Mum Multi-Tasking

There’s just too much to do. There we go…it’s out there. Young children = constant stream of demands for attention and messes to clean up. Some of which are of the brown and smelly kind. Is it actually possible to keep on top of it all? I have come to the conclusion that the answer is…no. It isn’t (sorry). But we can have a bloody good go and there’s always wine to help us feel better about what we didn’t get round to. So here’s what I find helps:

1. Bath time is a good opportunity to clean
Yes, there is a lot of pleasure to be had in watching your children delight in their watery surroundings. And of course we can’t leave them unattended for even a moment. But if your children are past the baby/young toddler stage and can play in the bath independently, why not give the sink a wipe while they play? Two birds, one stone.

2. Waiting for the kettle to boil should give you just about enough time to load any bits and bobs lying about into the dishwasher (if you have one)

3.During those times when you have bagged your parking space outside school/nursery but it’s not quite time to make a move, gather all the child-related detritus from the back and either put it in the bin (food and drink detritus) or put it all in a bag ready to take back into the house when you are next there.

4.Young children naturally want to help (usually). Initially, their help will no doubt slow you down, but train them well and it will pay off. Free entertainment for them that also helps tackle the housework. Bonus. We are talking about things like pairing up socks, putting cutlery (nothing sharp, obviously) away, taking dry clothes to the right person’s room, putting toys back in their clearly-defined homes, putting their own laundry in the laundry basket.

5. Never go up or down the stairs empty-handed – always carry something that doesn’t belong with you to save a separate journey later.

6.Listen to music (that you like) as you do it…it helps. Both with lifting your mood and maintaining momentum.

7. Utilise learning opportunities that you encounter throughout the day. Children are naturally curious and will lead their own learning and discovery a lot of time, so there’s no need to feel guilty for not setting aside huge amounts of time for specific activities every day. You probably have forgotten just how many interactions you have had with them, how many questions you have answered and how many occasions you have provided them with guidance today. Did you count the stairs as you walked down them with your child? That’s learning. Did you remind them to wash their hands after using the bathroom? That’s learning.

Can feeding be ‘comfort compatible?’

See how it works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3LLDAkNUj0&feature=youtu.be

One of the thing that makes the early days with a newborn so challenging, regardless of how you choose to feed, is the frequency and duration of feeds. If baby isn’t sleeping, they will either be feeding or letting you know that they want to be! Therefore, much of the advice surrounds ensuring the caregiver is comfortable: mobile and TV remotes to hand, snacks and drinks on standby and in a relaxed position. To further aid comfort during these prolonged periods of sitting feeding, there are also a number of cushions on the market. When my son was born, I invested in a round, c-shape one. However, this was the source of immense frustration because baby kept falling down between the cushion and my tummy, and eventually I gave up and put his head in the crook of my arm and cradled him to maintain the position (for both breast and bottle feeding).
Unlike my son, my daughter has been exclusively breastfed, and therefore in the early days, was feeding at even more frequent intervals than my combination fed son. I had already decided not to bother with the c-shaped cushion as I had such little luck with it previously, and would instead simply use a square shaped decorative cushion from the sofa for my own comfort and to raise her a little higher up to be closer to me for nursing. However, these now aren’t quite as pristine as they once were (as you can imagine!) and not ideal for transporting. Although I wish I had discovered it earlier, I am happy to say I have now discovered a much more suitable alternative: the Hush Cush.
The Hush Cush has the perfect level of ‘plumpness’ (unlike the lounge cushions!) to raise the baby to the exact height needed for nursing (or a more comfortable height for feeding from a bottle). And, unlike a normal cushion, you slip your arm through the Hush Cush, so that there is cushioning above your arm (for baby’s head to rest on, bringing it closer to the breast, or your arm level for bottle feeding, plus aiding baby’s comfort) and below (to cushion your arm and elbow so you aren’t having to hold it (and the baby) up in the air and getting an achey arm). This has made nursing a much more comfortable process, and is particularly appreciated for those early hours feeds!
As well as the cushion itself being infinitely more suited to feeding than any of the makeshift alternatives I came up with (!), you can choose an outer cover to suit your tastes which is washable and tumble-dryer compatible. My daughter sometimes struggles to cope with a forceful letdown and consequently quite a bit of milk drips down her face…need I say more?
If you don’t want to be parted from it, the Hush Cush features a handy clip so you can attach it to your pushchair for those on-the-go feeds (it’s just like having a little bag attached). They have literally thought of everything!

Mum Efficiency: Naming Clothing

There comes a time when your child will require their possessions named, and if someone other than you is looking after your child before they start school, for any length of time, this could soon creep up on you!  Initially, I had purchased ye olde traditional sew-in name tapes.  Simple, effective, TIME CONSUMING! Of course, it does only take a few minutes to find the needle, find the thread, thread the needle, sew one side, tie a knot, sew the other side, then tie a knot.  For each item.  Sort of mounts up when you have many items, as I know my son has.  There’s a selection of short sleeved t-shirts, long sleeved t-shirts, fleeces, vests, trousers, shorts, a comforter, his bag, his shoes, hat, scarf, two mittens…need I go on?  Plus new/replacement items to be labelled tend to come in dribs and drabs so you can’t really have one mammoth session of labelling to maximise efficiency.  You might start out that way, but you will find yourself having to set up your needle and thread frequently in the early days as children go through sizes rapidly and seasons change. Yes, it is possible to sew them in, and yes, we do all have the ability to do it, and yes, our mothers/friends/aunts etc will all have done it in the past and lived to tell the tale. But if there was an alternative that achieves exactly the same in less time, I was more than willing to consider it.

Enter Petit-Fernand: a company which, among other things, manufactures labels that simply peel off the backing sheet and are stuck onto the garment’s care label and stay there, even after repeated wear, washing and tumble drying.  Your garment is labelled in about 5 seconds flat.  The stick-on clothing labels have the advantage of being easily personalised, so if your child is old enough to want an input, they can tailor it in terms of font, picture and background to reflect their personality (and the result is super cute), but also, tailored in terms of the information you wish to include, which can prove useful outside the childcare/education setting.  For example, in addition to my son’s name, I added my mobile number, so that if he drops an item whilst we are out and about, it stands a chance of being returned to us if someone finds it (after all, if no-one knows who my son is, they can’t get it back to him!)  But for me, the real selling point was simply TIME (see  ‘What to do with the time’ for more on time).

If you like the principal, they do a range of other products aimed at labelling other items: I also opted to try their adhesive shoe labels.  These work on the same principle as the clothing labels, but are manufactured slightly differently to be completely friction and perspiration resistant, so they still are very clear and new-looking despite wear, unlike  the old ‘writing it on with a biro’ method, which in my experience rubs off with time.

The only alternative solution that I could think of which is virtually as quick and long lasting is writing with a permanent marker.  However, although quick, and, well, permanent, that’s just it… if you hope to use the items again with another child, there may be some scribbling out and re-writing involved (if there’s space), and sometimes, more importantly, the ink can bleed into the label resulting in the name being very unclear, therefore defeating the object.  And there’s no going back.

They arrive in a neat, chequebook-style format that keeps all of the labels (regardless of how many different types of labels or different children they are intended for) together in one place, along with detailed instructions on how to use them. As you can see from the pictures below, you can simply flip to the labels you need at that particular time (the labels visible in the second picture are the adhesive shoe labels, accompanied by the sheets of protective film that make them resistant to perspiration and friction).

In the case of the stick-on clothing labels, simply peel off from the sheet, and hold against your garment label firmly for a few seconds, as shown below (note the cute background and picture):

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For the shoe labels, place the protective film provided over the name sticker and press firmly into the shoe, as shown below:

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I will be ‘sticking’ with stick-on clothing labels in the future I think, as they simply do the job quickly and with none of the drawbacks of other methods.  They are, I have to say, more pricey than some methods, but in my view, the time and hassle saving is worth it and for the quality of them I think the price represents good value for money.  I realise not everyone will feel this way, but it’s working well for us 🙂

I have both received free products from Petit-Fernand and paid for some myself.  The above represents my honest opinion and is intended to help other mums.  

 

What to do with the time?

I write to you now, for the first time, having enjoyed a leisurely lunch, child-free. There wasn’t much to choose from as I haven’t got round to doing the shopping as yet, but a Pot Noodle enjoyed for the first time on your own in peace and quiet can be truly savoured, I have discovered. The children are having a whale of a time with their grandparents and will want for nothing during their time apart from me. I could continue the relaxation and catch up on some much-needed sleep, and maybe even have a bath in peace if I wish…unheard of! But I would probably only get irritated by the fact it needs cleaning. Perhaps I could do that first. Then maybe tidy the toys away without someone immediately deciding that is the very toy they would like to play with at this second…and they would stay put away. It really would be a waste of an opportunty if I didn’t do that and it would aid my relaxation to see everything in order when I come downstairs after the bath. And then just do a quick tidy of the kitchen so it’s ready for making tea tonight. I should put some washing on beforehand so that can be happening whilst I do it to make the most of the time: after all, it’s not me actually doing the washing; I simply have to load it. And the dishwasher. And I could have the handwashing in a bowl soaking too otherwise they will have grown out of those handknitted cardigans before I have had the opportunity to wash them. Speaking of outgrown clothes, I should probably sort out all the piles of outgrown clothes currently cluttering their wardrobes into their respective size groups, ready to be stored or given away. That would make it easier to find the clothes that fit in the morning, as I will be able to see more easily the possible options knowing that everything in there actually fits (tomorrow we are going to visit a mummy friend (hooray)). As well as ensuring they have clothing ready, I will need to make sure I have restocked the changing bag with everything I might need for it. In fact, the new nappies I will need will be arriving any minute (I order them online as it is usually cheapest). Such a lot of packaging: I will need to tear it all up or fold it down on arrival ready for recycling before it takes over the house and adds to the mess. As I take the recycling out, I should probably empty the kitchen bin at the same time (it fills up so quickly!) and that will save me a job later. Speaking of things filling up quickly, the children are changing every day and my phone’s storage is completely full with pictures that need to be downloaded and categorised (along with obligatory backing up x 3 at least) and until I’ve done it I can’t take any more pictures! Mummy guilt for missing important milestones begins to creep in. Oh no… that’s half an hour gone already. Speaking of half an hour…that clock has been displaying the same time for a week now without me having changed the battery; then it would at least accurately display how little time I have left…

Can anyone else relate?

Learning@…The Supermarket!

Struggling to find the time to provide your little one with all those learning opportunities you imagined you would fill your child’s day with? I know this is at the root of a lot of my suffering with classic mom guilt on an almost constant basis, and the change to having two under two means an even greater squeeze on time and resources.

I had gone into motherhood with the misconception that the only truly ‘valuable’ learning time constituted sitting down with my child.on a.1:1 basis, with good quality resources and an idea in mind for what I wanted to achieve. Attending Baby Sensory sessions once a week did enable me to do this, and I thoroughly recommend them. However, once I am out of the baby class bubble and back in the chaos of daily life with siblings to look after, errands to run and lacking expensive resources, how can I possibly match that? Time to get creative…

Since having my second child, I have discovered just how valuable your environment, whatever that is like, can be, starting with shopping.  Although we are fortunate enough to have plenty of books here at home and have access to libraries if needed, I don’t always have them handy or with me, particularly when out and about shopping for example. But in fact any brochure, magazine or catalogue can make a good stand in, and these can be obtained for free of you didn’t happen to be buying one anyway. What about the brochures in Lidl and Aldi that advertise forthcoming offers? They make perfect pictorial displays to point at and discuss with your child (and great for ripping up if nothing else: perfect entertainment until you have access to sturdy board books). Rather than reading the words that are printed as you would do with a story book, discuss the pictures instead in a way that is rich in vocabulary and description: ‘Oooh, look at that round peach. Doesn’t ‘t it look juicy and delicious? Have you seen the skin? It looks like it would be soft to touch.’ Obviously you can tailor how advanced this is to the age and stage of your baby.

Naming things as you walk around is another fantastic, free and stimulating activity. A baby will most likely look with interest as you point at and name objects, but a toddler can lead by pointing at things of personal interest to them which you can be guided by. Of course you can elaborate on vocabulary with description if you wish. I find this to be most successful when   your toddler has snack in their hand to avoid them being distracted by their surroundings prompting hunger.

If you buy items that are loose, this is the perfect opportunity to introduce counting as you place each item in the bag.

Of course, if you have already wrestled the toddler into the pushchair, realised you are running late and the baby has just left an explosive one in their nappy then probably none of the above will happen, and that’s okay too…

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Listening

I don’t really believe in general whinging about how tough parenting can be (although the odd jovial ‘Here I am, up to my neck in excrement once again’ can provide some much-needed amusement).  We all know that there are challenges, just as there are with any path you choose to take in life (parenting or otherwise), and many rewards.  And for many of us, we ourselves have chosen the path we are on, and I certainly wouldn’t dream of changing the path I am on.  My children were very much planned, and had parenting been too much of a challenge first time, it is unlikely I would have chosen to do it all over again!

But what I do think can be helpful is sharing the hurdles along the way and seeking support from others.  Others can have a wealth of wisdom from experience, instinct and research, and in this regard, social media has enormous potential which indeed is already being increasingly and effectively utilised.

What I also think is important is recognition.  From what I can remember of ‘Men are from Venus, Women are from Mars’, typically women don’t always need a solution to their problem to feel better (and indeed, often, there is no ‘solution’ and neither would you particularly want there to be in some cases).  Apparently, what women need (and I’m paraphrasing from the book here) is to be listened to and their difficulties acknowledged.  Most of us aren’t seeking a medal for what we have done; we don’t expect any rewards from others for parenting our own children: having the children in our lives is reward enough.  Rather, it for someone to listen (thoroughly and completely), and then to simply reply, ‘Yes, I can imagine you must be completely and utterly exhausted’.

10 Things Not To Worry About as a New Mum…*

I know you will still worry about these things anyway, but nevertheless, here goes…

  1.  That your child doesn’t fit an item of clothing at the age stated on the label.  Shops vary hugely in what they would define as the measurements for a given size.  Asda tends to come up small for example (as do secondhand items due to copious amounts of tumble drying!), and Marks and Spencer tends to be more generous.  I find that as a baby on the 99th centile, my son was always working a little ahead of what the clothing suggested he should be.  My daughter on the other hand was just about in line with it.  Doesn’t seem to have affected either of them yet!
  2. How your baby is fed.  My son and daughter differ in how they were fed as they had different needs, and neither seem to have been disadvantaged by the approach adopted: they both thrived.
  3. Baby’s hair falling out.  My daughter is now sporting a ‘Cadfael’… bald mostly except a fringe of hair around the nape of the neck.  The hair that she did have is now attached to the lining of the moses basket, pram/bassinet, cot…. This is normal and due to baby spending lots of time lying on her back and rubbing her head against the surface.
  4. That in the first few weeks, your baby seems to be constantly feeding.  Again this is common.  In the case of breastfed babies, it is both necessary and inevitable that baby spends a large time nursing in order to establish your supply.  It does not mean that you do not have enough milk, unless there is evidence in terms of failure to gain weight (and this I am told is rare).  So as long as baby is gaining weight, put everything else on hold, accept as much help as you can with other children and anything that absolutely needs to get done (such as food preparation) and put your feet up in front of a box set. You are in for the long haul!
  5. Very runny poo.  Babies can have stomach upsets, but almost invariably, tan-coloured, runny poo is completely normal.  It is what both of my babies’ poo looked like for the first 6 months of their lives (until weaning began) despite the fact that they were fed differently.
  6. Clothes stained by poo.  Breastfed baby’s poo stains like a beast and generally will not come out in the wash unless washed immediately.  However, I have found a method that works.  Apply a stain remover directly to the stain, then put the item in the wash  with your ordinary detergent.  This will remove the worst.  If a mark is left, but the item on your windowsill in the sunlight (it doesn’t matter if it’s a cloudy day).  In time, the stain will be gone.
  7. Baby acne and cradle cap:  Your baby may develop spots that look like acne a week or two after being born.  It looks like acne because it is. Leave it alone and it will be gone soon.  Yellowy-creamy scales on the surface of the head bother you much more than they bother the baby.  Try Dentinox shampoo or Epaderm cream
  8. Bleeding that lasts for ages (you, not baby).  The hugest period of your life has started and won’t finish for about 6 weeks.  It is completely normal and made more comfortable with decent maternity pads
  9. Marks from the birth (baby).  Baby may have forceps marks on his face where a tight grip was needed (my son did).  These may look alarming at first, but fade quickly
  10. The house and what visitors might think of it.  Anyone who has had a baby before completely understands that this consumes your life in those first few weeks where feeding is almost constant and sleep is hard to come by, let alone time for housework.  Anyone who hasn’t had a baby before but does so in the future will come to understand.  People are there to see the baby, not the house, and will be so overcome by this that they won’t care about the state of the house.  I know it’s easy for me to say, but it’s true.  Have they seen your house tidy before, pre-baby?  Then they know that this is not how have lived up until now and there will be no judgment.

I am not a medical professional, the advice above is anecdotal based on my own experience and reading.  It goes without saying that of course if you are worried about the health of yourself or your child, seek advice from your doctor, midwife or health visitor.

Already a mummy: why I am uncomfortable with the term ‘Mum-to-be’

I have given birth to two children, yet I have never been a ‘mum-to-be’.  I realise this may seem impossible, but for me, the term is never one that I was happy about being associated with my pregnant self.

In my mind, ‘mum-to-be’ is someone who has never been a mum or been pregnant.  You have never had your own child that you are responsible for, although you might plan for it in the future. But of course at the very moment you conceive, you are already responsible and the choices you make will impact your child from that very moment (or even earlier, if you take into account the need to be in good health in order to conceive in the first place). Particularly well-known examples of this are choices around alcohol, smoking and taking the appropriate supplement (see: https://mumsessentialsblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/pregnancy-and-vitamin-supplements/) .  Because I was making choices about these and other things for my children long before they were born, or in the case of some aspects of it, before they were even conceived, I considered myself a mum from the day I first saw those two blue lines.  I felt every inch a mum, and the rollercoaster of life had taken a dramatic plunge into a completely different paradigm.  The ‘student’ days were well and truly over, but I didn’t seem to mind this… I was quite contentedly doing all that I could to cherish and nurture both bumps from day one and felt an overwhelming rush of love whenever I thought of him or her.  Like any mum, I’m sure I didn’t get everything right, and that’s no different in pregnancy to after it: it is a constant journey of learning.  But the compelling desire to do the best I could to care for the baby was certainly there.   This is why I feel so strongly that mums who have suffered miscarriages and those who have never had a live birth are still as much a mum as I am, if not more so, because they too will have felt this, but are also, unlike me, amazing towers of strength.  Mums who never carried their own children but have adopted or benefitted from surrogacy will have been planning, making decisions about their children (and loving them) from before birth, probably even more so than me.  All mums are united as mums, regardless of the nature of the pregnancy by which their child came about or the age of their child (and by child I include those who have just been conceived): we were all at no point mums-to-be but were in fact mums from the very beginning.

So dear pregnant or expectant friends, whether you hold inside you a bundle of cells or are minutes away from holding your bundle in your arms, drink in the amazing realisation that you are already as much-a-mummy as those of us diving for that-about-to-spill-over cup of coffee…

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Sharon-Ann Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Cup of milk: How the oldest of human rituals requires the newest of innovation

 

The trend for mothers to return to work at some point after childbirth is characteristic of our modern society, and for this reason, amongst others, there is an ever-increasing need for many women to develop means of mothering their children despite being parted from them for periods of time. Breastfeeding is no exception to this, and as such, mums are often turning to technology to facilitate this. Electric breast pumps provide a quick way of expressing milk with little effort, and as such, they are very popular among nursing mothers.  In my case, I found them invaluable in providing my tongue-tied son with my milk despite his inability to feed at the breast (see: https://mumsessentialsblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/14/if-it-hurts-youre-doing-it-wrong-when-breastfeeding-doesnt-work-out).

Whatever your reason for choosing to express your milk using an electric pump, the prolonged periods needed holding the flanges to fully empty the breast may be time-prohibitive.  Indeed, when exclusively expressing milk for my son, I imagine about an hour and a half of my day was spent using my pump: time which, whilst well-spent, was not the most useful or productive.   I am fortunate that I am able to feed my 11 week old daughter without impediment, but in order to be parted from her for a short period of time, I once again need to make use of my electric breast pump.  The difference is this time, I have a toddler to care for, and long periods of time with my hands attached to flanges is not conducive to keeping the environment safe for him or keeping my time spent cleaning down: I have lost count of the number of times I have dived for that cup containing leftover coffee dregs that has seemed so appealing to him..not easy when both hands are already accounted for!  I have therefore felt that for some time, a solution to this was long overdue.  We need some new technology to solve a problem created by the new technology!  It would however appear that it is here (thank goodness!) and goes by the name of Simple Wishes Hands Free Breast Pump bra.  The flanges happily sit inside the especially-designed cups, which totally cover everything and leave your hands free to work, type, attend to your baby or see to your misbehaving toddler, and, unlike your toddler, once inside the cups those flanges are not going anywhere.  I wish I had owned something like this when exclusively pumping for my son, as time not spent with my hands occupied would have been time gained for that all important tummy-tickling…