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How To Survive on Maternity Pay

Sunday, 29 January 2017
In an ideal world, I'd be off work until Oliver starts school in five years time. I know how precious this part of his life is, and how quickly he will grow out of the baby and toddler stage and to be honest, I just don't want to miss any part of it. But in reality, I've got bills to pay and statutory maternity pay doesn't do much to cover them. It looks like I'll be going back to work in early August which means I'll have had almost 11 months off on maternity leave.

When I finished work in October, I was treating every day like the weekend. going shopping or out for lunch most days (pre-baby of course). I quickly realised that wasting money like this would take months off my maternity leave. I've reined it in a lot since then, and have come to realise that with just a few lifestyle changes, I can actually get by on very little money during the week. 

Here's how I make my maternity pay stretch a little bit further ...

HOW TO SURVIVE ON MATERNITY PAY


1. Use the Outdoors - Swap afternoon tea and shopping with a friend for a long walk in a country park followed by tea and cake in yours. There's so many good things about walking - it's good exercise, it clears your head, lets baby sleep for a while and above all, it's completely free. Try and avoid temptation to stop for a coffee on the way back and wait until you're home instead.

2. Online Food Shopping - I think everyone has had the experience of getting to the checkout and realising you've spent double the amount you had planned. Most supermarkets allow you to order your shopping on line and if you get to the check out and realise you've overspent, it's only a few clicks to remove those unnecessary items or to switch to cheaper products to stay within budget.

3. Be Creative. It's always great to find something (free!) to focus on when you're not working. Starting a blog or a YouTube channel is a fun way to document this memorable time in your life and can help you connect with other like-minded people too. If that's not your cup of tea, there's so many other creative things you can do to keep busy. I've been working on a scrap book for Oliver's first year and I've really enjoyed organising his photos and writing little stories next to each one.

MAISY MEOW PARENTING LIFESTYLE BLOGGER UK SCOTLAND

4. Join the Gym or Leisure Centre - I know you've probably been trying to work out how to reduce your monthly bills but spending £30-£40 on a gym membership can actually be an efficient way of using your money. Most leisure centres give you unlimited access to the gym, classes and swimming for a set fee every month. This means you've always got something to do when funds are low at the end of the month. You've got the gym and classes for when you're baby-free and swimming for days when it's just you and the little one.

5. Monthly Subscriptions - This follows the same principal as no. 4. Setting aside an amount each month for something you enjoy makes it much easier to budget. If you're a beauty addict and find yourself buying the odd little product every time you go into Boots, you'll find you probably spend much more than you think every month. Why not subscribe to a beauty box instead? You'll know exactly what you're spending and still get to try out new products. Here's a review of the Look Fantastic Beauty Box* which has some excellent products and great sample sizes - look out for discount codes for this one through voucherbox.co.uk.

I really hope you found these useful - if you share some of your own tips in the comments!


*sponsored post

Why You Need Weekly Goals

Thursday, 26 January 2017
It's around that time of year when the gym is starting to get emptier as people admit defeat and hang up their resolutions for another year. New Years resolutions just don't work and everyone knows it. And why would they? Setting yourself a target that takes a full year to achieve is setting yourself up for failure. It doesn't take into account how much can change in that year,what else might be going on and how you might change too. An end goal 12 months down the line is just too overwhelming.

Last Summer I had a to-do list the size of my arm in preparation for the baby arriving in October. I felt so overwhelmed looking at how many things I had to do and even the thought of doing all of it just stressed me out. One day I decided to split everything up into jobs and tackle a couple every week. I'd sit on a Sunday night, look at what I had on, what free time I had and what was realistic and plan out what I could do.  Having a mini to-do list that was actually achievable within a short space of time was really motivating. When you're just aiming for Sunday, the longer-term goals are out of your mind and don't seem as daunting. 

UK Parenting and Lifestyle Baby blogger

Writing weekly goals is something I've actually stuck to, longer than any of my new years resolutions that's for sure. Since I'm on maternity leave, I suppose it kind of gives some structure to my week and helps me feel organised. Some things on my lists are goals or targets and others are just tasks that I've been putting off. 

Here's my list for next week: 

1. Lose another 2 pounds
2. Reach 2000 followers on Twitter
3. Reach 1900 on Instagram (help a sister out and give me a follow if you're not already!) 
4. Order wooden wall hooks and finally put up my hanging pendant light
5. Write and schedule 3 blog posts for Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. 
6. Join two new twitter chats for bloggers
7. Re-organise the storage in Oliver's room and put smaller clothes up in the attic 
8. Give Oliver his bath by 7.30pm every night. 

They're all fairly small goals but all achievable. If you've tried making resolutions in the past and they've failed, I highly recommend trying out weekly goals instead. You can still have your end goal in sight, but breaking it down into weekly wins is much more achievable and if you're successful every week it gives you the encouragement to do the same the following week too! 

Do any of you write weekly goals? Or have you made any NY resolutions?


6 Annoying Things New Mums Can't Help Doing

Tuesday, 24 January 2017
I started writing this post with 2 or 3 examples in mind and before I knew it the ideas were coming to me quicker than I could write them down. Turns out I'm more annoying than I thought. I could definitely write a 2000 word essay on this but instead, I've picked the top six worst habits that I've developed since my little bundle arrived..

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1. The involuntary leg bouncing - My baby has the rather unreasonable demand of being constantly moved around. Staying still isn't good enough apparently and, 3 months in, the leg bounce is no longer something I even have to think about it. Whether there's a baby on it or not, my leg's bouncing. And when I'm standing up, I'll be gently swaying from side to side too. 

2. The forum stalking - It starts when you're pregnant and it only gets worse when the baby arrives. That Google search bar knows more about me than my own family. I ask it everything, and more often than not it sends me right over to mumsnet where like-minded paranoid mothers are asking the same ridiculous questions as me. We're all in it together.

3. The need to be involved all the time - I know I should appreciate baby-free time when I get it, but I usually last no more than 15 minutes before I'm back down the stairs to check on him. I'll rush down convinced I've heard him crying, only to find him chilling out on his dad's knee without a care in the word. Also, sometimes I just miss him and need to pop down for a wee cuddle. 

UK Parenting Mummy Lifestyle Blogger

4. Feeling overly emotional where kids are involved - It's a thought I try to banish from my brain but it always fights its way through. When I watch the news and there's a sad story involving children, I can't help thinking 'that's someones Oliver'. It makes every story feel more real and so upsetting. I wasn't heartless before don't get me wrong, but it's so much more intense now.

5. Mama Guilt - Whether it's having a shower or trying to tidy up, you can't help but feel guilty for not giving your baby your undivided attention 100% of the time. Even if he's quite happy to be sitting in his baby swing or on his play mat, I feel like I should be entertaining him instead. From what I've heard from other mums (on mumsnet, admittedly) the mama guilt never goes away.

6. Baby Spamming - We all say we won't do it, but when the baby's born and you realise he or she is the cutest.thing.ever you find yourself taking snaps of every little moment because you just can't handle all that cuteness on your own. It doesn't help that my own face is completely uninstagrammable most of the days that we're home together. #babysickonshoulder #awakesince4am

What's your annoying mama habit?


Baby | Oliver's 3 month Update

Friday, 20 January 2017
It's been the quickest and longest 3 months of my life. When I look at pictures from the first few weeks, it feels like ages ago. He looks completely different now. At the same time, I can't believe he's already 3 months old. My tiny newborn is now a chunky, smiley little chap with leg rolls and a belly! Things are much easier now than they were at the start, and I'm really starting to enjoy maternity leave instead of running around like a headless chicken every day. 

Sleep - Since my one month update, so much has changed. I talked a lot about Oliver's sleep in this post but in short, Oliver finally started sleeping on his back around 8 weeks and since then he'll usually sleep from around 10/11pm until 6/7am when he wakes up for a bottle. then goes back to sleep for another hour or so. He naps in the morning and the afternoon, which is great because it gives me time to get tidied up, wash his bottles and eat (a luxury I didn't have in the early days!). In the next few weeks, I want to gradually start bringing his bed time forward to around 7/8pm in the hope of getting some baby-free time in the evening!

Acid Reflux - Oliver's been on Ranitidine since 8 weeks but he's still quite a sicky baby. We have good days and bad days - on a bad day, I can change his clothes 5 times and that's with him wearing a bib constantly. My washing pile is never ending! The good thing is, though, he's still putting on weight at a good rate - he's up to 11 pounds 5 now and the health visitor said he's right on track.

UK Parenting Blog

Feeding - We've (rather annoyingly) discovered that Oliver is at his happiest when he's on Aptimil milk in ready made bottles. It just so happens, that this is probably the most expensive way to feed a baby - thanks Oliver and your expensive taste! At first I didn't realise there was any difference between the powder formula and the ready made but I've read it's something to do with the way it's heat treated. A lot of mums on line said their baby was happier on the ready made too. I just wish it didn't cost us twice as much as powder! At the end of the day though, if it makes him more comfortable, then it's worth it. And I must say, a ready made bottle is super easy to prepare.

Development - He's chatting constant baby babble and watches my mouth with so much concentration when I talk and sing to him. It's so sweet. He loves lying on the changing mat and 'having a chat' with me - which is usually just me chatting away and him smiling, kicking his legs and making noises! I can tell his sight is much better now too - he's always looking about the room and I think that's why he's now quite happy to sit himself in his bouncer or his swing. He's also chewing his hands constantly these days, or anything he can get his mouth near. It's so funny to watch, he must find it really soothing because as soon as the hands are in the mouth his eyes starting rolling back.

The last three months have been a total rollercoaster but it's definitely getting easier. We have our bad days and our bad nights, but on the whole things are going really well and we're cherishing every minute with our little baby, even more so now that I know how fast time flies with a little one!

Make sure you're following me on instagram for all my Oliver updates and baby pics. 

5 Reasons You Don't Want Big Boobs

Wednesday, 18 January 2017
Boobs are an interesting topic. A lot of girls with small boobs want big boobs, and those with big boobs want small boobs. Each side knows the cons of what we have and I suppose the grass is always greener. Personally, I'm on the big boob side. I wear a 28H bra - possibly the most awkward size in existence. Small back size, big cup size. I know that's something a lot of girls want but it's something I absolutely hate. I'd be flat chested in a heart beat if I had the choice. Big boobs aren't all they're cracked up to be.


1. The Underwear (of lack of) - 'Big boobs look so much better in underwear' they say. Really? Even if it's a black, white or nude plain t-shirt bra with industrial sized straps? That's basically our choice from size E upwards. Say goodbye to pretty sets from Primark - your ugly tan bra comes with matching granny pants. Yep, for some reason all the 'fuller bust' ranges seem to assume that we also need huge pants and a VPL. 

2. The Cost - If that's not bad enough, they make you pay twice as much for your t-shirt bra and granny pants/five-man tent. For a bra that properly fits, you'll pay upwards of £30. You might occasionally be fooled and shop the new affordable 'fuller bust' range in high street shops, only to realise that they've got their own weird sizing rules and it.just.doesnt.bloody.fit. Congratulations, you've saved yourself £20 and now have 4 boobs instead of 2. 

3. The Bounce - I'm convinced I'd be an Olympic runner if it wasn't for these things weighing me down. Even with the best sports bra, nothing holds them completely in place and if the pain in your lower back doesn't stop you running, the worry that your causing long-term sagging damage will. 

4. The Clothes Struggle - If you listen really closely, you can hear big-boobed girls all around the world sighing with disappointment as they realise that pretty top on ASOS that's perfect for their night out, is backless, and therefore completely out of the question. And don't even suggest a strapless bra because above a certain size, they are completely and utterly useless. It's not just backless things either, any top or dress that threatens to reveal those ugly thick bra straps is a no-go unless you're prepared to use 34242,35235,352 rolls of sticky body tape to keep things in place and by that time, it's usually not worth the effort. Lacy bralets are out the question too, by the way, see point 1.

5. The Back Pain - Boobs aren't very well placed, in my opinion. If you read a health and safety manual, it tells you not to carry heavy objects at chest height but it seems us humans didn't get that memo. Lower back pain is real, even with a well-fitting bra. You also have to fight the constant urge to hunch your shoulders forward to bear the weight. 

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I could definitely go on, but I think you get my point. Of course, everyone is different but if you've always wanted bigger boobs, remember this post when you're looking at pretty bralets in Primark or buying 3+ bikinis for a week's holiday (bikinis are included in points 1 and 2, by the way). If you're bigger chested like me and agree with the points above, let's all just stick together in our practical nude bras and granny pants and remember that there's more important things to worry about in life. Like, for example, how many misdirected google hits I'm going to get now that I've mentioned the word 'boobs' so many times in one post. 


Baby | Sleepyheads Deluxe Review

Wednesday, 11 January 2017
'Is this worth the money or is it a gimmick?' 

A question I find myself constantly asking when I'm looking at baby products. There are so many out there, and the prices range from super cheap to ridiculously expensive. You never know if it's going to be worth it, or if you're just paying for a brand name or what's essentially just a fashion trend. I asked myself this when I first saw the Sleepyheads Sleeping Pod*. 

The pod is a bit like a portable baby mattress with a thick outer edge that cocoons the baby. Newborn babies can feel anxious in big spaces because they've been in the womb for so long. The Sleepyheads is made to mimic that for the baby and make him/her feel much more secure. After reading countless reviews praising the Sleepyheads for giving parents' a good nights sleep, I realised it must be more than just hype. It seemed expensive at around £180 but one quote from a review stuck in my head;

'..it's nothing when you realise how much your sleep is worth'. 

When it arrived, I was surprised by how sturdy it was. It's a lot more than just a big cushion, that's for sure. It came in a large plastic zip-up carrier so you can easily take it with you if you're travelling.

Sleepyheads Sleeping Pod is it worth it

Oliver slept solely in the sleepyheads for the first few weeks of his life. It was bliss being able to sit him next to us on the couch when he fell asleep and when he was wrapped up in a big blanket, the raised edges kept everything together. I think he felt like he was still being held. We had a few weeks where Oliver refused to sleep on his back, mainly due to acid reflux (see this post) but now that we've got that under control, he's back in the Sleepyheads every night and sleeping like a pro. We put the pod into the Chicco Next to Me bedside crib - it fits perfectly in there and make it much more cosy and comfortable for him. It's perfect for during the day as well. It's super light, doesn't take up much space and it's easy to move about from room to room..

The fabric cover is really thick and can be wiped clean, or completely removed and put in the washing machine. The only downside for us is that Oliver can still be quite sick so we would need to wash it a lot, and waiting for it to dry over the radiator can be a pain. However we just put a muslin cloth at the head end now to avoid having to wash it so often. 

If you're expecting or have a little one already, I'd definitely recommend trying the Sleepyheads. The pod can be used for little ones up to 8 months old so you do get a lot of use out of it and if it helps you get a good nights sleep for up to 8 months then you've more than got your money's worth. 

Do any of you use the Sleepyheads? What was your must-have item with a newborn?

Find more information on this product here.


*item is pr sample provided in exchange for review

A Breastfeeding Rant

Sunday, 8 January 2017
The 'breast is best' debate is something that instantly gets my blood boiling for a number of reasons. I'm not arguing that, scientifically, breast milk is the best thing a baby can have but I think the way that breastfeeding is promoted or, rather, forced upon new mothers is awful. My experience with it, in particular the NHS, has left me feeling a little bitter about the whole thing.

Like any other mum to be, I started to think about how I was going to feed my baby during pregnancy. I knew little to nothing about bottle feeding or breastfeeding. I knew about the health benefits of breast milk but I had visions of sore, bleeding nipples and to be quite honest, the thought of pulling my boob out in public was daunting. When it came to bottle feeding, I had no idea how to make a bottle and was worried about keeping everything sterile. I had loads of things I wanted to know before I made my decision.

UK Parenting Mummy Blog Glasgow

I quickly discovered that it's almost impossible to get genuine facts anywhere. NHS staff are told to promote breastfeeding at all costs and all their information is intended in pushing you towards that. One of my antenatal classes was taken by a 'feeding specialist'. It was clear after a couple of minutes that she was well and truly biased. Every question about bottle feeding was met with a negative response. We were told that the only way to make a safe bottle of formula is to follow the NHS approved guidelines which is a 30 minute process, even during the night. We were told not to 'risk' using the Perfect Prep machine which makes them in two minutes, as it's not NHS approved. (spoiler alert - we used this for bottles and it's totally fine and so convenient)

Breastfeeding, on the other hand, was painted as a complete walk in the park. It shouldn't hurt at all if you're doing it right, it's free and it's so much easier to feed during the night. An obvious choice, you'd think. It was blatantly obvious that she was pushing breastfeeding, which meant we didn't trust any of the answers given about bottle feeding. We knew there must be negatives to breastfeeding, and positives to bottle feeding but no one was willing to tell us for the fear that we'd chose not to breastfeed. We all left that class feeling unsure, confused and manipulated.

Despite still being completely undecided when I went into labour, I ended up breastfeeding Oliver purely because he latched quite easily after he was born and I thought it was worth giving it a go. I quickly found out the reality of sore nipples, leaking boobs, painful contractions while feeding. It may be easier to pull your boob out during the night rather than making a bottle, but the feeding specialist failed to mention that breastfed babies feed much more frequently. You might not have to get out of bed, but you'll be awake nursing most of the night - which was the reality I was facing. You might save money on formula, but it's not free - you spend on nipple cream at £10 a pop, nursing bras, breast pads. These are the things that we should have been told. 

Maisy Meow Parenting Baby Blog UK Glasgow

Even when I'd already made the decision to breastfeed, I couldn't seemed to get past the 'breast is best' barrier when speaking to the midwives. They refused to say anything negative about it. When I was stressing out about the cluster feeding for hours on end, I was met with a condescending smile and a 'oh, he's a hungry boy!' comment. Not one person said, 'do you know what? It is bloody difficult. It's hell for a while, but it gets better'.

I haven't written this post to bash breastfeeding as there are positives about it too but it was really difficult and I'd walked into it blindly, misinformed and unaware of the hard work it would involve. It was no surprise that it didn't work out. I was so exhausted and frustrated that I gave up breastfeeding after 10 days and as it turns out, me and Oliver were much happier this way.

If I'd been told the real truth about the pros and cons of breastfeeding and bottle feeding, I really think I'd have enjoyed my early days with Oliver a lot more. I might still have chosen to breastfeed, but I would have been much more prepared for the challenge and probably would have researched tips and ways to make it easier. Instead, I had the reality of it thrown at me when my whole world was already up in the air. If I'd chosen to bottle feed, I'd have been more confident in what I was doing from the beginning and not felt like I'd been forced into it as a 'plan b' option.

There's so many decisions to make when you're having a baby and it's one of the most uncertain times in your life. It's not fair that the NHS feel they can make that decision for us by withholding the facts. No one expects it to be easy any way. There's pros and cons to both and we deserve to be given the facts to make our own decision and to be supported with whichever method we chose.

Did any of you have similar problems getting good advice on feeding? 

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