A New Sibling

Alexandra talks Max through how to use his new baby gym.

Bringing a new sibling into the equation is always going to be tough. Whether you’re nine months or 19 years old, you’re going to be affected in some way if there’s suddenly a new tiny thing living in your house that demands attention 24/7 and gets loads of cuddles from not only your mom and dad but from all your visitors too.

But there are ways to minimise the green-eyed monster (although you’re always going to get one or two jealous moments!).

Alexandra was 18 months when her brother was born so her understanding of what was happening was fairly limited, although she obviously knew something was happening.

Before baby’s born:

– Keep them involved is my main advice. Alexandra came to some of my scans to see her brother on screen before his grand entrance. We showed her things we’d bought for baby, talked to her a lot about her brother and she spent a lot of time patting my tummy and talking to him through my belly button.
– Spend time with them. Sounds silly but it’s easy to get caught up in the pregnancy whirlwind and also to want to rest up as much as possible, especially in the third trimester. However I tried to use my pregnancy as a time for Alexandra and I to cement our bond and spend plenty of time playing, knowing my attention and time would be divided very soon.

Once baby arrives:

– Keep the status quo. Don’t switch up the older sibling’s routine to fit in with the baby, do the opposite if you can. For example we’ve incorporated Max into Alexandra’s existing bath and bedtime routine. We still eat meals at the same time, even if it means one of us has to cuddle or feed Max during dinner. We’ve been going out as much as we can and Alex has still been attending nursery even though I’m on maternity leave. So yes things are different now she’s got a brother, but we’ve tried not to turn her whole world upside down.
– Get them involved. Their age will dictate how involved they can be, but simple things like asking them to fetch a nappy and wipes for changing time, or helping them hold the bottle during feeding time, can help them feel like they’re doing a great job supporting you and bringing up their little sibling. Alex is chuffed whenever she gets praised for helping Max.
– Get visitors on board. Luckily our friends and family have been amazing about ensuring they give Alex plenty of fuss (does that phrase make her sound like a puppy?) when they come to our house, and many of them have brought a little something with them for her if they’ve been bringing a gift for Max which is incredibly sweet. Having people pay her plenty of attention means Alexandra doesn’t really get jealous when we have visitors.

I’m not painting the whole two under two, new baby, new sibling scenario out to be amazing and all rainbows and butterflies – but it is working out much better than I envisaged when we found out we were having a second baby. It helps that Alex is incredibly independent and has a good comprehension of lots of things we talk to her about – and that Max is a fairly chilled baby. But it also helps that we work as a team and ensure both of us spend time with both children. We’re getting the odd moment of jealousy but it’s so worth it to see the sweet moments where she holds his hand and kisses him, or the way she now hi fives him before bed as well as her dad and I.

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

Q&A First Few Months of Motherhood

Alexandra and Zachary

Alexandra and Zachary

You may have noticed if you’ve read a few of my posts that my sister Henrietta had a baby in May this year. Zachary is now nearly five months old and, as we did a question and answer post while Henrietta was pregnant, we thought it was time to update on her experience of motherhood so far.

How would you sum up your first few months of being a mother?
Tiring, lots of crying and lots of poo! But great overall.

What’s been the biggest surprise for you in terms of becoming a parent?
I feel like I sort of knew what to expect because of being around a newborn baby a lot when Alex was born. I prepared myself for the worst of everything and so far there’s not been any massive issues with him so I don’t think anything came as a massive shock to me.

Zachary was diagnosed as having silent reflux when he was six weeks old, what advice would you give to parents who think their child might have it?
Don’t delay getting them checked out. When we noticed there was something wrong, we went to get him checked within 48 hours. You know yourself if there’s something up and they’re not going to turn you away because you know your baby best and you know if there’s a problem. Also don’t trust everything you see on Google, they will be fine!

What’s been the best thing so far?
Smiles and laughs! Also newborn cuddles.

What did you buy which you’d recommend for any prospective parents?
The Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep has 100 per cent been the best thing. At night time, it makes everything so much easier. You don’t have to put up with a screaming baby for long. Also the bouncer we got, the Baby Bjorn one, was quite expensive and he didn’t really like it at first but now he does it gives you five minutes to get on with jobs you want to do as he’s quite happy to sit in there for a while. And muslin cloths. We’ve bought loads and they’ve been a daily essential.

When we talked about your pregnancy in a post back in January (here), you said you thought people treated you differently because you’re fairly young. Have you found this to be true since having him?
I think a little bit, more from older people to be honest. When we go to get him weighed or see midwives or health professionals they always comment how well he’s doing and that we’re doing a good job with him; so I think that proves you don’t have to be older to do well. I do sometimes miss the freedom I had before but I’ve got a good support network to have Zach when I’m ready to start going out again without him.

Harriet and Alexandra (and Henrietta and Zachary!) x

Feeding Guilt

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I’m absolutely all for mothers having a choice when it comes to feeding their baby. I wrote a post on here while still pregnant stating I would be trying to breastfeed but wouldn’t beat myself up if I wasn’t able to for whatever reason. I think moms should feel comfortable feeding wherever they like and shouldn’t have to deal with comments from ignorant jerks who don’t want to see a baby being fed by its mother.
However I can’t help but have this tiny bit of guilt attached to the fact I didn’t maintain breastfeeding. We tried to get Alexandra latched on pretty quickly after birth – although in my hazy drug-addled and exhausted state I have no memory about whether she actually fed properly that time. Over the next seven days I tried repeatedly to get breastfeeding to ‘work’ for us. I was producing milk, a lot of milk, so that wasn’t the problem. Alex just didn’t seem to want to go to the effort of feeding properly. She might latch on sometimes but then she wouldn’t actually do the necessary to get any milk.
Each day we seemed to spend longer and longer trying to get her to feed. It seemed I was either trying with her at my boob or expressing. She was being cup fed by Dylan occasionally and then we were also having to top her up with formula. Countless people tried to help us out (by people I mean midwives and healthcare assistants not just random passers by!) and offer advice and a helping hand. So many helping hands I felt like someone was constantly touching me!
By the Friday (she was born the previous Saturday) I was crying a lot about it. I know I’d just given birth and was hormonal anyway but I was very seriously ill by this point, I hadn’t been able to try breastfeeding for 24 hours due to a CT scan (they put dye through your veins which obviously isn’t safe for baby as it can get into your milk), during which time I’d had to express and throw it all away.
I was in pain, I was hooked up to oxygen 24/7, I couldn’t get to the bathroom and back on my own. Midwives were expressing concern Alex’s jaundice could return and she’d dropped the 10 per cent of her body weight and was a tiny 5lb 15 so we couldn’t afford for her to lose any more. Dylan and I had a chat and decided the best thing to do would be to formula feed. Immediately she began eating so much more and all the concerns about her health and the crying at every feed (from both of us) stopped. I knew we’d made the right decision. And thank heavens we did because three weeks later when I was back in hospital without her, how would we have coped then if I was still breastfeeding? And even if I’d managed to express enough to keep her going through the nights when we were apart, she would have to have been solely formula fed by the time I was in intensive care two weeks after that. By the time I came round my milk supply had ceased.
So all in all I think I have a reasonable back story to why I don’t breastfeed, even if I didn’t it would be absolutely fine. But I do still get these occasional pangs of guilt. I like to think I’d have tried for longer had I been well but who knows. I just know when people who don’t know me ask me whether she’s breast or bottle fed or when I perceive looks from people seeing me bottle feed her in public, I want to explain to them. I want to tell them I tried and it didn’t happen. I want to tell them even if we’d got through the first few weeks there’s no way we could still be breastfeeding now.
And I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone why we as a family made the decision we did. As much as it’s horrific for breastfeeding mothers to feel pushed out of social situations or to be sat at home feeling like they can’t go out, we also should be supporting bottle feeders! After all, we know the benefits of breast milk but as long as your child is happy, healthy and eating something – and you’re happy too – surely that’s the important thing?
Harriet and Alexandra X

Things I’ve Learned

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Motherhood is a steep learning curve, so steep it’s hard not to fall off at some points! No matter how much you read or research beforehand, I feel like nothing can prepare you for being handed a miniature human being and having to keep them not only alive, but happy/engaged/fulfilled etc, for the rest of their lives. Regardless, in the hope of sharing some wisdom I’ve had a little think about things I didn’t know before I became a mom:

Your own child will disgust you. We’ve all smelled a baby’s nappy and had our stomach turn. I figured you wouldn’t mind when it was your own but nope, there’s still an absolute horror which fills you when a terrible waft comes past your nose and you open a nappy to see a poonami.
But you’ll still love them beyond belief. If anyone else sicked in your hair (but somehow secretly so you didn’t notice until hours later while you were out. True story.) you’d be pretty hacked off. Baby does it and you look at them and you’re still filled with love.
You’ll love your partner even more. There’s nothing cuter than seeing your baby with their daddy and, even if you thought you loved them before, your heart will swell at the sight (I know, I know, pass the sick bucket!).
Babies are hilarious. Long before they’re talking, babies have a special knack of being hysterically funny. Their giggles are infectious and making them dance/talk/do any manner of hilarious things can be a game which lasts for hours.
Sometimes you just wish they were born talking. You will at one point (or many points) stare exasperately down at your child and demand they tell you what’s wrong. When you’ve tried feeding them, burping them, trying to get them to sleep, entertaining them and nothing is making them calm, you will turn to your child who has yet to utter a word and attempt to get them to telepathically communicate with you why they’re so grumpy.
Being sick is a ‘non event’. When I’m sick, I feel rotten for ages before, I spend ages hurling and then tend to feel a bit shoddy afterwards too. When Alexandra’s sick, five seconds before she can be laughing and smiling away, it comes out her mouth and then a moment later she’s acting like nothing’s happened. A bit of warning would be nice!

Any others you’d add to the list? (I probably will think of many more as time goes on!)

Harriet and Alexandra x