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See posts about: // Isabelle // Parenting // Family //

Friday, 31 January 2014

Review and Giveaway! Oxo Tot Sippy and Flippy Snack Cup

Recently, Oxo Tot kindly offered to send me some of their range of feeding products to test out with Miss Isabelle. We were lucky enough to receive a sippy cup and a flippy snack cup, and set about giving them a good test to see how we got on.

Isabelle had never used a sippy cup before this, she has only ever had water from an open topped cup, so I was really interested to see how she got on using it. She loves drinking water, and guzzles it every time it's offered, so I knew she would happily give using the cup a go. The 200ml cup has graduations on both sides - in oz and ml - to help let you know how much your little one is drinking. I really liked this, as our current cup doesn't have any, so I never have any idea how much she drinks. And since I am a nosey momma, I like to know! This little cup is really clever, and will grow so well with any child. Inside, it has a removeable valve to allow the cup to be used as a 'sucker' or free flowing. Isabelle is used to free flowing, so I removed the valve before we started. The cup also has chunky handles - great for little hands to grab on to to help themselves to a drink. Even better - the handles are removable so when your little person grows up, they can use the cup without the handles, and rely on the grip instead. Something I thought was such a great idea was the dimple in the lid to allow little noses some room while drinking so they don't get squished - how cute is that?!

Isabelle took the cup straight away and guzzled 2oz of water in no time - she clearly had no issues with her first sippy cup experience! Although I use the open cup at mealtimes, as Isabelle becomes more independent, this cup is great to leave at her level in the house so she can help herself to a drink whenever she fancies.

The flippy snack cup is also designed to allow independence - allowing little people to have their snack without parents having to worry it will get spilt - or tossed - out of a bowl. It has soft rubber opening, just right for little hands to get into, but which shuts nicely so no food can fall out. We're still working on teaching Isabelle how to use this one - she will put her hand in if I hold it open, but isn't quite ready to plunge her hand into the unknown just yet. I love that this snack cup comes with a clip on lid, and I use it to keep some snacks in the change bag to take out and about with us.

Overall, a big THUMBS UP from us for the Oxo Tot products. Their range looks great - the bright block colours are lovely, and each product is cleverly and thoughtfully designed to make life easier for parents AND little people.

Thanks to those lovely people at Oxo Tot, I am offering you the chance to win one of their 200ml sippy cups and a flippy snack cup! All you have to do is enter using the Rafflecopter below - Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Isabelle's 9-12 month wardrobe

Even though she is almost 10 months, Isabelle is just starting to fit in to her 9-12 month clothes. Considering she's in the 75th centile for weight and height, that surprises me a little. For Christmas, her granny took us on a shopping spree to Next to get some pieces for Isabelle's 9-12 month wardrobe. Her aunty had also taken a trip to Next a few months ago, and we spent some of Isabelle's Christmas money buying her some things in Next too!

I have said it before, but I adore Next clothes for little people. They have such beautiful stuff that it's almost impossible to decide what to get, and the quality is always wonderful. I do find the sizes in Next run a little big, which means that Isabelle won't fit in to her new stuff for a few more weeks, however I'm hoping that since her growth is slowing she will fit these new clothes for longer.

As always with us, the emphasis is on comfy and cosy to see us through the last bits of winter. Leggings and tops, and sleepsuits are the order of the day. I know these will probably be the last sleepsuits we buy for Isabelle, so I wanted to get her some lovely ones, and Next always has my favourite patterns.

It's great at the minute, as Isabelle fits in to both the Next 'baby' and the 'older girl' clothes as well. I absolutely love the baby clothes - they are always so sweet and lovely.

So, here's some of what we have. The picture quality isn't great - note to self: night time is not a great time to take pictures!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Making allowances for baby, or unrealistic expectations?

During our recent acquaintance with the 9 month sleep regression, we were very careful that when Isabelle was asleep in the evenings, we were nice and quiet to ensure she wasn't woken. We were much more careful than normal, closing the living room door, and generally treading nice and quietly as we moved around the house.

Simon said to me as we climbed in to bed, victorious in her silence, "I never thought we'd be the sort of parents who creep around the house so we don't wake the baby".

In part, I agree with him. We can't change our whole lifestyle just because Isabelle is asleep. We can't sit in silence all night,  not flush the toilet, tell people never to phone or knock the door, and never turn the hall light on. Those things are part of everyday life and, luckily, she has never had an issue sleeping through them as they are simply things that have to be dealt with.

But, then I thought a little more. If Simon were to go to bed early, I would make allowances for him. I would turn the TV down, and move quietly in the bedroom when I went up to bed. I wouldn't turn on a light that would wake him, or talk loudly nearby. So, does Isabelle not deserve the same respect? Why should we expect her to sleep through things we wouldn't? Just because she's a baby and we think she should?

Then, that made me think even more - you can see my mind is a dangerous business! Do we have unrealistic expectations of what a baby should do? So, should we make some allowances for them because our expectations are skewed? For example, I do not go to bed and sleep all night without waking- I never have done. So why would I expect Isabelle to do that? Sometimes during the night I wake up thirsty and need a drink - so why wouldn't Isabelle? There are some days I am grumpy for no real why do I think Isabelle should be in a good mood unless she's hungry/tired? Can't she just be in a bad mood for no reason?

Maybe we have unrealistic expectations of our little people. Maybe we expect them to be the perfect baby, but are we the perfect adult? So, maybe we should be making some allowances where our little people are concerned - remembering that they are only human, and although are only little, they deserve all the respect we show to one another as adults.

PS - Izzy's beautiful name sign was made by Handmade by Her - a lovely mummy with bucket loads of talent, and two gorgeous babies to boot!

PPS- don't forget to enter my competition to win a baby carrier! 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Sensory play: simple water tray for babies

As you know, I love doing sensory play activities with Isabelle. I usually look on Pinterest for ideas but have found that lots of the ideas are for children who are older than Isabelle. This means that they probably aren't suitable for Izzy as she doesn't have the skills or understanding to use the materials. Or, as with many, I know the first thing she would do is pop the materials in her mouth which could be a potential disaster. So I am always on the lookout for BABY sensory play ideas, which are safe to eat, and easy for her little hands to manage.

One super simple sensory play idea for babies of any age is a water tray. We take water for granted as adults and probably don't think it's very exciting. But for a baby, it's just another learning experience and as much fun as anything. Isabelle adores bath time, so I knew she'd love a water based activity.

It was so simple - I filled our tray with water, threw in a few of her bath toys, put an apron on her and lay a big towel down - and off she went. Her hands were straight in and splashing about. I used a shallow tray so that she could easily reach all around it from wherever she sat.

This activity is great for teaching babies about, obviously, water. What it does, how it moves, what it feels like, how shiny and reflective it can be and what they can do with it. She enjoyed being able to plunge her hands in, and loved when I poured water out of the scoop for her to "catch". Unfortunately, it was a grumpy kind of day so it was a short lived activity, but one she really enjoyed and I know we will be able to do lots in the future.

To keep the activity interesting, next time I will add in some liquid food colouring to give us coloured water, and I'll also switch up the toys we use. I'll include some bath toys, but also some other household items that she can use for scooping water, and letting the water trickle through. I'll also make sure to add some items which sink, to help her begin to learn about floating/sinking and weight.

Here are some photos of our water session.

Ps! Don't forget to enter my competition to win a baby carrier!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Tesco Treasures

I am a big fan of supermarkets for buying almost everything. A lot of Isabelle's wardrobe comes from Tesco, and I always think it's a great place to pick up odds and ends for the house too - one of our duvet sets is also from Tesco. A big draw for me when buying little bits from the supermarket is the low price. You can pick up some lovely things for around the house, craft items, baby items...anything you need, all for a really reasonable price.

Recently, we decided we wanted some new tea, coffee and sugar pots as our Kilner jars weren't holding our interest any more. We looked in lots of different places and didn't see anything we liked for - what we deemed - a reasonable price. Simon went to pick up some forgotten items from the supermarket last week, and came back with these little beauties. I love their style and they were really reasonably priced too. They look just perfect on the shelf!

This week when I went shopping I had a quick look in the clothing section, and saw this sweatshirt on the sale rack for just £7. I love the colour, and it's perfect for wearing round the house ona rainy day with leggings, or with jeans to head to a baby group. I bought it in a bigger size so that it was loose rather than fitted.

Lovely supermarket bargains!

Ps! Don't forget to enter my competition to win a baby carrier!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Review and Giveaway! Bunny Baby Carrier

I was really excited last month to be asked to try out a Bunny Baby baby carrier and report my thoughts to you lovely people.

Bunny Baby is run by a lovely Irish mummy, who makes custom carriers, baby wearing bags, doll carriers and beautiful clothes for little people. Helen sent us a gorgeous baby sized buckles carrier, with a colourful owl print, and a spotty sleep hood. The print on our carrier was so bright and colourful, it was lovely and Simon was thrilled to see that it wasn't "too girly" as he has a bit of an issue with our other carriers not being manly enough.

As with most buckle carriers, this has a structured and adjustable waistband, padded and adjustable shoulder straps, and a chest strap which is also adjustable. All the straps on our carrier were black, and the padding in the shoulder straps felt really soft and squidgy, and it made the shoulder straps so comfy to wear - much better than our previous SSC. One of the first things I noticed when I tried it out was that the chest strap wasn't fixed into position - it is moveable. I think that is a great idea as I find it comfy to have it high up, but I know Simon likes it further down, so we can adjust the strap to our own position easily each time one of us wears the carrier.

Unlike with the previous buckle carrier we owned, it also has a sleep hood with poppers, perfect for slipping up over Isabelle to help her fall asleep, or to help keep her asleep. I did find the poppers a little difficult to 'pop' in, but once they were in, the hood stayed put and is a great size to keep the light out while Isabelle snoozes.

I was amazed to find that the carrier we received is the 'standard' carrier - Bunny Baby can also offer you a carrier with:

*lockable dual adjust shoulder straps
* lockable single adjust waistband buckles
*extra padding at waist or shoulder
* extra length webbing
* Legs out padding
* arms out padding
*flat or pixie hood
* fold away hood
* fabric tie over buckle on waistband

Of course we had to road test the carrier. I gave it a whirl around the house and found it really comfy - but the true test was to use it out and about. I was so confident that it would be comfy and it was so easy to use, I used it for my first ever back carry in public, and it didn't disappoint. Simon's turn for a road test came when we took the dogs up a local mountain, and wanted to go off road. It's the first time he has worn Isabelle in a while, and first time ever on his back. We walked for more than an hour and Simon said he found it comfortable the whole time. Isabelle was so happy she chatted for half an hour before promptly drifting off to sleep, snuggled up to daddy - so she was clearly very happy and very comfy in there.

Overall, I am really impressed with the Bunny Baby carrier. It's well made, strong and sturdy, yet incredibly comfy for us to wear, and for Isabelle to travel in. Of course, it should go without saying that this is an ergonomic carrier which keeps Isabelle in the correct 'knee-to-knee' position - which is no doubt why she was so comfy. This carrier has only been with us for a short time, but is much loved by the Jay family, and we will be so sorry to see it go!

Because leave us it must...and make it's way to one of you lucky readers instead! Along with Bunny Baby, I am offering you the chance to win this gorgeous carrier (if you can pry it from my back!). All you have to do is enter using the Rafflecopter below, and you could soon be toting your little one around in this fabulous carrier! Good luck!!
Please make sure you read the T&C before entering.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 25 January 2014

So long little kitty...

Sadly, the Jay household has lost one of our numbers this week. After a 3 week illness - which is still a total mystery to us all, despite numerous tests and overnight stays at the vet - our little cat Arthur had to be put to sleep on Friday. It was definitely for the best, but at only 2 years old he was still just a little kitty.

A very sweet little boy, with a miaow that could cut glass and make a sane person crazy, and he will be much missed. Most especially by Dexter (who loved to torture him) and Miss Isabelle (who loved to watch him).

Tell the truth - have you kept your New Year's Resolutions?*

Did you know that yesterday, January 24th, is the date by which 64% of people will have broken their New Year's Resolutions? Research by St John's Ambulance shows that at least 30million resolutions will have been broken by now.

I have to admit that, yes, mine are in that 30 million. If you check out my New Year's Resolutions post you can see my good intentions. But no, I haven't quite managed to stop biting my nails, and I couldn't bring myself to leave Isabelle with my parents last week, and the sewing machine is still in the box...I am suitably ashamed. I HAVE been making lots of soup though, and our fish intake has increased too, so not all bad news!

So, what can we do to help us keep those pesky resolutions? Here's a few suggestions:

1// Don’t always choose to stop something that’s bad in your life as a resolution, it’s often more satisfying to resolve to start something good instead
2// Choose a resolution that is goal orientated and can be monitored regularly
3// Resolutions which have some sort of responsibility outside of your own needs often feel more worthwhile and are therefore less likely to be broken.
4// Keep expectations realistic – give yourself a target that you know to be manageable
5// Resolving to do something together with a friend often helps us keep our resolutions

But, St John's Ambulance also have good news! It's not too late to rethink your resolutions, especially if you have broken them. And what better resolution to make than to learn something that could save someone's life?

By simply watching and sharing a quick video here , people can learn to spot the signs of a heart attack known as the Four Ps: 
1// Pain (in the chest) 
2// Pulse (rapid or weak)
3// Perspiration
4// Pale (or ashen skin) 

Knowing the symptoms will ensure more people can give the appropriate treatment: sit the patient down with knees bent, call 999, and offer them 300mg of aspirin to chew. Given that 92,000 people in the UK suffer heart attacks each year, and a third of those die as a result, this quick and easy resolution can make all the difference.

So there you go - don't worry if you haven't stopped biting your nails, or managed to stick to that diet - think about taking the time to learn the skill to potentially save a life. That's definitely a better use of all our time.

Have you managed to keep your resolutions?

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Cloth nappies 101: Are cloth nappies for me?

Something I hear, and see online a lot, is "I don't really think cloth nappies are for me". A lot of people are interested in why I use cloth, so I thought I'd have a few blog posts centred round cloth nappies, my reasons for using them, and how we get on.

I'm no expert in cloth nappies, but since Isabelle arrived I've learnt a lot, and I've spent far too much time researching cloth as well. That, combined with the expertise of the lovely ladies from Cloth Nappy Library NI, has given me a good base of knowledge to share with people who are wondering if cloth might be for them, or are just curious to know what drives a seemingly sane person to want to wash poo in her washing machine! At the end of the day, I really don't think cloth nappies are for everyone, and everyone needs to do what they are comfortable with, and what makes their life easiest.

Really, I got into cloth nappies just by reading about other mums using them online. I didn't know anyone in real life who used them, apart from the older generation, so I was pretty surprised to see just how many mums were using cloth nappies. It made me think "huh, maybe this isn't so hard, maybe it is something we could do." I read dozens of posts where people asked questions about using cloth, and saw the 'cloth bum mums' saying it really wasn't that difficult at all, and as long as you can stick washing in the machine, you can probably use cloth nappies!

Whenever I'm talking to people looking to try out cloth nappies, I always say "Give it a go. If it doesn't work, at least you'll know you tried" and that was definitely my mantra going in. We felt a lot of negativity towards our choice to use cloth nappies, simply because most people know nothing about how modern cloth works. But, knowing the benefits, we were very certain that we would make it work, as we felt the benefits to our family were pretty big.

Here are the 3 main benefits of using cloth nappies:

1// Cheaper in the long run:
A lot of people are daunted by the initial outlay for cloth nappies, but if you work out how much you spend on disposables over the lifetime of a baby, and then times that by how many babies you plan on having, it will almost certainly work out cheaper to buy a stash of cloth nappies. Our cloth nappy stash probably cost somewhere between £200 and £250 - and that could have been a lot less in honesty. A quick look on Amazon tells me Pampers cost 15p each. Isabelle wears 6 nappies a day, costing. That £250 I've spent on cloth would keep me in disposable nappies for 249 days - less than a year! And I can use my nappies for any babies we have in the future, making it even more cost friendly! Yes, of course we then have to pay for the washing, but I know the cost of the 3 extra washes I do each week will never add up to the extra cost I would put out for disposables.

2// Better for the environment:
Those 6 nappies I use each day would have to be thrown out if I used disposables. And since Isabelle's favourite thing to do is poo in a clean nappy, often a nappy is taken off again in under an hour. All of those go into a landfill, where they just sit. Not decomposing at all. Did you know - gross fact - all the disposable nappies you ever wore are still sitting in a landfill, in 'perfect' condition? Pretty horrific to think about! Since the UK government is making reduction of landfill waste a priority, this is one thing I can do to help.

3// Better for her bum:
No chemicals around Isabelle's bum, just pure fluff. I don't wear plastic pants, so I don't expect her to either! Depending on the stats you read, cloth bum babies are around 7% less likely to get nappy rash, which is apparently partly to do with cloth nappies being more breathable. Some people say they must be warm, but cloth nappies are actually cooler on a baby's bum - think about how much warmer you are wearing a cheap plastic rain coat than a breathable one.

Those are the most important reasons for us using cloth - we think they outweigh the drawbacks in our situation. Because, it would be a lie to say there are no drawbacks to using cloth nappies - but I think they are pretty small really...

1// I have to change Isabelle more often than if she wore disposables. I change every 2-3 hours, but I know if she wore disposables I could leave her much longer. It's not a big deal though - mummies change so many nappies anyway what's a few more in the mix?!

2// Cloth bums are definitely more 'rounded' than disposable bums, and there have been a few incidences when  her trousers have been difficult to get on. However, I have to say that if that's the case it's usually because I'm trying to cram her into ones which are slightly too small anyway! Her bum is chunkier, so I size up in vests earlier than I may need to - but since I would eventually buy them anyway, it's not a big issue for me.

3// I have to wash them. I know that's obvious, but it has to be said anyway! I really don't find it too much hassle to throw them into the machine every other day, and then hang them to dry, but I know it is something that puts a lot of people off. I've got my little routine so I do one load of washing every day, and it just so happens that every other day that wash is nappies instead of clothes.

So there you go. Those are the reasons why I chose cloth, and maybe some things for you to think about as well. It's never to late to change to using cloth nappies - as even using one cloth nappy every day will save 365 nappies from landfill every year (a favourite saying of CNLNI's founder!).

Over the next few weeks I'll be posting about cloth nappy options, how to go about building a stash of nappies, and the big question....what about the washing?

Do you use cloth? Any pearls of wisdom you'd like to pass on to convince non-cloth users that they really could give it a go?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Getting around the 'no snowsuits in car seats' rule

If you haven't seen it already, this article explains why you shouldn't allow your little people to wear snowsuits - or other similarly bulky/padded clothes - in their car seat. The basic idea is that the bulk of these doesn't allow you to tighten the straps of the car seat as tight as you normally would. As these snowsuits are really all air, in a collision, the air is squeezed out and suddenly, your little is rattling around in their car seat, not properly strapped in.

It makes a lot of sense, and since I saw it, I haven't dared put Isabelle in anything bulky like that in her car. That said, it's winter. It's cold. She needs to be warm and, sometimes, normal clothes, a coat and a blanket just don't quite cut it.

I accidentally came up with a great solution to this problem after getting a bit excited in the Next Christmas sale. Although I thought I had ordered a snow suit, when it arrived it was actually just a onesie with a fur hood. It's fleecy and warm, but it's thin and not anywhere near as bulky as a normal snowsuit. It's also MASSIVE on Isabelle. My little mind kicked in to gear, and I thought to myself..."I can use this as a snowsuit substitute over her clothes!"

To me, it is the perfect solution. It's an all in one, and nice and cosy so it keeps Izzy really warm. As it's really big, it fits wonderfully over whatever she is wearing. But, it's thin, so there is no worry of it acting in the same way as a snowsuit if I were to be in an accident.

So, instead of taking a chance and using a snowsuit, or piling blankets on your little and having to put the snow suit on when you arrive at your destination, simply buy a fleecy onesie in the next size up. I've already converted the mummies at my baby sensory class to my way of thinking, and hopefully you'll think it's a helpful little tip too.

Excuse the hat over the eyes look! 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Surviving a sleep regression

Until recently, I didn't really think sleep regressions were a real thing. I do now...

One Monday evening I put Izzy to bed as always. An hour or so later, she grizzled and Simon went to settle her. 45 minutes later, same again. And then again. Gosh, we thought, this isn't going to be a good night. At 11 o'clock after the 4th time settling her, I decided I couldn't do that all night so brought her into bed with me for the night. She slept soundly for the rest of the night, and we thought we were in the clear. Until the same thing happened again the next night...except it was accompanied by an hour of screaming. Nothing we did could settle her to bed she came. And then the next night the screaming went to for even longer until she was brought into bed.

Three bad nights in a row? That's tough. The next two nights she slept in her cot, but woke every 2 hours or so and took a long while to settle. Then back to screaming and into our bed. Things came to a head on the 7th night when she woke at 11pm and screamed for two hours straight and NOTHING worked - including bringing her in to bed. Simon and I were tired, she was exhausted, and we were all frustrated.

So, what on earth was the cause? Welcome the '9 Month Sleep Regression'. I had heard of the 4 month sleep regression, which we had no issues with, but never one at 9 months, so it caught us off guard and knocked the wind from our sails. After some hasty Googling, we found out that we were not the only people to have their baby SCREAM at them for no apparent reason, and with no way to settle them. These other people had also experienced the 9 month sleep regression, and there was a general consensus on the cause. Imagine you have a big meeting tomorrow, and you have practised and practised what you need to say. It's likely you'll go to bed, have it all spinning round in your head, and have trouble falling asleep. Well, that's the same with Isabelle. Except, she doesn't have a big meeting, she just has LIFE.

Simon and I have said a lot in the last month just how much she is changing, and how much she has learnt to do lately. Every day, she seems to be doing more, and be doing things BETTER than before. She is stronger, understands more, can move better - she just has so much going on! So it's no wonder that when she goes to bed at night she has a little trouble switching off. The problem seems to be that she isn't getting in to a deep enough sleep, so she wakes more. And that is frustrating - I hate waking up during the night, so I understand why she gets cross. As Lauren from Mrs Hippo and Me said to me once "You can lie and stare at the ceiling, but they can't, so they cry". It makes so much sense. Isabelle's brain is churning with 'stuff', she isn't sleeping deeply so she wakes, gets mad about it, and cries.

Luckily, after that awful Sunday night things improved and, although she isn't quite back to normal yet, she is sleeping much better once more. So, what are our top tips for surviving a sleep regression?

1// Understand what's happening - once you know why your baby is waking more often, I think it makes it easier to deal with. It definitely made me more sympathetic. Rather than getting cross that she was sleeping so badly, and screaming so much, I felt bad for her that she couldn't sleep when she wanted to.

2// Put a plan in place - when you figure out it's a regression you are in and not just a few bad nights, figure out a plan that helps everyone get some sleep. Ours was: soothe her back to sleep until 11/11.30pm (when she would wake screaming) then I would feed her. Simon was in charge from then until 2.30am, and I took over after that. Once we had that in place, everyone got some sleep, the screaming stopped and things started to get better.

3// Be consistent - I've read a lot that you can neither 'sleep train' or 'sleep untrain' during a regression. Basically, it's not the time to try and get your baby into a new routine but, similarly, you can't really break the one you had before. Despite that, I still think it's important to be consistent with what you do. The first 6 nights we were all over the place so it's no wonder Isabelle cried - she was confused about what on earth was going to happen next! Once we were more consistent, she seemed much happier.

4// Don't do anything that you wouldn't normally do - even though you supposedly cannot create new habits during a regression, don't do anything you wouldn't normally do, just in case! So if you do NOT want your little sleeping in your bed full time, don't let them during the regression. If you wouldn't normally let them cry it out, don't do it now.

5// Do whatever it takes to help them out - as long as it complies with #2 and #3, do whatever it takes to soothe your baby and help them get more sleep. I sat in the nursery for 30 minutes after she fell asleep every time she woke, just because I knew she was only sleeping lightly and it was comforting for her to know I was still there. I didn't get much sleep those nights...

6// Have patience - I know it feels like it will never end...but it will.

7// Invest in a blanket and a onesie - sitting in Isabelle's room, cradling her in the rocking chair to help her fall back in to a deep sleep at 3am is chilly. My onesie was invaluable.

Now, maybe your baby won't hit the 9 month sleep regression; if not, you are so lucky! It is apparently the worst regression, so I am unbelievably thankful that it's (almost) over. It was tough, without doubt the toughest 8 nights we've ever had with Isabelle, but we survived! There were tears and screaming along the way, and not just from Isabelle, but the only lasting damage are the mental scars which Simon and I now bear!

Has your baby suffered from a sleep regression? Any top tips to get through it?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Review: Ella's Kitchen My Little BIG Meals

I've posted several times about out weaning journey with Isabelle, and about our choice to follow baby led weaning. The fact that we feed Isabelle whatever we eat means that I've never ventured into the 'baby food' section at the supermarket - honestly, the thought hasn't even crossed my mind.

So, when Ella's Kitchen sent me some of their My Little BIG Meals for Isabelle to try out, I was a bit hesitant at first. I am not keen on the idea of Isabelle eating food that hasn't been home cooked, simply because a lot of the time that means there are far more ingredients being used than I would like - especially when it comes to sugar, salt and preservatives. Maybe it would be true to say that I am a bit of a food snob when it comes to my little.

But when our My Little BIG Meals arrived, and I had a thorough read over the ingredients, I was very relieved to see that not only do they only include organic ingredients, but the ingredients list reads more like a homemade recipe than anything else. Simply a list of good, organic, healthy ingredients which make up each of the different meals. Not only that, but each of the meals stated on the front just how many vegetables could be found inside - vegetable moussaka has 7, pork stew has 6 and chicken curry has 5! There is no way I include that many vegetables in one meal and, like all parents, I am always worrying that Isabelle isn't eating enough veg, so this was a big plus point in my eyes.

Isabelle tried the pork stew on a night when Simon and I got takeaway - definitely not something we consider suitable for her. I was surprised at how big the portion was - it was very generous and actually gave Isabelle enough for dinner and lunch the next day, and would be more than enough to fill up a bigger toddler.  Because the Little BIG Meals are suitable for 12months+, it was nice and chunky, which meant Isabelle could easily pick up the different bits to scoff them. Isabelle loved all three meals, with the chicken curry being her favourite.

So, our first experience of 'baby' food wasn't anything like I expected! It was simply good food, perfect for my little. While we will continue to feed Isabelle whatever we have most days, these Ella's Kitchen My Little BIG Meals are a little gem to has stashed away in case of a dinner emergency - which with my expertise in cooking, happens more than you might think!

Stay tuned for a review of the Ella's Kitchen cookbook coming up in the next few weeks.

Follow Ella's Kitchen on FacebookTwitter and YouTube.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Babywearing - what's on offer?

Ever since we had Isabelle and delved into the world of babywearing, I've noticed other people wearing their babies pretty much everywhere I look! I previously posted about the Boba 3G carrier we got before Isabelle was born, and the dos and don'ts of baby wearing 'safely'.

I think when a lot of people are thinking of babywearing they look to high street retailers for answers. However, as I discussed in my previous posts, the common high street carriers don't keep your baby in an optimum position, and quite often aren't very comfy for parent or baby. I'm part of several babywearing groups on Facebook and one of the most common things I see from new posters is "I have had a high street carrier but it's so uncomfy to use for long periods - is there anything else I can try?" Unfortunately, many parents who want to babywear may not know about other options available to them. That said, ANY babywearing is a bonus for babies and parents!

So this is my quick guide to what else might be on offer for you if you want to regularly babywear, and are looking for something more ergonomic, and something comfier, than a high street carrier. Thank you so much to the wonderful babywearing mummies and daddies of Northern Ireland who let me use their pictures to show off the different types of carriers!

1// Soft structured carriers (aka SSCs or 'buckles'):
The Boba 3G we used is an example. These are very similar to 'normal' high street carriers in that they have straps, buckles and a structured waist and area against baby's back. They are good for getting on pretty quickly, and can be adjusted to be used with different people. Buckles are normally used on the front or back, but some can be used for hip carries too.
(Keep your eye out for the chance to win a beautiful SSC in the next few weeks!)

2// Ring slings:
These are quite common, and can be used for carrying your little from birth until toddlerhood. They are especially great for quick trips - I use mine if Isabelle and I are just nipping into the supermarket for one or two things, for example. They are easy to adjust, but it can take a while to get to grips with exactly how to position it for maximum comfort. They are usually used on the hip, but can be used on the front and back too.

3// Woven wraps:
Katie Hopkins takes a pretty dim view of these! These are a long piece of woven fabric which you wrap around yourself and baby in different ways to create different carries. They have a learning curve, and can be confusing to start with, but they are really supportive and a great option to carry any size of little person. They have the added bonus of coming in a massive range of colours, designs and sizes, as well as different price ranges.

4// Stretchies:
These are very similar to wraps, but are made of stretchier fabric, and are most suitable for carrying tiny babies up to about 6 months. They can be pre-tied and you can pop your newborn in and out when needed. Many mummies start with stretchies and then move on when their little one gets too heavy. (Check out me wearing Isaac last week - lovely baby cuddles!)

5// Mei Tais:
In my mind, these are a hybrid between an SSC and a wrap. They have a structured panel similar to an SSC, but long straps which you wrap and tie around you instead of buckles. They are easier to get to grips with than wraps, and I find our mei tai is really easy to use on my back with Isabelle.

If you are really interested in babywearing, try and get along to your local sling meet to try out a few options before you buy. In Northern Ireland, Sling Library NI are a wonderful bunch of very knowledgable ladies who want to share the babywearing love. There are sling meets all around the country, and Facebook is a great place to find your local meet.

There you have it - babywearing wrapped up in a nutshell. I'll leave you with some more pictures of babywearing goodness! Including some bear/doll/dog-wearing by some of the little people!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Breadmaking made easy

Simon and I usually buy a loaf  each week, and it's mainly used for toast. My dad is a coeliac, so we were worried about Isabelle having issues with gluten, and avoided giving her bread for a while. We slowly introduced it and, luckily, she seems to be ok. However, over Christmas, I heard a lot of information about supermarket bread and how - like everything that is mass produced I suppose - it contains preservatives and other bits and pieces that I would really rather not be feeding to Isabelle.

When Simon and I got married, we had put a breadmaker on our wedding list, but nobody bought it. The idea went out of my head until Simon mentioned it may be a good idea for us to start making our own bread, so we know that Isabelle is getting good quality stuff. The fact that we know exactly what is going in to home made bread, and that we can whip it up whenever we need it, is definitely very appealing. After commandeering and unused breadmaker from my parents, we set about making our first batch.
Warm from the breadmaker and ready for lunch

I had vague recollections of making bread during my time as a nanny, and we used my somewhat limited knowledge as a base as to what we would include. After several batches, trialling the different settings and different quantities of ingredients, we think we have it cracked.  Using the breadmaker is so easy - I pop the 6 ingredients in and turn it on. 3.5 hours later, the house smells delicious and a batch of freshly cooked bread is waiting. It makes me feel like a total domestic goddess! OK, so it certainly isn't as impressive as hand making the bread, but the idea is there! It feels great be able to give Isabelle homemade soup and homemade bread for her lunch.

So here is our recipe. If you decide to give it a go, use this as a starting point as each breadmaker will have different functions, and will turn these same ingredients out slightly differently.

350g wholemeal flour
250g strong white flour
400ml water
7g yeast (ours comes in pre-measured sachets, specifically for use in bread makers)
Teaspoon sugar
Pinch salt

As with everything, the price of breadmakers really varies, but you can pick some up quite cheaply if you fancy having a go.

Do you make your own bread? Have you a favourite recipe to share?

Monday, 13 January 2014

Playing with the big boys (and girls!)

Isabelle is a very nosey girl; she is constantly watching other people to see what they are up to, and loves being in her sling because she gets a great view of the world around her. She especially loves being around other babies and children, and having a nosey at what they are up to. At Baby Sensory classes recently, I've noticed her paying less attention to the activities, and more attention to what everyone else is doing instead.

Even better if the children she is watching are older - that is her absolute favourite. She loves to watch them run around at super speed, in to everything, and playing with their big boy and big girl toys.

The gruesome twosome back in September
And the one person that my little loves to watch more than anyone, is that big boy she sees so much of - Master Jacob. She is totally fascinated by him, and loves nothing more than watching him zoom about, in to all his toys, and chatting about everything around him as he goes. And - when the mood strikes him - he loves to be around her just as much. Last week, he played a great game of peekaboo with her at the dinner table, and the other day held her hand to 'help her walk'. They are such a sweet little pair, and I just know how much she loves being with him.

Luckily, we are such a close family that she gets to see her buddy all the time, and I'm so thankful that she has a big cousin to learn from and, in years to come, play with and have a great relationship with. And, of course, there is little Isaac. While he's too young at the minute for her to be as intrigued by his antics, soon enough these three little people will be running around causing havoc and headaches to the rest of us!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Parade your pet for a great cause*

So many of us have much loved pets at home - if you follow my blog you'll know we have two dogs and a cat who rule our house. We love our animals very much, and snap almost as many pictures of them as we do of Isabelle!

We all want to have fun with our animals, and dressing them up seems like a good idea - however, we know that not all our pets enjoy doing this, and we would never want to intentionally upset them. However, now there is a way to dress up your pet, include them in a pet beauty parade and help raise money for charity along the way.

The Pet Parade App (available free in the app store) has recently been launched to help raise funds for the Blue Cross - a charity dedicated to helping animals in the UK for over 100 years. They are entirely funded by public donation, and the money created by the app will help take care of thousands of sick, injured and abandoned animals this year. They run 12 rehoming centres across the UK, which take care of cats, dogs, horses and small animals - providing care when needed and rehoming them into safe, loving environments.

Pet Parade is so simple to use, and was a great, silly and fun way for me to spend my evening, giggling at the wacky things I in which I could dress our pets -without worrying about upsetting them at all.

All I had to do was upload a picture of our pet (I chose one of Dexter, and one of my mum's labradors), and then had fun choosing from the huge variety of accessories to put on them. Everything from sunglasses to hats, and 'bling' to wigs is available to add a little something special to your pet's photo, and get them ready to take part in the parade. When you have perfected their new look, you simply save your photo and it is shared with everyone in the online pet parade carnival!

Via JustGiving, people can vote for your pet as the 'Best Dressed' (or should that be worst dressed?!) animal. Each vote costs £2, and that money is donated to Blue Cross. The animal which receives the most votes by 9th March 2014 wins the parade!

This is a free, fun way for you to help raise some money for one of the UK's leading animal charities. So, grab your phone, get your pets looking their best, and have some fun! The little ones will especially love to help make their pets look as silly as possible!

You can also share your photo on Twitter, using #petparade so that even more people can share the fun, and help raise money for a very worthy cause. (And if you feel like voting for my pets, you can do so here!)

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Two steps forward, one step back...

I'm sure other parents will know what I mean - sometimes it feels like you are getting so far with something, then all of a sudden a hiccup along the way seems to set you back somewhat.

I mentioned earlier this week that Isabelle was moving into her own room. This managed to combine with a week where she hasn't much been in the mood for self soothing and sleeping long stretches - unfortunate timing hey? (It did start the night before she moved, so I know the move wasn't the issue).

She has been getting somewhat back to normal again, but now likes me to sit in the rocking chair while she soothes herself to sleep. This feels like a bit of a step back, as she had been happy to be left in her cot at night to go to sleep no problems, and it had been bothering me that all of what we had achieved was now for nothing.

But, I know this will pass in a few days, and then she will be self soothing in her own room. For now, she just needs a little extra help to get used to her new surroundings. So we've just had to take a little step backwards in order to help us move forwards. When I think about it that way, it doesn't seem so bad at all.

Friday, 10 January 2014

New Year Blog Tag!

I was tagged by the beautiful and wonderful Hayley from Sparkles and Stretchmarks, who was the person who convinced me to start my blog in the first place!

There are just a few simple rules: 
1. In your post, be sure to link back and thank the blogger that previously tagged you
2. Answer the questions below and tag at least 5 other bloggers and; 
3. Include the badge in your post

Lets get started!

1. Your top 5 new favourite blogs to read in 2013 

Like Hayley, I only started blogging in 2013 so reading any blog is brand new to me! Some which I always find myself gravitating towards are:
Quite Frankly She Said
Bump to Baby
Mummy B
Sparkles and Stretchmarks
Mrs Hippo and Me

2. List Your 5 most read blog posts in 2013

3. Name one blog you wish you had found sooner

Probably Wifessionals - an American blog written by a lovely lady who seems to have many similar views about parenting to myself. 

4. Your favourite blog post of 2013 

Hmmmmm...very difficult question....I think probably My Favourite 2 Minutes of the Day because it allowed me to share something that I really loved about those early days with Isabelle.

5. What would you like to improve (if anything) on your blog next year?

My blog is still very new, so I just want to keep up with writing about topics that I am interested in and which are important to me, and to try and include more of my own pictures.

6. Name one blog you have a blog crush on

Hayley also said this, but it has to be Oh So Amelia. A wonderful blog, so well presented and written, with great pictures.

7. How often do you post? 

That depends on what week and month it is! So far I've blogged every day bar one this month, but some months I may only get one or two posts a week. It all depends on what else is going on in my world, and what I have on my mind.

8. Share your first post of 2013

9. Name one thing you would be doing if you weren't typing this post right now.

Watching Grey's Anatomy

10. What have you loved the most about blogging this year?

 Being able to share some issues which I think are generally not so well known about - or which has misconceptions and stigma attached to them, such as co-sleeping, using cloth and babywearing.

I tag the following bloggers:
Sian    Sarah     Nicola     Sian (another one!) 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Keeping your baby safer for longer in the car

Ever wondered why baby seats face rear-wards in a car, and seats for older babies and toddlers face forward? Until I started researching when pregnant, I had no idea that there was a whole group of car seats which are for older babies and toddlers which are also rear facing. But...why would anyone want their toddler facing backwards in the car? What is the point of it?

It all comes down to one word: safety. Rear facing cars seats are proven to be safer for children in the event of a collision.

Here are 2 videos I saw which can help explain why:

If you don't have time to watch the videos the brief idea is this - in a collision people are most likely to be thrown forwards. In a normal car seat, this throws a child forward into the straps, with nothing to support their head, which can cause serious injury. In a rear facing car seat, the child's whole body (including head and neck) are forced into the cushioned car seat and are much better protected. That's why the law says that SMALL babies must be rear facing in a car - and why the law is changing to increase the height (rather than weight or age) limit at which children can be turned forward facing.

Now, a lot of people say "Oh (s)he loves facing forwards so they can see where they are going!" and, in fact, someone said to me recently "Just wait until you put her in the next seat up - she will love being able to see forwards". I didn't have the heart to tell them that putting her in the next seat up and having her face forwards is not something I am looking forward to at all.

Because, even though I know keeping her rear facing for longer is safest, the erf seats are so very expensive that it may not be a viable option for us. I know there is really no way I can put a price on Isabelle's safety, but for many families across the UK, these seats are just sadly too expensive. Maxi-Cosi have just launched a new erf car seat - which is great as there are so few on the market - but it's expense is even greater as an isofix is needed to use it. So many 'normal' car seats are available for very little, and can last your child from under 1 until they no longer need a car seat.Another issue is car size - erf seats are much bulkier than other car seats, and may not fit in smaller family cars - especially if you have more than one child.

For now, I will keep Isabelle in her 'baby' car seat until she has completely outgrown it, so I can keep her rear facing for as long as possible. The most important thing is to have a car seat which is correctly fitted, and suitable for her weight and height. So, whichever seat we choose next will be carefully researched to make sure it is 100% the best choice for our situation.

If you want to find out more info about rear facing your little for longer, check out:

Rear Facing - the way forward

Had you heard of rear facing older children? Is it something you've considered, or something you do? Or do you think there is no real need for it?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Clingy Mummy Alert!

Today, 2 days shy of her 9 month 'birthday', Miss Isabelle has moved into her own bedroom for the first time. To be honest, if Simon hadn't moved the cot this morning (by himself, while Isabelle and I staged a sit in protest) I would happily have let her stay a bit longer. Say until she was 10?! We had set two dates before when she would go - at 8 months old, then New Year's Day - but she never quite made it out of our room.

I know some people will be reading this and thinking I am mad for keeping her in there so long. That said, I also know lots of lovely mummies who still have their little in their room too - which has always made me feel better about keeping her in with us for so long. Honestly, I always assumed that when we hit that 6 month mark, she'd be out of there and I'd be glad to see the back of her - but she stayed. I had told Simon she needed to be moved first thing in the morning, so she had her nap in her room too, and he set today as the final date as he was off work, and could move the furniture this morning.

Morning nap in her own room

I know some people think I am clingy, and I think they are probably right. I was counting today on my way home from the hairdresser and, in 9 months, I have left Isabelle with someone other than Simon fewer than 5 times, and I have left her with Simon fewer than 10 times. The longest time I have left her is 5 hours, and she was asleep for most of that.

I never thought I would be so clingy at all, and always slightly mocked parents who never let their kids out of their sight. I always said "Oh when she is sleeping well I'll ship her off for the night to my parents", and assumed I'd have no issue in going out during the day or in the evenings. However, every time I leave her, or even think about leaving her with someone, I can't help but think "What if she needs me and I'm not there?"

She sleeps face down - thank heavens for movement monitors...

I KNOW that it's silly. Simon, my mum and dad, my brother and sister, and my sister-in-law are all perfectly capable of taking care of Isabelle for a few hours, and I trust them all without question. But yet, I can't help that worry that Isabelle will get upset, and I cannot stand the thought of tears rolling down her cheek and me not being there to comfort her.

As per my New Year's resolution, however, I am working to change that. Isabelle stayed with my mum for a few hours at the weekend, and today with Simon while I got my hair chopped (I can tick that off the to do list). And tonight, she is sleeping in her own room. Yes, I am worried she will be lonely, even though she's asleep, and no, I am not looking forward to having to walk all the way to the next room to feed her when she wakes. I will miss hearing her shuffle round in her sleep, and miss the reassuring sound of her little breaths when I wake up to check she is OK. Just the thought is making me well up, and making me want to go and climb into her cot with her.

But she's in her room, and after tonight I'm sure I'll wonder why I was being such a silly mummy in the first place...

Is anyone else willing to admit they are a clingy mummy?!

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