Trusting your instincts

If I ever had a piece of advice for new mums (not that you’d need any more as I’m sure everyone and  their dogs have had their two penneth by now!) it would be to always follow your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right to you, it probably isn’t.

This week Isla has been really off since Sunday, refusing her food and just not being herself. Then on Monday morning she started being sick and pretty much didn’t stop for two days. She couldn’t even keep water down and by Tuesday lunchtime, she was so weak and lethargic she wasn’t showing any interest in playing, reading, dancing, anything.  She just wanted to cuddle, which isn’t like her at all, she’s normally too busy, even when she’s poorly she still wants to play but this time, nothing.

We took her to the doctor who just said it was a viral bug and to keep an eye on her. But by Tuesday her temperature had gone up and I was worried sick, and when she threw up again, she brought up bile and what looked like coffee granules. I rang NHS 111, who just told us to take her back to the doctor, but I just knew that she needed more help. She was getting weaker, wasn’t interested in anything and wasn’t saying a word (we normally can’t shut her up!) – this wasn’t our daughter at all. I rang the GP back, but there were no doctors available for two hours so I took her straight to A&E instead. This photo was taken in that evening and look how poorly she looks.

The doctors there were brilliant and gave her a good check over, and it turned out her blood sugar was low and she was dehydrated, so we were taken by ambulance to another hospital 20 miles away where there was a paediatric ward. She was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and put on an IV drip with anti sickness drugs, and we stayed in over night while the fluids did their work.

The difference in her when she woke up was remarkable. She woke up and started singing to her favourite cuddly toy Piggy Wiggy as she normally does, and soon after she was demanding her drink and breakfast. Once she had scoffed down some cornflakes and toast, she was back to her old self, playing with her toys and colouring, chattering non stop!

We were discharged that afternoon and now we’re back home, slowly building her back up with plenty of water and bland food.

I’m so glad I listened to my guts, the doctors at the hospital and the ambulance crew said we’d done exactly the right thing as we know our daughter best, and if we’re worried, it’s normally for a good reason.

Morale of the story? If you’re worried in any way, if your little one isn’t themselves, or if something is amiss, definitely get them checked out. One of the lovely doctors said they’d much rather see a poorly child and be able to sort them out with Calpol or fluids than parents leave it too late and things to have deteriorated too much.


Conceiving with PCOS

To be told that you may struggle to conceive and that you “shouldn’t leave it too long” to have a baby isn’t something any woman wants to hear.

But to be told that you “shouldn’t leave it too long” to start trying when you’ve been in a relationship for just over 6 months is just plain awkward.

I’ll take you back to October 2011, I was 24 and my boyfriend (now husband) and I had just got back from our first holiday when a routine ultrasound scan of my bladder to try and solve the mystery of why I was suffering from so many UTIs (which to this day, remains unsolved) revealed I had polycystic ovary syndrome. The symptoms had always been there (I had, on average, three periods a year that lasted weeks and were insanely heavy) but I hadn’t even thought about trying to get to the bottom of it, at the time my constant UTIs were the more pressing issue.

The consultant then said I shouldn’t leave it much more than a couple of years to try to conceive as the condition would only get worse over time.

So no pressure then…

I then had to go and discuss with my boyfriend that his new girlfriend was “reproductively challenged” to quote Sex and the City, and let’s face it, having THAT conversation so early on could very easily produce a man-shaped hole in the door.

Luckily Now-Hubs was great about it and suggested I get a second opinion, and I’m so glad I did. At this point, all I knew of PCOS was that women who had it really struggled to get pregnant, so all I could envisage were bleak years ahead of us with an endless stream of negative pregnancy tests.

But the wonderful consultant at our nearby Park Hospital not only reassured me that there were plenty of options for women with PCOS, but that the original doctor was irresponsible and out of line for telling me  to hurry up and have a baby when I might not be ready.

We discussed my options and decided to try me on fertility drug Clomid, which I had to take on days 5 to 9 of my cycle and would essentially make me ovulate, when we were ready to start trying. We decided we were ready to try in July 2014 and after the second cycle of Clomid, I took a pregnancy test on Christmas Day that year and it was positive!

My point is that PCOS doesn’t necessarily mean infertility. It might not be easy to conceive, but there are so many treatment options out there now, it’s absolutely not hopeless. If it worked for me, it can work for anyone – although my husband is convinced he’s just got super strong swimmers!!


Dealing with eczema

As parents, we hate to see our little ones upset and in pain, especially when there’s little we can do to help them. So when Isla started to suffer from eczema when she was only 4 months old, it was awful to see her suffering.It started to appear on Boxing Day when we were visiting Hubs’ side of the family, first on her forehead, cheeks and chest, and throughout January it got worse and spread. In the first photo taken in February when she was 5 months old the eczema was at its worst, and it caused her such distress. We’d trim her nails constantly and put socks on her hands day and night to stop her scratching (mittens were so pointless as they fell off within minutes!) but despite our efforts, she’d constantly scratch her cheeks and legs until they bled, and her bed sheet would be covered in blood the next morning.

We had a real battle with the doctors to get her better. We were given so many different lotions, steroid creams and bath oils, none of which were any help, by four different doctors who tried to say that it was just dry skin and it would go away on its own, despite my insistence that she was miserable. I then went down the natural route of using olive oil (recommended by a health visitor), coconut oil (which was great at shifting her cradle cap) and aloe Vera creams but nothing worked and every time we tried something new, it just inflamed her skin more. Even worse, when we finally found a doctor who took me seriously and diagnosed her with eczema, we were told that we’d have to wait 7 months to see a dermatologist on the NHS! I couldn’t bear to see my baby girl in such discomfort any more, so we were referred to a private doctor in May where, thankfully, we finally got to the route of the problem.


The private doctor we saw was fantastic and explained that the main problem was keeping her skin hydrated, so he prescribed us Vaseline to keep her skin moisturised and a stronger steroid cream to clear up the sore patches. Within days her skin was so much better and she was so much happier now the discomfort was gone. The second photo was taken just a week after our appointment and you can see the difference, and I’m so glad I persevered and got her the treatment she needed

It took a while to be taken seriously, as the first few doctors dismissed it as just “dry skin” and that all babies get it, but I wasn’t happy as her skin was making her so miserable. So I’d always say that if you’re not being listened to by your doctor, insist on being heard. 


The struggles of sleep regression 

During the past year, there have been some things that we’ve struggled with. Getting Isla to take a bottle in the first few months was one, as has her eczema which I’ll discuss later. But the biggest and most challenging problem we had was when Isla was 4 months old. I’m talking about sleep regression.

Up until then, Isla was a pretty good sleeper and would go to bed at about 7.30-8pm, wake up at 1am and then 4am for a feed and go back to sleep. But she needed either rocking back to sleep or she’d fall asleep on me, and then I’d have to wait until she was deeply asleep before I could pop her oh so carefully back into her Moses basket.

She started waking up every 90 minutes throughout the night and it was a real struggle to get her back to sleep. I hoped this was just a phase but as the weeks dragged on, I became desperate and exhausted. I needed to do something.

My sanity was saved after discovering two sources online I’d like to share with you. First of all was weebeedreaming. After doing a lot of research, I realised that as she would nap once in the morning and again in the afternoon, a big part of the problem was that Isla wasn’t napping often enough or long enough and wasn’t going to bed early enough, and was therefore getting overtired. She actually needed to be napping every couple of hours and go to bed an hour earlier according to weebeedreaming. The other issue was that Isla had come to associate breastfeeding and cuddles with sleep and wouldn’t sleep any other way. So the key was getting her to nap more and to get her to settle herself without needing boob or cuddles.

But how to get her to settle herself? The advice on sleep training was very vague and short of letting her cry it out, I couldn’t find any clear instructions of how to do it.

Until I found this on a NetMums forum….

This advice, along with following WeeBeeDreaming’s sleep schedule, was the best thing I found. When it was nap time, I made sure she was full and with a clean nappy, and popped her in her Moses basket. For the first few attempts of following these instructions, it took a long  time and a few tears for her to fall asleep, but once she did she slept for nearly 2 hours whereas usually she’d be awake after half an hour, hence why she was so overtired. That night became a bit of a battle, but she gradually improved and within a week, she was waking up just once a night! Ahhhhh blissful sleep!

This advice saved my sanity and now I’m sharing it with you, so if your little ones  have a sleep problem like Isla did, give this advice a bash. It works!


Ella’s Kitchen vs my kitchen


I have a question. Why are the Mumzillas so up in arms about giving babies a pouch or a jar of food?

The reason I ask is, now Isla is 11 months old she’s eating a huge variety of food, both home made and pouched.
I do prefer to feed her my home made food, such as the pictured homemade cauliflower cheese and sweet potato bake which she loves, but if we’re out and about or just a bit short on time, we will give her a pouch of food too. But I’ve received some snidey looks from some mums for giving Isla a pouch. Why?
If you read the ingredients on the back of the pouches, there’s nothing nasty in there, just the same ingredients you’d put into normal home made food. For example the beef stew in the photo has only organic vegetable stock, organic veggies and beef, and some organic herbs, exactly what I’d  put in if I was making a meal for Isla.
Is it because we didn’t use our blood, sweat and tears to make it? Because making things a bit easier for ourselves is frowned upon?
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy making Isla’s food and it’s a nice feeling when she gobbles up my food. But equally I feel just as satisfied when she finishes any meal, as surely for us parents, the fact that our babies are getting fed is the important thing?
As long as we’re feeding our little ones healthy, nutritious food does it really matter where it came from? Whether it came from Ella’s Kitchen or my kitchen?


Things I’d do next time around

Now that Isla is nearly a year old (seriously, where has this year gone?!), we’ve already started fielding the inevitable “when are you having another” questions. Now the answer to this question varies from day to day. On bad days, the answer is a firm NEVER, whereas on good days, or days where I coo over newborns, I consider giving Isla a sibling in a few years.

But if I did do it all again, there are a few things I’d do differently. Here’s an example:

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  1. Trust my own instincts – the amount of times I wanted to do something, but either the baby books or other people’s advice suggested something different, was ridiculous. I can remember one time Isla was crying and I was told, by an unnamed person, that she must be hungry again even though I’d fed her less than an hour ago. I was sure it was something else but fed her again just to avoid an argument – only for her to throw up all her milk. It turns out she had wind. You know best, you know your baby.
  2. Sleep when the baby sleeps – I really should have made the most of Isla’s newborn sleep patterns and caught up on sleep, but I made myself even more tired trying to keep the house immaculate. I now know that people don’t care if your house is a bit messy when you have a baby, and Hubs wasn’t bothered if the washing was a few days behind. Make the most of the peace and quiet while it lasts!
  3. Cute outfits – newborns really don’t need cute outfits, when you’re changing them 10 times a day they just become a hindrance. Plus Isla was a petite baby right from birth so didn’t fit into most of the newborn clothes we had, so I had to improvise big time trying to find her matching outfits, as you can see! Seriously, sleep suits are fine, especially when they sleep for most of the day!
  4. Cherish every moment, or try to – on tough days, I felt like such a bad mum when I was wishing the day would end, as we’re supposed to “cherish every minute” right? Well, no. It’s ok not to be glowing with happiness when your little one is screaming bloody murder at 3am, motherhood is hard work and I know we’re supposed to treasure every moment as it all goes so fast blah blah blah, but don’t feel guilty if you’re not loving every minute, especially during the tough phases.
  5. There are no medals for Most Tired Parent – I feel bad for the amount of times I’ve berated Hubs for being tired. He works in London two or three days a week and stays in a hotel, which I admit makes me jealous that he gets two nights of uninterrupted sleep and as a result, have demanded to know why he is tired. It’s not a competition to see who is the most tired, it doesn’t get any of us anywhere.
  6. Wean when they’re hungry – I mentioned in a previous post that one of the problems we had with Isla’s sleep was that my breast milk wasn’t enough for her when she was five months old, but I didn’t want to wean her as all the baby books say not to until they’re six months old. As a good friend pointed out, all babies are different and Isla simply became hungrier than the books said she should. Had I trusted myself instead of Dr Randomer who’d never met Isla, we might have solved the sleep problems earlier.
  7. Stop using Dr Google – I was a nightmare for googling anything I thought might be wrong with Isla. Here’s an example of some of the questions I googled in the first few months: “how often should newborns breastfeed?” “Is my baby feeding too much?” “Why was my baby sick?” “Is my baby sleeping too much?” I’m one of life’s worriers and I’ve jumped to all sorts of conclusions, most of which haven’t been helped by Dr Google. For example, Isla had some pretty epic diarrhoea one day and Dr Google put the fear of Christ up me, saying that if it continued I’d need to take her to hospital as she could get dehydrated within hours. I was terrified that she’d caught some kind of killer bug, even though she had no other symptoms and was fine in herself. It turned out she’d just had a bit too much fruit which had made her poo runny. Chill the hell out and stop Googling! If you’re worried, call 111 next time. Which leads me on to…
  8. Dont worry too much about percentiles – Isla is a petite baby and was between the 50 and 25 percentile when she was born, and dropped to the 25 over time. This worried me so much as I was breastfeeding and I was so upset that maybe I wasn’t feeding her properly. Percentiles are just a guide, and our midwife admitted they set too much store by the graphs as babies may grow loads one week and not much the next. As long as they are weeing, pooing and gaining weight steadily, they’re fine.

Baby books: friend or foe?

Like many new mums, before our baby was born I acquired a variety of books, you know the sort – ‘The Ultimate Baby Guide’, ‘Parenting Made Easy’, ‘Babies for Dummies’ that kind of thing. But now I’m wondering if sometimes these sorts of texts do more harm than good.

For example, the advice in these books varies massively. In one book we own, it is advised that breastfed babies are not introduced to a bottle until they are 3-6 weeks old as they can’t differentiate the different sucking techniques needed and it will confuse them, and maybe even lead to them refusing the breast. Yet in a different book we have, it says to introduce bottles right away because they CAN do get the different techniques right! We followed the advice of the first book because I didn’t want to run the risk of anything upsetting my breastfeeding and as a result, she refused to take a bottle until she was nearly 5 months old.

Another issue I have with these books is that they’ve set out these landmarks of what every baby “should” be doing at different stages, and I don’t know about you other mums but it has made me feel like I’m doing something wrong if Isla isn’t. For example one of my books said that at 8 weeks, your baby should be “self soothing”, i.e when we put her down for a nap when she’s awake, she should fall asleep on her own and just a simple hand on her belly and ssshhhhing will suffice to soothe her to sleep if she cries. I thought this was too young but gave it a go anyway and suffice to say, Isla was not happy being placed alone in her basket and would cry and cry, no amount of ssshhhhing would calm her and I had to resort to rocking her to sleep as usual. The fact that she wasn’t doing exactly as the book says makes me feel like Isla is behind and that I’m doing something wrong.

But Hubs, bless his heart, made me feel infinitely better by saying this, which I’d like to share with you all:

“Not one author of a book or blog has ever met Isla. Only you, I and those close to us will ever know what is best for her. Keep doing what we are doing.”

And when I relayed this to my friends they were also in agreement as one said “you are a fantastic mother, now ignore the bloody baby books. Ur happy, she’s happy, that’s all thats important.”

And another said “We are all a special edition one of a kind and a book profiling all babies as the same and will respond in the same ways is nothing short of absurd and a nice money maker from nervous/gullible parents. If anything you do with Isla is wrong according to these clowns, never be right. You’re amazing with her.”

So mums, what I’ve learned here is ignore the advice about what we and our babies “should” be doing and just go with your instincts. By all means, keep a baby book handy for medical reference, but when it comes to development, ignore the books and let our babies do as we will. Now I’m off to build a bonfire…