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.


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: *****


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.