1 month old; crying, co-sleeping, formula feeding, not sleeping through the night, and I don’t care!

I was so proud of you for bottle feeding” – how often do you hear those words? I was told this the other day and for the first time, I felt proud of myself. I wasn’t made to feel ashamed of the choices I made, I felt confident. The pressure as a mum to breastfeed is unbelievable, and the guilt for not doing so is almost unbearable. So much so, that I felt the need to lie to people, or to explain my way out of why I wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding. Some people simply don’t have a choice. Others have a choice, and still choose not to. We are all doing what is best for us. So long as mum and baby are happy – so long as baby is fed and healthy – why does it matter? There is so much to feel scared, guilty, or unsure about as a new mum, why add to these feelings, and make someone feel even more guilty over the way that they are feeding?

Stanley was diagnosed with a cleft at our 20 week scan, so we knew prior to his arrival that breastfeeding may simply be impossible. As such, I hand expressed colostrum antenatally so that if he couldn’t latch on when born, at least he could have this via a syringe. As we anticipated, he really struggled to latch on, but we had a jolly good go at it over his first few weeks. Life pretty much revolved around feeding when he arrived – it could sometimes take a good couple of hours to feed him with his special squeezy bottles, and if he wasn’t being fed via the bottle, I would be expressing, or attempting to breastfeed. We had so much wonderful help with breastfeeding, and expressing, but it was so difficult, and Stanley would get so frustrated. We used a combination of pretty much everything during this time – he was syringe fed, cup fed, bottle fed, breastfed, and fed with formula! But eventually, after a few weeks we accepted the fact that formula feeding with his squeezy bottles were the way forward. Everything else was just too much. Formula feeding was less stressful on everybody. I felt so incredibly guilty making this decision, and prolonged making the decision because of the guilt, but when I finally did, I also felt a sense of relief. Things suddenly became easier, mostly because I was more relaxed and Stanley was spending less time frustrated! At this point, I told myself that if I was ever in a similar position again, and breastfeeding wasn’t working out (for whatever reason), I wouldn’t put us through that stress again – at least not for as long as I did with Stanley. 

I also expressed antenatally before Nora arrived (as a result of being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, and colostrum helping with blood sugars)… and I also hoped that I would exclusively breastfeed. However, with the rush of her arrival, we forgot to take the expressed colostrum to hospital with us, and as such, when she failed her second blood sugars, a midwife asked us if she could give Nora some formula. My response? Of course! This poor midwife appeared almost reluctant to ask us about formula feeding, as though we would have been offended by her suggestion to do such a thing! If it is going to help her blood sugars… why the hell wouldn’t we want what’s best for her? Yes, in an ideal world we would have remembered to bring the colostrum to hospital… but that’s life. Here started the guilt again (I am learning that feeling guilty is a permanent feeling when you’re a mum)! Both me and Carl (hubby), were feeling incredibly guilty about forgetting the colostrum… perhaps her blood sugars would have been okay if only we had remembered to bring it. As a result of this, I was combination feeding from the offset with Nora – breast, bottle, syringe, cup, formula, expressing… doing all that I could! I did this for the first couple of weeks, but breastfeeding just wasn’t going as I had hoped. Nora was struggling… I was struggling… it was painful… and so I made the same decision to stop. I expressed what I could manage, but since then, she has been purely formula fed. 

Despite what we went through with Stanley, and telling myself that I wouldn’t put us through the stress again, I still did (albeit for not quite so long). I still felt incredibly guilty about making the decision to stop expressing… to stop trying to breastfeed… guilty for giving up on her and not providing her with “the best”. It’s tough, especially with the pressure from other people. I was repeatedly questioned on my choice of feeding Nora (by one midwife in particular) whilst in hospital… it felt as though I was doing the wrong thing. After giving birth, with hormones all over the place, and already feeling guilty over a number of different things… you simply don’t need the added pressure from others.

What a relief it was when I finally met a community midwife that, in response to telling her how Nora is being fed, told me: “stop! I don’t need to know anymore! I don’t care what you’re doing, so long as you’re happy and baby is ok“! Funnily enough, this midwife had a grandson with a cleft, so perhaps she had more awareness of the struggles of feeding and what we had to go through. But, why don’t more people have this outlook? If a new mum can’t, or simply chooses not to, breastfeed… make her feel proud too! Whatever you do, whether you have a choice or not, you are doing the best for your little one… and so long as they are happy, who cares! 

Sleeping. “Is she good for you?” A question that I, along with all other parents of newborns, are repeatedly asked. This question usually translates to: “is she sleeping for you?”. I have also had (in Nora’s mere 3 weeks of life!): “Is she sleeping through yet?”! She is 3 weeks old, and I am glad that she isn’t sleeping through… she needs her food! It scares me to hear people proudly announce that their baby slept through the night from birth. Newborn babies need feeding regularly, and particularly in their first few nights. People thought we were crazy when Stanley was born… we set our alarm during the night to ensure that he wasn’t going too long between feeds (not that we needed an alarm!)

Co-sleeping. Before Stanley arrived into the world, I was convinced that we wouldn’t co-sleep. The thought of it petrified me because I thought that this was one of the most unsafe things that we could do. How my outlook changed when Stanley arrived! I now know that it can be safe to co-sleep, so long as you follow the advice, and as such, we spent much of Stanley’s first year co-sleeping. He simply wouldn’t settle elsewhere (possibly because of the amount of skin-to-skin we had). Stanley pretty much became another limb during the day, and so how could we expect this to change at night?! When Stanley transitioned to his big bed, we started to lay with him until he falls asleep. The time it takes for him to fall asleep (and us being in his bed) has gradually reduced… and the time at which he wakes up and runs through to our bed has gradually got later. To start with, he would sometimes wake up before midnight and end up in our bed, but now… he sleeps through usually until 5 or 6am. With Nora, we knew of the likelihood of co-sleeping again, but wanted to make it a bit easier (and possibly safer) on us all this time. As such, we bought the Snuggle Nest. We are in love with the Snuggle Nest! It fits nicely between us in bed, and is easy to carry around the house, or take out with us. We even manage to squeeze the four of us in bed with the Snuggle Nest (admittedly it’s a bit of squeeze!), and Stanley loves it! Stanley loves climbing in with Nora, and he loves to press the button for the music when Nora starts to cry!

Crying. (Not!) surprisingly… Nora cries. Mostly, this is when she struggles with wind and reflux (or if we’re not quite quick enough with milk!) – but this doesn’t make her a “bad” or “difficult” baby. Yes, it can be hard, especially when you can clearly see that she is in pain, but this is not her fault. This doesn’t make Nora difficult – this means it is difficult for her, and difficult for us to see and not be able to help. She is a new baby, getting to grips with lots of new things, and this isn’t easy. The sensations that she feels are all new to her, and as our GP said, some babies just make more of a meal out of things than others: “oh look at me everyone… I’m having a poo now, and I want you all to know about it!” So yes, she cries, and sometimes a lot(!), but this is just part of being a newborn baby… not that she is “bad”. 

What do we do in response to Nora (and Stanley) crying? We cuddle them, and make sure that they know we are there for them. No matter what the reason… whether Nora is crying for food, or attention… or Stanley is crying because he’s been told no, or is scared… I want them to know that we will always be there for them. So, I am always there for a cuddle, no matter what, we love them all the same.

Nora Beau; 2 week update

Nora is 2 weeks old today. I cannot believe how quick these last 2 weeks have gone! Daddy is back at work today, and Stanley is with his Granny, which means that me and Nora have our first day together – just the two of us. The house is strangely calm and quiet, and we are missing the boys already! Nora is having a little nap, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for a quick update on the last week or so, mostly in pictures!

For the last 2 weeks, our mornings have mostly consisted of Stanley waking up around 6am, whilst Daddy and Nora have a sleep until around 10am! This morning time has been lovely, an opportunity for me to still spend quality time with Stanley, and we’ve had lots of fun! He loves to sit in the window and look out at the fields and see what animals we can spot. We’ve played with sand, done jigsaws, played Pie Face, watched films, practiced our breathing with pinwheels, and (mostly) played with Spiderman, Captain America, and Iron Man!

It has been so lovely to see Stanley and Nora together, to watch Stanley with her is amazing. I don’t think there is anything that tops this feeling. It hasn’t been easy for Stanley to adjust to the changes over the last couple of weeks, but over the last few days, he seems to have settled down (fingers crossed). He says the sweetest of things (when leaving the house this morning: “don’t worry Nora, we’ll be back soon“!), and he does the cutest of things (always ensures she has her taggy, cuddles up in the Snuggle Nest, gives her cuddles and kisses!). He really helps out, and has been super protective of her! I cannot wait to watch them grow up together.

We have attempted to leave the house on numerous occasions over the last couple of weeks (in-between various visits from the midwife and health visitor)… and we have certainly realised that it now takes us a whole lot longer to leave the house, now that there are four of us! We definitely need to work on this one: how to leave the house in under 1 hour with 2 children, and how to remember everything that we need to bring! When we managed to leave the house, we made it to a local soft play centre, a chance for Stanley to have some fun (and tire Daddy out!)

This week, we took Nora to her first swimming lesson with Waterbabies, at 10 days old. I loved nothing more than taking Stanley to his lessons, so I thought it would be a lovely opportunity this time for Daddy to take Nora – a chance for just the two of them to spend some time together. It was her first time in a pool, and so there were quite a few tears throughout… but hopefully she’ll grow to love it like Stanley! Nora even managed to do her first underwater swim! I didn’t think that we would manage this in the first week, with all of the tears, but she must have known what was coming… and she stopped crying just in time!

The struggles of introducing a new sibling

I love this little man *so* much ❤ I cried twice tonight when he went to bed. First, we spoke about his day (as we always do at night!), and twice he told me “there was no room for me” – both this morning in bed, and this evening on the sofa. I promised him that there would always be room… and his response? “Oh thank you mummy… you’re my best friend” 😢

We have had “it’s not fair” more than I can count today. We have had “I want to go back to that other house… that green house… with no babies“. We have had “I want you in here mummy“… and him shutting the doors out on everyone else. Daddy has been “the big bad wolf” all day. When looking back at pictures of Stanley, he kept saying “I’ve lost my mummy and daddy“, because it was just a photo of him on his own. We’ve had two sets of visitors today, both of which he told “my baby cries a lot“!

On the other hand, he has been the most caring and sweetest of big brothers. Stanley hears Nora cry and he says “oh! My baby is crying! I need to check if she is ok!” – he gives her kisses and cuddles. He strokes her head. He asks for her to be put in his arms. He asks for her to be put over his shoulder so he can “pat her back“. He always makes sure the music is playing on her snuggle nest because “that will help baby to sleep”. He makes sure she has her taggy, and various other things. He found Sophie the Giraffe and gave it to her. He talks to her when she cries and tells her “it will be alright“. He has been super proud to show her off when we had visitors!

But despite the good, which I’m sure far outweighs the bad, I couldn’t help but focus on those little things that he has said or done today, that have made me feel so guilty. Wishing I could do more. Should I have done more? What can I do to make this easier on him? I have tried so so hard to make this transition as easy as possible for him, and for the focus to remain on him. I just wish that I could do more to help him through this. 

Tomorrow, we are going to do all that he wants. We will go and see the ducks. We will have ice cream, and bananas, and red apples! We will take him somewhere fun… and I can’t wait!

Welcome to the world Nora Beau; her first 5 days

Thursday 16th February 2017: Nora Beau’s Birthday

Nora’s due date, and Granny’s Birthday! This was the last chance for her to arrive, before having to face induction – which was booked for Friday 17th. I had been trying out all the old wives tales over the previous few days, to try and bring labour on naturally, as I didn’t fancy being induced – mostly because I didn’t want the possibility of being away from Stanley for quite some time.

On the morning of the 16th, I woke at 02:30 feeling some twinges, but expecting it to be nothing since I had been having these feelings on and off the last few days – so I went back to sleep. By 05:00, I was awake with what felt more like contractions, and by 06:00 I thought I had better start timing them to see what was going on! Contractions were every 5 minutes, so we got ready, and dropped Stanley off with his Granny. I gave the hospital a call, and given the diagnosis of Gestational Diabetes (GD), they said I should pop up. We arrived at the hospital at 08:30, with contractions still every 5 minutes.

I was put on the monitor to keep an eye on baby, and everything seemed to look fine. Around an hour later our midwife, Gemma, examined me so that we could see what was going on, and it turned out my cervix wasn’t open – I wasn’t even 1cm dilated! But, they wanted to keep me on the monitor a little while longer, since it looked like baby’s heartbeat was dropping with each contraction. 

At around 11:00 the consultant came, and she was happy with the recordings on the monitor – I had changed positions which seemed to be helping. The consultant suggested attempting to break my waters, but Gemma said this would be impossible since I wasn’t even 1cm dilated. So, they kept me on the monitor some more, and said that I could be taken off soon so that I could get moving around, to try and speed things up. At this point, they were contemplating sending me home. We discussed what would happen regarding GD, which meant the need to monitor my blood glucose levels every 2 hours when I went into labour, the possibility of needing a sliding scale (IV drip with insulin and glucose to help stabilise blood sugars), and the need to test baby once she arrived.

Turns out it was a rather hectic morning on the labour ward, so Gemma pretty much left us to it. She kept popping in to check the monitor, and offer some paracetamol. I seemed to be coping ok with the contractions at this point, and the midwife kept commenting on how cool and calm we both were (certainly didn’t feel this way on the inside!), and even joked that she could imagine walking in and a baby just “suddenly popping out”! By 11:15, I gave in to Gemma’s offers of paracetamol – as by this time, the contractions were starting to get a tad more painful! After giving me the paracetamol, she then went to find the consultant to see what the plan was… could I come off the monitor and start moving around, or could I go home?!

Little did I realise… just 10 minutes later, at 11:25, I officially went into labour… and as quick as 11:50, I suddenly felt the need to push! Hubby went to find Gemma, and she casually strolled in, taking her time… most definitely not expecting a baby to actually be entering the world! However, she soon realised that little one was most definitely on her way, so she grabbed a second midwife, and at 11:58 baby Nora entered the world! Good job I didn’t get sent home! From the minute we arrived on the ward, Gemma was fantastic – although she was clearly busy, she remained so calm throughout the morning, which clearly helped in how I felt, she made everything feel so comfortable and stress free!

In the end, there was no time to monitor blood sugar… no time for a sliding scale… no time for pretty much anything! It was so much quicker than I ever anticipated… and it happened naturally. It was calm, there was little intervention, and only two midwives in the room… it was everything I had hoped it would be – and so so different from my experience with Stanley (highlights of which include: induction by oxytocin, failed epidural, emergency alarm being pulled, room packed full of people, and a consultant firmly warning me: “if he doesn’t come with the next push I’m going to cut you“)!

So, since I was diagnosed with GD, this meant that Nora also had to be checked when she was born. She had to have her blood sugars monitored every 3 hours, and needed to pass 3 consecutive tests before she was allowed home. Her first test was at 15:00, which she passed. The following test was at 18:00… and unfortunately she failed this one (she didn’t feed well prior to this). This meant that the 3 of us had to stay in hospital for the night… whilst Stanley was with his Granny celebrating her birthday, and having a sleepover with his cousins! The whole time we were away, Stanley had no idea what had happened – everybody kept it a secret from him so that we could be the ones to tell him the news that he had a baby sister.

Nora’s following 3 blood tests were taken throughout the night, and thankfully she passed all 3. It was a little tough during this first night, since once she had been fed after her test, we weren’t allowed to feed her again for 3 hours – as she had to be tested again before her next feed. She was starting to get a little peckish after 2 hours… but, we got through it!

Day 2: Nora meets her big brother, Stanley

We spent most of the second day in hospital, waiting to be discharged (despite being told we were ready for discharge at 10:30!). In the morning, Nora had all of her checks done (paediatrician, hearing etc.), which were all fine. We were just so desperate to get home to see Stanley, and to introduce him to Nora!

We finally arrived home around 4pm. We got Nora settled in her Snuggle Nest, and daddy went to collect Stanley. We wanted to make sure that neither of us were holding Nora when Stanley met her for the first time, it was important to us that the attention was on Stanley being a big brother, and not on the arrival of Nora. When Stanley first walked in, he was a little grumpy (as he had just woken up!), and so he came straight to mummy for lots of cuddles “I just wanted you mummy“! He then gave Nora the taggy he bought her, we gave Stanley the presents from Nora… and things so far seem to be going well. Stanley calls her “my Nora” or “my baby”! He has said the sweetest of things, such as… “I think baby likes me“! 

One of the strangest feelings in seeing Stanley again after spending a couple of days with Nora, was the realisation of how grown up he seems. When he walked through the door, it felt as though he had instantly grown up… and put on some weight (he now seems so heavy to pick up!)

Day 3: Our first family dinner!

Our first full day at home as a family of four… and not the best of starts! I was feeding Nora in our bed at 05:00, when Stanley woke up. He came running through to our bedroom… looked at Nora… started crying, and ran out. Daddy went after him and Stanley said “there’s no room for me anywhere“! We soon showed him that there was plenty(!) of room for the four of us, and so he settled down, and came for snuggles in bed with Nora.

I remember when Stanley was born, we barely ate, went out, or did pretty much anything! Not only was it tough because it was our first, but he had his cleft too, which meant feeding him took so so long. We had constant appointments, or people visiting our house – we were lucky to have the most amazing support with Stanley, we just seemed to have so little time for anything else! Second time around, things are so far, much different – we have time! Nora is guzzling her milk down… faster than I don’t know what! Apparently this is pretty normal… it’s just that our “normal” is based on what we know from Stanley, in which case it could have taken an hour to give him a bottle. With Nora, you could blink and you could have missed it!

Our community midwife, Luretta, visited us for the first time this morning, and she couldn’t have been more lovely. She was really pleased with how Nora was doing, which was great. She also suggested coconut oil for Nora’s skin – she has some particularly dry hands and feet, and I think this has been the best thing we have bought! Going to try this for Stanley too, since he has always suffered from dry skin.

Given the freedom we seem to have… we actually managed to cook a (relatively!) decent family meal on our first day at home! The four of us sat at the dining table… couldn’t have been more perfect. I’m even enjoying the odd sneaky treat (including a Mary Berry brownie for pudding!), now that I don’t have to monitor my blood sugars anymore. Though, sticking to the GD diet will reduce my chances of getting Type 2 (which is now already increased because of having GD)… so, I hope I can continue this as much as possible.

Day 5: A lazy Sunday

We spent Sunday at home, firstly with a visit from Luretta in the morning. She weighed Nora, and her weight had gone down to 7lb 2oz – considering they can lose up to 10% of their birth weight, Luretta was really pleased with this, since Nora has hardly lost any of hers! She was very reassuring “keep doing what you’re doing“! The rest of the day consisted of chilling at home, with visits from both sets of Grandparents.

Day 5: Our first trip out

Today, Stanley said he would like to take Nora to the park… and so, that’s what we did. He also said “we can slide her down!” …but we decided against that one!! First thing we learnt by taking a trip to the park? Turns out, getting out the house now takes us a little while longer! The amount of trips we made back to the house because we forgot something… and then still ended up leaving the house forgetting something! Then, just as we think we can finally set off, we start driving… hubby looks in the mirror… and realises little Nora’s hat has fallen down and is covering her eyes! Eventually, after what felt like hours, we made it to the park. Stanley had so much fun, whilst Nora enjoyed a nice peaceful nap!

We came home, snuggled up on the sofa in front of the fire, watching Spiderman, and eating cake! Before I knew it, they were both fast asleep ❤️ I could have sat and watched them sleep all night… I don’t want days like this to end. On the other hand, I am so excited for all that lies ahead.

Advice for second-time parents; 9 “tips” on preparing a toddler for a sibling

I was recently asked if I could share any tips on preparing our 2-year-old (Stanley) for being a big brother, something I have been working on for the last few months! My initial thought was… I have no clue! What I can tell you, is the numerous things that I have been doing with Stanley over the last 6 months or so, in order to try and prepare him for a new baby coming into the family (induction booked in 2 days!). I really have no idea if any of these will have helped in any way. So “tips”…? I’m not really sure that these can truly be called “tips” (or whether I can even say this is classed as worthy “advice”!), since I am yet to have an outcome. But, I can at least talk you through some ideas that we had, and perhaps I’ll have some wiser words when the little lady is here…! I should probably also point out that Stanley is 2 years and 10 months, and so the things below may or may not apply to older or younger children.

Talking about baby’s sex: “Whatever you do, do not ask Stanley if he would like a brother or sister!” – This was one of the first tips we received when we found out we were expecting our second child, as friends of ours had first-hand experience! Our friends didn’t find out the sex of their baby, and so they spoke to their child about whether they would like a baby brother, or baby sister. Little did they realise that they would soon become adamant on having a baby brother… to the point that they even had a name for their “brother”. I am sure that you can guess what happens next – a baby sister entered the world. Cue almighty tantrums because they wanted their baby brother! Safe to say, as soon as we spotted family members going anywhere near this conversation with Stanley, we told them this story! Though, once we knew the sex of our little lady – we shared this news with Stanley too, so that we could prepare him, and talk to him about what it will be like to have a baby sister. I must say, we have had numerous scans throughout this pregnancy, and despite being told numerous times that it is a girl (and buying plenty of girl’s clothes!) – we have also be warned that girls are a little harder to diagnose. So, I still have this niggling feeling in my mind that we will never be 100% certain of this fact until “she” arrives!

Antenatal appointments: Whilst we have never taken Stanley to any antenatal appointments, this is one way of getting them involved – they may enjoy seeing baby on the screen, or listening to baby’s heartbeat. Though, I have always been a little cautious of this, as for one – hospital appointments are lengthy, busy, and relatively boring for a 2-year-old, which is not a good mixture for Stanley! Secondly, I have never taken hospital appointments lightly, I always go prepared for the unexpected to happen (I am definitely not at my most relaxed!), and so I didn’t think it would be fair to put this onto Stanley either. Instead, when we have had various scans and appointments, I have always brought something back for Stanley when we could. Throughout the pregnancy, he has had his own copies of the scan pictures, pictures of his “baby sister” that he has enjoyed showing everybody! We also got a recording of his “baby sister’s heartbeat” in a teddy, that he loves listening to, and showing to others.

Introducing baby through a story: There are plenty of books out there that could help prepare your little one for having a baby around the house. We happened to spot “Za-Za’s Baby Brother” (by Lucy Cousins) in a charity shop (and actually long before we were pregnant with our second!), and we had to get it – because we knew how much Stanley loves his Maisy books. We thought this might do just the trick if we were ever lucky enough to have our second. Fast forward a couple of years, and this book has come in handy. I can still picture Stanley’s face when I read this to him for the first time… the look of amazement… and him exclaiming “my mummy’s got baby in her belly too!”. When I read the story to him, I treated it like any other new book – I made no comparisons between the story and mummy having a baby in her belly, but the way that he immediately could relate to this was so lovely to see.

Don’t try and force them to be interested! Similar to above, and the way that I didn’t make the story all about us having a new baby, I started by trying to talk about babies more generally. I followed Stanley’s lead. When Stanley made the connection between Za-Za and us, then we would talk about. But, if he’s not interested in talking about baby, we don’t talk about baby. It is pretty easy to see whether or not they are showing any interest, and at first, I wasn’t sure that Stanley was ever going to be interested at all! His interest in talking about baby has certainly grown alongside my belly, and also his understanding of having a “baby sister” has grown, as he himself has grown. I would say that it has only really been these last couple of months that he has shown any real spontaneous interest in baby. I am not sure whether this is the result of Stanley growing as a person and developing more understanding, or whether this is because there are now more visible changes taking place – mummy’s belly is certainly much much bigger for one, and the house is now prepared for a newborn baby once again.

Talk about babies: Since Stanley has shown more interest in baby, we’ve spent more time talking about what having a baby will be like. In particular, we have tried to prepare him for the fact that babies cry a lot, sleep a lot, and need feeding a lot! We have also tried to get him to come up with his own ideas about what he could do when baby is crying (his response: “cuddle her… kiss her… and hold her hand’’!), we’ve talked about playing games with his baby sister, and asked him what he would like to teach her (“I can show her how to put a DVD on!”). He also enjoys playing with dolls, so we have had lots of role-play that includes changing nappies, feeding baby, and helping to get them to sleep (hoping that he may enjoy playing with his baby, whilst mummy is busy with another!)

The growing belly! Stanley has definitely shown more interest since my “belly has got bigger and bigger“(!), and as such, we have spent times sitting with Stanley and trying to feel baby kicking when the movements are strong enough! Sure enough, he gets fed up of waiting for baby to have a wriggle at times, but others, he enjoys pretending and telling other people that “baby kicked”! At the same time, I’ve tried to explain to Stanley that baby can now hear him, and that she loves to hear him talk, sing, or read a story to her! Now, there is nothing cuter than Stanley running up to my belly and saying “hello baby” and giving her the biggest cuddle! We also talk about what we think baby is up to in mummy’s belly, and Stanley will often pretend to feed baby through mummy’s belly… or even play dentists and pretend to take all of her teeth out (I’m not sure where this idea came from, but I’ve warned him now that baby will come out of mummy’s belly with no teeth left!)

Buying baby items, and presents: If you are buying things for the new baby, get your toddler involved as much as you can – whether this is picking an outfit, or a toy. I dug out Stanley’s old toys, and we had a play with them, and talked about how baby might like to play with them when she arrives. We also had the idea of getting baby a present from Stanley, but wanted it to be something that Stanley could really get involved with, and daddy had the most wonderful idea – a “taggy”. Stanley has always had a thing about tags on clothes, and so getting him a taggy was the best thing we did (I don’t think they have parted since!). This is the best present that Stanley could have got her, and he has picked a lovely one for his sister – choosing the design and colours himself! I think he is actually a little bit excited to give this to her! But, the present I think I have had the most fun in preparing, is the present from baby to Stanley! I have this all packed in our hospital bag, ready to give to Stanley as a present from his baby sister, when he visits her for the first time. I hope that this will help a little with the initial bond that he develops with her. We (“baby”) have got Stanley a Spiderman rucksack and filled it with a things: a Paw Patrol magazine, a new taggy, a snack, a “best bro” t-shirt, and a personalised book “Big Brothers are Great”. I hope he likes it!

Making changes to routines, and preparing for hospital: If you need to make changes, I would suggest making them as early as possible, at least this is the approach I have taken with Stanley (since I know what he is like with his routines). We have always tried to explain to Stanley that there is a baby in mummy’s belly, even when this wasn’t quite so visible, and that this makes things a little more difficult for mummy. So, for example, when he asks for mummy to pick him up, we always try to offer for daddy to pick him instead. Of course, this doesn’t always go smoothly, but the more we have done this, the easier it has got. his understanding has grown, and hopefully, the more prepared he will be for when baby is here. I have tried to make as little changes to Stanley’s routines as possible, just little alterations here and there, such as getting daddy to do more (e.g., get daddy to start doing the bedtime routine if he doesn’t already!). Of course, there is no doubt that some changes to routines cannot be avoided, and one of the biggest changes that will affect his routine will be mummy going to hospital. Stanley has a lot of routines, and this is one that I am most definitely worried the most about. It is one of the reasons that I wished I could have a home birth, but having being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, I have little choice but to go in hospital (and at this rate, to be induced on Friday!). I have no idea how long I will be in hospital, but I have tried to talk to Stanley about this, and explain that mummy will be hospital for a little while. I have found this so hard, not only because you don’t know exactly what will happen yourself – but it is even harder to know how much of this he really comprehends.

Focus on your toddler! As much as possible, I have tried to keep the focus on “Stanley becoming a big brother”, rather than a new baby coming into the house. I don’t want Stanley to feel pushed out, jealous, or that baby is making all of these changes happen, and so I’ve tried to turn everything I can into a positive – and make it about Stanley! I am sure there are bound to be times when Stanley will want something, or want me, when I am having to focus on the new arrival, there will be times when he will no doubt get jealous, and I am sure this is perfectly natural. But, if we can somehow turn the attention on to him too, and prepare him for this now, I am hoping that this will help. I am hoping that when the little lady arrives that we can continue to keep Stanley interested in his baby sister, and helping mummy out with all of the cuddles that she will need! I have also made an effort to make the most of the last few weeks that we have together as a family of three, and before life starts to get much busier once again. Take time out to relax before your new arrival is here, have fun with your toddler, do something special – something they love, even if this just means lots of extra cuddles on the sofa watching their favourite films! Whatever it may be – treasure these moments, which may be few and far between when your family starts to grow. I am also hoping that we can still have some Stanley-and-mummy time once the little lady arrives, as I am sure I will be having plenty of time with the new addition. Equally, I think it’s just as important for both our children to have their own daddy-time. But of course, most of all, I now simply cannot wait for us to have family time… as a family of four! The wait is almost over…