Flying with a Baby

Updating my blog has taken a long time, no excuses of course but I have been on a holiday traveling with my baby since early March and just returned couple of weeks ago back to Bondi with my baby.

It’s been a roller coster drive for sure. Meeting so many family members and friends in two countries, changing place every night for a period of time, and then dealing with a sick child good couple of weeks while traveling. No doubt there is a lot to tell about this holiday, but first wanted to share my input to the topic of flying with a baby.

I was lucky to have my partner flying with me and our son from Sydney to Doha, and again to London. When I returned I fly back by myself with my son. I have to say the experience was better than I expected. My son was eight months old when we left Sydney,  and again ten months old when I returned, so my experience is obviously connected to his age. Below some tips and thoughts.

How to get your baby to sleep in the airplane?

Everyone told me don’t bother to book a newborn bassinet for your son, he is too big and mobile for it. However, I wanted to have that option just in case if we would be lucky enough to somehow make him to sleep in it. Our son was a bit too big and mobile for it for sure, however we managed to make him to sleep in it two sets of few hours, which was a relief and gave some rest to me and my partner. The secret was to rock him to sleep in our lap first, and then very very gently move him to the bassinet. We also had a Flybabee or nowadays called Cozigo, which was useful because Qatar Airways had a flashing screen just on top of our baby’s bassinet! Flybabee blocked the light and helped our son to sleep in the bassinet. If you are traveling by yourself you have to be careful in case if your baby is able to sit, roll, crawl or stand. Our son woke up and was sitting in the bassinet ready to jump off, luckily my partner was awake that moment. Otherwhise our baby could have dropped down and injured himself. The other tricky thing about the airplane baby bassinet is that if there is turbulence based on the rules you need to take your baby out of the bassinet.

The other easy way for a baby to sleep in the plane is obviously in your lap. We did that as well, but personally I find this very exhausting. I have to stay still in one position, arms, legs and back can get really sore and it’s impossible to go to the toilet or little walk when you hold your baby in the lap hours and hours. When I traveled back to Sydney with my son by myself, sleeping in the lap first seemed to be the only option because he was totally grown out of the baby bassinet at the age of ten months.

Third way how we managed to make our baby to sleep in the plane was to utilise the free seat that was next to us. We placed our bags and some extra pillows on top of each other and placed them in front of the free seat so that the seat was kind of longer and created a little bed for our baby. Our baby slept few hours in this seat, he clearly liked the fact he was able to roll over on his belly. Though, also this arrangement requires parent attention, in case if the baby wakes up, they can try and crawl off. However the drop down is a lot less than from the bassinet. I heard some mums using some air blowable leg rests or other suitable items, they tuck these between the seat and the chair in front of their seat, and similar way make a bed for their baby or toddler. If you are lucky and get two free extra seats next to you, then you could do what I did when I traveled back to Sydney from Doha. I was totally exhausted after holding my son in a lap (and already traveled from Finland to Doha…), I placed my son to the floor on top of the blankets, however the airline staff strictly said that’s not allowed. I started to panic because I was so tired and felt physically unwell, and there was still 12 hours of traveling ahead of us in the plane. Luckily the staff was lovely and one Air Stuert gave his helping hand to baby proof two extra seats for my son (he was using extra bassinet frames and pillows) so that he wasn’t able to drop down. So my son got a nice little bed on top of the two free seats and the bassinet frames and pillows blocked him from dropping down. I’m not sure what I would have done without this extremely lovely and helpful Cabin Crew member. I owe him a massive thanks!

In my opinion flying with a baby is not fun and definitely not relaxing, but it was easier than I expected, and the time goes quickly when you travel with a little one. Good luck to all little travellers and their parents! You can do it!

Things you won’t need for a newborn baby

I still remember the preparations before our baby was born. Me and my partner didn’t have a much clue what items we’ll truly need and despite the fact we tried operating low budget and focus on the mandatory things only, we ended up to buy some stuff that we never used.

When you don’t have the experience it’s so easy to become a victim of commercial bullshit. Baby business is a profitable business and especially the first time parents are such an easy target to sell everything between heaven and earth.

So here couple of things you won’t need for a newborn baby:

1. Talcum Powder – This old fashioned item from the time of our grandmothers and mothers is not needed. I bought a bottle of it – not quite sure why! I think I had a memory in my mind it’s crucial for baby’s skin between nappy changes. Haven’t used it once.

2. Bath Soap – There is a lot of baby bath soaps around. Perhaps some bubbles are fun for an older baby or toddler for play. However, for a newborn water without any added chemicals is the best.

3. Baby Oil – You won’t need it for your newborn baby. However, it can come handy if Dad wants to give Mum a massage. For a baby the best thing would be to use something, which is as natural as possible. Olive oil is a good option to use after bath to moisturise little one’s skin.

4. Too many clothes – I was panicking we don’t have enough clothes. Especially in Australia where the temperature is mild through the year, you really don’t need too much clothes for your baby. Babies grows so quickly out of their 0-3 months size, so rather focus on buying more 6-12 months sizes. I was worrying for nothing, as so many of those cute little pieces we didn’t even have time to wear.

5. Nappy Bin – You definetely won’t need it. Whatever bin will work. The amount of nappies babies make per day is huge (it’s really sad for the environement), but what comes to nappy bin you will empty the bin several times or at least once a day, so hygienic point of view there really is no need for a huge or super secure nappy bin.

6. Expensive Nappy Bag – There is so many nice bags you can get much cheaper than an actual nappy bag. It’s nice to have a new, good size bag with lots of pockets for baby stuff you will drag around the shopping centre and parks, however if you would like to save money there is no need to invest to an expensive brand nappy bag. At the end of the day they all are just bags.

7. Nursing table – It does come handy, if you have a space and money for it. However, you don’t actually need it. What you do need is a waterproof (or easy to clean) change mat, and whatever surface that works. Bear in mind though the bed is not necessarily the most ideal place to change a baby, our son had a habit of weeing always when I changed him and it did go everywhere.

I would be keen to expand the list, so if you have experience of the baby stuff you didn’t need, let me know. Often our common sense will tell us what is truly useful, sometimes we just ignore the words of wisdom and take the commercial messages in without questioning them. There is also so many useful things for babies that make a parent’s life easier, so it’s better to save as much money as possible and then spend it to the stuff you really need.

The Mothers Group

Me and my partner don’t have our parents close to us here in Australia. All our family members live very far away, despite my niece who is currently aupairing here in Sydney. Other than that it’s just me, my partner and our baby boy. When I was preganant I did stress about the distance to our families quite a bit. I was first time mum to be, and conceerned there is no one to give a hand or provide advice except my partner who had even less clue about baby topics than I.

Now afterwords, I can say there actually is a lot of support provided by medicare system and different support groups around for a new mother in need. You can find breastfeeding support groups and Early Childhood Centres are there for you after your baby is born . However, what I have found especially useful support group for a new mum who don’t have her family around or strong network of friends was the Mothers Group. What is the Mothers Group? That was the question I asked from my friend who has a three year old girl and was in the same situation as I during her preganancy with regards of the family and closest friends locating overseas. She explained me that if you go to the Mum meetings run by your closest Early Childhood Centre they will place you to the Mothers Group there. I was still a bit confused what is this group and how does it function.

Early Childhood Centre’s in Sydney coordinate so called Mothers Groups, these groups are very casual and based on my understanding are formed time to time depending on the amount of new mums that join to the childhood centre’s weekly mum meetings. I thought it would be useful to join to this kind of group so I went to the mum meeting at North Bondi, which was run by the North Bondi Early Childhood Centre. However, that time there was no information about a potential Mothers Group and how to join, and I forgot to ask. Couple of weeks later I went to Bondi Junction Childhood Centre’s weekly mum meeting and there the nurse mentioned it would be a good chance to form a Mothers Group now because there was so many Mums with similar age of babies. One mum was chosen to coordinate the group meetings and anyone who was interested and “ready” was welcome to join. I believe the idea is, when you sign up to the mothers group you will move from the childhood centre weekly meetings to the casual meetings with the other mums and that way it’s less stress to the childhood centre system and more mum to mum support for the new mothers.

Now afterwords I’m glad that I joined to the Mothers Group that time, I have met great new friends in the group and got so many useful tips. In my mothers group most of the mothers are in the situation they don’t have families around and perhaps for that reason everyone have been really supportive in our group. The Mothers Group is also a great opportunity to have some social interaction weekly basis, after the meetings I always felt mentally energised because it’s nice to have an adult chat in the middle of the day. I have learned so much from the other Mothers, got so many tips to trial for my baby as well as learned some errors and things to avoid. Several Centennial Park dates later I can truly say it was worth it. The groups obviously will come less active when Mums will go back to work and the maternity leaves are over, however the friendships will stay forever.

Overall the Mums Group has been a great experience and exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend to any new mum to participate to a one. So if you are a new Mum, don’t hesitate to contact your closest Early Childhood Centre to find out how you can join to the Mothers Group. You won’t loose anything if you give it a go!

Swim Baby Swim

We decided to start baby swim hobby when our son was around four months old. If you are considering whether you should or should not start baby swim in the near future, you may find this post interesting.

Reasons why

As a starting point it’s worthwhile to think why you would like to start a baby swim. Is it because all the other Mums in your friends groups are planning to do so, or is it something you think you and your baby would truly enjoy? I encourage to think the reasons because taking the little one to swim will be a bit of an effort, you will commit to the hobby for a term and it will also cost little bit of money. Why we wanted to start baby swim so early? Me and my partner both love the water. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a history of competing in water sports and I’m not a hardcore ocean swimmer, but I like water activities like swimming, surfing and snorkling and living near the sea inspires me. My partner is a passionate surfer and quite pro in all water sports. For both us it’s important that our kids ideally would enjoy the water. Of course we can’t force our son to like water activities if he just doesn’t, but we can encourage him and make sure he feels comfortable in the water. We also felt baby swim could be a hobby and way of interaction both parents and our baby would enjoy.

Book your baby in early

So firstly, I would advise to do your research about your favorite swim school ahead of time and book your baby in as soon as possible. Baby Swim is a very popular hobby in Sydney and Eastern Suburbs at least. I was a bit late when booking us in. Term 4 2016 was just about to start when I desperately tried to find a free spot for us. We started with Duck & Dive. They were talking in Mumsense at Randwick Royal Hospital for Women, so I was already familiar with them. Duck & Dive also takes babies in from very early age whereas many of the other swim schools won’t allow the baby to start before six months of age.

Location and logistics matter

Duck & Dive’s Ultimo pool classes were full, but Artarmon had space. I wasn’t sure how tricky the drive from Bondi would be, but I have to say it worked really well for us. I drive to the pool from Bondi in 25 minutes. The parking is just next to the pool, so it’s so easy to drive in, change the baby to the swimmers and then jump to the pool. At the end of the day the logistics is really important when you try to change both yourself and the baby. Location and transport obviously matters even more so if you are using public transport.

What have we learned?

At the beginning I wasn’t sure whether my son will learn anything, the first classes he was so much more interested to look around the new environment rather than being in the water. However, every week we learned something new and suddenly our baby started kicking and smiling in the water. We learned how to submerge him, and now we as parents are confident to submerge him ourselves when we go to swimming pool on the weekends. He seems to like being in the water, and he is very comfortable when we submerge him. He knows some water safety basics like holding on my top or the edge of the pool, he kicks and splashes with his legs and hands.

Now when I look back, I think four to six months age is really good age to start. Babies are more manageable with regards of their feeding and napping schedules, and they are also more alert and can get a bit more out of the swimming classes. Basically if your baby is under one year it’s a good time to start, after one year of age the fear factor can start kicking in. However, don’t panick if you can’t get your baby to swim school before one year of age. They are still so little and sometimes we parents seem to forget that there is no rush. There is several toddlers and kids who start swimming hobby later and they absolutely love the water. I would recommend to ask more details about toddler and kids groups from your local swim school.

Beautiful Painful Breastfeeding

Are you one of those many new mums who thought breastfeeding is a piece of cake? Perhaps you had rosy dreams about it and now the reality is opposite. You are not alone, there is very little information provided to pregnant women about how tough breastfeeding can be for a new mum. Many of us think breastfeeding is the easy part and naturally just happens.

Breastfeeding is a topic that is close to my heart, and I would like to share my experience with any new mothers that are going through tough time with feeding their babies. Personally I didn’t put a lot of focus on the topic of breastfeeding when I was pregant. When my son was born, and the breastfeeding started it was pure torture. I couldn’t get my son to the breast without midwifes’ ongoing help. It also took three days for my milk to come, and my nipples and boobs were so sore that I just wanted to cry. The fact you have to breastfeed a newborn baby up to twelve times a day won’t make it any easier! I stayed extra couple of days at the hospital mainly because of the breastfeeding difficulties and during those extra days I learned different positions how to feed my baby and got some reassurance when the attachment was correct. However, breastfeeding for me was very painful for a long time. Feeding from the left side started to work better, however the right side was still extremely sore. I didn’t know why until the moment I got a red spot, became physically really unwell and realised I have a mastitis. Luckily my GP advised me to contact a physio and diagnosed the problem to be a  blocked milk duct. She wisely advised I could wait before starting antibiotics and try self-treatment with physio first. I was considering should I just give up breastfeeding, it had been so painful since the start. I was exhausted, had a starting mastitis, milk from the right side had died down and the left side was size of a DD cup because it was doing all the feeding.

I made a decision I will try my hardest now and if it just won’t work out then I give up. So I agreed with my partner I focus on purely on feeding and getting well. We canceled all the dates and social activities for couple of weeks, and said no to visitors. I went to a physio where they treated the blockage in the milk ducts with ultrasound, and did a lot of self treatment like hot showers, massage, heat pack, feeding in several different positions, drinking a lot of water and eating well. My partner did all the housework during this time so that I can get rest. I couldn’t have survived without him. Eventually there was light end of the tunnel. The pain started to go away, milk came back to the right side and my baby enjoyed again feeding from both sides. It took two to three weeks to fully get it sorted. Slowly I started to enjoy breastfeeding and then by the time my baby was three months feeding was going well and I enjoyed it as much as my baby.

My top tips for the first weeks of breastfeeding for anyone who experiences challenges are following:

  • Utilise the knowledge of Midwifes as much as possible, ask help from different Nurses to get a broad range of tips and ideas for feeding positions
  • Request to see a Lactation Consultant ideally as soon as possible to learn the right attachment to the breast and eliminate any other issues (there is a range of different reasons why breastfeeding may not work or is painful)
  • Breastfeed as exclusively as you can to boost your milk supply. Avoid formula, and rather use breast pump if you can’t breastfeed due to the pain or other reason. (If you have a problem of oversupply, then please seek specific advise from the Lactation Consultant how to balance your milk supply).
  • After the feed clean and “moisturise” your nipples with little bit of  your own breastmilk. The breastmilk is gold and will be the best medicine to heal broken nipples. You really don’t need any commercial nipple cream, in fact this can cause issues like blocked milk ducts.
  • If you have a constant pain in your breasts, don’t hesitate to seek help. I would encourage you to see your GP and/or Lactation Consultant as soon as possible.
  • If you can, try to make the feeding your priority for the first four to six weeks. Breastfeeding is very physical and exhausting job, if you can delegate housework etc. to someone else, rest and look after yourself you will enjoy it more.
  • Practice makes the Master, keep in mind it’s completely normal that it will take some time before you and your baby will master the different feeding positions and correct attachment.
  • If it just won’t work out and starts impacting your mental wellbeing, then there is always an option to go with formula milk. In the bigger picture it really doesn’t matter whether you breastfeed or not, or how many months or years you breastfeed. The main thing is that you have a beautiful baby and feeding should be enjoyable for both of you.

We are very lucky mums in Australia as there is a lot of support around us. Some of the Early Childhood Centres in Sydney run free breastfeeding clinics. Australian Breastfeeding Association is a great starting point to seek support. Via online search you can also find a range of private Lactation Consultants. Good luck, and please share your personal experience and/or tips via comments below.

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Welcome to my blog!

Dear reader,

I’m a relatively fresh mum of a six month old baby boy, originally from north Europe and currently living in beautiful Bondi, Sydney.

In this blog I write about what it is to be a Mum in Bondi and live life far away from your child’s grandparents and your closest friends. I’ll share some tips I found useful and experiences I learned on my journey to motherhood with others who are in the same situation.

Someone may think being a Mum is a boring job, but actually every day there are so many new things and challenges you face as a parent. There are so many laughs and cries, kisses and tantrums, and as a first time mum there are also a lot of questions you come across every day. I know so much and at the same time I know nothing.

Thank you for reading, there is more to come.

Love,

Liz