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In exactly 10 weeks’ time, Phil and I will be embarking on the Royal Parks Half Marathon in London – my first ever half marathon and Phil’s first organised run since the 2014 London Marathon. This is an amazing experience for us, but also a way to raise some vital funds for MAMA Academy.

In case you don’t know of them, MAMA Academy is a fantastic charity that aims to reduce the UK’s stillbirth rate through education for both health care professionals, and parents-to-be. CEO and founder Heidi, gave birth to her son Aiden in May 2009. Aiden was born sleeping after the midwife couldn’t find his heartbeat at Heidi’s 36 week appointment. The story is similar for my cousin’s baby, babies of several friends. The utter heartbreak and tragedy of a baby dying before they even had a chance to take their first breath. 

This is why MAMA Academy’s work matters so much. Their Wellbeing Wallets (endorsed by Dr Ranj no less!) are fantastic pouches for your maternity notes, printed with useful and potentially life-saving information. They are, in every possible way, better than the useless alternatives; flimsy wallets packed full of marketing material and cheap samples. 
The Royal Parks Half Marathon is meant to be a spectacular experience:

The stunning 13.1 mile route takes in the capital’s world-famous landmarks on closed roads, and four of London’s eight Royal Parks – Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens. 

– Taken from the Royal Parks Half Marathon website.

I’m upping the training – yesterday we did a 27km bike ride which was my first proper bike ride in 20 years! I’m planning to add 1km per week to my running and hopefully this will stand me in good stead for the run. I’m not putting time pressures on myself though, I just want to finish!


If you would like to sponsor me, and help me raise £300 (or more!) for MAMA Academy to help save babies’ lives, then you can find my sponsorship form here. Thank you in advance, not from me but from MAMA Academy and the families whose hearts won’t be broken because of baby loss, thanks to the work of this wonderful charity.

The post I’m running the Royal Parks Half Marathon for MAMA Academy appeared first on Budding Smiles.

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Did you feel comfortable when you decided to stop having more children? Back when Phil and I were discussing our plans to start a family we had pretty much decided to have four.

Then we had one.

Our gorgeous, funny, incredibly clever little dude is frankly amazing. He’s also the most challenging child I’ve ever cared for outside of those with behavioural conditions. This has been backed up by several other people and anyone who has said “Oh it’s always harder with your first/boys/redheads” is met with a look that implies the response I haven’t quite got the nerve to actually say.

We adore our son, but when pregnant with Martha we knew that, all being well, we would be stopping at two.

I had two healthy (all things considered) pregnancies, two absolutely incredible births and we have two healthy and wonderful children. We both, however, suffered emotionally an awful lot on the back of Toby’s silent reflux and high needs personality – I ended up with postnatal depression after Martha’s arrival as I processed how much harder it had been to bond with Toby. My body suffered physically in Martha’s pregnancy with excruciating hip and pelvic pain known as PGP.

The desire for a larger family has been outweighed now and it’s not just about the struggles at all – it’s also about how bloody happy we are with our little family! With Martha about to turn 1 and Toby’s 3rd birthday not far behind, we absolutely love getting out and enjoying family time; Exploring, having adventures, Phil and Toby work on the allotment, we scoot, we walk, we play, we picnic.

It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for us

Plus, we don’t create good sleepers and the thought of another decade of sleep deprivation from waiting a few years then having two more babies, is quite frankly terrifying!

So I have a question for you, which I’ve asked over on a new discussion platform called Qutee. It’s free to sign up and you can get involved with loads of parenting-related discussions on the Parenting 101 hub – click to get involved with my Qutee about stopping at two.

I’d love to know if you knew when you were ready to stop having children, or have you not reached that point? How many do you have?

** This is a sponsored post, all words are my own**

The post Stopping at Two // Parenting 101 on Qutee appeared first on Budding Smiles.

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When I was pregnant with Toby I just knew he was a boy. We’d picked a girl’s name just in case (Martha) but I *knew* I was carrying a boy even though we didn’t find out at the scan. I saw myself as a mummy to boys and I was really comfortable with that. With Martha, I didn’t have that sixth sense of our unborn baby’s gender and with my stress levels rising over what to do with Toby’s newborn clothes, we decided to find out. But I didn’t think I wanted a daughter.

No offence to the incredible women in my life, because I love them dearly, but I’ve never been a fan of girls. Bullied as a child and teen by girls, I saw people of my gender as either bully or victim – neither of which I wanted to be raising. I found it hard to relate to a lot of girls because I was quiet, not into being noticed by boys (which was lucky as I was never noticed by boys as a teenager!), I liked football and cars, athletics, climbing trees. I was studious, a complete geek with my ginger hair, desire to learn, spots and warts on my fingers. Except when I was a goth, of course. Mother nature and I weren’t on talking terms.

I had female friends but I always felt like I was stood at the edge of the group, not entirely fitting in. Funny enough, some of those girls are now my closest friends and I feel blessed to know them, although some were bullies who even a good 15 or more years later can still make me feel small and insignificant when I’m near them. I’m very much a work in progress. I had male friends who would ‘go out’ with the girls in our group and I’d internally wretch at the very thought of ‘snogging’ any one of them. I knew I was straight, I just found it easy to be friends with these lads and I absolutely didn’t fancy them.

So back to having a daughter.

My only experiences of girls are of having been one, being bullied by them, being friends with some but feeling like I didn’t fit.

I’ve never felt confident about how to dress myself, so I sure as heck didn’t want to be picking out the pink, glittery frills adorning the baby shops.

Don’t even get me started on hairstyles. Bloody Frozen and it’s bloody Elsa hair. Bloody YouTube and its bloody fish plait tutorials. I can’t even guarantee that my hair gets brushed each day, it hasn’t been blow dried in months. Boys felt more simple and straightforward for me to raise and I was comfortable with them. Give me a grumpy, smelly, mumbling 14-year-old lad over a 14-year-old girl who wants to use my make-up, thinks she’s in love and can’t understand the rule I’ll be taking from my own mum that it’s either a skirt or a belly/vest top and not both, any day of the week *shudder*.

Put simply, I was terrified of the very thought of having a girl. Then I saw the lines on the scan that indicated I was soon to become the owner of said species.

I cried, Phil cried. I was in absolute shock but as that wore off I realised I was crying happy tears. In the second it took for the sonographer to confirm “It’s a girl”, my life had changed and oh my goodness was it so colourful – not just pink and glittery! Suddenly I would be on both sides of the mother/daughter relationship and it was an amazing thought. My own mum and I are so, so close and our own spa days, lunches out, shopping trips, long chats would hopefully be in my future from the other side of the relationship!

Obviously there’s a chance Toby may want to do those things too, but how many teenage boys do you know who’d jump at the opportunity to sit in a jacuzzi and saunas with mummy dearest for 6 hours? Martha may not like them either, but gender equality and stereotyping aside, there’s absolutely no doubting that there are intrinsic differences between most girls and most boys, that lead to their relationships with their parents being different too. My own brother and I are very close, we’ve been on nights out together and to football matches, we take the pee out of one another across a 12 hour time difference now that he’s in New Zealand and he’s an amazing uncle to my children – but he doesn’t have the same relationship to our parents as I do because for all of our shared interests and similarly sarcastic and dry humour, we’re very, very different.

And finally, a point…

I’ve rambled. I’m sorry. I shall end with a photo I posted on Instagram this morning because the caption says everything I mean to say:

I didn’t think I wanted a daughter, but she’s everything I could have ever wished for and more.

Did you feel strongly about having either a girl or a boy when you were pregnant? Have you experienced a shift since becoming a parent, like I have? Let me know in the comments below or get in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

The post I Didn’t Think I Wanted a Daughter appeared first on Budding Smiles.

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Postpartum hair loss is one of the less dreamy sides of having a new baby – somewhere up with extreme sleep deprivation and poosplosions. If you don’t know that it’s a ‘thing’ it can be quite terrifying to suddenly pull what seem like clumps of hair out every time you run a brush through. So is it normal to lose hair after having a baby and is there ever a point at which you should worry about the hair loss?

Around 3 months after birth you will probably notice that you are shedding. Your pillow, plug holes, clothes and baby’s fingers are covered in strands of hair and it feels like you’re losing loads. If we go back a few months to during your pregnancy, your hair was likely to have been thick and full, you hopefully felt wonderful and basqued in the glory of your luscious locks. What happened?

Hair During Pregnancy

On average, a woman will lose 100 strands of hair a day – usually when brushing it. This is completely normal and because it happens over the course of the day you probably barely notice it. When you are pregnant, your oestrogen levels are higher and the growing stage of a hair’s life is increased, meaning that fewer strands are falling out at any given point in the day.

My advice? Enjoy this stage. Let those locks flow and bounce in all their oestrogen infused glory!

Healthy-looking pregnancy hair!

Why Is My Hair Falling Out Since I Gave Birth?

I’m sure that virtually all new mums will have at least a tiny panic about their postpartum hair loss, even if they’re expecting it. I know I did when mine started after having Martha.

After you give birth those oestrogen levels plummet and those follicles that had still been actively growing enter the ‘resting’ stage, meaning the hairs will then start falling out.

Don’t panic! You’re only losing the hairs that you didn’t lose during your pregnancy.

What Can I Do About It?

Some women will barely notice any difference at this time, whilst for others it’s a big deal. I have long, thin hair so I find it quite challenging because there are permanently long strands blocking the plugs, getting into our food (gross, right?) and getting tangled in the kids’ fingers.

One thing to be very, very careful of is hair getting wrapped around your baby’s fingers, toes, wrists, ankles or penis because this can be really dangerous. Called a hair tourniquet, the hair can get wrapped very tightly and cause your baby a lot of pain and injury. Check your little one regularly and I find loads of hairs trapped in clothing after being in the washing machine so always make sure there isn’t any in socks or the feet of sleepsuits.

My lovely friend Katie from Mummy, Daddy, Me had a scary experience with her gorgeous little boy back in the summer:

You can’t do anything to stop the hairs falling out, but you may find that cutting your hair shorter will make life a bit easier. You can also try hair products that give extra volume, or if you feel like you have a dramatically receding hairline then you can go for Advanced Tricho Pigmentation treatment to help give the appearance of fuller hair.

With a newly-chopped ‘do to ease the annoyance of postpartum hair loss

If you do feel like you’re losing more hair than you should be then have a chat with your GP. I did experience some small bald patches after having Toby but looking back, we were having quite a torrid time and I think it was the stress that caused additional hair loss.

The good news is that around 6-12 months after having your baby, your hormones start to regulate again and you should find that your hair returns to its usual pre-pregnancy ways.

**This is a collaborative post. Words and opinions are my own**

The post Postpartum Hair Loss: What’s Normal? appeared first on Budding Smiles.

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When I was pregnant – and when my SPD would allow it – I did some pregnancy pilates through an online course by pregnancy and postnatal fitness expert Dr Joanna Helcke. With the help of some fellow pregnant and new mamas, I’ve compiled some questions about pregnancy and postnatal fitness, which Dr Joanna has kindly answered. 

1. What’s your top tip for gently getting back into exercising after having a baby?

My top tip when it comes to rebuilding postnatal fitness is to ensure that you get the fundamentals in place rather than rushing in at the deep end. What do I mean by this? Pregnancy places significant strain on the body, especially the abdominals which become hugely stretched and weakened, the lower back which bears the load of your growing bump, the pelvis which carries your extra body weight and the pelvic floor which has the job of “holding up” your baby for 9 months. So your first fitness job postnatally, is to spend at least 6 months strengthening and restoring these key weakened areas: pelvic floor, abdominals, back, posture and pelvis. Once ALL these foundations are in “full working order” your body will be ready for the “deep end” of fitness whether it be competitive sports, marathons or high impact exercise such as HIIT.

2. Does your advice differ depending on whether mum exercised before/during pregnancy or not and whether she had a vaginal or caesarean birth?

Yes, but only to a degree: whilst it is true that some people sail through pregnancy, labour and birth, this is still not a green light to jump straight back into your pre-pregnancy fitness regime if it was high impact – such as running – or if it placed a strain on vulnerable areas of the body – such as kettlebell training. The basic rules of building postnatal fitness remain the same: work on those fitness foundations which I mentioned earlier, ensuring that you restore them the safe way for a postnatal body, and then bring in your cardio and resistance work gradually and incrementally. Finally, once you have passed the 6 month postpartum mark, start to build in impact work and intensity, all whilst listening to how your body responds. Someone who enters pregnancy with a high degree of fitness should still, ideally, follow this process but due to muscle memory fitness levels will build up more quickly. Following a C-section you need to wait longer before you can start “formal” forms of fitness but the foundations – namely working on rebuilding pelvic floor strength – can be started almost immediately.

3. I used to run prior to this pregnancy, but my sickness was too bad for me to continue, what sorts of exercises will help prepare my body to start running again?

Your first job is to get the foundations of fitness in place: strengthen your pelvic floor muscles as these will have suffered during pregnancy and running places a great deal of strain on this area; rebuild your abdominal strength and if you have an abdominal separation make sure that the abs work you do is tailored specifically for this condition; work on building up strength in the muscles that surround the pelvis (bottom, things and hamstrings). Once you have been given the green light to exercise by your GP I would like to encourage you to build your running fitness using low impact techniques: start off by power walking with the buggy and try to include hills in these walks. If you have a swimming pool nearby I would suggest taking up deep water aquajogging: it mimics the movement pattern of running, is low impact and will translate into running fitness when the time is right.

4. What’s the best way to keep fit and active when you have SPD/PGP during pregnancy?

This is a hard one and depends to a great degree on how bad the pelvic girdle pain is. In pregnancy the main aim is to manage and not aggravate the condition so it is very much a case of putting in place certain measures that will minimise the pain, such as sleeping with both the knees and the ankles supported and slightly separated by pillows so that they are in line with your hips; getting in and out of bed and the car with your feet firmly together by swivelling on your bottom; and not walking too far if you find this makes matters worse. In terms of exercise, again depending on the severity of the condition, it is a case of adapting things so as not to irritate the pelvic girdle area. This usually means that exercise which involves taking the feet wider apart than hip width should be avoided. A clear example would be breaststroke – try crawl instead. Through a very careful process of trial and error – preferably under the supervision of a specialist in pregnancy and postnatal exercise – you will be able to ascertain what exercises you can and cannot do.

5. Is it okay to start certain exercises during pregnancy if you’ve not been exercising previously? If so, what do you recommend?

During the first trimester your body is busy laying down the foundations of pregnancy and given this, the advice is to avoid taking up any new forms of fitness, regardless of how gentle they might be. I would, however, make an exception when it comes to walking for fitness: walking is a functional part of our lives and so if you wish to take up walking specifically for exercise then I see no problem with this. Once someone has safely entered the second trimester of pregnancy, new forms of fitness can be introduced but these should be tailored for pregnancy by a fully qualified specialist in this field who keeps up to date with new developments in this field. I would encourage people to look for fitness offered by members of the Guild of Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Instructors, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to maintain high standards in the pregnancy fitness industry across the UK. Fully qualified members will be offering many forms of fitness that they specifically tailor for the perinatal period, from aquanatal through to pregnancy pilates.

You can find full details of Dr Joanna Helcke’s online fitness classes on her website, which is a goldmine of brilliant advice. Thanks to Dr Joanna for answering my questions, I hope that if you’re a pregnant or new mum, you’ve found this information really helpful.

The post Q&A With Pregnancy and Postnatal Fitness Expert Dr Joanna Helcke appeared first on Budding Smiles.

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