones.  By yesterday, one of the top eye teeth was through the gum as well, giving him a total of four teeth.  No wonder he’s been grouchy!  Although I can’t help thinking that this perhaps means we get the worst over with now, and the rest should be slightly easier….  A girl can hope, right?!?

Incidentally, if anyone has any advice re relieving the symptoms, please let me know.  B was never really bothered by her teeth coming in, so this is all new to me.

The other major milestone this week was our first night without a night feed!!!  After being a really good sleeper in the first couple of months and some nights going 8 hours without a feed at night, by mid February he was barely going 4 hours.  So at that point I started doing a dream feed at 10.30ish, and that put us back to only one feed during the night.  On Tuesday night, he woke at 1am and just seemed unsettled rather than hungry.  Hubby managed to get him settled back to sleep, and I thought that might be him until half 2 or 3am.  Heard him stirring and looked at the clock – 6.17am!!!  So I took him in beside me and he dozed off until 7am.  Happy days.  Or should I say happy day, because the two nights since have been very disturbed, but I’m putting that down to the teeth.  At least now I know he can manage to go all night – definitely light at the end of the tunnel!

The next step will be moving A through to his own room…  Hubby is keen to do this ASAP, and in some ways I think we probably need to – he definitely keeps me awake with his rumbling around, and there have been several occasions when I’ve ended up feeding him just because we’re both awake and I didn’t think he would last until morning.  He is starting to look a bit cramped in his crib too.  But on the other hand, it seems too soon, and certainly if he’s going to be really unsettled with his teeth, it’s easier to have him in our room rather than to-ing and fro-ing all night.  He’s been having his daytime naps in the big cot to get him used to it, so hopefully when we actually move him it won’t be too traumatic.  Maybe next week….

The final bit of excitement (for me anyway) was my first evening out since before A was born!  I went to the theatre to see one of my friends appearing in an amateur production of Annie, which is one of my favourite musicals.  It was a bit of a rush – I got A ready for bed and fed him early, then as soon as he’d finished feeding I threw him at hubby and dashed out the door.  My dad gave me a lift so I didn’t need to worry about parking the car, and I arrived literally as the lights were going down.  It was lovely to have a bit of ‘me’ time, and needless to say everyone managed fine without me, albeit with Nana (my mum) on hand to do B’s bath while hubby winded A and got him settled!

Phew!  Exciting times.  Who knows what next week will bring!?

The week of the selfie (but not the one you think!)

Last week was all about the selfies for me.  I’m sure everyone is aware of the #nomakeupselfie, which has now raised over £2m for cancer charities, even though no one seems to know how it started!  And I did take part in that after I was tagged by a friend on FB.  However, that wasn’t the one that was the big deal for me.

Last weekend, I posted a couple of pics on FB of me breastfeeding A, in support of mass feeding events going on up and down the country.  These events had been organised by a woman called Emily Slough, who was unknowingly photographed by a complete stranger breastfeeding her baby in Rugeley; this person then posted the photo on a local FB group, labelling the poor woman a tramp.  Her plan to hit back at this narrow minded idiot was taken up firstly on social media, and then by the mainstream media.  Those who couldn’t go to an event were encouraged to post breastfeeding pics online.  I thought long and hard about whether to take part or not.  While I knew lots of my friends, particularly the female ones, would be fully supportive, I was also aware that I have male colleagues as FB friends….  Appropriate or not??  Well, in the end, I decided the point I was making justified the pics.

Let me say now that, in the nicest possible way, I don’t give two hoots how anyone else chooses to feed their baby.  It’s not for anyone else to judge or comment on.  Yes we know that breast is best – it’s rammed down our throats from the minute a woman discovers she is pregnant!  However, I truly believe it is only ‘best’ if both baby and mummy are happy.  If baby is not gaining enough weight on breastmilk alone, there is no question you will be advised to top up with formula.  But what if breastfeeding is making mum miserable, stressed, exhausted?  Is breast really best then?  Personally I have my doubts.

I did not enjoy feeding B.  In fact I would go so far as to say I hated it.  Looking back, there were various things that probably made our experience a bit more difficult.  First of all, I was recovering from an emergency C-section (more about that some other day!), so physically I wasn’t on top form.  Secondly, B was born with both hips dislocated (more about that later too!!), and from a week old was in a harness to correct that, meaning we had to be very careful how we held her and moved her legs, so positioning for feeding was tricky.  She was also very refluxy – you could never tell when she was going to throw up a whole feed in one go or whether it would just be coming up mouthful by mouthful for three hours!  I found the whole process frustrating, exhausting and never ending. People had warned me that in the beginning it would feel like I was constantly feeding, but I hadn’t anticipated how constantly!!  By six weeks B wasn’t gaining weight and wasn’t sleeping for more than a couple of hours at a time, and I was exhausted, so the health visitor suggested trying her with a bottle of formula at bedtime.  That night she slept through.  And the night after and the night after that.  She was happier, and I was happier.  She had her last breastfeed at 6 and a half months, but by that time it was only the first feed in the morning – the rest were all formula feeds. Also, in all that time, I never fed her in public.  Not once in six and a half months.  I just never felt comfortable with it – I was worried someone would stare, or laugh, or that B would throw up all over me.  So outings were planned around feeds, or I would take a bottle with me.  Even in my own house, if we had visitors I would still sometimes go and feed her in the nursery – that’s how self conscious I felt.

Why did I continue for so long if I disliked it so much?  Honestly?  A large part of it was not wanting to be the first of my antenatal pals to give up.  Ridiculous, and I know they wouldn’t have cared either way, but there you go.

I think there is a real lack of information available on mixed feeding – certainly as a first time mum to be, it seemed to be very black or white.  Either you breastfed or you formula fed.  There was only talk of introducing formula if the breastfeeding wasn’t working and baby wasn’t gaining enough weight compared to the blooming chart.  How to make a new mum feel like a failure!!  I know that until your milk supply is established you need to feed feed feed, but nobody really tells you that after that you can in fact do breast and formula in tandem if that’s what you want to do.

When I was pregnant with A, I genuinely considered not breastfeeding at all.  Hubby was dead against that – he said it was unfair to not even try when I had breastfed B.  He thought I should at least give it 12 weeks (not sure where he plucked that number from!); I said I would try but I wasn’t putting a timescale on it, and if I wasn’t happy then I would not be putting any pressure on myself to continue.  I also felt much more informed about mixed feeding and felt that was probably the road we would go down.

Ironically, A is now over 4 months old and is exclusively breastfed.  I don’t know if it’s because I knew what I was doing, or knew what to expect, or if he has taken to it more naturally than B did, but for whatever reason things just clicked into place with us.  He doesn’t sleep as well as B, but he is the same weight at 4 months as she was at 6 months, so he is thriving on it!  I have also got over my fear of feeding in public – I had to, otherwise it would have had a huge impact on B’s life.  He’s been fed at soft play, B’s ballet class, the John Lewis café, a 4 year old’s birthday party….  The first time I fed him while we were out and about, when he was 5 days old, I felt so proud of myself.  Now it’s second nature – if he needs fed, he needs fed.  The only time I’ve ever felt slightly awkward was at a kids’ theatre show we took B to at Xmas.  I was sat next to the dad of one of her nursery pals, the room went quiet and all you could hear was A gulping milk….!!

And that was why I decided to share my breastfeeding pics on FB.  In a world where all you have to do is open a newspaper at page 3 to see a pair of boobs, how can someone possibly have an issue with someone feeding their baby in public?  There’s more flesh on display in town on a Saturday night than there is when I’m feeding A.  It’s not about saying “Look at us, aren’t we so great breastfeeding our babies”, or trying to make out that breastfeeding mums are somehow superior to those who don’t or can’t.  It’s about saying “IF you choose to breastfeed, know that for every idiot who gives you a look or sniggers, there are ten more people looking at you in admiration and support”.  It’s about every mother having the right to feed her baby whenever and wherever she needs to, however she chooses to do it.

And if that raised a few eyebrows among some of my FB ‘friends’ then so be it.

As a footnote, you may be wondering why the photos were selfies.  That’s because when I mentioned it to hubby the night before, he said “I hope you’re not going to post photos are you??”.  Yep, the same man that was insisting I breastfed A for the magic 12 weeks.  Go figure!!!  😉