Nearly all parents will tell you that the hardest thing about having a baby is sleep deprivation. But why is it so hard for parents to sleep? And when will things finally start to improve?

Newborns

For the first few weeks of a baby’s life, they’re unlikely to cry the house down all night, however they will wake up, or must be woken, roughly every 3 hours to be fed. If they sleep the whole night without feeding, this is very unusual during the first weeks, but it is also dangerous for their health and growth. Babies’ stomachs are so small that they cannot consume a lot of milk in one feed, so in order to get the sufficient amount of nutrients and to keep growing, they must be fed regularly. As well as this frequent-feeding, new mothers might be in pain after labour, might have sore breasts or anywhere else because no matter what kind of childbirth you have, pregnancy and labour take their toll on your body. During the day you might be exhausted, but adults who aren’t used to taking daytime naps will find it unnatural to do so once they have a baby. Especially when you see the amount of washing that needs to be done, meals that need to be cooked and floors that need to be vacuumed. The most common advice given to new mums is to sleep when your baby does, and it’s really important to try to rest so that you’re fit and healthy when your baby needs you, and to protect your mental help. Try to get help during these first few weeks, from your partner, parent or sibling, friend or anyone in the new parent community, who knows how hard sleep deprivation can be.

Colic and Reflux babies

Colic and acid reflux are two of the most common problems for babies. But what are they, and how do you know if your baby has them?

Let’s start with colic. When babies are a few weeks old, they should not cry for more than 3 hours per day, and crying should indicate hunger or a dirty nappy. If babies cry for what seems like no reason, for extended periods of time, then they probably have colic. Colic may indicate a food allergy or difficulty digesting, but it should stop around 6 months. Colic babies like to be held, soothed and rocked, which can be a nightmare for parents who want to get things done. A crying baby will also prevent parents from sleeping well, so make the most of every second your baby sleeps to catch some Zzzs yourself. To ease colic, try to feed with the baby in an upright position to avoid them swallowing air, and to rock and soothe them as much as possible. It’s also worth trying some anti-colic drops and changing your diet if you’re breastfeeding, although these haven’t yet been proven to work.

Reflux is when your baby spits up milk or is sick during feeding. Other symptoms include coughing or having the hiccups during feeding and crying a lot. You don’t usually need to see a doctor if your baby is growing healthily, however you should see a doctor if your baby is not gaining weight. Reflux begins before 8 weeks and should end before they turn one, but it’s important to see a doctor if your baby’s reflux continues after 1 year of age, or if they develop reflux after they are 6 months old. Reflux is caused by underdeveloped muscles around your baby’s food pipe, but like with all muscles, they build and get stronger and this explains how babies usually “grow out of” reflux.

4 Month Sleep Regression

The 4 month sleep regression does what it says on the tin: At four months old, most babies will struggle to sleep through the night for 2 to 6 weeks. At 4 months, a baby’s sleep cycle changes, whereas previously they slept in 2 cycles, they are now starting to develop a 4-stage sleep cycle, like adults. During this time they are also becoming more active, recognising faces, starting to roll over, and are becoming far more awake and interactive with people and things around them. This can all contribute to sleep regression, no matter how perfect their routine was up to this point. A baby that wakes up constantly throughout the night can be hellish for mum and dad, so it’s important to try to get through the phase quickly and without worrying too much. Here are some things you can do to make the 4 month sleep regression a little easier:

How to deal with sleep regression

  1. Falling asleep

If your baby is usually fed to help them fall asleep, then this could continue for a very long time. Everytime they wake up during the night, they will want to be soothed back to sleep with boob or bottle. You need to break this habit as quickly as possible, or your sleep will suffer in the long run. Try to feed your baby a little earlier every night, and keep them awake for a few minutes before you put them down for the night. This means that the moment they associate with sleep will be the moment they are put in their crib or cot, and not the moment they are fed. This teaches them to fall asleep independently.

  1. Stick to your routine, but feed for longer

Consistency is so important for babies. try to stick to their routine, no matter how hard that might be. If the timings change then that’s’ ok, but do all of the activities that you previously did with your baby. They may need to feed for longer now, because at 4 months old their appetite increases and they might be hungry more often. Feeding for a longer period of time can help you, as it might encourage them to sleep for longer. Babies will wake up throughout the night no matter what during sleep regression, so you don’t want them waking up even more because they’re hungry.

  1. Active days and sleepy nights

Think about what makes us feel feel tired and sleepy: a busy day, exercise, soothing music or a long hot bath. Like adults, babies need to use their energy and feel tired before bedtime. Keeping them active during awake times is important, interacting with them and helping them to play. At this age, they are trying to roll over, and are starting to enjoy playtime. It’s good to encourage tummy time and rolling over during the day, so that when they lie down in their cot, they don’t think it’s time to practice their new roly-poly skills. Tire them out, give them a nice bath and have some quiet time before you lie them down. Black out all natural light and keep it very quiet, to create a calm environment that they will associate with sleep.

  1.  Extra help

You can also use weighted sleepwear (specifically designed for babies, not just any old weighted blanket) and white noise machines to help your baby even more. Babies aren’t the only ones who need help – sleep regression is a stressful time for parents, so take turns where possible, and call in some favours so that you can have some time to relax during the day, to be ready to face the sleepless nights. Just remember – it might be hard, but it won’t last forever!


Drawing of heart, celebrating Valentine's Day with kids
Kids can get involved by making Valentine’s Day gifts

Are you looking for ways to celebrate Valentine’ Day without forking out for a babysitter? You might have to spend Valentine’s Day as a family but want to keep the focus on your couple and, for once, not your kids. You might just want to enjoy it without them! Here are three different ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day, without getting a babysitter.

1. Get your kids involved, but not too much

Your kids don’t have to ruin your romantic night. You can get them to help by bringing you food and drink and showing them the fun side so that you’re not actually using them as servants. Make it a game, where they have to act like waiters. They could eat before you and once the food is served or once they’re bored, you can leave them to play or watch a film on their own.

2. Celebrate with them

If you want to include your children in your Valentine’s Day celebrations, teach them what it’s about; love, relationships, marriage etc. and let them join in. I would NOT recommend taking them out to a restaurant, because the last thing anybody wants during their romantic and probably very expensive Valentine’s meal is children making noise. Imagine there’s a young man with a ring in his pocket, trying to pluck up the courage to get down on one knee; he’s already sweating and anxious and now your toddler is crying, he’ll have a nervous breakdown! Staying at home doesn’t have to be boring, you just have to make sure it’s different a normal family dinner. If mummy usually cooks, maybe daddy should tonight (or vice versa). The kids can get dressed up and help one of you to cook food for the other go and buy a card or gift with you, and even make their own Valentine’s Day card for mummy or daddy. You might not get the most romantic night ever, but you can still enjoy a candlelit dinner with romantic music, simply by teaching your kids what it means and that its a special occasion. Similarly, you could start the day by preparing breakfast with them and taking breakfast in bed to your spouse, or another kind gesture at any time of day the important thing is teaching them about love and treating someone you love.

3. Child-free Valentines Day

Your parents are busy, you couldn’t afford a babysitter, and now you’re stuck at home with the kids on Valentine’s Day. Who cares? Pretend they’re not there! This doesn’t mean you have to neglect your children, of course. You can put them to bed as usual, and start your night later on. Hopefully your kids will sleep through the night, you can check on them, and if there’s a problem you can deal with it in their bedroom, so that you don’t show your child that you’re doing anything special downstairs, which might make them jealous or deliberately cause a fuss. Once the little one is back in bed, you can return to your romantic evening.

Helpful hint: do something athletic during the day. Go to a park or do an activity where they can use up lots of energy, and then give them a bath before bed to encourage a long, deep-sleep! Getting them to bed a little bit earlier gives the grown ups a little bit longer to enjoy themselves and still get a good night’s sleep before work the next day. If your children are old enough to understand the meaning of Valentine’s Day, you can explain to them that they have to go to bed a little bit earlier and can read in their bedroom before they go to sleep, but they mustn’t disturb you.

Santa baby - Baby's first Christmas
Christmas has never looked so cute

December 2018 is finally upon us. Towns are lit up with glorious lights, Christmas trees around the country are being decorated and baubles are being moved around by mischievous little hands. While this may be the most wonderful time of the year for some, it can also be the most stressful. I’m going to give you some hints and tips to help you cope with the end of year mayhem.

Our children can’t contain their excitement for the arrival of Father Christmas, and while this brings joy to parents, it also brings a lot of stress. Buying presents not only for our close family, but distant relatives that we don’t really car about, but always exchange gifts with, is a laborious task. Then there are the dad and husbands, who can only have so many pairs of socks or bottles of posh whiskey. On top of that, you have to organise the whole family and their schedules; know who’s bringing what to the Christmas eve party, meticulously plan how you’re going to get everyone from a dance show to the village carol singing (insert your family’s activities here) rehearse scenes and songs for the end of term Christmas show, not to mention making the dreaded costumes for said show (the Nativity lobster in Love Actually comes to mind).

Prioritise

You have one hundred events coming up in the lead-up to Christmas, and you still haven’t finished your Christmas shopping. You’re on the verge of a meltdown. What should you do?

You need to prioritse the things that are most important, which is most easily done by making a list.I rely on lists to get me through the week, particularly at this time of year. Write down everything you have to do even the tiny mundane tasks, because you might end up forgetting them among all the bigger, arduous tasks. Once everything is noted, prioiritse them. This can be done by time constraints (do the most urgent things first) and also by the most important (if you haven’t bought food for Christmas day, it can’t wait until the last minute, yo’ll find a turkey somewhere.) Smaller tasks which are second nature to most parents, like washing clothes and making school lunches, might be more easily left until the last minute at this time of year. You can put off doing the laundry for days, but when your child asks where their reindeer jumper is on their school’s Christmas jumper day you’ll end up pulling clothes out of the wash bin and wiping stains off them at 8am before the school run and your day has already got off to a bad start. 

Try to do these small tasks in the evening. When the kids are in bed, either wash some clothes or set the machine to start at another time. Prepare lunch boxes, do online shopping in front of the TV with a glass of wine or hot drink. Try to get things done when you’re calm and that way you can work through more tasks than if you’re cramming them in to an already busy day. 

Say NO

A huge part of prioritising is learning to say no. If ou already have 3 Xmas-related events and a dentist appointment one week, say no to any other proposition. If someone invites you to something and it makes you feel more anxiety than joy, just say no. It’s a manic time of year for a lot of people, and Christmas is also family time, so if you don’t want to see the Christmas lights be turned on in the village, that’s fine.

The hardest people to say ‘no’ to at this time of year of our children. Children beg s to do the things that their friends have done with their families, the Christmas pantomime, a winter wonderland adventure or making gingerbread houses from scratch. Dont feel the pressure to o everything that everyone is doing, no matter how much your kids ask. Tell them your’e doing your own traditions, and we’ll come to that later. Whether it’s their first Christmas or they’re back from university, we want to please our children and show them how much we love them. But remember, there are only so many hours in a day, and we have to think about ourselves as well.

De-stress

It’s the twelfth month of the year, and you feel like you have more things to do now than you did in the 11 other months put together. You feel like you might explode, and everyone else seems to calm and collected. I like to think that we’re all so bloody cold outside that you can’t see the worry and stress that’s writhing through our bones. You need to stop every now and again to take some time out, or “me time” if you like. This could be half an hour reading before bed, watching a series, cuddling with your partner (just the two of you!) or exercising. This is not the right time to start up a new relaxation technique. If you’ve never done yoga or meditation, and haven’t tried these new relaxing colouring books that claim to de-stress, then dont try them now. Adding to your list of things to do is a bad idea, wait until the new year when things calm down. For now, you just need to wind down in the way you always have done. Reading, taking a long hot bath, going for a run or catching up on reality TV are all example of ways to de-connect from our busy lives and wind down. Stop putting everyone else first just for half an hour, and remember the importance of your own mental health.

Family Traditions

There is no better time to start a family tradition than Christmas. I know I told you not to add more tasks to your never-ending ‘to do’ list, but traditions don’t have to be hard work. You will create memories with your family that you will never forget. If this is your baby’s first Christmas, I believe you should start as you mean to go on, and start your family traditions this year. That way you can reminisce in years to come. Here are some example of my favourite Christmas traditions for you and your family, I know that Christmas can cost a fortune so I’ve really focused on free or cheap activities that your whole family can enjoy:

If you’ve lost a loved one then Christmas can bring sadness as they aren’t there to celebrate with you. You can honour them by doing things they used to enjoy, like buying their favourite food or drink, decorating a bauble for them or hanging a small photo of them or something of theirs  on your Christmas tree.

For young children, crafts are a great way to get everyone into the Christmas spirit. It could be as elaborate as making baubles or snowflakes and building cardboard Christmas trees covered in glitter or something as simple as drawing Santa Claus or a winter wonderland scene. I still have all of the baubles that I made at school as a child, which go on the tree at my parents’ house every year. Helpful hint: write your child’s name and the year on every bauble so that they remember in years to come. 

Staying in the creative theme, making a particular cake or biscuit every year could be a fun family activity that you can all either keep to yourselves or enjoy at a family get together. Ideas include mince pies, gingerbread men, shortbread Christmas trees or any other kind of biscuit made with Christmas themed biscuit cutters! 

Next up is Christmas movie night. This can be the perfect tradition for many families; it’s free, relaxing and loved by everyone. Kids are excited to watch a film, parents can cosy up on the sofa and enjoy some down-time with their usually-energetic children and it’s the perfect way to get into the joyful Christmas mood and bring some festive spirit into your household. Make this family night-in even better with hot chocolate and marshmallows!

Visiting a Christmas market. You can kill two birds with one stone and buy last minute Christmas presents or stocking-fillers, or you can have a free evening out with your family. You should go in the evening so that the children can enjoy the lights and decorations, and you could even treat yourself to a mulled wine or some festive treats. 

Christmas pyjamas starting family traditions
Christmas PJs make for a wonderful new family tradition

Christmas pyjamas! You can incorporate this into Christmas movie night if you want to wear your Xmas family PJs for the whole of December, or this could be a Christmas present given to your children on Christmas Eve, ready to wake up all Christmas-clad on Christmas morning.  You can find all sorts of matching family pyjamas, or get everyone something different to suit their personality. I personally love the picture-perfect matching sets, and you can even find some really cheap versions at supermarkets and online.

Meet Santa! I have so many memories of visiting Santa Claus in his grotto and telling him what I wanted for Christmas. At my school he’d often give us Cadbury’s selection boxes, and I thought it was the most amazing thing ever. I later learnt that Father Christmas was my neighbour! This goes to show that Christmas really is a magical time of year, and your children will be filled with awe if they get to meet the extraordinary man in person. 

The penultimate tradition is the most simple tradition of all: decorating your Christmas tree. This is something that most of us will do, no matter what, so why not make it a real family event? Get everyone involved, assign different tasks to each child like tinsel to one and lights to another, and then let everyone put baubles all over the tree. If you have a grumpy grandad or stroppy teenager, give them the honour of putting the star or angel on top of the tree when it’s finished. That way, everyone gets involved.

Finally, take a Christmas photo. It can be staged in front of the tree, or a candid shot on Christmas morning. I personally like a couple of staged photos so that I can remember exactly how big everyone was and see how much they change over the years. Don’t spend Christmas looking through a lens or phone screen; it only happens once a year and you need to be in the moment, to really make the most of this special time with your precious family, but if you can take a few quick snaps you can cherish the memory forever. 

The best advice anyone can give

Enjoy Christmas. No matter how old your children are, this is a time of year that should be spent as a family and cherished forever. Don’t let the little things worry you too much, you could eat pizza on the living room floor and still have the time of your life. Cherish every minute, because they really do grow up so fast.

Side note: Something that’s doing the rounds on social media at the moment is the speech that “Santa can’t bring the same gifts for everyone, so will your child feel like he likes them less?” and it’s an idea that I totally agree with. If you have the money to buy cool technology and expensive gifts for your kids, then that’s your choice but consider telling them that they’re gifts from you, and Santa brought them one cool toy and not much else. That way, they can appreciate you and your generosity (Santa can’t get the credit for everything!) and Children whose parents don’t have the means to buy them expensive gifts don’t feel like they weren’t good enough. At the end of the day, your child will remember the moments they spent with you and the memories made, not what was left under the tree. 

baby on the beach

It’s finally summer! You’ve been getting excited about this holiday since you booked it months ago, and you’re now into the final countdown. But suddenly, it dawns on you that this is going to be the same as most holidays. You’ve chosen somewhere baby-friendly and thought I was that simple, but now you’re thinking about catching an aeroplane, standing in a queue for hours, waiting for a bus, train, taxi or pick-up car with a screaming baby and way more luggage than you’ve ever needed, what on earth were you thinking?

Calm down! Travelling with a baby can be extremely daunting, and you may to accept that a completely chilled out week of “me time” by a swimming pool isn’t going to happen this year, your first family holiday with a baby can still be relaxing, and you’ll make so many special memories with your little one.

This article is based on the advice of real mums, specifically for a summer holiday. Remember that every parent and every baby is different, so what works for some might not work for you, but it’s worth a try! If you want advice for another kind of holiday, don’t hesitate to mention in the comments!

Here’s how to help your summer holiday as easy and baby-friendly as possible…

Packing advice

Don’t buy ‘travel’ equipment

Your baby has everything he or she needs and way more, so don’t be tempted to fork out for a new, travel-version of something they already have. If it’s something they use often like a stroller, take the one you’ve got, if it’s something they’re never used, you don’t need it and it’s only going to add extra weight! Don’t buy a travel cot or pack-n-play, ask your accommodation if they can provide one, then take your baby’s usual sheets so that they have a familiar smell and extra comfort.

Travel light… but not too light!travel with baby holiday

When you pack for a baby you’re inclined to pack up every outfit, every toy and everything else baby-related in your house, ‘just in case’. This is going to leave 2 very tired parent carrying huge bags around. We’ve all experienced a few nappy explosions as parents, and if you haven’t then be warned, your baby doesn’t care if you’re in an expensive Spanish restaurant, the nappy-disaster could happen anywhere. This means that in a normal situation you would take spare clothes, but realistically when you’re on holiday, your baby won’t be wearing clothes most of the time! You should take cool clothes so that your baby isn’t too hot, and a completely-covered wetsuit-style outfit for if they do go in the sun for a dip in the sea or swimming pool, but most of the time they will be fine in the shade in their nappy, staying as cool as possible while mum and dad top up their tans. And for goodness sake do not take up suitcase space with shoes if your baby CANNOT WALK!

Unless you’re going somewhere really unusual, you can buy baby essentials at your destination. There’s no point taking 50 nappies anywhere with you, as they take up valuable packing space. Take enough for the first day, the second, in case you don’t want to go out or can’t find a shop immediately, and a couple of emergency extras, then buy some more when you’re out there. People use similar baby products in most countries so you’ll easily find what you need. If you’re worried about the language barrier, then don’t – most people in tourist destinations will speak English, but otherwise you can google translate! (This doesn’t count for baby’s with allergies or special requirements, in that case you’d be better off taking everything with you in case you can’t find a specific item while you’re away.) Finally, I have to mention toys. A newborn baby doesn’t need any, they’re content with mummy and daddy playing with them and most of the time they’ll be asleep. A bigger baby should have their favourite toys, just one or two, and books are always good if you and your baby like reading or flicking through the pages. Don’t forget, most babies are most interested in the contents of your handbag then an expensive toy, so don’t take a whole suitcase of baby entertainment away with you.

Top packing tip: keep all of your passports on your person in a hard-to-steal but easy-to-remember place (secure bag on your front, not on your back unless they’re well concealed deep down or in secure pockets).

Click here to see the absolute- must-pack list for babies!

Sleep routine

sleeping baby girl cotIf you’re changing time zones completely then fly in the day, which would be nighttime in the country you’re heading to ad try and get your baby to sleep for most of the flight. By the time you arrive it should ideally be day time, and aside from their naps, they won’t sleep properly until the evening, by which time they’re be very tired and can go down for the night and wake up fresh on their new time zone. Whether you’re going on holiday nearby or far away, it’s important to keep your baby’s sleep routine as close to their normal routine as possible. This includes keeping every nap the same as it would be at home and putting them to bed around the same time. Of course, you’re on holiday, you don’t want  to be too strict with yourselves, so if you’re not in your accommodation then your baby could sleep in the pushchair just try not to keep them awake and mess up their routine.

Flying with a baby

Be prepared, be early

You never know what might happen with a baby. Get to the airport early and to your gate and everything as early as possible. This will encourage everything to run smoothly as you won’t have to rush around and get stressed or sweaty. Most airlines let people with babies or small children on first with the priority boarding queues, even if you haven’t pad for priority boarding. Make he most of hs, and go and find your seat calmly before everyone gets on.

Take off and landing

In an ideal world, you’ll board the plane with a sleeping baby who will sleep for the whole duration of the flight and wil wake up nice and cheerful at the other end. In the real world, this isn’t likely. Many parents suggest feeding your baby during take off and landing to distract and soothe them. This makes a lot of sense because adults are recommended to suck on sweets or mints or chew gum so that our ears don’t pop, so it seems logical for a baby to do the same. Some babies aren’t phased by flying, but if it’s your first time you could feed during take off just in case. As for you, if you’re travelling solo then you don’t have much choice, but if you’re with another adult ad one of you is scared of flying, please give the baby to the other person! Your baby will sense your fear and will have a much worse flight than if someone calm is holding them.

Don’t stress

Your baby is crying. You think that everyone hates you. They don’t. Some people will get annoyed and give you dirty looks. Most will roll their eyes and get over it. Some will have been there done that and got the t-shirt. Stop thinking about it. You don’t need to worry about what anybody else thinks. You have the right to be on that aeropae as much as anybody else, and if your baby doesn’t want to sleep through like an angel, that’s your problem and nobody else’s. Stay calm, as your baby will sense it if you’re stressed. Focus your thought on making your baby happy and comfortable, and the flight will be over in no time.

Final advice

The most important advice  can give to anyone taking their baby on their first family holiday is to enjoy yourselves! Throughout your baby’s lifetime there will be fewer and fewer ‘firsts’. This is your first family holiday so make the sand covered baby on beachmost of it! Relax, enjoy yourself, taking a baby to another country doesn’t mean you have to completely transform your lifestyle, you just have to keep doing your thing and enjoying the sunshine and the odd poolside cocktail.

P.S. if you’re going to a beach then your baby might EAT SAND. Don’t be horrified. You wouldn’t believe the amount of mothers who have told me that their babies wouldn’t stop eating sand on their first beach holiday. So if your baby has an ‘adventurous’ palate, do your best to stop them but I’m pretty sure it won’t kill them.

montessori abacus toy Have you only just heard about the Montessori method? We’re not talking about a trendy new style of learning. The Montessori theories of development date back almost 100 years. So what is Montessori?

Montessori is not a ‘what’ but a ‘who’. Montessori was a pretty awesome lady!

I figured there has to be a reason that this car seat is always among the highest rated car seats. I read review after review praising the Chicco KeyFit 30, so I bought it without hesitation before my baby was born. Upon reading further reviews, it seemed that some babies still didn’t like the Key Fit, and I started to worry. Once my baby arrived my worries evaporated immediately, and I finally understand why this is consistently one of the top car seats. I know what you’re thinking, what on earth makes this car seat so special?

Scandinavia norwayScandinavia is a group of countries in Northern Europe which consists of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (not to be confused with Nordic countries which also include Finland and Iceland). Parenting styles differ around the world, and while there are many similarities in parenting methods, what makes parenting in Scandinavia different?  

In France, parenting is very different. The differences range from table manners to temper tantrums and social lives to children’s responsibility. Although in every country you will find some children that behave wonderfully and others that are monsters, I find that more often than not, French parenting styles works. Here’s why…

We’ve all seen pictures on social media of babies with food all around their mouths, or worse, absolutely everywhere! This isn’t just because the spoons are in the dishwasher. This is what we call baby led weaning. What exactly is baby led weaning?