I Had My Babies In My Forties

If you had asked me when I was a young career girl just setting out in the world whether I would be having a baby in my forties, I would probably have told you absolutely not. Back then, pregnancy in your forties seemed to be an accident of fate, not something a woman would, or could actively choose. Despite this, I had my children at 43 and 45 (I’m now 54) and I know that I have been extremely lucky.

pregnancy in your forties - baby on a bed drinking from a bottle

My grandmother had a child at 45 so, whether or not there is a genetic predisposition to being able to have children later in life, I’m still aware that I managed the best feat of my life just in time.

Pregnancy in your forties

Is natural conception still possible?

What was surprising was just how long it took. Despite being in my 40’s I somehow thought that conception would be nothing short of immaculate and when it took over a year, I found myself reading numerous books on improving your fertility the natural way and taking my temperature every morning to track ovulation.

My temperature never seemed to budge. Tracking the ‘ten most fertile days’ made sex about as exciting as cardboard and turned it from recreational fun to a chore and a duty.

I suffer an early miscarriage

I lost my first child at approximately 6-7 weeks. The charmless consultant gynaecologist we saw made it clear that he viewed this miscarriage as nothing more than a missed period. “You can hang on to see if there’s a heartbeat”, he told us, “or we’ll have you in and whip it out”. A managed miscarriage at home was the option we eventually took, wanting to see if the initial scans were wrong. They weren’t.

Pregnancy in your forties - Caitlin

Caitlin born 2007

It was back to the temperature taking and the headstands for about another year until, one Valentine’s evening, having practically given up, we went out for a romantic meal and got ever so slightly sloshed.

Caitlin was born the following November. And then, the October before Caitlin’s 1st Birthday, Ieuan was conceived. Having waited so long for Caitlin, we assumed it would take a couple of years to give her a sibling. I should have listened to my wonderful midwife who told me that once you have had a child, it’s as if your motor starts to work properly and that I shouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t take long.

Ieuan, born 2009

Pregnancy Scans

We were aware of the risks of late pregnancy. I had a nuchal translucency scan (which we paid for) with Caitlin and amniocentesis (on the NHS) with Ieuan. What we would have done in the event of any genetic problems, I still couldn’t tell you.

I had two perfectly healthy pregnancies

Aside from a slightly low iron level for which I was required to take supplements in order to be admitted for Ieuan’s Caesarian, I sailed through both pregnancies.

As an older mother, I was put under the care of a consultant and this led us down the route of a hospital birth close to an operating theatre and surgeons rather than the candle-lit water birth in a nearer hospital I fancied.

I suffered the discomfort of permanent indigestion for the first trimester with Caitlin and very mild morning sickness with Ieuan but that was it.

I did put on a lot of weight (4 stone) with Caitlin but I found that eating cheese was the only thing that stopped the terrible heartburn.

Both babies were born by Caesarian

Caitlin was delivered by emergency Caesarian as her breathing became laboured due to the umbilical cord becoming wrapped around her neck.  Ieuan was born by elective Caesarian.  I did have the option of a VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarian) but given my age, preferred the reassurance of a swift and managed delivery.

The recovery time after a Caesarian is something to consider.  I had anti-clotting injections and had to wear special socks for a few days and, of course, driving and lifting were no-nos.  My recovery from both C-sections was swift and, apart from having to have antibiotics for an infected scar, I was quickly back on my feet.

I do think that having two Caesarians close together may have had an effect on my abdominal muscles and my back but that could equally be a factor of all the weight I gained.

I struggled to breastfeed

I really wanted to breastfeed but after 10 weeks with Caitlin, we discovered she really wasn’t putting on weight so we swopped to Formula.  When Ieuan was born he went straight on to bottle feeding.

I found breastfeeding challenging and certainly not the straightforward experience I was expecting.  There’s an art to getting your baby to latch on and you may well need to be shown how to do it.  Of course, some mums take to it like a duck to water, but I wasn’t one of them.

I should point out too that I find the bullying of those mums who choose to have their babies by Caesarian or those who, for whatever reason, choose not to breastfeed totally obnoxious.  Luckily I have not experienced either but I do know mums who have. In these cases, it really isn’t the baby who needs to grow up.

Why didn’t I do it sooner?

I have friends older than me who have had children at an equally late age. I also have quite a few friends in their mid-thirties who think that they have all the time in the world to reproduce, when the truth is, the clock is ever ticking. Some of my friends must look at me and think “well, SHE did it” but it’s easy to kid yourself, isn’t it?

I regret not having had my children at least ten years ago. In the end, my career (as a Marketing Manager and later Director) simply could not match up to the joy of having kids but I didn’t meet my husband until I was 41.

This is the dilemma facing many women. Do we put our heart and soul into a career and hope that Mr Right will just come along, by which time we may no longer be fertile or able to carry a child? Or do we pursue a partner and children whilst we are still in our most fertile years, hoping that we can resume our education and career when the children are in school?

Can Women Ever “Have It All”?

I am a great fan of the late Helen Gurley Brown (who, with her husband, created the Cosmopolitan magazine empire) and read her book “Having it All” (still available from Amazon) from cover to cover in my early twenties. Helen believed the sky was the limit – primarily in terms of work and sex, but I think most women will agree that today, “having it all” is an impossibility. That said, I’d still recommend Helen’s work just to admire her incredible work ethic and zest for life.

I’m now faced with the prospect of staying as fit, healthy and mentally ‘young’ as possible. Not so much because I worry about the opinion of other mothers (although I’d be lying if I said I was totally immune to it), but for the sake of my children. As Hubby says “well, we just can’t conk out early”…

Pregnancy in your forties is not a decision to be taken lightly. All pregnancies are life-changing and I think older mums face a different set of challenges in terms of juggling their health challenges with the needs of young children. Facing the fact that you might not have as long with your kids as younger mums can be hard – but there are no guarantees of long life at either end of the age spectrum, are there?

If you are considering pregnancy in your forties, I’d advise visiting your GP to check you are fit and healthy before trying to conceive so that you give yourself and your baby the best possible chance of a successful pregnancy and a healthy delivery.

The process may take quite a while and you may find out that you need help to conceive but it is better to discover this early on rather than risk the heartache of miscarriage and other pregnancy complications.




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The Pregnancy & New Mum Bibles I Couldn’t Live Without

When you’re pregnant, you’ve often plenty of time to research every aspect of pregnancy – and there’s LOADS of information out there. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be reading all the pregnancy and baby books you can get your hands on! Particularly if you’re an older mum too (anything over 35).

pregnancy and baby books - pregnancy woman reading on a yellow sofa

There are distinct schools of thought on the best way to bring up baby, from the controlled crying techniques of Gina Ford to the co-sleeping recommendations of James J. McKenna.

Pram or baby sling? Breastfeed or bottle feed? Cot or Moses basket? There are reams of information on every aspect of motherhood even down to what to put in your hospital bag.

You really need clear, concise information from a reputable source you can trust and these pregnancy and baby books became my bibles. I heartily recommend all of them.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

This was the book I turned to every night and at every twinge.  Murkoff does not sugar-coat the information and points out what can go wrong as well as what is usually nothing to worry about. Don’t expect cuddly photos of newborns, but do expect practical, “does what it says on the tin” advice.

Pregnancy and baby books: cover of What to Expect When You're Expecting (4th edition)

The latest edition (the fourth) has been completely revised and updated.

“Heidi Murkoff has rewritten every section of the book, answering dozens of new questions and including loads of new asked-for material, such as a detailed week-by-week foetal development section in each of the monthly chapters, an expanded chapter on pre-conception, and a brand new one on carrying multiples.

The Fourth Edition incorporates the most recent developments in obstetrics and addresses the most current lifestyle trends (from tattooing and belly piercing to Botox and aromatherapy).

There’s more than ever on pregnancy matters practical (including an expanded section on workplace concerns), physical (with more symptoms, more solutions), emotional (advice on riding the mood roller coaster), nutritional (from low-carb to vegan, from junk food-dependent to caffeine-addicted), and sexual (what’s hot and what’s not in pregnant lovemaking), as well as much more support for that very important partner in parenting, the dad-to-be”.

Your New Pregnancy Bible – The Experts Guide To Pregnancy And Early Parenthood by Dr Anne Deans

On the other hand, if you want to spend, like I did, hours staring at pictures of developing babies so you can gauge how big your little one is at every stage of your pregnancy, this is the book for you.

Pregnancy and baby books: cover of Your New Pregnancy Bible by Dr Anne Deans

Far friendlier in tone than “What to Expect”,  it has clear explanations of the labour process and a great medical reference section. It gives added peace of mind because it was written by a team of eminent specialists under the direction of a leading UK obstetrician.

“….this latest edition of Your Pregnancy Bible has been updated to take account of recent changes in antenatal and newborn care and to provide a more comprehensive discussion of caesarean deliveries.

Given a fresh design, it still contains special fold-out sections on each of the trimesters and the birth process; week-by-week images of the developing baby; in-depth chapters dealing with all aspects of antenatal care, labour preparation, delivery experiences and care of the newborn; comprehensive reference sections on medical treatments and procedures in both pregnancy and the postnatal period and an extensive glossary of ante- and neonatal terminology”.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer

When Caitlin was born I was completely clueless.  I hadn’t even put a nappy on a baby before.  And I certainly didn’t know anything about a day in the life of a baby.  For example, I had no idea that a newborn will need substantial naps during the day and will not be able to play for much more than 45 minutes at a time.

Pregnancy and baby books: cover of Secrets of The Baby Whisperer

It was with a huge sigh of relief that I stumbled upon Tracy Hogg’s wonderful Baby Whisperer books. Both this one and her problem solving guide (below) were invaluable in teaching me the importance of routines so that everyone in the family knows what is happening and where they are. Tracy sadly died in 2004 but her advice is still relevant today I think.

“In this remarkable parenting book, Tracy demystifies the magic she has performed with some five thousand babies. She teaches parents how to work out what kind of baby they have, what kind of mother and father they are, and what kind of parenting plan will work best for them.

Believing that babies need to become part of the family – rather than dominate it – she has developed a practical programme that works with infants as young as a day old. Her methods are also applauded by scientists: ‘Tracy’s is a voice that should be heard. She appears very knowledgeable about modern infant research and has incorporated this to a level parents can understand. In spite of all the baby how-tos on the market, this one will stand out.’

In case you’re wondering The Baby Whisperer method is often described as being in between crying it out methods and no tears methods. I liked it because Tracy does not advocate letting babies cry it out (unlike Gina Ford).

BUT she does not advocate “accidental parenting” which is where parents accidentally use props to get baby to sleep – like giving them a bottle, or rocking them, for example.

Several methods are given in the book to help parents teach their baby the all important sleep basics which includes a strictly structured routine (E.A.S.Y.) and the pick up put down (pu/pd) method for putting baby to bed.

E.A.S.Y. stands for Eating, Activity, Sleep and You and Tracy suggests timings for each activity according to the age of the baby.  The Pick Up, Put Down Method looks at how you put your baby to sleep in her cot and focuses on getting her to sleep alone.  Tracy suggests a “Four S” wind down ritual to set the scene (swaddling perhaps, sitting quietly, and shush-patting to help quieten your little one down). Even if you don’t adopt her ideas wholesale,  there are enough ideas in the book to help you work out what works for you and your baby.

The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

The follow-on book to “Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer”, this one answers a whole host of questions from parents of babies at differing stages of development.

 

It focuses on the “Big Three” – sleep, feeding and behaviour from infancy to the age of 3 and explains Tracy’s philosophy and methods in much greater detail.  I think you really need both of these books to get the best out of the system.

Annabel Karmel’s The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner

Once Caitlin started her weaning around 4 months and had got past the baby rice and simple apple puree stage, I became completely stuck on what to feed her.  Annabel Karmel’s books were fantastic at giving a range of ideas for simple purees and combinations to educate your child’s palette and to introduce a wide range of foods.

I think it’s no coincidence that Caitlin will now eat anything and is quite adventurous in her tastes (olives, for example).   By the time Ieuan came along, he had less of a range of purees and mini-meals and is far fussier with food than his sister.

You will need a good blender and a range of freezer-proof pots in varying sizes.

Annabel Karmel is undoubtedly the UK’s No.1 author on feeding babies and children and this particular book is the one I turned to time and time again.

It contains: “the best first foods to try, tasty recipes and ideas for introducing more complex flavours and textures; meal planners and time-saving menu charts allowing you to highlight and record which recipes your children liked and disliked. The original version of this book has sold over 4 million copies worldwide, with Annabel becoming a leading resource for parents who want to give their growing family tasty, wholesome meals that even the fussiest eaters will love”.

So there you have it – my bibles, the pregnancy and baby books now handed on to other expectant and new mums so that they can feel as comforted by them as I did.  I’d love to hear about the books that you turned to during your pregnancy or that you are finding helpful whilst you await the arrival of your little one.

How To Help A New Mum

After nearly 12 years as a parent, I’ve certainly gained my fair share of experience when it comes to raising kids. But I still remember those early days struggling to figure out what to do. Why was the baby crying? Was I feeding her enough? Would people judge me if I asked for advice?  Whose advice should I even listen to?

It’s always tricky, isn’t it, to know whether to offer a helping hand or your take on a parenting dilemma to a new mum.  You don’t want to come across as patronising, nor to imply that they are not coping.

If a close friend or someone in your family has just had their first baby, though, there are plenty of practical things you can do to help them out without overstepping the mark.

How to help a new mum

Help her to get some sleep

Some newborns find it difficult to sleep for long. Poor mum can end up exhausted in just a couple of days. If you have three or four hours to sit with a newborn one afternoon, tired mummy can get a much-needed rest. In that time, you may need to offer a feed and a nappy change. Be sure you have everything close to hand.

Help her to have a decent meal

I remember that the last thing I felt like doing was cooking.  After a C-Section I wasn’t up and about for a few days in any case.  It’s too easy to get so wrapped up with the new baby that you forget to eat.

Why not drop off a meal – something that can be popped in the fridge or freezer and microwaved later?

Just make sure that you know what she is able to eat – some foods might be out of bounds if she’s breastfeeding.

Help her find time for some self-care

Some mums find it difficult to grab even a shower each day with a demanding newborn. Even if you’re not too confident about nappies and feeding, you can sit with a baby for twenty minutes while mum gets dressed. You might even bring mum a fresh new outfit, or some makeup to help her feel human again! And don’t forget to bring something nutritious for her to eat.

My gorgeous daughter, Caitlin Elizabeth

Help her to organise the Christening

Organising a Christening or Naming Ceremony is hard to do when you’re sleep-deprived and frantically busy with a newborn. You can help by finalising the arrangements and managing the invitations.

Sometimes, just offering to host and help out with the catering after the ceremony can be a huge relief for a new mum.

Help her keep her home clean and tidy

Finding the time or energy to clean up around the house is never easy for a new mum. The laundry piles up and so do the dirty dishes. Whenever you pop round, see if you can lend a hand to get some bits done. Perhaps you can take the laundry home to do, or run the vacuum around. Few new mums would be put out by a little domestic assistance!

Help her to get out and about with baby

Getting out and about can feel like the impossible challenge for a new mum. Offer to take her and the baby out in the car to town for a spot of retail therapy and a coffee. It’s important to take your time and not let it feel like a burden. Help pack up the bag and dress the baby for going out. Pop the pram in the car. Pack extra burp cloths and a couple of bottles. Then proudly wheel the pram into the cafe and have a seat. New mums can often feel like they’re in the way or putting people out. You can do a lot to allay her fears.

Help her to look after her other kids

Offering to babysit her other children or perhaps take them out to the park or local play center is sure to be welcomed.  This will give her some time alone with her newborn and perhaps the chance to take a nap if the baby is sleeping.

Help her with her shopping

You don’t necessarily need to schlep around the supermarket.  Why not help set up an online shopping order for groceries or baby supplies?

Help her with her workload

If she runs her own business, there are sure to be numerous administrative tasks you could help with – whether it’s returning messages, answering emails or typing documents, any assistance you can give is sure to be welcomed if she doesn’t employ any staff.

It won’t take long for your friend to feel comfortable in her new role with your support. Just respect her boundaries and be patient whilst your friendship readjusts to the huge life change she has gone through.

Finally,

Help her to cope

If she is on her own for most of the time and you suspect that she may be suffering from postnatal depression, or even if she is unusually depressed or anxious, look out for her mental well-being by gently suggesting that a visit to the GP or health visitor is in order.  (And note that fathers can also become depressed after the birth of a baby).

Creating the opportunity for an honest, open conversation about how she is really feeling may be the best thing of all to help a new mum.

Baby On The Way? Home Hacks For House Proud Parents

Getting your home ready for a baby is one of the more pleasurable aspects of pregnancy – at least it is something else to focus on instead of any pregnancy aches and pains.  There’s a particular joy in planning a nursery and buying those cute bedding sets and soft toys.

It’s more of a challenge, of course, to keep the home looking spick and span once baby has arrived and you may find that the way you use your home space changes entirely.

I think I missed a trick because I probably should have got myself a bit more organised before I had kids and, when you’re in that nesting phase, it’s a great time to prepare yourself for the nappy onslaught whilst still maintaining an elegant home.

If you’d like to know how your home can look more polished than demolished, then here are some tips from Tommee Tippee ambassador, Sommer Pyne, owner of House Curious and mum to Lyla and Indy.

How to get your home ready for a baby

1. Get organised

As boring as it may sound getting organised and having everything in its place before the baby arrives will help you feel empowered and in control.

When you have the energy, start sorting through your cupboards and do a big cleanout. Get rid of anything that you don’t need to make space for all your new baby supplies!

Some things you’ll want to store away such as bottles, sterilising equipment and toys, but there may be other things that you need on display for quick and easy access.

Go through each room and think about how you’ll use the space.

Make a list of the things you need quick access to or that can be put away.

2. Feeding

Like many of us, Somer had a hard time with breastfeeding the first time around.  “I was feeding hourly and my daughter never seemed to get enough milk”, she says. “My saving grace and something I recommend to all my friends is to swap the night feed for formula. It was life-changing for me and my daughter slept through and gave my body a much-needed break”.

With formula feeding, you have a lot more equipment so that’s why it’s good to be organised. Make things easy for yourself so when you need to prep the baby’s bottle at 3 am you have everything to hand.

3. Storage solutions

Baby station

In the rooms that you spend most of your time in – like the living room, bedroom and kitchen – set up baby stations with all your baby essentials neatly packed away and on hand whenever you need them.

Baskets

Somer says “my daughter has a lot of toys but we cleverly hide them away so our house doesn’t look like a toy shop”.

Baskets not only look great but can also hide a mountain of things. Buy a decorative basket, put a sheet inside and fill it with all your child’s toys. Tie it up or just twist the top so it keeps everything together.

On top place a lovely woollen blanket or throw to hide the sheet and toys. This makes a great decorative piece just like you’ve seen in those stylish boutique hotels.

Chest

If you don’t have money to buy storage units or cupboards, a nice vintage chest is a great way to store games, toys or even blankets. You can also use them as a side table for when guests show up.

Built-in units

If you’re doing a renovation or redecorating it’s worth investing in good storage. Don’t go to branded cupboard designers, a good carpenter should be able to knock something bespoke up for half the price.

4. Practical and fuss-free interiors

Somer doesn’t like to compromise on her interior style so she still has velvet and fabric sofas. “My house probably doesn’t seem that kid-friendly but it is in so many ways”, she says.

Sofas

If comfort and style are high up on your list, what can you do to protect your furniture? The simple answer to this is to have a large throw or sheet to hand that can be easily stored under the sofa or in a cupboard.

When you are nursing or playing with your baby on the sofa cover it with the throw or sheet so that it’s protected.

Let’s be honest there are going to be moments of projectile vomit and if you’re already a mum/dad the chances are you have enough poo stories.

Flooring

If you’re redecorating consider the flooring carefully because this not only has a huge impact on the overall style of your home but we also know how messy kids can be… carpet may not be the smartest idea!

In Somer’s house, she only has concrete floors and wooden floors. So, no matter how many accidents there are, they’re easy to clean.

Clutter free

Get rid of the clutter and simplify your space with just the essentials and decorative pieces you absolutely love. In Somer’s family room, there is no coffee table in the middle and most of her decorative pieces are up high on the fireplace or on shelves. This way her daughter can run around freely without bumping her head on sharp edges. The other alternative is to have a soft ottoman.

Different zones

Have areas that are no go kid’s zones. Somer has a great family room and her daughter’s bedroom for her many toys, but there are certain rooms that are out of bounds.

Low cost interiors

It can be expensive prepping for a baby’s arrival but there are so many low-cost options. Ikea is brilliant for nursery furniture, Primark Home and the baby section for your essentials and Next is great for affordable clothing.

5. Decorating your nursery

Decorating the nursery can be a lovely experience but I know for some parents it can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some of my tips to help ease the pain:

Don’t worry about matching furniture I think it looks more eclectic and fun when you mix it up.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you must buy nursery furniture. Other than the cot the rest can be furniture that you already own.

For example, for Somer’s first baby she didn’t buy a changing station but simply used a vintage chest of drawers and placed a changing mat on top with all her essentials on display.

Be bold and creative; think about what colours appeal to you and how you want the room to feel. The baby won’t notice the décor but you will and you’ll be spending a lot of time in the nursery.

It’s important to create a relaxing environment so you will want to invest in a comfy chair – you don’t have to buy a nursing chair – buy something you like that will outgrow your children. Soft rugs are always a good idea and don’t forget your throws and cushions.

Are you getting your home ready for a baby?  How are you preparing your home?

Mums – Struggling With The School Holidays Already? You’re Doing Fine!

Well, I bet many of us are already feeling a little, how shall I put it, wrung out having looked after our little darlings for a few weeks. Parenting during the summer holidays can certainly be a challenge, can’t it?

Cue much muttering from the “well what did you expect” and “why did you have kids then if you didn’t want to look after them” brigade.

parenting during the summer holidays: Linda Hobbis with Caitlin and Ieuan at Pizza Express, Cardiff Bay

At Pizza Express with the kids a few years ago

Many of us find ourselves as the sole childcare provider if our other half is working and, of course, the cost of childcare can be exorbitant – thank God for grandparents.

Let’s press the mute button on our critics and acknowledge one or two things, shall we?

We love our kids and they love us.

It is our responsibility to set boundaries, limits, call them what you will so that our children learn how to fit in.

(Yes I know little Johnny has every right to kayak around the world eating lentils and being ‘free’ but such things are easier with an education and some sort of gainful employment under your belt).

parenting during the summer holidays - collage featuring Caitlin and Ieuan

Sometimes, the setting of boundaries requires, (whisper it), raising your voice and imposing sanctions – whether that be the removal of an iPad or time out.

The imposing of such sanctions very often makes you feel like s**t.

Learning to play independently is a valuable skill.

We do not need to provide wall-to-wall entertainment involving crafting, cooking, painting, singing, board games or reading for the entire time our kids are awake.

Meaningful interaction is required of course, but if you find yourself devising a time-table, I suggest you make yourself a coffee and have a word with yourself.

That ‘word’ should involve asking yourself the following question honestly.

“What kind of mother do I want to be” and “Am I physically, mentally and emotionally capable of being that kind of mother?”

Culturally, our society prefers its mothers to have more in common with the Virgin Mary than it does with the living, flesh and blood conglomeration of discordant emotions that many of us consist of.

From an early age, we are taught that ‘mothers’ are sweet, caring and nurturing.

They are selfless, self-sacrificing and willing to relinquish all sense of entitlement to individual happiness just to ensure their offspring thrive.

Readers of this blog may recall that I have, on occasion, found myself identifying with Joan Crawford.

A rather stark counterpoint to the cultural fantasy described above.

The point, of course, is that the kind of mother you want to be is the kind that you are able to be.

An honest assessment of your failings, together with a plan to improve (where you can) is likely to be far more fulfilling for you and your kids than to mope on the sofa at the end of the day with a large glass of vino whilst muttering “I’m just not cut out for mothering”.

If you’re short on patience and your temper is frayed, make sure your self-care is up to scratch.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Eating right?

Drinking enough water?

Are you asking for help?

If you really are at the end of your tether and you can afford it, hire a babysitter (or bribe a relative) and just take two or three hours out for you – even if that’s just nursing a coffee at Costa.

Or arrange to babysit for a friend in return for a night out with your partner or best friend.

Listen, if you are kind, caring and compassionate, if you soothe hurting tummies and wipe away tears, even if you sometimes shout quite loudly, it’s all OK.

So, take a deep breath.

Put your guide to local attractions and “501 free things to do with the kids” down for a moment.

Geo caching whilst wearing floral wellies can wait.

Building a fully functional mobile home out of cardboard boxes and an old camping trailer can be shelved, as can baking a cake in the shape of Mr Tumble.

Tomorrow, when the dark cloud of “useless mothering” looms large over your head, turn everything with a screen off.

Throw some cushions on the floor and just sit down with your kids, tell them a story or just chat.

That’s all they really want.  Your attention. Even if it’s just for an hour. Heck,  I’ve convinced myself.  I’m going to give it a go.

After all, kids are human too.  Parenting during the summer holidays? P’ah.  It’s a breeze. Now, where’s my wine.

Pin for later:

parenting during the summer holidays - mum looking stressed in a kitchen with 2 children

Tips To Help Introduce Your Baby To The Bottle

Readers of this blog may recall that my own attempts at breastfeeding were not particularly successful and, after 10 weeks with sitting with Caitlin for what seemed like hours, I swopped to formula feed and never looked back.  Caitlin wasn’t putting on enough weight and as soon as I made the change she started to really thrive. But it’s understandable to be nervous about making the switch to bottle feeding a breastfed baby.

bottle feeding a breastfed baby - baby drinking water from a bottle

Perhaps the problem was, as an older mum at 43, my milk just wasn’t up to the job.  When Ieuan was born just 19 months later, he went straight on to formula.

At some point, though, most children learn to take a bottle and it can be a bit of a daunting experience – particularly if you need them to learn this new skill in a bit of a rush.

There are many reasons why you want to introduce your baby to a bottle. You might want to start using a bottle so that you can start feeding your little one some expressed breast milk; or, know that you will need to leave your baby when returning to work, and you want to ensure they have some milk while you’re away from them.

Switching to bottle feeding a breastfed baby

Whatever the reason, here are some useful tips from Tommee Tippee whose bottles got both my two through their early years.

The guide sets out how to go about giving your baby their first bottle, top tips in the early stages of introducing your little one to a bottle, and tactics that you can use when your child resists a bottle:

How to give your baby their first bottle

The common issue for babies being introduced to a bottle is that they will need to use a different sucking action compared to when they were breastfed and, it’s likely to take them some time to get used to this new feeling.

To help, give your child their first few bottles when they are relaxed and happy as opposed to instances when they’re hungry and more likely to want to get fed by a method that they are used to.

It is also a good idea to offer your baby a bottle in the evening once their regular feeding has been complete — you don’t need to give them that much milk in this instance, as it will be more about getting your child used to the feel of a bottle’s nipple.

Get someone else to introduce the first few bottle feeds

Another tip is to get someone else to give your baby their first few feeds — the dad or a friend or family member — as that way your baby will not be near you and smelling your breast milk.

It may also be best if the mother is out of the house while the baby is being bottle fed, as many youngsters can smell their mother even from a distance. You only need to do this a handful of times until your child is used to drinking from a bottle.

Don’t overdo it

Refrain from forcing your baby to feed from a bottle too much, and only feed them enough milk until they let you know that they’ve had enough. This needs to be a smooth transition, so your child will be more likely to rebel if they aren’t enjoying their bottle in the early stages.

bottle feeding a breastfed baby - sleeping baby wrapped in a blue blanket

What to do if your baby is resisting

If you are struggling to get your baby to make the transition from breast to bottle, there are some techniques that could help.

You should take the time to find a suitable product for your baby. A bottle with a nipple that is similar to your child’s dummy will likely make it more appealing to your little one, for instance. A slow-flow nipple can get around times when your baby gags due to regular bottle nipples delivering them with too much milk at once.

A First Sippee Transition Cup from Tommee Tippee ticks all of these boxes, not to mention the fact that they are specially designed for a baby’s first sips and has a super soft spout that is gentle on your child’s sensitive gums.

These cups may well be known to you, following a dad’s desperate search last year to find a replacement cup for his autistic son. The plea received over 12,000 retweets and the full story can be read on the BBC website.

It’s not just the design of the bottle or cup that can help your baby with the transition. Your baby may start sucking from the cup or bottle’s nipple if you place some breast milk on it and your child tastes it and enjoys the familiar taste.

Let your baby take their time

Let your infant get used to their new bottle or cup in their own time too. Don’t be quick to take the product away from them if they begin to chew on the nipple — let them do this for now as they may switch to sucking on it once they are familiar with the feeling.

Babies may also feel more comfortable drinking from a bottle or cup when they are held in a different position to how you breastfeed them. Feed them from a bottle or cup when they are in a semi-upright position in a car seat, for example, or by having them on your lap but with their back to your chest.

Hopefully, with this advice, your baby will be reaching for his bottle or cup for their feed before you know it.  The changeover to bottle feeding a breastfed baby just takes a little time.

*PR Collaboration. Post contains an affiliate link.

Breastfeeding Products From Lansinoh Family

It’s sometimes easy to think that breastfeeding is something that we mums can just pick up automatically but the truth is that it can take time, effort and persistence to learn how to feed your baby.

Mother Distracted Breast Feeding Giveaway - sleeping baby

There is little doubt that breast is best if you are able to feed this way but not all of us can and I think it is important that mums support each other no matter whether they choose breast or bottle.

There are things you can do to make breastfeeding easier because let’s be frank, it can often leave you sore and uncomfortable.

If you’re new to breastfeeding, finding the best breast pump can be difficult babygoss.com have a guide to tell you the answer to that very question.

Lansinoh offers a range of products to support breastfeeding mums including, bottles, breast pumps, nursing pads and their multi-award-winning HPA Lanolin – 100% pure lanolin to help soothe sore and cracked nipples.  You can now buy it in a 10ml travel size too (and it makes a great lip balm!).

Lansinoh Family wants to encourage mums to feed with confidence and you can find loads of helpful advice on their website, including a new mums’ club- The Happy Tummy Club.

There are also loads of books which new parents might find helpful too.  These are some of my recommendations.

Here are some of the Lansinoh products which may make breastfeeding easier for you.

Lansinoh manual breast pump

Mother Distracted Giveaway Lansinoh Breast Feeding Products

BPA and BPS Free, this manual breast pump has adjustable 2 phase technology – the ‘let down’ phase enables rapid pumping rhythm to stimulate and initiate milk flow and the  ‘expression phase’ enables slower, pumping rhythm to maximise milk flow

It has a ComfortFit™ breast cushion – for better fit and suction for more efficient pumping, an ergonomic easy-express™ handle – to reduce hand fatigue and comes with a Lansinoh® feeding bottle which fits with the entire Lansinoh pump and bottle range.

Lansinoh nursing pads (pack of 24)

Mother Distracted Breast Feeding Giveaway Lansinoh Nursing Pads

These Disposable Nursing Pads with Blue Lock™ core are comfortable, ultra-absorbent, and designed to fit all breast sizes. They ensure that breastfeeding mums stay dry, night or day, and with their new ultra absorbency they can hold up to 20x their own weight.

Lansinoh Therapearl 3 in 1 hot/cold therapy

Mother Distracted Breast Feeding Giveaway Lansinoh Therapearl

Thera°Pearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy packs have been uniquely designed by Lansinoh to be used either hot or cold to give advanced relief for a number of conditions associated with breastfeeding, and can even be used with a breast pump.

You can find Lansinoh products at a wide range of retailers, including Amazon, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Asda, Tesco and Boots.

Please support MEDAPTI – A Safer & Easier Way To Give Babies Medicine

I have just learned about a brilliant new invention by mum of two Dora Dyk. It is called MEDAPTI and it will make giving medicine to babies much easier.

Whilst I was lucky enough to have few problems with Caitlin and Ieuan in getting them to take medicine, for example from the plastic syringes that are supplied with infant medicines such as Calpol and Nurofen, many babies struggle – particularly babies with reflux.

I can recall occasions where I accidentally shot the medicine into their mouths too quickly making them cough. It’s so easy to get it wrong when trying to administer medicine to a distressed, poorly little one. Upsetting for baby and mum.

Dora is seeking support and crowdfunding to get her invention to market. This is the last week of her campaign for funding (ending 6th April) and health professionals in hospitals such as Great Ormond Street, Alder Hay and Sheffield have already expressed an interest in MEDAPTI.

MEDAPTI could also be used to give medicine to the disabled and the elderly.

Here is her story. Please support her if you can.

My name is Dora and I am a mum of two boys. When they were little, I struggled to give them medicine safely and effectively, especially my second baby.

My first son was on reflux medication for a long time and I was always worried about hurting his tiny gums with the regular plastic syringe. I had a bigger issue with my second baby who completely refused to take the medication. He either spat it out, was sick on it or the medicine would just end up all over him, me or the floor which meant I never knew what dose he took.

It was heart breaking to see him so distressed. I used to cry with him a lot of the times because I was so overwhelmed with the whole experience. I just couldn’t find a safe enough solution. I used a medicine dummy which helped as at least I wasn’t worried about hurting his gums but as he didn’t like dummies, I had to use the plunger and many times accidentally shot it too fast down his throat and made him choke.

There were countless times when I would walk around the room rocking my baby to calm him down and I couldn’t stop thinking: ‘There has to be a safer way!” This is how the idea of MEDAPTI was born.

Why is MEDAPTI different from anything that’s out on the market?

* It directs medicine to the cheek which is the safest way as it prevents from choking. This way also helps to avoid taste buds and makes it harder for a baby to spit the medicine out which in result minimises the risk of baby taking an incorrect dose.

* It helps to keep the syringe in baby’s mouth even if the baby is moving around or refusing to take the medicine, which also minimises the risk of baby taking an incorrect dose.

* It is soft, protecting baby’s mouth and gums.

* It is simple and mess free.

* It only requires the use of one hand when dispensing the medicine, leaving you with a free hand to hold your baby.

A lot of people think MEDAPTI is just like a medicine dummy. It’s not. It might look similar to a dummy but it works in a different way and is suitable for babies that do not like dummies or bottles.

It has been just over four years since I first thought of MEDAPTI and what an exciting journey it has been! Challenging for sure BUT amazing! With no previous experience in product development, I had to learn it all step by step…intellectual property, design, manufacturing and so many other things!

I have to admit, juggling between kids, day job and MEDAPTI project isn’t the easiest thing and we have to make sacrifices as a family but I believe it will be worth it.

Fortunately, I have a lot of support and encouragement from my family and friends. My boys, 5 and 7 years old are my biggest supporters and my very valuable advisers J My youngest said to me the other day: “Mum, when I’m big, I’d like to do MEDAPTI with you.” My eldest came from school one day and said: “Mum, I invented something today!” It would be a dream to take them to a supermarket one day and show them MEDAPTI on one of the shelves! They would not believe it!

I am extremely proud of how far I got with the development of my invention. Articles about MEDAPTI were published in The Sun, The Mirror and second best-selling newspaper in Poland last year.

Just within the last two weeks, I was featured by ten different blog and baby sites, including Mummy Pages. I never thought that just the idea I had in my mind would travel across the globe for someone to write about it!

The more feedback I get, the more I realise that MEDAPTI could help so many people. Not just parents and carers of babies but also disabled and elderly. Something I am especially proud of is the fact that I had interest from health professionals in hospitals like Great Ormond Street Hospital, Alder Hay and Sheffield.

It just shows that giving medicine to babies is a real issue. One of my guest blog posts is also a proof of that. A mum blogger whose daughter was born with half a working heart said that MEDAPTI would have really helped with her baby when she was born. It’s incredibly moving to think that my invention could help those babies who need extra medication or anyone else who struggles with giving medicine.

This is why I desperately need your help! I am raising funds on Kickstarter so I can pay for the tooling and produce the first batch of MEDAPTI.

Please support me and PLEDGE. There are many Rewards to choose from. I will be forever grateful! The campaign finishes next Thursday, 6th of April at 8pm so there is not much time left!

Here is the link to my campaign where you can see a short video and find out more about me:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/400491693/1069786552?token=6da0111e

Please support Dora if you can.

Review: I’m Wrecked This Is My Journal – The Alternative Baby Book For Frazzled Parents

If you’re not a fan of cutesy pastel coloured baby books and fancy recording the real experiences and emotions you felt as a frazzled new parent, Shannon Cullen’s I’m Wrecked, This is My Journal is a unique diary which will allow new parents to do just that.

I'm Wrecked, This Is My Journal by Shannon Cullen book front cover

Mother-of-two Shannon who is the publishing director for children’s books at Penguin Random House UK has created an entertaining and honest journal. She has a new baby as well as a toddler and aspires to wake up naturally – without the aid of children – one morning.

It’s a book for parents to record their own experiences – both the highs and the lows – and to chart the extraordinary transition to parenthood.

Shannon says “I created this journal for new parents who are looking for a bit of downtime, which probably amounts to about 96 seconds per day. I wanted to reflect my experience of parenting, which is that everything is a balancing act – balancing your baby with one hand and a glass of wine with the other.

But alongside the more frazzled moments, there are all the wonderful memories that you think you’ll remember forever, vastly underestimating sleep deprivation. My journal is intended as a playful way for parents to remember the ups and downs of their parenting adventure.”

Illustration from I'm Wrecked This Is My Journal: "What Song Is Number One This Week"?

The book is fully interactive with space alongside funny comments, quotes and activities for new parents to fill in, including pages to smudge your child’s fingerprints on, design parenting emojis and play baby bingo.

Inside you’ll find a wealth of fun ideas to do and doodle to take your mind off the fact that you’re probably knackered and don’t have a clue what you’re doing (at least I didn’t).

Illustration from I'm Wrecked This Is My Journal "List 5 Reasons Why You're A Good Parent"

For example, you can create your ideal playlist, do a dot-to-dot or challenge yourself to see how quickly you can get the baby into the babygrow.  Or how about this for a quote:-  “The quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable”.  Actually that one is STILL true almost 10 years later.

It’s a fun way to record how you were feeling in the precious early days and to keep and feel slightly smug later on when you realise how far you’ve come and how well you adjusted (because you will).

I’m Wrecked, This Is My Journal would make a great present for a new parent, parent-to-be or just to cheer yourself up when you are fighting sleep deprivation and feel that your life will never be fully under your control again.

Illustrations I'm Wrecked This Is My Journal "Smudge here the first solid food your baby ate"

Looking back on your experiences you’ll soon find that you’ve had more #parentingwins than #parentingfails even through the haze of sleep deprivation and pureed fruit.

I’m Wrecked, This Is My Journal is published by Michael O’Mara Books and available on Amazon.

If baby hasn’t arrived yet, why not check out the list of pregnancy books that got me through.

Book Review & Giveaway: The Quick Guide To Parenting by Laura Quick

Just occasionally, I find a book that makes me laugh out loud.  And this one has the double honour of making the Husband laugh out loud too.

The Quick Guide to Parenting by Laura Quick is a series of acutely observed illustrations which delve deep into family life and the inner turmoil experienced by some parents on a daily basis.

She captures the topsy-turviness, the incongruence and the self-flagellation.  Guilt, humour and love are all there in abundance.

From what they said to the man at the bus stop, to where you found the remote control, when you’re a parent, laughing at what gets hurled in your direction is beyond important. Laura has been sketching scenes from daily domestic life on her blog, The Daily Think. All the bizarre moments and ridiculous conversations that are part of being a parent are here, from the day Laura’s daughter tried to poke her finger into a dog’s rear end, to the temper tantrums, and the sense of relief when the school holidays are over.

Trained as an illustrator, working in art direction, concept development and strategy, Laura Quick is a specialist in editorial Illustration and design as well as look books, ad campaigns, and Visual Merchandising. She has worked closely with fashion photographers, artists and designers for over a decade. Laura began drawing and observing people for her blog, The Daily Think six years ago. Listening and observing at fashion shoots, in meetings, on the bus and, later on, with kids in tow, in the playground.

Laura now produces almost all her commercial work off the back of this observational and humorous style. Working for the likes of The Guardian, AnOther Magazine, The BBC, The Royal Opera House, Thames and Hudson and many more, her work moves more towards her fascination in people and their habits, their self-expression and individual characters.

Very often this kind of book can be a two minute ‘flick through’, usually whilst waiting for the kids to finally choose something in the bookshop but I think this one is worth perusing thoroughly and will be great to pick up when you’re having an off-day – just to remind yourself that you’re not going mad and this is actually what parenting is like.

It would make a great Christmas gift for exhausted mums everywhere and, if you’ve enough of a sense of naughtiness, to give to pregnant friends as a slightly sardonic warning that parenthood is a country for which there is absolutely no map.

You can check out Laura’s very funny blog too.

“The Quick Guide To Parenting” is published by Portico, an imprint of Pavilion Books RRP £9.99.

Recent Reviews

‘Charming, quirky and funny’ – THE GUARDIAN, September 2016

‘All parents will be able to relate to these hilariously accurate illustrations of raising children’ – THE HUFFINGTON POST (UK)/PARENTS, September 2016

Beautifully drawn, honest and hilarious illustrated guide to the everyday life of a parent – MUMSNET, September 2016

‘Laura Quick has perfectly captured the topsy turvy world of parenthood that all parents can relate to in one way or another in her new book’ – NETMUMS, September 2016

Giveaway

I have one copy of “The Quick Guide To Parenting” to give away.  Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget and the usual terms and conditions apply.  (Please see my competitions page).  UK entrants only and the giveaway ends at 11:59 pm on Friday 4th November.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Book review: Mindful Mama: Happy Baby – Calming Techniques For Both Of You

Becoming a new parent can, it goes without saying, be extremely stressful and wouldn’t it be great to have a manual to hand which explains how to gain your inner calm back – and, better still, to pass that calmness onto your baby or toddler?

I’ve recently discovered a new book, “Mindful Mama: Happy Baby
Over 60 calming techniques and creative activities for babies and toddlers
by Maja Pitamic and Susannah Marriott” which would have been a great help to me when Caitlin and Ieuan were younger.

Mindful Mama: Happy Baby, published by Modern Books, RRP £12.99, 25th August 2016

I’m sure you have heard of the concept of mindfulness, which involves living in the present moment and directing your focus to whatever you are doing, thus removing your ability to worry and stress about things because it is impossible to do both at the same time.  Believe me I’ve tried!

There’s no doubt in my mind that parents pass their stresses, and their stress related behaviour on to their kids and, despite some recent media reports claiming mindfulness is not as effective as it’s claimed, my personal belief is that it is an extremely useful technique to use in all walks of life.

New parenthood tests not only our bodies but particularly our minds.  Nothing prepares you for the feelings you have when you become a parent and mindfulness is a great way of remaining calm and keeping a sense of perspective.

Mindful Mama: Happy Baby is a practical and accessible guide for new parents, designed to give you the skills to calmly navigate the early years of child rearing, from birth to three years of age.

The authors say that ‘mindful parenting’ makes time for meaningful interactions with your child, which have a profound effect on bonding during the crucial developmental stages.

Their techniques focus on the well-being of both parent and child, and help to bring peace and perspective to the emotional whirlwind of having a new baby.

The activities in the book are suitable for children (both boys and girls) from birth to 3 and each chapter contains activities for a specific age group.

The first chapter contains mindfulness meditations, visualisations and movement exercises to help you to adjust to your new role as a parent.

The activities in subsequent chapters are based on Montessori principles of learning through experience. As your baby grows into a toddler, the exercises change to allow their particular age group to fully explore the world around them and engage their senses in a fun and playful way.

The authors explain that playing with a child with awareness daily is the most mindful thing we can do as parents. It shows children we are available and passes on the self-acceptance that comes with engaging fully with an activity. As children reveal their personalities and unique ways of doing things so we learn from them, our relationships with them become richer

Both practical and inspiring, Mindful Mama: Happy Baby gives you and your child the building blocks for an enjoyable and mindful first few years.

The book contains:-

*Over 60 mindful activities and play ideas for bonding with your child

*Sensory games, songs, dances and outdoor activities to share

*Advice on nurturing, feeding, bathing, sleeping and carrying

*Meditative techniques to relax your mind and keep you calm

I really like this book and it would make a great gift for a new parent, as well as being a worthwhile investment for yourself. Dads may benefit equally from the exercises too!

Maja Pitamic is the author of I Can Do It, the successful Montessori activity book for ages three to five, as well as the co-author of I Can Make Music, Modern Art Adventures and 3D Art Adventures. Susannah Marriott is a freelance author and mother of three. Her books include Green Babycare, Natural Pregnancy, Pregnancy Herbal and The Pregnancy and Baby Book.

You can order Mindful Mama: Happy Baby (£12.99) from www.amazon.co.uk/Mindful-Mama-Techniques-Creative-Activities/dp/1906761833 or by telephoning the publisher, Modern Books, on 01256 302 692.

*A proof copy was received for the purpose of this review

Think You’re Forgetful? I Took My Son To Start Nursery A Week Early

I was born a week early. According to my mother, anyway, whose memories of my induced birth, due to sky-high blood pressure are sketchy, to say the least.

parenting-parenting matters-motherdistracted.co.uk
Ieuan

I’ve been early for things ever since. Meetings, conferences, seminars, exhibitions, theatre performances, I’ve been early for them all. I have spent countless hours sat in lobbies looking at the dreadful carpet, listening to the sort of piped music that makes you yearn for death. I have shelled out hundreds for unnecessary coffees and Danish. I have read acres of dull newsprint and flimsy celebrity magazines.

Whether this is a strange streak of perfectionism (Freud would use a less polite word) or an inherent love of organisation is debatable.

When I was still working, I prided myself on my multitasking and organising skills. I’d arrange numerous events, write and proof-read numerous newsletters and maintain databases without any problem.

In Law, as in any other field, time is money and each unit of time is measured and, if you’re a lawyer, billed.

Since I gave up work to have my children (July 2007), it appears all these skills have gone out of the window. Now that ‘deadlines’ and ‘targets’ have been removed, I seem to have lost all impetus and the smallest task takes on a Herculean perspective.

You might have thought that with something as important (to me at any rate) as my son’s first day at nursery I would, in true helicopter mummy fashion, be there on time, in a non-stained dress with infant duly spruced and perky.

Unfortunately, I am mortified to report that, although these ‘critical success factors’ were partly met, today I took my son to start nursery a WEEK early.

Admittedly I am not ‘without form’ in the area of the curricular cock-up, having missed dressing up day and book fair. It doesn’t help, I know, that my Parentmail email address is the one I don’t really use and I am not really in the ‘mummy gang’ who congregate there serenely each morning while we bomb up breathless and dishevelled.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if Ieuan hadn’t practically run in to start playing without so much as a backwards glance. The staff probably think I have some form of dementia or that I drink. The correct date for Ieuan’s induction was, it turned out, written at the back of an information leaflet I hadn’t fully read. (Why at the blummin’ back?!).

So I had to drag him screaming his head off OUT of the school and march back home.

Hubby, of course, was his usual sanguine self. “Hmm”, he said, “I should probably have read the leaflet too”. My worries about Ieuan now being psychologically scarred were duly dismissed. “He’s fine about it”, said Hubby, “why aren’t you”? Um…. because after 20 years of organisation and method I’m becoming scattier than … I can’t remember what!

So, roll on next week’s induction. At least we had a dummy run. A dummy mummy run!