Routine For An 11 Month Old

As you may have rightly guessed, I am currently a stay at home mum with the sprog who is 11 months. I never thought that I would spend more than 6 to 9 months with my baby. I always thought she would go to Nursery once she was weaned on to solids, but that hasn’t happened. I think that in many ways, we are quite lucky to be able to give her the foundation that we think she needs before handing her over to early years experts at Nursery. Of course not every family is able to do this, and there is no right or wrong way. If a mother has to return to work, then another primary care giver must be found.

Being at home provides me the opportunity to spend ample time with my baby. It can be both satisfying and rewarding, but also exhausting at times. There are days when I just want to send her to Nursery, and there are other days when I cannot stop smiling at her big bright smiles and precious antics. It’s great to spend the day when she eats what I feed her, naps when she should, and plays away if mama has to tackle a few tasks around the house. Not so great when she cries all the time, and is generally cranky as babies can be sometimes.

The one thing that keeps me sane, is a routine. Within that routine, a list of games and at least one trip out of the house keeps things manageable and interesting for the sprog and myself. Below is a typical routine for weekdays.

6.30-7.30am: I can hear her humming and sucking on Peter Rabbit, I have an hour to have a shower and get ready for the day.

7.30-8.00am: Go down to her room, morning cuddles, nappy change and go to the kitchen for milk.

8.00-8.30am: Read a story or just play.

8.30-9.00am: Breakfast.

9.00-10am: Play

10.00-12noon: Wash and get dressed, have a small mid-morning snack, go to a baby class or sit and play session run locally. She naps in her pushchair.

12noon-2.00pm: Might go home and have lunch, or go into town to run errands. Have lunch on the go.

2.00-4.000pm: Sing and play. She cruises around the house, exploring things, while I run errands next to her. Then offer a mid-afternoon snack and water.

4.00- 5.00pm: Convince her to have a nap. In the last 3 days, this has now become increasingly difficult. I think she may be dropping the afternoon nap.

5.00-6pm: Dinner.

6pm-7.30pm: Finish dinner, play, do her bedtime routine including a nice warm bath, lights out, go to sleep.

Now this is only the perfect scenario, there are days when we end up staying indoors although I try to keep these at a minimum because she is much easier to manage and less bored when she’s been outdoors. There are days, like yesterday, when she is so cranky as a result of the missed nap, that she won’t stop crying. Other days, she chooses to cling to the back of my legs and thus I am unable to do much around the house.

Whatever the case, the best advice I received regarding looking after babies is to establish a routine which includes leaving the house at least once a day, and I am glad I listened. Going out makes a world of difference to a baby’s temperament because the fresh air, and the world out there, feed their curiosity and they sleep so well afterwards, at least our baby does.

Losing Weight After Childbirth

 

Losing weight after childbirth is one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do. Before conception, I weighed 67kg and gained a whooping 20kg by the time the sprog was born. So we returned home from hospital, baby in arms, logging around about 15kg. To be honest, I was surprised that I was still weighing that much, my belly was still a huge watermelon, and I was hungry all the time.

I breastfed my baby for the first six months of her life, and I can tell you that it is an intense experience, especially as she was hungry all the time. Some friends expressed surprise that the weight wasn’t falling off because I breastfed, but I knew it didn’t happen because I ate as much as I breastfed, and I ate all the wrong things. I think because I was exhausted from logging around a baby who refused to be put down on her own, and I was sleep deprived, I just ate whatever was available. She was born a month before Christmas and thus the house was full of chocolate and biscuits. I indulged. Yes, I indulged very much.

The result is that almost a year on, it has been a vicious cycle, the weight is still there -5kg. My belly is still the size of a watermelon, I still see the images of Beyonce and Serena Williams who seem to have lost their weight in 2 days, and I remain the primary care giver for the sprog who leaves me exhausted and exercise averse at the end of the day.

So how can I lose the rest of the weight and shape up? I do know what to do, I just need to dig deep and find the energy, motivation, discipline, patience and the time. It may require waking up at 6am, an hour before the sprog wakes up, to work out using some YouTube videos. I will need to do healthy meal preps at the weekends so that I can have meals to eat whenever I am hungry. I will have to cut out biscuits and all the bad stuff that I reward myself with when she goes to bed. If I start to walk more, and get to 10,000 steps per day I know the kilograms will fall off.

Going forward, I have now learned that the best way to recover quickly after a pregnancy is to eat as healthily as possible while pregnant, and to stay as active as possible. Should we be blessed with another baby, I intend to carry on working out, energy and health permitting, until my due date. Additionally, after the baby arrives, I will start to eat healthy from day 1, and ask for help to avoid the burnout that comes from exhaustion. I will plan many family meals in advance and freeze them to avoid the chaos that comes when a newborn arrives. I will start to workout hopefully after 3 weeks, which is the timeline for recovery recommended after vaginal delivery.

As for my weight and health situation at the moment, I have started working out and have lost about 5kg so far, but the truth is that I have another 10kg to shake, and I have a whale of a belly to reduce and shape up. I have now set a goal for myself, I want to try to reach 70kg by February 2018. I want to do it right, no diets, no tricks, just good old fashioned exercise and eating right. Have you tried to lose weight recently? What worked for you? Any tips and ideas for shredding are very welcome.

 

Tips For Getting Your Baby To Sleep

When I had the Sprog, I thought I was going to die from lack of sleep and exhaustion. She refused to sleep in her Moses Basket, and anywhere else that wasn’t mine or her father’s arms. She also stayed awake until the early hours of the morning, and when she did sleep, she woke up and nursed every two hours. I was literally out of my mind.

Nothing, I repeat, nothing prepared me for the wake of tiredness and frustration and helplessness that threatened to overwhelm me in those early days. As new parents with no experience, and no family support around us, we had to rely on each other and sometimes follow the baby’s lead. As time went on, we began to learn her patterns, try different things, and collect wisdom from family and friends. These are the steps that worked for us:

Let them sleep in their own bed

You want to establish this routine very early on. There will be squeaks, and noisy breathing, and tossing and turning, babies are noisy naturally. When the sprog arrived, every squeak and noise from her had me rushing to pick her up and place her on my chest where she promptly nestled and stopped squeaking. Listen Mama, if something is wrong with your baby, you will know and ring your doctor or health visitor straight away. But those squeaks and noises are what babies do. Leave them be in their cot or Moses Basket, or co-sleeping pod.

Falling asleep with baby in your arms is dangerous and can also delay their ability to get used to their own beds. Just make sure the beds and cots are comfy, the room is a good temperature, and baby is in comfortable clothes to sleep. If they are crying or unwell, by all means intervene, but do not fall into the routine of letting them sleep in your arms every night or on your bed. It means every move you make, or your snores can wake them. Eventually, they sleep better in their own beds, I know mine did.

Settle into a routine as quickly as possible

Put your baby to bed at a particular time every night, and dim the lights to signify night time. With ours, at exactly 10 weeks, she went to bed at 7pm every night, come rain, come shine. How did we do it? Well, we watched her for tired cues, and we did the same bedtime routine daily for a few weeks, until one day, it became the routine. She understood that after a bath, a massage, and lights off, it was time to sleep. We did not deviate from this, even when we had guests or when we were travelling, this was very consistent.

Have a bedtime routine

Decide what your bedtime routine would be. For us, it was and still is, dinner, a bit of winding down play in the bedroom, nice relaxing bath with lots of coloured toys and splashes, then massage with moisturiser, lights off, nurse, and bed. The Sprog always fell asleep nursing, I would then take her off the breast, burp her for 20 mins, and put her down. She was up in 2 hours for another feed in the beginning when she was exclusively breastfed, but these reduced as she became older. It is not best practice to let your baby fall asleep nursing, or drinking milk from a bottle. Ideally, they should be put down drowsy. That way, they are not reliant on the bottle or breast to fall asleep. Although putting them down while drowsy is best practice, I always nursed the sprog to sleep as she didn’t go down otherwise, and now that I have stopped nursing, she comfort sucks on her blanket or comforter before sleeping. Do not feed to sleep if you can help it.  A bedtime routine helps to relax them and remind them to get ready to sleep.

Prepare for bed from the minute she wakes in the morning

My baby’s bedtime does not start only at bath time. It starts when she wakes up because that is when I start feeding her, playing with her, and implementing my strategy for night time sleeping. Additionally, ensure that baby has her daytime naps, because naps beget naps. You do not want a baby who is overtired by the end of the day and as a consequence, is crying a lot. In summary, feed promptly and well, play and stimulate a lot (put baby on their tummy to develop the muscles for sitting and crawling, do sensory activities, let your baby expend some energy), and make sure daytime naps are had. If you do all these, by nighttime, your baby just wants to snore away.

Use these strategies to prepare baby for sleeping

If your baby has colic or reflux, a tummy massage for the former and a slightly elevated head on the latter should help baby to sleep better. For all babies, Play for a long long time, so that she is tired enough to go down easily. Read to her in a soothing just before bath time. It sets the stage for a nice warm bath, you can start to read after baths when she is much older.

Make sure baby is well fed as a full baby will go down easily and long.

You know how a nice hot soak is great at relaxing adults and sending you straight to sleep, sometimes in the bath? Well, it is the same for babies. Give her a lovely soak that is not lukewarm. Please do not scald your baby, always test the bath water on your own skin before putting baby in, using a safe and child friendly baby bath.

The sprog loves massages, gentle kneading using circular motions always work like magic. Wrap your baby  in a dry fluffy towel so that she does not get cold, then using a baby safe oil, give a nice massage, Do not be surprised if she drops off before it is over.

Try playing white noise or lullabies. Personally, this did not work for mine, but I have heard some mummies swear by them.

Make your baby’s bed soft and nice to sleep in, using a good mattress and safe sheets. Do not use duvets or heavy sheets. Use light baby blankets, layering depending on the temperature. Once your little one finds their hands, or starts to roll, it is advised to transition to a safe baby sleeping bag to keep baby warm, again depending on the temperature (invest in a good room and water temperature, it made things easier for me).

As I remind myself all the time, the dangers of sudden infant death syndrome (cot death) are very real. Please do not sleep in the same bed with your baby, especially if you drink or smoke. Remember to put your baby  on her back to sleep per the recommendation of health boards. Let me know if these work for you. Your baby should be sleeping and snoring away in no time. Good luck mummy.

Is It Better To Be A Stay At Home Mum?

I will be honest and admit that before the arrival of the sprog, I did not fully comprehend the amount of work involved in raising a child. Indeed I did not know how much time and emotional investment that go into looking after a child. I think having been raised in Nigeria, I was always surrounded by family, and friends and nannies (as is quite common in middle class Nigeria) and thus did not think how raising a child without that support system can be quite difficult.

Increasingly, as the world becomes more globalised and the pressures of economics mean that people are moving further away from family, children are being raised without that treasured presence of grandparents, multiple aunts, uncles and cousins. The result I think is that primary carers of babies and young children are increasingly faced with the choice of putting their children straight into child care or putting their careers on hold in order to look after children.

I am ashamed to admit that when I was younger, I thought that women who stayed at home to raise their children had the luxury of watching soaps on TV all day and painting their nails. Well, I have been at home with the sprog for nine months, and I can tell you that my nails remain unpolished, and the closest I have come to watching any soaps is falling asleep on the sofa after dinner with the chief. It has not been easy. There is the physical exhaustion that comes with looking after a baby, there is the monotony of speaking “motherese” all day, and there is the emotional draining that crowns it all. When I put her to bed at 7pm, I skip out of her room and rejoice for the few hours that I get to be alone before bed. I am thankful that we do not have to spend thousands of pounds on childcare. I am thankful that I have been present for all her milestones so far.

However, I do miss the buzz and the fulfilment that came with my job. I worry about what this break means for my career growth, employers do not like gaps in CVs. Most importantly, I think that my career in many ways gave me a certain validation, and without it now, I feel almost bereft. You see, I grew up surrounded by strong educated women who beat the odds in a patriarchal society, who had day jobs, and could hold their own anywhere. My mother was a teacher and raised four of us. She was pregnant and breastfeeding through most of graduate school and teacher training. So part of me wants to work because I thrive in that environment, but also because I was raised surrounded by strong independent women who built excellent careers.

Choosing to raise one’s child full time is a sacrifice and a full time job, which can only be good for the child. One must remember that the alternative to staying home full time is paying or beseeching someone to do it. Stay at home mums have two jobs really; looking after the child, and also running the home (those meals, that laundry, the cleaning, will not do themselves). Conversely, choosing to be a working mum is a sacrifice too, often for a much needed income and a burden of guilt about leaving one’s child. Let us not forget the question of proving themselves at work because for the most part, women are held to a different standard than men. There is also the question of dealing with the guilt of fitting in mummy and wife at the end of a long days’s work.

What do the professionals say?

A research published by the Telegraph claims that children who go to Nursery do better than those who stay at home with their mothers. The research found significant progress in stringing sentences together and dexterity that comes from interaction at Nursery.

A research by Jay Belsky, a child development researcher at London’s Birbeck College, published by the Huffington Post, corroborates research which states that “long hours in child care are associated with behaviour problems”.

My Verdict

Babies go through monumental and rapid development milestones. These are as varied and as important as their emotional needs. Some babies will require more emotional support than others and no secondary care is better or greater than that provided by parents. It seems to me, from reading the literature that being a stay at home mother, or going to work, both have their pros and cons. Invariably, it does take a village to raise a child, babies will benefit from social interactions with the world, be it grandparents, neighbours, friends or extended family.

As for me and my household, I believe I will stay home for now with the sprog. I plan to return to work, but perhaps when she is a year old and walking, when she has some understanding of object permanence and where Mama has gone. Additionally, I think she will benefit from the social interaction at Nursery, because although I take her to mummy and baby classes and groups three times a week, she has recently become very afraid of strangers. I understand it is a milestone, but I often wonder of this is heightened by the absence of “the village” in our lives as we live far away from our family. What I would prefer is a combination of both worlds. It would be great to have a home based role or a part time job, so that she benefits from some vital nursery time, but also spends time being emotionally nurtured by yours truly.

How To Prepare For Baby

My life has changed. It has changed absolutely and completely, I realise it is probably unnecessary to use these two words together, but at least you get the gist of it. I got married, and before we could embark on a honeymoon, there was a sprog on the way. Hurrah! The sprog is now five months old and has turned our lives upside down.

Nobody tells you how hard it is to look after a baby, nobody tells you about the love that almost overwhelms you at times and makes you question if you are doing enough. Nobody tell you about the exhaustion; mental and physical, that comes due to the sleepless nights, the crying, the breastfeeding, the not knowing, the 5 seconds showers (or not 🙂 and the raging hormones and pain in your body. I always saw childbirth and the looking after baby that comes with it, as a walk in the park (perhaps on a mildly rainy day). I suppose it could be a bit easier if you had a lot of family members around you to give you a break and a chance to catch up on sleep or something else.

Anyway, I did read a few books, but too many of them had photos of perfect mummies with their shiny teeth, shiny hair and perfect babies. Lies! I love lists, so here are a few things I have learned since welcoming our little star into our lives, particularly for a first time mummy.

1. You can never be ready  enough, be flexible enough to accommodate and bear the fact that upon waters breaking or however the baby comes, you will need something that was not in the bag or you forgot to park. Your partner can be on had to solve that problem.

2. The first night with baby, outside the hospital is nerve wracking. Babies breathe funny, sleep funny, or not. For the first few nights, you will peer at this little thing in worry and concern. Is he breathing well? Has she got enough milk? Is he warm enough?

3. Babies eat, cry, poop, sleep, rinse and repeat. They may decide to sleep only in your arms, in which case you really cannot do anything else. They feed 12 to 14 times daily (breastfed babies) and they poop after every single feed until they get to 2-3 months. So you will be busy. Babies are so new and used to the situation in the oven, that they mostly like to be cocooned and held. This can pose a problem for a mummy by herself, forget the TV shows or books you bought, you will be too exhausted for any of those. Try to sleep whenever you can manage it. My baby refused to sleep anywhere else except in our arms for the first six weeks! It was insane! She refused to sleep in her Moses Basket. I was out of my mind with exhaustion. Every time we put her down, she would startle herself awake because we put her down on her back per the Sudden Infant Death (SID) prevention protocol. All I can say is make plans to have help; your mum, a relative, a friend, a paid Doula, if you can manage it.

4. Many babies are very windy or have colic. Their little tummies hurt and they pull their legs up to their stomachs and cry and cry in pain. That keeps them awake and noisy, and keeps parents worried too. Gripe water or Infacol typically helps and putting them down on their stomach while you watch can also help.

5. Babies have no sense of day and night, they sleep and wake at the oddest hours and sometimes cry for hours on end, and sometimes they have been changed, fed, winded, warm and they still cry. Something I found to be the answer to that? Skin to skin. Take your baby’s clothes off and leave only the nappy on, take your top off and put baby to your skin. It works wonders.

6. Going out will become a pain and a pleasure all at once. A pleasure because babies tend to fall asleep once they feel the fresh air and are rocked in either a car seat or pram. That doesn’t necessarily give you the gift of rest or sleep for yourself, but at least it gives you a chance to meet up with other adults, have a cold or hot drink in peace, or just breathe in some fresh air. It will be a pain because you have to carry your baby gear. Changing bag with nappies, wipes, muslin cloths, change of clothes, food warmer or breastfeeding cover (if you use one), and the list goes on.

7. You will probably be in pain from your childbirth depending on what kind of birth you had. Be aware that you could be in pain for a few weeks and never hesitate to seek medical advice, a well mummy is the start to a well baby.

8. Your baby will poop once you are all dressed up, changed and ready to go. The sprog gave her Papa and I a few explosive surprises just as we were about to get in the car, our clothes were ruined and so were here. This happened on different occasions to both of us. At least she shared the love equally.

9. Research shows that breast is best, but be aware that you could have latching problems and excruciating nipple pain for the first few weeks. The good news is that it gets better, I found that myself. Make sure to seek knowledgeable help if you are struggling with nipple pain, latching or even baby getting enough milk or not. Sometimes there are medical and biological reasons why baby is not getting enough milk, the professionals will recommend an appropriate solution. For nipple pain, Lanolin nipple cream by Lasinoh was my saving grace and after an agonising 4 weeks, we began to flourish. The sprog is still being exclusively breastfed, hopefully we can carry on until the UNICEF recommended 6 months.

10. Babies have relatively problematic skin and scalp in the first few weeks to months of life. There is cradle cap , eczema (and no, eczema is neither infectious, nor caused by dirt), baby acne, and some other rashes.    If in doubt, have it checked out by a professional to rule out meningitis. The best way to care for newborn skin according to my GP, is to bath in warm water once a day and moisturise with simple hypoallergenic moisturisers such as vaseline, coconut oil, shea butter. These will also ensure moisture is not stripped completely from the skin and cause dry skin conditions.

11. Nappy rash is quite common in babies. It is caused by exposure to urine and poo for long periods of time. The best way to avoid it is by regularly changing baby’s nappy, cleansing baby’s bottom with cotton wool and water, and rubbing a barrier cream regularly such as sudocream.

12. Nothing prepares you for the cry of pain your baby may have during immunisation. Give baby 2.5ml calpol (baby paracetamol) straight after and put baby on the breast. That is very comforting. Be aware that your baby may have a temperature after immunisation or the next day. Keep an eye out for temperature above 38 degrees and crankiness. The sprog was quite warm and cried a lot the day after her 16 weeks shot. Luckily, she was fine by the following day.

I want to write a few more things, but I can hear her over the monitor. She is chewing her legs ( she hit that milestone, yay!) and that’s a prologue to crying. All I can say is that it gets easier as they get older, I could never have dreamt of sitting down and writing at this time, a few months ago.

In conclusion (albeit rushed), it’s the best gift, but it is equally difficult, particularly if you do not have help, or if your baby is one who demands constant interaction and attention. Have your baby with some support for the first few months, you will be better off for it.