We’ve finally had success after our epic struggles with getting Jacob to sleep, and now he is ‘sleeping through’ . Most of that success is down to a book that was recommended to me by another mum who had been having the exact same problem with her baby. After her glowing recommendation, I downloaded The Blissful Baby Expert to my Kindle then and there and greedily read it as quickly as humanly possible!

So what did I think of it?

The Blissful Baby Expert

The Blissful Baby Expert is written by Lisa Clegg, who is a full-time maternity nurse and mum of 3. Although I’ve focussed on sleep, it’s not just about that. It covers pretty much all aspects of having a new baby.

I can’t fully vouch for all the advice, as I didn’t get the book until Jacob was around 5 months old, but I’ve had a browse through the early bits and most of it looks useful. The section on equipment to buy is pretty sensible. It suggests which things are essential and which are helpful but not absolutely necessary, as well as things that are not needed. I agreed with almost all of it.

The book has a good section about what to take in your hospital bag, and talks about birth plans. The chapter on coming home from hospital looks good and has a lot of information I didn’t know before I had Jacob. The chapter on common problems and illnesses is also really helpful.

I did find the book quite hard to navigate. The feeding and sleep sections are very inter-linked, and refer to each other, and I had to do a lot of going backwards and forwards to find what I needed.

Routines

If you are like me, the idea of a routine for a baby felt too restrictive initially. I planned to be an ‘earth mother’ type mum, and I wanted to follow Jacob’s lead. Although, if we followed Jacob’s lead now he’d never feed in the day because he’s too busy exploring and he’d spend all night breastfeeding and dozing on me!  The book focuses quite strongly on routines, and now we’ve implemented one, I wish we had done it sooner.

When I thought about it, I realised that my usual life does have a routine. Before baby, I’d go to bed at pretty much the same time every day. I’d be up for work at the same time every day. My body worked quite well in that routine. So it makes sense to me now that a baby needs a routine too. Particularly for sleep. The body clock is a wonderful thing and I’ve realised that the routine has helped set his clock. If he goes to bed later than about 7pm, he now gets really grumpy because he’s actually exhausted. I really think he’s a happier baby because he’s less tired.

Breastfeeding

The book goes into quite a lot of detail about breastfeeding (it also talks about bottle feeding with absolutely no judgement and the information looks useful—including how to make up and sterilise bottles. I’m focussing on the breastfeeding part because that’s what I did). I think it has helpful and not so helpful parts. Lisa does talk about the fact that it isn’t always easy, which I think is helpful. I think one of the things that puts people off breastfeeding is finding it hard at the start, so preparing people for the downsides is useful. There is good information on latching the baby on, with diagrams.

I wasn’t convinced by the advice to breastfeed babies on a schedule from birth, rather than on demand as I did. That flies in the face of my understanding of establishing breast milk supply and NHS advice. If I ever have another baby, it’s unlikely I’ll follow that advice until I’m confident breastfeeding is well established.

With that being said, I believe it was sorting out the feeding routine that helped us to get Jacob to sleep better. By 5 months, he’d fallen into the habit of snack feeding and sorting this out meant he could go longer between feeds. It also meant I didn’t stop breastfeeding, which is something I was seriously considering as I was so tired.

The information on storing expressed breast milk was really handy. As was the idea to get a breastfed baby established taking a bottle of expressed milk from a young age (2–3 weeks). After being lulled into a false sense of security when Jacob took one at 2 weeks we got lazy with this, and then had terrible trouble trying to get him to accept one. This caused me a lot of stress as I felt so trapped!

Sleep

Cot

In order to implement the Blissful Baby Expert book recommendations, we moved Jacob to the ‘big boy’ cot.

Now we get to the really controversial bit. Sleep training. Initially, I never thought I’d try any form of sleep training, but now I’ve done it I have no regrets.

Before you get down to the training part, there is lots of useful information on sleep position, swaddling etc. I read some reviews that criticised this part of the book, because Lisa recommends deviating from some of this advice. But when I read it, I thought she provided quite a balanced view. She explains what she did with her babies, and I didn’t feel like she advocated that everyone did it. She directs readers to the advice and tells them to read it and decide for themselves. I think her approach is actually sensible.

It was her discussion about how breastfeeding mothers are told their baby will eventually settle into a routine, but that most are still feeding two or three times a night at 6 months if left to their own devices that really made me listen to her. That’s exactly what Jacob was doing. Her theory that they snack feed because they’ve got used to falling asleep on the breast made a lot of sense to me.

Pre-The Blissful Baby Expert, Jacob hardly napped. The book strongly advocates on the importance of napping and particularly the lunchtime nap. We worked on day time naps before tackling the nighttime ones.

The book talks about the pat and shh technique, sleep associations, cot mobiles and white noise (we have a Ewan). Getting Jacob to settle himself has been hard, but worth it. Previously we would hold him until he fell asleep then put him down. Now we always put him down awake.

There are two options for the proper sleep training part: full on cry it out, or timed comforting. We used timed comforting. I’m not going to lie. It was hard. But it very quickly improved. I found the instructions provided really useful.

Weaning

The book also covers the topic of weaning. It’s quite a useful section, that I’ve referred to a fair bit. I’ve found the book particularly useful for working out when I should be giving him food and how much. She covers baby-led weaning and spoon-feeding. It’s probably not the only resource you’d want for weaning, but it is helpful when trying to work out how to slot food into the milk feed routine.

Would I recommend it?

I appreciate The Blissful Baby Expert approach isn’t for everyone. Until I reached rock bottom with sleep deprivation I wouldn’t have considered any form of sleep training, but if you are at the end of your tether, it can really help.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend the book. I think it would have been useful for me to have it from before Jacob was born. I might have avoided some of the mistakes I made if I’d read it earlier. Like all parenting books, I think it’s worth reading it and discarding the parts that don’t fit with your philosophy. I can’t imagine I’d ever find a book that I completely agreed with (unless I wrote it myself… now there’s an idea!). If you know you would never try a routine or consider controlled crying, then I wouldn’t buy it. If you are open to it, then yes, I’d go for it!

You can buy the Blissful Baby Expert book from Amazon using the link below.

*This is an affiliate link. I receive a small commission for any sales, but the opinions stated are all my own.

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Last week I read an article about Kate Middleton and her struggles with motherhood. The Duchess of Cambridge opened up on how she found motherhood overwhelming at an event launching a series of documentaries on mental health and parenthood last week.

Motherhood: baby holding mother's finger

What does she know?

What does she know, you might be thinking. With all her nannies and other help, how difficult can it be? That was my initial, ungenerous thought. I bet she manages to shower every day. I bet she doesn’t have to deal with a baby meltdown while trying to buy the weekly groceries in Sainsbury’s. I bet she doesn’t argue with William over who’s turn it is to unload the dishwasher/change the stinky nappy/fold the laundry.

When I thought about it more though, I realised I was wrong. Kate talked about how our fundamental identity changes when we become a mother. I think we can all relate to that, regardless of our background. The change in identity is one of the hardest aspects of motherhood in my opinion. We go from being able to do pretty much what we want, when we want and how we want, to being tied down with little time for ourselves.

However much help we have, it ultimately comes down to us. The child is ours and we are responsible for him or her. Wherever we are or whatever we are doing, that child is always in the back of our minds.

Kate also explained that there’s no rule book and we all have to make it up as we go. She said that this can lead to a lack of confidence in our abilities as parents. I think we can all relate to that, too! If I had a pound for the number of times I’ve frantically Googled something at 3am, rather than listening to my own instincts, I’d be a rich woman. Or for thinking that I’m doing a terrible job at being a mum—even if it’s just for 5 minutes.

All in it together

It’s hard for all of us. And if even Kate can admit it, we should too. It’s reassuring to know that others feel the same. Rather than paint a rose-tinted picture, we should all be as honest as Kate. It might just help another mother to realise they aren’t alone and however put-together (or not!) we look, we’re all just winging this motherhood thing.

Do you ever feel like you are just winging this motherhood thing?

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Are you thinking of breastfeeding your baby? Breastfeeding is really pushed on pregnant women, but I found the information I was given didn’t really let me know what to expect (to be fair, my hospital did do a breastfeeding session, I just didn’t get round to going!). I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and luckily did a bit of my own research. Here are the things I think its important to know before the baby is born.

Things to know about breastfeeding

Know where to get help

Knowing where you can get help if you are having problems is invaluable. I strongly advise you to look into this before the birth, because the last thing you need is to be hunting for information in those early days. My health visitor gave me a leaflet on my local Baby Cafe at my antenatal home visit. Baby Cafe offers free breastfeeding support to women. My local cafe had a drop in session, where you could get help with any breastfeeding issues from a breastfeeding councillor.  I ended up needing help, and it was amazing. I cannot recommend them highly enough. It’s unlikely I would be breastfeeding now without that support. They gave me free cake too!

I’d also found a local private breastfeeding advisor, who I planned to contact if things got really tough. They offer help at home, for a fee of course. I just Googled to find one in my area. Luckily, I didn’t actually need to use them.

There are a few breastfeeding helplines it’s worth noting down:

  • National Breastfeeding Helpline – 0300 100 0212
  • Association of Breastfeeding Mothers – 0300 330 5453
  • La Leche League – 0345 120 2918
  • National Childbirth Trust (NCT) – 0300 330 0700

Your midwife or health visitor may also be able to provide advice if you need it. In my experience, they weren’t that helpful. No one seemed that keen to help me with my latch—I think they were just too busy.

Don’t waste money on expensive breastfeeding clothes

Special breastfeeding-friendly clothes are expensive. I didn’t have the money to spare and luckily I’ve found that the best way to feed is using the two-top method. I wear a vest top that I can pull down, with another top over it that I can pull up. This means you can expose minimal skin, which is useful for modesty and warmth! It gets a bit chilly breastfeeding in winter!

Get some box sets lined up

You’ll spend a lot of time trapped on the sofa feeding your baby, so line up some box sets. I have a Netflix subscription, which has been great. Don’t feel guilty about how much TV you watch—now Jacob’s crawling I get no chance to watch anything!

I really like The Crown, How to Get Away With Murder and House of Cards.

Do a little bit of research

If you are thinking of breastfeeding, it’s really useful to do a bit of research so you know what to expect. I recommend the KellyMom website, which has loads of evidence-based information on breastfeeding. It’s worth learning about cluster feeding (where babies feed frequently, or sometimes continuously, for a few hours, often in the evenings) in advance—otherwise you’ll think something is wrong. The supply and demand component of breastfeeding is also worth reading about.

I found I had a lot of anxiety at first about whether I was making enough milk and whether the baby was getting enough. Doing a bit of reading can help allay those fears.

Buy some nipple cream and decent breast pads

Nipple cream and breast pads are pretty much the only things you need for breastfeeding. I had bought a breast pump, but I didn’t use it for the first couple of weeks, so it’s not an essential purchase at first.

Breast pads are really important—unless you don’t mind being soaked in milk. You’ll also soon realise that it’s worth spending a little more to get ones that stay in place. My favourite are the Lansinoh ones.

Lansinoh HPA Lanolin Cream is also really good. I used the cream religiously for the first few weeks and it really helped with my damaged nipples.

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The Tale of Mummyhood

 

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Seven months, wow, that’s gone fast. Following on from last month’s update, I’m still breastfeeding on a schedule. It seems to be working pretty well, and I’m definitely happy to continue a bit longer. Like I said last month, I think the improved sleep has really changed my attitude to breastfeeding! Plus, I’ve realised how much easier breastfeeding is now. I’m doing one bottle feed a day, and washing and sterilising one bottle is all I can cope with.

Breastfeeding

Feeding a lot less

Now Jacob is eating 3 meals a day, it seems like he’s having a lot less milk. I’m still offering at the same times (6/7am, 11am, 2pm and 6pm), but—particularly in the middle of the day—sometimes he’s really not interested and latches on for less than 2 minutes. He feeds really well at the first feed of the day, but other than that he can take it or leave it.

My health visitor friend said that’s fine. Some babies drop milk feeds quicker than others. I’m going to make a point of getting him weighed though, just to make sure he’s getting enough milk and food.

It’s funny, you spend the first few months of breastfeeding worrying if they are getting enough. Now I’m back to it again!

Giving a bottle of formula

I’ve now stopped expressing for the 10pm feed. I was finding it a bit too tiring/time-consuming/plain annoying. I figured a bottle of formula would make my life a lot easier, and he drinks the whole thing like a champ! It’s a far cry from our earlier bottle refusing problems. If you are struggling to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle, I really recommend trying one at about 10pm, when they are sleepy. That’s how we cracked it.

After trying several bottles, we are using the Munchkin Latch bottle. It took a lot of trial and error but Jacob seems happiest with this bottle. It could just be coincidence that he started accepting a bottle when we tried them, but I’m not going to risk going back now.

A new aim

We’ve booked a holiday for mid-May, so that’s my new breastfeeding aim. I’d like to be able to breastfeed on the plane if he gets cranky, as it’s a good way of calming him down. He’ll be 9 months. I think it should be achievable, but breastfeeding is quite unpredictable, so we’ll see.  Either way, I’m pretty happy to have made it this far.

 

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We’ve booked our first (proper) family holiday! We are off to Portugal in May with Jacob. I am very excited and cannot stop planning our trip. I haven’t had a holiday abroad since our honeymoon in October 2015, so this is long overdue (I know that’s not THAT long, but it feels like an age). I’ve since realised that I have no summer clothes. Last summer I was heavily pregnant, so I only had maternity clothes. And my summer 2015 clothes are not looking too great. Or, come to think of it, appropriate to my new mum-bod. So here is my summer holiday wish list.

Summer holiday wish list

Rimini Stripe Swimsuit (Boden)

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This has come off of my wish list, as I actually bought it! I decided that if I was going to take Jacob swimming, I needed a nice swimsuit that made me feel confident. I’m not currently comfortable in any of my old bikinis—and I’m not sure the tops actually fit because of the breastfeeding!

I went for the navy and ivory stripe option. It’s such a flattering fit and doesn’t feel frumpy at all. It doesn’t sell itself as a tummy control swimsuit, but I do feel like it holds me in a bit, which is nice! The material is nice and thick, and seems good quality. It is a bit pricey, but I’m hoping it will last well. It’s currently on sale for £58.50.

Beach cover up (John Lewis)

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This gorgeous cobalt blue cover up would look great with my swimsuit. I love the colour and it looks flattering for a cover up. I really like the waist tie. It’s available from John Lewis here for £46.

Mi-Pac backpack (John Lewis)

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I love the stripes on this backpack. I need a practical beach bag now I have Jacob and this would work perfectly. It would also make a good bag for the plane, saving on bringing another bag with me. And unlike a lot of ‘beach bags’, I can use it once I’m back from holiday. You can buy it here for £29.99.

T-bar sandals (Clarks)

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I love buying Clarks sandals. Growing up, Clarks always had a bit of a frumpy reputation. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older, or if they’ve improved a lot, but I LOVE their shoes now. They are always so comfortable and actually look nice. These T-bar sandals are great for summer and will go with everything. They are £50 here.

Chino Shorts (Boden)

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These strawberry pink chino shorts are perfect for a holiday. They’ll look great with a tan and are practical too. They even come in different leg lengths, so if you aren’t feeling that body confident (like me), you can get some slightly longer ones.

What summer clothes are you coveting this year? 

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