23 April 2011

Oh Baby It's Cold Outside

With the end of daylight savings, the days are getting cooler and there is a definite chill during the evenings. Layla was born at the end of April and while technically she was an autumn baby, I considered her a winter baby due to the cold winter we had in Sydney last year. Having a winter baby means working out how to keep your new precious bundle warm and protected from the elements without overheating. Here are a few tips:

  • Room thermometer - keeping an eye on the room temperature is important to ensure your bub is not waking due to being too cold. I used the thermometer on my baby monitor as well as my bath thermometer. When Layla was very small, I used an oil column heater to maintain a constant temperature in her room.While it was very effective, the result on our electricity bill was a bit of a shock;

  • Vapouriser - with winter comes colds. Seeing a little baby with a cold is a heartbreaking sight for any parent. Without the ability to blow their noses, the constent sniffles and congestion is very upsetting. In order to help sick babies sleep, a vapouriser is a worthwhile investment. The warm humid air filled with eucalyptus and menthol makes a big difference to any sniffle. Vapourisers can be purchased from most chemists for as little as $30-$40;
  • Sleeping bags - once babies start moving around their cot and no longer need to be swaddled, a sleeping bag is a great way to ensure they stay warm at night. There are many brands on the market with a range of warmth ratings to suit each child and home. Layla has a range of grobags and bubbaroo bags for summer and winter which have proved to be invaluable;
  • Polar fleece blankets - this amazing fabric is warm, light and easily washed. When Layla was newborn, I would wrap her in these great blankets to ensure she was warm even on the coldest day;
  • Woolen beanies and jackets - Layla is very spoilt by her Nanny when it comes to winter woolies. From when she was born, she has had amazing woolen clothing to keep her toasty and warm. With Winter just around the corner, her winter woolies wardrobe is bursting with stunning creations. The ability to find modern woollen clothing for babies is a difficult task. Whether it is cost or practicality, such handmade beauties are very hard to find. My Mum makes and sells her amazing creations (http://www.babyshnookies.blogspot.com/) that are not only modern designs but can be machine washed. Their quality ensures that they can be handed down to subsequent children in years to come. Come and check them out to find something to keep your bubba nice and warm this winter;
  • Pram foot muff - any parent who has tried to keep a blanket on a baby in a pram knows what an impossible task it is. We bought a great pram liner and foot muff made from polar fleece that has kept Layla warm on many a winter walk. It was not only warm but could be easily washed and dried. Some pram brands make their own muffs but there are also generic versions available.

  • Mummies get cold too during winter. Night time feeding often means that Mummies need to get out of a warm bed to tend to a crying baby. Investing in a couple of sets of flannel pyjamas is a must. The button through tops allow for easy breastfeeding without having to strip off. The other worthwhile investment is a polarfleece dressing gown. They are warm, light as well as washing and drying quickly. Big pockets allow for you to carry all the necessary essential items with you while keeping you warm day and night. I was never a fan of the dressing gown until I had Layla. Now I realise that it is an essential Mummy item!

16 April 2011

Entering the unknown - blissful ignorance or fearful panic?

As time flies and we rapidly approach Layla's first birthday, I have started to think back to what I was doing this time last year. I was in serious nesting mode in anticipation for the arrival of our new baby. I spent my days shopping, cleaning, organising, thinking, waiting and waiting some more. People used to say to me "you'll never have a time like this again". I would smile at their statement and let the words wash over me. In hindsight, they were oh so true. The weeks before Layla was born were all mine. My needs and wants were priority. I did things when and how I wanted without giving it another thought. While I have been able to have some 'me' time this year thanks to the generosity of husband and family, I now see that those weeks were so unique and special.

One of the reasons I have been doing so much reflecting and thinking is because of all the lovely ladies in my life who have either recently given birth or are waiting for their arrival any day. Every time I see them or think of them my mind starts to race. Now that I am no longer sleep deprived, it is amazing how powerful the maternal instinct is. I see heavily pregnant women and feel jealous as well as nervous and excited. They are about to go through such a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. Just like any roller coaster, there are moments when you think you may die and others when you have such a rush that you feel more than alive. In many ways I just want to shake them and say "you have no idea what you are about to experience. Be ready, be prepared, know it will be ok, hang in there, it's ok to cry, it does get better....." and so so much more.

Layla @ 11months - cheeky as always
 I started writing this blog almost 6 months ago because I felt that having a baby was such secret women's business. As women, we don't adequately prepare each other for the experience of motherhood. Some women scare expectant mums, others paint an overly rosie picture. I hope there is something in between. I hope that women share with expectant Mums. Share the joys and the heartache, the tips and advice as well as the realities of what I know realise is the hardest job in the world. Nothing I have or will ever do is as hard and rewarding as being a Mum. It has truly changed me. People said it would but I didn't believe them. How wrong I was.

A message to Mummies out there - share your mummy skills and knowledge with new and expectant Mums. Don't scare them but don't gloss over things. Give them tips, share your books, listen to them, send them messages of support, make them dinner. Demystify the world of motherhood and help expectant Mums grow into their new role.

10 April 2011

When you really know you're a parent

This week I had a moment when I really knew I was a parent. There are many things in my life that have changed over the past year. Most of them revolve around my needs no longer being central to existence. However, this week I had a sick little girl and it brought to mind just how much changes when your children are sick and how much they need their Mum. My once vibrant, energetic, independent and happy little girl was turned into a sad, teary, clingy, sleepy and dependant baby who needed her Mummy so much more than normal. It seems that my 'food poisoning ' from dodgy take away was actually gastro. I hear from friends that it is making its way around and so far my Mum, sister, Layla and I have all fallen victim. Now that both Layla and I are over the worst, it got me thinking about dealing with a sick baby and what I had learnt this year. I'm very lucky that Layla has not been very sick in her first year however there have been a few illnesses that have thrown us both.

Here are some tips that I thought I'd share with you:
  • Changing bed linen in the middle of the night due to a sick child is not an enjoyable experience. Having a spare mattress protector, sleeping bag, sheets and comforter are all a must. In order to reduce the amount of washing (and purchases), placing a Huggies disposable change mat between the cot sheet and mattress protector ensures if the sheets need to be changed, the whole bed does not need to be remade and washed. The change mats are cheap, large and super handy;
  • Giving panadol to a sick baby is not one of my favourite tasks. Layla often vomits or becomes very distressed when the panadol comes out. We have been able to avoid this drama by using Panadol Baby Suppositories. They are easily and quickly inserted, are more easily absorbed and provide fever relief quickly. The suppositories can be purchased from your local chemist;
  • Keep a baby medical kit in your baby's room for easy, middle of the night access. I've used a large plastic container with lockable sides that contains medicines, thermometer and measuring cups. Having everything in Layla's room means that medication can be administered quickly when needed. Very helpful when I am tired and called into action in the middle of the night;
  • There are a number of brands on the market but I have found having an infrared thermometer really helpful. These gadgets read temperatures in a few seconds by being pointed/held against the baby's head. Great when you need to know if your baby has a fever;
  • I make all of Layla's food and generally don't buy foods. However when she is sick I often give her Heinz Fruit Gels. They are made with fruit juice and vegetable gums and are a fun way to get fluids and sugars (natural no added sugar) into a little one who is off their food. Keep a few spares in the cupboard as an emergency;
  • Keep them close, give plenty of hugs and know that tomorrow is another day!
Sorry folks.....no photos of sick babies for this post.

05 April 2011

Reflections on Maternity Leave

I've been contemplating writing this post for weeks now. As the days of my maternity leave drew to a close, I started reviewing the time that was. This is the second time I have taken a year out of my normal study/work life to do something different. The first time was when I took a year off after my HSC before starting university. On both occasions, the time has yielded a significant change in me - mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

For many years in my professional life, I have advised employers on issues associated with maternity leave management. On reflection, this now seems weird considering that previously my advice was based purely on the legalities of the leave without having personally taken such leave. In hindsight, my leave has been nothing like what I expected.

As the final days of my pregnancy came to an end, I could not wait for a break from work and to commence my maternity leave. I was unsure what my leave would entail but I must be honest and say that I didn't expect that it would be as hard as it was. If I was to summarise my maternity leave it would look something like this:
  • Spent the first month running around getting organised and didn't rest nearly enough;
  • Labour started in my due date (so organised!) and 36 hours later my gorgeous Layla was born;
  • Endured a horrendous introduction to breastfeeding that resulted in three bouts of mastitis. Eleven months on and we're still breastfeeding;
  • I'm yet to sleep a whole night and get close to the amount of sleep per night I used to (have given up for now);
  • Feel like I have done the same thing every day for eleven months. Groundhog day big time;
  • Had no idea that a dressing gown would be so useful and comforting;
  • Have a whole new appreciation for women with twins (and other multiple births);
  • Think my Mum is the most amazing woman in the world;
  • Have learnt to do most tasks with one hand;
  • Have seen more shades and smells of poo than I thought possible;
  • Think I have overdeveloped arm and hand muscles from rocking and patting;
  • Have developed a love/hate relationship with parenting books;
  • Have no idea where the days, weeks and months have gone;
  • Never knew that just managing to get dinner cooked could take all day and be an achievement;
  • That it is ok for my day to start at 2pm;
  • I never realised that sleep deprivation could be so intense, last so long and change me as a person;
  • I've never felt so alone and so loved as I have this year;
  • The whole concept of self has changed. I seem to be no nearly as important as I used to be. Whether I am sick or tired, the show must go on;
  • I understand why some women choose not to have children and why others choose to have just one child. This game ain't for the fainthearted;
Layla (11 months) and I reunited after my first day back at work - happy faces all round!

If I had my time over again (and hope I will) I'd recommend:
  • When people offer to help, don't be proud and say no. Say YES PLEASE!;
  • It's ok to spend days on end sleeping;
  • Don't expect life to ever be the same;
  • Know that no matter how bad things get, it will end and things will get better. Nothing lasts forever;
  • If you believe in doing things a certain way, stick with it even if others think you are nuts;
  • Know that EVERY new mum goes through the shock that is a newborn. Most newborns don't sleep. It's all normal;
  • Most women struggle with breastfeeding;
  • If a professional gives you an opinion that doesn't sit well with you, find another professional;
  • Do whatever you need to do to get through the day/week/month;
  • There is no one right way of doing things. No matter what people say or you used to think, the way YOU chose to do things with YOUR child is the right way;
  • Take lots of photos, write things down and capture the moment. It'll all be over in a blink and in a strange kind of way, you'll miss the crazy emotional state of having a newborn.
For those of you who have asked, I plan on continuing my blog now that I'm back at work. I'm not sure how much time I'll get to write but I'm sure I'll find time. As we race towards the end of Layla's first year, I have learnt more than I ever imagined. I've learnt about me, my child, my husband, my family, my friends as well as gaining a new perspective in life. I think I could manage a whole post on this topic! Stay tuned ;)