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.

 

 

 

Happy Mummy = Happy Baby

The arrival of a new baby into your life will bring vast amounts of joy and happiness, but it is normal for new mums to feel confused and surprised by the physical, emotional and mental challenges that come from the novel responsibility of being a parent. This period of postnatal adjustment can extend for many months and is truly the biggest transition a woman will have to face. The change from woman to mother can leave many feeling overwhelmed, which is why it is essential that mothers feel supported during this time. Not only does this assist optimal recovery, having encouragement from those around her helps a new mother ease into motherhood more naturally.

However, strength and relief can also be found through natural therapies, which offer a way of balancing out hormones without using synthetic chemicals. The natural assistance that holistic therapies bring, allows mothers to not only nurture their babies but also ensures they feel nurtured too.

You have probably heard the phrase “a happy mummy equals a happy baby” before. This commonly used saying stems from the accepted truth that babies are sensitive to stress that occurs as a direct result of their own experiences or as a consequence of the emotions of those around them. From the parent’s perspective, if feelings of emotionally vulnerability or stress permeate daily life, then this can have an impact on the level of care they are able to provide their newborn. Parents that are consumed by stress and worry are not as attentive to a baby’s needs, which can result in the infant experiencing feelings of insecurity and isolation; feelings that can be detrimental to the mental and physical development of the child. If the parent’s lack of emotional wellbeing continues to go unchecked, this may produce long term effects when it comes to the emotional health of the child.

Complementary therapies can provide an array of advantages when treating physical, mental and emotional complaints. From boosting the immune system to relieving pain, improving sleep patterns to increasing energy levels and helping combat postnal depression, complementary therapies can help restore the body’s equilibrium naturally. When your body feels relaxed, it is more able to cope with everyday stresses and strains, and with sleep deprivation and hormone imbalances to contend with post-partum, complementary therapies can provide important tools for women to face the challenge of motherhood.

Recommended Holistic Therapies

Exercise

Getting back into shape after childbirth is a concern for many women. The effects of birth will permeate your physical self deeply, but light exercise and toning will ensure that you begin to recognize your pre-pregnancy body. Key areas that should be strengthened as soon as possible are the pelvic floor, back and stomach muscles, once approval had been given by your care-provider

Homeopathy

Homeopathy’s holistic approach towards medicine means that it encourages the body to heal itself. Non- toxic, and with an excellent safety track record, this natural treatment is particularly useful following labour, and can help you recover from hormonal balances. Homeopathic treatments also work well to address the common ailments a child faces within the first year of life, such as colic, cradle cap, constipation, and teething.

Try Yoga

Yoga classes are a great way of toning up while allowing you to bask in the deep relaxation the exercise provides. Yoga’s ability to supply relief to the shoulder and neck areas particularly affected by carrying a child, along with breathing techniques designed to lower anxiety, will also be a benefit for the months – even years – to come.

Postpartum Massage 

Massage therapy is one of the most beneficial therapies new mothers can undertake. Its ability to relax ensures that the task of motherhood will be met with a clearer head; after all, a mother who feels looked after herself is better able to look after her child. Not only does the practice promote feelings of well- being and emotional calm, it also has a wide range of physiological benefits. From draining excess fluids within the tissues and toning the abdominal muscles, to realigning the spine and pelvic structures, postpartum massage can speed up the process of your physical recovery in the most relaxing way possible.

Flower Essences 

Part of a progressive new field of alternative treatment, flower essences provide inner balance by using only the natural energies of plants. Designed to settle and soothe anxieties, they can help you to cope with pregnancy, labour and the relationship with your child after the birth. They come in the form of distilled plant preparations and use the key characteristics of the flower as a remedy for an emotional ailment.

Aromatherapy 

From the smell of baked bread to a lightly fragranced breeze, our sense of smell has long been known to trigger emotional responses – including the resurgence of memories from long-forgotten moments. This is because our sense of smell has its roots in the limbic system- the area of the brain also responsible for memory, as well as for the stimulation of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. when these two areas are triggered, they can release positive hormones, which is why aromatherapy is particularly useful for enhancing feelings of well-being and calm.

Whether you choose to disperse the scent of aromatherapy oils around the home, use them in combination with a relaxing massage, or add a few drops to your bath water, the therapeutic benefits of their natural fragrances cannot be disputed.

Self – care 

Although many parents claim that sleep is a thing that escapes them on a nightly basis, there is nothing more important when it comes to your physical recovery and spiritual rejuvenation. Emotional and physical stress will only be increased when attempting to provide care for an infant while depleted of energy. Traditionally, new mothers are advised that trivial matters such as housework, cooking and entertaining should be shelved during recovery – and this is advice that should be heeded. Minimize any extra exertions, and always attempt to sleep when your child is sleeping, especially during the first six weeks after the birth. Of equal importance is ensuring that you’re eating the right foods on your road to recovery. Eat healthily, making sure you’re taking in extra vitamins, minerals, and iron-rich foods, especially if you are breastfeeding. Keep hydration levels topped up at all times by drinking water regularly or enjoying herbal teas, which have the added benefit of enhancing a sense of well-being. Nuts, seeds, and meat, as well as plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, are essential foods that should be on every new mother’s shopping list.

 

 

Why Organic ?

When we have children, they become everything – they become our world. As parents, it’s our job to give our children all that they could possibly need, and that includes a healthy start in life. One of the most important organs to care for when it comes to babies is their skin, which, although perhaps surprising at first, makes a lot of sense when you realize that it is 30 percent more delicate than an adult’s. That means it is much more sensitive and much more prone to irritations.

Remember that our skin is the largest organ in our body (or rather, on our body). Everything we put onto it is absorbed into it, and so it needs to be treated with the utmost care – whatever you put onto your baby’s skin needs to be thoroughly scrutinized.

When a baby is born, its immune system is defenseless; that means it takes time to start working properly. Because of this, many parents (rightly so) feel that organic products are the best option. But there are so many natural skincare products for babies out there; which make organic claims, that it’s hard to determine which one is the best. After all, each one claims something different, yet hardly any of them actually go into what organic really is. That can be something of a problem for parents who are keen to give their child only honest, organic skincare.

Organic skincare makes a lot of sense, and I truly believe it is the best way to care for a baby. Unfortunately, the planet is still constantly being polluted – heavily – with chemicals, and manufacturers seem mostly unconcerned with how much these chemicals can affect our children, and specifically their delicate skin. A baby is much more sensitive to these chemicals then an adult would be – their skin is thin, and their brand new respiratory, endocrine, and digestive systems are absorbing everything through it. That’s why I’m encouraging you to think carefully about what you’re putting on your baby’s skin. It can make all the difference.

So what exactly is ‘organic’? An organic product is one that has been made with organic ingredients. In other words, ingredients that have been grown naturally, without using any chemicals to assist them. There are no awful pesticides involved, and that means the products are better for our bodies as well as our planet.

So, when you go shopping, make sure to look for the Soil Association logo on anything you buy. This shows you that it is certified as organic; it’s a mark of trust that means you can use the product worry-free, and it’s the only way you will know for sure that what you are picking up off the shelf is totally organic. Although many products make organic claims, without that all-important logo, you can’t be sure that it’s true. The Soil Association logo is a powerful symbol of trust and transiency – offering buyers assurance in an uncertain world.

This is why I created Mumma Love Organics for babies and children, and why I decided to put my children’s skincare range through the proper certification procedures.  Here at  Mumma Love Organics, we care what stays out of our products as much as we care what goes into making it. So no harsh chemicals will be found in our skincare, just honest, natural, organic ingredients. This is supported by the Soil Association Organic Standard.

 

 

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!

Breastmilk: nature’s original superfood

Did you know that breastmilk is a bit of a superfood? It’s true. While for some strange reason the world seemed to fall out of love with one of the most natural phenomenons in history, Mother Nature must have been shaking head in confusion. When breastmilk can be tailored perfectly to your own individual baby, based on her needs right now- why would you opt for anything else? Of course there are many, valid, reasons why you may choose not to breastfeed- personal, emotional and medical- and our intention is not to berate those decisions. We are not here to judge, simply to share the wonders of breastmilk: nature’s original superfood. Here are five reasons why we believe that to be true.

Breastmilk provides baby with all the antibodies and bacteria needed to support a healthy immune system.

When in utero, your baby is protected in a sterile environment, away from bacteria that could pose risks to her health and wellbeing. Once on the outside though, it’s a different story! And aside from wrapping your baby in cotton wool and banning all forms of human contact, you just cannot replicate this environment. And why would you want to? Babies need to be exposed to bacteria so that they can build their immune systems- and that’s where breastmilk comes in.

Studies now suggest that if your baby is breastfed for just the first week of life, your milk will provide enough friendly bacteria to give her immune system a super blast. And it’s thought that up to 80,000 babies’ lives could be saved each year if access to breastmilk in that week alone was possible. That’s pretty mindblowing! Further studies have found there to be up to 700 different strains of bacteria in breastmilk, which is enough to support baby’s biome and to provide long term health benefits too. Leading on to our next point…

Breastmilk helps to promote long term health…

for mother AND baby. A baby who is given breastmilk in infancy will build up her immune system to the point where she is able to fight common allergies. It also helps to protect against asthma, digestive issues and autoimmune diseases too. A breastfed baby will also be getting lots of essential fatty acids from the milk too, which means a boost in brain development, growth, and bile salt production. Experts agree that the nutritional value of breastmilk is second to none in the first six months of life.  And for mum?

Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop postnatal depression, as nursing triggers the release of oxytocin, the feel good hormone. This means that during breastfeeding, mums are more relaxed and nurturing instincts are also emphasised. Lots of mums report that they feel the bond with their baby is strengthened through breastfeeding too. Additionally, studies have found that women who breastfeed are more protected against breast and ovarian cancer. It’s thought that structural changes in the breast during at least one year of nursing, coupled with the fact that lactation suppresses oestrogen production in the body, can help to protect against breast cancer in particular.

Breastmilk is tailored perfectly to your baby’s needs.

So there is no need to go out and buy different types of milk depending on your baby’s age. Each time you nurse your baby, your body produces milk suitable for her needs- so the milk changes and adapts as required. What other food can do that? Breastmilk is the perfect combination of water, fat, protein, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. It also contains hormones, and enzymes, essential fatty acids specific to your baby. It’s a little like a magic potion made specially for your baby.

It’s convenient (and free)

No other method of feeding is quite like breastfeeding. And what other superfood is available 24 hours a day and at no cost? Breastmilk is the ultimate in healthy fast food, and there is no denying the convenience of it all. Not all mothers find breastfeeding easy at first, but if you are able to work with a lactation consultant or similar, you should be able to establish a good feeding schedule that suits you and your baby quite easily. And it’s worth noting that breastmilk is always served at just the right temperature too- no preparation required!

It’s natural

In a world where we are surrounded by foods and products that have been chemically enhanced to taste, smell and look good, breastmilk is a welcome superfood. There are no added chemicals, preservatives, sugars or flavours. It’s easily digested, it has a natural laxative effect so that breastfed babies are rarely constipated, and it is all your baby needs in the first six month of life.

If you would like more information and/ or support with breastfeeding, here are some links that might help:

Find a breastfeedng network support group

National breastfeeding helpline

Association of breastfeeding mothers

Baby cafe– for local breastfeeding cafe groups in your area

Best Beginnings

La Leche League

Lactation Consultants of Great Britain

NCT

UK Association for milk banking– for information on milk donors

 

No Nasties

A healthy, safe skin-care routine for your child should revolve around one word: gentle. But did you know many skincare products made for babies and children contain irritating ingredients? A baby’s skin is 30% more delicate than an adult’s, leaving it sensitive and prone to irritation.

Chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulphate (sls), silicones, parabens and mineral oils are all commonly used in baby care products. These chemicals can be skin irritants and even disrupt the immune, reproductive and endocrine system. Your baby’s skin absorbs things easily, so anything that is applied to the skin such as baby wash, baby oil, creams and lotions are absorbed into their bloodstream.

It is slightly worrying that such ingredients, which may be in your baby’s bath wash, such as sodium lauryle sulphate, started life as an industrial garage floor cleaner due to its corrosive ability to remove grease. The journal of the American College of Toxicology in their final report on the safety assessment of SLS stated that the chemical has been seen to be a skin irritant in clinical studies all over the world. This is especially bad news for those with sensitive skin or those suffering from eczema and psoriasis, as the chemicals will strip the protective oils from the epidermis, leaving it raw and irritated (1,2).

SLS also has strong links with eye development. Researcher Keith Green Ph.D., ID, Sc. Of the medical College of Georgia carried out extensive research on SLS. Dr. Green states: ‘There is an immediate concern relating to the penetration of these chemicals into the eye and other tissues. This is especially important in infants…exposure to SLS results in accumulation in eye tissues, a process that could retard healing as well as potentially have long term effects’. He concludes that exposure to sodium lauryl sulfate can cause improper eye development in children, and that since it is absorbed systemically through the skin, it does not have to enter the eye directly.

Younger individuals are more susceptible to the effects of SLS (3,4). Worryingly, this chemical becomes harsher with increasing temperature (5). Most people prefer to wash in warm or hot water, which should be a grave concern for everybody, the baby care industry in particular.

Parabens or benzoates are also a concern when buying baby cosmetics. They are widely used in food and cosmetics to extend shelf life of the product. It has been claimed that these preservatives stimulate the creation of oestrogen, which disrupts the hormonal system. They have also been known to cause allergic reactions and skin rashes; evidence published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology indicates that parabens can also be detected in human breast tumors.

We here at Mumma Love Organics believe there is a question mark held over the safety of parabens and SLS in baby cosmetics. In parts of Europe parabens have already been banned in cosmetic products, for example, Denmark was the first country in the EU to ban products containing parabens for children under the age of 3 years.

At Mumma Love Organics we care what stays out of our products as much as we care what goes into making it. So no harsh ingredients will be found, just natural organic ingredients with natural preservative properties. This is supported by the Soil Association Organic Standard.

References

  1. ANDERSON C, SUNDBERG K, GROTH O. Animal model for assessment of skin irritancy. Contact Dermatitis 1986 Sept: 15 (3): 143-51.
    2. GIBSON WT, TEALL MR. Interactions of C12 surfactants with the skin: Changes in enzymes and visible and histological features of rat skin treated with sodium lauryl sulphate. Food Chem Toxicol 1983 Oct: 21 (5): 587-94.
    3. HERLOFSON BB, BARKVOLL P. Oral mucosal desquamation of pre- and post-menopausal women. A comparison of response to sodium lauryl sulphate in toothpastes. J Clin Periodontol 1996 Jun: 23 (6): 567-71.
    4. SCHWINDT DA, WILHELM KP, MILLER DL, MAILBACH HI. Cumulative irritation in older and younger skin: A comparison. Acta Derm Venereol 1998: 78 (4): 279-83.
    5. GOFFIN V, LETAWE C, PIERARD GE. Temperature-dependant effect of skin-cleaning products on human stratum corneum. J Toxicol 1996: 15 (2): 125-30.

Mindful Parenting in a Modern World.

The bookstores are packed full with an array of instructional parenting books giving advice on how to bring up children and promises of a peaceful night sleep, but there’s nothing that really focuses on mindful parenting in this modern, hectic world.  And that, of course, is what we all really need.

Our busy lives seem to be overrun with an abundance of commitments; work deadlines, paying the bills, trying to be a supportive partner, keeping fit, and on and on the list goes – it’s no wonder we get stressed at times. The demands of this modern world can weigh heavily on our shoulders which in turn can take a toll on our minds and bodies. But more than that, it also can have a negative impact on our parenting. Becoming a more mindful parent allows us to take some time out from life’s dramas and connect with our children in a more compassionate way. It enables us to step back and enjoy the moment rather than let it pass us by. Our children’s childhood is so important; how we parent our children can affect them for the rest of their lives. When it comes to parenting there are no second chances, so it’s important to make the most of this time now.

So what is mindful parenting?

The concept of being present and in the moment with your child is a fresh and exciting one; a parent’s attention is by far one of the greatest gifts we can give our children and mindful parenting is a way of providing this. Being mindful means living in the moment, with a non-judgemental, compassionate awareness. It allows us to observe a newfound consciousness intentionally, and helps us sustain that attention over time in the best way we can. Allowing our minds to maintain this attentiveness brings more awareness into our lives and lets us parent in a more instinctual and compassionate way.

Nevertheless, the problem with society today is that we often run on auto pilot, mindlessly functioning day by day, without questioning our existence. Our brains seem to operate in two ways; they are either swirling with past events that we can’t control, or they are preoccupied with future circumstances or concerns. This way of thinking often leaves us feeling stressed, anxious and even depressed; the amount of emotional strain we put on ourselves frequently leaves our minds and bodies exhausted; which can have a detrimental effect on parenting. This is where introducing mindfulness into our day to day parenting can help – it’s about stepping back, taking a moment and looking through our children’s eyes. Being in the moment with our children allows us to understand new possibilities, benefits, and even challenges with a newfound conscious awareness. Allowing ourselves to parent in this conscious way will enhance the engagement we have with our children, promoting a deeper understanding of our family and ourselves, which in turn cultivates a certain awareness. This is known as mindful parenting.

Mindfulness can create the imaginable; practicing it can give you the capability to see past any parenting challenges and certain behavioural issues. It allows us to see our children more clearly and opens us up to be more empathic, compassionate, and understanding. This will create connections that will last a life time. Most parents want to do right by their children – they want to be loving, warm, provide structure, set boundaries, and provide a positive role model – this is where mindful parenting comes into play. Parenting mindfully can be rejuvenating and transformative for both parent and child. However, learning and implementing this style of parenting is a task you’ll need to master.

Where to begin?

Firstly, let’s get one thing straight; you don’t have to be a Zen master to practice mindful parenting. You do, however, have to be willing, patient, and persistent. Just like any new skill, it can take a while to grasp.

An ideal way to begin mindful parenting is simply to be more present with our children. When we are more present our communication becomes clearer and our words become more meaningful. But, as well as being more present, we can also use other tactics to become more mindful, like the ones I share with you below:

Unplug yourself

Our children are our world, but we often seem to disregard their needs as other priorities take over our day to day life.  When we run on autopilot we miss signs that our children are trying to give us, our inattentiveness can, in turn, make them feel worthless, and they may start to feel like they are beneath our attention and will begin to retract inwardly.

For example, if you are preoccupied on your phone or computer when your child is trying to have a conversation with you or tell you something important, they will start to feel inadequate and eventually will give up trying to communicate with you at all. However, we do live in the 21st century and life is fast-paced, so we can’t unplug the whole time we are with our children. Nevertheless, we can control how much time we spend on our devices. Technology is a brilliant thing, but it can affect the amount of quality time we have with our families. So make sure you unplug yourself at least once a week, keep your mind present and fully enjoy your family time; this will enhance your children’s self-worth and make them feel like they are top priority and not having to compete with your gadgets for your time or attention.

Take the Time

In this modern world, time doesn’t always seem to be on our side. But have you ever wondered how we find the time to accomplish menial tasks yet hardly ever take a moment to focus on our family’s mental well being? Ask yourself, how does it feel when we laugh with our family or have a great conversation over a meal, or when we cuddle up with our little ones and really listen about their day – I bet I can answer the question for you; it feels great, doesn’t it?

Another question; why do we make time for boring routine tasks but we don’t allow time in our daily routine to create more positive family dynamics? We seem to procrastinate over and over again, telling ourselves that we just don’t have the time. However, time is truly valuable; once a moment in time has gone we can never get it back. It’s so true, how often you have heard grandparents say “make the most of this time now, they grow up far too quickly”. They are right but the question is why aren’t we spending more quality time with our children?

The truth is this modern world exhausts us, and after a long day in the office or feeling overwhelmed with mundane family chores we are simply tired. This is why the very first step to mindful parenting is self-care; which we will look at in greater detail on my blog, next week. But to cover briefly, we have to make sure we take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. Often parents don’t take time out for themselves; they see putting their needs in front of their families as selfish, unreasonable even. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. It’s physically and emotionally draining. Therefore, it’s important to take time to recuperate and recharge your batteries, so you can be the parent you want to be.

Go easy on yourself

Mindful parenting can seem like a dream when our children are acting angelic, playing together, or willing to go to bed. Nevertheless, children do have a habit of pushing the boundaries; we all know that feeling that children can conjure up; our blood starts to warm, then slowly simmers, our kids push a little further and we’re now at boiling point, ready to explode! As a parent, this is the time to put your mindfulness into practice, take a mindful pause and just BREATHE. Our children will challenge and irritate us at times (that’s parenting), but there’s always a reason behind such behaviours (reasons that are often out of our control). What control we do have is how we respond when parenting becomes demanding.

Taking a moment to take a breath can have a powerful impact on unwanted behaviour.  It will allow you time to gather your thoughts and encourage you to respond to your child’s needs rather than react to them.  In general, people use the word reaction and response synonymously but there is a world of difference between the two. A reaction is provoked by certain behaviour; it’s instant. It often has no consideration behind it. You literally meet your child’s emotionally-led behaviour with your emotionally-led conduct. Reacting to your child’s behaviour in an angry, aggressive way simply isn’t the answer; all this creates is a crash of negatives emotions.

Responding, however, gives you the time to allow your child to express their negative feelings; they need to let them out, and if you try to suppress them they will to erupt another time – trust me. If your child does become angry, upset, frustrated respond by letting them have this moment, let them verbalise their feelings without any punishment, humiliation or guilt. This is a time to show your child empathy, consider not just your feelings but the thoughts, feelings, and reactions behind your child’s behaviour too. Portraying a calm exterior will defuse the situation a lot quicker than trying to fight in with a battle of spiraling, negative emotions.

Nonetheless, this is no easy task and is a really tricky concept to get your head around. Responding instead of reacting is a big part of mindful parenting but to others, it can often seem weak, even ineffective. However, the rewards you will reap later in life from this style of parenting will show in abundance. Your children will learn that it’s safe to show their emotions, will talk openly to you about their feelings, and will come to you in times of need. You see, mindful parenting allows us to understand our children’s emotional needs, which in turn builds a closer, more resilient bond between parent and child. What we have to remember as parents is our children are not their flare-ups. Their outbursts are often emotionally led by anger, frustration, tiredness even. These hosts of emotions can play havoc with a child’s emotional guidance system. It’s a struggle for little people to master control of their temperamental behaviours but guide them with love and kindness and they will soon become pros at it. Remember, it’s our job as parents to calm their little minds, not present them with more chaos.  I’m going to cover an array of behavioural issues and how to deal with them more mindfully in the next few weeks… but for now here are some conscious ways of how we can respond to our children instead of reacting to them:

Negative Reaction Positive Response
Will you just stop crying! You look upset, is everything ok, do you want a hug?

 

Will you just get away from me! I’m feeling a little frustrated right now, I’m going to take five minutes out to calm down.

 

That’s life young lady – you don’t always get what you want. I can tell you are upset with my decision but let me explain the reasons behind it (if your child doesn’t want to hear why, walk away and be calm until they do).

 

Your sitting at the table until you’ve eaten all your dinner If you’re not hungry now don’t worry, I can heat it up later.

 

Stop whinging, ask me like a normal child Can you ask me that question in your happy voice, not your whinging one.

 

 Mindful parenting isn’t always about managing difficult behaviour, just as importantly, it’s about treasuring the loving, joyful family moments too. This parenting style has so many benefits for children and parents alike; using this method of parenting has been gaining traction as a way of improving happiness and well-being within families for a while now.  Studies have shown conscious (mindful) parents engage in more positive and less negative parenting styles which were then linked to more positive, loving behaviour in children. This meant fewer tantrums and less meltdowns.  Being a mindful parent means growing and developing as your child grows and develops too. Parenthood is a steep learning curve, but that doesn’t mean being mindful is impossible!

Tips to Help Little Ones Settle into The New Term

By now your little ones are probably one or even two weeks into their new school lives, and we sincerely hope all is going well! But how are YOU coping? Adjusting to a new routine can be difficult, especially is this is your first child at school! The early days of the new term can be hard for all involved, so it makes sense to take steps to ensure the transition from home to school goes as smoothly as possible. This time we’ve put together a few tips to help little ones settle into the new term, with a little help from some lovely bloggers. Do let us know how it’s going.

Be prepared for tiredness

 Being at school all day is likely to be hugely different to your child’s usual routine, so it’s natural for them to be a little more tired than normal. This is to be expected, and by now you’re probably only too well aware of how exhausting school can be. Some children find it more exhausting than others, but only you know your child best so take your cues from them during this first term. If you need to move bedtime a little earlier, then please do. It’s important that your child gets enough sleep to see them through the busy days ahead!

Some children also find it harder to switch off once they start school, and their tiredness can manifest in other ways. Perhaps your little one is finding it harder to fall asleep at bedtime? A relaxing bath and a good solid bedtime routine will help.

Beth, who blogs at Twinderelmo told us, “My girls have been going to bed about an hour earlier than usual as they’re so tired. At the weekends too I let my older son lie in until he naturally wakes as I want him to get a rest too. We avoid doing anything that means we need to be up and out early as we all adjust to the school routine,” and we think this is great advice.

Tread carefully

As your little one is more tired than usual, and likely to be a little more ‘temperamental’ shall we say, it’s a really good idea to tread a little more carefully when it comes to behaviour. Remember that your child has a lot of changes to adapt to, and many find the transition to school really quite difficult.

Laura, who blogs at Little Ladies Big World, advises, “Don’t ask too much of them after school and treat meltdowns with kindness. If mine are tired we read books, play puzzles and have cuddles. Being 100% there in the moment really helps everyone feel supported in those first few weeks of change.”

 Slow down after school

 Your child has spent all day being directed by adults, and so after school is the time to allow them to slow down. You’ll know by now how tiring the school day can be during this first term, so try not to plan too many activities until your child has adapted.

Gillian, at A Baby on Board told us that she tries not to schedule too much at weekends either, preferring to use this time to re-charge and prepare for another busy week ahead. She told us, “School is more exhausting for children than you’d think and they need as much downtime as possible in the evenings and at weekends,” and we couldn’t agree more.

Yes, it’s tempting to sign your child up for every after-school activity you always dreamed they would love, but honestly, it really is best to wait a while.

Sarah-Jayne at Keep Up With the Jones Family adds, “We have a get-home-from-school routine. It’s simple but it works – in from school, shoes in cupboard, all clothes on my bed, homework on table and lunch boxes in kitchen. That way I can follow all three of them around, after they’ve done each and tidy up. 15 minutes and we are ready to relax and play – and I’m ready for the next day!”- a great tip!

Make mealtimes count

 It’s hard to let go when your child starts school, and one thing that many parents worry about is whether or not their child is going to eat ok. Suffice to say, many children either won’t remember what they had for lunch, or were too busy playing to take any notice! Don’t take it to heart. Talk to your child’s teacher if you’re really concerned, but our advice would be to trust that the lunch time staff are capable of ensuring your child eats something at least!

That said, it’s a really good idea to make sure that your child is eating a varied and balanced diet at home. A good breakfast is essential and will enable your child to perform well at school. And don’t forget snacks!

Kate at Counting to Ten says her top tip is to always “Bring a snack with you for pickup. It can be a long time since they had lunch and nobody wants a hungry child.” Wise words!

 

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!

 

Tips and tricks for dealing with fussy eaters

As a parent, there’s nothing more frustrating than when you’ve spent time cooking and preparing a meal, only for it to be greeted with the dreaded word, Yuck! Quite often this scenario ends in one or more parents hurrying around, throwing together a mixture of meals to please all the little tummies at the table- but this leads to more frustration as mealtimes become a battleground! So what came we do to combat these fussy little people? We don’t claim to be experts but we are experienced with mealtime battles, so we’ve put together some tips and tricks for dealing with fussy eaters- let us know if you try any and how it went!

You are not alone!

 First of all, it might help you to know that you most certainly are not alone if you have a fussy eater at home. At least every family has experienced this and often it’s a normal part of growing up. Please don’t compare your child to anyone else’s- this will only lead to frustration and upset and there’s enough of that already when your toddler is throwing a tantrum over tonight’s meal choice! Remember that your child is unique with individual tastes and opinions, and nothing you do is going to change that. So let’s work with it, shall we?

Involve your child in meal planning

 If your child is old enough, ask them to help you plan out the meals for the week, or maybe just for the day if you’d prefer. Ask them to choose the foods that they like and try to put them into each meal if you can. Hopefully, this will be an incentive for your child to try something new at dinner time.

Another way to get the kids involved with meal planning is by asking every family member to choose their favourite meal, and pick a day of the week to have that meal. When it’s your turn, everyone else in the family has to eat what you’ve chosen, and then on other days you have to eat what someone else has chosen. This can work so well for older kids, and helps to teach turn taking and tolerance too.

Don’t force empty plates- and watch your portions!

 Sometimes children can become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of food on their plates. Take a look at this handy guide to children’s portion sizes to check you aren’t piling on too much when you’re dishing up. Another excellent tip at mealtimes is to reassure your child that you don’t expect them to eat everything on their plate. This can work wonders for relieving the stress that some children feel at mealtimes, and will help to reduce your anxiety levels too. Sometimes it helps children to know exactly how much you expect them to eat, so maybe start with ‘let’s try three carrots first’, and move on from there. Ultimately it’s a good idea to allow your child to lead with their own appetite at mealtimes.

Set a good example

 Now, why should your child ‘eat up their greens’ if they don’t see any on your own plate? And how can they be expected to sit nicely at mealtimes if you are either on your phone, or not even sitting at the table with them? We are our children’s role models and they will only learn good table manners if we show them. Studies have also found that children respond well to sitting down at a table to eat too, so don’t be tempted to eat in front of the TV every night. Make family meal time an occasion to look forward to every day if you can. It’s not always possible when you’re busy, but you will see the difference if you do make time.

Explain good nutrition and where food comes from

 Kids are never too young to learn the origins of their food, and they’re like little sponges with new information! So tell them what they’re eating, why it’s so good for them and how it’s made too. Let them come with you to dig up potatoes from the garden, or to the supermarket to choose ingredients for meals etc.

What are your top tips for fussy eaters?