Arthur is nearly 11 months old. In some ways it feels as though my tiny baby disappeared in the blink of an eye, but mostly it feels as though he’s been here forever. In the blur and fog of the first year, it’s hard to remember what it was like before he showed up, perfect despite everything, and we lost ourselves to him. Now he’s almost a toddler really; pushing around the baby walker I found at a charity shop for peanuts, turning over all his toys with wheels to examine them intently like a baby mechanic, babbling as though he really wants us to understand him. 
I’m still breastfeeding. In all honesty, I thought I would have stopped by now but we’re dealing with a very specific set of circumstances. When I started to offer Arthur food five months ago (is it really that long?) he started to show signs of something called an IGE Mediated Allergic Reaction. Put simply, certain foods give him an alarming rash. Eggs, dairy, soy, citrus and banana are all off the table. I check ingredients obsessively, making sure he isn’t going to consume anything that will make him poorly. He can’t have any commercially available formulas as they all contain one or more of the things he’s allergic to.
In addition to this issue, Arthur won’t take food from a spoon. By necessity we’re doing ‘Baby-Led Weaning’ which means he hardly eats anything at all, and he also won’t take a bottle or drink water from a sippy cup yet. 
Breastfeeding is wonderful, a perfect cuddle, stillness in a busy day and a chance to check on Arthur at night. It helped us to get that elusive bond from day one, and I’ll always be so grateful that we were able to do it first time. But after such a long time of being my baby’s only real energy source, I find I’m tired. I’m starting to look forward to a time I can say yes to evening invitations, or to going out on the weekends for longer than three hours. I want to know that next year I’ll be able to organise some childcare without worrying that he’s not going to eat anything for hours. My hair and skin are suffering under the strain of my body providing nutrition for someone else for so long. My shoulders and back are always sore, as are my joints because of the relaxin that’s still being released into my system. Teeth make it very uncomfortable. I’m tired from having to get up at least once every night to feed, meaning I haven’t had an unbroken night’s sleep in nearly a year. My husband can’t really parent in the way I’d like him to (or the way he’d like to) because Arthur is still so dependent on me. It’s me he needs when he wakes up in the night, only me who can do bedtimes and first thing in the morning wake-ups. So, as a way of learning from my experiences, here’s what I’d recommend to other breastfeeding mothers in the early months based on my experience. Hope it’s helpful to someone!
Introduce a bottle and offer it consistently
At  5 months Arthur was able to take a bottle, and we’d offer it sporadically on the very rare occasions Will was parenting solo. To my regret we didn’t keep doing it, and by 7 months when we tried again he angrily rejected it. We’ve tried tonnes of different teats, all to no avail. He just won’t have it. I can’t help thinking that he might have found drinking from a cup a little easier if he’d realised he could actually suck from a bottle!
Introduce foods one by one and monitor for reactions
I had never even considered that Arthur might have food allergies. I blithely assumed he’d be just like me and be able to eat anything. If I had my time to do over again I wouldn’t crash straight in and offer everything at once the way I did this time, and I would (despite all current advice) start with the blandest foods, one at a time, which is what I eventually had to do on the helpful advice of a friend who’s been there before. It was hard to tell at first what he’d reacted to, and I didn’t even realise the rash was a problem until I raised it with my wonderful online Mum group. The only way to tell what was going on was to give those foods again, and I really think part of Arthur’s reluctance to eat is that he remembers those early reactions. I’d also (sorry, sorry BLWers) offer a spoon consistently every day. Even if I had done this there’s no guarantee, but I suspect Arthur might be a little further on with his eating and I might be able to leave him with someone else once in a while!
I know just how many women try to breastfeed and find it impossible, and I’m really glad and grateful for our success. Having said that, when the time comes to finally move on I think I’ll be glad that Arthur can be a little more independent. As we say in our group “This too shall pass”. Until then, my boob monster and I will keep plodding on.
Good luck with your feeding, however you’re doing it!

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The Humble Travel Cot And Why It Is Awesome

I’ll admit it, I never expected our cheap Red Kite travel cot to become our son’s main bed. We had this beautiful inherited sleigh cot, snowy white and gorgeous and so lovely in the nursery. It looked like the perfect picture of a baby’s room you’d see on Pinterest or Instagram.

 

When we were ready for Arthur to move into a bigger bed at 4 months (he’s incredibly tall and was starting to outgrow our side-sleeper, plus my back was killing me), I had the idea of putting him in the travel cot in our room as we’d done at my parents’ house. It worked a treat. Once I’d got over not having him right next to me, we were golden. Still in our room, still next to us, just in his own bed with a nice extra mattress we’d bought for the purpose.

 

A month or so after that we decided we’d move him into his own room. How exciting! Getting our own room back! More sleep! Finally using that gorgeous cot!

 

Nope.

 

Firstly, we hadn’t reckoned on Arthur’s thrashing around. In his travel cot with the stretchy sides it was absolutely fine for him to roll over and over in his sleep, because there was nothing to bash him. All nice and soft and fun to make silly faces against. In the wooden cot he would repeatedly wake himself up with a limb stuck out the side, crying. Enter the ‘airwrap’ cot bumper, a safe breathable mesh to stop that happening. Great, worked for a few nights, but then Arthur started crawling, practising even when he was asleep. Now he was banging his little head into the solid end of the cot. And, yes, waking himself up.

 

After agonising over it for a few days (the cot! The beautiful cot!) we were resigned. Arthur crawls in his sleep, pulls himself up to standing and is generally a night time menace. To ensure that the sleep we did get was less punctuated by anxiety dreams about him maiming himself as we slumbered, we agreed to give up, take that lovely white cot down and let him sleep in his beloved travel cot.

 

As it turns out, it was a blessing. Arthur loves his bed, and is happy in there playing as I get everything ready for bedtime. He sleeps better (OK, it’s still not great but much, much better), and we’ve even bought another one to act as a playpen for downstairs when I need a break from chasing his little bottom round the living room. When we go away we take his actual bed from home, which is great for him. But the real dream is the weekend. We obviously don’t get a lie-in any more, but now we just bring Arthur’s bed into our room and let him play and nap in there. He can’t fall off the bed that way, and we still have a lovely time all together. And naps. Did I mention we all nap at the same time?

 

I’d say that’s worth retiring the beautiful cot for now.