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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!

Visit us at www.practicalbabygifts.com

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My Daughter’s Love Affair

It all started when she was about three months old. I didn’t notice the change. It just crept up on me almost over night. I should have known it was coming. My daughter suddenly wanted someone other than me to help soothe her to sleep. And that somebunny was Bunny.

It started with a kiss

Desperately looking for the much promised ‘signs of tiredness’ at around three months, I noticed that she started putting soft things to her nose when she was looking a bit sleepy. To begin with, it was mostly inappropriate things, like our (very non-docile) cat’s tail, or a sock or slipper. In looking for something a little more suitable for a three month old to sniff on, I gave her a lovely little Jellycat rabbit a friend had bought us as a present when she was born. And so the love affair began.

Jellycat Bunny Rabbit

Snuggling with Bunny – where it all began!

With ears and arms that are just right for little hands to hold and snuggle ‘Bunny’ as he was creatively named has now become a part of everyday life. Oh, he’s been through the mill a bit – he’s been dropped and thrown, covered in food, and subsequently been through the wash a few times, even though his little label says ‘surface wash only’. As if!

He’s also got a friend who our daughter also shares her bedtime snuggles with. He’s called ‘Mr Bunny’ (see what we did there?) and also comes with a little comfort blanket, although she only has eyes and hands for his ears and arms!

Since the introduction of ‘Mr Bunny’ the two have been interchangeable, with each finding favour at various times. A bit like an emperor’s concubine.

Bunny’s been everywhere with us. He’s been to see her grandparents, to the seaside, to the supermarket (on more than one occasion – on some days). He’s been very kindly offered to her cousin – perhaps without realising the consequences if said cousin had taken a particular shine to him! He’s even been to the doctor’s. The lovely doctor chatted to my daughter about Bunny and pretended to listen to his chest when he was listening to hers. What an absolute star! Obviously, she looked a bit puzzled, but I had the sneaking suspicion it was more for my benefit. And I have to admit I loved it – I’m a sucker for that kind of thing!

The horror!

Jellycat Bunny

Morning Cuddles with Bunny

But obviously, Bunny’s adventures bring with them a certain amount of risk. I’m forever checking that he’s still in her pram, as I don’t want to face the bedtime when Bunny’s nowhere to be found. One of my favourite stories when I was little was Dogger by Shirley Hughes. Its beautiful illustrations belied the harsh truth that your favourite toy can go astray and life may never be the same again. That is, unless you have a nice older sister (who appears mean at the start of the book, but shows she has a heart towards the end) who retrieves Dogger from the nasty people who thought they bought him fair and square at a village fete. The horror!

With the intention of avoiding the Dogger situation at all costs, I wanted to secure Bunny to the pushchair. As useful as they are for extending hanging pram toys, it just didn’t seem right to use plastic linking rings to effectively tie Bunny to the pram. I pictured those horrid adverts about dancing bears with rings through their noses. Whilst a little far fetched, perhaps, for a soft toy bunny, I just couldn’t bring myself to attach Bunny to the pram with plastic rings round his neck.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Bunny Snuggles

Bunny Snuggles – still snuggling after all this time

So, on the quest for something a little more ‘humane’ I recently started using a Ruby and Ginger Toy Tie. The nice soft material velcroes gently around Bunny’s neck yet allows my daughter to cuddle and snuggle Bunny when we’re out and about. Even when she tried to (affectionately, I’m sure) launch Mr Bunny out of the pushchair today, she was most baffled and, I think quietly relieved, that he was still hanging on by his paws to her chariot, via the lifeline of a Toy Tie. (Albeit his comfort blanket was slightly greyed from getting trapped under the wheels whilst crossing the road! Thank God Mr Bunny’s ‘surface washable’ too – in the washing machine he goes tomorrow!).

The Toy Tie’s water and dirt resistant material makes it a practical pushchair accessory, whilst its beautiful and modern pattern means it’s something that people will no doubt notice and admire. It’s a practical pushchair accessory that looks pretty lovely too. The concept of the Toy Tie may well have slightly baffled my daughter to begin with, but it’s certainly going to be as permanent a feature on our pushchair as Bunny or his gentrified counterpart is.

Ruby and Ginger Toy Tie

Studying Mr Bunny and why he doesn’t fall off the pushchair!

How far do you go to keep your child’s favourite toy safe? Do you use anything in particular, or just wing it? We’d love to hear your views!

Visit us at Practicalbabygifts,com for nifty ideas on practical baby products.

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The Changing Needs of Changing Bags

It takes all sorts. Big ones, little ones. Fat ones, thin ones. Immaculate ones, tatty ones. Spotty ones, stripey ones. Plain ones, patterned ones. Cloth ones, leather ones. I’m talking changing bags.

Some, girls, are bigger than others

Skip Hop Johnathan Adler Dash Nixon

My beautiful changing bag (not me in the photo!)

My changing bag was pretty much the first item I allowed myself to buy during pregnancy. I wasn’t specifically looking for one when we were on holiday for a friend’s wedding in New York, but it was love at first sight when I saw it in a lovely baby boutique in SoHo. In the months leading up to birth, I looked at it on various occasions and wondered what one might need such a large bag for, when a smallish handbag had stood me in good stead for a number of years! I knew I’d need nappies, bottles, wipes and nappy bags, but surely they would only fill half of my lovely new bag?!

I’ve spent a summer wasted

I read a lot of articles on line and in magazines offering lists of essential changing bag must-haves. I wondered if you might actually need half the stuff they listed and was determined I was going to only take the essentials – so as not to overload my new, pretty and pristine changing bag.

How wrong I was. I think I crammed my whole world into that bag for at least the first six months of my daughter’s life, with my own handbag chock full of other ‘essentials’ too.

So here’s my checklist of changing bag essentials for the first six months of a baby’s life:

  • Nappies – I find five to be the magic number
  • Nappy bags
  • Nappy rash cream / ointment
  • Wipes (standard wipes nappy changes and Milton wipes or Tommee Tippee wipes for sterilising on the go)
  • Changing Mat
  • Bottles (if bottle-feeding)
  • Breast pads (if breast feeding)
  • Formula Milk (if bottle-feeding – cartons or measured out powder)
  • Muslins / burp cloths
  • Hand sanitiser for you
  • Hand wipes for baby
  • Bib(s)
  • Spare clothes for baby (a vest and a sleepsuit of shame are easiest rather than a whole outfit)
  • Spare dummies (if using)
  • Tissues
  • In the summer, supplement this with summer hats, sun cream and sunglasses
  • In the winter, add winter hat and gloves
  • You can include a zip-lock bag for soiled clothes, but I’ve found a nappy bag can do the job just as well
  • I also found it useful to duplicate a few handbag essentials (lipsalve etc) in my changing bag for all those times you just take your changing bag with you to the toilet / changing room and don’t have your handbag to, well,  hand

Granted, most of this reads like a list of spare parts for you and your baby rather than day to day essentials, but mark my words, the spare clothes will be welcomed when little one decides he/she is going to crap a bustle at the local Children’s Centre and it reaches their neck creases!

Six months on, the winter’s gone

And then of course, once food becomes involved at around six months, the changing bag takes on a dual purpose of changing bag and picnic hamper all in one, leading me to update my changing bag essentials for the next six months to:

  • Nappies – still around five
  • Nappy bags
  • Nappy rash ointment
  • Wipes (standard wipes nappy changes and Milton wipes or Tommee Tippee wipes for sterilising on the go)
  • Changing Mat
  • Bottles (if bottle-feeding)
  • Breast pads (if breast feeding)
  • Formula Milk (if bottle-feeding – cartons or measured out powder)
  • Muslins / burp cloths
  • Hand sanitiser for you
  • Hand wipes for baby – I like Sticky Fingers WetOnes wipes
  • Bib(s) – all over body ones and smaller ones depending on meals, messy meals and snacks
  • Spare dummies (if using)
  • Tissues
  • Spoons
  • Jars or pouches of food
  • Assorted tupperware for snacks
  • In the summer, supplement this with summer hats, sun cream and sunglasses
  • In the winter, add winter hat and gloves
  • Zip-lock bag for soiled clothes (or just use a nappy bag)
  • Again a few handbag essentials come in handy

I found that six months on, the need for a change of outfit due to a nappy incident was reduced.  However, the onset of weaning and finger food brought with it the need for either a head to toe feeding poncho for her and me, or several costume changes throughout the day. Or just having the grubby child I’d always promised myself I’d never have.

It’s such a rush just being with you

I also found a very useful alternative to overloading my lovely changing bag. Once it came to feeding our daughter when out and about I found I was lugging around not only the changing bag, but also an extra bag for food and snacks and water – sometimes two.

Skip Hop Pronto

The Skip Hop Pronto – available in a range of colours and patterns

Juggling all these various bags led me to have a bit of a rethink. I plugged for a Skip Hop Pronto Changing Mat which is not only a changing mat but also stores the wipes, nappy bags and nappies in its various pockets. There’s also space for other nappy changing essentials, like surface sterilising wipes and nappy creams. The Skip Hop Pronto clips onto your pram or pushchair (and you, when you’re carrying your increasingly wriggly baby to the changing room) and the mat zips off should you require it to. To be honest, I’m not wholly sure why you’d want this. Sales literature for the Pronto suggests that the mat zips off to form a stylish clutch bag, but I’m just not sure I’d be able to find a complementing dress for this season’s society ball!

However, the Pronto has been a lifesaver on many occasions.  Many’s the time I’ve popped it into the pram basket while I’ve just nipped to the shops – 99% sure that I wouldn’t need to make an unscheduled stop, but always cautious of that potential for the 1% curve-ball. I’ve also found it to be really useful on lazy days, to have downstairs in the house rather than having to make the journey upstairs to change nappies. As I say – a particularly lazy day!

Skip Hop Pronto

The Skip Hop Pronto folded out during changing

The Skip Hop Pronto Red

The Skip Hop Pronto Red

The changing mat itself may look a bit of a funny shape, and when you’ve got a six month old who lies nice and still during the nappy change, the side flaps do seem a bit superfluous. However, fast forward three to four months when you’ve got a wriggler, roller or crawler on your hands, and you’ll be grateful of any additional surface area that might catch any spills before they land on the changing table, floor, or you!

What did you find to be the must-have items in your changing bag? Did the contents of your bag change over time? What have I missed out that you think is fundamental?

Visit us at www.practicalbabygifts.com where our great range of Changing Bags and Changing Mats

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Why Breast Wasn’t Best for Me

It’s a decision I made fairly early on in pregnancy and one that I’ve been questioned on a significant amount since. Right from the get go, I knew I didn’t want to breastfeed my baby.

I have never questioned whether breastfeeding is the best thing for babies. I believe in all the health benefits for both mother and baby. I know it would have saved us a significant amount of money too, but I just didn’t want to breastfeed.

Having thought about it many times since having our daughter, I think there are a number of reasons which led to my decision.

She’s lost Control

Why Breast wasnt Best for me

Plenty of photos of feeding in the early days

I think the biggest factor in my decision was the lack of control. I think there is a lot of pressure put on women at the moment to be the perfect Earth Mother and some people just don’t subscribe to the philosophy. I wanted to know how much my baby had had to eat and when she might want more. Don’t get me wrong – on arrival she had an insatiable appetite like most babies, so we were constantly feeding her, but at least we knew what she’d had and when. We even kept a notebook.

When people see new mothers bottle-feeding a newborn baby, some also judge them. Many’s the time I felt the sympathetic glances of those who may have felt that by bottle-feeding I must have failed at breastfeeding and had to resort to using a bottle. Many is also the time I almost wanted to shout from the rooftops that it was my choice to bottle feed!

A Fear of Failure

The greatest myth out there about breastfeeding seems to be that everyone can do it. Having seen (or heard about a few weeks down the line) a lot of my friends struggle to establish and maintain breastfeeding for weeks after birth, I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. I had no intention of setting myself up to potentially fail that early on in motherhood when I knew there would be plenty of opportunity for that further down the line.

I also knew from the get-go that I had absolutely no intention of resembling a dairy cow and attaching myself to anything electronic or hand-powered and milking myself. All at a time when, pregnancy love-in hormones or not, I knew I was going to be overwhelmed by the task at hand of rearing my own little calf.

Getting them out in public

Whilst I am no Jordan or Dolly, I’m certainly no Kate Moss (in more ways than one) and I do believe that plays a part in those who are successful in breastfeeding and feel confident to do so in public. I for one, wouldn’t have felt confident and probably would have bought any number of the breastfeeding modesty products on the market to try and hide my insecurities (and my boobs).

Nine Looooong Months

41 weeks is a long time. I know, because with no job for 39 weeks of my pregnancy I practically counted down every second of it. Once done with labour and birth, obviously my life would just get back to normal, but with the addition of a very little person in it, and as such I also wanted my body back for me. The thought of giving part of it over to said very little person for another six to nine months (or longer if Little Britain is to be believed) frankly filled me with dread. I wanted to know that I could put my old bras back on (eventually) and get back to being me.

Many people have been shocked and almost saddened when I’ve been quite open about my decision. In the early days of pregnancy my partner tried to convince me it was a good idea, but then it wasn’t going to be him who had to do it! I remember the hushed silence of the course leader and the other couples at our ante-natal classes when the question ‘So, is everyone planning to breastfeed?’ was asked and I said that I wasn’t. Half an hour of the course then ensued on all the benefits of breastfeeding which left me a bit numb.

After All

Why Breast wasnt Best for me

The early days of a feeding frenzy

All of this is not to say I didn’t try. Very shortly after the birth of my daughter I conquered my fears and put her to my breast to see what happened. I endured everything that I didn’t want in terms of it suddenly being perfectly acceptable for foreign hands to be grabbing my boobs and pulling, pushing and squeezing them towards this expectant little mouth.  My husband also got his hand in there too. Perhaps not so foreign, but still as unwelcome at that moment. Whether she got any colostrum or not is beyond me as I may have been there in body but certainly not in mind. It was hardly the beautiful bonding experience described and experienced by many.

In the end it was my body, and not my mind, which let me down. The traumas of labour and birth (one for another time) meant my milk didn’t come in for a week anyway, by which time, our little girl with the insatiable appetite would have been a bit peckish. I have to say the lovely midwives at our hospital were extremely supportive in helping us bottle-feed and I didn’t experience any of the patronising, dismissive treatment I was led to believe would be coming our way.

Don’t get me wrong. I have so much admiration for those who do breastfeed. In all likelihood because they conquered something I didn’t even truly attempt to – my own fears. Whether our daughter has suffered any detrimental side effects of my fears and anxieties about what should apparently be the most natural thing in the world, we’ll have to wait and see. But at the moment, she seems happy, healthy, not too fat and not too thin (but quite exceptionally tall), so who knows?

Visit us at http://www.practicalbabygifts.com

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Bounty Hunters

Oh, she may be weary

There has been a lot of discussion in the news in the past day or so with Mumsnet calling for sales reps from Bounty to stop targeting vulnerable new mothers on maternity wards.  The issue is one of government policy, and this being the only area within the NHS where sales reps are allowed access to wards to effectively sell services to patients; new mothers.

The early hours with a newborn are precious

The early hours with a newborn are precious

Firstly, Mumsnet’s call is something I wholeheartedly support. Whilst I don’t think I was even with it enough to compute who this strange woman was who was coming to bring me a carrier bag full of leaflets which soon ended up in the recycling bin at home, I think it is wholly wrong to allow representatives of commercial entities access to anyone receiving care in hospital – let alone those just getting to know a new life.

You know she’s waiting, just anticipating

Like many mums-to-be, when I found out I was pregnant, I signed up to the many and varied parent and baby clubs.  Each one offered free gifts, coupons or access to special events in exchange for my personal details and weekly advisory emails telling me what vegetable my growing bump resembled each week.

Now, as a marketing professional (non-practicing) I completely understand the value of customers’ personal details. But in the c.40 week period of pregnancy and the similarly-timed period since, I don’t think I have ever experienced such misuse and mishandling of personal data.

Aside from Bounty, my other main beef was with Emma’s diary – a very similar commercial entity for whom the main promoters seem to be the community midwife at the initial booking in appointment. Again – how can those who work for the NHS be seen to promote companies?

But the soft words, they are spoke so gentle

When not out having coffee and cake, my early pregnancy was spent at home watching what some might consider to be far too many US crime drama series. That was when my viewing pleasure wasn’t being interrupted by incredibly pushy salespeople from all manner of random companies. In looking into how these companies had got my details – it was all from signing up to Emma’s Diary and missing the very small print hidden somewhere deep in their site that they will basically give your details to anyone who will pay them. That may be a great commercial model for them, but surely not something that should be endorsed by the good old NHS?

Having signed up for the Bounty Packs I have to say the collection of each one led to increased disappointment. It was like being given a party bag when leaving a child’s party, with mouldy cake in and a broken whoopee cushion. The sense of disappointment was palpable. The only good thing in any of them was the Child Benefit application form and a handy nappy bag sized pot of Sudocrem!

Also, the quality of the weekly emails from Bounty and Emma’s Diary was terrible. Those from the other companies I signed up for (supermarkets and baby formulae) were well written and mostly contained useful advice and information.  On the other hand, those from Bounty and Emma’s Diary read like a poorly put together newsletter with useless and irrelevant information – and that was in the 30% of space that wasn’t taken up with adverts.

Try a little tenderness

Maybe we’re a nation gone mad – one that wouldn’t normally give out personal details to any Tom, Dick or Harry…unless pregnant and / or there is the promise of free stuff. Maybe we should look to Finland where the government and expectant parents are much more in tune; where expectant parents are issued with a maternity box containing all manner of useful and practical items – and with no hard sell for nonsensical items within 24 hours of a traumatic birth.

What do you think? Did you sign up with Bounty? Did you think someone visiting you within hours of birth was intrusive or were you happy with Bounty’s service?

Visit us at PracticalBabyGifts.com

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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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You’re So Vain

You probably think this blog is about you

Jo Swinson - Women's Minister

Jo Swinson – Women’s Minister.
Image courtesy of http://www.joswinson.org.uk/

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media this week about whether or not it’s a good thing to tell your child they’re beautiful.  It all stems from the women’s minister, Jo Swinson’s, suggestion that doing so leads children to put too much emphasis on looks to succeed in life.  So, here’s my twopenny’s-worth.

I tell my daughter she’s beautiful ever day. I also tell her she’s gorgeous and lovely. Why not? I doubt at nine months’ old she has a clue what I’m saying, although some days I do wonder if she thinks her name is actually Gorgeous. But then I think she is, so what’s the problem? I have no doubt others don’t think she’s quite as beautiful as I do, so someone might as well give her a compliment now and then (every half an hour).

You had one eye in the mirror

Granted, she does like spending quite a lot of time in front of the mirror.  You see, that’s where her best friend lives. Her friend who chats back to her, mimics her movements and always, strangely, has the same toys as she does. She does like to inspect the girl in the mirror very closely, and I always tell her how beautiful the girl in the mirror is too.

You-re so vain - using any reflective surface as a mirror

You-re so vain – using any reflective surface as a mirror

This isn’t to say that I don’t complement her on her other skills and personality traits.  After all, I do want to give her a more rounded perspective on life and her achievements.  I praise her for playing with a toy well, or learning new skills like peek-a-boo or patty-cake. I praise her for sharing a toy or stroking another child gently rather than grabbing their hair. Hell, I’ll even praise her on the size of poo she can produce.  That’s how well rounded I want her to grow up.

Clouds in my coffee

So, if Ms Swinson is to be believed, I run the risk of having the most vain daughter as she grows up.  One who places far too much emphasis on looks for success. This is probably not helped by me sitting her on our bed while I do my hair and make-up each day, potentially showing her you can’t go out without some semblance of a face on . But what’s the problem with giving your children a little bit of confidence?

As we grow up, family members become our harshest critics.  No one else can be as direct, or downright rude, and get away with it.  Who else can point out your greatest weaknesses and then brush it aside with a less acerbic comment to clear the air?  My Nan liked to take the opportunity at family get-togethers to comment on other realtives’ weight. My mother chose the supposed-bonding experience of wedding dress shopping to discount certain dress styles based on my ‘awfully long face’.  Something I’ve never quite let her live down.

And all the girls dream that they’ll be your partner

So, excuse me for taking every opportunity going to tell my daughter how beautiful I believe she is.  I’d like her to be far more self-confident in her appearance than I’ve ever been.  Even if others think this is mis-guided in the long run.  I’d rather she had the self-confidence of Olive Hoover in Little Miss Sunshine than the self-doubt and general malaise of Angela Chase in My So Called Life. An odd comparison, you might think, but surely all anyone wants for their child is for them to grow up well rounded and confident in themselves. So what’s the issue with the odd complement here and there?

What do you think? How often do you complement your child? Do you complement their looks and / or other aspects of their personality and skills?

Visit us as practicalbabygifts.com

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The Practical Gift of Knowledge

When starting out on the epic journey of parenthood, soon-to-be mums and dads try to prepare themselves in various ways.  Advice from friends and family is complemented by reading books, blogs and magazines.  Then there’s always Dr. Google who can provide practical help, advice and reassurance  (and downright panic) at the touch of a few buttons.  Alongside this, many expectant parents still sign up for good, old fashioned antenatal classes.

Pregnant and clueless

Pregnant and clueless

But is the information provided by these methods, including antenatal classes, really focused on equipping new parents with the skills and knowledge they’ll actually need?

Knowing me, Knowing you

I’ll be honest and admit that the main reason I signed us up for antenatal classes last year was to meet other local people having babies around the same time.  Pure and simple.  That’s not to say we didn’t already have a wealth of friends who had recently had babies who were poised and ready with all kinds of advice as well as many lovely hand-me downs.

We decided against the ‘local’ NCT classes, as they were held not-so-locally on the other side of the city.  Instead we plugged for those part-subsidised by our local Children’s Centre,  run by BirthPrep. (The one positive contribution our Children’s Centre has made to our daughter, but that’s for another time.)

If you don’t know me by now

I’ll admit my expectations of the classes were heavily influenced by too many TV programmes.  I was anticipating several evenings sitting on the floor, supported by my husband, practicing breathing techniques in a room full of other couples whilst being shown how a baby doll makes its way out of a knitted cervix. However, it seems things have moved on somewhat, and instead we sat around talking frankly about the process of labour and birth – on chairs – like the adults we were truly about to become.

Antenatal classes - the practical gift of knowledge

Sitting on chairs and not a knitted cervix in sight!

We were lucky enough to be ‘dropping’ around the same time as five lovely couples.  All were similarly minded and with great senses of humour that got us through even the darkest moments of discussing labour and birth.  But there’s the rub, really.  Out of the three three hour sessions, two were focussed on labour and birth and only one on the next 365+ days of caring for a baby, primarily covering feeding and bathing.

When every book on the subject confirms that each and every labour and birth is different – what’s the point of focussing so much time on something that is so far out of anyone’s control?

Now, that’s not to say that the Midwife-led approach to the BirthPrep classes should or could have been any different.  And that’s also not to take anything away from the wonderful help, assistance, advice and general goodnature of the lovely Cathy who took our classes.  But I can’t help thinking that more practical advice about the early days with a newborn would really help new parents, not to mention the poor, helpless baby depending on two clueless adults who should at least know the basics!

This time I know it’s for real

Antenatal classes - WTF?

Antenatal classes – WTF?

On being handed our little bundle of joy, I think I was awash with about 5% instinct and 95% blind panic!  The midwives in the hospital were amazing in helping and offering advice and assistance, but I felt completely under-prepared for the task ahead of us.  Advice on how to wind a baby, what to do when you’re left alone in the hospital with your new baby for the first time, when and if to use a dummy, what to do when you first bring the baby home and tried and tested plans for coping with newborn sleep deprivation might have been useful.

However, I suppose in many ways, the course we went on, did offer us this help and advice in the long run.  Largely through meeting up regularly with the lovely ladies from our antenatal classes, we have all shared experiences, tips and advice over the ensuing months.  We’ve laughed.  We’ve cried (largely with laughter). We’ve shared baby sick, nappy changes and weaning adventures. We’ve eaten a hell of a lot of cake and drunk an obscene amount of caffeine.  We’re even planning on drinking something a bit more grown-up soon!

What do you think?  Did your antenatal classes adequately equip you for the challenges ahead ?  Where else did you get help and information from?  What was the best advice you were given?

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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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Military adages become mummy mantras

With that rarest of phenomenon nearly upon us; a warm, sunny British Bank Holiday weekend, many of us will be heading out and about with our little ones.  Whilst I’ve probably jinxed the good weather now, going out for the day with a baby can be a military operation requiring planning, preparation and patience.

The 7Ps: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance

While I’m not renowned for the latter, I’m quite well known for my planning and preparation skills.  I don’t think I’m the only person to ever have an excel spreadsheet with their hospital bag list, but I know of only one other.  And, whilst it all went to pot, my birth plan was typed, printed….and probably should have been laminated.

So now that the days are getting nicer and we’re able to get out and about a lot more, the pram suit is archived, the foot muff is zipped off and the legs are out!  (hers, not mine…not just yet!)

Fail to plan, plan to fail

So, apart from the myriad pots of various food items, what will I be taking out with me this bank holiday weekend?

My Buggy Buddy Sunshade - practically perfect in every way!

My Buggy Buddy Sunshade – practically perfect in every way!

One item I have recently discovered is the My Buggy Buddy Sunshade.  With the average pram-specific umbrella shade costing in the region of £20, this universal pram shade is a steal at little under £9.  It easily clips on to any part of your pram or pushchair and blocks out the sun, providing UPF50 protection.  Like any sun shade, a sudden gust of wind, and you’re fighting it a little, but I found that the My Buggy Buddy Sunshade can be easily tucked under the canopy of the pushchair to stop the wind getting hold of it.  Because it’s so easy to clip and un-clip, the My Buggy Buddy Sunshade can also be easily moved around the pram or pushchair as the sun inevitably will do.  It also packs away into a very compact size and shae, meaning it can be easily stored in even the smallest pram basket.  I also found that the act of unfurling it kept our little one entertained for quite a while! All in all, this is the best sunshade I know of on the market, and I’m glad I got mine at the start of the summer months!

Stealth attack or full-frontal – you’ve got to have it covered

For naps on the go - the SnoozeShade Plus

For naps on the go – the SnoozeShade Plus

The other must-have pram accessory in this weather is the SnoozeShade.  There’s either the SnoozeShade Original or the SnoozeShade Plus. Both are designed with maintaining nap times in mind.  In addition, both provide UPF50 protection for your baby on the go.  As it’s effectively a black-out blind for the pram, it’s great for blocking out bright sunshine and shop lights when you’re on the got but need to get your baby or toddler to sleep.  Like many great baby products, the SnoozeShade was designed by a mum for her daughter and then developed to sell to other new parents.  For me, it’s a definite hit!

Preparing for guerrilla warfare

The Totseat - for babies who lunch

The Totseat – for babies who lunch

Another great parent-designed product is the Totseat.  Whilst it looks a bit like a harness to strap your child to a seat (which I suppose it essentially is) it’s perfect for feeding on the go.  The Totseat is incredibly lightweight and easy to fit to any size or shape of chair.  It’s perfect for grandparents and other occasional carers who may not be so confident in feeding babies when out and about.  It’s also great if you have a little one who’s fussy about various highchairs, as if you know they’ll sit well in it, you’ll be at ease when you know feeding time is fast approaching! Of course, as it’s made of (fully washable) fabric, there’s no highchair-esque tray with it, which can make finger food a trial, but there are ways to improvise to get round that!

Winging it

And yet, even the best laid plans for going out and about with a baby don’t always take into consideration the one unknown quantity: your baby.  You can pretty much guarantee that they won’t play ball when you want them to.  They won’t eat what you’ve packed, won’t sleep when you want them to, and probably won’t like the sun anyway.  And that’s when you follow the most recently over-used military adage: keep calm and carry on.

What do you enjoy most about days out with your little one?  What tips do you have to share for a stress-free trip?

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