work life balance

I’ve banged on about this countless times on various social media platforms, but the months at the end of 2017 were absolute chaos for me. We relocated to Somerset, moving house twice, Baby Ted wasn’t sleeping and my work life ground to a halt.

In actual fact it didn’t grind to a halt; I continued at almost full pace until a few days before Christmas, but then decided to calm it down for a few weeks because I simply couldn’t do everything I needed to do. But it felt as though things ground to a halt. And I was weepy, felt poorly, felt constantly guilty or useless; the house was filled with boxes, it wouldn’t stop raining and generally being cold and miserable and the world felt completely out of my grasp.

work life balance

But I made three key changes – which were actually quite difficult or time-consuming, in their various ways – and, just like that, order was re-established. Pockets of time fell into my lap as though by magic; nights of (mostly) uninterrupted sleep left me feeling twenty years younger. I began to have an interest in socialising again, in eating more healthily (though this is currently on a backburner due to my ongoing Mint Choc Magnum addiction) and in working in a more fruitful and rewarding way, rather than just panicking to get things done.

Here are the changes that put my life back on an even keel. They seem obvious, but I’m going to write about them nevertheless!

Getting Proper Childcare

If you have to work, or want to work, and you need to do this from home then I’d say that it’s almost essential – both for productivity and your own sanity – to get some form of childcare going. We had a wonderful nanny for Angelica from when she turned one until when we left our old house. We had her for two days a week and it gave me quite a substantial block of time in which to get my work done. (I mean, not enough time, but this is the kind of job that could take up as much time as you can throw at it. I used to, pre-babies, post every day on my beauty website and produced two videos a week as well as creating brand content. Had there been more hours in the day, I would have soaked them up into my work life too. I was insatiable! But there has to be a limit, doesn’t there?)

Anyway, I think that having proper childcare where you don’t have to engage with your children at all and can completely immerse yourself in work is essential if you work from home. I quickly found, sans-nanny, that I was just panic working whenever I possibly could and it wasn’t good for me or for the rest of the family. With a nanny, I can work relentlessly all day without interruption (or work for half of the day and use the other half to sleep and browse stupid things on Youtube. Do NOT tell anyone that) and for that time, at least, I feel on top of things. And the childcare doesn’t have to be in the form of a nanny – I have one because I like that the babies are still at home and I can vaguely hear their chattering through the floors! – it might work better if they are at a nursery and you have a completely empty house. Whatever floats your boat.

work life balance

It’s a bit of a step, a bit of a wrench if you’ve never let your cherub/s out of your sight before, but it’s so, so worthwhile if you feel as though you’re drowning in guilt every time you open your laptop, or if you have a burning determination to do something amazingly entrepreneurial but can’t summon up the energy in the evenings, after bathtime and protracted bedtime story sessions have been completed. I’d hazard a guess that finding a nanny is more time-consuming than finding a nursery – it seems pretty easy to book in a viewing at a nursery, though many have waiting lists – but if you use an agency (I used one called Tinies, twice) then a lot of the hard work is done for you. It’s more expensive, but usually the nannies have already been sussed out for their qualifications and certificates and a good agency will whittle down a list to the ones that are really most suitable for you. If anyone’s interested I can do a separate post on nanny-finding and some of the pitfalls – let me know.

But on to the second (hugely rewarding!) change I made, which was…

Getting Some Sleep

I’ve written at length about our sleep problems – you can read the main posts using the links here:

How I’m Getting My Baby To Sleep Through The Night

The Baby Sleep Situation

It took us being absolutely driven into the ground with tiredness for us to make definitive, positive steps towards getting Baby Ted to sleep through the night, and I think you know when you’ve reached that point. Probably the trick is to start addressing sleep problems before you get to that stage – I mentioned in one post how so many of us are too tired to take a step back from our situation and realise how utterly absurd it is, how crazy the habits are that we’re allowing to form. If you’re knackered and you have an older baby that doesn’t sleep, I’d urge you to take a pencil and piece of paper and (now!) write down a few sentences about what happens during the night. Summarise it for yourself. Sometimes reading something in black and white can give you the nudge you need to make changes or identify what it is that is so glaringly wrong.

I met a wonderful woman the other week who specialises in sleep problems – I’m going to try and nab her to answer a few important baby sleep questions, so if you’re interested in asking anything, leave a comment below!

Anyway, getting some sleep has completely changed our family life around. I no longer want to kill my husband, which has to be a good thing, and he no longer looks at me with the same worn, empty expression he had been using for quite some time. We were like zombies. I felt as though I had lost all grasp on reality. Sleep deprivation is monstrous – recognise it, address it, don’t let it carry on without at least trying to fix it.

work life balance

Easing Up On iPhone Usage

I am going to write far more about this, because it’s a hot topic at the moment, but I’ve really eased up on my iPhone usage. It was almost an addiction. And most of the time, when I was scrolling through Instagram or reading someone’s comment thread on Twitter, it was completely and utterly pointless. Hours and hours lost to the black hole of social media – not the useful news and information social media, or the nice catching-up-with-friends social media, but the sort of social media that sees you trawling through the wedding photos of a person you have never met but that popped up on the Instagram home page. Or following a trail of usernames through Twitter to see why such-and-such left an aggressive comment on so-and-so’s blog post that was published back in 2014 but may have contained a sentence that dissed such-and-such’s makeup range. Good God, stop it. It’s worse than watching daytime TV.

I read a really good article by Sali Hughes on The Pool (here) about breaking up with your phone. I then bought the book she recommended* and re-organised my iPhone apps so that my most-used time-wasters weren’t immediately accessible. I then turned off my email notifications so that I wouldn’t get the little red number flag popping up on my home screen every time I had a new email (which is approximately once every ten seconds and I’m not even joking) and all of these things, done together, have cut my iPhone usage by around half. Perhaps more. I’ve stopped idly scrolling when I should be pretending to be an evil wizard with Angelica, and when I watch TV in the evenings I do so with all of my attention rather than a quarter of it. (The other three quarters concentrating on Instagram Stories, which I find absolutely riveting.)

So three steps to re-ordering my chaotic life – freeing up time, regaining my sanity and developing good habits. What would you say have been your own biggest changes when life has become too crazy to handle?

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baby blog nappy changing tips

This is my third and final post with Huggies Pure Wipes and I wanted to talk about how nappy-changing time can be one of the most important times of the day in terms of connecting with your baby and having a bit of fun. If you have an absolutely jam-packed schedule of child-watching and food-cooking and house-keeping and admin-doing and all of the other stuff that we typically have to squeeze into the waking hours, you can sometimes forget to stop and stare at your baby. Really look at them and engage. I don’t mean to say that if we’re busy we neglect them the rest of the time, but nappy-changing means that we are really close to them and, unless they’re wriggling off the mat every two seconds (Ted) or flipping over onto their fronts (also Ted) we get to look at them straight in the eyes. One on one. Hello baby!

baby blog nappy changing tips

Instead of just rushing through the nappy-changing process, here’s what I try to do to have a bit of time out and make it more fun. Because Ted hates having his nappy changed, up until the point that I put the new nappy on and start doing his vest poppers back up! The only time he laughs during changing is if he wees on me and I scream, so I try to do the following things to keep it enjoyable. Usually after the dirty nappy has been removed and the new one has been done up, to spare me from the aforementioned wee incidents.

baby blog nappy changing tips

Play “This Little Piggy” with his toes. Ted has just about started to enjoy the piggy-toe thing. Angelica never got it and won’t let me do it now, but Ted has a good giggle when the piggy goes to market, or stays at home, or has roast beef. Can I raise an objection to this game, though? NONE does not rhyme with HOME. I don’t know whether it’s supposed to, but it sounds as though it should, and the fact that it doesn’t bothers me a lot. This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at HOME. This little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had NONE. Every time I do it, I want to rhyme none with home – sort of like knownThis little piggy had no-wun. It annoys me every time. I need to get out more.

baby blog nappy changing tips

Improve his co-ordination via potentially frustrating means. I used to like to place objects around Ted’s person so that he had to turn to get them, or dangle them above so that he had to reach up – it kept him occupied for minutes on end, which was useful if it was a particularly bad nappy. Now that he’s on the move, I definitely don’t want him twisting about to reach things so I dangle them above and let him keep them (ie gnaw on them violently before bashing himself in the face with them) which buys me a bit of time when I’m performing the potentially hazardous old-nappy-out-new-nappy-under manoeuvre. Quite often he’s happy with the wipes packet, because he likes to rustle the plastic and it’s a good chunky size, but I keep things fresh with various spur-of-the-moment accessories. A slipper. A clean nappy. The handle from a wardrobe that is missing its handle (oh that’s where it went).

baby blog nappy changing tips

Do long-hair Peekaboo. You don’t actually need long hair to do this, you just need enough of it to form a face-veiling curtain when you drop your head down. The hair hides your face and then you pull your head up straight and – Peekaboo! Oh God. I saw myself in the mirror doing this and I realised that I look really freaky when I do it – a bit like the girl climbing out of the well in The Ring. Especially if I’ve just washed my hair. Poor Ted. I need to smile more when I do Peekaboo, otherwise it’s all a bit sinister, isn’t it?

In all seriousness, it’s a good time to do little games when they are lying prone on the mat. Perhaps not once they are older babies, because they just want to get crawling or rolling or whatever crazy movement it is they have mastered, but for newborns and young babies it’s a lovely time to have a little tickle and sing stupid songs. (“Look at your poo-poo, look it’s so brown; look at your poo-poo, let’s flush it down!” That’s one I do especially for Angelica, but I have more. Lyrics available on request.)

baby blog nappy changing tips

It’s also a good time, at any baby stage, to give them a good check over and make sure that the skin in the nappy area is well cared-for. I mentioned some of my most-used baby products in the second post with Huggies Pure Wipes, including some brilliant nappy creams, but the choice of wipe itself is also really important. This whole post series came about after discussing with Huggies the idea of caring for the skin with wipes, not just cleansing it – making sure that the wipe is soft and gentle. After all, if you’re using wipes then it’s multiple times a day and you want to make sure that they are kind to babies’ skin. Huggies Pure Wipes are made with 99% water and with natural absorbent fibres** – they’re also free from parabens, phenoxyethanol and perfume and can be used on newborns from day one.

So a gentle wipe and a lovely cream to keep the skin protected (I use Weleda Calendula, see the second post) and a check over the creases and bits and bobs to make sure that everything is dry and fresh and there’s no redness or soreness. It’s like a mini Baby Body MOT. And that’s my little routine!

baby blog nappy changing tips

What do you do during nappy-changing? Are you a rush-through-it-as-fast-as-possible sort of person, or do you take your time, staring into their lovely little eyes as you do up all of the poppers on the sleepsuit the wrong way and then curse when you have to start all over again? Do you sit there, slowly caressing their little legs as you try not to fall into an exhausted stupor, or do you have everything done within thirty seconds, nappy changed with almost military precision? Tell me. Along with more poo anecdotes, because I greatly enjoyed those last time, thanks.

**65% pulp.

 

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cosy babies

Just a quick post: some higher-tog sleepsuits for those with f-f-f-f-freezing houses. (To be fair, it’s not that bad now that we’ve worked out the heating, but it still gets a little bit nippy in the small hours!) Most babies and toddlers are just fine in the 2.0 tog sleeping bags in winter, especially with a sleepsuit and vest or whatever beneath, but if your room temperature is hovering down at the 14/15 degrees mark overnight then you might be interested in something a little more substantial.

warmer sleepsuits higher tog

If you’re not au fait with the baby sleeping bag, then let me introduce you: it’s basically a sleeping bag that fastens at the shoulder and that usually keeps the arms free to allow good heat circulation. The idea is that it replaces blankets and is more convenient – it can’t slip off, be kicked off, and a baby can’t slip down into it. I’ve used them with both babies from around two or three months (I was later with Angelica because she was born into a heatwave) and before that age, just tucked cellular blankets around them.

Anyway, I couldn’t be without sleeping bags – I’m not sure I’ve talked about them before but they are definitely one of my non-negotiable essentials. I have two per baby/toddler, though Ted has inherited a few from Angelica to add to his future stocks! If you’re unsure about what the baby should wear beneath the bag, Gro have a really helpful guide on their website here – I always think that these guides err on the cool side, in that I would probably have an extra layer on, personally, but there we go. The rule is supposedly that the baby should have on one more layer than you do, and at 18 degrees I’d be wearing a bloody tracksuit, woolly hat and gloves under the duvet, but perhaps that’s just me!

baby sleep tips

The first sleeping bag we’ve been testing is the 3.5 tog Baby Cosy Sleeping Bag from Jojo Maman Bebe* and it’s basically the Michelin Man of wearable duvets. Ted is about three times his usual width when I put him inside it, but I love it for the detachable arms (unusual to have arms, most don’t) and the soft, bouncy feel of the padding. For smaller babies, this could be a great sleepsuit for popping them into if you’re going to be taking them out in a pram in the cold, especially if you don’t want to invest in a separate snowsuit. It’s quite an outlay if you’re only going to use one of those padded suits a few times, and small babies grow so fast – if you’re at the tail-end of winter and don’t think you’ll get a lot of use out of a dedicated snowsuit then a higher tog sleeping bag could be a nice option. This one is £35 here* – biggest selling point is definitely the detachable arms, but it’s great quality and comes in a few different colourways and patterns. Magnifique!

3.5 tog grobag

Angelica has been sleeping in the 3.5 tog Twinkle Twinkle Grobag and it has kept her toasty warm even when we’ve had those quite vicious, stormy cold spells. I wish we’d had it when we went “glamping” last year  and it rained solidly (still emotionally scarred) – so much easier than layering up blankets, especially with a wriggly toddler! This one has a plush, velvety feel and comes in a few different sizes – it’s £45 here*.

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This is where I’m supposed to write “how time flies!” “I can’t believe Ted is a year old already!” or “it seems like only yesterday that Ted was a tiny newborn wrapped in a little blanket!” But actually, the past year has felt exactly like a year.

Perhaps it’s because so many other things have happened at the same time as having a new baby. We sold our house, had a house purchase fall through, moved over a hundred miles from London-ish to Bath because we had nowhere to live and our friend had his rental house untenanted, found a new house to buy and relocated again to the depths of Somerset. Ted’s first year has taken place against a backdrop of constant house viewings and piles of packing boxes – with Angelica, each little development stage melded into the next before we could even blink, but with Ted, I can remember the first time he smiled (second viewing of the house in Epping Forest), the first time he took a bottle of formula (front bedroom of the rented house in Bath) and the first time he stood unaided (in the living room of our new home). When I think of him as a tiny newborn, I think of some of the crazy journeys we did in the car to go and view houses in Essex, in Suffolk, on the north Norfolk coastline, in Oxfordshire, in Buckinghamshire. What the hell were we doing? How did we end up here?

Ha.

So yes, perhaps the constant stressful activity has meant that the year has gone by at a steadier pace, with a myriad of memories to mark each passing month. Or maybe it’s possible that I was forewarned about the speed at which the first baby year tends to go by and made a conscious decision to savour it more, to really take note of changes and developments. To appreciate every tiny moment, even if that tiny moment was being at the very end of my tether – acknowledging it, committing it to memory.

Whatever, a year has gone by and here I am with a one year old and a two-and-seven-ish-months old. And it’s great fun. I mean exhausting (I had no idea that such a constant feeling of tiredness was something that existed) but on the days that I crave a few hours for myself, I also find myself itching to just have a peek and see what they are both up to. Trying to eat crayons, or making a beeline for the most dangerous electrical wire they’ve managed to sniff out.

This update takes a slightly different format to usual because I’m off out to dinner! We’ve had a little mini party for Ted with cake and grandparents (they were attending, we didn’t eat them) and now we are going to be all social with adult people which – quite frankly – terrifies me. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve forgotten how to effectively communicate with people my own age. I say stupid, inappropriate things at the wrong time but then after stressing about it and having those dark, paranoid moments, I realise that they probably weren’t stupid or inappropriate at all and that it’s likely nobody was listening to me anyway.

So yes, we’re off out and there may be wine, so I’m not banking on being able to write this later. I also feel as though I’ve covered quite a lot of what would have been in this update in my sleep posts (find them here and here) and as some of my Angelica updates are in upcoming posts, you’re not missing anything if I just show you – brace yourselves – a pictorial representation of the past twelve months.

This time exactly a year ago I was in absolute agony after my c-section (I vommed straight after my stitches had been done and it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced – you can read my birth story here) but I had the most beautiful brand new baby beside me. (Honestly, I was so drugged up I could barely recognise my baby, but you’re not supposed to say that are you? Ha.) Here’s how he’s grown into a solid, cheeky little one year old – with some photos of Angelica thrown in for good measure! (She can have a mammoth photo post in June, when she’s three.)

My Birth Story: Elective C-Section

newborn baby sleeping

newborn baby asleep

newborn baby

newborn and toddler

ruth crilly and family

Toddler, Baby and Me: The Four Month Update

ruth crilly baby blog the uphill

toddler baby 5 month update

breastfeeding multitasking

toddler and baby update diary

7 month baby update

7 month baby update

baby blog development diary

fisher price jumperoo review

christy junior infinity and beyond

toddler and 9 month baby blog

baby and toddler update

toddler and baby development diary

vicks babyrub for babies

Well that’s the longest page I’ve ever produced on here! Well done if you made it to the bottom. See you in the next update…

 

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parenting vlog video

A new feature for you, to supplement the written monthly updates that you read here on the blog; Parenting Highs and Lows will be a chatty, rambling video about all of the good and bad things that have happened over the course of the month – struggles and triumphs, positives and negatives, failures and successes.

Because sometimes, by the time I get around to writing the Toddler, Baby and Me update, I’ve forgotten all of the bits and pieces that have brought me utter joy, or sent me into a spiral of despair. I’m so busy writing about how Ted is getting on with his weaning or how Angelica is coming out with funny words that I miss out the smaller – more casual – anecdotes. Or I’m so preoccupied with documenting the smaller, more casual anecdotes that I completely miss out the bigger picture. The achievements that have felt utterly life-changing, or the mistakes that have seen me repeatedly banging my forehead on the kitchen table.

So here’s the first episode; Parenting Highs and Lows: January 2018. I will try my best to do one a month – as I do with the written update – so that there’s a sort of “video diary record” of my ups and downs. If you’re not already subscribed to the Youtube channel, then do so here and you’ll get the videos straight to your inbox. Similarly, if you’d like to get blog posts emailed to you then you can sign up to that here!

OK, wine/tea/gin/Magnum at the ready, let’s chat about sleep, slapping and leaving constructive comments…

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best kids ice lolly

I know that it feels very unseasonal to be talking about ice lollies, but they’re the most-requested treat in our household (both me with my Mint Magnums and Angelica with her Mini Milks!) regardless of the temperature outside. Our appetite for “frozen things on sticks” knows no limits – our popsicle addiction is out of control. (OK my addiction is out of control. Angelica has a tiny ice lolly as a treat a few times a week – I’m not so worried about her.)

best kids ice lolly

In an attempt to jazz up Angelica’s iced-delight offerings (and have some say over ingredients, more on that later) I bought a selection of lolly moulds. And blimey, these Zoku Fish Moulds* might just be my favourite thing of 2017. Over and above any other household item, clothing item or beauty item. (Slight exaggeration, but go with it.)

There’s something distinctly satisfying about moulds; pouring liquids in, waiting for them to set and then pulling out a perfectly formed object. I used to love those plaster of Paris moulds you used to get in the eighties to make kids’ ornaments – they came in a little kit with a rank-looking yellow rubber mould and a sachet of plaster and then some tiny pots of paint. I think I had a Miss Tiggywinkle one.

best kids ice lolly

Anyway, most moulds are rubbish – or used to be – but these ice lolly moulds are so good, so satisfying, the feeling is almost sexual. In fact the whole process is a bit sexual – especially when you pull the lolly out and the rubbery bit pops out to form a rather phallic protrusion! But the detailing is so clever and the mould is easy to clean and – ugh – I just love everything about it.

best kids ice lolly

Sorry – I’ve jumped ahead of myself! It’s a fish mould! So each little ice lolly is a different sea creature – or, in one instance, a deep sea diver. The sticks are the various tails (or legs) of the creatures and so when you pull out the finished lolly you have an edible body and you hold onto the tail!

Zoku Ice Pop Mould

It’s so simple, but so clever. Ten out of ten, and I don’t say that very often. I’ve been amused no end by these and now I’ve seen that they do other characters and things – dinosaurs, for example. So much fun for little children. And adults, evidently…

best kids ice lolly

I use a mixture of natural yoghurt and fruit puree (I just squeeze a pouch of Ella’s Kitchen mango puree or whatever into a bowl of Total yoghurt) so that it’s as healthy as possible, with no artificial colourings or flavourings. It just means that the ice lolly is a direct substitute for a after-dinner yoghurt. Seems like much more of a special treat than it actually is. Oh, the trickery!

You can find the Zoku ice lolly moulds on Amazon here* – these ones are £19.99, but Zoku have a whole range of different ones here*. Worth every penny.

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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

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*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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