Tuesday, 7 August 2018

My Breastfeeding Journey - Feeding from birth to one

When we started preparing for Scarlet to be born last year it was never a question on if we would try breastfeeding. The question was if we would successfully breastfeed. I did breastfeed with Dylan for the first three months and it was great. I was really proud of myself and I had every right to be. This time around all I wanted to achieve was to get past three months exclusively breastfeeding. We did it, just in case you hadn't guessed already. Now that we have reached one year of breastfeeding I'm sharing how our journey has been for the last twelve months. 

The early days 

Scarlet's first feed was in the first few minutes after her birth. I remember thinking how easily she did it. It was a moment for just us. We'd all had a cuddle, the midwives had finished up all the clearing away and left to continue their job. Simon was somewhere close and we talked but I don't really remember the conversation. I remember looking into Scarlet's face and thinking she was really here. 

Since I had gone into labour before 37 weeks we had to stay in hospital for the first three days. On the first day Scarlet needed to have her blood sugar level checked before every feed and again around an hour after. Since I had gestational diabetes in my pregnancy which can lead to low blood sugar after birth.  Breastfeeding on demand while working around midwives and nurses being available to check her blood sugar level before we started feeding. That was a hard start. We both got frustrated and in the end she had to have two milk top ups using formula through a syringe. I'm not going to lie. I cried, I really cried. I'd given birth that day to my daughter who was breech and no matter how hard I hoped or how well Scarlet latched on and fed she needed her blood sugar to be higher.

Through the next two nights we started those famous newborn cluster feeds. That night we both feed through the sun setting and the sun rising the next morning. It was very quite with the curtain drawn around our bed it felt as though it was just us two. I think this was our newborn bubble. Watching the sunrise, tired, holding a little newborn Scarlet who was trying to win the record for most newborn breastfeeds in 12 hours. Things changed when it came to the day we had been told we'd go home.  Scarlet lost a little more than 20% of her birth weight which meant we wouldn't be leaving. Instead I had to start topping up her feeds and I refused to give her formula. It meant that I had to feed Scarlet, express milk into a small cup after every fed and at the end of the next feed I was to give it to her from a syringe. I didn't want to use a bottle at all at this stage as we had just started to establish breastfeeding and I knew a bottle could make a difference. It certainly did with Dylan.

In the end Scarlet started to bring up milk every time I put her down and I got no sleep. None at all. If I wasn't cluster feeding then I was expressing or spending 20 minutes giving Scarlet 5ml of breast milk on top of a full feed. I sat in bed in the middle of the night and I cried. There was no way I could keep doing it. I hadn't stopped feeding or expressing for hours. I felt awful that I couldn't do it for her and I was getting close to thinking I would have to give up. I made the decision to stop giving her top ups. I had spoken to a midwife on the ward who very kindly sat down with me for an hour at 4am and talked about it all. Scarlet obviously didn't need more milk on top of her cluster feeds and it was making her sick. We both got some much needed sleep and two days later we headed home.

The first six months

Once we got home we found our own routine. We relaxed and the cluster feeds started to dwindle as she was happy with my supply. We'd found our own routine and Scarlet was a very relaxed baby for the most part. Within the first couple of days of being home we had to tackle the shopping. I'd gone into labour on my own, early and we'd not been prepared. Hell I didn't even take my bag to the hospital with me! The first shopping trip was long, we had to stop twice to breastfeed and both times I made sure we found a quiet corner where I could feed. I hid away there with a muslin square draped over my shoulder and Scarlet. We sat facing a closed shop in a dimly lit corner which was near the entrance to the toilets. It wasn't great but it worked and we fed here during the weekly shop for the first few weeks.

At the start I avoided large crowds, I hid away when I could and we would always be watch for areas I would be able to breastfeed. Looking back it was silly to hide away. I'd had a bad experience when I was breast feeding Dylan in a restaurant in the early days. A waiter had told me I was disturbing other diners and I would need to stop feeding my son. It was embarrassing but I knew I was allowed to breastfeed there. The effect it had on me was not small. It made me worried that someone would say something to me this time. It made me think about where I should breastfeed. After a while my confidence grew and I fed where ever we happened to be when Scarlet was hungry. I was done with sitting in corners alone. It didn't take long for me to stop using the muslin squares to cover up. I wore clothes the covered me anyway. (the photo above is from this April and Scarlet is actually 10 months old but it's the only photo I took breast feeding outside the house.)

I started out to feed Scarlet past three months and I did it. It was tiring but it was worth it. After five months had passed I expressed milk in the hope that I would be able to get a few hours without feeding every now and then. I pumped the milk into a bottle and left Simon with Scarlet and the bottle. It didn't last long and she just spat out all the milk the dribbled into mouth since she refused to use the bottle teat. A dummy had the same response so we quickly gave up after a few tries.

Just before we reached the six months mark Scarlet and I fed hands free in our carrier for the first time! We did in a literal blizzard of snow, at the school gates waiting to pick Dylan up. It was freezing! I was so proud of myself. It wasn't easy to get her latched on amidst all the busy parents and to feed her in the snow. It was fantastic anyway.

Breastfeeding past six months

Scarlet hit six months in the run up to Christmas. In the week before she was six months we started weaning. Although at first it made no difference to breastfeeding. She was still feeding around ten times a day. Slowly as her food intake increased she dropped one or two feeds. We did still breastfeed both at home and outside. When we first started weaning we also started to give Scarlet a cup with some boiled water which had been cooled. It took us two months to find a cup she liked and drank from. Those two months had been filled with feeds after meals and all the usual big feeds.

After Scarlet started to drink water with her meals I noticed we slowly dwindled down the breast feeds we did outside the house. On long days out she would still have two or three feeds and usually around the times she was tired. By nine months old we had gotten to around 6-8 feeds a day.Most of which had been through the night. Things haven't really changed much. At 12 months old Scarlet fed for a morning feed, two feeds to nap during the day, at bedtime and usually 4 times through the night.

I didn't ever think we would get to this point in our breastfeeding journey but I'm so glad we did. At 12 months we are still going and Scarlet shows no signs of stopping. As it has always been up to Scarlet on both how and when we feed it will be up to her when we stop. She will self wean from breastfeeding at some point and I just hope I don't miss it too much when she does.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Creating an entry for BIC KIDS Young Artist Award {including Review}

The rain has descended on us here in Northern Ireland with plenty of wet days to keep us at home. We have been keeping an eye out for new activities to try. When we got contacted by BIC KIDS about the BIC KIDS Young Artist Award for 5-11 year old's was back for it's second year I knew this was something Dylan would love. He's really taken to drawing lately and although he's no Picasso he does take great pride and really enjoys sitting down and drawing a picture that tells a story. Well he usually tells the story too. 

If you have never heard about the BIC KIDS Young Artist Award, it all started last year when BIC started the award to celebrate children creativity here in the UK and Ireland in partnership with Mumsnet. The competition is open to children aged 5 - 11 years old. To enter your child just needs to draw a picture on an A4 page in crayon, pencil or felt tip pen.  BIC KIDS are encouraging children to have complete creative freedom when it comes to the art work. If your child wants to draw a rainbow sky above a bright purple sea then they can. The overall winner will win their picture shared in a massive scale on billboards across the UK and Ireland. 

There are some guidelines to follow to be eligible to enter. The picture needs to be in landscape since the winners picture will be blown up to go on billboards. It must not feature any well known TV characters or cartoons. The entries need to be submitted to the BIC KIDS website (the link is above) before 11.59pm on Sunday 5th August 2018 by the child's parent or guardian. The child's hometown and age need to be included when you fill in the entry form and your child needs to sign the back of their work to show that they have created the drawing themselves. 

There will be one winner chosen from each of the 13 regions in the UK. These thirteen winners will be chosen by an expert judging panel on Monday 6th August and will be contacted on the same day.  They will be looking at the creativity and the use of colour in the child's picture as well as their artistic ability and composition to see how well the space has been used and which creative skills are shown. They will also look at if the picture is telling a story, uses patterns or shows emotion and more. All thirteen regional winners will need to send their artworks by recorded delivery in a hard backed envelope. It needs to arrive before Wednesday 8th August. The finalists will have their work displayed across the UK and Ireland. After which there will be a vote open to the public where the nation can pick their favourite picture which will then be shared across billboards nationwide from the 24th September to 7th October. 

To help Dylan create his entry for the BIC KIDS Young Artist Award, they sent us a selection of products to use. We received some of the products which will also be part of the prize all the thirteen regional winners will receive. In the bundle above you can see BIC KIDS Ecolutions Evolution colouring pencils, KID Couleur felt tip pens, Plastidecor crayons, Learner Graphite Pencil and Learner Ball Pen Twist System. 

It's rare that Dylan and I get time to sit and do things that are not suitable for both him and Scarlet. I decided that although the BIC KIDS Young Artist Award is only open to children aged 5- 11 years old that I too would draw and colour my own picture with him. We started out by talking about what we wanted to draw and how he wanted to do it. He had some striking inspiration from the little fish on the BIC KIDS Couleur felt tip pens and decided we would draw a fish under the sea with a shark, some sand and some seaweed. 

The first stage of drawing the picture had to be the outline. We got started using the BIC KIDS Learner Graphite Pencil, made by experts with children in mind. They are made using ultra resistant HB grade lead and each pencil contains a long yellow stripe down the front. This is to help guide children to hold the pencil in the right position. The correct way to hold the pencil is with each finger on either side of the yellow guiding line. The triangular shape of the Learner Graphite Pencil from BIC KIDS helps with the positioning and grip of the pencil as children learn to write. 

One of the best perks of the Learner Graphite Pencil from BIC KIDS is that it can be used by both left and right handed children. This is a big plus for us as so far Dylan seems to be ambidextrous. He writes with both hands and can draw with both too. He does seem to have better control with his left but will still insist on using his right as well. I did find that when Dylan was drawing his fish he wouldn't turn the pencil when he switched hands so the yellow line wasn't to the front anymore.

Once Dylan had an outline we moved on to the colouring. He drew an underwater scene with a fish and a shark. The picture evolved as he started adding in his colour and there was a whole under water volcano erupting in magnificent orange and red splendour thanks to the vivid colours of Plastidecor crayons from BIC KIDS. These little crayons are perfect for little hands since they do not leave their hands or clothes dirty. Each of the Plastidecor crayons can be sharpened with ease when they wear down with use to give your little Picasso better control. They are also more resistant than similar crayon which is perfect in our house. Just us who seems to break a crayon every time we colour? 

I opted to use the Ecolutions Evolution colouring pencils from BIC KIDS while we coloured. Made using 50% of their whole weight with recycled material these pencils are helping our environment. Being made without using wood it means that these pencils also don't splinter and they are easy to sharpen as well as safe to use. The Ecolutions Evolution colouring pencils from BIC KIDS have an ultra resistant lead. I liked how bright and vivid the colours came out on the page without much force. These pencils can enable children to build on their layering and shading with colours without having to apply too much pressure. They can give children the ability to advance their art work and their skills too. 

With our underwater pictures finished Dylan wanted to create a new one. This time he wanted to make a rainbow using the KID Couleur felt tip pens from BIC KIDS. These vibrant pens are built to withstand use from children with a medium blocked tip nib that provides a good resistance when in use. Made with a water based ink the KID Couleur felt tip pens from BIC KIDS  are easily washed away from hands as well as most clothes. Great news for all us parents who've spent time trying to remove pen from that favourite top with no luck! 

Dylan really loved the freedom the KID Couleur felt tip pens from BIC KIDS gave him. He was able to easily remove and replace the lid without any help. Usually it can take him a good few tries to get the pen into the lids if he's trying to hurry. Dylan used the pens to create his rainbow picture. He finished off the rainbow picture by creating a new texture using the side of the Plastidecor crayons from BIC KIDS. He choose to make part of the sky green with this technique.

Dylan's finished rainbow entry. He has since asked if we can do another picture today before he can choose one he'd like to send off for his entry to the BIC KIDS Young Artist Award. 

The final thing for Dylan to do was to sign the back of his picture with the Learner Ball Point Pen System from BIC KIDS. These little pens are designed to be used by children who are left or right handed too. Just like the Graphite Pencil the Learner Ball Point Pen system guides children to hold the pen in the correct position with a yellow line that expends through the grip on the pen. The Learner Ball Point Pen System from BIC KIDS opens easily using a very smooth twist system for ease of use. They are recommended to by used from age 4 so they are just perfect for Dylan. We usually use pencils at home for writing so he was really excited to try using a pen instead. We will be working more on Dylan's handwriting as the summer continues and the pens will be great for helping him with his control, pressure and working on his hand position when he gets bored for using his pencil. 

There are still three days left (including today) to get your entries in for the BIC KIDS Younger Artist Award before the closing date this Sunday. Why not get out your colours and get creative. Let your children create while you get five minutes with a hot cup of coffee or why not join in and do your own with them too. 

You can purchase the BIC KIDS Ecolutions Evolution colouring pencils (RRP £4.49), KID Couleur felt tip pens (RRP £5.35), Plastidecor crayons (RRP £2.36), Learner Graphite Pencil (RRP £3.15) , Learner Ball Pen Twist System (1 pack)  (RRP £4.99) and  Learner Ball Pen Twist System (12 pack)(RRP £32.87). All the products are also available in stationary shops across the UK.

Disclaimer: We received the products featured in the post for the purpose of this post. Any thoughts and opinions expressed are our own. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Five cheap days out for the whole family this summer

Last week I shared some tips for finding free family days out. Summer is well under way and although it never seems to be such a large task to keep children occupied I find I'm running out of ideas after a week. This summer break I have been trying to find as many days out and family fun as we can pack in. I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the cheap days out we have planned for the rest of summer break. I am hoping we will fit one of these in a week alongside the free days we have found.

1. A day trip to the beach or a forest park. Okay so technically these are free however we don't live anywhere near a beach nor a forest park so we need to factor in the cost of travel. If your in the same boat it's a good idea to plan for travel costs as part of the whole day out. On a beach trip I like to include the cost of a little chip shop stop. There's nothing quite like eating your chips along the sea front is there?

2. A trip to the cinema. Yes you have read that right a whole family trip to the cinema can be cheap! There are some cinemas in the UK which offer child friendly showings. I took Dylan to his first cinema trip to one and it was fantastic! What is really great about these showings is that they are aimed at children and have the basis that children are allowed to make noise. Lets face it, it will be a miracle if your 5 year old would sit through and entire movie in the dark. Maybe that is just mine? Either way it's worth it considering as tickets can start at just £2.50 per person, no matter what age. Bring along snacks and drinks if you want to save on concessions and you have a great day out at the cinema for £10 for a family of four! I have found the Odeon and Cineworld do these weekly showings with a couple of movies to choose from. Check your local cinema's website to see if they have child friendly screenings.

3. Take the whole family bowling. This one is perfect for later in the evening after dinner. It's a great idea for week nights after summer schemes or when one parent is still working during office hours. It's lets the whole family get out and enjoy a game of bowling. You can choose to do one or two games but remember to check your local bowling alley's website for prices and see if they have family offers on. Our local bowling alley has a special night time event where the whole place turns neon! It is worth checking if you save by booking online too. 

4. Go swimming, rock climbing or a similar activity. There is a whole manner of great places through out the UK where you and your children can get active. Everywhere from leisure centres to rock climbing centres and there are lots of trampoline parks throughout the country. Have a look online and see which facilities are near you. A simple swimming session can really fill the day up and everyone has fun splashing around in the water.

5. My final cheap day out is to visit a National Trust property or museum. Each of the National Trust properties and museums will have a different admission fee so it is worth looking into your local places. There is a full array of places to visit and to explore which are great even if you've visited before. There are some great places to go to every year and there is always something new to discover and learn. If you go regularly you could even create a treasure hunt for your children to follow together with some of their favourite spots to find. 

I hope these have been useful and that you get to enjoy the summer as much as you can without breaking the bank. 

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Project 365 Week 30 {22nd - 28th July}

Sunday 15th July {Day 196}

Monday 16th July {Day 197}

Tuesday 17th July {Day 198}

Wednesday 18th July {Day 199}

Thursday 19th July {Day 200}

Friday 20th July {Day 201}

Saturday 21st July {Day 202}

Summer is zooming by us now. We've still got so many great things we want to do and the sun is still shinning. This last week has had it's own adventures. We got out on the train to the beach which ended up freezing and we stopped for hot chocolate! We had fun at the park, movie nights, fun days at home and since it has poured all day we had a movie day at home for a nice slow Saturday.

What have you been doing this summer?

Thursday, 26 July 2018

My Quilt4Kindness Journey with Crafter's Companion for Project Linus { Part Two }

It's been a busy month for us with summer well under way but I have really loved finding time to do little pieces of my Quilt4Kindness project when I can. The Quilt4Kindness campaign is a quilt along from Crafter's Companion which is being printed in Sew Inspired for 12 months.I shared the start of this quilting journey last month

Having never heard of Project Linus and the work they do in organising and delivering hand made blankets to babies, children and young people I was eager to do my part and join in with the Quilt4Kindness campaign. They really do amazing work in giving those children who really need to know they aren't alone a comforting reminder that someone is thinking of them. To find out more about Project Linus and the Quilt4Kindness campaign check out our last post. (There is a link above)

Last month I also got the second issue of Sew Inspired with part two of the quilt along nestled in the pages. After getting though so much last month I wanted to stretch this issue out a little longer and give myself time to sit each week and  spend a little time working on the project. I've been trying to get an hour or so every Thursday evening. I am finding that some weeks I need to change over to a Friday morning since my sewing machine is pretty loud.

At night I am spending my time cutting and ironing my fabric. One of the steps this issue has been to cut out all the remaining shapes from the fabric in preparation for the next issue. With only two issues left there will be more sewing to do. It does mean that I can get on with the cutting every Thursday evening. I'm planning to share more of this journey on our Instagram stories on a Thursday evening too.

There are still two squares in this issue with two whole new patterns. One of the blocks uses the yellow colour in Sew Inspired which I am planning to use the green colour from my floral fabric, it's turning out very hard to get my hands on. Which means I have not finished this square just yet.

I did however finish the first block from this issue which is the Jacob's Ladder block. Compared to the first issue the two blocks in Sew Inspired these are more intricate with more sewing involved. I was pretty excited to try the Jacob's Ladder block, it looks lovely when it is finished and It's not something I have ever tried to make before.

Although the Jacob's Ladder block looks complicated at first glance when you get to work it really is simple. The pattern involves sewing 9 small squares to the right patterns. Four of the squares used will contain two triangles of my light blue and floral fabrics. The other five small squares are made up of four smaller squares in my light blue and pink fabrics. I really like that the directions make creating the squares so much easier. I would have been cutting each piece and sewing each one individually while the directions help to do it all in the easiest way possible.

That is it for this months Quilt4Kindness. Next Month will be a little busier with lots more of the remaining cutting to go as well as finishing the second block from issue 12. The next issue of Sew Inspired will also come out in August with the third part of the Quilt4Kindness campaign.

You can join in with the Quilt4Kindness campaign. Crafter's Companion are encouraging the readers of their magazine Sew Inspired to join in with the quilt along and to donate their finished quilt to the wonderful Project Linus and help those children who need a reminder that someone thinks of them too. You can still join in without donating of course. Grab yourself a copy of Sew Inspired and follow along with the whole campaign. The first issue is still available if you do want to join, check out our first post for the first stage of the project and what is inside Issue 11 of Sew Inspired.

Our giveaway to win one of the great Quilting Starter Kits from Crafter's Companion is still open if you want to head over and enter.

You can get your hands on Issue 12 of Sew Inspired from Crafter's Companion (£9.99) along with the special Quilting Starter Kit featured above (£34.99).

Are you joining in with the campaign?
How is your Quilt4Kindness project going?

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Five Tips For Finding Free Days Out For The Whole Family This Summer.

It's finally summer for most of the UK this week, here in Northern Ireland we are already half way through our summer break. One of our biggest needs this summer is to get the whole family out for as many days we can. Filling our days with fun and family time is fantastic in the sun and it lets us all enjoy the time together. After the first week it was very apparent we would need to find more days out that we could do with little to no money being involved and I'm pretty sure there are many other families who are looking for fun days out that don't cost very much. With that in mind I thought I would share some tips about how I have found some great days out that are free for anyone who is looking. 

Scarlet playing on the swings during A trip to the park. Free days out this summer. Us Two Plus You

1. I'm starting with the very obvious free days out which are always a go to for us. A trip to the park, we are very fortunate in the fact there are a lot of parks here in Belfast that we can visit. Take a few minutes to google your local area and see if you find any parks or play areas near you that you may not have visited before. It can help to take a quick note or list of them all and remember to screen shot some directions just in case you can't find the way.

2. Another one of our favourite days out has always been visiting local museums and although many of ours do cost an admission fee we have one or two which are free. I have found that those which are free ask for a donation, they recommend various amounts however that donation is entirely up to you. If you throw together a packed lunch and bring some drinks along then you can pack in a whole day exploring the museum with your children. It's a great educational day out too.

A picnic spread for the family. Free days out this summer. Us Two Plus You
3. Another great day out with the family is picnic days. Choose a local place that has wide open spaces like a public garden or forest park. Another great place is the beach of there is one nearby.  Take along your picnic and bring some games, bubbles, a football and other toys/ games which are easy to pack up and bring along. I usually let both Dylan and Scarlet choose one small toy or game to add to what we have already packed up. It's always a fun day out for the whole family.

4. Search for local events that are free. This time of year there are lots of family fun days happening all over the UK. You can find everything from outdoor film screenings to fun days at shopping centres and everything in between. I find making a quick calendar in a note pad of the next few weeks helps me to keep track. Once you have a calendar you can search on sites like Families Online and local event sites. One of my favourite sites for us is What's on in Belfast. When you find events jot them down on the dates and see which days you have filled up before arranging all your other events that are here all summer.

5. My final tip for finding free days out would have to be searching for local events on Facebook. In the last few months I have seen more and more local events being advertised in Facebook's events tab and it's so easy to use. The events tab is down the side of your home page on the website and once your there it allows you to modify your search after you choose when you'd like to search for an event. There are options for tomorrow, week, weekend and more, I personally use the select date function which lets me choose which dates to search for. I usually start with a search for events in a week, two weeks, 3 weeks and then fill my calendar. I'll go back and search for certain days which I have empty once I have finished the events I like the sound of. Some events listed here do have a cost associated with them but it is made clear in the descriptions.

These 5 tips have helped me to get our whole family out more this summer and let us enjoy family fun as much as we can. I bring along plenty of snacks and water along with a blanket or muslin square which we use most days to take a break when we find a nice grassy area. It means I can reduce the likely hood we will need to spend a lot of extra money when we don't need to.

I hope these are helpful for someone to get a little extra out of their summer without any cost. I will be sharing some more tips next week on cheap days that everyone will love.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Project 365 Week 29 { 15th July - 21st July }

Large cafetiere of freshly brewed coffee. Project 365 Day 196 on the 15th July 2018 from Us Two Plus You
Sunday 15th July {Day 196}

Dylan showing large Darth Vader holding light sabor an owlette toy inside a toy shop.  Project 365 Day 197 on the 16th July 2018 from Us Two Plus You
Monday 16th July {Day 197}

Dylan Playing inside an orange airplane ride.  Project 365 Day 198 on the 17th July 2018 from Us Two Plus You
Tuesday 17th July {Day 198}

Dylan and Simon picking heart for two build a bears before stuffing the wears with the machine.  Project 365 Day 199 on the 18th July 2018 from Us Two Plus You
Wednesday 18th July {Day 199}

Dylan holding Scarlet who has the end of a glasses leg in her mouth while both children smile.  Project 365 Day 200 on the 19th July 2018 from Us Two Plus You
Thursday 19th July {Day 200}

Dylan drinking hot chocolate in Tim Hortons. Project 365 Day 201 on the 20th July 2018 from Us Two Plus You
Friday 20th July {Day 201}

Scarlet sleeping peacefully in black and white. Project 365 Day 201 July 20th 2018 on Us Two Plus You
Saturday 21st July {Day 202}

I can't quite believe summer is half over! We have managed a few good days out filled with sun, fun and laughter. i am loving every second of us being together this summer. This week has included a relaxing Sunday at home, visiting family, our usual Mum's and Tot's and a visit to build a bear. The end of the week was mostly spent at home sorting through some more of the house. It's amazing how much stuff you can gather up over the years.

How has your week been?



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