Baby Book Club: Hooray for Hoppy by Tim Hopgood

I’m an English and Creative Writing graduate, so it probably comes as no surprise that I love reading, I’m happy to report that so does Pippin. It makes my heart absolutely sing when she drags a book over to be read to, or pats the sofa so she can sit down and read with you.

I am always looking for new and beautiful books to read with her, although she already has a few firm favourites. We have read Hooray for Hoppy! by Tim Hopgood at every bedtime for at least the last month.

What is it about?

Hoppy, a rabbit, is waking up from his long winter sleep. He uses his senses to identify that spring has in fact arrived and he shares this joyous information with all his little bunny friends! The books beautiful illustrations take us with Hoppy from his burrow deep within the snow, to the smell of the fresh air, the sound of the bird song, the taste of the fresh grass, the sight of the lambs leaping in the meadow and the feel of the warm ground under his feet.

After he has realised that it really is spring time he just can’t wait to share the great news with all the other rabbits, but they aren’t there! So Hoppy thumps his feet in true rabbit fashion and calls them all to the hill and they are just as thrilled as he is that spring has finally sprung!

It is a book to help children learn about the five senses – and like the other books in the series it has a little section on the back to help re-emphasise the message in the book. At the moment Pippin is a bit young for this, but I really can’t see her getting tired of this book any time soon and I am very sure we will talk more about the senses with her in the future.

Why is it a favourite?

For me, because of the illustrations. We now have a lot of Tim Hopgood books in our reading corner. I first bought Tip Tap Went The Crab for Pippin’s book advent last year. We then quickly added Ping and Pong are Best Friends (mostly) and Wow! Said the Owl to our collection. I picked up What a Wonderful World at Plas Newyd in Wales and then I bought Walter’s Wonderful Web and Hoppy from and independent book shop in Beaumaris. I think you can safely say I’m a fan!

I love the bright colours, and I love the collage effect of the artwork. We spend a lot of time looking at the pictures, and Pip enjoys pointing at all the elements on the page, and we talk about what they all are.

Pippin’s favourite bits are showing me all the birds in the pictures, baaing with the lambs and thumping her feet just like Hoppy.

She takes her foot in her hand, drops it on the page and bangs her heel: as hard and as fast as she possibly can. You become proud of the strangest things when you become a parent – and that makes me very proud.

 

Should you buy it?

Yes, in short. The story is simplistic, but that is not a bar to reading with young children. It is short enough that it keeps Pippin’s attention, and we’ve been reading this to her since around the ten month mark. My nephew has also read it to her, so it is pretty easy for new readers to grasp too.

The pictures are engaging, and they allow for expansion to the story: ‘Can you show me all the birds?’ ‘What noise do the lambs make?’

It’s an attractive book, and it makes a great addition to our book shelf.

 

Pippin’s Adventures: Speke Hall, Liverpool

I’ve said it before, and again, I absolutely love being a member of the National Trust. For £108 a year we get access to hundreds of properties around the UK, which means we’re never short of somewhere to go for a day out. Whatever the weather.

Despite the frosty weather we’re being treated to at the moment we took a trip out to Speke Hall in Liverpool with the little.

Speke Hall is a Tudor Building sat in a large expanse of grounds, which you can explore and play in – but also watch the planes from Liverpool John Lennon Airport fly over!

Poor Pippin got to explore next to none of the grounds, she had fallen asleep within ten minutes of our arrival,  although she did find the time to make a new friend: a pug called Hercules.

If your child has more stamina than mine then you might manage to make it rounds the hedge maze with them, or you could enjoy some snacks from the café whilst they played on the huge play area. We are definitely going to go back and explore this with Pippin, because we’ve never properly had a look round it and it looked so much fun!

There’s also a special woodland walk, complete with zip lines, den building and outdoor obstacles to balance on.

 

We’ve been to Speke before, but not since Pippin was born and we never knew about all the fun things we could do with her there, so Speke will definitely be going on our re-visit list.

The house re-opens on February 10th, but until then there’s loads of outdoor spaces to explore.

Birthday Photo Shoot with Milk and Cuddles Photography

For Pippin’s birthday I wanted to have some photos taken. I adore photographs, I love taking them, I love having them and I love looking back at them and remembering the time they immortalise, and when a friend shared the photos take for her daughter’s first birthday I knew I wanted Lauren from Milk and Cuddles photography to take them.

She didn’t disappoint.

We didn’t want to do a cake smash, and initially we were going to have a studio shoot that took elements of our wedding. But then Lauren suggested we go to Dunham Massey and it was perfect. We have been to Dunham quite a few times since Pippin was born, we’re National Trust members and we love exploring with her.

The weather wasn’t brilliant, and we nearly moved everything to the studio at the eleventh hour, but Lauren was really flexible and we pushed things back to the afternoon and, luckily, the rain held off. Although I did have to do some last minute outfit changes because the little romper I had picked out was a definite no go!

Lauren was divine with Pippin, she made her feel comfortable and I think she made a friend for life after presenting her with a pink balloon (or ‘Baaaaall’ as she calls them)! Pip doesn’t warm to people easily, but she acted like Lauren was an old friend, which led to some really beautiful photos.

Oh and she did all of this whilst being heavily pregnant.

My only problem now is picking only a few to put up around the house.

Pippin’s Adventures: Dunham Massey, The Lost Carnival

I make no secret of the fact that I adore having a National Trust Membership. We’ve used it so much since getting it, and I like the fact that pretty much wherever we go we can find a wonderful place to visit.

So when my cousin wanted to do a meet up for Pippin’s birthday a Trust property seemed perfect, so we headed off to Dunham Massey.

Dunham Massey is an 18th Century House in between Manchester and Cheshire, with impressive grounds filled with deer and a beautiful Garden. It isn’t the first time we have visited, but it is the first time we’ve visited when there was an event on!

Currently the house has been transformed to tell the tale of the 7th Earl and his scandalous marriage to London Celebrity Catherine Cox.

Little Pippin was really getting some steps in wandering up and down the hallways of the house. She had great fun pointing out all the different dogs in the portraits too.

The garden’s are currently home to ‘The Lost Carnival’.

Essentially a treasure hunt, but filled with performances and fun. Including hula hooping, which I think the adults enjoyed more than the littles on our trip!

And we made sure to say hello to the ‘Ack Acks’ (for the uninitiated that’s my daughter speak for Ducks)…

Before heading to the café for tea and cake.

The Lost Carnival is running until the 30th of August, so you still have a few more days to catch it!

My Breastfeeding Story

I’ve been breastfeeding now for ten months.

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I never intended to breastfeed at all. I did say “Oh, I will give it a go, but if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work”, to everyone who I thought wanted to hear it (the midwife, other mamas-to-be, my Mother-in-law, my husband, the woman in the COOP). Really I had no intention of it working, I just wasn’t interested in breastfeeding.

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and pregnancy was hard. I didn’t like losing my body autonomy and I wasn’t sure I could cope with the extra responsibility and the dependence of baby on me for all the feeds. Plus I wasn’t sure how to cop with my breasts’ new function.

Then I got gestational diabetes and moved very swiftly from a homebirth to being induced at 37+4 weeks.

I hated the idea of being induced and, frankly, I hated being induced.

I laboured, unsuccessfully, for fifteen hours before heading over to surgery for an EMC and a lovely big bleed.

I was shown Pippin, and then she was taken somewhere else in the room for her AGPARS and whatnot, whilst they sewed me back together. We got into recovery where we had our first cuddle. Then daddy got some skin to skin, and baby Pips decided she wanted a bite to eat and did her newborn crawl to daddy’s nipple.

So back she came to me, and they attempted to get her to latch on my right nipple, with no joy. I was struggling to get into position and she was struggling to get into position. So, as they were concerned about getting some nutrients in her, and how sleepy she was getting, they asked permission to give her a cup of formula. Which was given.

It’s all a bit blurry after this because I was both tired and still slightly drugged up. Drs kept coming in and taking bloods and looking for infections. Then they took Pip away because they wanted to fit a canula and do some tests.

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After a  bit I got taken back up to the ward, and they brought her back and I just looked at her.

It felt like two minutes later when they came a took her again. They wanted to fit a naso-gastric tube and do an xray.

So when my parents arrived to visit their granddaughter they found me, alone and fairly upset. I don’t want to dwell on that bit. But what it meant for feeding was that Pip was on a drip for the first day, as they were worried about her aspirating a feed. By the second day her oxygen levels increased enough that she was allowed to have colostrum and formula fed through the tube.

I did have loads of support from the infant feeding team. I was shown how to properly hand express colostrum, and then given a pump to try and stimulate my milk to come in so we could send it to Pippin.

On the second day I went and saw here. I can remember getting to hold her again, but I’m not sure when it was. I was a mess and I really struggled with feelings of, I can only describe it as inadequacy. Not about the feeding, but because she had ended up in that situation. I don’t know how I ended up fighting so hard to breast feed, I think it felt like the only thing I had left to give her. The thing only I could do. If things had been different, maybe I wouldn’t have breast fed. Who knows now.

Latching still wasn’t working well for us. She could managed the left, but my right nipple was just the wrong shape for her. I was still pumping religiously and she was having top ups of both expressed milk and formula. They identified a posterior tongue tie, but I was really reluctant for more medical interventions. We left hospital after a week with an appointment for the tongue tie clinic and a breast pump.

I wasn’t in a good way when I got home. The birth had crushed me, I was on daily injections (I hate needles) and I was shaking and felt sick every time I had to feed her. I wasn’t in a good place mentally, but somehow we just carried on.

 

In hospital I had begun to recognise her hungry cries, but sometimes the crying just wouldn’t stop. We would pace for hours with a screaming baby. We were changing more nappies than we could keep track of in a day, all of which were filled with mucousy poo. We were struggling. Then, after a particularly bad night during which we changed seven nappies in an hour, my midwife asked when we had considered the possibility of a dairy allergy. So I put measures in place to removed dairy. It would take a whole other post to talk about that, and I probably will do at some point, but over a number of months it made a massive difference and the smiley, contented baby we’d had glimpses of was around more often and things got a little easier. With hindsight I know that the screaming with red face and balled first wasn’t, as I had been led to believe in hospital, hunger, it was pain. Pain as her tiny body tried to process dairy. In reality those ‘top ups’ were probably not needed and actually might have been making things worse. But nobody was to know that, and it couldn’t be helped.

I wish I hadn’t spent those weeks blaming myself – researching colic, foremilk and hindmilk and thinking it was my fault for feeding her too much, or too little or not swapping breasts enough. When it was inevitable.

Around the same time we worked out the dairy allergy I got mastitis. And it is every bit as horrible as they tell you. At first it felt as though I had glass in my nipple, then I started shivering and felt freezing cold, but I was boiling hot. At some point over the second night it started to break; I was alternating between shivering and sweating so heavily I had to put towels down on the bed.

The midwives suggested having the tongue tie snipped (I had cancelled the previous appointment because we were managed well) would be advisable. So we had it done. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was over quickly. Although as she learnt to latch again it was like going back to square one: sore nips.

From there we haven’t really had any issues. I kind of, enjoy is the wrong word, but I feel some sense of achievement I guess. Which is funny because I haven’t really done anything exactly. I am glad I have breast fed her. Ending up breastfeeding has influenced a lot of my other parenting choices too. We ended up co-sleeping, which wasn’t our intention, and I haven’t gone back to work quite as quickly as I thought. It has worked for us though, and with Pippin’s allergies I am quite glad she wasn’t exposed to more dairy through formula. I like the way things have turned out, for the most part, I could do with a bit more sleep, but that’s probably a common complaint for parents!

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I do think it has been harder than we are probably led to believe, and that leads to, in some cases, women thinking there’s something wrong with their breasts/supply when there might not be. I was lucky that I had a lot of support, but it was completely by chance. I know two women who gave birth around the same time as me who were desperate to breast feed, but it didn’t work out for them. I feel a bit sad that I got the support when I was pretty set against breast feeding and they didn’t have that.

As things stand I have no intention of stopping breastfeeding until Pip decides she is ready to. With her allergies it is probably the healthiest thing I can do for her right now. Although I am holding out hope she will take a bottle of ebm eventually.

If we ever did this again, and there’s a slim to none chance of me ever going through labour again, I think I would breastfeed. I think I would trust my instincts more, and hopefully panic less about whether they are having enough milk (babies and bodies are clever, they know) although I would do bottles and dummies as well as breastfeeding, to allow me a little more space.

Sod the nipple confusion, mama needs a nap.

 

Pippin’s Adventures: Washington Old Hall, Sunderland

Despite travelling to the North East a lot to visit family, we’d never actually really explored further than the local beach. Partially because the journey was quite long, and we never really spent enough time there, so every minute was spent with family. But when we travelled back to meet up with family on what would have been my Nana-in-law’s birthday we took the chance to nip in to a local National Trust property on the way home and I’m very glad we did.

Washington Old Hall, in the heart of Washington Village, has links to (you guessed it) George Washington, former President of America. Or maybe you didn’t guess it, I certainly didn’t. Apparently the hall was home to five generations of his ancestors.

Interesting as that was, I was more interested in its later life.

The Hall is probably one of the trusts smaller properties, but it definitely made up for it not only in the beauty of the grounds but also in the content of the property.

National Trust properties are very often stately homes that were once occupied by the elite, and though I love to see that decedent side of our history, sometimes it is interesting to see the lives of people more akin to my own ancestors.

Washington Old Hall is not just the home of George Washington’s ancestors, in more recent years it was also a tenement property. In the 1930s it housed a number of families, and one of the rooms within the hall houses a recreation of one of those rooms. I couldn’t get over just how many people were squeezed into such tiny spaces.

From a family point of view there’s no access for pushchairs apart from on the ground floor. This didn’t bother us particularly as we had the carrier too, and apparently there is also a hip carrier that you can borrow if needed. They will store the pram for you so you can collect it for use around the garden, and there’s a lift to help you access the lower parts of the garden with pram.

There is a walled garden, and a lovely tea room where Pippin and I shared an Ice Lolly whilst Daddy had a clotted cream scone. Which was just cruel frankly.

They also had a small playground, and Pippin had her first ever ride down a slide – and hated it.

My favourite part of the whole property was the Nuttery. Basically a wilderness created for wildlife and completely stunning. We spent so long just watching the tadpoles in the pond, and the bees in their insect hotel.

Pippin loved bird watching from the shelter, although she didn’t quite understand the concept of being still and quiet – I think we have some work to do before she will manage not to scare off any birds within a ten mile radius.

I really hope we will get to visit again, I’d love to go in spring and see what the Nuttery looks like then.