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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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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.

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Recipe – easy baby carbonara

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This cheesy pasta recipe for babies and children is super easy and fast. Vital for when you’ve only got a limited nap-time window to get a million things done.

The best thing is that if you have cheese, milk, butter and pasta (for me, household essentials) then you’ve got yourself a meal in just 10 minutes. The sauce is also cheesy and gooey which goes down an absolute treat.

This recipe is loosely based on carbonara but you can add whatever you’ve got in the fridge into it. If you’ve got bacon and mushrooms then that’s great. But you can swap for ham or chicken and most vegetables. Today, I had bacon, a leek and a pot of sun-dried tomatoes in the fridge.

Enough to make two generous portions. I have a greedy hungry baby!

INGREDIENTS
* a handful of pasta – any variety whether baby pasta, dried pasta swirls or spaghetti or fresh pasta if you want to practically halve the cooking time.
* a rasher of bacon – cut off the excess fat and slice into small pieces
* around two tablespoons of chopped leeks
* three cherry tomatoes, chopped

For the cheese sauce:
* 10g butter – real butter is great but you can use any butter or margarine
* 10g flour
* 4fl oz milk
* 10g grated cheese

METHOD
1. Boil the pasta in a pan and simmer until cooked.
2. Pan fry your bacon and any vege in a drop of olive oil until cooked. My choice of leeks, bacon and tomatoes was done in about five minutes but if you’re using chicken, you may need up to 10 minutes.
3. Place the butter, flour and milk in a relatively non-stick pan and heat. Whisk it VERY frequently until it comes to the boil.
4. Lower the heat and leave it bubbling gently for about five minutes. Give it a whisk occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking on the bottom and to keep any lumps at bay.
5. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese.
6. Drain the pasta, throw in the meat and vege then pour over the sauce. Give it a stir and then you’re done.

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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

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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

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Happy Mother’s Day: How much our mums really did for us

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When I was a child, I looked forward to Mother’s Day. Each year I would enthusiastically make my mum a card, shout at her to stay in bed while I made her (burnt) toast and wrap the garish addition to the fireplace I’d insisted I wanted to bestow on her; for some reason I had an obsession with brass and thought a pair of brass bunnies and a brass teapot would look particularly stylish in our lounge.

One year, I remember asking why there wasn’t a “Children’s Day” – after all mummies and daddies had their day. My mum’s friend laughed and replied that every day was Children’s Day. I wasn’t impressed with this answer and I didn’t understand it either. I thought it would be nice for us as children to be spoiled for the day and waited on hand and foot. I’d forgotten about comment until today and it’s made me laugh at how naive I was.

As I grew up, I appreciated what my mum did for me but it hasn’t been until becoming a mummy myself that I truly appreciate just how hard this job was. And how in fact she deserved far more than one day of celebration a year. Now I understand more than ever how much my mum went through for me, how much she loved me and how much she did for me. And it’s amazing. So thank you mum and happy Mother’s Day.

Here’s just a snapshot into what our mums – and us as mums – willingly and happily go through:

1. Pregnancy: a glowing and wonderful experience but also plagued with being kicked in the stomach, trying to get to a toilet before you vomit next, carrying up to two stones in weight all day and being so tired you cry at having to walk 20 paces and having giant feet.

2. Labour: An unpredictable and un-quantifiable period of sustained pain, knowing it can only end with one thing….

3. Childbirth: Say no more.

4. Breastfeeding: Getting the hang of having an infant chomping on your body is no mean feat.

5. Baby blues: A cocktail of hormones and emotion after birth leaves you weepy for no apparent reason when you know you should be happier than ever. Thanks nature.

6. Goodbye independence: From now on you are no longer an individual – you come with a baby. Of course you love it but you can’t help but miss a little bit of freedom – for instance, when you need to eat, visit the loo, shower…. it’s not as if you want to spoil yourself.

7. Sleep deprivation: A recognised insidious form of torture. You do cope remarkably well but at times you do feel that you’re bordering on actual insanity.

8. 24-hour service: Tending to the immediate needs of a newborn literally around the clock. And there’s no day off. You’re filled with genuine confusion for what on earth you used to do with all that free time before you had a baby. Seriously, what did I do?

9. Irrational fear: Baby has a cold / rash / ear infection / dry skin / *insert any other problem here* – WHAT DO I DO!? You have no idea what’s really wrong or how to make it better. Best visit the doctor…again! I also developed a paranoia / fear that I would drop baby on the hard kitchen floor so would cling on to her for dear life just in case!

10. Career freeze: You work hard during your twenties to build a career…then have no choice but to walk away from it for an extended period of time to have a baby. Of course it’s illegal to discriminate mums in the workplace but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen under the legal radar. Did you know that a quarter of mums report feeling discriminated against and a third say they find it “impossible” to climb the career ladder?

11. Overwhelming love: Your life changes beyond all recognition when you have a baby but with it comes a fierce, all-encompassing and fierce love that you never could have imagined. It makes you vulnerable but also gives you super-human powers as you could – and would – do literally anything for that tiny little being without them ever needing to ask.

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10 signs you’re on holiday with a baby

This week we are having a much-needed break at Bluestone; Wales’ answer to Center Parcs. After the frenzy to pack and get here, it’s made me laugh at how much our holidays have changed post baby.

Here are my 10 signs that you’re holidaying with a baby: 

1.You decide it’s fine to leave the packing until the last minute. Then totally freak out when you realise you can’t actually do it while holding your baby or with them playing treasure hunt with everything you’ve put in the suitcase.

2. You realise you don’t have near enough clean baby clothes to last the week so have to stop en route to buy more. We came out of M&S with two new coats, a romper, pack of sleep suits, bag of baby grows and a swim suit. £100 gone and we’re only five miles away from home.

3. After being confident you’ll only pack the essentials and won’t overload the car, you pack every square inch of space in the car and celebrate being able to jam another spare towel or singing train. Having room for your legs is totally overrated anyway.

Overloaded car - picture from freedigitalphotos

4. You spend half the journey listening to songs about monkeys and the other half sat in silence hoping the rhythmic car journey will send baby off to nap. Obviously they don’t actually sleep until 10 minutes before the destination.

5. You can’t check in straight away so when shown where the pub is, you decline; you’re confined to the car and watch the rain until nap time is over.

6. Everything is done in pockets of time: so once you’re in, you dump everything and run to the pool – you only have 90 minutes until dinner time otherwise a meltdown will ensue.

7. Kids’ pools are suddenly the epitome of excitement once more – Blue Lagoon at Bluestone has a wave machine, rapids river ride, flumes, lazy river which goes outside and wet play zones. I don’t know who was happiest – baby or grown ups! Needless to say, we did take it in turns to hold the baby / ride the slides. Typically, our baby’s favourite was the staircase which we had to pull her away from after clambering up it 17 times.

Here’s a picture of the wave pool:

Wave pool at Bluestone

8. Your evening meal is now at 5pm and overlooking someone dressed as a clown dancing to Gangnam Style surrounded by a dozen hyperactive screaming children. But it kept baby entertained until dinner arrived and we were kept ‘hydrated’ with a nice glass of Birra Moretti.

9. You don’t feel guilty about going to bed by 9pm. Now this is something that’s taken us a while to learn. Usually on holiday, we excitedly stay up late drinking wine and enjoying adult company. As the week goes on, we slowly start to spontaneously combust from exhaustion. So this time around, my bedtime on the first night was 8.45pm. Up at dawn this morning with baby, I was feeling totally smug and raring to go. I’m sure I won’t be this sensible any other night of the week but I’m going to enjoy feeling awake while it lasts!

10. Your days are the most fun filled of any holiday in your adult life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of amazing action-packed holidays but there’s something about the infectious enthusiasm and unbridled joy from your toddler that makes you raise your game. Baby even makes simple things like exploring the holiday lodge a total adventure. But today we are going to visit Folly Farm before another trip to Blue Lagoon at Bluestone and I’m more excited about sharing with with my baby than when I went zip-lining across a Mauritian jungle, picnicked in the Grand Canyon or flew by helicopter over the Las Vegas strip.