newborn baby book

I have managed to wreak a lot of mileage out of this little cloth book in the month I’ve had it. Possibly not the most intellectually challenging of reads, it simply features the high contrast faces of three different farm animals (cow, sheep, pig) using three colours (black, white, red) to stimulate and entertain new babies. Mine goes completely crazy with excitement every time I show her the Farm Book, especially when I start at the front cover with its little mirror…

newborn baby book

The pages are crinkly, there are interesting patterns next to the animal faces and there’s a little velcro strap so that you can attach the book to a bouncer or play gym or car seat or what have you. I tell you: hours of fun. I actually have to restrict access to the Farm Book otherwise things get far too manic – wide eyes, leg-kicking, arm-waving… A fiver very well spent.

Farm Book is on Amazon here.

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a model recommends

This review is well overdue, because the Sleepyhead is, I think, my most-used piece of baby equipment so far. I have used it multiple times a day, almost every day since we came home from the hospital. And never has something been recommended to me so many times, by so many different people. And so here we are, better late than never – the wondrousness that is the Sleepyhead.

The Sleepyhead Deluxe is a fabric-covered “pod” marketed as a “deluxe portable baby bed”. It has a flattish bottom section with a firm bumper around the edge that cocoons the baby. The whole thing is completely breathable, the filling has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and the cover is 100% cotton and machine-washable.

sleepyhead deluxe bed review

Those are the practicals, but what does the Sleepyhead actually do? Well. If you listen to the thousands of rave reviewing parents online then it’s the one-stop-sleep-shop for newborn babies, who seem to feel more snug inside the Sleepyhead rather than being all little and lost in the expanse of their crib or basket. It’s a convenient sleep solution because it’s totally portable, and you can put the baby down in it safely whether it’s on the living room floor as you catch up on some work or next to you on the (firm) bed as you catch up on some sleep! So many people have said that their babies will sleep when they’re in their arms, but they are tetchy and restless in the crib – the Sleepyhead seems to have solved that problem for quite a few people I know, and the online reviews (check out the ones on Amazon and John Lewis) say much the same thing.

I have to admit that before I had Angelica I honestly couldn’t see what all the fuss was about when it came to the Sleepyhead – I had my Snuzpod bedside crib and couldn’t imagine that I would need anything else. But after a few sleepless nights (two in the hospital and one back home) I decided that I’d put the Sleepyhead into the bedside crib, just to make everything a bit more snug. Now it could have been that the baby would have started to be more settled anyway, but the difference in sleep was almost instant. Four or five hour stretches and no problems with placing her down – it felt much more natural popping her into a little pod-like thing than straight into the cot and I loved that the bumper around her made a comfy rest for my arm so that I could hold her hand and stroke her if she stirred.

I’ve taken the Sleepyhead with me to hotels and used it inside the large cots that they give you – kind of a “bed away from home” – and I also used it for a month at my Mum’s, again putting it inside a large cot, so that I didn’t have to try and transport my Snuzpod in the already jam-packed car. I’ve used the Sleepyhead as a playtime area in the daytime, I’ve used it as a makeshift changing station when I’ve been “on the go” and I’ve plonked it beside me in the bed (pillows and duvet well away) when I’ve been exhausted and have just needed to be able to nap safely with Angelica nearby. (Below you can see the Sleepyhead placed inside the Snuzpod bedside crib with its side down.)

co-sleeping bedside crib

I do get very frustrated with many of the baby things on the market that we are enticed into buying, especially when they appear to be supplementary to the traditional equipment (in this case a simple cot/crib and mattress!); but I can’t ignore the fact that I have used the Sleepyhead non-stop since June. There have been a few days that we have gone without, and Angelica has been absolutely fine – random nights sleeping in the Uppababy Vista (which has been approved for overnight sleeping) and others in larger cots – but we always seem to return to the Sleepyhead and its cocooning charms. Even if she didn’t sleep in it all the time, and we had just used it for travel and for daytime play and naps, it would still have been our most-used baby thing so far.

So, the pros (and I’m gathering comments from other people I know who have used it, too, here):

  • Seems to help tiny babies settle more readily, perhaps because they feel more secure. I’ve been told that in hospitals they sometimes used rolled-up towels inside the cots of premature babies to reduce the size of the space and make it more snug, and I suppose that this is the same kind of idea.
  • Is brilliantly portable, so amazing if you travel about a lot. Or even at weekends. No need to worry about the facilities wherever you’re going, because you can literally plonk the Sleepyhead anywhere. (That’s safe, and flat, obviously. Don’t go doing any Extreme Sleepyhead positioning!)
  • It works well inside the bedside cribs if you like to keep the side down when you’re both asleep – it feels a bit like you have a bit of an anti-roll safety barrier. (FYI, the Sleepyhead just about fits the Snuzpod. I can imagine it would therefore very easily fit inside the larger Chicco bedside crib, which is also popular.)

And cons? I’ve had to think very, very hard about the cons, because I am a total Sleepyhead convert.  To me, they’re not truly cons, but it will depend on your point of view…

  • Firstly, you could say that it’s quite pricey for what it actually breaks down into, which is a long piece of wadding, a flat piece of wadding and a cotton cover. The spare covers are also pricey and you really need at least one spare. But you’re paying for the idea and the convenience, I suppose, of having it all there to be used straight away. I’ve seen comments from people (who haven’t bought one) saying they could easily “knock up” a version of the Sleepyhead. To that, I say: who the hell has the time? I don’t even own a sewing machine! Yes, if you look at it as a series of basic components, it’s expensive. But if you see it as a largish piece of equipment that you’ll use multiple times a day, then really it’s not at all. You could faff around with rolled up towels and the like, but the beauty of the Sleepyhead is that it’s all-in-one, you just lift it up and go. And, as many have said online, what price can you put on sleep? If you’ve tried everything and are at the end of your (knackered) tether then pretty much anything that works is money well spent.
  • Secondly – and this is my only other con, apart from the fiddliness of changing the cover – I’m not convinced that the Sleepyhead would last the full eight months. (It’s marketed as being suitable from 0-8 months.) Angelica is four months this week and I’m just about starting to question whether she needs to be given a bit more freedom of movement! She’s as long as the inside part, and although I can undo the clasp at the bottom of the pod to give more room, I keep feeling as though it might be time to just pop her onto the cot mattress! But we’ve had four solid months of the Sleepyhead and I’m pretty happy with that! The lovely people at Sleepyhead sent me some photos of much bigger babies than Angelica enjoying the smaller Sleepyhead (there’s a larger “Grand” version, which I will absolutely be getting, but it doesn’t fit inside the Snuzpod so I’m holding off for the moment!) but I keep feeling paranoid about her shoulders being squished. I must remember to email and ask about that. Here’s a pic of a three-week-old Angelica in the Sleepyhead inside a big cot at my parents’ – she was 10lbs 6oz and about 59/60cm, if I remember rightly, so that gives you an idea of sizing, but the best thing to do is check the official measurements and then measure your baby!

ruth crilly sleepyhead review

Has anyone else used the Sleepyhead? What did you think? At what baby age did you stop using it? And who has gone on to use the larger one? Comments below, please!

You can find the Sleepyhead on Amazon here – free next-day delivery if you have Prime. The Sleepyhead website is here – I’ve linked to the info page with some tips on safe use and so on.

*UPDATE: we tried a night sans Sleepyhead after I drafted this post. After an hour I came into the bedroom and the baby had rolled backwards into a ball in the corner of the cot and was crying! I was so paranoid about her new rolling/curling-up abilities that I thought I’d never get to sleep for worrying so back into the Sleepyhead she went! I’ll email my questions about sizing and shoulder-squishing to the brand tomorrow and get back to you with some answers.

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ruth crilly baby blog

You can probably tell by the fact that my posts have been a bit more sporadic that I have a hell of a lot less time at the moment. Mainly because Baby A hardly sleeps at all during the day – a nap here and there, but nothing solid – and we have absolutely no routine whatsoever. So I just have to snatch the time to write when I can – I still work a lot of hours running A Model Recommends and the various things that go with it – and often draft my Uphill posts when I’m breastfeeding and write them up properly when I get a spare second. In the photograph above it’s about 2pm and I’m still in my dressing gown trying to edit a video for a client!

So apologies: the newborn months were a walk in the park with the amount of nap time I used to take advantage of – I get the feeling that it’s going to become more and more difficult to try and juggle baby and work as the months go on! I suppose I’ll have to start thinking about perhaps getting a bit of help for a couple of afternoons a week – I need to get this expressing malarkey down to pat and then I’m not tethered by the breasts! So to speak. Now that’s an image…

Here’s my four month baby and body update.

Baby

This month we have rolling going on. Rolling brings with it a whole new level of safety-anxiety. Will they roll over and suffocate? What if they roll over in the night? (Hello Sleepyhead, you genius invention – no fear of rolling with you about! Review coming up.) Will they suddenly learn how to roll over and over and over again when you’re not looking and roll themselves straight down the stairs? I can’t even imagine the stress when babies start crawling and pulling lamps over and trying to stick their fingers in plug sockets! I’ve already started doing a full house health and safety survey! As well as rolling we have a lot of foot-in-mouth action, quite a bit of giggling (although never at me, always at the husband or at granny and grandad or pretty much anyone. Apart from me. That’s gratitude for you!) and lots of surprised looking about and gurgling at shadows and trees. Bathtime has become a lot of fun with huge splashing sessions and looks of pure wonderment. I keep wanting to press the pause button because every moment is just so amazing and I want to remember it all – when people say “the time goes by so fast” they’re not joking!

We still have no routine; the flexibility of “no routine” had actually suited me as I tried to find my feet and get settled back into the house, but now I have to say that I would appreciate knowing whether I’ll be able to have a bath in the evening or eat my dinner with two hands, like a fully-functioning grown-up person. And a little glass of (medicinal) red wine would be nice, every now and again, which I would sip whilst watching The Trip on Netflix and perhaps eating one of those mini bars of Green & Blacks chocolate. Mmm.

But on a purely soppy note, because I don’t want to sound negative at all, I’m having a bloody GREAT time; I can’t believe how intensely I adore my little person. It seems as though every day I love her a bit more and sometimes my heart actually hurts when I think about her. And my head hurts when I think of what an enormous responsibility it is to love someone that much – to want to give them the absolute best you possibly can and do things the right way for them, even when you have no clue what you’re actually doing because you’ve never done it before…

But that’s enough of that – let’s talk about sore tits and c-section scars!

Body

As you’ll know if you keep up with my posts (not hard) I had Mastitis. What a bastard of a thing to get – boob flu – when you actually have to feed through your boobs. Every few hours. Who the hell designed that particular malady? You can read all about it, if reading about boob flu takes your fancy, here.

But in general I feel as though I’m starting to “get my own body back”. Yes I have two huge watermelons on my chest and yes my waist has no actual smaller part and just goes straight up and down, but nevertheless I’ve been making an effort in the wardrobe department. I’ve been wearing jeans a lot, instead of leggings (even if they are maternity jeans with an elasticated waist!) and I’ve been trying to get out of the habit of sticking on long, loose tops with everything and generally looking like a bag lady. I find that if I wear a normal jumper or tee-shirt, it makes me hold my tummy in more tightly, which is surely good for building those muscles back up?

It’s kind of like a forced toning session. Though I don’t really feel ready to do any proper exercise yet – my boobs feel too cumbersome to jog or run and the idea of organising attendance at a group exercise class is just too daunting. I quite fancy taking up yoga (I did a few sessions pre-pregnancy and loved it) but I really need to get my expressing sorted so that I can have a few hours out on my own! The steriliser, bottles and various tubes and membranes and what have you are all on the draining board in the kitchen but I just don’t seem to be able to find a moment to get cracking. I did manage some when I had Mastitis (breastmilk diary post coming up) but I hadn’t sterilised the equipment, so it was purely for fun. And by fun, I mean “stopping my breast from exploding”.

C-section scar was doing well, and I hadn’t heard a peep out of it until last week when the pesky little part near the middle (about 5mm long) started playing up again. Just a bit sore and itchy. I mean a tiny amount of sore and itchy, but I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to my scar. I can barely look at it. Literally, actually, because there’s a gut overhanging it and I need to arrange a series of mirrors to get a good view..

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About a week and a half ago I was drafting a post entitled The Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding (watch this space for that one!) which began with the words, I feel incredibly lucky to have – thus far – had quite an unproblematic breastfeeding experience.

Tempting fate there, you might think – and you’d be right: less than forty-eight hours afterwards, that good old hand of fate slapped me with a nasty bout of Mastitis. I won’t go into the whole mechanics of Mastitis (Doctor Google has plenty of info) other than to say that it involves a build-up of milk in the breast, followed by infection.

NICE.

Now it seems (according to the aforementioned Dr Google) that a lot of the time Mastitis is caused by improper latching-on or missed feeds or other breastfeeding mishaps, but in my case there didn’t seem to be anything unusual. We still haven’t managed to get into a routine, so I can’t be positive about the missed feed thing, but certainly everything seemed normal. No cracked nipples, no engorgement…. The only thing I can think of is that I wore my “daytime” feeding bra to bed, and unlike the “nighttime” feeding bra (Emma Jane, soft, cheap, amazing, here) it had a more rigid band that had perhaps crept up and cut into the breast tissue at the bottom of my boob. That’s certainly where the hard blockage (ugh) seemed to be…

Anyway, cue massive bright red streaks across the breast and extreme flu-like symptoms. Man did I feel ill. And usually, I hate taking antibiotics, because they really don’t agree with my internals, but in this case I hot-footed it to the doctor faster than you could say “tummy upset”. I had waited for twelve hours and my symptoms were steadily getting worse, not better, and I just needed to nip (ha!) the whole thing in the bud. Being ill with a little baby is not fun. And having to breastfeed with a lumpy hot mass of plasticine-breast is just awful – I am going to do everything humanly possible to never get Mastitis again! No more bras to bed – I’d rather launder my sheets daily and wake up soaked in milk than get hot-lump-boob another time!

One thing I didn’t try, actually: cabbage leaves. By the time I had got into a position to be able to go to the shops (husband was working away), the antibiotics had kicked in. But so many readers on A Model Recommends suggested them that they will be my first port of call if I ever have the misfortune of getting Mastitis again. I’ll be stockpiling those cabbages.

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Sorry that this post has taken so long to appear – I kept adding to it as I used the products more and more. I’m sure that I’ll have more to say again in a month or so!

I’ve had lots of people asking me what I went for in terms of cot, pram and car seat – the main, big baby purchases that tend to cost the most money. They also take the most researching – I spent hours and hours looking at pushchairs and moses baskets and various sleeping solutions. But here’s what I chose in the end; thank you to the many readers who passed on their own experiences with various brands and products – you’ll see that I did listen, and your prior knowledge was invaluable!

uppababy vista review

The Pram

After approximately fifty-five thousand hours of online research and in-store testing, I narrowed my pram choices down to two: the Uppababy Vista and the Bugaboo Bee 3. So many twitter followers championed the Uppababy* – I hadn’t heard of this brand before then. When I tested both prams in town I found that I loved the Uppababy for its chunkiness and all-round brilliant design, and I loved the Bugaboo because it was so incredibly light. However, after much thought I decided that the Uppababy would be more suited to my needs – more rugged, with bigger wheels and a more substantial cot part. (Bassinet? What’s the pram bit called?) The Bugaboo would not have survived my off-roading craziness (I’ve done fields and all sorts with the Vista!) and I also didn’t like that the newborn baby part (a kind of soft bassinet) was quite unstructured and required the baby to be strapped in. I preferred the bigger, more solid bassinet on the Uppababy and I often use it to pop Baby A down for a nap during the day. It’s one of the only pram bassinets to be approved for overnight sleeping, apparently, and it has a proper ventilated base and nice mattress as well as a hood with a built-in pull-down UV shield, which I’ve only just discovered and think is genius!

Obviously I haven’t tried the buggy part yet, because Angelica isn’t old enough for it yet, but it looks really well-designed and feels equally as robust. As for the frame that the seats click onto, it’s very strong and it has the most enormous storage basket that’s easy to access. You could almost fit an adult into it! (Almost. I won’t be trying that again.)

The Uppababy comes with everything you need – insect nets, waterproof covers and so on – and even has the adaptors for clicking a car seat into place, which I think is a nice touch. The only downside with the Vista is that the frame is pretty heavy – nine kilos for the frame and another four for the carrycot. However, in comparison to some of the slightly lighter prams (the iCandy or the Oyster for example) the manoeuvrability is excellent – it feels as light as a feather, accomplishing 360 turns and complicated supermarket aisle-weaving! It’s kind of like a sumo-ballerina – massive heavy chassis, but incredibly light on its feet. My sister, who has the Oyster, was incredibly impressed when she pushed the Vista. We both also loved the fact that the seat or carrycot was quite high up, whereas with the Bugaboo Bee the baby feels very far away from you and close to the floor. Overall, I love the Vista for its chunkiness and robust build. If I was on and off buses all day long then I would probably go for something a bit lighter, but for my walks it’s perfect.

You can find the Uppababy Vista at John Lewis – it’s £699.95 and the colour that I have is exclusive to them. I’ll be doing a more in-depth review with lots of photos very soon!

cybex aton q car seat review

The Car Seat

I left the car seat research up to my husband, mainly to give him something to do because he was moping about. He did lots of online research, but in the end (ironically!) he went with the suggestion from the lady in Mothercare who recommended the Cybex Aton Q. It had a brilliant design that laid a newborn baby as flat as possible, which we both thought was great, and my husband was won over by the weird stabiliser shock absorber things that pulled out of the sides. A definite unexpected bonus was that when we pulled the sunshade out for the first time, we saw that the car seat was probably the most stylish one you can find – it’s like a HR Geiger design! You would never know it from most of the online images because they all show the canopy down – if I were Cybex I’d be pimping that canopied picture out left right and centre, because I’ve never seen a nicer seat! Obviously I went all black with my colour choice – very Karl Lagerfeld, dahling. This seat has been specially designed to cocoon tiny or premature babies and then adjusts so that it fits babies up to the age of about 18 months.

You can get the Cybex Aton Q for £179 at Mothercare.com – we also bought the Isofix base (here), which slots into your car seat (check your make and model for compatibility) so that you can just click your baby seat in and out without having to faff around with seatbelts.

co-sleeping cot review

The Cot

See here for a full review of the Snuzpod. This was the most controversial decision because my cot was going to be a present from my Mum and so there was – how do I phrase this? – helpful outside input. I wanted a bedside crib, which I think is kind of a new concept – they attach to the side of your own, adult bed, and have a removable side so that the baby is almost sleeping with you, but has her own space. (The idea is that you can relax knowing that your baby is right next to you, but if you’re absolutely comatose with tiredness you don’t have to worry that you’ve got the baby out of the way of the duvet or that your pillows aren’t going to flop down over them or something!)

co-sleeping bedside crib

Mum bought me a Snuzpod, which was my favourite of the bedside cribs. It had a great range of heights that you could adjust it to, which I needed because we were moving between holiday lets and my cousin’s flat and my Mum’s house, so all of the beds were different, and I really liked that the side panel of the cot could be easily rolled up or down, creating a more secure cot for the baby if you wanted to leave it unattended. Not that a newborn can roll anywhere, but these things do cross your sleep-deprived mind!

The Snuzpod is available at The Little Green Sheep – it’s £169 and can be used up to about 6 months. I use my Sleepyhead “baby pod” inside it, which I think has been my most-used baby item so far. It’s amazing! I’m doing a separate post on it, but if you want to read more then they have it at John Lewis, or just Google for about a million rave reviews!

*Uppababy very kindly sent me the Vista above for review purposes. I was intending to get a “comparison” pram and do a video, but life has taken over and I haven’t got around to it yet!

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