Mellow Mummy: May 2012 : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday 31 May 2012

Little Athletes - Getting Into the British Summer Spirit

If you are looking for a cute way of getting your little ones into the Great British spirit for Jubilee weekend then have a look out for the limited edition Pampers Active Fit disposable nappies in Tesco and ASDA which are adorned with red, white and blue!

The limited edition team GB Active Fit nappies with the infamous Dry Max technology I learned about in 2010 are part of the Pampers Little Athletes Campaign in the run up to the olympics. Backed by Mum and Marathon runner, Paula Radcliffe, the campaign is designed to highlight how active a baby or toddler really can be along with offering tips and ideas for building the spirit of play in little ones.

Pampers Village Parenting Panel baby development expert, Dr Maggie Redshaw, has lots of tips to help you develop your baby's love of play from a very young age. Simple bouncing on your lap and the encouragement of rolling, kicking and grasping is about as active as my 4-week-old Holly is up to right now, but as she grows older this year and we approach the Olympics, I will take on some of Maggie's tips for encouraging activity:-

  • Introduce a ride-on toy, which involves more balance and co-ordination skills using his whole body, hands and feet, as well as teaching him to pay attention to where he is going
  • Use outdoor spaces, which provide different surfaces and areas that slope up and down helping your baby to learn different ways to move – he may go back to crawling, slow down or move backwards
  • Create lower, softer surfaces for him to climb onto - like a big cushion or your lap
  • For first ball games, start with rolling a small, soft ball backwards and forwards on the floor
  • Walking babies love to run after balls. Try throwing or rolling a ball in a park or a long corridor to provide lots of fun and walking practice

To find out more about the Pampers Little Athlete campaign go to the Pampers UK & Ireland Facebook page.

Note: I received a pack of limited edition Pampers active fit for review.  We don't use a lot of disposable nappies in our house but Active Fit with Dry Max seemed to work well for us when out and about with Lara.

Bathtime Fun with BabyDan and Fisher Price

Both Lara and Holly have been having great fun in the bath recently, due to a number of new additions and special treats for the girl's bathroom.

Lara was sent this Dive & Swim Mermaid Dora as a special treat from Fisher Price to celebrate the arrival of her little sister. It worked a treat as a way of easing Lara into big sister-hood. Dora and the Mermaid Kingdom is one of Lara's favourite bedtime stories so Lara was over the moon when she met her new bath toy. Mermaid Dora has an ingenious switch which causes her to jump spectaularly into the water and then she starts swimming backstroke through the bath water. You wind Dora's arms up to help her swim and Lara loves it because she has just started learning backstroke herself at swimming lessons so she and Dora can practice in the bath together. Dive & Swim Mermaid Dora also comes with a hairbrush but Lara show as little interest in brushing Dora's tangled hair as she does in brushing her own!

Holly's new gadget is the Fisher Price Happy Bath Hippo Tub. This is an ideal product for myself and Mr. B (and Holly of course). One of my first ever blog posts detailed why I found traditional baby baths a total waste of time... we've tried several other styles and just kept going back to our own normal bath tub. For Holly, we never even bought a baby bath. The Happy Bath Hippo is a mesh sling which sits inside a sink or bath and allows you to place your baby on it for support, leaving your hands free to actually bath your baby, rather than you having to hold them delicately in the tub to keep their head above water. It is great for a newborn.

Holly absolutely loves her baths (Lara used to hate them) - she sits quite contentedly on her bath stand and seems really relaxed on it. I don't know whether this is to do with her being born in water, a natural love of bathtime or because I have more confidence when using the Happy Bath Hippo Tub and so no stress passes on to her. This Fisher Price bath stand costs £19.99 and I think it is much better value than a baby bath. One of the fab things for us is that we can fill the bath with a small amount of water for Holly and then when she is finished, just top up the water for Lara... this saves water and saves us money because we are on a meter.

Our final addition to the bathroom may appear to be the most mundane but actually it is a lifesaver and something I really should have got my hands on a long time ago.  We were sent the BabyDan Bath Storage Basket for review.

The BabyDan Bath Storage Basket is available from the Hello Baby . Hello Baby also sells a wide range of other baby and nursery stuff including Baby Toys, nursery furniture, baby travel and baby safety products.

The storage basket was easy to put together and makes it a lot easier to tidy up all the girl's toys after a bath. Since we got it, I've felt like I can reclaim the bath as my own because when I want a long relaxing soak, all I need to do is lift the BabyDan storage basket off the bath and I am no longer surrounded by toys!

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Cooking With Children :: Fruity Meringue Nests Recipe

This is a dead simple recipe for cooking with children of all ages - it was inspired by the Dora Little Cooks Collection.

In the past I HAVE made my own meringue nests but I think meringue is a bit of an art to get right so I might leave Lara's first attempt at them for another day. This time we used a packet of ready-made meringue nests. You can usually find these in the area of the supermarket where you would find ice cream cones and toppings as well as custards and pie toppings. In our local supermarket they are stored above the frozen desserts.

First, choose your fruits of choice. I quite fancied a tropical fruit medley but Lara tends to enjoy berries more. As I've mentioned before, Lara is unstoppable when it comes to soft fruit.. especially blueberries. We chose to add some strawberries too. I chopped them up (Lara was feeling a bit under the weather as she had chicken pox at the time) and then let Lara loose on them.

Lara arranged the fruit inside the meringue nests and was very restrained until the end... only one or two ended up inside her tummy. It's a dead easy recipe but with a very enjoyable result. Mummy and Daddy ate the nests with cream.

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Can a newborn baby catch Chicken Pox? YES!

When Holly was just one week old, her older sister developed Chicken Pox. It wasn't great timing but Lara coped well and suffered from very little other than a large number of not-particularly-itchy spots. At the time, our practice nurse, midwife and then health visitor all assured me that Holly, as a neonatal (newborn) baby, was highly unlikely to catch the Chicken Pox virus from her sister due to residual immunity she had obtained from me in the womb. Unlikely, but as it turns out, not impossible. 14 days later, Holly's spots appeared. Yes, a newborn can catch Chicken Pox.

Theoretically, a newborn baby should retain all, or some of their mother's immunity to viruses and diseases for around 4 weeks after birth. A breastfed child will also receive top-ups of this immunity. This is why it took my G.P. by surprise when I rang him to ask for advice. It is so unusual to catch Chicken Pox at Holly's age that the Doctor had to consult some books and ring the pediatricians at the local hospital for guidance. He rang me back and sounded a lot less mellow than he had done the first time.

Until a baby reaches about one month old, their immune system is not developed enough to combat the Chicken Pox virus alone and this can lead to complications beyond the normal Chicken Pox symptoms of fever and spots. He called me in to the surgery to verify the spots were indeed the pox. Holly and I were quarantined in the surgery so that she couldn't infect others in the waiting room. As the Doctor walked into the room, he nodded and could tell straight away that it was indeed what I had suspected. He seemed quite excited and even congratulated me on managing to achieve something so rare that he hadn't seen it before - hmm, what an achievement to be proud of!!!

Holly was prescribed a course of anti-viral drugs in an infant suspension. Unfortunately, because the herpes virus (which is what chicken pox is, after all) is so rare in infants, most pharmacies don't stock the suspension - I tried my two local pharmacies with no luck. This was 4pm and I really wanted to get Holly's drugs that afternoon rather than order them for the next day so we drove into town to try the bigger Boots pharmacy. It was hot so I hurried in from the car park and didn't even bother putting Holly's car seat onto its travel system wheels. Sadly, even Boots didn't have it so I hobbled up the road in the blazing sun with the heavy infant carrier - but still no luck. By the time I got back to the car I was sweaty, stressed and emotional. I decided I needed Mr B's help as it was now 4.30 and having to take Holly out of the car at each pharmacy was eating up time.

I dropped into the office and dragged Mr B out of a meeting (he was very grumpy about this) and while I waited I burst into tears in front of the receptionist. She came to my rescue and quickly googled lots of phone numbers of pharmacies throughout Berkshire and started to ring them for me. Mr B arrived so we got on the road and started calling the pharmacies as we headed out of town towards bigger, better pharmacies that might still be open after 5pm. Luckily we found one who had the drug and agreed to put it aside for us. Panic over.

Administering sticky medicine to a newborn is messy but we managed and now the course of drugs is complete. The drugs seemed to kick in within about 48 hours - Holly's spots never got as big or as blistered as Laras and no new ones appeared after the course of treatment started. Holly may have had some of my immunity so perhaps only had a mild case of Chicken Pox - I don't suppose that she even noticed.

Lots of people have said to me, "well at least she has got it over and done with early", but unfortunately things don't work like that. Because a newborn's immune system is still developing, they are unlikely to develop a full immunity to the virus. Also, because the case was mild and treated with drugs, it is likely that Holly could still catch Chicken Pox later in her life. Ho hum.

Ah well, that's one more motherhood myth dispelled. A newborn baby can catch Chicken Pox, even when breastfed.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Finebedding Children's Bedding Review

spundown childrens bed setLara decided, in the week's before Holly's birth that she wanted to be a big girl and dispense with her night time nappy - good for her! Night time toilet training has me worried - it took Lara a long time to master the art of day time toilet training (nearly a year from when she first expressed an interest in attempting it) so I don't expect this to be an easy ride. Thankfully, Lara is now the proud owner of a machine washable duvet and pillow set from

We had already invested in a number of waterproof sheets for Lara's bed but after our first attempt in March to  dispense with the nighttime nappy (which ended up in an accident less than an hour after bedtime), I knew we were going to need more than just sheets.  The spundown children's bed set from is a two-part set of bedding that can be washed frequently and in a normal washing machine - no need to tumble dry this duvet.  Yay!

The duvet and pillow set is really good quality - soft fabric on the outside but a nice firm filling in both the pillow and the duvet.  The pillow is really plump and has a breathable cotton covering.  The duvet is one of finebedding's "spundown" duvets (ours is a cotbed size but the set is also available in a single bed size).  The duvet has a very soft covering and is made from a compressible material which means you can squidge it into your washing machine easily.

spundown childrens duvetBoth the duvet and the pillow can be washed at 60 degrees in a washing machine which is the temperature at which dust mites are killed - a higher temperature wash is also ideal for getting rid of unpleasant odours and stains.

The cotbed and single duvet bedding sets are available in 4.5 tog or 7 tog rating.  I think Lara's must be the higher tog because it is quite phenomenally warm - she is always REALLY toasty underneath it.  Possibly a bit too warm for this time of year!

Currently Lara has about a 60% success rate at getting through the night without any accidents (this dropped a little while she had chicken pox) which means that our bedding set has seen the inside of the washing machine on numerous occasions.  It is doing well despite this and is still as good as new - I'm also surprised at how quickly it dries (we can wash it in the morning for it to be ready by bed time).

The children's cotbed set costs £35 from .

The Essential One Newborn Sleepsuits and Sleeping Bags Review

I'm a bit in love with the clothes that Holly has been sent from The Essential One. Holly is so little compared to Lara at the same age that I'm eager to keep her dressed in sleepsuits and bodysuits for as long as possible to preserve that newborn innocence. Although I love to keep a few very special items of clothing for my girls, I'm definitely someone who prefers to buy simple, comfy essentials as clothing both for me and my 'baby' girls and The Essential One seem to have just nailed that market for simple essentials for babies.

The Essential One sent Holly a starter set - a 3 pack of baby girl sleepsuits in baby pink. They aren't too girly - very understated and yet they are incredibly feminine and I'm proud to take Holly out in them.

The baby grows are all 100% soft cotton and come in a cute drawstring bag so they make a great gift. They all have integrated scratch mitts (I've noticed this is a lot more common now than it was 3 year's ago). And the best thing about the sleepsuits is that there are lots of other bits and bobs on sale at the Essential One that I can get to match them - hats, blankets, mittens, cardigans and bibs to finish off the outfit!

Holly has also tried out her baby sleeping bag although we haven't let her spend the night in it yet as she isn't big enough (10lbs is the recommendation to ensure their head doesn't pop down into the bag as they sleep). We couldn't resist trying it out though as it looks soooooo comfy.

Holly's is a velour sleeping bag with cute animals on - it is soft jersey inside and it zips up all the way around and popper over the shoulders. We found it dead easy to put on her and, having never used a sleeping bag with Lara, we are excited about using it on Holly when she gets a little larger.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Breastfeeding Baby Number Two

I consider myself a very lucky mum to have had two daughters who have taken naturally to breastfeeding without a struggle. I'll admit that breastfeeding the second time around hasn't been as easy as it was the first time, but I think we're managing OK! I guess I'm just surprised that breastfeeding is not just a mum-skill but is also a skill your baby has to learn.

When Lara was born, she had a traumatic birth and didn't feed for many hours after the birth - this could well have been to do with the copious amounts of drugs and anaesthetic I had been given. When she did feed, she fed like an animal. Lara fed regularly for the first few days and right from the very first feed she gulped the milk down. Lara was always in a hurry. Even to this day, as she approaches her third birthday, Lara is a gulper. If you offer Lara a drink of water, juice or milk it is gone in seconds with loud, distinctive gulps.

Holly is very very different - a very mellow feeder. When Holly was born, as she laid against my chest in the moments after the birth she naturally shuffled to the breast (it is a natural instinct that, when left to its own devices can result in your baby "crawling" to the breast unaided). Holly feeds regularly and well but she doesn't have the same urgency as Lara. A feed can take well over an hour and will often take place in stops and starts. Holly doesn't suck like she is posessed (!) she calmly goes at her own pace and on her own rules. I can see this becoming quite frustrating in the future when I have people to see and places to go!

Holly also needs help with positioning. Left to her own devices, Holly will suck on the nipple rather than taking a great big mouthful of boob! It hurts, and it isn't efficient for feeding. I keep repositioning her in the hope that one day she will work it out for herself. During the first 48 hours I found it hardest. I didn't have the energy to reposition her and she was constantly sucking; back again for another feed within 2 hours every time. The sucking seemed to be for comfort more than anything and it gave her awful wind which then left her restless and sleepless and me bruised, sore and bleeding. If this had been my first baby I could well imagine having given up breastfeeding at this point, especially as when the milk comes in, you are at an emotional, hormonal peak (I remember the tears from when Lara was two days old).

Thankfully, experience told me that if I could just get through the pain and exhaustion and hold on until the milk came in, then the situation would improve. And it did. The stints between feeds got longer and Holly seemed more satisfied. Breastfeeding isn't easy but it's a skill worth learning - every day I continue to feed, I know I'm setting up Holly for life.

Sunday 20 May 2012

Sunuva Children's Swimwear Review

Choosing a swimsuit for Lara is always a struggle – we swim together every week and yet, for much of the year, the selection of children's swimsuits on the high street is almost non-existent. I almost exclusively shop online for sports swimsuits for Lara (this suits me well because I hate clothes shopping in REAL shops) but does result in Lara looking more like an olympic swimmer than a pre-schooler when she goes to her swimming lessons! Sunuva contacted me to introduce me to a different option – their range of children's swimwear for babies and children of all ages is not only functional but beautifully styled.

Choosing a design from the beautiful range of fabrics that Sunuva use was difficult. There are some really pretty designs, and some bolder and brighter designs but my favourite was this one, the Dandelion design. Each design for girls or boys has a range of different pieces of swimwear – for girls you can buy a pair of nappy pants, a bikini, a long-sleeved sun-protection top (rash vest) and the more traditional one-piece (which is what I tend to opt for with Lara).

The swimsuit is really good quality – I was particularly taken by the white piping around the outside which made the swimsuit look really comfy to wear. Lara looks smart wearing her swimsuit and she enjoys the novelty of having a pocket on the back of her swimsuit – an unusual touch.

Sunuva also sell a luxurious and very elegant range of beachwear to compliment their range of swimwear. I will definitely be heading back to for some summer pieces of Lara and Holly to take away with us this summer – the little girl's dresses look floaty and cool and perfect for chilled out evenings. My only worry is that I may not be able to resist the range of swimming accessories... or more importantly the clothing accessories such as a cowboy hat or headscarf for a very trendy Lara!

I also had a browse of the little boy's swimwear that Sunuva sell – the boys swimshorts come in some wonderfully bright colours and there are even some designs that will co-ordinate well with older siblings.

Mellow Mummy readers can get 10% off at using the code MELLOWMUMMY. You can follow Sunuva on facebook and on twitter.

Thomas & Friends Rescue on the Rails DVD Review

I know Lara isn't unusual as a little girl who enjoys watching Thomas & Friends. We have had at least one occasion where we simple COULD NOT leave a shop without the purchase of a new Thomas DVD and, having lost the argument with her, I am pleased to say that the DVD became one of her very most watched programmes! Lara has had a sneak preview of the latest Thomas &; Friends DVD - Rescue on the Rails which is released tomorrow.

thomas and friends rescue on the rails

As always, the episodes on the DVD have a good mixture of engine action along with important life lessons to be learned. The key message I came away with from watching Rescue on the Rails is that teamwork pays. The episodes all feature Sodor search and Rescue and for us, it was the first time that we had seen Flynn the Fire Engine who has to come to Thomas's rescue when his firebox catches alight.

Lara's favourite episode was where Gordon got derailed in the marshes and his friends had to pull together to lift him out. She really got quite wrapped up in the story and was urging the team to succeed!

For the first time, Lara also seemed to enjoy the non-animated sections of the DVD in between episodes. In this DVD, Mr. Pickles is preparing for a magic show. Perhaps it is a sign of Lara's age (she is nearly 3) that she is not only enjoying animation, but also acting.

Thomas & Friends, Rescue on the Rails is released by HIT entertainment tomorrow, 21st May on DVD for around £12.99. It lasts just under 1 hour.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Postnatal Recovery

I can't get over how different my postnatal recovery has been since giving birth to Holly 2.5 weeks ago compared to my recovery after Lara's birth.  I know this has a lot to do with the differences in my labour and birth and the trauma my body suffered during childbirth but it also has a lot to do with experience - I was well-prepared this time and learned lots of lessons after Lara was born.

Given that our babymoon was rudely interrupted this time around by a family tummy bug followed by Lara getting chickenpox, I'm astounded at myself for remaining so mellow during the recovery period.  This is how I coped!

  • Wounds
    I was more mentally prepared for stitches this time around and I think I was lucky that the stitches were in an easier place to deal with.  As with my first child, I took Arnica homeopathy tablets to speed up healing, took a daily bath in salted water with a few drops of lavender oil and ensured that everything stayed clean and dry. I kept a cup in the bathroom to pour warm water over the stitches and keep them clean and ensured I drank plenty of water to dilute the urine and prevent stinging. I started pelvic floor exercises as soon as I felt brave enough and was surprised at what good shape the muscles were in.  My stitches healed within two weeks.
  • Piles & Constipation
    After Lara was born I suffered from hemorrhoids and constipation so badly that it has left me with lasting problems and pains which this week have brought me to tears once again.  This time, it all kicked off before Holly was born and so I was already taking laxatives and using ointments.  Lessons I learned were not to hold back from going to the toilet, however much it hurts and also to use a soft toilet tissue like Andrex Washlets which, in my opinion, should be on every new-mum's essentials list - not only do they make it more comfortable but also help you to keep things clean, which helps your wounds to heal and stay uninfected.  I also experimented with wiping cold cotton pads soaked in witch-hazel to help reduce the piles but it didn't seem to do much.
  • Sore Breasts
    Now this one came as a surprise with my first baby - people warn you but you just don't 'get' it until it happens.  On day two when my boobs felt raw and the nipples were bleeding, I reached for my lanolin cream, had a nice warm bath with a flannel on each breast and told myself repeatedly that everything would be alright once the milk came in... I grimaced through the pain and sure enough, the next day the milk arrived and after relieving the weight of the milk using my breast pump, everything slowly returned to normal.  Well, as normal as leaky, enormous breasts can ever be.
  • Dizziness
    Breastfeeding is hard work and puts a lot of demands on your body.  My secret is to snack regularly and I have museli bars and cake bars secreted throughout the house for me to grab when I need them; I also have emergency glucose tablets for if I feel light-headed.  Mr. B is always pestering me to drink - I feel like I'm drinking about 20 pints of water a day.  even with all this in place, I did suffer when the milk first came in - I had 4 migraine headaches in two days (I usually get about 1 a year) and the midwife put this down to dehydration.  Ug.
  • Sleep Deprivation & Routine
    As a second-time mum, I think I was well prepared for the sleep deprivation.  The chicken pox and tummy bug didn't help matters with myself, Mr. B and Lara up several times each night, as well as Holly.  Having a preschooler in the house rather enforces a routine, whether you like it or not.  I;m not the kind of mummy who would try and implement a feeding/sleeping routine for my newborn but I'd say that a normal daily routine seems to have happened without us even trying this time.  Holly still has a very annoying wide-awake period between about 3 and 6 in the morning but it'll come with time and I'm sure I won't even notice it happening.  When you have your first child, people tell you to make the most of your baby's nap times and sleep when they sleep but it's another one of those things you don't truely grasp until it happens - this time both myself and Mr. B have been a lot more disciplined on ourselves to sleep when Holly sleeps... even if it means some very early bedtimes for us.

Thursday 17 May 2012

Teaching The Origins of Food - Free Tomato Seeds!

As you will probably know, if only from our blog post earlier this week on growing your own veg, I'm pretty big on homegrown food. Spending time with my daughter in the garden together is not only great fun in the fresh air, but really importantly, it helps to teach Lara about the origins of the food she eats.

Lara loves to eat tomatoes. In fact, I would say that cherry tomatoes are just about Lara's favourite food on the entire planet. For a child like Lara, who has had the opportunity to grow her own veg since a very early age, the direct association between the tomato she eats and the plants that she grows is not a big jump to make but even for Lara, being able to identify that the contents of a jar of pasta sauce also originate from the same plant, is a much bigger step to make. Lara cooks with me in the kitchen, she sees the ingredients we add to certain dishes but she doesn't get to see or read the ingredients of the products we buy in the supermarkets and learning to grow her own veg is a small step in helping her to understand.

Dolmio sent me a report that they have compiled about the knowledge of UK kids have about the origins of their food and what constitutes healthy food - I'll be honest, it depressed me a lot. It doesn't suprise me to find out that a third of UK kids have never talked to their parents about the importance of eating healthy foods but it does really terrify me that over half of the children interviewed have never had a conversation with their family about where the food on their plate comes from - when I sit at the dining table with Lara, it is a daily topic of conversation; she seems quite genuinely fascinated by the foods she eats.

The good news is that most UK schools and nurseries now offer children the chance to grow fruit and vegetables, if only to a superficial level. But, Dolmio's research shows that children WANT to learn at home, they want to take what they've touched at school and apply it elsewhere. Children trust their parents to teach them about foods and about the world around them.

To try and help UK mums and dads to get their children growing at home, Dolmio have launched Papa's Big Tomato Challenge. You can register on their site and receive a free pack of tomato seeds along with growing tips for how to grow your own fresh tomatoes on a window ledge or in a tub - tomatoes really are dead easy to grow with as little or as much investment of time as you wish.

There are 100,000 free packs of seeds up for grabs at There are also lots of prizes to be won in their Growmato game and an overall winner of the Grow Your Own Tomato challenge will win a family holiday to Italy.

Dolmio sent Lara some plant pots, compost and a trowel to help her plant her tomato seeds.  We planted our tomatos (and gave them a good watering, as you can see!) on the first weekend in May and will be keeping you updated on their progress throughout the summer.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

The Older Sibling - A Declaration of Independence

Lara has taken surprisingly well to becoming an older sister. Until the week before Holly's birth, I was a little unsure that Lara really understood that there was a baby on the way - the concept was a bit too abstract for her.  In the last week that changed; maybe my hormones gave something away? or maybe she managed to chat about babies with her friends at nursery?  Who knows.  But, that morning when we tiptoed into Lara's bedroom with her new baby sister, Lara seemed happy and completely unfazed.

Since then Lara has coped well with the diversion of our attentions and with the slight changes to her normal routine.  She has cuddled and kissed her baby sister without being too in-your-face.  I think Lara still has some lessons to learn about what behaviour is, or isn't acceptable around a baby.. but we're getting there.

The only change I have noticed in Lara's behaviour is an increased independence.  About 10 days before Holly arrived, Lara made the decision to give up her bedtime nappy.  This hasn't been wholly successful (we get about a 60% success rate at present) but it's nice to know she feels she is ready.  Since Holly was born, Lara has had a tummy upset which would have been a whole lot easier to deal with if she had been wearing pull-ups but Lara simply outright refused and there was no way she was going to be swayed.

At the dinner table, Lara has taken to refusing her booster seat and instead requesting to kneel up on a grown-up's seat next to me.  She has also refused to wear her bib - stating that she is a big girl now so doesn't make a mess (with her mother's genes, I find this unlikely).

When Lara goes to the toilet she now insists that she do it all by herself and rushes off at speed shouting "I don't neeeeeeed any heeeeeelp".

At one point this week Lara told her Daddy that if she grows and grows and grows she will become a grown-up.  I'm so proud that Lara has felt she can become more independent but I've told her not to wish to be a grown-up quite yet, there's plenty of time for that in the future.

Monday 14 May 2012

Birds Eye Grow Your Own Veg (and Win £100!)

There are few things in life more pleasurable than pottering about in the garden with Lara, planting, tending and cropping our own vegetables and herbs together (then cooking them afterwards!). In the past, we have attempted carrots together (with little success) but have never been adventurous enough to attempt peas or sweetcorn. Lara and I leave these to the experts namely Grandpa and Birds Eye!

This year Lara and I have got involved with the Birds Eye "Grow Your Own" initiative where you can learn to grow your own veg with tips from the experts - their real life commercial vegetable producers and farmers. On special packs of Birds Eye products at present you can find a code that you can redeem online at the Birds Eye facebook page to be sent some free packets of seeds (peas, carrots or sweetcorn) to grow at home.

As part of the Grow Your Own initiative, there is an app on the facebook page where you can track the progress of your plants online, upload pictures and get relevant tips for the stage that your own vegetable plants are at, all tailored to the day you planted them.

Lara Growing Her Own Peas

Using some of the handy tips on how to pot peas and corn, and using the germination kit that Birds Eye sent her, Lara had great fun planting out her peas and sweetcorn seeds. They should take about 3 weeks to germinate and once they are a bit bigger, we may consider planting them out into big pots or (if we can find space and time, into the ground) and they should take about 12-13 weeks in total before there is something to show for her hard work. Lara planted her carrot seeds straight into big pots because the seedlings will be a bit too delicate to pot on.

You too can join in with the gardening fun by claiming your free seeds and there is even an incentive (should you need an incentive more than the prospect of yummy home-grown veggies and great fun in the garden). Birds Eye are offering several prizes of £100 worth of birds eye vouchers to people who take part and upload photos of their peas, carrots or sweetcorn to the facebook app by the 15th of July - winners will be judged on their crop!

Sunday 13 May 2012

Medela Swing Breast Pump Review

It hasn't escaped my notice that all of the electric breast pumps in use in the hospital where Lara and Holly were born were made by Medela so I was really pleased to be asked to try out the Medela Swing 2-Phase Electric Breast Pump - a retail breast pump that uses the science and technology of Medela's many year's of experience in medical pumps.

The Medela Swing breast pump is a very simple design, which in my experience is the best type of breast pump to go for. When I was testing breast pumps for the Mother & Baby awards in 2009, the simple cone-shaped breast pumps were more effective than any with fancy designs to 'massage' the breast and in all cases, a simple design is a lot easier to clean and to assemble.

My first observation about the Swing electric breast pump is that it is really quiet - it isn't unnoticeable but it certainly doesn't require me to raise my voice when I'm talking to Mr. B and there is no danger of the noise disturbing Holly.

I also like the level of control I have over the pumping level and style. The 2-phase expression technology means that when you first start pumping there is a slightly quicker but less strong level of suction to mimic the early sucks of your baby that initiate the let-down reflex and causes the milk to start flowing. Once the milk starts (or by default after about 2 minutes) then the second style of pumping kicks in and you can choose to make it stronger or weaker depending on comfort. The level of control and these two different types of pumping mean that I can express quite a lot of milk even in these early stages of breastfeeding.

The Medela Swing breastpump was a lifesaver for me on day two when my breasts were swollen and uncomfortable as the milk came in. When you're tired and in pain it is really useful to have a product that is intuitive and simple to assemble and use. The only even slightly fiddly part of the pump is a tiny flexible valve membrane which I can imagine would easily damage or get lost (down a plughole when you clean it!) but thankfully you can buy replacements readily.

The Medela Swing breastpump comes with a carry bag because you can use it either powered by mains or using batteries so it is suitable for use when travelling or out and about. It also comes with a calma feeding device which attaches to the bottle and has a very elongated teat designed to mimic the nipple when stretched in your baby's mouth - I have yet to use this but will review it again in the future if I get a chance.

My Own Leaptop Review

As Lara approaches 3 years old, she is an an age where her ability to learn is quite phenomenal to observe - I'm letting her push her own boundaries with letters, numbers and real-world concepts every day; the arrival of the 'My Own Leaptop' from Leapfrog in her life has really helped to push her forwards. We were sent the Leaptop to review as part of an exploration of the Leapfrog 'Learning Path' which allows you to track your child's learning and development progress online or through a downloadable application.

The Leapfrog My Own Leaptop is a learning toy designed for children from 2 years upwards. It comes in either white and green (featuring Scout the puppy) or purple and pink (featuring Violet the puppy). The Leaptop is designed to encourage pretend play, something that Lara is just getting really into. She likes to switch on her 'laptop' when she gets home from nursery and pretends to 'work' like Daddy (quite what she thinks Mummy work's at that is different to Daddy, I'm not quite sure... given we do more or less the same job!).

When you plug the Leaptop into your own computer, you can personalise it for your child by letting it know your child's name and by downloading songs and emails onto it. When Lara switches on her Leaptop, it greets her and when she presses the letter L, it reminds her that this is the first letter of her own name... for some reason this last bit REALLY freaks her out and she gets quite upset about it... perhaps Lara is already worrying about online security! There are about 20 popular children's tunes to download onto the machine and a good range of basic email templates. The Leaptop even has a 'blog' button which allows your child to keep up-to-date with Violet or Scout's activities - ah, now perhaps this is where Lara will get her ideas for Mummy's pretend play!

Lara absolutely loves listening and dancing to the plinkerty plonkerty music on her Leaptop - her particular favourite is a counting song although Incy Wincey spider gets a good response too! In music mode, the letter keys make different animal and sound noises so as well as being able to 'play' basic music notes, your child can also create different sound combinations.

By far the most impressive part of the My Own Leaptop is the phonics mode - when you press a key on the keyboard, it quotes "W says 'wuh'... Whale" or the equivalent. It encourages learning of letter names and noise and association with a word. There is also a quiz mode which is Lara's favourite and this tests the knowledge they have taken in from the phonics mode by asking a question about the letter pressed e.g. "Who has a blow-hole?" and the answer is later revealed as the Whale. In the few weeks that she has owned the Leaptop, Lara's letters have come on really well (although this has been accompanied by some structured learning at nursery too). I had never expected my not-yet-three-year-old to exclaim to her grandparents "A vulture has a long neck!".

The my Own Leaptop by Leapfrog is not an expensive toy, in fact, I think it is great value. I have found the battery life to be good (we are still running using the batteries it came with) and I was really astonished to find that it had cleaning instructions (we had a muddy shoe incident!). It is compact and the noise isn't annoying (yet). My only tiny complaint (and it is tiny) is that there are one or two small chunks of Violet the puppy's dialogue that haven't been recorded in a UK accent and this always take me by surprise when we hear it - I don't suppose Lara even notices though!


Saturday 12 May 2012

New Baby Cuteness Alert!

Holly is 10 days old already - bonkers huh! I thought I would share some of my favourite photos of her so far as a little bit of an indulgence.  You will notice that in pretty much all of these photos Holly is dressed in baby sleepsuits and baby grows from The Essential One who sent us some newborn essentials to review - I can't stress enough how much I rate their clothes, they're not expensive but they are incredible quality and over the past week or so they are all I've really wanted to dress her in.  Holly's snuggly blanket from The Essential One has also become my single favourite item of baby paraphenalia.

My first day on the planet

Wide awake and ready for action

sooooo peaceful

I WILL fit into my new outfit.  I WILL.

How am I already too long for this changing mat?

It's been a busy day


Two peas in a pod

THE snuggly blanket!!!

so grown up!

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Can I Continue To Receive Childcare Vouchers During Maternity Leave?

The short answer: Yes. If only it were that simple!

Before I continue, I should state that I am not a legal expert and that the following article is based on my own extensive investigations into the topic over the past two months. The facts are correct, to the best of my own knowledge, at April 2012. I'm not offering legal advice – just sharing my research.

What are Childcare Vouchers?
Childcare vouchers (CCVs) are a government-sponsored employment benefit run by third-party benefit providers. Vouchers can be bought by your employer and given to you as a benefit to then be spent by you with OFSTED registered childcare providers. The government encourage CCV usage by offering parents who subscribe to a childcare voucher scheme the opportunity to receive upto £243 a month of vouchers without having to declare them as taxable income.

What is Salary Sacrifice?
While it is possible that your employer might give you childcare vouchers outright as an employment benefit, most employers instead operate a salary-sacrifice scheme. Under such schemes, you agree to alter your terms and conditions of employment to reduce your salary each month by the value of childcare vouchers you receive. In such circumstances the benefit you get is not so much the childcare vouchers, but the tax relief on the value of those vouchers. If you claim the full £243 a month of vouchers, you are effectively not paying tax on £243 of your salary each month. For higher-rate tax-payers who joined a childcare voucher scheme before April 6th 2011, you can claim the full higher rate tax relief on the value of the vouchers you receive (upto £1200 in savings per year); for standard-rate tax-payers and all employees who joined the scheme after April 2011, the maximum saving you can make each year is £900.

What Happens When I Go On Maternity Leave?
HRMC, who govern taxation and government benefits in the UK make a very clear statement that during a period of maternity leave, your employer MUST continue to offer you all your standard terms and conditions of employment other than your salary and wages. HMRC also make a n explicit statement that this includes the continued provision of non-cash benefits which include (but are not limited to) childcare vouchers, pensions, holiday allowance, gym member ship, car allowance, health insurance and dental insurance.

HMRC also state that your employer cannot make deductions from Statutory Maternity Pay. The details of this statement are complicated a little by the rules around National Insurance Contributions (NICs), but in summary, HMRC state that by law, salary sacrifices cannot be deducted from the government-funded part of your maternity pay (SMP). Many employers and legal professionals mistakenly interpret this to mean that the employer must stop paying for childcare vouchers and that you, as an employee, must leave the scheme.

Given the two facts above, it would seem clear that, during maternity leave, your employer should continue to pay for your childcare vouchers even though you do not earn enough money to sacrifice in return. Correct. To HMRC, the arrangement you have with your employer in regards to salary sacrifice is not related to your arrangement to receive childcare vouchers as a benefit. Guidance offered by HMRC on this topic was first issued in 2006 and updated in 2010 when the Equality Act was updated to state that benefits should continue for the full 52 weeks of maternity leave.

Can My Employer Refuse To Continue My Childcare Vouchers During Maternity Leave?

Yes. Confusing isn't it? Obviously it isn't in the financial interests of a business to continue paying for upto £243 a month of vouchers out of their own pocket (although I'd argue that it might be in their interests to keep their employees happy and well-rewarded so that they return to work in good spirits!).

Despite all of the guidance from HMRC, their guidance is not the law and is not enforcable. Your employer can take several different approaches to avoid having to pay for your benefits (not just childcare vouchers) during your maternity leave.
  • Your employer may ask you to leave the scheme during the period when you are not earning enough money to sacrifice. You have the right to say no. For a higher-rate tax-payer who joined the CCV scheme before April 2011, leaving and re-joining the scheme on their return to work would mean the loss of higher-rate tax relief on the value of the vouchers.
  • Your employer 'may' choose to cancel the scheme for all employees, not just you. It is unlikely approach because there are benefits to employers of running such schemes (such as employee satisfaction and a reduction in employers NICs).
  • Your employer may ask you to pay for the vouchers out of your own pocket (by cash or cheque with no tax-relief) in order that you do not have to leave the scheme. If you choose to do this, you may wish to reduce your voucher contributions to their lowest permissible value during your maternity leave (check this with your childcare voucher provider); In some cases you may be able to suspend rather than cancel your membership of the scheme.

HMRC rightly state that an employer who refuses to continue to provide non-cash benefits during maternity leave puts themselves at risk of an employee tribunal or court case based upon the Sexual Descrimination Act (1975) and the and the Equality Act of 2010 . It is a risk that some employers are prepared to take as the likelihood of an employee making a claim (and winning it) are low.

Who Can I Ask For Help?
If you are confused about whether or not you should be receiving childcare vouchers (or other benefits) during maternity leave then contact your local HMRC tax office for advice (their phone number will be on your most recent tax code statement).

If you believe that your employer is not following the HMRC guidance and would like to find out more about raising this issue tactfully with your employer, contact ACAS for guidance on resolving employment issues.

My Situation
My own employer has refused to continue to pay my childcare vouchers during maternity leave. I do understand the business reasons why, but I am disappointed in their decision – especially given that they do continue to allow me to accrue holiday which is guidance offered by HMRC under the same parts of employment and equality law. I do not intend to take my concerns to an employee tribunal (mainly because I believe my employer would apply the same restrictions to benefits for any male members of staff who chose to take statutory paternity leave, therefore I don't believe I have a valid case for sexual discrimination). I have agreed to remain in the scheme and to pay for the vouchers each month by cheque because I do not want to leave the scheme. My employer believes that there is a test case currently at the Court of Appeal involving HMRC and the (Equality and Human Rights Commission) EHRC on exactly this issue and that, in the event that this case is settled in the employee's favour, my own employer will refund the costs of childcare vouchers I have incurred during my maternity leave. Currently I can't find any reference to any such case so I am still investigating! Let me know if you know/hear anything about it.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Britax Trifix - What's That Top Tether About?

As you probably know, my other persona is Mrs. ParentWheels!  I run a specialist blog over at where I feature and review cars and car seats.  I recently got a chance to find out more about the new Trifix by Britax.

The Trifix is the latest Group 1 car seat (suitable for children from 9-18kg) by Britax. The notable thing about the Trifix is that it is the first UK car seat that I have seen to use the top-tether anchor point for ISOFIX.

You may (or may not) already know the benefits of the traditional ISOFIX mounting points at the base of a car seat. Using ISOFIX in itself doesn't make the seat much safer than any other, but it greatly reduces the likelihood of you fitting it incorrectly. An ISOFIX seat is easier to install because it clicks into place, rather than requiring you to thread a seat belt correctly and tension it appropriately. The two standard ISOFIX mounting points are now found on most new cars and help to reduce the sideways movement of a car seat in the event of impact.

In addition to this, the new Trifix features a v-shaped top-tether at the back of the seat which allows you to attach it to the rear ISOFIX anchor point in your car, if your car provides this. Your rear anchor point will ordinarily be a hook above the rear seats or on the back of the rear seats - get your car manufacturer or a qualified Britax installer to identify these points for you.

The V-tether is a sturdy strap which passes over the headrest of your car and attaches to the rear anchor point. You tighten it into place and this reduces the level of forward movement of the car seat in the event of a front or rear collision. Coupled with a 5-point harness, this greatly reduces the risk of injury to your child.

The Britax Trifix features all of the standard features you would expect of any Britax car seat. High quality, washable fabric covers, a good level of side-impact protection around the head and shoulders, audible and visible indicators to show when the seat is correctly snapped into place and the straps tightened. The base of the Trifix is quite bulky to allow for the ISOFIX fittings but it isn't as heavy as some Group 1 car seats I've seen on the market. The height of the head-restraint is easily adjustable using a single pull-ring at the top of the seat.

Monday 7 May 2012

ASDA George Make Up Challenge

As much as I love my cosmetics, I have to admit that I am a bit slack when it comes to buying make-up. I tend to buy one or two big pieces at the start of every season and then try and get my money's worth out of them. In some cases I'll end up using them for much longer than is healthy (let alone fashionable) and will finally give up and throw away an out-of-date mascara or a smudged eye-shadow several years after I really should have done.

For that reason, I've decided that I should instead try and go for a more affordable option and buy more make-up, more frequently. The new ASDA George range of make-up for spring and summer seemed as good a place to start as any and ASDA are making some pretty bold statements by comparing their new products directly with their more expensive equivalents.

Now, if you can see this picture of me about 2 days after Lara was born, you will know why I'm now worshipping the George Shimmer Me Starstruck bronzing powder (saying that I feel a whole lot healthier and less worn out this time around with Holly)! ASDA compare their Shimmer Me powder with the £31 Chanel bronzing powder (which I will admit looks very similar although I haven't tried it). Personally, I think the George bronzing powder, when I wear it, reminds me an awful lot of last summer's Estee Seastar bronzing blush, just perhaps a bit less pearlescent. Mind you, at just £4.50, the George blush compares more than favourable on price(!) and with a few more pieces from the range, I should definitely be able to turn over a new leaf when it comes to make-up. No excuses now!

Sunday 6 May 2012

Leapfrog Tag Junior Reading System Review

As someone who gets an enormous amount of pleasure out of reading a story to Lara, I was naturally a bit suspicious of an electronic book reader like the Tag Junior system by Leapfrog. However, the minute that Lara first tried her Tag Junior book pal, it brought an enormous smile to her face and you could see her imagination start to whirr and her eyes light up with eager anticipation.

The Tag Junior system is suitable for children from 2-4 years old (although some of the more simple books claim to be suitable for children of 1 upwards). You buy the reader (which comes with an example book) and then can buy the books separately. There is a vast array of books available, most of which feature favourite children's characters. We were sent a Tag Junior reader to review along with a Disney princess book and a Toy Story 3 book.

The familiar Leapfrog characters Scout and Violet are two new shapes for the Tag Junior book pal reading devices and I really think the chunky, smiley character makes a difference to your child's enjoyment of the device. When you connect the reader to your computer you can personalise it with your child's name so that when they switch it on, the little puppy greets them! The reader can store upto 5 books on it at a time – your child then places the reader onto different parts of the pages of the books to hear the reader speak the words back to them, or play music and speech relevant to the pictures on the page.

The book pal reader takes two AAA batteries and I was a little disappointed at how long the first set lasted before Scout started to tell us they would need replacing - just one week. This may of course be because of the fascination Lara took in those first few days with constantly switching him on and off again to hear him woof!

Of the Tag Junior Books we tried, my favourite was the Scout and Friends book which came with the reader because it had the best quality content, clearest voices and lots of content to explore on every page. I found the content of both of the other books to be a bit limited and Lara quickly exhausted the learning opportunities in them – Lara learned the answers to the puzzles (which she really enjoyed) in her Disney princess story book very quickly so that it quickly became a memory game rather than a puzzle. The Toy Story 3 book was more of a story book and despite the awful accents and voices, was good fun to read together with lots of tidbits to explore on each page.

As a parent, I find the technology behind the Tag Junior reading system fascinating. I'm loving the way that it has re-ignited Lara's passion for “reading” at this early age (something that can often be eclipsed by the magic of television). I think that the Tag Junior system is a good way of encouraging an interest in books and to start the process of exploring books and words as well as pictures. It is very rewarding to see Lara rush in to the house after nursery and settle down with a book and the reader; it is also great to see her explain the product and how to use it to anyone new who comes to visit.

I can follow Lara's learning progress through the Leapfrog Learning Path online, or on my own laptop by regularly connecting her Leapfrog book pal to my own computer. Lara's Learning Path shows me that she has already developed those building blocks she will need to start reading and may be ready to move up to the Leapfrog Tag reading system sooner than I had anticipated.

The Tag Junior reading system has helped Lara to search on the page of a book for the words, not just the pictures and to to pinpoint the parts of a page that are relevant to the story. I think it is a good starting point and leads well into the Leapfrog Tag system for older children.


The Hydrant - Labour and Breastfeeding Hydration Aid

During labour, Mr. B was very good at helping to ensure that I stayed fed and watered. It is an important lesson that we both learned the first time around - you need to stay hydrated and packed full of energy to make it through childbirth. In a birthing pool, hydration is particularly important because the warmth of the water causes you to dehydrate easily.. unfortunately when you are on all fours, struggling to raise your own head above water, it is also very difficult to drink from a cup or a bottle, even with a straw, because it is hard to position your drink anywhere other than under water! Thankfully, for Holly's birth we were well prepared with The Hydrant - a hydration aid we had been sent to review.

The Hydrant is a very simple concept. It is a drinking aid for people with limited mobility who can't necessarily reach for or lift a bottle. The bottle holds a litre of water (or, during labour, perhaps an isotonic drink) and has a clever shaped cap that acts as a handle or a clip. The bottle comes with a long flexible tube which acts as a siphon - you place one end of the tube in the bottle and suck from the other end. The tube is more than a long bendy straw because it has a clever bite-valve on the end which means that, when the bottle is well positioned slightly raised above you (like on the back of a chair or on the edge of a birthing pool) then all you need to do to get the drink is to gently bite the tube... you don't even need to suck!

Mr. B. made sure that I was sipping from the Hydrant regularly and occasionally disappeared to fill it up. It was the perfect solution for in the pool because he could just direct the tube towards me and even when I was mid-contraction I could get water with almost no effort.

the hydrant labour and breastfeeding drinking aid

Since Holly was born on Tuesday I have struggled to keep up my fluids to meet the demand on my own body - I just can't seem to drink enough water!!! On Thursday I suffered 3 migraine headaches in one day (I usually get about 1 per year) and the midwife suggested it could be to do with dehydration. Mr. B has become more strict on me, making sure he never sees me without a full pint of water next to me, especially when I am feeding Holly. Last night I lifted out the Hydrant again and attached it to the back of the chair in the nursery so that late at night, I had an on-demand water supply that didn't require me to use my hands (it also meant Mr. B didn't need to keep rushing downstairs to fill up my pint glass!). It worked really well. Having the bottle clipped just higher than my shoulders meant that the tube was in an ideal position.

The Hydrant can also be converted into a traditional drinking bottle with an alternative cap. There is also a clip which allows you to attach the tube to your clothing so that you don't have to keep reaching for it; in fact, you could attach the bottle to your belt and drink on the move or even clip it to your buggy or pram when out and about.

Mr only negative on the Hydrant so far is that because it was brand new, and I had only rinsed water through the tube a couple of times before I used it, the tube leaves a taste on the air and the first water in the tube. Mr. B is convinced that the whole bottle and tube taints the taste of the water but then it's not him drinking it - I think it tastes just fine after the first few sips through the tube.

The Hydrant can be bought from their own online shop, or from the NCT Shop, Boots, ASDA and Amazon for around £12 - £15.

Friday 4 May 2012

Holly's Birth Story

Holly Louise Button was born on Tuesday night at 11.41pm after about 5 hours of established labour. She was 7lb 13oz. Here's the story of how she came into the world (it's very different to Lara's birth story).

As you probably know, if you read Tuesday's blog post, I thought my waters had broken... turns out that they hadn't.  My contractions started at 5pm approximately 5 minutes apart but very erratic and mild.  By 7pm they began to get stronger - I consider this to be when labour was established.

At this point I was still pootling around the house.  Mr. B fitted the TENS machine (which definitely helped) and tried to insist that I went to bed but I kinda knew that things were starting to move more quickly and sleep wasn't on the cards.  I asked him to ring his parents who came around to look after Lara.  By the time they arrived, the contractions were strong enough to stop me in my tracks and I rang the hospital.  I'm sure they deliberately put the most miserable member of staff on the phone at the labour ward to try and put you off going in - she nearly managed to persuade me not to go.  During the half-hour drive to Frimley Park Hospital I only experienced 2 contractions (they had previously been coming as frequently as every 2 minutes) and I really began to panic that I'd made the same mistake as last time by coming to hospital too early and letting everything slow down.

We arrived in the delivery ward just after 9pm at the point when the midwife shift was about to change.  A stern-looking midwife asked me a load of questions and obviously thought I was fussing about nothing.  She didn't believe me when I said I'd had a urine infection earlier in the week, and she didn't believe my waters had broken.  I think she thought that when the next midwife examined me, I would be going straight home.  My contractions were gaining frequency again but still mild enough for me to almost continue my conversation.

The new midwife was a lot friendlier and by the time she examined me at about 10.15pm, the contractions had come back much more frequently and continually growing in strength.  I was VERY relieved to find that I had made it to 6/7cm dilated with just the TENS machine to get me through.  We asked her to fill the birthing pool with water (which takes about 20 minutes) but both myself and Mr. B were wary of getting into the pool too soon because we didn't want it to slow down labour too much. As we waited, I was in a lot of pain and the TENS machine was no longer helping me get through the contractions - a lot of concentration was needed to breathe through each of them.

I got into the pool just before 11pm and the relief was instant.  As suspected, things did slow down a little but it felt good to be in the warm water. The midwife left us alone for a little bit and told us to ring if I felt the urge to push - we both thought she was joking. At about 11.30 there was a lull in contractions and we stopped to joke with one another about whether we would have a May 1st or May 2nd baby and both of us felt pretty sure it would be the next day before we saw our baby.  I realise now that this lull was probably the point of transition into the second stage of labour.  From the very next contraction I felt the urge to push and tried to ignore it.

Thankfully the midwife arrived again before we needed to pull the emergency cord. She told me to ignore the urge as long as possible.  I ignored it for one more contraction and then my own body took over. It only took 3 contractions and 6 minutes for the second stage of labour.  Holly was born in one push and took both midwives by surprise because there was no pause between head and body.  She literally plopped into the water and they had to drop their tools to grab her.

Holly and I chilled out in the water together for about 10 minutes before getting out to lie down for the third stage - delivery of the placenta.  In that time, she naturally rooted for my breast by snuggling up my chest towards me.  I felt so relaxed it was unreal.

We had to wait for me to dry out before I could have my stitches (by far the most painful experience of the night and the only point at which I tried the Entonox gas).  We had a cuppa, some toast and a bit of a chill out while the painkillers for the stitches kicked in.  I grabbed a quick bath, got dressed and then we were discharged.  We arrived home with baby Holly at 5am and when Lara woke at 7 we had a lovely family reunion.

I am so happy that my second birth went entirely to plan.  It certainly has helped me get through the last couple of days with more energy and less pain.  The stitches are healing and we are both generally well.  I'll blog more about our first days together soon.

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