Maternity leave – The reality of the situation!

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“How many times in your life do you get to take time out of work?”, I asked myself. Once the pregnancy was public knowledge, and after all the usual questions about ‘Do you know what you’re having?’ ‘Have you got any names?’ and so on, came the next question ‘How much time are you taking off for maternity leave?’ Well I can’t say I had ever spent much time thinking about the answer to this before last October time. Having spent many years at school, six years at university and five years in a training scheme, I felt like I had stepped on a conveyor belt at age 4 and hopped off aged 29 with a qualification and the shock of finally having to get a permanent job – with a C.V. and everything. Now don’t get me wrong I’d had a C.V. before this but it was always more of a ‘for information’ only. It never needed to get me a job before! Anyway jump to last October and I was at another point in my life where I actually had to make another decision – how much time should I take off as maternity leave? So we talked about it and, being in a fortunate enough position to make such a decision, agreed I’d take a year out. Or at least aim for a year. I also had to decide when to finish work. Lots of people seemed to stop at 39 or 40 weeks, or use up some annual leave to finish a little earlier. Most people’s rationale was that they wanted to have the maximum time off with their baby. A colleague was just about to finish for maternity leave just as I was making the decision. With holiday to use she was finishing at 37 weeks. She sat with me one lunch and explained just how glad to finish she was. She was tired and struggling to get through a day of seeing 30-40 patients. With this advice I made a decision that I would finish at 37 weeks. I didn’t have annual leave to take.

Then came my husband’s jokes about me spending a year watching daytime television, whilst I explained how busy I would be with the baby (though secretly imagining days of meeting people for coffee and gardening).  I spent many times feeling like I was required to justify finishing at 37 weeks. I almost felt ashamed to say that I preferred to have 3 weeks to myself rather than an extra 3 weeks at home with the baby. I made many plans as to what I would do before Amelia arrived, what we would do together, and all of the tasks around the house that I should aim to do before the end of the maternity leave.

Fast-forward to March 2015. Having had exactly one week of maternity leave (just enough time for an eye check, dental check-up and a haircut) Amelia arrived at 38 weeks. Well that put paid to a spa day I had planned for the following week as last minute relaxation! I could only be thankful that I’d at least had one week off to run last minute errands because her arrival was a whirlwind. I had not packed snacks in my maternity bag. In fact I hadn’t even done any shopping. So for the first week parents and local takeaways mostly provided our meals! I can probably count on one hand the number of times I left the house in the first couple of weeks. I had a baby attached to my breast for half the day (more on that another time)! If I wasn’t feeding her I was feeding myself. I hadn’t really had many preconceptions of what maternity leave might be like to start with, but I guessed it would be tiring. I really didn’t appreciate how full on the day would be with such an intense feeding regime. The concept of ‘you sleep when the baby sleeps’ was mystifying since if I did literally that then I would not have eaten or washed for some time.

I wouldn’t say the first three months went by in haze as I can recall a lot of events and days vividly. But they certainly sped by. I really did spend quite a lot of time in front of the T.V. In fact I knew the daytime schedule like the back of my hand. Amelia also used to have the best and most sustained sleep of the day between 8am and 11-11.30 am. So generally I was not out of bed until late morning/lunchtime on most days. I was so lucky in the first three months to have relatives around for much of the time. My younger sister spent some time staying with us to help out, my dad would come over at the drop of a hat after calls to say I was just exhausted after a bad night, and my older sister, in total, must have spent probably a month on and off staying with us and helping out. In fact – my sisters, and my 15 year-old niece provided respite and undertook night feeds, giving myself and Daddy a chance to have some restful sleep.

When we got to three months I couldn’t believe just how quickly the time had gone. It was a quarter of the way through my maternity leave and I had really not achieved much. I had been a fool and decided to continue a Diploma I was undertaking so in this time I had sat and written two 1500 word reports. I cannot say for certain how this happened (I was supposed to do them before she arrived). I also had an exam to sit when she was 3.5months old. This really just highlighted the lack of insight into what it would be like. I think I thought that with all the time off I’d have time to sit and revise. I just hadn’t realised that my brain would be like mush. I have no more to say on this error in judgment! I have made other sleep deprived errors of judgment, for example buying nearly 150 plug plants (not that I knew exactly what this meant) when she was two months old and having to pot them up, and agreeing to undertake my annual appraisal when she was three months old.

Somehow, by around four months old, Amelia started to need me a little less. She was feeding less regularly and able to entertain herself a bit more. She didn’t need to lie on me to nap in the day, and the number of times I have been stranded on the sofa for an hour or two while she sleeps on me is such that I can count them on one hand. So we’ve been out and about more. I have done four mornings of work (though I don’t think I’d manage a full day until she can manage a full night of sleeping through), we’ve been to visit friends, and stayed over places. In the last month I have even managed to get out in the garden, with her taking her afternoon nap in her pram, and do some gardening. She’s now at an age where she’s far more interactive so we have signed up to some mother and baby sessions for the autumn term. It just feels like it’s taken a long time to get to this stage, and now we are nearly halfway through my planned time off.

I must admit I have enjoyed the mornings that I have been to work. My brain has been used in a way that it is used to. I have challenged it and ensure it still works (I sometimes have serious doubts about this when I realized I have left the washing powder on top of the washer, carried the T.V. remote to bed with me and told the same story several times to the same person). Yet I also really enjoy the days when we don’t get dressed and have a lazy day at home! So, as I enter month seven of maternity leave I look forward to our jam-packed schedule of baby groups and meeting friends and family for lunch or tea!

Finding the motivation…

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I sit typing this whilst sat in my pyjamas late on a Saturday morning, under a blanket, lounging on the sofa with the TV on in the background. I feel this has become a fairly standard scene for a weekend where we have no plans. Amelia has gone down for a nap, and there are plenty of useful things I could be doing. There’s the pictures that I’ve framed waiting to be hung, there’s pictures that I need to get frames for, there’s a pile of clothes in the hall that need taking to the charity shop (they’ve been sat there for a number of months), and there’s general tidying up I could be doing. Yet I have sat for the last hour and done very little! Where can I get the motivation from? Yesterday was a good day of sorts. I finished work at a decent time. I would describe my work day as ‘unsatisfying’ for some reason – it wasn’t terrible but it just consisted of several little things that left me feeling ‘blah’. So I came home, having had a good nights sleep two nights in a row, and felt a little productive. So I got in the garden and planted the plants that have been sat on my windowsill begging to be put in the garden for a week. I tied my roses into the tunnel structure I’m working on and I pulled up some weeds. I even managed to make Amelia’s dinner before collecting her from nursery.

But here’s the thing….when I collected her she was already tired because she had only had one 50 minute nap the whole day. That’s where the motivation waned. I might as well have not made her dinner because she ate all of 5 pieces of pasta, a couple of bites of broccoli and a pea or two before trying to throw it on the floor piece by piece. I presented her with a few berries. It started off well and then she took to squishing them in her hand to create maximal mess. Ok – lets just do bath time and bedtime then. Bath time involved her stood in the bath screaming in frustration whilst we washed her, and getting her into a nappy and pyjamas involved screaming and wriggling. The peace as she quickly fell asleep was a relief. But then there’s the realisation that we now need to eat dinner. This is where my motivation disappeared…..pizza it was. I then ate the pizza with the guilt that I hadn’t provided us with a healthy dinner, and I must improve upon this next week.

Then – if there had been any doubt that I had lost motivation, as I peacefully slept I was awoken whilst it was still pitch black to her cries. What time is it? Oh – 1.40am…..really? So we spent the next two hours in a tag team trying to settle her back to sleep with minimal intervention. By this time I knew that Saturday would be a slow burner.

So as I sit in my pyjamas I think of all the things that I could and should do, whist all I really want to do is lie in bed and snooze on and off. I find that life currently seems to be a cycle of a few bad nights of sleep followed by a catch up. After the catch-up there is a couple of days of renewed energy and motivation until we start the cycle again.

So I ask the mums, and dads, out there – is it normal to feel like this? Is there a way to break the cycle, or it is just a waiting game?

Nappy changes!

It’s all about the nappy I’m told – the right brand, the right size, put on the right way!

In preparation for Amelia’s arrival I stocked up on pampers new baby size 1, whilst the supermarket baby events were on. We had no idea how many nappies she might get through. People seemed to say ‘lots’! The husband’s mother say if she was anything like he was it would be 10 plus (a poo for every feed)! I would subtly try and get an idea from mums who were bringing their baby’s for their checks to work out how many size 1’s I would need.

Anyway, Amelia arrived and our nappy journey began. We bypassed the cotton wool and cooled boiled water cleaning and went straight to using wipes suitable for new babies. I didn’t have the patience to boil water, cool it and wipe with hundreds of cotton wool balls (so why I bought 600 cotton wool balls in preparation for her arrival I don’t know, as they remain mostly unused).

We soon realised that the key to a successful nappy change was to make it quick, and to never change after the first wave of pooping (as it usually came in waves of 3 successive poops). It took having to do 3 nappy changes within the space of 10 minutes, and wasting new nappies, as they would be covered with wee before they were even put on, to get to this realisation.

We also found that Amelia liked to sabotage our punctuality. Just as we would be ready to leave the house the poop would come. We had warning – a staring look, some straining and then a sound similar to that of a female tennis player returning the ball for championship point! The other concern was would this be what we fondly referred to as a poo-losion (definition – escaping of poo out of the nappy so as to cover clothing). We now anticipate this at every sound of poop being expelled.

We have been covered in poop numerous times. Highlights include:

  • Top and tailing her (she was wearing a nappy) at the sink. Daddy felt something warm on his leg and looked down to find something resembling an eruption from Vesuvius pouring from the top of her nappy and down his pyjama bottoms.
  • Myself returning to the car to find her and daddy in the back of the car, after a poo-losion occurred in her car seat. We had to strip her down to a fresh nappy, cover the seat with muslin to protect her from the poop. We arrived at our friends in a frantic state needing to do emergency washing. I think daddy was pretty traumatised by this ‘emergency’. This incident has since been referred to as ‘poo-gate’.
  • Most recently I had a similar car experience, which led to her being covered in poo along with my clothes and myself too. (I only realised that I was covered with it just as I was about to take a bite out of my food and I looked down to find my leg, and then my cardigan, covered in her familiar yellow poop.

I feel like I am single-handedly keeping ‘vanish’ stain remover in business.  I guess I am not the only one. Suggestions have been ‘try a larger nappy’, ‘go back down a size’, and ‘try a different brand’. I have found nothing is foolproof other than anticipating a potential escapee at the first whiff of a poop being on the horizon. I can say with certainty that her Bumbo is a prime suspect for encouraging poops and escapees.

Since introducing vegetables her nappies have become far smellier and a bit more formed. I can now see why people choose to invest in odour-containing nappy disposal units. I am still not convinced they are anything but a gimmick. Can anyone convince me otherwise? I can only imagine things will change further as her diet become more varied.

What do I recommend with regards to nappy changes?  Having tried several different brands of baby wipes (I was given lots of packs by different people as part of gifts, and picked up different kinds when on offer), I really like Tesco loves baby fragrance free ultra soft wipes. They are great value and can be purchased in big jumbo packs. Plus they have a good plastic lid, you can easily pull just one out at a time, and for most nappy changes one wipe will suffice. Runner-up would be Asda little angels cotton soft baby wipes.  I swear by Metanium every day barrier ointment. It is often on offer during the baby events, but is admittedly more expensive than some of the other barrier creams. However, as a doctor I have found it is often recommended as treatment for nappy rash, where other measures have failed. She has not suffered with nappy rash so far, so fingers crossed it will continue!

I would love to hear your poop stories. I feel that discussing them is a little bit like therapy! However, I request that you do not poo-poo my thoughts on nappy time!

Working mum – the experience so far

 

I have been back at work now for almost three months, and life feels like it’s just starting to settle into a routine again. I was looking forward to returning to work and dreading it in almost equal measures. Not because I didn’t enjoy work, or because I hadn’t enjoyed being with Amelia, but simply because it was a change, and something I hadn’t experienced previously. I was going to be a working mum and be on duty both at work and home. When would I have those moments where I could come home from work and just lie on the sofa for hours without a care in the world? When would I have a day off that might involve a lie-in until lunchtime?

Prior to returning to work we were all set up with a plan of action. Amelia would be booked into nursery for three days per week, we would have Mondays and Thursdays off together to go to groups and have fun, Her grandparents would collect her on a Wednesday and bring her home ready for bed (as this would be my long day). It was perfectly fine initially – the routine seemed to work well, and Amelia was sleeping fairly well. Then we had some holiday and upon our return Amelia spent two weeks with a viral illness, and some more teething. During this time she would cry each time we dropped her at nursery, she would wake in the night for up to two hours a go, and then sleep in late so we had to wake her to get her ready in time. A couple of the days she was just too unwell to go to nursery (I felt I couldn’t really drop her off with a temperature of almost 39 degrees), and last minute care by Grandpa had to be organised. It was a really tough couple of weeks where exhaustion took over. As Amelia became well again some of the behaviours improved. However, she always seemed to know when it was Monday night and mummy had to go to work on Tuesday. She would have slept perfectly on Sunday night but come Monday night she would wake either in the middle of the night or at 5am. So the week always started with a sleep deficit. She continued to be clingy and cry when we would leave her at nursery. I think I spent quite a lot of the day on edge that nursery would call to tell me that I would have to come and collect her. They didn’t, and she was always fine by the time I collected her.

As time has passed she naps better at nursery, and she’s eating and drinking well both there and at home. He routine continues to evolve quickly, and I cannot predict how she will change from one week to the next. For instance, we have just finished a phase in which she was waking between 5-5.30 am every day and, as a result, being ready to nap just as its time to go to nursery. She’s a little better at entertaining herself in her cot for a while if she wakes early. I think she is also moving towards having a one nap per day routine.

As for me – the first two months of work were hard. I had to get back into a structured routine. I had been doing the odd half-day in the run up to starting back, and this had generally been fine. But working more, and not having as much time to switch off, and not sleeping as well were leaving me really tired. It impacted upon my decision-making, and thinking powers. Though I could still make appropriate decisions and provide what I think is good care it did sometimes take a bit more than the 10 minutes I have per patient. I found this quite tough to tolerate, having previously been very efficient and on top of things. I felt a bit like I was swimming in rough waters and the shore wasn’t getting any closer by the time I had finished each day. Now I feel like the waters are calmer and I manage to make it to shore pretty easily!

Where I do feel that progress is lacking is the days off. I find that they feel more like recovery days rather than days to fill with piles of activities. I feel guilt about this. Not least after her 1-year check when I was interrogated as to what baby groups we attend. It has been tough – the groups we had been going to and enjoying were on Wednesdays, and now I work all day Wednesday. There are alternative options for these classes but they’re a bit further from home, and at times where currently Amelia tends to nap. There doesn’t seem to be many other groups that run on our days off. It may just be excuses on my part, and I need to readjust my mind-set, or maybe it’s ok that we don’t go to specific groups on the days off. Is it ok to just spend time together – playing, seeing family and friends? Is it ok that I make sure she naps well on our days off so that she doesn’t have a bad nights sleep when I’m at work the next day? Am I being selfish or is this self-preservation? Or are they the same thing? I ask myself these questions a lot!

I think there also seems to be some stigma at times about putting your child into nursery. I certainly don’t get any negative reactions from friends and family. Everyone I know is in a similar position – they either have to work, or they just really want to work because they’ve developed a professional career that they’re not ready to give up. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, just as much as there is nothing wrong with women who choose to stop working whilst they have young families. Everyone makes decisions appropriate to their individual circumstances. I’m fortunate enough that I probably could have stopped working for now, though it makes our lives a lot more comfortable with me working. I am also fortunate that I don’t need to work full-time, and my job enables me to undertake different types of activity to make my week varied. I also have a short commute, which makes it easier. So I am in awe of the women out there working full-time, having to undertake long commutes, and being a mummy!

I am sure that as time goes on, this balancing act of working and being a mummy will get easier. As Amelia gets older things will change again. There have certainly been benefits to being a mummy at work – I would say I am far better at managing my time, I am more pragmatic in my approach to working and on a clinical level I think I have better empathy, and can more understand the anxieties of parents, and those trying to juggle numerous aspects of life. It hasn’t suppressed my ambition to further my career, and I am always thinking about the future and how I might get there! Plus, having time off has given me a break from the pressures of working in the NHS, and the frustrations it sometimes brings. I have a renewed enthusiasm for work.

Has anyone else had a similar experience when returning to work after maternity leave? Or any tips for how I use my days off in a better way?

The 12-month developmental check

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Each part of the UK undertakes this check at slightly different timings and can range between 9 – 13 months of age. It’s a developmental check that looks at whether the little one’s meeting their developmental milestones (motor skills – gross and fine, speech and social skills), safety in the home, eating habits, etc.

The letter arrived through the post letting us know when the appointment would be, and giving us a form to complete. It asked lots of questions about things that she could or couldn’t do. Some of the things I hadn’t even tried getting her to do – such as scribbling with a crayon! So over the next few days I spent a bit of time testing her. We also had to rearrange the date because they were due to come whilst we were away.

On the day of the appointment I was hoping she would be in good spirits and nap at the right time so she was awake and happy to be checked over, and show off her skills to the nursery nurse (who works alongside the health visitor as part of the child health team). As it was Amelia was in great spirits and trying hard to impress the lady- she was chatty and cruising around the place, and trying to play ball (literally) with her. We went through the form we had completed, and she ticked off her boxes. It was all going well. Amelia happily stripped naked and hopped on the weighing scales like she was sat in a boat, and she lay straight on the measuring tape. The nursery nurse was concerned that she had not gained weight in 2 months. I sheepishly then had to admit that I had been weighing her on the scales at home, and that Amelia was putting weight on just fine and maintaining her centile!

But then I felt the appointment became tense, and like an exam. I found she asked vague questions such as ‘how’s her diet?’ ‘How does she sleep?’ and so on. I wasn’t really sure how much depth she wanted to these answers. I guessed (and tried to use my medical knowledge as a guide) that it was related to whether she was having a healthy and balanced diet. Well I think she is doing well with food – she’s good at trying new foods, she doesn’t eat too much, but is starting to eat more, she loves fruit and vegetables. My only concern was that I wasn’t sure she was getting enough dairy food. She’s not a big yoghurt fan, and for a while she wasn’t so keen on her milk. As a result I was giving her follow-on toddler milk to take to nursery, whilst using a combination of cows milk and breastfeeding at home. I explained all of this to the nursery nurse, and that’s where I felt things got tough. She seemed a little tough with me from then on. I started to feel like I was being judged, for what I felt was trying to do the right thing! She seemed a bit concerned that I was still breastfeeding, concerned I was choosing to give toddler milk over cow’s milk, and concerned that I was giving her too much milk, and that she should be eating more food than drinking milk. She also saw the bottle from just before her morning nap and made sure to point out that I should be getting Amelia to take all her drinks from a cup or beaker now. I felt as though I had been reprimanded!

On we moved to safety in the home – what safety measures did we have in place? Again I wasn’t sure as to the level of detail expected. Our house is not the best for small people – it has a lot of stairs and a step up or down in to pretty much every room! As such I have only one stair gate, where it’s absolutely necessary, because there’s no other way of protecting her. The rest of the time we shut her in the room we are in, and we are allowing her to climb the stairs when its bath time or bedtime. We have also managed to teach her how to get down the stairs feet first rather than her old habit of trying to dive head first off everything. I explained all of this to her and was met by a blank expression, followed up with ‘And where do you keep cleaning products?’ I suspected this was perhaps what she was hoping to hear about right from the outset of that line of questioning! She also asked me how I disciplined Amelia. My first thought was ‘well she doesn’t do much wrong!’ So my response was to say that if, for example, she touches something she shouldn’t then I tell her no in a firm voice. Her advice was that I should always follow up a negative with a positive, e.g. in those circumstances I should direct her to something she can play with. Fair enough, and advice taken.

We then moved on to whether Amelia goes to nursery, and how she gets on. How she sleeps (and advice that I might have to change her feeding routine as she changes her napping schedule), and do we attend baby groups. I felt totally inadequate here. Since returning to work the baby groups we attended have not been on days and times that fit around work and her napping. We take her swimming on the weekend, but just for now we don’t make it to other baby groups. I felt like such a bad mummy by this point. She asked whether Amelia at least has the opportunity to interact with other children. Perhaps she wasn’t listening when I told her that Amelia goes to nursery three times per week…

By the time the appointment was over I was relieved and happy to see her out! I felt that I hadn’t learnt anything that I didn’t already know – We knew that Amelia was developing just fine. She does what other toddlers her age do, and she’s growing nicely. I was left feeling a little deflated and deficient in the parenting skills department. I was confused as to why she seemed so unimpressed by the fact that I was still breastfeeding to some degree. The WHO advice is to continue complementary breastfeeding until age 2 or beyond. I spoke to other mummies, who agreed that you are encouraged to breastfeed, and judged if you don’t. But once a baby turns 1, all of a sudden it becomes something you shouldn’t really be doing, and are judged for continuing to do so. Also, it felt that, as a working mummy, I was being reprimanded because we weren’t going to baby groups! Amelia attends nursery where she interacts with other babies and toddlers. We are in a fortunate enough position that she doesn’t need to go to nursery – she has plenty of loving grandparents who would happily help to look after her. But we made a conscious decision to pay for her to attend nursery, for the very purpose to encourage her development and have the benefit of being able to play with other children. When she’s not at nursery she is getting plenty of attention and nurturing from everyone around her. She’s a very social girl! As for safety in the home, I could make Amelia wear elbow and kneepads, and a crash helmet, and possibly wrap her in bubble wrap. But it doesn’t help her in the long term. We have chosen, instead, to try and teach her safety skills as she grows up. Of course she’s not going to fully understand, hence why we don’t let her roam the house freely! But she’s learning, and you can see she takes it all in.

I wanted to share this experience, and let you know how I felt, because I think a lot of mummies feel this way after these checks. But it’s just so important to remember that all babies and children are a different, and all family set ups are different. So try not to be disheartened about how you’re doing as a mummy, or daddy! As long as you are acting with the best intentions and in the best interests of your little one then you’re probably doing just fine! Yes, it’s important to put all of the bad stuff out of reach, feed them a healthy balanced diet, keep them safe from harm, and nurture their developing skills and behaviour. But you don’t have to be a super mum, or raise a super baby (well I think all babies are pretty super), you just have to love and care for them and do your best. Ask for help if you need it, and just remember that these checks are general, and most of the advice they are giving is general too, and not suggesting that you’re a terrible parent!

 

Anyway, I have just about gotten over this check. We’ve got quite a while before I need to brace myself for another, and plenty of time to perfect my mummy skills!!!

Amelia’s hairdo!

This may sound like a very mundane topic, but if you knew how much time I’ve spent talking about her hair over the last year you would appreciate why I thought I better bring it up!

Amelia was born with a full head of hair. It didn’t surprise me because, if the old wives tale is anything to go by, I suffered with a serious about of heartburn during pregnancy. So much so that I couldn’t have more than a tiny sip of water if I woke during the night. I was swigging Gaviscon from the bottle. We had even nicknamed her Fuzzball (or fuzzy) for short during the pregnancy. So when she came out with thick dark brown locks (and a little fluffy all over to be honest) we were not shocked, but in total adoration of this cute little fuzzball.

Everyone who got a picture, or visited remarked how much hair she had. Every time we took her out we would be stopped by strangers, or hear them saying nearby, ‘so much hair’! I guess you could say it’s her trademark. Lots of people said it’d probably fall out because that’s what happens. But it never did fall out. It just kept getting longer, and thicker! By 6 months old she’d had her fringe trimmed twice by my hairdresser. I have also had to be brave and do some trimming of the fringe – it grows very quickly!

As she started to toss and turn more during the night the crown started to get a bit fuzzy and frizzy. We would lovingly comb her hair after she’d had a bath and it’d flatten back down. But by the time she woke the next morning it’d be all frizzed up again. Combing it would lead to some improvement but it was always a little bouffant. In all honesty I spent a lot of time concerned that she looked unkempt and that social services would turn up accusing us of neglect. This fear heightened once she started nursery. I felt obliged to spend ages trying to flatten it back down. One day I didn’t have time. I arrived at the nursery and found myself apologising for the ‘really bad bed hair’. The response was one that led to action. “Oh don’t worry, it’s just your trademark isn’t it Amelia’. It hit me – she had hair as ridiculous as Russell Brand. She had Russell Brand’s hairdo – I mean who takes him seriously?! That evening I started researching the equivalent of Frizz-Ease for babies. I found a spray-in condition by Johnsons and Johnsons for little ones. It came with the next food delivery, and it worked wonders! I spray it on after the bath and in the morning and her hair is a lot flatter and softer! She now has standard baby hair and not a bouffant for a trademark!

I do get asked a lot if I tie it back or put it up. I can sometimes get a clip in it. I have once or twice managed a ponytail or pigtails. Once I did manage a little French plait. However, she was 7 months old – not mobile but easily distractible. It wasn’t too difficult to keep her still for long enough. When I have managed to get a bobble in it, it lasts for a short time – usually being put in the car sear or buggy is its downfall. They slip out so easily. As for now – she will not sit still long enough to get a bobble in her hair (and make it look tidier than it does without a bobble). Also, she swipes my hand away. I think she just prefers to wear her hair down, and in a way that I would call ‘rogue’. It does leave me a little sad since I dream of the day I can put her beautiful hair in beautiful braids!

For now her hair will remain untamed (apart from the use of the leave-in conditioner), and she will wake from naps with static causing the front of her hair to stick up! I include a selection of pictures that shows her hair off to the fullest, and a couple where I have successfully tamed her locks (note that these looks lasted for mere minutes!).

Does anyone have a 1 year old who willingly allows you to tie their hair back?

Just when we thought we had cracked the routine, the clocks went back!

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The road to a routine (both day and night) has been a long and rocky one! If I look back over the last several months I would say we got a bedtime routine in place early from just a few weeks old. By this I mean she had a set bedtime, and became noticeably ready to sleep at a similar time each evening. But with the daytime I didn’t notice any kind of routine emerging until she was around four months old.  By this time I had found that I could put her down in her bouncer with a comforter and she would doze off, but there were no set times that this would happen. I was working off things I had read about babies’ sleep/wake cycles and was aware that she was likely to be ready to sleep after 90 – 120 minutes of being awake. So I would aim to get her to sleep at these intervals. But as she reached four months old I started to be aware of her sleep signals – eyes rubbing, flopping head to one side, a whinge that sounded like her batteries running low, and redness around her eyebrows. I think it started to fall into place one day when I needed to shower so I put her back in her crib with a toy to play with (or more accurately, chew) and she fell asleep. I then found that if I put her in the crib around the same time each morning she would settle herself off to sleep.  As the month progressed I started to do the same when she was tired in the afternoon, and then if she was a little tired after lunch. I saw a trend emerging with times and that’s how we reached our current routine. She wakes around 7am, naps from around 9am for about and hour or so, half and hour to an hour at lunch and then another hour or so from around 3.30 – 4.30pm. Originally she would have a full two hours in the morning and hour and a half in the afternoon. Her naps have shortened as the months have passed.

During this period her bedtime pattern was still very up and down. I noticed that putting her bed at 7pm was the only real constant. She would sleep for a variable length of time and then whenever she woke after this sleep she would wake every four hours without fail. So say she woke at 11pm she would then wake at 3am and then 7am. If she woke at 1am then would wake at 5am, and so on. We tried dream feeds at 11pm but this had no effect on helping her skip the early hours feed. Around four months of age she started waking every couple of hours again. This arose shortly after she began refusing bottle feeds. It was a tough time. I revisited our Sleepsense guide that we had used previously. This advised to give it at least ten minutes before intervening when she woke at night, as often babies will settle themselves back to sleep. This was a tough few nights. I had been quick to respond to her waking prior to this in order to minimise disruption to Daddy’s sleep. We were both being woken by her whimpering at times, and ten minutes at 3am is a very long time! However, she would mostly fall back to sleep with no further assistance or input from us. After our trip away in September we made the decision to move her into her own room. She was almost six months old. She slept for 12 hours. She murmured a couple of times but didn’t need a feed or any help from us. This has been the trend since, with the exception of illness and bouts of constipation. She sometimes wakes a little earlier at 6am but feeds and then snoozes a little longer.

But last night the clocks went back. We were staying with friends and were in the same room with her. She went to bed a little later than usual. She woke at 4.30am and needed a feed. She then woke at 6.30ish new time. Tonight we have put her to bed at 7.30pm and are hopeful that she will sleep through until 7am tomorrow. I did read about clocks changing and suggestions to gradually alter their routines but 15 minutes every couple of days, for example. But she happily stayed up later this evening so we will see how things go!

I think one thing we have always tried to do with Amelia is to remain flexible. Sticking to rigid routines does not really fit with our lifestyle and outlook on parenting. The only time we get into a situation is where she misses out on proper daytime naps. So where possible I prefer to be at home for at least one of them. She is so interested in the world now that getting her to nap out and about is quite difficult. She will fall asleep in her buggy, or in the car. But we are regularly stop/starting or moving her in and out of the car she just wakes each time and gets gradually more tired and annoyed. Its pretty understandable, I would be pretty frustrated if my sleep was continually disturbed! I we decide to go out for dinner then we will do her bedtime routine (dinner, bath, pyjamas and milk) then put her into the car seat and off we go. This usually works fine. We then put her straight into her cot on our return.

Having a routine has made such a difference for all of us. I know roughly when we can safely be out and about without her getting too tired. I know when I will have a bit of time to do the chores and make any calls I need to. Our baby groups fit in around her nap times. Plus I cannot express just how much better I feel getting a full nights sleep most of the time. It took me some time to adjust to not waking every couple of hours wondering if she was ok. It took time to stop creeping in to check on her! I now find that I don’t really wake to her murmurs in the night. Life just seems calmer!

The next step is to work on her getting to sleep a bit more easily if we are out and about. Any tips or suggestions welcome? I also wanted to reassure anyone struggling with their own or baby’s sleep – it will get better!