If you’d have told me 6 years ago I’d be running my own Reflexology business and have two children under two, I’d have quite frankly scoffed, rolled my eyes and probably got really annoyed at your positivity! Back then, I’d already been through 3 IVF cycles, had an early miscarriage (and a thyroid cancer diagnosis and surgery in the midst of it all) and couldn’t have felt further away from having one let alone two children. 

Yet a few months and a change of clinic later, my dreams did start to come true and I got that BFP (big fat positive), followed soon after by a heart beat on a scan and my little man arrived a month early in November 2014. Our lives changed forever. 

We’d tentatively discussed going back to cycle again to try for a sibling, but I was really unsure whether I could get back on the roller coaster again so soon. My little man was 6 months old, I was still breastfeeding and I wanted to enjoy this little miracle, heal a little from the trauma of those years before and try to find a bit of ‘me’ again. That said, I did start to open my mind to the idea – I got in touch with my consultant and my acupuncturist to start exploring when might be a good time. I joined a gym & went off on our first blissful family holiday. When we returned, I remember sharing a jug of Pimms with a friend in the sunshine and discussing it all, feeling overwhelmed at the thought of going through it all again. And then a few days later, my period still hadn’t arrived (which wasn’t an issue as I’d only had my first one since giving birth the previous month), but something was niggling me. Take a test.

And there it was, just a little over 12 months later I was staring at two lines on a stick in utter disbelief. I was a living, breathing cliché of ‘just relax and it’ll happen’ (and yes, I did get sooo many comments afterwards along the lines of ‘see, I told you…as soon as you stop thinking about it, it happens’). (By the way, that kind of statement is in the top 5 of ‘what not so say to someone who has been through/is going through fertility struggles’ – just don’t say it. A simple ‘wow that’s incredible’ will suffice!). 

The disbelief stayed with me pretty much the entire pregnancy. I think I was in shock for most of it. During this pregnancy, the shock overtook the total anxiety I had felt for the entire pregnancy first time round. I was just in this weird little bubble. I had a baby, who was nowhere near being a toddler yet, and here I was expecting another. I had to return to work early for a couple of months before leaving for maternity leave again. It blew my mind if I’m honest.

And then in February 2016, 15 months after my first, my second little boy arrived. Then the enormity of it all started to sink in. We’d already bought a new house and had to move into a rental a couple of months before he arrived and so now, here I was with two babies in a temporary house surrounded by boxes. Luckily through a combination of support from my parents and nursery, I managed to get through those first few weeks after paternity leave ended, and got into a blurry routine of sorts. I’m not going to lie, I struggled and I pretended everything was ‘fine’ and that I was coping because of course everyone expects you to be struggling and tells you how hard it must be. So a bit of me was determined to prove to the ‘you’ve got your hands full’ crew that I was actually just fine thank you very much. Everyone is of course different and maybe I just didn’t have the resilience or the level of support some are lucky enough to have. But I did get through it. And I’ve now made it through the sleepless nights, the weaning and toilet training x 2 and it’s been the most incredible journey. 

If you’re about to embark on a similar journey, here are my top 5 lessons learnt from those first 12 months in particular, which hopefully might be useful:

  1. Accept ALL THE HELP. You are not superwoman. Don’t try to be. If there is nursery, childminder, family, friends, neighbours….ANYONE…who is prepared to offer help in some small or big way, then just take it. If you don’t have the luxury of offers of help, then you must slow the hell down and understand that nothing much will get done aside from trying to keep yourself and your two babies alive. And that, my friend, is good enough.
  2. Make friends with the guilt fairy. She will sit on your shoulder most of the time, giving you a tap every now and again. She will try to make you feel guilty for everything – not giving the bigger baby enough attention; not giving the little baby enough attention; not keeping on top of anything around the house/in life generally. The list goes on. Don’t allow her to make you feel like you’re failing. I return to point 1 – keeping everyone alive is good enough at this stage. 
  3. Buggy dilemmas are worth thinking through! I agonised for way too long over the whole buggy situation, wondering what I would need. I thought I had it cracked but still ended up with the wrong solution! My best advice would be to think about what you like to do when you’re out and about and what your lifestyle is like, first and foremost. We moved to a more rural location with cross-field daily walks and this meant the brand new second pram we bought soon become a bit of a bone shaker (and a heavy one at that). We later bought a second hand side by side buggy with off road tyres – best purchase EVER. Just really think about what your day to day life with two will be like and let that drive your purchase decisions. 
  4. Routines are your friend. I’ve always been a fan of routine in life and motherhood, but honestly I don’t know how I’d have coped without one. Bathtimes/bedtimes in particular became a military operation as most of the week I was doing this solo every night. Just to get them both washed, dried, dressed and fed meant that everything had to be done in a certain order in a certain way, but those foundations are still with us now at bedtime and the boys are calm, settled and know what to expect (even though they might fight it occasionally). I always have (and still do), sigh with relief when we are all lying on the bed, cuddling and watching a bit of TV while they have their milk and toast before bed. Mission accomplished!
  5. Get out of the house. Even if its raining, even if you’ve not really got anywhere to go, just try and make it out. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t showered. It doesn’t matter if the babies still have their babygrows on from the night before. Just get out whether it be walking, in the car or getting on the bus. Yes it’s a monumental effort and the thought can be exhausting, but 9 times out of 10 you’ll all feel better for it. That fresh air, change of scenery and sometimes just that ‘clunk’ as you lock in the car seat and take a breath as you walk round to get in the car gives you a little bit of space. Of course feeding and cuddles and changing are all important and necessary parts of nurturing your little ones, but so is having a little bit of personal space and time to breathe for a few minutes a day. 

And my final biggest piece of advice is simply be kind to yourself. Carve out little pockets of time for yourself whenever this is humanly possible. Chat to a friend, listen to a podcast, take a long bath, book in a reflexology treatment. That old saying of ‘you can’t fill from an empty cup’ is so true. Self-care isn’t selfish, its totally necessary so that you continue to do this incredibly hard but bloody amazing job of being a mum to two under two. Remember, you’re awesome mama!

Jane Singleton is mum to two boys aged 3.5 and 4 and is a women’s health reflexologist at Jane Singleton Reflexology based in Kettering, Northants. She specialises in relaxation, stress, anxiety, fertility, reproductive and hormonal health, pregnancy & post-natal, peri-menopause & menopause and reflexology for babies & tots to teens. 

Jane is also a Tiny Toes Reflexology & Massage Instructor, and manages Tiny Toes Kettering – Baby Reflexology & Massage, supporting new mums through her small, nurturing classes which she runs from her home in Barton Seagrave on Mondays. 

www.janesingletonreflexology.co.uk

F: @janesingletonreflexology

@tinytoeskettering

Instagram: @janesingletonreflexology 

“Are they a good sleeper?” is a question most parents dread hearing… especially if the answer is “No”. Yet everyone seems to get a little bit obsessed with sleep as soon as a new baby arrives! 

As a reflexologist I often find myself discussing sleep patterns with my clients and how we can improve sleep quality. In my Tiny Toes reflexology & baby massage classes sleep is a subject we visit constantly, because it is something at the forefront of new parents’ minds. 

So let’s explore sleep to see why we all need it and more importantly how we can help your baby sleep!

Why do we need sleep?

A good night’s sleep can:

  • Improve immunity
  • Boost energy levels
  • Help coordination 
  • Balance blood pressure
  • Increase concentration & productivity
  • Help the body repair, regenerate & recover

So it’s no wonder we feel like zombies when we have a disrupted night!

The Baby Book says…

Who is guilty of reading a baby book or following an app, then expecting their baby to be ticking those milestones? Yep, my hand is up too! 

All babies are different and there are no set rules for their sleep, just as there aren’t for adults. How many adults do you know who fall asleep at the same time, sleep for the same duration and wake at the same time?! Yet we expect our little bundles of joy to follow set routines and patterns, and even compare them with our friends’ babies with an expectation they’ll all be the same. It’s slightly bonkers really, but sleep deprived parents are desperate for answers.  They live with the hope that their baby will eventually allow them to sleep for a decent amount of time… and fingers crossed that day will come tomorrow!

Baby Body-clocks

When babies are born they lack the ability to produce a hormone called melatonin. This is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in our brains to encourage sleep. In adults the production of melatonin is affected by light – the darker it gets, the more melatonin is produced (this is why looking at bright screens close to bedtime affects our sleep). Typically babies do not start producing melatonin until 3-4 months of age or even later, especially if they were born prematurely. As a result they can be blissfully unaware of night and day and feel it’s perfectly acceptable to stay up from dusk ‘til dawn!

Encouraging your baby to sleep

It’s fair to say I’m guilty of using baby books for my research… however the tip with this section is something I apply to books and apps – Cherry Pick. Take the elements that sit well with you and work for your family. Choose what best suits your baby’s personality and discard anything that’s left over. Also discard the tips you’ve tried and found unhelpful – even if all your friends found it worked!

For me personally, routines always worked the best for sleep. These aren’t to be confused with schedules, where things are done at specific times – I don’t run a tight ship in that sense! However a routine means doing things in the same order. I do this from birth and it can simply be ‘nappy change, then milk’ when baby wakes or vice-versa if they wake up ravenous! It allows baby to know what’s coming up next and gives them a sense of security. Think of your day – you probably have routines that suit you. Imagine how you’d feel if you suddenly reorganised your daily routines today, and then reorganised them again tomorrow, and further muddled them the day after that… life would feel rather confusing! So how can we expect our babies to feel secure when nothing is predictable?

A simple routine for baby at naptime and bedtime could just be:

  • Nappy change
  • Milk
  • Bed

Bath-time can be a great addition to the routine too. Also place them in the same place for naps & bedtime (when possible), with same comforter, in a sleeping bag / under a blanket can all help too. If you use a comforter I suggest you have two, and rotate them so they feel and smell the same. If baby starts to rely on one and that gets left in the trolley at Tesco, it could be a disaster!

Baby massage & reflexology can also help your baby to unwind and sleep better. Massage can be done anytime, but lends itself to bath-times and changing because little ones are already undressed. Reflexology can be done anywhere as all you need to do is pop their feet out of their socks or sleepsuit. More information about reflexology & massage classes is at the foot of the page.*

Set the scene. Help your baby to unwind and prepare for sleep by keeping the lighting low and the atmosphere calm. As I mentioned earlier, their melatonin production won’t kick in until they are at least 3 months old. However low lighting before sleep could be an extension to your routine. If they’re not producing melatonin yet, it will still help them to feel calm. 

  Other ways to calm your baby can be cuddling them, singing or talking in soothing tones, stroking their heads or rocking them. Combinations of these may be called for if they’re feeling very resistant to sleep!

Always ask for help

Sleep deprivation is a horrible thing to contend with and can leave you feeling physically drained and an emotional wreck. Do not feel you have to put a brave face on and play the ‘super-parent’ role for family and friends. Ask them for help instead. There is nothing wrong with asking someone to entertain the baby for an hour or two while you pop upstairs for a nap. Better still, see if they’ll take them for a stroll in the buggy – if you can hear every murmur and cry you’re unlikely to get any rest. Baby will most likely fall asleep (typical, isn’t it?!) and won’t even notice you are not there. Just that small recharging time can make a huge difference to you both and nobody ever minds looking after a baby.

Remember nothing is permanent

I often use this saying… nothing remains exactly how it is forever. I know how exhausting it is to have a baby waking you constantly and the days feel like years. 

However the time will come when your baby sleeps better and you get to rest more too. Be kind to yourself and grab those extra hours or minutes of sleep when the opportunities arise, but don’t panic when they don’t. Just do your best and take each day as it comes. 

Before you know it you’ll have a teenager on your hands and I haven’t met anyone yet who needs to get up to them all through the night! In-fact they’re notoriously hard to get out of bed…

Reflexology & Baby Massage: There are a wide range of classes out there teaching massage or reflexology, however Tiny Toes classes combine the two in a unique way (not that I’m biased, of course!). We like to call this combination of reflexology and massage Reflexage.  The techniques can support your baby with sleep, colic, reflux, coughs & colds and teething.

  If you find a Tiny Toes instructor nearby, you can enjoy 4 or 5 week courses with small classes, instructions to support the techniques at home as well as time for refreshments and a catch up with other parents. You’ll get to enjoy a hot cuppa because your Tiny Toes instructor will be keeping baby busy with their very own reflexology treatment, tailored to suit their needs. As an extra bonus, the majority of babies have a long afternoon nap and/or better night’s sleep following their Tiny Toes time.

Claire Plain is a reflexologist & Tiny Toes instructor. She lives near Hitchin, Hertfordshire and has two small children – the littlest one dislikes naps & has a nocturnal nature!

https://www.mindbodhiandspirit.com

https://www.facebook.com/TinyToesHitchin/