The end of maternity leave means the start of childcare. I’ve gone back to work 4 days per week, and we are very lucky to have 2 days of childcare provided by grandparents. For the other 2 days, Jacob will be at nursery.

As we were moving house the weekend before I was due back at work, I managed to extend my maternity leave by 2 weeks by using annual leave to give me more time to get sorted. But I’d already signed up for nursery starting from my original return to work date. Instead of negotiating a later nursery start date, I decided to enrol Jacob to give us 2 weeks to get into the nursery routine (and give me time to unpack without him toddling around me!). It was an expensive way of doing things but it was so helpful!

So, what have I learnt in my first few weeks as a nursery mum?

Settling in sessions are essential

Our nursery provided free settling in sessions the week before Jacob was due to start. It’s definitely worth checking how your nursery goes about these. It did take Jacob a few sessions to be comfortable, and I would have hated to just leave him there all day without having done them. For the first session I stayed in the room, and Jacob roamed around exploring after a shy 15 minutes at the start where he clung to me. So far, so good.

The next day I was meant to leave him from 10am-1pm. He cried when I handed him over and I left feeling a bit bad. Two hours later I got a call asking me to pick him up because he wasn’t settling at all. He hadn’t eaten or drank because he was too upset. The mum guilt started to kick in and I started to panic. What if he never settled?!

The next day we did 1-4pm. Jacob started crying as soon as we walked in the room. I expected another call, and despite anxiously staring at my phone all afternoon, none came. I picked him up and he was outside in the garden trying to climb the slide! It looked like he was having a great time.

I thought we’d turned a corner then, but two days later when I dropped him off for his 10am-4pm session, he howled as soon as we got there and had to be peeled off me by his key worker. I spent the entire day worrying, but when I picked him up it turned out he’d had his best time yet.

Since then…. I suspect the crying at drop off will continue for a while, but I’m now reassured that he cheers up and has a great time.

The settling in sessions were really useful for me (and I’m sure for Jacob too). It meant I could get used to the idea of leaving him crying, without then going straight to work and worrying all day when I needed to concentrate.

Expect tears

Following on from the point above, expect some tears. From you and baby. It is bound to be a bit of a shock to them when they are left with strangers for potentially the first time. But just because there are tears at drop off doesn’t mean they are upset all day. Jacob still tends to cry at drop off, but I’m assured that he cheers up quickly and he always seems to have a great day.

You need some kind of bag

At our nursery, the only thing we have to bring is a change of clothes, which is great. No nappies, nothing. I started just chucking a change of clothes in a carrier bag. I figured that would be fine. Nope. I got told off. Nicely. But still told off. Plastic bags are a suffocation risk. Which obviously I knew, but I just didn’t really think. Don’t be like me, bring some kind of proper backpack or bag. We bought this one, which doubles up as reins. I love it.

You’ll get ill

I don’t just mean the baby. I mean all of you. Everyone in your household and probably some other close contacts too. All those new germs. Great for the immune system in the long-term, not so great for dealing with going back to work. “Hello colleagues, I’m back!” *sniff* *cough* *splutter*. I’ve had two colds and a stomach bug.

Nursery will exhaust your baby

All those brilliant activities they do all day will really wear them out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jacob so tired as he was after his first full day. It’s double edged—sometimes it means you’ll get nice cuddly tired baby, but other times you’ll get angry tired baby. Be prepared for both.

Don’t panic if you receive a phone call

On Jacob’s first full day at nursery, I received a phone call. There’s nothing like seeing nursery’s phone number flashing up on your phone to fill you with terror. Then the words “He’s had a little accident”. He’d just bumped his face on a table. Which happens a lot. He was absolutely fine, but it is their policy to call the parents for any accident that affects the head or face. In all honesty, I’d rather not know until pick up if it’s a minor thing, but I understand they have to cover themselves. They took it really seriously and I had to sign an accident form when I picked him up.

So yes, don’t immediately panic if nursery call you during the day. It’s probably fine.

It’s been much easier than I expected

Despite the illness and the tears, settling into the nursery routine has been much easier than I expected. Although the drop offs are hard, I feel happy that Jacob actually enjoys it while he’s there. We get a little report card each day showing what he’s eaten, telling us the contents of his nappies (!), how much he’s slept and what he’s played with. I love it when I arrive to collect him and he doesn’t see me straight away. It means I get to spy on him and he always looks like he’s having an amazing time.

How did your baby settle into nursery?

 

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Well, I did it. I reached 12 months of breastfeeding. Or we did, I should say. Jacob has been an enthusiastic partner in this—some might say too enthusiastic lately—so it’s unfair to take all the credit.

Jacob at 12 months

Jacob at 12 months

Extended breastfeeding?

So will I carry on? I’m not sure. Past 12 months is in the realm of ‘extended breastfeeding’. You know, that thing people like to write articles about with case studies of women breastfeeding an 8-year-old. When we talk about taboos in infant feeding, breastfeeding past baby’s first birthday is up there with giving solids at 3 months and fizzy drinks in a bottle. The reaction I’ve seen when I mention I’m still feeding is pretty much universally one of shock and/or horror.

To be honest, I’d like to carry on for at least a month or two. Jacob’s been through a lot of changes recently with me going back to work, starting nursery and moving house. I think if I took away his favourite thing he’d have a complete meltdown. I’d like to settle him in to his new routine before I think about stopping. But actually, do I even want to stop? Or is it just because I think I should? Because that’s what society expects?

Reading Wild Atlantic Mum’s guest post last week on breastfeeding her daughter for 2 years has given me something to think about. She’s definitely right when she talks about the need to realise the problem is in other people’s reactions.

Social stigma

I read an article a couple of weeks ago that said only 0.5% of British women are still breastfeeding at 12 months, which kind of made me sad. If women don’t want to breastfeed, that’s fine with me. If they can’t breastfeed, obviously that’s fine. But if they are stopping because they don’t have support or there’s social stigma, then that is upsetting.

I remember one conversation I had when I was pregnant vividly. Someone said “Oh you must breastfeed. But not for longer than 6 months.” with a little shudder thrown in at the thought of breastfeeding an older baby. And therein lies the problem. We all get the pressure to breastfeed, but woe betide anyone who does it for too long.

Maybe I should just stop blogging about it and talking about it in real life. Then I could keep it secret, and no one would judge, and we’d all be happy. But if we don’t talk about it, and women don’t see others feeding their babies, how will we change attitudes? I want to stop breastfeeding because I want to stop. Or because Jacob does—I’ll let him have a say in it. Not because of anyone else.

 

Rhyming with Wine
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Welcome back to my guest series exploring the different experiences women have of breastfeeding. This week we have Wild Atlantic Mum, telling us about feeding her daughter for two years and counting, despite some early challenges.

Wild Atlantic Mum’s breastfeeding experiences

Yes, I’m still breastfeeding….
When I started my breastfeeding journey I never thought I would still be at it two years later. But here I am with an energetic toddler showing no signs of giving up. The irony is that she wasn’t exactly full of enthusiasm at the start! During the hours after ‘Little P’ was born she showed no interest in taking to the breast. I gently touched her nose with my nipple, she turned away. The midwife squeezed a little of the magic colostrum onto her lips, she stayed asleep. We pushed the nipple gently into her tiny mouth, she promptly spat it back out. Five patient midwives and three frustrating hours later she latched on. I was so grateful to the young midwife who finally managed it that I still remember her name (thank you Hazel). I was very determined to breastfeed but the truth is that without that initial support my breastfeeding experience may have ended before it had even begun.
In the days and weeks that followed I struggled with my awkwardness in maintaining a good latch and a good position.The public health nurse that visited gave me some great advice and she was so encouraging (which really helps when you barely have time to get up off the couch to wash your hair!). Things were going relatively smoothly until ‘Little P’ decided she would only feed from the right breast and the left one became full of milk and incredibly painful. Public health nurse to the rescue again as she suggested a breast-pump. I used it for a for a week until ‘Little P’ went back to the left breast again – problem solved.
My friends had shared their breastfeeding stories with me, everything from tongue tie to mastitis so I wasn’t expecting it to be plain sailing. I had been warned many times about sore nipples (baby’s mouths are more powerful than they look!). But I was so preoccupied with her latch and my milk supply that I had forgotten all advice about applying ‘Lasinoh’ ointment. By the time ‘Little P’ was three weeks old my nipples were red raw. Cue sharp intake of breath and counting to ten every time she started a feed. Then a liberal application of ‘Lasinoh’ when she finished and my nipples healed within days.
By the time she was about two months old breastfeeding became easy. I remember going to stay with my parents and feeding ”Little P’ during visits with relatives, something I would never have contemplated in the early days. Since then, although growth spurts and teething have seen me stuck to the couch for long periods again at various stages, it has been mostly straightforward and convenient for us both. That is why we’re still doing it two years later! For me early support and advice was essential. And talking to friends and family about their experiences meant I knew that the difficulties were neither failures on my part nor reasons to stop.
Now the only difficulty I face (and I’m ashamed to admit it) is embarrassment that I’m still breastfeeding. People can sometimes react with shock but I think I just have to realise that the problem lies more in their reaction. Mostly I feel proud and lucky that I am able to breastfeed ‘Little P’. I especially feel grateful to the women in my life who told me, honestly, what to expect and to the midwives who took the time to help me. And Hazel, I’m especially grateful to Hazel!
*****
Thanks for sharing your story with us. I bet Hazel would be so chuffed to read this! I totally agree that early support is vital and so is sharing honest experiences so women know what to expect. It’s amazing that you are still breastfeeding ‘Little P’. I don’t think you should be embarrassed at all.
You can follow Wild Atlantic Mum on social media using the links below:
 If you’d like to contribute to this guest series comment below or send me an email andjacobmakesthree@gmail.com.
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*Soppy blog post alert*

My lovely little boy is one today! It’s gone so fast and I can’t believe how much he’s grown over the past year. He’s pretty much a toddler already, which seems so strange when I think back to that little (ish) baby I held a year ago. In honour of the occasion, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite memories and photos from the past year.

Our first photo together

This was taken about 2 hours after Jacob was born. Unfortunately, he’d already scratched his face before we got his little mittens on. I’d managed to have a shower, which is why I look remarkably fresh considering I’d not slept for 40 hours or something ridiculous. This was the only time he wore that cute Gap baby grow, because he was much bigger than I expected and it never fit him again! The only thing I’d change about this picture is the disgusting cannula. Worst part of birth. Argh.

First family trip

We took Jacob to Ilkley in Yorkshire to meet his great grandparents when he was 8 weeks old. We had lots of fun doing long walks, drinking tea and eating cake with a sleepy newborn. I highly recommend travelling with such a young baby. It was much easier than when he got older!

Baby class fun

You name a baby class, we did it. Baby Sensory, Hartbeeps, Monkey Music, swimming. I liked getting out of the house and Jacob liked being stimulated. We had some great times and met some lovely people. Even if I did spend a small fortune doing them all. Every week I’d send my husband a photo of Jacob dressed in something stupid/looking incredibly unimpressed with whatever we were doing/crawling off to the front of the room to harass the teacher/occasionally engrossed in what we were meant to be doing. I’m really going to miss those times together.

Playing in the park

I can’t tell you how much I love this photo. His little face is just so cute and happy. We’ve had some great times in the park. Fresh air does everyone the world of good! Now he toddles round it’s actually much more fun than the early days when I could only sit him on the swing for a bit. Although I do spend 99% of the time stopping him from climbing the slide.

Portugal

When Jacob was 8 months old we took him to Portugal for 10 days. A flight with an 8-month-old was ‘interesting’, but we had a great time. The weather was lovely and it was nice to spend so much time together just the three of us.

Snuggling

Clearly one of the best things from the past year. We don’t get to do it that often now, but I really appreciate it when we do!

*****

So, that’s it. My baby is 1. I can’t imagine how much he’ll change in the next year!

Hopefully you haven’t vomited from how sickly that post was!

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It’s finally here. The last week of maternity leave. Gulp. I’ve got mixed emotions, I’m not going to lie. Part of me is really sad that it’s over and a little tiny part is really excited to be getting back to work.

No more running around the park after this little one.

12 months off…

I’ve taken the full 12 months of maternity leave and I don’t regret it for a second. It’s been tough financially. Those last 3 months of no pay at all—and the rest of the time earning statutory maternity pay (don’t get me started on the inadequacy of statutory maternity pay)—have been pretty hard. But it has been totally worth it to spend time with Jacob and see him turn into the little boy he’s becoming.

I’ve loved my time off work, but it’s not all been the relaxing, meeting friends and eating cake time I was envisaging (although there has been some of that!). It’s been a lot harder than I expected. Having a new baby can be lonely at times. And it can be frustrating, overwhelming and boring all at the same time. And all that spare time I’d have when I was off work? I’d read books, get really fit, cook. HA! What was I thinking? Being a mum is way more than a full-time job.

Still, it’s been great and we’ve had a lot of fun along the way.

Back to work

I’m going back to work 4 days a week. I’m so lucky that I’ll still be getting one day a week with my boy. I’m hoping that will be a good balance for us both.

I can’t wait to earn money, drink hot tea and have adult conversation! And to be honest, it will be nice to use my brain again. I’m slightly apprehensive too though. What if I’ve forgotten how to do my job? What if I can’t function properly when Jacob sleeps badly? What if he gets ill and can’t go to nursery? How will I get household stuff done as well as working? I’m sure it’ll all work out, but there’s a lot to get my head round.

Another worry is how am I going to make myself look presentable every day? I don’t think my ‘mum’ uniform of t-shirt and jeans is going to cut it in the office. I’ll have to find more time to wash my hair and put on makeup. Something I’ve avoided more often than I should while on maternity leave.

The last week

This week is not going to be representative of a typical week on maternity leave. It’s Jacob’s first birthday on Wednesday. We’ve just moved house, so I’m trying to unpack and get organised. We’re having a big party on Saturday—a joint 1st birthday, 30th birthday and house-warming party—so I’ve got to prepare for that. Jacob’s just started nursery so there’s that to deal with too (there’s another blog post on that coming). But I am planning to make the most of the little moments I won’t be getting once I’m back at work. I think we might manage to sneak in a little afternoon cuddle on the sofa everyday this week. If he’ll let me that is!

Was maternity leave what you expected? How did you feel about going back to work?

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