Monday, 12 September 2016

The Inevitable Return to Work

When I first found out I was pregnant and started arranging maternity leave the thought of 9 months off work seemed like an eternity. I'd always thought that I would be one of those mums that was itching to return to work and ultimately would end up calling short my maternity leave and probably returning around the 3 month mark. So it's somewhat strange to me to find myself halfway through month 9 with my return to work just 3 weeks away.

I've gone through a lot of emotions in the last couple of months concerning returning to work. Anxiety at first over who would look after Lewis and how would we afford childcare. Sadness at the thought of missing my little boy and perhaps missing out on new milestones and developments. Excitement at the thought of spending a whole day speaking to grown ups about grown up things and more confusing to me, jealousy.

Upon my return to work, my husband, Rob, will be having a lot more one on one time with Lewis than I will. Obviously this is great for Lewis and for us as a family, it means we will have less childcare costs and it means Lewis and his Dad will have some great quality time together. Despite knowing all this I'm still jealous. I'm jealous that Rob will likely get to experience firsts that I will miss and I worry that Lewis will love him more than me. Whereas now it's him returning home from work and me filling him in with our funny stories of the day, the tables will be turned and it will be me getting the updates. I know it's irrational to feel like this, and the likelihood is that I will miss out on very little and Lewis will love me just as much as he always has, but still, it's how I feel sometimes.

I've decided to return to work on a part-time basis, 4 days a week. If we won the lottery tomorrow or somehow came into a ridiculous amount of money I would not be coming back. I enjoy my job, I love the people I work with, the work can be challenging and rewarding and it's definitely the sort of career I always thought I would have. However, since Lewis, since becoming a mum, it all seems so insignificant. The work just doesn't seem important anymore. I loathe to identify myself as solely a mother, I've always imagined that I would be a career woman, regardless whether or not I had children, but at this present moment in time, being a mother to Lewis is the most important thing in my life.

I'm sure that once I get back and fully into the swing of things my mindset will start to shift and being a working mum will become my new normal. I'm very lucky in that I have a wonderful group of mum friends, some of who are returning to work in the near future, some that are not returning until next year and some that will be taking on the challenge of being a stay at home mum. This support network has helped me to explore my feelings surrounding returning and being apart from Lewis for extended periods of time. If you are on maternity leave or coming up to maternity leave definitely invest some time in making mum friends, they'll be your saving grace at times.

So there it is, my feelings about returning to work. I'll be sure to update on how things are going once I'm back into the working groove. How did you cope with returning to work? Are you also returning in the near future, how are you feeling about it? I'd love to hear from you.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

My Must Have Baby Item - The Dribble Bib

Most people when asked what their must have baby item is would probably talk about their pram, their bouncy chair, a baby sling or some other pretty obvious must have device, and whilst I find all these things useful without a doubt, I'm here to talk about what really matters. It's time to get real, and down to the nitty gritty and talk about dribble, in particular, dribble bibs. Let me tell you I have become quite the connoisseur of the dribble bib. The lowly dribble bib is not just a triangular cut of fabric with which to catch your precious one's fountain of spit but rather a carefully engineered liquid catching and absorbing device. With that said there are those that do them well and then there are those that absolutely suck at it.

Lewis started dribbling from about the age of 2.5-3 months. When I say dribbling I don't mean a cute little blob coming out of his mouth every now and again but rather a constant waterfall of sticky baby mouth goodness. Muslins were no match for his mouthy rivers and so started my epic journey to find the most perfect dribble bib solution in the world. So here it is, my experience summed up to make it easier for all those mum's out there that have their own mini dribble fountain.

Tesco Dribble Bibs

We were given this really cute set as a baby shower present. I love the cute design, anything with dinosaurs on is a win in our house. These bibs have a popper fastener and are really absorbent, having a nice towelling backing on them. However, these were only good for Lewis for about 2 weeks as they are so tiny! I know Lewis is a huge baby but these bibs just did not offer enough coverage to catch the dribble which comes out at all angles, not just straight down.

So sorry Tesco, I like the designs and the price but we ended up giving all our Tesco dribble bibs away to a friend who had a younger, smaller baby.

Boots Dribble Bibs

I bought this pack of dribble bibs from Boots as I absolutely loved the design. My parents will tell you that Lewis spend the majority of his first few months of life decked out in anything that had stars on. These were quite pricey from memory,  think £5.99 for the two. They fasten with velcro which has become a dribble bib pet hate of mine. Babies can pull velcro apart and if the bib gets caught on anything the bib easily comes off. Plus if you have a pet, their hair will inevitably get stuck in the velcro and build up over time, rendering the velcro completely useless. These were slightly bigger than the Tesco bibs but I still found the triangle a little small to contain Lewis spit falls. The biggest problem though was the size around the neck. It wasn't long before these were too tight for Lewis and again got handed down to someone with a more appropriately sized child.

Nuby Dribble Bibs

I was really excited (I know what has my life come to) when I found these bibs in my local Tesco. The triangle was huge and they had a really nice soft felt feel to them. That along with the funky designs made me think we were finally onto a bib winner. At £4.49 for the two they weren't the most expensive but were still on the pricey side. These sadly do have the dreaded velcro attachment but if they lived up to their hype of size and dribble catching ability I could overlook that.

The first time Lewis wore this bib I thought I'd cracked it, found the holy grail of dribble bibs. Had you spoken to me on that day I would have waxed lyrical about the joys of Nuby bibs and all they could offer the world. I was on cloud nine, until, laundry day. These did not wash well. In fact after one wash they were pretty much useless. The design of these bibs is like two triangles of fabric stitched together at the edges but not adhered at all in the middle, meaning that upon washing the two pieces became separated at every point apart from the stitched edges making them look like a mangled mess. Now if you're one of these mythical people that owns an 'iron' this probably won't be an issue for you as you can just iron it back into shape but for me it was a deal breaker. I haven't ironed anything in my life, and I'm not about to start now for the sake of dribble. Sorry Nuby, off to someone more domestically goddess-y than me. 

Next Dribble Bibs

I love Next baby products. I love their clothes, and if there wasn't this little thing called money, Lewis would be decked out in Next pretty much everyday. So of course it was inevitable that at some point I would be trying out their bibs. I've had two packs of Next dribblers; one with a popper fastener and one with velcro fastener. We already know my views on velcro fastening so no need to dwell on that (sort it out though Next!). The size of these bibs is good, great coverage for dribble streams. They have the nice towelling back and come in some really funky designs. The sticker on the bibs claims them to be dribble proof with the top layer being 100% cotton and the bottom layer 80% cotton & 20% polyester. These definitely live up to that claim.

There are three main problems with these bibs though. 1. The price. £7 for three bibs is definitely not sustainable when you have a dribbler like mine. 2. The size around the neck. Again Lewis quickly outgrew these. 3. Another washing issue (that could probably be solved with an iron). After washing it seemed as if the top layer shrunk slightly meaning the bib would curve up at the side and point (see above photo). So unfortunately these too ended up on the pile to be passed onto some other young, naive, non-dribble bib expert mum.

Asda Dribble Bibs

Why it took me so long to try out Asda bibs I'll never know. Not only are they cheap, usually 5 for £3, but they come in some really funky designs. They have the slightly posher ones which have a popper fastener and funky designs, and also a simpler version (pictured above) which have a velcro fastener (grrrr!). The popper fastener style has the most incredibly innovative whilst ridiculously simple feature. It has two poppers! Meaning that you can opt for a smaller tighter size or for a bigger size. Meaning there's no need for the triangle to be tiny to fit little necks. Seriously, other bib manufacturers, take note!

The fastener version of Asda bibs ticks every box for my dribble bib needs;

Big triangle - check
Popper fastener - check
Suitable for little and big necks - check
Funky designs - check
Great value - check
Washes well - check
No iron option - check

Whilst I'm not generally a fan of velcro bibs I have a pack of the plain ones which I tend to use as emergency bibs at home for when we've run out. As we go through around 5-6 dribble bibs a day we do tend to run out!

I'd recommend the Asda bibs to anyone. Lewis wears one everyday and I think we now own around 30 of these bibs. I've given all our other ones away.

So there it is, my rundown of the best (Asda) and worst (Tesco) dribble bibs out there. I'm sure there are other suppliers which I haven't tried, but honestly people just save yourself the turmoil I went through and get down to Asda. Maybe you won't have a dribbler (lucky sod) but if you do you can't go wrong with good old Asda.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Things I said I'd Never do as a Parent Part 2: Sleep Training

Now this one's going to be a controversial one. Sleep training usually brings to mind leaving your baby to cry for hours on end whilst you calmly sit supping on a glass of wine with no regard to the helpless little one screaming for you in the next room. I'd always been adamant that I would never just leave my baby to cry. A crying baby is crying because they need you surely?

Lewis first slept through the night when he was 12 weeks old. He slept through the night once. Once. That was it. From that point on he would wake between 2-3 times a night and between the husband and I we were managing that pretty well, both getting just enough rest to still be functional. We knew it wouldn't last forever and soon enough Lewis would drop 1 feed and then inevitable the rest. How wrong we were.

At around 4.5 months Lewis's sleep went to absolute shit. The dreaded 4 month sleep regression they call it. He was waking anywhere between 4-5 times a night and for some of those wake ups would stay awake for over an hour wanting to play. It got to the point where Rob would just get him out of bed and play with him until he got tired again. Lewis was waking up anywhere between 4-5am everyday and there was not a hope in hell you could get him back to sleep. Again we told ourselves it was a phase, he would grow out of it, we just had to put up with it temporarily.

Around 6 months things got worse. Lewis was up between 6-7 times a night and the only way to get him back to sleep would be to feed him or rock him for ages. He would fall asleep in your arms and just as you were about to lay him down in the cot those eyes would burst wide open and the crying would start again. You couldn't make any noise if you were on the bedroom side of the house as even a mouse fart would wake him. Most nights I would eventually resort to pulling out the sofa bed in his room and bringing him in there with me in an attempt to get him back to sleep. Sometimes it worked but other times I just got beat up for an hour before I admitted defeat and we got up for the day at 4:30am.

At 6.5 months we knew we had to do something. We'd tried the gentle methods, shushing, patting, staying in the room, Ewan the Bloody Dream Sheep, leaving multiple dummies in the cot in the vain hope that when he woke he'd find one and shove it back in his gob himself. So it was with much shame that I started googling sleep training techniques.

We settled on the Dr Ferber approach and I promptly ordered his book "Solve your Child's Sleep Problems" from Amazon. When the book arrived I was surprised by how thick it was. How can you write such a large book about essentially letting your child cry to sleep was my thought. As it turns out this Dr Ferber knows a lot of shit about baby sleep. So much so he wrote a big book about it all! I read the book cover to cover. It explained all the mechanics of sleep in children, gave case studies of common sleep issues, gave guidelines on how much sleep children should be getting and was all around a really interesting read. I'd honestly recommend that everyone read it just to understand how sleep in children works.

From reading the book it became painfully clear what our problems were. When Lewis went through his sleep regression we resorted to feeding him back to sleep and this had now become a sleep association for him, as well as things like Ewan (that bloody sheep!) and his dummy. Dr Ferber compares it to as an adult you go to sleep with your pillow and duvet. When you wake in the night (which we all do, children included), you practically unconsciously check your surroundings, as your pillow and duvet are still there you drop right back to sleep and will likely have no recollection that you woke at all. However, if at one of these wakings you discovered that someone had taken your pillow and duvet away and hidden them you would probably end up waking fully and find it hard to go back to sleep until you had found your pillow and duvet. This is what was happening with Lewis. He was falling asleep on his bottle in our arms with Ewan (fecking sheep!) in the background and usually a dummy popped in at some point. Upon waking he was finding himself in his cot, with no Ewan (&*@£$), no dummy, no bottle and no Mummy or Daddy holding him. So inevitably he would wake up and cry until these conditions were met again.

The answer to the problem according to Dr Ferber was his Progressive Waiting approach. He adamantly refuses this approach to be labelled as a Cry It Out (CIO) approach and maintains that he uses this approach to minimise crying and does not believe at any point that parents should just leave their children to cry for hours on end. The method works by removing the inappropriate sleep associations; in our case feeding to sleep, fucking Ewan and the dummy and instead creating a sleep environment that will be consistent throughout the night. At this point you put your baby to bed, give them a kiss or however else you want to say goodnight and then leave the room. This is where the progressive waiting starts. You leave your child for a set period of time and if they are crying once this time is up you then go into them to check on them and to reassure them that you are there if they need you but now is sleepy time. Each night the timings get a little longer.

1st Wait Period

2nd Wait Period

3rd Wait Period

Remaining Wait Periods

Day 1

3 Minutes

5 Minutes

10 Minutes

10 Minutes

Day 2

5 Minutes

10 Minutes

12 Minutes

12 Minutes

Day 3

10 Minutes

12 Minutes

15 Minutes

15 Minutes

Day 4

12 Minutes

15 Minutes

17 Minutes

17 Minutes

Day 5

15 Minutes

17 Minutes

20 Minutes

20 Minutes

Day 6

17 Minutes

20 Minutes

25 Minutes

25 Minutes

Day 7

20 Minutes

25 Minutes

30 Minutes

30 Minutes

Dr Ferber believes that most babies over 6 months can go through the night without a feed but he offers a whole load of advice on combining night weaning with the Progressive Waiting approach. We decided that if Lewis woke between 11-12pm and 3-4am we would feed him, but all other wake ups would be treated with the above approach. We also decided to train his naps at the same time to try and get everything sorted all in one hit. I say we, but actually the task fell to me. Ultimately as I'm such a control freak there was no way I could have slept anyway if the husband was doing his shift of training so it was just better for us all if I took the brunt of it.

So in readiness for our first night I kept Lewis up an hour later than usual as suggested in the book. Made myself a make shift bed on the sofa and prepared for what I'd started referring to as the "Night of Terror". After Lewis' bath we got dried and in our pyjamas, I read him a bedtime story, put him in his sleeping bag, told him I loved him and good night. He started crying straight away and do you know how long he cried for? 12 minutes total. 12 minutes! He had cried for longer when I had been rocking him, patting him, shushing him etc. He woke 3 times that night each time going back to sleep quicker than the last. I fed him once at 3am and after that he was asleep before the 3 minute check time could arrive.

Night 2 at bedtime he cried for 5 minutes. Woke 3 times again, fed once and each time falling back to sleep before the 5 minute check in time.

Night 3 at bedtime cried for 1 minute. Woke once for food, back to sleep with no crying. Woke at 7am.

Night 4 at bedtime no crying. Woke once for food, back to sleep with no crying. Woke at 6:30am.

Night 5 at bedtime no crying. Slept through the fricking night!!!!!!!!!! Woke at 6:30am

Night 6 at bedtime no crying. Slept through the night!! Woke at 6:30am.

Night 7 - by this time I'd stopped recording anything as he was going to sleep almost instantly and if he woke in the night wasn't even crying, would just make a few gurgles then drop back to sleep. For his naps Lewis was going straight to sleep upon being placed in his cot and was sleeping anywhere between 1-2 hrs.

I know sleep training is a controversial subject and no one likes to think of their baby crying for any period of time. I'm not suggesting its the best thing for everyone but it has certainly been a revelation for us. Lewis is so much better rested. He's able to stay awake for longer in the day and is in such a better mood. His bedtime is now a consistent 7:30pm as opposed to whenever we couldn't stand the grumpiness anymore. He has a set routine throughout the day now with well timed naps and feeds. With my return to work looming on the horizon it has certainly been worth it. I now have confidence that Lewis will be able to nap at the childminders or if Nanny is looking after him.

So there we have it. Part 2 of my "Things I said I'd never do as a Parent" series. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what some of your things you said you'd never do were.

Oh and as for Ewan.... we love him really! He still has pride of place in Lewis' cot but no longer sports any batteries. Whilst he became a bit of a problem for us in Lewis' early days he really was a godsend and I'd definitely recommend him to parents with newborns. If only he had the staying power to remain on all night instead of 20 minutes then he'd be my 100% baby essential.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Things I said I'd never do as a Parent - Part 1 - Cosleeping

Every new parent will have been given the run down on SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Basically there’s about a million things that if you do them your baby will die. Second hand mattress – your baby will die; baby sleeping on their tummy – your baby will die; had a drink in the evening – your baby will die; co-sleep with your baby – your baby will die, and the list goes on and on.

I’m by no means trying to disparage the research that has been done on SIDS or say that these risk factors are not important to consider. Since the introduction of the ‘Reduce the Risk’ campaign in 1991, deaths attributable to SIDS have dropped from 1,173 in 1991 to approximately 300 per year currently. That is certainly not to be sniffed at, unfortunately what those educating expectant parents on SIDS fail to do is explain the realities of life.

For the first week that Lewis was home he would not sleep any where else except for on my chest. As far as he was concerned he’s just spent a lovely nine months all curled up, nice and warm, in my uterus and the ridiculously over priced moses basket I had bought him just wasn’t up to standard. I spent two nights wide awake holding my baby whilst Rob (husband) fetched me coffee and Red Bull at regular intervals. I had to google if it was OK to drink Red Bull whilst breastfeeding and since I couldn’t find conclusive evidence decided it was probably better than falling asleep holding my baby, whereupon, he would of course inevitably die of SIDS.

It was one late night when Lewis had decided that he would sleep somewhere other than my chest, not in his moses basket mind but rather in the middle of our king size bed, that I sent a message to my antenatal group’s whatsapp saying I had been kicked out of the bed and what should I do now. The response was a unanimous “Get in there with him and get some sleep!”. I of course was petrified at the idea but after a quick google (thank god for google) of safe co-sleeping positions I got in and had what was probably the best night’s sleep I’d had in months.

It wasn’t long before Lewis started to become more comfortable sleeping in his moses basket and I was able to reclaim the bed, but to this day if Lewis is having a particularly difficult night I’ll get into bed with him and snuggle up so we can both get some sleep. In fact holding his hand whilst we sleep together is still one of my most favourite times as a mum.

Co-sleeping isn’t for everyone and there is certainly evidence based research to link it to an increased risk of SIDS, however, there are plenty of safe co-sleeping resources available on the Internet and the reality of life is that at some point you will co-sleep with your baby, I guarantee it. So don’t be like me and panic that you’re going to kill your baby.

If you want more information on ‘Reduce the Risk’/’Back to Sleep’ campaigns The Lullaby Trust is a great resource. For information on safe co-sleeping the NCT website has a good guide but there are loads of resources out there.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Clue's in the Title

I was never destined to be a supermum, in all honesty at one point I thought I'd probably never be a mum at all. However life finds a way as they say, and here I am, 6 months down the line with what can only be described as the most beautiful little boy in the world.

OK so I'm probably a bit biased and I'm sure every mum thinks their child is the most beautiful in the world, but come on! Look at that face.

Meet Lewis Timothy Preston. Named Lewis as it's the only boy's name my husband and I could agree on and only then because we're huge Lewis Hamilton fans. Named Timothy as a nod to his Poppy (my Dad) and named Preston because that's what my husband lumped us with.

The first 6 months of Lewis' life have been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, frantic midnight googling sessions, tears, laughter, panic and endless photos. Being the not so supermum that I am I've taken alot of solace in reading the wise words of other mums who are not afraid to say it like it is and bare all. It's all too easy to pretend that having children is the most rewarding experience and that it's the best job in the world, however the reality, at least for me, is that at times it's really a bit shit. Night feeds, teething, poo explosions, starting everyday at 5am, it all adds up and makes you question where you went wrong. So I wanted to start this blog, one; in hopes of helping other not so supermums to realise that they are not alone and two; to help me feel a bit better when the shit column is dwarfing the rewarding column.

I hope you enjoy following along with us whilst we try and work out this mumming business.