Paid To Breastfeed

This child would not have earned me £200.

Have you seen the most recent news about the results of a pilot scheme which sees mothers given up to £200 to breastfeed? The five-year trial saw moms in certain parts of the country given £120 in vouchers for certain shops if they said they were breastfeeding when their baby was six weeks old, and a further £80 if they were six months on

The experts are now recommending this be rolled out in a bid to up our breastfeed rates which are, when compared to the rest of the world, pretty shocking. Now let me start by saying I’m absolutely in favour of boob milk. If you can feed your baby and they’re happy and you’re happy then great! But this idea of paying people to do it makes me absolutely fuming! Seriously. My husband mentioned this story to me a couple of hours ago and I’ve been seething about it ever since. I think it’s disgraceful to essentially punish people (by not giving them the same financial opportunities as others) for something that could be entirely out of their control.

What about the mother who desperately wants to breastfeed and has spent days, weeks or even months trying to get their baby to latch on but they just won’t? (I had a baby who had six days of INTENSIVE breastfeeding support in hospital. Every single person who worked in the hospital she was born in had a go at trying to get her to latch, and she was just useless at it bless her. She was losing weight, she was in danger of becoming jaundice again and both she and I were pretty unhappy. Should I have stuck at it and potentially endangered her health?)

What about mothers who have conditions which mean they can’t breastfeed, or who are on medication that prevents them from doing so safely? Shall we just encourage people to delay their chemo for six months so they can get an Argos voucher? Or come off their antidepressants at the most vulnerable time of their life so they can pick up something nice from Debenhams?

What about those for whom breastfeeding, or the thought of doing so, has a completely negative effect on their mental health? I am absolutely all for breastfeeding where possible, but if it’s going to make you poorly doing it (or trying to do it) then you have to think about the long term health of yourself and your baby because clearly if you’re unwell that’s going to have an impact on them.

What about those who have to return to work really quickly after having their baby to support their family, perhaps if they’re not eligible for maternity pay or can’t afford to live on it, if dad isn’t around or is unable to work? Yes ideally you’d work somewhere where it would be possible to continue to breastfeed or express but we all know that’s not always feasible.

What about those who are simply too physical unwell to breastfeed? ‘Sorry you were in a coma six weeks after your baby was born but you REALLY should have tried harder to keep feeding her. No voucher for you!’ Yes, it’s extreme, but it does happen. I have heard SO many stories in the last two years about women who have been pushed to the brink physically by carrying and birthing their child so for them, whilst a lovely year-long breastfeeding journey that came to a end naturally when baby decided to wean would have been ideal, it’s just not possible to do it.

I can think of so many more examples where mom may really want to breastfeed but not be able to get to that six month, or even six week, mark. It may be easy to look at it as a simple choice of ‘I want to breastfeed’ or ‘I want to formula feed’ but I think in the majority of cases it’s much more complicated than that.

I also slightly object to the thought that we may need to give financial incentives to people. We’ve all seen the facts, breastfeeding has many benefits. If it works then it’s great (and let’s face it, you’re already getting the financial benefit of not buying formula or bottles or sterilising equipment), but you should want to do it because you’re aware of the advantages not because you’ve seen a new coat you’d like to buy with the vouchers.

Why aren’t we putting that money towards educating people about the benefits of breastfeeding?

Why aren’t we putting that money towards having more support for people who desperately want to breastfeed but can’t?

My other questions are: what about combi feeding? We seem to concentrate so much on the whole BF/FF debate but do you still get the money if you’re combi feeding like we are? Do you get a percentage of the money depending how much breast milk your baby has?

And who’s checking whether these people actually are breastfeeding? Have we got spies sitting in the local Starbucks checking who’s got a boob out? Or hiding in people’s wheelie bins peeking through their window to check if they’re sneakily making up a bottle of formula?

What a truly sad state of affairs if the only way to drive up breastfeeding statistics is to throw a bit of cash at people!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

All I Want For Christmas Is…

Having an under-table party. I wasn’t invited.

We’ve all got something we’d like the big bearded man from the North to bring us on the 25th, right? This year my Christmas list is depressingly short. I don’t want clothes because the fanciest place I go to is baby group. I don’t want books cause the last time I read a book was during my first pregnancy. Alcohol and chocolates are both out of the equation. And I have far too many socks already.

So I got to thinking, what would I REALLY like as a mother this year? Aside from all that guff about cheer and happiness and world peace. What would make my life about a zillion times better? Here is my by-no-means-exhaustive-at-all-I-just-wrote-this-while-they-napped-SIMULTANEOUSLY-for-once-HURRAH list:

The ability to go for a shower and not have to stop the water at least five times because I can hear imaginary baby cries. Or just to learn that they’re never crying and it IS just my imagination.

To go to the shops without coming back with some sweets that I had to bribe the toddler with and a new outfit for the baby even though he has more clothes than the Kardashians.

To go out and come back with all the baby socks, dummies and sippy cups I left the house with.

A Sunday morning where you look at the clock and say ‘nah, it’s only half nine, I won’t get up just yet’.

Naps to continue until both children go to school.

Delivery drivers to never arrive when either child is sleeping.

The toddler to decide she wants the first thing I suggest for lunch, not the 47th.

A washing up fairy.

Never to have that awful feeling when you lose sight of your kid at soft play, frantically search for them for a minute and then they suddenly appear in a place you’ve already looked five times.

For them to finally make the episode of Bing where Flop finally flips and tells him what an ungrateful, whiny little nause he is.

Failing all that, just no tantrums for a week.

Failing all that, just no tantrums for a day.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Baby 2: Eight Months Old

Smiley boy!

I almost forgot to do this update! Max has been eight months old since Sunday. Just look at his smiley face!

Movement: Still commando crawling and rolling around everywhere.

Sitting: Making good progress here and he’s sometimes now able to sit unaided for a couple of seconds.

Teeth: None but potentially some signs that he’s starting to teethe.

Brain: His MRI results came back and they’re confident it’s just a blood vessel anomaly and absolutely nothing to worry about which is reassuring.

Cough: Max is just getting over a bout of bronchiolitis which has been tough for him – lots of coughing, disturbed sleep, coughing so hard he’s sick, he’s been off his food, just not a good week at all.

Bottles: He’s only really having three now and it’s been a real struggle to get any milk into him, that may be the illness so I haven’t cut down expressing yet just in case he goes back up to four once he’s fully better.

Food: Potentially there was a reaction to lamb or turnip so we took both of those out of his diet and were due to re-try lamb on the dietician’s advice, but then he got ill so we haven’t added anything as it’d be difficult to tell if he was reacting or just poorly. He’s now having Neocate Spoon supplements to add some more calories into his diet. We’ve really struggled getting much food into him recently but hopefully his appetite will come back. We’re now down to: cauliflower, broccoli, parsnip, avocado, blueberries, strawberries, peach, plum, Nutribrex cereal and coconut milk/yoghurt.

Toys: He absolutely loves some pom poms Alex won in a game of Halloween pass the parcel. Also liking his Nuby teething toy that goes in the fridge, his inflatable ring he can sit in (kindly donated by his cousin), jumparoo and anything that Alex plays with too, so he spends a lot of time ‘helping’ her build towers with her Lego!

Weight: He weighs 16lb 12 which puts him just above the 9th centile which is great news! We go back to his consultant in January who will be thrilled if he’s still following the same curve. Max is wearing mostly 6-9m clothes now and although most of his tops and t-shirts are fairly roomy, I think he’ll move up to the next size trousers roughly when he turns nine months if he carries on growing at the same rate.

Naps: Normally, Max has a nap in the morning from around 9.30am (slightly later sometimes) til approx. 11am. Then in the afternoon he’s most happy if we can get him to sleep from about 1.30pm to 3pm. This all varies of course depending on what we’re doing that day.

Babbling: He’s much more talkative than I remember his sister being at this age. He babbles constantly and it sounds like he says ‘okay’, ‘yeah’ and ‘hiya’ quite a lot although clearly he has absolutely no idea he’s doing it. He’s very expressive and one of those babies who ends up making friends in the queue at the supermarket as he’s normally very smiley.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Balance? Where Are You?

If I stopped going to Asda, I reckon I’d have about 89 extra free hours a week.
Kids are not dressed as it was pyjama week at baby class, not because I’ve given up.

Among the many glib cliché phrases used around/to/about mothers is this idea of ‘finding the balance’.

When you’re younger, finding the balance maybe means not getting completely off your face every weekend so that occasionally you can spend a Sunday doing something other than watching Netflix and crying cause your face feels like it’s going to fall off. Or sometimes not working late and coming home to actually cook something in your own kitchen.

Then you have a baby, and you’re encouraged to spend all your time gazing at this little tiny newborn because you’ll NEVER have this time back again and who cares about having clean pants anyway? But in reality did any of us heed this advice and stop doing the housework completely?

And then you get to a point in life where you have two children who basically take up 100 per cent of your brain space and most of your time, energy (and patience of course). And you find yourself wondering whether you’ve got the balance right?

I mean sure, on the face of it, we’re swimming along kind of okay and nothing has sunk yet and we all normally get fed and washed during the course of any one day. Some days the baby naps on me and I get to watch mindless television for two hours while also looking at Instagram because there’s nothing else you can do when squashed beneath a quietly snoring infant. Some days I cook something vaguely presentable for dinner that isn’t beige and has more than one vegetable in it. Some days I wear make up. I’ve had a shower every day since I got home from hospital with Alexandra, my firstborn, because I decided not showering dipped below my ‘lowest acceptable standard’.

But the thought of all the things I didn’t do again – well I try not to go there else I’d never switch off and go to sleep at the end of each day.

Between feeding (a lovely mixture of bottles, weaning and food for the toddler too, as well as eating ourselves), expressing, changing bums, getting dressed, going out and actually doing something with the kids, nursery drop off, nursery pick up, baby class, endless shopping trips for avocado and parsnips (because the baby can actually eat them), rocking to sleep for naps, baths, washing up (I have no idea how we manage to use the entire contents of our kitchen cupboards approximately 46 times every single day), I feel like there are so many things which get pushed to the bottom of the list.

I agreed to write a press release for someone weeks ago and only just did it today, I have more ironing than I’d like hanging on the back of the bedroom door, the house is vacuumed fairly regularly but jobs like wiping down the skirting boards and cleaning the oven get left or just half arsed very occasionally, there are all sorts of other things languishing at the bottom of my to do list which may just never get done.

And yet, I do have spare time. Maybe if I used the time while I’m expressing more effectively, or didn’t watch as much Netflix in the evening, or maybe got up a bit earlier, then I could achieve so much more with my day. I’ve joked before that when Dylan comes home and asks me what I’ve done, my stock answer is: ‘kept the children alive’. Sometimes, I’m actually deadly serious and I couldn’t tell you anything else I’ve managed.

Have any of us really got the balance right?

Does anyone go to bed thinking: yep done everything without burning myself out? Does it matter that some days I look like I got dressed in the dark? That I’ve been to the gym three times I think since Max was born back in March? That I have utterly no idea how I’m going to squeeze any work into this scenario once I finish my maternity leave at the end of the year?

I would put ‘try and find a balance’ on my to do list, but we all know it’d end up right at the bottom somewhere between ‘learn how to make soup’ and ‘pluck your eyebrows – they’re a state’.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

World Prematurity Day

Our super baby

I debated whether to write this blog as Max was only a little bit premature and it feels a bit like telling people you’re a trained mathematician just because you passed your maths GCSE. But the fact is he was born before ‘term’ and we did see inside the walls of an NICU unit, thankfully only for a short time. So it’s World Prematurity Day and I wanted to mark the occasion by sharing our journey – although I have talked about it in various different blog posts since Max was born this March.

When I was pregnant, we were warned repeatedly about the potential need to deliver baby well before he was ready to arrive. The goal was always 37 weeks which is classed as term, and we had an induction date set months before (April 8 was the date we were aiming for). At times during the pregnancy, reaching viability at 24 weeks seemed like an impossible task – but as it was we reached 32 before there was any sign of trouble. I was admitted for ten days and prepped for a potential induction with two steroid injections to help strength baby’s lungs.

At 34 weeks, we went for yet another growth scan which revealed baby had stopped growing and there were concerns over the blood flow from the placenta. I knew as soon as the sonographer said she needed to talk to the consultant that there was a problem and I’d probably be induced that night.

Two days later on March 26, I held my baby in my arms for the first time. We’d had no idea before birth whether he would be poorly, require oxygen or be absolutely fine. He came out breathing on his own and spent a happy 15 minutes lay on my chest before being taken up to transitional care by the team as I needed to spend six hours on the labour ward being monitored before they were happy to move me. By the time those hours were over, he had been transferred to the NICU with breathing difficulties.

The next few days were a whirlwind of antibiotics, different theories on what was actually wrong with him, tubes, wires, jaundice masks, doctors, nurses. Weirdly, given I’d just given birth and my baby was poorly, I don’t think I crumbled. Except when they told me Max needed to go on a ventilator as he was struggling. That was like someone had punched me square in the stomach. We went back up to my room on postnatal and listened to the healthy cries of healthy babies while mine was having a tube inserted down his windpipe. That got to me.

A whirlwind of emotions. Every day we just prayed for a stable day – not for anything good to happen, that was too hopeful, just a stable day. I expressed every three hours because it was something useful to do, even though he wasn’t drinking yet. I only went back to my ward to eat occasionally, express and take tablets. Then after a few days they let me transfer to the parent accommodation which was bliss as I had a bit of peace and quiet and most of all, I couldn’t hear other babies crying.

At 4lb 13, he was the biggest baby on the NICU but he still looked tiny to us! He showed us his character, tugging at his tubes whenever his breathing got stronger as if he was telling us he didn’t need them anymore, and no matter how often the nurses tucked him in, he insisted on having one foot resting on the little cosy rolls of sheets wrapped around him to make him feel safe in his roomy incubator.

By the time we got him home (one hospital transfer, one operation, one feeding routine established, one hell of a ride later), he just looked like Max to us. Yet when I look back at photos, he’s incredibly thin and still quite ill looking. Now, you’d never know. We chose not to share pictures of him on the ventilator, so any pictures on social media or here are either when he just has his feeding tube in or when he’s completely tube free. I don’t know whether we will in the future, but for now they’re just for us to look at and marvel how far he came in such a short period of time.

Before we had Max, I’d never really thought that much about premature babies although I’ve known a few people who’ve had them. But now I know, they are among the strongest beings out there. In the morning, things can be touch and go and by the afternoon they can be fighting again. They are so tiny but so fierce, and they are looked after by some amazing people who go above and beyond to keep them safe but also to look after you too.

Watching my prem baby go through everything he’s faced so far has truly humbled me. I will never stop telling him how proud I am that he has smashed every obstacle in his way to become a baby who no one would ever guess has had such a hard ride. I take my hat off to all prem babies fighting their incredible fight, but I especially take my hat off to my Maxi.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Weaning – A Low Risk Diet

Yeah, it’s another weaning post. I know they’re becoming very regular but I’m hoping as Max is having such a different weaning journey to non-allergy kids that they serve a purpose, either to those who have offspring with allergies or just to interested people too I guess.

Last week, we went to see the paediatric dietician for the first time since Max’s diagnosis. I so wish we’d been able to see her before we started weaning but they’re fully booked months in advance apparently. Essentially, she said we needed to start Max on a diet consisting only of what were considered ‘low risk’ foods for his condition (FPIES). Once we’ve got to the point where we are happy he isn’t reacting to any of those, we’ll then begin introducing ‘medium risk’ foods one by one, with each one trialled daily for a week to see if there’s a reaction. It’s positive in one way because hopefully it’ll enable us to narrow down exactly what he is allergic to and what he’s fine with, and there’s a method rather than just madness.

But in another way it feels like a bit of a step back. The foods he’s allowed are pretty random too – it’s like that bit at the end of Can’t Cook Won’t Cook where they used to produce a carrier bag with some random ingredients grabbed off the shelf of the nearest supermarket and they’d have to put together a tasty meal. What can you make with a lightbulb, some lettuce, a Dan Brown novel and pasta?

For us, it’s a case of what can you make with the rubbish vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, parsnip, turnip and pumpkin), fruits that don’t puree very well (strawberry, blueberry, watermelon, peach, plum), avocado, millet ie bird seed and lamb.

I’m just hoping he takes to the low risk foods really well and then we can start on medium, which includes apple, pear, white potato, squash and beef. It’ll probably be a while before we move on to the really risky stuff like chicken, egg, soya, banana.

The dietician has also asked his GP to prescribe something called Neocate Spoon which is essentially a supplement you add to their purees which is high-energy and adds some calories into what they’re eating. I’m really pleased about that because he’s done so well with his weight that it’d be a shame to see that reversing as we move off milk on to solids.

We talked a little about expressing and she was really keen that I continued to feed him, with a specific mention of calcium and that she thought it’d be better for him to have my milk. So I feel like the decision’s been made for me really that I’ll continue expressing til March if possible – although on the bottom of the sheet where it details the risky foods, it talks about breastfeeding past the first year. I’d always said no matter how long I expressed for, I wouldn’t go past a year. Alexandra had her last bottle a couple of days before her first birthday and I just imagined my second child would do the same. I guess if he hasn’t got enough foods by then to provide a well rounded diet then we’ll have to have that discussion – I really hope not though!

Nothing is ever straightforward is it! I thought second time round, weaning would be a lot easier because we’d done it once and managed to get one kid eating well. But, at least we have a structure now and hopefully we don’t have too many bad trials and lots of positive ones that provide us with some more inspiring foods for Max to eat.

An update two days in:

We were given his new dietary rules on Wednesday morning and I’m writing this on Friday morning. So far it’s going okay: there were a lot of dirty nappies yesterday and he also has the sniffles which can be another symptom so it’s possible he’s had a reaction to something before we cut down to the low risk foods. The big news is we’ve had hardly any sick yesterday and today – he wasn’t vomiting a huge amount other than when he had what we thought were reactions to soya and wheat, but there’s definitely been a reduction. It could just be coincidence but fingers crossed not.

The diet seems so utterly basic and having tasted the millet before I gave it him, I did feel slightly like handing him the Childline number and telling him to feel free to report me for trying to feed it to him. I think what we’ll do with that is mix it in with other, slightly less tasteless, foods just to bulk everything up. Last night I managed to find a stock which doesn’t contain milk, soya or wheat (which is basically akin to finding a specific grain of sand in the Sahara desert) so I can cook some lamb up for him.

An update five days in:

All going well so far. I’ve noticed a huge reduction in how much he vomits. He’s never been ridiculously sicky unless he’s reacting to a food, and having had the Queen or Sick for my first child nothing surprises me. I had assumed his sick was caused by his reflux but there has been a reduction in the last week so that’s fantastic. We’re getting more dirty nappies than usual but they’re not a worrying consistency.

Another change has been how happy he is in the afternoons. We’d had a trying couple of weeks where he’d been howling during the late afternoon and early evening. Having assumed it was tiredness or being hungry, we’ve shifted his lunch and afternoon bottle back a bit (lunch at approx 1 and bottle at 3) then pulled his dinner earlier to 5. So this could be the reason he’s happier or it could be the new foods aren’t irritating his tummy. Who knows? Wouldn’t it be lovely if they learned to talk before we had to wean them so they could tell us!

He’s got the sniffles at the moment which can be a symptom so we’re going to wait until they’re fully gone before even thinking about medium risk foods.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

What I’d Tell My Pre-Baby Self

Isn’t it crazy how things change from year to year? Three years ago on this date, myself and Dylan had just booked our wedding and had also decided to start trying for a baby. Two years ago, I’d been home three days from hospital and our lovely Alexandra was a couple of months old. This time last year, I was three months pregnant with Max and we were immersed in the world of scans, appointments and telling our family about our shock second baby.

It’s something I think about fairly regularly, what I’d tell my pre-baby self. Bearing in mind I have a history of mental health issues and had been hospitalised not long before embarking on a relationship with the man who I now call my husband and share two babies with, so I think reflection and progress updates are especially important for me.

Before I had children, I had no idea how tough it would be. I don’t think anybody truly does – nothing can prepare you for the whirlwind of emotions which comes with having a tiny being dependent on you for everything. Nothing can prepare you for the hormones, the tiredness, the physical exhaustion, the tears, the fear (constant, constant fear that your kid will stop breathing or fall down a manhole or you’ll somehow completely eff them up and they’ll become totally dysfunctional adults). But equally nothing can prepare you for how hilarious the journey will be, how joyful, how exciting and how varied.

I worried constantly about whether I was up to the job when I was pregnant with Alexandra, but I probably worried about all the wrong things because I had no idea of all of the ways being a mother would test me. Of the times I’d want to smother Dylan even though I absolutely adore him and think he’s wonderful. Of the times I’d want to close the front door behind me and just walk away and not have to think about nappies, wipes, raisins and whether the amount of baby sick I’ve got on my clothes has tipped over the acceptable level.

I’d definitely tell my pre-baby self to relax. There is utterly no way to predict how each day will go with kids and you may feel euphoric at 10.05am and devastated at 10.10am. Just go with the flow. I don’t think I had any idea of what I could withstand before I had the children. I’d somehow muddled through a pretty traumatic mental health episode and got my shit together a little bit, but I never felt like a strong person until I had children. Until I grew two babies inside my own body (I still find the process of pregnancy crazy and I don’t understand how it’s even possible?!). Until I looked at a crying baby who I had no idea how to fix, looked round and realised it was just me, they were all I had and I had to stick with it until I fixed them. Until I collapsed into bed at night and thought ‘this day has broken me’ but then still got up the next morning to do it all again. Until I looked at my second born with so much personality that he was trying to pull his breathing tubes out at three days old while my first born just got on with her whole life being turned upside down because she’s THAT resilient and realised that I would always be strong for them.

I’d tell my pre-baby self that you will completely and utterly change. You will lose yourself, because it’s hard to maintain an identity when you are ‘mom’. You will look in the mirror and wonder what happened to the person you were before. You’ll look more awful than you ever dared imagine. At times you’ll feel more awful than you ever dared imagine. But you’ll never want to go back and eventually you’ll find the new you. Because you’ll watch your children lying on the floor, heads close together, giggling their heads off at each other even though there’s utterly nothing funny happening. Because you’ll see the way your baby’s eyes light up every time you speak. Because your toddler will make you roar with laughter by calling her daddy ‘mate’ or telling you she made sandcastles on the ‘bitch’. Because you’ll watch them when they sleep with their perfect eyelashes and squishy cheeks and you’ll want to stand there forever. Because you’ll feel like something’s missing when you don’t have both of them with you. Because you and your husband will regularly look at them and say ‘we created them. Aren’t they hella cute?’

Because you’ll be a mother, and no one can ever take that away from you.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

The Ten Stages Of A Toddler Tantrum

Moments before a mega tantrum.

If you’ve never experienced a toddler tantrum, then either you don’t own a toddler or you’re lying. Even the most angelic of small people can turn into the biggest wailing, flailing mess on earth occasionally. It’s just one of those parenting hurdles we all face. However, despite it being a complete losing battle to try and reason with a tantrumming toddler (side note: why is tantrumming not a word? And should it have one M or two?), I hereby share what I consider the ten stages of dealing with a toddler tantrum. A bit like the five stages of grief except no one judges you when you’re grieving.

  1. Prepare: It’s like being trapped in a zoo enclosure with a hungry lion. You can see exactly what’s going to happen. You can’t run (apparently leaving your child at the park and making off as fast as you can in the opposite direction isn’t acceptable). So you have to make something else seem like a tastier treat than you, whether that’s an actual tasty treat (‘here, have some sweets, chocolate, crisps, ten Fruit Shoots, ANYTHING that will stop you crying’) or the lure of something fun like shouting at ducks or shouting at mommy to push you higher on the swing.
  2. Accept your fate and start silently apologising to other people at the park using only your eyes. Try to convey a deep sense of sorrow while also reassuring that you usually don’t stand for this kind of thing.
  3. Bargain: hissing ‘please don’t start making a scene, I’ll let you skip your nap and then stay up til 10pm if you just stop crying’ has been proven to work on a toddler beginning a tantrum approximately zero times ever, but it’s still worth a try right?
  4. Ignore: it’s fine, I’m just strolling through the park with a howling toddler and it’s all completely dandy, I’m not about to cry myself and then spend the rest of the day wondering what I did to deserve such a devil child. In fact, they’re shouting so quietly I can barely hear them.
  5. Plead: ‘whyyyyyy are you doing this? Please just stop. Please.’ This would have a better success rate if they could actually hear you over the sound of their intense wailing.
  6. Lose your shit: luckily, they’re crying so hard by this point they have no idea what you’ve just hissed under your breath. Extra points if you threaten to leave them on the steps of a nearby church. Unfortunately, no extra points if you actually go through with that threat.
  7. Ignore: this might seem like the same as stage four but it’s not. By now you’re so fuming that you’ve given up pretending you’re enjoying a lovely walk and admiring the trees, instead you walk at a pace akin to Mo Farah in the last stretch of the Olympics and silently fume about how awful toddlers are.
  8.  Praise other child: ‘Aren’t you such a good boy? You can come to the park EVERY DAY because you don’t cry!’ This step is partly to see if toddler will realise what they’re potentially missing out on by trying to ruin your life every time you step outside your front door, and partly to point out to passing strangers that you’re in partial control and one of your children isn’t acting like it’s the end of the world.
  9. Offer snacks: you may have done this earlier in the process, but now you’ve got their attention by essentially telling their sibling how amazing they are, a snack might just be the tipping point back to normality.
  10. Peppa: when you’ve exhausted all other options, it’s time to fall back on the person who taught them how to be a brat in the first place. Switch on an episode, hand them the phone and watch the tears dry quicker than you can say ‘muddy puddles’.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Weaning – A Wheat Allergy Too?

Last week, I posted about the early days of weaning Max and promised an update so voila! To go back and provide a quick summary from the start: at five weeks old, Max was readmitted to hospital as he was pale and lethargic. When we got to the children’s ward, his temperature was low and he’d lost around 11oz I think it was in three days, during the evening his poos were getting paler and paler until they were completely white. They tested his blood which was too acidic and started giving him medication to reverse that. Initially they thought he may have sepsis, or have an underlying liver or kidney condition as the tests they’d done had also shown up problems with both of these. Eventually they decided he had FPIES, a type of allergic reaction which is internal and can’t be tested for. It takes a couple of days for an FPIES reaction to show up and it can mimic the symptoms of sepsis; there are four reactions ranging from mild to moderate to severe to life-threatening and his was deemed as the high end of severe.

So we cut out all dairy and soya. Last week I talked about introducing soya (we’re not trying dairy until he turns one) and how we think he’d reacted to that. Two days later, he started being sick a lot. He’s got reflux so we’re used to him being sick a little (and Alexandra was the Vomit Kid despite having nothing medically wrong with her), so we’re well used to a little spew. But this was severe. It seemed like every half an hour he was being sick. Otherwise he was completely well, so there was no cause for alarm. But on the second day we started scratching our heads trying to work out why, our initial thought was soya, but the sequence of events didn’t make sense. We also considered whether having his flu jab had caused it, but again it didn’t really make that much sense. I scrolled through the food diary I’ve been keeping for him and realised the only thing we’d introduced in the previous couple of days had been wheat in the form of cereal in the morning.

We didn’t give him any wheat starting from the Monday (after a weekend of vomiting) and he’s stopped being sick as much. We still get the odd tiny bit but nothing like those two days. I spoke to his paediatrician later in the week who confirmed that was the right course of action and we should leave it a couple of weeks then try soya first, wait for a reaction or not, and then try wheat once we’ve established the soya situation.

It’s a bit of a bugger really. We’ve gone from knowing it’s unlikely he’ll ever tolerate dairy and being hopeful that he’d be able to have soya (we were told a third of babies who are FPIES to dairy also react to soya) to now thinking dairy, soya AND wheat could be totally off the menu. For a couple of days he ended up basically back on fruit and vegetables and then I spent ages searching the shelves of Asda for some different options for him. There are choices out there which is great, but I find many of the dairy-free alternatives contain soya and now wheat is an added complication! We’re going to look into the possibility of getting a bread maker as free from bread is so expensive! And I’m sure there are other ways we can give him a varied diet without breaking the bank – we’re meeting with the paediatric dietician next week also so they’ll be able to help further.

But for now, it’s the daily task of trying to get some tasty food into him and wondering whether every bit of sick, irritable behaviour or dodgy poo is a reaction or just part of normal baby life. Plenty of people have said ‘oh maybe he’ll grow out of it’ (probably going by their experience that a lot of babies who have other conditions do) but the doctor has firmly told us he doesn’t think Max will ever tolerate dairy judging by how small he was when he reacted and how bad the reaction was. Either way, I’d prefer to prepare myself for the worst possible scenario of life-long allergies and then we can be pleasantly surprised if one day it turns out he’s grown out of it!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Baby 2: Seven Months Old

Such a happy chappy!

Max turns seven months old today and I think there’s been a real difference in him during the last month. Looking at his six month update, he was only really starting to get to grips with rolling – whereas now he flips from back to front and vice versa all the time. He’s also able to commando crawl along the floor so he’s easily moving around the room. Gone are the times where you’d put him down and he’d stay in one place!

He doesn’t seem to have as much interest in sitting up, he’ll do it supported but he’s not really trying hard to do it unaided. I remember with Alexandra, she’d constantly be trying to pull herself up into a sitting position if we lay her down, but it doesn’t really seem to bother Max. At this rate, I think he’ll be crawling before he sits!

He was weighed a few weeks ago and was 14lb 1, so he’s probably still 14 something. Clothes wise, we’ve just moved up to his 6-9m stuff as everything else was getting too short. He’s a long baby but still very skinny so everything looks a bit baggy. He’s still in some of his smaller t-shirts and his 0-3m coat still just about fits him! But he’s definitely making progress and going the right way with everything.

No teeth yet, but I’m fully expecting a late teether if he’s anything like his sister. His hair is growing back beautifully and he’s still very blond, although I’m sure it’ll go darker over time as no one else in the family is blond.

Weaning has been, and continues to be, a challenge! Poor Max is very into his fruit and veg and is always keen to try new things – but as much as he likes food, food doesn’t seem to like him! I’ll update more soon but wanted to share his rough daytime routine: wake up any time between 7 and 8, breakfast and bottle at 8/8.30am, nap around 9.30/10am, bottle some time late morning, lunch around 1 but can be any time between 12 and 2 depending what we’re doing, longer nap in the afternoon, bottle some time in the afternoon, dinner around 5.30/6, then a bath every other night, bedtime routine, bottle around 7.30pm.

Max is incredibly vocal, he ‘chats’ away constantly and sometimes likes to talk to himself early morning in the Moses basket which is incredibly cute. He’s discovered he can do a weird clearing his throat/cough thing and also that he can scream very loudly. It’ll be interesting to see whether his speech develops well or if it’s just these early noises that he’ll be so competent with.

He’s got an MRI next week which should (fingers and toes crossed) be the last time they need to scan his brain. I can’t remember how much I’ve updated about that on here, but essentially post surgery they detected an area they thought may be a bleed on a cranial ultrasound. He then had an MRI when he was a couple of months old at our local hospital where they (and the radiographers at the more specialist hospital they checked with) concluded it was probably just an anomaly in a blood vessel, which wouldn’t affect his development. They suggested a follow-up MRI done under sedation so they could just confirm – if they think again that it’s this vessel anomaly then there’ll be no need for further tests. Max then goes to see the dietician the week after where they’ll be able to give us some advice about his allergies. Then we’ll await an appointment at the hospital where he had his surgery for them to do another chest X-ray and see what his diaphragm is up to these days.

For a baby who’s had quite a lot thrown at him in his seven short months here, he’s absolutely lovely and he charms everyone he meets! He’s a wiggler, a giggler, a smiler and a joy to be around. Yes he has his moments! But on the whole we are super proud of our little boy and how well he’s withstood all of the challenges which have come his way. Hopefully next month we will have some positive news regarding his brain and then we don’t need to worry about that!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x