Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Do Babies Dream?

If you have ever watched a baby sleeping (and if you're a parent I bet you have!) you will have seen them twitch and move in their sleep. You have probably wondered if they were dreaming, and if so what they might be dreaming about.

The short answer is that we don't know, we can't ask them to find out. But we can look at clues and try to make an educated guess. Adults dream during REM sleep, that sleep where you can see a person's eyes moving about behind their eyelids, especially in the later part of the night. Babies do experience REM, in fact they have more REM than adults, so it seems logical to suppose that they might dream.

So what do they dream about? Well, that might not actually be the best question. As adults we think of dreams as being about something, they have a plotline however crazy or mundane that might be. We also experience the world in that way, as a story. We talk about the things that have happened, cause and effect, a sequence of events. If we have an emotion we like to be able to say we feel that way because of something that has happened and we get really annoyed when that isn't the case. Unusual emotions as a result of hormones or illness really throw us, why are you crying when you have nothing to be sad about?? We dream the way we experience life, as a story produced from a jumble of things we've seen or done.

So how does a newborn baby experience the world? Again, we don't really know for sure since we can't ask them but it seems likely that it's not as a sequence of events. Probably more like a cloud of disembodied sensations and emotions. Strong arms,  the sound of a familiar voice, contentment, hunger, sucking, the flavour of milk, the shock of a cold baby wipe, movement, a heartbeat, a familiar smell, contentment again. A newborn is swimming in a soup of  sights, sounds and feelings that don't have a plot. They don't have to, they simply are what they are.

My guess (and it is only my guess) is that a baby's dream would be similar. Perhaps they recall a snatch of that lullaby you sang, or the feel of Daddy's arms holding them. They might see a face coming into focus or remember the taste of warm milk. A baby might feel warm, content, secure and safe in dreams just as they do in life.

We will probably never know for sure, but that's what I choose to believe! What do you think?

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Our nappy routine

A few people have asked me about using washable nappies, isn't it a lot of work? I actually find it really easy, here's what we do.

This is our changing area. Instead of an expensive changing table we have used an ordinary chest of drawers, it will be useful for years and since it fits in the alcove I didn't even have to add a safety rail! That means all the baby clothes are to hand as well as the nappies, which is great when you realise you need a new vest half way through a change!

The nappy bucket is right there, with a lid to keep the smells in, and the box of washable wipes fits on top next to the changing mat. Finally there's a mobile which my husband made out of airfix kits. William loves to watch the planes spin round and it keeps him happily occupied so he isn't wriggling about too much!

The top drawer has all the changing things, nappies, wraps, liners and other bits and bobs like nappy cream (which we very rarely use). Everything is always in easy reach, no need to leave a baby on the changing mat to fetch something. And for those parents with a bad back or a C-section scar - no need to bend down!

So, how do we use the nappies? Well, there are lots of different types and they are all slightly different but the ones we have just go on exactly like a disposable and do up with Velcro. They have a nice thick booster pad and a fleece liner sewn in already so you really don't have to do anything, although with a bigger baby on solid foods I might add a separate liner. Then the waterproof wrap goes over the top, again it does up with Velcro just like a disposable.

When it's time to change the nappy I just take it off and put it in the lidded bucket. The wrap can do quite a few changes before it needs to be washed. Currently we only have breastmilk poo to deal with, when things get more solid they will need to be flushed down the loo, which is where the disposable liners can come in handy. But for now that's it. No soaking, no rinsing, it's no more work than throwing a disposable in the bin. Then every two or three days I pop the whole lot in the washing machine (no more work than emptying the rubbish bin!). The kind of nappies I use can be tumble dried and we have a washer-drier so depending on the weather I might hang them up or I might just set it to wash and dry. Then pop the dry nappies back in the drawer ready for next time. At least I don't have to carry a new packet home from the shops!

The wipes we use are just as easy, little cloths that fit in a plastic box with just enough water to make them damp. I put them in the bucket with the nappies, wash them and when the box is empty just put the stack of dry wipes in with some fresh water. You can actually put them straight in the box from the washing machine, still damp, but this routine suits me so I'm going with it. I love our washable wipes! I'm even considering getting a second box to do the same as cleaning wipes around the kitchen.

Have you tried washable nappies? Would you consider it? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Best Ever Dribble Bib

My little man has been dribbling like crazy recently so when I heard about brand new business Lyddi Grace Designs I thought I would try them out!

Of course you can use an ordinary bib but they tend to look a bit out of place if it isn't a mealtime, and look babyish on a toddler. Plus they usually cover much more of the chest than is really necessary and often aren't absorbent enough. Typical dribble bibs are a bandana style in bright colours which look much better and are more absorbent but tend to gather up in lots of folds under the baby's chin, which I always think looks uncomfortable.

The Lyddi Grace dribble bib is a bandana type shape but designed to lie flat instead of gathering under the baby's chin. It also comes in a whole range of gorgeous patterns and colours, and a choice of two different backing fabrics.

Ours arrived this morning and I'm really impressed with it. The cotton fabric is nice and sturdy and the fleece backing is beautifully soft against baby's skin as well as providing a water resistant layer. It fits nicely, fastening with poppers that allow for two different sizes and will last better than a velcro fastening would. It certainly seems comfortable and did it's job well, even after a lot of dribbly bubble blowing the top underneath stayed dry.

Lydia hand makes all her bibs beautifully and is really helpful too, so I'm so pleased to be able to support her and recommend her lie flat bibs wholeheartedly. I'm sure I'll be buying more!

(PS This is not a sponsored post, in fact they don't even know I'm writing it. Just an honest review which I hope you find useful.)

Monday, 23 May 2016

5 things to do when you dont have time to cook

It seems like such a nice idea, wholesome food cooked from scratch with love. What better way to nurture your young family? The trouble is, even if you love cooking some days you want to go to a toddler group, or school run is at exactly the wrong time, or you are just too busy. So how can you provide a nutritious, home cooked meal when you simply don't have time to cook?

1. Use a slow cooker

Slow cookers are great, and not just for stews! You can put all the ingredients in before you go out and come home to a hot meal that just needs to be served up. Some have a cooking time of just two or three hours, which will be perfect for lunchtime and others cook all day while you are out on adventures. You could do jacket potatoes or soup for a light lunch, bolognaise sauce that just needs some quickly cooked pasta or a lightly spiced tagine style stew. Yum! If you have an aga you can use the slow oven in exactly the same way, bringing the food to a boil before putting it in. I've been know to start a stew in the aga 24 hours before we needed to eat it!


2. Use the oven timer

A lot of ovens these days come with timers and can be set to turn themselves on and off at certain times. This is perfect if you know you'll be in at an exact time, after the school run or a class for example. Just put the food in the oven before you go out and program it to turn on half an hour before you get home. Obviously you will want to be careful of putting things like raw fish in the oven at room temperature for hours so this method might be best for vegetarian dishes or times when you wont be out of the house for too long. I tend to program it to be ready ten minutes after I plan to get home, and to turn off automatically, just incase we get delayed.


3. Use leftovers

If you know you have a busy day coming up why not cook extra the night before and just have leftovers? Lots of leftovers can be turned into new dishes too, especially things like plain cooked meat and vegetables, which can become a stir fry, a frittata or a pie in next to no time. Bolognaise can become a lasagne (which you can then put in the slow cooker or in the oven on a timer) or add a few beans and spices for chilli.


4. Use quick cook foods

On busy days you don't have to produce a roast dinner or cheese soufflĂ© (you never have to produce soufflĂ© unless you want to!) There is nothing wrong with having a few quick meals on hand for when you want to go out, or to pull out when plans go wrong. Scrambles eggs on toast served with fruit and yogurt covers all the food groups and will be ready in minutes. 


5. Use your freezer

Ok, so this won't help you much if your freezer only contains icecream, but it is a useful tool to combine with the other tools. Why not make an extra pasta bake next time and freeze it? Then cook it using the oven timer? Slow cooker meal kits (or "dump bags") are so quick and easy to do, and home made chicken nuggets can be cooked from frozen. It takes a little bit of planning but you'll be so grateful on busy days, sometimes I manage to only cook once a week! 


I'm not saying every meal has be cooked from scratch, everyone has different ideas about using packets, tins and ready made food. You might be happy with opening a tin most days, or occasionally, or not at all. That's fine by me, you know what's best for your family!

Easy Family Food

If you are struggling to find time to cook delicious food every day then my new course is perfect for you. Easy Family Food is all about letting dinner make itself while you get out of the kitchen and get on with life! 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

What is sleeping through the night?

Following on from last week's blog post we have been talking about babies "sleeping through the night," sometimes seen as the holy grail of early parenting! The question is, what does sleeping through the night actually mean?

Some doctors and experts consider sleeping through to be an unbroken stretch of sleep from midnight to 5am, only five hours. Most new parents are glad of that much sleep but wouldn't call it sleeping through!

Some sleep experts and books call sleeping through, either generally or in babies under a certain age, unbroken sleep from a late evening "dream feed" until morning. Usually eight or nine hours, which gives a tired mama the chance of a reasonable night's sleep.

Other people don't think a baby (or toddler) is really sleeping through until they can go from their bedtime all the way to morning without waking - eleven or twelve hours. That's long enough for mum and dad to have a child free evening and a good night's sleep.

So, do all these different definitions matter? Ultimately, no. Whatever you call it your baby will develop the ability to sleep for longer stretches gradually and in their own time so it doesn't really matter what label you use!

The problem is, parents do like to compare their babies. If someone tells you their baby slept through at just a few days old, they might be talking about a five hour stretch. Meanwhile you're still waiting for your baby to go twelve hours and feeling like you're falling behind! What if your baby sleeps for eight hours every night but instead of 11pm to 7am (through the night) she likes to sleep from 7pm to 3am. It's still eight hours, just less convenient for the adults.

All babies are different, they all grow at their own rate and they develop the ability to sleep for longer stretches when they are ready (if you need help with that, do ask me!) Being able to tick off a milestone is always fun, but when you chat to other mums remember that you might well be comparing apples and oranges. And if you're talking to a doctor, health visitor or other medical professional, always question exactly what they mean by "sleeping through."

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Surviving on no sleep

We all know that newborn babies don't exactly sleep well, even those who love to sleep will need regular feeds and some struggle to settle, or have reflux, or just don't sleep for any number of reasons.
There are lots of things you can do to gently guide your newborn towards better sleep, and eventually sleeping through the night, but in the meantime night wakings are going to be a part of your life. The question is, how do you function during the day?

Emergency Sleep

If you have had less than four hours sleep in the last 24 hours then you are in desperate need of rest. The same can apply after very disrupted sleep for weeks or months. In that situation you are not safe to drive, not safe to share a bed with your baby, and can't function properly - although you might think you can. Life really is a struggle at that point, both physically and emotionally, and you are in desperate need of some emergency sleep.

This is the time when you need to rope in someone else, your partner, your mother, an understanding friend or a nanny. It doesn't have to be overnight, if they can only manage daytime, you are tired enough to sleep no matter what. First of all, if you are breastfeeding, express as much milk as you can. Then go to sleep while your helper cares for the baby somewhere where they wont disturb you. Have the breast pump set up near your bed so that if you wake with sore breasts you can just express quickly and go straight back to sleep. Don't get out of bed until you can't sleep any more. I heard of one mum who slept for a full 24 hours!

The world will seem like a whole new place in the morning.

Prioritise Rest

Make rest one of your most important priorities, right after making sure both you and the baby get fed. Yes, it's that old saying "sleep when the baby sleeps." I know it's tempting to use nap time to run round and get jobs done but housework really can take a back seat for a while. Clean laundry wont mean much if you are hallucinating through exhaustion. At least once a day either settle your baby for a nap or take them to bed with you (make your bed safe first) and rest, just lying down makes a big difference and if you fall asleep so much the better.

Use your Mornings

Mornings tend to be the easiest time, babies often nap well or are in their sunniest moods and you are as well rested as you are going to get. So make use of them! Do everything you possibly can first thing, from putting on the laundry and emptying the dishwasher to chopping the veg for dinner or even sticking it in the slowcooker. Later on in the day when you are really exhausted and the baby is grumpy you'll be thankful that you don't have to worry about cooking dinner. Plus you can get some rest in the evening, or even an early night, instead of staying up late to wash the dishes.

Get Things Done When Baby is Awake

Again, you want to be able to put your feet up when baby sleeps, and that means getting things done when she's awake. Get to know the things your baby likes best and build them into your routine. Does she love the sound of running water? Then she may well be happy in her bouncy chair while you have a shower or do the washing up. If he likes motion then try popping him in a sling while you dust and hoover. This approach kills two birds with one stone, you get things done and entertain your baby at the same time!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Growing up fast

I've been a bit quiet recently. I was busy, and I know that you understand why blogging wasn't at the top of my mind while I brought this lovely chap into the world.

Today I read a blog post, where a mum looks back on the early years and how she wished them away, always longing for the next stage. I know some people who feel the same, excited to see their little one learn to walk or longing for first words. Always looking forwards to when a baby can finally hold a conversation or kick a football. Planning the fishing trips, baking cakes, building dens. I understand that. Those things are exciting.

Not me though. I've been feeling nostalgic about my baby growing up since before he was even born! I suppose I've worked with so many children, seen so many beautiful newborns grow into gorgeously cheeky toddlers and wonderful independent schoolchildren. Some of them are even young adults now, graduating from university and forging lives all of their own. I know just how quickly they grow, how short and precious those early days are.

He's only 8 weeks old. But already he's growing out of clothes. He's learnt to roll over, to smile and giggle. He pulls a special face when he wants to make me laugh, sticks his tongue out at his daddy and grins when you lift him up to put him in the bath. He's so big and I already miss my little bundle.

I'm still excited to meet the toddler he will become, to find out what his interests will be, to read his favourite book 500 times a day (OK, maybe not that quite so much!) I want to take him to the zoo, go on picnics and bake a special cake together for daddy's birthday.

Just, not quite yet.