Sunday, 21 October 2018

Autumn activities with a toddler



Theres something thrilling about the arrival of autumn  the way nature magics itself into a rosy wonderland of burnt oranges and reds; the sun still warm and dazzling-bright though sitting a little lower in the sky now, sleepy after the long drawn-out summer.

Trees flaunt their newly copper leaves before sighing them free to the will of the wind  that crunch underfoot never ceases to satisfy me, nor does the glimpse of a gleaming conker fresh from its prickly shell. And just as the squirrel busies herself with larder-filling duties before the onset of winter, our own body clocks signal its time to stock up, snuggle up and welcome the hush of quieter days.

And for children, its a sensory playground out there  so many colours and textures to explore! Last autumn Teddy was still a newborn so entirely uninterested in anything beyond his mealtimes. But this year those wide eyes and eager hands are ready to get stuck into the season.

Heres a short video of a few things weve ticked off our list so far. Below it youll find ideas to try with your little ones this month, before... (Dare I say it? Maybe whisper it?)

...Before talk of big green trees and a certain jolly bearded man falls into conversation.

Merry autumn!



GO EXPLORING
The days may well be drawing short, but thats all the more reason to get out there and enjoy them. Theres something innately maternal about bundling up your babe, wellies and all, then keeping them close and warm. Make a trip to your local park or woodland a treasure hunt and collect leaves, acorns, pine cones and conkers.

MAKE A LEAF GARLAND
Now you have your loot, its time to get crafty. I made a garland with leaves Teddy and I collected on a recent dog walk. First, I pressed them overnight between the pages of a heavy book, then sprayed them with varnish (not essential, but it does give them a lovely shine and keeps them from shrivelling). Once dry, Teddy helped me (and by helped I mean pulled them off repeatedly  what fun!) to peg the leaves to a piece of twine draped from the fireplace.

PICK YOUR PUMPKINS
Of course, it wouldnt be October without pumpkins. While the supermarkets are awash with orange globes until Halloween, theres nothing like seeing them freshly picked in barrows at a farm shop or, better still, out in the field they grew in. Little ones love taking their pick of which vegetable to take home (expect them to choose the biggest) and the photo opportunities are too good to let slip by.

BAKE GINGERBREAD
Baking with a one-year-old is messy. Very messy. But look beyond that and it really is a lovely way to spend an afternoon, making theatre out of dusting flour and kneading dough. There are so many simple biscuit recipes to be found online (my go-tos are deliciousmagazine.co.uk and healthyfood.co.uk) and I often find reducing the quantity of sugar to make them more baby-friendly has little effect on flavour. We only had animal biscuit stamps to hand, but look for leaf-shaped cookie cutters to go the whole autumnal hog.

FIRESIDE POPCORN
This week was the first time Id introduced Teddy to popcorn – and as you’ll see in the film, it was a roaring success. Watching the kernels puff up to fluffy morsels, then rummaging deep in the still-warm bowl for the perfect bite... I dusted our popcorn simply in cinnamon, but there are so many flavours to experiment with: nutmeg, spiced sugar (for older children), salt and chilli pepper for adults... Snuggling up fireside with a bedtime story and a bowl of homemade snacks   so very Enid Blyton, no?
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Friday, 5 October 2018

T & G LOVES… THE 1ST BIRTHDAY EDIT




Teddy turned one last week. ONE! The first year really is a case of blink and you’ll miss it. 

With a milestone comes a certain amount of reminiscing – I’ve done a lot of pining for the snuffly newborn days, all the while feeling ever so chuffed about how each member of our little unit has adapted to life as a foursome. And just as part of me wishes we could do it all over again, I can honestly say we squeezed everything we could out of our first 365 days with Teddy. Every last delicious drop.

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Thursday, 20 September 2018

When maternity leave ends


So here it is, my last week of maternity leave. Where did that year go? Someone once told me that when you have children, the days are long but the years are short – but I’ve found these past few months, weeks, hours have sped by at whiplash speed. Too fast.

Officially, Mat Leave Life ends in T-minus seven days. Unofficially, I’m ready to get back to a little desk work. I think…?


If you’d asked me at the dawn of summer, talk of nursery fees, long commutes and working 9–5 would have reduced me to a teenager-esque ‘BUT I DON’T WANT TO’ meltdown.

The thought of spending even an hour away from my little sidekick churns up all The Mum Guilt. But I’m realising that I need to devote time to my own identity as much as Teddy needs to explore his, away from me (although even typing this chips a little off my heart).

I don’t subscribe to the terms ‘working’ and ‘stay at home’ mum. All mums are ‘working’ – it’s a tough gig however you categorise it, and the choice to rejoin the rat race often isn’t a choice at all but a necessity dictated by finances.

I’m lucky that the nature of my work means I can, to an extent, be choosy about what and how many hours I work. Initially, I'm limiting myself to three long days a week. Teddy will go to nursery for two of them, then have some quality time with either his grandparents (now much closer thanks to a recent, some might say savvy, relocation) or Mr R if my work day falls on a weekend.

It’s an experiment – if we both hate it, we’ll do our best to find an alternative solution. But for now I’m trying to stay positive, open-minded... forcing down that lump in my throat each time I check off another day on the calendar in the countdown to D-day.

If your maternity leave clock is ticking, too, let me in on how you’re preparing for the big shift. For now, here are a few nuggets of advice I’ve found are helping to soften the transition from Mum Time to Me Time...


BABY STEPS
Going from being together 24–7 to suddenly apart for hours, even days, on end is too traumatic even to contemplate. So, a couple of months before you are due to return to work, book in a few play dates/days with a grandparent so you can get used to leaving them in someone else’s capable hands.

Until recently, Teddy had always been with Mr R or me. We hadn’t ever left him with anyone, largely because our babysitters lived some 200 miles north, but also because I hadn’t really wanted to be away from him.

I knew I needed to address my separation anxiety before it rubbed off on Teddy, so I started to say yes to a few invitations to afternoons out and even a couple of overnight stays, calling on the grandparents to take the reins for 24 hours. The first time I left him was emotional. Meal times, bath time, bed... they’ve all become major signposts in my day, and missing even one of them sets me off-kilter. But, Teddy was of course having a whale of a time and it was actually rather lovely to have a nappy-free day filled with uninterrupted adult conversation. And it’s true what they say – absence really does make the heart grow fonder. I practically sprinted across London to get home to him.

CHOOSING CHILDCARE
Leaving your child with a familiar face is one thing, leaving them in the hands of a relative stranger is an entirely different ball game. I’m talking nurseries. The advice I received at the beginning of our search was sound – treat it like a house hunt, shop around and you’ll know when you’ve found the right one for you. When Teddy and I went to view the nursery he is now registered at, he wriggled out of my arms and made a beeline for the toy box almost instantly, then stayed there playing happily with the nursery nurse while I looked around. I took this to be a good sign.

If you’re just starting out on your childcare search, know that what’s right for one child won’t necessarily be a good for fit for another – just because Teddy and I like this particular nursery doesn’t mean everyone will. Likewise, an Outstanding OFSTED report is no indicator that your little one will be happy there. Ask for a couple of settling in sessions if they aren’t offered to you, so you can see how things are run and how your child reacts to their new surroundings. As is often the best measure in parenthood, it’s best to go with your gut on this one.

FLEXIBLE HOURS
You’re entitled to request them. If returning to your pre-baby working hours isn’t a viable option for you, you can speak to your employer about making changes – for example, reducing hours, compressing them, proposing a job share... There are many options, but whether your employer accepts your proposal remains at their discretion. You can find out more about how to make a request here.


REMEMBER WHY YOU LOVE IT
Do what you love and love what you do. I always said that if I did go back to work at the end of my maternity leave it would be to do something I enjoy, something that challenges me and something I hope, one day, will make Teddy proud. I’m not about to give up precious hours with my son to half-arse a job. So as your back to work day approaches, remind yourself of the best aspects of your working day – your colleagues, what you hope to achieve, the prospect of drinking a cuppa while it’s still hot... 

LIVE FOR THE GOOD TIMES
The working week will not consume all the time you have available to spend as a family. Nor will it mean that you are a part-time mother, or that you love your child any less fiercely (a mantra I'm repeating daily). You are, first and foremost, a mum. That will forever be your primary role. And there’s magic to be found in each day, regardless of how much time you have together. Quality, not quantity. Make it count, and look forward to those longer days. But if it all feels too much, too different... remember that nothing is forever and you most definitely are not alone. I have my tissues at the ready should you need someone to sob with.

Good luck
x


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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

T&G LOVES…

Welcome back to T & G LOVESplace for inspiration, a spot of virtual window shopping or an excuse to splash out…

Everything you find here has been tried and tested – they’re things I genuinely rate and readily recommend. So come on in, take a look around! And if you have any recommendations of products or places to add to my own wish list or to review here, do get in touch.

This month I’m sharing some old favourites and new discoveries…





BOOTS MADE FOR WALKING… FRED & NOAH
Teddy now spends much of his day on his feet, or demanding to be propped up so he can stomp around the house as if in a hurry to be somewhere. While he hasn’t quite mastered the balance needed to walk unaided, he’s close enough to have set me off scouring the shops for some sturdy but not clunky shoes. Enter Fred & Noah – a gorgeous online boutique selling stylish clothing and footwear for children. The shoe collection is like nothing else I’ve found in my search – a blend of leather and suede Chelsea boots in an array of designs. I opted for this black leather pair in a bid to choose something that will go with anything, but I’ll be back for a pair in grey and mustard and that awesome zebra print.


The quality exceeds the price tag, and the rubber sole is soft enough that Teddy doesn’t drag his feet as if wearing shackles. Move quickly and you may catch the last of the summer sale…


TOY TIDY… TELLKIDDO PAPER SACKS
Okay, so spending £14 on a paper bag may seem bonkers (Mr R thought I’d lost the plot when I did exactly that at Christmas). BUT these Tellkiddo sacks are so durable, have great capacity to store toys of myriad shapes and sizes and they’re reusable, folding away to almost nothing. I’ve been stuffing Teddy’s toys into the one in our nursery for nine months now and it’s still as good as new. I may even have another on order to hide away the amount of baby ‘stuff’ we are continuing to amass… There are lots of fun designs to choose from, and I like to think buying these sacks over a traditional plastic toy box goes a little way towards us being a more eco-friendly household.



CLOSE TO HEART… MERMAIDS AND DINOSAURS
Hand-crafted, excellent quality and wonderfully individual, this 14 carat gold mini disc initial necklace is a gorgeous way to keep loved ones close. Mine was a (gently influenced) gift from Mr R for my birthday back in April, and I’ve worn it every day since. You can add up to four discs with your choice of letters – I opted to have Teddy’s and Mr R’s first initials stamped onto mine. But you could size up to ‘midi’ and have space for a full name or favourite phrase.
Available in silver, gold and rose gold; priced from £22.50 


UNWIND… SEVEN SEVENTEEN
I came across this mood-boosting brand while pregnant with Teddy – when lighting a candle and tuning into Chill FM was (and, actually, still is) my idea of the perfect Friday night in. The brainchild of two mums seeking something to help them relax when their children had gone to bed around 7:17pm (get it?), each Seven Seventeen candle provides a soothing scent and cheering slogan that will ring true with everyone, children or no children. My favourites? Fresh linen ‘Peace (At Last)’ and Moroccan rose ‘Hello Calm’.
Priced from £16


KEEP IT SASSY… MUTHA.HOOD
There are times when wearing your heart on your sleeve feels like exactly the right thing to do. And if you’re going to do it, you may as well bring along the sass. Mutha.Hood has you covered with a unique collection of statement tees, sweats, accessories and this sweet baby vest for little ladies that mean business. It’s my new go-to store for gifts to big up all the brilliant women in my life. 
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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

When I became a mother…


Before Teddy was born I had very few expectations for the sort of mother I’d become. I was never really the clucky type, always a little awkward around the children of others and quick to retreat at an offer to hold a newborn for fear of doing it wrong.

But I so desperately wanted a baby to call my own – to unleash some semblance of maternal instinct (surely I had something to work off?) and give motherhood my best shot.


I was excited. I knew that it would be an adventure. That with every hiccup would come a life lesson. If I came up short, I’d do my utmost to get better.

I lacked the self-confidence of some expectant mums. There was no plan. I made no pledges to be a calm/strict/eco mum. I was just going to be me (ideally the good version – the one that stressed less often).

Mr R and I took a punt in deciding the best way to prepare was to not prepare at all – no books, no secret Mumsnet scrolling. Looking at it from the other side now, it was the perfect approach for us to take. Because it’s impossible to draw up a blueprint of the type of parents we’ll be until we’re knee-deep in the moment. Nothing compares.



The first time I saw Teddy’s face, it was as if his image had been locked in my mind all along. He looked so familiar. I vividly remember lifting him up out of the water to cradle him in my arms and feeling so at ease with him. So complete. Our missing piece was here. And I realised then that I became a mother long before his birth – that instinct I feared was lacking had been there since the moment I found out I was pregnant. Because since that day I had never been alone – there had been another life to put first, to love and nurture. And that is all being a mum requires.

Our life before parenthood is becoming an ever distant memory (I say this with a smile not a grimace – we were ready for change). There have been more tears and tantrums than there once were, a few heated tete-a-tetes… We’ve been tested beyond measure but have loved unconditionally. Perspectives have fallen into focus, sleep continues to elude us and what was already a happy family unit feels stronger than ever.


Next month, our fluffy-haired bundle turns one. The baby years are short, tearing by at breakneck speed. But with every last time comes a first to celebrate (our final breastfeed was marched out with Teddy’s first proper assisted steps). Still, I’ve had a few weepy moments this week, finally getting around to packing away his newborn clothes, catching my breath at how much he’s grown – how we’ve managed to raise such a happy, vibrant child (against all odds…?). Each day I look at him I think I can’t possibly love him any more, knowing that tomorrow I somehow will.

I’m immensely proud of what Mr R and I have achieved and what Teddy has taught us. And as the final pages of this first chapter reach their conclusion, I’m eager to see what the next has in store for our little gang. First on the agenda: a new life in the country (more on that to follow…).

Motherhood is intense, testing and utterly spellbinding, and it has taught me more about my own self than I ever could have imagined. It’s a gift for which I will forever be grateful.

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Monday, 30 July 2018

NEW SERIES: T & G LOVES…

Welcome to the first instalment of T & G LOVES: a monthly round-up of treats, useful parenting kit, inspiring reads, pram-friendly hot spots, brands to covet and more.

Everything you find here has been tried and tested – they’re things I genuinely rate and readily recommend. I’ll also be flagging up some wish list items and my favourite social media accounts, which, crucially, speak sense and, even more crucially, go some way towards making my parenting days easier. Consider it an Aladdin’s Cave of the practical, the whimsical and the a-little-less-ordinary – a place for inspiration, a spot of virtual window shopping or (heck, why not) a reason to splash out…



LETTERS TO LOVE… LOVELY INK
Back in the early mummy-ing days of broken sleep and cluster feeds, iPhone glued to hand as a porthole to the goings on in the outside world, I stumbled across Lovely Ink on Instagram. Emma, a talented illustrator, mum of two and owner of this unique online store, creates a stunning collection of modern brushstroke prints, hand painted ink illustrations and milestone flash cards. You may remember I looked to her when putting the finishing touches to Teddy’s nursery at Christmas, and she’s since been my go-to for thoughtful personalised gifts.

Her monochrome style is what lured me, but I’ve fallen even more deeply for her brand new coloured letter paintings. Available in a choice of dusky pink, vintage peach, teal, putty grey or blue and brought to life with a smattering of gold or silver stardust, Emma hand paints initials with the option to personalise with a line penned at the bottom. Just stunning. I ordered an unframed A5 painting in teal for a little project I’m working on for Teddy’s first birthday, but you could size up to A4 or even A3 and add on a frame so it arrives ready to display.
Priced from £17.99


BABY-SOFT COTTONS… OSKOE
I’m always on the hunt for something unique that doesn’t blow the budget and increasingly I find myself veering away from the high street, re-routing to independent online boutiques. One such shop I return to time and again is Oskoe, an achingly stylish collection of toys, nursery furniture and the softest organic baby textiles I’ve come across (I put in a bulk order of their Cam Cam Copenhagen muslins and swaddles when Teddy was a newborn).

Everything fits neatly on the Scandi scale – muted hues, beautifully hand-crafted wooden toys designed to last a lifetime… Nothing is plastic, garish or banging out the same old tinny tune. Refreshing. A perfect pit stop for gifts and luxuries for little ones.


ON MY READING LIST… ASK ME HIS NAME BY ELLE WRIGHT
Elle Wright has experienced unimaginable heartache. Despite a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated birth, her beautiful baby boy Teddy passed away at just three days old. Her experience of empty-armed motherhood and her trailblazing work to give volume to a conversation that, until recently, has been stuck on mute has manifested in this, her first book – a personal account of learning to live and laugh again after loss.

I started following Elle’s blog, Feathering The Empty Nest, shortly after my own Teddy was born – drawn in by her frank and unfiltered account of living life without her son, her incredible positivity and her unwavering determination to keep his legacy alive. I have such admiration for this lady – she’s given hope to others who have lost their babies and an understanding to people like me who want to learn more. Now soon to be bound in hardback, her story will reach and undoubtedly resonate with an even wider audience. I can’t wait for my copy to arrive.

You can pre-order Ask Me His Name on Amazon now, ahead of its release on 6 September.


PUTTING THE ‘WE’ IN WEANING… @PEAANDTHEPOD
I’ve written before about how, initially, I struggled to see the fun among the faff of weaning. And if I’m honest, some days I still do – trying to strike a balance between being prepared for the week without spending hours in the kitchen (no, we still don’t have a freezer; sigh). But since a friend recommended I seek out @peaandthepod on Instagram, menu prep has become both streamlined and more varied. Georgina Hayden, the food writer and mum behind the account, knows first hand the benefits of cooking one delicious meal for the whole family to enjoy. But more than that, she knows how to make it a success. Her recipes are simple enough for a busy parent to whip up with one eye on their babe and are a vibrant break from the bland/‘now add pureed pear’ ideas found in many a weaning recipe book – think Thai fish curry; red lentil, coconut and spinach daal; a no-added-sugar showstopper of a birthday cake… There’s so much temptation crammed into the squares of her feed, and the dishes I’ve recreated at home set all of our mouths watering.


FAMILY DAY OUT (WITH A DOG)… RUTLAND WATER
With family spread far and wide, arranging a get-together can often be a logistical nightmare – searching for somewhere halfway-ish that’s dog friendly, suitable for youngsters of varying ages (but won’t drive the adults nuts) and not too weather dependant. Rutland Water in the East Midlands ticked all boxes on a recent gathering with my sister-in-law and her two boys (aged 7 and 3). There’s plenty to entertain here – miles of pram-friendly paths to explore on foot or on two wheels should you choose to hire a bike, miniature golf, a bug zoo and a watersports centre offering lessons in canoeing and the likes. There’s even a water park that claims to be home to the UK’s largest inflatable slide. As we were greeted with 40mph wind when we visited, we stayed on solid ground and enjoyed a blast of fresh air walking beside the water, rounded off with a trip to the large playground.

You could easily fill a whole day here but should you choose to move on, nearby Oakham – a pretty market town lined with boutiques and eateries – is worth scouting out. We had a fabulous lunch at The Lord Nelson – a gastro pub with a menu designed to please and enough space for the kids (and Harper the dog) to make themselves at home.




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Thursday, 19 July 2018

Camping with two under two




Mention camping and you’ll either be met with enthusiasm from those who love it, or raised eyebrows from others who deem illogical the concept of sleeping under canvas and (deep breath) public shower rooms.

Mention camping with a nine-month-old baby and an adolescent pup, and those raised eyebrows reach skyscraper heights. ‘Are you mad?’ one friend asked with genuine concern when I revealed our plans to spend three nights in a tent on the Cornish coast.


I had my reservations, too. You see, I sit on the fence when it comes to the two aforementioned outlooks on pitching up. Generally, my preference is to stay somewhere with four walls, a squishy bed and Molton Brown toiletries. But I do love the outdoors.

Our track history for camping isn’t great, though.

When Mr R and I ventured to the Lake District as teens on our first couples camping trip, it was a car crash affair – claustrophobia took hold of me shortly after settling into bed (so many zips, so little space), resulting in a night spent with the tent flung open and a fight against frostbite.

On our second under the stars experiment (this time in an eight-man tent – just the right amount of room for two of us) we had a break in. We awoke to find a horse inside the tent, blithely helping herself to our Rich Tea biscuits.

So, you know, my expectations of how this trip would go erred at the low end of the success scale.

But it was BRILLIANT! Teddy slept through each night (a first), Cornwall turned on its sunshine charm and there are no incidents to report other than we possibly overdid it on the clotted cream ice cream.

WHERE WE STAYED
We made Tristram Campsite in Polzeath our base for the weekend – a truly idyllic spot perched on a cliff overlooking the beach (which is great for surfers but sadly not dog-friendly peak season). It’s just a short stroll down into the town where you’ll find plenty of places to eat and a shop to stock up on provisions for cooking up tent-side at sunset.

You’re right on the coastal path here. A half-mile walk leads to a secluded (dog friendly) cove with lots of rock pools to explore. Walk a little further and you’ll reach the sandy expanse of Daymer Bay, then continue over the dunes to reach upmarket Rock on the east side of the Camel Estuary. From here you can catch the ferry over to pretty Padstow (a must) – a foodie place buzzing with chatter and music, and one that smells as delicious as it looks. We couldn’t resist following our noses to Rick Stein’s fish and chip restaurant for a late lunch in the shipyard.

WHAT WE PACKED
  • TENT – a given. I know very little about what makes a good one other than I like them big (see above). Ours is a poled Vango, bought around six years ago. I did get tent envy when I saw other seasoned campers with the new inflatable models, and after a bit of faff pitching ours I have my eye on one of those for next summer.
  • KAMPA AIRLOCK JUNIOR AIRBED. A bubblegum pink one, which I’m sure Ted will love taking to sleepovers in years to come. The raised sides meant there was no risk of him rolling out, and him sleeping through the night speaks volumes for its comfort.   
  • LAYERS. It reached 25C during the day, but at night the temperature dropped considerably and I found myself lumping layers on to Ted to keep him toasty – a sleepsuit, grow bag, blanket, a spare sleeping bag… Better to have too many than not enough.
  • WASHING UP BOWL – for al fresco bath time for Ted! We had to bend his legs like a chicken to squeeze him in, but he just about fit and loved it.



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Travelling with a baby (part 3) – holiday hacks to keep the peace



You’ve packed the essentials – staying within your luggage allowance – and you’ve made it to the airport with time to spare.

High fives all round!

Now there’s just the small matter of staying cool and collected while you navigate security (a test even sans child), surviving the flight every first-time-travelling-with-a-baby parent dreads, and making your family holiday memorable for all the right reasons…

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Friday, 29 June 2018

Breaking up with breastfeeding



In the words of The Walker Brothers (because that’s how current I like to be with my musical references), it’s so very hard to do.

SO hard.

Or at least that’s how I’m finding calling time on my relationship with breastfeeding Teddy.



Before Ted was born I was pretty matter of fact about the prospect of nursing him – either I’d get along with it or I wouldn’t. I had bottles and a steriliser at home as back up, and much as I liked the idea of giving it a go I wasn’t going to lose sleep if it didn’t work out.

But when the little man arrived a born guzzler, breastfeeding and I hit it off right away. There was the odd hiccup initially, but then what new courtship is without them? (Click here for more on that.)

Given time, things ran steady. And aside from a brief ruckus at the onset of weaning when I behaved like a woman scorned for a day or two, it’s all been pretty wonderful.

I chose and was able to breastfeed, but I’m forcing myself to stop.

Why throw in the towel now, I hear you ask? After all, it’s perfectly normal to breastfeed alongside solid foods beyond your baby’s first birthday – in fact, the World Health Organization encourages it beyond the age of two if you’re both up for it.

Honestly? If I could, I would. I’d happily ring in the anniversaries.

It’s not that my milk supply is in decline, nor that Teddy is getting fed up of having a boob thrust in his face (quite the opposite, actually).

It’s because time is almost up on my maternity leave and my expected return to work date is less than two months away – a prospect so gut-wrenching it takes my breath away.

So it dawned on me with weighty reality that soon I won’t be around to tend to Teddy’s every milk craving, and that’s something I need to act on now. Taking away his mother and her help-yourself drinks cabinet in one fell swoop seems too cruel.

D-Day is pencilled in for when Ted will be 10 month’s old – exactly a month before my mat-leave bubble bursts (to allow for a little wiggle room should things run over a tad). For the last few weeks I’ve been paring back his daytime feeds, turning a blind eye to his yearning gaze as I pack away my boobs and offer up a bottle or finger food instead (the NHS advises replacing dropped feeds with formula until baby turns one: read the guidelines here).

And it’s been OK.

Ted’s taking it pretty well. Mr R is excited for the day my cleavage is no longer referred to as ‘a snack’. And being able to wear lingerie more flattering than cat-flap maternity bras is, I grant you, a novelty.

But I’m clinging on to those night feeds. A time to snuggle up with my boy, squish him in extra close and breathe in his scent as he gulps back what his mama made him. I don’t mind what time it is, I crave these feeds as much as he does. Emotionally and physically…

Because BOY does it hurt when you start to drop feeds while things are still in full flow. In the first week of Operation Less Breast I found myself frantically pacing the house, engorged boob in hand, looking for something – anything – to feed. The dog looked worried…

I’d disposed of my breast pump prematurely, which left me no option other than to retreat to a hot shower and some desperate hand expressing. Too many feeds dropped in quick succession. Lesson learned.

As my health visitor promised, things are becoming calmer, less uncomfortable… We’re down to just a couple of feeds now and I’m noticing Teddy depending on me less, as I know he should.

But once it’s over, it’s over. No going back for old time’s sake.

Breastfeeding, like a summer fling, will become a brief encounter for me to cherish.

And while I’m all for clean break ups and moving forward, I’m going to need to mourn this one first – at least for a little while.


How did you find stopping breastfeeding? Emotional? Liberating? Or are you in it for the long haul? Share your experiences in the comment box below…





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Sunday, 17 June 2018

Travelling with a baby (part 2) – what to pack



I always pledge to travel light. I pride myself on it, actually, smiling smugly as I check in my 12kg suitcase while others fret that theirs may be over the more sizeable limit.

But packing for this year’s holiday, with Teddy and all his paraphernalia to account for…? This year it was tricky.



What could we do without? What new kit did we have to buy? Could we risk leaving something behind in the hope we could buy it at the airport or at our destination?

Truth be told, there’s little so essential we couldn’t manage a week away from. Suncream, a hat and the trusty milk makers would probably have been sufficient. But this being the first holiday Mr R and I had booked since our honeymoon two years ago, living semi-feral for a week wasn’t top of my list of workable options.

So, we managed to squeeze everything the three of us needed into two 16kg cases and one cabin bag. I say needed loosely, as now we’re home I realise packing 18 outfits for Teddy was entirely foolish given that he spent 85% of his time bare-bummed or in just a nappy.

Below is a list of the true travel must-haves, along with some less-vital-but-still-useful stuff worth factoring into your holiday luggage allowance when travelling overseas with a baby in tow…

PASSPORT AND PANTS
Let’s begin with the obvious – your baby will need their own passport, so allow enough time to get that sorted (yes it’s bonkers how that gummy newborn photograph will stay with them until their five years old). Then remember to pack it.
Depending on where you’re travelling to, it’s worth making room for a stash of nappies too. We holidayed in a sleepy Greek village and while the local shop did sell nappies, sizes and stock were limited. Good for a back up, but perhaps a tad risky to solely rely on.

THE RED BOOK
The health record book you cart around everywhere in your nappy bag? That’s going on holiday too. Because while it’s unsettling to think your little one will fall ill while your away, it will be less stressful than it could be should something happen and the red book be back in Blighty. Pop it in your hand luggage along with a bottle of Calpol, then forget about it.
Same goes for the EHIC card (formerly the E111). You’ll each need one – baby too – just in case you require healthcare services while you’re away. It’s free and easy to apply for, and Ted’s arrived within five working days – which was handy as I’d forgotten all about it until the week before we were due to fly.

BABY CARRIER
I’m going to bang on about the benefits of baby wearing again, but bear with me… While you can keep hold of the buggy until you board the plane, there are various points at which it will need to be collapsed and your baby held – security, stairs down to the gate (no lift Manchester?) etc. Factor in your cabin luggage and having your hands free to carry it becomes an asset. Baby carrier to the rescue.
Same goes for when you land at the other side. Buggies are often the last thing to be unloaded – yours may even end up languishing at the opposite end of the airport while you watch the carousel go round another 12 times before someone alerts you to its whereabouts (as seems to be the Greek way of doing things). Now you have your cabin luggage, baby, suitcases and no buggy. Baby carrier to the rescue, again.
On to the taxi. If, like us, you choose not to lug your car seat overseas with you, there’s a chance the taxis available at the airport may have one available. If not, having your baby strapped to you in the baby carrier while sitting in the rear seat is a safe and legal way of getting from A to B. Our hotel transfer was just five minutes, but had it been considerably longer I probably would have been minded to call ahead and book a taxi with a car seat, for the sake of comfort. Still, baby carrier to the rescue, AGAIN. I rest my case.

BUGGY
Be practical here – what will be easy to transport, comfortable for your baby and functional on uneven terrain? Don’t take something you’ll be precious about getting scuffed or spilled on. I love our Joolz pram but am so glad we left it safely tucked up at home, as it can be a bumpy ride down in the aeroplane hold – the buggy we did take was (eventually) returned to us in Kefalonia sans cup holder. No biggie, but you know, not ideal.
We opted for the Hauck Tango Stroller purely because it was a bargain in the sale. Not as pretty as the Joolz but lovely nonetheless and sturdy as far as buggies go (although I admit I have little to compare it to). It ticked all the boxes: quick and easy to put up and down, Teddy was happy in it and – crucially – slept soundly thanks to the three-stage recline function, and it deftly negotiated steep hills, rocky roads and wet sand.

BLACKOUT BLIND
Keeping Teddy out of the sun and able to sleep in his buggy was a holiday-shop priority. We considered a parasol but were put off by the prospect of lugging another bulky item. We also wanted something that would block out the light in the evenings in the hope that Teddy might sleep when Mr R and I headed out for dinner. The SnoozeShade (£19.99, Amazon) was just what we were looking for. It blocks out 99% of harmful UV rays, protects from insects and acts as a wind guard when the sea breeze whips up. The fit is universal and the air-permeable material meant Teddy got less hot and sweaty than he would have had we simply placed a blanket over the pram to block out the light. There’s a peekaboo zip down the front so you can easily check on your sleeping babe (see it in action here), and when not in use the shade folds up into a small pouch, taking up little of that vital luggage space. As for allowing a window of peace and quiet in the evenings… five nights out of seven it worked. We popped the shade over the buggy at Teddy’s usual bedtime and he slept until we returned to our apartment at the end of the night.



DON’T FORGET YOUR SWIMMERS
One thing you can rely on being able to get hold of at any beach resort is an array of swimming gear. We seemingly forgot this and ordered a swimming float from Amazon, which to date is the best toy (if you can call it that) we’ve bought him. He LOVED it. We also packed two swimsuits, which in hindsight were perhaps an unnecessary hassle – a fiddle to get on and even worse to get off once wet. By the end of the week we resorted to slathering him with suncream and taking him swimming outside of siesta hours in just a swim nappy.

FOOD
If you’re weaning your baby, it’s worth thinking ahead about what they’ll be able to eat on holiday. We booked to stay in a self-catered apartment, which armed us with some basic kitchen implements but not enough to do more than a little cold food prep – not an issue, as we love to eat out when away. However, my Greek extends little beyond asking for the bill, so attempting to order a Teddy-friendly, salt-free meal in a restaurant seemed foolhardy. A week-long diet of white bread and Greek yogurt seemed ill-advised too. So we packed a stash of baby food pouches to be on the safe side (find our favourite meals here) and filled our fridge with fresh fruit, yogurt and other appropriate finger foods when we landed. I also packed bibs (pointless as Teddy was naked most of the time), bowls (unnecessary: any bowl will do), baby spoons, a sippy cup and a couple of tubs for transporting bits and bobs down to the beach (useful). If your baby is bottle fed, be sure to pack enough formula as again, depending on where you travel to, brands can be different and availability limited.

MOSQUITO NET
Most family-friendly hotels provide a travel cot free of charge, but you’ll need to provide your own net to protect that beautiful baby skin from mozzie bites.

SLIP-PROOF CHANGING MAT
A non-essential, but we found this neoprene changing mat with a gripped base from JoJo Maman Bebe so useful we’ve added it to our nappy bag now we’re home. Great for poolside and quick to dry, it rolls up neatly too.


NEXT TIME… Holiday hacks to keep the peace
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Sunday, 10 June 2018

Travelling with a baby (part 1) – a vlog

We did it! We left behind the comfort (and parenting toolkit) of home and travelled overseas with our eight month old. And we had a jolly lovely time. Better than lovely. The sort of holiday that makes your tummy fizz and pop with excitement each day just because you’re some place new, together, laughing and smiling round the clock… A place that’s warm and has no expectation of you to tend to the mundane.

Was it different to holidays past? Naturally.

Was it relaxing? …not exactly.

Would I do it again? Quicker than you can pour me a virgin mojito (read: the microwave fried the steriliser on day two so that meant no bottle for Teddy nor me, sigh…).

But before I regale you with the incidentals – what we packed, where we stayed, how we maintained a modicum of routine, managed a little Mr R and me time, avoided the dreaded in-flight tantrum… – here’s a video snapshot of Teddy’s first holiday.

The filming is shaky and the editing shamefully amateur, but the happiness it captures is authentic. I hope it will draw a smile and perhaps even inspire your own family travel plans this summer.

TEDDY’S FIRST HOLIDAY, KEFALONIA, MAY 2018




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