Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Time for a bath and a review of the FlexiBath

When you have a new born baby an adult sized bath tub seems far too big for them. Like many other mums and dads I use a baby bath, unlike most others parents our baby bath was a second hand gift from a friend.  It had successfully been used for both of her children and as it was still watertight it did the job for us too, but it looks like a green rectangular washing up bowl.  

I've always been slightly envious of the shiny, colourful new baby baths I've seen in shops, but I didn't really see the point in buying another one.  Although they vary in colour and exact shape they are all pretty much the same thing.  Not so the FlexiBath. This clever baby bath tub with a difference folds flat so it doesn't need to take over your bathroom when not in use. 


Baby M and I were lucky enough to get sent the FlexiBath to review this month.  This is what we thought:

The Highs

  • It's a good size bath with plenty of room for babies and toddlers to splash around and play with toys
  • At 39 litres (according to the packaging I didn't get the measuring jug out) it can be used with children from birth to 4 years old.  
  • It's measurements are Length 66.5cm, Width 38.9cm, Height 23.8cm
  • They come in a range of lovely bright colours
  • It folds flat taking up less space when not in use or for travel
  • It has a splat shape rubber plug that makes it easy to empty, but is secure enough to prevent little fingers pulling it out. 
  • A baby bath uses less water than a full size bath which saves money on heating the water and actual water (if like us you have a water meter or just don't like to waste water). I also reuse Baby M's bath water for the garden.
  • As well as baths it can be used for playtime eg on a hot day in the garden (just don't fill it with your hosepipe :-))
  • When your child eventually gets too big you can easily fold the bath and store it away or use it as a toybox

The Lows

  • The shape of the FlexiBath means I have to hold it in place under the taps to fill it because otherwise it doesn't stay directly under the flow of water.  Other taps may not have this problem
  • The latch to keep it closed sticks out the outside of the bath when open. The instructions says not to eat it (or the bath). Baby M sticks everything in her mouth so it is only a matter of time until this faces the same fate.  As it has no sharp edges I'm not too worried though.
  • It's not easy to move the bath when there is water in it (eg away from the taps), but that is due to the weight of the water and will be the same with all larger baby bath tubs.
  • It is recommended you only use children's soap and shampoo. While this isn't a problem for us I thought I should mention that if you are using oils or medicated bath liquid the instructions warn prolonged use might damage the soft plastic
  • It's not as sturdy as some baby baths, but it's strong enough for Baby M to pull on the sides without any worry.

Our Verdict?

At £29.95 rrp it is more expensive than other baths but the size and convenience mean you can use it for years.  I'm a big fan of the flexibath and we will definitely keep using it.  

The Flexibath is by a Real Cool World and is available from Whitestep
Small print: we were given the Flexibath to review, but all thoughts and words are my own

Monday, 25 June 2012

Baby Led Weaning and Breastfeeding

This is my fourth and final blog post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt. The theme this week is breastfeeding beyond the first month so I am writing about my experiences of breastfeeding during the weaning process.

Baby M's introduction to food has been via baby led weaning. I love this method of weaning because it is so easy and relaxed. In case you aren't aware of it BLW doesn't involve puréed food or spoon feeding. You offer normal healthy foods to baby and they feed themselves, or ignore it, or throw it on the floor, or mush it up. I've blogged about it before so in this post I'm going to just focus on how it works with breastfeeding (and to some extent bottle feeding).

The following are common questions I've heard and responses based on my experience.

Food or milk first? 

Following the advise in Rapley and Murkett's Baby Led Weaning book if Baby M is hungry I nurse her before offering her food. This is important in the early days because they are just exploring food and if they are hungry they are unlikely to be in the mood to play. It also takes babies several months before they begin to understand that food can stop them being hungry. 

In practice I continue to nurse Baby M on demand and give her food when I am having a meal. This means that sometimes she will have a breastfeed just before a meal and other times there will be a few hours gap. 

How much milk should my Baby be having? 

This tends to be less of an issue for mums of breastfed babies than bottle fed ones because you aren't counting ounces in the same way. As always if you are feeding on demand you can't go wrong. 

I have been logging the length and frequency of Baby M's feeds for most of her 9 months. When she started solid food at 5 1/2 months she started swallowing food from the first meal. The amount she eats varies considerably from day to day, but there has been a small increase over the last 3 months. The amount of time she nurses decreased from about 90 minutes a day to about 60 minutes pretty much straight away. She always breastfeeds for at least 60 minutes, but sometimes it goes right back to the pre solid levels. The number of feeds hasn't reduced, but the duration has meaning she hasn't dropped any feeds yet. I've heard of other babies only having 2 breastfeeds a day by 10 months, but that doesn't seem likely for us.  Some babies don't get to grips with food until 9 or 10 months so how much milk they need won't go down until then. 

Between 6 months and a year babies get increasingly active which uses up a lot of energy. Baby M started crawling at 6 months and never stops moving, but the small amount of food she eats and continued breastfeeding has actually meant her weight gain has been ahead of the curve she was following.  The great thing about breastfeeding while weaning is I know she continues to get the majority of the nutrition she needs in my milk: anything she eats is a bonus. 

Are there still benefits to breastfeeding once a baby is eating solids?

Yes, yes, yes. Food before 1 is just for fun, and even after 1 breast milk provides a huge number of benefits to baby. If you aren't aware of what these are you need to go and read the earlier posts as part of this scavenger hunt. 

Should I be offering water as well? 

Before solids are introduced at 6 months breastfed babies don't need any water: breast milk is a drink as well as food, but opinion is divided on the importance of water during weaning. I want Baby M to have as many calories as possible during the day in the hope she will want less at night. Water has no calories so I was concerned that by offering water it would reduce the amount of calorific milk she had. On Kelly mom it is suggested that a few sips of water with food might help prevent constipation, but it is not required by all babies.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my posts for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt. If you haven't read my earlier posts please check them out. Before 29th June you can win a breastfeeding necklace from Baby Beads, a nursing cover from SoftBots and a Nursing Vest from Boobiemilk. Below you have another chance to enter for the grand prize of over £500 of goodies.
More chances to enter to win the grand prize can be found on the following blogs:
Life, Love and Living with Boys
Little Scribbles
Mama Geek
Mummys Little Peeps
Mummy Constant 

Please also check out BabaSlings who have contributed a BabaSling baby carrier to the grand prize. These award winning hammock style baby slings are simple to use and easy to adjust.

Ensure you have the best chance of winning the grand prize of over £500 of goodies by commenting on this post and letting the rafflecopter widget know you have done so.

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Saturday, 23 June 2012

How to have a long happy marriage

Last week my grandparents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.  I hadn't really thought about how rare it is for marriages to last so long until I tried to find a card to send them to celebrate: apparently most retailers stop anniversary cards at 60 years. 

I've only been married 4 months so 65 years seems like an incredible achievement.  Having got married aged 29 I would have to live to 94 and my husband to 100 to reach the same landmark event.  I know we are all living longer, but that still feels unlikely. 

I have no memory of my parents being together as they divorced when I was too young to remember and my husband's parents split up while he was in single figures.  If I'm going to gain wisdom about how to make a marriage last I thought my grandparents would be good people to ask.

My Grandparents Story

My grandparents have known each other nearly all their lives. They grew up a few roads apart in Pimlico, London and played together as children. Despite a few years age gap they were in the same class at primary school , but Nana said she never thought she would marry him.

After primary school they went to different schools then moved out of London for a while. When they were teenagers they both came back to London. My future Grandad was in the Scouts and Nana was in the Guides then the Rangers. Through these activities they used to see each other at Church and they became part of a group of friends who regularly met up at dances held on Saturday nights.

At 18 Grandad joined the army and left London again.  This time he stayed in touch with Nana and they wrote letters to each other.  "I wont tell you how many letters we sent" said my grandad, partly because it was a lot, but also because he can't remember.  They used to number each letter and there were hundreds.  While writing love blossomed.

My Grandad was stationed in Italy and then Austria ("they were first into Vienna after the war, before the Russians", that matters apparently). When he came home on leave their romance developed further, but he was soon off again.  This time he headed to Palestine to keep the peace. More letters were written including a letter to Nana's father asking for permission to get married.

Nana arranged the wedding for June 14th 1947 when he should have been home, but he never arrived.

Nana went to visit her would be mother in law on the Saturday the wedding had been planned for.  She was miserable: wondering where her fiancée was and why he hadn't been in touch. When she knocked on the door my grandad opened it having just arrived home.  He was supposed to have sent a telegram telling her about the delay, but Nana is still waiting for it to arrive.

Everything was ready so they decided they would get married the following Saturday.  They went to tell Nana's parents what was happening and her Dad had to quickly write to everyone to make sure they could come. Most of their relatives didn't have telephones and didn't live close enough to visit in person. Some how they all made it.

They had a small reception at home and then left by coach for their honeymoon. In Ipswich.

My grandparents wedding day

I asked Nana what the secret was to a long marriage, and she laughed then said "Give and take I think, give and take, I don't know really... put up with each others foibles".

The telephone was passed to Grandad and he said: "Tolerance", "turn the other cheek" and "shut your mouth". Hearing protests (and laughter) from Nana I said I didn't want to get him in trouble on their anniversary and he laughed saying: "oh I'm always in trouble".  He ended the conversation saying "look out for each other, that's the main thing".  

Listening to my grandparents I would say their 65 years of marriage are based on: love, friendship and humour. There is something beautiful knowing they continue to laugh and enjoy each others company after all this time. 

May we all be so lucky.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

10 things to consider when choosing a pushchair

Choosing the right pushchair for you and your baby is a very personal decision and there is a lot to consider.

I love my Bugaboo Bee.  I love that I have the All Black Limited Edition which makes it a little different to other Bee's out there.  And I love that I changed the black hood for a limited edition purple one (purple is my favourite colour).  I love that it is light, really easy to manoeuvre and compact so it can get around shops and crowds easily.

Apart from on a couple of very hot days Baby M sits or lies down in the Baby Cocoon which is lovely and cosy.  In fact in the early days when she was reluctant to sleep in her moses basket I took the Cocoon off the Bee and she slept in there. So it saddens me to say that at nearly 9 months she has almost outgrown the Cocoon and I have some decisions to make about what to do next.

But first I'll go back to the beginning: choosing a pushchair for your new arrival.

1. How big are the doors in your house and how big is your car boot?
  • I wanted the pushchair to fit through the doors in my house (always useful).
  • I wanted the pushchair to fit in my car boot without having to completely take it apart (I have a Ford Fiesta)
2. Do you want a travel system?

I wanted a pushchair that I could attach my car seat to (although I didn't initially know which car seat to buy either)

3. Do you want to use the pushchair from newborn ?
  • I wanted a pushchair where my baby would lay flat initially, but would allow her to sit up as well lasting her until she no longer wanted to sit in a buggy.
  • I wanted it to be rear facing so I could easily see my baby, and so she could see me (the Bugaboo Bee can be forward or rear facing)

4. How much are you prepared to spend?

I ruled out quite a few on cost.  I wanted the whole travel system for under £1000 and the cost quickly adds up.

5. What's your personal style?
  • There were a few I ruled out because I didn't like their appearance, although quite a few of my friends have got these makes so I'm staying schtum on the makes.
  • Do you want the ability to personalise your pushchair? A lot of companies allow you to pick the colour of the seat and accessories to make the pushchair more you.  There are a few limited edition and designer accessories as well.

6. Are you planning on having more children?

For a while I was considering getting a pushchair that converted in to a double.  That way if/ when we had a second child we wouldn't need to buy a new pushchair.  I eventually decided against this because of the cost and a lot of the models I looked at felt big and heavy. It's quite brave to buy something that can be a double before your first one is born: you have to be confident you are going to have another while your first is still going to be happy to sit in the pushchair.

7. Where do you live and where will you be using your pushchair?

Where you live will influence: what type of wheels to get (and how many), what sort of terrain you are using it on and how often you will you need to pick it up.  I live on the edge of London so I wouldn't be walking across fields with it, but I would need to get it on and off buses and trains and up and down steps.

8. Who will be using your pushchair?

My husband and I are a similar height so I knew that if it was comfortable for me to push it should be ok for him.  If your partner, or anyone else who might push the buggy regularly, is a different height to you make sure the pushchair is easily adjustable.  Anyone much shorter or taller than average might not find all pushchairs handle bars are comfortable for them

9. Try a wide range of styles

I viewed and pushed around some pushchairs at the Baby Show, John Lewis and Mothercare.
I also tried some of my friends' pushchairs with their little ones to see what I liked and didn't like

I considered a couple of Britax designs for a while.  I was particularly influenced by their full lay flat car seat so I wanted a pushchair that I could use with that.  Newborns shouldn't be in a seated position for more than a few hours at a time and I was worried that if we wanted to visit the in laws in Leeds she would be sitting for too long.  I eventually decided against the Britax because it felt too wide for me and I decided I probably wouldn't be going on any long journeys early on.

Eventually I decided on my Bugaboo, an extra hood, the bamboo baby cocoon and the Maxi Cosi Pebble carseat (with Isofix and adapters so it fits on the Bee).  It came to £930, but you could save a bit by going for the non limited edition items.  Shop around on the Maxi Cosi as there are good savings on RRP available.

 I have been very happy with this decision, but I'm now wondering...

10. What next?

As your baby becomes more mobile you might want to review your pushchair choice.  I'm currently wondering should I:

Stay with the Bugaboo Bee? If I keep using the Bee, and the British Summer continues the way it is I will need to replace the Cocoon with a footmuff.  I would love a Bugaboo footmuff, but at £95 they are expensive.  A cheaper alternative would be to get a universal non Bugaboo design.  John Lewis do some lovely footmuffs for only £25, although obviously it wont fit quite as well. If the Summer is going to stop being so miserable I could get a seat liner instead to keep the seat clean.  These cost £40.

Babywear more?  I can use the Bugaboo when I want a pushchair and use a baby carrier the rest of the time.  These fold up far smaller than the most compact stroller.   The more I babywear the more I love the convenience and the closeness.  I think carrying the extra weight is making me fitter as well (not that I can really feel the weight in a well designed carrier).

Get a lightweight, umbrella stroller?  The weight of the Bee doesn't worry me. At 8.5kg the Bee weighs in at the lighter end of the pushchair scale.  In comparison Silver Cross Surf weighs 7.5kg (chassis only, it's unclear what the comparative option weight is), iCandy Peach 10kg, Britax B Smart 12kg and Phil & Ted's Vibe V2 12kg.  The Maclaren Techno XLR which is at the heavier end of the lightweight stroller market weighs 7.5kg, but their most basic stroller (Volo) weighs only 4kg.
The reason a stroller appeals to me is to have something that will fold (like an umbrella) and take up as small a space as possible.  It would be particularly useful when we go on holiday so we have more space in the car for essentials like toys and shoes for me.

I don't think I'm ready to give up my beloved Bugaboo yet.  Does everyone have a bond with their first pushchair? Or is just me?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Lindam Jump About Plus Door Bouncer Review

Baby M was given a Lindam door bouncer to test out.

About the Lindam Jump About Plus:

  • The Jump about Plus is colourful and fun
  • It attaches to the door frame and can easily be taken down when not in use.
  • All the springs are enclosed to prevent the risk of little fingers (or Mummy fingers) getting caught
  • The seat detaches from the bouncer so you can easily put your baby in it.
  • The seat is machine washable (always a good thing)
  • Babies can use it from when they have good head and neck control (around 3 - 4 months) to when they weigh 12kg or can walk
  • You can adjust the height so it grows with your baby.
  • It costs £24.99 (RRP) and is available from Toys r Us

Baby M, not bouncing
Baby M enjoys spending time in the bouncer: she watches me, spins around, swings, in fact she pretty much does everything except bounce.  I suspect she would have a lot more fun in it if she would bounce, but she's really not keen.  I can hold her hands and bounce with her, which she enjoys, but on her own?  Nope, nothing.

One of the best things about door bouncers is they don't take up a lot of space compared to other jumping toys (like a Jumperoo).    Baby M started crawling at 6 months and it's useful to have something to put her in while I get dressed so I don't have to worry about her trying to eat my shoes.

So our conclusion of the Jump About Plus?  It's a fun design, great colours and ideal for babies that like to spend a lot of time on their feet, but can't stand independantly.
Brilliant bright colours
Baby M investigating as I took it out of the box
The padded seat has velcro and a buckle to make sure baby stays secure in place
You place the baby in the seat, lift them on to the bouncer, then clip in place

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

My Breastfeeding Journey

This is my 3rd post for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt and this week's theme is "Support".  At the end of the post you can enter a competition to win a nursing vest with built in support (courtesy of Boobiemilk), but first I'm talking about the amazing support I had which means I am still breastfeeding my 9 month old daughter.

I first breastfed Baby M in the delivery room shortly after she was born.  We were in hospital for 2 days and during that time she fed little and often. Our breastfeeding relationship got off to a happy start and the midwives said she had a good latch although I had pain for about 20 seconds when she latched on.

First Touch

When I was pregnant I had no expectations about how long I would nurse for because I didn't know if I would be able to.  I had a breast lift nearly 10 years ago so I didn't know if my boobs would work.  When I discovered they did I was determined I would nurse my baby, at least for the first 6 weeks.  Then the problems started.  

We first hit a problem when my milk came in after a few days. Baby M woke in the early hours for a feed and I couldn't get her to latch on.  My breasts were hard and engorged. After a very long hour she was finely persuaded to nurse.  Over the next week there were times when I struggled to get her to latch on, probably when my breasts were fuller.

During her first growth spurt at around one week old a new problem emerged: my nipples got increasingly sore and eventually chapped and bloody. One nipple had a crack down the middle, the other had several chunks missing from it. Sounds sore? It was. Instead of putting Baby M to the breast whenever she was upset it became a last resort.  I only offered her the breast if she hadn't been fed for 2 to 3 hours (well that's how often babies are fed formula isn't it?). She spent a lot of time crying over the next few weeks when she almost certainly just wanted to nurse.

I dreaded when she would want the next feed, I would flinch when she was about to latch on and I often sat in tears while she nursed because of the pain.

No one ever identified anything wrong with Baby M's latch or position.  The only reason anyone could suggest for my mutilated nipples was the frequent feeding during the growth spurt: my nipples had got damaged and didn't have time to recover.

After a suggestion by a midwife I started using nipple shields on one side and pumping exclusively from the other to maintain my supply.  After a week I was able to feed again from both sides and over the next week I gradually stopped using the shields.

It was months before I was breastfeeding without pain.  After my nipples healed I started getting pain in other parts of my breasts.  No one could identify what that was caused by either, although it might have been due to scar tissue. It wasn't as bad as thrush or mastitis and it was nothing compared to the pain I had been feeling.

So the first few months breastfeeding were difficult for me, but I got through it due to great support and despite all the pressure I put on myself.  Apart from the occasional bite or scratch Baby M and I are now very happy with our breastfeeding relationship.

Baby M breastfeeding at around 6 months old
My biggest support has been from my husband.  It can't be easy seeing your partner in so much pain, but he has always supported my decision to breastfeed.  He has helped me by cooking dinner most nights, spoon feeding me at times (literally), bringing me drinks, not expecting me to achieve anything other than childcare while he is at work, looking after Baby M so I can have naps and sleeping on the sofa during the worst nights so Baby M and I have the bed for ourselves.

That first night when I couldn't get Baby M to feed my partner got up with us. While I tried to persuade Baby M to latch on he looked for help.  In the middle of the night:

  • He looked on the internet for helplines, but non of them were open 24 hours.
  • He tried to get the breast pump I had borrowed to work (neither of us could manage it)
  • He tried to work out how the steriliser worked so we could use the 'in case of emergency' cartons of formula.  We eventually gave up on this too.
  • Finally he found instructions online on how to hand express and he expressed some milk for me into a measuring jug.  

After removing a bit of milk Baby M finally managed to latch on.

My mum was a great support in the early days too.  She was there in the delivery room while I was in labour and she helped encourage Baby M to latch on for her first feed.  She also came over several times in the first few weeks when I cried down the phone and she held Baby M while I got some much needed sleep.

Our local midwives (in Loughton) were great.  One morning I called them when yet again I couldn't get Baby M to latch on and someone came over within half an hour.  I also remember crying down the phone to a midwife saying I felt like a failure as a mum because I was struggling to breastfeed.  The midwife firmly told me that I wasn't and told me off for thinking it. When I was struggling they suggested it would be ok to use formula, but when I told them I didn't want to they supported that decision.

The last group of people who kept me going are my twitter friends.  I've credited them before on this blog for their support which kept me going on the longest, loneliest nights, but they are definitely worth mentioning again. Mama's all over the globe (and a few Dad's) offered me support and advice when I was very close to giving up. When things were going well they kept me entertained during long night feeds.  They continue to be brilliant now when I've had no sleep and I'm close to despair (although rarely about breastfeeding these days).

Using hashtags such as #bfing, #bfcafe and #zombiemoms helped people find me, but I think there are some people out there that just search for any mention of breastfeeding and offer support to those who are struggling. I now have a brilliant group of twitter friends who I can share the highs and lows of being a mum with.

I would strongly recommend identifying support before you need it.  Make sure your family and friends know how you feel and what they can do to support you.  Read the other posts for the Keep Britain Scavenger Hunt this week to find out where you can get support from.  Here are 5 blogs to get you started:

Circus Queen
Really Rachel
Fi Peacock
A New Addition
Breast 4 Babies

The other support that is essential when you are breastfeeding are good nursing bra's.  My bra size near the end of pregnancy and in the first few weeks was different to what it has been for the last 8 months. I ended up wearing some cropped top style ones for the first few weeks and then went out and got fitted for some more supportive bra's when I was up to going out.

As well as organising this scavenger hunt Karen from Boobiemilk shop and blog is offering a nursing vest to one lucky reader who leaves a comment below and confirms their entry via the Rafflecopter widget.  Boobiemilk have a range of nursing bras, sleep bras and nursing vests as well as other breastfeeding accessories.  To ensure you get a good fit she offers unlimited free exchanges on the bras and vests.  If you are lucky enough to live in or around Kent she will even come to you to provide an in home fitting service, this is ideal if you don't have a comfortable bra to leave the house in.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Supporting Leeds for Father's Day

Ok it's not football season, but I thought Baby M should show her support for LUFC for Father's Day

Friday, 15 June 2012

Reading eBooks and "Hooking Up" book review

I realised recently that other than a few baby related non fiction books and some children's stories (Giraffe's Can't Dance anyone?) I haven't picked up a book in some time. Thinking about it I definitely haven't read anything for me since Baby M was born, and due to bad restless legs I don't think I read anything during the last few months of pregnancy either. As my husband reads a lot, especially now he has invested in a Kindle, he offered to find me one of his books to read.  Since we got together I've read quite a few of his books including all of Ian Rankin's Rebus books, but he can't help me in indulge in my favourite reading material: chick lit.

I know I should be claiming I read something highbrow like the latest Man Booker prize winner or something, but I don't. I couldn't even think of an example of a highbrow book for that sentence. When I spend precious time reading I prefer to read something that will instantly transport me to a happy place, something that doesn't require me to think too much or understand complicated plot twists, and if it makes me shed a few tears I want it to leave me warm and fuzzy.  I find chick lit fits the bill.

A couple of days after thinking I'd really like to read something I got the opportunity to read and review Hooking Up by Jessica L. Degarmo.  This excited me for 2 reasons: I would get something to read without leaving the house and I could try reading a book on my iPad.

Have I mentioned my iPad? My amazingly lovely and wonderful husband bought it for me for my 30th birthday (he also bought me a beautiful watch, but that's off topic). I received Hooking Up as a Kindle book so I downloaded the Kindle app and the book and started reading. I'll review the book in a minute, but I thought I'd share my thoughts of reading this way first.

The iPad is heavier that a paper back or a kindle and it takes a bit of getting used to the weight, but the Kindle App on it has some brilliant features:

  • you can choose whether to read in landscape or portrait
  • you can choose if you want a white, sepia or black background (if you select black the writing is in white obviously, you don't just get a black screen)
  • you can select the size of the font
  • you can look words up if you don't know the meaning (if you have downloaded the dictionary). 
  • you can add notes
  • and you can add multiple bookmarks.

Part way through the book I decided to download the Kindle app to my iPhone as well.  This meant I could read the book if I unexpectedly find myself under a sleeping child. What I loved about this is I could switch between devices depending on what was most convenient and they knew where I was so I didn't lose my place (Amazon's "Whispersync technology" apparently). This definitely helped me read the book faster than might otherwise have been possible.

So the book:

The author is American and the story set in the US which I was reminded of every so often with the use of language that is less common to the English ear, however this did little to distract from the story.  Hooking Up is about a woman and a man coming to terms with their past and finding themselves and love in the process.  I will do my best not to give away the story, but let's face it: chick lit that doesn't have a happy ending doesn't sell well.

The leading lady, 28 year old Karate expert and 'pediatric physical therapist' Catlin Edison, is haunted by her past. She needs to face her ghosts before she can move on and allow herself to fall in love again.  Obviously the course of true love doesn't run smoothly even when she thinks she has it all figured out. Although you can guess the ending from pretty early on there are plenty of twists along the way.  I had to prevent myself reading ahead at times and I even had tears in my eyes at one point. There's also a lot of sex, but unlike the more graphic 50 Shades this book will spare your blushes. Understated and leaving the details to your imagination it is comfortable reading and arguably sexier for it.

Hooking Up is available from Amazon as a paperback (currently £7.99) or Kindle Edition (currently only 77p).  If you don't have a Kindle you can download a free Kindle App allowing you to read on your Smart Phone (iPhone, iPod touch or Android), Computer (Windows or Mac) or Tablet (iPad or Android Tablet).

File Size: 287kb
Print length: 238 pages
ISBN: 1461141400

Note: I was not paid for this review, but I did receive the eBook for free.  All words and thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

An Undercover Breastfeeder

New mums are often worried about breastfeeding in public for the first time.  Thankfully it is rare for anyone to ask you to cover up, move somewhere else or make any other disapproving comments.  

As someone who has lived on the cusp of London for most of my life this doesn’t surprise me:  in London people rarely pay attention to those around them, let alone speak to them. Even if they are doing something incredibly annoying like playing their music far too loud on a tube carriage rammed full of commuters we stay quiet.  So why would anyone worry about breastfeeding?

If you look at social network sites though you will often come across stories (told first and second hand) of breastfeeding mums who have been asked to be more discreet.  This has led to a backlash of comments such as:
  • Why should I feed my baby in the toilet, would you eat your dinner in there?
  • Would you want to eat under a hot stuffy blanket?
  • The mum is feeding the baby because they are hungry and no other reason.
  • If you have a problem you should move.

I agree with these statements and I don’t believe anyone should have to cover up or hide to feed their baby (or toddler) when out and about.  I think it is important that young people are exposed to breastfeeding to normalise it and I also think we have a very weird view in the UK about nudity and sexualising everything.  However when I am breastfeeding in front of most people I know (partner, sisters and mother excluded) or in public I use a nursing cover.

I use a cover because it makes me feel more comfortable, not because of what anyone else might think.  I’ve never been happy for other people to see me partially or fully naked.   I’m one of those women who use the private changing booths in gyms and swimming pools.  When I was younger I would walk out of shop changing rooms without trying anything on if they only had communal areas (whatever happened to those?).  I’ve never been comfortable to sunbathe topless on the beach; I managed it once for about 90 seconds, but quickly wimped out. So my issue isn’t with breastfeeding uncovered, it’s about people seeing my body.

I don’t know why I feel this way; my sister has no similar issues so it isn't about how I was brought up.  I almost feel a little embarrassed using it in front of other breastfeeding mums, like I'm letting the side down, but on the whole using a cover makes me happy.

If like me you feel more comfortable covered up when breastfeeding I would recommend buying one of the many designs of nursing covers available rather than using muslins or blankets as they make the process easier.  

Me feeding Baby M with the Soft Spots Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover
My cover is by Bebe au Lait and costs around £30.  It stays in place with a strap which goes round my neck, this means I have both my hands to sort out my clothes before and after feeding.  The strap also prevents it falling off which is a if a muslin is being used.  It has a rigid neckline which means I can look down and see Baby M feeding, and she can see me.  This design feature also ensures that she has plenty of air and doesn’t get too hot. 

The additional benefit of a cover now Baby M is older and easily distracted is that it blocks out some of the excitement so she can focus on having a decent feed.  If she does get distracted and wants a look around I can be confident that I wont feel exposed in the process.

This post is my second for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt.  If you don't know about it yet check out the website, but basically a lot of great bloggers are sharing their thoughts and wisdom about breastfeeding and by visiting their blogs you can earn points to enter to win the grand prize of over £500 of goodies. Many are also running competitions to win other prizes. 
Some of the blogs involved are:

Not only are Softbots one of the great companies who have contributed to the Scavenger Hunt Grand Prize (donating a Takara Nursing Top), they also have Bebe au Lait Nursing covers currently on sale at only £20 (while stocks last) AND they are very kindly providing a Cover for one of you to win.  

By leaving a blog comment below and logging your name and email address in Rafflecopter you will be entered into the competition to win the Bebe au Lait Cover and earn points towards the Scavenger Hunt Grand Prize.   

Please check out Softbots website where you will find a range of cloth nappies, cloth nappy accessories, natural baby products and lots of other products that will be helpful in the first years of your babies life.

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Thursday, 7 June 2012

More products I love and some words of advice

Snoozeshade. I think everyone has heard of these now and I see them everywhere. I got one as Baby M sleeps better in the dark and I was having trouble getting her to sleep while out and about. The Snoozeshade blocks out most of the light, but still allows air in and out. As an added bonus the covers provide shelter from the sun with SPF 50+. I have a Snoozeshade plus because it is large: it easily covers a range of pushchairs, but the main thing I like is part of the cover is double thickness and can be zipped down allowing Baby M to see out while still protected from the sun.
RRP £29.99 Available from and a growing number of other places

Antibacterial wipes. In the early days it's important to sterilise, but that's not always easy when you are out and about. At some point the bag is going to drop/ throw their toys or dummies on to the floor. There are a range of companies  that make antibacterial wipes (I've tried Tommee Tippee and Tesco own brand) and I find them brilliant to have in the changing bag for a whole range of uses. Tommee Tippee Soother, Teat and Teether Wipes RRP £1.99

Tiny Love play mat. As Baby M started crawling at 6 months this mat had a limited period of usefulness, but we used it every day for months. The Tiny Love playmat is one of the largest I have found. It has bright colours and a variety of textures which are great, but the main reason I used it both at home and at other people's houses is Baby M's tendency to vomit (or technically spit up). The mat is brilliantly washable and still looks great after several washes. It saved many carpets and myself from embarrassment.
The mat measures 150cm x 100cm and RRP is £40
Tiny Love Play Mat

Napisan. A bucket with water and Napisan is brilliant for soaking clothes dirtied by leaking nappies, and more often these days, food stains. I then wash them as normal.  This has saved many an item of clothing.
(You probably don't need to see a picture of stained clothes or a bucket). RRP c £4

Munchkin Caterpillar Spillers. From very early on I wanted some stacking cups for Baby M as I think they are great to play with. I bought some from Munchkin because they had the added features of holes to make use in the bath more fun and they connect together to look like a caterpillar.  RRP £3.99 recommended for 9 months plus.

Tommee Tippee Roll n Go Explora Bibs. I like these bibs because they are soft, flexible and reduce the amount of food dropped on the floor. They do stain with tomato sauce, but all rubbery things I've seen do. In the early days of eating I found large bibs caused problems for baby M feeding herself because her hands would get stuck behind them, but this period didn't last long. I bought one of these bibs at 7 months and another a few days later. We now use them for most meals. RRP £3.49

What I have learnt from a few mistakes:
Changing mats must must must be wipe cleanable. I got a relatively expensive, but lovely and soft sponge one it looked great, but doesn't really clean. You can buy covers for it, but why buy covers when you can have a cheaper one, wipe it and save on the washing?
Baby gates need to open easily.  We have 3 different baby gates. One of them is really difficult to open, gets stuck and it's noisy too.  Annoyingly it's the one at the top of the stairs and I'm going to have to replace it at some point.  My advice: test them out before buying, and don't believe when the packaging says easy one handed opening.
Highchairs should be minimalist. We originally bought a high chair with padding, it had 3 different seat positions and a storage basket underneath.  It has been in the garage for months.  The best advice I have read about highchair selection is choose one you could hose down. I love the cheap Antilop chair from ikea which has no detail and is about as easy to clean as a chair could be (pictured above).
Consider purchase of shoes carefully. I found shoes and socks just never stayed on Baby M. Socks only stayed on with the use of Sock Ons, and shoes were just a game for Baby M to remove.  Most babies I have seen have shoes or socks on so this obviously isn't experienced by everyone.  Even Gap socks which are meant to stay on well don't stay on Baby M's feet. I have now bought Baby M a pair of proper shoes from Clarks even though she's probably a good few months of walking and they stay on, meaning the socks do too.

I continue to love (and use daily): my bugaboo bee, my bebe au lait nursing cover, angel care movement monitor

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Mighty Milk: the brilliance of breastmilk

This is my first of four posts for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt.  By taking part you can win a range of goodies and be entered into the grand prize for over £500 of goodies that would be loved by any breastfeeding mum.  At the bottom of this post you can also enter to win a Baby Beads necklace which are brilliant if you are breastfeeding, formula feeding or just like jewellery.

This post was going to be about the benefits of breastfeeding, but that discussion is often seen as criticising parents who use formula.  I have shared my views many many times before: breastfeeding is always best for baby, but not always best for the mum.  I think breastfeeding is amazing though and one aspect in particular fascinates me: breastmilk.  So this post is all about the benefits of breastmilk.

Breastmilk is brilliant.  I mean it; it's seriously fabulous stuff.  I am in awe that my body can create something so utterly fantastic.  I don't know why, after all I managed to create a beautiful little girl in 9 months.  I guess it's because everyone knows where babies come from, but not nearly enough people know about the wonders of breastmilk.

So what's so amazing?

It's free.  While there are lots of items that might make breastfeeding more comfortable the only thing required is a breast (you don't even need 2).

It comes in a nearly unlimited supply (genuinely not being able to make enough to feed your baby is very rare and is often due to poor latch, positioning, feeding to schedule or a misunderstanding about the signs of if a baby is getting enough).  Milk is produced on a supply and demand process. The more the baby feeds the more milk is produced.  If supply has reduced due to occasional nursing baby can feed lots in a short space of time to increase the amount available to them (cluster feeding).

It's adaptable.  Starting off in a small amount of concentrated goodness in the first few days it goes on to change to a child's needs as they grow.  It even changes during the course of a feed: starting with foremilk, often described as a 'thirst quencher' and gradually getting fattier (hindmilk).  Breastmilk from a mother who has been nursing for longer (eg over a year when the baby nurses less often) has higher fat content than a new mum's milk. I've heard it said that the consistency also changes with the weather: with more foremilk being available on hotter days to keep baby rehydrated.

It is brilliant food.  Because human breastmilk has been designed specifically for human babies it provides exactly what they need to be the exclusive food source for at least 6 months, the main food source for the first year and complementary food for several more years.  Breastmilk is quickly digested and easily absorbed into the blood this is one of the reasons exclusively breastfed babies are rarely constipated.

A mother's body provides nutrition to breastmilk before it uses it itself. Even if a mum doesn't have a healthy balanced diet the baby will still get one.  In fact the mum could become malnourished and still provide the baby what they need to be healthy.  If the mother doesn't eat a balanced diet a multi-vitamin may benefit them.

Breastmilk contains antibodies and other things that help keep babies healthy.  No mum likes to see her baby unwell and I love knowing that I can help get my baby get well faster. Babies immune system aren't fully developed until about 2 years old so breastmilk gives them a helping hand to stay well or fight illnesses.  Babies that are breastfed have lower rates of illness even after weaning from breastfeeding.

Any breastfeeding mother will know of the wonderful healing power of giving baby a feed if they are in pain, and whilst this is partly due to the sucking and closeness to mum it is also due to the breastmilk. Even if there wasn't research to support the analgesic nature of breastmilk I would be convinced after breastfeeding my daughter during her immunisations and seeing the wonders of a breastmilk ice lolly while teething.

Babies that are breastfed have been found to have higher IQs on average than babies who were formula fed.  This is likely to be due to the mighty breastmilk rather than the process of breastfeeding itself (although the scientist in me does wonder if this is a correlation rather than direct cause and effect). The longer the child is breastfed the more significant the impact on intelligence.

Beyond Baby

The benefits of breastmilk can be achieved whether it is fresh from the boob or expressed and stored this means it can benefit people of any age.  As an aside it can last a surprisingly long time in the fridge and can be frozen. In addition to the benefits above a quick search on the internet finds mums who have used breastmilk for a whole range of uses by direct application of the milk rather than drinking it. Suggestions include treating: ear infections, eye infections, mouth ulcers, cracked nipples, insect bites, nappy rash, dry skin, scratches, burns, chicken pox, cradle cap and blocked noses.

It's anti-bacterial and sterile qualities mean it has also been used as make up remover, facial cleanser, emergency contact lens solution, wound cleaning and sexual lubricant(!!!).

Recent research has found that "B cells" in breastmilk can produce antibodies that inhibit HIV cells.  It makes you wonder just what else this magic liquid might be able to do...

Due to being the main carer of a small child I haven't got the time to find and link to evidence for all the statements above. If I haven't commented on the origin of the claim it is evidence based and I could dig out the research if required.  Lots of useful links are on kelly mom: . Please email me if you want more information.

The Competitions

If you want to hear more thoughts about the benefits of breastfeeding read some of these other blogs taking part in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt:

Twinkle Mummy
Diary of a First Child
Life Happens So Smile
My Mummy's Pennies
Attachment Mummy

Check out to decide which necklace you would like to win and to see their other great products.

To be in for a chance of winning a Baby Beads necklace simply enter via the rafflecopter widget below and add a comment to this post.  Entering this competition will also give you points towards winning the Scavenger Hunt Grand Prize (you need 50 to be in for a chance to win).

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