Cloth nappies for beginners

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

Why choose cloth nappies?

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

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

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

How to start

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

Research the different types of nappies available.

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

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

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

Check the sizing

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

Washing

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

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

The Beauty of Baby Wearing

‘Babywearing’, the term given to carrying your baby close to your body in a wrap or carrier, is an age old practice that has been passed down through generations and across different continents. Each different country has traditionally had its own different type of carrier unique to their own climate, and in many cultures today babywearing is a way of life; it is a necessity for many parents who need to carry on with physical work so after babies are born. So in this age of cars, public transport, prams and various other modes of transport, why would we continue to carry our babies in our modern culture? We can just as easily strap them into a buggy and stroll down to the park, can’t we? Yes, we can. But babywearing is about so much more than making life a little easier when you need to take baby along for the ride. Allow us to share with you the true beauty of babywearing.

An easy life

Starting with the most obvious, carrying your baby means that you can have an easier life. Rather than spending hours rocking a crying baby, you can simply pop them into a carrier and go about your business instead. Yes. You can wash up with a baby strapped to your chest. You can brush your teeth, you can walk the school run, you can hop on and off the bus with ease. Babywearing means that you can take your baby with you wherever you go, and not need to worry about folding and unfolding heavy prams and pushchairs. It means that you can have two arms free to do the grocery shopping. It means no more frantic face washes in the morning while the baby cries in the car seat by your feet.

Babywearing makes for an easy life, but this is only the beginning. It is a fringe benefit, if you like- just another reason to love it so.

Close enough to kiss.

When you wear your baby on your chest, you need to make sure that he/ she is close enough to kiss. This is for safety reasons (please see this article, from the babywearing magazine Close enough to Kiss, for the TICKS list and more information) and is important to remember. Beyond that, having your baby this close is essential for many other reasons.

● Bonding. Wearing your baby close to you, so that you can smell the top of his/ her head, and kiss the soft skin whenever you like is an act so intimate and so precious that it is little wonder babywearing has been attributed to strengthening the bond between parent and child.
● The fourth trimester. The first three months of a baby’s life is often referred to as such, because many believe that a newborn baby is not quite ready for the outside world after just nine months gestation. Replicating as many conditions of the womb as possible can help to soothe and settle your baby immensely, and babywearing is known to help. Babies love to be held closely, wrapped tightly next to a warm body. Not only that, but being able to hear your heartbeat helps to calm an unsettled baby too.
● Post Natal Depression. If you’re suffering following the birth of your baby, you may find that babywearing helps to alleviate some of the symptoms, because it can help to increase a mother’s self confidence in her ability to care for her baby. On top of that, babies that are carried are likely to cry less and more likely to sleep, thus reducing mother’s stress further.

Health benefits

It’s not just emotional. Although the reasons already stated do seem to be more than enough reasons to babywear! There have also been lots of studies done into the health benefits of babywearing and we’d like to share them with you.

Colic, reflux and wind. These common conditions can be the bane of some baby’s lives! Being held upright in a baby carrier can help to relieve symptoms and, of course, being close to you will help to calm upset babies too. If your baby is close to you in a sling or carrier, you are more likely to be aware of discomfort or pain that is being experienced too, making you more of a responsive parent as a result.

Physical development. Any warnings you’ve heard about babies that are carried being late walkers and unable to control gross motor skills are nonsense. Studies have found that babywearing actually promotes and aids physical development, because baby is more in tune with the parent’s own physical movements. Bending, stretching, walking and other movements are stimulating baby, and helping to regulate his/ her own movements too. In addition, premature or low weight babies have been known to gain in strength and weight from babywearing, simply due to the way that being carried allows baby to control bodily functions and movements.

Ear infections can be prevented through babywearing. Yes, really. And babywearing also helps to regulate baby’s temperature too. Studies have found that thermal synchronicity can occur through carrying baby. This means that if baby is too cold, mum’s own body temperature rises to compensate. A flexed position on mother’s chest is also much better at conserving heat than a horizontal position.

Breathing is regulated when a baby is carried close to a parent’s chest. This is fabulous news if baby has an irregular breathing pattern; by being close to and listening to a parent’s breathing pattern, baby will copy this pattern and therefore regulate his/ her own breathing.

Stress reactions are also improved with babywearing. Your baby’s responses to certain situations are more controlled, simply because you are there.

Your physical health also benefits from babywearing. Think about all the walking, bending, stretching and lifting you’ll be doing with a small baby attached to you. You’re more likely to walk to the shops too, rather than pop baby into a car seat for a drive.

Your baby’s emotions

Emotionally, babywearing is superb for new parents. And for babies? Even more so. Your baby is more likely to cry less and to feel more confident (that his/ her needs are going to be met quickly) and secure. Babies that are carried have also been shown to be more aware and vitally stimulated than babies who are not. In everything that you do, your baby is at your height and eye level, experiencing it all with you. And as baby relies on the senses so heavily, it’s easy to see why this would be so beneficial. Studies have also shown that babies who are carried develop other skills more quickly too- speaking, listening and general communication is improved, and the ability to learn fast is enhanced.

If you need more reasons why you should be babywearing, or if you’d like to try it out before you invest, do take a look here to find your local sling library. These facilities are excellent places to meet like-minded parents, and to chat to experts that can help you to perfect your carry.

Soothing baby reflux

Pregnancy is a wonderful time. Despite the intense fatigue, the sickness, and the aches and pains (not to mention all the other ailments and symptoms that can come about due to a growing baby), there is something magical about realising that you have helped to create an entire life, and that life is growing steadily within you. Pregnancy is also a time of planning, of dreaming, and of hoping that plans and dreams come together in the end to give you the perfect child in a perfect situation.

It’s not always the case though. You may hope for snuggling cuddles and long, leisurely walks, you may look forward to just sitting and watching your baby sleep, but what you probably won’t expect is not being able to do any of these things due to infant reflux. That’s what happened to me when my daughter was born – I had hoped for something so different for her, but my poor little girl was in pain what seemed like all of the time.

Infant reflux leaves you with a baby who is screaming in pain as their stomachs battle with the issues that are plaguing them. This means a baby who cannot settle, with whom you cannot spend quality, parent/child bonding time, and for whom you can do little to help. Over the counter medicines are so mild as to barely touch the problem. Prescribed medicines can cause horrible side effects. So what can be done? Perhaps it is time to turn to natural remedies to aid your baby’s well being. Stop feeling helpless and start the process towards health and happiness.

What Is Infant Reflux?

Infant reflux (or gastroesophageal reflux disease) means that your child has an underdeveloped oesophageal sphincter. Although the symptoms are often mistaken for the less serious (although still painful and uncomfortable) colic at first, having infant reflux means that the valve that opens to allow food to pass from the mouth to the stomach doesn’t close as it should once the food is swallowed. This means that anything eaten or drunk (including milk) can come back up the windpipe, and when it does it brings stomach acid with it. Obviously, this excessive acid is incredibly painful.

Signs and symptoms most commonly include your child arching their back after feeding, and crying due to the pain. Sleep will be disturbed (yours and theirs), and they may vomit more than a child without infant reflux would. As well as this, you may notice them gagging or choking (which in itself is an awful thing to witness in your infant), and they may get the hiccoughs frequently. Eventually, the pain and discomfort may lead to a refusal to eat (and therefore weight loss) and crying during a feed.

Natural Remedies That Can Help

As a parent, saving your child from pain becomes a lifelong mission, and I was (and am) no exception. And since none of the medicines we tried seemed to be helping at all, I decided I needed to look elsewhere to help her. In my quest, I found that there were plenty of other routes that can be taken when it comes to infant reflux.

• Homeopathic remedies have been used for over two centuries, and with good reason; they work. For reflux, Nat Phos 6x works wonders. Just one tablet dissolved in milk and given straight after a feed offers a huge relief from the pain and suffering that reflux brings. For babies who are breastfed, it is possible for the mother to take two of the tablets three times a day (after meals). The goodness is then passed straight to the baby through the mother’s milk.

• Diet when breastfeeding is another way to help ease the problems of infant reflux. Although there is no proven list of foodstuff that should be cut out of a child’s mother’s diet with regards to reflux, it is good to remember that a baby’s digestive system is tiny and delicate, and therefore can’t cope with items that an adult’s can. These things could include dairy, eggs, nuts, soya, caffeine, gluten, and anything spicy, as well as too many carbs. Drinking more chamomile tea may also help as the benefits are passed through your milk and can ease a sore tummy.

• Keep your baby’s head elevated whilst feeding. This will help aid the milk to get to her stomach rather than getting caught in her oesophagus. But it’s not just at mealtimes that reflux can occur, so also keep their head up during nappy changing, bath time, and playtime if possible.

• Little and often is the key to many things in life, and infant reflux doesn’t seem to be any different. It could be that too much milk at once can set off the symptoms of reflux, so smaller meals at more frequent intervals could settle it back down again. Burping after every feed is also helpful and can ease the pain your child may be feeling.

• Jewellery helps too. Not just any jewellery though; Hazelwood reflux jewellery helps to ease the excess acid build up that comes from reflux.

• Have you ever heard of baby wearing? Perhaps you have, but by a different name. Baby wearing is the practice of using a carrier or sling. It’s a wonderful way of bonding with your infant, but it also keeps them upright for longer than they might usually be (with no pressure of their stomachs), thus keeping the symptoms of reflux to a minimum.

• A chiropractor may well be able to help your baby’s reflux. Some babies suffer misalignment due to the birthing process, and this can lead to issues with their pallet and cranium, which means that reflux is more likely. A skilled chiropractor can ensure that this is fixed, and that reflux is less likely. Do make sure that the chiropractor you choose has worked with infants before, as the adjustments should only be very slight.

• Leading on from what a chiropractor can do for your child is what you can do at home; baby massage. Baby massage works to keep the digestive system working well and as it should do, even maturing it to be able to cope with different food types at an early age. There is no expensive or complicated equipment required; all you need is baby oil (organic if possible) with perhaps an added drop of lavender or chamomile.

Trying these alternative methods of calming a child’s infant reflux symptoms is not only a relief to the suffering baby, but a relief to the parents as well.

Baby Yoga: tips for beginners

There are those who advocate time to yourself when you’ve had a baby. Resume your activities and spend time away from baby as soon as you feel comfortable. Take up that class you’ve always wanted to while you’re on maternity leave. Make the most of your babysitters when they offer to watch baby. And there are those who advocate brining baby along with you, no matter what you’re doing. For some new mums, the latter is the only option when it comes to getting stuff done, and these days there are plenty mum and baby groups you can go along too, so the second option starts to become slightly more realistic all round. One such activity is yoga. If this is something you enjoyed during pregnancy or before you were expecting, once your doctor deems you fit enough, its something that you can resume quite easily postnatally. And yes, baby can come too. Here’s a quick guide baby yoga: tips for beginners.

What is baby yoga?

Baby yoga is actually very different to the yoga that you may have been practising as an adult. It’s more of an activity which encourages interaction and communication between parent and child. It incorporates movement and relaxation into a relaxed, informal and playful situation, drawing on many principles of baby massage. The power of touch is, once again, a key feature and an essential part of encouraging that bonding process between baby and child.

Experts believe that baby yoga helps parents to become attuned to their baby’s needs and more able to calm them as and when it’s needed- by providing a sense of security and wellbeing essential to normal emotional development. Likewise, parents who practise baby yoga with their infants are also more able to recognise when baby needs stimulation and many believe their relationship with baby is strengthened thanks to baby yoga too.

Baby yoga incorporates the following:

• Gentle body strokes
• Specially adapted yoga moves
• Postnatal yoga moves for mum
• Playful moves with songs and rhymes
• Parent and baby relaxation
• Developmental practises- holding head up, rolling over etc

How to get started

You don’t need to know much about yoga itself to get started, but it helps to know the basic principles behind it all. Yoga is all about exercise, relaxation, breathing and meditation. Now why would you not want to pass on those principles to your baby? Here are some tips for getting started.

• Speak to your health visitor or local children’s centre for details on a class locally
• Go along to a class and speak to the instructor before you commit to classes. Ask if you can watch part of a class, or if there is any information you can take away
• Research online

Once you have your class, or you feel you want to try at home, make sure that you time it right with baby. As with baby massage, you don’t need any specialist equipment as such (a mat is useful) , but you do want to make sure that baby is happy, alert and open to new experiences. So if she is tired or unwell, postpone your session for now.

Outside of your class, there are basic baby yoga poses that you can practise at home. Here are three easy moves you can do with baby:

Downward dog

One of our favourite poses! Lie baby gently on your mat and whilst in downward dog position, gently lean down to kiss her, bending your elbows wide. This is great for core strength for you, and interaction for baby. As you exhale, return to dog pose and repeat as many times as you’re able. What a fun game!

‘Flying’

A favourite game! Lie on the floor, on your mat, and position baby securely on your shins. Gently bounce her, as if she is flying. When you’re feeling braver, start to straighten out your legs, and bounce baby up and down. You can sing a song to her as she flies.

Handstands

Your baby is going to love this! Having spent most of her time in the womb upside down, what’s not to love about a headstand? Headstands bring more blood to the brain and sends signals to the nervous system that tell the body to calm down and relax. This helps to fight fear and anxiety and instills confidence, strength and coordination too.

Make sure your baby can see you, and that you are in a safe space. Use a mat for cushioning and a wall for extra safety and support. Sit with your knees bent, with baby lying back on you. Hold on to her ankles and allow her lie back. For older babies, lie her down on the mat and lift her legs. Lots of praise is essential here, and make it fun too. Simple rhymes and lots of smiles will reassure and help her enjoy the headstand even more.

Three top tips for making the most of baby led weaning

As your baby grows older, more and more exciting experiences await you both! One such experience is weaning. The end of your breastfeeding journey may seem like such a long way away, and it probably is. But from the age of around six months or so, your baby will start to explore new tastes and textures that are so vastly different from milk. This is where the fun starts! These days, baby led weaning is often recommended for babies over the age of six months, because it is a valuable way to teach your baby about those new tastes and textures without limiting her need for exploration and sense of adventure. Here are our three top tips for making the most of baby led weaning. Enjoy!

What is baby led weaning?

Put simply, baby led weaning is allowing your baby to lead the way when it comes to weaning from milk onto food. Babies who are allowed to lead the way will do so by feeding themselves, and choosing the foods that they want to eat at mealtimes. Recent studies have shown that by allowing your baby to explore and taste new foods in her own time and at her own pace has huge benefits, such as:

● a reduction in obesity
● a reduction in fussiness around food
● a reduced risk of choking (baby learns very quickly that food needs to be broken down, in contrast to babies who are weaned onto pureed foods)
● improved speech development
● improved motor skills

So when you present your baby with a selection of foods and allow her to pick them up, taste them, play with them and finally eat them, you are assisting her in more ways than one!

Baby led weaning can be messy. It can also be lots of fun. But for some parents, the idea of allowing baby to choose at mealtimes can seem a little strange. The best advice for this is to just go with the flow, as much as you can. You may want to compromise a little and offer some pureed foods too. That’s up to you. However you decide to manage it, hopefully these tips will help:

Don’t be afraid of gagging

Chances are, as baby learns how to chew and to break down food in her mouth, she is going to gag now and then. This is when food hits the back of the throat, and is not the same as choking. Gagging is a normal reflex that we all have, and for babies it’s important because it helps to teach them how to eat. Your baby will make a noise when she gags, but it will not bother her. She will move the food and she will continue to eat.

Choking is different, because if your baby is choking she will not make a noise because her airway is blocked. Your baby will become frightened and you will know the difference when this happens. There is no real way to prevent choking during baby led weaning, but there are precautions you can take. Make sure that food is cut into bite size pieces, and make sure that you fully supervise feeding times. Baby should be sitting up during mealtimes and not leaning back in anyway. It’s also a great idea to enrol on a baby first aid course so that if choking occurs you will know what to do.

Don’t be afraid of the mess

Babies use their senses to explore and to learn about the world around them, and playing with food is a totally natural progression of this. Let her investigate her food by poking it, prodding it and smashing it in her fist. It will not hurt! Take the following precautions if the mess really bothers you:

● Pop a waterproof mat (or an old shower curtain) down on the floor to catch fallen food.
● Invest in some sensible bibs- long sleeve ones are fantastic
● Invest in a high chair that is easily cleaned

Make sure the time is right

The World Health Organisation recommends that weaning takes place at around 6 months of age as it is deemed by this age milk alone is not enough to sustain your baby. But all babies are different, and some may not be ready at this time. It’s important to remember that when you first introduce solid food to babies, it is really just for taste and texture, rather than nutrition. So until 12 months of age, milk is still really important, and where baby will get most of her nourishment from. It’s important to time it right, so look for these signs that baby is ready:

● baby can sit up in a chair, unaided
● baby can hold her head up
● baby can chew
● baby is not tired, or too hungry- offer milk first, and view solid foods as an exploration rather than a meal, at first.
● baby is interested in food

Are you ready? It’s an exciting time, but it’s not without it’s stress too. Take each day as it comes, and don’t expect too much from your baby. If you are relaxed and happy at mealtimes, she will pick up on this and is more likely to grow into a happy eater. Good luck… and have fun!

The importance of skin to skin

Skin to skin contact for newborn babies is one of life’s little acts of magic; an act that can provide a wealth of health and emotional benefits, and an act that can literally induce happiness. Research has shown that skin to skin contact immediately after birth and in the days, weeks and months afterwards can have a huge impact on baby’s heart rate and well-being, and in strengthening the bond between baby and parent. Read on for more about the importance of skin to skin.

What is skin to skin and how is it done?

Skin to skin is just that- your baby’s skin next to yours, with no blankets and no clothes in between you. This takes place straight after birth (or as soon as is possible, depending on the circumstances) and studies have found that it helps to:

● stabilise baby’s temperature
● stabilise baby’s heart rate and breathing
● allow baby to colonise mother’s bacteria (immediately after birth) which is essential for the prevention of allergies
● form a bond between baby and parent
● reduce stress levels of baby and parent
● aid and facilitate breastfeeding

For premature babies, the effects of skin to skin contact with a parent can be astounding. It’s sometimes referred to as Kangaroo Care and is often carried out for prolonged periods of time in the special care units at hospital. These premature babies are able to regulate their temperatures just as well as they would inside an incubator. Other benefits include:

● better sleep, which aids growth and preserves energy
● less stress for babies when undergoing special care treatments
● better weight gain
● fewer illnesses and infections
● earlier discharge from special care
● more chance of long term breastfeeding success

For parents of premature babies, being able to hold them and to contribute towards their recuperation is wonderful; often special care units can be daunting for many and this is one way in which parents can take back a little of the parenting that may be denied to them whilst their baby is too small to come home.

Speak to your medical team about skin to skin, and if you write a birth plan make sure you state that you would like skin to skin contact as soon as possible after birth. The following is recommended:

● Ask for baby to be placed directly onto your chest (or your partner’s, if you are unable) immediately after birth.
● Ensure that baby’s head is turned to the side and airways are open.
● Hold baby close for as long as possible, up to an hour or more.

Some studies have found that skin to skin contact for up to two hours after birth, is the optimum length of time, so if you can request that checks are carried out after this it could be worth doing. In the days following birth, and indeed the weeks and months following birth too, skin to skin remains an important and essential tool for you and your baby. Experts agree that if you’re able to spend at least an hour with your baby against your skin (and baby stripped down to her nappy) it can continue to work it’s magic. At least an hour is recommended so that baby can go through a natural sleep cycle whilst you are holding her. This helps her biological system to stabilise.

If your baby is delivered via a c-section, you can still request skin to skin contact. Some hospitals will ask you to wait until you are in recovery but do ask, as some surgeons are happy to deliver baby straight to your chest if all is well. If you’re unable to hold baby straight away, your partner can have skin to skin instead. Studies have shown that paternal heart rhythms are just as effective in stabilising baby’s own heart rate, and what better way for daddy to get know his new baby?

As your baby gets older, the way that you carry out skin to skin sessions can change and you will notice that she won’t always sleep on you as she once did. Some mothers (and indeed fathers) take the opportunity to have a bath with their baby, and enjoy skin to skin in this way too. You’ll find lots of ways to get the most of this precious time with your baby!

Caring for a baby’s skin in winter

Your baby’s skin is very delicate and a lot more sensitive than an adults, which means that it requires lots of special attention from you. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and whatever we put onto it is absorbed by the body- and for babies this happens a lot quicker too. Your baby’s skin is also a lot thinner than yours, which is why it needs to be treated with care, and why what you put onto it needs to be closely scrutinised. Throughout the cold winter months, the skin can take a battering in terms of temperature changes and adverse weather- and this goes for babies too! Here is a quick guide to caring for baby’s skin in the winter.

Before you go out

Before you leave the house, make sure that you prepare your baby’s skin for the weather outside. Cold winds, rain and icy weather can not only make us feel cold, but can have an affect on the skin too. Babies are extra sensitive to changing temperatures, so you also need to take care not to let baby get too cold or too hot. Wrap up warm to leave the house, but make sure you remove the extra layers as soon as you come inside.

Another good tip before you go out is to make sure your baby is dressed in breathable layers, which will defend against heat rash. In the winter months it is still possible for babies to suffer from this when they are bundled up warmly to protect against the cold! It might also be a good idea to apply some balm to baby’s lips to protect them from chapping. With the cold weather and a baby’s tendency to drool and dribble, chapped lips are often the number one cause of upset for babies in winter- and it’s something that’s easily resolved.

It’s also a good idea to use a rain cover on your pram (if you aren’t carrying baby in a sling/ carrier) and don’t forget the hats and gloves too. Babies lose lots of heat from their hands and skin on the hands can become very sore in cold weather.

Lastly, make sure you apply a good but delicate moisturiser to baby’s face before you leave the house. This will help to protect against biting winds and cooler temperatures, because it helps the skin to stay hydrated, making it less susceptible to chapping. Use only natural ingredients on your baby’s skin and lips as chemicals can not only cause adverse reactions, but are less likely to protect against the elements.

At bath time

Bath time is an excellent opportunity to reinforce your baby’s skin care routine, and this is ever more important in the winter months. Don’t skip bath time; allow your baby to splash in the warm water, and follow it with a soothing baby massage to help relax and soothe sore skin. Use a warmed (in your hands) massage oil to moisturise baby’s skin and as you relax and bond, you are providing your baby’s skin with extra protection against the cold weather outside. Remember that cold air carries less moisture than warm air, so you may need to moisturise your baby’s skin a little more often.

Conditions to protect against

There are a number of skin conditions that may affect your baby during the winter months; alternatively existing complaints may worse during cold weather. These include:
● eczema: if your baby suffers, pay close attention during cold weather as this can often exacerbate symptoms. Make sure you keep up your skincare routine and regularly check your baby’s skin for soreness
● frost bite: make sure baby wears gloves or mittens and it goes without saying that feet need to be covered too! In extremely cold weather babies can be more susceptible to frost bite so keep outings short if you can, and take extra care to shelter from icy winds.
● snow burn: did you know that snow can reflect the sunlight and cause sunburn? Take care to protect baby’s skin as you would in summer.
● chapped skin/ lips

Natural ways to protect the skin

Of course, whatever you put onto your baby’s skin will be absorbed by the body so it’s important to pay attention to what you use. Look for natural and organic ingredients when you buy baby’s toiletries, and pay special attention to the labels in case there are hidden chemicals in there. If you are at all concerned, do speak to your doctor for further advice.

A few of our favourite natural ingredients to use on baby’s skin include:

● shea butter
● organic calendula oil
● sweet almond oil
● coconut oil

Don’t forget that your baby does not need to bath every single day, especially if she suffers from skin conditions that worsen in the winter. Always pat skin dry and apply moisturiser is gentle downwards strokes. It’s a good idea to make sure that clothing is soft too, and only use non-biological washing detergents.

Tips for being a mindful parent

In this busy world where we work and play hard, it can be all too easy to fall into bad habits in life. But when it comes to parenting there are no second chances. What we do now can affect our children for the rest of their lives, so its important to make the most of this time.

This week we’re looking at ways to be more present for our children, and sharing some tips on being a mindful parent. What does it mean to be a mindful parent? Being a mindful parent means being present in today. Being there for your child and being able to respond to your child without distractions. Being a mindful person requires a level of self understanding; to be a mindful parent we are required to understand our children.

This can be done! Conscious parenting is so much more in reality, and it’s not always easy to get it right – but that’s ok. Being a mindful parent means growing and developing as your child grows and develops. Parenthood is a steep learning curve, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible!

Here are some tips that might work for you.

Be intentional, not accidental

By this we mean, approach each situation with your child with intention. Re-create your world when your baby is born, and make sure your re-creation is a child friendly version. Now that you’ve decided to be a parent, you may have to make sacrifices and self improvements too. Often parenthood is a huge job with no salary- you have to really want to do it! Approach it with positivity and good intentions… and prepare to learn as you go along. And if part of being a mindful parent is also being a mindful person, be aware of your own strengths and celebrate them in your parenting journey.

Listen to your child

Being a mindful parent means keeping your child in mind at all times. Listen to her and respond accordingly to her needs. You are your child’s biggest advocate and it’s up to you make her feel safe, secure and loved. This will come naturally, so don’t panic! This is not a difficult task- this is your calling! When you listen to your child and understand what she is communicating, you are able to better respond and strengthen your bond.

Be open to ideas

Part of being a mindful parent is making informed choices, and this doesn’t mean avoiding all advice or throwing all the parenting manuals in the bin. Instead, take time to read up on any issues you’re experiencing, and be open to advice and guidance.

Use bits of the books that are relevant to you and how YOU want to bring up your child

Bear in mind that your child is an individual and that you are responsible for her guidance in the world, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone! Think carefully about the big decisions that matter a lot to you and your family, and keep your child’s best interests in mind at all times. We all need a little support now and then, so don’t feel you need to close yourself down.

Go with your instincts

Being a mindful parent means being an instinctive parent, and our instincts can be the most powerful tool we have. With the knowledge you gain from understanding your child and reading around, your instincts will quickly be your go to when you need to make a decision quickly. Follow your heart. Remember parenting is a journey Just as life is not a goal but a journey, parenting is the same. Don’t set expectations on your child and hope for certain results within a certain time frame.

Accept that this is a journey, and it will last for the rest of your life!

Go with the flow where you can, and appreciate the small bumps and twists when they arrive. And most of all, enjoy the ride. Your role in this wonderful journey is to nurture, nourish and protect. Accept your child for who she is. Make room for your child in your life, and be grateful for the changes that come your way. Parenting is one of the most rewarding jobs you can have in your lifetime and it’s up to you to make the most of it.

So switch off your computer, put your phone away and be there in your child’s life for an extra hour a day. You are guaranteed to enjoy it, and one day you’ll look back on all the memories you made with a smile on your face.

Tips for tired toddlers

When your toddler is tired, there’s a very good chance you will know about it before she does! Sometimes fatigue and exhaustion are more evident to us than it is to them, or perhaps they just don’t want to admit it. Whatever the reason for conflict, many toddlers will want to assert a little control over their lives where they can, and resisting sleep can be one such way to do this. So if you have a tired toddler at home, and naps are being refused for whatever reason, here are some tips to help you out!

Understanding the tiredness

Half the battle can be understanding why your toddler is tired, and how you can help her to fall asleep. It might also help to understand what the body needs to be able to fall asleep too. The hormones melatonin and cortisol are key for getting good sleep, and the levels of these change throughout the day. So your toddler will find it easier to fall asleep at some times of the day rather than others.

Cortisol keeps us awake, and its levels are highest around 8 am. So plan your activities for this time of the day, when your toddler is likely to be most responsive and alert. Cortisol levels drop throughout the day, and are raised when you feel stressed or upset.

Melatonin helps us to sleep, and levels are increased when there is an absence of light. So if your room is dim and quiet, you are more likely to be able to fall asleep.

When your toddler is over tired

The over tired toddler is a difficult one. Perhaps you missed the nap window, or perhaps she didn’t sleep well last night? Or maybe it’s just been a long day, and bedtime didn’t come around soon enough for one reason or another. An over tired toddler will find it hard to switch off because her Cortisol levels have started to raise- so it’s going to be up to you to convince her that sleep is a really good idea!

You can spot an overtired toddler easily:

● She becomes argumentative, and fond of the word NO!
● She starts to yawn a lot
● She becomes fidgety and ‘twitchy’
● She displays ‘hyperactive’ behaviour
● She falls out with friends
● Clumsiness
● Fighting sleep

So once you know your toddler is overtired, what do you do? It can be a turbulent situation at this point, but resist the urge to argue with your toddler. Remember that you are the adult and your little one isn’t always 100% in control of her actions. Keep calm and try these tips:

● Remove your toddler from all stimulation. No TV, no computer games, and go inside if you’re out.
● Have some quiet activities ready and spend some time together doing them for a while. Read a book, for example, and give her body a chance to relax.
● Encourage sleep, by perhaps lying down with her for a moment. Remember that as she is over tired she may take longer to fall asleep than usual.
● Make sure the room is dim so that Melatonin levels can begin to rise, and Cortisol levels can drop.

An over tired toddler can be hard work, but there’s no reason why you can’t beat it! And after a nap your toddler will be ready for the day once more… hopefully!

General tips for better toddler sleep

Making sure that your toddler doesn’t become overtired is often the first step towards securing better sleep overall. But it can be easier said than done! Here are some general tips for better toddler sleep all round:

● Keep a good routine and make naps a priority
● Have plenty of quiet times in between busy activities
● Encourage your toddler to spend time relaxing if she is growing out of naps
● Eat and drink well- avoid sugary snacks
● Get plenty of fresh air and exercise
● Make bedtime a priority too- keep to a flexible but consistent routine and encourage all care-givers to do the same.
● Try toddler massage to help your little one to relax at sleep time

Over time, your toddler will learn how to manage her own behaviors around sleep and may go on to lie in a little at the weekends. Or is that wishful thinking?

Toddler Massage

Being parent to a toddler is many things. It is wonderful. Exciting. Exhausting. Rewarding. A full mixture of emotions and challenges, meaning that no day is ever dull. And who would want it any other way? But in this modern culture of busyness and fast living, we constantly find ourselves juggling work, family, cleaning, cooking and all the rest of it, often at the expense of other, equally as important commitments. We don’t always get time to step back and consider other important elements, such as the happiness and well-being of our family and, most importantly, our children. Our little ones need to know that they are special, and its up to us to tell them! Are we literally losing touch with our children?

Toddler massage

Introducing positive touch into your toddler’s daily routine is not as hard as you might think. We’re huge advocates of baby massage but there’s no need for it to end once baby becomes a toddler! Massage is hugely beneficial for people of all ages; we all love to be touched, and a massage is a wonderful way to project feelings of love onto another person. Studies have shown that receiving a massage can help to boost the immune system, ease stresses and strains, and help to maintain a positive outlook on life. Why would we not want that for our toddlers? We don’t all have personal masseurs to hand, unfortunately, but rest assured that you yourself are more than able to give your child a massage. There’s no reason at all why it can’t become a wonderful part of your daily routine for many years.

The benefits of massage

If you’re still not sure, it might help you to know that studies have found many benefits to the toddler massage, and the power of nurturing touch is definitely not to be underestimated. Tiffany Field’s study at the Touch Institute in Miami discovered that children who received regular massages had better sleep patterns, lower anxiety levels and less stress hormones in their bodies. These children also had an improved cognitive performance when examined too. In addition, emotional regulation and self soothing in toddlers is improved through massage, and parents are really able to connect with their children as a result. It’s worth noting that regular massage can also help to ease symptoms of minor childhood ailments, such as headaches, constipation and teething pain.

The differences between baby massage and toddler massage

Baby massage is a wonderfully relaxed and soothing activity between parent and child, and a super way to end the day before bed. Toddler massage is a little different in that older children will need to be more involved in the process. If you have a toddler at home, you might know what we mean! Not many toddlers will lie still for any length of time, no matter how relaxing and soothing their massage is. Instead of expecting your toddler to take a passive role, try:

• Using stories and songs into your routine. Songs such as Incy Wincy Spider, This Little Piggy or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are great for gentle massage strokes and you can draw out the actions with your hands.
• Ask your toddler where he/ she would like their massage; give them control of the whole thing. This will give them positive physical boundaries and help to empower them in their own bodies. It will also help to build and maintain a relationship of trust too.

Why toddlers specifically benefit from massage

The life of a toddler is not an easy one. There is so much in this hugely exciting world that they want to do, to master and to achieve, and yet many times such things are just out of reach. So frustrating! Toddlers respond so well to positive touch because it helps to calm and soothe at times of frustration and anger. Here are some more reasons why toddler massage might be a good idea:

• Soothing. As already mentioned, a toddler’s life can be frustrating, and not only for the toddler! A relaxing massage can be just the way to unwind at the end of the day for both parent and child.
• Bonding. In our busy lives, we don’t always take much time to really connect with our families, and when you have a toddler it can be even more difficult. Massage is the perfect way to strengthen the bond between parent and demanding toddler.
• Stimulation. Massage aids digestion, stimulates the nervous and immune systems and helps the blood to circulate freely around the body. It also helps to improve skin suppleness and texture.
• Sleep. Massage helps to relax and soothe, and promotes better and longer sleep.
• Respiratory. Massage aids the circulatory system, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to flow around the body. This oxygen uptake also strengthens the the immune system.
• Internal organs are stimulated during a massage, which helps to promote their growth.
• Infections are reduced as the flow of lymphatic fluid is increased, thus leading to a natural resistance to illness.
• Growth is improved as hormones from the pituitary gland are increased.
• Movement. Massage helps to allow the body’s muscles to relax, which means that the joints can move freely. This can release stress and tension in the body and encourages muscular relaxation and joint flexibility.
• Emotional. Toddlers, like us, thrive on touch. The emotional benefits of a massage are huge, as your toddler learns the power of the loving touch,
• Relaxation is not always easy when you’re a toddler, but massage helps to teach essential skills of becoming calm and listening to the body, especially in times of stress. This can help with aggressive or hyperactive behaviour and improves physical and mental energy levels- which in turns encourages alertness, concentration and feelings of well-being.
• Motor development is improved.
• Cognitive development is improved.

Getting started with toddler massage

So you’re ready to get started? Great stuff. If you’re already familiar with baby massage, and your toddler is used to being touched in this way then the transition to toddler massage will be easy. Toddlers who are not familiar with positive touch will also benefit, but it is likely to take a little longer to get them used to the new routine. Take it slowly and keep the communication open at all times. Never force a massage if your toddler is unwilling; take each day as a new day and ensure that positive associations are given to massage at all times. Here are some tips for getting started:

• Choose your time. At the end of a busy day, before bed, is the probably the best time for a massage, but you will know this best. Massage helps to raise levels of oxytocin in the body, which aids sleep and therefore helps to relax before bed.
• Keep it familiar. Choose a location in your home and stick to it. Let your toddler know what to expect every step of the way. The bedroom is ideal, as it helps to promote a feeling of well-being that will be associated to both massage and bed time.
• Comfort. You want your toddler to be as comfortable as possible so make sure the room is warm as your child will be partially undressed. Also make sure that your toddler is resting on a soft surface, such as a blanket or towel.
• Calm. Keep the massage session as calm and relaxing as possible. Dim the lights, play soft music- whatever you need to do to create the right atmosphere.
• Choosing a massage oil. If you’re using a massage oil, choose it carefully and keep in mind sensitive skin or allergies. Avoid nut oils and be aware that some toddlers will most likely end up with oil on their hands and probably also in their mouths! Mineral oils are also best avoided as they are not easily absorbed by the skin and can leave your toddler slippery and greasy. The best oil to use is an organic, unrefined vegetable, avocado or grapeseed oil. Always carry out a patch test before you massage your toddler, to eliminate any adverse reactions to the oil.
• Positioning is important for both you and your toddler. Make sure that your back is supported in a chair, or if you’re sitting on the floor make sure that you support your back with some pillows propped against a wall or similar.

When not to massage

There will be some days where a massage will not beneficial to either you or your toddler. That’s ok! Don’t attempt to massage your child if:
• Either of you are unwell. Wait until you’re feeling better, otherwise the positive associations you’ve built up so carefully could be compromised for you both.
• Fever. Children with high temperatures should not be massaged, as the heart rate can be decreased by a massage. Wait until the fever has passed.
• Tummy upsets can be worsened if the stomach is stimulated, and your toddler will probably also experience discomfort.
• Rashes or lesions on the skin need to be assessed by a doctor before you massage.
• Immunisations can delay a massage too. Wait at least 48 hours after injections so that the medicine can be absorbed by the body at the correct rate.
• Existing medical conditions. Some conditions mean that massage is not recommended for your toddler. If your child is experiencing or has recently experienced the following, a massage is not advised: an infectious disease; a fracture, sprain or swelling; a haemorrhage; meningitis; childhood leukemia; Osteoporosis/ brittle bones; An operation; A congenital heart condition; Aortic valve stenosis; Atrial septal defect; Pulmonary valve stenosis; Ventricular septal defect; Congenital dislocation of the hip; Dysfunction of the nervous system; Epilepsy; Skin allergies

Toddler massage can be a wonderful way to regain precious connections with your child, and when you consider the benefits that can be reaped, it’s a wonder why more families don’t use it as part of their daily routine. So, what are you waiting for?