Two Under Two: The Real Survival Tips Part One

Way back in May, I wrote a somewhat tongue in cheek post about survival tips for those of us lucky enough to have experience the mind-boggle that is two under two. Now that we’ve lived the experience (for five whole months and three days) and come out the other side relatively unscathed (or at least all still alive), I’d like to talk a little more seriously about the things that have got us through the experience. [I’ve now half written this and realised it’s going to be long as so I’m going to split it into two posts] If anyone has similar tips about how to deal with a two year old and a small one too (he’s really not a newborn anymore is he?!) I’m all ears.

– Organisation is king. You will genuinely never leave the house if you’re not organised – or you will but you’ll end up going mental ripping apart your changing bag wondering why the hell there’s no bibs in there and whether you can fit the baby in his sister’s nappies or the other way round. I’ve posted before about our routine and how much prep I do through the day to get ready for the next stage. Do whatever works for you. Get night clothes laid out on the bed ready to change it to. Have tomorrow’s clothes picked out nice and early. Spend five minutes restocking the bag with wipes, raisins (you can actually get fined by the parent police if you don’t have at least one box of raisins for your toddler in your bag at any time) etc every morning. Just make sure what you’re doing does work. I read somewhere having a second quadruples your workload rather than doubles it but don’t let everything get on top of you! Just like having your first, at one point it’ll become second nature to know how much stuff you need each day and how much time each part of your routine takes.

– Don’t let the laundry win. It’s easy to let it overwhelm you and especially when you’ve got two under two because the little one is producing a horrendous volume of soiled clothes between all the pooing, sicking and dribbling they do, just as the toddler is becoming messier than you ever dared imagine. So instead of sitting mournfully looking at the basket wondering how the hell you’ve got an extra 43 loads of washing a week when babies wear such tiny clothes, just get some done. Some people find it easier to do one a day, I tend to go for doing two or three loads every couple of days. Maybe make it your partner’s job – not the only job they do obviously but one of! So they just whack a load on before work or something like that. Just don’t get to the point where you’re using socks to wipe the baby’s face and turning your underwear inside out. No one needs that.

– Crying is okay. There’s two aspects to this point. Firstly it’s okay to have a little sob yourself sometimes, let the hormones out, do an ugly cry and wonder how the eff you’re going to get through the rest of the day. Secondly, there’s one of you (assuming you’re at home with babies and your other half is at work) and two of them. It would be lovely if they co-ordinated themselves so they cried at different times but they don’t bother to help you out in that matter. Sometimes both of them will be crying at the same time and you can’t beat yourself up about having to leave one of them at it for a while. You just need a ‘who needs me more’ quick evaluation system. If toddler is crying because they want a drink or snack and baby is crying because they need feeding, changing and then cuddling to sleep then clearly it’s going to be easier to spend one minute getting a snack and a drink from the kitchen to keep your toddler happy to then turn your attention to the baby as the feed and cuddle will definitely take longer!

That’s all for now but I’ll be back soon with the second half of this post!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Baby Two: Five Months Old

Our lovely Maxi is five months old this weekend – this is the first time I’ve done an update on him separately from his sister’s but she turns two next week so I’ll be doing a special post or two on that and then I’ll be reducing the frequency of her updates, probably to just two a year, although I’ll clearly still mention what she’s up to in other posts I write.

But back to Max, out of interest I just looked back at Alexandra’s five month update (not in a ‘comparing to see which child is better’ way but to see what she was up to at this point). She was majorly interested in hands and feet – Max hasn’t found his feet yet but has spent most of the month chomping away on his hands.

Their routines are roughly the same except she slept in a little later in the morning and went to bed ever so slightly later – and she was having a whopping 210ml five times a day, compared to Max who has 150ml. However it’s importantly to remember Alexandra’s feeds were all formula and only one of his is, and everything I’ve read suggests breastfed babies consume less. Plus he’s smaller too.

So what is he doing this month? There’s a lot of chatting and smiling. He loves to interact and is a real people watcher. He’s generally very contented! Max is trying to roll but hasn’t managed it yet and his head control is getting stronger by the day.

His doctor at our local hospital is very pleased with him and we’ve now got a weaning plan in place, which I shall share the details of once we get to that point.

Overall he is just the most delightful little thing to have around and he’s completely added to our family on the best way possible!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Our Evening Routine With Two Under Two

If you’ve read my previous posts (morning routine here and daytime routine here), you’ll know I’ve been sharing what a typical day looks like for us, if there is such thing as ‘typical’ with a 23 month toddler and a four month baby. Do pop and read the past posts to find out more about earlier in our day as this one exclusively focuses on the evening routine and how we go from having two wide awake kids to two hopefully soundly sleeping ones!

Prep:

The first thing I always do is make sure I have five minutes during the late afternoon/early evening to nip upstairs and prepare everything ready for their bedtime. I just find it so much easier if all the bits and bobs I need are laid out on the bed, especially if Dylan is running late and I’m starting the routine by myself.

We get both babies ready for bed in our room which works really well as it means we can all sit together on the bed and have some much-needed family time. Perhaps when they’re older they might separate into their own rooms but for now this arrangement is lovely for the four of us. So on the bed I lay out Max’s sleeping bag unzipped, his open babygrow for the night on top of that and then a nappy folded open on top of that – so everything is ready just to be popped on as quickly as possible. Then next to that there’s always a space with the wipes and empty nappy sack. Then next to that there’s Alexandra’s sleeping bag, pyjamas and nappy.

On the bed post we have talcum powder, Sudocrem and clippers if I’m planning on cutting anybody’s nails. On the bed there’s always at least one book. Then on the nightstand there’s a spare Max sized nappy, nappy sack, muslin cloth and two bibs. The curtains are closed and the lamp on with the main light off then in Alex’s room the blinds are drawn and her fairy lights are on.

If they’re having a bath then I’ll put his bath seat and the bath toys in ready plus have both their towels on the radiator, the shampoo and flannels next to the bath and a stool for comfort for whoever’s washing them.

All of that sounds exhausting but it’s honestly about two minutes’ work now I know what I’m doing with it all.

Dinnertime:

Max has his penultimate bottle at 5pm and then he will normally be in his bouncer, on his play mat or propped up on some cushions with a toy until we’re ready to go upstairs. Around this time I like to get his last bottle ready as this is a formula one (he has one formula and four expressed bottles a day so this is the only one I have to prepare rather than pump!) and he always has his daily vitamins mixed into this one just because it’s easy to remember to pop the vitamins in while I mix the formula. It then goes into the fridge as he’s happy to have cold milk (and does most the time as I obviously store my milk in there too!).

Then it’s time for Alexandra to have her dinner, which is always at the table on her booster chair – we like to make sure the tv’s off during dinner. If Dylan isn’t home yet I’ll usually eat with Alex then save his ready to heat up later. We then take her water bottle and his dummy, bottle and last dose of ranitidine (anti-reflux medicine) upstairs ready to wind down for the night.

Bathtime:

We only bath the children every other night unless they’re spectacularly filthy (let’s be honest I’m talking about toddler not baby here!). Max has his hair washed first then he goes in his towel into the bedroom to get into his night clothes while his sister has a little longer playing then washing her hair and cleaning her teeth. If they’re not having a bath then we obviously just skip this part and get them changed ready for bed.

Bedtime:

Alex loves reading books so we normally do one but more often two – she’s at the stage where she doesn’t particularly want to follow the plot but would much prefer to point out all the things she can see on the pages. She also likes to show Max different books which is great as it’s never too early to get them involved!

I’ll be honest there is normally A LOT of laughter, running around, hide and seek, jumping and other activities that wouldn’t happen at bedtime if I was solely in charge. But for Dylan it might be the only half an hour he sees the children in the day so he certainly makes the most of it! (He’s normally the one running around). While I always panic it’ll make her too excited to go to bed, I think the manic half an hour actually helps get rid of her last bit of energy for the day!

Then at some point (could be as early as 7.15pm or as late as 8.30pm depending how tired she is), we all do kisses, cuddles and high fives then Dylan takes Alexandra into her own room where they have a crazy routine involving hitting each other on the head with a balloon, counting in Italian and saying goodbye to the blinds?! It’s very funny to listen to and I can never replicate it properly when I’m in charge of bedtime on the odd occasion Dylan isn’t there (Alex is never too amused when I’m brought on as bedtime substitute!). Then he leaves the room and she’ll go to sleep, sometimes with a bit of shouting ‘ta ta. Night. Bye’.

In the meantime, I’ll have been giving Max his last bottle in our room and then we normally have a bit of a cuddle and he goes down into his Moses basket in there. He’ll also settle himself to sleep although sometimes I do cuddle him to sleep – just not too often so he doesn’t lose the ability to self settle!

And that’s normally the last we hear of either of them until the morning. It’s then time for me to express, Dylan to have his dinner and we both make sure everything’s tidy although that normally takes two minutes because I try and tidy throughout the day.

Writing all that down does make it seem like it’s a really rigid routine – but things do vary each day and the timings also alter depending what we’re doing and how tired the children are. I guess we’ve just found what works and doesn’t over the last four months of adapting to two under two – so these are the things that help us get both of our little sleepy bugs to drift off!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Our Daytime Routine With Two Under Two

Trying to change nappies normally descends into chaos!

If you missed it, earlier in the week I talked about our morning routine. Today I’m focusing on what happens after that! Daytimes massively vary in this house from ones where we seem to be on the go all the time to very sedate ones!

As I’ve mentioned in the morning routine post, Alexandra goes to nursery on Tuesday and Thursday mornings which means she’s there from 8am to 12.45pm and has her breakfast and lunch with them. On a Tuesday my sister and my nephew generally come over so I’ll spend a bit of time in the morning with Max and then they’ll arrive. On Thursday mornings, I use the time to clean the house – completing tasks like hoovering and dusting which are infinitely harder with two kids around! On those afternoons we don’t tend to plan much, as Alex never naps at nursery so she normally wants to sleep when she gets home.

Other days can involve anything including soft play, going to the park, play dates, walks, visiting my grandparents etc. Or if we stay at home then there’s colouring, lego, playing in the garden, so many different toys and (I’m not going to lie) CBeebies to keep us busy.

Feeding and expressing:

Max feeds every three hours at 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 8pm and then tends to have a nap from about 9.30am and then maybe two long naps in the afternoon, all depending where we are and what we’re up to.

Expressing is limiting me a little so I tend to only go out for a few hours at a time. At the moment I need to express six times in 24 hours to get enough for four bottles, so that tends to be around 8am, 12pm, 4pm and 8pm then twice overnight. I do vary the times if we’ve got plans but do my best to get all six in during the day.

In terms of Alex, she eats at around 8am and 6pm and her lunchtime meal can be anywhere between 12pm and 2pm depending on when she naps – which happens (hopefully) once a day for (hopefully) at least an hour.

I’m sure all of this will change as Max starts weaning and needing less sleep in the day but for now that’s how we roll!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Our Morning Routine With Two Under Two

Morning pyjama buddies.

I’ve mentioned before we don’t have a strict routine for our toddler and that’s been the case for the baby too. If we end up going to bed half an hour late (or half an hour early!) it’s fine. We’re fairly flexible about all elements of the day but I guess over time you realise what works and what doesn’t work for your family and you loosely structure your day according to that. So while it’s not an exact timetable, I thought I’d share our 2 under 2 daily routine.

[I was going to write this as one post about our entire day but I realised there was quite a lot to say so I’m going to split it up into our morning routine, daytime routine and evening routine so no one goes blind trying to read it all in one go.]

So let’s start at the beginning (because it’s a very good place to start). Our mornings:

Tuesdays and Thursdays:

These are the days she goes to nursery and Alexandra has to be there for 8am so we tend to focus on getting her ready and Max will be sorted afterwards. I find it helpful to get up and ready while Alex is still sleeping if possible – and she does tend to need to be woken up on nursery days. Her outfit is normally left on the spare bed and the bag packed the night before (extra leggings, top and socks, sudocrem and either a sun hat and sun cream or a coat depending on the weather). It’s then left by the front door alongside her shoes to make it easier to get out.

Because she has breakfast at nursery and it’s only about four minutes away in the car we can get away with getting her up as late as 7.40am.

Wednesdays:

During term time, Alexandra does Tumble Tots which involves getting all three of us out of the house for 9.10am to be there ready to start at half past. Again I find it really useful to pack the changing bag the night before (if I was just going to TT and coming straight home then two nappies each, wipes, couple of nappy sacks and then just before we left water and a snack for Alex and milk for Max) and to get myself ready beforehand.

Then it’s downstairs for breakfast for Alexandra and I’ll feed and change Max while that’s taking place. Then change Alex and run around tidying up (if we were running late I’d leave this til after) and making sure I’d got everything before leaving.

Other days:

On days when we don’t have any commitments, it’s a much more laid back affair which can see us take a few hours to get ready. The priority is always changing Max’s nappy, even if he stays in his babygrow for a while, and giving Alex breakfast. She sits on a plastic mat in our lounge watching CBeebies for breakfast – which is something my husband Dylan started but it works really well in keeping her occupied until she’s finished and I’m ready to change her. Alex has cereal and/or toast with fruit and milk and/or water to drink every morning.

Max likes to have his first bottle of the day at 8/8.30am but is generally happy to wait even if he’s been up since 7ish (which is the earliest he wakes) so it’s a good opportunity to change the water and Milton tablets in the sterilising tub, do any leftover washing up from the previous day and get ready myself.

I try to bring down a stack of nappies and bibs plus a muslin cloth and we also keep our changing mat, nappy bags and wipes downstairs so that I don’t have to run up and downstairs too many times in the day. Once Max is changed I’ll turn my attention to Alex and then clear up her breakfast things.

Phew! It’s not until you write it all down that you realise there are a lot of things involved in getting two under two ready for the day! I imagine things will get harder once Max is weaning then easier once they’re both able to feed and dress themselves. Although then the nagging about getting shoes on and brushing teeth will amplify!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

23 Months and 4 Months

This is the penultimate month of joint updates! I’ll carry on updating you on Max every month but I’ll revert to twice a year for Alexandra (otherwise I’ll end up being one of those moms ‘oh yes she’s 628 months old’).

Alexandra:

We’re still getting new words pretty much every day. In fact we totalled up how many words she knows (ones she’s used multiple times) and it came to around 90 which we were surprised by! She’s still not attempting many two-word sentences aside from ‘mommy do’ but she manages to make her meaning known with the vocal she has so I don’t think she’s that fussed about putting words together.

Talking of words, ‘no’ is still a firm favourite and we’re getting a lot of strops and tantrums. Alexandra is the most pleasant, cheerful child most of the time but she likes to decide what she’s doing and eating 100 per cent of the time so trying to change her nappy at the wrong time or get her in the car if she doesn’t want to go is met with strong resistance to say the least!

Animals are still a firm love and they capture her attention all the time. She went on a donkey ride recently which she loved and she also loves picking out stories featuring animals (if they have moons and stars in too then double bonus!).

Alex has now had all her settling in sessions in the toddler room at nursery and moves up next Tuesday. She’s not in the least bit bothered about the change!

Max:

Max hasn’t actually been weighed since the last update as he’s allowed monthly weigh ins now so that’ll happen when we go and see his paediatrician next week. I estimate he’s at least the heavy end of 11lbs if not 12lbs. He’s now mostly wearing 0-3m clothes but he does now fit into some of his 3-6m stuff which is good as we had lots of dungaree shorts and rompers in that size so it’s nice to get some use out of them before the summer ends!

The doctors are fairly confident that the anomaly in Max’s brain is just that rather than a bleed so they’re not too concerned about its effects and will rescan him in six months to get another look at the affected blood vessel. However there is worry about his diaphragm, with an X-ray showing it’s moved back up on the right side. Again he’ll be checked in six months to see what’s happening with his lung then but we have to keep an eye on his breathing in the meantime.

Most people say you’d never have any idea of the health issues he’s had. Max is the happiest, smiliest little boy and chats away all the time! We honestly couldn’t ask for a more good-natured baby (although today’s he’s been grumpy but that’s because he had his jabs yesterday so I can understand that).

He’s now having 5oz bottles at 8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 8pm with the first four being expressed milk and the last one being Neocate formula. For the last two weeks he’s been sleeping through the night which is absolutely lovely. I don’t want to say he’s cracked sleeping through in case he goes back to waking up but actually when he wakes he’s not crying for food and will happily lie in his Moses basket for a bit. Or sometimes he doesn’t get up til about half 8 so it’s not as if he’s starving in the morning!

See you next month when the big one will be 2!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Donating Breast Milk

Max is very pleased another baby is benefitting from the milk he couldn’t use.

I’ve mentioned briefly before that I donated some of my milk but I wanted to use today’s post to talk a little more about that process.

When I had my first, Alexandra, I wasn’t really aware about donating milk or even using donor milk so when I stopped breastfeeding we just switched straight to formula. Because I was so unwell I didn’t even express and so our journey with my milk was over – I went cold turkey and my milk dried up eventually.

With Max, I started expressing the day he was born despite the fact he was nil by mouth. I’m still expressing now so he’s having four bottles of boob milk a day and one of formula. Because he hardly drank anything in the early days when he was poorly, we ended up stocking up the freezers in both hospitals he was an inpatient at and when we fetched both batches we had around four litres of milk in our freezer.

My plan was to gradually use the freezer stock (as there’s obviously a time frame when you need to use it by) and replace it with ‘newer’ milk. This meant I could potentially stop expressing at some point but still give him boob milk from the stockpile. However at six weeks he was diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy which meant I had to cut out dairy and soya to carry on feeding him. It also meant we couldn’t use anything from the freezer as that had been expressed before I cut dairy from my diet.

The thought of throwing away my milk which had taken so long to get made me feel a little bit ill! So I began researching how I could donate it. The milk bank nearest us said they normally only took milk as an ongoing thing from moms who were breastfeeding but had an over supply but when I explained the situation they were willing to take the stash. However once they started filling in the paperwork they said it wasn’t possible for me to donate because I have had blood transfusions in the past. This for the same reason that I can’t now give blood – there’s no test they can do to rule out that you haven’t been given CJD (mad cows disease) from the blood so they ban you from donating in case you pass it on. Annoying but I can see why! Donated milk is extremely heavily screened before being sold to neonatal units.

So I turned to Facebook. I joined a couple of sites including one called Human Milk for Human Babies. I posted on there explaining how much I had to donate and some details (they ask you to include things like any medical conditions you have/medications you’re on, whether you drink etc). I got one really weird message but then within hours I got a comment from a lady who was pregnant and had supply issues with her previous two babies so was stockpiling donor milk so her new baby wouldn’t struggle with weight loss in the way they had.

The lady came to pick the milk up from us, which felt a bit weird at first giving someone what is essentially your bodily fluids! But once I met her and chatted to her for a bit I felt so glad it was going to be used and not thrown away! She’s now had her baby and keeps everyone (there’s quite a few people who’ve donated milk to them) informed on a Facebook page which is lovely. Because all the milk is labelled, she was even able to tell me they were using my milk the other day!

It’s lovely to know I’ve been able to help another family and it’s really changed my viewpoint on donor milk – in fact I feel a bit gutted I don’t have enough of a supply to regularly donate but I’m already having to supplement with formula.

To anyone out there with an oversupply – or anyone who knows they can’t breastfeed due to a medical issue but desperately wants to use breast milk, milk donation is definitely something worth looking into!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Joie Twin Aire Review

I’ve never been keen on the idea of spending a lot of money on prams. The idea of shelling out nearly £1,000 for a travel system makes me feel a little bit ill – although I appreciate for some people the pram is a massive deal. For me I’d rather spend that on, well, everything. If you take into account £300 odd on a car seat you can get most if not all the other things you need with the rest of that grand.

So when it came to choosing a pram for Alexandra we firstly used a second hand Hauck system (from good friends so we knew it was fine!) and then we purchased a Joie Nitro which has never let us down. It’s still going strong, we use it now if we only need a single and we’ll be buying Max one once Alexandra is too old for a pushchair.

So when my nephew Zachary was born and we decided to buy a double pram for Alexandra and him, I was won over by the Joie Twin Aire which Max now uses as well. It’s essentially two Nitros stuck together with some nifty reversible blue and pink inserts (I’m not bothered about gender colours and will happily reverse them if the kids want a different colour when they’re old enough to choose – you’d be amazed how often people still ask what gender the kid is though as if the blue pram insert and blue outfit isn’t giving the game away).

I’ll start with the cons because there are so few:
– It’s quite wide so often you’ll find doorways and shop aisles a little bit of a challenge. If you’re really worried about that then you might want to look at a different option which isn’t side by side.
– When you fold it down it needs to be lifted rather than dragged along because of the positioning of the basket. A minor point but at first we thought the basket was faulty because it sits so low and drags along the ground in the folded down position.

The pros:
– Each seat lies completely flat so it’s suitable from birth. We bought an insert off Amazon for Max just so it’d feel a little bit less roomy in there but I haven’t been using it when it’s been super warm. I’ve also slightly inclined him because of his reflux which works really well to allow him a comfortable sleep.
– It is so light weight. Once you add two children and all their stuff, it’s obviously fairly heavy but the pram itself isn’t bulky so it pushes and corners beautifully.
– The basket is massive. I can fit everything I need in it. The only slight drawback is if I pop the entire changing bag in there I need to have the seats upright to get it back out but I just take Max out first to save having to move his seat while he’s in it.
– The price. Lots of places do it for £120 but if you shop around some do it for £99 which is the price we got it for doing a price match at Mothercare. You can’t really complain about getting a double for less than £100!

Have you used a Joie? What do you think?

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Dairy And Soya Free

You have to like someone an awful lot to give up milkshake for them.

Long term readers of my blog will know I breastfed my first baby for just under a week before switching to formula for a variety of reasons not limited to her generally being terrible at feeding and me being incredibly unwell. She thrived on formula, started putting on weight, importantly didn’t become jaundiced again and has been on the 75th centile since she was a few months old. She’s a happy and healthy toddler who (touch wood) we’ve only ever taken to the doctor’s once and that was just to confirm a little rash was indeed viral as we suspected.

This time round I decided I’d quite like to give breastfeeding a go again. By the time he was a few hours old, Max was on NICU so I was advised to begin hand expressing for a couple of days then move on to using a pump. I welcomed the chance as it meant I could do something useful while the doctors, nurses and machines were doing their own extremely important jobs.

Fast forward to him being two weeks old and they were happy he was tolerating being tube fed following his surgery, so we could begin feeding him orally. That evening I opted to try him with a bottle of my expressed milk and he took to it so well we carried on doing it that way rather than him breastfeeding directly.

Skip to six weeks and Max was back in hospital after becoming incredibly unwell after we were advised to begin introducing formula as he wasn’t putting on weight quick enough. Three days into that stay and we were given a diagnosis of a severe dairy allergy and told it was likely he’d also react to soya. So I had a choice – either I could stop expressing and we could rely solely on prescription formula or I could cut out these things from my diet.

I chose the latter, not realising at the time how many things have dairy or soya in them! Dairy on its own isn’t too bad (apart from crisps – why do so many crisps have milk in them?) but so many of the alternatives have soya in that trips to the supermarket are no longer about choice but about having to have the one thing available.

I wasn’t allowed to give Max the expressed milk I had in the freezer and because I’ve had blood transfusions in the past I can’t donate my milk to an official milk bank but luckily I found a lady through Facebook who was collecting expressed milk for her baby (who was born last week! Congratulations!) so I didn’t have to face the shit situation of throwing four litres of the stuff down the sink.

Of course, some people would say I don’t have the right to moan because I’ve chosen to go dairy and soya free. But I’d invite those people to come and see how well Max takes a bottle of my breastmilk compared to a bottle of formula. With his reflux (a side effect of his hernia), he struggles with too much formula – even the prescription stuff which is free from the things he’s allergic to – and he’s like a different baby now I’ve managed to increase my supply and only offer one or two bottles of formula a day compared to the four he was having previously. We deliberately don’t offer him formula overnight and he’s so much more settled because of that.

So that’s my dairy and soya free story. I don’t know how long I’ll express for – I’d like to get to six months but we know weaning will be a tough journey with this one so it may be I keep going with the boob milk as we know he can tolerate it, especially if he doesn’t outgrow his dairy and soya allergy (his paediatrician doesn’t think it’s likely). In which case next March will be my next taste of chocolate, pizza or milkshake!

Some tips for anyone who’s having to cut out dairy or soya, in terms of what I’ve found out there:
– Koko products are really good. Their yoghurts actually taste like real yoghurts! And their coconut milk is much tastier on cereals than almond milk, in my opinion.
– Doves Farm do an excellent range of Freee bars which don’t contain allergens. I was looking for an oat based product to help my supply so was thrilled to find these in apricot, apple and even chocolate flavours.
– Co-Op’s donuts! Neither their custard nor their jam donuts contain soya or dairy. Winner.
– Pringles. Lots of crisps contain milk but their plain and Texan barbecue varieties don’t (possibly some others but I haven’t checked up on all their offerings).

Do let me know if you’ve found any other great soya or dairy alternatives!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

100 Days Old

To my incredible son on your 100th day in this world,

What a 100 days it’s been. We knew from the word go things were unlikely to be simple. Two lines showed up on the pregnancy test on Friday, September 2, just days after your sister turned one. Your dad and I stood in our bedroom for a while just looking at each other in shock.

We never had a conversation about what we would do. From that second you were my baby and we would take on the risks to get you here safely.

The next few months were filled with worry. We tried to carry on as normal and in general you gave me a really easy ride during the pregnancy with you – much more so than your sister who made me feel really poorly most of the way through. But sometimes we look at each other and panicked. Especially in the latter weeks, I spent so many hours lying awake in the middle of the night contemplating what might happen.

We reached 24 weeks and while we could breath a little sigh of relief that we had a chance at a ‘take home’ baby, utter fear took over every time I thought about what might happen in the weeks after your birth. Fast forward another eight weeks and there was a hospital admission and talk of early delivery.

I sat for ten days in hospital not knowing if I’d be coming out with or without you, pregnant or not pregnant. There was still a risk at this point your dad would be taking you home on his own. We avoided induction and even booked in a date for 37 weeks. But of course we didn’t make it that far and instead they decided at nearly 35 weeks we needed to get you out.

Holding you in my arms for the first time was the most empowering moment of my life. Many, many medical professionals helped deliver Alexandra but I gave birth to you without any extra assistance and I felt so strong in that moment. Looking at you it was like everything fell into place. A little hole in my heart was filled in and everything was complete.

I made your dad go with you up to the ward while I had to stay downstairs for a while. And then came the explanation that you’d showed a couple of worrying signs so you’d been taken to NICU. How could we know then the journey we were in for? You spent ten days on the unit with the incredible highs – getting to cuddle you for 15 minutes each on day four, being extubated both times, starting tube feeds. And the crashing lows – being told you needed to be ventilated, hearing your pained cries as you struggled to breath, not being able to see your eyes for a week while you were having jaundice treatment, two lung collapses.

And then on day ten we had our answer. What was going on apart from the sepsis, pneumonia and jaundice. Congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Something I’d never heard of before but is now a common phrase I use. My baby boy had a hole in his diaphragm. It was action stations from then on as you were transferred to another hospital for your surgery.

An operation you absolutely powered through like the brave boy you’ve been since day one. Even the doctors couldn’t believe how well you recovered, getting home a week later when most babies would still be on a ventilator in intensive care.

And so we took you home and began our journey as a family of four with our bouncy active toddler and our tiny little boy. But the time we had at home getting to know one another was to be fairly short and you were less than six weeks old when you were admitted to our local hospital this time.

We kept calm at the time but looking back that night was terrifying. You were becoming more and more pale and cold and listless. The doctors had to abandon a planned lumbar puncture when you spaced out for a few moments. There was talk of transfer to a specialist hospital, of more surgery, of a potential liver condition.

But of course three days later we discovered the problem was an extremely severe dairy allergy. We were relieved in a way to finally know what was wrong with you and how we could make you better. So began a long process of getting dairy and soya out your system and once you were back on full feeds we had our happy baby boy back. I was so tired at this point having been up through most of the nights as you were so upset from being restricted with your milk, plus the machines and trying to express and a horrible camp bed. Your sister and daddy were down the road at home in an attempt to keep things normal for her. It was awful being separated again so after five days taking you back home was wonderful.

Since then you’ve dealt with so much more: reflux which we were told to expect you to have given your CDH, brain scans, X-rays, appointments. You’ve finally begun putting on weight and actually reached the 0.4th centile whereas before you weren’t even on the graph.

We don’t know what the future holds for you, whether anomalies on your brain scan will cause developmental issues, whether your dairy allergy will be lifelong, whether you will reherniate and face more surgery. We watch you every day for signs of your breathing deteriorating. I read the ingredients list three times on everything I eat just to check I’m
not exposing you to dairy.

But for all of the drama and tears and fears and hospital visits, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Your smiles are just incredible. Your cuddles are wonderful. Watching your bond with your sister grow each day is just the best thing ever.

Alexandra had to fight to get here safe and sound. Never did we imagine how hard you’d have to fight both in the womb and for the last 100 days. Miscarriage and stillbirth rates for APS sufferers are appalling, and CDH only has a 50 per cent survival rate so even without all your other complications, you are a miracle.

You and your sister have taught me so much. I never realised how calm, composed and strong I could be in a life or death situation. I never realised how intensely I could love another human being. I never realised how protective I could feel. How selfless I could be. How utterly devoted to a family I could be.

As I write this you’re sleeping on my chest and it feels like you were always meant to be here. I hope you never stop wanting to cuddle me. I hope you never stop smiling as beautifully as you do now. I hope whatever challenges life throws at you, over and above those faced by others, you continue to tackle them so bravely. I am so proud of you and I’m so thankful you came into our lives. You were meant to be Max. Meant to be.

Momma x