Finding my groove

Becoming a mum of two, being on maternity leave, and moving house has meant that my old routines and familiar life has undergone a complete transformation in the last few months and, to be honest, I have struggled at times. There’s been a lot of choosing convenience over ethics around here just lately, a lot of shouting, and a lot of days when I have questioned whether I would ever be able to do more than just survive to bedtime.

But Piper is now five months and, the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that things are feeling much easier. I’m getting back to myself as a person – reading more (and not only about parenting), engaging with new ideas, wanting to socialise, eating more healthily, choosing to walk rather than take public transport, buying second hand or not at all rather than going straight onto Amazon. I’m also getting back to myself as a parent – shouting less, being more patient, coming back to the compassionate, respectful, connected way of communicating that used to be how I predominately interacted with Tom.

Part of it is simply that Piper sleeps better and plays more, so I’m less tired and feeling less intensely needed by her – giving me more time, energy and physical presence to share with Tom, John and myself. But it has also been meeting mums locally and settling into the area, seeing friends and family, and feeling more settled into the new flat.

I’ll be back to work in January and things will change again, but for the moment I am enjoying having so much time to spend with the children and getting to know our new home.

11 things I loved about last week

I loved having a working oven again! Tom, John and I have been celebrating by doing lots of bakes and roasts.

I loved eating lots of sweet potatoes. Especially an amazing recipe from Anna Jones for sweet potato mash with chilli and coriander which is delicious.

I loved discovering mug cakes. A very quick way to satisfy an evening sweet craving and, as a bonus, an easy way to use up overripe bananas.

I loved seeing two of our closest friends and their partners for dinner at ours on Friday. Although we all live fairly close, we have busy lives and so it is always a treat when we manage to get together.

I loved meeting some local mums in the park and especially watching Tom bond with one of their three year olds.

I loved getting plenty of dog time! One of the mums we met was walking their spaniel, our friend brought her Pomeranian and her parents’ two poodles for dinner, and we saw my parents’ Labrador puppy. We can’t have a dog of our own in the flat so it’s nice to be able to spend times with other people’s dogs.

I loved discovering that Tom knows how to write the letter d (for dinosaur – “round his bottom, up his tall neck, and down to his feet”)

I loved rediscovering Ted Talks. I’ve been learning more about feminism, democracy, compassion, and alternative approaches to education.

I loved spending the weekend with my parents – especially my mum’s cooking!

I loved seeing how sweet Tom was being with Piper, who wasn’t feeling well this week. He brought her toys and tried hard to comfort her when she was crying.

I loved seeing meerkats and reindeer during our visit to Tilgate Park.

Piper – 21 weeks

Piper turned 21 weeks on Thursday 19th October, making 19th October to 25th October her 22nd week of life. Here’s what was going on for her this week.

What we did: We took Piper with us to see another primary school on Thursday whilst Tom was at nursery. It was a long tour but she did well in the sling and even had a short nap whilst we were out.

On Saturday afternoon I attempted to take her with Tom and I for our trip to the park. I thought I’d be able to feed her there and therefore maximise the amount of time we spent there playing. But she’s at that super distractable age and flat refused to nurse, so we had to go home again after just 20 minutes so she could eat. I had a bottle ready to take with us for another try on Sunday, but then Tom decided to have a rare afternoon nap, so we didn’t have time.

Otherwise it was a pretty quiet week for Piper.

Feeding: I’ve started to get some pain on the left side when she is nursing. I’m not sure why but think it might be a positioning issue, or a sign that she might be getting teeth. She was reasonably fussy this week so it is possible that she is teething, though I can’t see anything poking through yet.

As the failed trip to the park showed, I can no longer nurse Piper in public places. Since I have run out of freezer bags, I was giving her an extra bottle of breastmilk a lot of days this week since we couldn’t store it, so we can still go out and about without worrying.

Sleeping: oh sleeping. All over the place this week but we were hoping to find a nap schedule that would work for her and I think we are now there. She slept through on Thursday (19.00-6.00) after a day of very little sleep (due to nursery drop off and school visit), but seemed to have been storing up some tiredness because she took a three hour nap on Friday. I usually wake her if she gets too close to her feed but this week I was trying to follow her lead a bit more in order to discover the best sleep pattern for her, so I let her sleep. That meant we only had time to fit in two naps and she was then up from 15.00. We moved bedtime slightly earlier but she was still very overtired by the time she went down. She woke up several times that night, mostly putting herself back down, but needed a nappy change and then a feed at 1.00, so was awake for over an hour at that point.

Since she was clearly getting overtired with only two naps, we added the catnap back in and started capping her other two naps so we could move the catnap earlier in the day. This meant we were reducing the amount of day sleep she had overall but spacing it out more evenly so she didn’t have that long patch of awake time before bed. On this schedule she either slept through or came very close to sleeping through (ie. woke early but went back down after a quick coo or raspberry blowing session) on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday. Monday was less good – she woke and cried out every couple of hours but put herself straight back down again. That day she had catnapped in the sling on our way back from the nursery pick up, so had slept quite late in the day, which I assume is what had disrupted her night.

At this stage I’m happy to call her night weaned and her night sleep is ok, though it doesn’t feel to me yet that we have things perfectly right for her to sleep through consistently. Naps have been quite hit and miss. She drops off very easily but was waking after 45 minutes for pretty much every nap this week. Most of the time she would then go back to sleep (usually by herself, but occasionally with a quick sush pat from me) but often would wake again half an hour later, and again half an hour after that at which point I’d get her up. There were one or two naps where she couldn’t get back to sleep, even with soothing from me. We are maybe not getting her awake time quite right but she has no sleepy signals anymore, unless you count actually falling asleep on the floor, which is presumably quite a late one!

Working on: She rolled! In typical baby style she waited until I was out of the room helping Tom in the bathroom on Friday and when I came back she was on her tummy. She then did it again after I put her back on her back. She wasn’t thrilled to be on her tummy though and hasn’t done it again since.

Other things: her personality grows daily and she is just so engaging. Laughing and chatting and blowing raspberries. I already love this girl to death but every day I fall more in love with her.

I had her on my lap on Friday whilst I was eating dinner with Tom and she was very determinedly trying to steal my food. She had a lick of an apple and gummed a piece of toast. I’ve tried her in the high chair though and she’s not yet picking up food and trying to eat it herself, so we aren’t quite ready for weaning yet.

The horrific screeching noise has stopped, thank goodness.

She has turned into an adventure baby and keeps wiggling off her fleece and onto the hard floor, so I keep having to move her back again.

She occasionally gives cuddles now by putting her arms around my neck when I pick her up.

We have one of those finger puppet books and she loves it. Tom often makes sure it is one of the bedtime books because he can see how much she enjoys it.

She’s wearing 6-9 month old nappies, partly because of her massive cloth nappies. 

Schedule: by the end of the week we had finally settled on something that appeared to be working, although it is still not perfect.

6.00-6.30 – up and feed

8.15-8.30 – nap 1

10.00 – up and feed

12.00 – nap 2

13.30 – up and short playtime

14.00 – feed

15.30 – catnap

16.00 – up. Plays in bouncy chair or high chair whilst Tom and I have dinner.

17.15 – feed (bottle)

17.45 – nappy off play

18.20 – bath and pjs

18.40 – stories with Tom

18.50 – bedtime ritual and feed

19.00 – sleep

Mostly sleeping through or only waking briefly then going back down without intervention.



8 things I loved about last week 

I loved getting my December weekly spreads and my 2018 year at a glance spreads all prepped in my bullet journal.

I loved getting the kids’ stockings sorted – yes already! Maternity leave means I need to spread the cost of Christmas carefully this year.

I loved being completely done with swaddling Piper. She’s so sweet in her cuddly sleeping bag.

I loved taking advantage of John’s night shifts to catch up with Great British Bake Off and the Apprentice.

I loved singing five little monkeys and wheels on the bus with Tom and taking it in turns to complete each line.

I loved seeing our friends Jon and Betsy for lunch on Wednesday. John and Jon have been friends since primary school and were each other’s Best Men. Jon is also one of Tom’s godfathers. They live in America so we don’t see them often and now they are expecting their first child so it will be even harder to get together in the future. It was especially lovely to see Jon and Tom playing together.

I loved eating loads of Moroccan food – I made a ton for lunch on Wednesday so there was enough to do three more meals.

I loved doing the kids’ 2017 photo books. I’ve done one every Christmas for Tom and will do the same for Piper so that they can look back over the years and see all the fun things we did.

This post covers w/c 16 Oct. 

Piper – 20 weeks

Piper turned 20 weeks on Thursday 12th October, making 12th October to 18th October her 21st week of life. Here’s what was going on for her this week.

What we did: Piper had caught a cold at the end of last week and was very miserable with it at the start of this week, so I cancelled our planned trip to my parents’ house over the weekend. We were supposed to be attending my grandpa’s 93rd birthday and the last thing I wanted was to infect my grandparents or my cousins’ kids with our germs.

On Tuesday we went out at lunchtime to look at a primary school for Tom. Piper rode in the sling and had a good look at everything.

Wednesday we had friends round for lunch, so Piper got lots of attention and entertained them with her hiccuping.

Feeding: pumping is going better since I have upped my water intake and restarted drinking the tea. But Piper was wanting night feeds again some nights this week. I wasn’t sure if this was genuine hunger or comfort since nights were generally quite disturbed.

Since her schedule change, her 16.30 bottle feed is now only 2.5 hours after her 14.00 feed due to the catnap. Although she was still drinking plenty at 16.30, I began to wonder if she might be taking less earlier in the day because she had gotten used to having a big feed then. We started trying to push that bottle feed closer to 18.00, but because we had some days of interrupted naps, actually only managed to get it to 17.20 and 17.15 the two days we tried it. She didn’t have a night feed either night though so at least this seemed to be helping her get through the night. She also drank 9 ounces both days and looked like she could even have had more.

Sleeping: the first half of this week the cold was playing havoc with her sleep patterns. On Thursday she was super tired and not even managing an hour awake, but then struggled to take long naps as well. She also had a terrible night  – we saw every hour from 1.00 onwards.

By Friday she was feeling better and by Saturday was back to napping normally. However, she was still waking several times at night, but only sometimes seeming to be hungry. Some of these wake ups seemed to be because she was managing to get her left arm out of its makeshift swaddle – I began to recognise the noise she made when this happened because it was a very specific high pitched whine. She also began to break out during nap times. Since she seemed pretty frustrated at having her arm inaccessible and was working so hard to get to it, I decided it was time to be done with swaddling altogether and braced myself for some rough naps and nights.

Well…I was wrong. She was definitely ready and the transition was surprisingly smooth. She did struggle the first time she had her arm free (I released it mid-nap which was not a great plan) but managed to get back to sleep after some sush patting from me. She had also tugged her blanket free and was rubbing it against her face to help comfort herself. I checked the blanket VERY thoroughly for breathability and satisfied myself that it really would be impossible for her to suffocate with it, then decided to allow her to have it. I also kept checking on her regularly – mainly to reassure myself that she was safe with it. The next nap was brilliant and she slept for 2 hours straight. She also settled pretty well at night, though she still woke at 3 and struggled to go back down, so I ended up feeding her. She woke again briefly 90 minutes later but put herself back down after a bit of cooing.

Naps were pretty good the next day too, although we had to get her up early from her lunchtime one to visit a local primary. I had hoped she might take a longer third nap to compensate but she didn’t, so was awake from 14.45 until a slightly early bedtime of 18.50. That night she slept through until I woke her at 6.30.

Frequent night wakings in the second half of the night that aren’t hunger related can be a sign that a baby needs less daytime sleep, so I began to wonder if Piper needed to drop the third nap. It is very early to do this – Tom had it up until 7 months and 6 months is average. Piper is not yet quite 5 months. She has always needed a longer awake time at the end of the day though and, since we are already down to only 30 mins for the catnap, my only real options were to drop it and move bedtime slightly earlier, or shorten her first nap so the catnap occurs earlier in the day.

The next day we had friends coming for lunch and I needed to spend the morning cooking. I was hoping Piper might manage 2 hours for her first nap and a slightly longer awake time after so we could drop the catnap. But I forgot to give her the blanket when I put her down and she woke after just 40 minutes very upset. After half an hour of trying to resettle her, we got her up at 9.30. As a result she kept the catnap but it worked out being an hour earlier, so she was up from 15.30. We kept feeds to their usual time. That night she came really close to sleeping through again – woke briefly at 5.10 but went back to sleep until I woke her at 6.00 (we start early on nursery days so her naps fit around me dropping Tom off). It seemed like less day sleep was definitely the answer but we needed to work out a schedule that would work around Tom and give her enough day sleep to be happy, but not so much sleep she couldn’t make it through the night.

Working on: Laughing! She developed such a sense of humour this week and started giggling away at all sorts of things, including having her tummy tickled, ghost noises, and everything Tom does.

She got so, so close to rolling onto her tummy. Just needed to move her head over and she would have made it.

Other things: She is suddenly in love with Tom. They’ve been playing together lots and she thinks everything he does is hilarious.

She has started making this horrific screeching noise when she is frustrated with her toys. It’s an awful sound but doesn’t seem to mean she is upset.

She is also sucking on her tongue lots and smacking her lips.

We put together her high chair so it will be ready when she starts weaning in about a month’s time. She sat surprisingly well in it but is definitely still too lurchy to be safe eating. A few weeks more muscle development needed yet! 

Schedule: all over the shop this week! Hoping for more stability next week.