Monday, 20 May 2013

What do I do with it when awake??

I remember when baby no 1 started to stay awake a little more and more during the day time.  I had no bloody idea what to do with him!  How can you entertain a child who doesn't understand you, doesn't particuarly respond and can't do, hold or say anything??! ... What classes as 'entertainment' to them??  This may be quite obvious to you natural mums out there who can't understand this even being an issue - but believe me, for those of us who aren't maybe the most naturally 'in tune' with babies, what the fuck do we do with them??

I have to say, that even though I'd experienced and become more of a 'natural mum' by the time I had my second, I still was a little at a loss with no 2 - don't get me wrong, I love my gorgeous babies, I just think so practically about everything that some things can be over thought (a friend has tagged this as 'OT'ing something' - over thinking it).  Oh yes, I totally OT everything!

So, for those in a similar position here are my suggestions - up until around 3 weeks they really don't do much so something as simple as changing a nappy can suffice.  And a baby bouncy chair can also be a good stop gap between sleeps (but without meaning to sound preachy - just be careful it has a head support/sits quite far back as their heads a v floppy still).  So what to do with a 3 week old??  Well, I found that a play mat/baby gym did nothing yet so you could walk round singing a few songs (with my first I hadn't got back into the whole nursery rhyme thing yet and didn't know many, so just sang football songs to him! - Admittedly not the best language but fortunately he hasn't been damaged by any of this, e.g. my old man said be an arsenal fan, I said **** *** ******** you're a *** - I'd like to think it's more about the sound that the words!)

Changing their clothes or holding a book in front of them is also a good one at this age (preferably one of those black and white picture ones - they can vaguely see the shapes in those).

Finally at around 7/8 weeks they can start to hold things so maybe soft rattles or material books are good options here.  And also the babygym starts to come into it's own.  From now on have tended to start a circuit for mine - as attention spans can be quite limiting, maybe 10 mins on the mat, 10 mins in the bouncy chair, 10 mins on my lap with a toy etc etc - having that control and knowing a litle of what I'm doing really helped me anyways ... It's also nice that they still go to sleep when you travel somewhere - so you could have awake time at home for half an hour after a bottle and then get them packed up in the car seat to then go and do some jobs out and about whilst they sleep.  Means they've had their proper awake time.

As they get a litlte bigger (around 18 weeks) their necks are stronger and you can think about a door bouncer or one of those baby einstein things - just so their toes touch the floor (they shouldn't put proper weight on their legs yet).  So this can take up another 10 minutes of awake time - honestly, all these little circuit stops really helped me - I had a right panic recently when I was going away for a few days and we couldn't fit the circuit training equipment in the car.  Obviously I realised that I was mental and didn't need everything with us for those days (after the event) but it didn't occur to me before we went ... you'd have thought I'd have learnt second time round - but I made sure I had enough other small toys and books to keep no 2 amused and all was okay!  Phew!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Second time round, first time dad

There seems to be a phenomena that people don't tell you about until AFTER the event - one of those things I wish I knew about so I could look out for it and be aware.  And I realised after telling another friend about it (after the event) that I had fallen into the trap of passing on the info too late too!  So I thought I'd write this entry now in hope you'll read BEFORE the event and you'll be more prepared than I was ...

What is this phenomena I talk about?  However wonderful and involved and great hubby/partner is first time round, something goes aray second time round and it just isn't the same ... in fact, there's a noticeable problem in the first few weeks whereby hubby/partner doesn't do anything.  And by this I mean, literally anything!  The only people I know (and there's quite a few) who have second children already have all experienced this.  Hubby struggles to make it to the post box without a million reminders, forgets to feed first child when asked and has a total meltdown if a little washing is requested.  I am not a psychiatrist, but through talking with friends and family, it seems to be linked to them feeling a bit lost and a little left out of things.  They see you having to get on with the day, feeding, changing etc new baby, and dealing with first child.  And they just feel a bit out of it all.  I know that for a number of second-time-round-new-dads they certainly didn't bond with new baby as quickly as they did with no1 and this worried them.  It drove me mad when after 2 weeks said-hubby was annoyed baby no 2 wasn't settling in the evenings and wondered 'what was wrong with her' - there is a definite issue of 'rose tinted glasses' second time round. 

BUT, I have to say, if you can recognise it and address it, things can get sorted pretty quickly.  You know the old adage of communication is the key - it definitely is in this situation! 

I got really pissed off when we were thinking about no 2 and hubs spoke to a couple of mates (who shall remain nameless!) who said that they regretted having a second.  It put a right spanner in the works for a bit until we decided we'd make it work better than these blokes had - but maybe these guys are still in the 'feeling left out' and 'feeling a bit lost' stages - they haven't found their way out of this yet. 

So, my advice would be not to address it too quickly (as husband may be too defensive if you act all knowledgeable about his 'issues'!!) but softly mention through week 2 (if you see there's a bit of a problem) and by week 3 definitely address with a harsher worded conversation.  They need to buck up, put up and get sorted - you've had to, so they bloody should too!! 

I have to say, things have been awesome since - definitely worth bearing in mind!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

More foody bits and a spreadsheet or two

One other obvious thing for the shopping list for weaning are small plastic spoons - get minimum of 5 to save you having to wash up constantly.  Oh, and bibs - you'll appreciate the bibs even more now.

I have a friend who hates mess and spoon fed her child until they were about 20 months just to try and keep her kitchen clean from child-eating-mess!  But interestingly they kinda start to get the idea of putting the spoon to their mouths very early (around 6 months) and could be feeding themselves with a spoon (and a lot of help) by around 12 months.  Very sweet to watch - but be patient with the mess!

Sitting up is now becoming a lovely thing they can do - means they get less frustrated as they can now sit up and watch/see what's going on.  We were on a long train journey recently and a woman was commenting on how well behaved and lovely no 2 was being (no 1 wasn't there).  She said how it was lovely how much she was playing with her toys and was surprised to see how many I'd bought with.  She commented on how organised I was (ha, if only she knew!!) ... Remember one of my mantras - organisation is the key!!  Shall we have a little practice?  Organisation, organisation, organisation ... well done!  I had to keep no 2 amused and vaguely quiet on a 2 hour train journey - no easy feat considering she doesn't sleep her full 2 hour sleeps when we're out and about.  So she'd be tired and moany and on a train with ... da da da, OTHER PEOPLE! ... Normally my idea of hell - I would definitely be one of the eye-rollers seeing me walking onto the carriage with babe in tow, so I know how the others would feel (yes, even with two children under my belt, I'm really not an 'other people's children-person ... I can't coo and smile and think they're adorable when they're not my own).  So, I made sure I was prepared.  In just a small paper bag I took with whatever (quiet) toys I could fit in (that would fit under the buggy) - so four small books, a couple of cuddly toys and a soft rattle.  I also had a rusk for a snack in case needed (it was) and a spare muslin for her to sit on so she didn't make the train seat all mucky.  It worked a treat - she had about 30 mins sleep each way and stayed happy, quiet (but with lovely gurgling and coo-ing) and contented the whole time.  Hooray!! 

Rusks are a great finger food for them as they're solid and hard but go really quite soggy as soon as they put them in their mouth - so they're easy for them to break down and eat.

So you need to think about your expectations of said-child for whatever you're about to do with them.  They're not going to find it much fun whilst you sit and read the paper with no entertainment.  Remember they're attention span is generally about as bit as a gnat's whatsit, so you need a few ideas in mind for them.  If going out to a restaurant at this age, they're not newborns anymore who'll just sleep and feed - they need to be kept amused and entertained (I don't mean you have to walk round them and can't sit and eat - I mean just bring things for them too).  So if you want to eat lunch, bring a yogurt or a rusk or toys and let them sit in the highchair next to you.  But also you can't expect them to sit there amused for a two hour lunch - so maybe have one of you walk around and show them things around the restaurant until your food is ready - then you can all sit and eat together.  Then maybe the other can take them for a little potter, ready to come back and sit together for dessert - or whatever.  My point being - expectations - don't have false ones and then get upset/angry/frustrated when they don't play along!

Oo, that's been a bit of a lecture right there - sorry all!  Will lighten the mood for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

I did it! Now onto food ...

I took my own advice and have had a couple of days break (albeit with one baby in tow) but I tell you something, it certainly helps to rejuvinate!

So, where am I up to?  Oh, the weaning bit - this is seriously my favourite bit of new babies - honestly, the organisation gets me very excited!!  Things you need?  Ummm, a good book with some ideas for receipes (I'm a huge Annabel Karmel fan), a local shop and a soup 'joojzer' or whatever they're called - you know, one of those soup blender things you put in the saucepan and 'joojz' your soup, an ice cube tray, small freezer bags and some small freezer friendly pots!  Don't worry about all those moulis, special weaning blenders or such like - waste of money!  Oh, and a pen and notepad if you want to be really anal about it all ... (I went as far as a spreadsheet but don't expect others to - as you can tell, I was totally ready to get back to work and used this to channel my brain instead!) ...

Start small and simple with apples, pears and sweet potato - cook (don't want to plagerise Annabel, but I assume it's the same anywhere - steam the sweet potato or cook the apple/pears by peeling, chopping and putting a tiny bit of water over them, then joojz).  Spoon into your ice cube trays and put in freezer.  The next morning, once frozen, tip each fruit/veg into seperate bags and label up.  Then you have a heap of apple, pear and sweet pot to see you through the next week.  Takes about half an hour to do all this from peeling to getting into the freezer.  Piece of piss - I promise you!

We started weaning no 1 at 4 months and 1 week (he was seriously huge and starving all the time - felt wrong waiting any longer) and no 2 at 5 months bang on.  Both showed signs of being ready to wean - staring at us eating (like seriously staring - made us all feel a bit uneasy!), grabbing at spoons/food and finishing bottles but could have more.  Another sign is starting to wake at night for feeds again - first did this but second didn't. 

I reckon a good place to start is baby porridge - try 2 teaspoons of porridge (mixed with boiled water) first.  If a success, repeat for 2 more days (I'd do this at the 11am feed - give a third of the bottle to take the edge of the hunger, try porridge then rest of the bottle).  After 3 days move onto apple, then pear then sweet potato.  Oh, maybe I should have said at the start - I'm not much of a 'baby-led weaning' person - why toture your hungry child with holding but not actually eating food??!  How much nutrition are they seriously going to get from sucking on a stick of pepper???  Although I do like the notion of pureed food followed by some food-holding-practice - so maybe baby-lead your munchkin to food after you've staved off their hunger!

Right, more on this tomorrow ...

Monday, 13 May 2013

Back at the start (part 4 - don't rush!)

I was going back through my diary/notes from when baby no 1 was born and it reminded me of a couple of other sparks of wisdom (or just annoying advice) to mention.

It's so easy (esp with baby no 1) to rush things when baby is crying.  You feel terrible that something you're doing is making baby upset so you rush putting them down to sleep, or rush getting out to the house to try and settle them, or rush the nappy change without remembering all your stop checks for why baby may be crying.  Well, I know I did anyway.  We used to have a nappy-changing-station set up.  Okay, might sound a little control-freaky but this was seriously the only way to remember everything and get baby cleaned up in the shortest possible time.  Hubby and I would have many an argument which started with 'you didn't set up the change station you ****' or somesuch, I can't quite remember (!) ... But unless the wipes were open, the nappy laid out and a change of babygrow on standby, I found the whole thing quite stressful. 

But one night in particular stands out at 1 week old when said-child was being put down, I totally rushed it all, forgot to change his nappy and totally forgot to even feed him from my other boob - so all in all he went down for a sleep wet and hungry - a wonderul success in parenting I think.  Or not.  Needless to say he was awake half an hour later crying again with me in tears wondering what on earth I'd done wrong!  Okay, maybe that was a little emotive, but for crying out loud, I was knackered (not literally I might add - it'd only been a week!), stressed and was searching for some much needed control!  So just remember the check list when baby is crying - hungry? Wet? Temperature? Tired?  I wish there was some wonderful acronym I could come up with for that to make it more memorable ... Ummmm, am missing a vowel to help myself out here - any suggestions?!

Also, if you're anything like me, I try to just feed at night and not change nappies constantly (that will wake baby up more).  So even though I'm a regular nappy-changer in the daytime, baby can go up to 11-12 hours with no nappy change (if no poo) through the night.  Well, sometimes you may find baby is sopping wet come morning.  So one of two things could help with this - either choose a feedtime in the night to change nappy before you feed (may result in some prolonged crying at the start, but means it'll be easier to put baby down afterwards) or try the next size up nappy just for nights - e.g. if using newborn, try no 2 for a couple of nights to see if that helps.

And finally for today, I thought I'd share a diary note from day 15 - I have simply written 'need to be calmer when out away from home' - hahaha - I was in the pub (don't judge - it was a trendy gastro pub and I was drinking de caf tea - I promise!) and had no idea what to do with baby when he woke up from his sleep 20 minutes earlier than expected.  Honestly, these are the big stresses with baby no 1 when trying out routines - I think it was after this that I vowed to leave Gina behind and start my own schedule!

Friday, 10 May 2013

I hate my cherub!!

Okay, hate may be a strong word - dislike immensly today?  Not a big fan of at the moment?  How about 'doing my head in right now' instead - that sound better?!?

Maybe not, but that's how I feel occasionally - more so as they get older, into the toddler years - at the under 12 months stage they're still rather cute.  It's amazing watching their little personalities come through but it can also be quite testing.  But you're not alone if you've come home from a day trip out, dying from embarassment as your little one had such a tantrum you're sure you saw their head spin at least once.  Or you're out in the park and trying to walk a little ahead of your stropping child in hope the public might think they belong to someone else ...!  The point is that many mums/dads/etc feel like this so just down the guilt in a LARGE glass of wine that night after bedtime and wait for the morning.  When devil child will awaken as your little angel again.

But this blog is a bit of a timeline, so we're kinda nearer to 4/5 months old now rather than 2/3 years - so maybe you won't have experienced this yet.  Have you got to the 'I NEED A NIGHT OFF' phase yet?  If your other half is anything like mine, he'll have magically conjured up a situtation that has allowed for him to stay out/stay at home when you stay out with the kids or something - i.e. he's already had this mysterical, exciting experience.  But not you ... Well, this is your time to go for it.  Baby doesn't need feeding in the night (or shouldn't - aim for this now or try warm water in a bottle instead of milk - which said-husband can do without you anyway) so you really have no excuse! 

You may be a really strange one (like someone I know) and not actually want to have time to yourself (really, REALLY?? - Are you mad, weird, or lying about that???) but on the assumption that you'd slowly saw your right arm off with a rusty knife just to experience this, go for it!  If it'd make you feel better, just arrange a local night out but stay at a mate's house (just to allow you that feeling of switching off at night time) so you can get home if you need to.  But really, honestly - go for it - it's so utterly important as a bit of a energy/personality reviver at this time.  I highly recommend it!!

Then you can come back, refreshed, and ready to face the next few months - and by now it definitely gets easier - you get more sleep, baby does more things and actually interacts (I love that bit) and life can get back on track, albeit with a new (baby led) twist.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Sleep baby sleep ... pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease?

With baby one we did this at 4.5 months and with baby 2 at 5 months.  Some call it 'controlled crying' but I think that sounds all a bit emotive - I prefer to refer to it at 'helping them sooth'.  But yeah, okay - you are essentially allowing your baby to cry without rushing in every 60 seconds (if you can even last that long!) ...

I remember with my first sitting in the cafe with all the other new mums after a baby yoga session (yeah, they exist, but don't worry, no one's expecting your little one to get into the lotus position in week one) and listening to all these mums with babies a few weeks or months older than mine talking about how they sit and rock their little ones to sleep in the rocking chair.  And how they still have to go in one, two or three times a night.  I was mortified - I couldn't keep doing this for months on end - no way!  One mum mentioned the dreaded 'controlled crying' and I was so curious as to how she knew when to try it.  She said 'you just know'.  And I have to say, that was the best bit of advice ever.  With anything - when should I drop a bottle?  You'll know.  When should I drop the dummy?  You'll know.  If you don't know it means you/baby isn't ready yet (hence waiting until 5 months with second to do this - oh and the fact a friend was staying over just before baby turned 5 months and we didn't want a crying baby keeping her awake - see, we're quite nice people really!) ...

So, for me, this is a bloody great time to stop the dummy and start with 'helping them sooth'.  It's really emotionally hard so make sure hubby (or whoever) is onside and prepared to be on the end of the phone or there to take over if you're having a wobble. And wobbles definitely creep in every so often.  But one thing I will say is - you'll be pleasantly surprised how great baby is at this.  Another great thing about this time is that you're in a routine now, you may have started weaning (more on this another time) and you can read your baby a little better.  So all in all you know baby is good and fine to go through the night without a million feeds an hour.

Start with an evening - you know baby's exhausted and you know baby will go to sleep (eventually!) ... so, pick your night and off you go - do usual bedtime routine and put baby down with no dummy and leave the room.  Now is a great time to tidy up a few bits upstairs.  Just 2 minutes worth of tidying but believe me 2 minutes is more than usually gets done, so it's a bonus.  Is baby crying?  Or coo-ing?  Or quiet?  Next step - if baby is crying, quietly go in (not like my other half who 'quietly' wacks the door open, suddenly flooding the room with light and noise!), hand on chest and 'shhh shhh' baby, reassure you're still there and walk back out again.  Now find a very handy, neccessary job that will take 5 minutes (make a cup of tea downstairs?).  Was baby coo-ing?  Lovely - leave be.  Quiet?  Leave be.  If coo-ing or quiet baby starts crying, start that 2 minute job and give them 2 minutes to sort themselves out.  So now we're up to the 5 minute wait.  We tend to put some quiet lullaby music (that the monitor plays) on for this going to sleep period - a great consistent signifier that it's sleep time. 

After 5 minutes have a listen.  Baby still crying?  Go back and repeat the soothing by placing hand on chest and leave.  Now give it ten.  Then 20.  Then 40.  With baby number 1 we never went past the 10 minute gap - always settled himself within that period.  With baby number 2 it tended to stetch into the 20 minute gap (although rarely, usually within the 10 minute one). 

Be prepared for one or two difficult nights/day nap settling periods but then that's it.  Baby can settle herself.  Sometimes it can take longer than one or two difficult periods - one day (when I started this with my second) I called said-hubby at work as was having a total shocker - she'd not settled for 30 minutes, but he reminded me to stay strong and although that day was hard, the next day was a totally different experience (in a good way!) ... AND, the best thing about this all - if you're worried you're not doing the right thing, when you go in to get baby up for their next feed time, the smiles and gorgeous excitment from a well slept baby that great you (once awake) is fantastic.  A reminder they still love you and a reminder you are trying to help them get the much needed sleep they need.  It's totally worth it!!

Good luck!  And before you ask, yes, this can work with older babies too (although the length of getting them to settle may take a little longer).  Oh, and one final thing - baby doesn't scream and cry and holler for the whole time (as people may like you believe) - there may be a scream/crying patch for a minute or two but that settles and they coo more than you realise when trying to self sooth.