This is my reality // Behind the scenes at Toby Goes Bananas

My friend Donna at What the Redhead said has written a post today about the monochrome trend which seems to be everywhere you look at the moment. This isn’t a post about that but it got me thinking about how much my blog, my instagram feed, and the thoughts and pictures I share on Facebook and Twitter actually differ from the reality of my life.

Now I don’t hugely edit my life for the blog and social media but I wonder how much other people do. When I scroll through my instagram feed in the morning and see flat lays of coffee and croissants on rustic wooden trays with a posy of flowers for good measure, being eaten on pristine white sheets…is that what life is really like for some people? If it is then I am hugely envious, but I suspect the flat lay is so popular because it cuts out all of the surrounding chaos!

I’m not saying I’m innocent of this – you may have noticed I’m a fan of close up photographs of my kids. Apart from the fact I just like pictures of their faces it also means I can crop out all the mess in the background. I’ve even been know to Photoshop out a bogey hanging from Toby’s nose before now. I’m sure we all know that a carefully chosen instagram filter can hide a multitude of sins but like I said I don’t think my online life is overly edited.

That doesn’t mean the online representation of my life tells the whole story though so I thought I would share a picture that actually captures the reality of my life…

This is my reality

So here it is – this is my reality. There are toys, bibs, clothes and bags all over the floor, along with a selection of cushions from the sofa. We are sitting on a towel because Gabe could be sick at any moment, he really can’t be trusted to lie on the rug. I’m trying to change the baby while my own personal toddler-limpet clings to my side. And if you could smell the picture it would have that distinctive odour of nappy changes because with two children to look after it’s much easier to get them both changed and dressed on the living room floor than drag them both upstairs.

There you have it; when I’m not hiding behind instagram filters and careful cropping this is my reality. How much do you edit your online life? I’m sure I can’t be the only one…

Parent and Toddler group etiquette

Last week I went to a local parent and toddler group with my friend and her seven month old twins. The group is held in a big gym in the leisure centre near both our houses, and they have a session in the afternoon (most groups seem to be in the morning when our babies have their naps) so it’s perfect. Up until now I’ve often gone to each other’s houses but now Toby is mobile and just wants to explore this gives him an hour or so of unfettered crawling time (or occasionally sitting still for two minutes to play with a toy), and it gives us chance to have a chat while keeping an eye on the babies.

parent and toddler group

Now, I know this is a parent and ‘toddler’ group but there are quite a few babies there. As well as our three there was another little boy the same age as Toby, a girl about the same age as the twins and then a tiny baby and her older brother, and two girls who are about two and a half. The bigger kids were doing lots of running around which of course was absolutely fine – that’s why they are there, and mostly they kept out of the babies’ way.

However, there was one of the little girls who, like I said, must have been about two and a half. Whenever one of the babies, Toby included crawled over to where she was playing she would shout ‘no!’ at them and literally push them away. After a couple of times I picked Toby up and pointed him in the opposite direction whenever I noticed him heading her way. Her mum was sat with us at this point and didn’t say anything to her daughter. About half way through the group the kids all get a snack (if they want one) and the mums can have a cup of tea and a biscuit. While the others were having their snack my friend and I stayed playing with our babies as they weren’t having one. When the little girl had finished with her snack her she came over to where we were while her mum staying chatting on the other side of the room. The little girl then proceeded to grab any toy that the babies were playing with. When Toby went to touch something she pushed him out of the way shouting ‘no’ again, even though this time it wasn’t even something she was playing with herself. She even grabbed a couple of plastic toys and threw them on top of one of the twins as she was trying to keep them away from Toby.

Now, we both told her to be careful and tried to explain that she had to share things with the babies because they were too little to know any better, not that she took much notice! At no point during any of this did her mum intervene or even seem to have noticed what her daughter was up to. I don’t know if I’m just being naive, or maybe over-protective of Toby, but if it had been the other way around I would definitely have spoken to my child, and apologised to the other parents. I know when we’re at Baby Sensory and Toby is the biggest baby there I’m always watching him to make sure he isn’t going to hurt any of the smaller babies, even accidentally. To be honest I was quite shocked at this little girl’s behaviour and even more shocked that her mum did nothing about it!

What is the etiquette in these situations though? Should we have said something to the mum? Although we did speak to the girl I felt awkward essentially telling off someone else’s child – I know I do it all the time as a teacher but that’s when it’s my job, this was an entirely different situation. Has something like this ever happened to you? I’d be really interested to know what you did…

Toby goes to sleep (or not!)

Toby goes to sleep
Nap time

Sleep. That illusive beast that all new parents seem to obsess about. I have to admit, I love my sleep. Before I was a mum it wasn’t unheard of for me to sleep for 12 hours or more (at least at the weekends when I didn’t have to go to work). I can nap pretty much anywhere and any time. Long car journeys or flights are no problem for me – I just sleep. So sleep, or lack of it, was one of the things that worried me most about being a new parent.

In in the early days there definitely was a lot of sleep deprivation…


I’m going to get this bit out up front, and if you hate me for it then I totally understand if you don’t carry on reading. Toby is almost 17 weeks old and has been sleeping through the night for the last 5 weeks or so. And when I say he sleeps through the night I mean from about 6:30pm until about 8am (or sometimes even later). No waking up. No dream feeds. Just sleeping. And then he doesn’t even cry when he wakes up. Just lies there sucking his thumb and chilling out until one of us goes to get him up. This is what we are usually greeted by in the morning…

Baby sleep
Morning mum!

To be honest I think most of this is just down to good luck. We did start a bedtime routine of bath, feed, bed quite early on and we moved him into his own room when he was about 6 weeks old which helped us stop disturbing one another. We have always tried to put Toby into his cot awake so he has learnt to go to sleep on his own but apart from that I think we have just been lucky to have a baby who sleeps.

This wasn’t always the case though. Until we got Toby’s reflux under control with the proper medication his feeding and sleeping were all over the place. He wouldn’t feed very much in one go and so needed to be fed every couple of hours day and night. But once he could feed comfortably and take more at each feed he could go longer between feeds and his night time sleep started getting better. We did briefly experiment with a dream feed when we went to bed but then I read The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan** by Alison Scott-Wright which pointed out that waking a baby to feed him when you are trying to get him to sleep is somewhat counter-productive. I know dream feeds work for some people and I’m all for doing whatever works for you but it never seemed to make Toby sleep any longer anyway.

So, however we managed it (or rather Toby managed it!) we have a baby who sleeps fantastically at night. We have our evenings to ourselves and we get a full night’s sleep. And for that I am eternally grateful. But now we need to work on the aspects of Toby’s sleep that aren’t so great…the day time naps.

We do quite a lot of different activities during the week – Baby Sensory on a Monday, Bookbug at the library on Tuesday, swimming on Wednesday, meet another mum for a walk and coffee on Thursday – and this has meant that I haven’t really given Toby any consistency in his day time naps. He sleeps really well in his buggy or in the car but I really struggle to get him to nap for more that half an hour or so at home. Seeing as how his night time sleeping seems pretty sorted (although I am prepared for the fact that we might well go back to square one when teething starts) I’ve decided to try and get some sort of regularity into day time naps. We are starting with a post-lunch nap at about 12pm. My plan is to feed Toby, take him upstairs, clean nappy, curtains closed, into sleeping bag and then hopefully sleep! I was prepared for this to be quite hard work but actually for the last two days the plan has gone like a dream. Yesterday I put Toby down and he slept without any fuss for 90 minutes. As I write this he has been asleep for just over an hour! I’m sure there must be something wrong though – it can’t be this easy! Fingers crossed though that he is just going to accept this new nap and I’ll actually get an hour or two during the day to get stuff done.

So does sleep come easy in your house? Do you have a routine of bedtime and nap times or do you just let your little one take the lead? I don’t want to get into such a rigid routine that we can never go anywhere or do anything but I think I need some structure to the day and Toby needs to be given the best possible chance of sleeping when he needs it.

**I picked this book up in a charity shop and bought it because it has a great chapter about reflux but the sleep advice is pretty common sense and I found it quite useful too.

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.

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? I do 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…