Attachment Parenting: Bonding with Baby

With a myriad of parenting choices available to us all, it can be difficult to establish which one will work best for you. Often it is a case of trial and error, and armed with all available information it is up to you as parents to decide what works best for you and your family.

An increasingly popular parenting choice for many new families is ‘attachment parenting’. This style of parenting focuses on the connection that can be built between a child and his parents and is often viewed as an excellent way to bring up children to be empathetic, secure and independent as well as enabling them to grow into understanding, caring and rounded adults.

What is Attachment Parenting?

The philosophy of attachment parenting revolves around giving you, as parents the tools that you need to provide a nurturing environment for your child in which their direct and indirect needs are understood and consistently responded to. It involves treating your child with respect, kindness and dignity so as to build a long lasting relationship – or attachment – rather than rejecting their needs, leaving a divide between you both.

  • Attachment parenting builds and strengthens an emotional connection between parent and child.
  • A child who feels secure will be more likely to become an independent and confident adult.
  • Parents’ should respond to their child in a physical, verbal and emotional way when they are sick, upset, scared, tired or worried.
  • Children who trust their parents when they are growing up will learn to trust others in their lives and have the confidence to explore their environment.

Attachment Parenting Practices

There are certain practices that are available to those parents who choose attachment parenting, but remember that this is not a check list that needs to be strictly adhered to. Attachment parenting is a lifestyle choice and as such has the ability to be moulded to your family’s specific situation. Some of the practices of attachment parenting include:

Breastfeeding: Recent statistics published by UNICEF show that in 2010, 81% of newborn babies were being breastfed. (http://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/about-baby-friendly/breastfeeding-in-the-uk/uk-breastfeeding-rates/) Breastfeeding is an excellent way of making an initial bond with your baby and taking the first steps to getting to know him. As he grows, you will be able to read his cues and body language and reinforce your bond. Breastfeeding not only provides your baby with every single nutrient he needs to grow and develop in his first few months, but also stimulates your body to produce oxytocin and prolactin (also known as the mothering hormone).

Baby-Wearing: Wearing or carrying your baby helps them to learn from you, gain confidence and be reassured. Evidence shows that carried babies are less likely to cry than non-carried babies, often reducing their crying by over 50%. (http://wrapsodybaby.com/babywearing-resources/baby-wearing-myths-vs-facts/). Baby-wearing also improves the sensitivity of you, as a parent. You get to know your baby very well and will really enjoy understanding their needs and wishes from a very early age.

Co-Sleeping: If you work during the day or do not get to spend as much time as you would like with your child then co-sleeping is an excellent way to reconnect with them. However, it is important to remember that the best sleeping arrangement is one that sees all the family getting the best night’s sleep. For babies, night time can be an unfamiliar and scary experience. Co-sleeping can help to relax and reassure them, helping them to sleep soundly. It is also beneficial to breastfeeding, as your baby has access to the breast whenever he needs it.

Understanding Your Baby’s Cry: Getting to know your baby means getting to know his cries. You will very soon realise that he has a different cry for each situation. Responding to those cries quickly and sensitively will help to build your relationship. Not only will your baby be comforted by you, you will learn to trust your mothering instincts when it comes to what your child wants or needs.

The Benefits of Attachment Parenting

It may be slightly overwhelming when reading through the practices of attachment parenting and wondering if it really is something that you can incorporate into your life, especially with all the stresses of bringing home your newborn. Thankfully, the benefits of this type of parenting will last a lifetime; so just remember that if you want it, you can achieve it and seeing your happy, content baby growing up to be an inquisitive and confident toddler and a respectful and independent child will reassure you that you made the right decision. For a little extra incentive, here are some of the advantages of attachment parenting:

  • Promoting independence: Attachment parenting will nurture your child’s mind. With the right tools, your child will develop a strong bond between you which will also help to provide a secure base upon which to explore the unfamiliar and gain confidence and independence.
  • Improving behaviour: An attached baby will cry less, be less fussy and less clingy. This all comes from how the baby feels and whether they feel valued and cared for. If your baby feels good then they will act and behave well; they will not need to ‘act up’ to get what they need, they will already have it.
  • Improving development: If your baby is not crying as much, then what are they doing in their ‘free time’? Well the answer is – they are learning. And with more time to learn, they are able to develop effectively and become more receptive to learning.

Follow Your Own Parenting Instincts

It is true that many parents begin to follow the principles of attachment parenting, not because they have researched and invested in it, but because they are just doing what comes naturally to them and their baby. The key to becoming a loving, caring and successful parent is to be relaxed, calm and receptive; so remember this throughout motherhood and your children will grow up to be happy and health members of the family.

 

Choosing birth preferences

During pregnancy, we are focused. On our body, our emotions and our health. And as our body changes, so do our emotions (sometimes on an hourly basis thanks to hormones!) and it’s likely that our health needs change somewhat too. Growing another human is a huge undertaking and one that must not be under-estimated. Give yourself credit for the amazing thing you are doing! But don’t forget that at the end of this pregnancy, comes the birth. Sounds silly, but many women focus on the day to day challenges of pregnancy, but when it comes to the birth not a lot of consideration is given to the logistics of it all. Then there are the women who give it a lot of thought indeed! It’s important to keep things in perspective, which is why writing a birth plan is often suggested. But instead of writing a plan that may not be kept, how about simply choosing your birth preferences instead?

Choose preferences, don’t plan

When we make plans, we often set ourselves up for failure if they go awry. And during pregnancy, labour and birth, nothing is set in stone. Childbirth cannot be predicted. We cannot know how labour will progress nor how baby will react. Unpredictable events cannot be planned for! So, writing a birth plan may seem like a sensible thing to do (and for many it is!) but it could be an idea instead to choose birth preferences that fit in with your expectations?

To be informed is essential, and if you are armed with all the knowledge of what is happening to your body, and what will happen during birth then you are in a better position all round. Knowledge is power, as they say, and being in the know will help you to feel more in control too. But remember that your baby does not know about your plans. No matter how well you have researched your ideal birth- you will still need to be flexible. So writing down your birth preferences makes a lot more sense than writing a plan, don’t you think? And when you do, you might find there is more that you can control than you originally thought…

Let go of the fear

It’s normal to feel fear and anxiety about birth. Television and films tell us that it is going to hurt, and depending on what book you read many of the experts agree. But it is up to you how you channel that pain. If you decide that you want to take pain relief when you’re in labour, research the different medicines that are available at your hospital. Make sure you know what each one does and what the side effects are, and write down your preferences. If you decide you will handle events differently, look into other ways to manage the pain and reduce fear and anxiety- hypnobirthing is excellent for this and we’ve already written a quick guide that you can refer to.

The most important thing is to release the fear, and you can do this by:

  • Read some birth stories. Fear of the unknown is destroyed if you know what is in store for you.
  • Talk about it. Let your partner and your midwife know how you are feeling, and ask questions too.

Make sure that you address your fears before you write your birth preferences and make sure that whatever it is that is causing anxiety is out in the open as soon as possible. The saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ really is true!

Create a positive birth environment

Another thing to consider when you write your preferences- where you are going to give birth. And how can you make it as positive as possible? Whether you opt to have your baby at home, a midwife led unit or in hospital, it has to be the right decision for you. And there are ways that you can make it a positive environment for you. Consider the following:

  • Lighting. Some women like to have candles to help create a calm and relaxing environment. Some hospitals can dim the lights for you and it’s worth knowing that bright lights can actually inhibit the progress of labour, so make it clear in your preferences how you want your lighting controlled.
  • Your sense of smell is very powerful and the aromas that you choose to have around you as you give birth are important too. Soft, pleasant and nurturing scents such as vanilla can help you to relax and are a lot nicer to smell than hospital antiseptic smells! Have some scented massage oil to hand and ask your partner to apply some when you need it.
  • Lots of women find listening to music during labour extremely relaxing, so if you have preferences make sure you bring your own music.
  • Food and drinks. During labour, you will need lots of energy to see you through your task in hand, so make a list of the types of food and drink you want- and the types you definitely don’!

When you write your birth preferences, discuss them with your partner so that you are both clear about the things you’d like to be in place when the day arrives- but remember that they are just preferences. Nobody knows what is going to happen, and if you are happy to remain flexible then you are more likely to retain control of the situation.

 

 

 

Bathing a newborn baby

Babies don’t come with instruction manuals, unfortunately, and no matter how many parenting books we read, or how much advice we’re given from well-meaning friends and families, there can be times where it all seems a little daunting. Caring for a tiny, helpless human being can be overwhelming sometimes! Remember that we all feel that way now and then, whether this is your first baby or your third. And often it is the smaller tasks that can seem the most tricky when you’re tired and emotional. One such task is the newborn bath. It’s not always as easy as it looks, but there are steps you can take to make sure that it goes as smoothly as possible. Here is our very quick guide to bathing a newborn baby- we hope it helps!

How often to bathe?

There are mixed opinions on this. Officially, newborn babies do not need to be bathed every day, and its recommended that you wait until they are at least a few days old before giving them their first one. If you have your baby in hospital, the staff there might help you with the first bath, or you may prefer to wait until you get home. Either way, for the first week or so you can just ‘top and tail’ (we’ll explain more in a moment) before moving on to bathing. And then it is up to you, and your baby. Some families use bath time as an essential part of their bedtime routine so they bathe baby every day, some families prefer to alternate with every other day. If your baby loves the warm water and finds it soothing etc then there is no reason at all why you can’t make a bath part of your daily routine too. Remember that newborn babies do not get ‘dirty’ in the same way as toddlers so a daily bath is not a necessity if you don’t have time, or prefer to simply wash baby in between baths.

Top and Tail

So called because you are simply washing baby from top to tail, without the need for a bath. Here’s how to do it:

  • Prepare everything before you start. Make sure you have a warm towel and nappy changing items to hand, plus all you need to dress and feed baby afterwards.
  • Make sure the temperature of the room is warm so that baby doesn’t get cold.
  • Fill a bowl or sink with clean, warm water. Check the temperature to make sure that it isn’t too hot or too cold.
  • Undress baby and place her on a warm, dry towel. Some babies will protest at this point, so be as reassuring as you can- and work as quickly as you can without appearing rushed or frantic. Your baby will pick up on any urgency you project so keep calm and composed!
  • Topping: wash baby’s face gently with cotton wool dipped in the warm water. Start with the eyes, wiping once from the corner of the eye near the nose, outwards. Always use just one piece of cotton wool for one wipe, to prevent potentially spreading infections. Next, move on to the ears- wipe gently with cotton wool, and then around the outside of the ears. Don’t wipe inside the ears. Use new pieces of cotton wool to then clean baby’s face, neck creases and hands.
  • Tail: Baby’s genitals and bottom need to be thoroughly cleaned. Do this by using a very mild organic liquid soap in the water, and cotton wool.

It’s a good idea to top and tail baby daily if you aren’t bathing her daily, or just on the days in between. Baby’s bottom and genitals will need cleaning after every nappy change.

Bathing your baby

Again, it is up to you how often you bathe your baby and as long as you are both comfortable with it there is no reason why it can’t be daily. There is no need to wait for baby’s umbilical cord stump to dry and fall off; but you do need to let it dry properly after the bath. Here are some tips to make bath time easier:

  • Get everything prepared. Place a towel on the floor for baby to lie on as you undress her, and for afterwards. Have clothes, nappy changing items and everything you need for a feed to hand. It’s also a good idea to have a folded towel or a kneeler for you too.
  • Make sure the temperature of the room is warm.
  • Fill a baby bath with warm water and use your soothing and settling baby bedtime bath wash too if you like.
  • Ask someone to help you if you’re feeling nervous, especially at first. Babies can be wriggly and slippery when wet!
  • Undress your baby, and wrap her in the towel while you clean the face, as you would in a top and tail.
  • You will need two hands to lower baby into the bath. Place one arm around the shoulders and neck, holding baby’s outside arm with your hand. Then place your other hand under the bottom and lower her gently into the bath.
  • When baby is securely resting on the bottom of the bath, remove that hand and use if for washing.
  • Using your hands, scoop warm water onto your baby’s body slowly, ensuring that she is warm at all times.
  • When baby is ready (and it may only be a five minute affair at first) gently lift her out and wrap her in your towel. Don’t rub her dry, gently pat her body and hold her close until she is warm, dry and ready to be dressed.

Lots of babies enjoy a feed straight after the bath so now is the time for you to both sit back, relax and spend time together. Hopefully baby will be nicely relaxed, clean and happy. Good luck!

Gentle sleep tips for toddlers

Does your toddler sleep through the night? Most do, but if your answer is a very firm ‘no’ then rest assured you’re not alone! Every child is different and they all reach certain milestones at different stages; your toddler might just need a little more persuasion than others about the joy of staying in bed at night time! That said, broken nights that drag on longer than two years can be incredibly draining and no doubt there have been days where you’ve felt you just cannot make it through to bedtime… We feel your pain. Here are some gentle sleep tips for toddlers that will hopefully help you and your toddler to get a better night’s sleep sooner rather than later.

Why the gentle approach?

 Toddlers can be fickle little things at the best of times, and by the age of around 18 months or so any habit that they’ve formed will no doubt be very well formed indeed! Translated as- you might not find it easy to persuade them to break their habit of waking. By taking a gentle approach, you can make small progressions towards that full night’s sleep without disturbing or upsetting your toddler, or yourself. Gentle sleep training relies on working with your child’s needs and emotions in at the forefront of your mind. You allow your toddler to lead the way and you gently teach them independent sleep habits to replace their old habits.

Understanding sleep issues

 Hopefully your toddler is able to talk to you and tell you why they’re waking at night times. Take some time to talk to them and ask them why, and explain why it’s a good idea for them to stay in bed to sleep at night times. It might be that your toddler reveals something that can be easily rectified- perhaps they’re missing a comforter or teddy bear, or perhaps it’s a fear of the dark preventing them from falling back to sleep when they wake.

Make sure your bedtime routine is calm

 A calm and peaceful bedtime routine will work wonders for your toddler’s night sleep. And consistency is key here. Try to do your routine at the same time each night, with everything in the same order so that your toddler knows what to expect and when.

What to do if your toddler struggles to fall asleep

 Sometimes it’s going to bed that poses the problem for toddlers. If you spend longer than you like putting your toddler to bed, and longer still traipsing up and down the stairs before they finally settle, then maybe these tips will help you:

  • Agree to a bedtime that suits the whole family (and not just your toddler!) and stick to it. Let your toddler have a say if they’re old enough, so that they feel an element of control.
  • Agree on a bedtime routine with your toddler, and stick to it so that there is no confusion as to when they’re expected to get into bed.
  • Make sure your toddler’s bedroom is dim, and at the right temperature for sleep.
  • If your toddler wants you to stay after the lights go out, this is fine for the first few nights. And if they call you after you’ve left the room, always make sure you go back into comfort them.
  • If your toddler needs to you to stay while they fall asleep, then make sure you stay until they are definitely asleep- they will check!
  • After a few nights, gradually reduce the length of time that you spend in the room, until your toddler is confident enough to fall asleep independently.

The aim here is to eventually put your toddler to bed, turn out the lights and go downstairs to put your feet up!

What to do if your toddler wakes in the night

If your toddler wakes through the night, the first thing you need to do is try and determine why. Is the room too hot, or too cold? Are they thirsty? Try to eliminate as many reasons as possible. Then repeat your gentle sleep training techniques as already described, until your toddler falls asleep again. It’s worth noting here that if your toddler wakes and asks to come into your bed with you, that’s fine to do- as long as you’re happy to bed share and you are able to do it safely. Read these guidelines to make sure you’re safe.

Remember that it’s important to stay positive with your toddler, and to celebrate every small achievement in this journey. They will develop better sleeping habits eventually, and while these days seem long we promise they will be relatively short-lived in the grand scheme of things. Good luck!

 

Your natural medicine cabinet

When it comes to the health of your little ones, it goes without saying that you want to do only the best for them. And while this does mean your family doctor is likely to be the most trusted source of advice and information, that doesn’t mean that you can’t remedy some ailments yourself at home. We love the idea of creating an all-natural medicine cabinet, and today’s post has lots of tips and information on how to create one yourself. Of course, please do always seek professional medical advice when your little one is not well; this post is not intended to be a replacement for medical attention. However, if you are interested in natural remedies, here is a quick guide to creating your natural medicine cabinet.

What is natural medicine?

Natural medicine is, put simply, a practice whereby herbs are used to treat ailments and illnesses in place of prescription medicines. It’s important to have a sound understanding of natural medicines, and if in doubt always seek professional advice. When you buy herbal treatments, check the label for the words Traditional Herbal Registration because this means that the product you’re using has been assessed against safety standards. It’s also worth noting that you should seek advice if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and when using with children.

Top ten items for your natural medicine cabinet

If you are informed and ready to start, here are our top ten items to include in your natural medicine cabinet:

Vitamin C. surely the greatest weapon against coughs, colds and illnesses. Vitamin C can be found in lots of natural sources, but if you keep some powdered versions handy in your cabinet, you will be fully equipped as soon as the first signs of illness strike.

Peppermint essential oil. A wonderful resource to have in your medicine cabinet as it can be very effective in treating nausea, headaches and muscle aches. It’s also fantastic for reducing fevers when rubbed (diluted) onto children’s feet.

Chamomile for soothing, calming and relaxing. Great in teas, and wonderful in the bath. Chamomile can be used to treat minor skin conditions and can help babies to sleep too.

Lavender can be used in many ways, often in conjunction with chamomile, and is wonderful for calming and soothing too. Lavender essential oil can be used to treat wounds and relieve pain and is great for helping little ones to relax at bedtime too.

Eucalyptus essential oil is wonderful to use when your little ones have a cold as it is known to soothe the lungs and clear congestion. It also has antibacterial and antiviral properties.

Saline spray can help to unblock little noses and relieve congestion during cold season, and is suitable for the smallest of babies too.

Ginger is a must have for any natural medicine cabinet. Ginger capsules are wonderful for upset tummies and an effective treatment for heartburn, nausea, indigestion too. Ginger can also be beneficial for children suffering from travel sickness, and for easing symptoms of nausea during pregnancy.

Arnica is great for treating bruises and trauma to the body because it reduces healing time and soothes sore muscles right after an injury.

Coconut oil is one of life’s little miracles. There are SO many uses for this wonderful stuff and aside from tasting great when used in cooking, coconut oil can be used to moisturise skin, hair and nails- as well as treat nappy rash, minor skin conditions and chapped lips.

Raw organic honey- not only does it taste great, but its health benefits can be utilised in other ways too. Use to treat minor burns and grazes on the skin, or use it to moisturise minor skin conditions too. Honey and ginger in hot water is also great for relieving symptoms of nausea too.

Guide to using your natural medicine cabinet

Keen to get started with your natural medicine cabinet? Here are some tips to help you:

  • As with all other medications, keep your natural medicine cabinet out the reach of children, and make sure you check the contents regularly. Use with caution and always seek professional medical guidance when illnesses occur.
  • Stock up gradually. Your cabinet will probably never hold everything you want or need to treat ailments and illnesses, so don’t try to fill it all at once. Read up carefully as and when you need to treat a condition and make an informed choice each time you add a new natural remedy.
  • Slowly replace over the counter remedies with your natural choices, so that the expense of doing so is not a major blow. Often herbal remedies can be pricey, but they are more guaranteed to last longer and be more effective in the long run.
  • Read up on recipes that you can follow to make your own medicines.

 

Three Self Care Tips for Dealing With Postnatal Anxiety

When you have a new baby, there is so much excitement and so much love surrounding you. You have visitors, cards, phone calls and emails congratulating you, and not to mention the gifts! So many gifts! New mums are literally inundated with well wishes and this is a lovely thing to happen. The thing is though, that while this honeymoon period doesn’t last, it can be rather overwhelming. And with all the well wishes and joy that a new baby brings, let’s not forget the hormones that are still raging around your body too. All of this can make for a confusing mix of emotions, to say the least. Many people are well versed with the prospect of the so-called ‘baby blues’, but what if there is something else going on too? Recent studies have found that postnatal anxiety is more common than previously assumed, so what help is out there for women who are suffering? 

 What is postnatal anxiety?

Postnatal anxiety is not as rare as you might think. Sometimes the emotions that flood you after your baby is born can be transferred into feelings of worry and anxiety, and this is absolutely and completely 100% normal. We new mums are supposed to worry about our babies. This is a natural instinct and the reason why the human race has managed to survive for so long. After all, our babies are helpless and if we didn’t worry about them they wouldn’t last too long at all. So some degree of worry is completely normal and to be expected. It’s when the worry turns to anxiety that starts to impact on everyday life that help is needed.

 If you think you are experiencing postnatal anxiety it is really important to seek some help. It might be that simply talking through your fears can be a huge help, or it might be that alternative treatment is needed. Sometimes medications are used, but for many women counselling sessions can help immensely. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to seeking help; hopefully your health visitor will notice that you are experiencing anxiety and will offer help sooner rather than later. But if no help is forthcoming, requesting someone to talk to is an important first step to take.

 Self-care

 It may be a bit of a buzz word at the moment, but there is a reason why self-care is gaining in popularity right now. We are the masters of our own destiny, or so they say, after all. If you are experiencing anxiety, there are things that you can do to help control those feelings. It’s easy to forget about your own needs when you have a small baby to take care of, but honestly putting your needs at the forefront of your mind now and then will certainly benefit you and your baby so please don’t neglect yourself. Here are three self-care tips we swear by- I hope they help you too.

 Stay active

When you’re a new mum, it might feel like you are always on your feet, and the lack of sleep at night can be a killer during the day. Exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing but studies have found that exercise is actually one of nature’s most powerful remedies for low mood and anxiety.

Just 15 minutes of activity a day can help to soothe the mind and boost the surge of powerful endorphins that will lift your mood and clear some of the fog. And if you’re doing something for YOU, that is going to lift your mood too. You don’t need to book yourself into the gym either. Go for a walk with the pram, or practise some peaceful yoga while the baby sleeps. Ask someone else to take the baby while you go for a walk, if you’re comfortable with that. There are so many ways that you can keep active – for more information visit this site.

Sleep

Sleep can be a huge factor when it comes to anxiety, and especially when you have a new baby. It’s not easy, but making sleep a priority for yourself as well as for your baby is vital. If you’re having trouble sleeping make sure you speak to your GP for advice, and if you can sleep when baby sleeps then please do. It’s also a good idea to speak to your partner about sharing some of the night feeds too.

 Keep a journal

Sometimes, as a new mum it’s easy to feel a little invisible. Once baby is born, focus shifts on to them and away from you and it’s easier to tell people that you feel fine rather than the truth- that you are finding things hard. So many women find it hard to ask for help or to admit that they’re struggling. If this is you, keeping a journal might help. Sometimes writing down our worries and concerns can help us to feel more in control of our emotions, and help us to see solutions for problems that can seem overwhelming. You can also try gratitude journals or achievements journals that can help with feelings of low self esteem too.

Remember that you’re not alone. If you’re suffering, please do speak out and ask for help.

Introducing solid foods to your baby

For at least the first six months of your baby’s life, the only nutrition she needs comes in the form of milk, whether it is from the breast or the bottle. Breast milk is tailored to your baby’s needs and each feed provides your her with the essential vitamins, minerals and antibodies that she needs to remain healthy and strong. Similarly, formula milks are designed to provide your baby with all that she needs until solid foods are introduced. After six months, your baby’s digestive system is ready to try something a little different- and that is where the fun really begins! Not sure where to start? Read our guide on introducing solid foods to your baby.

Time it right

Your baby will start to show signs that she is ready to be weaned onto solid food, but it’s important to time it right. Your baby is not a robot; she may be ready for solid food slightly before the age of six months, or much later than this. Let yourself be guided by her, and not by what other people are doing with their babies. It is certainly wise to follow guidelines that recommend solid food is not introduced until the age of six months, but if you do have any questions speak to your doctor or health visitor who will be able to advise you. In general, the signs that your baby is ready for solid food are:

● Baby shows an interest in food and watches people as they eat
● Baby is able to hold up her head independently, and to sit up in a chair without support
● Baby is able to chew and swallow

Babyled weaning

If you’re certain that your baby is ready to move on to solid foods, it’s worth doing a little research into babyled weaning. Before the World Health Organisation amended their guidelines to recommend weaning begins no earlier than six months, the age that most parents introduced solid foods was four months. At that age, babies were being fed pureed food, which requires very little chewing. Since guidelines were amended, experts have come to believe that babyled weaning is actually a lot more beneficial for baby, and that by the age of six months your baby has developed significant skills that mean she is now able to chew lumpier food.

What is babyled weaning?

Babyled weaning, put simply, means to follow your baby’s lead when it comes to the whole weaning process. Allowing baby to pick and choose foods she wants to eat, and taking a step back in the process. It is a way of nurturing her self-confidence and encouraging healthy eating habits from the very beginning. It is often a concept that lots of parents struggle with initially, as it means providing foods for your baby that traditionally might not have otherwise been on the menu. It requires a fair amount of patience and understanding on your part, as most meals will see you presenting your baby with a selection of foods that she then picks and chooses from. Some foods she will eat- with gusto!- and some she will not. The temptation will be there to try and feed her yourself, but babyled weaning is all about allowing your baby to lead the way, and to feed herself with the foods that she wants to eat.

The benefits of babyled weaning

Lots of research has gone into weaning, and babyled weaning in particular. Studies have found that there are huge benefits in allowing your baby to take control of the whole weaning process, and they include:

● Babies learn the process of eating a lot more quickly when they are given ‘proper’ food over purees. With pureed food, babies learn to swallow food without lumps and sometimes display resistance when more textured foods are introduced. Babies who are given lumpier foods learn to chew and swallow simultaneously, thus eliminating these issues.
● Babyled weaning often means that baby is exposed to a wider range of foods; this helps to encourage a healthy attitude towards food and eating.
● Babyled weaning helps to encourage an enjoyment of food and eating, and gives baby confidence to try new foods. If baby is having fun, she is learning and she is more likely to dig in and enjoy her meals. She is also likely to transfer that confidence to other areas of development too.
● Allowing your baby to choose the foods she wants to eat, and celebrating her enjoyment at mealtimes makes for happier parents too. Babyled weaning often means that the frustration of feeding an unwilling infant is never an issue at the dinner table!
● Babyled weaning helps to develop healthy eating habits in the sense that baby will only eat when she is hungry, rather than when she is expected to. This can be frustrating at first, but in the long run it is better for baby to be in control and to eat when her body requires fuel, rather than eating when she is not ready to do so.
● Babyled weaning helps to develop and fine tune gross and fine motor skills as baby is doing all the work herself. These skills are essential for your baby’s development.
● The process of chewing means that baby is preparing facial muscles for speaking, and chewing effectively means that nutrients in her food are being broken down and absorbed fully into her body too.
● Babyled weaning means that baby is able to integrate herself into family meals easily. Often, dinner time is an occasion where many families sit and talk and interact at the end of a busy day. It’s a huge deal for your baby to be a part of this!

How to get started

Before you start to wean your baby onto solid foods, please do check that your baby is ready, and speak to your health visitor or doctor if you’re not sure. There really is no rush, and for the first twelve months of her life, your baby will get most nutrients from milk anyway. The initial stages of weaning are more about exploring new tastes and textures, and introducing new foods as supplements rather than replacements for breast or formula feeds. Here are some tips on getting started:

● Stay calm. Don’t worry unnecessarily about whether or not your baby is going to enjoy trying new foods, and don’t panic if she doesn’t seem interested at all. As long as you offer milk feeds alongside solid foods, she is getting enough to eat.
● Trust your baby. She may not want to try new foods at first, so it helps to remember that this is all very new to her. Take your time and allow your baby to guide you.
● Prepare baby’s food into small, bite-size pieces- but not too small! As her fine motor skills are still developing, she will use her fists to pick up her food, so foods that stick to a spoon or that are stick shaped are perfect.
● Never leave baby unattended during feeds. Make sure that you supervise your baby at all times, and especially when she is trying solid foods. Research has shown that babyled weaning does not pose any extra risks when it comes to choking and the key factor here is to remember that your baby will learn quickly that she needs to chew in order to break down her food. That means you need to remain vigilant while she is learning to eat.
● Don’t be afraid of the gag reflex! This does not mean that your baby is choking, and is a very natural part of the learning process for your baby.
● Start slowly. Introduce one new food at a time, and take note of how your baby reacts. It’s also worth checking baby for any adverse reactions to each food too, and if you notice anything speak to your doctor straight away. Leave three days before you introduce another new food so that you can be 100% sure that your baby is ok with each new taste.
● Introduce new foods early in the day, so that any reactions can be dealt with. This also helps with foods that may cause wind for your baby- if you feed her in the morning, she has all day to pass the wind and hopefully night time sleep will not be affected.
● Prepare for a change in nappies! Not pleasant, but your baby’s digestive system is going to have to work a little harder to deal with new foods, so make allowances for this at first. It can take a few days to settle down and if your baby has trouble you can help her with some gentle baby massage techniques. Wait at least an hour after her meal, and stop if she appears to be in any discomfort at all.
● Allow your baby to play with her food. The exploration is such an important part of the process and the messier it is, the better the experience will be. Place a plastic mat under her chair and let her get stuck in. You can worry about cleaning up later!
● Make sure baby has a drink to help the food go down.
● After feeding, always check baby’s mouth to make sure there is no food tucked away in her cheeks.

If you choose to follow babyled weaning when introducing your baby to solid foods, try to resist the temptation to feed her yourself, especially when it comes to messier foods such as yogurt. The idea is that babies learn the independence and self feeding skills as the same time as they explore new tastes and textures, and this is important. When a baby feeds herself, she is in control of how she moves the food around her mouth, and she will lose that control if you take over for her. Trust your baby.

First foods to try

Some good examples of first foods to introduce your baby to:

● Cooked sticks of carrot, celery, broccoli or potatoes
● bananas
● avocadoes
● Cooked pasta
● Cheese
● Breadsticks, toast soldiers, bread cut into sticks
● Pieces of cooked meat or fish
● Chopped hard boiled egg

Combating Colic

If having a new baby means sleepless nights coupled with seemingly unending screaming for hours on end, chances are high that your little one could be suffering from colic. And it’s safe to say that colic in babies can be a very distressing time for you and your little one. Looking after a newborn is hard enough, as you work hard to get to know them (and they you) and to decipher their cries so that you can meet their needs. But having your baby scream and cry for hours at a time can be very hard to deal with, and upsetting for all concerned too. Please rest assured that you are not alone, and that there are indeed natural remedies you can try to help your baby with colic.

How do you know it’s colic?

Colic usually occurs between the ages of around three weeks to three months of age, and usually takes place in the late afternoon, evening or at night. Classic symptoms of colic include baby being hard to comfort (when through the day you are able to easily comfort and settle them) and appearing to be in pain or discomfort. Of course, the continuous crying is often the most telling of symptoms, and the one that has most parents tearing their hair out in an attempt to soothe.

What causes colic?

There are theories that suggest colic is caused by air bubbles trapped in the baby’s immature digestive system, which cause baby pain and discomfort. Some doctors will recommend keeping baby upright after feeds and ensuring you wind baby thoroughly to try and relieve trapped wind. Some parents will tell you that very little seems to comfort them at all.

How can I tell if my baby has colic?

If any of the above has you nodding your head in grim recognition, then you may want to check the following symptoms too:
● excessive crying that usually starts at the same time every day
● crying begins when baby is a few weeks old and lasts for a few months
● baby is otherwise very healthy
● baby pulls their legs up to the chest, tightens abdomen muscles and clenches their fists. Babies face may also appear red and contorted in pain.

Be aware that while all babies cry- that’s how they communicate, after all- excessive crying is not usual and is worth investigating. If you are sure that baby is clean, warm, fed and rested but still crying a lot them there is a very good chance colic is to blame.

Colic can be a frightening time for new parents, particularly if you’re unable to soothe baby. Seeing your child in pain is not a pleasant experience, and feeling helpless can lead to frustration and upset. But it’s worth mentioning here that colic is not caused by you having done anything wrong. And it does help to talk to other parents who are going through similar- it’s estimated that colic affects nearly 25% of all babies in the UK, so you are not alone, even if it feels otherwise.

Natural remedies for Colic

Many parents will turn to medicine for help with colic, but there are natural ways that you can help your little one too. Here are some top tips and natural remedies to help ease the symptoms:

● Homeopathy. Such remedies have been used for over two centuries, and with very good reason too. They work. For colic, Magnesia Phosphorica (Mag Phos) is most commonly recommended because it has a soothing effect on cramps. One tablet dissolved in milk and given to baby straight after a feed can offer huge relief from pain and discomfort, and for babies that are breastfed mother can take two tablets three times a day (after meals) so ensure that the remedy is passed to baby through the milk.
● Diet. A mother’s breastfeeding diet is essential in helping to ease baby’s symptoms of colic, and is often the first thing we think of in such cases. Although there really isn’t a known list of foods that should be eliminated from the mother’s diet, there are some foods that are commonly known to aggravate colic and should therefore be avoided. These include dairy, eggs, nuts, soya, caffeine and gluten. Spicy foods are also thought to be best avoided and some women swear that too many carbohydrates such as bread and pasta can also make baby a little more unsettled too. Drinking chamomile tea is a wonderful way to ease symptoms of colic, as it is passed through to baby through the milk and is known for its soothing properties.
● Herbal tea. Studies have found that herbal teas containing chamomile, fennel and lemon balm can significantly reduce symptoms of colic and it’s easy to make a similar version with chamomile and fennel yourself at home. Place half a teaspoon of the herbs in one cup on boiling water. Cover and steep for five to ten minutes, then strain. Once cool you can give baby a few teaspoons. Additionally, breastfeeding mothers can drink the tea and pass the benefits on to baby through the milk.
● Babywearing. Studies have long since shown that babies who are carried upright and close to a parent tend to cry less. Babywearing means carrying baby for long periods of time throughout the day, and it is this that reaps the benefits, rather than short periods of carrying baby to soothe them. Babywearing parents tend to carry their infants for several hours a day, before baby begins to cry and fuss. There is a theory that babies with colic display these symptoms due to disorganised biorhythms that were once regulated by the mother’s body during pregnancy. Once on the outside, these biorhythms are disrupted, but babywearing allows for a reconnection to occur. Babywearing helps to emulate conditions in the womb by providing warmth and security and many believe that it can be hugely beneficial for babies suffering with colic.
● Avoid over stimulation. Some babies cannot cope with too much going on around them and find that excessive noise, lights and action leads to feelings of being unable to relax and unwind. Make sure that you provide lots of calm space for your baby to feel secure and confident during the day, and at night.
● See a chiropractor. Many parents believe that misalignment suffered during labour and birth can cause symptoms of colic, and a chiropractor is able to help with this. Make sure that your chiropractor has worked with infants before, as adjustments should only be very slight. None the less, treatment can help to ease pain and discomfort and make colic less likely too.
● Baby massage. We are huge advocates of baby massage, and truly believe that this is one wonderful way that you can help baby yourself at home. Baby massage can help to keep the digestive system working well and there are no expensive requirements either. Baby aromatherapy. Colic can be treated quite effectively by blending aromatherapy with baby massage oil. Add one teaspoon of organic sunflower oil to one drop of dill essential oil. Blend together and warm in the palm of your hand before applying to baby’s tummy during massage. Dill is well known for its abilities to ease indigestion and gastric upsets.

Postnatal tips for dads

Throughout pregnancy and on into the postnatal period, much of the family focus is on mother and baby. And rightly so- being pregnant and giving birth is a huge experience for a woman to go through, and with the physical exertion of giving birth, not to mention the abundance of hormones, the early weeks and months with a new baby can be filed with an immense pressure for mums. But what about dad? Your partner is likely to have been there with you every step of the way, but too often his needs are not considered when a new baby comes along. With that in mind, we’ve put together a few tips to help support and guide new dads through this time. Please let us know in the comments if you have any more postnatal tips for dads.

Dads need nurturing too

After the mammoth event that is pregnancy and birth, everyone deserves a little TLC and dads are no different. Pregnancy can be strange for dads as they are not directly involved with the growing bump, plus the labour and birth process is very much woman centered too. So it’s normal for dads to feel a little like they need to do more in the early days. Again, this can be difficult if mum is breastfeeding. It’s also important to remember that while mum is recovering from it all, dad may need to do the same.

New research has found that 38% of dads are concerned about their own mental health, and there are calls now to increase support for new dads. It is normal to feel a little ‘let down’ after all the anticipation of pregnancy and birth. Sleep deprivation doesn’t help either. So how can we nurture dads a little more, and ensure that they are able to fully support mum and enjoy life with their newborn baby?

● Strive to find a new routine. This is something that dad can get stuck into once baby arrives, and it will help you both to feel a little more ‘on top’ of the chaos that a new baby brings. Sometimes it helps dads to feel a little more part of the proceedings if they are able to take on new roles within the family- maybe doing the grocery, preparing baby’s bath at the end of the day, or giving the occasional bottle? Find a new routine that allows dad to get hands on with baby so that he can begin the bonding process too.
● Prepare for the sleepless nights. Sleep deprivation really is hard, and it can play havoc with your emotions whether you’re chock full of postnatal hormones or not. And for dad, returning to work on very little sleep can be really hard. Especially when you are also striving to be there for mum and take on extra duties at home. So get prepared. Go to bed a little earlier, and clear the next few weekends so that you can have some quality time doing very little. Take it in turns to sleep in.
● Support your partner as much as you can. Remember that she has been through a lot, and having a new baby to care for too is going to take some getting used to. There are tasks that dad can take on such bathing, washing, shopping, taking care of the older kids etc. Doing this will help the household to run a lot more smoothly and will help mum to recover a lot more quickly too.

Open up to your partner

Lots of dads feel that they are not ‘supposed’ to talk about how they feel. This is normal. But relationships are two way streets, and it’s important to acknowledge dad’s s feelings too. Take the time to talk to each other about how you’re feeling, and the things you’d like help with. Find new ways to work together to be stronger and more united with baby. Your family is so different now, but that’s not to say you cannot enjoy the new challenges life is now bringing!

Be kind to each other

Take the time to regularly praise each other, and to appreciate what each of you brings to the family. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. And be kind to each other. Having a new baby is enormous, and not many of us come out the other side completely unscathed. But having a new baby is also one of the most amazing things you will do together, so cherish this time- and each other.

Cloth nappies for beginners

When you first embark upon cloth nappies for your little one, it can seem a little daunting. There are whole communities out there dedicated towards educating parents about the benefits of reusable nappies, and often the terminology and types of nappies available can make your head swim! But don’t panic- here are some quick tips to help you, and a brief guide on cloth nappies for beginners.

Why choose cloth nappies?

Each year in the UK around 8 million nappies are thrown into landfill. Every year! And the plastic in those disposable nappies is thought to take hundreds of years to decompose. So when you think of the impact that disposable nappies are having on the environment, it doesn’t take much to convince some parents that the switch to reusable is a good idea. And although cloth nappies will mean an extra load in the washing machine, the impact that this will have on the environment is nowhere near the same.

Alongside the affects on the environment, cloth nappies can have an impact on your family budget too. It’s been estimated that the average UK family will spend up to £800 on nappies per child- that’s quite a lot of money! Using cloth nappies could bring this expense down considerably. You can buy a cloth nappy for around £10-20 (an initial expense, granted) and that nappy will last for as long as your child is in nappies. If you have around 10 nappies in total, you’re looking at spending no more than around £200- a huge contrast to £800!

Another major reason why lots of parents choose to opt for cloth nappies is the fact that they don’t contain any nasty chemicals. Disposable nappies contain different chemicals so that they can be absorbent, and if you’ve ever seen a nappy split open you’ll see what we mean. Those little ‘crystals’ work to absorb urine and to keep it away from the skin, but they do mean that your baby’s precious skin could be at risk from irritation. Cloth nappies do not need such chemicals and therefore are deemed to be kinder to skin.

How to start

If you’ve made the decision to go for cloth nappies, here’s a quick checklist to help you get started:

Research the different types of nappies available.

Not all cloth nappies are the same and everyone has their own preferences too. The types of nappies available are:

• All in ones – these are the closest you will get to a disposable nappy as the whole thing is sewn together in one piece.
• All in twos – are very similar to disposable too, and have lots in common with all in ones – the only difference is that they have inserts that snap in or lay in the nappy.
• Fitted/shaped nappies are shaped like a disposable nappy but they are not waterproof so you need a cover over the top.
• Flat – nappies that are not shaped and need a cover to be waterproof.
• Hybrid – these nappies have a waterproof outer (wrap/cover) and inserts that are laid into it.
• Pocket – are a type of waterproof cover with a pocket in it. An absorbent insert fits into the pocket and then the nappy goes on all in one piece.

If you can access a nappy library or similar, see if you can have a play with some of the nappies there before you buy- see if you like the look, if they seem ok to use, and if they are within your price range too. Lots of nappy brands will offer trial kits and some sites allow you to borrow nappies and return them when you’ve had a trial- both handy services to take advantage of.

Check the sizing

Not all cloth nappies are the same size, and some are better for younger babies, some better for older babies. Some nappies are one size, which means you can use them from newborn and adjust the sizing as on the nappy as your baby grows. These are the best value for money but they might not be right for your baby. Research as much as you can and read as many reviews as you can too. Each nappy type will have a range of sizes available so you might want to stock up on your favourite too.

Washing

It’s often the washing that puts parents off cloth nappies, but there really is no need! These days cloth nappies don’t need to be soaked before you wash them, so if you have a nappy bin with a lid you can store dirty nappies in there until it’s time to wash. You need to wash the nappies on a hot wash (around 60 degrees) and there is no need to use a specific nappy detergent, unless you want to. If using normal washing detergent, make sure to use just a quarter of the usual amount and no fabric conditioner. It’s a good idea to end each cycle with an extra rinse too.

If you have enough nappies, you will only be washing them once a week, so make sure you have somewhere to store them in between washes. Let them dry on the line or on an airer in the house- they should only take a few hours.