What To Expect After 12 Months of Motherhood

Posted in Pregnancy and Baby.

My last proper update on Hazel’s development was six months ago (read it here), so I thought it was about time I did another. Now she’s one whole year old (!!!), she’s acquired a whole bunch of new skills and we’ve navigated various developments and changes – some of which have been super challenging. 6-12 months has been fun, certainly… but it’s also been a really hard stage.

baby 1 year update

But, here we are! Almost 13 months into the mumming game and I’m surviving (sometimes even thriving… mostly on nursery days, tbh). The last six months has been a struggle, mostly because just as I start thinking I’ve got things cracked, it all changes and the rug is pulled from under me yet again. In the newborn days you expect to feel a bit out of control, slightly manic, severely sleep deprived. No first time mum knows how to handle a newborn! It’s totally normal! Pass me another Diet Coke! But at eight, nine, 10 months there’s a niggling feeling that you should have this down. You’ve probably established a routine, you smile knowingly at other mums and you know Dear Zoo off by heart. It should be easier by now, right?

Nope. 8-9 months especially was hard work, because Hazel couldn’t crawl and she desperately wanted to. She was frustrated by the lack of movement, there was a sleep regression thrown in there too and solids hadn’t fully clicked, so we were stuck in some weird baby/toddler limbo. She finally cracked crawling at 9.5 months, which made a big difference.

Yes – the sleep regressions. You hear a lot about the big 4-month one, but many babies also regress at 8-10 months AND at 12 months. We experienced both these regressions and it was hell. Unlike the early days, you’ve been lulled (quite literally) into longer stretches of sleep only to have them cruelly snatched away as your baby reverts to waking every couple of hours, now handily combined with standing up in the cot and literally shrieking. The wake-ups during these regressions were much longer and we even broke our golden nighttime rule (‘never leave the bedroom’) to bring Hazel downstairs on a few occasions. Like I said – hell. Luckily we seem to have left that stage behind (f0r now) and Hazel is sleeping through the night.

The two biggest developments in the last six months are social changes – starting nursery and stopping breastfeeding. Hazel now goes to nursery two days a week and has one day with her grandparents, so I have three days to work. It’s been a tough change – we’ve caught every bug going and a month in, Hazel is still struggling to settle. I’m really hoping it just takes time and eventually she won’t cry her eyes out on every drop off… tell me it gets better?! In the long-run I know nursery is the right choice for us – it gives me the space I need to work and despite her protests, Hazel is a really sociable baby who loves being around people, so I think she’ll love it eventually. Getting to that point is hard but I have hope it will come!

Stopping breastfeeding is something I need to write a full post about – it’s such a huge change and one I have fought many an internal battle over, but it’s made a HUGE difference to me. After struggling to establish breastfeeding in the early days (read about that here) I really thought I’d want to keep going as long as possible, but in reality I needed to step back. Breastfeeding ties you so completely to your baby, which is wonderful but also so limiting. Rob can now put Hazel to bed with a bottle, which is a bit of a revelation. I can leave the house before 7pm! It’s a Christmas miracle! We’re down to one morning feed a day (and Hazel has a bottle of warm cow’s milk at bedtime), but I think we’ll probably drop that one soon, too. And I’m cool with it.

baby developments 12 months

Watching Hazel change and grow over the last six months has been amazing. Here are her 1 year highlights:

Movement. Crawling is still happening, but now we’ve added cruising and walking with the help of her pram into the mix. She’s not very steady on her feet without something to hold on to so I’m not sure unaided walking is that close, but she loves her newfound freedom and is actually scarily fast (especially if you happen to be holding a rice cake).

Teeth! 12 of ’em, to be exact. Hazel has eight teeth in the front and four molars, although I think two of the molars are still making their way through. The molars have definitely been the most painful for her, and Nurofen has been our friend these last few months.

Sleeping through the night. As mentioned, Hazel has been sleeping through for a couple of weeks now. I know nothing is reliable when it comes to sleep and so am not kidding myself that it’ll last forever (hello, 18 month regression) but for now it is AMAZING.

Communication. Hazel is a proper little chatter and loves nothing more than a good babble, even if it is mostly to herself. She can now wave hello and goodbye, clap, nod and shake her head in response to words rather than copying us. She can say hiya, is starting to link daddy/dadda to Rob and often says mum-mum when upset (classic). My favourite, though, is ‘mmmmm’, which is the noise of a cow and sometimes a horse (in her defence, the figurines look very similar).

Temperament. We’re seeing so much more of Hazel’s personality, which is delightful and daunting all at once. She loves music and will dance along to any beat, she is cheeky and playful, inquisitive and curious. She’s also sometimes shy and cautious, preferring to sit back and observe before joining in unfamiliar situations. We haven’t seen any full-blown tantrums yet but she knows how to voice her dissatisfaction and has very little patience (like her mother, I guess). I’m prepping for when her stubborn streak kicks in!

We’ve celebrated Hazel’s first birthday and now we’re ready for Christmas – her second, but the first she can be properly part of. The first 12 months have absolutely flown by, so I guess the saying is true – when it comes to raising children, the days are long but the years are seriously short.

Baby Led Weaning aka WTAF Am I Doing?

Posted in Pregnancy and Baby.

When Hazel was around four months old, I started researching Baby Led Weaning. I read the Gill Rapely book everyone recommends. I joined the Facebook groups. Within a few days I was completely convinced that this was the weaning method for us and started daydreaming about preparing delicious family meals, eating them together at the table and having a thoroughly lovely time. And yes, I bought the bamboo plate and bowl.

Fast forward seven months, and things haven’t quiiiiiiite panned out how I imagined. Weaning, like everything involved in raising a child, is really hard work. And despite the baby-led method being toted as ‘easy, natural, less faff and much quicker’ when compared to traditional weaning, it’s still a massive pain in the ass, tbh.

how to do baby led weaning

Hazel is now 11 months old (HOW?!) and is a pretty good eater. She certainly has her favourites (pasta with anything, porridge, bolognese, hard boiled eggs) but will try anything that’s put in front of her. Our weaning journey has been reasonably straightforward – Hazel took to eating pretty quickly and doesn’t have any allergies – but it’s still been a slog, and a very different experience to the ones described by certain outspoken members of BLW groups (“you fed your baby a bit of porridge on a SPOON?! OUT OUT OUT!”).

Now we’ve mostly dropped daytime milk feeds in favour of solids (Hazel has a feed first and last thing but generally nothing in the day), I have a few points of interest on the whole weaning game. So here they are…

– The mess is unreal. At first you’ll try to avoid it, but as time goes on you’ll learn to accept your kitchen will be various states of grim for the next… three years? And if you’re still disinfecting the high chair after every meal more than two weeks down the line, you’re a much better mum than me…

-Weaning can be very slow going. Some babies take to it really well, but for most, the transition from milk to food is weird and annoying and they’re just not into it. Hazel was really cautious at first – I remember proudly presenting her with sliced avocado for her first meal and she just looked at it, nonplussed, and threw it on the floor (see above point). But I kept plugging away and now she’s generally a good eater.

-Spoon feeding is not off the table, even if you’re following a BLW method. Yeah, yeah – I know it’s not what the book says. But I don’t care, because if a spoon is the easiest way to get food in – porridge, soup, yogurt – I’ll be using it. I give Hazel pre-loaded spoons (with the food in-situ) so she gets an idea of the concept, but I’ll happily feed her myself if necessary. This is something I was dead against when we started weaning, but as time has gone on and it’s clear Hazel has learnt how to feed herself, I’ve got over it.

-It’s fine to offer the same or similar dishes day to day. Food variety is important, so I try to mix it up a bit – pasta with pesto and chicken one day, then pasta with Philadelphia and spinach the next. I’m all for cooking creatively but when you’re back at work and bloody knackered come 4pm, quick and easy always wins.

recipe ideas baby led weaning

-Fish fillets are your friend. Seriously, I love fish. Babies can only have two portions of oily fish a week due to mercury levels (or something), but Hazel always has her full quota because it’s just SO EASY. Salmon with sweet potato and peas. Cod with broccoli. Tuna with pasta. Boom.

-Don’t bother with the bamboo plate. We have Ikea plastic plates, bowls and cutlery that we use to dish up, but all food gets dumped on the highchair tray. Did you know a plate really resembles a frisbee? Yeah…

-Speaking of highchairs, the Ikea Antilop (or fancy wooden version, which we have) is all you need. I now choose my restaurants based on their highchair offering – if they have the Antilop, I’m through the door.

-Bibs without sleeves are largely useless, mainly because after a few weeks your baby will learn how to pull them off. Hazel is also highly suspicious of anything that doesn’t feel like clothing, so plastic bibs of all descriptions are out. We use these towelling bibs and although they have to be washed after every meal so therefore contribute to Laundry Mountain at an alarming rate, they do at least keep her clothes clean.

-With weaning also comes water, and with water comes about 50 billion different cups to choose from. Will you go for the classic sippy? Free flow? Straw or spout? What about a 360? Maybe a doidy? The list is literally endless. After trying all of the above, we’ve settled on an open doidy cup for in the highchair and a Munchkin 360 for out and about.

-My final tip is – don’t sweat it. Right at the beginning of our ~weaning journey~ I was a member of various BLW Facebook groups and getting totally stressed about cooking these amazing, elaborate meals, never spoon feeding and never handing Hazel anything lest she become a 15 year-old who still needs her mum to place food into her open palm. Then I read an article about feeding a toddler that basically said ‘don’t panic, you’re good’. Babies and children KNOW when you’re stressing – they pick up on those vibes and act accordingly (i.e., the way you don’t want them to). So now I try to have a relaxed, calm approach to mealtimes – it doesn’t always work and I often get frustrated when Hazel doesn’t eat much but when I do chill out and just leave her to it, she eats well. So there’s definitely something in it!

baby led weaning tips advice

Have you started weaning yet? Let me know your top tips and words of despair/encouragement in the comments!

I’m Not A MumBoss And That’s Cool

Posted in Pregnancy and Baby.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my usual sofa spot during Hazel’s afternoon nap. She’d been grizzly all day (teeth, leap, growth spurt… one of those) and I was knackered. But instead of sitting scrolling Instagram and mainlining Diet Coke like I should’ve been, I was simultaneously working, adding my upcoming study dates into the family calendar and texting my mum about childcare. I was staring down the barrel of serious overload – working practically full-time, studying for a degree and rearing a ‘spirited’ 9-month old. That week, I was the epitome of a hashtag MumBoss.

finding balance as a new parent

“Actually I can… say no to stuff”

As women, we’re used to giving 110% percent at work – we’re constantly fighting against the pay gap, sexism, discrimination and for women of colour, working class women and women with disabilities, racism, classism and ableism respectively.

But the notion that you should be ‘working on your brand’ all day every day, running multiple ‘side hustles’, keeping your Insta game on-point and visually merchandising your desk every morning leaves us at risk of serious burnout. And it seems things don’t let up when you have a baby – you’re expected to move seamlessly from #GirlBoss to #MumBoss.

In 2017, maternity leave isn’t just for sitting around on your arse during naptime and going out for lunch with your NCT group. You should be starting a freelance craft business and promoting it via a beautifully-curated Instagram. You need to resurrect your long-forgotten blog and share wise words on motherhood punctuated with soft focus shots of your immaculately-dressed baby. If you’re going back to work, get your Keeping In Touch days sorted asap and don’t forget to pick up your emails – you wouldn’t want to be forgotten. And why not do some studying while you’re at it – you can write your essays when baby’s in bed! Who cares if baby doesn’t actually sleep ever and you’re permanently exhausted! You’re a #MumBoss, you got this *biceps emoji*

In reality, the #MumBoss movement stems from idea that mums should still ‘have it all’ despite a working world set up to systematically fail them. There’s no room for rest and relaxation here. No time for taking your shitty company to a tribunal because they fired you while you were pregnant – just start a ‘network marketing business’ instead. I’m generalising, of course – there are loads of amazing women doing amazing things while juggling childcare and thoroughly enjoying it. And more props to them – if you can find the balance, that’s fantastic. But so, so many mothers can’t find that balance, and they’re left feeling one of two ways – lazy and old-fashioned or overworked and overstretched.

For me, things came to a head last week when I was seriously considering taking on a house renovation project alongside my freelance business, my degree study and my kid. I can do it all! I thought to myself as I wondered if we could live without a kitchen for a few months. Eventually I realised that actually, I can… say no to stuff. I can wait a bit. I don’t have to achieve absolutely all my goals and dreams within a year of giving birth, just to prove that it’s possible. Maybe it is. But not for me.

So I’ve deferred my uni place until next year. I’ve sacked off the house renovation (after a bit of gentle common sense talk from Rob). Hazel will be at nursery from November and I’ll be picking up a my freelance business again – I don’t think I’ll ever work at the same level as I did before she was born, but I’m hugely privileged that my job is still there and can be as flexible as I need it to be. I know a lot of women don’t get that break.

I’m not a #MumBoss, but I am a working mum juggling a job, a baby and some semblance of a life. It’s not always successful, rarely Instagrammable and won’t earn me a a legion of social media followers, but that’s cool. I’m happy with it.

Breastfeeding – What to Wear When it’s Hot

Posted in Fashion, Pregnancy and Baby.

Hazel was born in November, in what I like to call ‘perfect weather for breastfeeding’. Cold, wet, grey – British winters are ideal for staying inside and cuddling up to a teeny hot water bottle, watching endless Netflix boxsets and wearing a jumper and jeans for months on end.

But now we’re in July, and it’s quite a lot warmer than November. Over the past month we’ve had some very warm weather and let me tell you – nothing will make you more boiling hot than breastfeeding a sweaty, writhing baby in 30 degree heat. Especially if you’re still wearing that trusty jeans and jumper combo.

It’s hard enough adapting your wardrobe to allow for instant boob access (goodbye, dresses. I miss you) but when you need to factor in the temperature too, your options are even more limited. After sweating my way through a day of feeding while wearing too many layers, I decided enough was enough… and went shopping. A few weeks later and I’m feeling much cooler, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite Breastfeeding in Hot Weather Outfits. Catchy title, right?

1. The ‘Pop Over The Top’ Dress

good clothes for breastfeedingDress, Topshop (same style, different print) | Sandals, Reiss | Headscarf, M&S

Topshop have a few versions of this dress in different colours and prints – the shirred neckline is super stretchy and pulls down easily, so you can pop a boob out over the top and feed away. If you’re a little shy of pulling your entire breast out in polite company (as I am!), try wearing a bandeau bra that you can pull up to cover your chest a bit.

The floaty material makes this dress wonderfully cool for hot days – it’s a real no fuss style.

2. The ‘One Up, One Down’ Separates

breastfeeding on holiday clothesSkirt, ASOS | Tee, Topshop | Sandals, Cos | Headscarf, ASOS (similar)

One Up, One Down (OUOD) is popular among breastfeeders – the idea being you wear a vest under your normal top so you can pull the top up and the vest down to feed. All well and good for a rainy day but when the sun is blazing down, another layer of clothing is the last thing you need.

I’ve tried the BreastVest – basically just a vest with the boob part missing – but found it didn’t really help my soaring temperature. I wear separates almost every day and have found the key is in the waist – a high-waisted bottom means there’s less on show when you lift your top. Teamed with a baby body shield, high-waisted trousers, skirts or shorts provide enough coverage to keep me comfortable without needed an extra layer over my stomach. Plus, there’s nothing like a stiff breeze on a bare belly to cool you down. Aaaahhh!

3. The ‘Quick Unbutton’ Dress

hot weather breastfeeding outfitDress, ASOS | Sandals, Cos | Headscarf, ASOS (similar) | Pin, CouCou Suzette

I love anything with buttons. Buttons make it all so much easier – undo one, two, three and you’re away! If you prefer to keep a little covered when feeding, buttons are very handy – just keep the top one done up and unbutton from the middle to create a little access pocket. Sneaky!

This dress is denim, and black, so probably not great for wearing in hot weather actually (lol) but I have a few similar shirt dresses in different styles and I love them all.

4. The ‘Oh Never Mind, It’s Pissing It Down Again’ Combo

what to wear breastfeedingTee, Topshop | Jeans, Topshop ‘Sidney’ | Slingbacks, H&M 

It’s bound to happen, isn’t it? You treat yourself to a lovely new wardrobe of summer breastfeeding garms and it rains for three weeks solid. I feel you.

For those 15-17 degree days (which, let’s face it, is most of the time bar a week in July and Endless Winter), I wear a rotation of jeans and tees. Topshop’s Sidney jeans are my new fave – I love the skinny leg and the mid-waist is great for feeding without a vest, as mentioned above. I pair them with a slightly cropped tee (no need to tuck it in – tucking in is a right faff when you have to untuck and retuck a million times a day) and fancy flats for an easy daytime look. Add a longline cardigan and you’ve got my mum uniform right there… good for feeding but also crawling about under the highchair to retrieve dropped broccoli, sitting cross-legged on the floor in Baby Sensory and running after the pushchair when you forget to put the brake on.

 

Travelling Alone With a Baby – How To Not Lose Your Shit

Posted in Pregnancy and Baby, Travel.

Before Hazel was born, Rob and I travelled quite a lot. Not often to far-flung places – more like a weekend in London, or four days in Copenhagen. As we’re both self-employed, it was easy to pick a random date, book a couple of flights and find a nice Airbnb. Fling a few outfits in a cabin bag, arrange for our neighbours to feed the cats, and we were off.

Then Hazel arrived and travelling became an entirely different story. For the first three months we didn’t go anywhere, preferring the comfort of our own home and still attempting to get to grips with newborn life. When she turned four months, we drove up to Edinburgh for a couple of nights – the 3.5 hour car journey was slightly more stressful when listening to a screaming baby rather than a carefully curated playlist, but we had a lovely time all the same.

Then just before Hazel turned six months, I booked a trip to Madrid. Just two tickets – one for me, and one for her. Our first solo trip, and it involved crossing an ocean. BIG STEP.

I’ll be honest – I was absolutely shitting it. I loved travelling alone pre-baby, but having a wrangle a six-month old through two airports while also dragging a suitcase and juggling passports and boarding cards was very daunting. When would she nap? What if she cried on the plane? How would I get a taxi without a car seat? WHAT IF SHE CRIED ON THE PLANE?!

travelling solo with young baby

Hazel having a ball in El Retiro park, Madrid

In the end, though, it was absolutely fine and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I really stressed about the airport, particularly being on the plane with no escape if Hazel started crying, but it all went without a hitch and we had a fantastic time in Madrid. I got some great advice from fellow parents and found a few things were totally invaluable for a smooth transition from home to away, so I thought I’d put everything together in a handy checklist. Here we go!

Before you leave

– Check what baby baggage allowance your airline allows. I flew with Ryanair and on top of my own hand luggage and a smaller bag for Hazel, I was also allowed a pram/pushchair AND car seat OR travel cot. Some airlines don’t count your pushchair, so you could take a car seat AND cot AND pram.

– Try to take as few bulky items as possible. Just because you CAN take a pushchair, cot and car seat, doesn’t mean you really need to. Car seats can be hired at the airport when you land and travel cots can be included in hotel rooms or apartments. Airbnb is particularly useful for this, as you can filter your search for ‘family friendly’ apartments which often include a travel cot and high chair.

– Think carefully about what pram/pushchair/stroller you take. I agonised for ages over this – I have a Bugaboo and a Mamas & Papas Urbo2, but both are bulky travel systems that come in two parts. Your pram must be able to fit through the security scanners, and with the Bugaboo that’d mean removing the wheels… something I certainly didn’t want to be doing while in sole charge of a baby! In the end we bought a Babyzen Yoyo stroller and I literally can’t sing its praises enough. It folds down in one fluid movement that you can do while holding a baby. It’s super lightweight, easy to carry with a shoulder strap and can even be taken on the plane as cabin luggage due to its tiny size. It also comes in loads of colours. I bought mine from John Lewis and the Ginger colour pack from Natural Baby Shower.

travel pushchair stroller for plane airport

– If you’re flying with a budget airline, pay for a checked bag and priority boarding. I did the former but not the latter as I thought the addition of a baby would bump me up to the front of the queue – I was wrong! Staff were helpful and I did manage to get on the plane quite speedily, but being able to board at the front of the queue would’ve been really helpful for getting myself settled and feeding Hazel before it got busy.

At the airport

– If you’re taking additional baby luggage like a car seat, cot or pushchair that needs to be checked into the hold, you might need to queue separately after checking in. I did not know this and didn’t leave enough time to drop off the Sleepyhead (my ‘travel cot’ allowance!) at the specialist luggage desk, and the queue was massive. So bear that in mind!

– Give yourself enough time, but not too much time. I didn’t quite get this right in Manchester as I arrived at the airport with only 45 mins to spare (!!!) and it was very stressful. But on the way home, I had an hour and 15 mins to clear check-in and security at Madrid, and that was a good amount of time for getting through everything without rushing but not having a long and boring (especially for a baby!) wait at the other side.

– Take a sling. Seriously! I had Hazel in my Connecta carrier throughout the airport and it made everything so much easier. Just be aware you’ll have to take it off to go through security.

– Use the ‘special assistance’ line at security – it means you don’t have to queue with everyone else but get taken straight through to the scanners. There’s a member of staff there to help you – a lovely man at Manchester held Hazel for me while I collapsed the buggy and put our stuff in the trays. It makes such a difference to have an extra pair of hands for this bit, so don’t just join the normal queue!

– When at your gate, make yourself known to staff so they can help you (and potentially allow you to board early, although this didn’t happen for me!). Even though I had my Babyzen Yoyo which can be taken on-board the plane as hand luggage, the flight was totally full so they took it off me and checked it. I did have it right up to the plane steps though, which was a real help.

– To keep Hazel occupied on the flight, I took a selection of toys as well as a big muslin to cover her with so she could nap. But the most useful thing by far was a baby sensory video I downloaded from YouTube and saved to my phone – whenever she got a bit cranky or bored, I stuck it in front of her face and she was mesmerised!

solo holiday with six month old baby

When you arrive

– Work out how you’ll get from your arrival airport to your accommodation. I spent ages looking into the different options – I could get the metro into the city, but I wasn’t sure I could physically do it with a pushchair, a travel bed, a suitcase AND a baby! I could’ve booked a car transfer complete with car seat, but that was pretty expensive. My final option was to take a taxi – when you travel in a taxi with a baby, they don’t legally need to be in a car seat. I felt a bit uncomfortable about Hazel being in a car without a proper seat, but in the end I had her strapped to me in the carrier with a seat belt around us both and it was fine.

– Once you’re settled in your accommodation, the holiday can really begin! I found trying to keep to Hazel’s routine as much as possible while staying flexible was the best way to transition her from everyday life to holiday time. She had her morning nap in the apartment (dark, white noise, in the Sleepyhead) but then her afternoon nap was on the go – in her pushchair or the sling. It was a bit hit and miss but overall it worked well and was much easier than trying to get back to the apartment for the afternoon nap.

– Don’t do too much. Sightseeing with a baby is hard work – for you and them! If you’re heading to a popular tourist spot this summer, it’ll most likely be hot, loud and busy, which can quickly become overwhelming for a baby. I found that doing things in short bursts was best – we’d go to a museum with Hazel in the sling and wander for an hour, then spend the next hour in the park where Hazel could have a wriggle on the grass. After lunch we’d walk around the city with Hazel in her pushchair and the SnoozeShade over her (highly recommend taking a SnoozeShade with you – not only to create a dark environment for napping, but also to keep the sun off your little one when they’re in the pram) so she could sleep.

european city break six month old baby

Hazel napping while I enjoyed the Rose Garden in Parque del Oeste, Madrid

Before Hazel and I embarked on our Spanish adventure, I was very nervous about how I’d manage alone. When we were back at home and I had chance to think about the experience, I realised my nerves came from how I thought other people might react – if Hazel cried on the plane, if she got bored in a museum, if she wouldn’t nap and got overtired. I could handle all those things, but what if my fellow passengers/tourists couldn’t?

I soon realised, though, that to really enjoy travelling with a baby – especially when you’re doing it alone without moral support from a partner – you have to just get on with it and try not to worry about what everyone around you is doing. For the most part I found people were delighted to see a baby; they were super helpful and very accommodating. Next time Hazel and I head off somewhere, I won’t give it a second thought.

If you’re planning a solo trip with your baby this summer, I hope you found this post useful. And if you have more tips to add, I’d love to hear them – share away in the comments!

travelling abroad with six month old baby