Saturday 28 May 2011

I'm a GEM - Grumpy Elderly Mum

I'm coming up to a birthday soon, one year before a major milestone birthday....and it doesn't start with 2 or a 3. When I was a teenager I used to baby sit a little girl who was 3, and her mum was quite hip and young, unlike my own parents, and I vowed I wouldn't be an older mum, and certainly wouldn't be a grumpy one. Wrong. Here I am, a GEM. Here are some things that make me grumpy!

CGI Children's Programmes - My son has developed a Toto obsession - Thomas the Tank Engine. I can't watch it, it's wrong. In the words of the great Aaron Harvie of Masterchef Australia, just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. What's wrong with old fashioned animation? Yes its time consuming, you probably can't do the clever things that you can do with CGI, but it just makes me grumpy. Quality over quantity for me every time!

Bells and Whistles Baby Toys - Bouncy chairs that play a song, conduct a light orchestra on the ceiling, give the baby a back massage, playmats that sing and dance and have 50 million bells and whistles on them, things that buzz, and flash and make noise, and for which you never have the right batteries. Joseph had a basic bouncy chair and no play mat to speak of, and he's just fine. I think sometimes we're in danger of creating children who need something electric to keep them amused, and it starts too young. Just my opinion of course, and not to denigrate those who love such things, just not for me!

Toys with Television Tie ins - I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I posted about Joseph's birthday presents, but it was impossible to buy an easel that met my requirements that didn't have branding on it. It's hard to buy a toddler train or car or firetruck that isn't Thomas, Rory or Fireman Sam. And yes I know them all. As I type this Joseph is posting letters in his Postman Pat van.

Processed Toddler Food - Now I know this is a sensitive area. I am a stay at home mum, and have time to cook, and I know a lot of people don't. But is it really necessary to have specifically branded toddler food? Surely by the time they are toddlers little people should be eating what their parents are eating? Is it really necessary to have all these refrigerated meals, and toddler snacks cluttering up the shelves? And none of this stuff is cheap. A quick meal for Joseph is fish fingers, chips and peas, or a platter of cheese, meat, bread and veggies. Snacks are fruit or the very occasional bag of wotsits, a box of raisins, or a biscuit.

Soft Play Centres - I have a ground breaking business idea. A clean soft play area, with plenty of staff supervising, healthy food that people genuinely want to eat, and a "bring your own food" policy. Every soft play I have been to has been difficult with Joseph, its getting easier now he's walking, but I've never been able to go to one without my blood pressure rising. Except one. Springolino's in Germany. The food is good, you can bring your own, you can cater your own party there if you want to. The areas are huge, and well supervised. Why can't they all be like this?

Franchised Baby and Toddler classes - There's a new one of these popping up every week, music classes, signing classes, sensory classes. I do think there is a place for formal learning, but for babies? I'm not so sure. I think sometimes a  lot of pressure is put on parents to attend these things, but what I really object to is the cost! Some of these classes are just cost prohibitive and often they don't go for more than an hour. And a lot you have to play by term block, which I have always avoided, babies get sick, or have days where they want to sleep. What also annoys me is that as SureStart centres close, or are put under immense funding pressure, the classes are often the only opportunity parents have to meet other parents and to socialise, and for those of us on limited incomes, they are not always within our reach.

Dining Out with a Toddler - Back in the 1970s when I was a toddler, you ordered a half or even quarter portion of a main meal. Nearly everywhere I've eaten with Joseph has been "*** and chips" or margarita pizza. Hardly anything ever comes with vegetables. It's not this way in Europe and I've had no problems when travelling in Germany or France ordering healthy kids meals. And its was reasonably easy in Australia too. Also the other thing that makes me grumpy is that said "kids meals" are often enormous. Very few places size things appropriately for under 5's.

I have possibly ranted enough, but pleae tell me I'm not the only GEM, and perhaps I have some GYM's too! (Grumpy Young Mums!)

Thursday 26 May 2011

Me 2 Years On

I have joined a really interesting facebook group called Breastmilk for Preemies and today we were talking about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and having had a baby prematurely. It was one of the first things I ever blogged about. You can read about it here

At the time of writing that piece I was still on Citalopram, the anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drug that helped me move on from what had happened. It gave me my brain back.

I wanted to explain more about what had happened to me mentally and my recovery and how it differed from depression. I am not a clinician, and this is not intended to be an exploration of the differences between PTSD and postnatal depression (PND) but merely an explanation of how it was for me.

I was really confused at first, when Joseph came home. Having had depression before, I knew I wasn't depressed. I felt totally in love with my baby, I really enjoyed having him home, I loved watching him, caring for him and doing things for him. I loved being a mum, and was really wanting to enjoy motherhood.

I was highly anxious. I had intrusive thoughts - what if there was something wrong with him that had been missed? What if I have an accident in the house, spill coffee on him, or drop him? I was having very graphic nightmares. I started avoiding sleep at night, and only sleeping in the day. I was very difficult to talk to. I found it hard to relate to my husband. I had no enjoyment of anything that wasn't related to Joseph. I also found it very difficult to leave behind hospital. Conversations played back in my head over and over. I kept wondering if I could have done things differently. And I was completely tortured about breastfeeding. I felt an utter failure, and felt very angry and disappointed with myself.

Once I opened up to the support worker at our local SureStart centre, and then got the courage up to see my GP, things started to improve, but very slowly. The psychiatrist I saw explained that all the trauma I had gone through over the years, right back to being bullied at school, had built up, layer upon layer, and Joseph's birth had tipped me over the edge. She felt therapy and medication was the way to go. She was thrilled I wasn't breastfeeding, as the medication she felt was best is not compatible with breastfeeding, so I felt better, that because it hasn't worked out, I had the opportunity to take this medication and feel better.

The side effects of citalopram were annoying. The funniest was it made me feel hot. I remember going to see the GP for a review in December, there was snow on the ground, and I was in a t-shirt sweating buckets. She just laughed! It also zapped my sex drive completely, which initially didn't bother me, but later on, was  problem, particularly as my husband had had a vasectomy to prevent further pregnancy, and seemingly, with me on this drug, there was no need.

But the medication stopped the nightmares in their tracks. I stopped having flashbacks. My concentration got better and better. It really worked for me.

But the real key was the support woker at the centre, and also my friends, particularly the friends I had made on the unit. Their support and friendship, and the fact that they hadn't been traumatised by the experience, really helped me to get things back in perspective.

I feel now that I have recovered from the PTSD. I stopped the medication a year ago. I did have a bit of a wobble a couple of months ago, when Joseph was under investigation for the walking issue, but I feel fine now.

I will always be a little sad, that Joseph had a tough start. And I am sad I can't have more children. At the moment its particularly hard, I think the 2 year point has struck a chord as many of my friends that gave birth in May 09 have new babies or are pregnant, and that will never be me. I feel sad that I never got the full pregnancy experience, and that so many things were taken from us. I still, at times, think "why me" and then get over it.

I can see now that we are so blessed, I am blessed, to have such a perfect little boy (ok a normal, tantrumming, delightful, challenging 2 year old) and wonderful husband, and my brain back.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

This Is Serious Mum - No Child Born to Die

I don't think anyone likes taking their baby for the immunisations. Watching them being stuck by a needle is not nice, hearing them cry. But we take them because we know that the devastating effect of childhood diseases is far worse than a short sharp prick with a needle. But we are lucky. Vaccinations are free. There is a well defined programme in countries like the UK and Australia. We don't need to worry about our children dying needlessly of conditions that can be easily prevented.

Usually being tagged in a meme makes me nervous. Will anyone care what my most embarrassing moment was, or what I eat for breakfast. But this time I am honoured to be tagged by the lovely Jane at Northern Mum 
You can learn more about the inspiration behind this at Red Ted Art

This meme challenge is to support the work of Save the Children 's No Child Born to Die campaign. 1 in 5 children in the world receive no vaccinations at all. David Cameron is hosting a meeting of world leaders in London, and Save the Children are using this as an opportunity to highlight the funding shortfall, and get these important people to do something about it.

The Challenge

1) Get your child to either draw or craft a self portrait of themselves now or in the future.
2) Sign the Save the Children petition and then pass it onto your friends
3) Write a blog post about it as soon as possible, including info about Save the Children and the petition. We want as many people linked up AND signed up the petition by Sunday 29th May 2011
4) Tag 8 fellow blogger friends
5) Come back and link up your posts, so we can all share your craftiness
6)If you have time, visit each other posts and say hello!

So Joseph was up for the challenge.

 My question to him was what does he want to be in the future. To me it looks a bit like the portrait of a punk rocker! Or perhaps the vertical lines just indicate he's aiming high, I don't know.

What I do know is that throught he vast amount of medical support Joseph received as a baby, and through preventative medicine, Joseph's future is bright.

I'm going to wimp out with the tagging, and tag 4

Beyond the Boob

SFR Product Reviews

Edspire - Esther and William in the World

Small Victories


Tuesday 24 May 2011

What to Buy a 2 Year Old Boy

I was looking at my stats the other day, not something I do often, and a few people have been led to my blog searching under google for gift ideas for 2 year old boys.

Joseph turned 2 two weeks ago, so now the dust has settled on his new toys, which ones have been a hit?

By far the biggest success has been this easel. I didn't buy it because of the branding, which is, thankfully very subtle. It's incredibly sturdy, and has stood up to two toddlers thumping the dickens out of it carefully depicting scenes in chalk. On the other side is a white board. For under £20, this is a fantastic gift, and the home assembly required is, thankfully, very simple. One of the reasons I decided on an easel was to encourage his standing, and its been really helpful for Joseph to have this to focus on whilst he's standing.

To accompany the easel I bought these super washable Crayola markers Joseph got marker everywhere, on his clothes, hands, face, and it washed off with ease! The colours are very pretty too.

Joseph loves cars, and we bought a selection of die cast metal cars and a train, just from our local toyshop. He loves cars that fit into his hand that he can push around.

Animals are a favourite here, and we bought him the Playmobil 123 Noah's Ark which he loves. All the figurines fit into the ark and it has a handle, and as we do quite a lot of travelling we thought this was the ideal toy for him. He is just starting to say animal names, so its great for his language development too.

Other things that have been a hit are piles of books. He loves his bed time story, particularly rhyming stories. We bought him a couple of Julia Donaldson books - Night Monkey Day Monkey and Stick Man, as well as "Each Peach Pear Plum" one of my favourites when I was a little girl.

I also quite like having DVDs and we bought him Pingu and Yo Gabba Gabba. I was quite delighted to discover that Yo Gabba Gabba has been re dubbed for the English market, and gone are the really annoying American accents that were on the version we watched in Australia.

By shopping wisely we were able to get quite a few things for Joseph's birthday without breaking the bank. I think with toddlers "more is more" lots of little things are a good idea, for toddlers with short attention spans!

Joseph was given a Zingzilla guitar by a friend of mine, it's very loud, but its been another favourite! Joseph loves music!

He also received lots of puzzles, which aren't quite a hit with him yet but I'm sure will be as time goes on.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Britmums - It' a Blog Hop!

I've joined the blog hop on Britmums, so a warm welcome if your reading for the first time, and I hope to find some other great blogs to read too!

Breastfeeding - could it have worked?

I've been thinking a bit lately about breastfeeding. I have posted on this before but it was a while ago now, and I feel I want to revisit it again.

When I was pregnant, I assumed I would breastfeed. Giving formula never entered my head. Breast milk is free, its personalised to the baby's needs, and I never really thought much else of it. My sister had successfully breast fed 2 children (and is now feeding number 3) most of my close mummy friends had breastfed, and I was always a bit sad that I hadn't been.

When I was told Joseph would have to be delivered, I knew I would be expected to express, no one discussed it with me, but I knew that breast milk was best for very early babies. At that time I thought it was a given, I would express until he was ready to breast feed.

As time went on, it was pretty clear, that in some ways, most staff on the unit only gave lip service to breastfeeding. They all encouraged me in expressing, but when it was time to move on to something other than tube feeding, the support went away. When Joseph was 32 weeks I was "asked" if I'd allow them to introduce bottles. Now the "ask" is in inverted commas because, once I had said "no" it was pretty clear that I wasn't being "asked" it was expected.

I felt very uncomfortable and discussed it with Joseph' consultant, who said "all the other babies here are mix fed and it isn't a problem for them, why is Joseph any different". With everything that I had been through I had lost the power of argument. I wanted to scream, and wish I had, "every other baby in here is +30 weeks gestation at birth and not IUGR that's how Joseph is different". But I didn't. I gave in.

I think allowing those first bottles was the beginning of the end. My supply dwindled. Then I was "asked" to allow fortifier in my milk. That was another nail into the coffin. When I watched them put that powder in, I felt so useless and pathetic. I couldn't even provide milk for my baby without help.

I'm not sure whether I could have made breastfeeding work. It was a difficult time. I read an article today about how you should express 8-10 times a day for at least 10-15 minutes when you have a premature baby. That level of frequency just wasn't possible for me! Not with hospital visiting and my own health to consider as well.

But I do know mums who have made it work with their premature babies. If I'd had support of other mums and a more supportive set of nurses in hospital who had had experience with tiny IUGR babies of Joseph's gestation, perhaps it could have made a difference.

But now, I am content, that I did my best at the time, with what I knew then.  And nothing can take away from the fact that I expressed for 10 long weeks in difficult circumstances, which is a huge achievement in itself.

Thursday 19 May 2011

The Velveteen Rabbit

Extract from
the The Velveteen Rabbit

Margery Williams (1881-1944)
‘What is REAL?’ asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’ ‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When someone loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’ ‘Does it hurt? Asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’ ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ ‘ It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’ ‘I suppose you are real?’ said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse only smiled. ‘Someone made me Real,’ he said. ‘That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.’

We had the above reading for our wedding day. I chose this reading because it describes perfectly what love is like. It hurts, its not always easy, you have to be strong, and resilient, you can't be too precious about it. Love is never perfect.

When Joseph was born, I went and bought a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit. I think this passage describes perfectly what it is like to have a premature baby. I felt at first that Joseph wasn't real. It was such a weird situation I had a baby, but I didn't have a baby. I was on a maternity ward with nothing. A few cards, a teddy bear, but no baby. It was weird, it was horrible. It was frightening.

I would spend a lot of time on the ward, in those first weeks, looking at a tiny little creature, so frail, hearing bewildering news, wondering what on earth our future would hold, learning to love him.

And I think through loving that tiny baby, from believing in him and caring for him made me real. It's made me real as a mum and my husband, real as a dad, and I like to think that by loving Joseph we've made him real too, strong, resilient, not easily broken.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Momentous Day - Uncorrected

What do premature babies have in common with the Queen? They have two birthdays. Birthday number one is the day they were born, too soon and too small. The second birthday is when they should have been born.

It's more than semantics. For the first year of life it's essential that parents and medical staff correct the baby's age. Too often I see parents of premature babies stressing out that their 6 month olds aren't sitting up, or finger feeding. It's vital to correct.

In our case our Health Visitor (similar to Child Health Nurse) uncorrected Joseph's weight at one year old, which is common practice. Then proceeded to give me a lecture about why Joseph had gone from the 25th to the 9th centile. She gave me a huge lecture about how I wasn't giving him enough high calorie foods and how I should give him puddings.

What she failed to see was that Joseph hadn't dropped centiles at all. It was her maths that had sent him plummetting down the centile charts, not my dodgy parenting. Our paediatrician was livid when she saw his chart and said he shouldn't be corrected until at least two.

However, for physical milestones, our Health Visitor quite rightly still corrected. It's absolutely vital to give them that time to "catch up". For every early and very small babies, "catch up" is a bit of a nebulous concept, and no one can determine when or indeed if a child has caught up at all, there is so much variance, no two toddlers are the same. There's always a huge difference between two year olds born at term, let alone adding prematurity into the mix. Some neo natologists say that it can take 5 years for "catch up" to occur.

Anyway, the point of today's post is that today, I have decided to stop correcting. I was previously advised by Joseph's physiotherapist to correct until 2 corrected, which is August, but now that he's talking and walking, I just don't feel I need to do it anymore.

But that doesn't mean we can't have cake on the 7th of August! I think that day, to me, will always have to be marked, with at least a cupcake and some kisses and cuddles.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Parenting Principles

I like to think I'm not alone in this, but before I had a baby I had some pretty conceived ideas of how I would roll. But as time has gone on, I have 'got real'. I thought I'd visit some of the things I thought I'd do, ways I would be, and how, as time has gone on, I have changed. And maybe not always for the best.

Out the window

Bottle-feeding Never did I think I'd be a bottle feeder.I had some pretty dumb misconceptions about formula. Joseph was so low birthweight, he required more than breast milk. It took me a long while to understand that, that he was born in "artificial" circumstances, and it wasn't my fault, he just needed more. I was so unprepared for bottle feeding, I had no idea about brands of bottles, sizes of teats or sterilising methods. I felt I was totally unprepared for a bottle fed baby.

Television I've blogged about television before. We do a lot during our days, walks to the park, toddler groups, craft activities etc, but it's a reality that TV plays quite a bit of a roll in Joseph's day. I am selective, it's always CBeebies or other specialist programming, and the TV is off for long periods in the day, but he just loves it! And I am sure it has taught him a great deal. It's also helped us to find story books, to go new places, and given me ideas of activities. Cake case creatures anyone?

Toys When Joseph first came home, we started acquiring toys. I love toys made out of fabric and wood, I love natural toys, gentle toys. Slowly we were given gifts, many of these toys were plastic, they had buttons and flashing lights. Gradually I have realised that to help his development, Joseph does need stimulation, and plastic things, things that flash, that go ding, are important! He still has some natural toys and he loves wooden blocks, and is starting to do creative play with stuffed animals.

Toys with Television Tie-Ins This is one area where I actually do feel a bit of a cringe about. TV and its marketing is so insidious and clever. The first toys I bought were the In The Night Garden toys. They are so cute, and beautifully made. And Joseph loves them. Which doesn't make it right, but there you are. He also has some Zingzillas toys. Zingzillas is a musical programme and it definitely has enhanced Joseph's understanding of music. Joseph's new discovery, like millions of children before him, is Thomas the Tank Engine

Held on to

Cloth Nappies  Joseph was in disposables in hospital, his bottom was the size of a small snail, his changing schedules were not always when I was able to be there, so I decided that it would be better to stick with disposables. As soon as he was home I made arrangements to switch to "real nappies". There are times Joseph is not in cloth, such as when we are travelling. I feel the same way about disposables as I do about ready meals, there are times when these things are completely appropriate, and occasional use does no harm. But for the majority of time, Joseph has a fluffy bum! It's no hassle, its not really inconvenient, and its certainly saved us money.

Baby-led weaning We couldn't do traditional baby led weaning, where the baby feeds themselves from the outset, but I used the principles. Joseph ate modified family meals from the outset, always with us. I always served something he could attempt to hold. Two years on, we eat as a family. It's been delightful, its helped my cooking and my own eating, and made me think more about what I am eating.

Reading time From the time Joseph was tiny, I read to him. Special care baby units are wonderful places, full of knowledgeable staff, cutting edge equipment, and gorgeous babies. They are also exceedigly boring. Your baby is very often in a box. You can't hold the baby, there's only so much leaning in and massaging you can do. So I used to take story books in. Reading is a very important part of our routine, not just at night time, but during the day as well. "Book" is one of Joseph's first and most used words! He can't or doesn't yet say television, so I can't have gone too wrong.

Reaching out I don't often talk about this, but when Joseph was in hospital I felt so lonely. I felt completely alienated. I felt like no one else could possible understand what I was going through. Of course, thousands of families go through this in the UK every year. I promised that I would never allow anyone to feel this way. I have met, both online, and in person, people who are going through this journey with their children, or have been through it and still feel frightened, alienated, and traumatised. I have kept my promise, through my on line activities, volunteer work, and most importantly this blog. I hope that I have helped people, and the art of reaching out has certainly helped me come to terms with all that has happened.

Motherhood isn't what I expected it to be. The start was far harder than I ever thought it might be. The toddler years that we are experiencing now, are more fun, more delightful, and more enriching than I ever thought possible. OK so some things I had planned have whooshed out the window, but that's a good thing, it's right to be challenged, to alter the way you do things, as long as its for the right reasons

MAD Blog Awards - Finalist

A few months ago I learnt of the MAD Blog Awards. I decided to enter, to help raise the profile of Not Even A Bag of Sugar. I want my blog to reach those who need it most, those who have a premature baby, those who may be auntie, uncle or grandparent, or a good friend of someone starting this journey. It wasn't about prizes or accolades. I just wanted people to know I'm here!

This blog was at first started merely as a catharsis, to help me get over Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It's evolved since then. I wanted to educate people particularly those who are supporting others going through the special care journey with their baby. I wanted to help those coming home, bewildered, frightened of what the future holds, and most of all I wanted to offer hope.

I love to explore the lighter side too. Parenting is fantastic fun. Yes its frustrating sometimes, even scary, but its the greatest job in the world.

So to be nominated in the Most Inspiring category, is a great honour. However, my fellow finalists are fantastic, particularly Ghostwritermummy who has been so helpful and encouraging to me personally.

For me, the old cliche runs very true for this particular competition. It's not about the winning, its about taking part, and celebrating the phenomenon that is mummy blogging, or more correctly, parent blogging.

So thank you to all those who find me inspiring, and if you wish to vote for your favourite finalists, follow the button on the side of my page.

Monday 16 May 2011

Baby Massage Works

About Baby Massage Works

Katie and Tina trained together at Manchester University, completing the Making a Difference programme in Professional  Nursing Studies having become firm friends and concentrating on our individual career paths Tina joined Katie in 2011 to offer baby massage courses to new mums.  We both use therapeutic massage with our own children, sharing a strong belief in the power of nurturing touch in the parent - child relationship.  Katie facilitates classes in Knutsford, Cheshire and Tina in SW London.  


I am Katie Mills, a qualified nurse, massage therapist and a baby massage instructor.
I am interested in all aspects of health and well-being and became particularly interested in baby massage after the birth of our son Archie. He was born 7 weeks prematurely and weighed just 2lbs 15oz. He was a very stressed baby and suffered terribly with reflux.

I took a class in baby massage and found it a very effective way of relaxing both Archie and myself as well as reducing the incidence of his reflux. I decided that I wanted to share the knowledge I gained from this experience with other mums.


I am Tina Baker, a qualified nurse, massage therapist and baby massage instructor.  After becoming a mum in 2010 I decided to train in baby massage as having witnessed first hand the benefits of infant massage on my daughter Eva to helping sleep and relaxation patterns and the aiding her developmental path, I wanted to share these skills with other news mums to enhance our babies as they grow into happy healthy young children. 
I completed Peter Walker’s training in April 2010. Peter Walker is a a pioneer of developmental baby massage he is internationally renown physical therapist who teaches “Developmental Baby Massage and Movement’ for children from birth to five”. 

Why Massage Your Baby?

There are historical accounts of massage being used in ancient civilisations as far back as 3,000 years ago.
The word 'massage' originates from the Arabic word meaning 'to stroke'. In India for hundreds of years the art of baby massage has been passed down through the generations from mother to daughter.
Although it is very difficult to pin point exactly where the practise of baby massage originates from, it is now widely practised around the world, and recognised by many as being just as vital as the milk we feed our babies. 
Touch is a newborns first language- it is her prime means of communication and plays a important role in forming our early parent child relationships.  The skin is our largest organ and it is the first organ to develop in the womb.
Baby massage is not a trendy phase or fad, it is an ancient art and philosophy that connects you deeply to your baby.
Benefits for Baby
·         Enhances bonding
·         Improves communication
·         Relieves colic wind and constipation
·         Stimulates and regulates your babies major bodily systems ( eg circulatory, nervous, immune, lymphatic, digestive, respiratory)
·         Promotes neurological development
·         Improves your babies sleep
·         Is an activity done together with your baby, a shared experience
·         Provides relaxation for your baby
·         Increases oxytocin and serotonin ( anti- stress hormones)

Benefits for Parents
·         Helps parents to become more attuned to their baby
·         Develop a greater understanding of my babies body language
·         Allows us to ‘just be’ with our baby
·         Helps us to relax
·         Enhances the parent infant bond
·         Increases our self confidence as parents
·         Reduces the risk of post natal depression
·         Social aspect in a supportive group environment
·         Decreases stress hormones

Classes are kept small and personal to ensure a high level of teaching and a perfect environment for you and your new baby. Plenty of time is allowed for feeding and naps and all classes are baby led. Light Refreshments are provided at the end of every session to allow you time to chat and relax. 

Private or One to One Sessions; 
Tina can come to you and hold a course in your home (ideal for Mum and Dads to learn and share the skills together) or mothers group meeting place. 
We can also offer a Introductory 1 hour workshop at your group's usual meeting place. Group discounts will apply.

If you are interested in participating in one of our classes or have any questions please feel free to email or call either Katie or myself.  
London and the South East Tina on 0781 458 4050
Knutsford and the North West 0797 354 0072

Sunday 15 May 2011

Baby Massage

Many years ago I worked as a carer for children with severe disabilites. I was in the library one day in between shifts and got this book out of the library. Although for babies, the book was very interesting and gave me some great ideas for massage techniques to help the little chidlren I was looking after.

When Joseph was born, I immediately bought this book. I had remembered that it contained a chapter on baby massage with babies in incubators and techniques for introducing touch when kangaroo care and cuddles are just not possible. I knew it would be possible for Joseph and I to have special time together even when he was in a box with wires and tubes impeding access.

I started when he was 2 days old, I was given permission to touch him. I started with his feet. At this time, and it seems so improbably now, his foot was the size of the first joint of my thumb. It was tiny. I did alternate feet, as he usually had a probe on one of them. I would also massage his tiny fingers and hands, but stopped this once he had a long line in his hand.

One of the consultants, who was Indian, was watching me one day. He spent quite a few days observing Joseph (and I suppose, me as well). One day, when he had a huge entourage of students with him, he asked me what I did all day with him. I explained about the massage, the containment holding, the reading, the singing etc. He said that I had done amazing things for his development and was to continue massage at least three times a day. He even wrote it up on a prescription pad!

After discharge, I continued doing baby massage, and as soon as we were able, we did formal classes funded by our local Sure Start Centre. Now Joseph is a very busy toddler, but at the end of the day he lies down to get in his sleeping bag, smiles, and says "foot", and stays still for a little massage.

Tomorrow's post is a guest post by a dear friend and work colleague, Tina, who, with her business partner, runs Baby Massage Works.

Saturday 14 May 2011

A Day in the Life - Spending Time on NICU

Typically, when a baby is born premature, they stay in hospital until around their due date, or at the very least, until they are term (37 weeks gestation). In the UK it is usual practice that the mother is discharged as soon as they are physically well enough, for a caeserean section the guideline is 5-7 days post operative recovery, for a vaginal delivery it can be as little as 1-3 nights.

As a result the mother (and father) will be spending a lot of time visiting their baby, who is living away from them, sometimes many many miles from home.

Hospitals vary widely in how well they cater for mothers and fathers visiting their baby. In our hospital we didn't even have a room where we could express, most of the time I did this at Joseph's cot side. Staff would get us water, but we had no ready access to the water fountain, much less to make a brew.

Fot the first week of Joseph's life, I was an inpatient. In the second week I was home, but still very weak. I went in every day but only once, and could only stay for about an hour, before I had to go home to sleep. After a week or so of doing this I still went once a day, but stayed for 3 - 4 hours, having a lunch break at the hospital, either in the cafeteria or outside under the trees when the weather was fine.

Towards the middle of his journey I was going twice a day, arriving at around 10am and then leaving at 2 and going back around 6 until 8. I did all this on public transport! All the bus drivers wondered what on earth I was doing, and Joseph soon became a minor celebrity.

So what did I do when I was there? I found it was easier to cope if I had structure. I used to do containment holding for the first 5-10 minutes, and I would tell Joseph about my day. Then I would massage his feet, and sing to him for a while. Then I'd express my milk for him just before doing his cares. I'd wash his little face, and in the early days he'd take some of my milk on pippette as a moutwash. I'd change his nappy too, not easy in an incubator!

Then I would read a story, or even OK magazine! Or I would describe photos, telling him all about his home, and his extended family.

Medically, I would try to always be present for ward rounds. I was a pain in the arse. I make no apology for it, but I am quite sure the consultant team and their registrars and house officers referred to me as "that bloody Hodges woman". I would ask questions, I'd take notes, I'd ask for things to be explained, to be written down for me if I felt I needed to refer to it later.

I soon got used to life on the NICU. Monday was Consultant Day. The consultant would personally attend rounds and do a summary of each baby and talk to the parents if they were around. It was also Head Day, the ultrasound technician would come around and examine the babies - checking for brain bleeds and other inconsistencies. Tuesday was eye day. The opthalmologist would come and do examinations for ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity). Wednesday was bloods day. I used to hate Wednesdays, particularly in the early days, news was never good. Results were available within hours. Thursday was often blood transfusion day for Joseph, following his results, he had anemia for a long time. Friday was another chance to see the Consultant before the weekend.

I used to love and hate weekends. The good part of weekends was that sometimes nurses had more time. Cuddles were longer, there was less hassle. The less good part of weekends was that there was less medical presence, there was a consultant on duty but they weren't there as much, so if things went wrong, it could be quite scary. However, what was lovely was Joseph having us both there, and of course, my husband had the car, so we could come and go a bit more readily, and I didn't have to rely on buses!

It took me a long time to get used to being at home, without the rhythm and routine of hospital! And I think both Joseph and I missed our staff!

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Having a Premature Baby - It's Not All Bad!

One of my good friends on Facebook posted a note this week about the positive side of having a premature baby, and I'd like to share some of what was written. I am not being flippant, there are sizeable negatives, and some very sad things about having a small, poorly, early baby, but it isn't all bad!

1. Your baby's clothes last a lot longer! Joseph is wearing shorts that he had last year, but were ankle length, now they're three quarter length, next year they might fit! They're 6-9 months! He's 2.

2. Hospital dramas make much more sense!

3. You get to see the last trimester in action, your baby developing in ways that other mummies don't get to see. When Joseph was born he didn't have nipples, or ears! Just a hole where they should be!

4. Every single milestone is better than winning the lottery.

5. Your little one still passes for under two and gets in for free at soft play etc

6. After experiencing changing a poo-ey nappy in an incubator, diffusing a bomb would be a walk in the park.

7. After a stay in NICU, you could diffuse the bomb next to the sleeping baby and they wouldn't wake up!

8. Health Visitors know better than to mess with a preemie mum!

9. You fit into your pre maternity clothes quicker!

10. You have your baby as a baby for longer.

11. You get a lot of support in learning how to look after your newborn! And every nurse does things differently so you can choose the methods that work for you!

12. You get to sound intelligent with your NICU jargon!

13. Nothing beats the feeling of bringing your premature baby home!

14. Your baby gets 2 birthdays! Like the Queen!

15. Clothes for tiny babies are adorable, and beautiful old ladies knit the loveliest things, and due to infection control, you get to keep them.

16. We get to see the look of wonder on people's faces when we tell them about our baby's birthweight!

17. The best one is that when you have a premature baby there is a community of loving, caring parents, who have walked in your shoes, who have felt what your feeling, and are ready to give a hug, a comforting word, or non-annoying advice.

This post is dedicated to Gemma and Charlie.

Sunday 8 May 2011


Today Joseph turned two. It's been a busy day! Joseph was up in the night, which is very rare, he woke up having a nightmare, and came in and had huge cuddles, and fell asleep in my arms, which he never does. Maybe he realised today is a momentous day!

I was up at 7am, and obligingly Joseph decided to sleep til 9, bless him. Joseph's paternal grandparents are staying with us, and we were all anxious for him to get up and open his presents.

I had set myself the monumental task of making Bienenstich Joseph's absolute favourite cake. Now if you read this recipe and think it might be a nice idea to give it a try, my advice to you is not to bother. Good lord, I am a pretty experienced baker, but it was hard work! Never again.......however, it did taste fabulous, and importantly, authentic!

This afternoon I did a big Sunday lunch with the grandparents, and Joseph's great aunt Maevis. Joseph has had loads of gifts, the highlights being lots of Playmobil 1-2-3 and an In The Night Garden Easel. We have had some masterpieces in chalk already.

And now, all is quiet. Aunty Maevis and Grandma have gone for a walk, the men are in the pub watching the Manchester United, and Joseph, full of cake, is sound asleep.

And me, I can't stop thinking about how amazing, and how ordinary life is. Joseph is walking, he's talking, he's eating with cutlery. He has caught up to his peers more or less.

I have been looking at pictures, and listening to "Wires" and so glad that it's finally true. "Looking at you now, you would never know".

We are blessed, and happy, and can't wait to see what the coming year brings.

Saturday 7 May 2011

2 Years Ago Today

I was sitting in the Ante Natal ward, I can't even remember if I was in my pyjamas or clothes, with all the curtains drawn around the bed, receiving the devastating news from my consultant, that there was no way I would be carrying my pregnancy any further. I was to receive steroids, and my baby would be delivered at 9am the following day.

I don't think I ever knew true fear until that moment. I was terrified. Of dying. Of my baby dying. My baby being disabled. The long road ahead. And I cried and cried. I was surrounded by young girls in beds for social reasons, becoming more and more self concious of my sobbing.

The 17 year old girl opposite called me over, and she held me whilst I sobbed. Her mother arrived, and she held me too. They told me everything would be alright, and they would get me through. A midwife came in and called me to the phone. My husband. "Do you need me to come in from work?" I sobbed "yes please".

It was 2 years ago. Today. Things are so bright, my son is walking and talking. He's not disabled, you wouldn't even know he was born at anything other than term. I am well. You wouldn't know that I was close to death that day.

It's the past. It's important. To remember is natural and healthy, but it isn't our future.

The futures is bright.

Friday 6 May 2011

Time Goes By

When do children learn to tell the time. I argue it must be in the womb! This is a whimsical little post really, I know Joseph can't really tell the time.

We have a little ritual when my husband is going to be off work the next day. We put Joseph to bed and my husband books a wake up time. He says "sleep in until 8 tomorrow". And you know what? It actually works. I have no idea how. This morning is a good example. We normally get up around 6.30 on a weekday morning, but this week my husband has today, Friday, off work. So last night he asked Joseph to wake around 8. Joseph awoke at 8.45!

Joseph has had this spooky ability from when he was tiny. I remember the first Monday he was born. It was his fourth day on planet earth, he was in the first incubator in NICU and I was still an inpatient. I had gone to see him before breakfast, and said before I left, I told him I will come back at 10. I went up for my breakfast, then I went to antenatal to cancel my GTT test and my growth scan scheduled for 28 weeks. I got told off, and lectured about how important it was for me to still have these! It took a while for them to believe me that I had delivered as I was so cheerful.  I saw the sonographer who had done the emergency scan, and showed her my pictures whilst we had a natter. I got to the the door of the unit at 10.

However, in front of me was an old lady trying to open the door (our NICU, like most, has very high security). She looked at me and said "I'm not at Physiotherapy am I?" She was fairly confused so I walked her to her appointment and walked back. It took all of 5 minutes. I got back to the unit, rang the bell and got let in. As I walked down the corridor all hell was breaking loose in NICU, two alarms were sounding, it was Joseph. I ran to the door before the nurses could get to him, and said "oi I am 5 minutes late Joseph", opened the incubator doors and put my hands on him in a containment hold, and it stopped. He was having a bradycardia (where the heart rate slows, and oxygen saturation drops).

The two nurses and the doctor looked in utter disbelief, then giggled "wrapped around his tiny finger already", one sagely said! My reply was "I'd like to know who put a watch in his incubator" . After that day I alway made sure I appended any time with "ish"!

And I know its all coincidence, but it makes a great tale. And he's still like a ticking clock now!

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Nicu Nurse - What makes a good one?

Yesterday I read this interesting article written by Jodi, a NICU (neonatal intensive care) nurse. It got me thinking about what makes a good NICU nurse, what qualities should they have and practices should they follow. Obviously this is very subjective, and this is just my opinion. I have a group of four friends who went through NICU together with me, and we all differed on which ones we liked the best!

However, it was pretty universal that we all loved one nurse, who I shall call Matilda. (M)  She had a way of relating to parents, she was down to earth and practical and full of good, sound suggestions. She never tried to pretend she knew how it felt to have a tiny baby, but she always seemed to understand exactly what we were going through. I remember her saying to me in about week 3 that a time would come where we really resented the staff and would feel bitter about their involvement, and she was absolutely right. By week 7 I was so, pardon the French, pissed off with the whole thing and just wanted my baby to be mine. I was sick of sharing him. The fact that she recognsied this and pre empted it really helped me understand that what I was feeling was normal. I have tears in my eyes reading that back. I was so grateful my baby was alive, and so grateful that we had such brilliant, experienced nurses, but sometimes I felt so angry, but mainly at myself, that I had failed to do my job, incubate my baby safely, and other people now had to it for me.

The picture above is of Joseph in HDU, about week 5. M had got him all settled and comfy, she had a special way with him, of getting him in just the right position, and making him feel and look so snuggly! I'll never forget her kindness and her warmth.

So here is what I think makes a good NICU nurse.

Calmness and grace - NICUs can be mad, understaffed, busy places. A good nurse, to me, treats every baby as an individual, and like a swan on a rough lake, you can't tell what's happening underneath. When Joseph was very poorly on day 5 some of the doctors were extremely concerned, but none of the nurses let on at all that they were worried, they just calmly got on with it, and that helped me stay calm too.

Communication skills - a lot of what happens in NICU is very technical, and very complex. I remember one of my favourite nurses having to explain to me that Joseph needed insulin, and being very careful to make sure I understood it was just a "preemie" problem and didn't necessarily mean anything long term. I also remember careful explanations of different drugs and potential side effects. It's a hard time, and its made easier for parents if they can explain things carefully. An example of bad communication is when Joseph needed tests for retinopathy of prematurity. A leaflet was just left on the side in his room with a post it saying "mum read this". I was terrified that he might have complications and needed it explained carefully.

Empathy, but don't over identify - No one knows what its like to be the mother of a premature baby until they have walked that path. And to be fair, everyone's experience is individual, what I feel may not be what you feel. I think it's important that a good nurse has empathy, and puts themselves in your shoes, like M did in my example above. She warned me of how I might feel later in my journey, and when it happened, took me aside and helped me through it. One of the night nurses had had a baby in that unit some years before, and I found it difficult to talk to her, because she always looked so worried about Joseph. She was almost too caring, too close, and I found it very difficult at the time, as I had so many emotions I had no idea what to do with them or what to say.

Baby skills - sometimes, and its inevitable, your baby seems like a patient, and nothing else. They have wires and lines and tubes and machines. There are medicines to work out to the 0.01 of a mil. Everything has to be measured, even wee and poo. Sometimes I'd walk into the unit, and not even be able to see Joseph for all the equipment in the way. A good nurse has good baby skills. The picture above to me illustrates that. The baby is spoken to and treated as a baby first and a patient second, its a baby focussed, family inclusive approach that I think is sometimes missing.  And a good nurse empowers the parents to focus on the baby, not on the machinery and what is happening medically. A good nurse helps you to understand what you can do to help your baby, encourage you to sing, or to read, to do "cares" - change your babies nappy, clean their face, move their probe site.

A good nurse makes you feel confident in your skills as a parent, that you are an integral part of the team, and not just a spare part. A good nurse keeps you informed, and makes sure you are as involved as you can be in your baby's life on the NICU. And a good nurse reminds you that there will come a day when this is over. One of our regular nurses later on in our journey came to me one day and said "have you got somewhere for Joseph to sleep when he comes home?" I cocked my head to one side and said "Um no, we haven't got anything yet", she looked at me with a fake stern look and said "this weekend, go shopping, get a car seat and somewhere for him to sleep" then walked off. Just over a week later and Joseph was home!

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Little Victories

It's funny the things that excite me now I am a mummy! The picture here is of a rather cute cutlery set. My sister in law, Joseph's Auntie Tasha bought this for him when he was little. When he received it he hadn't even started first tastes of weaning.

I have blogged about weaning before, but basically I decided to do a combination of baby led and traditional weaning, that I nicknamed "collaborative weaning". Joseph's manual dexterity and hand eye co ordination at 6 months was just not sufficient for baby led weaning. So I would make puree, say of avocado, serving a slice of avocado next to it, and we'd explore together, and he'd even eat some of it! It was messy, but fun!

Unfortunately one of the limitations of this approach was that Joseph got used to his fingers early on, which is great, and he's been independently eating for about a year. But, he eats like a savage! A tidy savage though. Watching him eat corn on the cob or a chicken drumstick is a delight. And he'll eat "finger vegetables" like peas and roasted vegetables, but Joseph decided a while ago he wasn't going to eat anything mushy or even mashed, as it got his hands sticky and dirty. He wouldn't allow cutlery in his mouth, unless it had yoghurt on it!

As chief cook, this has proven to be tricky. Things I used to rely on like fish pie, cottage pie, even casseroles and stews have been restricted. I still cook those things occasionally but make sure I have plenty of Joseph-friendly side dishes.

Last night, however, was different. I'd cooked roast beef on Sunday, and decided to use the left overs for cottage pie. I put Joseph's cutlery on the table, and waited. He did it. He ate all his mushy dinner with his fork and spoon!

Now it seems so silly how excited I am by this, but I feel like I have a very clever, but also, very ordinary toddler! He can eat his food with cutlery, he can walk, he can talk, and he's just normal!

And he's almost caught up to his peers. I am contemplating sending Joseph to pre school for 2 mornings a week in September and was worried he'd be like a baby in his class, but he's doing just great!