Three in the Bed….

Three weeks ago Maggie was suffering from chickenpox; a dreadful, horrid infection that caused her no end of misery and caused us no end of heartache watching her be miserable. If she was old enough to eat chocolate or enjoy a Mickey D’s or appreciate a trip to the cinema or the moon, we would have bought it for her or took her there as a ‘treat’ for being such a good girl and suffering so valiantly. As it happens, she has no appreciation for such delights just yet, and so the closest we could get was to spoil her with attention and kisses and let her cuddle in beside us at night. Just as she was recovering from the pox, she developed a nasty cold and cough and, a patient once more, still in need of a continued supply of kisses and cuddles.

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So she’s back in the bed. That’s three weeks and counting. I’ve since talked about it with other mums and dads, and it seems that most babies and their worn-out parents go through the ’3 in the bed’ scenario at various stages. In fact, a study by The National Childbirth Trust (NCT), suggests that a quarter of all parents routinely share a bed with their baby. The key, my mummy friends tell me, is to nip it in the bud as soon as you can and get them back to their cots. Otherwise you never know what sort of heartache awaits.

Well, the heartache began this morning when Johnny woke up at the edge of the bed as usual and went to get out but couldn’t move. He has tweaked a muscle in his back or shoulder and is currently incapacitated and moaning quite a bit. He is laying the blame solely at Maggie’s feet, both metaphorically and literally, since it is her feet that have ended up in his face for the past twenty nights. She is currently favouring the ‘Roundhouse Kick’ position, but of late she has been inching closer and closer to the ‘Neck Scarf’. She obviously finds her Da much warmer and cosier than her Ma, which suits me fine but has left Johnny walking like the Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

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The entire concept of co-sleeping with your precious duck is a controversial one. Some authoritative bodies including the Department of Health and The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) categorically say that parents must never share a bed with their baby due to an increased risk of cot death. But others, including the NCT, openly defend bedsharing. Personally I’m not sure where I fall – instinctively, bedsharing feels a little dangerous when babies are small, but even now that Maggie is older and bigger I still fear she could easily roll out of bed. And yet I am sure that I am keenly tuned in to Maggie as she sleeps beside us. I remember when she had stomach flu after Christmas, and I woke up just as she was about to projectile vomit during her sleep, quick enough to sit her upright to be sick. John couldn’t quite believe how alert my instincts were. So I guess I can appreciate the co-sleeping argument that mothers are so switched on to their babies there is little risk to them. The main issue with co-sleeping, in my opinion, is that mum and dad just can’t get a decent night’s sleep.

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Elizabeth Pantley’s book, ‘The No-Cry Sleep Solution’, offers gentle ways to help your baby sleep through the night without resorting to bringing them into bed or – at the other extreme – abandoning them in their cots and leaving them to cry it out. My friend is currently using it to coax her little 9-month man out of the bed and into his own cot, and she is very grateful for its down-to-earth and non-judgmental advice. I haven’t yet resorted to reading it because I’m hoping that our three week bed-share is a blip in her bedtime routine. Besides, I love it when Maggie comes into the bed – I know she enjoys the closeness to her Ma and Da and it almost instantly calms her and gets her over to sleep. We just need to change society’s view of it as a terribly bad thing. And we need to invest in a significantly bigger bed.

The Crying Game

For most of us, the first six weeks with our new little bean is one of the most physically and emotionally challenging experiences of our lives. Just before Maggie was born my sister and mum-of-three warned me about those 6 weeks when the ‘fog’ would descend; a time that was likely to be quite hellish. For this reason I was more prepared than perhaps I should have been for the challenge that was to come. I expected to feel wretched, to not leave the house, not to be ready to see visitors, to not shower for days, and probably be in pain. I was in awe of the first-time mums I met during antenatal classes who told us how the birthing experience was difficult, sure, but they had still been out for dinner on Day 4. Day 4? I didn’t think the tears would have dried by then, and dinner would be frozen pizza for at least another fortnight yet. But as it turned out, it wasn’t quite as hellish as I had thought. The rush of hormones; the overwhelming sensation that this little being was YOURS, she was your responsibility, she was finally here; the absolute and all-encompassing exhaustion that hits you like a brick on the third or fourth day; the constant demands on you and your body and your brain; the sense of detachment you feel to your own body: this floppy, alien thing you can hardly bear to touch; the pain, the pain – all these still happened and tears were duly shed. But…I had half expected this (as much as you can, anyway) so I could cry and move on.

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That’s not to say that those first 6 weeks weren’t foggy, distracted and difficult. You are landed slap bang in a cyclone of nappies, feeding, nappies, tears, feeding, more nappies, feeding, (not much time devoted to cleaning or cooking then) while you function significantly below par on lack of sleep, cracked nipples and ‘baby brain’. I can’t even imagine doing all that with an unsettled little baby who cries constantly.

My friend Kelley’s wee girl had a really tough first 6 weeks; for her first fifty days on earth she was either crying or sleeping, after crying herself to sleep. Persistent criers have a hard time dealing with the world around them. And it is often a vicious circle – once they are upset, it can be hard for them to calm down. Coping with this at any stage in your life is tough, but try doing it when your body has just been through the most intense physical workout it is likely to face. Kelley was beside herself. The constant crying meant that her baba couldn’t really keep down her food, so also suffered from reflux. What was even more frustrating and alienating was that her doctor didn’t really take her anxiety seriously and she was left to get advice from pharmacists and other mummies. A constantly crying baby is a very real situation, whether it is diagnosed by a doctor or not.

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‘Colic’ is a term used to describe uncontrollable crying in a healthy baby. It is generally accepted that this is caused by abdominal pain, but we still don’t know what exactly causes colic; scientists have been trying to figure it out for more than 50 years. One theory suggests that half of all babies suffering from colic is caused by lactose intolerance. This is when babies, particularly premature ones, don’t produce enough enzymes in their guts to break down lactose into the more absorbable sugars, glucose and galactose, and so suffer from colic conditions such as wind and bloating, abdominal discomfort and crying. Because of the ambiguity around its cause, there is no real cure for colic and so it can be easy for doctors to be dismissive.

Kelley tried lots of remedies without success – from the Dr Brown’s ‘anti-colic’ bottles to ranitidine to help control the reflux. Her situation only improved around six weeks after another mum heard of her plight and suggested Carobel powder (carob seeds) to add to her baby’s bottles to thicken the milk. This helped to control her reflux and almost immediately her baba calmed down and smiled for the first time.

The first thing all new parents get used to is that crying is the only means a baby has to communicate, so it’s not a bad thing in itself. But it can be very overwhelming if you are recovering from a traumatic experience of childbirth. Crying usually only means that she is hungry, she is tired, she’s too hot or too cold, she has a dirty nappy or trapped wind. If it is none of these check to see if she is ill. Invest in a good digital thermometer and act straight away if she has a high temperature or if it just feels like something is amiss. Remember, your instincts are usually right so if it feels wrong, get it checked out straight away. Try every colic ‘cure’ you hear of or read about, and you hopefully will hit on the right one. One friend whose baby suffered terribly from abdominal pain went to a woman who had ‘healing hands’ and claimed to have the cure for colic. It worked for her little boy, whose knees visibly lowered and the pain in his belly seemed to dispel right in front of her eyes.

But if you have done all this and she’s still crying you just might have to ride it out with her. She might just be a ‘touchy’ baby or a ‘grumpy’ one, as Tracy Hogg the Baby Whisperer suggests, and you’ll soon learn what she likes and doesn’t. Those first foggy (and difficult) weeks don’t tend to last forever, but it is usually impossible to believe that things will improve when you are in the middle of your storm. For most babies, after six to eight weeks they settle into the world and become much happier little souls.

In the meantime here are some bits of advice I have been given or have since learnt to help you get through those first mad weeks:

1. Some babies are just über-sensitive little souls, and balk at loud noises, harsh lights, or strong smells. You will soon learn what elements annoy them, so try to avoid them if you can until your baba is a little older.

2. For some sensitive babes, low stimulation (soft lights and quiet) is best; for others, lots of repetitive stimulation like noise or a walk outside works well. The Sleep Sheep I recommended in my first post ‘Top 10 Things’ plays lots of white noise, or you can stick on the hoover or hairdryer, which lots of babies love. All Maggie needed in those first months was to get outdoors to calm her straight away. Even now just opening the front door is usually enough to do it. You’ll learn very quickly what level of stimulation keeps your baby happy.

3. Help your baby find ways of self-soothing, like sucking on her hands or snuggling with a soft muslin or toy. Controversial as it may be, sometimes nothing beats a good old suck on the dummy.

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4. Cranky o’clock in our house starts around 5.30 and lasts until bedtime. Many babies have a fussy time between 4 and 6 pm which is apparently caused by an overload of sights and sounds of the day as the babas try to unwind. This is the time to have a relaxing wind down to the day, put their jammies on and have a bath or chilled out playing.

5. Lots of babies react well to baby massage, which can be a calming way to chill out for both of you!

6. I have read that once your baba gets upset, don’t try ten things to calm them, stick with one thing for several minutes before you try something else. But often, stopping shaking the rattle or bouncing them up and down altogether is all that’s needed. I do think that over-stimulation can cause many babies to get annoyed when all they want is to be left alone.

7. I made the mistake of changing Maggie’s nappy at night every time she woke up as I just couldn’t imagine how she could go back to sleep with a wet bum. But now that she sleeps all night, it’s quite amazing to see how much liquid those nappies can hold. After all they are designed to keep baby’s bum dry. So, from the very beginning keep night feedings as sleepy and brief as possible. When baby bean cries, go to him immediately so he has no time to get into a wakeful misery. Don’t play or talk while you feed him. And do try to settle them as quickly as you can so they don’t have time to make themselves wide awake.

8. A very wise, wonderful, Irish mammy once said that what every child needs is a good sleep. Gosh, such wisdom in such few words. Maggie is only ever cranky and upset when she’s tired, and my older nieces are the same. Hell, you know yourself how good you feel after a decent sleep and how wrrretched you feel when you are wrrrecked. This is why I do agree with the mantra of never waking a sleeping baby.

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9. Don’t forget to take care of yourself so you don’t start crying too! Remember, as my friend Suzy says, happy mummy = happy baby.
Having a crying baby while you are recovering from childbirth is horribly stressful. Ask friends, family or good neighbours to help you out, do your laundry, or babysit for a little while. Taking time out will help keep things in perspective. Don’t worry about home cooking for a while; honestly, frozen pizzas are really very tasty nowadays. (Just don’t forget to stick it in the oven first). Do as much prep as possible before bambino arrives – enrol in antenatal classes, either through the NHS or NCT (or both!) so you know what to expect during those first weeks. After all, you won’t have the time, energy or inclination to look up information when you are right in the middle of the storm.

10. The good news is, the madness will end and your precious bean will grow into a bubbly little person who isn’t as needy or emotional as they had been during those first few weeks and months. That, or you’ll just get used to living on 6 hours sleep a night with a baby who is a bit grumpy most of the time. That’s when the coffee and wine come in handy.

Good luck, and remember – even in the dark moments, in the middle of the night when you and baby bean are both crying – you’re not alone!

An Apple a Day Causes the Dentist Dismay

ITV’s Tonight programme last night discussed ‘Our Kids’ Rotten Teeth’, a modern phenomenon which sees children as young as four getting most of their baby teeth surgically removed because of the extent of decay and rot. It was brutal telly, enough to put me right off my Cadbury’s Creme Egg. It was also relatively easy to dismiss it as ‘bad parenting’ or a curse of the lower classes who can’t afford a luxury item such as toothpaste (as one of the experts on the programme suggested), especially as it showed one parent giving her child a lollipop straight after surgery. But only last weekend I read an article that suggested that, despite their best intentions, even ‘good’ parents are unwittingly helping to rot their children’s teeth. How? By insisting on them eating their five pieces of fruit and vegetables a day. So, you are damned if you buy lollipops and damned if you don’t (especially if you insist on apples instead).

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The five-a-day mantra constantly chanted by the government and the NHS is an interesting one. Once again the principle is right; it is a simple way to encourage children and families to eat at least five portions of healthy fruit and vegetables. However, it seems that health-conscious parents, desperate to do the right thing, are giving their children juices and smoothies bursting with fruit, and all the while the high acid content could be doing long-term damage to their teeth through dental erosion. Fruit also contains a high level of natural sugars which can cause tooth decay, although this tends to be the lesser problem as most of us are diligent about brushing our teeth. In fact, research published last year by King’s College London Dental Institute, suggested eating an apple could be worse for teeth than drinking a fizzy drink, due to the acid it contains. An apple a day? Causes the dentist dismay, it seems.

So, what should confused mummies do? The Department of Health tells us it has no plans to remove fruit juice from the five-a-day. It does however recommend that children have only one 150ml glass of fruit juice per day, ideally taken with meals. If taken solely children should drink water or eat something like cheese afterwards, as the calcium helps to neutralise the acid.

So, yet another thing on the To Do list for us parents who are desperate to do everything right. Gawd, wouldn’t it be much simpler if broccolli and cauliflower tasted like honey? Or Cadbury’s Creme Egg. Ymmmmmmm.

Baby Weaning

According to the books, Maggie – who is 9 months old today – should be eating her three square meals a day and these should be fulfilling most of her nutritional needs. Around this age she doesn’t need as much milk as she’s been used to and will probably reduce to two or three bottles of milk max. In fact, she really should be sitting up at the dining table and eating with the rest of the family like a good girl.

Indeed. It’s not quite working out like that. Missy’s diet hasn’t been great, although it is improving. She’s not a great fan of vegetables and she openly rejects meat and eggs. She’s on the typical toddler’s diet of bread, cheese and fruit. Her favourite food is still porridge (hence the blog name!) and she’ll eat almost any fruit. I was freaking out about it for a while until other mummies-in-the-know pointed out a few truths to me:
1. No babies are the same or take the same amount of food or wean at the same time or do what the books tell them they should do.
2. As long as she was taking her bottles Maggie was getting enough nutrition. The main thing that formula or breast milk doesn’t provide at this age is fibre, but she was taking bananas and cereals so she was fine.
3. Just when you think your baba (and you) have got the hang of it, she’ll get a cold or will start teething and…all that delicious, lovingly home-cooked food will go down the drain. Or in the bin.

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Maggie eating her first spoonful of baby rice (we bought the proper spoons later!)

Some babies eat everything they’re given, and even throw in a smile as if to say ‘Awh thanks mother, I really appreciate you slaving over that hot stove all afternoon so I’ll make sure I eat every bit’. That kind of response warms your heart. Maggie’s little friend Otis came to play recently and happily slurped all my homemade vegetable and lentil soup that I had been defrosting, heating and chucking out every day for a week. I was absolutely expecting to throw it in the bin as always and when he ate it up and asked for more I nearly cried with gratitude. At the other end of the scale some babies eat nothing at all. I’ve heard stories of mummies distracting their babies with rattles or empty bowls and spoons or their favourite TV show or even really loud dance music, all while they try to sneak in one precious spoonful of food.

I read an interesting article recently from Plum Baby which suggests that fussy eaters like Maggie might just be ‘supertasters‘. Scientists have worked out that about 25% of us are “supertasters” – meaning their tastebuds are much more sensitive to flavours, especially bitter ones. I read this eagerly. Excellent, I think, ‘supertaster” sounds much better than ‘fussy little madam who turns up her nose at her mummy’s yummy home-made food’.

However a few weeks ago we had a breakthrough. Inspired by her love of (powdered) porridge, Johnny suggested that we should try powdered food. Sounds mingin’, I know, especially considering how delicious the organic baby food on the market tastes. But I guess it is probably what we were all fed all those years ago before Ella’s Kitchen and Annabel Karmel (the Jamie Olivers of baby cooking) came to save us. So I bought Heinz Mediterranean Vegetables & Rice and served it to her with trepidation and….by Gawd she ate it! Hooray!

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The second breakthrough came a few weeks later in the form of Ella’s Kitchen pouches. Dismayed by the rejection of my home cooking, I invested in a range of ready-made baby food to try out different flavours and textures, most of which were spat back out or slapped away. I carried on undeterred, however, buying a rainbow of puréed vegetable and fruit goodies and taking it much less to heart when, one by one, each of these were rejected. One day, without any expectation, I tried a Carrot, Parsnip & Apple pouch and almost shed a tear as she slurped up every single morsel. Her first vegetable, goddamnit. She had the same reaction to their Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, Blueberry & Apple variety. We both squealed around the kitchen that day. It was only later that I realised that both foods had a very high percentage of apple which cunningly disguised the taste of the other veggy stuff. But, hey ho, it was all 100% goodness.

Last week Maggie finally got her first tooth and, like the proverbial bus, two more have arrived since. It has proved somewhat of a turning point as yesterday she ate a floret of broccolli. I’m not counting my chickens just yet but it’s definitely a good sign. Now we are getting to a good place, my sister has advised me to invest in a Beaba Baby Cook, a dual device which steams on one side and purées on the other. It sounds wonderful but I can’t quite imagine going through all the baby food malarkey without using 2 saucepans, a sieve, a food processor and a measuring jug for good measure. But then I can hardly imagine having a baba who’ll actually eat the stuff I’ve prepared, so it’s all new territory. Wish us luck!

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We have a Toof!

This week, Maggie’s Toof finally arrived. Hoorah! As if she wasn’t cute enough, there’s now one little sharp stump of enamel where once there was gum. I am very excited, as it means she is finally part of the Tooth Gang with the rest of her baby peers, despite being one of the oldest in the group. More importantly, of course, I hope that it means the start of the end to her teething pain and thus the end of her very limited food choices. She’s been surviving on a diet of porridge, toast, cheese and banana for ages now, so perhaps she’ll feel more up to trying out weird and wonderful things like meat, vegetables and spuds.

Thankfully we haven’t had it too bad. Apart from her Healthy Hunger Strike, there have only been a few days of teething tears. But it does seem as if she’s been teething for months now, bless her. There’s not lots you can do about it, but here are some of the Teething Tips I’ve come across so far to help ease the pain.

1. Over the counter medicines

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Teething solutions you can buy in any chemist or supermarket include teething gels, powders, Anbesol liquid etc. I use Dentinox and Nelson’s Granules during a bad flare-up and the odd spoonful of Calpol when Missy has woken at night. For some reason she loves to chew on the tube of Dentinox too, but I don’t think that’s recommended.

2. Teething Rings

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Biting helps to relieve the pressure on the gum, and you’ll often find that your duck will use your finger or knuckle to bite on for some respite. You can get a teething dummy that reminds me of a mouth-shield you would use on a rugby pitch. This was definitely one of Maggie’s favourite things when she first started teething a few months ago. You can put teething gel inside but I couldn’t figure out how to do that without it sticking everywhere so I tended not to use it. It was still very effective. There are lots of teething rings in the market, but again for best results keep them chilled in the fridge.

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Of course the teething toy du jour is the original French teething toy, Sophie the giraffe. Ever since it has been seen clutched in the hands of Nicole Richie’s daughter, Harlow, it has been something of a status teether, with yummy mummies (and doting daddies) everywhere forking out the £12 or so for this cute rubber friend. It has been consistently one of the top 3 baby products on Amazon’s wish list since they started selling it in 2008. Hype aside, it’s a very cute and effective little toy. And it squeaks too, which allows for hours of annoying pleasure in the hands of an older toddler cousin as we have learned!

3. Frozen fruit & vegetables

Let your baba chew on some cold vegetables or fruit to help numb the pain. The ones most mummies have recommended are cold sticks of cucumber, frozen carrots or frozen watermelon. My childminder recommended letting a few frozen peas rattle around their gums, but sure I was terrified of choking so wasn’t too keen. I shouldn’t have worried, though. Due to Missy’s Healthy Hunger Strike she rejected them anyway!

4. Muslin Squares

Take a muslin square, twist the end of it, submerge in water and put in the freezer for the duck to gnaw. Or dip it in some chamomile tea instead. Another reason why we adore the humble muslin square. Its uses are endless!

5. Homeopathic remedies

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There are lots of homeopathic remedies I’ve read about. Clove oil and Chamomilla seem to be mentioned often for helping to relieve red, sore gums. (Or using stuff from the kitchen, mix ground cloves or root ginger into a paste with water and rub onto their gums). I’ve often seen the Amber Teething Necklace mentioned on websites and blogs, which is a natural painkiller, releasing succinic acid which relieves inflamed gums.

6. Nappy Rash

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One of the first signs of teething can be a sore, red bum. I have just discovered Kamillosan Nappy cream from my friend Sarah which I do think has worked well, especially since I was lashing on the Sudacrem and it wasn’t clearing it. Weleda also has a nappy cream in its range. If you can bear it, let them roll about for a while in the buff; it is bound to be a relief for them. Maggie’s nappy rash did worsen a few weeks ago so we used Canesten to clear it up.

But of course, there is a long road ahead. We’re only just at tooth no. 1 so we’ve quite some way to go. If other things have worked for you and your little bear, please share your wisdom. Now we are off to buy baby’s first toothbrush. Oh, joy!

Are You Wrrrecked?

A common complaint in the Muz household these days. ‘I’m wrrrecked’ (emphatic stress on the ‘r’ to elongate the word, thus proving just how wrrrecked you are). In Johnny’s case he is working hard during the week and getting home late most nights. Ergo, he’s wrecked. In my case, I am looking after Maggie all day, battling every lunch and dinner to get her to eat greens (persistence beats resistance, right?), helping her through teething pain, playing, singing, tickling, laughing, pushing on the swings, feeding, dressing, changing, bathing, cuddling, and finally putting her to bed when the last ounce of my energy is spent. Sometimes I have time to shower, have a coffee with friends and do some handwashing, but not often enough. Ergo….zzzzz

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Anyway I read with interest an article in last week’s Grazia about the ‘Exhaustion Epidemic’ that has hit people just like us, exhausted by physical demands of childcare or the emotional demands of living in such a fast-paced society where we are increasingly controlled by our smart phones. (The irony of reading this on my iPhone and writing about it in bed on my iPhone is not lost on me). Thankfully Gwyneth Paltrow’s doctor, Frank Lipman, has the answer. Hoorah.

Firstly he recommends you buy his book, ‘Revive: End Exhaustion And Feel Great Again’ (£8.99). But if you’re just too wrecked to go to the shop, here’s the jist of it:

1. The first one is a biggie. This involves a total overhaul of your diet so it doesn’t include any processed food or drink. I casually wonder if Farley’s rusks are considered a no-no.

2. Get outside as often as possible. Definitely second this one, particularly for WM (wrecked mummies). A quick walk once, twice, hell 5 times a day if necessary, can be a lifesaver. A walk to the baby clinic is always a good one, as you kill two birds with one walk. The pram is your new best friend.

3. Sleep in total darkness, ideally with an eye mask. An interesting one this, considering we’ve been sleeping with a night light on since Missy arrived. We are only just sleeping in darkness again after 8 months now that she’s in her own room. I think the advice is – shut off from the world as much as you can while you sleep. Hard to do this when one ear is constantly straining to hear your little duck’s breathing, while the other one enjoys the dulcet tones of your husband’s snoring.

4. Take a yoga class instead of doing an hour of cardio at the gym. Happy days, that’s one vice I wasn’t doing anyway (cardio at the gym, that is) and I’m sure my weekly amdram rehearsals are similar to a yoga class.

5. Improve your digestion by taking time to eat your meals (no grabbing a petit filous or white buttered toast with cheese on the run, then) and taking a daily probiotic and fish-oil supplements.

Easy as that. I’ve just bought cod liver oil tablets and am hoping for the best. Wish me luck!

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The BFG (The Breast Feeding Guide)

I wouldn’t dream of beginning to tell anyone how to BF, how long to do it for, or how important or not it is. It is probably the most controversial thing you will discuss if you are a new mum (particularly in London I have found more so than in Northern Ireland), with new mums and midwives/health visitors getting very vocal about this topic in particular.

It is such a personal experience and, for some people, it just doesn’t happen for one reason or another. There’s lots of help out there if you are struggling- midwives, BF clinics, BF support groups, your NCT friends – so don’t be afraid to scream and shout! But for others it goes swimmingly and is the b(r)est, most natural thing in the world.

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Miranda Kerr breastfeeding, not me. Indeed.

If you plan to give it a go, there are some tips I can share to get you started at least.

1. Nursing Bras

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Buy a couple of nursing bras – you will live in them, and very possibly sleep in them (I did!) so you’ll need a couple at least: maybe 2 x dark and 2 x white or nude to go with your wardrobe. M&S have a bra fitting service which is handy, so go along to get measured up a few weeks before you are due.

2. Breast Pads

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Buy Breast Pads before bambino arrives. I would recommend Lansinoh – I bought their Disposable Nursing Pads and they were great as they have double sticky pads and are very absorbent. They’re also pretty cheap. My friend Orla highly recommended Tommee Tippee ones but I never tried them. I did try the cheaper own label ones but they were pants and kept falling out of my bra. LilyPadz are new ‘invisible’ pads which are great for a night out with no lumps and bumps showing.
Start with one pack and go from there.

3. Nursing chair

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Some mums swear by a nursing cushion or chair to ease pressure on their backs when they are feeding. I’m not sure, I did use a cushion for my bump when I got very big towards the end of my pregnancy and it helped me sleep, but I could never get the knack of using it as a BF cushion. I did buy a gorgeous nursing chair from Fergus at The Pine Box in Coalisland and I use it now to read Maggie a story at night. It also looks very pretty in her room (which is the most important thing, right?)

4. Maternity tops

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When you are BF your wardrobe becomes pretty limited. If like me you spent the last 8 weeks of pregnancy wearing more or less the same thing because nothing else fitted, you’ll be dying to get into something new and fresh. There are special nursing tops you can buy but I did loads of online searches and found them all quite hideous. Best to get normal tops in a bigger size that you can easily pull down so as not to reveal your belly and boobs. Or if you are brave, get pretty ones that are loose at the bottom that you can lift up and have a nursing vest top underneath.

5. Capes ‘n Covers

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If you are BF in public, you might need more than a little Muslin square to cover you. Quite a few of my friends wore capes to cover themselves in public – Bebe au lait seem to be most popular – but others got away with a cleverly placed pashmina or an Abel & Anais muslin. The key is not to panic and get yourself all flustered when it happens (as I did!) You’ll only end up drawing attention to yourself AND exposing yourself, when really no one would have noticed otherwise.

6. Breast Pump

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In my electric v manual breast pump strawpoll on Facebook, my mummies voted 90% electric. I would recommend the Medela mini electric breast pump, even though I never used it. I was lucky to get a loan of an Avent double pump from my friend Anita, which was very fortunate indeed. But it wasn’t portable and a bit fiddly so expressing always felt like a big deal. My sister had the Medela one and it just looked so much handier; I mean, she could load a washing while expressing- how cool was that. This display of multitasking was beaten only by my friend Sam who regularly breastfed on one boob, pumped on the other and did a spot of online shopping on the iPhone with her free hand.

My issue with expressing was that I fairly soon had one under-performing and one over-performing boob (the Dud and the Megaboob I liked to call them). So for quite some time I was getting very little milk from The Dud, and expressing constantly to try to ‘stimulate’ the bugger. It was very frustrating to say the least.

One good piece of advice I was given, however, was to wait until you know you can BF before you invest £70+ in a pump. Some mummies just don’t produce enough milk to express, so ideally borrow one if you can.

7. In Case of Emergency

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Even though you are BF, have some baby formula in the cupboard. You might never have to use it, but it is very reassuring to know that it is there if you aren’t producing enough milk/just can’t do it/are knackered/ get mastitis etc and – this is important – it’s not poison! If you have to use it, it’s fine, don’t allow any midwife or health visitor or well-meaning yummy mummy tell you any different. I was terrified to start using formula, but was then reminded that my friend’s little baby was fed formula milk for the first days of his life because he was premature and in neonatal AND IT WAS FINE. I also found out that I was never ever breastfed, not even for a day. Apparently it wasn’t advised as formula was all the rage back then. And I’m FINE (mostly).

Aptimel and SMA seem to be the most popular, but there are lots of others – some friends use HiPP Organic, and there’s always the old favourite Cow & Gate.

8. Drinking from a bottle

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Even if you never use formula, it is a brilliant idea to get your little duck used to drinking expressed breast milk from a bottle. Honestly, it is so important to encourage this early so that at some stage in the near future you can leave your little one in the capable hands of your partner, mum, sister, neighbour while you go to the hairdressers, the gym, amdram rehearsals, or just get out of the house. Again there are lots of brands of bottles out there. You might try out a few different ones and it’ll really be a personal preference. I was always told that Dr Brown bottles reduced wind but I wasn’t a big fan of the long teat- it just didn’t seem very boob-like (you imagine that something as close to the boob as possible is best). I also tried Avent bottles as they came free with the steriliser, but didn’t really like them.

In the end I went for Tommee Toppee as it was recommended on a lot of websites and won lots of awards & have used them since. You’ll need No. 1 teats for the first few months and then can upgrade to no. 2 and no. 3 as they grow up and need a faster flow. I mistakenly missed out on no. 3s for a while and poor Maggie was sucking the life out of the bottle and taking ages to feed.

9. Steriliser

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You will need a steriliser for bottles, teats, breast pump utensils, dummies. I bought a Philips Avent microwave steriliser – they’re currently half price on amazon I’ve noticed – and it was great. You can fit 6 Avent bottles in there or 4/5 Tommee Tippee ones, which is plenty.
link to website here
I did end up buying a larger plug-in digital steam steriliser as we were going on a road trip to France and I was worried that we wouldn’t find microwaves on the way. I shouldn’t have, there was one at every motorway service station and on the boat, and the digital steriliser was just bigger, bulkier and held one additional bottle. Not worth the £50.

10. Weaning baby

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When you decide to stop BF and are weaning off, you’ll find that your boobs get really big and heavy (and sore. Oh so sore). And of course you’re not meant to express the excess milk as it defeats the purpose.

So, a funny story to end – as I was weaning my Megaboob off around 3 months (The Dud was practically empty anyway) it got particularly big and sore and Full. So full in fact that it was rock hard. I swear to God I thought it was going to explode. I happened to be in Hammersmith at the time doing a spot of shopping, so I raced to the car park as I desperately needed to get home to express. I put Maggie in her carseat and was about to start the engine, but honestly the Megaboob was seriously sore and getting bigger and bigger. Could it explode? Hell, I didn’t know, but it was looking likely. So, after a cursory look around and seeing no one coming, I wound down the window, took the boob out, stuck it out the window and just pressed on it. Whooooooosh! The relief was palpable. Of course I’ve since thought about the security cameras which might have picked up an image the security men will never forget. You know, I always said I’d never tell that story, but there it is. If you didn’t laugh…

So, Good luck! And do get in touch if you want any non-judgmental advice.
Some official helpline numbers below

National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212
NCT Breastfeeding Line 0300 330 0771
La Leche League 0845 120 2918
The Breastfeeding Network 0300 100 0210
The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers 08444 122 949

Top 10 things new mummies can’t do without

1. Muslin Squares

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Everyone says it, and everyone is right. You will need them for everything from mopping up milk on your little one, to mopping up boke on you; from emergency changing mats when you forget yours to emergency bibs; from sunshades to playmats; they can (just about) cover your boob if you are caught out & need to breastfeed in public and can be used as an alternative to cotton wool to top and tail your little one. I have always used one as a comfort blanket as they are so light and breathable and Maggie still uses them now. They are, in a word, indispensable. Just make sure you get enough of them! You can get them everywhere: Boots, Asda, Mothercare, Amazon – the cheapest I found were at Tesco for less than £1 each – but there are prettier ones too. These ones are from www.toysrus.co.uk £6.99 for 4

2. An iPhone

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Or similar. Apart from the obvious benefit of taking great quality photos and videos of your little munchkin, it also becomes an essential lifeline for the new mum (well, me anyway). It saw me through those early, sleepless nights in so many ways..online sudoku games, online shopping for newborn essentials, being able to read a book or magazine with just the nightlight and your iPhone, all while your little one doesn’t sleep or tries to sleep. Once the fog of those first weeks have lifted, it is great to be able to share photos, update your Facebook and Twitter friends, email your new NCT mums to arrange coffee mornings, book your trial class at Gymboree, write a blog (!), without it feeling like too much of a chore.

(Of course, as your little one grows it will become his or her Favourite Thing too, but that’s for another day and another post). If you don’t own a Smartphone now, you should! Believe me you’ll never look back.

3. Lansinoh nipple cream

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Nipple cream is essential. This one was recommended to me by lots of mums. Thankfully I didn’t get it too bad myself and only used about 1/4 tube throughout the whole BF episode, but I know some mummies who had to lather it on constantly & went through quite a few tubes! Just buy one to start with and see how you go.

4. Aden & Anais Muslin Swaddling Blanket /Muslin Squares

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Brilliant for all the reasons listed above as they are basically very large muslin squares, but a friend told me that they would be the most useful present I received and she was right! Especially for summer babies, these are so soft and light they make perfect swaddling blankets to keep babies warm without overheating (all new mummies freak out about this, right?) Apparently a big hit in the US amongst celebrities like Gwen Stefani and Julia Roberts, they are becoming a big hit here too. I got mine from my friend Anna from www.amazon.co.uk

5. Ariel Whitening Powder

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You will get a lot of what my sister and I call ‘up the backers’, where literally your little dote has pooed and it has gone up and out the back of the nappy. Could equally be called ‘out the siders’ for the same reason. When this happens his or her little vest tends to be full of the stuff, so you need to steep it straight away in this. This miracle powder was recommended by my sister-in-law mum of 3 after a particularly nasty up-the-back incident which threatened to ruin forever Maggie’s new, white, designer sleepsuit (a gift, of course). But no, steeped in this (you can add it to your main wash too), the stain disappeared like magic. Miracle stuff I tell you.

6. Geraldine the Giraffe

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It doesn’t have to be Geraldine herself, of course, but very early on Maggie adopted her favourite toy, and the two of them are best friends still. Geraldine is great because she has black and white crackly feet (baby’s favourite colours apparently) and lots of rings which she had used to reach for, grab onto and chew on as she has grown. Now the pair of them just chew the fat and have a good old yarn.

7. A Rocking Chair

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A great place for your little one to chill out, go for a snooze, mooch in, play in, sit in while you have a sneaky shower or pee (!) and later reach for and play the mobiles attached to it. One friend took hers everywhere as their little one loved it so; another swore that the chair on vibration was the only thing that chilled hers out when he was little.

They do grow out of them quite quickly so try to borrow one from a friend if you can. Our friend Susan lent us hers which was a huge help as you only need it for about 6 months.

8. A Bucket Bath

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I was very confused about baby baths when I was pregnant with Missy. The books didn’t help – the advice seemed to swing from a baby plastic bath to no bath at all (one suggested taking a bath with your darling one every time they needed it. I did try it – but it’s hard enough getting your little one out and dried and powdered and nappied and creamed without doing the whole thing stark naked!) So I called upon my Facebook mummies and the resounding consensus for those first few months was a bucket bath. I don’t think this is the actual name but it’s what my mum called it when she first saw it: ‘What? You’re going to bath Maggie in a BUCKET!?’ (I’ve just googled it, it’s called a Tummy Tub). Not only do they look very cute in them, it really helps bring up wind and they get to sit up in lovely warm water almost unaided from such an early age. It helps make bathing a very relaxing and enjoyable experience for everyone.

9. Cloud B Sleep Sheep

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A strange one to recommend on my Top 10, as I didn’t actually buy one! But I was very lucky as Maggie was a good sleeper from the start. For those of my friends whose little ducks didn’t sleep so contentedly, many of them swore by the Sleep Sheep. They rated them up there with other ‘white noise’ devices like the Hoover and the hairdryer to help settle their little ones.

10. A Baby First Aid Kit

Along with general First Aid Kit essentials, this collection should include :

For every ailment- Calpol
To check baby’s temperature- a good quality digital thermometer. Many people (me included) have the Braun Digital Ear Thermometer
For colds/blocked noses- saline spray, decongestant rub & a plug-in vapouriser
For ezcema- every baby is different so you’ll end up trying everything! I have found Cetraben Emollient cream or Epaderm is best for everyday moisturising and Hydrocortisone cream (sporadically) for bad patches.
My friend’s mum swears by a herbal remedy Chickweed, but I’ve not tried it, so ask your health visitor and health shop to advise you.
For teething- Teething gel & powders. I found the powders worked better (Nelsons) but used both for bad cases
For nappy rash- typically linked to teething, sometimes you need Canesten if normal nappy cream isn’t clearing it.

Until you get to know your own little bundle & what particular things might ail them you’ll just need Calpol. And cuddles.