Tummy time – treat or torture?

From as early as birth onward tummy time is one of the most important activities for babies to develop core strength and balance. This is in preparation for rolling over and eventually crawling. It can also help to prevent head-flattening which can happen if a baby is laid on their backs for too long at a time. It is recommended by the National Childbirth Trust and others that a baby has a session laying on their tummy for around 5 minutes 2-3 times a day. Although this sounds like no time at all, it can be tricky to find the right time to engage in tummy time when baby has to be alert, not recently fed and happy – especially when they nap every 2 hours! It really is important though! I make sure Isaac does it in preference to some other activities if necessary.

Like many babies, Isaac can find tummy time quite hard and therefore can get a little grumpy with it. I have to mix it up each time in order to keep him engaged and, depending on how he is feeling, I vary the difficulty with different supports.

It certainly is the case that tummy time can feel like ‘torture’, particularly if baby has no fun distractions like toys or a fun mat to look at and play with. No wonder so many parents find it stressful and therefore one of the first things to knock off the to-do list each day!

Top tummy time purchases!

In order to engage Isaac more, I have bought 3 items for tummy time which I am thrilled with. First, the specially designed tummy time cushion. This gave him good support in the early weeks. It has accessories like a rattle, a cuddly toy and a teether to keep Isaac amused.

Isaac loves the support of this specially designed tummy time cushion

When he got a little older and stronger, I bought him a water mat. This is awesome as it has floating sea animals inside which he can press with his hands (or I sit opposite him and move it around myself). Another fantastic purchase!

Enjoying the sensation of the water and the fishes swimming about!

It certainly is the case that tummy time can feel like ‘torture’, particularly if baby has no fun distractions like toys or a fun mat to look at and play with. No wonder so many parents find it stressful and therefore one of the first things to knock off the to-do list each day!

My most recent purchase was the Baby Einstein Glow and Discover Light Bar Activity Station. Isaac has had this just two days and he absolutely loves it! It is by far the most interactive toy he has to date. It encourages him to reach his arms out to press the buttons and make tunes or hear animal names and colours. This item is very future-proof as it can be adapted for use when baby is sitting.

Loving his new light bar! Isaac now happily stays on his tummy for at least 10 minutes at a time!

Tummy time has truly become a treat!

Since buying these items, Isaac has begun to see tummy time as more of a ‘treat’. (It certainly is a treat for me seeing him get stronger and closer to meeting key milestones like rolling over and pushing up).

A simple ‘no thrills’ tummy time with a blanket is great when baby is in a good mood and can make them feel successful when scaffolds such as the cushion can be removed.

How did you get on with my recommended products? Do you have any recommended products of your own to make this activity more enjoyable?

Conquering cradle cap

Isaac has had cradle cap for some time but it doesn’t seem to bother him!

Cradle cap (or cradle crap as it is commonly known!) is a nasty looking but harmless crusty skin condition which primarily covers a baby’s scalp but can also travel elsewhere on the body. My baby has suffered quite badly from cradle cap since around 4 weeks of age and he still has it at 15 weeks, though it looks like it is finally on its way out!

I have tried all sorts to get rid of the cradle cap on Isaac’s head but don’t want to remove his tiny thin hairs with it. To start with we just left it alone but recently, on the advice of a nurse at our GP surgery, I have used some different products on it.

First, I tried Johnson’s baby oil – a great all-rounder for skin in general. However, it didn’t do the trick for Isaac’s cradle cap.

Following advice, I now use normal olive oil once a day. This is particularly effective before bath time. Apply some olive oil then use shampoo to wash it off and help loosen the flakes. We use the very gentle Aveeno baby wash for Isaac’s hair and body and follow up with Aveeno baby daily moisturising lotion. While hair is still wet (or in the bath) you can then use a very soft brush to remove any loose flakes.

I hope you have some luck removing cradle cap but don’t worry it is purely a cosmetic thing – babies are not bothered at all by it and their hair grows back fine if any does fall out in the early days.

Rediscovering my sandwich toaster!

I usually find lunch the most boring meal of the day. I am not a fan of sandwiches at all and I often just heat up last night’s dinner for lunch. As lockdown is already boring enough I wanted to add some excitement to the monotonous day of a new mum. So, call me ‘retro’ or ‘old-fashioned’ (or just plain ‘sad’!) but a few weeks ago during a bit of a clear out I rediscovered my old sandwich toaster and it really has changed lunchtimes for the better! Everyone loves a toastie right? I thought this little blog post might remind you of the one you have lurking at the back of your cupboard? Get it out, give it a clean and rediscover a wonderful kitchen gadget!

I used to have this cheap and cheerful sandwich toaster, which certainly did the job making some lovely egg toasties or a classic cheese and onion. However, it can be a bit of a pickle to keep clean, especially when the cheese oozes out. I also found that an average slice of bread is too big for it and needs to be cut smaller to fit properly. For the price it is fine for occasional use.

A pesto, mozzerella and tomato panini – Yum!

In a bid to cheer myself up on these lonely lockdown days I treated myself to… clothes? perfume? jewellery? No! The Breville Sandwich/Panini Press! This was well worth the money spent and my husband (who finds toasties a bit ‘meh’) has loved the fact you can also make delicious paninis with it! Just think of the price of a panini in a high-street coffee shop – you’re talking a good fiver at least! We have experimented with all sorts of fillings and it is always so easy to clean up – a simple wipe with a damp cloth and you’re done – perfect when you have a little one screaming from the next room!

So, meal times getting boring? Kids needing something new? Lazy or lacking in time? Get yourself a toastie maker!

Wow… a few years ago I never would have imagined I’d be blogging about the joy that a sandwich maker gives me! It’s the little things in life!

The best baby sleepwear!

A short and sweet little blog post today – a review of the wonderful sleeping bags designed by the Gro-Company.

One of the things I worried about when pregnant was what to put my baby in for a safe and comfortable night’s sleep. Everyone seems to have different ideas – blanket? swaddle? warm bodysuit? sleeping bag? There are so many options and the scary thing is getting it wrong can actually increase your baby’s chance of cot death. In the end, after watching my nieces growing up and seeing them go to bed in sleeping bags from a young age, we decided that would be a good way to go. They also always seemed to sleep well as babies (though my brother and sister-in-law might say otherwise!)

Gro-snugs – perfect for your newborn

Isaac all snug in his gro-snug! Excuse the little bit of sick (we did move him!)

During a talk from some midwives at an expectant parent event at Mothercare (RIP amazing store!) we were told explicitly that swaddling a baby is simply not safe. So many parents still do it and I am sure they have their reasons but we took this advice on board and decided not to buy a swaddle for Isaac when he was born. Only trouble is young babies can startle themselves when trying to sleep; it is called the moro-reflex and the arms flail up in the air and they can wake themselves up. A standard sleeping bag cannot prevent this from happening. From research and a good peruse at safety from the Lullaby Trust, we decided we would start Isaac out in a Gro-Snug (suitable for babies from birth to 3 months). He was too little for the first couple of months for a 0-6 month gro-bag as you need to weigh at least 8.8lb for this.

The beauty of the Gro-Snug is that it can be used as a safe and less-restricting ‘swaddle’ if you wish, as the poppers at the sides allow arms to be in or out of the bag. We kept Isaac’s arms out the whole time as his startling didn’t seem to bother him. Isaac slept brilliantly in his Gro-Snugs and we only bought two (both ‘cosy’ for early spring) and alternated them once or twice a week.

Gro-bags – perfect from 3 months to toddler

Sleeping through the night from just 11 weeks in his gro-bag!

When Isaac reached about 2 months and around 9lb it was time to ‘promote’ him to the 0-6 month gro-bag as his snug was getting a little too snug! He looks super cute in the gro-bag especially as it is still very long on him. What I love is that the zip can be undone at the bottom so nappy changes can happen without you having to take the whole gro-bag off. The gro-bags (and snugs) are designed so that they cannot ride up over a baby’s head and the gro-bag has extra poppers under the arm pits for when baby is still small. So far we only have one gro-bag (the Bennie the Bear 1 tog version) as it is summer and some nights Isaac sleeps just in a bodysuit (on those days I wash the gro-bag which dries in less than a day on a clothes horse). They are not cheap but they are worth it! The gro-bags and snugs also come with a handy room thermometer and a guide to tell you how to dress a baby for different temperatures.

During the day when Isaac is napping with the monitor on and I am around and awake to check on him we use blankets. I find this differentiates from daytime ‘naps’ to the longer nighttime ‘sleep’ (whether it actually resonates with Isaac I don’t know!)

I hope this review helps you to make an informed choice about sleepwear for your baby!

Is your baby hot and bothered?

We are seeing some very warm temperatures currently and with lockdown caging us in it can be extra frustrating and difficult for our little ones to keep cool.

I have noticed some changes in Isaac this week. This may be due to us approaching the dreaded Leap 4 (see the amazing book ‘Wonder Weeks’ for more info on this!) but I also think the hot weather has affected him – just like it does us adults!

How the heat affects our little ones

Tragically, overheating can increase a baby’s chance of cot death, a parent’s absolute worst nightmare and a worry that keeps me up at night even if Isaac isn’t.

However, there are also far less devastating but more common effects of the heat on babies, which can be avoidable.

An overheated baby may:

  • be more irritable and fussy
  • feel warm and clammy to the touch
  • show signs of dehydration with fewer wet nappies
  • develop a fever but not sweat
  • seem dizzy or confused
  • vomit
  • have a rapid heartbeat
  • have red skin

A simple way to check if your baby is too warm is to touch the nape of their neck or chest or use a thermometer under their armpit.

What you can do to keep baby cool

Room temperature

I have found that the simplest way to keep my baby cool is to focus on the room temperature/ house temperature throughout the day. Far too often my husband and I have found that the house is too hot in the evenings as we had not prepared enough during the day! It is all about opening the correct windows (and keeping others closed) depending on the location of the sun throughout the day. We now keep blinds and curtains closed on a very hot day – it is a bit depressing shutting out the sun but it is more than worth it for a cool night’s sleep! In the evening we can then open everything up and let a flow of air through the house.

We seem to have an overly ‘hot’ house; possibly because it is a terraced 3 storey town house so the top floor (where our bedroom and nursery are) can get stifling. Last year, during my early pregnancy stage, we suffered with a clunky old fan chucking around hot air so this summer we have bought a new room fan which is lovely and quiet while being very efficient at keeping the room cool. It is small, portable and inexpensive at less than £25.

My husband also invested in some inexpensive yet handy little room thermometers as we have found the one on our (otherwise excellent) BT baby monitor to be quite inaccurate.

Baby temperature

On top of keeping the house cool there are steps you can take to keep your baby cool and calm:

  • Dress baby appropriately, ideally just in a vest or short sleeved body suit. (This is easier said than done when baby scratches his face to bits and loose mittens fall off! I have finally found some long sleeved but leg-less bodysuits with integrated scratch mittens which I hope should solve this problem!)
  • Ensure your baby has a low-tog sleeping bag (if cool enough for bedding). At the moment he is using a 1 tog gro-bag.
  • If baby is bottle-fed breast milk (like mine) then use the bottles straight from the fridge. This is perfectly fine and cools them down as they drink. *Please note – in the heat babies may drink more so make sure you do too or your milk supply will quickly dwindle when they need it the most!
  • Give baby a cool bath or even just a cool washcloth instead of a bath. I recommend Johnson’s baby washcloths.

I hope these recommendations and my first-hand experience helps you to keep your house and baby cool and get a good night’s sleep (well, as good as you reasonably can with a small baby!)

Being a ‘lockdown mum’ and my feelings about it lifting

Before writing this blog post I just want to express that I feel incredibly grateful that my little family have in the grand scheme of things been unaffected by coronavirus. Thus far, we have not been ill, we have had no financial issues and we have not lost any loved ones. I truly sympathise with the many for whom this awful disease has been a nightmare rather than just an inconvenience.

This blog is an outlet for me and all the other ‘lockdown parents’ that have had to navigate parenthood alone during these strange times, and my reaction to the changes to come.

An easing at last?

I sat watching the daily covid19 briefing yesterday eager to hear that lockdown would finally be easing. My main concern, can I finally see close family?

My reaction to this finally being a possiblity completely surprised me. Rather than jumping for joy, my feelings were mixed and erring on negative; this took me completely off-guard!

After weeks of moaning about missing loved ones and them missing Isaac, I was finally given the chance to see them and it was a complete anti-climax.

After sleeping on it (the best a new mum can!) I think I have worked out why I reacted in this strange way:

  1. In my heart of hearts I know it is too early to be ‘trusting the British public’ and lifting the lockdown this much. I was shocked that 6 people from a whole range of households could meet at once and I fear that very few will actually keep to the 2 metre outside-only rule. This will mean another lockdown in the near future and possibly a larger and more deadly second peak. Best case scenario: even longer before Isaac sees his grandparents. Worst case: one of us gets gravely ill.
  2. The rule change is incredibly bittersweet. Being able to see family but not touch them feels to me like the marshmallow test where you can look at the sweetie but not eat it! With our family all living at least a 2 hour drive away it has caused us a dilemma – is it worth the long drive each way for a few minutes outside together sitting socially distanced? Perhaps not. But then if we leave it and we are re-locked down because others can’t help themselves but to break the rules, how long will it then be until we can just take this small step again?

Will I miss lockdown?!

Then there is another factor- has lockdown really been so bad? Here are some of the things I will miss when it eases completely:

  1. Working things out for ourselves – as new parents we have had the opportunity to bond completely exclusively with our little baby. It has been refreshing (if a little frightening at times) to muddle our way through everything by ourselves. We have naturally avoided well-meaning family and friends telling us how to do things or judging various parenting choices we’ve made. I haven’t experienced the new mum confusions of battling with opposing advice from different people as I simply haven’t had that advice! With Isaac we have had no choice but to work things out for ourselves and I’m proud to say that so far I think we’re doing really well. I worry that in the future this well-intentioned advice will come and I may struggle to accept it, particularly if I feel I am being negatively judged. After all, I have coped and kept my baby alive very well up to now!
  2. My husband has had the incredibly rare opportunity to see Isaac grow and be a part of the childcare every day. We have been so fortunate that he has been able to work from home ever since lockdown (and therefore ever since paternity leave ended). Isaac has had an opportunity to bond with his dad far more than would usually be the case and their relationship will be better for it. The three of us have become so close and a bit of a formidable force. I worry how it will feel when my husband has to return to the office and can only see us in the evenings.
  3. Strangely, we have seen more of our family and friends than we normally would. With the wonderful invention of Skype and Zoom we have been chatting to close family and groups of friends at least once a week. Grandparents have been able to coo over Isaac and watch him develop and grow (though nothing compares to a cuddle of course!) With the 3 quizzes per week that we are now involved in we’ve also filled our heads with useless facts ready for the pub quizzes to come! I hope regular video chats continue when life gets a little more hectic.
  4. I will miss not needing to commit to anything! An event-less diary has become my norm and I feel I have become a bit of an introvert from it. I am certainly going to start rethinking what and who I’ve truly missed and what had actually felt like a chore… I haven’t missed clothes shopping one bit, for example!

The lowdown on the lockdown

Our ‘Pinterest-style’ lockdown memory!

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I look forward to when the lockdown is truly lifted. I can’t wait to completely unashamedly show off my beautiful baby to anyone and everyone! I can’t wait to hug family and friends and embrace them for just a little longer than I used to. I can’t wait to leave the house without a mask and hand sanitizer and to not have to wipe down the shopping or parcels we receive. I can’t wait to sit in our favourite restaurants and pubs and devour the delicious food we have missed. I can’t wait to finally start baby classes and have a proper maternity leave. Above all, I can’t wait for my baby to see the whole world properly beyond the four walls that have protected him up until now.

Please everyone stay safe. Please don’t forget to socially distance – if you can’t do it then wait, hold off, see your family and friends when you can hold them and hug them.

For my sake and everyone else’s don’t risk another lockdown and more lives lost.

Am I the only one with these mixed feelings on the gradual return to ‘normality’? What are your feelings regarding the lifting of the lockdown? Too soon? Not lifted enough? Can’t wait? Tell me in the comments!

The many benefits of baby massage!

I love a massage but, before having Isaac, I never truly understood the benefits of baby massage – now I know that there are loads!

Before lockdown due to covid19, I planned to take Isaac for massage classes. Since that has not been possible, I sought advice from my lovely aquanatal teacher as well as purchasing a short course of online lessons.

It really is simple to do yourself and both you and baby will get so much joy out of it. Ensure you have a warm room and a blanket and have them dressed only in a nappy. You then only need some baby friendly oil (that will not cause harm if baby puts their hands in their mouth). I have previously been recommended Naissance sweet almond oil. However, I personally use Aveeno baby moisturising lotion as it is very kind to Isaac’s sensitive skin.

Here are some of the benefits I have noticed from massaging Isaac:

  • Bonding between parent and baby
  • Relaxing for baby
  • Relief from colic, constipation and congestion depending on the body area you are focusing on
  • Giving baby body confidence and awareness (Isaac ‘found’ his hands and feet quickly during early massage sessions)

Baby centre goes into many more reasons why it is worth massaging your baby so take a look!

Orzo with harissa and halloumi

I thought it was time to blog about another of my ‘mum’s yums’! This is one I came up with recently when I had some veggies and harissa paste leftover in the fridge. I love orzo as an alternative to pasta or rice (it is like a blend of the two!)

This easy recipe needs:

  • Orzo pasta (1 cup makes roughly enough for 4 people)
  • 250g halloumi
  • 1 tablespoon rose harissa paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • A knob of butter
  • Mixed veggies for roasting (I used a red onion, a green pepper and mushrooms)
  • Chorizo slices if you wish to make a meat version

Heat your oven to around 180’C and heat the oil in a large roasting tin.

Meanwhile, chop up any roasting-friendly veggies you can find. Squash or sweet potato would work well or make it more ‘earthy’ with courgettes and mushrooms. Also chop the halloumi into chunks and slice up chorizo (if using).

Mix the veggies, meat and halloumi with the hot oil and roast for 15 minutes.

Add the harissa paste to the veggies and stir in. Then roast for a further 15 minutes.

While roasting the veg, melt your butter in a saucepan and add the dry orzo for around 4 minutes. Then add boiling water and pop on the lid. Simmer for around 10 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

*Orzo is very similar to rice – you need a ratio of 1:2 (1 cup of orzo to 2 cups of water)

Once your orzo is cooked al dente, stir it through the spicy veggies and halloumi and you’re ready to serve!

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

‘Pumps and bottles and teats… oh my!’

Keeping on top of sterilising

As detailed in my previous post, I am an exclusive expresser meaning I need to use a breast pump and bottles to feed my hungry little milk monster!

All part of the “fun” in the early days was establishing a routine with sterilising that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out.

Here is what works well for us…

Equipment needed:


1. I wash and sterilise the breast pump accessories once a day (washing it up, rinsing and then boiling in a saucepan for 5 minutes). I then put the bits together and store it in the fridge for the day (pouring milk into bottles after each use). It is possible to do this hygeinically as the suction nozzles have clean plastic cups to put on and keep bacteria out.

2. While my pump accessories are boiling, I wash up and rinse any used bottles and put up to 4 of them in the steriliser along with 200ml of water and microwave for 6 minutes. An easy way to keep the bottles sterile is to (using clean hands) put them back together again with their lids on after removing them from the steriliser. They will then remain clean for 24 hours.

It is as easy as that! I find I only need to use the bottle steriliser twice a day. I also put Isaac’s Tommee Tippee dummies in the microwave steriliser once a day.

We also have the Milton cold water steriliser which does not require heat, however it has sat on the kitchen side unused as the microwave version is so easy!

*If you do use heat to clean your equipment, make sure to buy new bottles and dummies every 3-6 months to avoid possible plastic degradation – I have just bought new ones as Isaac is now 3 months old.

I hope this helps any new mums and dads to navigate the crazy world of bottles and sterilising! For us it took a good month to get into a solid, easy and safe routine, so I highly recommend the above tried-and-tested method! Good luck!

Best breast pump – a brilliant buy!

When Isaac was born breastfeeding did not come naturally to either of us and it was more than a little stressful. However, I was fortunate enough to have lots of milk supply so I decided to express milk for him. Once you get over the initial feeling of being a cow hooked up to a machine it really is quick, easy and handy!

I started out with a Haaka. This pump creates a kind of vacuum on the breast and can be used hands-free; many women have a lot of success with it. I found it useful for releasing milk when I was super engorged in the early days but it took far too long to drain the entire breast and as I only had one it took double the time of the hospital electric pump.

When later looking up the price of an electric pump I initially only considered Medela (as this was what the hospital used) but there was no way I could afford the price tag! I opted to buy a manual Medela pump called ‘Harmony’ as in the back of my mind I still thought we’d nail breastfeeding and didn’t want to waste money. This pump was pretty good but having to use my hand over and over again meant a serious risk of repetitive strain injury!

After about 3 weeks still trying to breastfeed, Isaac was getting grumpy and not gaining enough weight (plus my supply was way down!) It got to the critical point where if I didn’t exclusively pump then we’d be on formula- no harm in this but as I was blessed with choice I wanted to use breastmilk.

After some extensive Googling my husband and I decided to buy the BellaBaby double electric breast pump. It had excellent reviews and was only £40 so our attitude was very much ‘if it breaks we’ll buy another’. Well, here I am 3 months later pumping with it right now as I type and I couldn’t be more impressed!

This double electric pump has four different suction settings to mimic a baby’s sucking and even uses a massage setting so you don’t have to ‘prep the breast’ before use! I find I can hook it into my nursing bra which is helpful and it only takes 10 minutes for me to drain both breasts (simultaneously) and express around 150-200ml a time. Generally this has been plenty for Isaac who drinks around 150ml per feed. I store excess milk in the freezer in these handy Medela storage bags so when he has a particularly hungry day I always have some spare to hand.

I express around 6 times a day so, taking just an hour out of my day, it really has been a life-saver. This portable little pump has all the strength of the hospital-grade ones and is battery operated. I charge it once a day for about 2 hours and I’m good to go.

I hope this helps to ease any expressing concerns you may have and gives you an honest, first-hand review of what works well.

In my next blog post I will be detailing my easy daily sterilising routine and the bottles and sterilising equipment I use!