Our little Summerborn continued…

If you follow our blog then you will be aware that we applied to defer our 3 year old son Teddy a Reception start until the term after he turns 5 (compulsory school age), which for him is September 2018. Lots of local authorities are rightly open and agreeing to allow the parents the choice of when to start their summer term born 4  year olds in Reception, so these children would have just turned 5 the September of their entering school.

We are for now living in Lancashire and we have a fully supportive head teacher at our local school and a supportive nursery.  As parents with older siblings at school we have always had a good relationship with the school, as has my husband in his role as a volunteer parent governor, and we couldn’t have asked for more with their support towards this request. Nursery also have been brilliant; after several chats and a letter of support they were very happy to continue caring for Teddy up until July 2018 when he turns 5 at the end of the school term. 

We sent our own heartfelt reasonings as parents to Lancashire County Council as to why he should be given more time to be at home with myself, his sister and my childminding setting whilst also in a nursery provision for 15 hours a week. This is discussed more in our previous post, see the link below. 

We heard from Lancashire CC just before primary places were announced. Their decision was as we expected from this stubborn local authority. Like others in this area it was a ‘no’. We feel that they are just in a corner of ‘them and us’, and they are backed into their corner of stubbornness in wanting to keep denying parental choice and are keeping this stance. Our correspondence gave us the choice of accepting a place for Teddy for the intake of September 2017 or re-applying next year for a Reception start, which will be decided by the school and their attendance levels for that year, thus running the risk of Teddy missing Reception  and being placed into Year One. 

We spoke with our headteacher who was surprised by their decision, and feeling more determined than ever we have opted to reapply for September 2018 for a Reception place. 

We have high hopes that the government can move towards a consultation and stop the postcode lottery of summerborns by making it a nationwide parental choice. However now with another general election added to brexit these such parliamentary issues are put on a back burner it seems. 

With relocation of our family in the near future we have no firm idea whether we will be applying to our local school in LCC or indeed another school and LA somewhere else, therefore not having a definitive answer until spring/summer 2018.

In our eyes having to miss Reception and being placed into Year One is not in the interests of any child. Who knows what we will be up against next year with our current local authority, or maybe another one with a similar viewpoint who fail to comply with requests of change from MPs, education professionals and parents. We feel that we have only just started our small battle. 

For now we prefer to be positive in the fact that we have a supportive school on board for next year, and that if we have moved by September that we will by chance be in a forward thinking, open LA who believe it’s the parents’ right to choose. For now, our summerborn journey continues……

https://teamsteinblog.com/2017/03/14/our-little-summerborn/

Newborn Essentials

As I have spent the last few weeks moving baby equipment around, putting away old baby clothes and ordering and finding the next size up for Florence, my mind drifted to starting from the beginning.

We weren’t planning on baby number 4 so we had sold a few things and had handed down clothing to others. I was fortunate to have kept a few pieces of equipment as I’m a childminder by profession, so some things were stored in our garage. So with a lot of washing, wiping and test driving things were brought back out! I love this part of getting organised and nesting for the exciting arrival. When starting out again with buying baby essentials we have learnt to keep it relatively simple, but not compromise on good quality, and buy from friends or second hand selling sites. 

Baby Changing – we have this time used Pampers nappies as they suited Florence’s fit better. We now use subscribe and save on Amazon as it kept the price down. Water Wipes were a great game changer from the traditional cotton wool and water, especially for our busy household. For anyone new to these they are 99.9%water 0.1%fruit extract. Other supermarket brands are available, and although they don’t seem to be as pure they are considerably cheaper. We also bought these in bulk to keep the costs down. 

A good baby changing station is very handy especially if you don’t have much nursery furniture. We are short on space currently so we have a sturdy Mamas & Papas changing table from eBay with room for a bath bath inside it as well as shelves for changing items, clothing stored in boxes and cot pocket tidys that I adapted on the sides for storing muslin cloths, socks, bibs etc. This saved on buying another set of drawers etc for now. 

Clothing – With my last two babies I have kept clothing for at least the first 18 months pretty comfortable and simple. So this time around we made sure we had several long/short sleeved vests, sleepsuits and knitted cardigans. These are a mixture of brand new and second hand good quality brand items. 

Bath time – We purchased a 3 pack of  Mothercare baby towels so we have a few to hand. Good to have several for  baby swimming, and for when they have toilet accidents at bath time. We have used two different bath time products, Burt’s Bees Baby bubble bath and Burt’s Bees Baby multi purpose ointment which is 100% natural, and we are 8 months later just finishing the first pot. Florence hasn’t had any skin complaints and we love this moisturiser, and even I sometimes use it! These items are a little bit pricier than some obvious baby toiletries on the market but we made it more affordable by shopping about or buying bulk sized ones in Amazon subscribe. I feel that they are worth the extra pennies as they are good quality and last a long time. For the first time we haven’t invested in a bath chair as we have just held Florence in the bath. This gives us more space in the bathroom. 

Feeding- We bought a Tommee Tippee starter set in case I had any feeding setbacks, and as I have breast fed we haven’t needed to expand on this set. Muslin squares are very much used by us and this time around a swaddling square which I use for feeding, lying baby on and covering her up if it’s too warm for a blanket. We have this time bought a brand of Muslin and swaddling square called Molly and Moo which I would recommend. 

Sleeping – We have used a Moses basket with a good mattress with our first 3 and did plan on using it again until we heard that our neighbours were selling a second hand Snuzpod that was for sale. As she’s our last baby I decided it would be nice to give it a go and then we would be able to sell on for a similar price.   These bedside cribs are great for having baby to hand for night feeds, and to make it easier to access baby in the night after recovering from childbirth (in my case a section). They are a bit pricier but so lovely to have the baby so close. Our only wish would have been that she slept a bit more in it than in our bed with us! 

Sleeping bags – only one of my babies has wanted to be swaddled the rest have slept in baby sleeping bags. There are various brands and different togs for winter (2.5) and summer (1.0-0.5) some brands such as Grobag come with a room thermometer strip that gives you a handy reading and guide to which tog and how much clothing to have baby in. 

Newborn equipment –

Car seat – seek advice: there’s lots on the market and some stores will advise you and help fit them.

Pram/pushchair 

We invested in a Bugaboo chameleon 10 years ago, we have added to it over the years with accessories and although it was very expensive it has certainly lasted. We also have a second hand Nipper out and about 3 wheel running buggy which we use for the woods. This has lasted very well and is very robust. My advice is invest in a good set of wheels either new or second hand as in our case they have been used for our children and childminding children and lasted well! 

Bouncy chair – we have had the same Fisher Price bouncy vibrating chair for all our babies as they don’t use it for long. This is handy for buying you a little time and sanity to get stuff done in the house or give your arm a rest.  I would definitely consider buying this piece of equipment second hand as they don’t use it for long. 

Babywearing – I use a stretchy wrap and swear by it, it cost around £15 off eBay (Liberty Slings) and has been perfect for carrying my last two babies around. Dougie likes his Manduka Sling as its guy-friendly! There are plenty of YouTube tutorials for help on how to babywear correctly. 

Changing bag- lots to choose from and I always spend a while deliberating over what is functional and what looks good. This time around I was gifted a Storksak and I’m very happy with my choice. It’s plain navy and has an oversized handbag feel to it and is very practical. I will share my changing bag with you in a video in the near future! 

Hope this helps give any new Mummy or Mummy-to-be a quick run down on what I consider a good esssentials list to set you up for the first few weeks with your new bundle. 

My Top Ten Breastfeeding Tips 

I’m currently breast feeding my fourth baby Florence, she has just turned 8 months old and this has made me think of my last two  breastfeeding journeys and how they came to an end when Daisy and Teddy were about nine months. 

Florence I think will definitely be fed the longest for a few reasons; she currently still has no teeth (Teddy was a biter!) she’s very attached to my breast as she’s still exclusively breastfed and I’m more confident at feeding this time around.

If you’ve read my previous post on my breastfeeding journey or watched my video (linked below) you will know that I have had ups and downs with feeding. As this time around has been the most positive I thought it right to share a few things that have helped me along the way in feeding.

1. Positivity – look for the positive in why you’re feeding, it can help boost your confidence and motivation. A few positives that I can think of are more money in your pocket, no equipment to sterilise, milk on tap, it makes for a quick bond with your baby, and no running downstairs to grab bottles in the night! 

Another way to look at breastfeeding positively is to support other feeding Mums and then you can help each other through times when you feel overwhelmed. Just a few words of support can really help, whether  that’s online friends from forums etc or friends in person. It’s easy to google the negative aspects of anything, but if you can, try and praise each other in times where you’re feeling tired and the feeding is never ending! 

2. Latch – in the early days my babies have all latched on differently and I have also had to remind myself with 3 of them how to latch them on correctly. There are plenty of videos/ literature and health care professionals to help you with this. Don’t be afraid to ask as this makes a real difference in the first few days to avoid sore breasts.

3. Feeding Pillow – invest in one whilst pregnant, I have slept with mine in all my pregnancies to rest my bump on, it then helped me through the first few weeks post section to lay the baby onto feed. This also helped me latch the baby on comfortably. It’s a great place to rest a baby whilst you’re getting ready and then for a play prop when they’re learning to sit up.

4. Don’t clock watch – I read several books on baby routines with my first child. These didn’t help my feeding journey with my first as they made me question why my baby fed for a different amount of time to what was suggested. This made me question my milk supply and why my baby was different to how the book suggests.  Babies I do now realise feed for a different amount of times for various reasons.

5. Don’t count feeds – for the same reason as number 4, I also fell into the trap of trying to feed my baby the suggested amount of feeds in a day according to age. I have since learnt to be led by the baby as to how often they need to feed and this varies all the time. Some days it will feel like you’ve been constantly feeding, as the baby goes through a growth spurt they will need these extra feeds.

6. Nipple cream and breast pads – essential to soothe sore nipples in the early days and breast pads for leaking. Take them out and about with you in the early days so you have a change of pads and cream to soothe. 

7. Water and snacks – have water bottles all over the house in your feeding spots so you’re reminded to drink as it’s thirsty work! I always take a bottle with me on the school run and in my bag on outings to keep me topped up between feeds. 

Chop up some fruit/crudités ready for some healthy snacks that you can grab on the go!

8. Oats – I have had lots of porridge and oaty raw power ball snacks (oats mixed with honey,peanut butter, raisins seeds etc). I have no idea if all the oats have helped my milk supply, but this time around I have managed to exclusively breastfeed so I’m not dropping the oats as it’s working! 

9. Breast feeding bra, vest and muslin cloth – a good breastfeeding bra helps you feel better about yourself, and that with your vest will help your confidence in feeding when out and about. I wear a vest under everything to make it easier to access to the breast. Then I can also wear non-feeding clothing over the vest. Muslin squares are also an essential for discreet feeding when needed and mopping up any milk spit-ups. 

 10. Wonder Weeks App – lastly I have referred to an app on my phone throughout Florence’s development and that is the Wonder Weeks app. This charts the learning and development of your baby and makes an interesting read. It also lets you know whether your baby is experiencing a stormy fussy period or a happier less fussy stage. This has enabled me to be more understanding on the days that have been more demanding with a haze of multiple milk feeds! 

These tips have all helped for an easier, more relaxing & positive feeding journey.

Here is a link to my previous breast feeding post and video:

https://teamsteinblog.com/2017/04/07/my-breastfeeding-journey-my-big-babies-who-drop-weight/

My breastfeeding journey – Baby drop in weight and low milk supply 

Now I’m feeding my fourth and final baby I’m ready to reflect on my feeding journey. I have breastfed all 4 babies and all 4 babies have been different to feed.

Finlay, our first, hurtled into our lives after an 18 hour labour resulting in a traumatic emergency section. Weighing in over 10lbs he was a big bundle of joy. Not being around many mums or babies I had no clue on what I was doing so I had midwives and nurses put him in various positions and try and push my breasts into him. Finlay was a sleepy baby after such a traumatic birth, the nurses even tried to get colostrum (1st stage of milk) from a syringe into his little mouth. I look back now and I find it all too much for my first days of motherhood. I know they were doing what they think is best but I found it all quite daunting.   Finlay then came home and over a few days dropped close to 10% of his weight and I was strongly encouraged by the midwives to formula feed him to keep up his weight. I then breast and formula fed for 12 weeks, after which I breastfed less and less. I had an older unhelpful relative even ask me why I was struggling to feed as it’s a doddle!  I felt bad that it hadn’t come easy to me, but it really isn’t easy and there are days of cracked, bleeding nipples, engorged painful breasts to deal with alongside recovering from birth and caring for a newborn. 

Daisy came along 2 years and 9 months later. This time a planned section which was much more serene in comparison to Finlay. Another large baby, she was however good at attaching to the breast as she latched on straight away! I felt a surge of confidence at this point which was then dented when we got her home. She too lost 10% of her birth weight, I cried tears mixed with hormonal emotions that my milk isn’t up to scratch, and so again the midwives and health visitors strongly advised formula. At this point I worried that she wouldn’t get enough to thrive if I didn’t feed her a bottle. I tried pumping to get my supply up and I just can’t seem to connect with a breast pump and so then I would stress (which doesn’t help the flow) and I would get a few drops of milk. So I would then cry that maybe I don’t have enough milk. My breasts can feel full at times but they dont leak or squirt like others say theirs do, so these were all doubts in my mind at various stages of feeding. After many healthcare home visits I agreed reluctantly to  introduce the formula and once again found it really hard to reduce it or take it away so I combined fed until 9 months. I was really pleased with myself that I had got so far feeding her, but silly as it is (as a fed baby is all that matters) I would still have liked to have tried to exclusively breast feed her. 

4 years later Teddy arrived and with two breastfeeding experiences behind me I felt more determined to breastfeed exclusively this time. We came home from the hospital and he was latching well and then came the midwife / health visitor visits and then the drop in weight by 10%. Despite me waving my older Childrens red books at them and showing them that this is my pattern ( Big Baby -csection -weight drop) they again wanted formula and carried on visiting us and monitoring his weight until the 6 week doctors appointment. At this point Dougie was firm with them and supported my wishes to not have them visit our home and that I would touch base with the doctor at 6 weeks. The health visitors weren’t impressed but I couldn’t at these early stages keep having these appointments as they were just knocking the confidence out of me yet again. I monitored his weight myself at the drop in centre clinic. He dropped from 90th centile to under the 50th and remained steady. Teddy cried often for feeding and was generally a bit of a fussier baby than my others so I gave him 1 or 2 top ups of formula here and there thinking maybe they’re right and this is what he needs. As Teddy grew older I realised that he was a bit of a fussier baby and toddler, and that’s just his nature, and that maybe he would have been the same with or without the top ups! I again fed him until 9 months as he became a biter and a vicious pincher! 

When I finished feeding Teddy I thought our family was complete and thus my feeding journey had come to an end. Then with a change of heart our lovely bonus baby Florence came in the summer of 2016 and so I had another chance to change my breastfeeding experiences. I spoke with the midwifes and health visitors about my having big babies and the initial weight loss, and following that a change of growth on the centile chart. They assured me they would be understanding and patient. 

Florence at first had a bit of a lazy latch in the hospital as she had a bit of a traumatic birth. The consultant had slightly cut her head with a scalpel on entering the world and she needed a little stitch. Once Florence had improved her latch she took to feeding quite well. Each baby I feed the slightly easier those first few weeks of feeding becomes. Then came the scales and her weight loss in exactly the same way. Florence lost just over 10% so they again were concerned. I had a visiting midwife over the bank holidays who insisted in sitting in our home and ringing the paediatrician to check whether a hospital visit was necessary.  Florence was showing no other worrying signs – enough wet/dirty nappies and no signs of dehydration. Dougie was once again frustrated that my confidence was taking a bashing yet again. We reluctantly agreed to formula top ups to keep her weight up. I then asked to be discharged from the home midwife visits. Then came the health visitor who as lovely as she is still made me feel conscious that she was monitoring her weight gain by referring to the issue frequently. On request that home visits stop and I attend the clinic I met with two other health visitors unaware of the issue. They both plotted her on the chart and were happy with her progress. On asking if all was ok, and then me explaining the reasons for checking, they both assured me that she was thriving. They added that although she had initially dropped weight her weight gain was steady, albeit slow, and that a breast fed baby won’t necessarily conform to these government charts! At last two ladies with common sense.  After weeks of giving a very small amount of formula in the evening after a breastfeed, she had been sleeping through from 11pm-5/6am at just four weeks old. Getting used to this sleep for functioning with 4 children we carried this on and this became a crutch I thought I needed with my milk history.  After a few weeks this sleeping pattern changed and she woke up every few hours for a feed and so I started to worry that formula top ups needed to increase and this would be a decline in milk for me and also maybe the bottle is not related to her sleeping through. So I decided to ditch the extra bottle and prove to myself that I can do it. Five months on and Florence has been exclusively breast fed since. She feeds on demand and sometimes goes 4-6 hours without a feed and other times an hour! She has shown no signs of being under nourished as she has plenty of wet nappies and is content in between feeds. She was weaned at 6 months and the extra food has made no difference to her sleeping / feeding pattern. Florence is now 7 months and we are still both enjoying breastfeeding and we have no plans to stop. 

Reflecting on all my feeding journeys and many a late night Googling milk supply, taking various herbal teas, oats (Dougie makes amazing porridge!) and trying to rest to boost my milk supply, I feel that there are a few reasons for my bumpy feeding journey. I have large babies and so c-sections that require a great deal of tugging! Our babies come out over inflated and puffy, I have read recently that the drugs used can effect their size so initial weigh in can be misguided and so not a true reflection of their weight. In some countries they don’t weigh the baby until they are several days/ week old. I think this would have been of help in my case. It’s a known fact that sections can mean slow milk supply.  My milk takes a few days longer than the average to come in. Also the charts should be tailored, updated and adapted, I think if I had been left for a few weeks with each baby to see how I got on my feeding journeys would have been a different story. Dougie always believed in me and always tried to go against the box ticking of the charts and centile plotting and go with Mother Nature instead and he (I hate to say) was completely accurate. I also this time around had a knowledgeable friend (mid-training breast feeding counsellor) who always assured me that babies patterns change and demands in milk and growth spurts don’t necessarily mean that she’s starved. So if I can reassure just one Mummy that sometimes you just need to go with your own instincts and support from family and friends. Try and  read / surround yourself with positive material on boosting milk and breast feeding and take the professional healthcare advice, but be led by your own thoughts and try and be firm with them. I am aware that not all community midwife and health visitors are of this mind set, and that there are some willing to have a more flexible and open minded approach, so this post is not to bash these much needed members of the community. It’s also a post not designed to bash formula feeding as I would have been lost without formula with my first born and I realise that breast feeding is not for everyone by choice and / or medically. A fed baby is a happy baby and Mummy! I just wanted to share this experience as a person who has found feeding a challenge and I only now feel confident after feeding four of them. I still even now have the odd doubt when someone comments that my baby is petite or feeding a lot, however I now tell my inner self to stop these thoughts, and politely reply that yes this is normal for some breastfed babies to be more petite and to cluster feed on demand! No two babies are alike, and no two breastfeeding experiences are either, but be confident that as a mother you know what’s best for both you and your baby.

Our little Summer-born

Sparkles & Stretchmarks Sunday Best

A bit of background on the summer-born campaign-  

The campaign for flexible admissions for summer-borns (summer-born campaign) has been  put together by parents/carers and professionals who share the common belief that a summer-born should be given the option to start Reception at school aged 5. 

Currently in England Compulsory school age is the term after they turn 5, in Teddy’s case September 2018. Yet his school intake year is 2017 (6 weeks after his 4th Birthday).

Parents who choose to send their summer-born children after their 5th Birthday are being met positively by some schools and Local Authorities (LA), unfortunately some areas aren’t too supportive and so are forcing children straight into year one (thus skipping Reception and the 1st year of school). This is creating an extremely unfair postcode lottery on summerborn applications.
Our summer-born story –


Our son Teddy hurtled into our lives in the busy summer holidays of 2013 whilst we were living in Germany.  The September following his birth his big sister then aged 4 3/4 (a winter born baby) went to school. It was at this point that I felt the first twinge of sadness that I wouldn’t have that extra bit of time with Teddy when he would be aged 4. Although a long way off at this point out of interest  I googled ‘School age at 4’and came across the summer-born campaign. I put this to the back of my mind and continued to enjoy my time with my baby. 
Fast forward to our return to the UK in 2014 I started revisiting these websites and came across a Facebook group of which I keenly followed hearing about other parents summer-born journeys, lots of successes and sadly some not successful. This made our own school journey for Teddy that bit more real. I felt quite positive when Nick Gibb urged LAs and schools to start providing parents with a summerborn option to enter Reception. This coupled with the effort of summer-born campaigners we really thought by Teddy’s intake this would be nationwide and thus widely accepted and understood. 

2016 came and Brexit took over parliament and eventually that year we watched the debate live, in which the very supportive MP Stephen Hammond asked Nick Gibb for an answer on why we are still facing a lottery postcode and when could we expect the consultation to take place to amend the Summer-born code as he had previously suggested. This debate wasn’t as positive as we hoped and at this  point we felt let down by Nick Gibb and the dept for education for not committing with a timeline to this campaign as previously suggested. My heart sank a little that night and we realised that we may have a mountain to climb with our little summer-born. 

The next day our thoughts of this parliamentary debate struck a chord with us and made us more determined to pursue what we believe is right for us and right for Teddy.  

We as a family have it a bit trickier than some as we relocate every few years due to Dougie’s employment, so we were unsure which LA we would be dealing with for the application and going forward could have a problem each relocation placing Teddy in the right education cohort. We were told we would be moving to Staffordshire and having heard some success stories in that area  we were feeling optimistic. We then last minute in January (the week of school applications) learnt we would be remaining in Lancashire. 

Lancashire from my research has deemed tricky to get a ‘yes’ from, however we decided not to look too much into this at this point in our application so as not to start the process as a battle that we probably wouldn’t win. We felt it more appropriate to present an honest account of why we want Teddy to have the extra year we feel he should have at home and nursery. 

We believe that Teddy aged 4 should be able to spend some days at home choosing/preparing  his own lunch, taking a much needed nap, splashing in puddles with Mummy, visiting a farm, playing with his baby sister at toddler groups, having a play-date with a friend or watching CBeebies when he’s tired.  Term time he will still have his 15 hours funding at nursery, (of which he’s entitled to until age 5, taking him right up to the summer holidays) so that, plus toddler groups with me, will be his important socialising time.​​

Under a deadline of days to go we had to discuss our application with our catchment school headmaster and Teddy’s nursery manager. We were fortunate that they both believed in us and also supported our application in writing. We do  have good links with both settings, my husband as a parent governor at the school and myself as a nursery committee member so we were fortunate to have had formed a positive relationship with both settings already. We certainly feel more positive with this support and so we have applied for a school place for reception for September  2017 as advised by our catchment school headmaster and at the same time applied to defer until 2018 and  requested he starts in Reception class. We anticipate by this point he will be fully ready to start his schooling and we will be happy and excited with him.

In our application we haven’t yet  written of statistics/evidence or government publications that support the academic/social/emotional progress of  starting school closer to 5 than 4. We simply documented that we wanted our now 3 year old to simply be little and grow and learn at home for another year. This we feel is crucial to his social and emotional development in these crucial early years and slightly less important (in our eyes) his academic development. 

We do appreciate that some families are happy to send their summerborns aged 4 to school or some haven’t the choice due to family circumstances or local authorities/schools choice. This is just something we feel strong about and this is what makes life interesting as not everyone is the same! 

We are currently patiently awaiting our news via email from Lancashire County Council and as the date is approaching very quickly for school places we will no doubt hear very soon, we will of course update you with our progress. In the meantime please cross your fingers for us!