Uni/Work/Home Balance is Actually Just Lots of Coffee

I haven’t posted in a while…
It’s felt like I’ve continuously had a thousand things to do but I think as a Mum I will always have a never ending to do list so it’s a pretty poor excuse. A never ending supply of caffeine is needed and I don’t know how people who don’t like coffee survive.

I saw a post this morning on a Facebook page about a student who had to take his baby to class with him because of childcare problems and his professor helped him by wearing the baby in a chest carrier whilst he taught. I’m reasonably certain it was an American news story but the point remains – it was a lovely and very human gesture. It made me think about my own experience as a mother and a student.

I’m currently in third year at uni and I work part time whilst juggling running a household and raising my beautiful toddler – she’s nearly two where has the time gone? – and trying to remember my partner and I are adults (easier said that done when you know the theme songs to every CBeebies cartoon off by heart).

My first year personal tutor was really kind and compassionate, if a little clueless. I was pregnant from the start of first year and he apologised straight away for not knowing what to do because as a young male he had never himself experienced pregnancy or raised a baby and as a tutor had never before had a pregnant student.

But he tried his best. He arranged for me to have an unlimited number of 7 day extensions without requiring evidence and made sure I wouldn’t be chased about my attendance if I couldn’t manage to get to lectures. He filled in all the right risk assessments and offered to find a female member of staff with children when it came to questions like breast feeding and midwife appointments if it made me more comfortable. It didn’t bother me at all talking to him, but it was kind of him to offer (I think in all honesty he felt slightly out of his depth and was thinking a tutor who had had a baby would be more helpful). Amelia’s due date was around the time of my final assessments but she arrived well before that so I even managed to get all the work completed for the final dead lines. Much to my surprise I passed first year.

I went into second year with a baby the size of a newborn – she was 3 months old and around 8lbs when my new class schedule came through – and as I was breast feeding her it wasn’t easy leaving her for long periods of time. (Think loads of pumping to leave a supply of milk and continued pumping while away from her.) I was also recovering from a csection which anyone whose had one will know can take a long time. There is a reason the people who work in the costa near my house know my coffee order without asking.

Second year was not easy. They also changed my personal tutor in second year and I didn’t see this tutor once. In fact until I started third year I wasn’t even certain of my tutors name.

Add to the work/uni/baby balance that I have a rare medical condition and my whole third year experience is really not like most secondary school students would envision.

My dissertation is due in the next few months along with a list of other assignments and group presentations and honestly it’s more luck than design that I’ve managed to hand things in on time and turn up to the right lecture hall.

It’s all worth the effort though when you have this little face waiting for you when you come home.

Ted baker dress and dummy

The Pressure of Breastfeeding

There is a pressure among mums to breastfeed. I have yet to encounter a mums group that doesn’t support it vehemently. I have seen many times when a mother who has chosen to stop has been made to feel guilty, has been insulted or has been made to feel as if she is somehow neglecting her child.

I am going to outline the disadvantages I personally found. And yes I am fully aware that this opinion is probably going to be very unpopular.

Before I begin I am in no way ‘anti’ breastfeeding. I exclusively breast fed my daughter until she was six weeks and mix fed her until she was 16 weeks. However for me, there were a number of problems I found with it.

Since introducing formula Amelia’s weight gain has improved. Yes, she was gaining weight but as she was very ill and lost a lot of weight in her first two weeks of life what little weight she was gaining wasn’t as much as I would have liked. Now she is formula fed her weight gain is more notable and on her curve in her red book she is just above the bottom line, where previously she was below it.

Her relationship with her daddy has improved. Instead of relying on my breasts for comfort she is now happy to be consoled by her dads cuddles too.

She sleeps for longer as formula keeps them full for longer and she doesn’t need to feed as often to maintain my milk supply.

If we get stuck in traffic and there’s another person in the car they can sit in the back and give her a bottle. For obvious reasons breast feeding would never have worked here. You may think this isn’t a problem. Within a couple of minutes of real crying Amelia goes bright red and starts being sick. Having her upset because we had to wait to get home to breast feed did neither of us any favours.

Another advantage is less clean up. Amelia’s reflux means there’s always a lot of sick after a feed. With breastfeeding she would easily cover both of us and necessitate a change of clothes for me and her. Not exactly ideal when you’ve gone shopping or for a meal.

Breastfeeding in public made me extremely anxious. Finding somewhere to sit and feed her was never easy and then there was the vommitting to consider. My nerves over taking her out have greatly reduced now that I know I have a bottle I can give her immediately, regardless of whether we are on a bus, in a car or in the queue waiting to pay for shopping.

The more the pro breastfeeding the adviser was the more of the following advice I seemed to receive:
Don’t give a dummy it will cause nipple confusions – she had one from the beginning and it didn’t and it’s also known to reduce SIDS risk
Don’t express it will cause nipple confusion – when she was hospitalised the doctors told me to so that we could measure exactly how much of her milk she was drinking. Again it did not cause nipple confusion
Don’t use nipples shields it will cause confusion – again this did not happen. In fact had I not used them I would have stopped breast feeding very early due to pain

Yes all research tells us that breast milk is best nutritionally. But just as much research tells us that mothers well being is more detrimental to the baby than feeding method. Unhappy mum means unhappy baby, regardless of the physical benefits of breastfeeding.

Whether or not to breast feed is a very personal choice. The only person that can make the decision is the mum. Do what works best for you. If you can be happy breast feeding that’s wonderful. If you can only be happy formula feeding then that’s wonderful too. If you are happiest mix feeding/ combination feeding then do so.  Fed is best. Happy mum is best.

Baby Weight

These days it’s nearly impossible to be secure in your own body when everywhere you look there’s a tiny model in a swimsuit with a perfect tan, hair and makeup done by a professional every morning and their own personal trainer.

I think this is particularly true for new mums. Instagram gives you access to a never ending stream of gorgeous bikini bodies. Most girls my age will have heard of Tammy Hembrow. She documented both her pregnancies through regular full body pictures and was very critical of her body a few weeks after each pregnancy. She was very vocal about how she kept up her weight training until very close to her due date.

It’s deceiving. Most new mums won’t have the time to hit the gym in the early days and theres no shame in that! And as for working out during pregnancy? Great if you can but if not that’s not a bad thing. Take time to enjoy your pregnancy and watch your bump grow. The stronger your abs are the longer it usually takes for your bump to appear and I don’t know about you, but for me that was one of the things I enjoyed most about being pregnant!

Tammy Hembrow may have been lucky enough to be able to work out whilst pregnant but I certainly wasn’t. For a start I had a job and a degree to study for which isn’t exactly conducive with several hours a day in the gym and secondly my health didn’t call for it either. I had morning sickness so severe that I lost 7lbs in the first 20 weeks and had an ambulance sent out to me and for the latter half of my pregnancy I was on crutches.

I’m the first to admit that I was quite lucky in that I slimmed down very quickly. Thanks to breast feeding and an early baby that got readmitted to hospital my tummy pulled in very quickly and the first couple of weeks I hardly got the chance to eat more than the three meals a day the hospital provided. 6 days after having Amelia I was back in my prepregnancy jeans and by six weeks I weighed the same as I did before pregnancy too.

I’m proud of the fact I have maintained the weight loss and am still eating healthily as I did before having Amelia – aside from an odd glass of wine which I think us mammas deserve. I’ve always been a reasonably healthy person and didn’t use my pregnancy as an excuse to over indulge – I strongly believe in eating in moderation. Have the chips or the pizza but make sure you have the salad too.

But if six months down the line you’re still a few pounds off your prebaby weight that is fine too. What’s more important is that you are happy and healthy and crash dieting whilst caring for a newborn is far from healthy. If you’re breast feeding you naturally burn around 500 extra calories so deciding to stick to a 1200 calorie diet would leave you feeling really run down and could hinder your milk supply.

Your body took nine months to grow that tiny human and its hard work. It deserves at least six weeks to heal before obsessing over getting into those size eight skinny jeans.

(and incase you were wondering the picture is of my favourite meal in the last few weeks of my pregnancy – Halloumi salad with seafood sauce and non-alcoholic moijitos)

Things No one Mentions About Having a Baby

1) Breast feeding shrinks your boobs – everyone is quick to tell you how much they balloon when your milk comes in but no one mentions that once you stop feeding they get a lot smaller. Since stopping breast feeding I am 2 cup sizes smaller than I was before pregnancy
2) Anti d injections aren’t foolproof – I had extra anti d injections for various reasons while I was pregnant and Amelia still contracted enough of my antibodies that she was very poorly
3) Nipple piercings – you think they’ve healed over? Wait until your milk starts leaking out of the holes you thought had closed up.
4) Discharged from hospital means no more injections – not entirely true. After my csection I had to inject every day for ten days to prevent blood clots. My poor mum did them for me and my legs were so bruised by the end of it.
5) The midwife can visit you at home – not many people realise that after the birth midwife visits can be at the doctors surgery but if you’re too uncomfortable to get there they will happily come to you instead.
6) Buy saline nasal drops – Amelia had such a blocked nose to start with that she wouldn’t feed. These were life savers and my midwife recommended them as you can’t cause any damage like you can if you push a nasal aspirator too far in.
7) Birth control – despite making a baby being the last thing on your mind with an hours old newborn in your arms health care professionals will keep mentioning it. I was having my tummy stitched up when the surgeon asked me what birth control I was planning to use! I had a huge hole in my tummy and she asked me about birth control.

A Day in the Life of the Titchy Princess

4:30 am

Amelia wakes up for milks – during the night she is breast fed. Even though it’s really early in the morning she is full of energy and will kick her little legs and giggle at me. Rob is at work by now so she goes back to sleep on our bed.

8am ish

Amelia is awake. Now is when she has her first bottle, watching TV with me and having a cuddle whilst we wait for daddy to get home from work.

8:30 am

Rob is home and takes over titch duties whilst I do the washing and put away the things on the dish drainer from the night before. Usually for Amelia this starts with a cuddle on daddy’s lap and a change of clothes. Her reflux means her first bottle comes straight back up so her daddy takes her into her room to change her nappy and swap her sleepsuit for leggings, a vest and a bib.

10:30 am

By now after a couple of hours of giggling, wriggling and watching TV Amelia is ready for a nap. She doesn’t like sleeping in her crib during the day so she normally ends up napping on the sofa next to her dad or laying on my chest.

12:30 am

Lunch time for me and rob and another bottle for Amelia. She’s just started having a bit of baby porridge as it’s meant to help with her reflux. Her favourite is banana flavour. We make it up with breast milk. After her lunch has settled in her tummy, Amelia has a play on her mat under her baby gym. By now we are usually on outfit number two. On a bad day we are on outfit number three or four. Most baby websites say 10-12 nappies in 24 hours is average. If we go through less than 20 I would be really surprised. Titch doesn’t like having a wet bum at all!

2:30 pm

Amelia has her second nap. Her daddy goes to see his friends so we have a tidy up and watch NCIS reruns on the TV.

6:30 pm

Daddy comes home. Amelia has a cuddle while I get dinner ready. Whilst its cooking Amelia has her bath – she’s a real water baby and would stay in there all day if she could – and snuggles in her sleep suit and her blanket.

7:30 pm

Amelia has her bedtime milks whilst Rob and I eat dinner. By 8 pm she is usually asleep on the sofa and we pick her up and lay her in her crib. She sleeps for about eight or nine hours.

4:30 am

We do it all over again!