Monday, 26 October 2015

Keeping the red rash under control

An angry red rash takes over my body - a bumpy sometimes itchy infliction that is commonly known as ‘chicken skin.’ I didn’t think other people had it too, I thought it was just my skin, my horrible lumpy bumpy unsightly rough skin.

Keratosis pilaris - is a common and harmless condition where the skin becomes rough and bumpy, as if covered in permanent goose pimples. Keratosis pilaris occurs when too much keratin builds up in the skin's hair follicles. Keratin is a protein found in the tough outer layer of skin, which causes the surface of the skin to thicken (hence the name "keratosis"). and if you are of Celtic origin you are likely to inherit this beautiful skin from your parents.

My upper arm
I never spoke about it to a doctor because I thought they would say what my mother told me “must be just pigmentation!” I have Keratosis Pilaris from the top of my shoulders to my elbows and also on my upper legs. The pimples on my upper legs never really bothered me to be honest as in Ireland we don’t get much opportunities for wearing bare legs with short dresses or skirts and if we do - it is probably still a bit cold, so everyone has goose pimples! 

But the ugly red and sometimes aggravated bumps of my upper arms did and still do annoy me. I hate showing off my arms and try to wear a cardigan or long sleeved top as much as I can. 

Obviously the solution to anything these days is to take to the internet - so I did. I googled it over and over again, I tried several treatments but the sad fact is, there is no cure. 
All you can do it treat it and try to keep it under control. Something that might work for a week can wear off as skin constantly renews itself. Even laser is pointless because when your skin renews it undoes any good work.
Body from from The Body Shop for exfoliation

The only ‘temporary cure’ that worked for me was pregnancy - but that is expensive and has other long term consequences!

If you live in a warm climate that too helps, My KP is much better in Summer compared to the harsh cold winter. But although hot weather helps - hot showers and baths do not. They aggravate my skin and leave me looking diseased. 
Exfoliation and hydration are key, but don’t scrub too hard as it could set off the angry look.

Lactic acid and Salicylic acid are recommended, but to be honest I am not a big fan of chemicals on my skin, so I try to steer towards more natural products. Moisture is important and although I may not always have time to lather my whole body in cream, my arms and legs always get priority. Coconut oil has been flagged by many as the 'cure' for chicken skin. I have tried it, in several ways and I can attest it does help to moisturise, sometimes it has helped to keep the red rash look away, but the lumps and bumps remain.

Diet wise I’m unsure what can help, but I have been trying to incorporate some flaxseed in my smoothies and it seems to be helping a little ... well it hasn't made it worse.

If you have KP, what works for you? do you have any tips or advice?
Lianne's post on Keratosis Pilaris
Lianne from The Brunette Says
I am linking up with Lianne from The Brunette Says - a fellow sufferer. Lianne is looking to compile some tips and advise for KP sufferers. She is also trailing some products which are marketed at the skin condition.

So pop over and see how she is getting on - lets hope she make a break through!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Weaning from boob to bottle

The decision to quit breastfeeding and to move my baby to formula was difficult enough, but searching for information and advice on how to wean  was almost just as hard.

The actual process of how to wean, how much formula to give and how often to feed was hard to track down. I got some basic information from a friend and sort of ‘winged it’ myself. And thankfully it all worked out.

But if you are looking for some help and advice to bring your baby from boob to bottle, I hope this information will help.

You should note that Abbey had received formula in SCBU from a bottle. And when I was breastfeeding I did pump extra milk and gave this bottle most nights - so we didn't have any issues with changing to an actual bottle. We used Aptamil 1 and Tommee Tippee Closer to nature bottles and Dr Brown's anti colic bottles.

Whatever your reason for stopping breastfeeding I would recommend you do it slowly, I have witnessed the pain mothers go through if they quit breastfeeding abruptly - it really is not worth it.
This is what worked for me and my baby (born 5 weeks premature, so weighed about 7.5lbs at six weeks).

The toughest part to work out is how much formula to give. Abbey would feed for about 20 mins a time. So I pumped for 20 minutes and got about 70ml - I know she was probably getting more, but it was a good indicator for me.

At six weeks old I started her off with one 30ml bottle at 3.30pm and then breastfed at 5pm. I found her to be quite hungry, so I knew to up it to 40ml the next day etc. By day four she was on 60ml twice a day the first at 12 noon and the next at 12am. She had one or two little vomits but was taking it well.

Moving on, I either upped the amount of the formula feed by 10ml or added another formula bottle every 3-4 days. This process really worked for us, breastfeeding in between bottle feeds was slow enough to not give me with any pain and she seemed to adjust perfectly.

It actually took me over 3 weeks to move her fully onto formula as she had been breastfeeding at least every three hours a day. Once she was on full formula we started to start the process of a sleep routine. 
We used Gina Ford’s Contented Little Baby and were delighted with the results. Review and details soon.

We did have some issues with colic a few weeks later, but this was down to her being in a pavlik harness. More on that soon!

If you weaned to formula, did you have any issues?

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Escape to the 'Spathroom' this Winter

My snapchat to my hubby
I admit it, I love Winter. 
I love the long dark nights, the howling wind and the bitter cold because it means layers of clothes, socks, cosy fires and baths.

Baths really come into their own during the Winter (forget about Autumn in Ireland we have two seasons Winter and Spring!), slipping into a hot bath of bubbles and scents, surrounded by flickering candles and a basket of pampering goodies is hard to justify in the bright Summer evenings.

But after battling, wind, rain, hail, sleet and snow to get home, a hot bath is not only justified, it is deserved. You deserve a little pampering.

Turn your drab bathroom into a 'Spathroom', escape and experience beauty rituals from around the globe.

A bath can be a lot of effort and many I know just don't feel it is worth the time and preparation. But take my advice it is, you need this time, the effort the relaxation.

Fill the bath with lots of bubbles!

Tips for the perfect Spa home experience:
1. Hand over the baby monitor and any other responsibilities to your other half. You need to lock that bathroom door for at least 40 mins UNINTERRUPTED.
2. Set the scene - Have your robe and towel warming on the radiator, light some scented candles, get some relaxing music on your phone/ music player.
3. Have a basket/ box armful of goodies to use for your bath - bubble bath, salts, essential oils, facial mask, hail oils etc find those Christmas gift sets from last year!
4. If you don't like a hot bath use a water temperature - those with babies should have one to hand - so useful. Don't forget a glass of water (or wine) - a warm bath can make you thirsty!
5. Submerge, breathe, clear your mind, relax. (I like to add some classical music too)

My Favourite Bath products:

Body Shop Japanese Camellia Cream
The Body Shop - no longer the cheap and cheerful option, their new  Spa of the World range really is exquisite. The Dead Sea Salt Scrub (€34) gently exfoliates my skin without being too coarse or harsh, this big tub should last you a lifetime of baths. Likewise the large Japanese Camellia Cream (€39) smells divine and feels velvet smooth on my skin. It is pure luxury - just buy it.

Yankee Candles - I know there are a million different candle products, but for me the price, quality and scent of Yankee Candles are hard bet. My current love is for: A Child's Wish
Spa Sanctuary 5 minute Thermal Detox Mask - it warms and then cools on the skin (thanks how I know it is working) before you rinse it off.

Kerastase Age Recharge Mask (€36)
Kerastase Age Recharge Hair Mask - smells good, easy to use and leaves my hair smooth and silky. For a red head with course hair this is no easy feat - so this comes highly recommended.

Johnsons Bedtime Baby Bath - yes the lavender smelling bath lotion to help babies (and adults) go sleepy sleepy. You are probably not going to rave or tackle any chores after your bath so why not slip under the duvet and into a deep slumber.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Not due yet, but one month old!

Abbey spent half of her first month in hospital, the other half at home - but she really should have spent it in the womb as she wasn’t due out yet!
One month old, Abbey has her brace on under her padded dress

She had a hectic first month and although looking back it seems to have gone in a flash, I know that to be untrue, the nights were long, very long.

Smiles already or polite wind?!
At three weeks old, she shed her still small  premature clothes and became a much larger baby with a whole body harness for her dislocated hips. Just when we thought we knew how to change her nappy, the game changed, she now had to wear two nappies, interwoven around a large square brace. Despite the chore, she seemed comfy and content in the brace.
Now not only was she tiny, but she was also awkward. We couldn't hold her like a newborn cuddled into the crook of our arms, she was either flat down or up on our shoulder. She seemed to like the height, so she spent most of her time perched on our shoulders.

We tried to not hold her all the time, but she developed a hatred for her cosy and warm Moses basket. A calm sleepy baby became erratic one we laid her down in it. After trying tilting the basket, moving it into a dark room, a bright room , swaddling, not swaddling we found the solution.

Our solution is not recommended - by anyone, especially health officials. But the only way we could get her to sleep was to put her lying on her tummy. We have learned since that babies are spoiled in SCBU as they are allowed to sleep on their tummies as nurses are constantly checking them. A SCBU nurse did tell me while we were there that lying a baby on his/her tummy aids digestion.

Sleeping on mummy ... on her tummy
I was scared when we first tried it, but also relieved. After nervously telling our family, both my mother and my husband’s mum revealed we had slept on our tummies as babies (I still do) and that it was the recommended advice in the 80s.
So we checked on her more often than a sane person should, but she slept soundly, maybe it was the brace, maybe it was genetics - or maybe it was Abbey’s way.

There was no routine at one month, she fed from my breast about 2.5 hours during the day and every 90mins or so at night. Some days were better than others, but it was a sea of exhaustion and newborn cries.

Thankfully we did limit visitors as she had not had any of her vaccinations, so despite the difficulties it did give us a chance to get to know our new family member and she seemed to warm to us!
She is opening her eyes for longer and longer each day, loves being talked to and loves sleeping on her daddy!

Monday, 31 August 2015

August Favs and Foes

August is over and unless there is a miracle any hope of Summer sun is gone with it. I won't pretend to be too sad, I love Autumn, leaves falling, crisp weather and cosy clothes.
So here are what I was loving and heating this month - Abbey has included her fav too!

Lancome was my fav mascara in August
Lancome Hypnose Volune-รก-Porter mascara
I love volume, I love length but most of all I like full coverage right to the roots.
As a redhead, my eyelashes are naturally blond so despite getting my lashes professionally tinted
every month, my roots tend to show through between tints. So coverage from root to tip is important to me. This mascara uses a hybrid formula of 20% latex and less wax with 306 bristles, resistant smudge-proof while long lasting and sleek one to two sweeps are enough for day time wear. And did I mention a subtle fragrance of fresh roses? The only thing I don't like is the flakes during and after removal - but I am usually in pyjamas at this stage, so who cares!

These are yummy for baby and mummy!
Organix snacks (Abbey approved)
All of them! Abbey loves these and they are great at filling a little gap or keeping her quiet when we are out and about. I like the rice cakes best as they last a little longer than a second! It is great to be able to hand her something which she can eat herself. They use good ingredients, so I am happy to let her have one or two of the snacks a day, I keep them in an airtight container in her changing bag, so a packet will last us just over a week.

Blend, blend, blend

Real Technique Miracle Complexion Sponge
My under eye wrinkles were soaking up my concealer and looking caked recently so I went hunting online for a product or solution. I came across some advice to use a moist beauty blender to blend in concealer and to quickly follow with a setting powder. I found this Real Technique sponge to be dupe
for the beauty blender and the good news is - this advice works! Run the sponger underwater, squeeze it and use to flawlessly blend and set concealer (I use Rimmel Stay Matte powder). I use this sponge everyday, it is great for blending.

My snapchat

Snap Chat phone app
Yes it is addictive, yes it is fun - but it keeps freezing my phone! It is constantly stopping and stalling, and this is the second phone it has terrorised. I do like the app and think it can be fun and I did hear there are new updates to help reduce the amount of space it uses, so that would be very helpful.

No sudden changes!

Sudden Change Eye Serum
This product promises "to look younger in just 3 minutes." And I didn't.
Surprised? Not really, but I was expecting it to be a bit more useful. As an under eye serum it is ok,
but after waiting 3 minutes and not smiling or frowning as per instructions, I felt a little silly when
my under eye wrinkles were still visible.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

She needed my love more than my milk

When I was pregnant, I read a lot about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.
I quite like my boobs, so I wasn't too fond of the idea of having them battered and bruised, but the more I read about the benefits, and the more they swelled, I decided I wanted to give it a go - no pressure.
Abbey was in an incubator for a week and spent two weeks in SCBU
Pressure: The day after Abbey’s birth (5 weeks early) I was told quite bluntly that staring into her incubator was not going to help her, I needed to give her my milk.
My body was still in shock, I had not had any leaking beforehand so my boobs were not ready to deliver the precious milk. The lactation consultant showed me what to do, how to use my hand to manually express milk.

She makes me look huge and I make her look tiny!
Abbey in the hospital
Oh the pain, the searing pain, the hot tears on my face as I willed the milk to come. I used warm cloths to help bring the milk down and I squeezed and massaged and squeezed - there was no other option, I had to get my milk, my baby needed it.
My premature, underweight, tiny baby who had a cannula in her delicate little arm, who had wires on her monitoring her heart and her breathing. There was no time to catch up, to focus on healing post-surgery, on my weakness, on my upset or confusion, there was no time to think, I had to squeeze.

I don’t do pain, I don’t push through pain, sweat or tears, that just isn't me, but this wasn't about me.
My baby needed me and I needed to produce. After several hours, it came, the pain was severe but at last the sticky yellow substance (colostrum) appeared.

We bought a Medela Harmony breast pump for expressing

Once through, they reassured me more would come, I just needed to keep working at it. So I did, and slowly but surely I started to bring my baby 1ml, 3ml and 5ml of the yellow sticky substance that she needed. The nurses encouraged me, pushed me for more.
I felt so proud for getting it, for pushing past my limits to give her what she needed - but she needed more and I was exhausted.
Eventually they gave me the automatic pump. Oh that industrial hospital breast pump. Yes it took ages to get those tiny drips into the bottle, but it did come and the pain started to subside slowly - and as the pain eased, the substance started to change a milky colour.

We tried to breastfeed from the boob, but she was too small, it was too much work for her tiny mouth. The nurses pushed me, but I said no, my baby is hungry she needs my milk, but she doesn't have the energy, still with a cannula in her arm, still with beeps attached, I wanted to make her life as easy as I could, despite her difficult time.
“Put a tit on it, put it in the feeding tube - just get it into her,” I demanded.

On her fourth day, we started to breastfeed using a nipple shield - as it was easier for her to latch on to. But there were days when it was too distressing for both of us. She had very little patience so if she didn't get any milk after two of three tries she would get upset, which made me upset. At one week old, we were alternating between tube and expressed breast milk, to keep her energy up. At two weeks old I moved back into the hospital for three nights and we started breastfeeding again, because the nurses said full time expressing would be too much work.
She latched on using a nipple shield and fed every 3 hours  - perfect. Her weight returned to her birth (just 4.9lbs) and we got to bring her home.

At home during the day she could go two hours between feeds, but at night, she was still feeding almost every 90 mins. I was exhausted and emotional. I had to bring her into bed with me to get even 15 mins rest. I never took to breastfeeding, I certainly didn't enjoy it, I endured it - but it wore me down. I would cry at night when she cried. She was so much calmer when her father held her - and this made me upset. Despite all the help from my husband and family, I felt so alone, the weight of the responsibility bared down on me - she needs me, me alone to provide for her.

In the middle of all this Abbey had been born with a dislocated hip and needed to go to Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin (2 hour drive away) every week for a check up, she was also put into a brace which made feeding much more awkward.

Abbey in Temple Street Hospital
I wasn't in pain, there were no latching problems and my baby was growing properly.
But I decided to quit breastfeeding after six weeks so I could love my baby.
I knew if I had stuck with it I would slip into some sort of depression. I was not enjoying my baby and I resented how calm she was with everyone else but me.
My little newborn who fought so hard to get out early and survive. My precious, beautiful tiny baby needed a happy mum, not a stressed one who was annoyed every time she cried.
I decided she needed my love more than my milk.

Having a cuddle after a night time bottle feed
As soon as I made the decision, I felt better. It took over 2 weeks to wean her onto formula. She loved it, she started to sleep better and became a little bit more content in herself. And I got to love her, to cuddle her, to watch her daddy feed her, to take a little step back and enjoy being a mother.

This is not a post against breastfeeding, I am pro breastfeeding, but it didn't work out for us. 
Quitting was the best adult decision I have ever made.
Would I breastfeed again? Absolutely.
Would I recommend you to breastfeed? I would advise you to try it, and to make the best decision for you, your baby and your family.

What was your experience of breastfeeding?

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Bog hopping on Causey Farm

As a farmer’s daughter the idea of going to a farm for a party, holiday or day out is slightly strange to me. I understand how the idea could be fun for city folk - but for me, it's a bit like returning home!

But never one to say no to a trip, I packed my wellies and headed off for a friend’s hen party to Causey Farm in Co Meath, Ireland.

This is no ordinary farm, it is a fun filled, educational and entertaining experience that really do cater for everyone’s tastes, young and old. I was surprised to see we didn’t have the farm to ourselves, there were school tours, youth groups, international students and other hens running around the place enjoying the facility.

The farm is family owned by the Murtaghs who find time to run a fully functional  300 acre farm in between all the bog hopping.

Bog hopping at Causey Farm, Co Meath
Bog what? Bog hopping! The bog has many nicknames such as 'child slave labour camp' amongst those who had to help “win the turf” as children - so to see the fun side of the bog was really amusing. Bascially wet bog is a little like quick sand, if you get stuck in it it is impossible to get out - but you can also fling bits of bog and push your dear friends face down in it! Bog is also good for your skin. It was so much fun to get out and experience the bog in this new way.

My beautiful brown soda bread ready for the oven
We also got to roll up our sleeves and make brown soda bread - which was delicious with some jam. We par took in some ceili dancing, cow milking and to top it off our own clucking hen jumped on top of a large pig - which had never been achieve before!

Usually a hen party is all about the glamour, so it was great fun to let our hair down and forget about our looks - and some of us finally got to see the fun side of the farm away from the stress of daily activites at home.
The 'hen' milking a Causey Cow
After having a look around the websites, Causey farm hoosts Pooka Spooka for Halloween and The Causey Christmas Experience which even Santa Claus takes the time to visit!

Would I return?

Yes. I really want to go back to try A Victwardian Escapade at Clonard House. I love Downton Abbey and this experience allows you to dress up as the downstair servants and the lords and ladies upstairs! Get me there now!