Preparing for baby’s arrival – what you need now!

Preparing for Amelia’s arrival was pretty daunting. Not least because we needed to make sure we were ready with all the right equipment we might need to look after a newborn. It was around this time last year that we were in the process of amassing all the ‘essentials’. A number of my friends are currently in the same position. I thought I would share with you what we found to be the most useful purchases in the run up to her birth. The best way to look at what is essential is that you need to be able to keep baby warm and clean, provide them with somewhere to sleep and move them from A to B!

 

Car seat

 

By far the most important piece of equipment! You are expected to take baby home in a car seat, and be able to strap them in with no assistance. We didn’t do a great deal of research on car seats, instead choosing to go with recommendations from friends. Most friends had gone with a Maxi-Cosi. Research that we did do showed that there was a lot of support for the Kiddicare Shuffle. However, we preferred to have a car seat that fitted in with isofix. We selected the family fix base to go with our Maxi-Cosi Pebble so that when she moves to the next size up we would not need a new base. The most reassuring part of the car seat is that the base lights up and beeps when it is correctly fixed into the car, and the seat is correctly attached to the base. In addition, the car seat fixes to our pram base with the correct adaptors. It is sensible to make sure the base is fixed into the car a couple of weeks before the due date, or that you’ve practiced fixing the car seat into the car. Being ahead of schedule the husband had to get the car seat fixed in whilst I was getting ready to leave for the hospital! We hadn’t tried fitting a teddy or doll into the seat and tightening the straps so we had to get a little advice ‘off the record’ from our midwife who discharged us. It can be a little fiddly to get out of the car, and one day I couldn’t get the seat back into the car because one of the fixings had not reset itself when I had last removed the seat from the base. Cue a lot of panic until my rational side took over and retraced all the steps!

 

Sanitary towels and breast pads

 

It’s easy to make sure you have everything ready for the baby but forget about yourself and what you might need. Trust me – these two things are crucial. Get plenty. Get the biggest maternity towels you can. They don’t need to be fancy – I had Tesco’s own brand maternity towels and found Asda’s breast pads to be perfectly comfy and functional. A tip – if you think your waters might have broken, but are not sure, then use a maternity towel. I used a standard sanitary towel and they’re actually very good at being absorbent. So much so that the midwife could not tell whether my waters had gone or not. Some other useful pointers related to these two items – I bought a couple of cheap packs of big pants from the supermarket, and used these after the birth. Some people suggest disposable pants but I found a pack of simple pants worked just as well, and are reusable. Get some good maternity bras. I really liked the M+S ones (http://www.marksandspencer.com/2-pack-maternity-non-wired-santoni-full-cup-bras/p/p22278630?prevPage=plp). They’re perhaps not the cheapest but they have stood the test of time (lots of wear, use and washing). I found I needed to wear bras at night, with the breast pads, for quite a long time and these were really comfortable. Plus they accommodate the wide changes in size that your breasts go through whilst breastfeeding. If breastfeeding I cannot recommend nipple cream enough. I used Lansinoh HPA lanolin cream. Numerous people recommended it, and one friend explained that though she had tried plenty of cheaper alternatives this was by far the best. You don’t need to remove it before feeding either. I found that it was most required in the early weeks as feeding was established. You don’t need much each time, and as such I only used one tube so it was pretty good value. A word of warning – it’s greasy. Make sure you put a breast pad on after using it as it stained my pyjama top to the extent that I couldn’t get rid of the grease marks and had to throw the top away.

 

Crib/Moses basket

 

We bought a moses basket following reading what we should buy in preparation for baby’s arrival. It lasted about three months before we decided to get a crib as she was outgrowing the basket but we weren’t ready to move her into a separate room, and therefore into her big cot. The moses basket was useful since it was portable around the house. However, our pram top was also suitable for moving around the house, and was designed so it could be used as a travel cot. In fact during the first couple of weeks she preferred to sleep in this compared to the basket. Though perhaps this was due to us not getting a better mattress than the one that came with the basket. On reflection I am note sure whether we would buy the moses basket again if we did it over again. I think we would go straight for the crib. Quite a few people I know bought the cribs that fit alongside the bed and have found these really useful. What I do wish I had bought earlier was the Sleepyhead. I wonder if she would have settled in the crib more easily from a younger age had we had this from birth.

 

Nappies and wipes

 

Stock up on these in the run up to the birth. I took advantage of baby events at the supermarket to buy the biggest sized pack of both. My initial supply of wipes lasted me about six months! Plus we had stocked up on enough of the first size nappies to last until she was ready for the next size up. It was great to not have to worry about last minute supermarket dashes or online orders. We bought one changing mat but some friends gave us a couple more. At the time we tried to resist being given them, thinking that we already had one. However, it was useful to have them as it meant we could keep them in different locations and not have to either a) change nappies in the same place each time or b) carry changing mats around the house.

 

Pram/Travel system

 

We probably spent the most time researching this. We took advice from friends, looked at awards for baby products, the Which website and product reviews on websites. We settled for an Uppababy Vista. The reasons for this being it’s multifunctional use and longevity of use. It has a great pram top that doubles up as a travel cot when required. I really love how much space the basket has – I can go around the supermarket with the shopping bags in the bottom and do the scan as you go. The car seat fixes to the pushchair base with an adaptor. I would say this is a little fiddly to remove. I don’t have anything else to compare this too so I don’t know if this would be the case with other car seats or buggy systems. This buggy is also great for future proofing. Using adaptors it can be doubled up to become a double buggy. I have used it for this purpose to transport Amelia and one of her little buddies, using the car seat and the pushchair seat. It worked very well and was easy to set up. The buggy is also really easy to manoeuvre and has a great turning circle for tight spaces! It is perhaps a bit bulky when collapsed down, compared to some others. However the wheels are easily removed which does make it more compact. I also like the height of the seat. I have noticed that some other systems are very low in height compared to the Uppababy. The handle bar is also adjustable which is fantastic for parents who are a foot apart in height difference!

 

Muslins, vests and babygros

 

A reasonable collection of these is very useful. It is likely you will be gifted with many babygros but it is useful to have a few of each to start with. Some inexpensive ones are all that’s required. Muslins are extremely useful for wiping any milk or vomit up. Or averting a spray of wee when incidents occur! Larger ones can be helpful for swaddling baby too. We had numerous poop escapes from nappies. Baby poop in the early days is amazingly good at dyeing clothes a nice yellowy colour. Therefore inexpensive vests are all that is required. I spent a lot of time soaking vests in vanish and washing powder.

 

Ewan the Dreamsheep

 

He may be seen as a luxury item to some but in our household he has become a necessity! We have used him from day one and found him to be of great help in settling Amelia. See the recommendations page for more details on him. The only piece of advice I will give on him is make sure you have a stock of AAA batteries to hand. Though we look back on it fondly, I am not sure my husband found searching the house high and low, at 3am, for batteries to bring Ewan alive, the highlight of paternity leave!

 

There were many items along the way that we couldn’t understand why you would ever need them, such as a mirror for the car seat, or a nappy disposal unit. However, we now have a mirror for the car seat, and we completely understand why you would want a nappy disposal unit. We bought the mirror soon after her birth and find it really useful to keep a check on what she’s doing whilst we are out and about driving. The nappies are pretty innocuous in the early days, but as soon as we started weaning her they changed! We haven’t given in to the nappy disposal unit so far but I think that time might come soon.

 

There are also things that are useful but just not straight away. Examples include monitors. We didn’t use a monitor until a few weeks after the birth. We started using it once we started putting her to bed upstairs. Even then we only used it until we went to bed and then she was in the same room as us. As I said at the start – the essential all relate to sleeping, travel and keeping baby clean and warm. I should add that it might be useful to have some basics for bottle-feeding, even if you are hoping to breastfeed. I meant to get around to this but with her arriving two weeks ahead of schedule I didn’t. Some friends had they baby over Easter weekend and needed some formula due to breastfeeding difficulties. It was not as easy as you’d think when the shops are closed for Easter. Think ahead if your EDD is close to a bank holiday!

 

If there are any items you found ‘essential’ or wished you hadn’t bothered with then please share!

10 month old terror!

IMG_3781The last 10 days have been hectic! Amelia’s been under the weather and so have I. I don’t think I’ve had such frequent bugs since I was little. In my years as a doctor I have managed to avoid most illnesses, but somehow Amelia seems to share hers with me, with ease! I also think she is teething because she is dribbling constantly. My carpet has a trail of dribble across it much of the time, and the edges of the sofa (and most other pieces of furniture) are a little damp! The two together have led to some bad nights sleep. The other night she was awake on and off for much of the time between 4 and 6am. It leads to the days being long and tiring for both of us. The combination of teething, a cold and frustration at not being able to walk have led to her being exceptionally whingey. She’s off her food – she wants to feed herself, but she wants to feed herself with the spoon which she cant really do just yet. So mealtimes have become increasingly frustrating because she eats just morsels of food most of the time, and spends more time breaking pieces of food up and then casually throwing them on the floor. Her minions (myself and daddy) are left to sweep the mess up off the floor as she continues to throw little bits of egg, toast and such like on to our heads. I feel like we’ve lost all the power in the house. The only food that she will reliably eat is toast or fruit puree.

 

How have we managed this behaviour? The teething is being managed with paracetamol and ibuprofen in an attempt to relieve the symptoms and improve her mood. I’m not really certain how much they’ve helped but they seem to provide some respite. Her cold is also being helped with medicine. It’s hard to manage her frustrations with lack of walking ability but we try to encourage her and help her learn how to cruise or use her little walker. We are trying to give her as much freedom as possible but it’s a steep learning curve for all of us! Oh I should say that nappy times have become a battle – there have been multiple times that she has escaped as soon as the nappy is off. She’s trying to crawl about with poo stuck to her bottom, and she’s doing her best to smear it on the floor. I’ve had to chase her around the floor with wipes, or try to clean her up whilst she’s emptying the pack of wipes and trying to eat them. She’s been nappy free (not through my own choice) many times because I simply can’t get a nappy back on due to her rolling, crawling, trying to strand or the mega tantrum she throws when I wont let her do any of the above! I have tried distracting her with toys with little benefit.

 

The mealtimes have been the toughest, and most frustrating. I guess she had just got her appetite back after being ill, and was starting to have more lumpy foods and feed herself more, so we finding it easier. Suddenly it became a battle. If we tried to spoon feed her she often cries and clamps her mouth shut. If we give her finger foods she will look at it and whinge or take it for a few bites then throw it on the floor. She’s developed a knack for becoming tired as soon as food is put in front of her, and rubbing her eyes to emphasise this, but as soon as the food is taken away she’s suddenly not tired. Every now and again she surprises us by eating really well. But this is rare currently. I am loath to give in to her preferences and feed her only sweet purees. I’ve read that up to 12 months the majority of their nutritional requirements still comes from milk, and food is more about learning about taste and texture. So I’m trying not to worry too much and accept that if she’s only had a few bites that’s that. I am still offering a wide variety of flavours and textures. Occasionally I will disguise her Bolognese with a fruit puree. I’m convinced there is some psychological element to it as she will watch me take a spoon from the bowl and refuse to eat it but seconds later she will happily take a spoonful of puree that’s come from a fruit pot or come out of the Ella’s Kitchen pouch!

 

Trying to get her to nap has become a battle at times too. Somehow daddy finds he can put her down in her cot and she will fall asleep after maybe a minute or two of crying. Admittedly he’s developed a nice little repertoire of songs he sings to her to help get her to sleep which helps. However, I have found that some days she will take 45 minutes to go to sleep. She will doze off in my arms but as soon as I put her in the crib the crying starts. Eventually I settle her and she sleeps for 25minutes before she wakes, crying, again.

 

I have found the last couple of weeks extremely frustrating. I have resorted to googling again. I have read that this may all be related to her making developmental milestone leaps. I guess if she’s teething as well, and a bit under the weather it all adds up. But because it’s leading me to be tired too I am becoming frustrated which adds to the atmosphere. I think she senses my frustration and probably feeds off it. Hence, I think I need to work on my reaction to her behaviour.

 

We are also trying to move her from breast milk to bottles now. Since she has been attending nursery I’ve noticed some more frustration during breast feeds. I suspect that the flow is reducing, especially since I never really notice them to be full with milk in the morning again or after she’s been at nursery for a half day. She doesn’t feed quite as easily as she used to and is constantly latching on and off and pushing her legs off the side of the chair or whatever is in leg reach. We’ve been doing well. Over the weekend she had one breastfeed per day and yesterday she had none. It’s a change for the both of us. I do miss the closeness of breastfeeding but I am also feeling reassured that she’s not dependant on me for milk. She doesn’t take her bottle as efficiently as she does the breast milk so feeding has become a bit longer again, but I guess that will change as she gets used to it now. She recognises the bottle now and reaches for it and tries to hold it. She is also just about doing the right baby signing for ‘milk’ if I show her the bottle.

 

I’m sure the last couple of weeks are just a phase, and that several things have been happening all at once but it has been tough. I’m particularly keen for any suggestions as to how to manage nappy changes or types of savoury finger foods I could be offering her. 

New Year, New resolutions!

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Have I made a New Year resolution? I’ve had ideas about them but in all honesty none have come to fruition thus far!

There are plenty of challenges to face this year – returning to work, continuing to learn how to parent, etc. As Amelia grows each day and reaches new milestones we are faced with new problems – the most current being how much do we need to baby proof the place and how many stair gates do we need!

Many New Year resolutions revolve around quitting something or dieting or getting fit. The last one is something that I real ought to incorporate into 2016. Just before becoming pregnant I was doing really well and exercising four to five times per week. I hadn’t made significant changes to my diet but liked to think I was eating healthily and making efforts to cut out as much processed food as possible. Things started off well in the early weeks as I was still maintaining the exercise and eating well. Then the morning sickness and tiredness arrived and my efforts waned. I probably lost some weigh in the first trimester due to a lack of appetite.  During the pregnancy I gained around 12kg in weight. I started out with a BMI in the ‘normal weight’ range and so this was around the right amount of weight gain for me. Each woman is different and the expected weight gain during pregnancy is influenced by your pre-pregnancy weight. The rumour that we need to eat for two is simply that – a rumour! Up until the third trimester we do not need to take in any extra calories, and during the third trimester we only need an extra 200 calories. This is equivalent to approximately two slices of wholemeal bread or a small bowl of cereal. It is safe to exercise in pregnancy, but you should bear in mind your fitness level and not go from zero exercise to all out high intensity exercise suddenly. Build it up gradually. There’s some good information on the NHS website athttp://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-exercise.aspx#close

During the pregnancy I became very slack with exercise in all honesty. I tried to keep active but rarely participated in specific exercise sessions. From around 22 weeks I started a Pilates class specifically for pregnancy and also pregnancy yoga sessions. I found both of these really great for helping build strength and avoid aches and pains. The yoga also helped prepare me for labour with some breathing techniques and ways to manage the pain of contractions. I changed from standard yoga to aqua-natal yoga at around 33 weeks. The aqua-natal yoga was great as it gave a greater relief from the weight of the bump during the last few weeks. I continued this and the Pilates right up until the week of labour. I then restarted the Pilates after my six-week postnatal check. I continued this regularly until December but have been very slack over the Christmas period!

I have just recently reached my pre-pregnancy weight and fit back into all of my clothes (minus the odd top which still doesn’t accommodate my new chest size). As they rightly say – It takes nine months to make a baby, and your body goes through some significant changes, so expect it to take a similar time period to return to your pre-pregnancy state. At around 10-12 weeks after the birth I went through a period of feeling pretty good as well has having plenty of people about to watch Amelia whilst I exercised, but this didn’t last long and I have been mostly lazy. I can’t say it worried me massively, but in the back of my mind was the feeling that I needed to resume some exercise. When I am in a good routine I feel better in myself, I have more energy (weirdly enough) and I sleep better. There is also the thought that if I were to become pregnant again in future I would like to start off from a good level of fitness and tone.

So in preparation for the New Year I looked at lots of options, including gym memberships. I was close to taking one out with a big chain, since they have crèche facilities. However, when I called them the rate on the website was less than the current rate available. Taking into account that I am now into my 10th month of maternity leave I felt it was a big expense, and considering my track record with gym subscriptions seemed like a possible money pit! So I will continue with my Pilates class and I have got the latest Davina McCall DVD. I have used her DVDs in the past and found them fun and easy to follow. Her latest one also has a five-week plan to follow. So I will give it a go. The aims – get fit and develop strength. I have no desire to lose weight. To support this I am making greater effort to eat well and healthy. I have so far cooked every day bar one this year which, considering the period around Christmas involved numerous takeaway meals, is good going for me! I have got myself a supermarket delivery pass because I find that if I shop online I tend to stick to the list and not end up with lots of snacks and wasted food. I will give you an honest update of how I am doing in February!

In addition to this obvious resolution, I would like to read more fiction, and not just limit it to holidays. I aim to continue to have fun with and give Amelia plenty of my time when I return to work. For her – I’d like to keep her trying a variety of food, and make sure we are really good about reading to her each bedtime. I’m also going to try and use the baby signing more at home so she picks it up and finds it helpful to communicate whilst her speech is developing.

 

If I can achieve the above this year then I will be more than satisfied. Everything else will be a bonus! Do you have any new years resolutions, or suggestions for how I can maintain mine?

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What a difference a month makes!

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So having had a hectic yet slightly lazy December I am back on track. I have finally started to sort out all of the piles that I have been allowing to pile up around the house, and getting some order in the home. A lot of this has been triggered by the ever-changing needs of Amelia!

Back when I last updated you she had been unwell and taken a bit of a backwards step in her feeding, and was making some moves via the backward crawl and some fairly proficient rolling. We sat and watched the other babies around us eating well and getting around in the traditional forwards manner. We went to the baby groups the last week before Christmas and I could see her desperation to get involved with what was going on. She was rapidly crawling backwards towards the corner of the room but not making it forwards like the rest of the babies. However, she never got upset about it! Instead she would just make more noise that the rest of the babies!

We made it to Christmas with our Christmas tree remaining intact. We had taken the decision to invest in an artificial Christmas tree rather than having our usual outing to get a real tree. Though sad (I’m not sure my husband was that upset!) it was the right thing to do. We’d had non-drop trees before but they always lose some needles, and knowing Amelia’s love of anything she shouldn’t have, and love of putting everything in her mouth, it was safer to avoid a real tree. I was glad of her ability to move only backwards since I knew I could position her in the right way and she would never make it to the tree! Every now and again she’d roll over to it and try eating whatever card or gift she could get her hands on. Anyone who was given a hand delivered card received one with a soggy, chewed corner.

She had a wonderful festive time! I went crazy with all the cute Christmas clothes on the market – onesies, sweaters, leggings, t-shirts and so on were all Christmas-themed. We had plenty of guests and she enjoyed the attention. Her appetite changed, and suddenly she couldn’t get enough food at mealtimes – some days she was having three courses. Her sleep had changed too – but not quite for the better. She was waking again 1-2 times in the night. Sometimes she was just ‘awake’ and sometimes a cuddle or some milk would put her back to sleep. The most frustrating night was when she woke at 3.30am and was ready to be up and about. She stayed like this for an hour and a half before realising that the world is boring in the pitch black early hours of a winter’s morning, with a grumpy mummy. Her regular wake-ups, alongside a cold made me not so festive, grumpy at times and lacking any energy to do anything productive at home. However, her Christmas gift to us was one of sleep. Since Christmas it has been an exception if she wakes in the night rather than the rule. This was the greatest gift of all! She spent the whole of Christmas day opening her gifts, with food and nap breaks in between. As should be expected the wrapping paper provided much more entertainment on the day than the gifts she received. However, she had some wonderful gifts, and now requires a playroom to store them all! I’m going to tell you about the gifts another day as it’s always helpful to share gift ideas (especially for the 9 month old age since I found it pretty tough working out what would be age appropriate).

Her least favourite part of Christmas, from what I could gather, was meeting Father Christmas. This was perhaps a highlight for mummy and daddy though! We met him on a steam railway Christmas journey. Meeting him prior to boarding he kindly said ‘Ho Ho Ho’ and was genuinely jolly but Amelia’s reaction was to grimace and then cry. Our first snap of her with him shows Daddy looking the happiest of the three of them! Her feelings towards Father Christmas were confirmed when he boarded the train. Until he tried to interact with her she was happily trying to destroy a piece of paper. But on the two occasions he tried to entertain her she frowned and cried. There had been no-one else to-date that had caused such a reaction! Then, later that day a lady working in a shop was a bit ‘in your face’ with her at the self-checkout, and Amelia treated her much the same as she had Father Christmas. (I should note that the woman bore no resemblance to him other than being a bit loud)

The week between Christmas and New Year is usually the least productive of the year. However, for Amelia it was perhaps her most productive ever. She suddenly made moves towards crawling forwards. It started with a few tentative moves towards bringing her knees forwards. Then there was the odd time where there was definite forward movement. She seemed to have got the idea that she had to move her hands forwards and not backwards. Her most clear forward crawl came when she spotted my p60 on the floor (yes I am pretty last minute when it comes to that kind of thing). I had to do a double take to try and establish whether she really had moved forwards, on her knees. Trying to entice her with toys and she wouldn’t budge of she would go back to using her bum to shuffle along. But try enticing her with the p60 and she would crawl forwards at pace! Another 24 hours like this and she was off. She would crawl away form her toys and towards the fireplace where there was a Christmas ornament that had taken her eyes. She would then move on to a basket that had some journals in it. She would empty the basket and generally throw the journals around the place. Any ‘Don’t touch that Amelia’ or ‘That’s not for you to touch’ was met with a look from her and a sound that resembled ‘Huh’, a few seconds of thought and then trying again. I found myself spending a lot of time saying ‘no’, ‘not that’, ‘come back here’ and chasing her around the place! My husband and I were starting to realise how life was about to change yet again. We invested in a next day delivery of a playpen so that we would be able to have toilet and refreshment breaks without fear of what we might return to. Her crawling continues to progress, she can now get up the step and out of our lounge, she doesn’t sit still in the bath and crawls from one end to the other, and now she is working hard on pulling herself up. I have had to baby proof the areas that she crawls in, such as the lounge.

In addition to the above her babbling is progressing in leaps and bounds. She is good with Mama and the last day or so has been working on Dada much to daddy’s excitement. She makes a lot of sounds that sound like words and she often drops them in a well-timed manner! She sometimes sounds as if she is singing and she finds it exceptionally fun to make a sound whilst using her finger to wiggle her bottom lip. She does it to us too! Her personality is really starting to show!

 

There is so much more to update you on and I will get on with it over the next few days. I hope you have all had a great Christmas time and please share any new developments with your little ones. I will leave it here for now but for now Happy New Year!!!