Mellow Mummy: August 2010 : Taking life as it comes...

Monday, 30 August 2010

Lara DOES... Switzerland!

Last week we took Lara to Switzerland. We stayed with relatives near Geneva and also took a short break to Interlaken in the centre of the country among the towering alps and the crystal clear lakes.

We started our trip with a cable-car ride in the Jura mountains with stunning views over Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc. Lara was unfazed!

In Interlaken, Lara had great fun playing in the pedestrian zone while we enjoyed the local beer and obligatory ice cream.

Interlaken was gorgeous as soon as you ventured just a tiny way from the tourist centre.

We took a ride up into the mountains above Interlaken with a stunning panoramic view of the Jungfrau.

I think Lara found it a little overwhelming! especially in the extreme heat.

We cooled off with a dip in the Thunersee lake!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Sunday Review – A'Kin Hand, Nail & Cuticle Cream

Image courtesy of

A'Kin make two different Hand, Nail & Cuticle creams. One is an unfragranced intensive moisturiser, the other is a heavenly scented cream made with Lavender, Geranium and Jojoba oils.

I love this hand cream because it is effective (I firmly believe that you shouldn't notice how good a hand-cream is until you stop using it! If you realise your hands are dry and crispy when you stop, then you know it was doing its job well!).

The A'Kin hand cream isn't oily or greasy. It is easily absorbed into my hands and with essential oils and added vitamin B5 and E, it really does help to protect your hands from signs of age.

It's two biggest plus points though are the same things that I rave about every time I try a new A'Kin product. Number 1, it is all natural so no chemical nasties. Number 2, the truly amazing scent that makes me mellow every time I use it.

A'Kin hand creams are available from which is full of organic and natural goodies of all types.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Potty Training - An Early Start

Lara and I have started our journey into the realms of potty training! I know, I know, she's young and her brain can't yet control her bladder. And yes, it takes longer if you start early. I know these things. But Lara is ready to start to learn about the potty so I'm ready to let her learn. It is nothing serious at present but we're taking our first tentative steps towards potty training.

I know Lara is ready to start learning because:-
  • she was copying the other children at the childminder by getting onto the potty
  • she crouches down when she is doing a wee
  • she gives a me a 'look' when she is going to the toilet in her nappy
  • she regularly fetches me a nappy or the changing mat and sits down in anticipation of a nappy change
  • she attempts to undo her own nappy and help me wipe

And so, I decided to get a potty. My plan is to just leave it there for her to see and use when she wants to. So far, each evening she has sat on the potty (with a good book) and has been happy to spend a little while just sitting there. There has only been once success so far and she wasn't really aware of what she had done but that's cool. There is no pressure.

We have a Becopotty that we got from JoJo Maman Bebe. It is much bigger than many of the potties I have seen which is good for Lara as it means she can just sit there comfortably and watch the world go by. The Becopotty is made from plant waste and I was really surprised at how heavy and sturdy it was - I was expecting it to be a bit cardboardy! The potty has a very high back for Lara to lean back on and a good area for me to grab hold of. The genius of the Becopotty is that in many years time when all of my family are potty trained (yes, including Mr. B.), I can bury the potty in the garden and it will quickly begin to biodegrade.

In just a few weeks I have learned that potty training is best performed in the bathroom and not in the nursery where there is a very pale coloured carpet. In the bathroom I have a packet of bathroom wipes on hand (biodegradable, flushable bathroom wipes of course thanks to the very lovely Method who I have raved about many times on Mellow Mummy).

I have also learned that if we are going to make this a success then Lara needs to learn some independence when it comes to nappy changes. My first step to giving her control is to introduce a pull-up nappy. I haven't yet invested in a re-usable pull up nappy (although I am sure there are some on the market – any suggestions are very welcome). I have bought Lara some Huggies 'Little Walkers' and some 'Pull-Ups'. Both are stretchy around the hips and can be pulled-up or opened and closed with a re-sealable fastening at the hips. I put one on Lara each evening as her last nappy of the day (if I remember) and encourage her to get involved pulling it up and then down again before she goes to bed. It is early days yet but I think she's slowly getting the idea.

I'm sure there are lots of people who would frown at our approach but hey, I'm mellow about these things... I'll see how to goes and if it REALLY doesn't work, I'll put it off and try again when she's a little older. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has made early potty training work, what tips do you have for me and Lara?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Gallery - A Photo I'm Proud Of

I'm quite rightly proud of all of the photos I take of Lara. The thing that gets me though is that before Lara came along, I was rubbish at portraiture. Enigmatic landscapes - that's my kind of thing but people? people have always presented me with difficulties. Lara has changed all that. I love taking pictures of Lara. I love trying to capture a though or a feeling that I can see in her eyes or her smile.

This is a photo of which I am proud. Proud because it shows I can take pictures of people (even if its a bit wonky) but I'm more proud to be the mummy of the beautiful model!

Monday, 23 August 2010

The End Of The Potato Story

Lara is a gardener!

Earlier this year I won a kid's gardening set from Bringing Up Charlie as part of “The Potato Story”, a campaign backed by McCain to encourage children to understand where their food comes from. The set included a few seed potatoes and so, keen to pass on my passion for growing my own food, we planted them together.

A few months ago, Lara planted the seed potatoes with the help of her Grandpa (who has just launched his own blog to celebrate the joys of a kitchen garden). Lara covered the potatoes in soil and gave them a good watering and then we took the pot home to tend over the following weeks.

Lara regularly helped me to water the potato plant and then, last week we decided the time was right to dig the potatoes up! We tipped the pot upside down and then both got our hands grubby rummaging around in the soil looking for potatoes. Lara did try to nibble a few of the potatoes straight from the soil!

I cooked the potatoes and served them simply with a bit of butter. Lara devoured them!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Sunday Review – Tommee Tippee Feeding & Drinking

I'll be very honest, I've never quite understood why 90% of my Mummy friends went out and bought Tommee Tippee training cups, and Tommee Tippee bibs. I have always put it down to the fact that they're available in the supermarkets and so they're an easy option for Mums who don't like to explore and experiment with different brands, like me.

I tried a Tommee Tippee pelican bib (The Comfi-Neck bib) when Lara first started weaning. It was firm plastic and I struggled to keep it attached to Lara's neck. I recently had the opportunity to try their more flexible version – The Roll n Go bib. The Roll n Go is a soft, wibbly plastic bib with a good-sized pelican area for catching food. I found it great at preventing spillages from soaking through to Lara's clothes and, compared to my current brand of choice, it is a lot easier to clean as I don't need to put it through the washing machine. It is pretty handy for me to roll up and put into my changing bag, or Lara's day bag for the childminder.

However, I did find that the plastic stained easily the first time that I fed Lara spaghetti bolognaise in the bib and I still really struggle with the fastening mechanism. Tommee Tippee bibs close with a push-through button mechanism. The Roll n Go bib stays closed more easily because the bib isn't as rigid as the Comfi-Neck bib but I have found that now Lara's hair is growing, it is tricky to fasten the button without getting her hair caught in it.

We have also been trying a Tommee Tippee explora Easy Drink cup. This is the very first trainer cup I have offered Lara to which she has taken to immediately. Usually there is at least a little struggle to work out how to get the liquid out, but not with this one. I put this down to the fact that the non-spill valve is gentle enough that when I try and drink from it, I find it easy to suck the liquid out (something I find near-on impossible with most of Lara's valve-based cups).

The Easy Drink cup has a semi-soft spout and a pair of handles that Lara seems very comfortable gripping. My biggest plus point about this cup is that the lid screws on rather than pushes on; this means that there is an almost-zero chance of it falling off, or of me having not put it on properly. It also means that I don't have to wrench it off to clean it (which, with my other cups, often results in milk all over me, the sink, the walls and the floor).

I also like the fact that the spout cover is attached to the cup. All of the rest of our cups have separate lids that I very quickly gave up using because they fell off in my bag. My one complaint with the spout cover is that the cover (and the little dimple that it rests in) fills up with the skanky bits of salty dishwasher gack if I don't clean it by hand.

I have been very impressed by the explorer Easy Drink cup, and less so with the Roll n Go bib.
Images courtesy of Red Consultancy

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Lara DOES... Tea at the Ritz

This week Lara had another adventure into London. We were invited by the people at Boots parenting club to their relaunch at the Ritz hotel in Picadilly. Not every one-year-old gets to enjoy afternoon tea at the nation's most famous hotel!

We enjoyed tea, sandwiches, scones and 'fancies'. Lara was in her element

Lara and I got to meet some of the Boots parenting club experts - their health visitor and pharmacist seemed quite taken with her!

I got to see all of the new products in the Boots baby range (I shall tell you about them in the near future when I've given them a thorough try). They have some gorgeous clothes coming in their new Mini Club range next month. Lara got try try out their new melamine plates and bowls.

It was a busy day (we went swimming and visited a friend before heading into the city) and Lara was trouble. She screeched during the entire 1-hour train journey there, and during the entire 1-hour train journey home. Not surprising really because she is currently cutting her back teeth - poor little monkey.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Dropping the Dummy

We have, officially, dropped the dummy. Yay! We didn't do it consciously... it just kinda happened.

I never really intended to give Lara a dummy at all. I bought some before the birth just because I felt it was the right thing to do; just another one of those things on the checklist that the world told me I needed. As a breastfeeding mum, I was very careful not to offer Lara a dummy during the first 4 weeks to make sure that she was well-established at the breast. As it was, we didn't need to use one during that time. Lara took to breastfeeding easily and so, when the moment came, I didn't feel worried about introducing a dummy.

I can clearly remember the first time I gave Lara a dummy. She was about 6 weeks old. It was about 3am, Lara had been awake for over 2 hours and screaming for most of that time. I had fed her, changed her, sung to her, rocked her in the bouncy chair and played a little Baby Mozart. All of the usual tricks had failed to calm her and so, feeling desperate, I fished out the tiny little dummies from the cupboard and hey presto – peace at last. I felt guilty for about 5 minutes but then I fell asleep and accepted the fact that the soother really had done what it said on the tin... soothed her.

Over the next 12 months, we used a dummy/soother to settle Lara to sleep or to chill her out a little when she was particularly ratty. The dummy came with us wherever she went and I supplied one each day for the childminders but it never became part of the furniture. For us, the dummy was used to calm Lara down when she really needed it. This weekend we went swimming at Coral Reef in Bracknell. In amidst the whirling rapids and showering water cannon there was a baby in a rubber ring who was probably about 6 or 7 months old; her mum was struggling to keep a dummy in. The child was smiling and giggling having the time of her life and I just didn't understand why she needed a dummy at all.

Anyway, Mr. B. and I decided that at 12 months we were going to attempt to remove the dummy. We didn't do it straight away because we were also moving Lara over from formula to cow's milk AND introducing a fixed bed time so we thought that we would get those two things out of the way before attempting the dummy cold-turkey. Both the cow's milk change and the bedtime change went well and then about 2 weeks ago I was at my parents and my Mum asked about the dummy (she was going to be babysitting for a night so was asking whether she would need it); it suddenly dawned on me that we hadn't used one for days! We had dropped the dummy by accident!

We have now been dummy-free (apart from about 5 minutes this Saturday morning at 4.30am after Lara has been awake and whingeing for over 3 hours) for about 4 weeks. Now that we look back, Mr. B. and I realise that while we were introducing the new bedtime routine we were both resisting the dummy as part of that routine. And, when Lara stirred during the night, our first reaction wasn't to go and pop the dummy back in but to turn her over, comfort her and leave her to it.

Having dropped the dummy, I feel like Lara is now in control of her own moods. If she is stroppy, she lets me know rather than sucking away the stress. If she is tired, we have to find a way to settle her down (and she has to find a way of chilling out too). I feel like I have passed onto her some of the responsibility for her own peace and quiet.

I don't regret using a dummy but I'm glad it has gone now.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Gallery - Making Memories

For this week's gallery at Sticky Fingers I have taken a slightly different approach. Rather than showing you a Memory per se, here I am making my memories!

There is no way I could have chosen a single image as a memory to share with you... way too may pictures to choose from!

This weekend I put the finishing touches to Lara's 1st yearbook. The album is a collection of images of her over the past year - a selection of the photographs featuring her of which I am most proud, or which capture elements of her life and her personality that I really don't want to forget as she grows older. I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to photos; the best ones always get printed as hard copy.

Lara's yearbook has taken a lot of time and effort to put together but I know that in years to come we will have great times as a family sitting down and looking back at all of the great memories of Lara in year one!

I haven't yet decided whether I will create more albums like this. We shall see what life brings.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Spotting the Signs Of Meningitis - A Real Life Story

Today's guest post is by Janette Wright from Devon and it really highlights the importance of raising awareness of the symptoms of Meningitis. For more information about this year's National Meningitis Awareness Week please read this weekend's post and PLEASE nip over to Brother Max (before the end of today, 16th August) to fill in their questionnaire.

At Christmas 1989 I was I was a single mum with 5 year old twins and a younger boy of 3. I clearly remember hearing my local radio station run a story about a little girl who died from meningitis. They said that she had been turned away from casualty and died shortly afterwards. She had a rash and had been misdiagnosed. I was aware of the symptoms of meningitis being aversion to light, stiff neck and raised temperature but the rash aspect was new to me. The news report was logged away in my mind like so many things in life for no apparent reason. That piece of information was to come in handy just a few weeks later.

We now move ahead to February half term. Ben, one of the twins, was ill so I took him to bed with me for his comfort and my “convenience”. He was sick in my bed so we set up camp on the sofa instead. By morning Ben had a stiff neck was being sick. He was pale and pasty and was not liking the bright light. Alarm bells started ringing. I arranged for a doctor to call – this being Saturday morning bear in mind. He looked Ben over and prescribed antibiotics saying “Its a secondary infection to a cold – you know kids he will be up and running about in a couple of days”. Chilling words if you care to read on!

The Doctor left but I am often guided by gut instincts and I was not convinced with his diagnosis. I just knew... Shortly after the doctor left, Ben soiled his pyjamas and I took him to the bathroom to clean him up. I had to struggle to hold him up as the poor boy couldn’t stand unaided. It was then, as I removed his Pjs, that I saw the faint small purple spots! This is the moment that the radio bulletin saved his life.

So on a Saturday morning in the grips of an ambulance strike, I call the surgery – nothing! I call the hospital who, after I say that I have noticed the spots, relent and tell me to bring him in. I called my Mum who sits in the back seat with the kids and holds Ben up as I drive the 9 miles to A&E at Derriford hospital in Plymouth. 9 long miles with my child deteriorating in the back seat. I kept talking to him saying things like “how many fingers am I holding up”, simply trying to keep him from slipping into some sort of sleep.

At the hospital a female doctor pretty much confirms my fears and administers an initial massive dose of penicillin. We are informed that the hospital is not “taking in” so we have to transfer by car and ambulance to a different hospital! There it seems things are taken more seriously. The purple dots by now are much larger and forming like large bruises. They get pens and draw round the outlines to see if the areas increase further. They say that they are pretty sure it is meningitis at this stage but want to perform a lumbar puncture. They explain the procedure to me saying that Ben will need to be curled into a ball and a needle to be inserted into his back and fluid drawn off. He will need to be kept still and tell me it is best if I leave the room as it is a distressing thing for a parent to witness. I left – but should I have stayed?

Ben was pumped full of all sorts of stuff to kill the bug before it killed him! The first 3 nights I slept on a mattress on the floor of the cubicle – my mother had the dubious duty of caring for the other two at my home! Ben's neck was so stiff he lay facing the wall slightly and I tried to gently turn his head towards me so he could see me when I talked to him!

The room was small. There was a bin in the corner and I am not sure if it was because staff were busy – understandably – or they wanted you to take an active role in the care of your child but I was left to undertake things on my own. I am not sure if you have had experience of antibiotics on big scales as would have been administered in this instance? They can cause diarrhoea! Ben was in a disposable nappy; the poo would come out of the nappy, up his back and all over the bedding. The stench was horrendous ,and trying to manoeuvre a 5-year-old child in such a state was hard bearing in mind his body was pretty lifeless. I had to ask the cleaners to empty the bin one day as it was just too much.

On the third night of sleeping in the hospital, the doctors came and told me the 'good news'. “I think we can tell you that his life is out of danger. Had you not got him here when you did I think he would have died in a couple of hours! The septicaemia was doubling every 20 minutes. We will be writing a very strong letter to your doctor”. I guess from that if I was a different sort of person and we were in this litigious age we are in now I would have sued – my hope at the time was it was a big lesson to my GP from which he would learn. So ended my stay at the hospital every and we started a new routine for the next few weeks.

The hospital prescribed antibiotics for all of Ben's close encounters. So that meant me, the two other boys and my mother (despite their persistent but tactful enquiries as to whether or not I had any encounters of my own!) The antibiotics turned our pee red - it was strong stuff.

I remember being told NOT to tell the school. (I think that would have been unheard of now). It was half term and I was informed it would cause panic.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. Septicaemia is the blood poisoning form of the disease. The purple patches (the rash) are necrosis. It eats away at the skin killing it down all through the layers – it just dies in front of you! The top layer dies and it just cuts away down through the layers eating it all away. The skin on Ben's patches has re-grown but it is of a stretched appearance. Thankfully it was caught in time and I never got as far as loss of limbs. The form of Meningitis that Ben had is the bacterial type and can be treated with antibiotics the viral version is deemed as less of a risk but cannot be treated with antibiotics and can be just as harmful.

Ben spent most of a week confined to his room isolated from the other children on the ward. My other two were brought up with me on my daily visits and would play with the other children on the ward. That first week saw a dramatic decline in his appearance and build. His body weakened and he lost weight. When it was time for him to leave his bed he was light for me to lift and didn’t really have the strength to stand. As the time progressed he was allowed to integrate with the kids and gradually built up his strength again. Most of the time spent over the next 2 and half weeks were filled with dressing changes of his necrotic skin. We seemed to spend our time waiting for a visit from a plastic surgeon to see if he would need surgery to his affected skin areas. Eventually, towards the end of the stay he DID come to visit and gave him the all clear. I was told I could go home and be responsible for his dressings rather than have a different district nurse every day with their own individual and probably conflicting ideas on how to dress them. I was given dressings and paraffin and beeswax and it was finally time to go home.

Ben, I am happy to inform you, got through all this pretty damn well. Meningitis can cause deafness or general hearing loss. He had a hearing check and passed with flying colours. His skin grew back in this odd sort of stretched scar-tissue type of way. The areas affected, whilst they seemed large when he was 5, are now proportionately quite small – even the big patch by his knee which looked almost like a love heart (well it was round Valentine’s Day!) I was told to keep him out of the sun for quite a while after he had the illness. He now enjoys sunbathing and if he has any hearing loss I blame music festivals and mosh pits!

A couple of years later my path crossed that of the mum whose daughter had been mentioned on the local radio shortly before Ben was taken ill. Choking back the tears and trying to maintain my demeanour, I thanked her for going on the radio and telling her tale of losing a daughter. If she hadn’t I would perhaps never have known about the rash symptoms. I know this will never bring back her daughter, It will never ever make things right but by doing what she did, she saved my son. The mother told me that her daughter had died on Christmas Eve aged 4.

So what are the differences between now and then? Information (I would imagine) is shared more freely between health authorities. I do think as a whole parents are far more aware of the symptoms today. Through the internet we can research symptoms quickly and through social media we can discuss things freely. Whilst it is good that there is an increased awareness of the disease, there is a slight tendency to over react. Often I hear parents say, “they have a high temperature, I hope it's not meningitis”. Has our awareness made us paranoid as well as informed? Do we need to strike a finer balance between being aware and being afraid?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Sunday Review - Tiddley Pom Natural Baby Spa

Oh I'm a sucker for smellies. I'm sure Lara would be too if she knew how to be a sucker for anything... until she does, I shall do it on her behalf. These past few weeks Lara has been being pampered with the organic baby wash from Tiddley Pom. It has been heavenly, but definitely not your every day kind of baby wash!

A baby wash has got to be incredibly good to be worth £9.99 a bottle. I just don't think I would ever choose to buy a baby product that expensive unless I had tried it before and KNEW it was worth it. However, I would like to think that nice people would buy something like Tiddley Pom as a gift for my baby. I guess it's the same as with my favourite smellies – I would never spend a fortune on a bubble bath or skincare products for me, but I always like to receive them as presents.

Tiddley Pom claim to be the first UK company to offer a holistic spa range for babies. Their approach is a sensory one – pampering babies through touch, smell and sound. Alongside their range of baby massage oil, body lotion, baby wash and nappy balm, Tiddley Pom also have a set of calming music CDs to accompany your baby massage, settle your baby to sleep or just as a good excuse for cuddles.

Tiddley Pom was founded by Emma Nash. As an expert in natural cosmetics for the skincare and spa industry, she was perfectly placed to develop a range suitable for her baby daughter who had sensitive skin prone to eczema, just like Lara does. Tiddley Pom products are made in the UK using natural ingredients. They contain no parabens, mineral oils, SLS or other nasties which is perfect for sensitive skin.

We tried the Tiddley Pom organic baby wash which comes in a pump bottle. You need just a few drops in a small bath (although you need quite a lot to get a foam going in a full-sized bath). The product smells lovely – a very gentle and not-over-powering scent of lavender and chamomile. Additionally made with Aloe and Xantham Gum, it is well targeted to the healing of dry or damaged skin. We loved the smell – it really does remind me of the gentle, aromatic surroundings of some of the best spas and salons I have been to. When used the baby wash in large quantities, we found it made a great hair and body wash as it lathered quite easily (which is surprising for an SLS-free product).

We have also been listening to the Tiddley Pom 'Baby Cuddles' CD. It is a long and incredibly mellow set of instrumental tracks ideal for playing during a relaxing baby massage or as a way of settling down before bed. Lara found it very peaceful but I found it, much like the music they play in my own beauty salon, extremely reviving – I am more than happy to have it playing in the background during my day to help me chill out!

If you use it sparingly, as a special treat, I don't see why Tiddley Pom products can't be considered good value for money. But I do think that a smaller bottle at a smaller price would be more appealing, and perhaps a small glass (recycled/recyclable) bottle would make the product feel even more luxurious.

The Tiddley Pom organic baby wash costs around £9.99 for 200ml. You can find their products in Harrods or online at Their 'Baby's First Spa Experience' boxed set looks like an amazingly luxurious gift for any new baby.

All Images courtesy of Fuse Communications

Saturday, 14 August 2010

National Meningitis Awareness Week – Sept 20-26th

This year's National Meningitis Awareness Week is fast approaching. Between the 20th and 26th of September there will be a number of organisations helping to improve people's understanding of the disease.

Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours. Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. Septicaemia is the blood poisoning form of the disease. Almost anyone can contract the disease but babies and toddlers are at increased risk.
As Mellow Mummy reader Janette from Devon knows all too well, spotting the symptoms of the disease early can make the difference between life and death but you need to know what to look for.

On the third night in the hospital the doctors came in and told me the 'good news'. “I think we can tell you that his life is out of danger. Had you not got him here when you did I think he would have died in a couple of hours!”. The septicaemia rash was doubling every 20 minutes.

Janette will be sharing her heart-wrenching story with us on Mellow Mummy next week – get the tissues ready!

Baby product manufacturers, Brother Max are currently running an online survey with the Meningitis Research Foundation to capture some data in preparation for National Meningitis Awareness Week. Brother Max are working with media medic Dr Hilary Jones on newly commissioned research focusing on children's health concerns around meningitis, temperature and infant cot death syndrome. This research aims to help parents understand and spot illnesses like meningitis and flu, as well as day to day things like:
  • Children's normal temperature ranges
  • Ideal nursery temperature
  • Ideal sleeping position for babies
  • Differences between flu and meningitis

The Brother Max questionnaire can be found at and only takes 2 minutes to complete. All participants who complete the survey by 16th August, will be entered into a draw to win a Brother Max Scoop High Chair (worth £279.99). Once the survey is complete, all those who have taken part will be emailed the results and the correct answers, raising awareness and understanding all round. Please take a moment to fill in the questionnaire. Thanks.

Image courtesy of Entice Communications

This week we have been using the Brother Max 3-in-1 Thermometer. When Lara is unwell, I had been using a small, cheap (£4.99) digital thermometer to take her temperature – it was stressful as she would never stay still long enough for it to take a reading (upto 40 seconds). I have always rated the design of Brother Max products so I knew that their thermometer would make things easier for both me and Lara.

The Brother Max thermometer has blown me away. It is, quite honestly, awesome. It can take a child's temperature (or adults!) from their forehead or their ear and can give a reading in about 1 second. Now that is more like it. No more wrestling with a stressed wiggly baby. The reading is accurate to within 0.1 degrees.

We loved the fact that it can also be used as a room thermometer and has a back light to make it easy to see the reading even in the night. It is also incredibly easy to clean. No messing about with alcohol solutions (as I was supposed to do with my old thermometer), or replacing of ear-probes. The Brother Max 3-in-1 thermometer is specifically designed to be cleanable using a baby wipe. Owning this thermometer means that I now have complete confidence that I could detect and react to Lara's temperature quickly if it were to rise.

The Brother Max thermometer costs around £34.99 and is available from all good nursery retailers such as Mothercare, John Lewis, Kiddicare, Jojo Maman Bebe and Amazon.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Taking 'Stock' of Your Child's Salt Intake

Most people know that as an adult, our recommended salt intake is no more than 6g per day. Most people also know that a baby on their first solid food should only eat food with no added salt. However, I have found that there is little guidance available for those stages in between. I have a healthy happy toddler who, other than her lunchbox meals at the childminder, eats the same meals as me. When I cook, I am always conscious of ensuring that our family meals have a low salt content but it is hard to know where the limits are. How much salt should my toddler eat?

The Food Standards Agency state that under 12 months, babies should have less than 1g of salt per day which they will get from their breast or formula milk. From 1-3 years old, this increases just a little.

1 to 3 years – 2g salt a day (0.8g sodium)
4 to 6 years – 3g salt a day (1.2g sodium)
7 to 10 years – 5g salt a day (2g sodium)
11 and over – 6g salt a day (2.4g sodium)
Source: Food Standards Agency Eat Well Website

I am naturally someone who reads the labels of food. Partly because the ingredients on many of the foods I buy fascinates me. Generally I won't avoid a food for me and Mr. B. if it contains scary ingredients but I do like to know and understand what I'm eating. For Lara, things are a little different, I like to buy her food made from natural ingredients and with a low salt and sugar content (i.e. no added salt or sugar).

Over the past 12 months I have learned some interesting things by reading the labels on baby foods and adult foods more closely than I did before. For instance, we are often told to buy breakfast cereals made exclusively for babies to ensure that they contain low levels of salt. In Lara's early days of weaning we tried some great cereals from Plum Baby and Organix but soon I discovered that the breakfast cereals that Mr. B. and I normally eat don't contain any added salt or sugar either. I KNOW all too well that this is not the case for many of the “children's” breakfast cereals on offer but it did teach me that I don't need to pay extra for 'baby' food just because it has the word 'baby' on the packet when there is a perfectly reasonable non-baby equivalent which is just as suitable for her to eat.

Not every food product that we used to buy in the Mellow household is now suitable for us to share with Lara. One of the most significant changes that I have made to the way I cook is the brand of stock cube that I use. I know that the best way for me to control the amount of salt in the stock I use is to make it myself from scratch! I do make my own, very occasionally, after a good roast dinner. More regularly I use a stock cube. I had heard that there was such a thing as a 'baby stock cube' and I assumed that it was another one of these things that you pay more for just because it has the word 'baby' on the packet. That was, until I actually compared the salt content of my normal stock cube (I was using Oxo) with the salt content on the Boots Baby Stock Cubes and the Heinz Baby Stock Cubes. The difference was phenomenal.

Boots Parenting Club Nutritionist, Vicky Pennington comments,
"If a baby has too much salt in their diet, it could strain their kidneys as they are not developed to handle large amounts of salt. The Boots Baby Stock Cubes contain less salt than regular stock cubes to help control salt levels. When babies are weaning, we don't advise parents add salt or sugar to their food."
The Boots Baby Stock Cubes are available in Chicken, Beef and Vegetable flavour. They are quite soft in texture and subtle in taste. I find them a little more difficult to break down so I have to mix them carefully in hot water rather than just bunging one in to a dish. Both myself and Mr. B. thought that we would be lacking that little something in our meals with a 'baby' stock cube but we actually quite like the flavour. Boots Baby Stock Cubes are organically certified and free from artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, egg, gluten, milk and soya so are suitable from the very early stages of weaning.

Image courtesy of Boots

There is little to choose between the different brands of baby stock cubes. Despite assurances from Boots to the contrary, I have my suspicions based on ingredients, nutritional content, packaging style and country of origin that they originate in the same place... they certainly look and taste similar! The Boots Baby Stock Cubes are the most easy for me to regularly lay my hands on. I have found that Kallo stock cubes (without the word 'baby' on the packet) are also quite a lot lower in salt than some of the better-known brands. Kallo also do a 'very low salt' version which has the same salt levels (and ingredients, packaging and country of origin) as the baby stock cubes but they are very hard for me to find in the supermarkets.

If you are interested in finding out more about how to feed your toddler a healthy happy diet, you may like to visit 10 Steps To a Healthy Toddler at Little People's Plates. You'll find some great guidance.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Lara's First Shoes - Another Mummy Milestone

Lara wears... a t-shirt dress by Green Baby

Another milestone in Lara's life. Her first real pair of shoes! Lara has been wearing slip-on shoes for some time now but I decided that now that she has been walking for a few weeks that it was time to get her measured professionally! We chose a quiet weekday afternoon and went to Clarks in Bracknell. The staff were lovely, polite and efficient. The shoes we chose weren't as expensive as I had expected but I won't be buying loads of pairs given that they advise you to come back in 6-8 weeks!

Lara loves shoes. They are one of her most favourite things! She could spend hours playing with shoes. A whole shop full of shoes was like heaven on earth for her! she kept pointing and saying "shoes" and then turning and pointing in a totally different direction and saying "shoes".

Within minutes of wearing her new shoes Lara's walking improved. These new, heavy shoes help her balance and give her confidence.

Lara is a big girl now!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The Sunday Review – Earth Friendly Baby

Earth Friendly Baby is a brand of organic, eco-friendly, natural toiletries and baby essentials. You can see some of their products in the big supermarkets and at Boots but you can also buy online at many of the eco-baby websites such as So Organic Ltd.

All of their products (from baby wipes to body lotions) are simple, yet fun. The packaging is bright, without being garish and their scents are tangy and strong without being artificial.

We recently tried the Earth Friendly Baby Organic Chamomile Bubblebath (£5.99). It is very runny for a bubble bath because it it made from natural ingredients. This means that it is quite hard to be sparing with it but you soon learn that a little goes a long way. We live in an area of very hard water and normally, natural bath products struggle to produce a lather (because of their lack of chemical nasties). Surprisingly, we found that the Earth Friendly Baby Bubblebath produced the most impressive bubbles of any baby bath we have used to date; and, as a bonus, it left a fresh scent in the bathroom after use.

We also tried the Organic Calendula Daily Care Cream (£5.49). Until now, we have been using the Weleda Calendula Lotion (£7.50) on Lara's body; it is runny and, after months of using it, I've found, quite frankly, that it is ineffective at anything other than making Lara (a)smell scrumptious and (b)a bit slippery. In contrast, the Earth Friendly Baby Daily Care Cream is thick (thickened with vegetable oil and beeswax) and easy to apply. Designed as a nappy barrier cream, it also makes a great moisturiser for sensitive skin such as Lara's because it makes a protective barrier over the skin. It is the first body cream I have used on Lara which seems to prevent, rather than just relieve her dry skin.

We have also won one of the Shampoo & Bodywash products from the Earth Friendly Kids range from Mummy's Busy World. The 'zingy citrus' range is so zingy and citrussy that myself and Mr. B. stole it off Lara! Great fun for all the family.

Images courtesy of Sparkle PR

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Why Does Car Insurance Cost More When You Have Children?

It is that time of year again when, after a ridiculously high renewal quote from our existing car insurer, we have had to start looking for insurance quotes. Last year we just accepted our renewal quote as we were still in a post-baby haze and because we were in the middle of a claim which was eventually settled in our favour. This year we decided to head to the comparison sites and I was amazed by some of the things I found out.

Comparison sites rock but... you have to be careful when you click through to 'buy' a policy because the default options may not be exactly what you put in when generating your quote. On one particularly tempting quote, we discovered that they hadn't added a second driver to the quote – adding me to the policy put the price out of our budget.

The policy we eventually selected was with Elephant; we found when reviewing the details that there was a tickbox to indicate whether or not you had children. The comparison site had selected a default value of 'No' for the tickbox so we changed it and regenerated the quote. Now I know that insurers give you brownie points if you have a 'low-risk' job, or if you are married and settled because they think you're a more responsible type of citizen (although how true their assumptions are, I'm not sure). I figured that maybe Elephant offered brownie points if you had children – perhaps its another indication that you're a careful driver? Well no... ticking the 'Do you have any children' box increased our insurance quote by nearly £100!

Perhaps our compensation costs are higher as parents in the event of an accident? Perhaps we're more likely to be stressing about the kids in the back seat than paying attention to the road ahead? Or maybe it's just because married middle-class families with kids are not Elephant's kind of market? Whichever way it is, the quote was still MUCH cheaper than our renewal quote, so we went for it but I do feel like we're being penalised for having a daughter.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Why Are We Playing At Christmas? - The Gallery

This is my picture for this week's photo gallery where the theme is 'Playtime'.

Earlier this week Lara and I held an impromptu Christmas party! We played with all of the toys that she received last Christmas. We put up tinsel and a stocking and a few decorations. So, quite why were Lara and I playing at Christmas?

Well, someone required a photo of me looking Christmassy and unfortunately because all of my photos are in storage ready for our imminent house move, I couldn't lay my hands on a single image of me at Christmas. So we dressed up and had a laugh!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Travel Cots: What Type and When?

I remember when I first bought a travel cot. Lara was just a few weeks old and I discussed the options at length with my Mummy friends. These days there are so may options and unless you have unlimited funds, it is hard to decide which one to buy that will cover as many of your different requirements as possible.

I thought I would share my experiences with you and introduce you to the three main options you have and the age ranges and journeys to which they are most suited.

Traditional Fold-Up Travel Cot

Your first thoughts may be for a traditional fold-up travel cot with a collapsible metal frame. Yes, they can be bulky and heavy, yes they can be awkward to travel with but they are incredibly good value.

We recently trialled the Kiddicare Traveller Travel Cot. I was pleasantly surprised at how non-bulky and non-heavy it was! At only 7kg is is not as heavy as some of the bigger named brands. It has its own carry case and I can genuinely picture myself carrying it around an airport. Most airlines will take a travel cot in addition to your luggage allowance but check before you travel.

Traditional travel cots were, in the past, notoriously complicated to set up. These days they are generally pretty easy. The Kiddicare Traveller is one piece with sides which unfold and click easily into place. Within 2 minutes of receiving it, we had it up and in use in our living room.

One of the benefits of buying a traditional travel cot is that, in most cases, their mattresses are standard sizes. Additionally, they are all pretty sturdy and can take babies and toddlers upto around 15-18kg. However, you do have to search hard for a cot with a mattress which is comfortable – I have used travel cots in hotels before where the folds in the mattress have been firm and lumpy.

A traditional travel cot is useful for when you are staying away from home for a while (perhaps your main summer holiday) and for holidays where you have plenty of luggage space. At home it is convenient to put one up in your living room as a safe place to plop your baby while you nip to the toilet, or answer the door.

The more you pay for a traditional travel cot, the more bells and whistles you get. For travelling abroad, you can get handy wheels for ease in the airports. For small babies, you can find hanging bassinettes. You can spend a lot of money on one but you don't need to . The Kiddicare Traveller costs just £36.99.

Pop-Up Tent Cot

A pop-up tent-style cot is a great option for young babies who are too big to sleep in a moses basket or travel bassinette. A pop-up cot is incredibly light and compact, so light in fact that you can pop it inside your suitcase rather than messing about with an extra piece of luggage. They are quick and easy to set up and collapse.

Many pop-up cots are multi-purpose. Some, such as the Samsonite pop-up bubble (£55), come with a built in mosquito net for holidays to warmer climes. Others such as the new Samsonite Sun & Sleep tent (£74.99) can be used as sun-shades on the beach with their built-in or zip-on UPF covers.

In my experience, a pop-up tent has its limitations. I have stayed in places with hard floors where I have felt guilty about leaving Lara's travel cot resting directly on the cold, hard floor. You tend to also find that the mattresses are non-standard sizes and are often integral to the cot meaning that you are limited to the manufacturer's brand when buying sheets and covers.

I've blogged about my Samsonite Pop-Up Bubble Travel Cot before (read it here). We have found it indispensable during Lara's first 12 months and it has travelled the globe with us both inside our case, and as a separate, lightweight piece of luggage. You can buy them from several online retailers, including JoJo Maman Bebe.

Unfortunately, Lara is now mobile. She twists and turns in her sleep and then, when she wakes, she crawls out of the cot. Even if I zip her in (using the built in mosquito net), my little monkey will rock and roll the pop-up cot until it tips up and rolls with her. My pop-up cot claims to be suitable up to around 18 months (some are only suitable to 6 months, so check before buying); I think their usable lifetime comes to an end once your child is mobile.

Inflatable Bed Guards

My final option is something I only recently discovered. The Dream Tubes are a great travel solution when you have slightly older toddlers who are too big for a travel cot (I must admit that Lara is getting worryingly heavy for the max. 15kg cots and she is only 13 months old).

The Dream Tubes by Dusky Moon comprise a high-quality cotton fitted sheet (for either a cot bed or a single bed) which has two zip-up slots into which you insert inflatable tubes. The tubes sit either side of your child and prevent them from rolling on to the floor – an integral bed guard if you like!

I can see the Dream Tubes being a great way of ensuring that when you go on holiday or away from home, that you have a means of converting a hotel or guest bed into a safe place for your toddler to sleep. The Dream Tubes are compact when deflated and weigh considerably less than a travel cot.

Currently, I feel that Lara is a little too young for me to place my trust in the Dream Tubes over night. When she wakes, she wriggles and squirms and can, with a little effort, haul herself over the tubes. She has not yet learned about the dangers of falling out of bed. The Dream Tubes are really designed for children who have already moved out of a cot.

I believe that you can also buy foldable, collapsible bed guards that are more like the traditional bed guards you would attach to the side of your child's bed at home.

Drop me an email or leave me a comment if you would like to know more about travel cots – I have plenty of resources to draw on.

Kiddicare and Dream Tube images courtesy of threepipe
Samsonite images courtesy of Weybury-Hildreth

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Sunday Review – Mama Baby Bliss

Mama Baby Bliss is more than a retail website. Its a way of life – a pampering, nurturing approach to maternity and motherhood. The founder, Justina, is an expert in her field; providing holistic, natural support to mums through pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood.

A little while ago I was sent a Mama Baby Bliss Stick to try out. The Bliss Stick is an aromatherapy oil blend in a roll-on applicator designed to slip into your changing bag or handbag to provide a little uplifting boost at times of stress. The oil's amazing scent is a mixture of lime oil, geranium oil and bergamot – three essential oils for an energising pick-me-up when applied to the pulse points on the wrists or forehead. I have used my Bliss Stick at work to help me get through those long afternoons, and at home to fight off headaches.

I was impressed by the Bliss Stick so I checked out the Mama Baby Bliss online store at their website. There is a small range of products available which are all beautifully packaged natural pampering products. For a friend of mine who is very shortly due her second baby, I bought a bottle of “Oooh..” Bath Soak and some “Aaah...” Soothing Balm from the 'New Mums' section of the website. The Bath Soak is a heavenly mix of lavender, calendula, aloe vera and geranium – the ideal combination for post natal healing. The Soothing Balm is a mix of Sunflower oil, beeswax, shea butter, mango butter and vitamin E and is designed to relieve chapped skin, particularly cracked nipples.

Ordering was easy. Payment was even easier – payment is made online through Paypal. Despite opting for the 'Super Saver' delivery (which was FREE), my items were delivered within 48 hours in a box packed full of beautiful wrapping and a gift card with a personalised message. The products are more expensive than anything similar you would find on the highstreet but they are all natural and make a special treat for a new mum who needs all the pampering she can get.

Mama Baby Bliss also offer weight loss, breastfeeding, yoga and massage classes, tips and advice for new mums and mums to be.

Images courtesy of
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