Shared Custody at Christmas

By far one of the most difficult things about being one half of a separated pair of parents, is making arrangements for Christmas, birthdays, and/or any other significant dates on the calendar. I've been bought up to make an occasion of pretty much anything - birthdays have always been a big deal, and my family make a real "thing" about Christmas. As I've formed my own family, and forged various relationships along the way, I've had to alter my "norms", and kind of lower my expectations slightly, in acknowledgement of the fact that these occasions aren't such a big deal to a lot of other people.
 
I really struggle where Seb is concerned though because, being separated from his Dad, I only get a partial share in his Christmas (and birthday/Easter/Valentine's Day/Mother's Day/Father's Day etc. etc.) experience. Also, on a more selfish note, it means that I don't get to create my own ideal Christmas, as it always has to feature arranging shared custody of him with his Dad.
 
 
 
As families go I think we have a really fair and reasonable set up for Christmas, which is helped somewhat by the fact that his Dad and I only live a couple of miles apart. One of us spends Christmas Eve night, and Christmas Day morning with Seb, and is thus responsible for putting out the mince pie and carrot in the evening and filling a stocking - and the other, collects Seb at midday and spends the afternoon and Boxing Day with him - to include Christmas Dinner.
 
Last year, Seb stayed with his Dad on Christmas Eve and I went to get him at midday. I burst into tears when I woke on Christmas morning without him and it definitely wasn't how I envisaged Christmas mornings when I became a Mum (it probably didn't help that Boyfriend was really ill on Christmas Day last year and so there was little to no Christmas spirit going down).
 
That does mean though, that this year, Seb's with me on Christmas Eve and I can't wait for him and his sister to have their Christmas Eve boxes to open (with matching Christmas Eve pyjamas), to watch a Christmas movie, get a takeaway, and send him off to bed before I smuggle a pillow case of presents in to his bedroom.
 
I'll be sad to say Goodbye to him at midday as he heads off with his Dad for lunch - but I'd definitely rather share the joy and excitement of Christmas morning with him than the later part of the day. Of course, once Christmas has been and gone, I'll have to prepare myself for next year when I won't be getting "the better deal" - but as I said, at least it's fair.
 
A lot of people, my ex husband included, would suggest that this is what I "signed up for" when I decided to end my marriage, and in part yes, of course I knew that it would be really hard at times sharing custody of my (then) only child. It's never what you expect to face when you have a baby though, and Seb is still very much my first baby - so it isn't in any way easy to part with him, even if it is as a product of my own choices.
 
This Christmas, and throughout the year as families celebrate any number of significant dates - I extend my love and warmest hugs to those parents who're making the most of complex family arrangements, and who are perhaps missing their own children, who're more often than not, the only people we really want to celebrate with.

4 month update

Doesn't time fly when you're having fun (and when you're sleep deprived) - Quinn is now 4.5 months old, and definitely not a squidgy little newborn any more! She's a whole lot of squidgy baby though, and at her last weigh-in at 17 weeks she tipped the scales at 16lbs 9ozs - which is more than double her birth weight! She's moving from 3-6 month clothes in to 6-9 months and showing no signs of slowing down!

 
 
So, a quick update. Quinn's still exclusively breastfed and absolutely thriving on the Mama milk. She's grown out of her reflux so isn't medicated for that any more and whilst she feeds a lot - she's showing no signs of being ready to wean on to solid foods, we'll be holding out until at least 6 months and starting baby lead weaning as and when she's able to sit completely unaided and feed herself.

 
 
All routine vaccinations are now out of the way until 13 months - the third and final set didn't seem to effect her as badly as the first lot, but worse than the 12 week set, which makes me think it was definitely the new meningitis B vaccine which disagreed with her. When I say "disagreed" - she had a temperature and was rather irritable (screamy) - I'm still glad she's vaccinated and she had no serious complications.
 
So far Quinn's managed to catch two colds - both of which she has seen off within 48 hours - the girl has a serious immune system! It's actually more encouraging to see her get ill, and then make a super speedy full recovery, than just never get ill - as I know that her defences are actually working - rather than her having just been lucky.
 
We still go to Baby Sensory once a week which is pretty much the highlight of our week! We've made some wonderful Mum and Baby friends in the group and Quinn absolutely loves the sessions now that she's able to take a lot more in and get involved in a few ways.
 
At home, she's a big fan of "tickling songs", like Hickory Dickory Dock... and bubbles - most of my time is taken up by blowing bubbles and/or singing nursery rhymes!
 
I have finally got her to ride in the pushchair happily, although I still use the baby carrier daily. We've taken the pushchair out of it's carrycot mode and in to seat mode, but on the furthest recline, so that she's sat up at just enough of an angle to be able to look around. For the nosiest, most inquisitive baby in the land - this has been a reasonable compromise and she'll now *usually* travel around in the pushchair without too much complaint - she even naps in it every now and again!

After Seb had attacked us with a huge pile of fallen leaves!
We've borrowed a Bumbo baby seat from a friend for now to give her something to sit in and watch what's going on at home. If she isn't hungry for milk, Quinn will gladly sit and watch people cook all day long, she finds it fascinating - needless to say, my leisure activities now include a large amount of apple crumble making!
 
I'm not sure how long it's going to be before she's able to sit up without the Bumbo, she does try very hard and is always doing crunches when laid on her back, straining (very unsuccessfully) to pull herself in to a sitting position. When propped up with pillows she'll quite often move forward on to her hands, so that she's entirely supporting her own weight without help, but if she lifted her hands from the ground she'd fall flat on her face - we're definitely moving towards an independent sitter though!
 
Tummy time is relatively sorted   -she is very much like Seb in this regard. I always put his upper body strength down to the fact that he slept on his front: but Quinn sleeps on her back and is just as strong when laid on her tummy. She'll now push herself right up on to her hands and look around for several minutes at a time. She can also get up on to her knees with her face on the ground... she just hasn't worked out how to get up on to her hands and knees at the same time! The fact that she's mastered both ends independently though makes me worry that she might be an early crawler (uh-oh!)
 
She can recognise a few words spoken to her now, particularly "milk" or "boobie" at which point she starts looking at my chest, smacking her lips and/or pulling at my top (charming), "kiss" for which she leans forward and opens her mouth to kiss people (usually with considerable dribble) and "Hiya" or "Hello" which usually gets her to wave. She waves in response to a wave too, or occasionally unprompted if somebody enters the room.
 
One "milestone" Quinn's showing no interest in what so ever is rolling over, she honestly couldn't give a shit about that stuff. She will lay on her back quite happily, she will lay on her front quite happily, but the thought of swapping between the two hasn't really so much as occurred to her!
 
We've moved out of the fourth Wonder Week or developmental loop now, and she's beginning to feed a lot less, and be a lot happier with other people. However - the four month sleep regression has hit us HARD! I was pretty smug about Quinn's sleeping habits early on, from birth she would easily do four or five hours in one sitting and was going eight hours a night from a few weeks old. No more. Now I'm very very lucky if I get three hours sleep in one go, but it isn't unusual for me to see every single hour. She now pretty much exclusively cosleeps, despite us buying her a new cot and moving her out of the hammock (wondering if she felt slightly to restricted now that she's enormous) but it's made no difference, she'd still rather sleep in with us and to be honest, whilst she's breastfeeding every hour, I'd rather have her in our bed anyway. Hopefully in the next few weeks she begins to adopt a more agreeable sleeping pattern! She can stay in with me as long as she likes (within reason) but I'd just like to use less concealer under my eyes!

 
 
I'm really looking forward to the next month with Quinn as hopefully we'll near enough get the sitting unaided thing sorted and she'll begin to "play" a bit more, but for the time being she's being pretty incredible anyway!
 
 

Little Cotton Style: baby accessories review

Baby clothes are my crack. I'll be honest, sometimes I feel guilty about how much more excited I get buying clothes for Quinn than I do buying clothes for Seb; but the fact is - there is a lot more opportunity to be creative when dressing a 4 month old baby girl than a 5 year old boy! Don't get me wrong, I've bought some lovely clothes for Seb recently - but it's baby clothes (and usually from the "boys" section in shops) that get me excited.
 
Quinn's style is generally pretty unisex. Typical colours in her wardrobe are reds, blues, whites and greys - although there is the odd splash of pink (almost unavoidable in gifts and hand-me-downs). I love bold, colourful designs, the likes of brands such as Frugi, Maxamorra and Smafolk, although the High Street is really upping it's game and I've got some cute bits from Next, Marks and Spencer, Boots, and even the supermarkets recently.
 
We have several items that Quinn gets a lot of compliments on, and probably her most appreciated clothes are her hat and snood from Little Cotton Style. This set was originally sent to us for review and therefore I'm almost obliged to feature it on the blog, but the fact that the pieces are so lovely and that everyone is forever commenting on them - makes that a lot easier to do!
 
 
 
I was offered the opportunity to choose a set from the Little Cotton Style website, and whilst there are lots of cute designs (I have so many on my wish list now) - I opted for the umbrella print from their current Autumn range.
 
This is such a cool unisex print and totally appropriate for this time of year - plus the monochrome colour way pretty much goes with anything (even pink!)
 
All Little Cotton Style items are handmade, and the quality is incredible. The snood/tube scarf in particular has been through several washes already, because Quinn tends to dribble in to it, and it still looks and feels brand new. The cotton has a lot of "stretch" to it, so the hat is quite tight on the head but not uncomfortable - I've found this brilliant for when she's in the pushchair, as it stays perfectly in position, even when she moves her head from side to side - where other, looser hats tend to end up lop sided.
 
It seems to keep her ears nice and toasty and when she's wearing both items only her eyes are really visible, so it's ideal for blustery days to keep her face from getting too cold, especially in the carrier.
 
 
 
 
Honestly, without a doubt, these are some of the best quality baby items that we own, and I am poised and ready to order the entire reindeer set from the Little Cotton Style Christmas range, as well as a cheeky little bobble hat...
 
The umbrellas hat costs £6.25, the tube scarf only £6.00, which I think is brilliant value for a handmade item of this kind of quality.
 
 
 
 
 
Here Quinn is wearing her Little Cotton Style umbrellas set with some of my High Street favourites. The "ADVENTURE" jumper and pine tree design joggers were sold as a set from Marks and Spencer (baby boy's range) and the badger shoes are from Boots (also boy's) for £7.00.
 

Going Vegan


Long term readers will remember that last year I faced something of a moral dilemma, when I realised that most of my personal values were entirely at odds with my omnivorous diet. I began, by giving up dairy - partly due to my objection to the modern dairy industry, and partly because cheese made me spotty. I also ditched non-vegan cosmetics and household cleaning products, as it was impossible to know who the animals were whose products had ended up in my lipstick, or laundry powder.

I tried to limit myself to traceable animal products, buying from independent retailers and directly from the producer where possible, in the hope that I could justify eating meat and eggs by acknowledging that the animals had been well cared for in life. Generally speaking, this is referred to as "high welfare" meat, eggs and dairy.

When I fell pregnant with Quinn, my dairy free lifestyle pretty much went out of the window, and I started consuming massive amounts of dairy; pints of milk, cheese, chocolate - and oddly, it no longer caused my skin to breakout, which only made me enjoy dairy in even greater quantities. I basically ignored my niggling conscience, despite knowing that the dairy industry was one of the most cruel in terms of farming methods, and turned a blind eye to the blatant suffering that went in to pretty much everything I ate and drank.

Anyway, this isn't a preachy post. Once Quinn made her entrance in to the world, I no longer felt a longing for milk, and my consumption of dairy had gradually begun to dwindle again. I did however begin to struggle with a few pesky health complaints, nothing really bad, slow digestion more than anything and headaches.

I've now decided to look more closely at the ethics behind my food as well as the possible sources of my health issues. I wanted to try cutting out meat to see if it would alleviate digestive issues (meat takes a lot longer to digest than plant based foods and tends to sit in the gut for a long time, leading to discomfort). In looking in to this more, I had to make more of an effort to consider the meat industry, and whether high welfare meat really was a positive choice. I still consider looking after an animal and then killing it, to be bizarrely preferential to abusing an animal and then killing it, but either way, there's still killing involved, which I no longer want to be a part of.

I've decided to adopt a completely vegan lifestyle. I've spent the last year really at something of an internal war between the convenience of being an omnivore (the entire world we live in is tailored to support an omnivorous lifestyle) and the moral attitudes of a vegan.

Continuing to eat and use animal products has felt like a betrayal for a long time, but more so in recent times as I've read more and more vegan literature.

Going forward the blog will only include vegan products, which won't change what you can expect in terms of content, it simply means that anything that I review will be as cruelty free as possible and practical - which can't be a bad thing. Posts about my day to day life with the children will reflect the fact that we'll no longer live in such a way which could lead us to be considered responsible for, or complicit to, violence towards or the exploitation of, any living being (including humans). That doesn't mean however that I've suddenly thrown my children into veganism!

It's a pretty simple code to live by, and I'm looking forward to growing in this direction and sharing a lot of that with readers old and new.

Previous posts that may be of interest:
The Vegan Dilemma (Nov 5th 2014) in which I realise that I'm a spiritual vegan and a physical omnivore.
The Vegan Dilemma - An Update (Nov 25th 2014) in which I decide to give up dairy, eggs, non vegan cosmetics, and crap meat, but still don't really know what to do.
10 Facts About Dairy That Aren't On The Label (Dec 7th 2014) in which I realise how much I really shouldn't be drinking milk.
 

In defence of "brelfies" (breastfeeding selfies)

I take a lot of photos of Quinn whilst she's feeding. Like, probably at least five a week. This may sound excessive but then, I'm often feeding for around ten hours a day, if not more - so it dominates my experience of the world at the moment!
I also choose to share many of these photographs on social media (predominantly via Instagram). Many other breastfeeding women will proudly share photographs of their children feeding, others prefer not to, yet more again don't breastfeed. For the most part, nobody gives a hoot. I'd imagine if people find photos of Quinn feeding inappropriate or uncomfortable, they cease to follow me on these platforms, or they just scroll past. As yet, I've never received any negative feedback as such, other than people feeling it necessary to tell my boyfriend that they've "seen my boobs" (weird).
There tends to be a certain level of backlash towards the "breastfeeding selfie" when the notion filters through to the wider media though, which, more often than not, occurs when someone famous shares a breastfeeding picture.
No betterplace to go now but The Daily Mail - bastion of tolerant society, whose article "Rise of the BRELFIE: Breastfeeding selfies are the latest trend for new mums thanks to stars like Miranda Kerr (but is it just 'naked exhibitionism?')" attracted some great reader responses. If you want to see that photo of Mirander Kerr "naked" by the way, it's here:

Some of my favourite responses include "is nothing private any more? People will be sharing photos of conception next!" and "sex is natural, shall I take a selfie of myself doing that?" (because making breastfeeding comparable to sex isn't weird, at all...)

Anyhow, as someone who not only breastfeeds openly but shares photographs of myself doing so on social media, I thought I'd respond to the overall arguments against the "brelfie" as expressed in response to this and similar articles, here on the blog. I'm not going to make any further reference to objections which mention sex, when I breastfeed my daughter it is absolutely in no way similar to a sex act, therefore me posting photographs of me breastfeeding my daughter is in no way similar to me posting a pornographic image. End of.

As I said, I've had no negative directed at me, these points are raised in the media, predominantly in the "comments" sections of either social media posts or "news" articles - I've responded to them personally because they're generally aimed at all breastfeeding mothers.

1. It will mentally traumatise your child in the future. Only if I raise my daughter to consider breasts as wholly sexual and/or dirty, in which case I could understand her being uncomfortable at the thought of breastfeeding from me. But hey, as my breasts' primary purpose is to feed babies (as will be hers, regardless of whether that's what she uses them for or not), then I don't understand why she'd be more embarrassed of these photos than she would any other baby photo.

2. I'm all for breastfeeding, but it's a private, intimate moment between a Mother and child. Oh bore off. Every now and again, Quinn looks up at me whilst she is feeding and we lock eyes and smile, its beautiful. For the most part though, its just what I do, day in, day out, to feed my baby. Breastfeeding has strengthened our bond, but its no more "private and intimate" than my formula feeding friends preparing and giving their child a bottle - it's the necessary act of feeding the baby. Sometimes in fact, it's downright boring. It's just normal, guys, its not like a heavenly light shines from my nipples and the sound of angelic chorus can be heard for miles. Normal, normal, normal - how is that hard to understand? By the way, I'm breastfeeding right now as I type this one-handed, I'm not engaged in any sort of intimacy or active bonding experience, but it does keep her quiet!

3. You should be looking after your baby, not sitting on social media. Have you even had a baby? For most of the day I'm literally trapped on my sofa... it's this or stare at the wall.

4. You're just showing off because you can breastfeed, you look down on those that can't. Normal guys, not special, not better, not somehow talented. Just normal. I post photos of her face too. Because I have a baby. By posting photos of my baby I express no ill will towards those who can not have children, the same goes for photos of me breastfeeding. Stop projecting your own emotional response to women who breastfeed on to me.

5. Don't you mind people seeing photos of your boobs? I don't know... I don't share photos of my boobs. I share photos of my daughter, sometimes some of the skin and flesh of my breast is in the shot. I don't just post images of my bare breasts though.

6. You don't have any self respect or dignity. Self respect? Are you serious? I breastfed for weeks through the pain of a tongue tied newborn. I screamed in to pillows and bit my own arm to supress screams every time she latched on. I've had mastitis three times, blocked ducts that have meant I couldn't raise my arms, and thrush so crippling I couldn't even let the stream of water from the shower touch my chest. I've bled, and cried, and I now suffer from vasospasm, for which there is no treatment and means that breastfeeding will never be pain free. I don't think I'm better than anyone, but I do think I'm seriously badass, and I'm bloody proud of myself for continuing to breastfeed for my daughter's sake. The respect that I have for myself and my body in light of that, knows no bounds. As for dignity: defined as "a state of being worthy of honour or respect"... see above.

7. The pictures are in the public domain, you don't know who's looking at them. This is actually a completely separate argument regarding photographs of children in the public domain. I share photographs of my children here on the blog and on open profiles such as Instagram. There are a number of considerations to be made when doing so because, sure, images can be viewed by those with dishonest purpose. I choose to share photos of my children, a photograph of my daughter breastfeeding is no more likely to end up in the "wrong hands" than a photo of my son holding a cat. Both are a possibility, which is a real shame, but the problem lays elsewhere and isn't relevant to breastfeeding photographs alone.

8. It's unnecessary. So is every photograph I think I've ever posted on Instagram. Ever.

9. I wouldn't feel comfortable sharing a photo like that. OK, that's absolutely fine. I don't tell people to post photographs of themselves breastfeeding! For me, it's a huge huge part of my life, my parenting experience, and it's what I'm really most proud of at the moment. After what we've been through, I'm impressed with myself that we're still breastfeeding 17 weeks on. I don't feel awkward or embarrassed sharing these photos, I just think they're beautiful (generally) or cute, not sexy, not a bit saucy, not "private". But if you don't feel comfortable with people seeing you breastfeed or seeing photographs of you breastfeeding, there's nothing wrong with you, and there's nothing wrong with me. Onwards.

10. It's disgusting. I don't want to see that. You're disgusting.











 


"Meeting Reindeer" at Christmas

It's that time of year again, when I become increasingly frustrated at the exploitation of wild animals to create "festive cheer" for us peoples.
 
Every year, up and down this country and across Europe and America, reindeer are paraded in front of excited families to add that "extra Christmassy element" to events such as Christmas Light Switch On's, fetes and Santa's grotto appearances.
 
I get it, it seems harmless, and for the most part the reindeer just stand there, eating, seemingly entirely unbothered by what's going on. Occasionally they're lead around by loving and affectionate handlers who seem reassuring and confident in caring for the deer. Basically, the deer look happy enough.
 
I'm not suggesting for a minute that reindeer used for these events are being actively, physically abused. If they were, there'd not only be visible signs of their mistreatment (malnourishment, injuries etc.) but they'd also behave in a way that wouldn't be particularly conducive with delighting children.
 
My objection is a really, really, basic one. Reindeer aren't from England. In fact, there is only one place in the entire country suitable for reindeer (whilst they don't occur there as a native species) and that is the Cairngorms. In central London, or Margate, or Liverpool, or Glasgow, or the Welsh valleys - reindeer find themselves in a very unsuitable environment. They may be used to electric lighting, loud noises, excitable children and Slade lyrics; but they shouldn't be - we did that to them. We exposed them to situations so alien, that they couldn't care less. That's not right.
 
 
 
The reindeer that appear at your local Christmas themed event are robbed of a natural reindeer life, they probably haven't ever experienced a natural reindeer life. The life that they do experience might be one in which they're provided with someone warm to eat and regular food, but we provide that same basic level of compassion to our rapists and murderers.
 
If you agree that forcing elephants to perform tricks at the circus is outdated and cruel, are you comfortable with reindeer being dressed in sleigh bells and forced to stand, often for hours at a time, in a small pen whilst the public gawp at them and thrust smartphones in their faces.
 
Reindeer don't appear at a single, isolated event either. Ordinarily they'll begin appearances in November, and work through to Christmas Eve, often at opposite ends of the country, travelling from one site to the next in a lorry. The transportation of reindeer in a lorry benefits people, people who get to see them and feel "Christmassy" and people who benefit financially from "hiring them out". The reindeer get nothing, literally nothing, from this other than perhaps survival. They're fed, watered, sheltered - their diet rarely represents what wild reindeer would eat because we don't have access to the same vegetation for a start.
 
This year, please, don't support events that believe that the breeding of wild animals to be used purely for entertainment, and not allowing them a natural, reindeery life, is OK. It's not OK, we're better than that, and I at least want to raise my children to know that reindeer don't live in car parks.
 

Review: Water Wipes

Quinn is now approaching four months old, and we've only used Water Wipes at change times, after discovering them at The Baby Show during my pregnancy.
 
 
 
Unlike all other baby wipes on the market, Water Wipes contain no chemical ingredients what so ever, just water, and a tiny splash of fruit juice (99.9% water, 0.1% grapefruit extract). The fact that Water Wipes are just that - a water based wet wipe - makes them a safe but more convenient alternative to the water and cotton wool method of cleaning recommended for newborns. Water Wipes are the only wipes on the market suitable for newborn skin, and the purest packaged wet wipe available worldwide.
 
But are they any good? We've been using them for three months now - and have put in a repeat order, so it's safe to say that we're impressed. They certainly tackle anything from those first, tar like newborn poos, to the later poonami explosions, and are effective for a quick freshen up in between wet changes too. Quinn hasn't suffered with any nappy rash or skin irritations at all since birth, though if she's looking a little bit pink at times, we use coconut oil or a swipe of Natalia Virtual Touch Bottom Butter to calm any inflammation. We've certainly had no adverse reaction to the wipe though (water allergies are very few and far between).
 
Water Wipes are the only baby wipes to be approved by Allergy UK, for use on sensitive, intolerant, or eczema prone skins too.
 
We wouldn't use any other packaged wet wipe now. The only downside is they're darn difficult to get hold of compared to, say, Pamper's wipes. We bulk buy big boxes from Amazon to cut the costs, and this is certainly the most cost effective way to buy, but they are available in individual packs from Boots and a few larger supermarkets.
 
When Seb was a toddler, I remember using one of his Johnson's baby wipes to wipe some spilled loose eyeshadow off of my wooden toilet lid, after doing my makeup in the bathroom. Not only did the Johnson's wipe clean up the makeup spillage, but it also removed the varnish from the wooden toilet lid... That experience had me asking questions about what products I'd been using on my baby for the past two years, and had me looking in to products with fewer harsh chemicals the second time around. I used Johnson's wipes on Seb because they were a widely available, trusted household brand, and their products were often given away by organisations such as Bounty and Emma's Diary to pregnant and new parents. I didn't question whether or not they were particularly kind, either to my baby or to the planet, until I noticed the damage caused to the wooden toilet seat! That wooden toilet seat had been my child's skin for years!
 
I wouldn't go anywhere near a Johnson's wipe now, but will be sticking firmly with Water Wipes to keep Quinn clean and sparkly!
 

My 28th birthday, compared to my 18th

It's my 28th birthday (yay! hurrah! woop!) and unlike previous birthdays, this one feels like an opportunity to really be grateful for the life I have at the moment. I finally feel really settled and content with life and like I'm sort of figuring out where I fit in to the world. I did get to thinking though, about how much life has changed in the last 10 years.
 
Of course you'd hope that life had progressed somewhat - if everything was as it was when I had just turned 18 then this would be getting kind of awkward! I look back at my newly-18-year-old self though, and I kind of weep for her whilst also celebrating the glorious mess that she was about to create.
 
I thought it would be nice to write a little ode to 18 year old me and reflect on who she was.
 
 
 
On my 18th birthday I'd just returned to school from half term - I was studying A levels in psychology, religious studies, and classical civilisations. As I shared my birthday with my classics teacher (the INCREDIBLE Dr. Vivienne Webb) and we were only a class of nine girls, we'd managed to book a class trip to London to visit The British Museum and go for pizza.
 
I'd recently had my heart broken (for the second time in my chaotic, romantic teenage love life) and was smarting big time from what was actually a very amicable break-up from one of the loveliest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. My newly-ex boyfriend was one of the most popular people within our social circle, and I don't mean that annoying secondary school popular that's based entirely on being hot and good at sports (though he was both, to be fair) but he was just impossible to dislike; warm, kind, genuine... so it was largely impossible to express any kind of animosity towards him.
 
Instead, I sort of rekindled a previous relationship with one of my close girlfriends, and then began dating an incredibly eccentric guy who bought me orange sorbet in a gay club. Once back from London I hit the pub (my birthday fell on a Thursday and it was Pound'A'Pint night in The Penny Theatre in Canterbury - which was a pretty standard gathering for my group of friends) - which brought my weird romantic life crashing in around me. My ex boyfriend decided to come out to wish me a happy birthday and brought me flowers, I burst in to tears and begged him to get back with me, this upset previously mentioned girlfriend of sorts, and I called the oddball guy from the gay club to come and pick me up, cried on his shoulder, and asked him if we could go and get Chinese food. I ended up spending the night at his and there was a chicken in his bedroom. A live one.
 
Ahhh eighteen.
 
My parents bought me a car for my eighteenth birthday - an aqua/green/blue/turquoise Peurgeot which replaced my previous car, which I'd written off in a terrible accident a few weeks previously. I'm pretty sure that my car crash was some sort of near death experience - I've seen the photographs of the wreckage (which I was cut from by a fire crew) - and I'm surprised anyone made it out. Unfortunately I didn't appear particularly "enlightened" by the whole thing. I just became adamant that the fact that my newly purchased box of cigarettes also survived the crash unharmed should be taken as a sign that smoking wouldn't kill me.
 
My plan at eighteen was to move to Winchester the following year to study Theology at St. Alfred's. It was a plan that would never be realised, but at that point was pretty much the path I was set on. I'd completed my UCAS application, with a statement from my religious studies teacher that incorrectly stated that I intended to join the clergy. I was offered a place at all five of the universities I applied for - despite that reference - and I didn't attend any of them.
 
I was academically gifted really, at eighteen. Predicted three A grades at A Level, near enough guaranteed a place to study my chosen subject at university, pretty much excelling in each of my subjects at school. Yet I somehow managed to be fiercely social, had an enormous extended group of friends, smoked a lot, drank a lot and actually studied very little.
 
My closest friends were a pretty mixed bunch but we were super tight knit. Every morning I'd give my friend Holly a lift to school. She was infamous for exhibitionism and risky sexual practices - I miss her.
 
It was around the time of my eighteenth birthday that I staged an experiment to see how much weight I could gain in a fortnight. A lot, it turns out.
 
It was the year to come that would pretty much set me on a road to ruin and make the following decade, leading up to now, the most poorly judged, but at times very rewarding, demonstration of how not to be successful that I could possibly have lived! But I look back at newly eighteen year old me, sat around a table in Pizza Express with my classics class, or crying in Morrison's car park about being dumped, and I don't think I'd warn her of that much, even if I could. Every mistake that I was about to make at that point in life, from some truly disastrous romantic decisions, to racking up thousands of pounds worth of debt, to adopting an obese street cat - have gradually lead me to where I am today.
 
At 28 I have two children, despite being adamant at 18 that I probably didn't want any - and if I did become a Mother, it wouldn't be before I was 30. At 28 I've already been married and separated - I should probably get divorced this year - despite at 18 declaring that I would get married in 2020. At 28 I can only really describe myself, career wise, as a struggling writer - my favourite of clichés, whilst at 18 I wanted to study theology and write philosophy books for a living. At 28 I have finally settled on the absolute love of my life, he took some finding, but I can't believe I ever felt love before this - despite at 18 being pretty certain that there will never be anyone else like him.
 
I wouldn't ever want to go back to being eighteen, but in it's weird way it was awesome. I have to thank Amadou I guess for leaving me for someone else, and making me cry loads. I have to thank Rufus for the orange sorbet, and for picking me up from the pub that night and not kicking me out of the car for crying about my ex. I have to thank Dr. Webb for being an incredible mentor and for the pizza. I have to thank my parents for buying me another car after I made such a mess of the first one. I have to thank Holly for the morning she came to school wearing only a poncho. I have to thank Mariel for lying for me on so many occasions about my school day smoking habits ("she's gone to the toilet Miss") and The Penny Theatre in general for serving me alcohol, and for their halloumi burgers. Thanks everyone for making my eighteenth birthday such an odd one... but just you wait until I'm 31 and look back ten years from then!
 

Breastfeeding in Public - My Experience So Far

Yesterday the government issued a press release sharing the results of a recent study in to attitudes towards public breastfeeding - and to say that I am appalled would be an understatement.
 
The press release itself tended not to dwell too much on the fact that the figures that it shared were abysmal, but I read it and found myself feeling seriously disheartened as a breastfeeding Mum.
 
2,393 British adults were surveyed as part of this study, which, granted, doesn't make it a particularly large body of research - however, if we assume that this couple of thousand people represent a vague cross section of the British public then I find it embarrassing, that a whopping 52% stated that they did not believe that a woman should feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. Beyond that, 56% believe that there are "unacceptable" places to breastfeed (I can only hope they were referring to the filthy public toilets that some breastfeeding Mothers are directed to). Figures didn't really improve, with only 57% of those asked considering restaurants (yes you know, places designed specifically for humans to consume a meal) to be an appropriate place to breastfeed, and 51% saying the same about public transport.

 
 
It's unsurprising really that the same study reports that about a third (34%) of women feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about feeding in public, and 1 in 5 believe that other people will think negatively of them if they do so.
 
I have to admit, I would really put myself in the 4 out of 5 breastfeeding Mum's who doesn't think other people will think negatively of her - or perhaps isn't too fussed if they do. Yes, I know there are people who don't support public breastfeeding, but when I feed my daughter in public it honestly doesn't occur to me that others will react negatively. If these figures are to be accepted though, then it's safe to assume that almost every other person I encounter feels unhappy about my decision to publicly breastfeed my child!
 
74% of women attempt to breastfeed when their child is born - which is brilliant, and I totally back up the remaining 26% who choose not to. When I had Seb I didn't want to breastfeed and he was given infant formula from the first feed - I'm lucky to have been supported in this decision, and then later in my decision to breastfeed Quinn. Bottle feeding mamas need not be upset by my monologue here, but we have to ask ourselves why these figures drop off to just 47% breastfeeding between 6 and 8 weeks. I refuse to accept that all of them decide, happily, without regret, to switch to formula feeding.  I know quite a few Mum's who only set out planning to feed their baby the nutrient dense colostrum, or "first milk", before switching to formula when the baby is a few days old. Most of the Mum's who stop feeding between 0-8 weeks though will probably do so because for whatever reason, breastfeeding doesn't work out, that might be due to concerns about supply or baby's satisfaction, or painful feeding, it could be as a result of illness such as thrush or mastitis, or even mental health complications. The figures from this public breastfeeding survey don't exactly help matters, with 1 in 10 women who swap from breast to bottle in this time saying that anxiety surrounding public feeding influenced their decision.
 
I'm a very happy public breast feeder. During the week, Quinn and I spend a lot of time with close friends or at baby groups, where breastfeeding doesn't raise an eyebrow and if anything, I attract positive conversation about infant feeding. However, I've fed in cafes, restaurants, pubs, in the park, on the bus, on the train, at my son's school and in supermarkets. I'm not going to get up and leave any of these venues to feed my child - I will sit down because I'm more comfortable sitting than standing to feed, but that's about the only disruption I'll suffer.
 
When I first had Quinn I would use a muslin as a DIY nursing apron and tuck the corner in to my bra strap for "modesty", but I've since decided that this is a load of rubbish - given that it's just as blatantly obvious that I'm breastfeeding - and you can't actually see my babies mouth around my nipple without the muslin anyway - you can see the back of her head... that's it. So I very very rarely bother with the cover any more. Many babies will seek to breastfeed when they want eye contact with their Mum. Breastfed babies don't just feed because they're hungry, but because they're tired, grouchy, or a little scared. Nursing, and making eye contact with their Mum, relaxes a baby and makes them feel loved. I have decided that if my daughter comes to me asking if we can show one another how much we love one another (which is pretty much what she's doing when she's on the hunt for a boob and isn't starving hungry) then I'm not going to stick a sheet over her face and look around the room pretending she isn't actually there. If one family will give their baby a dummy to suck for comfort whilst they have a cappuccino in the M&S café, I will probably breastfeed my daughter for the same reason!

It's worth mentioning though that whilst this is how I feel about breastfeeding Quinn uncovered, I have friends whose babies prefer to be under a cover when outside of their normal quiet, home environment and that's cool. Equally, if covering is going to be the difference between a Mum breastfeeding her baby, or deciding to switch to formula for the sole reason that public nursing embarrasses her - whip out that breastfeeding apron I say! It's an each to their own kind of thing, but there's a reason I choose not to usually use a cover when breastfeeding and it's not that I'm a total exhibitionist!
 
The one thing that I read quite early on that made me feel more confident about breastfeeding in public, was the idea of imagining that we produced milk through our index fingers, and fed our babies by allowing them to suck the end of our index finger. If this were the reality of feeding a baby; a) people would probably still be drinking their Mother's milk as an adult and b) it wouldn't be seen as any more inappropriate for a baby to have Mum's milk in public than take a bottle of formula. The reason many find an adult drinking human milk, or a baby drinking human milk in a restaurant, inappropriate, is because we don't produce milk from our index finger, but from our breasts. So the problem here is the boob, not the milk - nobody is remotely bothered about the milk. Once I recognised that, I got over the possibility of offending anyone pretty quickly, as I couldn't make any sense of their objection!

As a breastfeeding Mum I've still yet to come up against a single negative comment. I'm sure there are people that think negative things about me breastfeeding Quinn in public, but so far they've all kept it to themselves. The only comments I've had, have been positive ones, and range from someone at a baby group saying how much it makes her happy to see a big chubby breastfed baby, to a lady on the bus who simply put her hand on my shoulder as she got up to leave and said "Good for you". As well as that I've had many people tell me that it's lovely to see a baby being breastfed, and I very much doubt that the people making such positive comments actually realise how much they brighten my day!

So far for me, public breastfeeding has been a positive experience. I've felt welcome and comfortable everywhere that I've needed to feed Quinn, including numerous restaurants. I'm certainly never likely to stop feeding Quinn in public, as that would involve, you know, denying my child food - I'm not sure what the 52% of people referred to in the survey above would have me do!
 
 
 

Lessons That I've Learned From My Children

Being a Mum puts you immediately on a steep learning curve. How to make bottles of infant formula at 2:00am. How to exist on very little sleep. In The Night Garden. You're immediately thrown in the deep end when you have a baby and that's kind of a universal shared experience in modern culture. However, there are a hundred and one lessons of spirit learned in being a parent, occasions when your kids just teach you how you ought to be living your life.
 
Some of these came from having and raising Seb so far, and being a first time Mum, some from having Quinn and doing the whole baby thing as a calmer, and more experienced parent. Some are common to both of them.
 
 
 
  1. Pay attention to the changing seasons. Don't just photograph them, but live them. Talk about the changes around you, touch them, smell them, draw them, cook them.
  2. Everyone has a need to be touched; hand holding, cuddling, sleeping close to one another, it's all vital.
  3. People and cats, are a lot more alike than I thought. If human Mothers acted more like cat Mothers, pregnancy, birth and parenting would be a lot easier.
  4. The sky is amazing. Look at it more.
  5. Breast milk. As a substance. In-sane.
  6. Try not to taste food with your eyes before you taste it with your tongue - go in to each new food adventure with an open mind.
  7. Real intelligence can't be measured by academia, or by vocabulary, but by how hard you try to understand someone's feelings, or avoid stepping on snails.
  8. It's definitely OK to be a bit grubby.
  9. Say "yes" more often. Unless you have a really good reason. There's actually no decent reason to not be really noisy in your own house.
  10. Say "no" more often. Not liking parties is a perfectly good reason to not go to a party.
  11. Make friends in less obvious places.
  12. Do stuff in spite of the weather, not because of the weather.
  13. It genuinely makes zero difference if something is second hand.
  14. Almost everything can be a competition, but almost nothing should be, other than, well - competitions.
  15. The value of experiences is about ten fold that of objects.
  16. Colours have no gender.
  17. You remember the times you were showered in love more than the times you were showered in gifts.
  18. Make time and effort for three proper meals a day or you'll regret it very quickly.
  19. Accept change. Nothing stays the same but you'll still be alive if you keep on living anyway.
  20. Buy socks, pants, decorations, handbags, and food because they make you smile - not just because they're fit for purpose.   
 

My Breastfeeding Experience - Ductal Thrush

If you've read my previous breastfeeding experience posts you could be forgiven for thinking that breastfeeding as a whole has been the worst thing I've ever done. Hands down, it's been the most draining, tiring, commitment and determination requiring, and at times, painful, thing I've done but I promise it's not as bad as these posts perhaps make out.
 
I will write a positive breastfeeding post soon, I promise.

 
 
These days, breastfeeding for me is just a normal part of my day. A massive part, because it takes up hours and hours of my awake time. I've managed to get Quinn in to a routine of feeding about every two hours - but please bear in mind that she very very rarely sleeps in between those feeds so it feels constant to be honest. However I don't really think about it that much, it's just feeding the baby after all.
 
However - Quinn's latch is still shocking. A baby should open it's mouth super wide as it approaches the breast, and get a big mouth full of soft boob tissue in the mouth, basically - baby's lips and Mum's nipple should never meet. Someone tell this to Quinn. This is, in part, the legacy left behind by her tongue-tie, but she also has an upper lip tie, which means her top lip is connected to her top gum by a flap of skin that descends to where, eventually, her teeth will be, so she can't curl her lip up. There's not a lot you can do for a lip tie (they're only surgically altered in quite extreme cases) but it does effect her latch somewhat.
 
Good news is - breastfeeding, on a typical day, is no longer the eye watering, painful experience that it was. Bad news - the latch issues mean that I'm more prone to blocked milk ducts and mastitis, and pretty much have to accept this as my fate if I want to continue feeding. I've tried everything to correct Quinn's latch but she genuinely can't feed comfortably in any other way so I've had to just let her get on with it.
 
I'm so used to this now that on days when I notice a lump forming under my skin I immediately get a hot compress on it, massage (from the lump towards my nipple in long, firm strokes) and feed like crazy on that side to shift the blockage. This usually works a treat and I avoid infection setting in and mastitis developing.
 
But there is something worse than mastitis. So, so much worse. Boob thrush. The top reasons that people stop breastfeeding are as follows:
 
  1. perception that baby is unsatisfied/supply issues
  2. cracked nipples/painful latch
  3. post natal depression and/or anxiety
  4. pain from thrush
  5. Mum's return to work
  6. baby has colic/reflux symptoms eased by a bottle
Blocked ducts and mastitis don't feature (horrific as they are) - but thrush is the No. 4 reason that people quit breastfeeding. The pain is like nothing else.
 
I asked some other breastfeeding Mum's to describe the pain of having a thrush infection in your nipple. Results below:
 
"like someone piercing, and re piercing, your nipple constantly with a shard of broken glass"
 
"like someone pushing a hot needle in to your boob through your nipple"
 
"like a gerbil is eating your boobs"
 
"like running your nipple across a cheese grater all day"
 
"like dying, probably."
 
So yeah, seems like I'm not alone in finding the whole thing overly horrific. The pain of thrush is a very sharp, ouchy, needle-like pain, but at the same time, persistent. It doesn't really go away but is worse during, and especially immediately after, feeding. The pain of blocked ducts and mastitis is more like a hot bruise so they're pretty easy to tell apart once you've experienced both.
 
Some of the symptoms to look out for if you think you might have thrush:
 
  • baby may have white lumpy or furry looking residue on tongue. Sometimes this can be milk - so check their tongue before, not after, a feed.
  • Pain as described above
  • Nipples looking particularly red, sore and shiny
  • Damage to the nipple - yeast infections find it easier to "get in" if your nipples are already cracked and sore - however - using nipple shields can make things worse unless you're absolutely militant about boiling the hell out of them after every use.
Because yeast infections pass from one person to another so easily, if you're suffering from thrush in your breasts then baby will need to be treated for oral thrush too.
 
Suffering from thrush does not mean that you're dirty, or even doing anything wrong. Almost all breastfeeding Mums will experience a bout of thrush at some point on their breastfeeding journey because the yeast thrives in warm, moist, sugary environments - your baby's mouth being absolutely ideal. Short of not feeding your baby, it's very difficult to stop them from developing oral thrush, and it then becomes almost inevitable that it'll spread to your nipple with regular feeding.
 
The normal treatment for oral and nipple thrush is a clotrimazole cream for Mum, which is applied to the nipple and surrounding areola after feeds, and a treatment for baby too. Initially Quinn was prescribed Nystatin which is an oral suspension (like Calpol) but I found this made no difference what so ever - and most Mum's I've spoken to had little or no success in treating their baby's oral thrush with Nystatin. A prescription for Daktarin gel seems more popular - which is what I've used to treat Quinn successfully. It's an orange flavoured gel which you rub on to their tongue, gums and roof of mouth with a clean finger. Daktarin gel can only be given to babies under 4 months with a prescription from the doctor - but after that, can be bought over the counter.
 
Sometimes, the thrush doesn't go away. And here's my experience of ductal thrush. If the yeast infection continues to spread in to the breast tissue it may eventually reach the milk ducts and set up home there. This is where the pain gets to pillow-biting levels. Yesterday I actually screamed when Quinn latched on - and I never felt pain like that even when my nipples were bleeding and red raw in the early breastfeeding days. This is grim.
 
Symptoms are still as above, but the pain is a lot more intense - like someone holding a red hot poker to your nipple, and the application of a cream won't touch it.
 
I've since been to the doctor and been prescribed a 14 day course of Fluconazole tablets which on Day 7 as I write this, still aren't making that much of a difference. Ductal thrush is extremely persistent and hard to shift, and thus is responsible for the end of many a breastfeeding journey.
 
If you're suffering from thrush, as well as sticking to your prescribed medications, there are others things to remember in order to get rid of the infection.
 
  • Boil all bottle teats, pacifiers/dummies, teethers, nipple shields and anything that baby puts in their mouth - where older babies are concerned this is pretty much everything. Your normal steriliser isn't enough and items need to be in boiling water for 10 minutes to kill of the thrush apparently.
  • Replace all bottle teats, dummies, teethers etc. weekly. This gets expensive. 
  • Change breast pads after every feed and either hot wash your reusables or use disposable liners until the infection is clear. I initially used my reusables but I wouldn't usually change them after every feed and it's hard to keep on top of, washing wise, so I'm just using disposable breast pads for the time being.
  • Wash all fabrics that come into contact with the nipple daily on a hot wash - bras, towels, clothes etc.
It is perfectly safe to breastfeed with thrush. If you feed less regularly as a result of the horrific pain (as I made the mistake of doing) you then put yourself at risk of blocked ducts and mastitis and believe me when I say, from experience, you don't want both at the same time - so feeding through it does kind of become your only option. However, if you express breast milk whilst you have thrush you need to feed it to baby straight away - as giving milk that was expressed whilst thrush was present, after the infection has cleared up, could reintroduce it (and freezing doesn't kill the thrush)
 
See a breastfeeding counsellor or lactation consultant if breastfeeding is painful or uncomfortable (access these via your SureStart Children's Centre or ask your health visitor for contact details). If you suspect that you're suffering from thrush see a pharmacist. If baby is under four months, or you'd rather get treatment on prescription, see your GP.
 
 

3 month body update

FFS. So by now these body updates should be about how I'm living some uber healthy lifestyle and working towards my pre-pregnancy figure. Reality? The other day I looked at a photograph on my Instagram from this time last year, where I'm a size 6 and taking photos of myself in a mirror, in a bikini, above several comments from people asking how I got such defined abs. I looked at the picture and then spooned an extra mound of sugar in to my coffee before sloping off to the sofa with a packet of chocolate digestives.
 
 
 
I want to be one of those women who's like "my body did amazing things and I'm proud of my soft belly". Here's the thing - my body did do amazing things, I had an incredible pregnancy which was one of the loveliest spiritual experiences of my life. I birthed my daughter on my own, on my knees, in my bedroom, without feeling any pain. I breastfeed her around the clock and she's now almost double her birth weight at 14 weeks. I'm proud of me. My body is awesome. My strength of mind, determination to do what I perceive to be the best thing for my children, and my ability to soldier on through the tiredness and the various boob-related illnesses, rocks. I still don't love the soft belly though.
 
This is also entirely self inflicted. Yes, it's normal to change shape during pregnancy. No, I didn't expect to be a size 6 with amazing abs again immediately after having a baby. What I did expect though was to have the motivation and desire to kick out the sugar and other processed crap from my diet, exercise more and start working towards something vaguely resembling good health. Fail.
 
So - this month's body update is more of a psych evaluation, because I can't work out why I'm being one of those annoying people that complains about their weight and does absolutely naff all to alter it. I know I've said this before (and you'd think that putting it out there on a public platform would work too), but this coming month, I absolutely have to shop and eat smarter because whilst I've just maintained weight since giving birth, I'm going to start gaining it at any moment, and I'm already uncomfortable.
 
At the moment I'm a size 12 - which I appreciate is by no means an unhealthy size to be. I'd ideally like to be closer to the size 10 mark by Christmas. I'm probably never going to be a size 6 again, I've had two children, I'm 28 next week - and I only got that slim because I was so stressed I was seconds away from spontaneous combustion, so it isn't really desirable anyway.
 
I've already established that my worst habits are; sitting down too much because I breastfeed for about 14 hours a day, having two sugars in coffee, eating biscuits for lunch, and failing miserably on the vegetable front. This is basic health common sense and I'm usually so hot on this stuff, that I'm genuinely pissed off with myself!
 
I'm currently trying to decide whether to do the old "too small dress technique", i.e buy myself a nice dress for Christmas in a size too small and torture myself until it fits... there are probably 101 reasons why this is completely ill advised.
 
I'm 99% sure it's totally normal to feel like this a few months after having a baby. I always think, in scenarios like this "if this were my best friend's problem, what would I say?" - and I know I'd be a fountain of reassurance and positivity so I should really throw some of that kindness in my own direction... but still... I think I might have back fat.
 

Baby Massage & The Blissful Baby Box from Natalia Vital Touch

Initially, I was pretty sure that I had a baby who hated massage. Boyfriend was really keen to practice baby massage with Quinn - especially as she's breastfed so his bonding opportunities are kind of limited to cuddles when she isn't hungry - and changing the occasional nappy! To our dismay though, despite the hundreds of benefits to baby - Quinn would just scream through any attempt at massage, regardless of whether it was me of her Daddy taking part.
 
Quinn sees a chiropractor regularly, is in brilliant health, and it wasn't an "in pain" cry so much as a "get off of me, that's gross" cry - so I'd pretty much given up, and looked woefully at the coconut oil that sat beside my bed.
 
However - we've now found that if we massage Quinn during the day - basically when it's really inconvenient for us - she loves it! Bedtime/after bath massage isn't her thing, in fact there's a really narrow window of opportunity in between her letting her last feed go down, but before she's getting hungry for the next one, when she isn't tired, and in relatively high spirits - late morning is a good bet. This sort of goes against my vision of a bath/massage/feed/bed routine in the evenings but at least she, and I, are benefitting from the baby massage time. It doesn't really help with the bonding with Daddy thing either, as he works six days a week ordinarily, but ho-hum.
 
We're now starting a baby massage course at our local SureStart Children's Centre - which I'll report back on in a few weeks, just so that I can hone my skills a bit.
 
My favourite baby massage products at the moment are from Natalia, by Vital Touch, who I've mentioned a couple of times on the blog before (I used their products during my super incredible labour and birth). Vital Touch were kind enough to send Quinn and I their "Blissful Baby Box", which, like the "Labour and Birth Box", contains specially selected gorgeous, organic products, as well as an organic cotton wash cloth. I was particularly excited about the flannel to be honest because I love the one from my Labour and Birth Box, and haven't been able to find a wash cloth that soft anywhere else, so now I have two!
 
 
 
Also in the Blissful Baby Box, new families receive a bottle of organic sunflower massage oil - which is recommended by all baby massage practitioners. It doesn't smell as lovely as coconut oil (it basically doesn't smell at all) but it is absorbed into the skin without leaving too much grease - as long as you don't use too much, and it warms really nicely in your hands. The course that I'm attending at the Children's Centre provide sunflower oil for massage, but it isn't organic - so I'm being that parent and taking my own. The box also contains a useful book on baby massage tips and techniques, which is great if you're just going to practice baby massage at home and want to know baby's getting the most from it.
 
The real stars in this gift box though, and the products I'd definitely buy again and again, are the balms. You receive two balms in little glass jars and initially they seem like tiny trial-sized products, but believe me when I say - a little goes a long way. I use the Baby Special Skin Balm on everything at the moment. Quinn is a very chubby baby, and as such she has all sorts of rolls and folds - which means she's somewhat prone to getting red sore bits if she sweats or if I don't completely dry her properly after a bath. The Special Skin Balm soothes any red, inflamed looking skin in a single application - it's miracle stuff - I'm obsessed. Boyfriend made an attempt to saw off his leg at work the other week (he's fine, he went through his trousers but only sliced into his thigh and didn't do any proper damage) and he's been pinching Quinn's balm to put on his healing wound. The Bottom Butter is very similar but has a different fragrance and is by far the most luxurious nappy cream I've used so far. All you need is to swirl your finger against the solid balm in the jar and swipe over baby's nappy area with each change, but the balm melts in to the skin beautifully and it still smell's lovely down there at the next change! We've tried out a few organic, natural nappy cream options (because there's nothing I detest quite like Sudocrem) and this, I have to say, is my favourite so far. It's also safe to use with cloth nappies (some nappy creams will effect the absorbency of your cloth nappies).
 
Last but not least, the Blissful Baby Box contains a 100ml glass bottle of Baby Top to Toe Wash. I don't tend to use huge amounts of these kind of products on Quinn, I've always thought it far more beneficial to her skin to wash her with warm water and then apply topical oils afterwards (not that she lets me) than to use soaps in the bath, however, as this Top to Toe Wash is oil based and all-natural, I've made an exception, and whilst I haven't noticed any difference to her skin - it certainly smells lovely and it makes her hair really fluffy - which is always nice!
 
The Blissful Baby Box retails for £32, which seems a lot at first but when you consider the typical shelf price of organic skincare products with top end ingredients - and consider the fact that you're buying four full-sized products (plus a wash cloth and book) - it's impressive value. The balms alone will last forever as you really do only need the tiniest amount to apply to baby, same goes for the massage oil - I can be a little gung-ho with the Top to Toe Wash because it just pours out of a relatively wide necked glass bottle so it's difficult to just use a tiny amount - it kind of glugs!
 
Still, a hugely positive review from Quinn and I - if for that gorgeous cotton flannel alone! If you're looking for a luxurious new baby gift for someone who places any importance on organic natural products - you're on to a winner with this one.
 
Check out Natalia Vital Touch's other gift boxes, with products carefully selected for pregnancy, birth, new Mums, and newborn babies.
 

12 Week Update

This post has been a little late coming, and all shall become clear very shortly - but getting content up on the blog in general recently has been a bit of a fail - so hopefully this post will explain all!
 
As promised, this will be the last in the series of weekly posts that I've put up tracking Quinn's progress and development, I genuinely don't think I can maintain a weekly post on the topic for the rest of the poor girl's life, so for the time being I'm going to drop it down to a monthly update post and group everything together.
 
I thought as the last of it's sort, I'd make this post a general overview of what life is like as Quinn's Mum right now, as much as a look back on the past week's events, which should make it a good place to leave before we pick up again in a months time.
 
 
 
Yesterday Quinn had her 12 week vaccinations, which included a second dose of the rotavirus vaccine (which is given as drops) but didn't include another of the new Meningitis B vaccinations - which was the one I think caused us a lot of grief at the 8 week lot. At 8 weeks the poor little mite screamed the flat down with a fever the evening of her jabs, and was generally really grotty and upset with them. I'm glad to say that our experience with the 12 week vaccinations was quite the opposite, other than an initial 10 second cry when the needle went in, she's been a pretty happy baby, with no sign of a fever or any poorliness - thank goodness!
 
We took Quinn to London for the first time last weekend, not that she'll remember that first visit. No baby-on-the-tube for us as it was the most beautiful crisp, sunny Autumn day so we parked on the edge of Battersea Park and walked in to Chelsea and South Kensington to take Seb to the Natural History Museum. Quinn was in her Cybex carrier though and appeared to have a perfectly lovely day!
 
The highlight of Quinn's week, if she were able to tell anyone, would have to be finally managing to purposefully grab her own foot. This doesn't sound very interesting, but she's been carefully, deliberately leaning forward in an attempt to touch her feet (which she finds fascinating) - only to miss by a mile and end up frustrated and upset. This week though, propped up against my knees whilst I was laying on the sofa, she managed to make a grab for her toes with success. I then popped a pen on her knees to see if she could pick it up, but her grip isn't there yet. She did reach forward and manage to bash the pen off of her legs though, so her hand to eye coordination and awareness of space and distance is improving.
 
She's brilliantly interactive now, able to follow people with her head and eyes, turn towards sounds or movement (if it's of interest) and wants to carefully study everything. She's also very vocal, as you'll know if you've caught any of my recent videos on instagram!
 
Seriously though - right now - being Quinn's primary carer is such hard work, compared to her brother when he was her age, she is incredibly demanding. On the one hand, she is breastfed, and like most breastfed babies, she feeds a lot more often than a formula fed baby. Yes; she sleeps relatively well at night, but during the day it can be normal for her to feed every 45 minutes to an hour some days - which makes it tough to get anything done. Her interest in the world around her, but comparably poor fine motor skills, means that when you're with her you need to constantly have the patience to show her everything, to let her watch everything, to stop and look at things, to pass different textures through her hands so that she can experience them because she can't touch them herself. It can be lovely, and it can be exhausting - because if you're not able to indulge her and encourage this curiosity - then she melts into a small ball of chubby rage. Whilst she's being held, spoken to, and allowed to look closely at every leaf, every person's face, every pattern on the upholstery of every chair - she's a very content, very happy baby though!
 
This enthusiasm for experience also means that she doesn't nap. At all. Not even for half an hour - presumably because she's worried about missing anything. Seb used to sleep for hours on end, whereas Quinn will occasionally nod off in her carrier (not the pushchair anymore, more on that in a minute) but otherwise, she is wide awake, and tired. She'll then finally go to sleep at about 8:30pm - having been up since before 7:00am. This is not what I'm used to and not conducive to a) getting any housework done b) preparing myself healthy meals c) pursuing my usual avenues of paid employment or d) blogging. For around 14 hours a day, I am on an unending cycle of breastfeeding and looking at stuff.
 
The pushchair has been made almost entirely redundant until I reconsider the carrycot structure. It doesn't lend itself to Quinn being able to see anything outside of the carrycot and as such, she is appalled by it's very existence. If I can get the seat unit to recline such that she is safe, but able to look around a bit more - I might have a solution, in the meantime, she goes everywhere in her carrier. The carrier is fine, I love baby-wearing so it isn't so much an issue, but she is insistent that the view be varied - i.e you can only stand still as long as it takes her to study her surroundings, once she's had a good look around, you need to move on. Standing still, be it in a shop, at a road crossing, to talk to anyone, to wait for her brother to come out of school etc. is simply not on. *Face Palm*
 
Added to the sheer work involved in keeping Quinn happy at the moment, is the fact that she isn't particularly fond of anybody. She likes her Dad, my best friend Sushi, and her brothers, but only if she's been fed recently. As soon as she begins to get slightly peckish (and that window of opportunity is very small) then she shouts at them. This does not lend itself very well to anyone actually helping me to get anything done, unless they do the thing that isn't dealing with the baby (fine for housework, not so much for blogging).
 
This all makes is sound bloody awful and it isn't, I have an incredible bond with Quinn, in part due to the fact that she's breastfed and probably largely down to her birth. She is extraordinary, her thirst for experience is amazing, she wants to take everything in, in infinite detail, she wants to see as much as can be seen and listen to every word everyone says - I'm pretty sure she'll be fiercely intelligent. I love spending time indulging this side of her nature because when Seb was her age he was always asleep!
 
Our weeks are relatively busy, whilst I'd like to be getting some stuff done for myself we are enjoying our usual breastfeeding support group, baby sensory, Sing and Sign, and local baby groups, as well as getting to spend time with our friends (by which, I mean people talking to me whilst I breastfeed!)
 
All in all I'm loving this baby experience and whilst it's the complete opposite of my experience with Seb, it's totally awesome, but tiring, so so tiring!
 
I keep feeling bad that I don't get to spend as much time on my relationship as I did before Quinn came along. It's pretty obvious that this would be the case, but because she is exclusively breastfed we don't have the opportunity to do the whole "date night" thing yet and leave her with anyone, and I'm not really sure that I'd want to anyway, it isn't really on my agenda this time around and when I see other people going out and leaving their babies it just makes me feel uncomfortable these days - despite the fact that I did it regularly when Seb was little! By the time Quinn goes to bed though, boyfriend and I usually eat, chat for a short while and crash into bed pretty early afterwards. Quinn's gone from sleeping until 5:30am to typically being up around 4, which takes far more of a toll! We're both tired and whilst we aren't arguing as a result or feeling any less close and in love, it's just difficult to make as much of a fuss of one another as we'd like, which makes me sad now and again - not to mention, Boyfriend is crazy busy with work.
 
Other than that though, it's business as usual. I had the wonderful news recently that my best friend Sushmita is expecting her first baby (she has two step children from her husband's first marriage) so I'm glad to be surrounded by pregnancy stuff again without actually being pregnant! It means Quinn will have a new little friend in six months time (insert excited squeal!)
 
We are coming out of the end of the dreaded 12 week developmental leap, or third Wonder Week - so keep an eye out for my upcoming post about that.