The moment I finally broke

Everyone has a limit, a breaking point, a moment where they finally surrender and admit they need to make a change. Mine came in the presence of a complete stranger when my baby was stark naked on a set of scales, and I admitted, out loud, I felt like I was failing as a mum.

Let me take you back to nearly four weeks ago, when Rory was 14 weeks old.

Sleeping like an angel…finally!

As I’ve said in a previous blog post, I hadn’t enjoyed breastfeeding Rory half as much as I did with Isla, mostly because I’m so exhausted from feeding him all through the night to try and get him back to sleep. But “breast is best” right? So I was determined to continue as I felt that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be giving Rory as good a start in life as Isla had. The official line from health officials is that breastfeeding gives babies “the best start in life”, and while I agree that it has many, many benefits and that I am very pro-breastfeeding, it’s bloody hard and it was this thought that makes life so tough for new mums, and it’s no wonder that postnatal depression is such a common occurrence.

The moment I knew I needed to stop struggling on and seek help came when I went to a Top Tips session run by my local Sure Start centre. The session are run by a health visitor and are aimed at mums of 4 month olds looking to start weaning soon, but when I casually mentioned about Rory’s bad sleep and how I was considering bottle feeding him because I was worried he was just always hungry – although I really, really didn’t want to because I felt I’d be admitting defeat – she suggested that we weigh him just to see how he was getting on.

He weighed a healthy 13lb 4oz at 14 weeks old, but all I saw was that he’d dropped from the 50th centile to the 25th since he was last weighed at eight weeks old.

That was when I burst into tears.

In my exhausted, frazzled state, I thought it must mean he wasn’t gaining weight as well as he should, and as I was breastfeeding him around the clock, it was my fault, and I was failing him.

Bless her heart, the HV was brilliant at calming me down. She pointed out that he was gaining weight, he was happy (throughout this exchange he lay there on her scales, completely naked, with a huge grin on his face!), and was incredibly alert, so he was doing fine. It’s perfectly normal for babies to drop a centile or two over time, and that the percentiles aren’t the be all and end all. As long as he’s putting on weight, he’s fine.

I fully expected her to judge me for wanting to try formula feeding him too, as all health visitors I’d encountered over the years had bleated on about “breast is best”, but she said if I thought it would help, then just do it.

I’m so grateful to this complete stranger who wiped away my tears, helped me put Rory’s clothes back on and assured me that I was doing fine, and the fact that I was so determined to give Rory a good start in life showed that I am a good mum, while also saying giving him formula too wasn’t depriving him of anything. To exclusively feed him for almost 4 months was a really good amount of time, and that as long as he’s fed, changed, and loved, he’s not missing out on anything that Isla has had.

Three weeks on, Rory is now fed roughly a third on boob, a third expressed milk, and a third formula, has two or three feeds at night, and now weighs 14lb 1oz, hovering just above the 25th centile. I feel a lot better now I’m not losing my mind from exhaustion, and I’m so glad i stopped being stubborn and reached out for advice.

I’ll cover the ridiculous pressure put on mums by others to exclusively breastfeed in another post, but for now, the morale of the story is this. Parenting is tough, one of the toughest things we’ll ever do, and if you feel as though you’re struggling, or just need some reassurance, ASK FOR HELP. Take that step and reach out. Don’t suffer in silence. I expected to be judged, but the truth is, the only one judging me was me, with my stupid notion of thinking that bottle feeding would be admitting I was failing at feeding my baby. He’s happy, therefore so am I.


Battle of the bottle

I haven’t done any review-type posts for a while, and since I’ve been wading my way through multiple bottles and teats, I thought it was time.

So many teats, so little time!

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, we’ve been trying for weeks to get Rory to take a bottle with the view to, eventually, combi-feed him by breastfeeding during the day and bottle feeding at night. To avoid nipple confusion, I followed the midwife’s advice and didn’t introduce a bottle until breastfeeding was fully established, which was recommended to be when he was 4 weeks old. As getting Isla to take a bottle had been a bit of a battle, albeit only trying 2 varieties of bottles, I was expecting a similar experience. As expected, when I approached Rory with the only bottle Isla would ever take (a Minbie), he wouldn’t even entertain the idea. No biggie, I thought, it’s early days.

But as the weeks went on, he still wouldn’t take a bottle and would scream as soon as one went near his lips. And as I’ve described earlier, his sleep was getting worse and worse because he’d wake up multiple times in the night to feed. I was desperate to get him to take a bottle so I could give him some formula in the hope it would a) give me a break from constant boobing and b) maybe, just maybe, make him sleep better.

I tried 5 different brands of bottles, all claiming to be as close to being a nipple without actually being a nipple, yet they were all completely different. The Tommee Tippee might actually look like a nipple and boob with its larger, round base and teat, but the teat was so unyielding and stiff, it was no wonder Rory wouldn’t go near it. I know most people swear by TTs, but Rory wouldn’t even consider it.

It was a similar experience with the Dr Browns. The teat was huge, elongated, and very stiff (fnar fnar…😳), poor Rory nearly choked on it. The Minbie, which Isla had taken to instantly, was rebuffed as well.

I was starting to get desperate. I tried giving him both expressed milk and formula in different bottles, and he wouldn’t take any of them. Hubs tried giving him a bottle with me out of the room, still nothing. Two different friends then recommended Nuk bottles, and all the reviews seemed to suggest that this would be THE ONE. Nope. Still no dice.

By now, Rory was 14 weeks old and would actually start screaming at the mere sight of a bottle. After posting a desperate plea for advice on a mummy blogger page on Facebook, and seeing all the replies from mums whose babies had NEVER taken a bottle, I was ready to throw in the towel and just hope that he’d eventually start sleeping better.

Then another friend who’d been through similar boob/bottle struggles recommended MAM bottles. I thought, what the hell, what have I got to lose?

The bottle arrived the next day. And this happened 👇🏻 on the first go…

Yes! It’s empty!

I was so relieved. The teat was not only softer and more flexible, but actually seemed to suit him because the teat was contoured to fit a baby’s pursed lips. And now, at 16 weeks old, Rory seems to have really got the hang of it. Yes, there are times when he’ll refuse one if he’s in a bad mood, but we’ve found the best times to spring it on him seem to be when he’s just woken up, and hungry.

No, before you ask, I’m not being paid by MAM for this post, but I’m so relieved and grateful I was told about this brand I just had to write about them. These bottles have been a godsend. Hubs can now feed him which means I can have a bit of a break, and a rested mummy is a better mummy, amiright?!

So if you’re struggling to get baba to try a bottle, give MAM a go. And even better, you could try one for FREE! Go to this link and use the code TRYMEFREE at the checkout, you’re welcome. (At the time of writing, this code was still active, please let me know if it isn’t anymore!)


Bring on the Breastapo

Ok, I’m going to say something controversial here *braces self for tidal wave of vitriol.*

I haven’t enjoyed breastfeeding this time around.

There, I said it.

I know I shouldn’t say it. I shouldn’t even be thinking it, because “breast is best”, yes? And while I do count myself very lucky that I’ve been able to breastfeed both of my babies, and while breastfeeding Isla was a more pleasant experience, I just haven’t been able to enjoy feeding Rory this time around.

Our chunky little boob monster!

As I said in a previous blog, Rory is a bad sleeper and a hungry baby, and nine times out of ten, will only resettle after a feed, which means that all of the feeding and night wakings have fallen solely on my shoulders, no matter how many times he wakes in the night. With Isla, who was for the most part, a good sleeper, I was so relieved that I could breastfeed her without any problems from day one that I felt a sense of accomplishment every time she latched on, and actually did feel that warm, fuzzy feeling mums are supposed to get at every let down. With Rory, again while I did feel relieved that he latched without any issues, I couldn’t enjoy it because it’s constant. And therefore, painful, and no amount of Lahnolin will soothe my poor nips.

Still think I’m wrong to admit this truth? Allow me to set the scene. It’s 3am, Rory has woken up for the fifth (yes 5th) time since 7pm and I’m exhausted and sore, yet I know the only thing that will get him back to sleep is yet another feed. But the whole time, I’m worrying that creating a boob=sleep association will make things even more difficult going forward, and I’m crying from exhaustion and despair because all I can see is months of broken sleep and an overtired, constantly hungry baby.

We’ve been trying to get him to take a bottle of expressed from when he was four weeks old and he only took one for the first time last week at 14 weeks. Even when I dared to ask for advice on getting a baby to take a bottle on a Netmums forum, the reply I got stated that there was “plenty of time for dads to share the feeding” and that I should be enjoying all those “sleepy feeding cuddles”. I should be enjoying hourly wake ups and red-raw nips?! I don’t think so Janet. But thanks for the fresh dose of mummy guilt.

So it’s been painful, exhausting, and bloody draining. But “breast is best”, so I shouldn’t be complaining because at least he’s getting all that “liquid gold” as one health visitor called it, am I right? It was this very thought that made me struggle on for weeks because the mummy guilt was eating me up. I CAN breastfeed him, when many other mums can’t for whatever reason, so therefore I SHOULD be exclusively feeding him, yes?

Bollocks to that frankly, and I say this loud and clear. FED is best, a happy baby with a full tummy and whose had a better nights sleep is best, and having a mummy who isn’t about to lose the plot from sheer exhaustion is best.

Rory’s first successful bottle feed.

Which is why we’ve started combi-feeding Rory now that he’s three and a half months old, with the view to start bottle feeding him at night once he’s got the hang of it. I gave him bottle of formula last week just before bedtime once we’d found a bottle he liked (thank you MAM bottles, you saved me!) and on the very first night, between 6.30pm to 6.45am, he woke up just three times for feeds, instead of five or more. Obviously it’s early days, and he’ll refuse to take a bottle if you catch him at the wrong moment, but frankly, this is something I really want to do, if anything so I can have a bit of a rest and be a better mummy to Isla because I’ll have more energy and more patience after a bit of a break.

Part of me wishes I’d been able to exclusively breastfeed him until he was six months old, like I did with Isla, but a bigger part of me is relieved. Does it make me selfish for hoping that the formula will make him sleep longer at night? Perhaps, but it suits us because considering what we’ve been through for me to admit I’m struggling to exclusively breastfeed, it’d be a welcome relief for him to sleep for more than two hours at a time.

So if the Breastapo wants to come at me with flaming torches for daring to give Rory the odd bottle of formula, bring it on. Because all mummies want is a happy baby, and for us, if happy means a bottle of formula here and there, so be it. So there!


Why I love the newborn stage

Yes, I said it. The disturbed sleep, the black, tar-like nappies, the uncomfortable feeling of trying to sit down while your nether regions haven’t healed yet. I love this stage the most.

Once the dust had settled and we’d got our heads around being a family of four, I fell in love with the newborn phase of Rory’s life, just as I had with Isla. And yes, this is a strange opinion, but I’ll tell you why.

As one of my closest friends put it, right now Rory pretty much is in a routine of eat-sleep-poop-repeat, which means excursions out of the house are quite easy as he just sleeps the majority of the time. He feeds every 3-4 hours so it’s relatively simple to plan a trip out between his feeds. I even managed a day out shopping and doing lunch with my mother-in-law when he was two weeks old and he either slept happily in his pram, or watched the world go by. So much easier than keeping tabs on a toddler who wants to touch everything, not hold my hand, and decides halfway round that she doesn’t want to walk anymore.

Plus newborn sleep is brilliant. The average newborn sleeps up to 18 hours a day and we’re lucky that when Rory sleeps, he sleeps. Very deeply, and for a good couple of hours at a time, which means a good amount of downtime for mummy. I can either get jobs done (I’ve even been able to vacuum around him!), eat, enjoy a hot cup of tea, or actually catch up on some sleep – like you’re always being told to. Plus newborn sleepy cuddles are just the best!

Give it a few months and he’ll be napping a lot less, and will be a lot more active, so that cuppa will be left abandoned on a high shelf while I’m chasing a crawling/toddling baby around the house. Right now, I also don’t have to worry that if I pop him in his Moses basket and turn my back for a second, when I look back he’ll have crawled out and will be trying to climb into the washing machine, which I’m enjoying while it lasts.

Because don’t get me wrong, i’m under absolutely no illusions that these blissful, quiet hours will last. I’m very aware that this is the calm before the storm, and that babies can change in a heartbeat from happy, sleepy babies who feed like clockwork to angry little sleep thieves who just want to cry for hours on end. With Isla, that change came on New Years Day 2016 when she turned 4 months old, and then BAM!! Four month sleep regression hit, and Isla stopped sleeping. At all. And because she was overtired, she was miserable as hell, which meant trips out of the house were very stressful and consisted of her screaming her head off, making this exhausted mummy frustrated and weepy.

Then once we were past the sleep regression, Isla started crawling and developing so quickly, so our days were spent trying to stop her crawling under the coffee table and keep her clever little mind active.

So that’s why I’m making the most of these quiet days where I’m actually able to enjoy a hot brew and an episode or two of Game of Thrones. Where I don’t have to worry about packing little pots of puréed food on a trip to the supermarket in case he gets peckish. Right now, just whipping out a boob will be enough to settle him. But not for long!

The old saying goes that mums should “enjoy every minute”, so that’s what I’m doing right now. And hoping that the day it all changes won’t come too soon, as I love sleepy cuddles with Rory. I love watching him sleep and feeling him snuggle into me when he’s feeding. I love watching him flap his little arms and legs around when he’s on his playmat. He’s a little treasure, and I’d love to keep him as the little snuggle bunny he is now!


The Debate Club

When I’m with my mummy friends, we often put the world to rights about various issues that everyone seems to have an opinion on, including the choices us mummies face and often, the criticism we face for making the “wrong ones”. Here’s my two penneth on some of the topics we’ve talked about. FYI, these are just my opinions, I’m not saying they’re the right ones, just that they’re mine…

  • Breastfeeding in public – I really wish I had been brave enough to be one of those mums who could breastfeed her baby in the middle of a shop or restaurant, but I just couldn’t. If I ever had to feed Isla in public, I found a baby changing room. I really admire those who could, and I believe that if baby needs feeding it shouldn’t matter where you are, you should be allowed to just crack on and feed them, but I’d heard too many stories (mostly in the Daily Mail) of poor mums who had been confronted by “offended” onlookers to do it myself. Maybe next time…
  • Vaccinations – surely this one is a no brainer? Why would anyone not want to protect their children from deadly diseases? Yes, some do come with side effects, but I’d rather take the side effects than the disease itself. If anyone can come up with a good reason not to vaccinate their children against meningitis, rubella and so on, I’d like to hear it!
  • Dummies – most of my friends have given their babies a dummy, but we didn’t give Isla one. I know many babies find a lot of comfort in dummies, but we decided not to give Isla a dummy as we were worried that it would be hard to wean her off it. Luckily Isla has always been a very placid, settled baby and we’ve never had an occasion where she seemed like she needed one.
  • Breast vs bottle – I’m very pro-breastfeeding and breastfed Isla until she was 6 months old with no problems. But I’m also very aware of how hard it is and that many women struggle with it. I know I was very lucky to have found nursing relatively easy, that it’s not for everyone and I very firmly believe that as long as baby is being fed, it doesn’t matter whether it comes from a tit or Tommee Tippee. Although I’d definitely recommend all women give it a try, especially in the early weeks, as I found it so much easier to just scoop Isla out of her Moses basket and feed her straight away rather than faff about sterilising and making up bottles multiple times a night! 
  • BLW vs purees – both are brilliant! I’ve got splinters on my arse for sitting on the fence, but we’ve tried both with Isla and they both had their positives. Baby led was great for teaching Isla to feed herself, while spoon feeding her purees was also great for making sure she actually ate something.
  • Cry it out – I admit, I’m not a fan of crying it out but for a somewhat daft reason. When Isla was going through sleep regression, we tried sleep training which was a great success eventually as she learned how to settle herself, and while we were going through it I read a poem posted to Facebook written from the POV of a baby being left to cry it out and it made me sob. With lines like “I need you mommy, where are you?” it broke my heart. I know there’s absolutely no way to know what goes through a baby’s mind when they’re crying it out but it just stuck with me. 

Our top 5 baby food recipes

Weaning was a bit of a minefield for us. Because Isla didn’t get her first teeth until she was 11 months old, her food had to be pureed quite smoothly as she struggled with big lumps since she couldn’t chew very well. Finger foods also had to be soft or easily dissolvable.

I did plenty of reading up on tasty recipes that could be blended to an easy consistency for Isla and found these to be her favourites. I’ve also marked them on how easy they were to make as some recipes I found took an age to prepare!

5. Baby ratatouille by babycentre.co.uk – I tried this one when Isla was about 10 months old and while it took her two tries before she got used to the strong flavours, she gobbled it up and Hubs and I thought it smelled damn good too! It takes a while to cook so not one to make in a hurry, but it’s worth it.

Yummy rating = ****

Easy cooking = ***

4. Cheesy vegetable medley by Heinz Baby – there are many things in life Isla loves, and cheese and vegetables are in the top of the list. So this recipe went down a treat. She’s moving on to more hearty meals but this was a great recipe for the early days of weaning.

Yummy rating: *****

Easy cooking: ****

3. Fish with peas by Cow & Gate – Aside from the slightly fishy smell left in the kitch after cooking, this one is a firm favourite with both us and Isla. Easy pea-sy (sorry) to make and a great place to start when introducing little ones to fish. Isla now eats all fish and loves them. Also as a side note, we found Cow & Gate’s 5 Step Weaning Plan was brilliant. I’d been a bit daunted by the idea of getting Isla to try solids and had no idea where to start, but this guide spelled it out in plain English and it was dead easy to do. I’d highly recommend it to other first time mums, thanks C&G!

Yummy rating: ***

Easy cooking: *****

2. Savoury chicken casserole by babycentre.co.uk – This one is really good if you want to eat the same meal and at the same time as your baby. The chicken casserole is so tasty and filling, super healthy and most importantly Isla loves it. Takes a while to cook so this is one to prepare early doors.

Yummy rating: *****

Easy cooking: ***

1. Tomato and butternut squash pasta by Annabel Karmel – Where do I start? I love love love this one! So simple to make, smells incredible (a welcome change as many baby foods look and smell revolting!) and oh so sophisticated. Have to admit, when I’m standing at the cooker sautéing the tomatoes I feel like a SuperMum, look at me cooking posh meals for my baby, eff you Mumzillas!! And most importantly, Isla gobbled it up at the first go and after three months, is very much the firm favourite. I now cook twice the amount and freeze about 6 portions at a time. I’m gradually working my way through Annabel Karmel’s website as there is such a variety of recipes.

Yummy rating: *****

Easy cooking: *****


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?