Sleeping like a baby

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Unlike her big sister, who could sleep for England, sleeping has never been one of C’s strong points. In fact it’s not uncommon for us (or more precisely me) to be up every hour or so through a good chunk of the night.

Which makes days like today, which happens to be C’s 8 month ‘birthday’, even more surprising.

Apart from a feed at 11pm, C has been fast asleep since about 830 last night.

That’s 13 hours!!!

13 HOURS!

Just imagine how much sleeping I could’ve got done in that time! (Yeah I know, 13 HOURS!).

Of course it didn’t quite work out that way, and we got rudely awoken at 630am by the aforementioned big sister, who decided today was the day to role swap.

But I’m not complaining, no not me! Hell, I even managed to write this blog post, which is more than I’ve managed for weeks!

Today is a good day.

A proud Mummy post (sorry!)

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Today is G’s last day at nursery school before she moves up into reception in September. She’s had a fabulous time this year and has really enjoyed nursery, where she’s made lots of wonderful friends, but is also really looking forward to moving on to reception class.

She’s also got so much out of nursery school – and I don’t mean academically (she’s far too young to be worrying about that!). My shy little girl who kept quiet if there were lots of other children around has blossomed into a girl who plays with everyone in the class and can’t walk across the school playground without some child she’s befriended shouting her name.

I feel privileged to have been able to see all this too – if I had been working this past 6 months or so I wouldn’t have been able to see how she interacts with other children or watched her develop. I only now think I understand what people say about being a Mummy being one of the – if not the – most rewarding job going. I only hope this confidence and friendliness lasts until she grows up – kids can be mean to each other as they get older after all.

This isn’t meant as a mummy brag post but you’ve got to forgive a mama a little proudness… I found out yesterday that at a school assembly for their departing head teacher, G went up in front of the whole school to present the teacher with a book of pictures the children had done for her. Apparently the teacher offered to go up with her but she said she didn’t need her to.

Where has that shy child gone?!

I’m sure I’ll be feeling rather more frazzled and less warm and fuzzy once I’ve got through 5 whole weeks of entertaining both kids in the summer holidays.

But at least I seem to have picked the right summer to be off as far as the weather is concerned.

Camping out

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We’re doing lots of little holidays this year. It’s nice being able to spread out the anticipation and the fun, and the glorious weather we’ve been having makes it ok that they’re all in the UK.

Last week we went on C’s first camping trip. G is already a fan of camping, and of course knows all about it thanks to Peppa Pig (who says kids don’t learn anything from TV!). And I have to admit, although I never thought I’d say it, I’m a convert. You won’t find a hotel where the kids can run off and make friends to play with before you’ve even unpacked your bags.

Last weekend was slightly different in that we weren’t on an official campsite. A very good friend of mine had organised a wakeboarding weekend in Oxford – a return in fact to the site of her hen do which I helped organise a few years back. We’d arranged to camp overnight at the water sports centre which was perfect.

Sadly (?) there are no pictures of me attempting to wakeboard – a dodgy shoulder put paid to those plans. But G was thrilled to go on her first speedboat ride, then surprised us all braving the lake for a swim afterwards.

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In the meantime, C cooed, gurgled and laughed away in her big sister’s play tent (which made for a handy sunshade). She’s pretty good at sitting up on her own these days, although she’s still showing no interest on being on her tummy, rolling or crawling. I like to think she’s just being lazy. She’s certainly learnt how to get what she wants – mostly by staring and ‘shouting’ at you until you pass it to her.

C even got to join in a bit with the evening BBQ before both kids headed off to bed in the tent. Of course it was far too exciting to think about actually going to sleep so we all ended up tucked up together until I realised that I was the only one awake and made my escape.

All three (yes three – it seems the big kid was also worn out!) slept pretty soundly until the morning, with a brief and well timed wake up from Daddy in order to catch the end of the football, huddled under the sleeping bag with the sound switched off.

We decided against joining in with the early morning open water swim, and instead set about packing up for the trip home. But somehow despite being one of the first to start packing up, by the time we were loaded up everyone else had finished and were already heading off.

It seems despite only being away for one night, we haven’t learnt how to pack light.

Her first Whit Friday

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Back when G was small we lived in Saddleworth, a collection of villages pretty much atop the Pennines between Manchester and Leeds. It’s a lovely place, but unfortunately the practicality of commuting and getting home in time to pick up children meant we moved to the suburbs.

We still love to join in with the Saddleworth traditions though, and there’s none bigger, better, and quite literally brassier than the annual Whit Friday brass band contests.

Easily the highest profile event in the Saddleworth calendar, the mornings are taken up by the traditional whit walks to Uppermill, with each group of villagers led by their own brass band. In the afternoons and late into the evening each village puts on their own competition, and bands travel from miles around to compete in as many as they can.

G has been to Whit Friday in Dobcross every year since she was born, and this year was C’s first time experiencing it. As you can see from the picture she was (as per usual) pretty nonplussed by the whole thing, more interested in playing with her toy than watching the rather good Fairey Band walking out behind her (they came second at Dobcross, beaten by Black Dyke who also won the overall contest, and who C also had the pleasure of watching, er, mostly ignoring).

C did, however, rather enjoy the picnic we took along with us. Yes, despite my trepidation we’ve started weaning and had no issues so far!

Being an old hand at these events, G was straight in to grab a spot on the grass right next to the band, and happily danced, sang, and ate (yep, she enjoyed the picnic too!) through the bands.

There’s only so many times you can listen to Knight Templar however – and I fully expect to be shot down by the real brass band enthusiasts for saying that – so we made a move up to the local pub where the bands typically play more modern tunes as they march down from the band club for their turn. Here C took a much needed nap (eating is tiring work, you know), and G dragged first Daddy, and then Mummy up and down the marching stretch to follow each band down in turn. Highlights included Tartan Brass (“Look! They’re from where Daddy’s from! And they wear that thing Daddy wears!”) and perhaps the furthest travelled band, Neo Brass Band from Japan.

Heading home with two tired kids in the back, I idly wondered how often we’d be able to keep going to Whit Friday in Saddleworth. And as G headed off to bed she turned and said “can I take my toy trumpet next time?”.

Perhaps what I should have been wondering was whether we’ll ever have to swap the civility of sitting on the grass at Dobcross with a picnic for chasing band buses around the villages to cheer on a trumpeting daughter or two?

I think I could live with that.

What To Do If You Think Your Baby Has Tongue Tie

Having never even heard of tongue tie before C was born, I’m astounded at how many people are struggling with the effects of it.

Some might say it’s the latest ‘fad’ to diagnose tongue tie, but given the UK’s appalling breastfeeding success rate and the fact that the first response to feeding problems from health professionals seems to be to push babies onto formula (ironic given the focus on breast is best), it really isn’t surprising that many people never got as far as a diagnosis.

But this isn’t supposed to be a tongue tie rant. Instead I thought it worthwhile to share what I’ve learnt through our tongue tie journey and that of those I’ve spoken with in thEme way. Some is what I did, and some is what I would do next time, knowing what I know now.

Key for me is that the quicker tongue tie is identified and treated, the less impact it is likely to have on mum and baby alike.

So, if you think your baby might have tongue tie, what should you do?

1: Find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).

Breastfeeding support groups, midwives and health visitors are great if you need some emotional support with breastfeeding or some pointers on technique, but anything beyond that will definitely benefit from a fully trained professional eye.

Your health visitor or children’s centre might be able to direct you to the most senior lactation consultant in your area, or you can find a local one on the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain website.

A lactation consultant can tell you if your baby does have tongue tie or not, and observe you feeding to identify any problems with technique etc. And once you’re seeing one you can use that fact to ward off any unwanted pressure from other well meaning healthcare professionals (see 3 below).

2: Swot Up

This is one occasion when consulting ‘Dr Google’ is highly recommended. Some starters include:

NCT overview of tongue tie

The Leaky Boob

3: Stand Your Ground

If you haven’t already noticed, let me let you into a little secret. Health care professionals don’t know the right answer. Go to three health care professionals with the same issue, and you’ll come back with (at least) 6 different answers.

It’s not that they’re trying to confuse you or don’t know their stuff, it’s just that there often isn’t a single right answer. And most of the health care professionals we see have quite a wide skillset, which means that whilst they have knowledge of lots of different potential problems you might face, they can’t possibly know individual subjects in great detail – hence why as above, if you’ve got a breastfeeding issue I would always go to a breastfeeding expert.

Don’t be pushed or bullied into doing anything that you don’t want to do – which includes formula top ups, timed feeding schedules, medications, early weaning, etc etc. Read up on your subject, keep the evidence to hand, and don’t be pushed around.

If your baby has tongue tie and you want it released, there’s a good chance you will have to push for it, so stand your ground here too. Get a referral as soon as you can. Matter tongue tie release babies have to relearn how to latch and feed. Time is of the essence and sadly referrals on the NHS take time, sometimes a long time as there are relatively few practitioners who release tongue ties despite it being a very simple procedure.

4: If you can, go private

Not everyone can do this, but going private can be a huge advantage in terms of getting tongue the dealt with quickly. We got an appointment the day after diagnosis!

The cost seems to be around £250. Call your local private hospital (eg Spire) and ask who performs tongue tie release or frenulectomy.

If you can, and if your or your partner’s work offer it, get your baby added to your private healthcare cover as soon as possible after baby is born. Many policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions so waiting until there’s a problem could be too late. Our BUPA policy covered our appointments and meant we didn’t have to wait.

Our Favourite Sunny Day Trip – Hathersage Outdoor Swimming Pool

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Blimey it’s been a while since I last blogged – we’ve been pretty busy since our holiday and I just don’t seem to have found time! So I’m playing catch up here.

It was on our way home from our holiday in Sherwood Pines that we decided to make the most of the sunny weather and stop off at one of our favourite sunny day trips – Hathersage Swimming Pool.

Nestled away in the Peak District, and handily located off the Snake Pass which runs between Sheffield and Manchester, Hathersage pool is a 1930s heated outdoor pool that makes a fabulous spot to visit. We’ve been quite a few times with G when she was growing up, so it was a great place to take C for only her second ever swimming trip.

Before swimming, however, came lunch. And our favourite option in the area is the nearby David Mellor Cutlery Museum. Yep, you read that right, a cutlery museum.

Technically I think it’s the David Mellor Visitor Centre and Design Museum, but ‘cutlery museum’ is a bit more attention grabbing, in a ‘what did you say’ way, don’t you think?

I have to be honest here, I’ve never looked round the museum, I just go for the yummy food in the cafe, and a browse around the too-tempting fancy kitchen shop.
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From the cafe I have learnt, however, that alongside cutlery David Mellor is responsible for the humble yet ubiquitous traffic light, as there’s one in the middle of the cafe where G still delights in pressing the crossing button over and over again. Apparently his achievements included recognising that you need less electricity to run traffic lights at night when it’s dark, as they don’t need to shine as brightly. It’s one of those things that makes total sense when someone says it, but you would probably never have thought of yourself.

So lunch it was, before we headed back to the pool for the afternoon swimming session. On a sunny weekend you have to get there well in advance to join the queue that snakes down through the car park, but being a Friday it wasn’t too bad. We were soon up the stairs and in, ready to nab a coveted table on the grassy section between the changing rooms and the pool.

Despite only having been swimming once before I think C has the makings of a bit of a water baby. She watches her sister’s swimming lessons intently every week,and loves bath time, so I really need to sign up for some baby lessons for her. As it is we remembered enough of the baby swimming lessons that we did with G to play a few games, sing a few songs and brave a quick go at underwater swimming (babies have a dive reflex meaning they hold their breath when submerged).

It wasn’t long before she’d had enough though, and I got to soak up the atmosphere from the side as G splashed and swam with Daddy. Until of course G remembered the promise of post swimming ice cream from the pool cafe!

We were grateful for having made the stop off as we crawled our way back to Manchester through heavy traffic.

But it was a lovely end to a lovely holiday, and a place we’ll hopefully be visiting more often through the summer months.

A Forest Holiday

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We’ve been on holiday again!

Just a short UK one – we decided to go on a mid week break to Forest Holidays at Sherwood Pines, and had a lovely time.

I’ve never been to Center Parcs, but my understanding of it is that Forest Holidays is a bit like Center Parcs, with slightly plusher accommodation, but fewer on site activities (eg they don’t have a swimming pool on site). The clincher for us was that we could have a cabin with a hot tub of our own for some chill out time after the kids were in bed – whoop! If you’re going all out then there are even cabins with ‘tree house’ master bedroom suites, but we stayed in one of their ‘Golden Oak’ 2 bedroomed cabins.

The cabins themselves were spacious and smart, with underfloor heating, terrace with BBQ area as well as the hot tub, and wifi included with the entertainment package we bought in advance. You can arrange extras such as beauty treatments and a chef to come to your cabin, and even order a pizza through your TV! The only downsides were that there wasn’t space in the second bedroom to put up the travel cot we’d brought, and the lack of oven gloves in the kitchen!

It’s unusual for us to go on holidays that aren’t jam packed with day trips and places to go from start to finish, and before we got there I did my usual googling and asking around to see where we should go. But once we arrived we soon decided to take things easy and enjoy the forest rather than jumping in the car every 5 minutes.
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The Forest Holidays site is a short (10 minute) walk from the main Sherwood Pines visitor centre, with a variety of play areas, walks and cycle paths. My last experience of Sherwood Pines was about 3 years ago, running a 10k race after a quite literally sleepless night with a toddler G. This time was somewhat more relaxing!

A couple of times during our stay we left the pram behind and popped C in one of our carriers to go and explore the forest. We followed one of the shorter walks at the visitor centre which was just right for G, with enough to entertain her on the way round including a rainforest discovery theme, a couple of play areas and a den building area. She also loved being just like Dora the Explorer and taking charge of the map and directions!
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One of the unique offerings at Forest Holidays is the on site Forest Ranger, who can take you on tours of the forest to see wildlife, learn how to survive in the wild etc. We booked G onto the ‘young explorers’ walk on the Thursday which she absolutely loved – they saw deer footprints, all kinds of different trees (including one that had been struck by lightning, and another which was a scratching post for the local deer), a fox’s den, and picked up lots of bugs on their way round which they then built a bug hotel out of sticks and leaves to put them in. At the end of the walk they collected pine cones that they painted in The Retreat (the main cafe/shop/office for the site). It ended up taking a good chunk of the afternoon and was excellent value for the £8 cost.
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We did do a couple of trips out – one to the Thaymar Ice Cream Farm Shop (they had dairy/soya free ice cream as well as a baby who shares C’s birthday so it’s now my favourite place in the world!), and one to Sherwood Forest itself. The latter had a neat cafe (but no dairy free treats sadly), and another lovely walk through the forest to see the famous Major Oak tree, again a walk just short enough for G to manage without too much moaning.

We ummed and ahed over whether we should let G have a go in the hot tub at the cabin and after looking up the guidelines decided to let her in a few times for short periods. She loved playing with the resident rubber duck, but the hot tub mostly remained our post bedtime treat, complete with a glass of bubbly and, er, the baby monitor on the side.

We went back to Sherwood Pines at the end of our holiday to do the mini Gruffalo trail which, whilst not on a par with the one at the Forest of Dean, was still good fun and a lovely way to round off the trip.

All in a we had a fabulous time and would highly recommend it!

We paid for our trip with our own pennies and weren’t given any incentives to write about it, we just had a great time and wanted to share!

In Trepidation Of Weaning

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C is 5 1/2 months now, and now she’s getting better at sitting up it’s dawned on me that she’ll be ready to start on solid food soon enough.

Whilst G was a hungry baby and was pretty much on 3 meals a day by now, we’ve been in no real rush to wean C. Other than not sleeping through the night (although she never really has) she’s not shown many signs of being ready, and if I’m honest it’s all rather too easy just giving her milk!

But we’ll have to get started soon, and we’ve made the first step by starting her in her ‘proper’ highchair, rather than the reclining baby seat, so she can get used to it. As you can see from the picture, she’s loving it!

But I’m actually quite nervous about starting to wean her.

I’ve written before about how I’m on a dairy free diet as we suspect C is cows milk intolerant – I haven’t eaten much dairy in more than a decade as it gives me headaches, and when I have eaten it (I remember pancake day being the moment of realisation!), C rewards me with copious amounts of vomiting. We also suspect a soy intolerance and possibly egg as well, as she seems to vomit more when I’ve eaten these, although of course it’s possible that it’s just a coincidence or that she’s just a sicky baby generally.

But so far she’s never come into direct contact with any of these foods, so I’m a little nervous about how she’ll react when she eats them herself. I don’t think she has an actual allergy (she’s mostly ok in herself and doesn’t suffer with rashes or eczema for example) but it’s so hard to keep track of what I’ve eaten and when she shows symptoms that we won’t know for sure until we try her on them herself.

We’re currently waiting for a dietician referral to come through which hopefully will help us nail any food intolerances she’s got, and work our way around them. And in the early days of weaning we’ll have no real reason to use any of our suspect foods anyway. So hopefully we’ll figure it all out in due course.

Whilst I don’t want her to have to struggle with a special diet, I’m secretly also nervous that she’ll be fine on all these foods when she starts having them! It’s not uncommon to grow out of early intolerances, and we’ve tested a few times so it seems pretty obvious to us that the vomiting is linked to what I eat. But I have visions of the paediatrician and dietician laughing me out of the room and telling me it’s all in my head.

I guess I’ll just have to cross that bridge if we come to it. And if we do, there’ll be a huge slab of dairy filled chocolate cake waiting for me on the other side.

That should make me feel better about it, if nothing else.

Superhero Saturday!

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Yesterday G was invited to the ‘superheroes and princesses’ birthday party of her best friends (twins), so Saturday became ‘Superhero Saturday’.

There was never much doubt that G would decide to go as a superhero, which meant an outing for the superhero outfit she got for Christmas, made by the fair hands of Santa’s elves of course (wink).

The night before the party I realised she didn’t have any clothes (other than jeans and T-shirt) that would go with her pink and purple outfit, so decided to whip up a quick dress out of an old jersey wrap dress of mine.

I wish I’d taken some pictures as we went along because I was pretty pleased with how it turned out – in the sense that it fits her, goes on over her head without having to contort into any ridiculous shapes, and survived the whole party intact!

I roughly pinned together and cut the bodice before she went to bed, using safety pins so that I wouldn’t accidentally pin it to her, and worked it so I could reuse the existing neckline and hems meaning the only bit of hemming I needed to do was around the arms.

After G had gone to bed I pulled out the sewing machine and stitched it together in about 10-15 minutes using a stretch stitch. The Great British Sewing Bee would be proud of me.
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I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that G was so excited about the party that she wanted to put on her superhero outfit in the morning, hours before we were due to leave for the party.

In retrospect I also shouldn’t have been surprised that she wanted C to join in the fun, so the rest of our morning was spent making a superhero mask and cape for C, to match the party dress that G picked out for her. Coupled with her new ‘superhero’ nappy, I had two little superheroes on my hands for the rest of the day.

I can’t say C was as excited as G was about her new outfit, but she was certainly a good sport about the whole thing. And the party was a roaring success all round.

Happy birthday L and A! I hope you had as much fun as G did at your party!

Five Months Old

20140522-171710-62230643.jpgC was 5 months old this week, and it’s suddenly struck me how quickly time is ticking by.

I’m already halfway through my maternity leave, which quite frankly terrifies me. Half way? How on earth did that happen?! There’s so much I still need to do!

I’m going for my first ‘keep in touch day’ tomorrow at work, which I’m actually quite excited about – seeing who and what has changed, and whether my brain still works fast enough to take it all in.

C’s decided to mark the occasion by being all of a sudden much more grown up herself.

She learnt to roll from front to back a while ago, but showed no real interest in using that skill. That is, until the last couple of days, when she’s suddenly become surprisingly mobile, not just rolling but wriggling backwards and forwards from wherever we put her down.

She’s trying very hard to sit up, though she can’t quite manage balancing there for more than a few seconds. Her new highchair seat has arrived too, which reminds me that weaning is just around the corner.

There’s definitely at least one tooth on it’s way through – it’s not quite peeking out yet but causing her a bit of trouble nonetheless.

And today she went to vote for the first time.
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It’s unlikely she’ll be quite as politically exposed as G was as a baby (Daddy was running a hyper-local news website at the time and so baby G got to tag along to interview all of the candidates for the election, and the party leaders for the subsequent by-election). Hopefully she’ll be just as politically aware though, and will understand how important it is to go and vote.

For now she just seemed a bit bemused by the whole thing, and if I’m honest was more interested in the sound of singing coming from the next door toddler group.

I’ll leave it for her Daddy to fill her in on the finer points of the voting process and European political scene.

Perhaps it’ll help distract her during her next bout of teething pain.

Or, dare I say, help her to sleep?