Adventures in babywearing…

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When I was doing my research while hugely pregnant last year, I came across babywearing. I’d seen it done, in various ways, and thought it was probably something I wanted to have a go at. After looking at various wraps, carriers, and slings, I decided a ring sling was going to be the best for me to start with. I bought an EllaRoo, which came with instructions and looked fairly straight forward. I didn’t start using it until I had begun to recover from anaemia, and was up and about more (by which time, the Muppet was fairly resistant to being in it despite wanting to be held/carried constantly, but we persevered, and he got used to it), about six or seven weeks in. I used it around the house, while cooking, hanging out the washing, short shopping trips, etc. Despite the instruction booklet, I found it very hard to get going with – it showed the hip carry and cradle hold, neither of which worked for us at that time. It didn’t impress the importance of creating a ‘seat’ for the baby – in the cradle hold the Muppet just ended up squashed and struggling for breath. My breastfeeding support group recommended going to see sling consultant Nicole at Blue Skies who showed me how to do a front carry.

We got used to babywearing with a ring sling, and as the Muppet’s head control increased and he grew bigger, we progressed to a hip carry. I found wearing him like this for longer periods of time quite tiring though, so did a bit more research and bought a second hand Ergobaby carrier. I knew the importance of maintaining the ‘M’ or frog-legged position while the baby is being carried, which influenced my decision to buy an Ergo. I wear this on my front, and can go for much longer without feeling any strain on my back, shoulders, or hips. I tried wearing the Muppet on my back a couple of times, but he wasn’t happy so we gave up. Just recently I’ve been thinking I could do a lot more if he was on my back – I’ve not done very much gardening since he was born, simply because I couldn’t with him in a front or hip carry, and neither could I put him down for long enough to get anything done. He’s quite happy to be put down now, but wants to come and help! Trouble is, he will inevitably start trying to eat soil or stones or leaves just when I’ve got my hands muddy, and can’t go fishing among the five teeth to remove the foreign body! I spent an uncomfortable half hour at the allotment the other day, balancing Muppet in the ring sling on my hip, trying to pick strawberries and gooseberries, and do a bit of weeding. I then saw a timely advert for a back-wrapping workshop at Blue Skies which resulted in a Eureka! moment, so off I went to see Nicole. We tried the Muppet in the Ergo on my back, but while he was fairly comfy, I was not. I hate anything tight round my waist, so didn’t much like the waist strap of the Ergo digging in. We talked about the wrapping course but decided I needed to learn front wrapping first. Nicole showed me a basic carry, and helped me try it on my own. I was surprised at how easy it was, and how comfy! The Muppet seemed quite happy with it too. So I hired a wrap and we’re having a go for a fortnight…

Since before the Muppet was born I’ve admired babies in these beautiful fabrics, wrapped tightly to their mums (and dads!), but thought it would be hard to get the hang of, and hot and probably uncomfortable for me. But it isn’t any of those things! Admittedly, we did get a bit hot and bothered trying it the other day, but it was only my third go, so I know we’ll get better at it! Now I feel like I can properly be part of the babywearing community: I know we were before, but somehow ring slings and buckle carriers don’t feel quite as valid as a wrap. I’ve no doubt other parents feel like this too, though we shouldn’t: this blog post says it beautifully. And while you’re there, check out the rest of the blog; it’s not been updated that recently, but I’ve spent a couple of warm, fuzzy evenings reading babywearing stories.

Now I’ve mentioned fabrics… well, don’t get me started. People say they get addicted to these beautiful swathes of cotton and I can well believe them. I think this post sums it up best: we like to wear our babies, our little loves, in the most beautiful things we can find; representing, in a way, ourselves and the beautiful relationship we have with our babies. With that in mind, I’ve been looking for a wrap to call our own, and am beginning to fall a little bit in love with Girasol rainbows

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One Whole Year of Breastfeeding: our journey

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This is not my tale of woe. I don’t want any sympathy. I cannot describe the pain breastfeeding brought me, and nor the joy it does either. I cannot recommend enough that every mother at least tries it. Not all will be able to get past the pain that I did, but for those who can, or who are lucky enough not to experience pain, it is worth it a million times over.

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Breastfeeding was, for me, an absolute given. There was no way I wasn’t going to breastfeed my baby. I was breastfed until I was nearly three, and I knew from what I’d heard over the years, and from my own research while pregnant, that it is the best thing you can do for your child. People asked me when I was pregnant whether I was going to breastfeed or not, and my answer was always I hope so. Some said don’t beat yourself up if you can’t, or if it doesn’t work out, and I had heard horror stories from friends with new babies about their milk not coming in, or too low a supply, or tongue tie and latch problems, pressure from family to formula feed, ad nauseum. When you’re trying to gather information, it often seems like the tales of woe are the most forthcoming; the success stories don’t shout from the rooftops, they lurk in warm corners, not feeling the need to dance around their triumph and show the world how good they are at something so instinctively natural.

I hoped it would be thus for me – I took it for granted that it would be. My mum reported no problems whatsoever in breastfeeding me, apart from the fact I was reluctant to stop! She met adversity in the midwives, nurses, and health visitors of the time; the early eighties were all about formula and ‘progress’ for the working mother. However, my mother has been a bit of a renegade all her life, so the midwives telling her ‘it will only bring you trouble’ probably spurred her on to feed me the way she knew was best. She had no trouble, I thrived; surely I would be able to do the same for my baby?

So baby arrived one hazy late June morning. It was an easy, planned home birth (but that’s another story) and the only complication was a retained placenta and resulting loss of blood. We had to transfer to hospital to be sorted out, because despite almost instant breastfeeding, I was still losing blood and the placenta was still staying put. After we were ensconced in a high-dependency room on the delivery suite (somewhere I vowed I would not go, hey ho), and the flurry of the crisis(?) team had been and gone, a very kind midwife suggested the baby’s blood sugar might be getting a bit low. She said she could do a little blood test, or she could try helping me express colostrum to give him in a feeding syringe. I opted for the latter, of course, because I knew that the former involved pain for my new little human, and probably led to formula. The midwife asked permission to touch me, and began expressing colostrum, exclaiming at just how much I had when her syringe was overflowing after the first couple of squeezes. Once we’d got the syringe into baby, she helped me get him to latch, and he sucked like a little vacuum cleaner. And carried on sucking so hard that by day two, my nipples were very sore. My milk came in on day three with full force. My own midwife had warned me that because I’d lost so much blood (I was very anaemic, my haemoglobin was down to 8.1, just 0.1 away from a blood transfusion) my milk might take much longer, up to a week, to come in. However, when she visited me on the morning of day three, I showed her these great big watermelons stuck to my chest, and she said oh! feeling a bit full, are you?!

It was then that the real pain began. Full breasts are uncomfortable at the best of times, but combined with a baby whose suction felt like it had been turned up to eleven, I was in agony. Then, by day four, my nipples were raw and bleeding. From then for the next four or five weeks, I screamed or dug my fingernails into my thighs every time he latched. Every feed, up to 16 a day. Pain is an understatement: I wanted to know why everyone tells you about labour, and the books prepare you for that, when what I was experiencing while feeding my baby seemed infinitely worse than the four short hours I’d had to deal with contractions. I remember crying at the prospect of the baby waking up and needing to be fed again. Words cannot describe how awful it was. Cluster feeding at night time felt incessant; from 7pm til 10pm the Muppet was latched on, screaming if I took him off, and all the while I was gritting my teeth and praying he’d fall asleep. When he did, I’d have a couple of hours before it would start again, and we’d see midnight, then one o’clock, and often 3am, and 4am, and 5am.

My midwife suggested different holds to take the pressure off the ridge that forms diagonally across the nipple from the baby sucking in the same place: we tried and tried the rugby hold (baby beside you on a pillow, latching from under your arm) but I could only get it to work on one side. I was still engorged after a few days, and had to hand express a little bit before each feed so the areola was soft enough for the Muppet to latch. Once, only once, I collected what I expressed in a little plastic cup the midwife gave me, and in the wee small hours when sleep deprivation had really set in, and I could hardly keep my eyes open, we tried cup feeding. My husband held the Muppet upright, and I tipped the cup up at his lips. He howled. And howled. And looked at me with the saddest little face, as if to say, is this how you’re going to feed me now? It broke my heart. Yes, my hormones were all over the place, and I had probably spent most of that day crying, but even now at the memory I can feel my throat tighten and my eyes well up. So I howled along with him and pushed away the cup and husband, and dug my nails in for another latch.

Day seven, and my nipples were obviously healing but then being torn open again, so the midwife reluctantly suggested nipple shields. They were a real faff, but also a life saver. She said just use them for one day, and then perhaps just at night for a couple of nights. I used them almost every feed for a week, and then intermittently for another fortnight while my nipples healed. They worked, and my supply didn’t drop, and the Muppet knew exactly what to do either with or without them. I would have suffered much longer had it not been for them.

Now, by day 10, the Muppet should have regained his birthweight. He had only lost 3.5% at day three, so was doing ok. But his weight was static, and he didn’t regain those extra ounces until about three weeks. There was no panic, no formula pushing, (for which now looking back, I’m infinitely grateful), and the midwife spent longer with me, talking me through several feeds, and showing me how to rouse the Muppet gently when he fell asleep after a few sucks. Don’t let him use you as a dummy, she said – I did though, and still do, and we’ve never used a dummy. Cluster feeding continued, but I just trusted the Muppet and trusted my body to know what was right and really went with the flow. He never lost weight (bar the initial 3.5%) and slowly but surely gained. He did drop down to the 25th centile, but by four months was back up to the 50th.

The thing that was troubling me most now was the pain in my nipples between feeds, and if anything – clothing particularly – touched them. It was a good job it was a hot summer; I don’t know how I’d have coped in the winter time. I was still feeling very weak with anaemia, and wasn’t really up to much more than pottering around the house briefly between long stretches of rest or sleep in bed. Fortunately we didn’t have many visitors, so I was able to stay in my nighty or be topless most of the time. At night, I couldn’t even bear the weight or touch of a sheet over me, so slept on my side with one arm bent across my breasts for protection. I was still leaking gallons, but breast pads were out of the question, so I had to sleep on a towel or folded muslin. As for nursing bras, the four I’d bought from M&S were the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever worn in that department, sore nipples or not. They were duly eBayed, and a breastfeeding support group I went to sold me a Bravado Body Silk bra – overpriced compared to Amazon, but I didn’t care. Finally, a bra that was soft enough to wear. I can’t recommend these bras enough for beginning a breastfeeding journey.

Just as feeding started to become slightly more comfortable (latching was still excruciating), I noticed that immediately after a feed my nipples would blanch (turn white as the blood drained from them) and become tingly and painful. I endured a few days of this, wondering what it was and becoming more conscious that it was between feeds that most pain occurred now. Then it dawned on me that it was exactly like the symptoms of Raynaud’s disease I get in my hands in wintertime.

Several days of googling later, I knew that it was indeed Raynaud’s disease. Google also informed me that there is very little that can be done to fix this problem. There were various mentions of evening primrose oil, vitamin B, and warm compresses. The EPO I was reluctant to try, because I couldn’t find any source that could tell me whether it was safe for breastfeeding mums, whether it has any effect on milk supply, or whether it would affect a tender post-partum uterus. I did briefly try the vitamin B, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. That could be because I struggled to remember to take it though! I didn’t try warm compresses either, because it was fortunately very warm weather anyway, and I was usually snuggled up in bed while feeding anyway. I did discover silk breast pads, and while they were no good for use while I was actively feeding on one side (the other side leaked like a tap), they were much softer and more comfortable to wear in a bra than the disposable ones for between feeds. I also discovered merino wool ones which reviewers said were great for winter, though never actually bought any.

Happily, by about five months in, almost all symptoms of Raynaud’s had gone. My nipples still blanched after a feed (and still do now), but it didn’t hurt any more. From about three months, latching was almost instinctive, and while I still winced occasionally, feeding was not the ordeal it was to begin with. I could finally enjoy the bonding feeling without gritting my teeth or thinking of anything else to take my mind off the pain. Breastfeeding had become for us both a time of peace and healing; if anything upset either of us, it’s a lovely way to take a breather and regroup, as well as give your baby the best nutrition.

As we approach the Muppet’s first birthday (next Friday – I can’t believe it!!), I’m very proud to say we’re still breastfeeding, and I don’t see an end in sight. He’s still having at least eight feeds in 24 hours, though the past few nights he’s slept right through for 9-10 hours! Long may it last! It won’t, I’m sure, but he’s obviously getting enough in the daytime with the solid food he’s eating too. I didn’t start out with any breastfeeding goals and I’m not going to set any now, but if we’re still here in a year’s time, I will count myself very lucky. I’m quite comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding a toddler as and when he needs it, so long may our bliss continue!

Happening now…

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Making — sense of work, ready to start ordering samples for 2015
Loving — the warmer weather, even if it’s overcast, at least I’m not (generally) shivering
Reading — lots of inspiring blogs (see the list in my sidebar)
Liking — Gap bras – soooo comfy yet pretty and flattering
Sewing — poppers and ribbon onto above bras to make them nursing bras
Drinking — Heston’s spiced mulled cider (doesn’t seem to be online, so apology for no link)
Wanting — time and space to do more artwork
Looking — through old Christmas editions of interiors and homes magazines for work inspiration
Needing — a bit more sleep
Playing — with a lot of clothes pegs at the moment!
Wasting — time finding ideas and inspiration on Pinterest (maybe not such a waste!)
Wishing — teething wasn’t such a painful process
Enjoying — posting photos on Instagram again (see sidebar for my latest)
Waiting — for my studio to be built
Marvelling — at the Muppet’s astonishing achievements. Yesterday, conversational babbling to himself while playing, with all sorts of noises, and crawling (slithering!) backwards today on the lawn!
Hoping — to get a bit more writing and blogging done soon
Wondering — if my eBay bargains will arrive in the post tomorrow
Smelling — the beautiful roses and philadelphus in our garden
Noticing — just how long my hair is now
Wearing — maxi skirts
Knowing — I can get more done in a day if I just try try try…
Dreaming — recently about university years, and strangely missing them, while being glad they’re over
Feeling — lucky to be where I am in life
Giggling — at baby antics: who knew making the bed could be so hilarious?

Linking: with Keira at A Pretty Penny whose list inspired mine

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Cloth Nappy Review

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We’ve been trying since the Muppet was born to get around to using cloth nappies. We knew that our local council has a Real Nappy Project which encourages families to use cloth nappies to reduce landfill waste. They also have a money-back offer so that when you spend a certain amount on cloth nappies, you get £30 back – that was a definite incentive!

We borrowed one of their trial kits for a month to see how we would get on with them, and we did quite well! It can be quite mind boggling, all the different nappy brands and styles, and a trial kit to find out which we liked best was invaluable. I’m honestly not sure if I would ever have taken the plunge had it not been for this! I certainly wouldn’t have got my head around it all if we’d tried soon after the Muppet was born; about 9 months in a few of my braincells had regained consciousness!

The kit included cloth nappies with wraps, pocket nappies, and all manner of boosters and liners. In terms of fabric and absorbability, I liked the Little Lambs cotton/bamboo nappies the best. You have to put a separate waterproof wrap over the nappy, and make sure there are no gaps around the legs for potential leaks. Tots Bots Bamboozles are exactly the same, and we ended up buying eight of these from a friend who was getting rid of them. These are definitely the best sort in terms of performance: as long as the wrap is sealed around his legs, they can go for 12+ hours overnight with no leaks at all. The only downside to these is that they’re very bulky, so while the Muppet was actually wearing 6-9 months clothing, we had to go up two sizes to 12-18 months. This is particularly relevant for vests and trousers, and skinny fit jeans/chinos are more or less out of the question. Not that he minds – I’m pretty sure baggy trousers are far more comfy to shuffle around in!

In terms of convenience, the pocket nappies were the best. These are all in ones, so the waterproof layer comes attached to the nappy, and there is a ‘pocket’ into which you stuff one or two fleece or bamboo boosters depending on the level of absorption you need. They’re quick to put on too: no holding a wriggly baby still while you wrestle the wrap on and check for gaps. The ones in the trial kit were FuzziBunz (I think they’re an American brand); the only criticism I have of these is that their ‘one size’ is a bit small. They fitted ok for now, but give it another month or so and I think they’d struggle to contain any explosions…

My one reservation about the pocket nappies is the fabric they’re made of. They’re all polyester, either fabric or fleece, which is great for keeping the wetness away from baby’s skin, but I worry about the impact their production might have on the environment. I know this is a small gripe, because as they’re reusable, you’re only buying a few to last from birth to potty, so it’s not like standard disposables of which you’d buy hundreds if not thousands. However, we have bought four of the Tots Bots Easyfit ones of these, because like I say, they’re so convenient. They are also more compact, so aren’t quite as bulky as the bamboo or cotton ones under clothes. I found we still needed to go up a size for comfort, but that’s no bad thing. I think we’ll probably invest in a few more of these in due course, despite my environmental misgivings! Performance-wise, these don’t do so well as the Bamboozles + wrap, we’ve had a few leaks, so I’d say they need changing about as often as disposables.

In total, we have eight cloth nappies and two wraps, and four pocket nappies. I find this is enough to last about a day and a half to two days before we run out. If I do a wash everyday, we can almost manage, but the bamboo nappies do take a good two days to dry. Even if they’re out on the washing line all day, they still need another day on the airer indoors, or half an hour in the tumble dryer. I think we’ll need to get a couple more wraps, and maybe a couple more pocket nappies to be fully disposable-free at home.

Cloth nappies definitely have a feel-good factor: I like the fact that we’re saving money by not buying so many disposables, I no longer feel guilty about the environmental factor of disposables, I find laundry quite a therapeutic task (I know, I’m weird!), and they are so much more gentle on the Muppet’s skin. He’s only ever had nappy rash a couple of times, mainly when his first tooth was coming through, but since starting to use cloth nappies he’s not had any little red patches in the creases of his legs either. Surprising in a way, as they don’t keep wetness off the skin like disposables do, but most people I know who use them say nappy rash is virtually eliminated.

We are still using disposables occasionally, particularly for outings when we’ll be out all day, and those days when the laundry is piling up around my ears. I feel I ought to put a good word in here about the disposables we use – I’ve always steered clear of Pampers and other non-biodegradable brands, because I just didn’t feel right about using them. Mainly because they contain so much artificial stuff and so many chemicals, not to mention the fact that they can take up to 500 years to decompose. That’s for each nappy! Scary stuff. We’ve always used Naty nappies, because they’re biodegradable and made from corn fibre so contain no nasty chemicals. As far as I can tell (not having ever used any other brand), they work just as well as other disposables.

For us, around the 9 month mark was the best time to start using cloth nappies, and I can definitely see us continuing to use them until potty training. As a bonus, I’m told that they help babies potty train quicker, because they can feel when they’re wet. Of course, this isn’t true for every family, and there are plenty of parents whose braincells remained intact and started off using cloth nappies at the newborn stage. I’m hoping next time around I’ll be one of those!

Here’s a picture of our little cloth bum at a recent Real Nappy event at the Blue Skies Centre

Mum and George

Respect for your youngers – on gentle parenting

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I’m all for attachment and gentle parenting, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what these labels mean to me. I think it’s more than I can write about in one post, so I’m going to write a series. This first post is about the ‘gentle’ aspect, and about respect.

We’ve heard often enough about respecting your elders. I think the automatic assumption that follows is that elders respect their ‘youngers’ regardless, so it doesn’t need to be said. I don’t agree: I think it does need to be said, and said loudly.

This notion of respect ties neatly in with the one of gentle parenting: the terms respectful and gentle are almost interchangeable in this context.

I was inspired to think more carefully about these ideas by a post from Lulastic which linked to this blog post.

There is some repetition in the list (to a tiny baby, is there really any difference between asking and telling?), but the overall picture is one to really make you think. When I first read it, I was so glad someone had put into words how I think babies ought to be treated. I know I’d hate to be hauled out of my chair without the hauler first looking at me and making their intentions clear. Even if I didn’t particularly want to go, I would at least be prepared for what was about to happen. I so often see babies and children pounced on by their parents or carers who then admonish them for the resulting howls of protest. I want to stop them and say well, s/he’s got a point; wouldn’t you be howling too?

I think the key is actually engagement; to make eye contact and get the child to turn his attention to you and what you want him to do before doing it for/to him. Then at least he is prepared for it to happen. The list also suggests asking permission before taking an action, something I can see working with an older child, although that in itself could elicit howling – I’ve yet to experience the toddler tantrums! I think the concept of asking permission from a newborn if you can pick her up/change her nappy etc is taking it a little bit far, but I do think explaining what you’re doing and talking quietly about what you’re doing to her is important. Not only are they reassured by the sound of your voice, they will come to understand what you’re saying and know what to expect next in the routine.

For me, one of the most salient points this week was the final one about taking something out of your child’s hand. I had to stop the Muppet’s (18 year old half-)sister from snatching something away from him. I think it was a dinner knife, after she’d put him in his high chair and he’d reached for the shiny thing. Ok, it wasn’t something I’d let him have (though don’t panic, it wasn’t a carving knife or anything!) but neither would I have just wrenched out of his hand from behind, in passing. He was suitably indignant and shouted until I bent down to him and explained that knives are sharp and could hurt him. His sister said what’s the point in explaining, when he doesn’t understand? And yes, I could have said something nonsensical about the trees being blue to the same effect, but it don’t think that’s the point either. The point is taking the time to come down to his level, making eye contact, talking reassuringly, and showing him that you’re acknowledging him and his feelings. It’s ok to feel upset at having something taken away from you, but it doesn’t have to feel like the end of the world. And a little cuddle then a curiously bouncing rice cake made life rosy again.

Another incidence this week that made this list relevant happened at a baby group we go to. I think most parents there are like-minded, and generally follow the attachment parenting path, but I was quite taken aback by one mum’s treatment of her little son. He tried to take a toy out of a younger baby’s hand and his mother’s response was to reach across the play mat and drag him back by his foot. He protested loudly and burst into howling tears as she attempted to restrain his wriggling on her lap, and told him off sternly – more by now for crying than his original misdemeanour. I felt so sorry for him because it really wasn’t his fault, and from my perspective it could have been dealt with in a much more gentle way. I know it’s always easier to be critical from the outside looking in: the mum in question did look a bit frazzled, and perhaps taking the toy was the last straw that broke the donkey’s back. It is important though to bite your tongue sometimes, or count to ten and take a deep breath.

We’ve been going to this baby group for a few weeks now, and it’s become quite clear to me that the babies who are treated the gentlest are the most calm and contented. I think that’s probably a very general statement, because no doubt some babies are calm by nature, but I think the nurture here plays a big part.

The main point of this gentle and respectful parenting malarkey is that we’re showing our children how to treat others – and themselves – with respect. If we treat our children roughly, they think it’s normal and treat others in the same way without a second thought. At the risk of repeating the overused buzzword, we have to help them be mindful – aware, empathetic, gentle – people, who will help make their world a kinder place.

More art for our walls!

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From the haze of sleep deprivation, I’ve been trying to write this post since the weekend. Saturday was a warm sunny day, if a little breezy, and in the afternoon we walked to a little gallery in the park. The paintings were beautiful; they were all springtime themed and it felt lovely and spring-y with the gallery doors open and people enjoying the sun outside.

We invested in some art too – both artists we met at the open studios last May, and bought some of their work then too. I think it’s so much nicer to have real art on your walls than the same mass produced Ikea poster that everyone else has. Pictures on the walls are one of the things that makes home feel like home to me.

So we bought this picture by Toby Moate:

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It’s called Blue Hills, but when we first saw it both husband and I thought it looked like water lilies in a pond. We loved the colours and the fact it could be any landscape you care to see in it. More of Toby’s work can be seen on his website

We also bought these two paintings by Katharine Dove:

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We couldn’t decide between the two: husband liked the blossom trees and I liked the daisy fields best, so we ended up with both. And I’m not complaining about that! Katharine’s work can be seen here

The sleep deprivation situation is now improving, thank goodness. The Muppet had what the doctor called a ‘viral cough’ (harmless, and common in babies apparently) which kept him awake and restless for a few nights, and cranky and miserable in the daytime. He’s on the mend now though, and last night was back to his usual waking once for a quick feed, so apart from the scrapy throat (which I’ve no doubt is a present from darling son) I feel more or less human again. It’s amazing how awful a couple of broken nights make you feel.

Big day for the Muppet tomorrow – an adventure to Herefordshire to get christened! More on that to follow…

When I’m old I’ll wear purple

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And until then, I’ll wear it anyway. Purple, in all its rich, plummy shades, is my absolute favourite colour. So, when I happened upon this pair of beauties last week in a local charity shop, I couldn’t believe my luck. Hardly worn, and a steal at £4. Not to mention the practical yet stylish low heel (as elegant as stilettos can be, they look ridiculous on these skinny pins), and my favourite Mary-Jane style.

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My size, purple, £4: what’s not to love?

{Delighted to be linking up with Magpie Mondays over at Me and My Shadow}

My bedside table {and, SPRING!}

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Inspired by a recent post from Words That Can Only Your Own, I gave my bedside table a long overdue spring clean.

I seem to spend a lot of time in bed, or at least on the bed, as it’s the comfiest place to feed the muppet, and if he falls asleep I can gently tuck him in and know that he’s safe and I’ve got an hour or so to myself (or 30 milliseconds as the case may be). So my bedside table gets a lot of use, and frequently becomes a dumping ground for paperwork that needs filing, lists that haven’t been ticked off, toys, pens, half-used tissues… you get the picture.

I did take before and after pictures, but the before picture was so embarrassingly muddly, with my just-woken-up reflection in the mirror behind, that I’m not going to upload them. I can assure you that my bedside table is now tidier, dusted, and the teetering pile of books and papers minimalised.

Here’s my list of bedside table essentials:
Box of tissues – a necessary trapping of parenthood, one in every room
Crochet hook
Scissors – mainly in association with the above, but also for taming the razor blades that grow out of babies’ fingers
Pen
Notebook – for writing everything down, to-do lists, baby milestones, shopping, etc etc, because I’ve still got baby brain
Glass of water
Tube of lanolin cream – an essential for every breastfeeding mother
Books – current tomes include Baby-led Weaning, The No-Cry Sleep Solution , Three in a Bed (notice a theme? Ha), and Still Lifee, which I’ve been reading for months and might finally manage to finish this weekend.

Not quite the erudite stack Janet boasts, but to tell the truth, it’s a rare night I have time to read anything before I turn the light out. I might get a couple of pages in, but I’ve learnt the hard way that if i don’t get my head down soon after the muppet does, I’ll regret it in the morning! Or at 2am, or 5am…

In celebration of the Spring equinox yesterday, I’ll leave you with this magnificent blue sky and magnolia tree in our garden:

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Happy Spring!

Three in a bed

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Last night, the muppet* was asleep by 9.30, tucked in beside me, and I was dreamily pinning away on Pinterest. He did his usual eye-rubbing and arm-waving about half an hour later, so I duly fed him a bit more and he settled back down. Now, I’ve long learnt the lesson that I should be getting my own head down this time, but I so rarely get to watch a whole tv programme undisturbed, or crochet a few rows, or read a few pages of book, that I carried on pinning and catching up with blogs. I was tired though, so about 11pm, when the husband had reappeared from ebaying for Triumph parts (more on that later), we all snuggled down and turned off the light.

Peace.

For all of 40 minutes.

First there was arm-waving, then the legs joined in and I got a few sharp little kicks in the tummy, then there was squeaking and finally full-on huff puffs. Tucking him under my chin to calm the waving arms wasn’t going to cut it, I could tell. By the time I’d sworn vehemently, thrown the covers off, and dragged my so-very-nearly-asleep self to the loo, there was hysterical howling from atop daddy’s chest. I crossly huffed back into bed, steeling myself to dampen the howls by the almighty power of the boob. It worked, as always, but did take half an hour, and thoroughly woke me up. And awake I stayed for the next three hours. Or at least, in that hopelessly tired-but-can’t-quite-drift-off state. Until the arm-waving started again and I knew he was actually hungry this time. Sigh.

So why is our son sleeping in our bed, disturbing our nights, when he could be in his own room, disturbing himself and putting himself back to sleep? Because I’m an attached parent, and so, probably, is my husband. We tried separate beds in separate rooms, and it worked, for about a week. Except we were frantically busy with trade shows and I was completely worn out from getting up every hour or two hours to calm the ‘I’ve been abandoned’ howls from the next room. So I caved one night after getting up for the fourth time, and we became three in a bed. And got a whole nights’ sleep. Almost. And I felt human again. And thought, why on earth did I put myself through that hellish, sleep-deprived week when I knew the solution all along? I suppose I had to find out that it wouldn’t work for us, for now. I knew in my heart of hearts that my baby should be kept close, and that I missed him when he wasn’t in his Moses basket at the end of the bed. (He’d outgrown it so the cot seemed the only option.) But I couldn’t shake the societal pressure that says babies over six months don’t need to be in their parents’ bedrooms any more, that they’re quite capable of sleeping through the night, alone, in their own room. I’m sure some are, but I know the majority, including our muppet, are not.

I was quite firmly against co sleeping to begin with. It disturbed my sleep.
I worried it wasn’t safe. And besides, the muppet was quite happy in his Moses basket: he knew we were close, and we did respond at the slightest whimper. We snuggled in bed to feed, then moved him gently into his basket once he was asleep. Put him down still awake, you say? Not a chance. Oh, I tried, but quickly realised it was far less stressful to keep cuddling him til he dropped off, than endless shushing and cheek-stroking, and the inevitable picking him up and starting all over again. I was also recovering from horrible anaemia, and feeling very weak, so any extra exertion was utterly draining.

Co sleeping is no longer the western norm, but for virtually all other cultures around the world it is, and has been since the dawn of time. It helps keep tiny newborn babies alive by regulating their temperature and breathing, and keeps mothers in tune with their babies’ needs. It therefore helps establish breastfeeding and milk supply. It’s normal, and despite our society’s best efforts, instinctive. Putting my baby to sleep in another room, no matter how warm and cosy, was completely against all my instincts, and I did fight with this. Curling up with a muppet in the middle just felt so right the first night we did it, and continues to feel thus. It’s also infinitely nicer to wake in the morning to a smiling little face next to me than to howls from down the landing.

One day, I know without a doubt, my baby will be ready to sleep in his own room. Until then, I’m more than happy to snuggle up three in a bed, not least because we all get more sleep this way.

I know I will always find night time parenting hard: to feel even vaguely like myself I need at least eight hours’ sleep, something which is hard to come by with a baby, particularly in the first few months. We are lucky our muppet is a ‘good’ baby (no baby is ‘bad’ though, they’re just themselves) who does, on occasion, sleep for 10 hours straight. A normal night for us is about eight or nine hours, with one or two wakings at either end of the night. I know parents who have it much worse, and also ones whose babies were sleeping through at three months. I just have to remind myself that I WILL be able to get through the day, and that another night will come around soon enough. I managed in the first few weeks with only a couple of hours some nights, so four hours isn’t going to kill me at this stage, no matter how cross it makes me feel. I have to try hard(er) to accept it, to be a good parent even in the small hours when the drunks have stopped marauding down the street singing tunelessly, and kicking beer cans. I always get at least enough sleep to stave off insanity, and just seeing that smile, or hearing that delighted laughter reminds me of that. I just need to remember it when I’ve not yet got to sleep, and the arms start waving…

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*Even before we were married, our future children were affectionately known as The Muppets, so this is Muppet #1.

Sea blue ripples

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I bought some more yarn the other day – yet more for the stash… Officially, I’ve been banned from buying yarn now, until I use up some of what I’ve already got, but if it buy it (on eBay of course) at the weekend, and it gets delivered during the week, what the eye doesn’t see…….. So this new yarn is half wool half acrylic, though it’s so soft and bouncy you’d hardly guess about the acrylic bit, and I’m hoping that will make it fairly washable. I bought two colours: one beautifully variegated in blues, purples, and a fleck of goldy-green, and the other variegated in white, pale duck egg blue, and ultramarine blue. Quite seaside colours.

I’ve been slaving away over the borders of billions of granny squares, that will eventually become a big bed-spread type blanket for the cot bed when it becomes a bed (and gets used as a bed – but that’s another post!), and kept longing to make something quickish and satisfying. So, here’s the beginning of a ripple pram blanket. I find I have to justify my crochet, so this is for the pram when it’s too warm for the footmuff, but a bit of cosy is still needed for little feet.

I got back from my art class today to find a sleeping baby (extra bonus daddy points!), so took the opportunity to sit in the sun on the trunk at the end of the bed, and hook a ripple or three. It’s lovely yarn to work with: not sticky like the cotton I’ve been using for the granny squares (there’ll be an enormous ta dah when that’s finished… sometime in the future) and not plasticky and static like acrylic. It’s from a Turkish company called Ice Yarns, who trade on eBay as yarnparadiseuk. All their yarn is incredibly good value and although I’d have a warmer, fuzzier feeling about buying something more local, or at least British, it’s the best I can justify at the moment.

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