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The Last Feed?: Part 2- Night Weaning Begins

Dear Team Night Feed,
I'm writing this particular blog as I was very anxious about this transition and wanted to hear about other parents' experiences, especially mothers who'd chosen to feed their babies and toddlers to sleep, maybe for two years or so, but were interested in gentle night weaning. I can't believe we made it this far, especially after writing this last summer!  I hope our story helps anyone else in the same position, even though every child/parent/home is unique and different.

There's a background story to our first night of night weaning which you can read here, but in short, little one was 26 months with good communication skills, he'd stopped asking for "mummy milk" during the day and in the morning, and was only waking up once in the night.  He's got a big brother who's almost 4 years old and fully weaned (at 18 months).  I had routinely fed our youngest to sleep for every bedtime, back to sleep after every wake up and unti…

The Last Feed? Part 1

Four months ago, I published an article all about my rejection of the sleep training culture, extolling the virtues of following my baby’s lead, the second time around. The liberation from rules and schedules was the birth of my maternal instinct and true enjoyment of motherhood.

When my eldest was just six months, he slept through the night, 7pm-7am every night. To outsiders, we’d discovered the holy grail of parenthood. Yet there were major cracks under the perfect, unbroken surface of sleep.  To achieve this, I had to leave him to “self soothe”; I rarely witnessed that magical moment of watching him pass from wakefulness to sleep; I had to rouse him if he fell asleep at the breast for fear of “bad sleep associations”, but I didn't dare break out of this, too worried about giving our child "poor sleep habits".  But if you’ve read my other blogs, you know all about this.

When our second boy was born, all those rules went out of the window for both our children, choosin…

Rejecting The Sleep Training Culture, Despite Early Success

Published First on The Motherload, 15.4.18

My confession: we tried sleep training.

Is he sleeping/feeding/crying/playing too much/too little?  Like many other first-time clueless parents, coping postpartum with newborn life broke me.  The critical effects of the sudden onslaught of sleepless nights, anxious days and sore nips were far worse than I’d romanticised.We soon reached for books preaching routines and promising contentment. We read that feeding/cuddling/rocking to sleep would cause long lasting bad habits. We tried the recommended schedule and my husband took over bedtime duties.  After a breastfeed and a story, I’d ninja-step out of there as he'd sashay into the nursing chair.  Little one got cuddles galore with his Papa, along with all the rugby anthems he asked for.  I never knew that ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ had so many verses.  But after much perseverance, he managed to achieve the impossible: put down in the cot, sleepy, but awake.  By the time he was seven months…

Two Under Two is Really Really Hard

Published first on The Motherload, 6.11.2017

Our parents did it. Our parents' friends all did it.  The Royal family routinely do it.  Having your children two years apart always seemed like a good idea. They get to grow up together, have the same  friends, share toys(!)... Sixteen months into being a mother to two, and I'm now able to see the light. However, I can say with recent experience, that it is so much harder than I ever imagined it could be.

Our parents can only remember the good times. "My eldest (fourteen months older) used to bring me the nappies and wipes," my mother in law told me. "Your brothers were always the best of friends," my mum reminisced.  However, in our merry little foursome, my husband usually returns from work to find me a broken human.  Still standing, but only just. There's been times when all three of us have been crying, feeding off each other's misery. It was hard to define what the matter was; it was all just really…

A Thank You to Grandparents, Everywhere.

First Published on The Motherload, 17.1.18

Dear Grandparents,

We moved far away from the family home, far from the shire where you invested your careers, friendships and lives.  We preferred the bright lights of the big smoke with higher salaries, bigger shops and more take-away options, selected from an app on our phones.  We used to call you up in the evenings for an uninterrupted natter.  We used to visit "home" at weekends with flowers or new partners for you to meet.  You'd meet us at the station and there would always be smiles, hugs, a cuppa on arrival with homemade treats and home-cooked feasts.  My old bedroom, a relic from my childhood, readied with fresh linen and towels.  We loved our weekend visits for the peace and fresh air, the leisurely brunch, the heated debates around the kitchen table, mum-daughter trips to the shops, trips to the tip and a proper starry night sky. A decade on, we're parents and we're tired all the time.  Our evenings are spen…

I Used To Say "Sorry For The Mess"

Published first on The Motherload 19.12.17
I'm lucky to have good friends; we're in and out of each others' homes.  Our homes vary greatly in size, noise and tidiness.  In early motherhood, I used to apologise for the mess and do a quick clean up when backs were turned.  Three years in, and I realise that I'm not sorry at all; i wouldn't do anything any differently at all.  
It’s 1pm.  I’m back from the afternoon pre-school drop off.  My three-year-old is happily at his nursery and my 18month is snoozing in the buggy after a pretty precarious journey over ice sheets and puddles, over looked by tenacious zombie snowmen with gouged out eyes, their disembodied carrot-noses sinking in the slush.  After an elaborate role-play of pretending to be various Arctic animals, we successfully made it out this morning to our toddler music class and returned for lunch and more play.  I survey the house.
To a stranger, our house may look as though it’s been recently robbed, its pe…

Gardening Therapy for Toddlers

I'm struggling to believe that Spring is actually here.  It's felt like the longest, harshest winter.  We've had three rounds of snow, school closures and cancelled trains.  Every virus, cough and pox has swept through the town, taking us down as their victims.  Currently overcoming chicken pox, our children have felt pretty miserable, but have shown us moments of how to have fun in the midst of discomfort, "I'm doing the itch-dance", says our three year old while the younger dives off the sofa.  Now into our second week of quarantine, we've exhausted every jigsaw and colouring book; we've finished watching every Paw Patrol episode and strayed into the dark land of afternoon repeats of CBeebies; we've baked cakes, biscuits and bread.  But better than all of this, as the days gradually lengthen? We planted some seeds.
In an emotionally-intense chicken pox fog, my two tots and I gardened our way to recovery.  In a pre-pox bustle of activity, we'…

Attempting World Book Day like a pro (without effort nor money), 2018

I love books.  I love the world.  I love special themed days: Birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas Day, Pancake Day. What in the Dickens is this World Book Day about?
I love any excitement over books.  There’s nothing better than a story storm: thousands of kids camping out to get a Harry Potter book, the banning of D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, 100 million+ copies sold of the Fifty Shades trilogy.  Or better still, a group of little kids enthralled by a story; genuine joy that today is library day; pin-drop silence in a room of thirty teenagers as they are all glued to a book.  Pure magic.
I’ve taught English in secondary schools since 2005.  Never before have I asked students to find fancy dress costumes.  Traditionally, we’d hand out £1 book tokens and have an extra twenty minutes of private reading.  There’d be a book-themed assembly and the school library would put a nice display up.  As the Literacy Coordinator, I spiced things up a bit one year by getting all the te…

8 of the Best Story Books To Read By Moonlight

We were lucky enough to begin the new year with a glorious full moon, just high enough to shine above the clouds and to illuminate little one's room in time for bedtime stories.  Unusually, we pulled up the blind that night and relied solely on the bright moon beams to read our favourite books: a hopeful start to 2018.  Here's our list of the best story books to read by moonlight.  The next full moon, a blue moon, is on 31st January, 2018.
Papa, Please Get The Moon For Me, by Eric Carle (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1999).  If there was a prize for the most doting father, it would go to this earnest chap, who manages to climb the tallest ladder on top of the tallest mountain and bring down the mighty moon for his daughter to play with.  Beautiful, charming and heroic.  Final thought: how wonderful to dance with the moon.Giraffes Can't Dance, by Giles Andreae (Orchard, 1999). To be honest, we read this most nights, but it took on a new meaning whilst reading under the lunar…

New Year's Day: More Fuzz Than Fizz

The first day of 2018- a happily fuzzy sociable sort of a day for us- has concluded with a bright full moon in clear cloudless skies.  Our littlest one and I read books by the light of the moon before settling for a dreamy sleep.  His big brown eyes finally closed as I stroked his head and whispered an echo of our final read: "I love you to the moon, and back" (Guess How Much I Love You, S. McBratney)*.  I then settled our older boy who just needed one more cuddle after the exhilaration of a busy few days.  We then collapsed in an exhausted pile on the sofa.

 I used to feel a particular blurry excitement on New Year's Day: a fresh start with new goals and dreams, after the fizz of the night before.  In 2011/12, my friend Jody and I partied on Mombasa Beach and watched the mighty African sun rise above the Eastern shoreline.  Somewhere amongst that five-thousand strong crowd was another traveller-teacher, on his own Kenyan adventure.  We didn't meet that night.  Inste…