Tips for moving house with a baby

We moved from Bristol to Cornwall seven months ago. We’d just come back from Thailand with six-month-old Delilah so it was a bit of a learning curve. Working with on this post, I’ve put together a few ideas on how to make moving house with a baby a smoother process.

I find I get easily overwhelmed when it comes to tackling big jobs like cleaning the house, let alone moving house, unless I break it down into little steps. It’s hard to know where to begin otherwise and I get stuck in details that turn out to be lower priority later on. If you’re like me, it could help to write down absolutely everything that needs to get done, working logically, room by room, step by step. Then arrange when things need to be done and discuss by whom if there are other members of your household who can take on responsibility or if you need to call in help from someone else. Then do something little from your to do list so you can tick off something right away. This helps if I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed by all that needs to be done.

Take it bit by bit
Rather than aiming to get everything done in the weekend before you move, if at all possible, spread the tasks. We knew months ahead that we’d be moving so I tried to set myself little tasks that would help in the long run, like organising paperwork or sorting out the many miscellaneous bowls and drawers we’d accumulated. Starting early makes everything much more manageable.

Use a sling
I honestly don’t know how people do life with babies without a sling. For me it’s been a game changer all three times, allowing me to keep my baby close while getting on with things, particularly if they’re in a back carry. If your baby’s not keen on the sling or if you’re not confident about using one, it could be worth checking out a sling library or a babywearing consultant near you as they may have some ideas you could try – a different sling or a different carry perhaps. It’s not for everyone but it could be a real help if you find a way to make it work for you.

Build in time for focused attention
I find it difficult to multitask and often get swept up in what I’m doing, forgetting that my baby needs some focused attention too. The thing is, while I’m saying that I’ll just get this one thing done then play with the baby, the reality is that if I stop and give her the undistracted time, she might be happy to take some time on her own or with her sisters afterwards.

Arrange pet care

We moved our cats to my in-laws when we were moving out initially and then into a cattery when we were doing the move in to our new house, a month later. Seriously, you have enough on your plate trying to keep an eye on the baby while doing a house move. It could be worth taking out of the equation worrying about your pets running away.

Declutter before and after

Having recently done such a major move, I feel passionately that we need to own less. We gave away, donated or sold about a third of what we owned before moving. Then we did the same with another third while unpacking. I’m still filling about a bag every couple of weeks to go to the charity shop. My goal is to get to the point where if we ever needed to move again, it wouldn’t be an utterly daunting task, not just because we’d have less to physically move but because everything would have a place.

Pay for packing and moving

But because we didn’t achieve that (not even nearly!) before this move, we decided to factor paying for packing into our removal costs. Laurence was away working in Cornwall more than half the working week and it just wasn’t physically possible for me to get it all done without help and we could afford it so we paid for it. It really made such a difference.

Accept and ask for help
Even so, I didn’t want to leave everything to the movers or it would have been disaster on the other end as our house was very disorganised. So I said “yes” to any friends and family who offered their help, asking them to hold a baby or run an errand for me. I find it difficult to ask for help, often feeling like I’m troubling someone but, shoe on the other foot, I’d hate to think a friend needed my help and felt like they couldn’t ask so I asked.

Get a cleaner
Having done a house move before when Talitha was a toddler, I knew that the last thing we wanted to do after a move was a time-pressured house clean so I put a shout out for a cleaner on a local Facebook group and booked one to come in after the movers had taken everything. It put our minds at ease knowing that we’d left the house in a fit state for our buyers.

Adjust your expectations
Realistically, it may not all go to plan. It may just be really stressful. You may not be able to pay for much help. You may have to accept that done is better than perfect. Understanding that things won’t always go smoothly is the first step to dealing with these problems. Moving house with a baby is an extreme experience, to say the least, whatever your circumstances. A little self-compassion is certainly appropriate here. Tie in little treats where you can (like a tea break when you’ve finished a major task) and remind yourself that you are doing something big and that you’re doing what you can.

Ten things that happen when you’re tandem breastfeeding

Despite the universal-sounding title, this is just how it’s gone and is going for me, breastfeeding older and younger siblings at the same time. The first thing you learn when you start asking other tandem breastfeeding mothers about their experiences is that nothing is exactly the same for everyone. No one can predict how they’re going to feel or what they’re going to need to do. We can share ideas and offer solidarity but there’s no roadmap, no rulebook.

I tandem breastfed for sixteen months the first time around, until my eldest, Talitha, was four years old. Who knows how long we’ll get to this time but I’m now breastfeeding both three year old Ophelia and her nine month old baby sister, Delilah.

I know how crazy this sounds because, believe me, I never expected any of this. Until I met mothers who were tandem breastfeeding, I didn’t know it was possible. It’s not something I held up as an ideal or hoped to do, even when I fell pregnant the third time around. It just kind of happened. Each time, I had a toddler who still needed to be breastfed while also finding myself pregnant, which brings me to the first thing that happens when you’re tandem breastfeeding.

You discover it starts before the baby is even here.

The sore nipples. The disappearing milk. The sickness. The breastfeeding aversion. Already you are sharing yourself between the child at your breast and the one growing inside you. It happens sooner than you expect. Already they are in tandem.

It looks like it will happen. Like it won’t happen. Maybe it will happen.
I wrote a whole post about how I thought Talitha was weaning. I went through the range of emotions over this. She didn’t. And you know, I did it all again when it was Ophelia’s turn too. Except I really, really thought she’d wean in pregnancy. And I felt irrationally guilty because it felt too soon. But then she didn’t either!

You start to wrap your head around the possibility.

At some point, after wondering, “would we, wouldn’t we?”, it was evident that yes, this really was happening. I most likely was going to be breastfeeding my older and younger kids simultaneously. I borrowed and scoured the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing from Bristol La Leche League.

You have all. the. questions.
Is my nursing aversion normal? (Yup!) Will it go away when the new baby comes? (Certainly for the baby) Will I make enough milk? (All being straightforward, more demand = more production) Do I have to worry about the baby getting enough colostrum? (Nope! As long no issues on the baby’s side) Who feeds first? (Probably the baby but it doesn’t have to be a rule) What if one of them has a cold? (It’s good your milk’s going to get fighting it – they’re probably sharing the germs anyway) WHAT IS IT GOING TO BE LIKE? (Sorry, no one can help you there!)

You fumble with positions.
You see all these photos online of mothers peacefully breastfeeding their two together. I persevered a bit more with it with Talitha and Ophelia but it’s never really worked for me. I find the experience of breastfeeding two at literally the same time utterly overwhelming from a sensory point of view. It makes me want to throw things.

I saw a photo the other day of someone tandem breastfeeding on her side with her baby lying on top of her toddler. It looked so lovely. I might try that out of curiosity and because it would give all three of my kids the giggles but, realistically, we have a one at a time deal going here.

In the earliest days, I could never latch the baby well enough with the older one in the way or coach the older one on where to go without the baby slipping off so it was a no-go from that perspective too. I know breastfeeding together absolutely works for some but I’m not alone in finding it really tricky.

You hit a sweet spot.
The older one holds your breast to “feed the baby”. They hold hands while breastfeeding together. You reconnect after a difficult toddler day with a simple breastfeed. You find a way to get them both to sleep.

You hit a hard place.
Your older child finds it hard to share. Your nursing aversion, though not an issue with the baby, hasn’t gone away with your older nursling. You navigate impatience, theirs and yours.

I’ve had to insist that we reserve breastfeeding the older child to when I have another adult around, in case I need someone to hold the baby. This isn’t how it works for everyone but it’s something I find takes the pressure off the situation.

Sometimes it’s hilarious.

Breastfeeding has acquired a new dialogue these days. My older two sometimes give me a replay by laughingly pretending to breastfeed each other.
“OK, we’re going to need to stop now.”
“But I want MUH!”
“It has to be nice for both of us.”
They obviously find it amusing, which makes me feel better about needing to call the feed to an end most of the time.

Your younger baby gets possessive.

Delilah isn’t there yet but I remember Ophelia hit a stage where she was absolutely unwilling to share me with Talitha. She would try to pull Talitha off me if I was breastfeeding her and needed to be distracted.

People ask when you’re going to wean your younger baby

You smile to yourself. Little do they know…

All of a sudden it’s over.
In a sense, Talitha’s weaning was a long time coming. Well, obviously, it was as she was four years old but I mean she was gradually breastfeeding less and less frequently. And then that was it. I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t known the last time was the last time. That was that.

I also didn’t know I’d one day do it again.

More blog posts on this topic:
Tandem breastfeeding – the early months
Things I’ve learned while breastfeeding through pregnancy
How weaning happened – the end of our breastfeeding journey

Information on tandem breastfeeding:
Pregnant and breastfeeding? – an La Leche League Great Britain resource on breastfeeding while pregnant and tandem breastfeeding.

What I learned when we moved

You might have guessed by the blogging hiatus that we finally moved into our new house in Cornwall. It’s been two weeks, in fact. The general chaos and the lack of internet meant that I just about managed a few updates on Instagram.

Other than that, we’ve been up to our eyeballs in mystery boxes, plodding through that stage where the house looks worse before it gets better. Finally, it’s got better. We are starting to settle and from even before we got unpacking, this has felt like home.

There’ve been a few surprises in it all and I don’t just mean the literal rubbish we accidentally moved with (and yes we did).

For a start, I was caught off guard by my need to mourn Bristol the moment we left it. I believe now that this was a natural and necessary part of the moving process and I’m grateful that we got to do it while in temporary accommodation in stunningly placed Crantock.

I’ve been similarly amazed at the gusto with which I’ve thrown myself into life here so far and how genuinely excited I’ve been about it all. I’ve never driven this much or been this adventurous about where I’ve taken the children on my own (this might explain why I got the car stuck in deep sand in Porthtowan last week and had to literally be dug out by kind strangers!). For years I’ve been pretty pathetic when it comes to meeting new people, allowing others to take the initiative but it’s as if I’m being released by the decision to be more intentional.

Moving cross country with a family has made this the most pressured of our moves but, in a sense, it’s been easier than any other I’ve made. Maybe it’s down to being that bit older or that the kids give me a convenient way into meeting people or even just a deep peace about this being where we’re meant to be in this season of our lives.

We were forewarned that moving can affect children in unexpected ways but we still needed to remind ourselves and each other that this is why they were waking up, why they were having nightmares, why they were regressing to younger behaviours.

Reminders helped us to re-baby them, to try to be understanding, to find ways of reassuring them. Feeling stretched by being so long in an in-between place, far from where our eventual destination was, we kept needing to be reminded.

A friend at church today asked whether we feel like our nomadic life is behind us and that’s an astute description of where we’ve been not just for two months in Crantock but from the time we decided to move here when I was 38 weeks pregnant with Delilah. Feeling unsettled certainly has affected my parenting, sometimes in ways I wish it hadn’t.

Yet they have adapted so well, our five and three year olds. Talitha talks about old friends and was brilliantly excited about the birthday party we went back to Bristol for a couple of weekends ago. Already she’s making new friends here too.

Ophelia is also starting to play with other children and talk about them. She is starting to develop friendships. The friendship between the sisters has really kept them going through this time of unpacking and distracted parenting. Still, they’ve needed us and it’s been hard to get the balance right between trying to get stuff done so we can get back into a life rhythm and making sure that that pursuit doesn’t take over our lives. I won’t pretend I’ve even mostly got that right. Who knows, aye?

They’ve also been such a help to me with Delilah who is going through an extremely clingy phase. They’ll sit and play with her or show her books while I sit her down for the few moments she’ll tolerate it. Upside to the clinginess and Delilah not crawling yet – we’ve been able to sort a lot of the house out without worrying about her getting into all sorts.

Something that’s shocked me, though, and not in a good way, is how controlling I become when I feel out of control. I knew this about myself before but the stresses of this move have really thrown focus on it. There is such a burden on my heart to make sure I don’t take this out on my family. But I do. I’m working hard on it but I know it’s a process rather than something that can be quickly fixed. It’s going to take a lot of slowing down my responses to situations and continually reflecting and asking why I’m doing what I’m doing.

If anything, rediscovering this reminds me that I can’t do this without the help of the One who parents me so gently and isn’t at all controlling. I’m finding that moving out of the familiar is giving me fresh spiritual avenues with God appearing in places I did not expect.

We originally weren’t supposed to move until next month but the quick sale of our house in Bristol and the struggle of Laurence driving down to Falmouth every week sped the process up. With Spring now in the full swing and Easter on its way, we couldn’t have better timed warming into a new place.

I’ll do a house tour, room tours or something similar at some point but we’ve only just managed to clear the floors. Although maybe there’s something in sharing the mess so we all remember we have chaos in common?

When my second child turned three

Ophelia’s birthday was last Friday. Somehow she’s three?

Actually, it make sense that she’s three because the language explosion she’s gone through in the last few months has caught us off guard. I’ll admit I was starting to wonder whether we should get her hearing checked but now she’s coming out with memories that make me realise she’s understood lots more than she could communicate for a long time.

The third birthday is exciting because kids are starting to understand what a birthday is about and that they’re getting older.

I get doubly emotional at Ophelia’s birthdays because it’s not just “oh my, she’s growing so quickly!” but I have my older child Talitha for perspective on Ophelia’s age and no way was Talitha so little at three! Except she was.

Laurence’s parents came to stay for the birthday weekend and we went to the seal sanctuary in Gweek, which was such a treat. It sounds like they’re doing some pretty cool work there and you get lovely rural views of the Helston river, which is still a bit of a shock having come from living in a city.

Not having any of the right equipment and generally finding making wheat and dairy free cakes a bit of a mission, I bought a supermarket “free from” cake which Ophelia chose, along with a few sugar pirates to put on top. You know what? I think she was every bit as delighted with it as she would have been with an elaborate, handcrafted affair. Kids really don’t need much.

We took it to The Beach Hut overlooking Watergate Bay to round up the treat. The whole weekend turned into a celebration of her birthday, with one of her godparents coming to stay after her grandparents departed. It got me thinking about how important it is for children to have other adult figures in their lives, that wider family.

Having them is valuable for me too because after a long hard slog, finding myself struggling with motherhood, I got to see others having fun with my children and it reminded me that I could have fun with them too. In fact, the weekend gave me a series of highs which I’m treasuring up, hoping they’ll help carry me through for quite some time.

Age three seems like a move beyond the toddler-toddler stage. Seeing Talitha and Ophelia play, I know I have two children now. There have been a few times this week when I’ve thought, “Gosh, we really can just all hang out now.”

Lovely Ophelia, who dances all the time, who loves to shout and balance on things. So often so fearless, you surprise us every day. You make us laugh. You challenge us. You are sensitive. You are fiercely affectionate. You’ve perfected those cuddles. We are loving getting to know you, our wild three year old.

Half a year with three children

Delilah is seven months old and I’ve been meaning to write this post since just before she turned six months old. So that says something about how it’s all going, I guess. I feel like it’s all been a bit nonstop, with this baby and the move and a host of other unsettlers that come with family life and getting older.

For the first time in five and a half years of being a mother, I genuinely feel like I want a holiday and I don’t mean anything like our family trip to Thailand back in December.

I find myself thinking, “When this settles”, “When that settles” about so many things. When the baby’s sitting up, when we finally all move to Cornwall, when we’re in our new house, when we’ve settled into a new community…

At the same time, I know I don’t want to wish our lives away. There is so much to smile at in the every day, the right now. My kids can see it. They don’t wake up thinking about the future. They’re ready to enjoy today. I have to hold on to that because it won’t settle for quite some time since we’re not even moved into our new house yet. And then life has a way of throwing something else in just when you’ve got your head around everything.

Right now, I’m struggling. I feel rubbish even admitting that because I know I have so much to be grateful for, so much that I am grateful for and it seems whiney not to be able to just flip the switch and be 100 per cent positive.

I’m getting through the days with the kids but keep winding up wondering why others are so much better at it and enjoying it more than I am.

I know that isn’t rational. If another woman said that to me, I’d wish she could see the brilliant life building stuff she’s doing. In fact, maybe if I were doing more support work right now, I’d have a bit more perspective – just a random musing.

This was supposed to be a reflection on what it’s like half a year in with three kids. I suppose, in a way, it is. I feel like my parenting bandwidth is maxed out. I have no desire to be any busier parenting-wise. But it’s impossible for me to say if that’s purely because of the kids or because of all the other stuff going on in our lives right now.

I cannot separate my experience of having this seven month old from my experience of mothering a five and a half year old and an almost three year old. None of us would be the people we are without Delilah. Everything that came before her is a struggle to recall.

She fills our lives with smiles and growls and giggles and raspberries. She pulls our hair and bites our faces because she’s teething. She fills my mind with beauty even just writing about her right now. I put these words down and everything feels that little bit more manageable.

Because it will all get more manageable in its own way. Or at least it will settle. And once we’re in a new home and in a new routine, when we’re less exposed and raw, life can throw that new thing in and hopefully we’ll be a little bit more ready to take it on.

On leaving a place

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen that we finally did it. We moved to Cornwall. Just over a week ago, we packed up our house, put most of our belongings into storage and drove to the holiday let we’re staying in while we wait to move into the house we are buying. The experience has been exciting and draining and about time. No more half the week without Laurence after six months of it being so. No more three-hour motorway epics each way for him, week after week.

It has also been destabilising. I knew it would be.

I moved countries when I was 19, leaving Trinidad and Tobago to come here to the UK, to Brighton specifically. I was leaving behind a familiar climate and culture but the timing also meant I was leaving my mother’s house and my childhood. We left Brighton for Bristol a year after I’d both graduated from university and got married (because wedding planning accompanies writing a Masters’ thesis so well). I was barely warming into doing something with my journalism qualification and I struggled to find work when we moved, which psychologically made settling into a new city unbelievably challenging.

On leaving a place-3

Bristol instead saw me become a mother, and I knew that I wanted to be at home with my baby. We began to talk about home educating her while still expecting. We chose a lifestyle that neither of us could have predicted. I felt the relief of a good fit, of feeling my decisions match my convictions about myself. I also felt a lack of agency from not working full-time for money. I questioned my motivations and abilities. Becoming a mother made me lose and find myself over and over again. It was utterly destabilising. I am familiar with feeling something like what I am now feeling.

There is little balance right now. I feel great highs, exhilarated by the move and where we’ve moved to. I drink in my children playing so happily, so naturally on the beaches. I feel great lows. The loss of community, of familiar markers, of a routine. I delight in this concentrated time with my children, enjoying the kind, hilarious, creative people they are. I despair at my inability to cope with life with them. I worry about my choices. Every alternative looks appealing.

I know this is temporary. I mourn to move on. It is not petty or ungrateful. It is a natural part of leaving a place I loved.

On leaving a place

How do we nurture our children’s self esteem?

Every now and then I have one of those I-hope-I’m-getting-it-right moments. I had one of them last night in the kitchen, chatting with Laurence about awkward conversations I’ve had about home education recently. Home ed is an easy concern trigger for me because it’s so blatantly alternative. Yet I wander down this hole when thinking about a lot of my day-to-day decisions when it comes to my children, knowing there’s no sign from the sky with a clear answer.

“I’m not worried about their education,” he answered. I waited for some form of “I believe in you, babe” call to positive thinking but instead he gave me this reminder that we pass to each other every now and then: “As long as they know they’re loved, as long as they love others, as long as they do good in the world – that’s what it’s about.”

The work of parenting involves a whole lot of confidence building so they have the tools to realise all those things. Where do we get started with that mammoth task? I was asked to share how we nurture our children’s self esteem as part of Families’ #LoveYourselfProject and it’s struck me that no simple to do list works here. It’s the sum of so many of our own little attitude shifts, so many little actions along the way.

It’s less about about telling them they’re beautiful and more about refusing to complain about our own perceived physical flaws. It’s less about praising their intelligence and more about listening to their stories, showing them that you value what they say.

I don’t go in for much praise. Personally, a lot of praise made me worry about my performance growing up, accomplishing the opposite of what it was intended to do. I was told I was so bright. In response, I felt I must not fail.

Confidence building answers deep questions that live inside all of us: “Am I safe? Am I loved? Do I matter?” Our role is to answer our children’s questions with actions that say: “You are safe – you can trust me. You are loved – there are no conditions on my love. You matter – I respect you.”

The questions are asked over and over again from birth onwards, and they will be answered, one way or another. If our own store of positive thinking is running low, it will be difficult to find the resources to adequately answer them the many times a day they’re asked.

Certainly I’m in a place right now where I realise that I must address my own hurts, my own past and grab hold of the answers to my own questions (“I am safe. I am loved. I do matter.”) so that I have energy for even basic parenting, let alone to model the confidence and freedom I want my children to grow up knowing.

This post was brought to you by Families