Our Country Nurse is a rich tapestry of 1970s life Sarah Beeson MBE on BBC Radio Stoke

Author and former Stafford health visitor Sarah Beeson MBE joins Liz Ellis and Perry Spiller on BBC Radio Stoke to talk babies, parenting and her new book Our Country Nurse.

Missed it? Listen again on BBC Radio iPlayer.

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The Interview

Liz: Let’s take you back to the 70s. It’s was a decade our next guest started caring for babies and their families. Sarah Beeson from Stafford has an MBE for services to nursing and has recently published her second memoir Our Country Nurse on her adventures. Think Call The Midwife 20 years later. Sarah, what are the big differences for you between then and now for babies?

Sarah: Babies really don’t alter. Fashions and fads come and go. The most important thing is the emotional needs of babies. Today’s parents really get that. As well as the care, the breastfeeding or bottle feeding and looking after your baby the emotional needs are very important.

Perry: You’re a health visitor; you’re going into other people’s houses aren’t you? Our Country Nurse is a rich tapestry of 1970s life.

Sarah: It is. I worked in rural Kent. I had a little mini which was given to us by the county as we’d be county council employees and had only just moved into the NHS. The weather could be tremendously harsh in Kent; snow in the winter and the book has the baking hot summer of 1976 where once I parked my Mini when I came back out the steering wheel was so hot I could barely touch it to drive onto my next visit. But knocking on doors for a living has been most enjoyable.

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Liz: You didn’t have children when you started and you were very young when you became a health visitor. What made you want to do it?

Sarah: When I trained at Hackney Hospital on community practice towards the end of my training I went out with a marvellous health visitor visiting high rise blocks and there were terrible conditions in some areas. She was so welcomed by her families, she organised nursery placements, she sorted housing out and I thought I want to that. Later on when they were looking for nurses who wanted to do health visiting I applied and got in.

Liz: You’ve got some really interesting stories. It’s fictional with names changed but loosely it’s based on your life?

Sarah: Yes, it’s my memoir. All the characters names and circumstances are changed except me, Sarah Hill, I’m the only one who is herself and I’m not even completely sure about that.

Perry: So, presumably the main protagonist is you?

Sarah: It’s me narrating and it’s my story but there are some real characters. I dedicated Our Country Nurse to three Staffordshire health visitors who are no longer with us but there wonderful way of working come out in some of my characters particularly Hermione who is wonderful largely based on a dear friend.

Liz: Some of the stories people might find a little shocking. Tell us about the Filipino mum?

Sarah: They was a Filipino couple with a new baby. I went to see them and they worked very long hours for hardly any money. They got one half day a week off on a Sunday and really it modern day slavery.

Perry: How much did they earn?

Sarah: They earned £17 and ten shillings a month between them.

Perry: Good grief.

Sarah: I mean wages weren’t high but that was exploitation. And the excuse from was they got a room – which was an attic, and food – which they weren’t used to and couldn’t eat. They wanted to get away to the United States and their story was largely based on someone I did see.

Perry: What did Sarah encounter with this couple then?

Sarah: The mum was wonderful but she really couldn’t spend enough time with the baby. I used to do a number of clinics and one had bus that went round and picked everyone up and brought them to this monthly country clinic and took them all home again all for free. I more or less said it’s essential she goes to her employer she must come; dereliction of duty on your part if you let them go. She was a very pukka lady and didn’t want to go against that so allowed her to have this afternoon off once a month to come to clinic and that’s where we hatched the plot for her to escape.

Perry: So she escaped!

Liz: You helped her to get out of the situation.

Perry: It says in the book that she was advised to leave the baby under an apple tree so she could carry on working for the family?

Sarah: Yes, what her employer kept telling her was to wrap the baby up and leave her under the apple trees in the orchard and get on with your work, I used to do that on Nanny’s day off. It was January! It was real exploitation. You have to tread very carefully sometimes and that’s the thing with health visiting you have no right of access, you have no right to go in. It’s people’s good will.

Perry: For unmarried mothers back in the 70s was there still stigma there was in previous decades?

Sarah: There was. There’s a story about a young girl, another one I helped to escape from looking after two horrible elderly uncles in a tumbledown farm to a nice little flat of her own. Things were changing in the 70s, it wasn’t as Dickensian as 30s, 40s, 50s but it was still very hard and tough for women at that time generally but particularly unmarried mothers.

Liz: One of the stories from your book which are based on real events is about you going to help a mum with a three year old who’s having issues in the night?

Sarah: This is based on a quite a few incidents because quite a few parents say their child is talking to someone or seeing someone and it’s not that unusual and it’s not usually a ghost, it’s usually imagination and children have seven years before they really separate reality from fantasy.

Liz: What are they doing in the middle of the night though?

Sarah: I can’t give the story away but its not all that it seems. The whole family is really worried because they think they’ve got a poltergeist; things are falling off dressers and crashing to the floor.

Perry: Was this a real story?

Sarah: Yes, but the actual outcome isn’t quite that you might think it was.

Perry: Now that’s a teaser.

Liz: There were a lot of high profile stories in the papers in the 70s about children and ghosts.

Sarah: There is always something going on in that direction.

Liz: You must have thought why are you calling me?

Sarah: When you’re a health visitor people go to you to ask for help and very often you’re not quite the person who has the knowledge but you can be conduit; you can find the right person.

Liz: Did you have any other unusual cases like that?

Sarah: I’ve unblocked drains, I’ve called the environmental health for all sort of infestations – things that I can’t actually deal with though I’m quite good at unblocking drains. In the 70s people didn’t have the money and insurance cover for emergency situations so you did get rung up just as you were leaving the office. For instance on Christmas Eve as I was leaving someone rings with a problem and it was that story that started off the memoirs. A lady rang me and said I can’t settle the baby they’re crying, crying, crying. I went out I was there for absolutely ages talk about breastfeeding, positions and I’d left the minis lights on. I had a completely flat battery and no mobile phones in those days. I didn’t want to go back to the house I’d been there two and a half hours. I walked to the phone box and rang the local garage. Great big snowflakes started to fall and I was stuck in a drift with a flat battery on Christmas Eve and I didn’t have any money with me. This lovely mechanic came out, he started my car and I asked him how much and he said, ‘Nothing, Nurse, it’s Christmas Eve, Merry Christmas.’ I put that into the text of Happy Baby, Happy Family as a little story and my agent said to me you should write your memoirs.

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Liz: Was it because of that going above and beyond dedication that you got the MBE?

Sarah: I got the MBE as a health visitor for working with children and families in Stafford. People put me forward for it without my knowledge. And I understand the Queen often says you get your MBE on behalf of a whole team of people. I just happened to be the one who was going up to get it and representing the profession.

Perry: Here’s the killer question – there’s a lot of people listening who would have been mums in 70s and are the daughters of those mothers. In your estimation are parents better now than they were?

Sarah: This generation of parents is the best there has ever been. Parents these days they really work as a team, they put their child’s welfare, their wellbeing at the heart of what they’re doing. Working parents, working mums especially often feel so torn between work and childcare but working is a good example for your children, whether you’re a stay at home mum, work full time or part time, there has been great improvements in parenting and especially in the emotional needs; that love and security. Recognising your child as an equal, you’re the custodian of those rights.

Liz: You think we do that more now?

Sarah:  A lot more now.

Perry: Is it an attitude of mind thing? In the 70s they were only one generation away from a child should be seen and not heard.

Sarah: That was not quite as bad as it had been but the parents of children then had definitely been told to be seen and not heard. It’s evolved and now parents understand that harsh words can hurt. That’s a big leap forward and I don’t think many parents now would think that smacking children would be OK because it always makes things worse.

Liz: Physically though it was harder for mums back then using terry nappies – we’ve got it easier now.

Perry: And your washing machine saves your life.

Liz: In birth we’re a lot more likely to use pain relief now, there weren’t a lot of options then.

Sarah: We do have wonderful midwifery and obstetrics service these days compared with then but there was every week an antenatal class run by myself and the midwife, there’s a wonderful midwife in the book who was an absolute treasure her mums adored her. We did a topic every week and relaxation every week – taking you through labour – because the NHS is so squeezed and lacking in resources some parents can’t get onto a course sometimes. So yes, I’m all for the new developments, I think it’s wonderful to have them but it’s your wonderful midwife who steers you through it.

Perry: Sarah, it was lovely to speak to you and the new book is Our Country Nurse. There’s quite a few stories drawn from your time in Staffordshire.

Liz: Thank you for coming in Sarah Beeson from Stafford, MBE.

Order a signed copy of Our Country Nurse.

Published by Harper Element.
Paperback at £8.99 available from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and WH Smith.
eBook and £6.49 available from Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Google Play and Kobo.
Audiobook £12.99 read by Anna Bentinck available from Amazon Audible and iTunes.

Using gentle touch and sound to help your baby sleep

Sarah Beeson MBE parenting author and health visitor was happy to give some baby expert tips for The Pink Lining Papers on how mums and dads can help their Little One get calmly off to sleep.

And so to bed…

By Sarah Beeson MBE Author & Health Visitor

Getting the right amount of nap time and milk during the day is part of the secret to a good night’s sleep. Frequent feeding during the day often means your Little One will wake less frequently in the night. It is normal for a newborn baby to wake to feed in the night because they don’t have a concept of night and day, only the inner clock that demands feeding.

The right amount of sleep varies from baby to baby but they all need a good night’s sleep and restful naptimes which you can facilitate. Sleep is important because your baby is growing whilst they slumber – it is their time to rest and recuperate and is vital for development, so your baby can reach their optimum growth.

Music
Babies respond positively to calm and harmonious voices that they recognise from life in the womb. Your voice is familiar and relaxing and gentle tunes will make your Little One to feel safe and secure, helping them to drift off into a peaceful sleep.

Singing a lullaby or playing gentle music can really work wonders on some babies. You’ll soon learn what your baby likes to hear, and if you sang and played music a lot while you were pregnant it’s quite likely they’ll like those tunes best of all.

I remember when Neighbours was at the height of its popularity. Pregnant women would often put their feet up and relax to enjoy the show. I found there was a whole generation of infants who stopped crying and nodded off when they heard the Neighbours theme song.

Shush, shush, shush
Making gentle, rhythmic shushing sounds will often help babies to relax. It stimulates the noises of blood circulating heard in the womb. From gently behind the ear, not into the ear, make low-level rhythmic shushing noises for a couple of minutes to calm your Little One.

Stroking their forehead and temple of the back of the head
Some babies like gentle stroking to their head. This rhythmic motion and the warmth of your touch can be very soothing and help them get off to sleep.

There is no one way to put your baby to bed. Trust your instincts and do what fees right. Most parents instinctively combine a number of techniques that reassure and soothe their Little One – you are the expert on your own baby.

For more information
For more advice on all things baby and lots of advice on sleep including Sarah’s instant baby calming the Up-Down Technique read Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby by Sarah Beeson MBE it’s Prima Baby book of the month. (Published by Harper Thorsons in paperback, ebook and audio book).

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If you’ve got a question about your LO check out Ask Sarah or get in touch.

Sarah Beeson is a health visitor and author of Happy Baby, Happy Family. She writes with her daughter Mumpreneur and writer Amy Beeson. Sarah’s memoir of training to be a nurse in 1970s London The New Arrival is a heartwarming true story published by HarperCollins.

Is your child ready to start primary school in September?

It’s finally come – School Admissions Day. That long-awaited letter or email that informs parents which primary school their child is going to.

It can be a day of sweet relief or fraught with anxiety, but when your Not-So-Little-One starts Reception class, you’ll want them to be practically and emotionally prepared so they can enjoy going to school and get off to a flying start.

In my book Happy Baby, Happy Family I explain that children have five emotional needs as part of their learning and development. They are; Love, Security, Praise & Recognition, New Experiences and Responsibility & Discipline. The way you approach helping your child get ready to start school can also help their emotional development as well as practical.

Be Positive and show how much you love them

You want your child to have a good experience and feel positive about starting school but it can be a time of mixed emotions for you as your baby goes to big school. Be positive and upbeat when you talk about them starting school; chat about the new things they’ll get to do – there’s a whole new world of things to discover and do at big school.

Tell them how much you love them and that you’ll miss them; they are still your baby – just keep it light and reassuring. Many children have moments when they want to regress and play at being a baby. Let them; treat it as imaginary play and join in with plenty of goo-goo-ga-gas. This is very common if there is a new baby in the family – older children often want to sit in their bouncy chair, buggy or car seat.

Emotionally for you and your LO  it can be a bit daunting handing over responsibility of your child’s care and education to school. For children who are already at nursery or pre-school the routines of school life are sometimes more familiar and they often flow into the infants class without many worries. For children who have been mainly at home with you, the opportunity of starting school can be terribly exciting. They have built a secure attachment to you and know you’ll be there for them when they need you.

It’s a whole new chapter in your child’s life and a big change for you as well; feeling apprehensive and a bit regretful and emotional is natural but they will always be your baby – they really will!

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Small steps towards greater independence

September might seem ages off, but now is the time to start gradually helping your child to be more self-sufficient so they feel secure about starting school. Don’t worry about whether they know their ABCs and Numbers. Instead start practising good toilet etiquette and hygiene, buttoning up their coat and putting their shoes on.

Go at their own pace; they’ve got months to master simple self-care so they’ll be confidence about playtime and going to the toilet on their own once they start big school.

I remember when my own daughter, Amy started reception class. Her teacher scolded a mother who was understandably fussing over her child’s coat after the school bell had rung. ‘Do you think I’ve got time to button and unbutton 30 coats every break time?’ The teacher said, and I did see her point.

Sewing in their name tags and ensuring they can recognise their own labelled belongings will be an important skill from the very first day. They’ll know what’s theirs and what’s not.  A shopping trip for their new school things and giving them some choice, where you can, on their accessories will help them feel more secure and excited about starting school.

Praise your child when they learn a new skill

Praising and recognising their progress is very important but don’t be tempted to go over the top. They are developing the skills required for daily life and treats or excessive praise is not needed – you don’t want it to be a song and dance every time they put their own coat on. A smile, a kind word or a gentle touch is just right for encouraging and supporting your child.

Gradually increase the opportunities your child has to:

  • Get dressed and undressed on their own
  • Take their coat on and off and hang it up
  • Go to the toilet on their own and wash their hands
  • Put on their shoes and socks
  • Find their tissue and blow their nose
  • Pack up and take out their pencil case and books from school bag

Your child can rehearse these practical skills in small ways everyday, as you get ready to leave the house and come home again, without even realising they are gearing up for school life. Try not to have expectations, or show frustration. Give them two choices by saying, ‘Do you want to put your coat on or shall I do it?’ Use a casual tone like you don’t care either way.

Playing schools gives them a fun new experience

Many schools do taster sessions prior to starting full-time but there may be a big gap before they start school over the summer break. You can all have fun playing schools and being their teacher allowing them to practise their skills through imaginary play so they can become familiar with the shape of school routines before their taster sessions and over the summer holidays.

It’s a good opportunity for them to develop good listening, following instructions and learning to sit still – you might notice they seem to listen to their Teacher a little more than mummy or daddy! You could even swap roles and let them practice being the teacher and you the pupil.

Reading every day is the best thing you can do

The golden rule for all parents is to read to your child every day. This is so important and often starts from your child’s earliest days, through pre-school and into school until they don’t need you to read to them anymore. It is the most useful way to get your child ready for school as there are countless benefits, and just listening and keeping still to hear the story as well as awakening  their imagination is crucial to all learning. They’ll naturally pick up literary and numeracy skills through reading – no pushing is needed, just go to their own pace.

Responsibility and nice manners

Being in charge and taking care of their school bag and contents as well as clothing is an important lesson. Give them responsibility for packing the reader book that goes home daily and back to school with your child. You can practice this in your role play so they know exactly what to do when they are given this task at school.

The best way to teach your child to say please and thank you and to treat others with respect is to lead by example. When you talk to them, to your family, friends and people in shops or restaurants having nice manners yourself is the best way to get your child effortlessly copying your behaviour. Resist the urge to correct or tell them off too much, as it makes politeness into a chastisement, rather than a natural part of their behaviour.

First day at school

Your Little One’s first day at school is a big deal to you but play it cool Mama’s and Papa’s. They’ve had a really huge day filled with new experiences but they are more likely to need to crash out in front of kids TV than thrill you with their tales of school. Raconteur’s they ain’t!

So, let’s show them we missed them, get them rehydrated, nourished and chilled to avoid the post-school melt down with Sarah Beeson’s top three tips for meeting your child at the school gates.

First Day of School - CopyParents often have their own strong emotions to cope with on school admissions day.  If you haven’t got the school place you wanted I know it can hugely disappointing. But the greatest lessons your child will have will be from you, their parents. I hope this new adventure can be shared by all your family and you enjoy this new chapter. Give yourself credit for the amazing job you have already done and continue to do and all will be well.

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Got a parenting question for Sarah?

Ask Sarah Circle and text

If you’ve got a parenting questions just #AskSarah.

Sarah Beeson MBE is a health visitor and author with over four decades of experiences working with thousands of families. Her memoir The New Arrival and parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Baby are published by HarperCollins.

How to have a happy half-term for the whole family by Sarah Beeson MBE

Ask Sarah Circle and textI was asked by Tesco Living on whether it was important to main strict routines during half-term? My answer was, there is no answer to that. Personally, I think it’s nice to relax and have a break from the norm, but not everyone has the option. Many of us have to work during school holidays (I remember those days when my daughter Amy was little and the challenge of finding affordable but quality childcare was a nightmare). But just in case you were wondering whether you need to be strict Mum and Dad or fun Mum and Dad – do what make your family happy; it’s your holiday after all.

Do I need to maintain routines during half-term?

Just when you thought everything had fallen into place half-term comes along and disrupts your perfected weekday routine. You know what old saying, ‘A change is as good as a rest,’ well the same change can be said for this week-long break – there may not be a lot of restorative time but take up the opportunity to have fun and some quality time with your children when you can.

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New Experiences

Children thrive on new experiences and it can be a great time to do something new, revisit those long forgotten pre-school favourite activities or just have some relaxing home time baking cakes and watching movies together. Just because they are on holiday doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy helping to make the dinner or preparing and shopping for a day out – it’s how you do it, not what you do that counts.

If the elements are against you it would be good if you’ve got some crafty activities up your sleeve but don’t feel like you have to be Mary Poppins. A little bit of research can pay dividends – there are often free events on at local libraries, theatres and shopping centres that you can sign up to.

Whether the holidays bring snow or sunshine then blow the cobwebs away with a trip to the playground, a kick about or a long walk. Whatever you do, be part of it – you’ll benefit just as much as the children from a break a change of scene. Also more exercise and fresh air they get the more likely they’ll burn off that excess energy and sleep better and earlier.

Little Ones will be up with the Dawn as usual! But older children may like a bit more shut-eye. The scent of a nice breakfast cooking is more likely to get adolescents out of their beds then shouting and nagging. It’s a holiday and you all should have a little time to relax and be a little busy doing nothing. We all benefit from a some down-time after the stimulation of hectic school and work schedules so don’t feel that every hour needs to planned out. You can help influence good behaviour by keeping them topped up with drinks and healthy snacks. The odd treat is fine but sugary foods and drinks like coke or sugar-free squash may make them overactive and grumpy. When you’re out and about a snack bag will save you money, time and the odd tantrum.

Respecting one another’s choices

Five weekdays at home plus two weekends will not doubt disrupt your family’s usual routines but isn’t that what holidays are all about! Whether you’re going to be at home during the day with your family or not, planning ahead and being a little flexible about usual routines is the key for smiles all round.

If you do need to keep to a strict schedule because they may be on holiday but you’ve got to work, talk to them about what’s going to happen. Let them know the reasons why and agree on what you expect from them and what they can look forward to. Give them regular updates in the morning way before it gets to the critical point between being on time and very, very late.

If you are going to at home some of the time or all of the time having a conversation early each evening about what’s in store for the following day is a good opportunity to set expectations and give everyone a say in what’s happening. Having a rhythm rather than a strict routine for the week may help. So they’ll know you’ll be doing activities in the mornings, or every other day and they’ll get the chance to pick at least one thing. You don’t have to give them carte blanche – present them with two choices and let them have a little bit of personal responsibility on the decision-making.

Being positive and looking forward to spending time together is more likely to mean you’ll be in the right frame of mind to enjoy it. A few treats are always welcome but it is your love, attention and listening to your child that will make the biggest difference of all. Don’t worry too much amount maintaining the status quo of bedtimes and mealtimes – as long as their needs are meant and you keep them well hydrated, nourished and they get enough rest it doesn’t really matter if things are a little earlier or later than during the school week.

Half-term, the days are long but it’s only a week. It’ll be over before you know it. Enjoy yourselves.

What do you think? Is your family happier if you stick to the school time routines during a break or do you like to go with the flow? Tweet @NewArrivalBook or leave us a message on our Facebook wall.

And if you’ve got a parenting questions just #AskSarah.

Sarah Beeson MBE is a health visitor and author with over four deacades of experiences working with thousands of families. Her memoir The New Arrival and parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Baby are published by HarperCollins.

Is your Little One a Christmas Baby?

All I want for Christmas is some peace on earth and time alone with my new baby.

If your baby is due during the holiday season you might be feeling like Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve can pass you by. The greatest gift all those festive well-wishers with time on their hands between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day can give you is some space.

Whether it’s weddings, Christmas or how you welcome your new child into your lives – you can’t please everyone, so just for once, why not please yourself? Wanting time alone to adjust and enjoy this time isn’t selfish, it makes complete sense. So, if you are feeling like you’d like to turn off the fairy lights and block up the chimney, skip the visits to the relatives and just have time as your new family or as a couple, I say do it!

Pregnant over Christmas

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The thought of eating a big dinner might be the only thing keeping you going. If that’s the case let someone else do all the hard work. You’ll need to be near to the place you are going to give birth whether that’s in a hospital or at home. Having a house full might not be ideal if you go into labour so have conversations early on to and try and explain to close family what will make you feel the most supported.

If you fancy one last Christmas just you and your partner – what could be nicer. Sounds relaxing and romantic to me, and could be just what you need. Next Christmas is going to be all about your Little One, you’ll never get this chance again. So put your feet up, go for a walk, watch a little TV and enjoy quality time together, because soon that’s going to hard to come by. It might not be what your mum and dad want to hear but part of being a parent is putting your child’s needs first, and you’re still their baby.

Yule Tide New born

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It can very special to have a new baby at Christmas but it can also be overwhelming how many people are off work and want to visit. If you are in a relationship, or have a close family member or friend that you want to be with you give them the role of Gate Keeper. Let them answer the calls, emails and texts on your behalf and say no we aren’t ready for visitors just yet.

Or if you do want people to stop by, make it clear when and for how long they can stay. You don’t want people knocking on your door when you’ve just got the baby to sleep and are ready for some much needed shut-eye yourself. Be specific about when it’ll be OK for people to visit, say something like, ‘You’re very welcome. If you’d like to pop in for a mince pie and to say hello between 3-4pm on Thursday that would be great.’

Don’t be afraid to cancel. If you’re having a difficult day and really can’t face visitors than just cancel – good friends will always understand. Keep tabs on how you feel. After a new baby your emotions can be up and down. Whatever feels right for you, is the right thing to do. Whether that’s having people every other day, three times a week, or once a week. Suit yourself.

Don’t try and do it all

Entertaining people takes a lot of preparation. You also need to keep yourself well-nourished because you’ll noticed your day mainly consists of feeding, feeding, feeding. If funds allow get your shopping delivered. Food that’s easy to warm up is a blessing, and you’re going to need that energy giving nourishing food now more than ever.

If friends and family want to help out let them know a homemade stew or lasagne and of course cake and mince pies would be very welcome. It’ll give you the time you need to focus on taking care of your baby and yourself if you’re not having to worry about preparing meals.

Christmas Baby Checklist

Ooops, I forgot to get them a present

You’ve just given the gift of life what more could anyone expect and also money might be a little tight with all the new baby shopping. With a new baby on the way it’s understandable that buying presents and sending cards to loved ones might have slipped your mind. What could be nicer than a photo of your little Christmas angel and a text message or email letting everyone know how you are.

Do it your way

However you want to spend the holidays is the right way to do it. Whether that’s merry-making with loved ones or a cosy time just the two or maybe three of you.

It’ll make our Christmas if you send us some #babysnaps on Twitter and Facebook. I guarantee you’ll be taking hundreds this holiday.

You are the expert on your own child, lots of luck and Merry Christmas.

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About Sarah Beeson MBE

After four decades as a health visitor Sarah Beeson MBE and her daughter Amy Beeson co-wrote The New Arrival, Sarah’s true story of life as a trainee nurse in 1970s London. The follow up memoir She’s Arrived! (March 2016) and parenting book  Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby (7 May 2015) will be published by HarperCollins.

Did  you have or a are you expecting a Christmas Baby? Tweet us @NewArrivalBook or send us a message on Facebook – we want to hear about your experience.

 

Mother and Baby Mag Dec 2014Going to your first Christmas Party after having a baby?

See Sarah’s advice featured in Mother&Baby on leaving your Little One for the first time.

 

 

#AskSarah My toddler won’t brush their teeth

This week’s #AskSarah is from Jillie in Wiltshire, mum to one-year-old Lily. Jillie’s #AskSarah question is; “We can’t get Lily to brush her teeth. We’ve tried a special toothbrush, princess bubble-gum flavoured toothpaste, getting her to watch us brush ours, trying to get to copy, trying to make it into a game, trying to get her to brush ours, singing….everything! But she won’t do it, just closes her mouth tightly and turns away. Any top mummy tips? Thank you so much.”

the willcocks bikesJillie, Lily and Luke

How lucky is lovely Lily have parents who are trying so hard and in so many creative ways to get her brush those tiny gnashers. I think the key to this situation is to STOP trying.

Here’s why – not brushing her teeth has almost become a fun game. She gets heaps of attention, things to play with and new experiences. From her perspective it makes sense to keep her mouth shut.

So why not try doing the opposite?

1. Play it cool

Put aside your expectations. At this age it’s not the end of the world if she doesn’t brush her teeth every day. Just add in as part of your daily routine for getting ready or going to bed, like brushing your hair or putting a vest on. And if she doesn’t do it on the first two goes, don’t worry about it. Don’t react at all, just carry on getting ready.

And if she does brush her teeth (inside you can leap for joy) but in front of your Little One keep calm and resist the urge to make it into a big deal. Just give her a smile and a pleasant ‘Well done’ and carry on as normal. Don’t phone daddy to tell him the good news or whip out your smartphone to mark the event.

2. No more inducements

Lily is obviously a clever little lady and she’s got the upper hand at the moment. Brushing your teeth is just normal and it’s just one of those things everybody does. So try keeping it simple, just a little toothbrush and age 0-2 toothpaste is all your need. She’ll soon cotton on there’s going to be no more rewards for not brushing her teeth.

3. No more singing and dancing

When you’re doing your daily toilette make her part of it but leave her to her own devices. Smear a little toothpaste onto her brush and leave it casually within her reach on the side of the sink, or pop it into her hand. Then get on with brushing your own teeth, washing your face and brushing your hair. If she picks it up just let her get on with it in her own way – she won’t make a thorough job of it but it’ll be step in the right direction.

4. Mum’s the word

Don’t talk about brushing teeth around her, whether she’s done it or not. Minimum fuss stops this issue becoming a battlefield later on. It’s completely natural you want her to brush her teeth, because it’s what is best for her and you are fantastic parents that you’ve tried so hard and care so much.

Final thought

Your Little One can benefit from having a little bit of responsibility here as she makes the journey from baby to toddler. If you are worried about the effect not brushing her teeth is having on her teeth and gums then you can minimise it by looking at her diet and checking she’s not having sugary and sugar-free foods and drinks as they are acidic for the teeth.

It is recommended as soon as teeth appear that you brush them twice a day with a little smear of baby toothpaste but while she adjusts to her new routine you can afford to take your time with a simple, relaxed low-maintenance approach to baby tooth care.

It may not happen overnight but with such great parents, Lily with get there in her own time. I know you’ll both be jumping up and down when she starts to do it, but just this once, wait till she’s out of the room.

What did you think of this week’s #AskSarah? Did you like it? Yes, then please do share it with your friends and subscribe for updates on mums, babies, books and stories and send us a tweet @NewArrivalBook or join us on Facebook.

If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask then go to the #AskSarah page and drop us a line. Trust yourself and enjoy your baby, you are the expert on your own child.

sarah name

 

 

Ask Sarah

 

Over four decades as a nurse and a health visitor Sarah Beeson’s career has been shaped by the needs of children. Since her earliest days on the wards of Hackney Hospital she has stood up for her patients as shown in The New Arrival her heartwarming true story of training to be a nurse in 1970s London.

Her expertise and innovation have been recognised with the MBE from the Queen for services to children and families, and her health prevention work received the Queen’s Nursing Institute Award but she’s happiest listening to mums talking about their baby.

Sarah firmly believes that this generation of parents is the best there has ever been. Her new parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby is the culmination of a life time’s experience watching, listening and being part of thousands of families’ journeys from birth to their Little One’s first birthday and will be published by HarperCollins in Spring 2015.

Sarah second memoir about being a newly qualified health visiting in rural Kent in 1970s She’s Arrived! will be published by HarperCollins in March 2016.

#AskSarah Should my 3-4 year old still be having a nap? How can I get them to bed earlier?

This week’s #AskSarah question comes from Rachael @MushroomsMum otherwise known as @ReallyRachaelB who is mum to 3-year-old Mushroom, and a freelance writer, poet and personal coach over at Writing People Poetry. Catch up with her life as working London mum on Mothering Mushroom.

Mushroomsmum large@MushroomsMum Rachael Blair

Rachael’s #AskSarah question is; “Mushroom bedtime is between 7 -8pm but he is rarely asleep before 9/9.30pm, by which time he’s exhausted. I tried cutting out his nap on days he wakes up later but he is just exhausted by 3pm and falls asleep wherever he is and then doesn’t go to bed till 10pm. When it came to sleep ‘training’ I quickly knew that it wasn’t right for us but on naps and whether to reduce them/cut them out I’m not so sure?”

Rachael to nap or not to nap is a very good question. Mums know best about their child’s needs and naps can be tricky. If you’re happy to have a familiar pattern to your day but feel confident to go with the flow – do it. It’s understandable to want to get Little One’s to bed earlier on a weeknight and you can still be a bit more flexible on the weekend if you want to. There are times to be calm but firm and other times when you know they are having an off-day and can let yourself be a tad more indulgent – we all have those days whatever our age!

If you feel he still needs his nap then go with your instinct; it shows how much you are in tune with him that you respect his needs and put him first. Your Little One still has a lot of growing to do and it does sound like he still needs a sleep after lunch and ideally the earlier the better but things will be variable and that’s completely normal.

The afternoon nap

Lunch for this age group usually falls anytime from 11.30am – 1pm followed by a nap between 12.30 – 1.30pm. It’s fine for him to nap for up to two hours but encourage him to wake up by about 3.30pm at the latest if you want to get him to bed by 8pm. Turn back his covers or take off warm clothing so the cool air gets to his skin, or turn on his favourite TV show, chat to him positively as he naturally comes to. Small children often take anywhere between 5 – 20 minutes to come to after their afternoon nap in contrast to the morning where they so often seem to wake up with plenty of bounce.

Don’t beat yourself up if the day doesn’t go your way and it takes you until 2pm to get him off to sleep or he doesn’t nap at all. It might just be that he doesn’t need a nap that day and you may want to put him to bed early. Try to avoid trips out in the car or buggy when you’ve passed the nap window in case he nods off. If he does fall asleep for a very late afternon nap despite your best efforts then he must need it, it does happen every now and then, especially if he’s been unwell or things haven’t been how they normally are.

Influencing an earlier, shorter bedtime

Food, drink, exercise and rituals play a vital role in sleep and general behaviour patterns. What children eat and drink is very tied up with being able to let go and naturally drift off to sleep. Good nutrition and sleep go hand in hand.

In a recent #AskSarah about dropping the last feed I outlined a toddler bedtime routine and toddler diet plan; which would also be suitable for your Little One. So let’s just check off the list some of the things that will help get him to sleep a bit earlier.

1. Diet

Give him three little meals a day plus a healthy morning and afternoon snack and a milky supper before bed and maybe a milky drink with his bedtime story. He should be having about a pint of milk a day (including products like yogurt and cheese as part of his daily intake).

Avoid chocolate, sweets especially coloured ones (though a few white chocolate buttons or an apple cereal bar for an occasional sweet treat is fine). Cut out sugary foods in the late afternoon and evening as the sugar rush can keep them awake. Some children’s behaviour is badly affected by artificial colours. Sweetners in sugar-free and low sugar squashes make them permanently thirsty and feel full even when they have an empty stomach.

2. Exercise

A big factor in nap time and bedtime is exercise. They really do need to run their little legs off, whether it’s a trip to the park, going for a walk, dancing around, running about at nursery or a trip to a museum. Fresh air every day is a recipe for sweet dreams and if you can do an activity in the morning and the afternoon it usually pays dividends.

2. Calm Down

Turn off TV, put away phones, tablets and games at least 1/2 hour before bedtime. Set the scene by turning off bright lights. You can switch on the radio if you want some gentle background noise but nothing too energetic. Children like the security of bedtime rituals and soon pick up cues and patterns, every family has their own way of doing things.

3. Bedtime Rituals

A typical bedtime routine can be…

– TV and devices off (iPhones, iPads etc put away)

– Lights turned down low

– Milky supper

– Bath time

– Into bed with a story

– Nursery rhymes or prayers

– Kisses goodnight

If your child doesn’t want you to leave straight away you could sit in the room for 5 minutes in a dark corner preferably slightly out of sight. Then say you’ll check back in 5 minutes and leave him to drift off.

From supper-time to the last kiss goodnight, try to get your bedtime routine down to an hour or less. Establishing a bit of a ritual for going to bed helps your Little One feel secure and accept that it’s now time to start calming down and go to sleep. When he is relaxed and contented sleep will come more easily.

Final thought

Lots of luck Rachael. Getting your Little One to bed a bit earlier will give you all a bit of relaxation time. There will always be the odd few days when things don’t go according to plan. As he approaches school age he will probably start to drop his nap but for now you’re listening to your child and he will lead the way.

What did you think of this week’s #AskSarah? Did you like it? Yes, then please do share it with your friends and subscribe for updates on mums, babies, books and stories and send us a tweet @NewArrivalBook or join us on Facebook.

If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask then go to the #AskSarah page and drop us a line. Trust yourself and enjoy your baby, you are the expert on your own child.

sarah name

 

 

Ask Sarah

 

Over four decades as a nurse and a health visitor Sarah Beeson’s career has been shaped by the needs of children. Since her earliest days on the wards of Hackney Hospital she has stood up for her patients as shown in The New Arrival her heartwarming true story of training to be a nurse in 1970s London.

Her expertise and innovation have been recognised with the MBE from the Queen for services to children and families, and her health prevention work received the Queen’s Nursing Institute Award but she’s happiest listening to mums talking about their baby.

Sarah firmly believes that this generation of parents is the best there has ever been. Her new parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby is the culmination of a life time’s experience watching, listening and being part of thousands of families’ journeys from birth to their Little One’s first birthday and will be published by HarperCollins in Spring 2015.

Sarah second memoir about being a newly qualified health visiting in rural Kent in 1970s She’s Arrived! will be published by HarperCollins in March 2016.

#AskSarah Trusting your instincts on poorly toddlers, reading everyday and sharing

This week’s #AskSarah question is from @MrsSardines who as well as being mum to a 19 month little boy writes Mummy Always Knows Best a blog with musings from a new(ish) Mum on the things she’s learnt, great ideas and bargains that all help make life a little bit easier to treat yourself and your loved ones.

@MrsSardines@MrsSardines and her LO #babysnaps

1. Should I keep my sick child home?

@MrsSardines first question was; “I tend to keep my child away from other young children if he is poorly. Am I doing the right thing? It is very hard to maintain routines when little ones are poorly. Is it OK to just go with whatever soothes the child; e.g. co-sleeping or should one maintain routine?”

When your LO is poorly with an infectious illness keeping him home prevents it spreading and also gives him the TLC he needs. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Plenty of cuddles, lots of fluids and little meals if he can manage them and any prescribed medication will have him feeling right as rain in no-time. He needs time to rest and recover and you’re saving another mum from the stress, worry and balancing act of having a poorly child. Your intuition is spot-on – keep on following it.

Routines tend to shift a little all the time. You may find you develop a sick day routine that keeps things manageable for him and for you. Once he’s better you can get back on track with what your days and nights are usually like – there’s no harm in doing what feels right on the day.

The under-fives tend to get a new infection every 4-6 weeks and sometimes it can feel like illnesses come one on top of the other, which can be very hard on everyone but it is normal. If he ever has a high temperature or you’re concerned that he’s not getting better, then it’s always a good idea to get him checked by your GP.

The best medicine of all is Mummy’s love, and care and it sounds like he’s getting plenty of that.

 

2. Should I worry about using phonics when teaching my toddler to talk?

@MrsSardines second question was; “What can I do to encourage my child to talk? Is he too young to worry about phonics or is introducing earlier worthwhile (e.g. sounding out words when naming things) so he gets used to them earlier on?”

Reading to your child everyday is the best way to help with language development, if there’s one thing any parent can do to encourage talking, it is telling stories.

Your LO’s speech and language will come naturally when he is ready. Phonics and flashcards won’t give him an advantage over other children; he’ll talk in his own good time.

The most supportive thing you can do is to just chat to him. A trip to the library or local bookshop is lovely if you can make it part of your day every now and then, but simply talking about the everyday things you do together and the world around you is what he needs. It’s enjoying the experience of language that has the biggest impact, just go with what feels right in the moment.

 

3. Should I encourage my toddler to stand up for himself?

@MrsSardines last question; “My child has a very gentle nature, which means he ends getting pushed around. It doesn’t bother him and so he walks away, giving up easily. Does this mean he will be picked on when he is older? Am I OK letting his natural easygoingness carry on, or should I encourage him to stand up for himself a bit more?”

It’s natural not to want to share, it’s something we learn in order to get along with others. Your LO’s gentle nature is a credit to your parenting. It doesn’t mean he won’t be able to stand up for himself, he’ll probably have bucket-loads of quiet confidence.

Your LO can walk away because he is getting his emotional needs as well as his practical needs met, and doesn’t feel he has to fight his corner and offload some anger during playtime. Carry on and let him play; he’s a wise baby, trust in him and you.

 

Final thoughts

Three great questions there and at the heart of them is following your instincts versus doing what you think maybe you ought to be doing. It sounds like @MrsSardines has a really lovely relationship with her LO and a strong sense of what makes them both happy. It’s natural to question whether you are doing the right thing – that’s why today’s parents are the best there has ever been.

What did you think of this week’s #AskSarah? Did you like it? Yes, then please do share it with your friends and subscribe for updates on mums, babies, books and stories and send us a tweet @NewArrivalBook or join us on Facebook.

If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask then go to the #AskSarah page and drop us a line. Trust yourself and enjoy your baby, you are the expert on your own child.

sarah name

 

 

Ask Sarah

 

Over four decades as a nurse and a health visitor Sarah Beeson’s career has been shaped by the needs of children. Since her earliest days on the wards of Hackney Hospital she has stood up for her patients as shown in The New Arrival her heartwarming true story of training to be a nurse in 1970s London.

Her expertise and innovation have been recognised with the MBE from the Queen for services to children and families, and her health prevention work received the Queen’s Nursing Institute Award but she’s happiest listening to mums talking about their baby.

Sarah firmly believes that this generation of parents is the best there has ever been. Her new parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby is the culmination of a life time’s experience watching, listening and being part of thousands of families’ journeys from birth to their Little One’s first birthday and will be published by HarperCollins in Spring 2015.

Sarah second memoir about being a newly qualified health visiting in rural Kent in 1970s She’s Arrived! will be published by HarperCollins in March 2016.

#AskSarah Dropping the bedtime breastfeed

This #AskSarah is all about dropping the last breastfeed and comes from Karen AKA Monkeyfooted Mummy @monkeyfeettweet.

Karen asks; “My LG is 13 months old and down to just night-time feeds. I’m struggling with stopping the feeds and replacing it with a feed free routine. She sometimes wakes up to four times a night but will sleep eight hours straight so I know she can do it.”

We chatted a little bit to Karen and she’s almost there in making that transition but here are some ideas about how to say night-night to the bedtime breastfeed.

MOnkeyfooted Mummy and LGKaren and her LG – cutie face! #babysnaps

It’s often at around 11-13 months that babies and their mums are ready to move on from breastfeeding, especially if they’ve been in the process of dropping a feed at a time. It can a bit of a wrench for some mums or it may be you’re glad to be going into a new stage – there’s no right or wrong way to feel.

Food and drink

Developing into a toddler diet takes a few adjustments, most of which you’ve probably already done. Here’s how often they need a little something, and if you’re looking for menu or snack ideas Tweet, Facebook or #AskSarah and we will do another blog post for you.

A typical  daily diet for a 1-year-old

– 3 little meals a day

– Morning healthy snack

– Afternoon healthy snack

– Milky supper

– 2-3 milky drinks (plus water and the odd very diluted natural fruit juice)

– 1 pint of milk (as a drink or in foods e.g. yogurt, fromage frais, cheesy meals and custard)

I’d recommend avoiding sweets, high-sugar foods and drinks, sugar-free drinks and squash. The additives and sweeteners in sugar-free squash especially make children thirsty and so they often will drink more and more without quenching their thirst and end up literally running on squash, which fills their tummy and spoils their appetite and make them overactive and more likely to have toddler tantrums and not sleep very well.

If you’re Little One is having 2-3 milk drinks and/or milk in their food they’ll be getting enough to compensate for loosing the breast milk. You might find she’ll go through the night for a few nights in row and then start waking up again, this is her body waking her up to get the nutrients and calories it craves as it adjusts.

Keep her topped up by giving her a milky supper (e.g. cereal, cheesy toast triangles, porridge). I know it can seem strange if your baby had their tea at 5-6pm to give them a supper but they often need it to get through the night.

Give yourself a few weeks to adapt to this change to in your baby’s pattern of getting her nourishment.

Bedtime rituals

You’ll have your own way of doing things in your household but here are some ideas for a bedtime ritual.

A typical mini-bedtime ritual

– TV and devices off (iPhones, iPads etc put away)

– Lights turned down low

– Milky supper

– Bath time

– Milky drink and bedtime story

– Nursery rhymes or prayers

– Kisses goodnight

– Maybe an audiobook

– Check back in 5 -10 minutes, sit quietly in a dark corner, rock them or stroke them whatever you want to do

From suppertime to the last kiss goodnight, try and get your bedtime routine down to an hour or less. If they start delaying and dawdling your Little One is most likely trying to draw things out and keep themselves awake. Be positive and warm but keep things moving along – as they grow, it would be an absolute angel that didn’t try their luck at extra splashing in the bath, stories and snuggles.

Establishing a bit of a ritual for going to bed helps your Little One feel secure and accept that it’s now time to start calming down and go to sleep. The more relaxed and contented your baby feels the less likely they are to demand the comfort of a breastfeed. If you have the option, it might help if your partner or another family member gets involved in putting your Little One to bed to ease the tension and give you the opportunity to create new mini bedtime routines.

Stay positive and remind yourself that you are giving your baby everything they need, this is just a transition and that they do not need to have breastmilk any longer and that tthey get plenty of nourishment. You’ve done a fantastic job breastfeeding all this time, congratulate yourself, you’ve done your stint and you’ll both benefit from moving onto a new stage. There are plenty of firsts coming up for you and your baby.

At this age there can be other factors that contribute towards your Little One craving the closeness and comfort of breastfeeding, like teething or maybe you’ve returned to work, but as long as their emotional and practical needs are being met, you are doing everything you can to help your baby.

It’s normal to go through a bit of trial and error in finding what works for your family – you don’t have to be wedded to a set way of doing things every single night.

If you’re not getting much sleep, be kind to yourself and look at ways you can take a bit pressure off yourself the following day if you can. Lack of sleep is very tough on everyone!

Karen, I hope you and your LG get a well-earned night’s rest soon and thank you for your question. x

If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask then go to the #AskSarah page and drop us a line. Trust yourself and enjoy your baby, you are the expert on your own child.

sarah name

 

 

Ask SarahOver four decades as a nurse and a health visitor Sarah Beeson’s career has been shaped by the needs of children. Since her earliest days on the wards of Hackney Hospital she has stood up for her patients as shown in The New Arrival her heartwarming true story of training to be a nurse in 1970s London.

Her expertise and innovation have been recognised with the MBE from the Queen for services to children and families, and her health prevention work received the Queen’s Nursing Institute Award but she’s happiest listening to mums talking about their baby.

Sarah firmly believes that this generation of parents is the best there has ever been. Her new parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby is the culmination of a life time’s experience watching, listening and being part of thousands of families’ journeys from birth to their Little One’s first birthday and will be published by HarperCollins in Spring 2015.

Sarah second memoir about being a newly qualified health visiting in rural Kent in 1970s She’s Arrived! will be published by HarperCollins in March 2016.

With the exciting news Royal Baby No. 2 is on the way – What do you think is a good baby gap?

Prince GeorgeAm I ready for another baby?

If you’re thinking about having another baby or you’ve got another one on the way the debate on how long to leave it comes a close second to that over familiar question, ‘So when are you going to have another one?’

Just like everything with parenting there is no perfect time to add to your family. It’s a choice that comes down to what you think is best. Money issues, space, education and childcare are often a factor in the decision of whether it’s the right time to do the baby thing again.

Two emotional factors you might want to consider as your family grows:
•    Understanding the emotional impact becoming an older sibling will have on your Little One
•    Awareness of the impact it will have on your relationship. If you’ve got a toddler and a new baby it takes a lot emotionally and physically not to mention financially.

There’s nothing wrong with sticking to one

You might be feeling like you’d like to stick to one thank you very much and feel under pressure to have another child. Your Little One may not have brothers and sisters but they’ll have other benefits like having your entire focus. That well-worn expression, ‘We’re having another one to keep them company,’ doesn’t really hold water. If you want another baby than go for it, but you are not depriving your child if decide your family already feels complete.

You can’t wait to have another baby

If you find yourself hoping every month that you might be pregnant even if you are using contraception, then it sounds like baby No. 2 is a fait accompli. Having a new baby can be wonderful for everyone, it’s lovely to watch the relationship between siblings develop as well as reliving those precious new born days.

So, if a new baby is already on the way or you’re thinking about when you want to start trying for another one here are a few things I’ve observed in my work with thousands of families over the last four decades about the pros and cons of different baby gaps, and I’ll just say it again – there is no perfect gap, they each come with an upside and a downside.

prince william and harryShorter gaps (1-3 years)

If you’re first child is an older baby or toddler then you are in the parenting zone. You’ve got plenty of recent experience and most of the resources and equipment needed for caring for a new born and aren’t looking back through nappy-free rose tinted spectacles.

It might be you’re feeling broody or want to have your children closer together for more practical reasons to do with career gaps or childcare options. I often hear people say that they want to get it all over in one go, which is understandable.

Here’s the downside – having two babies at different developmental stages is exhausting. Your physical and mental health is going to be stretched even further so it’s time to be honest and practical about the support you’re going to need, to not just meet your children’s needs but your own as well. Some couples experience relationship problems when children are young because the demands are so high. If you’re in a relationship, it’s more than likely you are going to have less time for each other as a couple, with the increased demands looking after more than one child will have on your energy levels. For a lot of people logistics become more complicated and finances are under greater pressure.

You’ll often hear people say that having children close together is giving them a best friend to play with. I know this is contentious but often from a toddler’s perspective they don’t like having to share their Duplo never mind their mummy and daddy. It’s more frequently as adults that we value our siblings. The bond you share with someone who has known you for your whole life is very special and potentially is the longest relationship you will ever have. Though of course with parenting there are no hard and fast rules, everyone’s experience will be different.

An older baby or toddler can’t express the feelings of insecurity they experience when a new baby comes along. They may feel unhappy and have tantrums. It’s quite common for them to display affection for the baby and be very protective towards them while also being angry towards the mother. Also some toddlers do become enraged and are aggressive towards their new baby brother or sister. For them it’s a bit like they were your favourite teddy bear then come Christmas morning Santa brings you a cute tiny bear which everyone adores and they feel like they’ve been replaced and you won’t want your old teddy bear anymore. If you expect them to be jealous at times, and look at ways to help them see that you still love them very much rather than feeling annoyed and frustrated, hopefully things will go more smoothly.

It’s rare that I meet a mum with two or more small children who doesn’t feel divided. Feeling pulled in all directions and that you can’t give the new baby the same attention as was lavished on the first is common. But think of how much more experience you have now. You’re probably going to be more relaxed and worry far less than you did with your first baby. Also second time around parents often savour those early months as we know they really aren’t a tiny baby for very long.

Princess Polly New SisterLonger gaps of 3 + years

Mums who have a longer gap often have more time to recover from giving birth and have regained a sense of self. You still have all the experience from raising your first baby to draw on without having to meet the huge demands of an older baby or toddler at the same time.

Some parents with longer gaps between children do find it takes longer to conceive which can be tough on you both. Depending on how big the gap is, it may have an impact on your career and childcare arrangements. The older we get the less energy we have and the more we worry, though second time around parents are more relaxed. But having to get up in the night with a new born baby if you’ve got used to having a good night’s sleep can be a bit of a shock to the system.

Spacing children out more may be better financially and give you time as a couple to reconnect before you go back into the baby zone. You’ve been able to devote yourselves to your first baby’s practical and emotional needs and form a strong attachment. You’re more likely to be able to talk to them about having a new sibling and help them find a secure role.

If your older child is already in full-time education then you’ll have a big block of time each weekday to dedicate to your new born baby’s needs and can spend quality time with your older child when they get home. This may mean you feel less guilt and anxiety than parents who are home with a new baby crying and a toddler hanging off them.

A bigger gap doesn’t mean that an older child won’t experience jealousy or have behavioural issues. It’s natural to feel anxious about a new person coming into the home. I don’t think as adults we’d like it if our partner told us very loved us very much but they’d met a gorgeous red head who they wanted to bring home who they loved just as much, and we were all going to live together as one big happy family. It’s a little bit extreme as an analogy but we do have to respect our children’s feelings as much as any adult.

The most important thing of course is that all your children feel loved and secure. You’ll have your own ways of doing this in hundreds of tiny conscious and unconscious ways every day, and the fact that you are giving it so much thought means you’re a very caring parent.

Older Sibling Checklist

What do you think about the baby gap? We’d love to know.

I believe there’s no perfect gap, no right number of children – it’s all about choices and trying to meet the practical and emotional needs of the whole family (including you mums and dads). But what do you think? Comment, Tweet, Facebook – we’d love to know.

Lots of luck with your baby and send us some #babysnaps @NewArrivalBook or Facebook. We can’t wait to see your Little One meet their new sib for the first time – it’s a beautiful thing.

sarah name

 

 

 

After four decades as a health visitor Sarah Beeson MBE and her daughter Amy co-wrote The New Arrival, Sarah’s true story of life as a trainee nurse in 1970s London. Their follow up memoir She’s Arrived! and parenting book Happy Baby, Happy Family: Learning to trust yourself and enjoy your baby will be published by HarperCollins 7 May 2015.