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Counting Sheep

I remember the sheer bewilderment we felt the first night we were home from the hospital with our daughter. We were all a bit traumatised from her entrance into the world and it perhaps didn’t help matters that we got home around 10.30 at night. At that point, due to my random superstitions and paranoia, we still had to put a sheet in the crib and work out how the bottle steriliser worked.

Do you remember the first time?

The calm before the veritable storm

The calm before the veritable storm

On arriving home, we placed our daughter in her car seat on the sofa. At the opposite end sat the cat who, along with the rest of us, had little idea of the impending crisis about to hit us all. What the hell were we supposed to do with our little bundle of joy??

That was the calm before the storm. Then the crying began. Me and her.

We tried putting her in her crib. She cried. We tried holding her and cuddling her. She cried. We tried feeding her. She drank a bit. And then she cried.

“Well, she was quiet in her car seat – let’s put her back in that.”

The car seat was placed carefully on our bed and our daughter was put in safely and securely and we rocked the car seat. She cried. We got her out of the car seat. And still she cried. It was getting towards 4 o’clock in the morning and none of us had slept for the preceding 72 hours.

“What was that sheep thing you got at that baby show thing you went to?” asked my husband.

Gingerly, I stood up (as I did most things gingerly for the first few weeks) and rifled through the wardrobe full of things I’d bought during pregnancy, not really knowing what would be useful and what would be a waste of money. And there I found Ewan; still in his packaging – luckily with batteries in him.

We pressed one of his legs (I forget which one) and through the calming tones of the sound of rain we heard it for the first time. Silence. Contentment on our daughter’s part. We’d calmed her!!

I can’t remember a worst time

Ewan the Dream Sheep

Calming the storm

OK, so I’m not sure how much credit we can take for it, but from that first night, Ewan the Dream Sheep became a stalwart of our nightly routine. He’s also played a part at nap times, not to mention he became a sleep aid to my husband and I when we were sleeping in shifts, desperately trying to catch 40 winks in the day time so we could cope with the night times!

On the outside, Ewan the Dream Sheep doesn’t look that special. He’s got a quirky face, he’s soft and cuddly and he glows. So what – so do many other cuddly toys for babies.

What makes Ewan the Dream Sheep a special is that, when pressed, each of his legs plays calming and soothing sounds which are perfect for a baby.  One is a lullaby, whilst the other three play soothing white noise sounds of the hoover, rain or womb sounds.  I know there are various apps you can buy for far cheaper that play similar things, but aside from the fact they’re not as cute as Ewan the Dream Sheep, you’re then left without your phone, iPad or other device whilst your baby sleeps!

ewan-the-dream-sheep

Peace at last!

Don’t you know that we’ve changed so much since then, oh yeah, we’ve grown

As our daughter now nears one year old, I’m more than aware there are various schools of thought on sleep cues. Indeed, I wondered for a time whether our potential overuse of  Ewan the Dream Sheep had meant she couldn’t settle herself to sleep without him.  But I’m happy to say that not only is Ewan now played with during the day as a teddy, she can sleep without him if needs be, but does still enjoy his gentle harp lullaby each night whilst she’s crawling round the cot having a quick adventure before bed!

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Rockin’ in a Shy Way

3 x Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, 2 x Oranges & Lemons, 1 x Baa Baa Black Sheep, 1 x Beautiful Dreamer, 1 x classical ditty from a bank advert in the ’90s…just some of the plinky-plonky lullaby tunes so far endured in trying to get our little one off to sleep in the past few months. Oh, and I forgot – a few versions of ‘Rockabye Baby’. But not on a tree top….!

The cradle will rock

lullaby-renditions-of-the-cureNope – the Rockabye Baby I refer to is soothing music at its best.  It’ll rock your baby to sleep whilst keeping you entertained with humming along to the songs you know and love – albeit, they might sound a little bit different.  What Rockabye Baby does is transform rock favourites into instrumental lullabies.  Guitars and drums are traded for Xylophones and bells.  And they’ve been a sanity saver! Whether you prefer the more classic rock titles from Queen, or the poptastic Madonna, there’s something to keep everyone entertained.  And it’s educational for babies too!

Boys Don’t Cry

Well, baby boys probably do.  But here are some of our favourites from Practical Baby Gifts.

Heaven knows I’m miserable now

Lullaby Renditions of The Smiths

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

When I’ve mentioned Lullaby Renditions of The Smiths to friends, many have suggested it might be a bit too depressing for a baby!  But what can be more entertaining whilst getting increasibly frustrated with a non-sleeping baby, than hearing (in your head) Morrissey lament Thatcher’s Britain through the medium of harp music?!

Tonight, Tonight

If today is the greatest day you’ve ever known and tomorrow’s much too long, then the Lullaby Renditions of Smashing Pumpkins is for you.  This is a definite treat to the ears and number one on my list of practical baby gifts for a few friends…they’ll just need to actually have a baby first!  (When they’re ready of course!).

Enjoy the Silence

If you just can’t get enough of Depeche Mode, this one’s for you!  We tested (possibly) one of DM;s biggest fans recently with tasters of the Lullaby Renditions of Depeche Mode and can attest to their authenticity!  I think the score was seven out of eight!

In Bloom

Or for the friend in your life who’s In Bloom, but still prone to reliving her grunge-youth, there’s always Lullaby Renditions of Nirvana.  Whilst we can’t promise it comes packaged in a Heart Shaped Box, the CD does offer very faithful renditions of Kurt et al’s best work.

Not yet in production, but here's hoping - Lullaby Renditions of The Doors

Not yet in production, but here’s hoping – Lullaby Renditions of The Doors

The time to hesitate is through

i could go on….and I think you’ll guess from the selection of Rockabye Baby Lullaby Renditions CDs we’ve chosen so far, our grunge and Britpop leanings have slightly tainted our decisions!

And then there are the titles Rockabye Baby are yet to turn into Lullaby Renditions!  Whilst the vaguely ‘cool’ part of me is leaning towards the production of a Lullaby Renditions of The Doors, there’s a large part of me hankering for lullaby versions of Belinda Carlisle!

What do you think?  Aside from the artists already given the Rockabye Baby treatment – who would you like your little ones to drop off to?

If you’re looking for something a little bit different to give as a baby gift – look no further! than http://www.practicalbabygifts.com/sleep-time/soothing-music

Or view our whole range of Practical Baby Gifts at practicalbabygifts.com

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To sleep, perchance to dream?

To quote The Smiths rather than more Shakespeare: I ‘haven’t had a dream in a long time’.  Largely because the erratic night time sleeping patterns of a certain little lady aren’t really allowing me to enter that deepest stage of sleep required to do so.

I don’t know what we’ve done wrong.  From six weeks until about seven months we had the dream child.  We could pretty much count on an unbroken stretch of eight hours’ sleep each night.  Things were rosy.  We felt human.  Things got done around the house. A website even got launched.

She slept once!

She slept once!

There is a light that never goes out

Then what happened?  I’m not really sure.  There was a cold in there somewhere which didn’t help matters.  The clocks changed.  Also, she became generally more aware of her surroundings (meaning a terrible weekend’s sleep for one and all at Easter when we went away). She began waking up a few times in the night and needing comforting back to sleep.

Then, around six weeks ago, she decided instead to wake up anywhere between 3.00am and 5.00am and take at least two hours to get back to sleep, completely messing up any semblance of normality in the day, let alone a blessed routine!

Meat is Murder

I spoke to our local health professional who said upping her snacks could help.  Poor child – I think she thinks I’m constantly stuffing her full of food, and whilst she’s not aware of the analogy, I can’t help thinking of the ‘gluttony’ part of the film Se7en. Anyway, three days on and a pot belly later, she’s still waking up.

On Sunday came the crunch-point.  A two hour session of getting up to try and get her back to sleep between 4.00 and 6.00 was the last straw.  Action had to be taken.  My husband and I had to actually discuss the problem at a time other than the wee small hours of the morning (not really a great time to discuss anything).

There’s more to life than books you know, but not much more

On Monday, having emptied our local library of anything with the words ‘baby’ and / or ‘sleep’ in the title (including one about 3-8 year olds – that’s how tired I was) I read up while she happily amused herself bashing some stacking cups together.  It turns out we have created far too many ‘sleep cues’ that she now needs to get back to sleep and she needs to learn to self-settle again.  (presumably she could do this between six weeks and seven months of age!).

Sing me to sleep

The books also suggested the controversial method of controlled crying or letting her ‘cry it out’. This is something that my head tells me is a great idea, but my heart really struggled with.  Every ounce of me wants to hug and comfort her whenever she’s upset or distressed.  But no, I had to be strong.

Except here’s the clincher.  She doesn’t wake up crying! She wakes up in the night wide awake and ready to play.  She sings.  She rolls.  She practices crawling.  She plays a merry tune on the bars of her cot.  And generally she has a lark!  It’s usually around 40 minutes to an hour of this before she even starts with crying which we can allegedly then ‘control’.  All this makes for two very sleepy parents, only one of whom can have the odd daytime nap to try and catch up!

We’re now on day three of no sleep cues and controlled crying.  Last night she didn’t even cry but self settled, albeit she was awake twice (I blame the rain for the first time.  It woke me up!). We shall see what happens on night time number three tonight.  Watch this space!

So please, please, please, let me get what I want – sleep.  Lord knows it would be the first time…..in a long time.

Do you have any suggestions that have helped get your children to sleep better?  What sleep cues do you use or have you had to abandon?

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Gro-ing up

‘fess up
Who hasn’t looked at a baby sleeping bag and wished they could crawl into a giant adult sized one tonight?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m out and about with my baby in her various snuggly layers in her pushcair, I’m inundated with comments like ‘oooh, don’t you wish you could just snuggle up in there with her/’.  Well, yes, when it’s -3 degrees outside and I’m doing the pushing and she’s doing the sitting, there are certain times I’d happily swap!  Just imagine what the same women-of-a-certain-age would say if they saw babies all snuggled up in their sleeping bags at nighttime?

Nothing looks cuter than a baby in a sleepsuit.  Despite how pretty or cute an outfit can be, a baby in a sleepsuit is just too sweet for words.  Add to that a sleeping bag that makes them look like a giant chrysalis just waiting for metamorphosis and what could be cuter?

Bag of all trades – master of none

Having initially been put off by the cost of the original Gro Bags, I tried a number of other sleeping bags for our little one.

The Mothercare one we had was good – with useful poppers under the arms to make it smaller to begin with for a newborn – similar to the Loved So Much sleeping bag in their current range.

Ikea's Torva Sleeping Bag

The Torva Sleeping Bag from Ikea is very reasonably priced, but not always easy to get baby into.

Ikea’s Torva Sleeping bag is incredibly reasonable in terms of price.  As you would expect, the Torva is good quality and of practical design.  The only thing that was a bit tricky was the cross-over style of the top.  Getting our baby’s arms into it when half or fully asleep was sometimes a bit tricky and on many occasions woke her up.  Whilst this design may not have been great in terms of getting it onto a baby, as with all Ikea designs, it did have its practical upsides in providing a bit more upper-body warmth than the standard vest-style design.

Whilst pregnant, I bought a beautiful sleeping bag from Gap with a lovely giraffe print on.  It was definitely one of those items bought because it was pretty and not terribly practical.  Once in use, we quickly established the tiny, faffy zip was ridiculous when it came to night-time nappy changes, and to be honest, it was far more lovely to look at the sleeping bag on the clothes-airer than try and persevere with the zip!  (It was lovely though!)

We were also given a sleeping bag from M&Co for Christmas, which was a lovely, pretty design, but which felt very strange in terms of the texture of the lining.  Trying to wind our baby whilst she was wearing it, made her more than a little static!  Maybe that’s why she’s got fly-away-hair!

The original and still the best

When looking for the next size up of sleeping bag (6-18 months) I decided to splash out and buy our first Gro Bag.

Tea Party Gro Bag exclusive to Mothercare

Exclusive to Mothercare, the Tea Party Gro Bag.

I couldn’t resist the beautiful. vintage style of the Tea Party Gro Bag which is exclusive to Mothercare.  And I have to say I’ve been chuffed to bits with it!  Not only does it look beautiful.  It’s very hard-wearing.  The zip is large and robust enough to be pulled in all directions at whatever time of night, yet is tucked away style-wise out of view..The capped sleeves on this design look so cute.  There have been many times in the darkest hours of the night, when you can’t help but smile just because this Gro bag is so pretty!

I also recently happened upon a bargain Alphapinks Travel Gro Bag.  My original intention was just to use this as another standard sleeping bag, but we did recently use it for its intended purpose on a long night-time car journey.  It is very useful for both.  The two-way front zip is great when travelling so you can easily undo the travel harness while baby is still sleeping (in theory) and also great for use at home.  Similar to the Ikea sleeping bag, getting baby’s arms through the sleeves when already sleepy can be a bit tricky, but there is at least a bit more room around them – in fact, as I recently found out – there’s plenty of room to get arms and hands through with the comforters they’re grasping.

Practical Baby Gifts - Hetty Gro Bag

The beautiful Hetty Gro Bag – perfect vintage style and practical design.

Continuing the vintage theme, I also recently splashed out on a Hetty Gro Bag.  The design is beautiful and again, the Gro Bag is robust enough to be pulled every which way and will hopefully stand up to being pushed, pulled and draggefd around the cot once our little one learns to crawl and stand in it!

About a Boy

When choosing Gro Bag lines to stock on Practical Baby Gifts, I wanted to stock those that I would want for my baby girl, or to give as gifts to others.  Admittedly, I seem to have initially veered more towards designs aimed at boys.  The Little Trikes Gro Bag is particularly lovely – with a vintage style print all over and added applique trike on the front.  I think it’s the baby boy equivalent of the Hetty Gro Bag for girls, in that it has the power to make you smile in even the darkest depths of night time!

Similarly, the All Aboard Gro Bag is another favourite.  It’s perfect for anyone who loves the current nautical trend or perhaps for anyone who has used a nautical theme in their child’s nursery.  It’s the perfect complement.

Practical Baby Gifts - Fluffy Clouds Gro Suits

Fluffy Clouds Gro Suits – so cute and practical for the colder months.

Suit up!

In this seemingly eternal winter, our little one insisted on waking at stupid-o’clock due to the cold temperature in the nursery.  At 5 o’clock one morning, I capitulated and ordered some Hetty Gro Suits.  I was willing to try anything to reclaim the early hours to sleep!  The next night, she slept so much better as her arms and hands were a lot warmer.  For anyone looking for a gift for an autumn / winter baby (or their own baby – regardless of season), the twin packs of baby blue Penguin Pop Gro Suits or the neutral Fluffy Clouds Gro Suits are ideal and would definitely be greatly appreciated by any new parents.  Anything to aid sleep!

Good design means zip

But the pretty patterns on the Gro Bags are clearly not the only reason why I think they’re the original and best. It’s the little things and the very, very important things.

It’s the research and advice that’s gone into making them. It’s the endorsement from and ongoing partnership with The Lullaby Trust (formerly FSID) to promote safer sleep for babies. All these things contribute to the quality and design features of the Gro Bags.

These features include the ‘Zip Click’ feature which covers the zipper, meaning it won’t get caught on baby’s skin or sleeve.  The under-arm poppers on the smaller sizes, mean parents can be far more confident in using a Gro Bag in the early months, when the key advice is that a baby’s head shouldn’t be able to slip through the neck.  The Travel Gro Bags are well designed, with ease of use and safety front of mind at all times.  The two-way front opening zip makes getting baby in and out of a car seat or pram whilst sleeping easy and the velcro on the openings for the safety harness mean that the Travel Gro Bag can also be used for a normal night’s sleep at home too.  Two for the price of one!

Practical Baby Gifts - Little Trikes Gro Bag

Little Trikes Gro Bag – lovely print and applique make this perfect for a beautiful baby boy.

Whilst my opinions are solely based on my small amount of experience and not exhaustive market testing (maybe one day), I have been very impressed with Gro and their range of Gro Bags and Gro Suits.

Do you use baby sleeping bags?  Have you found them useful or do you prefer to use blankets and sheets instead?

Visit us as practicalbabygifts.com