31 Jan 2015

My January

Considering January is generally a bit of a bleak month, it’s gone in a blink of an eye, and I can’t believe the first month of 2015 is ticked off already. Only one more month of maternity leave left, before I have to go back to work *sob*, but that’s for another post.

So my January went something like this:

1. We started weaning Alex, and having tried both traditional and baby-led weaning unsuccessfully, then taken a break and then started again with minor success, the conclusion is that he's just not that interested in food. Not quite sure what to do about it and how to progress. But I guess he’ll do it in his own time – after all, I’ve never seen an 18-year-old still on the bottle (well, not a milk bottle anyway), right?

2. I finally got a new hair-cut, and much needed it was, too. It’s not that noticeable in the picture, but I went for a subtle ombre / balayage colour effect and love it. Think I will be braver next time and make it stand out a bit more.

3. Goofing around with Becky  and building dens out of blankets, cushions and other paraphernalia.

4. Laughing lots at Alex's latest favourite toy – his own feet. Quite a dexterous little boy he is!

5. Watching Alex sleep, which I don’t tire of and do every night. He’s just so cute, innocent and angelic that I could eat him.

6. Enjoying being back home in Germany and celebrating my Mum’s 70th birthday (she’s not looking too happy in the picture because my Dad was faffing around with the camera and she was getting impatient, but it’s the only one I have, and I still like it). Love how Alex and Becky are exchanging glances, too.

7. Alex turned six months this month. Could despair at how quickly time flies. *Sigh*

8. Building a snowman and generally having lots of snow fun in Germany with Becky.

9. And finally, enjoying lots of cuddles and one on one time with Alex while I still can. I will miss our time together so much when he starts nursery in March.

28 Jan 2015

(Back) Home from Home

I’ve just returned from a week long break back home in Germany (which explains why it was a bit quiet on the blog for a bit – I actually enjoyed being lazy for once). It was my Mum’s 70th birthday, so  the kids and I (hubby had to stay at home and work) flew over for the big celebrations and some much needed family and friend time. I hadn’t been back home since last April, when I was pregnant with Alex and in my second trimester, so it’s been a while, and aside from my Mum’s birthday, I actually needed a little Germany fix.

It was the first time I flew on my own with both kiddies, and whilst all went well, it’s definitely not without its challenges – mainly thanks to Becky, who is just so nosy and lively and will just suddenly stop to look at something or chat to random people, so it was quite a job to make sure that I didn’t lose her.

Luckily Becky loves flying, and being at the airport and the aeroplane excites her big time, which is really really sweet. And thanks to the iPad, lots of sweets, sticker and colouring books, and a few games, it was relatively easy to keep her occupied throughout the journey. And Alex just slept through most of the flight, which was a blessing and made things much easier. It was only actually just manoeuvring all of us and all our bags and pram / car seat into the right place at the right time that was the main trial. I wish I had more arms, let’s put it that way!

It was so nice being back home though; I managed to catch up with my bestie and a few close friends, and even a school friend whom I hadn’t seen in ages. And obviously, seeing my family and spending my Mum’s special day together was great. As we live so far away and only see each other every so often, you become very aware of how quickly time passes, and with my Mum turning 70, every little moment spent with my parents is precious. And it’s lovely to see how besotted they are with their grandkids.

Below is my week in a few (mediocre) iPhone pictures. I wish I had taken more images, especially of me and my Mum, but somehow I quite enjoyed just living the moment and didn’t always think to take other snapshots. But hey ho.  
Waiting to board the plane - my little traveller.
Alex stretching out after a long journey in his seat and pram - it was actually the highest and longest he spent on his belly. Clearly there was lots to see.
My little joker - pretending to be a statue in the city centre of my home town.
Baking a cake for Oma's birthday.
We had another go at weaning Alex and it went much better than before.
Then the snow set it, and time for snow angels and snowmen.
An intimate moment of my Mum feeding Alex - one of my favourites. She's besotted with the both of them.

15 Jan 2015

Review: Mamas & Papas Baby Snug

He might not look it in the images, but he does really like the Baby Snug.
I wanted to share one of my recent purchases for Alex, the Mamas & Papas Baby Snug, a floor support seat for babies from 3 months. I bought it before Christmas, but only really started using it at the beginning of the year, when Alex was definitely comfortable holding his head up.

It’s quickly become a staple in our house and Alex really likes sitting in it and being upright, taking in the goings-ons in our house, and it’s a nice alternative to his baby bouncer.

I had originally planned to buy a Bumbo, as I had used one that a friend had lend me when Becky was little, but while browsing online, I came across the Mamas & Papas version, and  - I’m not gonna lie – I preferred the look of it, as it’s really cute and, as “baby sitters” go, rather understated and stylish.

Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed and it’s definitely not a case of style over function, with the Baby Snug living up to everything I need it to be.

Firstly, and most importantly, it’s sturdy and its broad base prevents Alex from toppling over, even if he tries.

It also comes with a detachable tray, which has meant that I am able to use the Baby Snug for our first stages of weaning (see my other post on that here), and can leave investing in a high chair until a later date, as we’re currently getting on really well with this solution (*I know you’re not supposed to, and technically the Baby Snug is a floor seat, but I’ve been popping it in the middle of our dining table at meal times, so Alex is on eye-level with us, which is quite nice and more social, and we’re obviously keeping an eye on him and never leave him there unattended*).

All parts are detachable, including the tray and the foam seat, so the Baby Snug is easy to clean, and what’s more, the seat will grow with Alex, as you can just take the foam bit out when he no longer fits, and just pop your child into the main base, which extends the life span of the seat somewhat – a definite advantage to the Bumbo, which I found Becky had outgrown after a couple of months, even though she was already on the petite side.

I also bought the activity tray, which offers an array of features such as roller bead ball, spinning flower, twisty bendy stalk with rattle and teether, reversible squeaker pad, rotating lion and beaded loop, which keep Alex occupied and entertained; he particularly loves bashing the squeaker pad, as well as trying to pull the flower towards his mouth and bite it, as he is teething so badly.

All in all, we love the Baby Snug and can highly recommend it. The only downside  / negative that I have found is that you need both hands to move it from A to B, as there are no handles or grip holes at the back, for instance, which is a real disadvantage, as often I just want to move it from the dining room to the living room while holding Alex in my other arm, and this is proving really difficult. So if Mamas & Papas are looking to develop the range further, this would definitely be something to consider, but other than that, it’s a lovely seat for little’uns.

* Disclaimer: I bought the Mamas & Papas Baby Snug from my own money and was not asked to review it. But as I love reading honest opinions on other blogs, and genuinely found the seat a great addition to our baby equipment, I wanted to share it.  After all, sharing is caring *smiley face*.

10 Jan 2015

Weaning - First Steps

Earlier this week I gave weaning Alex a go. Lately, he has been insatiable, always seems hungry and still goes through a minimum of seven feeds a day (by now a mixture of breast and bottle, as I’m phasing breastfeeding out), so as he is now past the 24 weeks mark, it seemed like a good time to start.

I know there is a lot of hype about Babyled Weaning, but if I’m honest, I don’t know that much about it and thought I would start off with traditional weaning, as I did with Becky. Four years ago when Becky was little, BLW was also around, but it wasn’t as hyped as it’s now, and NHS guidelines were giving out advice on both methods, whereas now official recommendations are pretty much focused on BWL.

But still, I don’t exactly know what it is that doesn’t quite convince me when it comes to BWL – if I’m honest, as a self confessed control freak, I find the idea of leaving something like nutrition in the hands of a tiny baby a bit random, and I’m also very scared of Alex choking. Also, we eat a lot of spicy foods that aren’t necessarily suitable for babies (or easy to scoop out on a tray – hello Thai Curry!), so even the practicalities of it haven’t been so appealing to me.

So off I went and bought lots of bowls and little containers and baby porridge to start off traditionally. But Alex had other ideas. I tried him on some baby rice first, and the expression on his face (see below) said it all: utter disgust. Not defeated, I moved on to pureed carrots (he didn’t hate them, but he wasn’t convinced either) and then some rice pudding, which he didn’t seem to mind that much.

However, it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t seem to like the texture of the purees very much, nor the fact that I am coming at him with a spoon, and he tries to grab it and shove it in his mouth himself. Which made me think that maybe, instinctively, he does want to feed himself and that maybe the whole finger food idea and BLW ain’t so bad after all.

I gave him some broccoli, which, surprisingly, was a success. But we failed on sweet potato (didn’t even want to touch it), though a piece of cool cucumber seemed to go down well and help with his teething. Yesterday I tried some pasta (again, he seemed not bothered) and a bit of carrot (liked the taste, I think), but overall he doesn’t seem that interested in proper food either way, neither purees nor finger food.

It’s early days though, so I will just persevere and offer him bits here and there and see which route we eventually go down, probably a mixture of both.

6 Jan 2015

Saying Goodbye To Breastfeeding

Alex is now 5 ½ months old and I have started to slowly phase out breastfeeding. I’m going back to work in less than two months, and since my job involves a lot of travel and being away from home, it’s just not practical to still be breastfeeding when I’m working. Besides, I never intended to do it for more than six months in the first place, and I’m really chuffed and very proud that I have managed to keep it going for this long.

With Becky, I had huge breastfeeding problems. Contrary to what breastfeeding advocates propagate, I didn’t have enough milk from the start, and Becky didn’t regain her birth weight until over five weeks in, screaming constantly in a distressing mix of colic and what I now know was hunger. It took a number of desperate repeat trips to the doctor’s and children’s A&E until eventually a not so brainwashed consultant advised me to supplement with formula, as Becky was failing to thrive and it was affecting her health.

I remember crying my eyes out the first time I had to give her a bottle of formula, thinking I was giving my daughter the devil’s work and feeling a complete failure as a mother because I couldn’t nourish my own child. And once she had taken the bottle (and started to put on weight), she refused to go back on the breast, which was even more heart-breaking and made me feel even more redundant. I subsequently expressed milk for eight months in an excruciating schedule of getting up twice a night to express (even though Becky slept through the night from week 12) and keep my milk supply up. I think I was punishing myself for having failed Becky at breastfeeding, and I was determined to squeeze the last drop of breastmilk out of me (quite literally), even if it killed me.

So to have been able to breastfeed Alex for as long as I have and seeing him thrive into this whopper of a bouncy boy, is a massive deal for me and feels like a really big achievement.  

Saying that, I have come to the end of my breastfeeding journey. Six months is good enough for me (and I believe for Alex, too; after all, I have given him the best start), and I’m ready to move on. Rationally I am, at least.

But saying Goodbye to breastfeeding is actually a bit emotional. A lot more than I thought. Knowing that it’s the last time ever that I will be nurturing a baby is just a little bit sad, and I will miss the small, intimate moments that I have shared with Alex, just me and him. Like when he falls asleep on the breast after a satisfying feed, with a content smile on his face and full hamster cheeks, still suckling in his dreams (of milk, most likely!). Or when he gazes up at me while feeding, stops, and gives me the biggest smile ever or coos happy sounds. These are little precious moments that were just ours, and it’s hard to give those up.

But despite the melancholy, deep down I know it’s the right thing for me to do. Whilst I’ve loved breastfeeding this time round, I have also on many occasions found it restrictive, all-consuming and a huge responsibility and worry (especially in the early days: would I have enough milk? would we be able to establish breastfeeding? would he thrive?). It's been a lot of pressure, and there are definitely two sides to breastfeeding, like with everything else.

So, I might have mixed emotions about severing the final physical tie with my baby , but the positives outweigh the negatives for me, and I am looking forward to my new found freedom - like not having to think about what I eat and drink and what impact it will have on Alex, throwing away my nursing bras and buying some nice lingerie, and above all, wearing my beloved dresses again.

It’s been truly lovely to be able to breastfeed Alex, but I don’t think intimacy between a child and his Mum is defined by breastfeeding, and I know I will have just as many lovely memories by giving him the bottle and holding him tight, still gazing at each other and cooing and smiling, as well as starting his weaning together. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you’re nourishing your child, but just that you do, and that you’re doing it with love.

So, bye bye breastfeeding, it’s been an experience I will always treasure!

*This is a link-up with Honest Mum's great linkie Brilliant Blogposts. Check it out here .

3 Jan 2015

Project "Me"

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. No one can ever stick to them, and most of the time you’ve already set yourself up for failure before you’ve even started. But the New Year coincides with a stage in my life, where I am ready to implement some changes and tackle a few challenges, and I guess the 1st of January (or 3rd, to be accurate) is as good a time as any to start.

Last year was all about our beautiful baby boy. The first half was dominated by my pregnancy, while the second half by Alex’s arrival and subsequent breastfeeding, nourishing him, and generally tending to his every need 24/7. And that’s fine; I’ve loved every second and will obviously continue to do everything it takes to nurture him and keep making him the lovely, happy baby that he is.

But as happy and elated as pregnancy and having Alex has made me, my confidence and body image have taken a massive hit. When it comes to my body I’ve never had much self-esteem (even when I was younger and skinny by comparison - ironically, or rather, frustratingly!), and it’s always been my bit of psychological baggage that I carry round with me. I’ve had lots of body hang-ups before I was pregnant, but now, two children down the line, and being the biggest I have ever been, it’s taking its toll and I’m not liking myself very much. To the point where I hate looking in the mirror, avoid catching my reflection at all costs, don’t do clothes shopping anymore for fear of changing room mirrors, and worst of all, avoid most photographs of me apart from cleverly angled selfies or a few lucky shots. It’s got so bad, that we haven’t even got a single nice family shot from this Christmas – our first as a family of four - because I avoided the camera lens like the plague.

This makes me sad. And it’s pathetic. And I want things to change.

Call me shallow, but even though this body of mine has produced two beautiful children and I am without doubt immensely proud of it, it is not the body I feel comfortable in and I’ve come to a point where something needs to happen. I want to be “me” again, the “me” who feels ok about herself. I just want to look in the mirror or take a picture and think that’s ok.

And to be truthful, it’s not just about losing weight. I have accepted that now, at the grand age of 37, I will not have a perfect body anymore.  And that’s not even my goal. I don’t strive to be skinny, just a stone or two less would do me fine. It’s more about feeling fit and strong and not being out of breath when I go up the stairs, and generally just feeling good in my skin.

So my main aim for the next however-long it will take is to lose a bit of weight and “find myself again” (I realise how corny that sounds). But it’s not going to be easy for me. Until I had Becky, I’d had an eating disorder for 17 years, and putting my body through constant starvation mode and then finally recovering from the condition have left my metabolism completely messed up. I can’t just diet to lose weight, and calorie reducing has little to no effect on me because my body is so accustomed to little food that it hardly reacts (and I NEVER want to go back to that mind-set in the first place).

I generally eat a very healthy diet, so there isn’t that much that I can cut out or reduce or avoid, though I will take an honest look at what I eat and maybe review things like portion size, which I know is something that I can change and might help.

But crucially, exercise will be key in all this. Before I had the children, I used to do quite a few different fitness classes and workouts, and I loved it and felt a lot better about myself. And whilst I would probably need the time investment (and budget) on personal trainers of someone like Madonna to make a truly big difference – neither of which I have – I am determined to get my bottom into gear and do the best I can within my means and time frame as a busy working Mummy. No ifs, not buts. No excuses.

In the long-term, I want to start running. I’ve never run before and honestly believe that my body isn’t made for running, but I have so many friends (and my husband, for that matter) who swear by it for fitness and weight loss and general well-being, that I am willing to give it a go, even if that means humiliating myself entirely wobbling and waddling through my village.

Realistically it won’t be before March though, when Alex goes to nursery and I will have all-day childcare for both children, that I will be able to make this a regular thing, but I really want to try.

Until then, I will take other little steps that will hopefully lead up to taking up running. Joining the gym is tricky, because with two kids and a demanding job with often irregular and long hours, I haven’t got a minimum of two consecutive hours to go there, work out, shower and go back (which is why running is so appealing – step out of the house, do your bit, get back, done).

Instead, I’ve brought back my stepper / cross trainer from the garage and will use Alex’s nap times to do bits of workout. I’ve also dug out my fitness DVDs that I used to do regularly and again, I will alternate between them when Alex naps. This is especially useful when the weather is bad outside and gives me really no excuse not to do anything when I can exercise in-doors.

I’ve also signed up to two buggy-fit groups a week while I’m still off on maternity leave, so between them I will try to blitz my body whilst shuffling Alex around in his pram.

And generally, I want to leave the car in the drive more and go walking a lot more. Every little helps and all that, ey?

These are not, as I said earlier, New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I prefer to look at them as goals and plans for 2015 and beyond, because they are more flexible and adaptable, and let’s face it, life’s not linear like that, and sometimes you have to tweak things here and there to achieve what you’ve set out to do.

So this is my next big project. Project “Me”. And I’m so ready to get going.
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