It’s that time of year again! No matter how much you plan, it always ends up being such a chaotic few weeks, but it all works out in the end and is (mostly!) worth it. Hopefully you have finished all the shopping and decorating with just a few presents left to wrap so you can sit back and enjoy some mulled wine.
At NCT Reading we have had a quiet few months running our various groups across Reading. Our Tots and Toddlers group has recently moved to Parkside Café and Breastfeeding Peer Supporters will be starting at Royal Berkshire Hospital in January.
There are a few changes happening here on the Editing Team. We are saying goodbye to Louisa and Claire and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their fantastic contributions. We now welcome Natalie to the team. If you would like to join our team please do get in touch, as we are looking to recruit. If you or anyone you know is interested in writing for us please do get in touch – email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also a number of other volunteers moving on across all types of roles so watch out for a range of volunteer opportunities coming early in the new year.
Claire, Louisa and Cristabel
What I Wish I Knew...
All children go through it and often at an age where they are unable to understand what is happening to them. We’ve asked our Facebook group members to give us their best hints and tips for surviving teething – both as a parent and as a child!
Babies will often cut their first tooth at some point during their first year and most children will have all twenty of their milk teeth by the time they are two and a half years old. Visit the NHS website for further information. Teething is not an isolated event – it is something that could impact on your baby (and you, by proxy!) at various points over the course of two years or more.
Everyone is unique!
If you’re a parent to more than one child, don’t expect that your second (and subsequent) child will tolerate teething (or not!) in the same way as your first. As with everything, each of your children is individual, and may experience things, including teething, very differently. Some children take teething in their stride, and you’ll only realise they’ve cut a tooth when you eventually spot those first pearly whites poking through! For others, it feels like the end of the world: tears, pain, sleepless nights and even blood blisters on the gums that can burst as the teeth cut, causing bloody bedsheets or blood dribbled onto their nice clean vest. (Obviously, if you have any concerns about bleeding from the mouth, please contact a medical professional for advice!)
Some parents find that their children can be distracted in the day, so are far less bothered by the discomfort while awake. Then night-time comes, and the lack of distraction means they are only focused on how awful it all is! I attribute many a sleep-deprived night to teething – I find it helps my sanity to have something to blame!
There are various over-the-counter gels, liquids and powders which claim to help babies and toddlers cope with discomfort caused by teething. Ask a group of parents, and they are all likely to recommend a different product, based on what worked for them. Some parents report that amber bracelets, anklets or necklaces helped their children, while others find they have no impact. Many children find chewing on ANYTHING helps, so teething toys can be a useful distraction – everything from Matchstick Monkeys or Sophie La Giraffe, to chewable toothbrushes (yep, those you can buy from the dispensers in motorway service toilets!) and dummies coated in teething gel can help. And there are so many to choose from. I’d personally recommend some sort of chewable toy to save them chewing on things you’d rather they didn’t!
Speaking of things you’d rather they didn’t chew on: if you’re breastfeeding, you may notice that your baby’s latch changes when they are in pain or discomfort from teething, which can result in them using your nipple as a chew toy. It is generally recommended to gently take your baby off the breast and return to “nose to nipple” principles from those newborn days, and continue to re-latch until you get a more comfortable latch.
While teething can be a hard time for both children and their parents, it is an inevitability and that first toothy grin is super cute! For further information on teething symptoms and remedies, please read this article from the NCT.
Family Christmas Traditions
With the arrival of your little one you may become a bit obsessed with making memories. What better time is there than Christmas to continue, recreate or start some new family traditions.
The best traditions are those that you can do consistently. It may not have to be every year, but often enough that your little one will have fond memories when they are all grown up.
What are your favourite memories of Christmas as a child?
Before Christmas Day
Christmas Tree Shopping
If you love a real tree, taking your little one to a Christmas tree farm to pick out the tree can really kick off the festivities. There are several places around Reading to go, and it can be a really nice way to get the little ones involved and feel like they have a say. Photo opportunities also can’t be missed!
Personalised baubles for the Christmas tree are a lovely way to remember the year. You could make some photo baubles, handprints in salt dough to hang on the tree, some felt ones or, a really nice one from my son’s nursery, measure your child and cut ribbon to the same length to use as bauble string to remember how tall they were that year. Alternatively, there are plenty of websites to order some custom baubles from.
An activity for the whole family! Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – anyone really – can all come along to see a pantomime each year. It is a lovely tradition to have and it is amazing watching your little one become more and more engaged with the show each year.
Is Christmas complete without Father Christmas?! There are many places to take your child to visit Father Christmas. You will have to book in advance though.
If you can’t quite face making the trip out to see Father Christmas every year, then writing to him can be a fun activity. If you are really on top of things, you could even write back to your little one.
There are so many things to make at Christmas time. Christmas pudding, mince pies and biscuits, to name just a few. Biscuits are a great one to make with little ones and you get to decorate them too! If you go a bit crazy and bake loads they make a lovely little present for family and friends too.
It’s never too early to show children that their actions, no matter how small, can make a real difference.
You can give to the same cause every year during the holidays or set up a charity box at home which the whole family can contribute to, then decide together how to use the money.
Smiling at someone on the street, holding doors open for people who need a hand or visiting a sick relative is still charity because it warms someone's heart. Simple acts such as buying a copy of The Big Issue or picking toys to donate let children feel like they are making a difference, and they are!
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day & Boxing Day
Snacks for Father Christmas
Leaving out a mince pie or cookies, a carrot and a little glass of something for Father Christmas and his reindeer on Christmas Eve is a classic and all part of the build-up.
When I was a child I loved waking up to my stocking on Christmas Day. I remember trying to stay awake to see when it would appear, I never managed it! Every year there would always be a satsuma and some chocolate inside amongst a few other small gifts. Plus, you’re never too old for a stocking!
You can buy some lovely stockings, or you could get one and decorate it together with your little one. Maybe get them a big stocking and every year add a new handprint or a memory from the year.
Growing up, we would go to my grandparents’ house for Christmas but always had the mornings at home. This meant we always had a fancy breakfast together that we would never normally do. It would always be something like scrambled duck eggs on crusty bread with smoked salmon, I’m sure there was probably some bucks fizz too!
Snuggle up on the sofa with some hot chocolate and mince pies and watch a Christmas film (or several!) every year. There are so many to choose from you are spoilt for choice. Maybe it’s Elf, maybe it’s the Muppets Christmas Carol, Home Alone or Polar Express.
Nothing says family time more than an argument over a board game! Playing a game on Christmas afternoon or Boxing Day can be a little tense at times, but it can be good fun and create many happy memories. If games aren’t your thing, maybe try a jigsaw puzzle or a card game – snap is always a crowd pleaser!
Growing up we would always have a new outfit to wear on Christmas Day. It was always slightly dressy but not necessarily Christmassy so we could wear it to other events even after Christmas. I used to love shopping for my Christmas outfit! I think the newer version of this is matching festive pyjamas for the family.
Boxing Day Present
My grandmother would always give us a little present at Boxing Day lunch. It was never anything big – maybe a pair of socks, or a little box of chocolates or a small toy – but it was always something I would look forward to.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, due in early December, I was absolutely over the moon. I was fortunate to have a pretty easy pregnancy. I finished work on Halloween and had a lovely start to my maternity leave. For 5 weeks I loved every minute, then I hit my due date and things changed. I didn’t want to leave the house and have another person ask when my baby was due. I secretly hated my NCT group with their nice on-time babies (I have since forgiven them). I cried after midwife appointments when they told me to relax and enjoy the weekend as my baby wasn’t coming anytime soon. The 2 weeks post due date were the longest of my life!
Finally, 12 days overdue, I went to the hospital to be induced. After a little waiting around, I was fitted with a pessary and then sent home to wait some more! This was nice as it gave me and my husband one last afternoon to relax together. I even managed to cook us dinner before things started happening.
Everyone always told me that when contractions started I would know they were definitely contractions and not Braxton Hicks. I have to say that everyone was wrong! I expected the pain to be in my bump but instead it was all in my back.
I had a bath, took some paracetamol and did my best at home until in the early hours of the morning the pain got too much for me and we went back to the hospital.
The next few hours are quite blurry. I remember a lot of waiting around and moving from one room to another. At some point I had some diamorphine which helped me get some rest.
It may have hurt, but it was worth it in the end!
Around 10am my midwife decided to try her best to get things moving. My waters were broken and I was put on the Syntocinon drip. The worst bit about this was the fact that the constant monitoring required meant no more moving around.
Time then began to pass in 4-hour spells that each felt like 24 hours! Every 4 hours the midwife would examine me and see how far dilated I was. One of my biggest low points was when 4 hours after being examined and told I had finally reached 4cm I was examined again and discovered I was still only 4cm!
The biggest relief throughout this time was how calm my baby was. He appeared to be so comfortable and content that he simply never wanted to come out!
My pain grew worse and worse. My midwife told me the reason for this was the fact my baby was in the back to back position. This, along with the slow progression, ended my hopes of avoiding an epidural. When learning about pain relief in NCT classes I couldn't imagine anything more horrifying than an epidural but actually in my circumstances it was amazing and I have no idea how I would have got through such a long labour without it.
My slow progress continued throughout the day, past 7pm when the midwives changed shifts and then all the way through to 7am when they changed again and my first midwife returned.
I eventually reached 9.5cm dilated and was told by the midwife she wasn’t sure I was going to get to 10cm due to the baby’s position. We were then prepped for theatre and a c-section, only to find out after a final examination that I was finally 10cm. This meant pushing. Oddly at this point time began to rush by and an hour of pushing felt like a few minutes. Unfortunately it became clear that my awkwardly positioned baby and I weren’t getting anywhere so we were taken to theatre for one last try with forceps but ready for him to be delivered by c-section otherwise.
Being in theatre was surreal. There seemed to be people everywhere. I was terrified of the prospect of forceps but in reality they did the job and due to the levels of pain relief they helped get my baby out pain-free.
So finally at 10.02am on 21st December I became a mum to the gorgeous Finn Basden. We made it home in plenty of time for our first Christmas – although he did manage to demand a feed every time a Christmas dinner was served!