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

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Review: Perfect 1st birthday presents with My 1st Years

Last week, I posted about some of my ideas for Isabelle's birthday party - it's now only 6 weeks to go until she turns 1! I didn't mention anything about gifts though, and obviously presents are a huge part of any birthday - and I always think it's especially important that 1st birthday presents are extra special. Both when thinking about what to get Isabelle, and thinking about what presents to buy for other babies for their 1st birthday, I always want to think up something which is a bit more than the average gift that you can lift of the shelves.

Enter My 1st Years. This website is dedicated to bringing you baby gifts which are just that little bit more special than everyday gifts, as they can be totally personalised for your little person, making the gift you give as special as the little person you are giving it to. There is a huge selection to choose from, including baby clotheschristening gifts and baby shower gifts - all of which can be personalised to make them that little bit extra special.

In my search for some perfect 1st birthday gifts for Isabelle, My 1st Years very kindly offered to send us some personalised baby shoes, and we received some very cute pink hi-tops with 'Isabelle' on each shoe. You can personalise the little shoes with up to 10 characters, and there was some debate about what we should get, but we eventually decided to go with just her name.

When the shoes arrived, they came in the most beautiful box, and were wrapped in tissue paper. So, not only do you get a beautiful gift, but you don't have to wrap it either! The presentation is really beautiful, and would definitely please any parent if you handed them this little turquoise box for their baby's birthday.

Inside were the sweetest little shoes, baby pink with beautifully stitched personalisation on each shoe. I couldn't wait to get them on to Isabelle as I knew she'd look gorgeous in them! While standing and walking are her favourite thing to do at the minute, since she can't walk unaided she is still classed as a 'pre-walker', and the fact that these hi-tops have soft soles makes them perfect for her wear now. Isabelle has tiny feet (not something she inherited from me!) so the shoes are still slightly too big for her, but the laces on them meant I could tie them nice and tightly, so they weren't going to fall off or be uncomfortable for her while she wore them. There are little spotty grips on the bottom so the hi-tops are great to help her while she toddles about, keeping her from slipping over when she gets distracted. 

Overall, these little hi-tops are absolutely gorgeous, and although Isabelle has already seen them, they will make a great birthday present for her! Imagine how lovely it would be to order a pair for a baby you know - what a special and personal gift they would be. And imagine how thoughtful you would look to the parents of any baby if you turned up with such a unique gift!

I highly recommend you take a little look over at My 1st Years if you are searching for a special gift for a little person in your life. No matter what the occasion, they have something to help you out, and they have certainly given us something extra special for Isabelle's very first birthday.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Sensory play: 2 'baby safe' painting methods

For a while now, I've wanted to do some painting with Isabelle, but as she is still very much in the 'stick everything I see into my mouth' phase, I didn't want to risk using real paints with her just yet. There are loads of recipes out there for edible paint, but I found that they are generally all based around something very sugary (like jelly, for example) and I'm not comfortable with Isabelle eating those types of things just yet either. So I had to find a way to paint with her with baby safe, mummy approved 'paint'. Both of these methods are things which I have seen on either Pinterest, or on other blogs, and so I decided to give them a shot and see how we got on.

1// No mess painting:
This has to be a winner, just from that name! This is a really simple way of letting Isabelle play around with coloured paint, and I don't even have to wash her hands at the end. What could be better? It's very simple - squirt some paint into a ziplock bag, push the air out, and seal the bag. I duct taped it just to be doubly sure we wouldn't get a paint explosion! You could give this to baby on the floor, at their high chair - wherever really. I decided to tape it to our patio doors. Isabelle loves to stand here and look out at the garden, so I knew she'd enjoy the placement of this activity.

I taped the bag up using sellotape, and we had a squish about with the paint, mixing the colours, and moving the paint around in the bag. The activity was great for introducing the idea of different colours, and colour mixing, and helped her fine motor skills as she used her fingers to push around little 'blobs' of the paint. I hadn't put a huge amount of paint in, as I thought it would just run everywhere as soon as I taped the bag up, but it stayed put, and I think I need to be a bit more generous with the pain in future! You could easily pop a page in to the bag as well, and extract it at the end, giving you some lasting art - I just threw our bag out. Maybe next time she can create a wall piece!

2// Flour paint:
This was an activity I set up in Isabelle's high chair, but I think next time I would lay it out in her activity tray instead. Very simply, I mixed plain flour with water to get a paste. I didn't use any specific quantities - I simply played about until I got a 'paint' texture from the flour paste. I popped this on to Isabelle's tray, and added 3 spots of food colouring. I could have pre-mixed the colour, but thought it would be more fun to let her be able to mix the colour in, and see the transition through 'swirly' patterns to full pink. I won't lie - the first thing she did was eat two handfuls of the paste. But it obviously didn't taste nice (funny that!) as she then decided it was for play instead of eating. She got thoroughly messy, and enjoyed splashing her hands in the paint. She really loved me picking some of the paint up and letting it drip back down on to her tray - she liked the feel of it falling back on to her hands. So as well as showing her more colour mixing, this was a great activity for teaching her about movement of different liquids, and the texture of different things. We ended up with pink flour paint everywhere, but I am pleased to report it washed out with no issues! The floor was slightly more difficult to clean up once it had dried though...

So there you go - two ways to have some baby safe painting fun. Two very different activities, but both of which are really quick and easy to set up, and will fill a 10 minute gap in your day! If you aren't a mess fan, I recommend number 1!

Has anybody got any other good paint 'recipes' for Isabelle and I to try out?

Don't forget to enter my Ecoegg giveaway here for a chance to win a £60 Ecoegg bundle!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Cloth nappies 101: the ABC of cloth

Welcome back for the fourth part of my cloth nappy mini series! We've had a brief look at whether cloth might be for you, how to build a stash and how to wash your nappies. Today's post is meant to help you decipher the terms used in cloth nappies.

When I first started, I was pretty bamboozled about what some of the terms meant, and even though I've used lots of these terms already in the series, you might not know what they mean! So here is simply a list of the most common terms, and what they mean.

Prefold nappy // a flat nappy, usually stitched in to 3 sections, which you fold around a baby and use with a cover

Fitted nappy // a shaped nappy, which usually fastens around baby using Velcro. They are really absorbent, and are used with a wrap

Pocket nappy // an outer waterproof shell with inner liner. In between these layers you "stuff" the absorbent insert

All in one nappy // a nappy which is everything in one place. - an absorbent inner section attached to a waterproof outer

All in two nappy // these are usually an outer waterproof shell in to which you snap the inserts

Hybrid nappy // can be used as a normal cloth nappy or with a disposable insert

Hybrid fitted // a fitted nappy with a 'hidden' layer of PUL of fleece, which means it may be used without a wrap in some cases

Nappy wrap // a waterproof shell which goes over fitted or prefold nappies

Insert // this is the absorbent part of a pocket nappy. Usually made from microfibre, you must have one in a pocket nappy for it to be absorbent. They are rectangular in shape

Booster // these can be used in any type of happy to "boost" the absorbency of that nappy. Bamboo is a popular choice as it's very absorbent. They are rectangular in shape, but usually slightly smaller or thinner than inserts.

Liner // these sit inside a nappy, right beside baby's bum. They can be fleece (or other stay dry material) to keep baby's bum dry in a natural fibre nappy, or disposable to catch solids

Wet bag // a waterproof bag in which you keep dirty nappies

Applix or hook and loop // these are non-brand name versions of Velcro, used to fasten some nappies. A popular choice for nappies which will be used by other people, as it makes a nappy very smile to use

Poppers // used to snap a birth to potty nappy to the correct size, and a popular choice to fasten nappies as they are durable and long lasting

Sized nappies // these are a specific size, such as small, which are made to fit a narrow weight range of baby. Baby's will grow out of these at some point, and a large size will be needed

Birth to potty or "one size fits all" // a nappy which grows with baby and can be used across a very large weight range - generally from a few weeks old until a child is near to potty training

PUL // an abbreviation for polyutherane laminate , which is a waterproof material used on the outside of most pocket nappies and all in ones. Most wraps are also made from PUL

Minkee // a soft fabric which is sometimes used on the outside of nappies

Microfibre // a man made, absorbent fabric. It absorbs quickly but does not hold a huge amount of liquid

Bamboo // also man made, despite its name. It absorbs more slowly than microfibre, but holds a larger amount of liquid

Hemp // a natural fabric which absorbs slowly but holds a large amount of liquid

Cotton // a natural fabric which can hold a large amount of liquid, especially if it is organic

Build up // when washing powder isn't rinsed out of nappies and 'clings' to the fibres, trapping bacteria and ammonia in the fibres too

Strip washing // washing nappies extremely thoroughly to remove all traces of build up

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The plague of mummy guilt...

If you are a mummy you know exactly what "mummy guilt" feels like. If you don't, I am pretty astounded!

For anybody who isn't a mummy, mummy guilt is an almost constant feeling that plagues mothers, niggling in our minds telling us that we aren't quite doing our best, and our poor child is suffering because we just aren't quite good enough. It's something I experience a lot, and I know my mummy friends do as well.

It's pretty rare to hear a mummy say "I did a great job today! I'm a great mummy!" Instead, what I hear from my mummy friends is about how they could be doing better, and their apologies for things they feel are a sign that they are slacking as a mummy - maybe baby's hands and face are dirty after eating, maybe their hair isn't brushed (I know about that one!). Many mummies have mummy guilt because they go out to work. Mostly, us mummies just don't feel that we are doing a good enough job, and that any problems our little ones encounter are absolutely our fault - which is very ego-centric of us!

And I know all about it. Last week, my mummy guilt came in terms of Isabelle's sleep. We were away all week so it's only natural that her sleep would be disturbed, but when it was and she was then exhausted and grumpy with Simon's parents, I felt the guilt. It must be my fault she hadn't slept well - maybe I disturbed her too much during the night (we mainly co slept while away), maybe she had been too hot in the hotel/at Simon's parents and hadn't been able to get comfortable. Whatever it was it was definitely my fault that she didn't sleep so well. Which meant it was my fault when she was grumpy, and gave us all a horrible day, so of course Simon's parents lost out on a day of fun with her because of it (because of me).

Now, anyone reading that will probably think (as I do now) that is ridiculous. It's only natural that her sleep was disturbed when we were somewhere strange, and after 4 days of running around London  and travelling, no wonder she was tired and grumpy! Simon's parents have raised two children and know exactly how babies can be. Logically speaking, it was not at all my fault. But mummy guilt made me feel otherwise.

Then, I had my mummy guilt about her eating, while we were away she didn't eat as well. She had lots of little snacks rather than eating well at meal times, and so didn't eat much at those meal times. Her snacks were obviously terrible for her - cranberries (too sugary!), carrot oat bars (too processed!) and puffits (no nutrition!). At meal times she picked at bread and meat, and barely touched her vegetables - mummy guilt tells me that if she gets sick soon it's because of that.

Again, logically speaking, I know that's all silly. The snacks she had would be considered healthy and nutritious (maybe not the puffits?), and since she still gets lots of milk, she was getting all her vitamins that way instead of through her veg. But mummy guilt made me feel otherwise!

And since we were away with no washing facilities, we used disposable inserts in our cloth nappy outers. Isabelle ended up with nappy rash, which must be my fault for deciding to be lazy and use the disposable inserts. Of course, the nappy rash was tiny, and cleared up after one cream application so she was fine....but mummy guilt made me feel otherwise!

Then, there is the problem of having so many friends who are mummies! As much as I love them all, when we talk I can't help but think "I don't do that!" and the mummy guilt kicks in again - I'm not just a bad mummy, I'm the worst mummy! Poor Isabelle, lumbered with such a poor excuse for a mother.

My daughter is a happy, healthy, smily girl who managed to charm half of London as we whizzed around. She is bright and chatty, and loves to be looking at things and learning, and up on her feet and walking. We go out to lots of groups, see lots of people and do lots of activities at home and out to help develop her. I've decided that breastmilk, home cooked meals, baby led weaning, no sugar, no TV, babywearing and cloth nappies are things that will help keep her as healthy as possible.  She isn't perfect, but she's not far off it in my eyes. But yet, when mummy guilt kicks in, I look at her and see how every little imperfection is my fault, how I could do better for her, and how I've let her down by making those choices for her.

And, I think that is the hardest thing of all about being a mummy. It's not the 3am wake up calls, or the grumpy days when you want to shut her in a soundproof room, it's not the never having a minute to myself, or the sore shoulder I get when we co-sleep. It's the feeling of almost perpetual guilt I have that I could be doing better for her, that I am not doing my best and I'm failing her. My logical brain knows that I am being silly most often, but my mummy guilt is a strong force, maybe even the strongest force in the universe.

Do you ever suffer from mummy (or daddy!) guilt?

Don't forget to enter my Ecoegg giveaway here for a chance to win a £60 Ecoegg bundle!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Nonabox review

After reading all about Nonabox on various blogs before Christmas, I thought they sounded great and when I saw a discount code floating about, I decided to order a 3 months subscription. Nonabox do have "official" blog reviewers - I'm not one of them but thought I'd share my thoughts on the boxes anyway, especially since it isn't often you read bad reviews.

The concept of these boxes is the same as the various pay per box schemes out there - you pay a set amount and get sent a box of 'stuff' in return. You don't know what you are going to get, but after seeing the various offerings on other blogs from Nonabox, I was really excited to get mine.

My first box was the December box, which didn't arrive until the end of the first week of January. I was so excited to open it, but when I did, I was so disappointed. It looked half empty, but inside was:

Ella's Kitchen puffits
2 bottles of immune system booster
A pair of shorts
A Cloud-b dream sheep
A book

It doesn't sound too bad but....the shorts were boys shorts for age 6-9 months (Isabelle was 9 months at that time), the dream sheep is something I think is only suitable for newborns - hardly something you would introduce to a 9 month old surely? And the bottles of immune booster are not something I am ever likely to give her - an unknown brand of "medicine" is not going in to my child. Along with that, she gets plenty of vitamins in her diet, and we were recommended a brand of vitamins by my health visitor, which we bought (although admittedly don't use!) I emailed Nonabox about getting replacement shorts, which I did eventually receive (after an email, a Tweet and a snotty Facebook message). The replacement shorts were 12-18 months for girls, so perfect for this summer....but the quality is awful and I know they will never grace Isabelle's little bum. The puffits were a hit with her, so that's something.

So, not a great start, but I thought we'd give January a go and see how we got on. This box arrived in a more timely fashion, and I opened it with trepidation, expecting the worst. Inside this box we had...

Buggy hooks
A 360 swivel spoon
A Cloud-b lavender pillow
A toothbrush
Biodegradable nappies
A Nonabox shopping bag

A slightly better offering, and some of the things are pretty useful, so not so bad at all. However, I was interested to read about the biodegrable nappies (since we use cloth and I am interested in eco nappies) but when I turned them over...the information was all in Spanish! I believe that Nonabox is a Spanish company - but since I am in the UK it's not unreasonable to expect English instructions is it? Then, I thought I would check to see if the lavender pillow could go in the microwave. Picked up the was all in French! Luckily, I read both languages (French is much better!) so was able to get the gist of it all, but I wasn't best pleased. What if you don't read either language, and want to know vital information? And seriously, a Nonabox shopping bag? That just screams "space filler!" to me - like they didn't have enough real products to fill the box so stuck that in instead. The buggy hooks, spoon and toothbrush will all get frequent use, but I do resent paying up was of £20 for three items.

Overall, I am suitably unimpressed with Nonabox, and would not recommend them to anyone. The products they include seem to be chosen at random, and are not well tailored for my child, despite the information they requested. I definitely don't think the boxes are worth paying £25 for, especially when they produce poor quality items like the shorts. I still have one box to go, and can't wait to get it - simply to get it over with. A total waste of my money, and a mistake I won't be making again.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

London calling

Last week, Simon, Isabelle and I took our first family holiday to London. We had decided that,instead of buying each other Christmas presents, we would go away for a few days and spend some family time together instead. Simon decided we should go to London, as we hadn't spent much time there in a few years, and we thought it would be handy to combine that with a trip to see his family in Norfolk.

After some consideration, and lots of research, we decided to stay in the Premier Inn in Stratford, beside the Olympic Stadium. Premier Inns are by no means the most fancy places, and I'm sure lots of people would hate to stay there, but they are always clean and comfy, and since we don't spend a huge amount of time in the hotel, we stay in them quite often. It was a great choice to stay there. The hotel was right beside a giant Westfield shopping centre (someone told me the largest in Europe!), so we had lots of choice about places to eat dinner, and places to get lunch and do a bit of shopping. It was also served by two stations - a train station and a train/underground/DLR station which made it so easy to get into central London, and to get too and from Liverpool Street for our connecting trains. We had a great view of the Olympic stadium, and out over the London skyline, and it was generally just a great pick, and I highly recommend it!

We flew in on Monday, and by the time we got settled and had dinner, Isabelle was ready for bed. On Tuesday, we decided to go and see the Cutty Sark, and then the Tower of London. Cutty Sark was disappointing, as we didn't think there was really that much about the shop or the people who had sailed on it. Simon's great-great-grandfather was its Captain, so it was especially disappointing for us that nowhere were any people mentioned. Not something we would recommend, but it was still nice to see a piece of our family history.

By contrast, the Tower of London was super! That was my pick, and we both loved seeing the various buildings, the great displays and of course the Crown Jewels. Isabelle fell asleep just as we walked up to the jewels, so she managed to miss them! It was a lot bigger inside than we had thought, so we were there for a good part of the day, and we both really enjoyed it.

Panoramic of Tower Bridge, with the Tower of London, the Gherkin, the Shard and City Hall (and Simon!)

On Wednesday, we went to the Natural History Museum, which was amazing. Simon and I generally are not fans of museums, but we both loved the NHM. My favourite section was the volcanoes, earthquakes and earth history area, and Isabelle enjoyed touching all the rocks in there. A big bonus is that the museum is free, but we left a voluntary donation as we were both really impressed with the whole thing. Definitely our sort of museum!

We then made a quick trip to Hamley's. I usually love Hamley's, but was slightly disappointed this time round. We didn't end up buying anything, although we went in with that intention, but we did come away with a balloon for Isabelle which she adored, and kept her happy while we got ready for dinner with some friends that evening, and on the train to Norfolk the next day.

Natural History Museum
We decided to leave her pram at home and just take slings with us and babywear the whole time. It was definitely the right decision, and one I would suggest to others going to somewhere like London. Getting on and off the Tube, in and out of train stations, and around attractions was so much easier with no pram. After carrying Isabelle for c6 hours each day I was definitely feeling it, but it was worth it. I took a wrap to carry her on my front, a buckles carrier for our backs, and a ring sling for the airports, and it worked really well.

I was also extremely impressed with how kind people were on the Tube when I was carrying Isabelle. Generally it wasn't too busy when we travelled, but if there were no free seats, without fail somebody would get up and offer me theirs. One person even gave up his seat so Simon could sit next to us, which was so generous. You always hear how awful Londoners are, and how unfriendly, but we found them to be the exact opposite - kind, thoughtful and really sweet in talking to nod playing with Isabelle as we travelled. She managed to make friends on every journey, who kept her happy as we travelled.

There were lots of 'firsts' for Isabelle on our trip - her first train journey, first tube journey, first time in London, first time in a museum...and she seemed to enjoy them all - especially the train and tube!

Overall, a really great family get away. It's nice to know we can do a city break with Isabelle, and take her sight-seeing and still have a happy baby. We left for Norfolk on Thursday morning to see Simon's parents, and Isabelle was thoroughly exhausted after her first London adventure.

Has anyone else travelled lately with a baby? Any recommendations abut where we should go next?

Don't forget to enter my Ecoegg giveaway here for a chance to win a £60 Ecoegg bundle!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Countdown to Isabelle's 1st birthday!

It's hard to believe that it is almost one year since Isabelle arrived. This time last year I was counting down the days until I finished work, praying my baby would arrive sooner rather than later (ha!). And now, I spend my days racing round after my lunatic of a daughter, constantly flicking her hair from her eyes and trying to make her giggle!

Simon and I are not big party throwers, but of course we can't wait to celebrate Isabelle's 1st birthday with our closest family. We aren't doing anything huge or spectacular, but of course I want it to be a lovely day, with lots of little touches just for Isabelle, so she knows how special her very first birthday was when we look back in years to come.

The party will be for just family, at our house. Balloons and bunting are both a must, and I will be making these myself at some point next month. I absolutely adore the first birthday chalkboards that I've seen, and am also making one of these myself - a big one for display, and a small one for her baby book. Food wise, my mother-in-law is an amazing baker, and will make us a beautiful cake, and then we'll have lots of baby/child friendly foods - check out the rainbow fruit kebabs below. I've already ordered the invitations (thanks to Lauren at Mrs Hippo and Me who shared a code to get these for FREE!) and I'm not worrying too much about the whole thing - which probably means I will have a last minute panic come April!

So, where do I turn for inspiration for all my wants and needs? Oh, don't be silly...where do you think?! I've been pinning up a storm since new year. I'll be posting more abut various bits and bobs to do with Isabelle's birthday over the next month and a half, but I'm starting off with just a look at what I've been pinning to give me some ideas of what I'd like for this most special day.

Don't forget to enter my Ecoegg giveaway here for a chance to win a £60 Ecoegg bundle!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Cloth nappies 101: How do I wash and take care of my nappies?

Welcome back for part 3 of the cloth nappy series! So far we've had a look at whether cloth nappies might be for you, and how to go about building your nappy stash.  Today, it's a little look at the issue which seems to put people off using cloth nappies more than any other - the washing.

Now, of course washing your nappies is very important, as clean nappies are an absolute must for every little fluffy bottom. But, the important thing when washing nappies is that washing them wrongly can actually lead to problems, and it seems that incorrect washing creating problems is one of the biggest issues people have with their nappies. Contrary to most people's thinking, it's actually the wee which causes issues. Basically, if the nappies aren't washed correctly, ammonia from babies urine can build up in the nappies, which leads to smell and absorbency issues, and can contribute to nappy rash. So, getting your nappies clean is vital to ensuring that you can continue to use your cloth nappies happily.

Most people work out a system that works for them when it comes to washing - there is no set rule on what you 'must' do with your washing system, but I'll share our system with you as I know most people do something very similar. As I mentioned in the last post, one of the must haves for any family using cloth is a wetbag or a bucket, in which you deposit the used nappies after changing your baby.

We prefer to use a bucket, with a mesh liner in it. We keep this in our living room, as that's where we change Izzy mostly. We use disposable liners in our nappies, so when Isabelle poos, the liner is easy to lift out and I just flush it down the toilet. This means that no poo actually goes in to my washing machine at all. Once I take a nappy off and get rid of the liner, I simply pop the nappy in to the bucket.  I wash our nappies every second day, in the morning. The nappies go in to the wash and I clean the bucket, and put our second mesh liner in, ready to start again. I touched on this in my post 'A day in the life of a cloth bum mum'

It's important to read the washing instructions on your nappies, however most people wash many brands of nappy together with no issue. One of the most important things to think about when washing your nappies, and deciding which programs to use on your machine, is that you want to get as much water in to your washing machine and around your nappies as possible. Any setting that limits water is no good here, and it's not the time to use your 'Time save' button either. You need a good long wash, with plenty of water - a cotton wash is perfect for this. Some extra rinses both before and after the main wash will also make sure that your nappies get plenty of water round them, so adding a rinse is really helpful in getting your nappies as clean as you can. Washing on a long 60C wash kills all bacteria, so no need to worry about any nasties lurking in your nappies. My routine is:

1// Rinse (with spin turned off. This keeps the nappies wet and adds more water in to the main wash)
2// 40C or 60C long wash
3// Extra rinse (spin back on)

The whole thing takes over two hours, and that reassures me that our nappies are getting a really good wash. 

Now, what can you use to wash the nappies? There are a few different options for this, none of which seems to be any more 'right' than any other. The options are:

1// Use your normal powder (1/4 of your normal dose)
2// Use a special cloth nappy powder
3// Use an Ecoegg or soap nuts

One of the main issues with using regular powder is that, if you do not rinse well enough, or add too much powder, it will 'build up' in the fabrics, which leads to problems with absorbency and smell. Using a special cloth powder, Ecoegg or soap nuts seem to negate this issue. We use a cloth nappy washing powder (Ecosprout) which doesn't build up in the fibres at all. How much you use depends on the type of water you have - luckily ours is very soft, so I only need a small amount.

One of the most important things about washing your cloth nappies is to make sure you don't ever use fabric softener, or a washing powder which has it built in. Fabric softener is made to cling to fabric, so with cloth nappies that means they cannot absorb as well anymore. 

Once you have figured out how often you want to wash, and which cycles to use, your nappies should turn out lovely and clean. A good test is the 'sniff test' when they come out of the machine. Do your nappies smell of anything? They shouldn't! They should smell of nothing, not even washing powder, as that indicates it's stuck in the fibres - build up. They should smell of absolutely nothing at all! If they do, adjust your wash system and the powder you use to see if that helps.

After they are washed, nappies need dried. Many people dry in the tumble drier, but I don't. It shortens the life of natural fabrics like bamboo, and isn't good for the PUL in nappies.  So, instead, I air dry all my nappies, all the time. I have a clothes horse and two hanging 'sock airers' which I use in the garage and everything dries by the time the next load is ready to hang - so in 2 days. If you want to tumble dry, you should do so on low.

From time to time, Isabelle's poo will stain a nappy. Even though the nappy is clean after being washed, the stains don't look very nice. The best way to get rid of stains is simply by popping the wet nappy out in the sun and letting it work it's magic. And believe me, this really does work to get nappies sparkling white again! If it's summer, a few hours will do it, in winter, it might take a few days - but even if it's cloudy they will whiten again slowly. 

So there you have it - storing used nappies, washing them and getting them dry. This is really the most important (and time consuming!) part of using cloth nappies, and it's important to get that wash routine right to make sure your nappies are being well taken care of, and you don't run in to any issues.

Next up in this series...the ABC of cloth nappies - what do all the terms mean?! 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Review and giveaway - Ecoegg bundle worth £60!

As a cloth bum mum, I had heard of Ecoegg before, but what I didn't realise is that as well as the Ecoegg, they have a whole range of home products including dryer balls, stain remover, steam fragrance, detox tablets and a 'spray & refresh' room spray. When they offered to send me of their products, I was excited to see how they fared around the house, and hoped they would help make the mundane cleaning tasks a little easier. So, how did I find them?

Steam fragrance: 
This is a fragrance to be added in to the water chamber in your steam mop. I have just bought a new steam mop, which I love, but I do miss the 'clean' smell that using floor cleaner left in the house. Ecoegg steam fragrance is a concentrate, made with natural essential oils, which you add a pump of to the water chamber of your steam cleaner. The bottle advises using 2-3 pumps, but when we did I found the smell a little too much, and found that using 1 pump was plenty. It's enough to leave the house with a great fresh smell, without being too over powering, and as the fragrance has no harsh chemicals and is hypoallergenic, it is totally safe for me to use around Isabelle and the dogs.  The steam fragrance comes in 2 scents (soft cotton and citrus burst) and costs £9.99 for a bottle which should last for at least 50 uses -it will last me much longer since I use just 1 pump at a time!

Stain remover:
Any mummy will tell you that stain remover is an essential item in their home with a baby - especially once the messy weaning stage is reached! Isabelle gets food everywhere, and things like strawberry leave tough stains which don't wash out easily. What I liked about this product was the claim that since it has nothing harsh in it, it can be applied with your finger. Our current stain remover is a spray and always leaves my hands feeling a bit 'funny' when I use it, so I was interested to see how the Ecoegg stain remover compared. I tested the stain remover out on a pair of Isabelle's tights - she had obviously sat on a blueberry at some point and this left a nice purple stain on her bum! The tights had actually been washed, but the stain hadn't lifted, so it was a tough test. The stain remover went on using my finger, and didn't leave my hands feeling dry or 'weird' at all. Once applied, I then put the tights in the wash and the stain from the blueberry was totally gone! I am genuinely really impressed with this product, for both it's stain removing abilities and the fact that it is so gentle on skin. At £3.99 for a bottle, it's definitely great value too.

Dryer eggs:
As with most drier balls, the dryer eggs are designed to help reduce the amount of time your washing takes in the tumble drier, while softening up your clothes at the same time. The spiky balls go into the tumble dryer, and the dryer eggs are scientifically proven to reduce your drying time by up to 28%. As someone who hates using the tumble drier I think this is great as it means that, when I do use the drier, I am saving electric and money, but still getting the same soft, dry clothes at the end. The eggs definitely do help reduce drying time, and are a permanent fixture in our drier now, especially with bulky towels.
The special thing about these dryer eggs is the fragrance stick inside, which is there to scent your clothes as they dry. You can choose from soft cotton or spring blossom, and since the smell coming off the egg was really strong, I had high hopes my clothes would smell lovely. Sadly, I was a little disappointed as, when they came out of the drier, my clothes seemed to smell totally normal. The fragrance sticks are supposed to last for 40 dries before needing changed, but they just don't seem to impart their smell into my load of washing well, which was disappointing.

Overall, I have been really impressed with the Ecoegg range - with the stain remover now being a firm favourite in the Jay household. I would definitely recommend that you give them a go, especially as all the Ecoegg products are eco-friendly, have no harsh chemicals and  are hypoallergenic, so great for families with little people to care for, or for anyone with sensitive skin.

And now, thanks to the lovely people over at Ecoegg, you can win yourself an Ecoegg bundle of products worth £60!! The prize includes:
1 x 210 use laundry egg
1 x dryer eggs
2 x stain remover
1 x detox tablets
1 x spray and refresh
1 x steam fragrance

All you have to do is use the Rafflecopter below to enter, then cross your fingers! Good luck!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Sensory play: sensory boards

Today's blog post is another sensory play idea. I've posted about different activities and sensory toys before, and today's post is another 'toy' to add in to our sensory play time.

Sensory boards are simply another way to present sensory play materials. I like that everything on the board is available whenever Isabelle wants to go to it, unlike her other sensory toys which are kept in a basket and more difficult for her to access. This sits propped up against the radiator in the play room, which allows her to access it easily, and also stops her from touching the radiator when it's on.

The concept is simple - get a board and attach some every day items to it for your baby to explore. Simon had a board at work, and we spent around £20 in B&Q buying little bits and bobs to add on to the board. I wanted to present a range of textures and 'sounds', along with items which needed moved or manipulated in different ways to help develop Izzy's fine motor skills.

Simon attached the different DIY bits to the board using screws to ensure they were nice and tight. I added some pieces from our sensory and craft box, to add some softer textures and different colours. I used a hot glue gun to make sure everything glued down was very secure. As the nails came through the back of the board, he also added a backboard and a frame to secure the whole structure. Here's what we have on the board:

Two doors/flaps
A hanging chain
A handle
A paintbrush
2 doorstops
A double light switch
A latch
A caster wheel
A bar with nuts
Pom poms
Fuzzy pipe cleaners
Plastic gems
Metallic shapes

Isabelle loves her sensory board! It allows her to explore items which she usually wouldn't be able to access, and exposes her to a range of colours, textures, sounds and movements. She especially loves the 'boing' of the door stop, opening and closing the little doors Simon made for her, and banging the chain.

At the minute, our sensory board is still pretty basic, but the it's definitely suitable for Isabelle's current age. In the future we can take pieces off and add in new items to suit her changing abilities and interest. I'd like to make some mini boards too, especially one with lots of different material textures on it. Some ideas of things I could add in the future:

Shoe laces
Fabrics scraps
A push on light
A door knocker
A lock and key

 (Obviously, these things are NOT baby toys, so they need to be attached really securely, and it goes without saying that Isabelle is never left alone with her sensory board. Some of the items are small, and although everything is firmly attached, there is always a risk that they will come loose and become a hazard.)

Have you made a sensory board? Or have you any ideas for things we could add to ours?

PS - don't forget to enter my competition to win some Oxo Tot products!

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