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?

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!

‘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:

Process:

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!

The universal love of Sophie la girafe!

Sophie la girafe was first created in 1961 and continues to be an incredibly popular teething toy throughout Europe.

Not understanding what all the fuss was about I joined the millions and bought Isaac a ‘Sophie’ before he was born. Lo and behold he loves her!

There’s something about the size and shape, unusual rubber texture and not-too-annoying ‘squeak’ that certainly appeals to both babies and parents. She takes a cute photo too!

My baby is not yet teething but I predict Sophie will be even more of a Godsend when that world of fun begins!

You can get your own for less than £15 on Amazon. Let me know how you get on!

He slept through the night!

I’m a chuffed and unashamedly smug mummy today as our baby has slept through the night at 11 weeks old!

How did this happen though? More importantly, how can I keep it happening?!

My thoughts are that the following contributed:

  1. A relaxing bath before bedtime (about 7pm)
  2. A proper feed rather than late night snack. Isaac had 140ml just before bedtime and a good burping to follow!
  3. Dim lighting and the ‘white noise’ from Percy the Penguin – a highly recommended sleep saviour!
  4. The comfort of a 1 Tog 0-6 month gro-bag, in our case ‘Bennie the Bear

While I can’t be sure this is what did it, our calm bedtime routine usually helps him settle nicely. I would also usually read a story but last night Isaac was too zonked even for that!

Isaac has really improved with his self-soothing. He often wakes and has a little grumble at about 2am but now I can usually just touch his face and calmly tell him “its not quite time for milk, try and have a little more sleep” and it works! Of course, I wouldn’t ignore him if he were actually screaming!

Is this lovely night’s sleep a one-off? Quite possibly! I’ll have to watch this space…

In the meantime I would love to hear from other parents regarding your own experiences or bedtime strategies for a good night’s sleep. Please comment below!

Percy Penguin – my hero!

Our baby has slept well since birth (sorry!) but we feel this is certainly in part due to his sleeping pal, Percy. Created by the Gro-Company, Percy and a range of other animals have been designed to aid sleep by peacefully playing lullabies, white noise, rain sounds and even heartbeats to remind baby of life in the womb. I am a big fan of the little nightlight that comes on from pressing his foot as this ensures my fumbling about in the night does not end in an accident, while being dim enough to keep baby sleepy and calm.

We were fortunate enough to have Percy given to us but would buy one ourselves without hesitation! At under £25 on Amazon, it is a no-brainer that will not only save your brain but also your relationship with your baby and partner!