Archive for the ‘Things I wish I’d known’ Category

Sleeping with your baby

May 4, 2013

Have been chatting with friends about sleeping in bed with your baby and thought I might write about our experiences here.

First things first, safety. There is a good article here so I won’t repeat it. But suffice to say I think sleeping with your baby is safe so long as you take care.

With my first child Bub I hadn’t intended to co-sleep. We had a Moses basket and thought that he would sleep next to our bed. And most of the time he did. But Bub had a really strong Moro reflex and in the early days he’d wake himself frequently if not held. Swaddling was ultimately what resolved this but for a few weeks I found lying next to him and holding him when he stirred helped him stay asleep. So in the early weeks when I was desperately exhausted he came in bed with us. And then during growth spurts or any time he was waking a lot to feed I brought him into bed too. But actually most nights he slept entirely in his own bed. And I think he slept better like this too – after the first few weeks my presence seemed quite distracting for him and made it harder for him to fall and stay asleep.

I’m very strict now though and never have Bub sleep in our bed. His sleep is generally good but only because of a predictable routine and clear boundaries. I don’t want to open up the option of coming into our bed as I fear he’d want to do it a lot. That’s not to say we don’t occasionally sleep in with him though. If he’s ill or in need of companionship then we put a mattress on the floor of his bedroom and sleep next to him. And sometimes he’ll come down and sleep on it too. And then I get NO sleep! He’s just as distracted and distractable a co-sleeper as when he was a baby so it’s not a very restful experience. Hence my reluctance to have him come into our bed on a regular basis.

With Baby things are a little different. He’s a MUCH better sleeper than his brother (so far anyway.) Once asleep he tends to sleep well and not wake himself up. At nights he usually does 6 to 8 hours at a stretch. And then after a feed he’ll go down for another three hours. All highly satisfactory! 😉 But I’m more relaxed about co-sleeping this time around and have embraced it a little more. So Baby does his ‘big sleep’ in his own bed which is in our bedroom. Then at 6am (or whenever he wakes for his feed) I bring him into my bed. After feeding I’ll lay him next to me to sleep until he wakes properly. This is mainly to help him sleep as easily and as long as possible. It’s usually light by then and I want to move/disrupt him as little as possible. Also I can hold and respond to him quickly if necessary and avoid him waking fully should he stir prematurely. And it also reduces the chance he’ll make a noise that might wake up Bub.

I sleep much more easily with Baby in my bed than with Bub. I’ve temporarily turfed his daddy into the spare room so we have the whole kingsize to ourselves. And I’ve put a toddler bed guard on the edge of the bed. So I can rest easy knowing he’s safe. And he’s nearby without being squeezed in right next to me.

So that’s our co-sleeping experience so far. Not sure how it’ll continue with Baby but for now this arrangement seems to suit us both fine.

Toddler paracetamol (Calpol) overdose

December 9, 2012

Scary few hours last night. I’m posting this up as a warning to others and in case the info is useful.

Last night Bub (who is 34 months) just wouldn’t settle to sleep. He’s been really good for months but last night just wouldn’t drop off and was instead pottering about his room for ages. His room is like a monastery, barely anything in there. But he does have a chest of drawers (handles removed) and the top drawer has a few things in it like nappy cream and Calpol.

Last night Bub managed to open that top drawer and get out the Calpol. I found him sat on his bed, holding an empty, lidless bottle. He’d spilt a bit on his sleeping bag and a bit on his mattress but most had been drunk. I reckon about three quarters of a 100ml bottle.

We weren’t really sure what to do but a quick google search showed that this could be very serious. We jumped into the car and headed to the Accident & Emergency department. Luckily it’s only a few minutes away.

It was a Saturday night around 11pm when we arrived. It’s fair to say we had to wait around a long time. Fortunately they had a pretty good children’s waiting room with lots of toys.

After an hour we saw the triage team who took all the info, weighed Bub and checked his pulse. Then it was back to the waiting room for another long wait.

The NHS care was fab, but the communication not so great. I guess in a busy A&E on a Saturday night this is to be expected. It turns out they needed to do a blood test to check the paracetamol level. But this can’t be done until at least four hours after ingestion. If someone had told me this I’d probably have popped Bub in the car seat, whizzed him twice round the block, and let the poor lad have some sleep. But as it was we thought we were to be seen ‘shortly’ and that he’d probably be better off staying awake. Poor lad, it was about 2.15am before we finally saw the doctor. Bub was still lively though, very wired. He did amazingly well given how late it was.

The doctors put some cream on his arm to numb it and about fifteen minutes later we went through for a blood test. They took the blood from his hand which he didn’t like and neither did I. I’m not squeamish but seeing your two year old have blood taken is horrible.

After the test we asked if we had to wait or could go home. The doctors said to go home and promised to ring in the next 90 minutes. If his blood paracetamol levels were above a certain level we’d need to go back in and he’d be given a drip and admitted to a ward for monitoring.

Bub finally got to sleep at 3am in the car home… I slept in his room with him whilst his daddy waited up anxiously for the call. Fortunately his levels were below those where further medical attention would be required. Well above any recommended dose but below what might require treatment.

Have read quite a bit about paracetamol overdoses since this happened. What is scary is that you can be fine for a day or so and then get really sick. They can be fatal. So whilst Bub is hopefully going to be ok we still can’t be 100% sure yet.

So what is my advice on the back of this experience?
– Move the Calpol out of your child’s bedroom. It might be super convenient to keep it there but if there is even the slightest chance they’ll reach it then move the stuff.
– Child proof lids are not child proof. Bub probably only opened it by chance but if he can do it any other two year old can too.
– Don’t hesitate to go to A&E if you think you need to. The NHS A&E department was in some ways great (excellent children’s waiting room, kind staff) and in some ways crap (long waits, not enough communication) but I’m incredibly glad it was there.

There isn’t much in the way of reliable information on the web about paracetamol overdose in toddlers. I’m surprised NHS Direct or the Calpol website doesn’t have more. These two websites were the most helpful despite being a bit technical and they seemed to accord with what the doctors said at the hospital.
Paracetamol toxicity (Wikipedia)
Paracetamol poisoning (patient.co.uk)

Behind the parenting curve

May 29, 2011

I’m starting to wonder if we should be doing something about helping Bub get ready for potty training. At sixteen months I know he’s too young to be properly doing it but I’m getting a bit paranoid that we should be familiarising him with the concept at least. I’ve heard that you can do quite a bit to help them get used to the idea: have a potty around, talk and read about it, and play games with it. We don’t even own a potty at the moment.

The reason my paranoia has appeared is because Bub’s cousin, who is almost exactly his age, apparently used her potty for a wee recently. Pretty impressive stuff. She has a potty and she has half an idea what to do with it. I now feel like we’re behind the curve on this one.

I’m finding a few developmental things sneaking up on us at the moment. I read on a baby website that by 13 months toddlers can use crayons to draw with. It had never even occurred to me to give Bub a crayon. So he’s three months behind on developing his drawing, all thanks to my slack parenting. We got some crayons today though and he had a good old draw, though he did spend more time trying to eat the crayons than draw with them… I do now have his first drawing to treasure though, which is fab.

So any tips out there on early potty training? What should we be doing now and when should we think about starting ‘proper’ training? And are there any other toddler activities we should be trying with our Bub?

A message to all health visitors

May 27, 2011

I know that health visitors do an important job. I know that they play an important role in helping babies and toddlers get the best start in life, spotting problems, befriending struggling parents and being at the front line of child protection and child health provision.

I know this. And I value it and wouldn’t wish them away at all.

But I do wish that they wouldn’t offer such ridiculous and unnecessary advice sometimes.

My friend’s little lad is almost nine months and a big boy. A really big boy, around 98th percentile. He’s breastfed and contented and happy. He eats solids, sometimes enthusiastically and sometimes not. But his poor mum is now worried about her boy following a visit to the health visitor. She said that he wasn’t eating as much solid food as he should. He needs to eat more she said. Try giving him cake, chocolate and sugary snacks she said. You should stimulate him by sitting him in front of the tv more she said.

What? I’m sorry? What is the problem that she is attempting to solve here? He’s happy, healthy, eating solids and drinking milk and certainly not wasting away.

I’m glad that I developed a pretty take-it-or-leave-it approach to health visitor advice quite early on. Probably about the time when Bub was three months old and a health visitor suggested I give him solids when he dropped from 75th to 70th percentile at a weigh in. Gee, thanks HV. He’s three months old which is before even the four month mark at which baby food companies can legally advertise solids. He’s a big lad and he’s doing fine. So no, actually, I don’t think I will start him on solids three months before the age recommended by the NHS. And so I ignored her and the next time he was weighed he’d jumped up to 75th percentile again. Some very useful web forums like the baby led weaning forum also helped me to take HV advice with a pinch of salt as so many mums shared their not so great HV experiences.

So please, health visitors, focus on what you do best – providing a vital safety net for mums and babies who really do need your help. And when you see a mum who’s doing their best and a baby who’s generally ok don’t make life harder for them. Don’t give advice where all you’re doing is making a mum worry. Don’t push babies to confirm to one standard model. Learn to step back and say ‘You’re doing a great job, just keep following your instincts, your baby looks fine!’

Thank you.

Lucky!

April 22, 2011

Ahh, the start of a relaxing, sunny Easter weekend. I was lying in my garden earlier, playing with Bub, and reflecting on how fortunate I am.

Lucky to have such a darling son.
Lucky to have a wonderful partner who is also a fab daddy.
Lucky to live in a nice house near my family.
Lucky to have a job, which could so easily have stopped being the case these last few weeks.
Lucky to live in a pleasant, safe area.
Lucky not to be in debt or have money worries.
Lucky to have good health, as far as I know.
Lucky the sun is shining and I have a garden to enjoy it in.
And finally lucky that I have two long bank holiday weekends in a row to enjoy it all.

All this is part of me trying to be a bit more mindful of the good stuff in life. It does go by so quickly so I want to savour the happy stuff as much as I can.

Hope that you are having a good long holiday weekend too, whatever you are doing!

A new approach to baby sleep… and it seems to work :-)

December 7, 2010

Bub’s sleep has been an ongoing issue for us for many months and this blog has detailed quite a bit of it. But I’ve not written about sleep for a while and I wanted to share how things are going. When I last wrote we were struggling with crying methods and hating every minute of it.

But I’m writing this now whilst Bub naps peacefully upstairs having gone to sleep happily and calmly, on his own in his cot and without any fuss. Wow! This has been the case for a couple of weeks now at least so I feel that I’m hopefully not going to jinx things by writing about it.

I’m also really happy to say that we are no longer using a crying approach and that we’ve muddled through to find our own way forward that seems to be working for us.

I’d love to take credit but it was actually Bub’s daddy who came up with this. At the time Bub was crying for a long time at each sleep time and was getting very upset at being in his cot. We were staying with him through as I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him alone. However we were following the Baby Whisperer’s pick up – put down approach which minimises engagement with your child. Bub’s dad discovered that Bub would actually fall asleep much more quickly and happily in the cot if we DID engage with him. If we sing, talk and play silly games with him whilst he’s in the cot he doesn’t cry. And if he’s not crying then he will, at some point, roll over and shut his eyes and go to sleep. We’ve found that is doesn’t really matter how lively the games are he will still at some point yawn, roll over and doze off. Given that it could take up to two hours to get him to sleep on some nights when he was crying this is easy in comparison. There are still times when it takes a fair while but I’d rather hear my baby laughing at bedtime than crying his heart out.

What even better though is that Bub has now learnt that going to bed isn’t a horrible experience and that he is safe and happy there. Whilst we do have occasional times when he needs our help and a bit of ‘playtime’ prior to going to sleep this is now the exception. Most of the time right now he is very happy to have a story and a cuddle at nap time, then into the cot and I leave the room with him wide awake. He amuses himself for a little while then dozes off quite happily.

It feels like a miracle. His sleep was our nightmare and it was so awful to hear him cry and to feel that I had no choice. I’ve read so many baby sleep books and our approach seems to run counter to them all. But for Bub and for us it works. It’s also so reassuring because when I’m no longer second guessing myself about his tears. If he cries then I can follow my instincts and pick him up, cuddle him, give him teething gel or whatever. I love it 🙂

Just to show that things aren’t all totally hunky dory in our sleep deprived world though he is still waking twice a night and wanting some milk. I’ve always wanted to feed on demand but I’m pretty sure this is now just a habit and not something he really needs. He has gone from four feeds a night to two in about three months so I’m hoping he’ll continue to drop them. However I’m back at work in January so really need to have it licked by then. Any suggestions on how to approach this in a gentle way?

Washable nappies – five things I wish I’d known

October 17, 2010

I had a fairly open mind about most parenting issues before having Bub. But one thing I definitely wanted to do was use washable nappies. I was pretty uncompromising in my views about disposables and didn’t think there’d be any question about my use of washables. But it’s proved quite a bit more difficult than I thought and there are definitely some things I’d do differently. I guess this just shows that there are no definites when it comes to babies.

So here are five things I wish I’d known about using washable nappies:

1) Don’t set yourself impossibly high standards

I was really excited about the prospect of using washable nappies. It definitely formed part of my vision of myself as a future-mum. I couldn’t imagine myself using disposables and didn’t even like the idea of Bub wearing a disposable straight after birth. I got a couple of free packs via Bounty but hoped I wouldn’t need to buy any more.

Well, what can I say. The realities of new parenthood then hit me slap bang in the face as I went through 17 hours of labour followed by days of sleep deprivation. The last thing on my mind was to fish out the washables and so Bub stayed in disposables. I’d also made some dodgy washable purchases which didn’t help. It took us about four months old to get into regular use of cloth nappies and I felt really bad about it. If I hadn’t had such strong views before having my baby I’d probably not have beaten myself up so much. I was looking for a photo of Bub in a nappy to illustrate this post and realised I didn’t have one. That’s really sad as I let my disappointment about not meeting my impossibly high standards get in the way of enjoying my baby.

2) Don’t buy anything before trying it on your baby

There are so many different nappy choices and it is really hard to make informed choices prior to the birth of your baby. Before Bub was born I wasted a fair bit of money on second-hand nappies that didn’t meet our needs and probably delayed me getting sorted with a workable system. At most I’d suggest getting a few muslins and small waterproof wraps which make good serviceable washable nappies for a newborn. After the first month of chaos settles down you are then in a much better position to get advice, try some out, and ultimately decide what nappies will meet your needs.

Before Bub was born I did lots of reading about washables (the Nappy Lady was my favourite). Rather than commit to one sort of nappy system I picked up a wide variety of two part nappies (cloth nappy plus waterproof wrap) at second hand sales. My plan was to try out a few and then purchase more when I knew which I liked best. Great idea in theory, pretty rubbish in practice. There were a few times when I fished them out and set about using them. Each time I soon discovered the error of my just-buy-a-random-selection-of-nappies-and-try-them approach. I had no idea what size they all were or even in some cases if they were one or two part nappies. My wraps were all of awful quality and of various random sizes.  I soon realised that I was unlikely to use the majority of my second hand nappy stash. They were either too big, too small, too odd, too ragged, too bulky or too thin. The wraps were almost without exception leaky.

When Bub was about three months old I decided to bite the bullet and buy a full two part nappy set. I needed good quality new wraps and a set of absorbent nappies that would fit beneath them. I had a few Motherease one size birth to potty nappies in my stash and liked them so this is what I bought. I was lucky enough to find a second-hand-but-new set on eBay. These worked pretty well and meant that I could finally begin to use washable nappies on a regular basis. However whilst I have a workable nappy collection that does the job it’s probably not the best set I could have found for my needs. Having just discovered the delights of Bumgenius I feel I could have made better choices if I’d had the chance to try these out. I wish I’d invested my cash renting a trial set of various nappies rather than buying a limited set of poor quality second-hand ones.

3) Aesthestics are important

It wasn’t just the leaks that put me off using washables in the early days. I also found the two part nappies incredibly big and bulky. My little Bub seemed so small in comparison. Whilst Motherease nappies have lots of positives they are definitely not trim fitting. As a birth-to-potty nappy they are very bulky on younger babes. And whilst the wraps are soft to touch they are not very aesthetically pleasing. I think this probably contributed to me not taking a picture of Bub in his nappies for the first eight months of his life.

Another annoyance is that many baby clothes don’t seem to account for the size of washable nappies. Especially in the early days I had to limit Bub’s clothing choices on the days he was wearing washables. This seems totally trivial but these things did make a difference to my willingness to restart using washables again. Even now when we are regular cloth users there are times we opt for a disposable so Bub can wear a certain pair of trousers.

In the last month I’ve discovered Bumgenius nappies. These are a birth to potty nappy with separate absorbent insert. They are much trimmer and come in a variety of colours. I only have a couple but I must admit I just enjoy them more. They look attractive and fit under his clothes. I think if I’d had these nappies from the start I’d have used them much more for the simple reason that they look nicer. Shallow but true.

4) Washing isn’t a big deal

Before beginning on cloth nappies I thought that the laundry would be the real downside of this approach. But this hasn’t been a problem at all. I never soak the nappies. They just go into a lidded bucket in a mesh bag.  Now Bub is on solids I use a disposable or flushable liner to catch any poo. When I have a day or two of nappies I sling them in the washing machine with the rest of our laundry at 60 degrees.We have crap heating but they dry on a frame in about 48 hours. Personally I’ve found adapting to the challenge of the increased washing from Bub’s transition to solid foods much more of a trial than anything to do with nappies. So some good news there at least.

5) Don’t disregard disposables

I hated the idea of using disposable nappies before Bub was born. As it was we ended up using predominately disposables for the first three months. And I must admit I was pretty impressed by them. I had distant memories of disposable nappies from when my sisters were young. Horrible plasticky and scratchy. I actually tore two disposables looking for the sticky tab, not realising that they are now more like soft velcro. I’m still horrified by the environmental impact but from a daily use point of view I was pleasantly surprised.

We still use disposables on a regular basis. Bub wears a disposable nappy to bed each night. I know that washables can be ultra absorbent but we have enough problems with night wakings without worrying about this too. We use cloth nappies during the day and I think Bub actually benefits from switching between the two systems. He has never had any rashing or discomfort from his nappies and I think using both has helped with this.

I am not a fan of disposables, given their environmental impact, and am committed to decreasing our use. When Bub stops regular night feeds I will experiment with using cloth at night and hopefully phase out our use of disposables completely. But for now I’ve come to terms with not living up to my original high standards and am happy with our balanced approach.

What are your experiences of washable nappies? How have you made them work for you? What advice would you give to a new mum?

Transformation

September 13, 2010

Wow! Double wow!! Triple wow!!!

Just put Bub to bed. Bath, pyjamas, bottle, story, song, into the cot, he shut his eyes, asleep. Just like that.

This is truly amazing.

Anyone who knows me knows of my difficulties in getting Bub to sleep. I used to rock him, till he got too heavy, when I started to breastfeed him to sleep. This led to a vicious cycle of increased wakings, more feeding to sleep, more wakings etc. He and I were both exhausted and things needed to change.

I thought we’d be struggling with his sleep for months, maybe even years.

I certainly couldn’t imagine being able to do what I’ve just done.

This deserves a longer post to explore what we’ve done, how Bub has responded, my fears and how we are seeking to make this as gentle and loving a transition as possible.

But for now I just want to mark how happy and truly thankful I am for this change in our situation. Being able to put Bub to bed so easy and smoothly, for both of us, is astounding.

I’m sure I’ll never take it for granted.

Five things I wish I’d known about… baby sleep

August 10, 2010

Our current sleep situation isn’t brilliant but it’s doable and a long way from those first couple of very sleepless, exhausting months. Looking back there are a few things I learnt on the way that I think would have been really helpful to know from the start. So, for what they are worth, here are my top five pearls of wisdom about baby sleep.

1. Babies make lots of noise in their sleep…. this doesn’t mean they are necessarily waking up

For the first few months Bub was a really noisy sleeper. Lots of grunts, groans, half-cries and coughs. I had read all about feeding on cue and was keen to give Bub milk as and when he requested it. So for the first week or so I was lifting him out of his crib and sticking a boob in his mouth at the slightest hint of a noise. This meant I got practically no sleep as I was getting him up about once an hour. I think partly this was driven by my inability to sleep (lots of post-labour adrenaline). However I also think I was terrified that he might cry uncontrollably or reveal some other, more serious, cause of waking if I didn’t act ASAP. I wanted to get him fed before things escalated out of my comfort zone. But whatever the reason it was clear I was going to burn out pretty quickly at this rate and fortunately I soon learnt to distinguish between an awake baby and a noisy, but sleeping, baby.

2. Swaddling helps babies sleep longer

I’ve described how for the first week or so I was up every hour at night with Bub. Swaddling probably saved my sanity, quite literally. His moro reflex (which made his arms fly up) was waking him frequently at night. It got to the point where the only way I could get some rest was to sleep with him in our bed and hold his arms when they moved. I did try swaddling with a sheet and failed miserably so wrote it off. Then after about two weeks my sister got me the best gift of my life – a Miracle Blanket. Wow! Like a baby straightjacket there was no way Bub was getting out of this. His sleep times immediately doubled in length. We used the miracle blanket till he was about four months for naps and night time sleep and it was amazing.

3. Lying down to feed is sooo much more comfortable

I can’t believe that I only mastered side lying feeding about a month ago. It’s brilliant! So much more comfortable and restful than feeding sitting up. So much easier to go back to sleep afterwards. The only downside is that I sometimes doze off whilst feeding which hasn’t helped me in my quest to stop breastfeeding Bub to sleep. But to be honest that’s a small price to pay (and one I’ve managed to tackle using an alarm set for twenty minutes into a feed.) I did try side lying feeding when Bub was about three weeks and we struggled so I gave up. And didn’t try it again for several months. I discovered we could do it by accident and there’s been no looking back. There is a useful guide here.

4. Using a variety in methods to help baby to sleep can keep things flexible

At first we didn’t find it too hard to get Bub to sleep. He’d doze off in our arms, laps, buggy, car, sling – you name it. But as he got older it got harder and I tried to create some regularity and routine in our lives to help him know what to expect. This probably did help him get to sleep quicker and easier but it also meant that after a while he could ONLY get to sleep in this way. I used to swaddle him in a darkened room and stand and rock him on my shoulder. All fine, except that often it’d take me over an hour (ouch, my back!) Sometimes I couldn’t get the room particularly dark. And sometimes it would just be nice if someone else could do it. For the last month or so we’ve been using a range of other ways to help him to sleep, including feeding to sleep (double edged sword – another post in itself I think!), using a rocking chair, lying next to him, white noise, car, buggy, etc. Also, in parallel with trying to broaden the range of ways Bub can fall asleep he also falls asleep regularly with his daddy. It’s not easy as feeding to sleep is now his very much preferred method. But at least now I can go out and know that my baby is able to stay, and sleep, in daddy’s care. It also gives me a much needed break on those nights when we just can’t get him to settle no matter what we try.

5. Sleeping isn’t worth, er, losing sleep over!

Something I still struggle to keep in mind at times. I’ve got quite caught up in Bub’s sleep, and trying to improve things, to the point of sometimes making my life a bit of a misery. After reading The Baby Whisperer I spent a couple of weeks driving myself nuts by trying to ‘shhh-pat’ Bub to sleep each night. For over an hour at a time. Arghh! Drove me mad and the shh-ing made me really dizzy. The hours I’ve spent rocking, cuddling, feeding etc were very pleasant compared to that. It can be stressful if you have read something that said your baby should do X, and then they don’t. I’ve learnt to try to ignore all this and only be concerned if it’s upsetting Bub. He seems reasonably happy with his sleep so although it’s not perfect from my point of view I’m trying to keep things in perspective and not get any more stressed than necessary.

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