Monday, 28 May 2012

Good days, bad days, I've had a few of those

On Saturday I had a bad day.  Baby M refused to go down for her morning nap until 3pm despite being grizzly and tired.  We got close a few times, but something always went wrong.

The night before we hadn't had too bad a night considering Baby M has her first tooth coming through and her nursery is the hottest room in the house.  I haven't got a clue how many times we woke up though or how long she fed for.  I mostly just latched her on and went back to sleep. So maybe it was because I hadn't had a lot of sleep that night or for weeks, maybe there was no excuse, but Baby M was really annoying me.

I love my daughter more than I can say, but I don't always like her.  Yesterday she seemed to be beating me up more than usual: pulling my hair, pinching me (she's currently perfecting the pincer grip) and head butting me. She isn't doing this intentionally: she's either playing or upset.  Baby beads might help reduce injuries but when she isn't safely in cradle hold and she's crawling all over me it does little to distract her. Every time she hurt me I got unreasonable irritated. To the point that I went on strike and told my husband she had to take care of her.

It wasn't just the pain that was getting to me, but what it says about me as a mother.  I know all babies tend to pull hair, but Baby M does it a lot and I can't seem to stop her. It's just one of the many things she does that I seem to be unable to stop including: biting me while feeding and putting dirty things in her mouth.  At times yesterday I had a vision of being a mum of teenage hooligan, knowing that I tried hard and wanted the best for my child and not knowing how she grew up into the sort of person who had no respect for other people or their belongings.



I try to stop Baby M doing things wrong.  From my psychology degree I know that one of the most important things about your approach to parenting is consistency regardless of what you are consistent in doing, but I can't make anything work.  So I try one approach, then another and then give up completely.

The first approach I used was "just say no".  When Baby M was doing something wrong like trying to drink from the cats' water bowl I would say "no" in a disapproving voice.  This was either completely ignored or met with a big grin.

At baby clinic I was given another piece of advice.  They said that saying no can actually encourage playing up because the baby is getting attention, effectively rewarding the bad behaviour. They also pointed out that if you are saying no all the time then you risk "No" being their first word.  Instead it was suggested that I use distraction eg take away the shoe she was eating and replace it with a toy with no big fuss.  I should also try playing with one of her toys myself in the hope that she would come and play with me.  That would involve her paying some attention to me, no such luck.

The distraction or swapping method works in that she stops doing the undesired activity, but that's only because she physically can't continue it. It works particularly well in the first 6 months before object permanence kicks in: out of sight is out of mind.  Now as she is mobile if she really wants to play or eat something, say the tv remote, she will keep reaching for it where ever it is moved to.  We have currently have a lot of stuff balanced on high shelves in our living room.  So far this approach doesn't seem to stop the behaviour from being repeated as soon as the opportunity arises.

The advice I have read about stopping biting during nursing has followed a similar pattern.  The first approach I used was to take the baby off the boob, say "no" and put them down.  Many mums have claimed they only had to do this once or twice and the biting stopped.  Not for me.  Baby M either bites or doesn't, what I do seems to have little to do with it.

Similar to the distraction method I read some different advice on Kelly Mom about how to stop biting during nursing(I can't find the article now). They advised taking the baby off, giving them a teether and saying something along the lines of: "oh you aren't hungry then". This worked sometimes, but often resulted in shorter feeds more often each one ending with a bite.

When I asked for advice on a baby forum about biting the general advice was that babies bite while feeding for 2 main reasons: either teething pain, or for fun. They generally do the second type when they have had enough food and are starting to get bored.  If their is teething pain use teething gel or Anbesol before a feed, if boredom learn to recognise the warning signs and latch them off before hand.  And use lots of Lansinoh.  I'm not sure that the Baby M is always biting for one of these reasons as she sometimes starts biting mid feed, but it doesn't happen every feed or every day so I have followed the advice about digging out my little purple tube of magic (Lansinoh Lanolin).

When I'm at my most tired I make a judgement call: just how much harm is likely to come to her from chewing that flip flop? After all I've walked on that floor in them, she's crawling on it then sticks her hands in her mouth.  Isn't that the same thing? In that example probably not: the shoe is dirtier, but you get the idea.

I know that she is gradually understanding more and more and one day I will be able to use logic and explanation to stop her doing things she shouldn't.  Until then I guess we will just have to keep taking things away and giving her toys instead, hoping that she doesn't do anything when we aren't looking that causes lasting damage.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Going bald and covered in scratches

It's normal to lose some hair after you give birth: it's apparently just the loss of the extra hair you grow during pregnancy. Personally I didn't notice my hair got any thicker, and I haven't noticed it falling out in handfuls either (although this may be due to breastfeeding). I have noticed it being pulled out though, in handfuls: baby handfuls.

Baby M (like most babies) loves to grab on to hair and pull. It's the reason many mum's choose to cut their hair short. I find the hair pulling is particularly bad while I'm feeding her and when I'm not having my hair pulled out the little hands are busy grabbing and pinching me. I know she's just exploring both me and her hands, but sometimes I get a little fed up of being mauled during her feeds and it slightly ruins the lovely bonding time that is breastfeeding. Several months ago I bought a mermaid treasure necklace made by Baby Beads. These necklaces are designed and handmade by Jo of babybead.co.uk website. Wearing the necklace while nursing gives little hands something to do that doesn't involve hurting mama.

I have to admit that while I think the necklace is very pretty it isn't the minimalist silver that is my normal jewellery choice. Although the necklace doesn't match my normal style (whatever that is) I am frequently seen wearing it around the house for one simple reason: it works. The beads in all the necklaces are bright and chunky. They are designed to be worn by adults and the cord is strong to allow babies to pull on it without it snapping (safety tested to EU standards). Best of all it is exactly the sort of thing that attracts the attention of Baby M. Baby M can play with the necklace as it hangs down to the perfect height. When she reaches her hands out to tug my hair or stroke (read that as scratch) my face she often gets distracted by the necklace, but not so distracted that she stops feeding.


Jo came up with the idea when her son was young, breastfeeding and easily distracted. Other mums noticed how calm her son was while feeding due to the necklace and she soon started making them for other people.    She has found the necklaces also aid bonding and discovery due to the textures and colours and they have also helped mums who bottle feed.  There are a wide range of different necklaces so you are unlikely to see anyone with the same one.

In June I am blogging for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding scavenger hunt organised by Karen from Boobiemilk. The scavenger hunt aims to raise awareness about breastfeeding and help keep more mums feeding longer.  There is also the chance to win over £500 worth of breastfeeding products by going round various blogs and reading posts about breastfeeding. As part of this I will be writing 4 posts about breastfeeding during June. Subscribe to the boobiemilk website to take part in the scavenger hunt.

Jo from Babybeads offered to sponsor me for scavenger hunt, and after browsing her website I discovered that I have one of her necklaces. On the Baby Beads website Jo sells the necklaces and reminder bracelets which she hand crafts (access her site here). She also stocks a range of other products including reminder bracelets, breastfeeding pillows, breast pads and they are currently the only UK stockists of the booby booster.

I was a little sceptical about the need for the booby booster, but after conversations with ladies who have bigger boobs than myself it turns out that they often have problems with positioning young babies so the nipple is in the best place for a good and pain free latch. One mum advised that she had to hold her breast in one hand while her baby fed making feeding in public embarrassing.

As for the reminder bracelets some mums have said that they know which side to feed on next by giving their chest a quick squeeze. I haven't always found that method reliable (or particularly discreet). Since very early on I have logged all feeds on my phone (including what side Baby M fed on and for how long). For those less anal about how much and how often their child feeds a reminder bracelet is a good idea as it's a subtle and simple way of knowing which side is next.

During the scavenger hunt I will be running a competition to give away a baby beads necklace of your choice.  For now sign up to the scavenger hunt and check out the baby beads website and come back soon to be in for a chance to win.

Friday, 18 May 2012

A Domestic Goddess Makes Curry

This week I've been a domestic goddess by which I mean I have cleaned the kitchen every day, made several dinners, had a shower every single day and I washed some clothes (but no ironing, who do you think I am?).  Oh ok, that might not sound like much to you non parents out there and I know there are super mums that do far more, but for me it's a super successful week.

Looking after a constantly on the go and curious baby is hard work and there is little time for anything else. On the rare occasions she is asleep in her cot I have a choice: do something I want to do or be a good wifey and clean, cook etc. Like thousands of women out there (and a much smaller number of men) sacrificing quality time that could be spent on social media or watching tv to do domestic chores gets little recognition. That's not to say my husband doesn't notice, or even appreciate it. When I say "look I cleaned the kitchen" I get a "yes I saw, well done". But unless I point out my efforts it's likely that nothing will be said.

I guess I'm lucky. We are a messy household and the house is only in a presentable state half the time because we have a cleaner an hour a week and having a crawling baby dictates a certain level of cleanliness (and putting all mess on surfaces she can't yet reach). More successful domestic goddesses than myself who have the house constantly tidy, do washing, ironing and dinner every night are more likely to get receive recognition from their partners if they don't do something.

My cooking choices this week have been inspired by the Baby Led Weaning Cookbook (reviews of these recipes are on my to do list for my other blog) and the delivery of 2 curry sauces.  I was sent the sauces to try and review and I'm glad to say they were very nice, because this would have been a struggle to write otherwise.

The first curry was Mangalore Herb Curry.  This isn't a curry I've heard of before, but looking at the ingredients it is largely coriander leaves.  As my husband said "it's not the nicest looking curry in the world, but it's tasty".  The Spice Tailor curry packs by Anjum Anand come with a spice mix and sauce.  They encourage flexibility with a suggested approach to cooking as well as alternative things to try.  You can choose what meat or vegetables to add allowing you to tailor it to your taste.  I made the Mangalore Herb Curry by frying the spices (including the optional chilli for extra heat) then adding sliced chicken thighs and then finally the sauce.  The resulting curry was runnier than I like so I cooked it longer than stated to thicken it up.  The end result was a mildly spicy, interesting tasting and delicious curry.
The second curry I was sent was the much more recognisable tikka masala. This curry has a spice mix, and 2 sauces.  It says that you can use one of the sauces to marinade your meat then grill it for an added flavour, so I did.   I used chicken thighs on the bone (because that's what I had in the freezer).  The grilled marinated chicken was delicious and I could have stopped there, but I cut it off the bone and added the chicken to the fried spices and the other sauce.  The end result was a very tasty and recognisable chicken tikka masala.
By having fresh spices that are fried before adding sauce it adds a depth of flavour that you don't always get with shop bought curry sauces or pastes.  I love that there are suggestions of different ways to cook each dish eg different meats (or vegetables), slow cooking, marinating etc.  It makes you feel that you are being brilliantly domesticated yet you can make an appetising meal in less that 15 minutes (including preparation and rice cooking time).  Handy for a mum with so little free time.  I will definitely be trying some others in the range.

The curry kits are £2.89 rrp and are available from Waitrose or the Spice Tailor website
More information is available on the website: http://www.thespicetailor.com/

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Extreme breastfeeding: what it's really all about

Thanks to *that* magazine article there has been a lot of talk recently about how long it is acceptable to breastfeed your child.  So I thought I would make a few comments.  Credit to Claire (@Cemjay23 for inspiring/ influencing this).

Any amount of time breastfeeding a child should be applauded, even if it is just one day.  Breastfeeding is always best for the baby, but it isn't always best for mum.

The WHO recommend breastfeeding until a child is 2 years old (with complementary food after 6 months) and recognise that there continue to be benefits beyond that time.  And no that isn't just in countries where they may not have access to a wide balanced diet because breastmilk isn't just about nutrition.

Anyone breastfeeding their child beyond 2 years almost certainly isn't doing it just because they want to.  Some babies self wean before then, but others want to continue to feed for many years.  And why would you not give your child something that they wanted, that is good for them (and you), is free and you can provide? (Again I'm not criticising any mums who wean earlier due to a whole range of personal reasons).

The only time it is acceptable to say "are you *still* breastfeeding?" is when the baby is over a few months old, has been feeding for over half an hour and you need the mum for something.  Even then you may be given a dirty look.

Definition of Extreme breastfeeding
When the feed has been going on for 2 hours or more.  Now that is love (on both sides)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Turning 30

Having witnessed people in my life turning 30 I have noticed how many of them went through a period of self reflection.  Often this involved depression and considering radically changing their life.

On the face of it ‘thirty’ should be just another birthday, but it turns out it's not.  I’ve not felt such pressure from my peers to do something special for my birthday since I turned 21.  At 21 I had a week long party involving lots of booze, memory loss, the police refusing to take me home because I was too drunk and a trip to Alton Towers.  I am turning 30 in less than 2 weeks and I’m not feeling in the party spirit.  This is partly because having (practically single handedly) organised my daughter's Christening and my wedding this year I don’t really have the energy to arrange another party.  It’s also partly because I feel a bit of a mess: my roots needed doing months ago, I’m about a stone heavier than I was when I left hospital after having Baby M and most of my clothes have never been introduced to fashion, let alone the current trend.  And while in my former life most of this would be resolvable I don’t currently have the time or the money to improve things.

I thought I was doing ok, I thought the ghosts that haunt people as they turn 30 wouldn’t get me.  Turns out I was wrong.  Daniel Levinson* called it the “Age 30 transition”.  A stage when people move from “Entering the Adult World” to “Settling Down”.  He also identified the next transition stage when people are 40 to 45 when the well known mid-life crisis can occur (Levinson called it the “mid-life transition”).

So I’m having my turning 30 crisis, but why would I be feeling sad?  If you asked me when I was at school what I wanted to achieve by the time I was 30 I would probably have said: get married, have my own car and house, have children and have a good job.  Well I can tick all of those off.  In my less realistic moments I might also have asked to be a millionaire and incredibly beautiful, but I’m not really complaining about being reasonably well off and having a face that, while not beautiful, doesn’t make children run away screaming.  Well not if I have make up on.

I think my problem is although I have moved into the “settling down” stage through choice many of my peers haven’t.  I have many friends (and sisters) who can go out partying without worrying about who will look after the baby, will she feed, and will they ever be able to catch up on enough sleep to be merely a zombie rather than comatose?  They can also spend time shopping to find clothes and get ready so they look amazing when they go out.  I can’t even work out how to arrange childcare so I can get my hair done. 

To make things worse I seem to know an awful lot of glamorous mummies.  I have very few nice casual clothes and what I have seems to quickly get messed up thanks to the baby, cats and grabbing food on the go.  Plus I have a limited option of what I can wear that can give me easy access to my boobs.

Very few of the mums I see regularly, and none of the most glamorous ones, are still breastfeeding and probably related to this most of their babies are far less dependent on them. For example one friend left her baby when a week old to go get her nails done and regularly leaves her daughter in the crèche so she can work out in the gym.

And the hardest thing about everything I'm feeling?  I chose it all.  I wanted everything that I now have.  And I still want it, but I miss the things I don’t have:
  • I would love to go on holiday.
  • I would love some time out: to go swimming, to go shopping, to get my hair done, to exercise, to catch up with friends, or even just an entire day doing nothing.
  • I would love to have a number of outfits that aren't all crumpled up and that make me feel attractive.
  • After the weather for the last month I would love to be able to sit in the garden in the sunshine and drink a cup of tea.

But I also don’t want to be away from my baby for long. 

So I’m going to make myself that cup of tea and if I’m lucky I might get to drink it before Baby M wakes up.  I’m going to tell myself that my current depressed state is due to an unavoidable life stage and compounded my lack of sunshine.  I’m going to cuddle my daughter when she wakes up from her nap and play with her for the rest of the day.

And I’m going to try not to think “what if?” because deep down I know my life is actually rather brilliant and I just need to try and remember that.


*Daniel Levinson wrote about these life stages in “Seasons of a man’s life” 1985.  I have a degree in Psychology, can you tell?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Do I mind we don't sleep through the night?

Last night was another night that ended with Baby M and I co-sleeping.

I have no problem with co-sleeping: sleeping next to each other has probably meant more than a weeks more sleep in total for both us over the last 7 months. Until 4 months old baby M was in a co-sleeper next to our bed (see old post). This allowed her to reach for me when needed, but both of us had our own space.

We stopped this arrangement because I had too much space: Baby M's Dad was sleeping on the sofa with the cats. Baby M was also struggling to go to sleep in the evening without me going to bed at the same time. So we decided that as a family it was right for her to move into her own room. Since Baby M moved to the nursery I have had a 'camp' bed set up on the nursery floor. When she wakes and can't be settled easily the 2 of us cuddle up on the floor.

Tonight she woke crying at 4am, I nursed her then placed her in her cot. About 10 minutes later she started crying again so I went to her. It became clear she needed me to stay with her to get more sleep so once more we took to the camp bed on the floor and soon both fell asleep.

As I lay with my daughter next to me I thought once again how lucky I am to have such a beautiful, amazing little girl. I love her so much. Yes sometimes I wish she would sleep through the night and yes I get incredibly frustrated when she is crying at night and I can't get her to stop, but I treasure the moments I get to hold her.

She is still so small, so delicate, so dependant on me for her survival. I pray that she will grow to be big, strong and healthy. There will be a day all too soon when she no longer needs me the way she does right now. That is good, and right, and the way things should be. When the day comes I will continue to be grateful that I am so lucky to have her, although I know I will miss the closeness we now share.

The thought of losing her is too much to focus on. The strength of women who have lost their babies is amazing. Whether they lost them during pregnancy, at birth or after spending precious time with them. I can only begin to imagine the pain they feel. Feelings I have only felt in a comparatively minor way when I have feared for the survival of my baby. Those mothers are amazing and wonderful and strong. They learn to carry on their lives because that's what a mother does, whether there child lives or not, but I can't imagine that pain ever goes away.

Yes sleeping through the night might be nice, but lying next to my beautiful daughter, hearing her breathe and seeing her chest rise and fall is an amazing gift. One that I treasure. As long as she is safe and well I will sacrifice sleep, I will sacrifice anything and I will be thankful.
This post was prompted by @lifeasasahm's post about the loss of her twin boys (read her moving post here). My heart goes out to her and anyone else who has ever lost their child.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Voting and revisiting the Close Caboo carrier

Today Baby M and I went to vote.  As it was yet another rainy day and the Polling station is at the end of my road I decided I didn't want to take the buggy so I dug out my Caboo baby carrier (by Close).  When Baby M was little I loved carry her in the Caboo.  She went through a, rather long, phase where she didn't want to be put down or left alone.  I discovered the Caboo following a friends recommendation and I loved that suddenly I had my hands free again and a happy baby.  I used it mostly around the house, but out and about as well. As my baby became more independent, and heavier, I packed the Caboo away and hadn't thought about using it again until today.

The Caboo carrier consists of two straps connected with a fixed cross and some rings, there is also an outer wrap which doubles up as a bag to store the carrier in.  I liked it initially because it is a soft fabric sling that didn't rely on my ability to tie knots.  The baby can sit in a variety of positions, but as Baby M was tired I had her in the upright position facing in.  I put my jacket over the top and my umbrella up keeping us both warm and dry.

With Baby M safely attached to me it was easy to walk to the polling station, pick up my voting slips and vote in my local Parish and Town Council elections.  I feel I should always take the effort to vote because so many women fought for my right to vote and democracy is so important; even if the outcome will never make everybody happen.  As Baby M grows up I will be encouraging her to vote as well and taking her to the polling booth from an early age seems one way to do this.  (As an aside it is my view that if you don't like the candidates you should still go out and vote, spoiling the ballot paper if necessary. I don't want to be part of the huge number of registered voters who don't vote and are consider apathetic.  It is too easy for politicians to write off dissatisfaction as apathy).

After going to vote I had to go to the supermarket.  I was surprised at how comfortable the Caboo was (Baby M is 7 months and 7.5kg) so I continued to wear Baby M in the carrier.

Good Points about the Caboo Carrier

  • I only wore it for around an hour in total, but Baby M's weight felt well distributed and I didn't ache at all (which I would have done in carrying her without a sling).
  • The sling is light and soft because it's made from organic cotton
  • When not worn it folds up to take up very little space
  • It is brilliant for newborns and small babies as they can be worn close to the parent (even skin to skin).
  • It is great for older babies to sleep in as their head can be supported close to your chest, shutting out stimulation but allowing them to breathe easily.
  • It washes really well: always handy with babies.


Bad points about the Caboo carrier

  • For babies up to about 4 months I have very few criticisms only that I didn't manage to get to grips with any positions other than the upright ones and I didn't find a way to breastfeed in it.
  • With my older baby I found the carrier doesn't allow her to move around and investigate without me having to reposition the straps regularly and Baby M is quite wriggly.
  • The best way to distribute weight and make it comfy for longer wears is to widen the straps over your shoulders.  This doesn't work under a coat and I've found that the straps tend to bunch up and need to be repositioned fairly often.


Overall I was impressed with how well the carrier worked with Baby M today and I will use it again for short trips, but I'm still looking for a more structured carrier that works with bigger babies and for longer periods.


Baby M hiding in the Caboo

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Win tickets to the Baby Show at Birmingham NEC

In just a couple of weeks The Baby Show will return to Birmingham's NEC and you and a friend/ lover/ family member/ random stranger could get in for free.  The Baby Show in association with Prima Baby and sponsored by Fisher-Price runs from Friday 18th May (my birthday) to Sunday 20th.

Not been to the Baby Show before?  It's great.  I went to one at the NEC while pregnant last year, and I've since been to 2 more (in London).  So what is so good about them?

  • As a mum to be I found it useful to check out some of the best buggies and car seats on the market, decide some of the essential items I wanted, and some things I definitely didn't.  I bought several items at a bargain price and I got loads of freebies.
  • As a mum with a baby just a few weeks old I found it useful to buy products that I had held off on until after the birth.  And I also got loads of freebies.
  • As a mum with a baby about to start weaning I enjoyed looking at the various paraphernalia that could help make the process easier for me and Baby M as well as food she could try.  It was also brilliant to investigate some of the latest products for making life easier for you and baby. Oh and I might have got my hands on a few freebies as well.
  • There are lots of products and ideas for older children as well so I will definitely be going back.


At the Birmingham Baby Show over 250 brands are exhibiting including:
"Fisher-PriceMamas & Papas, Mothercare, Marks & Spencer, Britax, tommee tippee and new companies MammaePoco Nido,Kinderroom and Curaprox"

Most exhibitors sell their products at a special reduced rate. As a savvy mum who likes the best deals I've checked a few of the offers in the past on my phone while at the show and I've found they can beat internet prices.

And as if that wasn't enough there are a wide range of talks on the Prima Baby Stage including first aid tips from British Red Cross and nutrition advice from Annabel Karmel

To make it easy for those with little ones there is a creche run by Fisher-Price, a large nappy changing area (with free wipes and nappies) and feeding areas.  I love the Tommee Tippee breastfeeding area which is hidden away with the most comfy seats in the place.

So if you are free on the 18th, 19th or 20th May I strongly recommend visiting.  You can buy tickets in advance for £12 via the Baby Show website, or they are £20 on the door.

If you would like 2 tickets to go for free then you are in the right place.

To enter: leave a comment below saying which one item you think is essential for a new mum. The competition closes midnight on the 8th May.  The winner will be selected at random.


If you don't have any of the profiles required for posting a comment you can enter by  tweeting me your answer (@essexkate) or emailing me thesecretlifeofkate@gmail.com


For an extra chance to win tweet a link to this blog post and include the hash tag #givemebabyshowtix


Update Wednesday 9th May:
Some of the best suggestions received by email were :
Rachel: "the very best cot mattress you can afford so the baby is as comfy as possible and will sleep better/ for longer"
Debbie: "my husband" who sounds absolutely amazing
SSBG: "A loving and supporting partner" or "a swing" to soothe colic
Zeenat: "Burp Clothes"
Sarah: "a nice comfy chair for feeding is essential to save your back"


All winners were written on a piece of paper (twice for the hash tag posting) and the winner picked at random was: Zeenat.
Everyone else I hope you will take advantage of some of the discount codes out there and still go along.  Thank you everyone that entered