Travelling with a baby

We have just got back from a lovely break in Norfolk with some family and it came at a very good time as Elbie’s sleep has taken a turn for the worse again. Having family around to help out while in a beautiful holiday cottage was just what the doctor ordered. It was very relaxing, well as relaxing as you can get with a six month old baby. It’s the same as any holiday though, it always goes far too quickly and the days leading up to it go too slowly.

Although this was a short break in England whenever I tell anyone we are going on holiday they look at me then look at Elbie and say “good luck” or “you’re brave” and to be honest before we did travel with Elbie I was thinking the same thing. How on earth were we going to get to get out of the flat with everything?! How would we get to the airport on time let alone manage a flight with a baby and then be in a foreign place? The thought of it turned out to be so much worse than the reality. I still get a little panicked that I will forget something but I think everyone feels like that before they go away and now because I’m so wrapped up in sorting out Elbie’s luggage I usually do miss something, of mine though.

We have been lucky to have had the opportunity to travel so much with Elbie as Eddie gets school holidays off. We always try to get away as much as possible and we end up spending most of our money going on trips. We have been trying to decorate for over a year but never have the money to do it. We may not have lovely looking walls but we do have lots of good memories. Eddie and I share a passion of travelling and we want that to rub off on Elbie too. One day we will decorate I’m sure.

When we first took Elbie on holiday she was only six weeks old and although that sounds pretty daunting it was actually easier to travel with a new born than it is now. Back then all we needed to remember was the pram (it had a carry cot that she slept in), passport and the baby. Anything else we forgot didn’t really matter as could be bought cheaply. Now is another story altogether. Why do such small things require so much? At the end I will list my essentials for our baby travel. We used to be professional light packers but those days are well and truly history. Travelling with a new born doesn’t just requite less baggage but routines aren’t an issue either. There was no drama about staying out late as Elbie would sleep anywhere and had no idea of where she was or what time it was. We could quite happily eat out until midnight with no stress at all and no overtired screaming fits in the day if a nap had been missed either. Not that it is difficult to travel now but it definitely required less planning back then.

Here are my travelling lists.

New born travel (breast fed)-

• Baby (essential)

• Enough sleep suits and vests for days away plus three extras for those little accidents

• Enough day clothes for days away plus three extras

• Some nappies (rest can be bought when there)

• Muslins

• Towel

• Cotton wool (I’m a bit of a clean freak and like to top and tail Elbie in the mornings even though she bathes before bed. We have done this since 3 weeks old)

• Two mattress sheets

• Swaddle blanket

• Blanket

• Changing bag with –

changing mat

Nappy sacks

Wet wipes (more can be purchased away)

Antibacterial wipes and hand wash

• Pram (carry cot)

• Car seat (if needed)

• Baby carrier

We also took a mosquito net when we went to the South of France.

Six month travel –

•Enough sleep suits and vests for days away plus three extras for those little accidents

• Enough day clothes for days away plus three extras

• Some nappies

• Muslins

• Towel

• Cotton wool

• Two cot sheets

• Sleeping bag

• Blanket

• Changing bag with –

changing mat

Nappy sacks

Wet wipes

Antibacterial wipes and hand wash

• Travel cot

• Pram

• Car seat (if needed)

• Baby carrier

• Baby monitor

• Play mat

• Selection of toys

• Three books (totally unaware of the same books being read each night)

• Snack bag-

Small plastic containers

Spoons

Cup

Apron

Non slip eating mat (essential for eating out)

So much to pack! I’m sure I have missed something off somewhere too. If we are going somewhere by car then we also take Elbie’s bath seat and a chair/ bouncer just because we can.

We said goodbye to light, easy, care free travel six months ago. It may take more care and effort to pack these days but it is definitely more fun too.

(Image from National Geographic)
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Six months of motherhood

Wow six months! Where has half a year gone? Well they do say time flies when you are having fun and that is exactly what we have been doing over the last six months. I would be lying though if I said it had been plain sailing as it definitely hasn’t been without its challenges. Sleep deprivation being the main bumpy ground of parenthood but every second has been worth it.

Somehow it feels like Elbie only entered our lives yesterday as a tiny 6lbs wrinkly baby while also feeling like it was a lifetime ago and she has always been here. I remember holding her not long after she was born finding it near impossible to imagine what she would be like in six months time. Struggling to picture a relaxed and worry free life where I wouldn’t have to keep checking she was breathing every five minutes or worrying that I would somehow break a tiny bone of hers while getting her dressed. The truth is I don’t think that life exists once you become a parent. Just as you stop panicking that you haven’t tucked their blanket in correctly you find something else to worry yourself sick about. I have discovered that parenting is all about feeling on edge and full of anxiety about something happening to your child. Now we have reached the six month mark of keeping our child alive a whole new world has opened and it feels like everything has all come at once. Whereas before Elbie would seem to master one skill at a time and most of her developments although huge achievements were actually quite subtle now they are bam in your face new baby type of skills. My little squidge that I could put on the floor under her baby gym where she would happily lay bopping her hanging toys for ages has now grown into floor gymnast. I can’t take my eyes off her for a second as she rolls back to front in a second and then back again. Everything is of interest and of course has to go in the mouth for testing. She has mastered the caterpillar move by arching her back while on her front and pushing herself forward, not sure if this is an actual thing but it has become a problem when in her cot, mainly with bashing her head and then getting stuck. Vaguely amusing but highly annoying when having to keep going in to move her back. The little floppy newborn is now strong and sturdy and will sit unaided, albeit surrounded by pillows still and will clang around her toys while peering up to check that you are still there.

Six months as a parent is seen as such a huge milestone and it is. The advice around sleep training and weaning all recommend six months and these in my eyes are two massive turning points in parenthood. Sleep training has without a shadow of a doubt been the biggest game changer for me although we did ignore the advice and crumble before six months on this one. We did wait to start weaning though as I didn’t feel that Elbie was ready until she could sit up. The steriliser has now been replaced with a baby cooker (bought by Eddie’s parents and really is the best present any parent could be given when starting to wean). The fear of blankets over heads has been replaced by the terror of choking. Bottles are starting to be taken over by cups and now food preparation is part of my daily routine. As if getting out of the house wasn’t hard enough!

It feels like all of a sudden our baby is growing up. She is so aware of who we are now and has even started reaching for me when she is hungry which I of course find totally adorable. She will blow bubbles if she doesn’t want to do something, this is new in the last few days and I think this is one of my favourite things she has mastered. It makes me laugh watching her blow rasberries in protest, there is literally nothing cuter. Wouldn’t life be so much better if everyone when they were pissed off started blowing bubbles?!

I have officially enetered the next chapter of motherhood and I can’t wait to see what more fun is to be had. I’m learning to embrace the anxiety and fear that comes along too. 
 

Dear Elbie #5

Dear Elbie,

This is a long awaited letter and I’m sorry it has been a while but we have been busy little bees. Over the last four weeks we have been to stay at nana Moose and grandad’s, flown to Switzerland and back and spent two weeks with daddy, granny Jane and grandad Slim. Granny Jane and grandad Slim flew over from Sydney to spend time with you and to shower you with cuddles. It was your first time meeting grandad Slim so it was a very special two weeks. 
You are so lucky to have such loving grandparents and how great is it that you have them not only here but France and Australia too! It’s not easy having family living so far away but it is also pretty cool. There aren’t many little girls out there that have so much love coming from all corners of the planet. You haven’t had the chance to meet all of your aunties and uncles yet but I cannot begin to tell you how desperate they are to see you. In just over a month though I don’t think daddy and I will see you for dust, as you will be whisked up by them all and they won’t want to give you back. Don’t worry though we won’t leave Australia without you. You are one very lucky girl and you are so so loved by all of your family. You’re never going to be stuck for people to visit on holiday that’s for sure.

Love mummy xxx 

Sleepless at Gladstone Place

I’m not entirely sure where the saying “sleeping like a baby” comes from but if what they are actually referring to is someone who screams everytime they go to bed, wakes up almost every hour and actually has no idea how to sleep at all then OK I agree with it but it doesn’t mean that does it. So in fact it is total rubbish and extremely misleading. Babies don’t sleep, well mine doesn’t anyway. Elbie used to be a great sleeper and treated us to whole nights of sleep at one point. We could put her down in her moses basket, she would have a little look around if she wasn’t already asleep then close her eyes and off she went for at least 8 hours. This was for a very short period of 5-6 weeks but we thought we had nailed it. We tried not to be but deep down we felt pretty smug. We thought we had produced a sleeping angel but that halo didn’t just slip a little, it came tumbling down and crashed right into a sleepless hell. 

Although smug and secretly hoping that Elbie was now going to sleep through the night until she moved out of home and went off to university, I knew down in my boots it wouldn’t last. What I didn’t think was that she would revert back to sleeping the way she did just days after she was born. I don’t want Elbie to sleep just for selfish reasons either. Well at the moment it’s mainly for our benefit but in the not too distant future Elbie will need to concentrate during the day on school. I don’t want a kid who is up all night and unable to sleep and settle themselves. I want her to be able to get the most out of her days without being tired. 

Those first nights of Elbie’s life are all a bit of a blur of sleeplessness but I do remember people saying “it gets better”. They lied to me along with that stupid saying. Things have most definitely got worse. At least when Elbie was a new born she had no idea if it was day or night so it didn’t matter if I sat up at 3am watching Mad Men to keep me awake and entertained. Now though I have to promote sleep at night so when she wakes it is nothing but tears and feeding in the darkness, that goes for myself and Elbie. Struggling with all my might to keep my eyes open and my frustration at bay. For the last few weeks Elbie has pretty much been waking every hour and now her new thing is to wake in the middle of the night wanting to play. I think she feels like she needs to practice her new skills and party which I totally understand but mummy really doesn’t want to join in on this party. 

It’s so difficult to know what to do for the best. I have read many books, blogs and forums and each and everyone says something different. Advice from health visitors is different and of course offerings from friends differs too! We have tried one strategy one night which seems to work then fails catastrophically the next night so how do we know what to stick to?! 

After many many conversations about our little party monster’s habits the one thing that crops up time and time again is the “crying out method”. Although controversial it seems to be the only thing that has had a blanket effect (no pun intended) on sleeping issues with most of my friends and friends of friends. Eddie has been keen to try this method out as we are close to the end of our tether but all that we have read says not to attempt until 6 months. I would definitely prefer another way of gaining some much needed shut eye back but we seem to be running out of options. I have definitely found the sleeping issues of parenting the hardest so far and I’m sure we still have a very bumpy ride ahead of us. For now though I’m just going to have to embrace and treasure that Elbie still needs us to fall asleep. One more month of hourly awakenings for cuddles with mummy and daddy isn’t the end of the world. A lot is going to change at 6 months so I need to cherish her being so small and needy as I’m sure once she figures out how to settle herself I will somehow miss our night time snuggles, even if it doesn’t feel that way now.

Dear Elbie #4

Dear Elbie,

This week we have given a lot of money to local buskers. I’m all for supporting artists normally anyway but it turns out they are now my best friends. You can be on the brink of meltdown because you are so unbelievably tired but refuse to accept the fact that you are 4.5 months old and need to nap, then magic happens. We walk past one of the many wonderful buskers in town and just like that the tears stop and you let your eyes close. I have started to hover around buskers at nap times rocking you back and forth for half an hour. You’re not that fussy about the music although reggae is not your favourite right now. Thank god for street music! 

Love mummy xx

Combination feeding continued

The way you decide to feed your baby is such a personal choice and all parents I’m sure make their choices for the best reasons. Some on the other hand are forced into formula feeding for reasons out of their control. I have recently been in contact with a new mum who has had a rough start to motherhood and due to having such a traumatic time is having difficulties breastfeeding. She had planned on breastfeeding and as a mother is finding it hard to come to terms with the possibility that this is now something she may not be able to do. This of course has left her riddled with mum guilt. I don’t think she should feel guilty, she is a fantastic mum with a thriving little baby who is surrounded by love but I do totally understand the way she is feeling and if it was the other way round I’m sure I would be feeling exactly the same.

 
I have realised just how lucky and easy I have had it dealt to me as a first time mum. I have so much respect and appreciation for those strong women who have encountered obstacles at beginnings of their motherhood journeys. Feeling guilty about the way you feed your baby is the last thing you need as a new mummy but as I have already discussed I think it is something we all encounter whatever the reason. After talking about my mum guilt before though I now feel gratitude that I was given a choice at all.

 
Eddie and I have always been social butterflies and it wasn’t until I fell pregnant and couldn’t drink anymore that I realised how much I enjoyed a glass of red wine. I missed it so much! Don’t get me wrong we weren’t raving alcoholics but we did enjoy a glass after a stressful day or liked to share a nice bottle of Rioja over dinner at the weekend with friends. And I missed that more than anything. Although I missed wine while pregnant I wasn’t fussed about missing the party or having to go home early, as let’s be honest I was knackered and would much prefer to be in bed. The first few months of being a mum was the same story. Despite wanting a glass of the red stuff just the thought of having one and then having to be up all night gave me a headache. I still didn’t mind missing out on social events either as my preference was to be sat at home on the sofa with my snuggly new baby instead of a noisy pub. This was lovely for the first three months but as we found our feet as parents I started to crave a fraction of my old life back. I also started to resent Eddie. I resented that he could still play football, that he could still drink and that he could pretty much do everything he could before we had Elbie. Now this was where my battle was. I had chosen to breastfeed and that wasn’t about to change but I was starting to feel like nothing but a milk machine. I felt like I was losing a bit of me and all at the same time wanted to breastfeed, which means having a baby stuck to you every 2 hours or so. I was starting to look forward to going to sainsbury’s for half an hour so that I could be free to wonder up and down the aisles thinking about anything but babies. I didn’t want a big night out or go and get drunk. I wanted to go to the cinema and yes you guessed it, a large glass of wine with my friends. I hated that I resented Eddie as it’s not his fault, I’m sure if he could he would breastfeed. And this is of course where mum guilt comes in. I felt guilty for even feeling like this let alone saying it out loud and admitting it. I felt awful that I would volunteer to pick up the pizzas just for 10 minutes alone time. Or enjoy taking the bins out. But I did say it out loud and it was the best thing I could have done.

 
I know I wanted to exclusively breast feed and you are probably wondering why I didn’t express so that Eddie could give bottles. I did begin with expressing and I still do but I don’t get much out each time and to be honest that was also contributing to me feeling like a milk machine. If I wasn’t feeding then I was expressing. We now give Elbie bottles of either full formula or half breast milk and half formula whenever I need a night off. It is working well for all of us. Elbie gets her much needed nutrition, Eddie gets some daddy/daughter time and mummy gets a bit of her old self back and everyone is happy.

A little trip to the hospital

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I was hoping that my next post was continuing from the last but that was before Elbie decided to get sick.

Elbie’s sleeping habits over night are pretty terrible if I’m putting it politely but Tuesday night was particularly bad. It’s not unusual for her to wake every hour but at least she will last until 6am. So she did her usual waking every hour, hideous I know (that routine I was previously talking about isn’t working out for us so far), but then did not go back to sleep after waking at 3am. As you can imagine I was not much impressed with her alertness at this ungodly hour but I did what any mother would do. I dragged myself downstairs, child in one arm and eye rubbing with the other hand muttering to myself how tired I was as if someone somewhere would feel sorry for me. Elbie can nearly always be nursed to sleep so I thought that this was what was going to happen and eventually we could head back up and catch some more Zs. Instead of falling back to sleep though I found myself dealing with a monster code brown which required a full strip and bath. Though unusual for Elbie to create such a mess over night she seemed fine and enjoyed her 4am bath.

Later in the morning I could see Elbie was getting tired and was rubbing her eyes which made me very happy as I knew that was also my cue for a nap. We headed upstairs and I put her in her cot and I laid down on the sofa bed next to her. The moment my head hit the pillow which was bliss for all of a millisecond I heard Elbie be sick. It’s funny how fast you can move once becoming a parent, I even surprised myself. As I went to pick her up vomit came out of her like a space rocket and covered her, her cot and me. She looked a bit startled but otherwise fine. I began the clear up process and laid her down. This was where things changed. She looked at me and started to make a strange gurgling noise so I instantly picked her up so that she was upright and she started retching up bile, this happened a few more times so I picked up my phone shaking and trying to stay calm. Eddie was sick a few weeks ago, people get sick all of the time and it’s horrible but it is OK. I would not have needed to tell myself to stay calm if anyone else was being sick, it’s part of my job after all. I would make a pretty crappy nurse if I panicked every time someone was vomiting. But this was my baby. My tiny precious baby who had never been unwell before and couldn’t protect her airway or tell me if she felt dehydrated. I called our GP and made an appointment. They were very good and managed to find me a slot straight away. Elbie continued to vomit bile every 5-10 minutes and when I put her down to get dressed myself she suddenly became very drowsy and limp. This was when I dialled 999. Calling an ambulance is not something I would do lightly but I was not going to take any risks with my baby’s health. I held her close keeping a constant eye and reassuring her while I waited for the paramedics. They were with us in minutes. By this point Elbie seemed to have stopped vomiting and had her eyes open more although still very flat. I instantly felt silly for calling an ambulance out as to anyone else she probably looked fine, they don’t know what her personality is usually like and to them this could be the norm. She even gave them a smile. They were incredible and very thorough with assessing her and told me that I had done the right thing. I had done the right thing, I wouldn’t have done anything differently and right then she started the retching again. Although I didn’t want Elbie to be sick I was glad that she had done it in front of the paramedics so that they could see. It was heartbreaking watching her little body curl but she was so brave and didn’t cry once, I think that may have been due to exhaustion more than bravery but I will stick with it. Anyway off we went in the back of the ambulance and this was where mummy had to try to not be sick!

I knew that Elbie was unwell and needed medical observation which was why we were taken in but I also knew that nothing was seriously wrong with her. At this point I knew all I could do was cuddle her. The innate feeling of protection over your child is almost overwhelming and something I have never experienced before having Elbie. While my nurses hat stayed on my motherly instincts were most definitely ruling that day.

After 4 hours of observation and keeping her feed down we were allowed to come back home where we had lots of snuggles and kisses. I can’t thank the paramedics, doctors and nurses enough for their kindness and dedication to their jobs. They were all fantastic and made me so proud to be a nurse and part of the NHS.

Dear Elbie #3

Dear Elbie,

Today has been a bit of a roller coaster and if I’m honest you scared the shit out of daddy and I. Sorry for swearing chicken but that is exactly what you did. You had a very unsettled night and had me up at 3am including the need for a bath at 4am but I now know why. You were poorly.

 
You got to experience your first ambulance ride this morning but also hopefully your last. You managed to fall asleep on me in the back of the ambulance and I couldn’t take my eyes off you. I knew you were going to be OK and that it wasn’t anything serious but I had this overwhelming feeling of love and the need to protect you. You are so tiny and vulnerable and so unbelievably reliant on us which both fill me with terror and pride at the same time. You are our whole world and here you were all snuggled in my lap exhausted and sick. All I wanted was to have the ability to take it away and make you better but all I could offer you were safe arms to hold you in and a whole lot of love. I’m hoping this was enough and the paramedics, doctors and nurses picked up the rest.

 
You are now home and I am feeling extremely grateful. Tonight you are going to be smothered with kisses and cuddles whether you like it or not.

 
Love mummy xx

Dear Elbie #2

​Dear Elbie,

Well today has been an eventful day for you and a day of twos. Firstly I must show you my appreciation for napping for two hours this morning. Plus you only woke me up every two hours over night rather than your recent hourly awakenings. So thank you. Of course daddy thinks this is down to him as he looked after and fed you last night. I’m hoping it’s the start of something new.

Now for the main events of the day. Today you learnt two new skills which you have tirelessly been trying to master. 

Skill number one – I’m not entirely sure we can call it a skill but we will anyway. You worked out that you can put your toes into your mouth and suck on them like a lollypop. This is very cute and impressive all at the same time. 

Skill number two – you rolled from your back to your front, not just once but twice and with no assistance. I squealed and you just smiled at me. Then looking very pleased with yourself you stayed on your front and continued to play with Rhonda Rabbit. 

What a clever girl. Two skills in one day. Maybe all this development will tire you out and you will sleep well tonight? We will see…

Well done you.

Love mummy xx

Combination feeding

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I could write a thousand posts on “mum guilt” and I probably will, as it is something that I feel most days. Ranging from feeling guilty that I have left her nappy on for an hour or two too long, to having a pang of guilt because I haven’t looked at her in five minutes to take in how beautiful she is. Mum guilt is everywhere. It particularly comes into play when it comes to feeding.

I have been exclusively breastfeeding for four months now and planned to do so until Elbie was at least six months old. This for me was not due to the pressures put on by society and all of the midwife advice we were constantly been given but because as parents this was what we decided we wanted to do, or so we thought. I am a nurse and I do strongly believe that breast is best, that is what we have boobs for right? Although when I was pregnant I said that when the time came we would try to breastfeed but if for some reason we couldn’t then so be it, we had tried. I also felt very strongly and still do, that as a woman it is our right to decide which way to feed our babies and no one should ever make us feel guilty about our choices. After all we are all just trying to do the best for our little munchkins. So why did I have a massive surge of mum guilt when Eddie and I discussed the idea of combination feeding?! It’s not like we had decided to start starving our child or force feed her poison, we were toying with the idea of giving her a different source of nutrient. If I’m honest I’m not sure why I feel guilty. Is it solely because I feel like I have broken a promise of feeding until at least six months or is it because of other pressures put on by society? Most likely though it is a bit of both.

I recently read a couple of articles that were published in the Guardian about the UK having the lowest breast feeding rates in the world. With figures published in the Lancet showing that just 0.5% of British children are breastfed until the age of 12 months compared to 98% of Scandinavian countries. That is a massive difference! They went on to discuss that some of the possible reasons for this is that although we are told breast is best there is actually little out there to support women to breastfeed. The public are also not keen on seeing women breast feed in public which to me is completely absurd. I have to say if anyone tried to tell me not to breastfeed in public they will wish that they have never said anything at all. I feel very strongly about being able to feed your baby wherever they need feeding but that is for another post. We live in Brighton so I think we are slightly shielded to the rest of the country as we are lucky enough to live in a very open minded city but I think it is actually the opposite here, you might get a funny look if you weren’t breastfeeding. Along with the reasons above there is also the added pressures of trying to form a routine (we all know about that) and to feed at certain times of the day which is difficult when breastfeeding. There are a multitude of reasons why women decide to not breastfeed their babies or combination feed and no which way is right or wrong.

With all of this in mind and my nagging mum guilt I brought up the topic with a few of my mummy friends who all said without doubt that I was being ridiculous and should do whatever was best for us a family. Of course I already knew this and probably would have still gone ahead anyway but a part of me needed approval from my peers. Silly I know. We have now started to introduce the odd bottle of formula here and there for Elbie and my guilt has subsided because I know she is a healthy happy baby getting all the right stuff that she needs to grow up to be a super strong big human. I havent discussed the reasons why we wanted to start combination feeding so in my next post I will explain this.

Pressures around feeding are so strong even when you think you are resistant to it but at the end of the day as long as my baby is healthy that is all that matters. So say good bye to mum guilt, for now anyway.