Guest Post - My Story, Postnatal Depression

It was a dream come true to fall pregnant after five years of trying. We were fortunate to have a straight-forward pregnancy and I joked with friends that the labour might follow in the same way. Sadly, this was not to be and at 41 weeks I was induced due to signs of pre-eclampsia . Hard as it was, we got through the labour with the safe delivery of our baby girl Eleanor. With the first embrace I had expected to be in floods of tears, but instead I just felt numb. She was a stranger to me and I felt totally unqualified to look after her. Our first few days were spent at the John Radcliffe recovering from anaemia and for Ellie a bit of jaundice. There we had all the support we needed for breast feeding from the team of midwives and care assistants.

It was such a relief to get home and settle into our new understanding of normal. The first few weeks were a blur but the Health Visitor reassured me that this was quite normal. Four weeks on, I was still struggling, feeling very anxious and doubting my abilities to be a Mum. One of the main issues was breast feeding, it took so long and Ellie never seemed satisfied. I sought advice from the professionals but was left feeling more confused by their conflicting information.

Feeling rock bottom I called IPPS (Infant-Parent Perinatal Service) for help. Their team came along side me at that time to listen and encourage me as a new Mum. Plenty of tears were shed in our fortnightly meet ups but it was good to know that someone was there. Despite the talking therapy and anti depressants my mood was still very low. Panic attacks would strike whilst I was out at a baby group or shopping in town. But my lowest point came when I thought taking my own life was the best option for everyone.

After a frustrating and unhelpful visit to the GP I set about looking for other avenues of support. I found my answer by taking part in the OPT Study (Oxford Postnatal Treatment). Not only was I receiving treatment myself but the results would in turn help other Mum’s suffering just like me. My journey became easier once I started a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). This treatment helped curb my negative thinking and focus on changing what I could. Another important part of my recovery was learning how to take better care of myself. Sounds pretty straight forward but can so easily be forgotten with the time constraints as a new parent.

As well as the counsellors, friends and family have been a constant support and without them today I’m not sure where I would be. Depression can be so isolating and it’s so important to know that you are not on your own. My husband (who deserves a medal) recognised that having an opportunity to chat with other Mums in the same situation would also act as an encouragement. This led us to start the PANDAS Support Group (PANDAS Foundation), a place where families affected by pre and post natal depression (Mums and Dads) can meet to talk through their problems and get some moral support.

My life has been transformed in this past year. When I thought that all hope was gone I finally found the light at the end of the tunnel. If you can relate to this or know someone in a similar situation then please ask for help as you are not on your own. If meeting in a group seems too much the Pandas Foundation (www.pandasfoundation.org.uk) also has an online community and a help line ( 0843 28 98 401).

By Lisa Bryan

Post Christmas Sort Out!

Transient

Now Christmas seems to becoming a distant memory for most of us, as parents we begin the big sort out! No doubt your little ones's have been given an assortment of beautiful gifts, some large and some small, but they all need a home! 

One of the choices to make initially is when to take on the challenge! From one parent to another, I would  definitely recommend to do it when  your child isn't around! So choose your time very carefully, make the most of nap/sleep times, pre school sessions, nursery and school etc and begin the task! 

By not having little hands reaching into every pile that you have sorted, is extremely helpful! You can have different piles for different 'places'

For example: 

  • Keep
  • Charity shop
  • Pass on to a friend
  • Sell 

This makes the whole process much easier and productive. You will have clear definitions of what items are going where and therefore hopefully won't be left with a mystery pile of toys at the end! 

Charity shops are very appreciative of children's toys, the same goes for friends with similar age children or interests...maybe it's worth thinking about asking the parents before the child though!!

These days with the wonders of online selling websites and social media selling pages, selling pre loved toys are an easy and profitable way to make some pennies! As long as they are in good working order and clean, you will probably find that most things sell.

Sometimes it's actually quite tricky to be ruthless when having a sort out as we think 'one day they might play with that again' and then end up keeping the lot!  It's helpful to ask yourself 'what will my baby /child get from playing with that toy?' If you can't think of a genuine reason then maybe it's time to pass it on to a new home.

With some fantastic storage ideas around you can really tailor your storage to the needs of your child, and their room. So whether its a big basket, or plastic storage boxes, if you take your time you will find the perfect solution. 

Make this post Christmas clear out part of your New Years plans and I promise you this is one challenge you will be glad you've done once it's over!

Happy sorting! 

Have you done your pelvic floor? - Guest Post by Keri from Fit and Healthy Mums

Bad night? Cabin fever? Hectic  schedule? Got that sinking feeling?

Did you know that exercise can help both the mind and the body during and after pregnancy?

A little gentle exercise has so many benefits; reduced anxiety, increased confidence, increased energy and stamina – who would say no to that!?

During pregnancy, exercise is positively recommended for you and your baby. How about reduced swelling, less gastro-intestinal discomfort, fewer leg cramps, eased backache, shorter labours, a quicker postnatal recovery? 

Many women worry that they may over heat or they may put too much strain on their body, in fact your body is so amazing that it makes many adaptions and your core body temperature actually reduces in pregnancy. Your body is just more efficient at expelling heat so you sweat more easily. Just make sure you follow the guidelines your midwife gives you, for example, no high impact activity or contact sports.

Once your bundle of joy arrives and you immerse yourself in this new world of caring for your baby, you and your needs are so easily forgotten – I know, this time last year I had 3 children under 4 years! However, making a little time for yourself is so important for your own well-being, step back and see what you have achieved and how well you are doing.

There are so many baby groups to choose from and you feel you need to cram everything in, but why not take one activity for yourself? The benefits of exercise are instant and you will feel energised and refreshed with a clear head. Not only will you be burning calories, working on that posture, strengthening your back and abs, the exercise will help to make those everyday tasks easier and ensure you are fit for the physicality of motherhood!

Attending an exercise class will not only help you physically, but it will also help your mind. Meeting other mums, being social, getting out the house are all positive for both you and your baby. Plus if you exercise outdoors, new research shows that you baby is likely to sleep better – yes please!

So, how do we put this in action? That’s where I come in! I set up Fit and Healthy Mums to make exercise fun, social and accessible to all. Fitness should work for you, fit in with your life and be enjoyable – plus not cost the earth.

I use exercise routines, suitable for your stage of the ‘motherhood journey’, which are easily adapted for your fitness level. They are effective, easy to do and you will feel great afterwards!!

Take a look at fitandhealthymums.com and see which option is right for you …… Fit4birth, Buggyfit, Springback or why not set up a private group for your NCT/antenatal group?

I look forward to sharing my passion for exercise and motherhood with you!

Keri x

Contact me at keri@fitandhealthymums.com 
For more information please visit www.fitandhealthymums.com 

"I am so glad I found you, this is just what I need – a specialist who has been there and understands the trials of pregnancy and beyond. I will be recommending you to everyone!"  – A current customer.

The Changing Seasons

Transient

Now we have this cold spell of weather that is allegedly meant to be with us a fortnight, it inspired me to write a blog about the way we think about the seasons and dressing our babies and children in the winter.

With small babies, we often use all in one snow suits, hats and blankets whilst out for a walk; at the toddler stage it's all about keeping them warm, but not restricting their movements so they can be free to toddle around enjoying their environment; with the preschool age child it's about encouraging independence whilst making it as simple as possible for them to manage their own clothing; and finally the school age child that often wants to be independent has found that sometimes it's easier if someone else does it!

Keeping hats on babies whether its the summer or winter, is something that most of us as parents have found tricky at times! A good tip is to pop it on their head from behind them so they aren't aware of it going on. You may only gain a couple of seconds before you see their hands reaching up to their head to remove it, but it's worth a try! And then there are the gloves and mittens!  That is an amusing moment when you are trying to encourage little wriggly fingers into the right place whilst gently easing on a glove only to find the spaces don't quite match the fingers.....all in the name of winter fun! 

So, whatever the weather is doing, make sure that you are well equipped with age and stage appropriate clothing for your little one as this will mean more fun, less tears and warm and happy Bambinos!

Our 1st Birthday Party!

Transient

Our first birthday party was an amazing success! We had a great turn out and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves! In fact it was two hours of Bliss! We had 38 children and babies attending and for the whole two hours we didn't hear one of them crying, whinging or whining. All we heard was the sounds of children at play, laughter and chatter! It was wonderful!

We had set up activities around the room to keep all the babies and children occupied so that their parents could enjoy a hot cup of tea or coffee and some uninterrupted cake! Our craft table was a real hit, with the little ones decorating photo cards to take home with them. There were some fabulous cards created and some lovely ones gifted to us for our birthday from the children too.

It was so lovely to celebrate with so many of the families that we have worked with and also some of our nearest and dearest, as without them we would have never come this far.

As many working mums know, juggling a family, home and children is challenging and we couldn't do it without the support our family and friends have provided. It is safe to say if any of you knew where myself and Sophie have had some of our business meetings, you would be astonished! Car parks whilst handing over each other's children, doing our weekly shop, in chaos with three children running around the playroom, sat in the car after events and I think the best was whilst in the swimming pool in half term! But we have learnt to be very productive in the least likely places and make the most of any quiet moment to catch up on things!

Wow what a year it has been! We have had the pleasure of working with so many fabulous families, in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey, London, Warwickshire and Northampton. We have prepared many couples for the exciting journey into parenthood and eased them gently into the arrival of their new baby or babies. And many of our parents have achieved some amazing results with their little ones sleep, thanks to their faith in us, hard work, consistency and dedication to making a change! It is safe to say that there are now many blissful bambinos out there and many amazing, confident, empowered and blissful parents too! And we feel very honoured and proud to be part of that.

We love the world of Blissful Bambino and are really excited about seeing it grow even more over the next year!


Party preparations!

Well our 1st birthday party is tomorrow and we are so excited! Of course as with any other event we also feel a little apprehensive as we have put so much hard work into it and want it to be a success. But more than anything it is an opportunity for us to show our gratitude to all our family and friends that have supported us in our first year! And also a wonderful time to catch up with so many of the families that we have worked with!

We have spent today finalising details, practising our speech, packing up all the equipment, activities and toys we need to take to the venue and also icing cupcakes! These cupcakes will be supporting the amazing cente piece cake that the lovely Katie from Little Cow Creative Cakes is making us. We are particularly thrilled with the personalised Blissful Bambino sugar toppers for our cupcakes that we have carefully applied to over 60 cakes this morning!

We promise to post photos from the day!

We Are Still Here!!

Hello to all our lovely readers! We are so sorry we haven't blogged for such a long time. We have been so, so busy with so many new and existing families! And of course supporting them is our priority, but you are very important to us too! So we wanted to tell you we are back!

It has been a very successful few months, helping our families overcome sleep issues with a whole range of ages, from 12 weeks to three years old! We have had some fabulous results with our families, thanks to the hard work and dedication the parents have put in! Well done, you know who you are!

Along with the sleep issues, we have prepared many parents for the exciting journey of labour and birth and The arrival of their newborn or newborns. We have also supported parents with their daytime routines and naps and overcome some food challenges too!

We are also now busy planning our 1st Birthday Party, which is happening on the 9th November. We can't believe we have been up and running for a year now, what an amazing journey it has been. And what a learning curve too! Neither myself or Sophie are business minded, we just wanted to help and support families, however, we have learnt about building websites, managing and growing social media, running events, advert ising tools and so much more! And we are still learning! But we are so proud of what Blissful Bambino has become. It has grown quicker than we imagined and we have even discussed employing someone else to work with us in the next year. Exciting times ahead! But for now we want to thank you all for your support and we hope you continue to enjoy the little world of Blissful Bambino.

We look forward to sharing photos from our party with you!

If you haven't already please stop by and give us a little like on facebook too!

www.facebook.com/blissful.bambino

Quiet time activities for after school

We have had a request asking for some tips regarding after school activities without the use of the television.

When a child starts school it's a really important part of their day to allow them some time to relax and unwind once they come home. By making it part of your child's daily routine they will soon pick it up and follow the pattern set by you.

So once you are home from school and bags are unpacked and coats hung up, offer them a small snack and a drink. This will give your child some refreshment and keep them going until dinner time.

You can then introduce a variety of 'quiet time' activities which don't offer the stimulation of the television or perhaps computer games. It depends on how many children you have as to how you might like to plan your activities, to try and involve them all.

If you have a 4/5 year old at school, then you could try giving them the opportunity to relax in their bedroom, snuggling on a bean bag listening to a story Cd. If your child needs a little persuading, try then with earphones, as this can make them feel very grown up! Older children also enjoy this time out, with music or a story CD.

Some simple activity ideas are : jigsaw puzzles, threading, play dough, painting and colouring.You could print some fantastic pictures off the Internet, paying particular attention to your child's interest at that time, i.e. their favourite animal or topic etc

Another suggestion would be to create some 'quiet time' boxes/baskets with your child.These can be planned alongside your child or you can make them up independently .Begin by choosing a suitable container that you wish to use, your child could decorate a cardboard box or you could use a pretty basket or storage box.You can then source various items to put in the box, stickers, catalogues to cut out from, funky scissors, small construction toys, the list is endless! 

These boxes are then only to be used for the quiet time activity period, you can restock them at any time, picking up bits and bobs as you see them. By explaining to your child it's purpose and when it's to be used, the boxes will continue to surprise and delight your child each time they open them! 

Bedtimes with a baby and toddler

Many of our parents in our Facebook community are expecting baby number two very soon and have requested some tips on coping or managing bedtimes with a baby and a toddler. This can be tricky as they both have very different needs, however stay calm and it will all work itself out over time!

We have all heard of the 'Witching Hour', those few hours from about 5-8pm where everyone in the house has had enough, they are all feeling tired and the very worst behaviour seems to rear it's ugly head! This can be tough to deal with when you just have the one child, add a baby to the mix and it can make for a stressful evening. Here are some tips to try and make it more harmonious for you all!

Plan Ahead!

The bedtime routine starts with dinner in most households so start making plans from here. 

Make meals in advance where possible, preparing them earlier in the day. Accept all offers of cooked meals from friends and relatives. Get organised and do some batch cooking and freeze it for those days where you don't have time.

Once you are all ready to go upstairs to start the bath and bedtime routine, take everything you think you will need upstairs. For example, swing chair or rocker for baby, toys to entertain and sling.

A baby sling can be useful if you need both your hands free at any point or your baby is having a particularly unsettled evening. This will also help when you have a very young baby that you may be bathing less frequently.

Try bathing your toddler and baby together as it will save you time. Use a bath support so that you have a hand free to interact with your older child too. Your baby will not need as long in the bath, so get them washed first. Once they are ready to get out have a warm towel ready for them on their change mat and let them have some kick about time whilst you finish up the bath. Or snuggle them up in the towel and into their rocker chair. Remember to try and keep the bathroom nice and warm, as this will keep babies happier for longer with no clothes on.

Some parents do find it easier to bath their baby and child separately, so do try both to see which one suits you. If you choose to do them one at a time, make sure you involve the toddler in bathing your baby to help keep them engaged and out of mischief!

Once both children are out of the bath, do encourage independent skills in your toddler regarding dressing or putting creme on. This will not only help you, but is good for their development and confidence. Try having a race with them to keep them interested. You dress your baby and your toddler pulls on their pyjamas to see who can achieve it first. Of course let your toddler win every time!

Save some special toys for each child for this time, nothing noisy, but something to hold their interest and engage them should you need to bide some time while you attend to the other child. But only produce them at this time to keep them interesting. You may wish to rotate them over the course of the week.

As a back up Story CD's can be quite useful. Either to use to help entertain your toddler if your baby is having an unsettled moment or as an interim tool to allow you to settle your baby to sleep and then you can have some quality time with your toddler before they go to bed. We are not suggesting these should replace story time with mum or dad, just a good tool to have in reserve to bide you some time!

Ideally, whilst doing the bedtime story for your toddler, feed your baby at the same time, this is giving your toddler important close interaction and still keeping your baby involved.

Remember in the early days babies are not going to bed in any set routine and so will often be with you downstairs once your toddler is in bed. Enjoy this time with your new baby too!

The key to bedtimes with a baby and a toddler is not to have a rigid routine. Have back up plans for different scenarios and be flexible. And don't panic!

My Little Miracle - Guest Post by Megan Chapman

At 20 weeks pregnant, myself and my husband went to our ultrasound scan excited to hopefully learn the sex of our baby. Instead we were given the devastating news that our baby had a diaphragmatic hernia on her left side, Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia is a hole in the diaphragm, which allows the stomach into the chest cavity and prevents lung development. It is a rare condition affecting approx. 1 in 2500 babies, but is not well known and there is little awareness. Babies normally either have a left sided diaphragmatic hernia or the more serious right sided. After many tests including a test to check for chromosomal issues (which luckily came back all clear), we were told that we were having a little girl with a left sided diaphragmatic hernia. Her heart had been pulled over to the right and she had stomach and bowel in her chest cavity. Her specialist team told us that whilst our baby appeared to be on the better end of the scale with regards to how her lungs were developing, we would never truly know how she would cope until she arrived as they cannot tell from scans how her airway entry would be.

We had scans every three weeks for the rest of the pregnancy and I got in touch with a charity CDH UK who helped support us through this time and put us in touch with families in a similar situation. They provided us both with a lot of advice and general support, helped us plan for the arrival but also kept us grounded and realistic as to what to expect.

On Tuesday 19th March I went into early labour, and after a long and stressful labour, with lots of ups and downs, Jessica finally arrived at 2.05am on Thursday 21st March. I held her briefly whilst they cut the cord but she was then taken to a table to be ventilated and then was taken away for further testing, we did not see her again until 7am. Luckily Jessica's airway development and lung function appeared to be good and she had surgery to repair the hole 36 hours after she was born. During surgery it was discovered she had more in her chest than expected, including intestines and her spleen. Her right lung development was good though and she had a small amount of left lung which they were confident would expand as she grew. She then spent 10 days in intensive care before being weaned off the ventilator. We eventually brought her home at 3 weeks old and Jessica has just been given the all clear by her doctors and they are very pleased with her development. She may incur health issues as she grows, but she is here and thriving at the moment, if a little on the small side.

Whilst Jessica was in hospital my husband and I were able to be at her side every day, we couldn't have done this without Ronald McDonald House who offered us a room at the hospital for the duration of her stay. This cut out lengthy journeys to and from the hospital each day. They support parents in similar situations as to ours and provide the accommodation free of charge. They are also hoping to expand their capacity at the JR in Oxford. 

CDH UK have also supported us every step of the way and are trying to raise awareness of this condition. It's as common as Cystic Fibrosis and Spina Bifida but I for one had never heard of it before Jessica's diagnosis and very few people have. They are a small charity run purely by volunteers and help parents that aren't as lucky as us with accommodation and transport costs, as some families have to travel hundreds of miles to be under a specialist centre. They are also putting together a research fund to try and get much needed research into the best treatment pathways for babies with CDH.

So that's our story and the reasons we are raising money for these two fantastic charities, we really don't know how we would have coped without them. Jessica was very lucky and a true fighter, a lot of babies aren't so lucky and CDH sadly only has a survival rate of approximately 50%. 

Megan Chapman x