This is going to be one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever written for my blog. It just seems that discussing certain personal topics can be so controversial and even frowned upon. Yet I know there are many women out there that struggle with frustrating hormonal changes that affect their personal life. It’s difficult to deal with and nice to know that you are not alone.

If you are uncomfortable with discussing or reading about libido and other personal information… I suggest you pass on this post and check out some other information I’ve posted on dealing with pregnancy.

For those of you that are still with me, I assume you, along with me, have noticed certain hormonal changes that have befallen you since you first found out you were pregnant. It seems for me that the changes are even worse this time around. I’m more moody, weepy, and just plain whacky than ever before.

Seriously, I found myself crying in the kitchen yesterday as I was preparing dinner and listening to a song on my iPod. And no, I wasn’t chopping onions. I’ve never been the type of person to cry over “silly things” but it seems that lately I have a harder time containing myself. I’m more emotionally sensitive lately which means I have to be on guard not to let my feeling get hurt by my husband’s harmless teasing or unintentional remarks made by my friends.

Does all this sound familiar? Why does pregnancy cause such havoc? Well, there are both physical and emotional changes that come with pregnancy and since sex and emotions are so intricately tied together for women, our libido is definitely going to be affected, one way or anther.

Some women report that they feel sexier when they are pregnant. The additional estrogen and progesterone that a pregnant woman produces is most often the cause behind the increased libido. Added curves and changes to the body can also be the cause behind the change in drive.

Other women actually find a decrease in their libido and as one women put it, “Cleaning the grout in my shower sounds like more fun.” This drop in drive can put quite a strain on a marriage relationship, as if pregnancy and the thought of a new baby isn’t enough.

It’s quite common for a new mother to feel pressured and pulled in so many different directions. They can make the mistake of accusing their husbands of being selfish for having the desires God gave him as a man. Don’t get me wrong, this is in no way intended to excuse the husband who may make ridiculous and selfish demands. My intent is to help the wife understand that her husband is a man with normal desires that you, and only you, can and should fulfill.

How can we deal with low libido and low energy levels and still be the loving wife and mother God wants us to be? Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful:

  • This tip is first because I find it the most important: Talk to your partner! Try to understand how he feels and do your best to accommodate each other and your needs. Try starting the conversation and allow him to talk without interruptions, accusations, or negative responses. He’s more likely to listen to you when he feels understood and respected. In short, be open and understanding and he’ll likely return the favor.
  • Get as much extra rest as you can. An understanding husband will gladly trade watching the little ones while you take an hour nap. Especially if it means you have more spunk after the kids have been tucked in for the night.
  • You may have heard this before: women are like ovens and men are like microwaves. Ladies, give yourselves time to “preheat.” Take a long hot shower. Light some candles. Put on something pretty. Set the mood. Also remember, the longer men go without sex, the more they want it. The longer women go without it, the less they want it. Bluntly put. one of the best ways to increase your libido is to have sex.
  • Talk to your doctor to rule out any other hormone imbalances or complications. Dealing with other symptoms such as morning sickness or exhaustion can help many aspects of your pregnancy. My doctor recommended an herbal supplement that has helped tremendously. (If you want more information on that, feel free to email me.)
  • Take heart, many women find that the second trimester brings an energy and libido boost! And even if it doesn’t happen for you, don’t worry, no pregnancy has ever lasted forever. Don’t let your temporary condition cause permanent damage to your relationship with your spouse.

Do you have any other suggestions or thoughts? I’d love to hear them; just leave your comment below and thanks for reading this post.

The internet is an invaluable resource for knowledge-hungry mums; whether for information, support or even just shopping, the web has loads to offer at every stage of your pregnancy and journey through the early years of parenthood.  As with all things web, though, you often have to do a lot of wading through mountains of crap before you find a real gem, and let’s face it, what mum has time to do that?!  Well, me, as it happens.  As a consequence of having a remote-hogging, football mad husband, I spend a lot of time in the evenings trawling the net for cool things and I’ve compiled a handy list of the websites I think every mum should bookmark…

1.  Find a forum.  There are loads of these out there and my personal favourite is iVillage, although I also like Babycentre for its regular updates on your baby’s development both pre and post natal.  There’s also Mumsnet, Netmums…the list goes on.  Most of these will allow you to sign up to your ‘birth club’ which means you can find a group of mums at the same stage of pregnancy or with a child the same age which is fantastic when it comes to getting advice on common problems and worries that crop up.  Lots of people look down their noses at these sites but personally I have found genuine support and even friendship through using them – plus it means you can quickly get advice from a wide range of viewpoints, 24 hours a day.  Many also have specific boards to help out with everything from breastfeeding to special needs and more.  You may find you have to try out a few forums before you find one you like, with a group of people you like – and be warned, sometimes arguments and even feuds like the now infamous Mumsnet disputes do happen.  But if you find a group of like-minded mums prepared to share the benefit of their experience without any of the playground nonsense, that forum will be worth its weight in gold.

2.  Mothercare is an obvious one but nonetheless essential.  They offer everything from Tens machine hire to baby clothes, furniture, equipment and toys and I cannot recommend their online service highly enough.  Products are always good quality and well priced, and although there are better bargains to be had elsewhere the site more than makes up for this in terms of convenience.  There’s even a parenting section with lots of useful advice, and you can sign up to receive newsletters and special offers relevant to your child’s age.

3.  If you’re breastfeeding, Kellymom is an absolute godsend and has information on practically every question or concern you could ever have from advice on common problems to reassurance that you and your baby are perfectly normal!  The La Leche League website doesn’t have as much info online although it’s still pretty good and has the added benefit of online help forms and telephone numbers for LLL support workers.

4.  Blooming Marvellous is one of my favourite websites because in addition to well-priced, practical products it also has some more exclusive ranges including bloom, OiOi, hotMILK feeding bras etc.  Their maternity clothes are excellent and the range has been widely acclaimed in the fashion press for its good looks.  The site is also packed with innovative ideas to make pregnancy and parenthood easier.

5. If you’re on a budget, Kiddicare is an absolute must. The site undoubtedly offers the lowest prices online for practically anything you could possibly need for your new arrival – they are especially good when it comes to getting a good deal on pram packages including car seats, footmuffs etc. with large savings to be made on high street prices. They have a vast stock and most items are available for immediate dispatch.

6. I’m the first to admit I’m a sucker for gimmicks and brand names but I make an exception for JoJo Maman Bebé. This is another great all-round destination for online baby shopping but what sets it apart for me is the sheer volume of clever products on offer – they’ve got everything you’ll need to see you through breastfeeding, weaning, holidays, potty training and beyond. They offer plenty of brand names but also have their own, cheaper takes on many of the popular products and the quality is really good. They also have great baby clothing basics and their maternity range is both stylish and practical. Also great for gifts.

7. There’s so much choice out there for parents that I often find it difficult to make a decision, especially when purchasing investment items like prams, car seats etc. Babyworld is an online parenting resource that includes forums, articles and even and online shop but for me it really comes into its own in terms of product reviews which are plentiful and comprehensive. If I’m buying something new I always make a point of checking it out here first.

8. Weaning can be a tricky time, especially for first time parents and I found Annabel Karmel’s books and website really helpful when getting started. There’s lots of nutritional info, advice on what your baby should be eating at various stages, tips on fussy feeders and of course recipes to try out. Over time we have found it easier to freeze portions of our food as cooking for the baby from scratch is time consuming, but I found Annabel’s recipes great when I first introduced proper food and I still dip into them now and again when I have the time. The website also has lots of other information for expectant mums including diet, development etc.

9. Everybody needs a fashion fix now and again – even babies! I’ve been a fan of asos.com for a while and was delighted when they launched a kids section. There are big brand names and some lesser known gems to help your little one stand out from the crowd. Their beauty department also stocks a load of fabulous brands including two of my favourites for mums and babies – Mama Mio and Cowshed. Of course, it would be practically criminal not to have a browse on the womenswear section while you’re there…

10. Finally, another internet staple – Next. Before my son was born I swore I wouldn’t dress him from top to toe in Next clothing but I quickly realised that when it comes to finding trendy, top quality baby clothes that don’t cost the earth, there’s no better place. Their clothes wash like a dream, sizing is generous so my son gets good wear out of them and their customer service is practically faultless – fast delivery, easy returns, online account management – fab.

In the UK as of March 2009 many over the counter remedies that had helped parents and children navigate the minefield of winter coughs, colds and sniffles were branded ‘bad’ for children – some reported dangerous, others simply labelled as ‘ineffective’. Many of these medicines had been tried and trusted by mums for years, offering relief from fever, cough and congestion and helping everyone get a better nights’ sleep whenever the dreaded lurgy came to stay.

But the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) ruled earlier this year that over 100 products were to be banned for under sixes due to the potential risk of sleep disturbance, hallucinations and allergic reactions.  The decision followed an earlier report in March 2008 recommending that certain over-the-counter medicines were unsuitable for under-twos following a number of overdose cases in the United States.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that if I thought any drug was a risk to my child’s health I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole, but to me this is yet another example of a nanny state gone mad. When this ruling was made, it was agreed that products need not be removed from shelves – many were still available to buy in supermarkets for some time afterwards. Furthermore, product labelling was unaffected at the time and many of the products to this day still feature dosage information for under sixes, and even under twos.  Are these medicines, then, really not safe for young children?  Or is it just that in today’s society mothers can’t be trusted to follow simple instructions and not to dope their own children?  Are the sins of the few causing the punishment of the many?

In America, the same studies were looked at but regulatory bodies stopped short of banning the products from being used in under sixes, because they feared this would lead to parents giving their children adult cough and cold remedies instead. In the UK, it has already resulted in parents lying to pharmacists about their child’s age, and here in Northern Ireland, of parents travelling across the border to obtain medicines that have been banned in the north, with some ‘mummy mules’ even buying in bulk for friends and family. But if you’ve ever spent the whole night consoling an unwell, exhausted child who can’t sleep due to a blocked nose and hacking cough, you’ll understand why they do it.

Cold Relief for Babies

Anyway I digress. Since this ban came in Bubs has had one or two colds, and in fact we are currently in the middle of a snotfest that’s been rumbling pretty much since the new school term started in September. And during that time I’ve come across some tips, tricks and remedies that have helped us all to breathe easier, without partaking in any illegal activity – and here they are!

Humidifier

I shied away from buying a humidifier for ages because they’re not cheap and I was undecided as to whether it would actually help. One night of using the thing convinced me that they definitely work and now I would recommend anybody with young kids to invest in a decent one – the moist air means your child’s nose will be less stuffy and dry, tickly coughs are soothed. There are three types of humidifier – warm (often known as a vapouriser), cold and ultrasonic. The warm steam variety is not recommended for use in children’s rooms because of the obvious burn risks. Cold and ultrasonic humidifiers essentially do the same job but the ultrasonic produces a finer mist and is a lot quieter, so we went for this option. It does still emit a low hum but I find that this doesn’t disturb Bubs at all – in fact I sometimes wonder if he in fact finds the white noise soothing. A final point about humidifiers; it’s really important to keep them clean and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for doing so. This prevents a buildup of minerals and bacteria within the unit, which would then potentially be pumped into the air, possibly doing more harm than good.  Ours is easily cleaned with a solution of water and white vinegar which kills bacteria and removes mineral deposits.

Pillow

At 17 months Bubs is still a bit young for a pillow and doesn’t like using one.  I do, however, place a low pillow under the head end of his mattress when he is unwell.  This raises him up a bit, making it easier for him to breathe and reducing his cough.  You can also place chunky books under the cot legs at one end, but I find the pillow works better as it raises his head moreso than simply having him sleep on a slope.

Olbas Oil

I don’t rate Vicks at all really because I don’t think the vapours are strong enough to do any good, especially not when applied to the chest under pyjamas and a sleeping bag, but Olbas Oil is my saviour.  I sprinkle a few drops on a muslin cloth tied securely to the bars of the cot.  This combined with the humidifier fills the room with a vapoury mist that tackles a blocked nose brilliantly.

Saline drops

Such a simple remedy but saline drops are great for thinning nose gunk, making it easier to remove, and I recently found that the people at Calpol make a saline nasal spray that’s really easy to administer as it gets right into the nostril and clears out all the crap.  It’s a really fine spray and Bubs doesn’t mind having it in at all, which is practically a miracle considering he hates me wiping his nose the way cats hate water.  If you’ve got a super-placid kid you can also buy a ‘nasal aspirator’ –  a posh name for what we have affectionately dubbed ‘the snot sucker’ – to remove mucus but I gave up trying to get Bubs to submit to this ages ago and am working on teaching him to blow his wee nose instead.

Medicine

Thankfully, the powers that be didn’t ban the use of paracetamol (Calpol) or indeed ibuprofen (Nurofen) for little ones and I rely on both of these to relieve cold symptoms.  Calpol is fine for minor grumbles but the Nurofen is my favourite – it works quickly, keeps a fever down for longer and tastes nicer.  Plus it’s got a really handy dosing syringe that fits into the cap for mess-free dosing when your eyes are stuck shut at 3am.  If your child has a cough you can give a simple cough medicine of honey and lemon or glycerol although these are mainly aimed at soothing tickly coughs and sore throats.

The MHRA were right when they said that colds and coughs are generally self-limiting conditions that improve with rest and TLC, and hopefully these tips will help you get a bit more of the former while you wait for them to pass.  However, if you are at all worried about your child’s health or if symptoms persist for more than a few days, you should of course consult your GP.

There are lots of things people don’t tell you about breastfeeding when you’re new to it. They don’t tell you about the toe-curling 10 seconds at the start of a feed, about the mortification of telltale wet patches on your t-shirt, or about the days when it feels like all you’ve done all day long is breastfeed. And they definitely don’t tell you that when you need quick, discreet access to your boobs at any given moment, it’s a blimmin’ nightmare finding things to wear.

After the birth of my son, I surprised myself by fitting back into my jeans pretty quickly – but that was where the ’snapping back’ began and ended.  With a pair of huge, overinflated milk tanks strapped to my chest I hadn’t a single non maternity top that would fit, never mind flatter.  Shopping for new clothes was a nightmare – anything I could find that didn’t emphasise my flabby ‘mummy tummy’ didn’t have access for feeding, or vice versa.  Add a couple of summer weddings into the mix and I was officially in fashion hell!

Over the 12 months that I breastfed, I did come up with some top tips for dressing when you’re feeding, without looking like a frumpy matron and without flashing your flesh to all and sundry every time the baby needs a snack…

1.  A good nursing bra

I know I’ve said this before but a good bra really is the foundation of any outfit, even when you’re breastfeeding.  Good support will lift and shape your breasts, making you look slimmer and feel more confident – so don’t be fobbed off with the flimsy ‘trainer bra’ styles offered by many retailers, especially if you’ve got bigger boobs.  For everyday, I really loved Emma Jane bras when I was feeding, although I’ve recently heard great things about Freya as well.  As well as good support it’s important that you can open and close the bra cups easily and discreetly, and that the openings give good access so your baby can latch on properly.

2.  Breastfeeding vests and camisoles

After a good bra a selection of breastfeeding vests and tank tops is my number one must have for a breastfeeding mum.  My main concern when breastfeeding in public wasn’t really exposing my breasts – it was exposing my saggy, post-baby belly, and having a vest with nursing clips or a double layer tank top was a perfect solution as I didn’t have to lift it up to feed.  Depending on your personal style you can throw pretty much anything over the top – add a cute, fine-knit cardigan and sweet pumps for a classic, preppy look; throw on a check shirt and cowboy boots for a practical, dressed down feel or team with a skirt and fitted jacket for a more formal occasion.  I preferred to wear things that buttoned down the front for really easy access but anything fairly loose over the top will work.  If you do wear a jumper or even a t-shirt, the double layer tanks that you pop your boob through are probably easier than the ones with clips – too ugly to wear alone but super-convenient underneath other clothing.  And speaking of the ones with clips, next time around I am definitely buying one of these – complete with a full, built in bra and plenty of elasticated support for wobbly bellies.

3.  Dresses

When I was shopping for the aforementioned summer weddings, it never even occured to me that I might find a dress I could breastfeed in, so I opted for a skirt/vest/cardigan combo (which worked fine), but since then I’ve realised that it’s possible to buy specially made nursing wrap dresses with concealed access at the front.  There’s a very good reason why Diane Von Furstenburg got rich selling wrap dresses – they really can take you anywhere!  Dress up with heels and costume jewellery for an evening out, wear black for work or team with leggings, pumps and this season’s shrunken denim jacket for instant daytime cool – a definite investment piece.

4.  Pattern and colour

Colour and pattern are more important than you think when choosing your breastfeeding wardrobe.  When buying foundation garments like bras and tank tops it’s best to choose staples such as black, white and nude as these can be teamed with many other garments to form the basis of a capsule wardrobe.  These colours can be troublesome if worn on their own, however – white tends to be translucent which means that at best, people will see your breast pads, and at worst your boobs will leak rendering it totally see-through, while black is notorious for showing up milk stains and baby sick!  For this reason I tried to make sure my outer layer was a more forgiving colour or pattern – so a white tank under a stripy cardigan, for example.  Wearing colour is also a great way to lift your complexion, making you look and feel better even if you’re surviving on two hours’ sleep a night.

5.  Accessories

Whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, never underestimate the power of accessories.  Maternity and nursing wear have come a long way but let’s face it, they’re hardly haute couture – and when practicality is your top priority, sometimes style has to take a back seat!  Even the simplest of outfits can be brought to life with accessories and my all time favourite has to be the chunky necklace.  A bold necklace can turn a simple jeans and t-shirt combination into something considerably more trendy, and if like me your lactating breasts rivalled the size of your head, it can also help to play down their size.  For older babies, a chunky necklace is perfect for fiddling with as they feed, and this can help with a distractible feeder (of course, be careful they can’t pull bits off).  A trendy scarf or pashmina is also a great accessory that can be worn all year round and doubles up as a handy cover-up if you need one.  I must admit I steered away from statement earrings when I was breastfeeding as they got caught on everything and as Bubs got older they were just begging to be yanked.  I also loved wearing chunky bracelets and bangles but found it best to wear ones that could be easily switched from one wrist to the other depending on which side I was feeding from – otherwise poor Bubs would end up with an impression of my jewellery in the back of his wee head!  My final tip would be to invest in a gorgeous, oversized handbag – as a breastfeeding mum you don’t need to carry loads of ’stuff’ around with you – just a few nappies, some wipes and a muslin – so make the most of it!  I bought one of these travel changing mats from OiOi and slotted it into a big, buttery leather handbag (granted, not the Mulberry one I really wanted) and for me this was a practical, stylish solution.  If you really can’t survive without a nappy bag, make sure you pick a cool one that speaks to your personal style – remember, the bag is for you, not your baby!  M&P do some nice ones, I am a big fan of SkipHop and even Next have got in on the act.