Babies – how to handle two under twos…?

This post title is potentially slightly misleading: I have no freaking clue how to handle two under twos. Please note the question mark. If you do know any two under two magical tricks or spells – please feel free to share! The title of the this post should really read “how to attempt to survive two under twos” by someone a mere month in.

I remember skim reading a post on the same topic when I was in the mid-stage of pregnancy; i.e. I knew I may be getting into some hot water with two little people to look after, and I wanted to understand more specifically if it was tepid hot, hot hot or freaking boilymcboilerson.  The post was written from both the perspective of the new mother of two, and the new father of two, and to say it was slightly terrifying is an understatement. I have clearly blocked it from my memory now as I can’t recall the specific details, but they were both “au fond du seau” as they say in France – literally at the bottom of the bucket, or more accurately in a pit of despair. They each resented the other. Suffice it to say the boily hot water option was portrayed as being most accurate.

Determined not to let that shocking read get me down, I approached this new phase of life mindful of that old adage “this too shall pass“.  Yes it will be hard, intense, taxing… but it will last such a short period of time, it will be over before we know it. We will be looking back at it and (hopefully) laughing, crying at how quickly les petites change, and generally being delighted that we got to where we are today.  Considering we truly believed we would not have our own children (we even went to an initial adoption meeting) how magical and insane that we are here now with two little people we can call our own.

Two babies is hard. We knew this would be the case. We knew there would be adaptation period and we are very much still in that period. So how are we coping so far?  Here’s the truth, and the reasons why:

Number 1 : Monsieur FF. We literally could not function without him right now. Everyone needs a partner just like him (for the avoidance of doubt he’s not up for grabs, sossles, but he could happily offer up some tips to fellow malians over a beer).  The man has just survived 9++ months with a grumpy, super-sized wifeball of hormones; he is then accosted with the broken version of that wife ball, still with a John Wayne waddle, plus an additional, smaller wailing ball of hormones. This is to accompany the existing Boddler who incidentally is rapidly approaching terrible twos with a vengeance. I’m not saying we should feel sorry for him: let’s be honest he brought this on himself, and he also got off pretty lightly in the grand scheme of things (quick reminder that it was the wifeball that carried and birthed the bebette). However, credit where credit is due, Monsieur FF is going above and beyond on father and hubber duties right now. Cooking and cleaning and generally keeping the Boddler in a happy place whilst maman is losing her sh*t silently in the room next door.  You are a legend Monsieur FF.  As I keep saying to him, this time will pass and we will look back and laugh. Meanwhile, just enjoy the craziness that is our life right now. And try to shower. In that five second window you have to yourself.  That is more important than researching holidays…. (Anyone that knows him will appreciate this man does. not. stop).

Also just a quick sidenote that I can’t put into words how much I take my hat off to those single parents out there that are parenting solo: epic levels of kudos to you.

Number 2: Boddler is in nursery. That’s right, I’m basically cheating. I am not really caring for two under twos at all. I’m caring for just one most of the day.  That said, the hours where we are doubling up are intense.  I’m still only a month in so things will change in the next weeks, but so far Boddler has continued in his usual routine at nursery with some surprise visits and treat days out interspersed.  This is working really well for everyone as it means he continues in his routine and isn’t too discombobulated by all the changes going on at home. It means we know he is properly watered and fed so that if we end up having a crazy soiree of screaming madness (there have been a couple) and I can only prepare cereal and cheese for dinner, he’s not going to starve.  If I’m beyond tired and have Bebette attached to my boob, it’s ok that we just read some stories with raisins, because I know he’s had a good day of energy releasing at nursery.  And when Papa gets home, we do our best to both have some time where we are completely focused on the Boddler. Nowadays bath time and story time are particularly raucous.

Number 3: Books are your friend.  Luckily the arrival of Bebette has coincided with a deep and intense love of reading for Boddler. By that I mean when he goes to bed, he needs at least three books in his bed with him.  And he needs the light on so he can work through each of the books, silently studying the images (I assume he’s not studying the words but wouldn’t be surprised obvs #childgenius).  That is after we have read the stories to him.  Whenever he gets a bit distressed, because Bebette is getting in the way of him having a cuddle with mummy, or he starts to throw things in my direction with a menacing look in his eye, I simply offer up a story and off he poddles to fetch the relevant story and plops himself down so we can get on with reading.

Number 4: Building bricks are your friend. Ok, I work at LEGO so I’m slightly biased towards DUPLO bricks. Seriously though one box of the fantastic plastic is good for a LOT of play.  Boddler FF can happily sit for tens of minutes building towers, trains, farms, “colicoptas”, and generally having fun creating and ensuring the bricks are in some sort of colour order.  It’s quite mesmerising to watch.  The only negative (aside from the damage to feet when you inadvertently stand on the stuff) is the noise – if I’ve managed to get Bebette to nap somewhere that’s not on me (hard, but not impossible), then you can rest assured that the sound of Boddler tipping his bricks all over the floor and then throwing himself into them will wake her up.  I recommend parental assistance in preparing the bricks for play and tidying up afterwards.

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Concentration levels: HIGH.

Number 5: Snacks are your BEST friend.  The first night I went to pick up Boddler on my own with the Bebette in tow (in the soft sling which was an error; not robust enough for Boddler-catching movements – recommend the BabyBjorn) I was reminded of the critical importance of having a snack handy at all times for bribing. Bribery goes against everything that I am, except in these circumstances.  I needed to get Boddler into the buggy and I needed not to tip Bebbette onto the floor, or give either of them concussion with a head clashing incident. The way to do this? Offer up a snack. Boddler leaps into the buggy and practically straps himself in, panting for his carrot crisp or handful of raisins.  Not entirely strapped in of course, and again, being completely honest I cheated in this specific case  because a fellow kind mama saw me flapping with Bebette dangling out of my coat, and rescued me, ensuring Boddler was properly and safely strapped in.  But I’ve since mastered the art and can also casually push the buggy with one hand whilst ensuring Bebette is fine with the other #winning.  I confess that there are certain things which were not available in abundance before, which now may be more frequently consumed due to arm’s length availability. For example, chocolate or “lolott” as some people call it. For some reason* there is usually some chocolate or cake or a biscuit near me at the moment (in the voice of Ali G it wasn’t me)

Number 6: Slings. Baby carriers. Pouches. Anything to facilitate baby carrying.  One thing you need more than anything with 2+ children is your hands free. There is no time for being trapped on the sofa with a babe in your arms.  I mean it does still happen, and is indeed necessary sometimes (have.a.rest), but if you have to do something with the older one at any point, like prepare food or get them dressed, which is required most day, and your new baby is still fussy and doesn’t like to be put down much (or at all… not mentioning any names…) then you really need to carry the baby in order to function. It means you can do things like get the big one into the buggy.  It also means, at least for the time being, you don’t need to have a double buggy.  Baby carrying is proven to have all sorts of positive effects for you and your babe.

Number 7: Sleep and Eat.  Just whenever you can.  Ok, none of this “sleep when they sleep” anymore – that simply doesn’t work when you’ve got two under twos. Boddler is going to wake up at 7am, or before, whether you like it or not. Bebette is going to need feeding at random intervals throughout the day and night, and will get colicky in the evening.  You need fresh air, coffee and food in your cupboards so – frankly – there isn’t really much opportunity for napping. You have just got to power through and go to bed when the little one lets you.  Ensure you eat because aint nobody got time for a hangry mama.

Number 8: Support network.  Second time round you won’t have you NCT group or equivalent.  I mean you hopefully still have your crew, I certainly do (check out my post on their awesomeness here), but we are first to ’embark’ on the second pregnancy in our group, and so it’s a bit different to the first time when we were all popping at the same time. Most of my crew are happily sleeping through the night and are well beyond worrying about breastfeeding and colic.  However, they are still as supportive as ever.  I’m also lucky enough to have a group of friends who have recently had number twos (lols – I mean babies).  Late night whatsapping, in-between crazed amazon priming, helps to maintain my sanity.  All you ladies rock.

Number 9: Don’t judge yourself.  Don’t forget these babes won’t remember any of this madness. You and your partner will, but even those memories will quickly fade.  Enjoy each day, and be grateful.  If you feel really, really stressed, watch an episode of one of the shows where someone is managing multiples e.g. these quintuplets.  That will quickly remind you that you can totes manage this.

Big love and lots of luck to you x x

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Bebette: Things I had forgotten about having a newborn

Despite the fact we were first time parents only last year (!) it is amazing how quickly you forget the highs and lows of newborn life. Here are a few of the things that I had entirely forgotten

New bébés are light as a feather. Literally a tiny baby pillow feather. Be warned: if you have a Boddler and you’re picking them up interchangeably, be sure to adjust to appropriate power levels. A few times Bebette has nearly hit the ceiling, and Boddler has been subject to some enormous groans as I collapse under his comparatively ginormous poids.

New bébés sleep a lot. Like a real lot. Except maybe not so much at night, and generally not so well if not on a warm humanoid. The combo of the first and second points above (light and sleepy) means you can cart or push them around to your heart’s content without worrying about very much at all. They don’t roll and they don’t need a high chair.  They won’t demand snacks and start crying uncontrollably when you try to get them in and out of the buggy. You can pretty much just plop them down somewhere cosy and safe and they are good. You can even keep them attached to you for hours and they are perfectly and deliciously happy. Hello walk! Hello restaurant! Hello hot coffee! (Although NB if eating and drinking with a Bebe attached be extra careful – best to drink tepid tea rather than risk an accident).

Bebe nappies are tiny. And they don’t like not having their nappy or clothes on. They don’t like it one bit. I recall this with Boddler and now with Bebette – there is nothing more sinister to be subjected to than a nappy change AND subsequent change of vest/ attire. Full and highest pitched screaming is required from the point at which they are laid down to the moment they are back at chest (read: boob/milk) level. The nappies are rather spectacular and somehow contain the most challenging of liquid ejections. I don’t know if Bebette is just more ladylike than Boddler FF but we seem to have had less poonamies so far (*touch wood). However I do get a sinking feeling each time I hear a squidgy spurty fart noise. Nappy change, potential full outfit change,… I need a moment to prepare and ideally some earplugs.

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Such a tiny nappy and yet it looks so massive! Bundler in action – no need to undo poppers. Boom.

Breatsfeeding is a challenge. It does hurt at the beginning. Just because you’ve done it once already doesn’t necessarily make it painless the second time round. Days 3-5ish are intense, sore and generally a bit uncomfortable. You need to feed all the time (at this point you don’t really have many other options if they are crying; stories, bribe snacks and Peppa Pig are not yet functional. You’re trying to understand this new baby and you only really have a couple of tools to work with – food and warmth/nappies). You do find yourself wincing with each latch. Then it is suddenly fine. Everything feels comfortable again. And it’s so worth it. If you are able and willing, it’s joyous.

Side note: last year I did a post on breasts and breastfeeding, check it out here.

I have the opposite problem to most people when feeding, which is trying to control the rapid flow of milk I have to Bebette and not all over the sofa / neighbour / carefully prepared meal. I have a rapid or heavy letdown (whatever it’s called – reminds me of Mean Girls and the lady with the heavy flow and wide-set VG) and a delicate little lady – basically I’m asking her to do a “down in one” for every meal and that’s a tough ask. She can’t handle my milk at the speed it comes out. So we have painful gas, a little bit of reflux and a lot of leaked on, milky clothes and bras, a high turnover of nursing pads and a residual atmosphere of damp cheese factory. Mmmmm.

New babies can sense when you’re about to eat and will do everything in their power to ensure you know they also need to eat. I find this truly amazing but as it only seems to affect me and my dinner directly, few others in the house see the remarkable coincidence. No matter what time, and seemingly in no way linked to Bebette’s normal feeding routine, whenever I’m about to be presented with hot food, it’s like my saliva sets off an alarm in her and she starts screaming. It is simply inconceivable that I should put Bebette down somewhere to eat prior to feeding her. And that is the case even when I “strategically” feed her right before. “Strategically” in quotes because I’m not sure my brain is up to anything purporting to be strategic or logical or planned…. but you know what I mean.

Then after urgent feed, she’ll likely poop. Bon appétit! Who needs to eat anyway?

The newbie poos are insanely colourful. Bright yellow bright green with little bits in… joy. On the plus side they really don’t smell. Lucky then I’m permanently attached to Bebette so know when they have arrived thanks to the machine gun farts. Otherwise I’d have no clue. Unlike with Boddler where you need to exit the room to breathe before going back in to remedy the situation.

How quickly they grow out of clothes in the early days. Newborn, 0-1 month, the tiny little items you either have in abundance or perhaps you don’t have enough of. Either way before you know it, literally two weeks in, they are starting to fill out. 3 weeks in and the big giveaway that she’s growing: Bebette’s toes are at the end of the little footsies and the legs look like they are starting to pull. THREE WEEKS! That’s not fair! Why do they grow so quickly? Or is it just me and my sugar milk that is made up of 70% cake and chocolate?!

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One hand you say?

You have to function with one hand. I’m writing this with one hand on my phone. You have to get on with life with a little milky hot water bottle attached to you either at the boob or in a sling. Eating in treacherous (as mentioned above), hot drinks must not be hot, you mostly only ever have one hand available for Boddler patting or trying to clean, and any time you do have your body back to yourself, there’s a 70% chance that there is someone crying somewhere in close proximity to you. I had forgotten that you literally can’t go to the loo or for a shower without a screaming serenade or taking the little one in with you. Given that Bebette isn’t a massive fan of any of her sleep receptacles yet, I have to rely on Papa to take over the snuggles and “release me” to the bathroom. For some reason I thought I wouldn’t have this problem second time round but it seems not…maybe I’m the cuddle monster…

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Off we go into week 4 – wish us luck!  Next post will be on the initial learnings with two under twos 💓💓

 

 

 

 

Babywheels – the Venicci 3-in-1 travel system

I have been asked to do a review of the Venicci baby-mobile.  This was the “travel system” we chose to transport Bebe FF in his first months on the outside.  When we were looking, as I mentioned, we found all the information out there to be a bit confusing and unnecessarily complex; the car seat and adapter situation in particular.  There weren’t many helpful reviews and by their nature the reviews were super subjective (or sponsored) so it was hard to take much from them.

Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  So, to add to the confusion, here’s my subjective review of the Venicci 3-in-1 system.  Hopefully it will at least answer some questions – and if not feel free to ask.

Our “travel system” criteria were:

  • sturdy – i’m not being OTT here but I just grew a whole baby in my tummy, it took 9+ months (and the rest) and sh!tload of energy – he was safe and protected in there – if I have to put him in a box on wheels, and push him around the bumpy, dangerous and broken pavements of Britain, I want sturdy!
  • suspension – ref the aforementioned pavements
  • tall – we are not giants by any stretch (even stretching wouldn’t help) but being hunched over and lifting bebe from a low starting point didn’t appeal
  • portable for weedy, tiny weeny arm muscles
  • easy to assemble – for tired, delirious parents
  • weatherproof – Britain
  • not insanely expensive – it’s not an actual car
  • a bit different

I believe it was my sister Em who first sent me a link to the Venicci promo clip. You could be forgiven for thinking it was a joke.  A lady with high heels that Christian Louboutin would be proud of, painted nails and a mini skirt demonstrates how to assemble the different parts of the pram. I hadn’t heard of Venicci, and I can’t say the video massively swayed me to purchase, but it did give me new hope about the world of motherhood and, ok, it did look like it could potentially do the job.  I put the dramatic filmography down to “being Italian” and carried on with the endless research.

Anyway, long story short we had the romantic trips to test lots of the obvious models in M&P’s, Mothercare and, of course, John Lewis.  But we couldn’t decide, and always found more negatives than positives for each one.   So in the end (i.e. 3 months before bebe FF was due to arrive) we just went for it and ordered the Venicci online, without physically seeing one or testing it (we’re crazy like that).

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Venicci

So what did we think? I’ll break it down into pros and cons.

PROS

  • the flatbed/bassinet/carrycot thingy (what are they actually called?!) was great.  Strong, warm, snuggly if you add a lambskin in there, big enough for bebe FF to sleep in until 5-6 months old, which is pretty good going (some babies grow out of them around 3 months).  It has an adjustable base so if bebe has a cough or as they start to want to see more, you can elevate the head area.  It also can be folded down flatfish for storage, and to squish in the boot. Bebe FF liked being in there so much that in the early days he would sleep in there downstairs, or even upstairs when he decided he didn’t like the moses basket.  Or his crib.  Coquin.
  • the frame is super sturdy.  There are no issues weighing it down with many mummy clips and your changing bag along with hundreds of bags of shopping (would I?!).
  • the suspension is excellent. Bebe FF is comfy riding his venicci and not being projected out into the road or having his two teef clattering against … his gums.
  • the handle bar is adjustable so catering to our giant needs.  It is easy to get it to a comfortable height.
  • the various pieces clip onto the frame easily – clips are in red, and you can clip and unclip one side at a time which is significantly easier than having to do the double whammy, especially when you’re balancing bebe on your hip!
  • The brake is very simple to use, a pedal on the chassis which is easily accessible.
  • The wheels come with covers (we immediately lost them), and there is also a rain cover (very handy) and a mosquito net (also MIA within minutes of being unpacked – Boots do a good back-up).
  • The basket size is fair, it’s not enormous but it seems to be as big if not slightly bigger than the competition. It is quite deep so things stay in.  I can fit my change bag in there, plus back up blanket and rain cover.  Occasionally a pizza comes sipping out but that’s my fault for overloading 🙂
  • We went for the white frame as it was a bit different and I’m glad we did. Purely aesthetically it is joyous.  Plus my mum always told me to try to “stand out in the dark” which explains a luminous white michelin puffa jacket I wore for most of my teens.
  • It has a cup holder, or “roadie” holder, which we dedicate to our Texas friends – handy for the endless water drinking required for feeding.
  • the price – the Venicci when we got it was just over £500 including the travel seat adapters.  That seemed like a reasonable middle of the road price, compared to say the “egg” which looked fabulous but was over £1,000 before you even added on the cotbed. As it turns out, I’m glad we didn’t spend more, as it won’t be in significant use for much longer.  As soon as you can use a stroller, you will!
  • Colour combos – quite simple but good, strong quality materials. Being semi-Parisienne we went for black with white chassis. I sometimes regret the choice of black as it is a bit morose in the sunlight, but I don’t think there were many other options when we bought it – it seems there are a few more now, and also a silver chassis.  I was nervous about getting a light colour, but I think the material would wear pretty well and stay clean.

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CONS

  • It is pretty heavy.  If you want strong and sturdy, you have to accept some weight.  I managed fine, but now I have the choice between the Venicci and the ultra-light Babyzen yoyo stroller, I know which my arms prefer.  The Venicci is still the vehicle of choice for local strolls and park trips, but it is a pain hauling it in and out of the boot.
  • The chair part is messy.  I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong with it, it just doesn’t look very comfy or slick.  Bebe FF is happy enough in there, and it can go forwards facing or facing mummy, although he seems to slump over a bit.  He likes putting his feet on the bar. But the hood and straps in particular look a bit cheap, for want of a better word.  The seat does recline and goes fairly upright.  It has a foot / body muff but it’s not very thick or lined, so unlike some of the competition would definitely require an additional blanket.
  • I don’t like the fastener on the chair – it is the type that catches your skin and gives you blood blisters. I’ve shouted merde! a few times…
  • The car seat is a bit of a waste of space as it’s very basic. There is limited padding in there and the material is the same as the rest of the set, i.e. sturdy and rough and not necessarily what you want rubbing up against your newborn’s delicate skin.  Most people I’ve spoken to opted for the MaxiCosi as their carseat, as others don’t really compare to the safety standards.  In any case you need to get the isofix base.  I think you can buy the set without the car seat, which would obviously save a bit of money – we didn’t know we could do that so didn’t explore that option.

So, from a quick squiz of the number of respective pros and cons, it is apparent that the Venicci, in my very humble opinion, was a good choice.

Any more specific questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Bisous

 

Baby Stuff #1

Babies are expensive. Everyone starts to tell you this about a minute after you announce your happy news. You nod politely but secretly imagine yourself laden with baby joys in one hand and a full purse in the other. After all, you are a master shopper.  Bargains fall into your hands.  Shopping is easy.

When your bump is sufficiently secure and protruding, you will start the exciting task of equipping yourself for ze bebe.  This involves reading endless blogs, signing up for every advisory webpage under the sun and, primarily, mothercare and mamas and papas, reviewing endless “must have” lists and seeking individual and personal recommendations from anyone who has ever been in close proximity to a child.

It is at this point you start to realise that, yes, everyone was quite right: if you survive the birth, you may be bankrupt.  How can such a small thing require so much stuff??

This is the first of a series of blogs on baby stuff.

#1 Sleeping

Let’s start with the simple stuff. When you think of a baby, how do you imagine them?  Peaceful, angelic….snoozing.  You usually imagine them asleep, right? So it probably doesn’t cross your mind that your baby might not actually sleep. Of course he will sleep! I’ve seen lots of them, it’s all they do!

How wrong you are.

You get all the basic sleep devices for a tiny human being; a moses basket, maybe a crib or a cot attached to your bed, or separate, ready for the big move after 6 months (!!).  You get the special mini sheets and blankets and cushions-for-ants. Maybe even a dangly musical mobile, and the special sheep – you know, Ewan the Sheep, the fluffy white, glowing noise machine that pretty much everyone and their uncle recommends… (see pic!)  But that’s just the start, my friends.  You see, the baby won’t actually want to sleep in the basket when it is bed time. Or in the crib.  Ewan the blessed Sheep won’t help. In fact, there is only one sleep thing baby requires and that is to sleep on mummy.  He doesn’t care about white noise, soft sheets or mobiles. He wants warm, milky, sweaty, tired mummy.

By the way, it is strongly recommended by the NHS, the midwife, the health visitor, your mum etc. that baby does not sleep with or on you.  PANIC FACE. What do you do?  You’re extremely sleep deprived and insanely protective of this little thing.  Ok, it makes sense that they should not sleep on you or in your bed – what if you fall asleep or roll over? It’s logical and safe advice not to do it. Except logic isn’t necessarily prevalent right now.  Your baby literally won’t sleep anywhere that’s not you. And just as a reminder, you haven’t slept yourself in what feels like a decade.  You are literally delirious from sleep deprivation.  Every time you feed the little babe they fall asleep on you.  So what the heck do you do?  This was the situation we found ourselves in. To make matters worse Bébe FF wouldn’t sleep on his back at any time, so even when we managed to get him to sleep somewhere that wasn’t on mummy (or daddy, or grandma) then we had to wedge him onto his side.  Not as bad as him sleeping on his front, but still not ideal.

If sleeping problems happen to you, you may need the next level of sleeping device.  And you guessed it, there are loads to choose from, they all claim to work miracles and they come with a hefty price tag.  There’s the baby swaddles that claim to work miracles (we found certain “normal” blankets worked well and secured Bébé FF nicely), baby sounds and smells (lavender and camomile) and then there’s the memory-foam-based-item-that-feels-safe-and-snuggly to essentially wedge your baby into a position that they feel safe enough to sleep in like a womb (like the cocoonababy, the sleepyhead, etc, although sometimes towels will do).  Why someone hasn’t invented one in the shape of boobs I do not know.

In our house, le must ‘ave for sleeping baby is the “Lambie” – a lambskin that bébé can snuggle into, that keeps him warm or cool, and travels around in all sleeping devices as a constant.  He loves it.

Oh and one last thing – when they are asleep safe and sound in their cribs or cots or baskets, with their sleepyheads, sleeping music and sleeping suits, you will then need a baby monitor to check – roughy every 2 seconds – that your bundle is, in fact, asleep.

A baby monitor is essentially a walkie talkie.  Except baby monitors do so much more.  They are literally all singing all dancing… you can get ones with a camera and screen and a light show and musical accompaniment, including white noise, classical music, ones with a safety mat alarm thingamy (I’ve heard these are more hassle than they are worth) – the choices are endless.  Naturally, the level of technical wizardry is proportionate to the level of $$$ you will be handing over.  This may be one that Daddy decides is his domaine.  Mr FF made the executive decision on ours (BT) because, you know, even though it is a baby monitor there are technical things like batteries involved so best to leave it to the experts…

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Unknown baby winning at sleep.  FYI probably not a safe sleeping device.