baby gap fishtail parka

Ted is now the proud owner of a miniature parka – the last member of the family to get one. I virtually live in my green parkas – I have a few in various states of disrepair and so I wear the really scuzzy one for being in the garden and my posher one for town. (I also have a black one that only comes out for evening occasions and black tie events, hahaha.) Angelica has her wizard coat. Husband has a huge sleeping-bag-with-arms one.

I like to think that Ted looks a bit late-nineties Indie band in his. Slightly Liam Gallagher. Sort of Mod-ish. If he had some hair it would be better – the soft, bald head kind of ruins the whole effect.

Anyway, I picked this up for an absolute steal at GAP last week when they had another one of their ridiculously good discount codes running; they currently (as I write this) have 40% off full-price items and 70% off sales items with the code HAPPYGAP*. The fishtail parka is lightweight but feels very warm – fully-lined, with a water-repellant finish. Not too shiny, but not the traditional parka cotton that basically acts as a sponge to rainwater! I think it comes up slightly small, so I’ve kept the 18-24 months for Ted – it was £22.99.

I’ve just done a huge cull of outgrown clothes as a few friends have had – or are about to have – babies, so the chest of drawers is looking rather bare. Time for a restock – I need tights for Angelica, long-sleeved vests for Ted and some nice knitted gloves for both of them! I can’t resist the sales – I’m currently flicking between Frugi, M&S and GAP and that’s when I’m not fantasy furniture shopping on Heals and Jonathan Adler…

Fishtail Puffer Parka at GAP, £22.99 here*. (I think it may be cheaper still with the code, but you’ll have to experiment!)

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natural baby products

In my second post with Huggies Pure Wipes (the first one, The Art of Nappy Changing, is here) I want to run through some of my most-used baby products for bath and body. I could fill pages and pages with reviews of all of the things I’ve tried (I use them on myself as well as Angelica and Ted – if a body wash makes my hands shrivel up into prunes after bathtime has finished then I know it’s too drying for their skin, too!) but these are the bits and pieces that I’ve been ploughing through over the past few months.

There’s something of a common theme in that all of the products are relatively natural, ingredients-wise; a massive grey area and one that I’m not going to dip into now, but all of the brands I’ve included seem to be formulating their products in a way that’s as gentle and kind to young skin as possible. I often think that when we talk about things being “natural”, it’s not so much the origin of the ingredients that we’re on about as the general philosophy behind the brand – what’s been included and, possibly even more importantly, what’s been left out. Most of us don’t expect a shower gel to have been hand-crafted lovingly in a garden shed using only ingredients from the vegetable patch (we need products that are safe, that won’t go off after a day out of the fridge, that don’t need to be stored in a fridge in the first place, that offer some sort of sensorial pleasure, that aren’t prohibitively expensive to buy) but we do want a shower gel or body cream or baby shampoo that is gentle and kind and perhaps free from some of the ingredients that we have issues with.

Here are the products in my current baby-toddler beauty arsenal – they all in some way champion naturally-sourced ingredients or are very transparent about what they do and don’t put into their formulas. That’s not to say that you won’t see “chemicals” in the ingredients list (and there’s nothing at all wrong with a lot of ingredients that look and sound rather scary on paper – I have other favourite baby products, such as Cicaplast creams, that are entirely chemical-sounding) but on the whole the ethos of the brands is to keep things as soft and gentle as possible.

natural baby products

Weleda Calendula Nappy Change Cream (£6.95 here*)

I’ve used Weleda’s Calendula Nappy Change Cream since Angelica was newborn and it is absolutely brilliant. Some “natural” nappy creams are very runny and don’t contain zinc oxide, which is the stuff that makes traditional nappy creams very white and hard to spread. It’s also the stuff that helps to form a barrier over the skin and prevent rashes so I find that without it, a nappy cream or “diaper cream” doesn’t seem to be quite so effective. Weleda’s formula contains zinc oxide, but also sweet almond oil to keep the skin moisturised, lanolin to create an effective barrier and the all-important Calendula to soothe irritated and inflamed skin. The whole Calendula range is excellent (there’s an all-weather face cream that I use myself, when it’s very cold outside!) but the nappy cream is a very wise investment indeed.

Bloom and Blossom Baby Balm  (£16 here*)

It’s rather pricey for such a small amount of product, but I do have to say that Bloom and Blossom have come up with a very concentrated and effective moisturiser in their Baby Balm. Other than applying lard, I can’t think of anything that compares. Designed to heal and protect faces and well as baby bottoms and knees and elbows and whatever else, it uses a mixture of oils and lanolin and shea butter to quite literally baste the skin and seal in moisture. I find that I have to dress the baby straight away to stop him from rolling it all over the place and turning the house into a grease palace, but it’s worth it for dumpling-skin that’s completely smooth and soft to the touch.

Natural Baby Skincare Products

Childs Farm Baby Wash  (£3.99 here*)

A big fan of the Childs Farm products, here – one of the bubble baths smells like tangerines and brings back serious Body Shop memories from my teen years! (Did anyone else used to go into The Body Shop to sniff the fruit-shaped soaps? And they used to – in the eighties – give out free samples of whatever you wanted. They had tiny plastic bottles to decant things into and they’d write out the label in biro.)

Anyway, Childs Farm make beautiful washes and bubble baths and moisturising creams that won’t break the bank – the huge 500ml bottles are even better value for money than the standard sizes. I’ve been using the unfragranced body wash on the babies recently – it’s lightweight, non-drying, doesn’t contain SLS (a cleansing agent that can be a little on the harsh side) and is free from parabens, if you like to avoid those. Does a great job of cleaning grubby hands and faces and whatever else, but keeps things soft and gentle. A great buy.

natural sleep remedies baby

This Works Baby Sleep Pillow Spray (£18 here*)

If you read A Model Recommends then you’ll know that I have a dependency issue when it comes to the Deep Sleep spray from This Works. It’s an all-time favourite that helps to knock me out when I’m stressed or fidgety, and I’m now forcibly passing on my sleep spray addiction to the offspring via their Baby Sleep Pillow Spray. I spritz the rooms and a little on the cot sheets to create a lovely, calming ambience and although it doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect on Baby Ted, who likes to wake up for a bit of a party every few hours, it makes everything smell beautiful and keeps me relaxed when I totally want to lose my rag.

Natural Baby Skincare Products

Kit & Kin Hair & Body Wash (£7.99 here)

Free from the potentially harsh cleansing agent SLS, this wash contains moisturisers to keep skin soft and extracts of marshmallow, strawberry and mango to help soothe and protect.

natural baby products

Combat-Ready Baby Balm (from $3.50 here)

This multi-purpose cream from Skincando was a present from my friend Caroline Hirons and it’s an excellent rescue remedy to have stashed in the nappy bag. I’ve used it on everything from dry, flaky skin to scratches to chapped lips and nappy rashes. (Don’t see those very much, as I’ve mentioned before on here – thanks Weleda Cream! – but Ted does get a little bit red sometimes in the creases at the tops of his legs and this sorts it out straight away. There’s nothing unnecessary or untoward in this little pot of cream – a blend of moisturising and protecting oils with some added ingredients to soothe and help heal. No contentious preservatives, no mineral oil, no added perfumes or colourants. It’s not widely available in the UK, but if you’re stateside and looking to stock up on beauty bits…

Natural Baby Skincare Products

So there are my current favourites. I’ll be back with more as and when I use things up – now that we’re back on a regular bathtime routine I’m ploughing through my stash! And it is so important to choose baby products carefully; Angelica has quite dry skin that’s prone to be a bit itchy (I need to get it checked out, actually, I think she might have a little bit of eczema) and there are certain mainstream (quite iconic!) bath things that really make her skin worse. Quite dramatically.

I mentioned in my first post with Huggies Pure Wipes that I had started to think of nappy-changing in a different way, that it was an opportunity to care for the skin rather than just hurriedly cleaning it. Using gentle products that are soft on the skin (the fact that Huggies Pure Wipes are 99% water and made with natural fibres** was the starting point to this whole conversation!) and really taking the time to read labels and check ingredients. My biggest no-no, usually, is bubble baths that are just pure foaming agent (SLS, or sodium lauryl sulfate) and a bit of colouring and perfume thrown in. It’s basically washing up liquid re-jigged, and you know how shrivelled your hands get after washing the dishes…

If your baby has very sensitive skin then look out for added perfumes in the ingredients list and for everyone, avoid methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone which can be used as preservatives in beauty products but have a terrible track record for causing skin sensitivities and reactions. Some lovely starting places to look for very natural (often organic) products are Green People (they actually have a handy guide with ingredients you might want to avoid here) and Neals Yard Remedies* as well as Pai Skincare and (if you’re in the market for some extreme luxury!) Aurelia*.

This post contains an advertorial for Huggies Pure Wipes.

**65% pulp

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nursery essentials

What with all of this sleep talk (Ted is sleeping through, just about – read the latest update here) I thought I’d touch upon some of the changes we made to Ted’s cot and nursery set-up. Because before we went in with stronger sleep tactics (change to routine, feeding, etc) we tried to eliminate anything on a more practical level that could have been keeping him awake.

Angelica’s sleep had been far easier to settle into a night-long stretch than Ted’s – you can read about what we did with her here – but we still had to tweak her routine a bit and try to feed her more in the day, as she too used to gobble down all of her calories during the night! But she slept through from 7-7 from about nine months, I think. Ted (almost one year old) has been harder to settle and has always required a bit more work even to get him to nap for short amounts of time. It was okay when I used to breastfeed him to sleep (oh, the days when he would just drop off in my arms and I’d slide him into the Snuzpod!) but that finished many, many moons ago now and for the past couple of months he’s cried at almost every nap or bed time.

nursery essentials

So, practical things we did to rule out any sort of external annoyances/discomforts:

We moved him to a warmer room. I mean, the room he was in was freezing. The new house is a Georgian, high-ceilinged house with all of the original windows, which look lovely but need draught-proofing –  Ted’s room had two huge sets of windows and so it was basically like being outside! Despite his many layers, we were still worried about the temperature and so we moved him to a room on the top floor, which for some insane reason is like a totally different house and about three degrees warmer than anywhere else.

We bought him a new cot. Not that there was actually anything wrong with the other cot, but it was an old one that my parents had lent us as a temporary fix, and it had a foamy, plastic-covered mattress that didn’t have much in the way of support. And I got sent a brilliant Eve mattress (yes, they do them in cot and cot-bed sizes!) but the cot was a weird size, something like 68cmx128cm and the Eve mattress didn’t fit. It was cheaper to buy a cot to fit the mattress (which is standard size) than try to get a mattress made for the cot. So I just picked up one of the no-frills wooden cots from Mothercare (it was seventy-something pounds, but I can’t find it online now, don’t know whether they discontinued it) as Angelica will soon be in a single bed and Ted will then have her cot, which turns into a cot-bed.

The Eve mattress is incredibly well-designed – you’ve probably seen the adult ones that come rolled up in a box when they’re delivered – and has pocket springs as well as a foam layer. It won an award in the Smallish Design Awards last year, which comes as no surprise as it’s pretty well thought-out. I particularly like the completely waterproof protective layer between the cover and the mattress itself – no unsightly stain marks from little accidents! You can read more about the Eve mattresses here.

We added safe cot bumpers. Ted was always poking his arms through the bars in the cot and I’m sure he was getting them stuck and it was waking him up! But I was wary of getting bumpers as there were so many warnings against putting anything in or around the cot. I got sent a set of Airwrap mesh bumpers to try from JoJo Maman Bebe (£27 here) and they’re excellent – completely breathable, but still stop arms and legs from poking out of the gaps. The velcro fastenings are really secure (to the point where I can’t actually get them off!) and if a baby did press their face up against them, they allow maximum airflow.

nursery essentials

We installed a white noise machine. I say machine: that seems a cruel, heartless label for such a cute and cuddly owl. Angelica had the Whisbear, which is brilliant, but we’ve lost the noise-maker from inside it (we were using it in the car when Ted was newborn) and so I ordered Ollie the Owl from Gro at Amazon (£34.99 here*). If I had to do an Owl vs Whisbear fight, then the Whisbear would win on simplicity and also the fact that the bear is nice for them to cuddle and has weird magnetic legs that easily clamp on the side of the cot, but the owl would win on functionality. For a start, it has four white noises – or three and a lullaby tune – rather than the Whisbear’s one, and also a little glowing tummy. Two of the noises – lullaby and sshhh – are cry-activated, like the Whisbear’s. So once they’ve done their time (20 minutes), they turn off but restart if the baby cries. The owl from Gro is far easier to use in terms of the cry activation, I think, because you just have to turn on one of the options by clicking the left hand wing. I’m sure the Whisbear had an easy way of doing it, but I lost the instructions and could never bloody remember! Anyway, both are wonderful – you can read my Whisbear review here, or it’s £42.99 here*.

nursery essentials

We still use the same monitor for Ted – the old Angelcare one that my sister gave to me when I first had Angelica. It’s such a workhorse, it’s like the equivalent of a Nokia phone from the late nineties! The battery lasts an age, I’ve dropped the handset down the stairs about six times and it’s still going strong. It has a motion pad as well as room temperature display (obsessed with that, obviously) and the signal remains strong for quite a distance. The only thing it doesn’t have is video, which I’d quite like now that Ted is a bit further away, so I’m deliberating over whether to get a second mortgage and upgrade to this one*. Whew, pricey!

Joking aside, I would absolutely recommend the Angelcare monitors if you’re looking for one – the version we have now is here* and costs £70. It’s not the most elegant, but – as I said – it’s a workhorse, reliable and does the job.

 

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how to get a baby to sleep through the night

OK so I’m going to – tentatively – put it out there that my baby sleep-inducing methods might actually be working. We’ve had five nights in a row of solid sleep from 11pm-7am, which is simply unheard of until now. It’s a revelation. (So long as you ignore the night before last, which was a total disaster and had me up from 5am. Just to be completely transparent about the whole thing. I’m ruling that night out as an anomaly!)

If you want to recap on some of the things I’ve been doing in an attempt to get Ted to sleep through the night then read my previous sleep post here – if you want to get straight to the nitty-gritty and find out what’s working for us then keep on reading.

If you’re new to the blog then here’s a quick overview of the sleep issues we were having with Ted, who is eleven months old: he was waking up numerous times throughout the night (for example 10.30pm, 12.30pm, 3am-4am, up at 6.30am for good) and we were feeding him back to sleep with formula because otherwise he would scream the house down. He was eating okay during the day, but not as much as I would have liked. Health good, generally a very happy and chilled baby, napping during the day but at random times.

When I look back over that paragraph, the problems are absolutely glaring – in fact, if you are having sleep issues with a baby then I would urge you to sit down and write a few sentences as I have above, outlining what the issues actually are. When you sit back and read your own words, it may all suddenly seem rather obvious as to what the problem is and what you should do. I mean, the situation above was little more than a week ago and already I’m gobsmacked that I spent so many weeks feeding Ted back to sleep with formula, multiple times a night. What an earth was I thinking?

The thing is, when you are absolutely at breaking point with tiredness and frustration, it’s incredibly difficult to take a step back from what you’re doing and realise that – really – you’re sometimes creating the issues yourself. (Not everyone, obviously, but we most definitely were, and the more I read things online the more I see thousands and thousands of parents with identical issues.) All you want is for the baby to go to bloody sleep and you’ll do anything to make it happen, even if it means making a rod for your own back. And, if you’re anything like me, you probably hate the sound of your baby crying and will do anything to placate them and soothe them back to sleep.

Ted didn’t need the formula through the night (he was sometimes having a whopping three bottles), as he’s proven himself over the past week by sleeping through without it. (He doesn’t even wake up hungry – we go down to breakfast in a very relaxed fashion, he sits and waits quite patiently whilst crumpets are toasted and yoghurt is fetched from the fridge and so on – and he’s eating far more solids throughout the day.) We didn’t just go “cold turkey” and take the formula away, though. One of the first changes we made, a couple of weeks ago, was to start reducing the night feeds by slightly watering down the formula each time. This was a good call – it only took a night or two before he could be soothed back to sleep with cuddling and rocking instead of a bottle.

Devising a routine and sticking to it (you can read more about that here) was also a good call as Ted was less fraught and overtired when 6.30pm/7pm came around. It also meant that we got both Angelica and Ted to sleep during the day for two hours at the same time, which helped us to have a breather and regain our sanity and do things like have a proper lunch or get house admin done without having to constantly negotiate our whole day around their various nap times.

But the biggest – and most profound – change has been altering the way we respond to Ted’s crying throughout the night. Now I know that the “Controlled Crying” method is a little controversial, but a) I’m not sure that’s what we’ve actually been doing and b) I think (from reading lots online) that the method itself is widely misunderstood. From what I gather, Controlled Crying is allowing the (older, not tiny!) baby to cry for a certain amount of time, say a few minutes, before comforting them. So rather than jumping straight to it as soon as they wail, or picking them up and spending three hours (not even joking) rocking them back to sleep, you wait a while and see what happens.

Now if this sounds even remotely cruel, then please consider what happens when you’re driving and your baby is crying and you can’t pull over – surely this has happened to most of you on the motorway? The baby has woken up hungry and is screaming and there is literally nothing you can do. The next services is twenty-odd miles away. You listen to the baby go batshit crazy for about twenty minutes (depending on how fast you’re going!) and do that fruitless rocking thing on their car seat, which almost dislocates your shoulder. And that’s if you’re the passenger. If you’re driving, you’re even more stuck because you can’t do anything other than sh-sh-shhhhh yourself towards total madness.

Anyway, my point here is that the baby is crying for quite a while – much longer than you would EVER leave them through the night – and there’s also a difference in that the baby in the car needs something. It’s hungry. With the controlled crying thing, I think the assumption is that the baby is fed, dry, well and warm – this is for babies who are crying because they are used to being constantly comforted rather than crying out of discomfort or distress. For example Ted, who was being fed formula and then cuddled for ages – at least half an hour – each time he woke up. Of course he was going to cry if he didn’t get these things, we had virtually trained him to need them!

(And you might argue that he did need these things, but please show me a human who can survive for almost a year on snippets of sleep, never more than three hours at a time? If you can rock your baby back to sleep multiple times a night for more than a eleven months and not lose your mind then you are a better, more energetic person than me. I’d say that I’m pretty soft when it comes to babies, as are the majority of people – I can’t bear to hear them cry, see them upset – but there’s a very real and definite limit to the amount of sleep deprivation a person – or couple – can endure.)

So on to my mixed-up, thrown-together, trial-and-error sleep method. On the first night, I left Ted – after a lovely, cosy nighttime routine – for a couple of minutes to have a cry. And he got really really cross. But then I went back in, sshhd him, put my hand on his head or his chest, reassured him and he went quiet and smiled. In a way, leaving him again was actually worse after doing this because he was even more cross, but gradually I extended the amount of time I left him for, from two to three to four minutes, and by the time we’d done around six minutes (which – I warn you – feels like six hours) of annoyed crying, he was done. Asleep.

And actually, we only had to do this whole routine TWICE. By the time – on the first night we tried it – we’d done it to get him back to sleep after the 7pm feed and the 11pm feed (haven’t managed to drop that one yet!) he slept through the night. On the second night he cried for a minute or so each time and then was fast asleep. On the third night, no crying really – perhaps twenty seconds? – and on the fourth, nothing. Just a happy baby. (You know I’ll jinx myself here, as usual! In fact I did, because I wrote this and then had the terrible fifth night before I could hit the publish button.)

Now let’s picture the alternative to my random mixed-up method, which is what we had been doing for months and months. (I don’t know why it took us so long to address the sleep situation properly. Maybe I thought that thinks would just “iron themselves out”. Maybe we were too caught up with moving. Perhaps because we were renting a terrace house and – I think, subconsciously – were worried about waking the neighbours, as well as Angelica. But probably it was because we were just too worn-out to contemplate changing our routine – we’d become accustomed to doing the nighttime relay, grunting at each other over whose turn it was to go and do the feed and the rocking. Being like zombies throughout the day, just waiting for the moment Ted might nap so that one of us could also have a rest.) The alternative here is not allowing Ted to cry at all, picking him up and rocking him. For hours. Making him completely attached to the sensation of rocking so that was what he needed to be able to fall asleep, and giving him formula to send him off into a lull. Him crying again anyway as soon as he was put back down, repeating the whole process again, with the addition of two/three nappy changes a night because he was drinking so much…

When I look at that situation it seems absolutely ludicrous.

Now each to their own and I would never tell someone else what to do with their baby, but if you’re in the same boat as I was and want to try the same thing then here’s what I did, for easy reference:

Feed at 7pm (7oz of formula, in case that’s relevant.)

Lovely cuddle, kiss and then gently placing him into the cot, at which point he has always cried until picked back up again.

Resisting the urge to pick him back up, instead shushhing and gently rocking his chest with my hand/stroking his hair, but only for about twenty seconds or so.

Retreating from the room, waiting for any breaks in the crying and shushing in the silences so that he can hear that I’m there. Gradually closing the door and waiting for a few minutes before going back in to repeat the hand on chest/head and gradual retreat.

For me, the crying simply stopped after a few short goes when Ted knew that he wasn’t being picked back up again. The reassuring hand/noise seemed to – well – reassure him, and even though he’d cry again, it didn’t take long for him to work out that crying wasn’t going to get him hours and hours of cuddles.

God, in an ideal world, I’d bloody well cuddle him all day. If I wasn’t knackered, didn’t have another child to consider, tea to make, washing to do, a dog to pet, a cat to feed, a husband to spend time with, a job. But when you think about it, what good would cuddling all night do either of us? It just meant that Ted woke up every time he was (necessarily!) put back in the cot, we were all exhausted and the crying was simply delayed rather than stopped. Because there was no actual discomfort to address to stop the crying, was there? No wet nappy to change or hunger to feed or pain to soothe or what have you. So how do you stop crying, practically, when there’s no real reason for it? I feel as though all we were doing was creating a sort of cause-and-effect situation where Ted knew that if he cried, he got endless cuddles. By taking away the endless cuddles, which were – apparently! – only missed for the few minutes he cried for them before dropping off to sleep, we very easily broke the cycle.

And he still gets the lovely cuddles and the special, warm times and the nice milky feeds, just not at ridiculous hours in the middle of the night. In fact, the cuddles are actually better because I’m not like the walking dead and he’s a happier baby.

So just to emphasise, this isn’t a sad, ongoing regime of relentless crying sessions; it’s a couple of slightly uncomfortable nights after which you’re hopefully in the land of normality once again, with a baby who sleeps properly, eats at the right time and doesn’t drive you (and everyone who can hear them through the night) to the brink of insanity! To be quite honest, I really can’t deal with the sorrowful sound of crying and so if it hadn’t worked so quickly and easily, I don’t think I’d have kept on going, but I do think that it’s worth a try if you too have a similar sleep situation.

And now that I’ve done it, I remember quite clearly having to do something similar with Angelica. In this post, when she was a baby, I wrote that I didn’t ever have to let her cry, but I was reminded recently by a friend that actually I did. I didn’t actively have to go and reassure her, retreat from the room (repeat to fade) but I do remember having a bit of an epiphany when I simply failed to go to her when I heard her cry on the baby monitor. Usually I’d jump straight out of bed, run over to her room, cuddle her, latch her on, lull her back to sleep, and I was doing that three or four times a night until she slept through. But one night I just waited to see if she carried on crying or went back to sleep, and after a minute or so she went back to sleep. Who knew? So simple. Wait a while, see what happens, don’t be too quick to react…

What are your (constructive) thoughts on baby sleep routines or methods? Did you have any issues with your baby, or are you currently struggling to get them to sleep through? I’m talking about older babies here, by the way, not newborns or younger babies. I have no idea when they stop needing feeds through the night – is it four months? Five? I get the idea that breastfed babies seem to continue waking up for feeds for longer – is that a fair assessment? That’s just from friends, family and readers’ comments here on the blog – Angelica was nine months when she stopped her night feeds for good, Ted is eleven months and still has one.

Oh by the way, I finally stopped breastfeeding this week. We were feeding at random times, in dribs and drabs, and it just didn’t seem to be that beneficial at all for either of us. Ted never seemed to feed for long but then would soon after guzzle down a whole bottle of formula – had I been more rational and less tired I’m sure I could have sat down and worked out when to feed and how to slot everything together, but I just decided to draw a line under it. Also I had a milk blister – OW – and it wouldn’t go away, it was painful to feed and I needed to address it, which I did by manually expressing and lots of hot compresses. But anyway, it seemed like the right time to stop. I’m slightly sad and do miss it, but I don’t miss how haphazard our feeding schedule was – it’s much easier working out a routine now, with formula.

Right, fire away in the comments! And wish me continued luck with the sleeping – so far so good, eh?

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vicks babyrub for babies

When Vicks BabyRub got in touch with me to see whether or not I would like to write this post, my first thought wasn’t “ooh, what would I tell myself as a first time Mum?” but “oh my God, Vicks do a BABY RUB?” I can’t tell you how many times I lamented the fact that Vicks famous VapoRub wasn’t suitable for babies when Angelica was smaller – that powerful, nose-unblocking eucalyptus hit, the comforting warmth and reassuring medicinal vapours that soothed the coughs and colds of my own childhood.

And now there’s the gentle, moisturising Vicks BabyRub, formulated especially for babies aged six months and over. It has actually been designed as more of a multipurpose soother than a dedicated cough and cold-buster, but it definitely has a lot of that VapoRub magic going on – it has been working a treat on Ted with his rattly chest and constantly runny nose!

vicks babyrub for babies

BabyRub has more of a delicate composition than the Vicks we are all used to, with Aloe Vera and the fragrances of Rosemary and Lavender, making it gentle enough to use at any time of the day or as a regular part of the bedtime routine. The scent is so relaxing and a few minutes of massaging into Ted’s chest and tummy after his bath have made him much calmer before bed. (We’ve made a lot of changes recently, in terms of Ted’s routine, in an attempt to get him to sleep through the night! One of them is making sure there’s a proper wind-down time before he goes to bed and this little massage session has been a nice addition.)

So thank you Vicks for answering my Mum-with-fractious-and-congested-baby prayers – I wanted a soother that was suitable for babies and you provided. If you could now come up with a one-stop teething solution that works instantly than that would be great.

vicks babyrub for babies

But I’ve gone totally off-piste here, because I was supposed to be writing a letter to myself as a first time Mum and then slipping in a bit about Vicks BabyRub at the end! I’ve gone about it all wrong! This is what happens when you don’t get enough sleep, you see – all sense of order and reason goes flying out of the window. But there is light at the end of the tunnel: wise words I shall be imparting to my past self in just a few minutes’ time. I’m hoping that this letter will provide some sense of support to any first time mums (or mums-to-be) and help to make things seem a little less overwhelming. We all have our own particular set of worries and fears when it comes to raising babies, but you can guarantee that whatever your problem is, however niche, there will always be someone out there going through the same thing. Do feel free to use the comments section as a kind of forum, if there’s anything you want to discuss!

Here we go with the letter…

vicks babyrub for babies

Dear Self,

(Is that how you address your former self? Past self? I feel as though I’ve slipped into The Matrix and I haven’t even started the first proper sentence yet.) You’ve just had your first baby and you’re holding her, shell-shocked, feeling slightly annoyed that all of a sudden all of the attention is on her and not on you. You’re the one who’s had to have their stomach sliced open! And a catheter! You’re the one with weird things happening to her boobs, with what feels like a whole set of intestines falling out of her nether regions, with a sanitary towel the size of a cot-bed mattress stuck into her pants. Who’s having to administer a hideous injection every night, into her own stomach fat, and who has seen her lovely taut, blooming body turn from a ripe pod into an empty, wrinkled sack.

Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it. It’s not about you, now, it’s about the baby. I’d like to say that things change, everything gets “back to normal”, but it doesn’t and that’s fine. Because – as you’ll come to realise, though it might not be instant – having this baby will be the best thing that you have ever, ever done. You will never feel so tired, so frustrated, so (at times) angry or (at other times) sad, but you will also never feel such immense highs. Proper, soaring-above-the-clouds highs that have you questioning what you ever did to be quite so lucky.

There are a few things you can do – and need to do – to navigate these highs and lows. To be honest, I didn’t know about them (though I’m sure people tried to tell me) and I survived, but it’s nice to be pre-warned, so if you fancy a slightly smoother ride through the post-partum period then remember these things:

vicks babyrub for babies

It’s all just a phase. They won’t be teething forever, you won’t always be constantly breastfeeding, they (one day) will sleep, you won’t have a mattress-like sanitary pad in your knickers until the end of your days. Soon – and it comes around fast – you won’t even need to change the baby’s nappy. Imagine that. They’ll feed themselves and chat to you and request “more snacks?” around seventy-five billion times a day – they’ll laugh when you drop the shopping, which will in turn make you laugh, and they’ll do impromptu dances in public when they hear a particularly jazzy ringtone on someone’s phone. It’s all just a phase, whatever it is, so make note of it in your head before it disappears, live for the moment, and if it’s a hard, testing phase then know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Nobody knows better than you. OK some people know better than you about some things, but in general you know your baby best, because you are with them all of the time, so trust your instincts. I can tell you that even after baby two, I’ve forgotten all of the newborn stuff already and would not have a clue what I was doing if one was placed in my arms this second, so people who had their babies decades ago might not be all that – er – fresh in the memory department. I’m not saying that other people’s advice isn’t good – and my God, it’s welcome when you’re feeling all alone and frantically worrying about something – but just bear in mind that you forget a lot of stuff almost as soon as your baby isn’t a baby anymore. So someone bulldozing in and telling you that you should be swaddling/formula-feeding rather than breastfeeding/giving more Calpol/giving less Calpol/bulking up the night feed with broken-down Rusks/taking the baby to the doctor to get their wheeze checked out is more often than not a real annoyance. In fact it’s pretty much always a real annoyance.

vicks babyrub for babies

It’s OK to take all of the help. You’re so, so proud at the moment and you’re the sort of person who likes to do everything yourself, to never be indebted to other people, to be seen as coping and as strong. You want to do it all and you’re even trying to get work done when you only gave birth three weeks ago. Stop: lie down. Take all of the help. A cup of tea? Yes please. The baby taken on a car journey so that you can get some sleep? Do it! Pass the baby over! I can tell you that the way you’re going is down the slippery path to a proper burnout. Luckily, it won’t happen with this baby, but (little do you know) you’re not far off having another one, and you’d be better off setting up some good habits now. Allotting some “me time”, which is a phrase that makes you heave, I know, but it’s so important. Turn off the laptop, switch off the lights, lie in the dark and think about stuff or listen to a funny podcast or have a long bath.

vicks babyrub for babies

Take a maternity leave. You work for yourself – I get that. I’m you, remember? But the world won’t implode if you take a few months to just get used to being a Mum. I know that you love documenting things on your baby blog (which I’m now typing into, MY MIND CAN’T COPE WITH THIS IT’S TOO CONFUSING) and I also know that you find it relaxing to write, but you’re going to take on a load of proper work with deadlines and client demands and you just need to chill and enjoy having a baby. Do some cooking. Some pottering. Read some books about baby sleep – that’ll set you in good stead for some of the problems you might encounter further on down the line! Nobody – and I mean nobody – will even remotely judge you for taking actual time off to have a baby. In fact, people will think you’re completely bat sh*t crazy for not taking time off, so please. For the love of God, woman. Take some time off. (She says, typing with one baby on knee and a toddler trying to hammer part of a plastic helicopter into the Eames chair.)

Take your thoughts and ideas seriously. This sort of contradicts my last piece of advice, but whatever, let’s plough on; you may have lots and lots of time to think, with this new baby. She’ll sleep a lot, and because you only have one, you can either sleep at the same time (recommended) or sit there staring at the wall in a kind of semi-conscious stupor. These stupors tend to be incredibly productive in terms of brilliant brainwaves: please do not dismiss your postpartum ideas and thoughts as the ramblings of a crazy woman. Write them down, either in a dedicated notebook or on your iPhone, and write them down in detail. Some of the best and successful entrepreneurs I know have set up businesses that they thought up during the postpartum period. It’s equally ok if you fail to have any good ideas – some days it might be a struggle just to remember how to turn on a tap.

vicks babyrub for babies

Right, that’s enough from me. I sort of hate you because your hair hasn’t fallen out yet – I have a literal mane of baby hairs around my face and it looks ridiculous and also you haven’t yet developed “the pile that refuses to leave” – but I also feel sorry for you because you don’t have a house to live in and still have to make about a hundred decisions about stupid house renovation things like radiator valves and window frames and drains and doors that won’t shut properly. And you still have another pregnancy, c-section and two house moves to go before you catch up with me! Good luck with that. I can tell you that you’ll barely be sane by the time 2018 rolls around, so make use of your faculties now.

I can also tell you that you’re going to need to start your heart-strengthening exercises, because your heart is going to break and mend itself around twelve times a day, sometimes feeling as though it’s going to burst from your chest. Babies do that to you. It’s lovely. Enjoy it. See you – er – never, because I’m always going to be about two and a half years ahead. (Oh my God we could have an epic gambling moment here, if I told you some horse-racing results! Why the hell am I giving you baby advice when you should be out there at William Hill, placing bets! I’d be a billionaire now!)

Yours,

Ruth Crilly Aged 37 and One Month

vicks babyrub for babies

*this post contains advertorial for Vicks BabyRub. Specially designed for babies aged 6 months and over, Vicks BabyRub is available at: Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and all good pharmacy chains. RRP £3.99

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baby sleep tips

I’ve just been reading a post I wrote when Angelica was tiny; How I Got My Baby To Sleep Through The Night.

Goodness, she was a piece of cake in comparison to Ted! And I was at the end of my tether then, feeding every couple of hours through the night. Luckily Angelica was an easier fix – once she was in her own room and in more of a routine, the sleeping just started to happen. Not so this time around – we’ve had to employ harder tactics.

It’s funny how quickly you forget things that you did with one baby when you have another – things that would actually be rather useful to reflect upon, so that you didn’t do them again. (Maybe that’s a whole other post?) Really, I should have known that getting Ted into a routine earlier would have been handy, and addressing the fact that he was eating half of his calories through the night could have been done a lot earlier, to save all of this hassle now…

Anyway, too late now – here we are, eleven months in, and Ted is still pretty random with his night wakings, sometimes up three or four times for a feed, other times wide awake for an hour or more, which is perhaps the more frustrating type of sleep interruption. We’ve never had a whole night of sleep with Ted – not even from, say, 11pm until 6am. But I have to say that since I instigated the changes listed below, things have started to dramatically improve.

I’m loathe to say that they’ve worked, because a) they haven’t and b) I always jinx myself when I write about minor successes, but there’s definitely a sort of positive trend going on, despite a few terrible nights dotted about, including the one in which Ted wet through his nappy and his sleeping bag and threw up formula on the spare sleeping bag, all in the space of around three hours.

Here’s what I’ve been doing.

The Routine

Cribbed from a Mumsnet thread about Gina Ford, though I have no idea what the rest of the Gina Ford routine entails. It was just a way of getting some timings down on paper and feeling as though they had some credibility or success behind them. We follow them pretty loosely, to be honest – too loosely, probably, and the timings that we’ve ended up adopting (below) aren’t even the ones I originally wrote down. I’m sure we’d have more luck if we were a bit stricter and followed the timings religiously, but we’re simply not that organised and never will be. So it’s wake up at 7/7.30am (ideally, though now and then Ted wakes up at 6.30, which is basically not on – who the hell needs to be up at that sort of hour?!) and then breakfast at 7.45am until about 9am, because it takes so bloody long for them both to pour cereal over the floor and rub jam in their hair. Milk and a nap for Ted at around 10am, but a SHORT nap, say 30 minutes, and then lunch for both of them at about 12.30pm.

The most marvellous thing about this routine is that both Angelica and Ted have the same main nap. From 1-3pm. It was supposed to be 12.30-2.30, but we never manage to get lunch done in time. Whatever: two hours of complete freedom to get things done! It’s amazing!

Then snack, play, dinner, bath, reading, milk, bedtime at 7pm. Angelica mostly sleeps right through until around 7.30am/8am (and always has done) and Ted has started, gradually, to wake less and less. Perhaps because of…

The Milk Deprivation

We realised that Ted was drinking far too much formula at night. He shouldn’t really have been drinking any formula at night, but when I stopped breastfeeding him during the night, because I was so knackered, we stupidly swapped it for the bottle. Big mistake. HUGE! He was never really taking much of a breastfeed at night, it was more for comfort (hello! Rod for own back, anyone?) and so we basically began rewarding his night wakings by giving him a hugely calorific meal! Idiots. The things you do when you’re totally sleep deprived and desperate to get back to bed…

To cut back on the formula, we started making the bottles weaker – by the time we were putting only four scoops of powder into 7oz of water, he just didn’t want to know, and gradually he seemed to stop being so hungry throughout the night. I think if we’d try to go cold turkey then it would have been really stressful, but this way seemed to just confuse him a little whilst giving him at least something in his tummy to get him back to sleep.

Now we’re aiming at NO formula through the night at all. Last feed, if he wakes for it, at around 11pm, but Angelica wasn’t having that at his age, so I feel as though he can make it through without it! Yes, he screams, but we have started to address the crying too, with…

The Controlled (?) Crying

OK, I’m going to admit that I haven’t actually researched this controlled crying thing properly. I saw a few things on Google when Angelica was a baby, and I’ve added to this mountain of dubious knowledge with various bits of anecdotal material, both from the comments here on the blog and experiences of friends and colleagues and so on. The gist of it seems to be that if you always give in to a baby crying, when they have no reason to cry other than they’re not getting their own way, you’re basically rewarding them for crying. With cuddles, with whispers, with a breastfeed or a bottle or whatever it is that you do to get them back to sleep. They need to be able to get themselves back to sleep without you, so that you don’t have to get up five bazillion times a night and almost walk into the doorframe because you’re so tired.

It’s absolutely awful having to listen to a baby cry, but this is what we did: crying for ten minutes, then into the room to put a hand on the baby’s chest and rock him slightly to reassure him, then leaving him to cry again for ten minutes. We’ve given in quite a few times on this one, mainly because I can’t cope and break to easily, but if you pick him up then he laughs and immediately stops crying, so he is definitely playing us! Out of all of the changes, this is the one that I am most ready to persevere with, despite it being the most difficult.

And perseverance is key with all of these things, isn’t it – so far nothing has provided a magic fix, and a couple of nights have been more terrible than ever, but I know that these changes all make sense and together they HAVE TO WORK. (Positive thinking! I’m doing a sort of Jedi mind-trick with this. It will work. Use the force.) With Angelica, I found that creating the right atmosphere worked – her own room, a bedtime routine, etc – but I think things have been stepped up a gear for Ted. Perhaps because we left it for too long, and I do think that multiple house moves and unsettling events have affected matters, but it’s definitely more challenging. As ever, I shall keep you updated!

May The Sleep Be With You.

Sidenote: the chunky, plumpy sleeping bag in the top photo was sent from Jojo Maman Bebe and it’s amazing. A 3.5 Tog, for those of you with old, cold houses! It has arms, but you can detach them. Personally I think that the arms are brilliant – Ted is just so toasty warm in this and I’m sure he’s sleeping a little better now that he’s more snug. I’m going to do a separate post on his room and cot set-up, so stay tuned for that – you can find the Cosy Sleeping Bag here online. It’s £35.)

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toddler and baby development diary

Sorry about the radio silence: things got a bit too much before Christmas, what with moving house again and not having any regular help with the chicklings and all of that jazz. I didn’t even have time to do an “out of office” post with a Cheerio! and a Merry Christmas, thanks for your support! So, thank you for your support and continued readership in 2017 – I’m planning bigger and better things in 2018, especially if I manage to get some bloody sleep.

Now listen. I don’t want to jinx things here, but I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention the fact that last night Ted slept almost all the way through. Yes, he woke up at 1am for a quick breastfeed (his meagre one a day), and then again at 6am for a full bottle of formula, but otherwise he slept through from 7pm until 8am. EIGHT O CLOCK!

But this miraculous event hasn’t happened by fluke or sheer good fortune – or at least I don’t think it has. I have numerous posts drafted about the “sleep problem” and so I’m loathe to summarise here, but we made some big changes last week and I think that they paid off. I’ll go into more detail in the standalone posts, but let’s get on with the update and a brief precis of our epic routine-changing adventure!

toddler and baby development diary

Toddler

Angelica broke our hearts this month by getting rid of her “baby personality”. She had always struggled to say “Angelica” and so called herself “Lala” and she was a very proud Lala indeed. If anyone ever dared to call her anything else (“ooh, you’re a right little cutie aren’t you?”) she would retort, quick as you like, with “I not cutie – I Lala!” “I not little monkey, I Lala!”

We had become so accustomed to her being Lala that we thought it might stick forever. Though nobody else was allowed to actually call her Lala, if it came from others it had to be – oddly – the full Angelica. I think that when she heard herself say Lala, she thought she was saying Angelica, and so other people calling her Lala sounded wrong.

Anyway, about two weeks ago, she suddenly shouted from the back of the car: “I not Lala, I Angelica!” Oh, the tears welled up in my eyes, I can tell you. Boo hoo!

So now she’s fully-fledged Angelica and pretty much a teenager all of a sudden and she knows how to get into the snack drawer and wants to help cut up vegetables and chatters away to her teddies telling them stories. “Once pontime, there Goldilocks! Daddy Bear had pipe, had dungarees, Baby Bear bed just right!”

It’s all happening so fast. When I was stressed before Christmas, I was considering sending her to nursery for a couple of days a week just to take some of the pressure off, but in the end I couldn’t bear the thought of her toddling off to (what in my mind would be) school, so we have gone down the nanny route again. Keeping her close so that I can pop in at mealtimes and hear her laughing outside and know that she’s within reach. (God, am I going to be like Beverly Goldberg?!)

toddler and baby development diary

Luckily we seem to have found a gem, when it comes to a nanny – one that will do just two days a week, so fingers crossed she likes us and our mad household. She looked rather bemused when we were photographing a cat treat Instagram advert on her first day here (husband bellowing “hold the cat higher! Hold him closer to your face and SMILE! Look happier! Squeeze the treat tube! Raise the cat higher – raise him!” whilst balancing a studio light on his head) but hopefully it won’t take long before she settles right in…

Angelica’s favourite thing of last month: her Paw Patrol ride-on helicopter, bought by my sister for Christmas, and her doctor’s kit from Le Toy Van*, bought by Santa. Angelica loved Christmas – she was so sweet putting out a mince pie for Santa and a little carrot for Rudolph. I left the room for a few minutes and when I came back in, there was a cushion in the fireplace. “For Santa to sit on” she said.

Oh my heart, my heart.

toddler and baby development diary

Baby

OK, so let’s get to the bit that many of you will be skimming through to read: how we got Ted to sleep through the night. Ish. Two small wake-ups over a thirteen hour period, but a massive improvement on five wake-ups over an eleven hour one! His usual routine was bed at 7pm, a crying fit and feed at 10.30pm, a variety of wakings and cryings and semi-feeds at 1ish, 3ish, 4ish, maybe 5.30ish, some nights a 4.30am thrown in for good measure, and then waking up for good anytime between 6am and 7.15am.

It goes without saying that getting from 7pm until 8am, with two very small and uneventful wake-ups, was an absolute dream. So much so that I couldn’t actually get to sleep – I slept from midnight until 1am and then didn’t get back to sleep until around 5am! Sod’s law – I’m sure the same thing happened when Angelica started sleeping through. I became a miserable insomniac.

As I said before, there will be more posts with more detail, but here are the things that we changed:

Reducing night feeds by gradually swapping in water instead of formula and making a concerted effort to feed more solids during the day. With regards to watering down the formula, on the first night we did 6 scoops of formula in 7oz water, by the fifth night we were doing just four scoops in 7oz water and he simply wasn’t interested. Or as hungry. After eight days (ie last night) he barely wanted a feed at all through the night. I breastfed him briefly, but there’s not a lot left in the old war chest, if I’m honest – I have a blocked duct on one tit that needs sorting out when I have time to sterilise a needle and pop the milk blister (ew) and the other one seems to have given up the ghost.

Instigating a proper – stricter – routine. We have spent the past couple of months utterly exhausted and were at the end of our tether by the time Christmas day rolled around – there were still no set naptimes for Ted and we were spending the days trying to get him to sleep, regardless of whether he had eaten enough or had enough play time. It was a challenge just to get through the day and when one went down for a nap, the other was always up, so we didn’t ever have a break. And we were knackered. So – despite owning three books on baby sleep that I’ve never even opened – I Googled baby routines. I used something from the Baby Sleepsite with Angelica, but before I got to that result on the Google search a thread appeared from Mumsnet talking about the Gina Ford routine.

Please don’t start a Gina Ford war in the comments because I honestly have no idea what it is or any sort of context whatsoever, I just cribbed the timings because I wanted something written down that we could follow. Apparently there are all of these rules and strict eating schedules and blackout blinds for the bedroom and so on – I didn’t have any interest in those rules, because I’m not the sort of person that could or would follow them. If something is too restrictive then it simply won’t work for us as a family, because we live rather haphazard lives. And ultimately, I’m quite selfish and like to have the flexibility of different timings now and then if I need to go out or get something done!

toddler and baby development diary

Saying that, we managed to stick to the timings that I copied down (biro on the back of a napkin, in case you’re wondering) on most days, and almost as soon as we had introduced a routine we saw an improvement in Ted’s sleeping behaviours. He was altogether less cranky and because he was having proper daytime naps, he went to sleep more easily at night.

But it took eight days to get a good run of sleep – I have to say that I didn’t think that it would really solve very much, when I got to day six and he woke up three times and then stayed awake from 5.45am! Perseverance is key. I imagine we’ll have to keep at it.

The reason I copied down the timings from the Gina Ford plan was quite a simple one: the main baby nap for an eleven month old was from 12.30-2.30pm, which is exactly the nap slot that Angelica has. It seemed too good to be true that we could get both of them sleeping at the same time in the day, but they did – almost immediately – and we couldn’t believe our luck. Didn’t really know what to do with ourselves, so I went off and browsed water filter jugs on Amazon and he cleaned the kitchen..

Oh – there was one more thing that I did differently last night. Ted has been really congested for a while – I’ve had it checked out and nobody seems concerned, but I’m sure it was making him uncomfortable when he was lying down. I think that he was breathing in his mucus and it was making him cough and so he was waking up, though I could be wrong. Anyway, last night I quite literally basted him in Vick’s! They’ve brought out a new one that’s safe to use on babies. Absolute bloody Godsend. Did it give him a more comfortable sleep? I like to think so. I’ll use it again tonight and keep you updated. In the interests of transparency, I got sent a jar because I’m going to be working with them, but this is an entirely separate and unsponsored mention. I’m sure there are quite a few people out there who don’t know that it exists – find it, get it, slather it on.

So there. Moderate (I’m being cautious here – I always jinx myself if I write about things on the blog) to good sleep success. I’ll do a post with the routine we’ve followed (it’s basically sleep from 7-7, nap from 9.30am-10am, nap from 12.30pm-2.30pm) and update you with any further developments.

toddler and baby development diary

In other news: Ted is pretty much walking. He holds on to my hands, but power-walks along so fast I can barely keep up! He seems to have mastered, in the space of a month, fast crawling, climbing, cruising, violent body-thrusting, walking, jumping and running. Must be something in the water. Or the food. He won’t eat anything from a pouch (opposite of how Angelica was) but loves the trays of food from Hipp Organic. I don’t know what they put in those things, but he never sees the trays so it’s not as though he knows where the food is coming from…

But enough about them, let’s talk about me.

Me

Oh me, me, me miserum. Not really, but I am coming out of what shall forever be known as Peak Exhaustion. What a year 2017 was. Totally self-inflicted, most of the madness, but still. A new baby, a house sale, a ridiculously stressful house purchase, two house moves, the busiest work year yet… I must have eaten my body weight in Magnum ice creams and I’ve developed a Coca Cola habit that needs to be kicked (it’s actually not that bad, it’s just a lazy reliance on a quick sugar fix) and I’m just generally running on adrenaline fumes. And I don’t even feel as though I’ve had a holiday over Christmas! Mainly because I haven’t. Hosting a stream of visitors, which is always lovely, but hard work, and then trying to unpack and catch up on chores.. What holiday? Mind you, you can never have a holiday when you have babies and young kids, surely? I mean, it’s not as though you can take the batteries out of them for a few hours! There’s simply no rest, ever. I once sneered at a woman in Dubai who was prancing along to the beach followed by a nanny pushing a double buggy: now I think, you jammy cow. That’s the way to do it. 

Hahaha.

By the way, Ted is being all cool in his SmarTrike, which was Angelica’s SmarTrike and is the best thing ever. It has about seventy five thousand different “modes” for different ages – luckily they are both in the “being pushed along mode” still, but it’s easy to switch over to the mode where they pedal themselves along. I’m actually tempted to get another one… You can find them online here or my original post is here.

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