6

Why can’t we get a good cup of tea?

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“Tea, tea, tea for two?” YES PLEASE!

Remember the last time you had a great cup of tea? You shouldn’t have to think. It should be your last cup. But why as parents are we subjected to such atrocious tea standards when it’s a time we need it the most (alongside chocolate Hob Nobs).

I love tea. I’m British of course I do. But then, I do love tea A LOT! I don’t drink it because I’m thirsty, I don’t find it at all refreshing in that way. My reasons are two-fold; pleasure and perfunctory. Up until I had a baby, tea was all about the pleasure for me and I love everything it signifies. I’m a busy person and rush around a lot and the act of drinking tea actually makes me stop, sit down and relax – if only for 10 minutes.

Tea drinking changed with the onset of parenthood. I’d given up tea during pregnancy which was hard but achievable as I’d felt sick for most of it. I’d naïvely wondered if this was the turning point for my tea drinking and that it was the natural opportunity to give it up. Then, after being up all night in labour, the midwife brought me a cup of tea and I gulped it down thankfully. From that moment, tea became far more perfunctory for me; I needed that caffeine fix. It was a careful balance of drinking enough tea to keep you awake after being up most of the night and not drinking too much so that if the baby napped, you could still sleep.

Ask almost any new mum and she’ll tell you how hard it is to actually drink a cup of tea when it’s hot and at it’s best. Most tea in the first six months is  drunk lukewarm or microwaved after a mammoth feeding session or a rare moment when baby does sleep – but on the condition that she lay on top of you and you don’t move, trapped on the sofa unable to move a muscle and watching your cup of tea go to waste.

My baby was into everything and was glued to me constantly but as she grew more aware, making tea became part of our routine. We made a game of it and she started to think making tea was fun – to the point now that when I ask her if we can make mummy a cup of tea, she replies ‘ooh yes please!’. We sing a song, she opens the pot, chooses a tea bag, gives it a shake and puts it into the cup. She knows the drill now and tells me what to do next – ‘be careful mummy, it’s a bit hot! Put the milk in, give it a stir, oooh delicious’. I feel like an actual Einstein genius for achieving this.

Back at work, it became a novelty to have a fresh, hot cup of tea which I could drink sitting down. My old office thought I was a tea extremist as I’d be fairly specific about how I liked my tea – skimmed milk, colour of a Rich Tea biscuit. I don’t have time to mess around with bad tea when I’m baby free. I would try to be polite and say I wasn’t fussy but then you’d end up with tea that tasted awful. Then you’d have to be even more polite and be seen to drink it. Why not just ask for something you like? Surely if someone is going to the trouble to make you tea, they’d rather it be a good one? That way, it’s actually appreciated.

I’ve wondered why soft play tea is so awful. Plastic cups, weak and tasteless, it’s usually just a tonic to survive the bedlam of children and to give you the caffeine kick to chase up ladders, through tunnels and race down slides. Surely there’s never been such a concentration of tired, thirsty mums just desperate for a great cup of tea. Maybe our desperation lets them get away with it.

My fussiness in tea drinking has reduced since having a baby. I need all the caffeine I can get and drinking cold tea or sub-standard soft play tea has lowered my standards. I consider it a huge act of kindness for someone to make or even buy me a cup of tea – and equally wary about people who don’t drink tea at all.

And so I’d like to call upon soft play centres, park cafes and anywhere that sees a mum with a baby to up their tea game. Take pity on us and serve us tea which is hot, has actually seen a tea bag for more than two seconds and has REAL milk in it – not out of a sachet or from a jug covered in cling film that’s been left out all day. You’ll not only win our custom but our life-long respect.

 

 

6

Grounds for instant divorce in baby’s first year

It’s For The Baby is proud to published new official criteria for divorce in baby’s first year. So daddies, beware and take heed!

Baby’s first year – us mums are tired. No, exhausted. No, we’re undergoing physical torture while learning to look after another life. Our limits are being pushed to the brink and, quite frankly, we don’t have the tolerance or patience to put up with any sh*t – from any source. Unfortunately, daddies, you’ve drawn the short straw. As you spend the most time with us, we often take out our tired grumpiness on you (sorry).

So to make life easier, here are some ground rules of what we’d ask daddies not to do in baby’s first year. Break them, and they’re official grounds for divorce.

1. Saying “I’m a bit tired”. You may be tired. You may have woken up during the night feeds too. And you do work hard. But seriously, you have NO idea.

2. Calling to say “I’m going to be late home”. Some days, we feel like we’ve been at home for a hundred years with a crying baby and constantly feeding. Daddy’s return home is literally the highlight of the day and we count down the minutes until you come in the front door. Just the very thought of you being late home can tip us over the edge. So we reserve the right to over-the-top go mental over this call. Even worse is not calling at all though so that’s not an alternative!

3. Coming home and saying “I’ve been working all day, I just need a break”. Sometimes, we haven’t eaten, haven’t showered, haven’t dressed, haven’t had a cup of tea, haven’t been able to put the baby down all day. Daddies please help us and forgive us for pouncing on you the second you walk in.

4. Waking up and commenting “They slept well didn’t they?”. Never assume baby has slept through when actually you’ve slept through and your partner has been up all night. Alternative – say “How was your night (would you like a cup of tea and pack of Hob Nobs)?”

5. Saying “I think they’ve done a poo”. If you smell it, change it.

6. Spending quality time with baby to give mum some relaxation but then saying “come and see this” every two minutes. I do feel mean about this one. We know you’re excited to discover what baby can do. And we do really want to share it. But we also need to eat, sleep and wee alone. So let us do that – we’ll be back pronto.

7. Changing the baby without doing up all the buttons on their grows / trousers. Just grrr.

8. When we do go out, not listening to the million instructions mums dish out. Look, we are barely a moment without our baby and we are a bit neurotic when it comes to leaving them for the first time. Please listen to the instructions and nod – it will make us feel better.

9. Never saying we look great. Okay so we may be a bit bedraggled, exhausted looking and still in need of our maternity jeans but this means that we feel awful and very un-sexy. Your compliments will genuinely make us feel awesome.

10. Telling friends you’re “babysitting”. Does not apply when it’s your own baby.

Anyone got any others?

Caveat to daddies – don’t take this personally, we do love and appreciate you really. Refer to this blog post which sings your praises. We’re just really really really tired. And grumpy. And irrational. And we’ll stay that way until we can sleep again. We know that us mums aren’t perfect either so if you want to submit your grounds for divorce, please get in touch *braces herself*.

Happy Mummy & Daddy

Happy Mummy & Daddy

4

Does baby brain exist?

What is baby brain? Is it a debilitating condition that turns your brain to mush or is it an excuse for when you’re not on par?

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I can’t deny I’ve had my share of baby brain moments. Such as when I put a whole toilet roll in with the washing the week after baby was born and when I dented my brand new car by literally driving into a parked van. There has definitely been a post-baby change to my brain where at times I wonder what has happened to my mental state of mind. I actually hope baby brain is real because it’s nice to have something to blame – I’m not actually going mad, allegedly.

The good news is that as my baby has got a bit older, my moments of baby brain-ness have reduced. This increase in mental strength has got me thinking and I’ve developed a theory on baby brain…

I don’t believe that mums’ brains are being turned to mush. I think that mums’ brains are being filled with so much more information and are being used so much more, we’re actually displacing our old knowledge. A theory I’m calling BBD – baby brain displacement.

Learning how to look after a baby takes a lot of time, concentration and (without realising it) brain capacity. Your senses are heightened and you not only need to look after yourself but need to become automatically atuned to looking after another human being. We’ve all heard of a mother’s instinct. I think that this is something that your brain actually builds and develops. In the same way that your body is tired while you’re pregnant because it’s supporting another life, your brain is bound to become fatigued when it’s learning to do the exact same thing once baby is born.

Think about how much more you do when you’re a mum:

– Even when you’re asleep your mind is on alert for baby. In the early days, even the semi-silent sound of baby wriggling and opening their mouth can be enough to stir you from slumber. If that’s not instinct, what is?

– Your day takes meticulous planning. You have a 10am music class followed by a play date. You’re up at 7am (if you’re lucky) so surely you can get out in three hours? Routine: Up, nappy, bottle, breakfast, wash, dress, nappy, desperately try to help baby fall asleep so they’ve napped and are not therefore grumpy making any outing pointless, get yourself washed, dressed, sterilise bottles, pack changing bag with nappies, spare clothes, bottles, milk, muslins, wipes, clean dummies (once hunted for), toys and books to entertain, lunch (once you’ve figured where you’ll be and will they heat it). Then another bottle, set up the pram, leave the house, return immediately for a dirty nappy requiring a full change of clothes. Leave again – this time needing to run because you’re so late…already thinking about the next feed and nap.
Think we just rolled out of bed and leisurely rocked up drinking tea and eating cake? No, this was a military operation.

– When you’re doing something seemingly simple such as walking down the street, you’re not only concentrating on the task in hand but are on high alert for any hazard and foreseeing any potential danger or accident; there’s a pot hole at five paces, dog poo at eight paces, pebbles to be picked up at 16 paces, steps to mount at 20 paces, is that the sound of a car? Will that patch of gravel trip baby over? Is baby about to make a run for it? Will not crossing the road to pet a doggie make them roll on the floor in a tantrum rage? Do I bash the car that’s parked on the pavement with the wheels of the buggy? Wait, it’s tea time in 10 minutes and we’re 15 minutes away from home! And all this while singing wheels on the bus on a continuous loop.

– Then there are the endless to-do lists which circulate in your head and the panic of when you’ll get stuff done. If baby naps for only 40 minutes, can I wash and sterilise the bottles, clean up after breakfast, boil the kettle for tea, shower, change, make the bed, do the washing, pack the car ready to go out…oh and catch up on precious sleep? Not really. No wonder the tea never gets drunk hot!

– And don’t forget you’re doing all of this while being physically tortured by sleep deprivation. Fuelled by (cold) caffeine and as much cake as you can lay your hands on, you have to perform like a super hero when you’re so tired you could sleep standing up.

So the next time you try to put yourself down by worrying about having baby brain, think about the amazing feats you perform every single day in caring for, nuturing, feeding and entertaining your baby. All this with no experience, training, guidance or sleep. If you do have a “baby brain” moment, it’s not that you’re losing your mind. That piece of information has just been justifiably displaced.

What do you think of this theory? Leave a comment below or say hello on Facebook or Twitter.

Like this blog post? Read these:
Post baby: why I changed
Things parents do they’re not proud of

3

It’s not all about you baby – but shouldn’t it be?

I’m sad to say that I’ve heard a lot of parents shouting at their children this week. I don’t mean shouting for their temperattention or the panic shout of NOOOO when a toddler tries to poke their finger into an electric socket. I mean really shouting. And there’s been one phrase I’ve heard more than most – “It’s not all about you”.

I’m not sure why this phrase has been particular prevalent. Maybe the amount of tempers I’ve heard flaring is more to do with the quantity of parents and children crammed into soft play centres and parks with it being the Easter holidays. But I do find it uncomfortable when I hear some parents telling off their children. I’m not perfect and at times I do lose my cool with my toddler’s fiercely independent and tempestuous nature – such as when she refused to hold my hand on the zebra crossing last week so decided to have a tantrum and lie down in the middle of the road with an audience of oncoming cars.

I try not to judge any parent and I understand how frustrating parenthood can be but there are some incidents that I think are totally unnecessary and I do pity the child. Such as when I saw a parent grab their little girl and drag her whole body by the arm across the pavement and into a Greggs shop because she was dawdling instead of walking and had fallen down. Or on a packed train when a mum screamed at her boys: “shut the hell up and sit your bum down”. I could see other passengers visibly wince and bite their lip from intervening. I don’t know what the boys were doing but the screaming was constant and the fact that it was loud from the other end of the carriage says it all.

Maybe these parents had their reasons. Maybe they were having a really bad day. But how are we supposed to expect these children to respond after being treated like this no matter what they’ve done to “deserve” it? I appreciate it’s difficult to think rationally when your temper is frayed and you’re being led by emotion but does anyone really think these children will respond well? That they’ll suddenly stop playing up and act angelically because they’ve been screamed at or dragged down the street? Can you imagine how you would act if someone treated you like this and we’re adults who are capable of processing and understanding the situation?

When did we start treating other humans – and most importantly, our own babies – without the respect that they deserve? Maybe this is naive of me but I can only hope that when these parents calmed down, they apologised to their children for their violent reactions.

As for the phrase I’ve heard so often this week; “it’s not all about you”. Two of these occasions were in response to very young children calling to their mummy to watch them whiz down the slide or to chatter to them while the mum was trying to read OK! magazine at soft play. As I’ve said, I’m sure there were reasons for not wanting to engage with their children at that moment. Maybe they’ve been up all night. Maybe all they want is one minute of peace in the mayhem of a hectic day. But if they saw the disappointment in their child’s face like I did, I think they’d reconsider. Because surely as a child, it is all about you. All they know is their world – and they are at the centre of it. They don’t have the comprehension that someone might want to do something selfish, even when it’s as simple as visit the toilet by themselves or sit down and eat a hot meal or sleep for more than two hours straight. It’s our role as parents to embrace this, be patient and nurture our children as they learn and grow. I’m probably being a bit too preachy but I’ve been so touched this week by this phrase. I look at my toddler and I don’t mind that she thinks life is all about her at the moment. Because to me, it is.

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6

The 18 stages of a baby lie-in

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It’s not often you get a lie-in with a baby. You may dream about it and obsess about the extra minutes (hours) of sleep you so desperately need.

Naively you analyse how long baby napped today and how they were late settling for bed – you assure yourself they’re bound to wake up a bit later tomorrow. Unfortunately, with babies logic never prevails.

But rarely, just occasionally, baby does miraculously sleep through their usual internal alarm clock and you are allowed to actually wake up naturally. Today we slept in until 9am!!! An actual baby miracle. I won’t lie, it was amazing. But I fell into the baby sleep trap which gets me every time…the 18 stages of reacting to a baby lie in:

1. Start to come around blissfully slowly but something feels strange.

2. Sit up bolt upright – what on earth is the time?!

3. Check the clock in disbelief.

4. Do a silent dance of jubilation.

5. Lay perfectly still wondering if you can get away with another snooze. Or maybe you should treat yourself to a baby-free shower or hot cup of tea?

6. No, definitely don’t move. Baby will sense it and wake up. You need to relish this feeling of being vaguely rested.

7. You need to wee. No, hold it in. It’s not worth waking the baby to go.

8. Hmmm, it’s funny that baby has slept so long. Hope they’re ok.

9. Baby is really quiet in there, surely they can’t still be sleeping.

10. Hope nothing is wrong.

11. Stealthily sneak to baby’s door and listen to the silence.

12. Become overcome with concern. You really need to check they’re ok.

13. Slowly turn the door handle and peep your head in – all achieved without making a single noise. Baby is of course fine and fast asleep. Relief.

14. Repeat military precision of closing door without a sound, tip toe back into bed. Put head on pillow and let out a relaxed sigh.

15. Baby cries. You’ve woken them up. Dammit. Bad parent.

16. Spend the day telling everyone about your amazing lie-in from your wonderful genius baby and enjoy your new-found energy from having actually slept.

17. Wonder if this is the start of a new era of baby sleep time? Maybe you can stay up past 10pm this evening – enjoy a glass of wine and being a grown up? You can totally work with this new routine!

18. At 6am the following day realise it’s not. Back to it then.

8

Holiday at Bluestone – How baby made me love rainy days

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This month, I was lucky enough to have a week’s family holiday at Bluestone Wales*.

Living near Cardiff, I’m familiar with Bluestone. And as our babies grow, more and more of my mummy friends are becoming familiar with Bluestone. In fact, I think we’re now starting to border on obsession. One mum will casually mention that they’ve booked a visit and all of us will look at her with immediate envy. I’m sure I’m not the only one that logs on to the Bluestone website later that day to check out the latest special offers.

My husband and I visited Bluestone in March last year with our baby who was then just seven months old. However, we were struck down with the curse of the baby ear infection. And no matter how hard we tried to relax and savour the holiday, we couldn’t help but succumb to our concern and exhaustion from round-the-clock baby comforting.

A year on, we returned. To say we were desperate for a holiday is an understatement. We counted down the days until our week of escape where we could spend every moment as a family without work, housework, credit card bills and the endless other chores and stresses of everyday life.

As the week approached, as did the certainty of the weather forecast; one day of sunshine and four days of heavy rain. Now, I’m someone who thrives on sunshine and passionately hates the rain – especially on holiday. Not to sound too dramatic but the thought of a holiday in the rain brings me bitter disappointment.

However, something changed in me on this trip to Bluestone. I watched my toddler’s unbridled joy at being on holiday – even in the rain. Encased in her new romper, she bounded about from puddle to puddle with glee. She squealed with delight as the wind blew in her face and the rain splattered down on her outstretched palms. Her most favourite thing on the holiday was the outdoor lazy river at the site’s Blue Lagoon swimming pool. She constantly pointed at it and when we started to get pulled in by the flow of water, her couldn’t contain her excitement and thrashed her entire body about in our arms shrieking. One thing was clear, no matter what the weather, she could not have been happier.

I quickly realised how old and boring I had become by the very nature of being an adult. My toddler’s emphatic enjoyment transformed my entire outlook and we didn’t waste a moment.

I’m not saying we played out in the rain all week but we certainly didn’t let it dampen our spirits. While there’s plenty of exploring to be done outside at Bluestone – especially with the whole of Pembrokeshire on the doorstep – there’s also lots for rainy days. And we crammed in as much as possible – laughing as we dashed through the rain to the swimming pool or the Adventure Centre with baby giggling and kicking her legs against the rain cover on the buggy. (Although part of me suspected she was laughing at us mugs out in the rain while she laid back in her dry, snug chariot and we affectionately nicknamed her Lady Muck for the week).

Pre-baby, if you’d have told me that a rainy week in West Wales would have been one of the best family holidays, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I’m actually now a little ashamed that I’d had such a spoiled and dull attitude in the first place. Sometimes you get so caught up in being a grown up with a set of likes and dislikes and being set in your ways that you actually forget how to let go. I’m so proud how my tiny little girl has taught me such a valuable lesson – to forget myself, to challenge life’s boundaries and to embrace every moment. So as corny as it sounds, thank you baby girl and thank you Bluestone.

* Note: I was lucky enough to be a guest of Bluestone Wales for this holiday. Visit my blog next week for a full review.

If you read this blog, you may also like: 10 Signs You’re on Holiday with a Baby

5

Campaigning for better breastfeeding support #BreastfeedPressure

Nearly two weeks ago, I wrote a very personal story for the Daily Mail about my horrendous breastfeeding journey. The following day, I was invited on the sofa on ITV This Morning with Eamon and Ruth Holmes debating the amount of pressure there was on new mums surrounding breastfeeding.

Talking about breastfeeding on This Morning

I desperately wanted to breastfeed but it made me very ill. Under the advice of 17 health professionals and breastfeeding advisors, I persevered for three months. When I asked if I should stop, I was encouraged to continue and even when I said I wanted to, my reasons were argued against. Eventually when I did stop, my recovery was almost instant and my baby – and I – were happy. Our trips out of the house weren’t confined to hospital visits while our days weren’t filled with tears, screaming, continuous feeding, expressing and setting round-the-clock alarms to take pain relief before it became too much. In fact the first time I gave my baby a full bottle of formula, she was content. Instead of crying, she lay in her pram and gurgled as we went for a stroll around the park. It was only that moment I realised how wrong things had been. If you haven’t read it, my full story is here.

I’m actually a rather private person. Talking about my boobs in a national newspaper or live on air would normally be something I’d never do but in this case, there was a greater purpose. I’m emotionally scarred from my experience. It was one that no mum should ever have to go through and I was compelled to speak out in the hope that I could stop another mum from becoming embroiled in such a negative and painful downward spiral.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the response so far. Dozens upon dozens of mums have spoken to me privately as well as via my blog, Facebook, Twitter and through This Morning and the Daily Mail. Breastfeeding is an emotive and controversial topic which people are incredibly vociferous about. I was prepared to be attacked – accused of putting people off from breastfeeding and generating bad publicity. And yes, there were people who were very nasty towards me. I tried not to engage with them – even though I had a valid answer for each one of their accusations.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the torrent of sadness. Mums who said my story made them cry because they understood the situation I was in only too well and empathised with my pain. Mums who felt they’d been forced to breastfeed under some shocking conditions. Mums who were consumed with guilt because they physically couldn’t breastfeed. It was almost an outpouring of grief from all the mums who were desperate to do the best for their baby, who wanted to breastfeed more than anything but were prevented from doing so for genuine reasons and instead of finding support, felt they were failures. I can only thank these mums for joining in the conversation and speaking out.

Reading these comments brought me to tears. I was moved at how many other mums have endured physical, emotional and mental torment along with what can only be described as an appalling level of pressure when they were at their most vulnerable. However it has also inspired me. I’m not content to rest at just getting exposure about breastfeeding pressure for a couple of days. I want to make a real difference. I want to reach out to any mum who is in a similar situation to help them understand that it’s okay if you can’t breastfeed and to take away the all-consuming guilt that eats you up as you look at your newborn baby who you only want the best for.

I want those people who label themselves breastfeeding “experts” to see people as individuals – to help them breastfeed through support not by force. And rather than be obsessed with the ‘breast is best’ mantra, to put the health and happiness of baby and mum first.

By telling my story, I’ve been criticised for not making my own decisions and not standing up for myself. Yes I take responsibility for my own choices but you have to bear in mind that as a new mum you are a physical wreck after labour and childbirth, you’re completely exhausted and you have a cocktail of hormones racing through your body. You naturally look for advice from the “experts” as you have no experience and worry that you don’t have a clue what you’re doing – surely they know best?

It’s only now that I’m strong enough to look back in anger at how I was allowed to become so ill for so long when I was begging for help. But this had made me all the more passionate about the issue and wanting to make a difference to help other mums.

Through my blog, I’d like to create a support community where mums can support each other through their breastfeeding journeys and I’ll be working on ideas for this over the next couple of months. If you want to be part of this, or if you know of any other opportunity where we can make a difference, please get in touch via the comments below or by emailing me: itsforthebaby@hotmail.co.uk