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Well, things have got off to a flying start in the world of Toby Goes Bananas! I’m amazed and delighted by the number of people who have read, commented, liked, followed and all the rest off it. And so the latest addition to the blog is (hopefully) the chance to follow on Bloglovin’ too…that is if I’ve managed to do this right!

Thanks for all the support so far and hopefully here’s to many more posts to come.

Sometimes I cry

I think I’ve cried more in the last year than I’ve ever cried before.

When I was pregnant I cried when I was tired. I cried when I was uncomfortable. I cried at The Biggest Loser and DIY SOS on TV. I cried when the kids at school didn’t do what I told them to (luckily not in front of them). I cried because my hips hurt. I cried before we had the first scan in case something was wrong. I cried because I was worried we wouldn’t know how to look after a baby. I cried because I couldn’t sleep. I even cried after we put a cuddly reindeer in the loft with the Christmas decorations because he was up there on his own! Sometimes I had no idea why I was crying. But I did a lot of crying.

Gabe's sad face

And then Toby was born and I cried some more. I cried because he wouldn’t sleep unless someone was holding him. I cried because breastfeeding was incredibly painful. I cried because I was more tired than I ever thought possible. I cried for the life I used to have and would never have again. I cried because I felt guilty for wanting that life back. I cried when I did a pee and it stung like buggery. I cried because I knew he was suffering but I didn’t know how to help him. I cried because I was so indescribably tired (did I say that already?!). I cried because our baby was so heart-stoppingly beautiful. I cried because he cried and no matter what we tried he wouldn’t stop. I cried because I gave my baby formula. I cried because I had to look after Toby on my own all day. I cried because my husband was feeling like he only saw a grumpy baby for half an hour every day between coming home from work and bedtime and I wished we could all spend more time together. I still cried at The Biggest Loser.

And now? Toby is nearly 4 months old and sometimes I cry. But now there are more days that I don’t cry than days that I do. I’m pretty sure that my experience isn’t that unusual. I don’t think I was suffering from postnatal depression but I declined to fill in the health visitor’s questionnaire so I don’t know, and when anyone asked I told them we were doing fine. I am one of the lucky ones but, bloody hell, being a new parent is hard. I do know that I couldn’t have got through any of it without my amazing husband. Whenever I was crying he would reassure me, listen to me, do anything he could to help. And when he couldn’t help or I didn’t even know why I was crying he would just hold me until the tears stopped. And I know he’ll always be there to hold me whenever I need him to.

So this blog is really for him. To say thank you – I couldn’t do it without you baby.

For anyone who is reading this who has ever felt the way I have, I really hope you too have someone who can give you the support you need.

Starting out with cloth nappies

I had thought about using cloth nappies while I was still pregnant and I did some research. What I found out is that there seems to be a limitless amount of options available in the world of cloth nappies. There are two part nappies, pocket nappies, all in ones, sized nappies, birth to potty nappies not to mention wraps, disposable liners, reusable liners, wet bags, reusable wipes… To be honest, the only scary part about using cloth nappies is making a decision about what kind of nappies to use. Other than that it seemed like a no brainer – cloth nappies are cheaper than using disposables (although there is an initial financial outlay needed), they are better for the environment (even when you take into account production and washing/drying cloth) and they are better for your baby (keeping all the nasty chemicals found in disposables away from your precious little one’s bum!).

Cloth nappies aren't scary

I did decide that having my first baby and dealing with all the new challenges that would bring would be enough to cope with in the first few weeks so we would leave cloth nappies for the first month or so. A lot of the advice I read also suggested trying a few different types of nappies on your baby to see what kind of system works for you before committing to buy a full set of nappies. Obviously this isn’t going to be possible until your baby is actually here! The other thing that put me off starting with cloth nappies was the cost. Cloth is definitely cheaper than disposables in the long run and I was pretty sure I wanted to maximise this cost saving by choosing a birth-to potty nappy. This is a nappy which uses a series of poppers and sometimes velcro to adjust the nappy to fit your baby. However, these nappies are usually very bulky on a small newborn baby. Toby was only 6lb 10oz when he was born and we would probably have had to invest in some specific newborn nappies to use them straight away. However, if I wasn’t already convinced, the amount of nappies that went in our landfill bin in those first few weeks certainly cemented the decision to use cloth nappies in my mind.

So, when Toby was about five weeks old I got some personalised recommendations from The Nappy Lady and ordered two different nappies to try out. There are lots of cloth nappy retailers that will provide you with free, impartial advice to help you choose which nappies to use. Some also offer trial schemes, or you might be able to find a nappy library in your area. Anyway, after trying the nappies during the day for a few days I was really happy with them. I chose my favourites (the Bumgenius Freetime – an all in one nappy for day time, and the Tots Bots Bamboozle Stretch with a separate wrap for night time), took the plunge and ordered some more. Toby went into cloth nappies full time at about seven weeks old and it actually makes me very proud to say he hasn’t worn a disposable since. I added a few more nappies to my collection over the next few weeks and now with fourteen day nappies and four night time nappies I have enough to wash every 2-3 days and dry them on the line (if it ever stops raining long enough!) or more usually, hung in the airing cupboard.

I absolutely love our cloth nappies and sing their praises to anyone who will listen! Toby has never had nappy rash, we’ve only ever had two leaks and that was only a tiny damp patch on his trousers because he’d been in the car seat for too long without a nappy change. I love seeing his colourful little bum in his nappies every day and most of all I love that we are not sending hundreds of nappies to landfill every month. We use reusable wipes (the brilliant Cheeky Wipes that I have mentioned before) and washable fleece liners too so everything from Toby’s nappy changes is just washed and is ready to be used again and again and again.

Cloth nappies do seem to be gaining in popularity. I’ve seen quite a few babies wearing them at the various baby groups we go to and there’s been quite a bit of interest from other mums when they see Toby in his. Lots of the blogs I read and people I follow on Twitter are cloth nappy users too (although that could well be due to the fact I tend to find other people who are similar to me when deciding what to read). Judging by the number of nappy retailers you can find online, cloth nappies are certainly big business and as we become more aware of our environment I can only see that they will become even more popular.

There will be more posts to follow about the ins and outs of having a cloth bummed baby (including the all important ‘what do I do with the poo??’) as well as my opinions of the nappies that we have chosen to use. I’m still pretty new to cloth but if you have any questions about using cloth nappies then I will do my best to help. Do you use cloth nappies on your baby? Which are your favourites? Are you considering cloth or could you not even entertain the thought? I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts and opinions.

 

 

Halloween Cupcake Recipe

Halloween Cupcake recipeI love to bake but I tend not to unless it is for some sort of event where I can give away most of what I’ve made – otherwise me and the Mr just end up eating the lot ourselves! Halloween isn’t a holiday I’ve ever really gone in for before but it seems I might have to in future with a wee one in the family. So this weekend when we were meeting up with the other babies (and parents) from our antenatal class I took the chance to make some Halloween cupcakes and I thought I’d share my easy cupcake recipe with you.

I’ve got a couple of basic sponge cake recipes that I use but I can never remember them off the top of my head so when I came across this foolproof recipe on Esther Walker’s blog I thought I’d give it a try. (On a side note; Esther is the wife of Giles Coren and I find her blog, Recipe Rifle, which includes not only recipes but also tales of her life with Giles and their two kids, absolutely hilarious. If you haven’t read it then you should).

The cupcake recipe

All you have to do to get the recipe to make either an 7 inch sandwich cake or about 12-14 cupcakes is weigh 2 eggs (I cracked them into a bowl and weighed them but Esther has said in a comment to her original post that you can weigh them in the shells). Whatever your eggs weigh is then the weight you use of butter (I did use butter this time but usually use Stork for baking), caster sugar and self-raising flour. I also added a teaspoon of baking powder and, because I wanted chocolate cakes, about 2 tablespoons of cocoa.

Esther says to ‘make the cakes in the normal way’ – so cream together butter and sugar, add the eggs then fold in the flour. I use a big bowl and an electric hand mixer – whisk the butter and sugar together then just chuck everything else in and give it a good mix. This seems to work fine. I’ve also made sponges just by throwing all the ingredients into a food processor and mixing well. All these methods seem to work so just take your pick really!

I then spooned the mixture into paper cases in a muffin tin (I actually used old-fashioned bun cases rather than the larger cupcake cases – do you remember when we just used to have buns?!). I put about 2 heaped teaspoons of mixture into each case and this made me 14 nicely domed cakes. I put them in the oven at 180 degrees (fan oven) and they took about 16 minutes to cook but I checked them every couple of minutes after they’d been in for 10 minutes. You can tell they’re done when the top starts to crack and they bounce back when pressed gently on top. If you’re making a sandwich cake it will start to come away from the sides of the tin when it’s done and if you really want to be sure a wooden skewer (a cocktail or kebab stick will do) will come out clean when stuck in the centre.

Once out of the oven try and get your cakes out of the tins and onto a cooling rack of some description as soon as you can. Then the important bit, which I have fallen foul of many times in my eagerness for a cake I can eat as soon as possible, is to wait for the cakes to cool completely before attempting any kind of decoration. If you don’t you’ll just end up with your icing or buttercream or whatever melting and sliding off the cake. Another tip is not to put cakes in paper cases into any sort of storage container (particularly plastic) before they are completely cold otherwise the paper cases will detach themselves from the cakes which doesn’t look very attractive.

I also followed Esther’s rather vague recipe for buttercream as this is something I’ve struggled to get right in the past. She recommends using half a packet of butter (125g) and then just adding sieved icing sugar until it is the taste and consistency is what you are looking for. I did find that to get it sugary enough, and not tasting of butter I had to use rather a lot of icing sugar. This in turn made it too stiff so I added a splash of milk to loosen it. I also added about half a teaspoon of vanilla extract just for a bit of taste. As far as colouring the butter cream goes I really wanted bright orange – I used Dr Oetker’s gel food colouring but a whole tube only gave me a very pale hint of orange. I then used a silicone piping bag with a star nozzle. I’m not very good at piping but as Esther says, it’s easier than it looks. Just start at the outside and work your way to the middle. I did cheat a bit with the last bit of decoration and just bought some Halloween wafer things from Tesco! I will add that after I’d put a generous amount of buttercream on each of my 14 cakes there was still quite a lot left, even after copious licking of the spoon! If was was making this again I’d maybe only use 100g of butter and I think there would still be plenty.

So there you go. A bit waffley for a recipe but sometimes I think it helps to have things explained in detail. Next time I write up a recipe I’ll try and take some photos as I go along as I know that can help if you aren’t entirely sure what you are doing.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Babies

Toby goes to the library

We’re lucky that our local library is only a 10 minute walk away (although I must confess I hadn’t been there until Toby was born). There is a great children’s area in the library and the first time I went they said ‘don’t worry, we don’t shush here!’. They also run a weekly Bookbug Baby Rhymetime session which is half an hour of songs with 5 minutes in the middle to look at a book. Bookbug is a scheme run by the Scottish Book Trust which includes sessions in libraries, a library challenge (Toby has already got his first sticker for taking out some books!) and free books for all children in Scotland. There are four Bookbug packs which are given out and Toby should be getting his first one soon.

I think the library sessions are a great idea – and evidently so do lots of other people as there was a waiting list to get in the group! We went to our second session today; I think Toby was probably the youngest baby out of the 15 or so that were there but they all really seemed to be enjoying themselves. We do quite a lot of different activities during the week with Toby but only because we are lucky enough to be able to pay for them, so it’s good that there is something available locally for babies (and mums and dads) which is completely free. Added to which getting kids interested in reading as early as possible can only be a good thing.

Toby might have been the youngest baby at the session this morning but he’s getting so big now. At the weekend I cleared out all the 0-3 month clothes and got out all his 3-6 month ones. Everything was a bit on the small side but also I was just getting a bit bored of the same clothes so now we’ve got a whole new wardrobe of clothes to choose from every morning! So here’s Toby today – looking particularly autumnal I think…

Toby goes to the library

A breast feeding story

I’d like to start with a little bit of history. I was breastfed as a baby. So was my brother. I always assumed if I ever had kids that I would breast feed my babies too. That said I’ve not always had a very good relationship with my breasts. When I was about 13 they sprung out of nowhere to be big, very quickly. This led to a lot of comments at school, mostly from boys but sometimes from the girls too. Around this time I started having issues with my weight too. I wasn’t really overweight but I thought I was and I thought if I lost weight then maybe my boobs would shrink too. Which eventually led to me, at the age of 17, on the verge of anorexia, weighing just over 8st with 32FF boobs. I looked ridiculous. I couldn’t find clothes to fit me properly and was very self-conscious.

So eventually I went to see my GP and just before my 19th birthday I had a breast reduction on the NHS. At the time it was explained to me that the surgeon would do his best to preserve the nerves and milk ducts but that it was possible I would never be able to breast feed. Although I took this risk seriously, I was 19 and kids were a long way in the future for me. For a while I was really happy – my boobs were reduced to a C cup and I felt normal (whatever that means!). But after 3 years of university I had put on quite a lot of weight and my boobs were already starting to grow back.

A breast feeding story

 

Anyway, fast forward 13 years and after a pre-wedding diet I was happy with my body. My boobs had settled at an acceptable (to me) 32F and for once I felt comfortable in my own skin. But after just 6 months of marriage we were thinking of starting a family. Two months later I was pregnant with our first baby and amongst all the other pregnancy worries and joys breast feeding was a the forefront of my mind. I didn’t know if I would be able to breast feed at all and no-one could tell me – it was simply a case of wait and see. I was determined though that if there was any possibility then I was going to try.

Toby was born in July after a swift and fairly easy labour. He was immediately given to me for skin to skin contact and I put him to my breast. He seemed to latch on quite well initially and certainly seemed to know what he was supposed to be doing. Toby was born at 1pm and we stayed in hospital until about 5pm the next day (my waters had broken two days earlier so he had to be monitored in case of infection). During that time I struggled to get Toby into a comfortable position for feeding. He was so small (6lb 10oz) and my boobs were so big that I just found it really tricky. He would latch on but then pop off again. Because there was so much boob in the way I couldn’t see if he was latched on properly.

A succession of well intentioned midwives tried to help us but every one told us something different; at times even contradicting each other. They suggested we stay in hospital another night to get breast feeding properly established but by this point we had had a couple of fairly successful feeds on our own and I just wanted to go home.

So we got home and I kept feeding Toby as best I could. Whenever he woke up I would feed him and he seemed to be doing OK. My nipples were in shreds however – I’d managed to get a blister on one which then scabbed over and every feed was agony. I sat around with no bra on and my nipples covered in Lansinoh ointment. But that didn’t matter – I was breast feeding my baby! Despite my surgery I was definitely producing something… The tricky part was that it was impossible to tell how much Toby was getting from me. There was a chance that although I was managing to produce some milk that I might not be producing enough.

So then the midwife came to visit on the first day at home and when she weighed Toby he had lost 10% of his birth weight. She wanted to see me feed and after some more manhandling (apparently the midwives aren’t supposed to touch you but several of them did – trying to get enough of my nipple and surrounding tissue into Toby’s mouth. One suggested getting my husband to do it as I didn’t have enough hands to hold Toby, keep my boob out of the way and get my nipple in his mouth!) he seemed to be feeding again. However, I was still finding that he wouldn’t stay latched on, or he would fall asleep after 5 minutes.

My memories of the first few days are a bit hazy but at some point shortly after we came home one of the midwives heard Toby crying, said ‘that’s a hungry baby’ and suggested that I top up the breast feeds with formula. Looking back I wish I had said no and we had just persevered with the breastfeeding but as a first time mum I just wanted what was best for my baby and I assumed the midwives knew what that was.

Around this time another one of the midwives visited and she said she thought I had small nipples and using nipple shields might help so we tried that and it did make things a bit easier. From when he was about 3 days old then I would feed Toby on both breasts and then between us, my husband and I would feed him formula from a syringe as I wanted to avoid using a bottle. We carried on with that for I think a week or so but it was so time consuming, every feed was taking an hour and a half and then Toby would want feeding again an hour later. So we carried on breast feeding but gave formula in a bottle as well.

That lasted until Toby was about 4 weeks old but at that point I was just so fed up. I was upset that I couldn’t provide enough milk for my baby. I knew it was good that he was getting some breast milk from me but I just couldn’t see how feeding the way we were was sustainable. I felt like I’d never be able to leave the house! So slowly I started reducing the amount I was breastfeeding, sometimes only giving Toby a bottle, sometimes still doing both until when he was just under 6 weeks old I stopped breastfeeding all together.

And now? Now every time I see a mum breastfeeding her baby I wish we had carried on. I wish I had resisted the midwife’s suggestion of topping up with formula and instead got an electric pump and done more to try and increase my own supply. I wish I had contacted one of the many helplines available and got some more support. Because I don’t feel like I did get a lot of support. I feel like because the midwives and health visitor knew about my surgery they almost wrote me off and just assumed that I wouldn’t have enough milk to feed my son.

The suggestion of the nipple shields really helped but why did it take almost a week and about 5 different health care professionals watching me struggle to feed my baby for someone to suggest them? A week or so after I stopped breastfeeding, and only because I did some research online and then went to the GP, Toby was diagnosed with silent reflux. That’s another story really but I do think it affected his early feeding and it wasn’t picked up by any of the midwives or the health visitor. Maybe with an earlier diagnosis we might have been able to work out a way to continue with breastfeeding.

In my more rational moments I know, in the circumstances, at the time, I did the best I could for my baby. I’m happy that I was able to feed him at all and that he got that vital colostrum and breastmilk in his first few weeks of life. And in the darker moments I feel like I failed him. That the only reason he isn’t still being breastfed now is because it was too inconvenient for me. But what’s done is done and there’s nothing I can do to change it. My boy is healthy and happy and for that I am grateful. And if I have another baby one day I’ll try again and hopefully next time I’ll manage to exclusively breastfeed for as long as my baby needs me to.

breast feeding a newborn baby

Here I am all set up for one of our long haul feeding sessions. It was during the hot summer hence the lack of clothes on both of us!

A baby in a digital age

A baby of a digital age
Tiny Toby

I first published this post on my other blog We Must Be Bold on 5th September. I know copying it over here is cheating a bit but it seemed relevant to what I’m starting with Toby Goes Bananas so I decided it was allowed! I haven’t edited the post at all, so here it is… 

…So, since last time I wrote our baby boy arrived in the world and unbelievably he is already 8 weeks old! In a way it’s flown by but equally it’s hard to remember what life was like before he turned up. He’s amazing and he makes me smile every day but they weren’t kidding when they said being a parent is hard. Looking after a newborn baby is singularly the hardest, most frustrating and stressful thing I have ever done. I think I have probably cried more in the last 8 weeks than I have in the last 8 years. I might have read a dozen parenting books, gone to all the antenatal classes and listened to advice from everyone who gave it but nothing prepared me for the sleep deprivation, the worry (What’s wrong with him? Am I doing it right? Why is breastfeeding so bloody painful?) and sheer amount of effort that a newborn baby needs. The health visitor said to me the other day ‘everyone loves their baby but it can take a while before you actually like them’ and I reckon she’s right. Apart from looking at his beautiful face and wondering how we managed to create this tiny, perfect human there is very little reward in looking after a new baby. You feed them, change them, hold them, sing to them, rock them, feed them and change them some more, and in the beginning the best you can hope for is a baby that isn’t crying! But already our little one is starting to smile, starting to really look at you when you’re talking to him or feeding him and it’s starting to feel like a real relationship. I can’t wait to see him continue to grow and develop and turn into a wonderful, walking, talking little boy.

Which sort of brings me to the point of this blog. Watching a baby grow and develop is amazing – I’m so proud of my little boy when he does something new, or just looks particularly cute, and I want a record of that. So I take pictures and I post them online with little updates about today’s progress. I do this for me and for my husband but also for our baby’s grandparents who all live over 300 miles away and don’t get to see him that often. And I admit it’s also just to show off a bit to all my friends – ‘look at this tiny human that we made, isn’t he amazing!’. But I’ve seen a few different people mention recently that there is perhaps something wrong with filling the Internet with photos and information about our children – are we robbing them of the option of privacy in the future? Someone tweeted a link to this article (http://goo.gl/xIE3rb ) and it did make me think a bit about what I’m doing when I post yet another photo online…but while our little one is still a baby I don’t think I’m really doing any harm. I don’t think I would be bothered if there were baby photos of me online – photos of my dodgy perm and massive glasses when I was 13 might be a different matter and by the time my son gets to that I’d age I’d like to think I’ll give him the final say about what, if anything, I post about him on the Internet. There’s no question that this issue is something we should consider in this new digital age – it certainly isn’t something our parents had to think about. But are we creating a massive problem for the future privacy of our children? I’m not sure…

An introduction

Let’s start at the very beginning…

Introduction…A very good place to start!

Right then. A brief introduction to me and my little family…

I’m Sarah and 15 weeks ago I had a little baby boy called Toby (that’s him up top, isn’t he adorable?). Since I found out I was pregnant I’ve been reading lots of baby related blogs and articles; I really enjoy reading other people’s stories, advice, opinions and reviews so I thought I would add my own experiences to the mix.

I’ve been blogging on and off for years now – in fact looking at my other blog (you can find it here if you’re interested) I wrote the first post on 15th February 2009! Back then, I was single, working at the Bank of Scotland, I’d just joined Twitter, got into stand-up comedy (watching rather than doing) and I was pretty obsessed with Tim Minchin. How much has changed in four and a half years!! In August of 2009 I went back to university to do a teacher training course. In May of 2010 I met the man who was going to become my husband. In August of that year I started work as a Modern Languages teacher. In April 2011 I got engaged, in August 2011 we bought a house together, a year after we got engaged we got married and then 6 months after that I was pregnant with our first baby. I think it’s fair to say there have been some pretty big changes in my life. And despite a  few bumps along the way, they’ve all been changes for the better. But that other blog is about my pre-baby life and I know a lot of people who read my posts there (if I ever get round to doing them) aren’t really interested in baby stuff. Hence the new blog.

So. What am I going to write about here? I’ve got some ideas for my first few posts – they’re going to include things I wish someone had told me before Toby was born, my breastfeeding story, coping with a reflux baby, cloth nappies and reusable wipes and a few reviews of things we’ve already got that are proving useful (or useless!)

I think that’s probably enough waffle for today though. Hopefully someone out there will read this and maybe even find it interesting or even helpful.

Ta ra for now though.