Quite simply, I am loving our camera... wanting to find a good way to edit photos as my skills for finding perfect light are lacking. However, I am quite proud to say that with patience I believe I captured some goodies whilst up North with Mum and Dad....
Really enjoying this sweet girl and her bright smile and cheery disposition. Long may it last!
Wear them - seems obvious but it minimises stress on the baby and on you having to clip them in and out of your stroller. Also frees your hands for security, tickets etc. You can wear them through security provided yours is a material-only wrap and they just swab your hands.
Pack layers: you will need to strip your baby down to nothing to compensate for stuffy, hot planes pre-flight and them layer them like winter bunnies when mid-air.
Prepare for Strangers and Crew interrupting a 'calming pre-nap' moment. You will end up back at square one multiple times... just make sure you have your patience ready. They will undoubtedly 'oo' and 'ahh' in your baby's face just as they closed their eyes.
Ask other mums for help. Sure we all have our hands full, often literally, but other mums will help if you are truly stuck -e.g. running out of diapers mid-flight. They get it and no, they won't judge you... we can't be prepared for eveything that gets thrown our way (24 hours dealys? yep - that happens.)
If you are in an airport and run out of diapers, go to Baggage Reclaim and find a customer service desk for the airline you are with. They will hopefully give you diapers in the size you need.
Prepare for a lack of darkness if flying during the day, particularly on long-haul flights. Above the clouds it's scarily bright! Help your baby calm down for naps by making a 'darkness fort' around your seat with blankets and jackets. (works best if your hubby or travel companion is next to you...becomes unnecessary if you are traveling alone and have a window seat - just close the blind... the cabin crew will have to be sympathetic to one window being shut!)
Eat well if breastfeeding. Find snacks and meals regularly and hydrate! Sounds obvious but you will be less mindful of this amidst stress, exhaustion and broken meal schedules.
Find Family Bathrooms. This are wonderful. Space for you, the stroller, your travel companion, bath bath if you need to (explosive nappies happen during flights) and noone can interrupt.
Just FYI - Aer Lingus literally have a cardboard box that sits on a shelf and then you have to put straps across your baby like this.... it was a little much. We were meant to fly Delta who have nice canvas bassinets.... expect the unexpected folks!
The past few weeks have been an adventure to say the least. We made Eleanora's first big trip across the water to visit Chris' family. Before doing so, I spent weeks preparing: buying, packing, giving little E several quiet days at home to build trust and security before a whole lot of new surroundings and people...
I also did a significant amount of reading on what to do with infants on airplanes...And by 'what to do' I really mean 'how to survive long-haul flights.' Seriously, I thought I was supermum when we set out of the house heading for our flight. I had two new toys, teethers, multiple changes of clothes, nappies(diapers) 'a dozen (well, 10) and all ointments, creams and hand sanitisers neatly and beautifully packed in my liquid bag WHICH was at the top of my hand luggage ready to whip out at security, thank you very much. I had this brilliant full-proof plan and a picture in my head that looked something like this:
Two young, slick parents with a sweet, non-noisy, completely content baby acing security and putting the business travelers to shame with their super-fast strategy for detaching pram, luggage components and walking baby through in under 2 minutes flat. Then boarding the plane with nap schedule, feeds during take-off and landing and activity time sussed. Boom. (Sorry my husband is the only one that gets away with saying that...)
We were going to do it. I was even excited, yes, really.
Needless to say practically none of the above happened smoothly. Well, we were pretty good at security lines though I will say this: We did NOT receive any preferential treatments to skip queue's despite all the lovely bloggers who claimed in their 'flying with a baby' posts that we would.Just one of several things that was nice in theory but didn't shake out. So, I am inspired to write you a (hopefully) short and comprehensive list of things to watch out for traveling with an infant. It is not meant as a negative slant on this... more a 'realistic' take on the topic... at least according to our baby...
I expected little E to be overwhelmed and overstimulated. I did not, however, expect that it would take 6 of the 7 1/2 hours on the international flight to calm her down for a nap... which then only last one sleep cycle of 45 minutes. Here's why napping in airports and on planes is tough:
Lack of Darkness: Until you are flying with a baby I don't think that you notice that flying above the clouds means there's a LOT of light. Little E is fairly used to sleeping either in a dark nursery or occasionally on-the-go in her pram or car seat... where movement is the main factor in helping her turn off. Therefore, this resulted in us having to put her over my shoulder looking at the navy seat cover and Chris creating a blind from blankets to give her a sense of some darkness to 'zone out' for sleep.
Crew and Strangers: Really people were generally very nice traveling. However, there IS an issue of people being too nice when you have a baby you are trying to nap. If it wasn't another passenger passing us heading to the bathroom, it was a crew member bending over towards little E and saying, "Ooooo, awww, such a cutie!" - that's lovely and all, expect she was just closing her eyes and now we are back to square one! (I honestly almost said that a few times but bit my tongue...)
Transitions in Travel: This is the sweet reality that just when little E was about to, or had just gone to sleep, we were on the move again: either on or off a plane, through another security line or walking through the terminal. Again, not helpful for keeping to any kind of stable sleeping plan.What was helpful though was to carry her in my wrap and just wheel the pram around so at least we weren't buckling her in and out of that for security etc. You can 'wear' your baby through security, they just take a swab of your hands and do a quick drug test in the machine - take 30 sec max.
To make a loooong story short, we were delayed essentially 24hrs on the way out and again 24 hrs on the way home. And by delayed I mean we had 3 different 'technical' problems with planes, weather issues... the lot. All whilst mid-travel, therefore we spent endless hours in airports, planes on the tarmac and had two extra hotel stays we weren't anticipating. So, the theory that you pack extra stuff for the event of emergency travel was fine... until we were delayed THAT much. So, here's the play by play of getting through that with the specifics about running out of diapers:
Scenario 1: One day two of travel when you haven't had access to any more diapers and your child then explodes mid-air into their last spare change of clothes and spare blanket.... seek another mum. Yep - that happened. In fact, first let yourself cry about it because no-one expects you to be that together and prepared when you've had about 2 hours sleep and your baby hasn't fed well or slept well in over 24 hours... just cry. It's ok. Then find another mum.... it doesn't matter what diaper size they have, it will do. Anything clean and dry will... and people are very sympathetic, not judgmental as I was worried about. Accidents happen (literally) and you can't be prepared for absolutely everything so stick to the unwritten mum code: other mum's get it. Bad things happen and it's not always our fault and babies needs are needs that we should try and cater for. They'll give you a diaper. I promise.
Scenario 2: Actually, you'd think we learned from our travel on the way over to avoid there being a 'scenario two' but with another 24hr delay and no access to bags or shops here's what to do: Run out of diapers? Ask for the customer service desk at baggage reclaim. They have 'overnight bags' for emergencies - deoderant, laundry detergent, shampoo etc etc... AND, they stock diapers in several sizes for this exact eventuality. United airlines helped us with that in Chicago. What. a. relief.
Fir those of you feeding, yes - go by the 'feed during take-off/landing' advice - it helps babies cope with the pressure in their ears and comforts them during loud new noisy experiences. However, here's another few pointers:
Make sure you eat and seek the snacks you need: We were so delayed and messed around that our meal schedule was random to non-existent. What I learned pretty quickly though was that this, combined with the following point, certainly changed if not decreased my milk for a day or two. I wasn't eating nearly as much as a normally would at home and got so concerned with little E's feeds that I forgot to eat enough. So I was exhausted that did not help...
Stress: I tried really hard not to get stressed because I knew it would affect Eleanora and my milk... but I did given all that happened and yes, I cried in JFK in front of hundreds of 'delayed people' smashed into the waiting areas, trying to feed knowing not much was happening and Eleanora was beyond frustrated. If you are lucky to be traveling with another person ask them to encourage you. Chris was wonderful in that moment and helped us find a quieter spot to settle Eleanora and I so we could feed in peace.
Scrap the covers and just feed: If anything cures you of a fear to feed in public it is travel in airports and on planes. A) because it just becomes too much of a hassle, B) you will be in pretty tight spots trying to feed (plane seats are so narrow) and so it's tough adding another element into the 'breastnastics' mix and C) when will you ever see these people again?? Let your baby feed discretely but seeing you, because there's enough other stuff going on that this will comfort them more than 'going under' the cover to feed again. Just my thoughts really and a somewhat separate journey I've been making which happened to crash straight into this scenario and resolve itself. I'm not really saynig 'scrap the cover' if you still like it - it's more a note to myself....
LAYERS OF CLOTHING:
This seems obvious and yes, every other blog post includes this but I wanted to stress that by 'layers' I really mean that you need to almost strip down baby when heat becomes ridiculous and wrap them into winter bunnies when it's so cold mid-air. I had plenty of clothing options but I'd recommend really thinking through extra vests both long-sleeved and sleeveless, as well as cardigans, onesies etc.
My favourite find of the trip and pardon me if this is a big deal in America that we just don't have here....Seriously... changing area on an actual counter not a fold-down... chairs, large bathroom area and two sinks in most. Particularly helpful for 'Scenario 1' described earlier. When little E exploded (and I'm really not being melodramatic) mid-air, we exited the plane and immediately found a family bathroom, stripped her and bathes her in the sink. Had plenty of room to change, feed and generally sort ourselves out without anyone else coming in... and Daddy could help.... none of this whole the changing area is only in the ladies' bathroom nonsense ;-) We entered that room and it was perfect peace, all things considered, for 10 minutes.
So, there you have it. Reflections, advice if you want it and a real-life look at flying with a baby.... at least flying with our baby!
My husband will mock me for this title indefinitely. Mainly because I am the last person on the face of the earth who should be giving advice on decision-making. In fact, he knows well by now that in my side of the family we are all significantly affected by "Decidophobia." Well, maybe not to the extent of actually attaching that valid title... however, we none of us are good at decisions....
That being said, I thought I'd share a moment from yesterday which beautifully sums up the new and wonderful world of decision-making as a mother. Note: learn from my mistake. It's nothing major but little things make a difference...
So I got little E beautifully timed with her feed and nap schedule to go and meet my coworkers for lunch in Dublin city centre. Needless to say that made for quite the morning and getting into the city, parked and walked to the restaurant was quite enough activity for one day. Anyways, we were meeting at one of our favourite spots as a staff: KOH. It's a Thai place that is simply good food made with fresh ingredients (lots of lovely market fresh veg) and their menu is a very reasonably priced for lunch. Love.
Little E and I arrived early so I could get situated at the table with our stroller/pram, and feed before the others arrived... mainly because Eleanora is so dis tractable now and my game plan was to be able to eat lunch without having to hold a baby.... but wait you say, did you inform little E of the plan? Apparently not. She took a little feed, obviously smarter than I give her credit for as it was 30 mins before she was really due one... and then got into her Stokke Xplory to entertain herself. Enter all my coworkers and boom: fussy fit. I noticed E's cheeks had gone bright red and there you have it folks, a teething attack... and what didn't I have in my bag? Anything... ANYTHING to help her. Sure she had toys to teeth on but this was one of those that-will-make-it-worse-mummy moments. Great. That was it then. I had to be baby entertainer extraordinaire for the duration of lunch.... so here entered my decision-making moment....
With the menu in front of me, a screaming child in my lap - the ONLY child, never mind infant in the place, amongst several business lunch meetings... and I panicked. Make a quick choice, give the menu back to the waitress and have two hand to entertain and hold little E. My thought process then went as follows:
Little E is not going to stop crying.... There's no way I can put her back in her stroller, that'll make it worse... Noone else can take her... Find something you can eat one-handed.... Thai Green Curry with Chicken.... that comes with sticky rice... The sticky rice can pick up the rest of it and yes.... win... I should be able to eat that with just a fork!
And yeah - remarkably it worked... but BOY oh boy did I pay for it last night... I remembered having a conversation with a Dutch couple recently who had 6 children, as they remarked over lunch one day that if you like spicy food it's sad when you are breastfeeding because that's tough for the babies. Now, if you know me well enough, I tend to not get too paranoid about all the research, do's and don'ts etc and during my pregnancy and now breastfeeding have avoided most of the biggies but don't maintain a list in my head of all things that could have a significant knock-on effect. Oops. Apparently spicy food is just waaay too far across the line for little E.
She had such bad wind and obviousely her tummy was upset and did we get much sleep last night? nope.
Potntial bonus factor? She may indeed be exhausted enough on Friday to deal with our international flight to the US.... that or we are in line for some pretty tough days.
Mummy lessons come in all shapes and sizes. I will not be ordering the Green Curry again for some time. In fact, I myself was a little shocked at how spicy it was yesterday so bless, little E musn't have been happy at all.
Decision-making in a split second. You think your logical skills are superb and then you realise that a salad with a simply lime dressing would have done the trick. Oh well. Today is a new day.
"Fiona, Gut is a piece of Truth you need to listen to"
- Vivienne MM, a counsellor, wise woman, and dear friend.
I want to write this post for several reasons.
Firstly, I think reflective practice is both enlightening and refreshing. I want to encourage myself through looking back on the journey I have made thus far and I want to spur myself on in full awareness of both reality and emotion, thought, research and... plain and simple gut.
Secondly, I have been encouraged by many wonderful cheerleaders along the way who have in times of joy and in times of need shared enough of themselves to aid me in understanding the beautifully challenging, wonderful, bizarre and brilliant experience of breastfeeding. Therefore, to friends about to embark on this journey, I gather my thoughts together here also for you... because ultimately I can say this: I'll willingly be your cheerleader if you need one.
To be honest, I always wanted to Breastfeed and was fairly sure I was going to be able to. That was my first gut feeling in the process. I'll even admittedly say this: I had a bias. 'Breast was best' in my mind and though my reasoned brain was careful in preparing me for any eventuality, I was pretty determined that I was going to make it work whatever the odds.
I did have hesitations though. At one of our Ante-Natal classes, the midwives had us in groups list the pros and cons of breast Vs. bottle. I was off to a flying start, probably too eagerly assisting the group in writing all the wonderful 'pros' of breastfeeding. However, my bubble started not bursting but deflating a little, if you will, as others were similarly eager to write all the 'cons.' Sure I had thought about the fact that breastfeeding could be difficult or even embarrassing in public, that it could hurt, that you could have all sorts of issues like blocked ducts, over or under supply..even end up with mastitis. But suddenly, in the midst of a room of heavily pregnant women, I had one of those, "oh yeah but this is happening to you," moments and then the 'cons' felt a little heavier to carry.
...In fact, I may have even swayed towards the 'bottle' side of the debate for a minute as I also remembered comments from friends who used bottles, saying things like, "but won't you be sad when we're all hanging out and you have to leave the room to feed, because I know you are reserved and are uncomfortable with the idea of feeding in front of anyone."...
In truth, I simply had no idea what to think. I had a gut - Breast is best!... though new thoughts were niggling into my mind... still, I found I was continuing to be pretty set on giving it as good a go as any....
The first few moments:
One of the things I vividly remember out of Eleanora's whole birth story is this: the moment I first fed her. I'm even quite teary thinking about it now. It was only a short while after she had been born that the midwife gently said to me, "are you ready to try a feed?" I looked up and simply said 'yes,' filled with a mixture of excitement and nerves, doubt, determination, and gut....and it just. happened. For a split second I had a sort of out-of-body glance at the situation and yeah, I though - 'this is a bit bizarre'... but my gut? My gut was crying out 'this is good'.. and it was one of the sweetest moments of my life.
Week One ( don't worry, I am NOT going to give a play by play of every week.. I've even stopped counting where we are in weeks!!)
The first three days were a bit blurry and to be honest, so much was going on emotionally, physically and in my mind with new thought processes forming that it would take pages of reflective writing to get it all out. However, a few things stand out:
- I was in a hospital ward of 6 and only 2 of us were breastfeeding. By day 2, I was the only one. As a result I got a little encouragement from the midwives on the first night, but then there was no-one else really to talk to. Hospital visiting was only open to your spouse or partner because of the winter Norovirus epidemic, so neither my mother, mother-in-law nor any close friends who were breast-feeders could visit for encouragement... as far as I knew it was going well but I was dying to just keep 'checking in' with someone to know... I mean, how could I know if I was doing it right? All I had was my gut... and terribly emotional thoughts!
- Eleanora was checked for jaundice levels twice and the second time they were pretty high and she had to have a blood test and that was my first 'sinking stomach' mother moment. Breastfed babies are pretty prone to being jaundice but in my competely emotional state, here entered the first negative thought as a breastfeeding mum - "she's not 100% and it's my fault."
As the week progressed, I got home, took my time firstly just enjoying Eleanora and then studying her... and studying me! I experimented with feeding positions and holds, timing it and not, and balancing thoughts of joy and concern. Joy because Eleanora seemed to take to it like a duck to water. Concern because though it seemed as if everything was going well, I was sore and for the life of me I just didn't know... was I still simply recovering from labour? was I exhausted from being awake so frequently? was I emotionally wiped and having a physical reaction because of that? was it just my milk coming in? or was breastfeeding actually hurting me?
I had a gut that something wasn't right but I didn't follow it until it was a little too late. Two days later Eleanora and I were readmitted to hospital because I had a severe case of mastitis. Yep - one of those 'cons' on the list?.. I had checked it already. I was so disappointed and all I could think of was, "I mustn't have been 'doing it right' to get mastitis and end up in hospital with it." And yes... it hurt and it was soul-destroying to end up back in hospital after being home as a new family for only a few days, and yes, I was on a drip which was my worst nightmare revisited....
However, I can truly say this now.... it was absolutely a blessing in disguise. I had wonderfully helpful and encouraging midwives who were very pro-breastfeeding looking after me. I had the lactation consultant visit and give me specific pointers, unique to my body... and I got rest... mandatory, do-nothing-but-breastfeed-rest. Something that left to my own devices I would not have adhered to very well. On top of all of that? Eleanora and I were in tandem. Feed, Eat (me), Sleep (both of us.) It was great.... and finally I got it....That's what breastfeeding really had to be about.... being in tandem. You and your baby. Connecting and experiencing together...
The Journey continued...
After the first few weeks, we got into a good rhythm. Eleanora was on a pretty good schedule for feeds, she fed well and we were both pretty happy. I had oversupply issues but with cheerleaders and information from brilliant resources (see below) at the tips of my iphone fingers during nighttime feeds ... I was able to work through any issues that arose and things evened out and turned around in due course...
I invested in a breastfeeding cover because though I admire the mothers who can feed any time any where around anyone, being discrete was always and will always be a part of me. However, I was hesitant because I also didn't really want to be a 'statement' breastfeeder. Again, I admire the women fighting the cause for all of us who need and want to feed in public without judging eyes... but my inner goody-two-shoes and etiquette-shaped mind knew being a 'bold' breastfeeder with an all-singing-all-dancing cape on that covered most of my body like an apron just wasn't me either. So, I found a few options and purchased a cover from an Irish company "Bubí Bainne" (trying to support local business) and a well-known brand "Bebe Au Lait." Both I have found excellent and BOTH come in discrete colours.... in fact, I will say that wearing a black nursing cover and a black top, I have had a few funny moments where someone didn't know I was feeding until I noted it in conversation... at which point followed a few particularly awkward moments...
Both covers have a ridge at the top which sits out from your collar bone and you can see down to baby and baby can make eye contact with you during a feed, without others being able to see anything. ( I will say at 4 months, this is becoming more of a game for Eleanora and chances are I may be writing a post soon about the perils of feeding in public, given my own battle with being discrete and having a baby who can fling a cover off with one excited swoop of an arm!!)
Resources that have helped me:
First and foremost FAMILY and FRIENDS..particularly my Mum, mother-in-law, good friend Susan and... my loving husband. Get your cheerleaders out and if you need one, I'm here. You will have down days. you will have times when it is both physically and emotionally overwhelming.. you will potentially face issues of over and under supply, blocked ducts or mastitis and you will need encouragement. Your baby may also have issues like reflux or colic and that too will take its toll on your motivation to carry on... so find the folks you can talk to and let yourself talk.
http://kellymom.com/ A great website for everything from basics to specifics on different issues you may face and with a wealth of articles and research for further reading. A favourite of mine during nighttime feeds in the first few weeks!
http://www.lucieslist.com/7-feeding/ This lady is pretty funny.... certainly colourful in her writing... but funny. So if you need information delivered in a light-hearted way... click this link and enjoy. Particularly notes on postpartum days...not so much breastfeeding specifically but the whole rounded experience...
Midwives, public health nurses and lactation consultants etc. Basically, the professionals exist to be experts and can help... get to know yours and how you can be in conversation with them.
And finally? My gut...
Probably the biggest most surprising resource? Me... and that means for you, I hope, you find that it's you. Amazingly our bodies, minds and hearts simply just know sometimes and I've found that when I listen to that truth things tend to fall together pretty amazingly. You can do it because within you, you know.
Well, I'm thinking breastfeeding is pretty much all that's on the agenda for now.
Last week I thought Eleanora was ready to move on in her experiences and start some solids despite having studied the research about waiting for 6 months, but after a few awful days where she and I were very out of sorts, I listened to my gut and knew I was wrong. The truth was, at the moment, breast is still best for both of us... again pointing me to this: "Gut is a piece of truth you need to listen to." My gut. (I've written gut a LOT now and it's tarting to sound funny or just vulgar... apologies...) My gut was the truth I needed to always listen to. Breastfeeding was in me to do and yes, it has been a journey and yes it has been confusing and hard and it hurt... but above all it has been wonderful.. and I hope to continue and then eventually (steady on) doing it again!
A special thanks to Eleanora's great Aunts and Uncles and Chris' cousins who gifted us many things, including our Stokke Tripp Trapp. We have adored it from the moment we read about its concept. In fact, we first discovered Stokke as a brand when looking for a travel system and then, well, kind of lost the ability to buy products from any other brand. This, however, is no negative thing, except that it will appear as if we put no thought into our purchases and simply looked for a label. Au contraire... We just love Stokke. In fact, I could be a Stokke saleswoman by now because we are so bought into their vision and calculated engineering. For me, I love their ability to make practical objects emotionally capturing. Chris? Well, at 6ft 5, he is simply won over by the fact that their products are made with average to taller people in mind, having baby at your height for greater communication with them and to save you from bending over so much during the day!
Stokke is a Norwegian company who now specialise in baby products from strollers to nursery furniture and home textiles. Their basic concept is to enhance the bond between baby and parent, child and caregiver. I hesitate to write too much on this at the risk of sounding cheesy and ruining their beautiful thoughts so please refer to http://www.stokke.com and read or watch their videos to learn more.
For now, I wanted to share a few snaps of little E enjoying and discovering safely seated in her Tripp Trapp Newborn Set. The great thing about this for us is that she is waist level with me and can watch everything going on whilst I cook dinner, wash dishes and potter about the kitchen, rather than being near the floor in some seat or bouncer where no only would she be much further from eye contact, she'd be right in our dog Jozy's loveable licking zone.
(We are excited to change in the next month or so to the full Tripp Trapp high chair and remove the Newborn Set. )
...Entitled so as we seem to be in the thick of never-ending dribble days. Eleanora is now 3 and 3/4 months old and flying for her age, for which we are truly thankful, if not a little taken aback and desiring time to freeze. As our nurse said recently, she is so incredibly "sturdy" and loves nothing more than to stand, walk and bounce in the doorways of our home all day long, using every muscle she can.
One product we have simply adored from the second little E could hold her head up was the doorway bouncer. Uncle Stephen gifted us the Tippitoes Doorway Bouncer and I have to say I think it's one of the better ones out there. With a super strong metal clasp to put over any door frame it looks like it would take an Olympic Trampoline style workout without a flinch... but then there's something about metal Vs plastic that that has my inner voice turn snobbish and state as fact, "much more reliable." It also seems to have a longer drop than others we have road-tested at friends' homes, meaning we really could put little E in it as soon as she could hold her head up, and not as soon as she could touch the ground with her feet.
Regardless of brand or type, I say a special thanks to the inventor of the doorway-bouncer-contraption as he or she obviously took great joy in watching their babies discovering their feet whilst simultaneously understanding the simple pleasure of having moments of hands-free-baby-watch in the day.
Bringing you snapshots of one happy lady in her ("Tippitoes") doorway bouncer at home.. and that lovely dribble..