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.

 

Kale for Kids

Kale, it’s naturally nutritious, but unfortunately, most kids don’t find it delicious! If you live with fussy eaters, you will understand just how hard it can be to entice them to eat anything green; especially kale. Luckily, this dark green leafy super food can be hidden in many tasty dishes; which is a bonus, as your fussy little eaters won’t even know they’re eating it.

Why Is Kale So Fantastic?

Kale is a nutritional power house food that supplies our body with an array of nutrients, like vitamin A, vitamin C, good fats and fibre.

Eating Kale Strengthens Your Immune System

Kale has an abundant amount of vitamin C; which is known to be one of the largest immune system supporters of all time. A daily dose of vitamin C is a MUST for kids, due to its substantial amount of health benefits. It not only boosts your child’s immune system, but it also helps repair red blood cells, strengthens your child’s blood vessels and helps heal cuts and bruises too.

Kale Makes You Brainy

Kale is the king of good fats; strange I know, you don’t often think of vegetables to be fatty, but these hidden fats are essential for your child’s brain health. This great green vegetable has an ample amount of omega-3 (good fat), which supports cognitive development by nurturing the growth of the neurons and supporting them as they connect to one another. Due to its nurturing role within the brain, it may also help a child to manage any psychological or behavior problems as it supports the function of the neurotransmitters. For this reason increasing the level of omega fats in your child’s diet also has a positive effect on their mood and memory.

Kale Helps You Grow.

Kale contains vitamin A, which plays an important part in a child’s development as it promotes healthy cell growth within their body – it also plays a significant role in supporting healthy bone growth and vision. This fantastic vegetable is also enriched with calcium and potassium; which is essential for keeping our kid’s bones healthy.

Here are six sneaky ways to hide kale in cuisine and allure your children to eat it:

• Chocolate Fudge Pops (recipe below)
• Crispy Kale Crisp
• Fruity Kale Green Smoothie
• Kale & Banana Pancakes
• Cheese, Kale and Avocado Pasta
• Sneaky Kale Meatballs

All these recipes are on my website- so why not check out the recipe section and start sneaking.

Kale Chocolate Pops

Ingredients:
1 Medium Banana
50g Kale (stalks removed)
50g Hot Chocolate Powder
400ml Coconut Milk
85 ml Double Cream
2 Tsp. Vanilla Essence
150g Good Quality Chocolate (broken into small pieces)

Method:

1. Gently heat the coconut milk and hot chocolate powder in a saucepan until it’s blended together. Add the double cream, vanilla essence and chocolate, stir continually until the chocolate has melted.
2. When the mixture is combined pour into a food processor with the kale and banana, then blend until smooth.
3. Divide the mixture between 8 ice pop moulds and insert pop sticks. Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.

The importance of taking a mental health day for yourself

Self care is a bit of a buzz word these days, with more and more online magazines, books and websites recommending we take time out of our busy schedules to do something for ourselves for once. But is it really necessary? And is self-care really such a new concept? We’ve been looking at the importance of taking a mental health day for yourself, and we think you might agree that it’s a really good idea.

What is a mental health day?

 It’s a relatively new concept, but the idea is that you take a day out for yourself, to concentrate on your own emotional well being and to do something that will make you happy, calm, focused and relaxed. Put like that, it doesn’t seem so new at all. I mean, for centuries we’ve been taking time out to go and get our nails done, or to enjoy a meal out with friends. But have we really been putting aside enough time to focus on our mental health and emotional well-being- and for an entire day?

Taking a mental health day might not mean doing all that much. It might just be switching off from everything that has been on your mind just lately, or it might be getting away for the day just to be by yourself. The fact is that not many of us feel we are able to do this at all. With our busy schedules and the pressures of being a parent, we tend to feel that the best way forward is to simply keep going. It seems selfish to take time out for ourselves, and we prefer to put our own needs on the back burner for a while. So taking a mental health day actually means that we put ourselves first for once. And that can be really hard to do!

 Five reasons why you should take a mental health day

  •  If you’re still not convinced, allow us to give you five reasons why a mental health day might be just the thing that you need right now…It will alleviate stress. Just taking some time out from work, or your busy routine can do wonders for your stress levels, and give you time to figure out better ways to deal with it all too. Sometimes removing ourselves from a situation and giving ourselves a chance to reflect can be empowering and healing just when we need it to be.
  • It will increase productivity. A rest is as good as a holiday, and you’re more likely to come back fighting fit if you’ve had a proper break. Sometimes all we need is a few hours to rest and re-charge and we can feel as though we’re ready to take on the world again. Don’t underestimate how much you can get done when you have a renewed energy and a more positive attitude.
  • You can get time to cross off things on your to-do list that are for YOU. Concentrating on your own needs for one day every now and then is the best way to show yourself that you matter too. So that book you’ve been meaning to read? Go ahead and read it!
  • You can catch up on sleep! Let’s face it, who doesn’t fancy another hour or two when the alarm goes off in the morning? And when you’re busy, you have kids and you have work, sleeps often the one thing we neglect the most. Ironically, when we’re sleep deprived we’re way more prone to low moods and feelings of anxiety and stress, so it makes sense to prioritise rest a little now and then.
  • You’re showing everyone else that you matter too. Sometimes it’s easy for us to feel as though we’re taken for granted a little, especially when we’re all busy. But when loved ones see that you care about yourself, and when they realise just how beneficial a mental health day is for your health and well being, they will see the importance of it all. And they’ll be much more likely to tap you on the shoulder when you need another day like this.

Remember that you’re not a robot. Nobody is able to keep on going without a break, so don’t push yourself into a burnout. Only you are able to speak up when you’re struggling, so make sure that you do.

Baby Massage at Bedtime

Like many mothers, you’re likely to have done your fair share of talking about sleep and bedtime routines. Establishing a behavioral pattern when settling your child is the key to instilling good sleep habits in your baby. A calming bedtime routine that follows a predictable pattern every night helps give your baby the cue that it’s time to put their little heads down to rest. This, in turn, helps them settle more easily. What’s more, it is a wonderful way to bond with your baby at the end of a long day. After all, time spent snuggling, singing lullabies, and quietly reading is the closest, calmest time you’ll get to spend with your infant.

Massage can be very beneficial for helping babies sleep deeper and for longer periods of time. This means you as a mother being able to sleep longer as well – hopefully, all night! Not only does massage help your baby to release stress which builds daily from the stimulus that creates new experiences, it allows your baby to relax and enjoy this special quiet time.

Mothers have long benefited from remaining physically close to their child since time immemorial, carrying babies on their back as they went about their day. Benefits abound when it comes to regularly making contact with your child and recent studies have shown that massage has a positive effect on an infant’s ability to relax and sleep through the night.

Tiffany Field and Maria Hernandez-Reif’s (2007) research into massage’s ability to decrease the appearance of sleep problems in children has shed light on how beneficial carrying out a massage before bedtime can be. The study stated that children in the massage therapy group showed “fewer bedtime disruptive behaviors” and a “shorter latency to sleep”. Infants that are settled this way enjoy a deeper, more peaceful night’s rest, which in turn can mean that you do.

The effects of massage can be further enhanced by the infusion of oils into the child’s bedtime routine, especially by using lavender oil before bed. In a study by Tiffany Field et al (2008), it was shown that lavender oil reduced the cortisol (stress) levels of both mother and child, decreased the levels of crying and enhanced sleep.

Try implementing a bedtime routine that integrates massage and lavender aroma for a peaceful night’s sleep for both you and your little one. Why not try out our gentle baby massage routine before your little one goes to bed?

References:

Tiffany Field and Maria Hernandez-Reif (2007), ‘Sleep Problems in Infants Decrease Following Massage Therapy’, Early Child Development and Care, 168:1, 95 – 104
Field, T., Cullen, C., Largie, S., Diego, M., Schanberg, S. & Kuhn, C. (2008). Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants. Early Human Development, 84, 399-401.

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

Baby Signing

Communicating with your baby in the early days can be quite a challenge. Until you get to know the different pitches in her cry, chances are they will all sound rather similar to each other. But as you grow to understand more about your baby’s character, and the things that she likes and dislikes, so you will grow to recognise the different cries she has too. Babies use their voices to let you know their needs- and it won’t be long before you’re able to decipher that ‘change my nappy’ cry from ‘give me a cuddle’! Using your ears and your eyes to pick up signs from your baby is a natural instinct and so it makes sense that we parents have for centuries been seeking for new ways to further communicate with our babies. Before babies can talk, communication is mainly done through body language, facial expressions and gestures. Which makes baby signing such a wonderfully natural progression on the journey towards connecting with and understanding your child. If you’d like to know more, read on.

What is baby signing?

In the simplest of terms, baby signing is a form of pre-verbal communication that allows you to ‘speak’ to your baby using a variation of hand movements. But much more than that, it is a wonderful way to form new bonds with your baby, to introduce them to new sensory experiences, and to build their language and communication skills. It helps to build confidence and ease baby’s frustration at being unable to articulate wants and needs verbally- and it can be such a fabulous learning experience for both parent and child. Imagine delving deeper into your baby’s active mind and being able to understand just a little bit more about her personality and her thoughts? Amazing!

How does baby signing work?

You will have already noticed that your baby cannot speak using words, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have plenty to say. In the same way that you are able to distinguish between her different cries, baby signing means that you are able to further the lines of communication with your baby- and by helping your baby to find new ways to communicate, you are opening up new worlds for exploration. Using hand gestures alongside words, baby signing will help to develop gross and fine motor skills and will actually aid verbal communication too.

Parents who sign use a variety of gestures when they talk to their baby, and very soon these gestures become familiar patterns. Key signs such as ‘milk’ ‘yes’ and ‘no’ can be understood and eventually copied by your baby, so that communication is two-way a lot more quickly. This can mean that you are able to hold a conversation with your baby a lot earlier than most non signing parents. For your baby to be able to sign ‘milk’ when she is hungry is an amazing feat!

Baby signing is intended to enhance, not replace, verbal communication so it’s important to always say the word that you are signing too. And repetition is the key here, so that your baby comes to expect the sign and the word each and every time it is used in a sentence. Just as babies are able to recognise patterns and rhythms in their favourite songs, signs become learned and they are able to expect certain words and actions at certain times. So every time you are getting ready to feed your baby, tell her- and use the sign too. This way, she knows she is about to have some milk and the sign that goes with it too.

There is no evidence that suggest a baby who signs has delayed speech as a result- in fact lots of babies who are able to sign with parents and carers often go on to talk a lot earlier than those who don’t. The reasons for this include a heightened self confidence that comes from being able to communicate already, and the fact that your baby has been studying your face and your gestures as you speak to her. Your baby has also been hearing keywords over and over and has been the rapt audience of your songs, rhymes and conversation for a long time. Speaking is a natural progression in this journey. Remember that we use gestures all the time while we’re talking, so baby signing is really just a more conscious effort of ensuring we are clear in what we’re saying in order to extend communication as much as possible.

Getting started

If you’re keen to get started with baby signing, there is no time like the present! Babies are fast learners so don’t worry that you’ve left it too late. Find a local class, or look online for guidance. It really does help to have others to help you master the gestures, and to answer any questions you may have. Lots of classes will teach you little songs, the origins of various signs, and lots about the ways in which babies communicate. This can also be a wonderful way to meet other like minded parents too.

If you can’t get to a class, and you’re unable to find a book or website to help you, don’t despair! Lots of signs can be adapted for your own personal use and often signers will develop new gestures that they use with their baby to represent a certain word, name or phrase. Any gesture that mimics the word is good and as long as you are consistent (don’t change the gesture at will!) and accompany it with the verbal word, that’s fine. If you do want to learn a formal sign language though, classes really are your best bet.

If you have older siblings at home, it’s a great idea to get them involved in the signing too. Agree signs that suit their names, and use them when you address those children, or when you talk to your baby about them. Ask your family to also be consistent with the signing, and explain your reasons why you feel it is important. Many children will find signing great fun, and will enjoy learning new songs, phrases and words too- and this in turn will help them to bond with the baby too.

Keep it up

Once you start baby signing, keep going with it as long as you like. There is no need to stop once your baby is able to talk, and often the toddler years are the most rewarding as far as being able to communicate effectively goes. Toddlers quickly become frustrated when their developing speech does not allow them to communicate their feelings succinctly- if you equip them with a skill such as baby signing, they have an additional tool to use which could help them to relay their thoughts a lot better. I have seen parents with children over the age of 4 that are still singing to each other periodically, and this is wonderful. Used alongside verbal communication, signing opens up a whole new world of language and also helps children to understand more about hearing and speech difficulties too.

If your child does have a hearing difficulty, it’s a good idea to learn a formal sign language and encourage the whole family to learn it too. Communication is essential in any family and more so when there are hearing issues. Speak to your health visitor about resources that may be available to you.

Parenting with Love

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 know 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.

Gentle Potty Training

Sooner or later, the day will arrive. Your little one is suddenly not so little anymore and it’s time to move on from nappies! Rather than seeing this as the end of an era, it helps to see this stage as an exciting step forward in your child’s journey. Lots of parents are actually relieved to be able to move on from the ‘grind’ of changing and tending to nappies and so potty training can be a welcome progression for many families. The problem here can be that sometimes children can be rushed into moving on from nappies before they are ready, or parents can grow frustrated at a seeming lack of progress if potty training isn’t grasped straight away. So how do you know when your child is ready to move on to using the potty or toilet, and how can you make the transition as easy and as gentle as can be? Hopefully our guide will help you.

Is the time right?

There really is very little point in starting potty training before your little one is ready, both physically and emotionally. The reason for this is simple. If your child is not ready, they will not understand what it is you want them to do. A child needs to recognise when they need the toilet, and they need to be able to verbalise that need too. Not only that, but your child will also need to be able to recognise when they are wet, and all of this comes with maturity, which occurs at different ages depending on the child. Just because a parent is ready for potty training, doesn’t mean a child is too. So if you have a suspicion that your child is just not quite ready, it might be worth holding off for a while longer- to save the frustration and potential upset if nothing else. The golden ‘rule’ here, is to let your child tell you when the time is right.

There are signs to look out for if you think your child may be close to getting ready for potty training:
● Nappies may be dry in the morning and after naps
● Bowel movements may only occur during the day
● Your child is aware of needing the toilet, and of ‘performing’
● Your child is aware of having a wet or soiled nappy, and may even ask you to change it for them
● Your child tells you they need to use the toilet
● Your child refuses to wear nappies, or asks to wear knickers/ underpants
● Your child shows an interest in using the potty or toilet, and an interest in other family members using the toilet
If you can tick most or all of these boxes, then it looks as though the time is right for your child to start potty training. If you’re not sure, wait until the signs are clearer. This will save you a lot of work in the long run, and there is nothing wrong with a toddler who is three years old and wearing a nappy. It is considered that most children will potty train at any time between the ages of 24 months and 3 years of age, but some children will be older; night time training can take longer still. Any variation on this is fine!

Making a start on potty training

If the time is right and you are both ready to go, then you don’t want to miss your window of opportunity. It’s also important to remember that you are playing by your toddler’s rules here. The last thing you want is to make using the potty or toilet a chore, or to frighten your child in some way. Gently does it.

Give your child as much control over the situation as you possibly can. Take them with you to choose new underwear, a new potty or a toilet training seat. Ask them which they prefer to use- a potty or a toilet, or both? There is no harm in going straight for the toilet (that way eliminates the transition from the potty) as long as you are taking your child’s lead.

Make using the toilet normal. Let your child explore the bathroom (with your supervision) and help them to understand the process of using the toilet with books and simple explanations of what happens to our body when we need the toilet. Explain that all the water we drink and food we eat has to come out and make sure your child understands that it is all completely normal. Lots of parents allow their child to accompany them or older siblings to the toilet so that there is no mystery at all involved; this is fine to do. Talk to your child as much as possible, and answer all of the questions that they may have. Some parents also introduce a potty long before their child is ready for it, just by leaving it around the house to be investigated. This way the potty is not seen as a strange object when the time comes to use it.

Think before you speak. Remember that all of this is new to your child, and that they are looking to you for guidance. Help your child to grow and to explore by praising their efforts, but be specific. Instead of ‘well done’, tell your child that you know they must feel proud for being able to use the toilet. Generic praise is much less effective in the long run, so consider your words carefully.

Forget the bribes. Lots of parents will be tempted to reward children for using the potty or toilet, but this can cause more problems than it is worth. Some children may even hold back from using the potty if there is no reward forthcoming, and all of your hard work on normalising the whole process will have been a waste of time. Instead of rewards (whether they be stickers, high fives or sweets), try to play down the whole thing if possible. Allow your child to recognise the sensations that occur when they use the toilet, and help them to feel proud of their achievements, but make sure that they know this is all their own hard work (and you know it is nothing to do with any potential prize they might be given in return). Rewarding performances on the potty can’t be kept up forever, and can actually cause regressions if said rewards are withdrawn, so stick to guiding your child gently to appreciate what they have achieved instead.

Practical tips

Once your child feels safe and secure enough to use the toilet or potty and has some degree of success with it all, there is no turning back. Try to stick to underwear during the day and reserve nappies for sleep time only. This will help to reduce confusion for your child.

It’s also a good idea to carry around spare clothing wherever you go, in case of the odd accident. This is inevitable in the early days and is really nothing to be concerned about. Like anything, using the toilet instead of a nappy takes practise and some children will pick it up quicker than others.

Don’t let your own emotions get in the way here- it may be frustrating to have to change wet clothes, but if your child has made good progress any negativity from you can cause upset, embarrassment or even fear. The last thing you want to do is to cause a regression because you lost your cool.

If you’re at home, let your child wear just knickers on their bottom half so that quick dashes to the loo are as easy as possible. Lots of parents leave potty training to the summer months for this very reason.

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.