Before she starts school…

Before she starts school…

Yesterday I bought Jasmine’s school uniform and as I watched the cashier zap each item of clothing across the till and fold them up neatly in front of me, the realisation that my baby is starting school, very soon, hit me hard. More than it did when we got the letter through, telling us which school she was going to. And more than when we went to visit the school itself for J’s ‘taster days’. It was buying the white polo tops and little grey pinafore dresses that really gave me a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye (and not just because of the expense of it all!)

I feel like I’m trying to strike a balance between cramming as much into these last few weeks of summer as possible (whilst she’s still mine, all mine) and giving her time to rest and prepare for the changes that are coming our way.

We decided to keep J in preschool (x 3 mornings a week) right up until the end of August to keep her in the routine that she’s used to. Also, being 100% honest here, I’m not sure how I’d cope with both girls by myself full-time as they fight almost constantly and it truly wears me down.

Getting out of the house is usually the best thing for us. It’s stops the girls squabbling (as much) and I generally find it easier to parent when we’re out and about (just don’t ask me about our disastrous swimming trip earlier this week).

With all of that in mind, and the fact, that J will not be doing full-time school hours until the first week of October. I’ve been thinking about some of the things we’d like to do over the coming few weeks – a sort of ‘before school to-do list’ if you will.

Go to the beach

We’re very lucky to have a massive, free to use, sandpit in our local town centre during the summer holidays. We spend several hours there a week and the girls love it. But nothing quite beats the real thing – the beach! I’d love to cram in a couple of beach days before the end of the summer – probably Brean or Weston-super-mare (which are our local-ish beaches) or perhaps a trip across the bridge to Wales and Barry Island!

Visit Monkey World (Poole)

Monkey World has been on our to-do list for ages. Stephen and I visited there quite a few times pre-kids (and even considered getting married there at one point!) but we’ve yet to take the girls. If we get up and go early enough, the trip is totally do-able in a day so we’re hoping to go later this month when Stephen has booked off some of his annual leave.

Join in with Clifton College’s ‘forest discovery day’

On Saturday 8th September, Clifton College are running a free forest discovery day for toddlers/preschoolers and their parents. There will be den building, marshmallow toasting and mudpie making – oh my! I booked my two littles onto it as soon as I heard about it as I just know it’ll be right up their street (or should I say, tree?!) We’ll be there in our wellies and waterproofs and if you’re local to Bristol and would like to be there too, head here: https://www.cliftoncollege.com/events/2018/september/free-forest-discovery-day/ to find out more!

A family bike-ride

J’s had her bike for a while now, and other than the occasional jaunt around the block with it, she never much rides it anywhere else other than in the back garden. I’d love to dust off mine and Stephen’s bikes (which have been sat in the garage since we moved here over a year ago) and go for a family bike ride. I bought a toddler seat, from a friend, to attach to my bike for E to ride in, I just haven’t gotten around to attaching it yet! Our local cycle path goes all the way to Bath and whilst I can’t see us getting that far, it’ll still be fun to ride together as a family and see how far we do get!

Visit Grimsbury Farm

There’s a fair few community farms in and around Bristol but I hadn’t heard of Grimsbury Farm until recently when my Childminder friend, Sarah, told me about it (she knows all the good local places to take kids!) I only passed my driving test last month and I’m slowly growing in confidence enough to take the girls out for day trips, driving a little further each time. Grimsbury farm is about 20 minutes away by car and I’m planning to pack a picnic and take the girls for a visit in the next week or two. Watch this space!

Is there anything in particular you’re planning with your pre-schooler before they start school?

Jenna xx

This is a collaborative post.

 

Extended breastfeeding:
Who is it benefiting anyway?

Extended breastfeeding: <br> Who is it benefiting anyway?<br/>

I’m in the 0.5% of mothers in the UK who is breastfeeding their baby beyond a year. I didn’t plan to be in that group, I didn’t aim to breastfeed for this long. I wanted to breastfeed, sure. I put the effort in. I sacrificed some of my ‘freedom’. I got jealous when my formula-feeding mama friends could seemingly come and go as they pleased. I got frustrated. I got sick of the sight of nursing bras. I shared and am still sharing my body and I’m not in any hurry to ‘get it back’.

After an initial tough start, breastfeeding became second nature. I think back to those long nights and days that we struggled with it and they seem a very distant memory.

Being totally honest, I’ve wanted to give up breastfeeding many, many times. But just as soon as I felt sure I wanted to stop, I’d change my mind again. What me and my toddler have is precious and it felt silly to give it up because she was pulling on my hair too much (which let’s face it, she’d do anyway) or because my pre-period hormones would make my let down reflex so frustratingly slow that feeding became arduous for about a week, each and every month.

I kept telling myself that this wouldn’t be forever. In the grand scheme of things, even if I fed her until she was two-years-old (or beyond!), it’s not a very long time. One day, it too, would seem a distant memory. And I’d miss it, I’m sure.

How long one should breastfeed their child for is a highly debated topic. (What isn’t when it comes to mothering?) There is no definitive answer. The WHO recommends “exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

I’ve heard people say that it becomes ‘wrong’ to breastfeed as soon as a child can ‘ask for it’. Which seems odd, to me. I mean, when you think about it, a child would have been ‘asking for it’ one way or another since the day they were born. Lip smacking/boob nuzzling/crying – that’s all OK… but as soon as a child can verbally ask to be breastfed, that would be deemed as ‘wrong’? *shrugs*

Another phrase I hear often, in regards to extended breastfeeding is ‘it’s probably more for the mum’s benefit’. Insinuating that the toddler is an unwilling participant, being force-fed boob to satisfy a mother’s selfish desire to prolong their breastfeeding journey. Which, let me tell you, is bloody ludicrous. You absolutely can not force a child to breastfeed! A breastfeeding relationship has to be mutual in order for it to work, especially long-term. I often giggle when I think of the ‘more for the mum’ type comments, usually because I’m feeding E, whilst she’s pulling my hair or scratching my neck. Much in the same way a kitten kneads at a lap with it’s sharp claws whilst being stroked because it feels utterly content. ‘More for the mum’, my arse!

Does that mean I’m not benefiting from breastfeeding my 1.5 year old? Of course not. Like I said, it’s a mutual relationship. When I’ve had a stressful day, feeding E is sometimes the best way to calm me down. As I feed her, before bed, I can physically feel the surge of oxytocin flowing through my body. I feel completely relaxed and content. I wonder how I ever managed without this daily 5 minute mood booster. It can turn the toughest of days on it’s head – suddenly all is well with the world again.

And you know who else is benefiting from mine and E’s extended breastfeeding journey? My 4-year-old, Jasmine. Even though she didn’t get any breast milk from me beyond six weeks. I still feel my positive experience with her younger sister will benefit her too. How? She is growing up in a home which normalizes breastfeeding. The longer I feed E, the more likely she is to grow up remembering that is how her mama fed a baby. She knows breasts produce milk to feed babies – that is their main purpose. And all of this is giving her a great advantage, if one day, she has her own babies and decides, she too, would like to breastfeed.

I don’t know how much longer I will breastfeed E – we’re just doing as we’ve always done and are taking it a feed at a time. But for as long as we continue our feeding journey, the relationship will be mutual and it will benefit us both.

Jenna xx

NB. Here’s a fab link to more information on breastfeeding beyond a year and the benefits to both mother and child.

Is your home ready for your new arrival?

Is your home ready for your new arrival?

Having a baby is one of the most incredible, exciting and terrifying things you can do in your life. Your world changes forever, and you change forever- you truly get to understand love in its purest form. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, it’s difficult at times too.

As well as making sure everything is OK with yours and your baby’s health, you have the practical things to consider. For example, are your finances in order? You certainly don’t need to be rich to give your child a good life, but there are significant costs to cover and so getting yourself in the best position with money that you can makes sense. Is your car up to scratch? If you currently only have a two-seater car for example then you won’t have space for your partner as well as the car seat. Maybe you only have a two door model which would make getting a car seat in and out a bit of a pain. Perhaps the safety features aren’t as modern as you want- either way, a new car might be on the cards. Your home is another thing to get right, and before you get pregnant (or before your baby arrives) here are a few things to consider.

Location

If you moved into your home before thinking about having children, then things like how good the local schools or parks are probably didn’t cross your mind. You might live in a place that has a high crime rate, but decided to take the risk because as a couple it was close to work or generally made sense at the time. However when a baby comes along that can change, and you will probably want somewhere safe and family friendly. If you decide to move home, be sure to look into the amenities you might need nearby- soft play centres, nurseries, schools and parks. Check out the crime rates and make sure you’re not in a dangerous location such as on a very busy road.

Practicality

You might have a good house in the right area, but perhaps you don’t have enough bedrooms? Maybe the layout feels cramped and doesn’t make sense? You could get around this by having an extension built, a loft conversion or re-jigging some of the walls. You could even have a company like County the home improvers come in and refit everything for you. Spacious rooms with hard wearing and easy to clean flooring is no bad thing when you have little ones.

Accessibility

If you live in an apartment block which can only be accessed via stairs, or if your home has lots of steps outside then think if this would be practical with a pram. Life with a young baby is already difficult enough, not being easily able to get in and out of your home is only going to make things worse. If you can’t make the changes that you need to, then it could be worth looking for something new.

This is a collaborative post.

Tips For Travelling With Young Children

Tips For Travelling With Young Children

If you want to escape the daily grind so that you can enjoy some sun with your family, you’re not alone. Brits are taking more holidays abroad than ever before; in fact, the number of holidays increased to a peak of over 65 million annual trips in 2015.

However, many parents start to feel a little nervous when they think about spending hours on a flight with young children. Tiredness, travel sickness and boredom can all cause some serious stress on the journey, so it can be useful to plan ahead. After all, you even need to pack for a day out with kids. Here are three simple tips to help you travel with young children.

Plan For The Flight

If you are travelling with young children it is often best to choose one straight flight, rather than multiple flights with breaks between. This is because it will be much easier and less stressful for all of you – and if you’re on a budget, it can also be useful to look for cheaper flights and hotels. After all, the average price of a holiday for a British family of four is £4792! Normally you can kill two birds with one stone by searching for holidays that include flights and hotels as a package, as this tends to be cheaper and it is easy to get direct flights.

Load Up The Tablet

Load up your tablet or phone with educational apps and games for children so that they have something to do during the flight. This will give you a break so you can relax, and it means that your children have a distraction if they dislike flying. Just make sure that you download games that can still be played while the device is on flight mode!

Prepare A Bag

Pack a bag with sickness medication, a blanket and some extra clothing in case your child spills food or has an accident. A comforter is another good idea as it makes it easier for your children to nap as you fly. It can also be useful to buy a mini-suitcase on wheels for them to roll with them, as this lightens the load for you while teaching your child about responsibility.

Flying with children doesn’t have to be expensive and stressful. There are lots of ways to lower the overall costs of the trip, and if you pack the right stuff the flight can be fun and educational, rather than tiresome and frustrating.

This is a collaborative post.

5 things that helped my toddler to sleep better

5 things that helped my toddler to sleep better

It was only a month ago that I wrote a blog post about how I was considering hiring a sleep trainer for E. I was at my wit’s end. She was waking up almost hourly, breastfeeding like a newborn and refusing to go back to sleep. Instead, she would throw herself around our bed, like a fish out of water, screaming her head off. Quite frankly, I’m surprised our neighbours haven’t yet called the police because anybody would think a murder was being committed in our house.

But I am pleased to report that things have changed dramatically over the last few weeks and we’re all getting considerably more sleep. I feel happier and brighter and able to parent better. And as for E, she is like a different child. She’s well rested and happier too.

So what changed?

1. We stopped co-sleeping.

E slept in our bed and had done pretty much since birth. She woke for feeds throughout the night and I just found it easier to have her in our bed for that reason. But even the little sleep I did get was rubbish because I had so little space, usually finding myself squeezed in-between a bed-hogging toddler and my 6ft something husband. (We had a bed guard on the side of the bed that E slept so she didn’t fall out.)

Putting E in her own room was the only thing we hadn’t tried and after several nights of having barely any sleep, I lost my sh*t and dragged E’s (at the time, unused) cot into the office (she’ll share a room with J eventually). That night, I stayed next to her cot until she fell asleep… and the next night and the night after that. There were tears from E (I never left her to cry, that’s not my style) and I was sad too, I missed her snuggles but after the third night, she got it. I can now feed her, put her down in her cot and she will wave at me and blow me a kiss as I leave the room. I genuinely can’t believe it.

2. We cut down nighttime breastfeeds.

Once E was in a separate room, she straight away began waking less often for night feeds. I guess not sleeping in a bed with my breasts inches from her face meant it was rather less convenient for her to wake up and have a sup on mama’s milk, so she stopped bothering (as much). I now feed E just before bed and again at around 10.30 but other than that one feed in the night, she sleeps through! I am planning to wean E completely later this month but that’s a blog post for another time. Watch this space!

3. We incorporated a nightlight into our bedtime routine.

On hearing all about my sleep woes, the folks at Lumie very kindly offered to send me a Bedbug Light Sleep Aid. “It won’t be the entire solution, of course – but it might help?” I had nothing to lose so decided we’d give it a go.

The Bedbug (which is endorsed by gentle-parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith) offers fully adjustable bedside lighting to change, feed and settle your child ready for bed. I use the gradual sunset mode when putting E to bed, it takes about 15 minutes for the room to go from being brightly lit to dark. This is enough time for me to feed E and place her in her cot and exit the room whilst she finishes settling herself to sleep. If I need to pop in at any point during the night to feed or comfort her, I can turn on Bedbug’s orange nightime glow. This gives me enough light to see what I’m doing but doesn’t trigger wakefulness.

I really do believe it’s been instrumental in setting up a good bedtime routine with E and now we wouldn’t be without our Bedbug. In fact, I think I’m going to have to get one for J as she sleeps with her main light on because she’s scared of the dark!

4. We re-introduced white noise.

I bought Ewan the Dream Sheep when I was pregnant with E. We never bothered with any kind of white noise comforters when J was a baby but I’d heard good things about Ewan and so he ended up being one of only a handful ‘second baby purchases’ (everything else we’d kept from J). We used Ewan a fair bit when E was a newborn and he was relatively effective, but his batteries ran out and he ended up being forgotten about, hidden in a basket full of other soft toys.

But after moving E into the new room, I’d get her settled and asleep in her cot each night and as I’d go to walk out of the door, the floorboards would squeak and I’d be rumbled! I bought some new batteries for Ewan and started using him alongside the nightlight when settling E in her cot, the white noise seemed to help send her off to sleep quicker and if nothing else, it certainly helped to mask the noise of my steps across the creaky floorboards!

5. We started using Gro sleeping bags.

Gro bags aren’t new to us, we used them when J was a baby and they were fantastic. But because E shared our bed, I was reluctant to put her in any more layers other than her PJs and a cellular blanket, in case she overheated. Being the wriggly worm that she is, she’d often end up kicking her blanket off in the night and then waking up cold. As soon as we put her in the cot, we dug out the old Gro sleep bags and now we know she’s snuggly and warm all night long. One less reason for her to wake up at night! ;)

I don’t think that any one of these things would’ve made such a big difference on it’s own but the combination of all 5 has certainly helped us to get E into a better nighttime routine. We still haven’t mastered daytime naps (but you can’t have it all, right?), but for now, I am very pleased to be getting a lot more sleep. Fingers crossed, it continues…

Our bedtime faves*: 

Jenna xx

Related posts that you may also like to read:

Is it time to bring in a sleep trainer?
Bedtime Routines: The first baby vs. the second baby
10 things nobody told me about breastfeeding
A co-sleeping dilemma

 

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