The End of the ‘Dummy Dash’

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Isn’t it incredible how before they’re born, you can raise your hypothetical children in such a particular and methodical way until they’re actually here, and suddenly you begin to play back and cringe at all the times you have described this picture-perfect upbringing to other parents, who for the most part practise enough restraint to give you a knowing ‘no teeth’ smile and simply say nothing, and the rest of the time struggle to stifle a snort and belly-chuckle as they shake their head and tell us “just you wait…”

I wasn’t planning on using a dummy with Thea. I couldn’t tell you any specific reason for why, but I had only bought x2 twin packs of dummys along with all the other newborn paraphernalia ‘just in case’. Lo and behold, only about 4 or 5 days into her life, she was sucking on a dummy at night. It instantly soothed her and helped her fall asleep…I guess I just have what you’d call a ‘sucky’ baby.

Fast forward 12 months, and my hypothetical non-dummy user is still using a dummy to fall asleep at night. And sometimes in the pram. And yeah, also in the car. For reasons unknown, it bothered me at first, I stressed myself about how I was going to get her ‘off’ the dummy. I attempted once to put her down without it and she screamed the place down and was so stressed out, and it was only 2 minutes! That little experiment was over quicker than it began!

Gradually, it dawned on me that there was no real reason for me to take away something that brought her so much comfort, so I forgot about it and never looked back. That’s not to say that we haven’t ran into problems.

Once she’s fallen asleep, Thea will at some point spit the dummy out. She’s now at an age where she mostly stays asleep without sucking on it, but occasionally in the night during spells of teething, illness, developmental leaps and/or sleep regressions, she will wake up looking for it to go back to sleep. Quite frequently it’s gotten lost somewhere in her blankets or in the sleepyhead, and I end up being woken up to go in and give it back to her, and she goes straight back off.

I posted on Instagram a while back about my ‘dummy fishing’ on the floor with a coat hanger under Thea’s cot for the ones that got lost in the night. My system was to have 2 spares on the footstool, in case I needed to go in there, swoop one up in the dark and  back into her mouth without disturbing or rousing her too much while searching for the lost one. In theory, of course. All a fair bit of hassle and messing around.

Thea’s also recently gotten into the habit of throwing her dummy across the room when she doesn’t want to go to sleep, or dropping it out the side of the pram or car seat when she is feeling bored/defiant. This normally means frantically fumbling around in my bottomless, Mary Poppins-esque changing bag or deep, fluffy coat pockets, rifling through for a steriliser pack with hopefully a spare dummy lurking to save the day. All very inconvenient and not at all helpful in the midst of a baby-turned-toddler meltdown.

Although I knew they existed, I hadn’t tried a dummy clip before, so when Baby Wings gifted us a set of Pacifier Clips, it seemed like the answer to all of our dummy-related woes, in 3 cute and colourful designs.

They clip on safely and easily to your baby’s clothes without damaging the fabric, and prevent dummies from being flung into the dirt, lost in the footwell of the car or buried in the cot until the next ‘dummy fishing’ expedition. We have the ‘Sakura Flowers Set’, but they also have some cool geometric print and space-themed ones.

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I found these SO useful in the car or pram. Not only did they prevent ‘dummy overboard’ situations, Thea was actually fascinated by the design and enjoyed fiddling with the strap. Of late, she’s loathed being constrained to any kind of seat, and we get arched-back protests and attempts to escape, but playing with the strap and studying the patterns kept her occupied for ages; we didn’t experience any of the usual transport-related tantrums when using the Baby Wings clips, even on the 2-3 hour car journey to my parents’.

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We’ve also had a bad spell of teething and illness in our household recently, so during times of mega-whinge, Thea sat and felt sorry for herself in her famous beanbag chair watching telly, pacifier clip in tow, soothed by absent-minded fidgeting of the strap and chewing on the dummy.

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Arguably the biggest benefit comes at night, where using the clips means there’s no faffing around in the dark searching for lost dummies behind the neck or in the covers etc.;Thea can easily find it and pop it back in herself. She’s actually gone back to sleeping through these last few days, following the evil 12 month sleep regression!

If you’ve not used a dummy clip before or are looking for some new ones, I can highly recommend Baby Wings and I will continue to use the pretty set so kindly gifted to us.

You can purchase here from their Amazon shop.

If your bubba a dummy user? When did you decide to give them one? Do they use it all the time, or only certain situations? I’d be interested to know their ages and the way the dummy works for them.

Jo X

 

 

 

“Nothing Changes, if Nothing Changes”

Normally my Saturday evenings are spent at home, in my jammies, usually horizontal, chilling with my husband and largely ignoring one another as we lay side by side, scrolling on our respective phones. Last Saturday was different. I was lucky enough to be invited along to an event at Brighton hidden gem Powder Beauty Boutique in the South Lanes in honour of International Women’s Day, along with my one of my besties, interiors blogger Jasmin aka @brickdustbaby. I washed my hair, wore ACTUAL make up, and left my baby in the capable hands of my husband.

Powder itself was beaut; totally glam, retro and buzzing with energy as lots of lovely ladies and bloggers enjoyed their treatments and some well-earned pampering. We sipped on the most delightful gin cocktails and snacked on some ‘super-healthy-so-tasty-surely-they-can’t-be-healthy?!’  nibbles from Gem’s Wholesome Kitchen.

The night was hosted by the incredible Life Coach Mary ‘Badass’ Meadows and ‘Mental Mutha’ Blogger Natasha Bailie, who I had the pleasure of meeting for the very first time. I have to admit that on sitting down for their talk with a room full of other women, I was taken by surprise when they introduced themselves by unreservedly addressing and owning their battles with mental health, and Natasha looked me right in the eye and said “U OK, Hun?”.

I felt a bubbling anxiety rise up through my body, prickling my neck and cheeks, my heart pumping loudly in my ears. Never before had I been in a scenario where a perfect stranger had been so open and talked so candidly about what is (wrongly) considered a taboo subject. I was unsettled by the idea that the talk may result in an ‘icky’ confrontation with my own mental health.

I needn’t have been so fearful. It wasn’t so much a ‘talk’ as it was a refreshingly upfront and involved conversation about the prevalence of mental health struggles in everyday society, coping mechanisms/techniques, and learning to not be ashamed or suffer needlessly. Lots of incredibly brave women found the strength to share their stories and discuss their innermost thoughts and feelings with the room. I listened on with admiration as one by one, they became empowered to openly confront their own experiences with mental health.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel prepared or brave enough to speak out about my own experiences on the night. I am not ready to do anything more than scratch the surface of my long-term battle with EDNOS and Anorexia. Close friends, family, professionals who have treated me, and anyone who may have deduced from my appearance during my darker moments will be aware of my struggle to some extent, but this post will be the first time I’ve addressed it in a public forum, and I’m not going to lie; it racks me with fear, guilt and shame.

An uncomfortable cocktail of fear that I’ll be judged for being mental, weak or neurotic. Guilt for ‘indulging’ in what is widely considered to be a middle-class, ‘first world’ problem. Shame for not appearing to have been mental or skinny ‘enough’ by whatever standards or criteria Joe Public has set for what an eating disorder should look like from the outside.

I know somewhere within that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I wouldn’t be ashamed to say if I had a headache and needed to take a paracetamol. I wouldn’t be ashamed to say if I had a chronic bout of cystitis, crying out for antibiotics because I was peeing out razor blades. I wouldn’t even be ashamed to say if I had a serious case of food poisoning and was sh*tting every 10 minutes through the eye of a needle. What’s the difference?

The difference lies in what society has told us up until now what is and what isn’t ok to talk about, and false ideas about what is and what isn’t a ‘real’ health issue. If we were suffering from a physical or visible health problem, we wouldn’t be so quick to stuff it away like a dirty secret, or treat it as merely an afterthought.

Conversations like we had with Mary and Natasha are crucial, because only by talking about our mental health, can we begin to break down the stigma that tells us that we shouldn’t; the cause of far too many suffering alone and in silence, believing that we’re crazy, or that no one could possibly understand or be able to help us.

The ladies told us that they’ve “never known anyone to regret asking for help”, which I can wholeheartedly believe. Granting release to our worries and difficulties is the only thing that ceases them from endlessly circling and intoxicating our minds, tormenting us from the inside.

Asking for help is a choice that we make. A choice in which frees us to discover that we aren’t alone after all; we’re all as mental as each other! Just like we all catch colds or get the sh*ts from time to time. Help is out there…often in places and in formats we didn’t even know were at our disposal.

As the ladies quite rightly declared, “Nothing changes if nothing changes, Babes”

Jo X

Chronicles of the After-Birth #4 – Breast Laid Plans

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When we found out we were expecting my darling little girl, I didn’t spend any time at all deliberating over whether or not I would choose to breastfeed, or worrying about if I would be able to. It’s not that I felt particularly strongly about it, I just assumed that I would breastfeed, and that was that. It was free, it was convenient, people are always going on about how great it is…why wouldn’t I?

I enrolled on a particular antenatal class, and there was a HUGE emphasis on breastfeeding. When we first received an email with the class schedule and I saw that there was an entire session dedicated solely to breastfeeding, my first reaction was ‘UGHH’ (that’s the sound of an almost 360-degree eye roll, to clarify). My second, was that I couldn’t quite figure out how there could possibly be that much to it, to fill out almost three.whole.hours. My community midwife had also plugged a separately run local breastfeeding workshop to me on more than one occasion during my routine appointments. Not really understanding what all the fuss was about, and being the furthest thing on this planet away from ‘Earth-Mama’, this all seemed a bit bonkers to me at the time.

I was incredibly fortunate that the expectations and preconceptions I’d had about breastfeeding mostly turned out to be true, and with relative ease, my daughter and I took to it well from the beginning. Don’t get me wrong though, it was no walk in the park.

My boobs looked like a couple of blue-streaked plasma balls with soggy, cracked liquorice torpedo nipples. It was a MASSIVE ball-ache finding time to express after feeds, plus clean and sterilise all the pump attachments ready for the next time, all the while looking after a newborn baby (famously not too keen on being put down or letting you get on with anything at all…who knew?!). I did not enjoy waking up in the night like a chance contestant in a most disconcerting version of a wet t-shirt contest, because my soggy breast pads had torn in half and were wringing themselves out all over me. Having to agonise over every one of my outfits based on the density of the print, absorbency of fabric, or how dark the colour was in case of ‘boob leakage’, was the fastest way to send me into a wardrobe-induced, postpartum meltdown, forcing me into choices that made me feel like a drab old peahen.

Such minor gripes are aside from the more obvious issues; the incredible soreness, the fact that the pressure was on me alone to come up with my baby’s nourishment (and 99% of the time, be the one to deliver it too!). I actually managed to get mastitis three times, which is seriously painful and makes you feel like utter crap, I definitely do not recommend it. In spite of all this, I carried on. Even though lots of people were encouraging me to give up. My daughter was healthy and gaining weight beautifully, and I felt it was my motherly duty to continue.

When my little girl reached about 4 months of age, we ran into bigger problems. It seemed like my supply had slowed down, and/or she wasn’t able to stay still long enough for a full feed anymore. She was insanely grumpy. If she was awake (so that’d be ALL the time, then!) she was whinging or screaming and wouldn’t be put down. Not our finest hour.

I tried everything I possibly could to try and increase my supply. I was pumping up to 6 times a day, drinking my weight in water, taking fancy Fenugreek supplements which made me smell like curry (they try and tell you the smell is maple syrup – do not believe the lies…it’s straight up curry). I was overdosing on oats and all other kinds of magic ‘lactation foods’, trying weird boob massages, meditation…you name it. I was absolutely determined to try every trick out there so I could continue, but none of it seemed to be making enough of a difference. My baby was still miserable, I was still stressed out to the max, and I could only pump a pitiful half ounce in 20 mins from both sides at best, unable to get a single let-down.

This went on for about a month, when after a desperate series of texts to my Mum at 6am basically telling her I was losing the plot, she appeared on my doorstop a few hours later to rescue/relieve me. She gently suggested we try a bottle (not wine for us, sadly. Though that probably would have done wonders for my cortisol levels…). Defeated but desperate, I made up a 4oz bottle of Hipp Organic, and my hungry baby glugged down the lot. Instantly (and when I say instantly, I mean INSTANTLY) she became a different child. Even though it was towards the end of the day when young babies are notorious for getting a grump on, she was smiling and playing and just such a pleasure to be around. It was a bittersweet breakthrough, and from there on it was a natural progression from exclusive breastfeeding, to combined feeding, to formula feeding.

Why, even though it was at worst, making me physically ill with a recurrent infection, unable to function and look after my baby, and at best giving my baby a measly morsel of what is considered first rate nourishment, was I so determined to carry on breastfeeding? Why did I put us both at such a disadvantage, all for the sake of doing things a certain way?

It’s rammed down every expectant and new mother’s throat that ‘breast is best’. Well, I have to disagree. It’s not always best. Mothers and their infants can run into all kinds of problems when breastfeeding, and whilst we are incredibly fortunate that there is a great deal of support to assist and guide us through our journey, some breastfeeding relationships never really take off, or like in our case, become increasingly impractical for whatever reason.

What happens if you can’t, or choose not to breastfeed? No one teaches you how to bottle-feed. Where are the bottle-feeding classes?! I had to fly by the seat of my pants after nearly 5 months of exclusive breastfeeding, basing what I was doing purely on reading the back of the formula box and by watching/listening to other formula-feeding Mums. Why is there such a reluctance to accept the alternative to breastfeeding, and provide information and support with this too?

Even at the clinic when getting the baby weighed, I was asked by health visitors ‘are you still breastfeeding?’. Not ‘how is she fed?’ or something less shaming for those of us who have to answer ‘no’. Little things like this only added to the immense pressure I was already experiencing. I felt as though I was failing my daughter, and as a mother, if I wasn’t giving her the widely-publicised and highly-commended ‘best’.

From my experience, a fed child is best. A healthy and happy child is best. A mother who is physically and mentally able to function is best. So what? We didn’t make it to the end of the first year as recommended. My daughter’s weight has never dropped below the centile she’s followed since birth. She’s hit every one of her milestones early, or on time. She is healthy, happy, gregarious, bright and strong… Despite being fed by, that dirty word…BOTTLE. It wasn’t by choice, but it’s worked out just fine. It could have saved us both a lot of tears had I felt supported enough to have made the decision sooner.

I just want to let other Mums out there who may be going through something similar know that it’s ok to deviate from your original plan, or what others tell you that you should be doing for your baby. If your baby is fed, you haven’t failed. If you need help, ask for it. You do what is best for YOU and YOUR baby, and whatever that is, be it breastfed or bottle, don’t ever feel that you need to apologise for it.

What struggles did you encounter on your breastfeeding journey? Was it cut short prematurely? Maybe you decided early on that you would formula feed, did you feel any kind of backlash for that? I know it’s a deeply personal and emotionally loaded subject, but if you feel able to, I would love for you to share your own breastfeeding stories, views and experiences.

Jo X

Chronicles of the After-Birth #3 – Unsolicited Advice

 

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As the saying goes, “opinions are like arseholes…” everyone does indeed, have one. Ergo, if someone hasn’t initiated an exchange that involves discussing your arsehole, you can **probably** assume that it’s because your arsehole, unique and essential though it is to you, is not of any consequence in this scenario.

I get it…we’re people. As people, we all just loovvve to talk about ourselves. It’s human nature. Relating our own experiences to those around us is completely normal, and is an important part of building a rapport and forging relationships with others. BUT…(and it’s a big ol’ but…) when it comes to parenting, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the hype of our own wisdom, and instead of relating to others, we cross a very fine line into the territory of becoming a bit of a pain in the aforementioned hole.

Something about pregnancy, babies and children is a trigger for anyone who has ever had a child, known a child or BEEN a child to morph into Jo Frost, compelled to weigh in on what it is they did with their kids, and/or what they think you should be doing with yours. Just when you thought you’d escaped the unrelenting barrage of pregnancy and childbirth stories, suddenly your baby is here, and what they eat, how they sleep, why they cry; it’s all up for public debate. It’s no surprise that some new Mums can end up feeling like they’re the ones sat on the ‘naughty step’.

Some of the truly remarkable tidbits offered to me include “Well, you know why she’s clingy, it’s ‘cause you breastfeed” and “Oh, just let her cry. She won’t remember it”. Thankfully, I’m not easily upset or swayed by these kinds of offerings. Just pretty f***ing irritated.

Of course, in the majority of cases, the intentions of others are probably good. The phenomenon of new life speaks to our compassionate side; people do really want to help. Why wouldn’t we want to share with others, especially those we empathise with, the secrets to our success? There is undeniably a fount of knowledge for all things ‘baby’ if we can only manage to keep our eyes and ears open.

HOWEVER (did you think the rant was over…?!) As new mothers/parents, we are more often than not pretty darn sensitive. We are desperate in our pursuit for confidence, muddling through the best we can in our attempt to master a role that we have limited to no practical experience in. All the while, in a vortex of hormones and functioning on minimal sleep, dealing with all manner of postpartum ailments and unwelcome bodily changes.

Even at the best of times, unsolicited advice is about as well-received as discovering you have poo on your wrist when you haven’t changed a nappy in a while. NEWSFLASH!!! People don’t like it. Even the kindest of counsel can come across as critical or annoying when we feel as though we’re under a microscope during the most vulnerable moments of our life.

As parents, we all want to do our absolute best, and will spend any ‘spare’ moment we have, frantically Googling and researching in books, the answers to our worries, woes and curiosities. And yes, we DO ask for advice from those around us. Folks, THIS is the time to offer up your two pennies worth to the pregnant co-worker, the lady next door who’s just had a baby, the friend with a toddler etc. .No exceptions to the rule…this is the ONLY time you can say something, safe in the knowledge that the parent in question isn’t ceremoniously swinging a bat at an imaginary piñata with your face on it.

Unfortunately, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that we are subject to unwanted comments and advice, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. MY only piece of advice would be, when you’re on the receiving end; take a deep breath, smile and reply calmly “Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind”.  Save your energy, you’ll need it. Put the bat down.

What are some of the most excruciating pieces of unwanted advice thrust upon you as a parent? How did you deal with them? I’m excited to hear your stories and strategies!

Jo X