A blog by Dr Lin Day



Stay Cool Tips for Mums-to-be

Stay Cool Tips for Mums-to-be
 
When temperatures soar, mums-to-be will feel the heat more than average, but how do you stay cool?
 
Here are some tips from pregnant mums that will help you stay cool and remain hydrated. We’ve also included advice from the experts to keep you and your growing baby safe, healthy and well.
 
What the experts say
 
During pregnancy, your skin is more sensitive to the sun and more likely to burn, so you need to be extra careful. Mums-to-be should stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, when UV radiation is at its strongest.
 
Excessive UV radiation in the early stages of pregnancy can interfere with the synthesis of vitamin B9 (folic acid), which is especially important to foetal cell division and growth. The best advice is to stay indoors during peak UV hours. However, sun avoidance can increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency, which can interfere with the absorption of calcium for healthy bones and teeth. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends a daily vitamin D supplement during pregnancy.
 
Melt down
 
· Stay indoors at the hottest time of the day in a ventilated or air-conditioned area.
· Wear as little clothing as possible when you are at home.
· Rest or move about more slowly than normal - don’t rush to appointments.
· Keep the bedroom temperature between 16°C (61°F) and 18°C (65 °F) - you will sleep more comfortably.
· Wet towels and bottles of frozen water will help reduce room temperature.
· To prevent the sun heating up the house, keep the blinds/curtains drawn.
· Keep your metabolism steady by eating small, regular meals. Large portions increase metabolism and   generate more body heat.
 
Anna from Winchester says “Avoid using the oven - it heats up the house.”
 
Out and about
 
If you do need to venture out in hot weather, try scheduling activities earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler.
 
 It also helps if you:
 
· Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton.
· Avoid synthetic fibres such as polyester that can make you sweat.
· Wear a wide-brimmed hat to provide shade and keep your head cool.
·  Keep to shady places such as a shopping mall or library.
 
Sarah from Figheldean says “Dust your skin lightly with corn flour – it absorbs sweat and makes you feel more comfortable.”
 
Avoid sunscreen - it may contain harmful toxic ingredients, which can cause serious problems in the growth and sexual development of your growing baby. Check out the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) guide to sunscreens that are chemical-free.
 
Stay hydrated
 
Due to hormonal changes, an increase in blood supply to the skin, and a slightly higher temperature in pregnancy, you are likely to sweat more and lose vital fluids. It is important to stay hydrated.
 
· Drink more water than usual so that you never become thirsty. A glass of water every 30 minutes or so   will prevent dehydration.
·  Avoid salty foods, which retain water and increase blood pressure.
· Drink cool, non-alcoholic beverages.
·  Eat ice cubes and keep trays stocked up in the freezer.
· Avoid drinks with large amounts of caffeine such as tea, coffee, chocolate, and energy drinks.
 
Restrict caffeine intake to 200mg or less daily during pregnancy. High levels of caffeine can lead to low birth weight and may even cause miscarriage. Some ingredients in energy drinks are considered safe in moderation, while others are potentially harmful to your growing baby. Energy drinks can have as much as 200mg of caffeine per serving.
 
Stay cool
 
A fan can cool you down and circulate air around the room, but don’t rely on it as your primary cooling device during a heatwave. A cool shower, bath or sponge bath is a much better way to keep cool.
 
· Wash frequently to help you feel fresh.
· Sit in a cold paddling pool.
· Place a cool, damp flannel on your pulse points.
· Wrap a tea towel soaked in cold water around your feet at night.
· Mist yourself with cold water or spray from a garden hose.
 
Vicky from Salisbury says “I stick my feet in a bowl of cold water. It is so refreshing!”
 
Stay safe
 
Seek immediate medical attention if you experience one or more of the following symptoms:
 
·         Strong, rapid pulse.
·         Extreme weakness or fatigue
·         Throbbing headache.
·         Dizziness.
·         Nausea.
·         Confusion.
·         Muscle cramps.
·         Elevated body temperature.
·         Fast and shallow breathing.
 
Your growing baby
 
The sun itself will not hurt your growing baby, but it may cause problems if your body temperature rises or you become dehydrated. If you become uncomfortable in the sun, find a cool area or seek an air-conditioned environment, rehydrate, and rest.
 
 
Want to learn something new and share ideas?
 
Come along to our Baby Foundations summer talks at Bluewater (near the food court, M&S and Disney Shop). Informative talks run from 26th July to 23rd August.
 
http://www.babysensory.com/en/bluewater
 
By Dr Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)
 

Celebrating Father’s Day

In the UK this year, Father’s Day falls on Sunday 19th June. It provides a wonderful opportunity to honour dads and express gratitude for their love, care and support.

 

Fathers Make a Difference

Dads can add so much to their child’s development. For example, they can:

  • Encourage exploratory skills, which support the development of independence.
  • Engage in activities such as tickling, teasing, bouncing, wrestling and rough and tumble play, which increase confidence and self-control.
  • Add variety and dimension to their child’s experience of the world.
  • Expand their child’s horizons by playing with toys in non-traditional ways.
  • Challenge children to find different ways of doing things.
  • Influence development through direct teaching and daily interaction.
  • Encourage competition and independence.
  • Expand vocabulary and language skills through brief and directive talking.
  • Bring different strengths and styles to their teaching role than mum.

 

Girls who grow up with a loving, involved father are more likely to have healthy, emotionally balanced relationships with males in later life. Boys who grow up with a loving, involved father are less likely to be aggressive and more likely to make friends at school because they have learned how to channel their masculinity and strength in positive ways. 


Studies have repeatedly highlighted the positive role that dads can have in their children’s learning and development. As a result, many schools are pioneering ways to involve them in projects such as cookery, computing, reading, craft, sports, games, maths and other classroom work. Fathers are also being encouraged to contribute to their children’s out-of-school learning. In a world where television and computers often dominate children’s lives, showing an interest in what they do, and helping with homework and reading are more important than ever before.

 

Absent fathers

 Even if the father is unable to spend regular time with his children, they will still benefit from his attention, warmth and affection. He can take them on outings, attend school activities and spend quality time with them.


Giving children love, attention and richness of care is something that all dads can do regardless of whether they are in a committed relationship, single or non-resident. Children grow up so quickly and missed opportunities are lost forever.


Father’s Day

Father’s Day is celebrated all over the world. In the USA, Canada, Southern Ireland and Mexico, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. In Italy and Spain, Father’s Day is celebrated in the third week of March. In Australia, Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of September.


In the UK, Sunday 19th June provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the unique contribution that dads make to all aspects of their children’s lives.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

 

By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

GUEST POST- A Dad's Perspective

I was recently asked to try and explain why; as a father, I regularly go to Baby Sensory with my son Reuben. I had never really considered the ‘why’ part of it before, but I have also never really given much thought as to why sometimes I’m the only dad there.

A lot of it has to do with luck I guess, I am fortunate enough to work a shift pattern for the Fire & Rescue Service that gives me more time off during the traditional working week than most. But I still have to make the time to go there, there are always other things to do and an hour of peace and quiet at home can seem pretty appealing at times! Like any parent I want to make the most of the very short period of time when Reuben is so small, is experiencing so many firsts and depends on me to help him discover new things. I would never trade a bit of quiet time for being there the first time he crawls, the first time his says ‘dad’ or even his first steps.

My wife and I have been taking Reuben to Baby Sensory with Sophie in Milton Keynes for the last nine months and I probably make it to about 70% of the classes. Why do I go? It’s pretty simple really; I enjoy the structure and purpose to the activities, focussing on entertaining, stimulating and developing our son with a variety of activities, rather than just letting them roll around on the floor for an hour while the parents have a chat….The games and songs give me ideas of how to help entertain Reuben when I am looking after him by myself. I’m generally a confident person but I had always worried about being solely responsible for his welfare and happiness, I think there’s a certain element of pressure for every dad to show that they can cope without mum being there as a safety net. Baby Sensory has helped my self-confidence in this area no end, I like to think I know my son well, the type of things that make him happy and how to calm him down if he gets upset.

Would I recommend for other fathers to go to Baby Sensory? Definitely! You can feel a bit of an outsider on your first visit when parents are singing and signing along to the ‘say hello to the sun’ song but you shouldn’t let that put you off. Even if you can only make it once in a while it’s worth it, we have got some great memories, made some lovely friends and all three of us will miss it when Reuben moves on to nursery.

 

Chris Montague – Milton Keynes

 

Safe Swaddling

Baby swaddling is a controversial subject. Read on to find out how to keep your baby safe. Peer reviewed article published in the Journal of Health Visiting (April 2015). 


Archaeological records show that babies have been swaddled since 4000 BC. Swaddling involved wrapping pieces of cloth and a band tightly around the baby’s body from the shoulders to the feet to in the belief that it helped them to develop a strong, straight back before they were able to walk. The swaddled baby was then placed horizontally in a cradle or cot, or strapped firmly vertically to a cradleboard to support the spine.
 
Due to the effect of tight swaddling on limb restriction, the practice fell out of favour in the mid-1960s, as new theories in baby development took hold. However, following the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign in the 1990s, and popularisation in parenting guides, swaddling has made a comeback.
 
Some healthcare professionals recommend swaddling while others speak out against it. Advocates believe that swaddling replicates the confined conditions of the womb, and helps the newborn adjust to life in the outside world. Some studies (Gerard et al. 2002; Thach 2009) have shown that swaddled babies startle less, have a lower heart rate, sleep more deeply, and wake less spontaneously than when not swaddled. Swaddling also prevents babies from rolling over on to their tummies, which is a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (Gerard et al. 2002).
 
Work by Blair et al. (2009) has linked swaddling to respiratory complications, prolonged deep sleep, and overheating, which are risk factors for SIDS. Other concerns include tight swaddling of the legs, which can lead to developmental dysplasia of the hip. There is also disagreement among healthcare professionals about the benefits of restricting the protective startle reflex in newborns. When the limbs are confined, babies are unable to startle themselves awake.
 
The effects of swaddling on SIDS are controversial. Until there is conclusive evidence that swaddling is unsafe, the practice is unlikely to become less common.
 
History of swaddling
 
Egyptian tomb reliefs from 2500 BC show babies swaddled with cloths and tied to the mother's back or hip. Sacred statuettes of infants in swaddling clothes have also been found in Ancient Greek and Roman tombs. History shows that Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were all swaddled as babies. The practice of swaddling has been known for centuries over most of Europe, Asia, Canada, South and North America.
 
The most famous record of swaddling is found in the New Testament concerning the birth of Jesus.
  
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7).
 
After the birth, the newborn was washed, rubbed with salt and oil to thicken and firm the skin. To prevent cold air from touching the skin and to ensure that the limbs grew straight, the baby was wrapped in linen or cotton and over-wrapped with six metre long bandage-like strips or bands. Swaddling and salting became the model of infant care practice for some 1,500 years or more.
 
During the Tudor period (1485 to 1603), newborns were ‘salted’ and wrapped in linen bands from head to foot for up to nine months to ensure that they grew up without physical deformity. The legs were placed closely together, the arms were placed at the sides, and the swaddling cloth was then folded over the baby’s body, feet and arms. A swaddle band was wrapped under the baby's chin and over the forehead to secure the head, and then around the body all the way down to the ankles. The weight and heat of the swaddle wrap and band restricted movement, cramped the bowels, and increased body temperature.
 
In Medieval times, it was traditional practice to immobilise babies for up to nine months without washing or regular human contact. They were unable to reach out for objects or suck their fingers or toes for comfort. Infants were also left in their own excrement for days on end. Crawling, an important developmental milestone was often delayed or absent (Frenken 2011).
 
In parts of Canada, North America, and South America, babies were traditionally swaddled and attached to portable cradleboards constructed of dogwood or willow sticks, which supported the spine and constricted movement. However, studies (Chisholm & Cary 2009) demonstrated a very high prevalence of hip dysplasia. The frequency of hip dislocation decreased dramatically when cloth nappies, which slightly flexed and abducted the hips, were introduced in the 1950s (American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2011a).
 
In the 1800s, the medical profession recommended a less containing form of swaddling, which kept the arms and legs free. Nevertheless, most mothers continued to use traditional swaddling bands until the early 1930s. Swaddling eventually fell out of favour following concerns that it could overheat the baby, restrict growth, and displace the hips.
In recent years, swaddling has become increasingly popular as a settling technique in the Netherlands, some parts of the United States, and the United Kingdom (Frenken 2011). In the UK, about 19 percent of babies are swaddled in the first four weeks of life (Clarke 2013). However, modern swaddling allows ample room for hip and knee flexion.
 
Benefits of swaddling
 
Many parents say that swaddling provides comfort and security, limits the startle reflex, and helps their babies get to sleep and stay asleep. Gerard et al. (2002) found that babies were just as likely to startle when swaddled as when unswaddled, but returned to sleep more quickly. Longer sleep duration in swaddled infants is believed to be important for brain development.
 
Additional benefits include:
 
·         Helps babies to stay on their backs, which reduces the risk of SIDS.
·         Prevents the baby moving into dangerous situations.
·         Helps to settle an overstimulated or distressed baby.
·         Makes the baby feel secure.
·         Prevents uncontrollable flailing of the baby’s arms and legs.
·         Reduces crying, fussiness, and distress.
·         Helps babies sleep more deeply.
·         Promotes brain development by reducing stress.
 
When the baby sleeps better in the supine position, parents are less likely to use the prone position for sleep. Improved sleep means that mother is less likely to suffer from exhaustion, postpartum depression or stress.
 
 
Safe swaddling
 
Swaddling is standard practice in many neonatal intensive care units for premature and/or low birth weight infants. However, swaddling takes place very loosely. The arms and legs are held weakly against the baby’s body so that movement is possible. This form of swaddling is very different to traditional tight swaddling in the stretched position.
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP 2011b) recommends swaddling, when done correctly, to be an effective technique to help calm infants, promote sleep, and reduce SIDS. Mothers who swaddle are twice as likely to put their babies in the supine position, which reduces the likelihood of SIDS. Safe swaddling also prevents the baby rolling into the prone position or moving into a dangerous situation (Gerard et al. 2002). Additionally, swaddling reduces the chances of bedding covering the baby’s face and head, which can cause overheating or asphyxia. The baby’s hands can also be left free to self-comfort by sucking on the fingers or hand.
 
Most modern swaddle wraps are produced in a triangular, ‘T’ or ‘Y’ shape, which may include ‘wings’ that fold around the baby's body and arms, and a pouch that allows the baby’s hips to move and the legs to spread apart naturally. Swaddle wraps are made from cotton, muslin, silk or a lightweight breathable fabric to prevent overheating. Some swaddle wraps are made from cotton spandex to reduce the risk of chest wall compression.
 
Swaddling should be stopped at three months-old (the peak age of SIDS risk) or when the baby shows signs of rolling over. Older babies may use a baby sleeping bag, which is less restrictive than a swaddle wrap. The sleeping bag keeps the baby warm, and it offers plenty of room for the legs and feet to move freely during the night. It is also sleeveless and without a hood to prevent overheating or asphyxiation.
 
Potential risks of swaddling:
 
·         Placing the swaddled baby in the prone position.
·         Reduced ability to arouse from deep sleep.
·         Overheating, if a heavy blanket is used.
·         Suffocation if the swaddle wrap covers the baby’s face.
·         Inhibited breathing if the wrap is too tight across the chest.
·         Developmental dysplasia of the hip if movement of the hips or knees is restricted.
·         Increased risk of SIDS if continued over the age of 3 months-old.
 
Blair et al. (2009) found that one in 4 SIDS babies had been swaddled. However, the sample used for the study was small and the risk was branded 'unreliable' by the National Health Service. Other studies (e.g. Thach 2009) have shown that swaddling increased the risk of SIDS when babies slept in the prone position, but not when they slept on their backs. 
 
Some studies (Thach 2009; Clarke 2013) found that swaddling babies slept more soundly. However this may not be a desirable outcome, as the pathogenesis of SIDS is thought to involve an impaired ability to arouse from sleep in response to a life threatening respiratory or cardiovascular challenge. Although newborns have an inborn survival mechanism, which enables them to wake up if the airway is obstructed; in deep sleep their well-being could be threatened.
 
The Royal College of Midwives (Clark 2013) advised against tight swaddling and heavy blankets in fear of overheating the newborn. Other concerns included restriction of the chest wall resulting in breathing difficulties or secondary complications such as pneumonia.
 
Hip dysplasia
 
If the baby is swaddled too tightly, developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) may occur (Mahan & Kasser 2008; Chisholm & Cary 2009; AAP 2011a). The risk is elevated in babies with:
 
·         A family history of DDH.
·         Breech positioning.
·         Congenital foot deformity.
·         Torticollis (asymmetrical head or neck position).
 
DDH occurs in about 1 in 1,000 babies. About 80 percent of cases are female. This is due to oestrogen produced by the female foetus, which increases elasticity of ligaments and causes the femoral head to move out of position. Treatment, which involves fitting a harness to keep the legs in a flexed, widespread position day and night for six weeks, is successful in about 85 percent of cases.
 
About 17 percent of newborns have some degree of hip dysplasia. Although the condition resolves untreated by 2 to 3 months-old, traditional tight swaddling may lead to late onset hip dysplasia and early arthritis (Clark 2013).
 
Conclusion
 
There is a significant difference between traditional tight wrapping and safe swaddling. If babies are placed on their backs to sleep, and they are loosely wrapped without hip or limb constriction, swaddling may be safe. However, swaddling could become a safety issue if blankets are used or when the baby becomes mobile. Care should be taken to ensure that the swaddle wrap does not restrict blood flow or breathing, or cover the baby’s face or head.
 
The association between swaddling and SIDS has been mainly limited to babies lying in the prone position. The risk of SIDS in supine swaddled babies needs more in-depth research.
 
Further information
 
Information covering all aspects of baby care, health and safety can be found in our Baby Sensory new baby course ‘Baby Foundations’. Please visit www.babyfoundations.com
 
By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)
 

 
This article appeared in the Journal of Health Visiting April 2015 Volume 3 Issue 4 and has been subject to peer review.
 
 
References
 
American Academy of Pediatrics (2011a) Improper swaddling a risk factor for developmental dysplasia of hip. Available from http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/32/9/11.1 [Accessed 11 October 2014]
 
American Academy of Pediatrics (2011b) Practice safe swaddling to protect baby’s hips. Available from http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/32/9/11.2 [Accessed 11 October 2014]
 
Blair PS, Sidebotham P, Evason-Coombe C, Edmonds M, Heckstall-Smith EM and Fleming P (2009) Hazardous cosleeping environments and risk factors amenable to change: case-control study of SIDS in south west England. BMJ 339: b3666
 
Chisholm JS and Cary MC (2009) Navajo Infancy: An Ethological Study of Child Development. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p.187
 
Clarke NMP (2013) Swaddling and hip dysplasia: an orthopaedic perspective. Archives of Disease in Childhood 99 (1): 5-6
 
Frenken R (2011) Psychology and history of swaddling: Part two - The abolishment of swaddling from the 16th century until today. The Journal of Psychohistory 39 (3): 219-245
 
Gerard CM, Harris KA and Thach BT (2002) During rapid eye movement and quiet sleep spontaneous arousals in supine infants while swaddled and unswaddled. Pediatrics 110: e70
 
Mahan ST and Kasser JR (2008) Does swaddling influence developmental dysplasia of the hip? Pediatrics 121: 177-178
 
Thach BT (2009) Does swaddling decrease or increase the risk for sudden infant death syndrome?  The Journal of Pediatrics 155: 461-462
 
 

GUEST POST- Trying to Stop Wishing Time Away

Being a first-time mum is all about learning lessons – within just a few hours of my baby being born, I had built up my knowledge of parenthood far more than reading all those books throughout my pregnancy. But one of the biggest lessons I had to learn early on, and one that I still have to remind myself of, is to stop wishing time away. 

And let me tell you, despite comments of “don’t they grow so quickly” and “she’ll be five before you know it”, I found it very difficult to do. 


Yearning for a routine

There’s no sugarcoating it, those first few weeks of motherhood are really hard. I didn’t know what I was doing, whether I should be feeding by the clock or on demand, whether I should be waking her up at night to feed or waiting for her to wake up naturally, to swaddle or not to swaddle, to rock or use the dummy. 

There are so many things you have to decide from the get go that you feel will shape the parent you will become and the habits your children will form, I found it very overwhelming at times. 

As *Moo always had to be walked, driven or bounced to sleep (and stay asleep!), it’s hardly surprising I yearned for the days when I could put her down in her cot for a nap and leave her chatting until she dozed off. 

And while I had no routine of feeding, sleeping, showering or even leaving the house during those first few weeks, I envied those mums who had their toddlers in a professionally set schedule. 

At the start, we lived in chaos, and despite everyone cooing over my beautiful baby daughter and delighting at how tiny she was, I really looked forward to the day her hands weren’t so small and her button nose not so teeny, but at least our lives were in order again.  


Waiting for the elusive ’12 weeks’

I guess I started wishing time would speed up when other mothers began to tell me it’ll all get better at 12 weeks. It felt like there would be a magical turnaround at three months when looking after Moo – who wouldn’t settle at night, even after endless feeding, who had reflux so bad she screamed when you laid her down, and who cluster feed for hours before bedtime – would suddenly be a walk in the park. 

When Moo was five weeks old, I remember clearly being told to hang in there, as I was halfway through. I never found what was meant to happen at ten weeks and I was too sleep-deprived to ask, but every day it felt like we were just counting down to a better, easier, calmer experience.

And every time someone told me to “not wish time away”, I was torn with the guilt that I wasn’t enjoying this time as much as I should’ve been and that I’d miss it when she was a toddler throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket. (FYI, I do). 


A miracle turning point?

The sad thing is ten weeks came and went, then so did 12 and while, admittedly, things did get a bit easier, they weren’t exactly a doddle. 

And they might have just got calmer because of my sheer determination to set up the routine I coveted so much and help Moo learn how to self settle so naps and evenings were a bit easier (for me). 

It is definitely true that she couldn’t have learnt those things when she was a dot and she eventually developed a fantastic schedule and great habits that make my life easier now, but I think it’s only afterwards you realise how precious that time at the beginning really is. 


Take each day as it comes

Babies have the rest of their lives to grow up, learn how to nap and get too big to sleep cradled in your arm, and they will soon be crawling away or answering back to you before you know it. 

So, maybe I should’ve accepted the advice of other mums who came before me and enjoyed the special time when she was a newborn more, instead of feeling my eyes sting with tears of anger and guilt at their mere suggestion that I was silly to want to skip the difficult first few weeks. 

Don’t get me wrong, motherhood became far more enjoyable when the long colic nights, reflux and endless screaming came to an end. But when I see my little girl, once someone you could rest in the crook of your arm and stare lovingly in her eyes, now growing faster than you can imagine and jumping on the bed with a vocabulary that gets bigger every day, I realise how fleeting that newborn time was and we’ll never have it back. 


So, do I regret wishing that time away? You bet. 

But, do I bite my tongue to stop telling other new mums to make the most of this precious time? I certainly try.  

Instead, I’d tell them to take each day as it comes. Tomorrow will be a little bit easier, but today is just as special. 


Natasha Al-Atassi



* Our affectionate nickname for our beautiful baby girl. 


Top Easter Tips for You and Your Baby

Your baby may be too young to decorate a hard-boiled egg or go on an egg hunt, but there are still plenty of ways to make Easter an educational and enjoyable event. 


Here are a few ideas to get you started:


Hide and seek

One of the best games to play with your baby is ‘peek-a-boo’ or ‘hide-and-seek’. It’s traditional, simple to organise, educational and lots of fun. 

To develop your baby’s thinking, memory and hand-eye coordination skills, hide a plastic egg under a cloth or cup. Say “Where’s the egg?” If your baby is at the reaching and grasping stage, she will look for it, even though it is out of sight.  When your baby is a little older, she may deliberately prolong the fun by hiding the object for you to discover.

If you have a spare tissue box, fill it with Easter ribbons or brightly coloured fabrics. Your baby will delight in pulling out the materials one by one. She will also discover that when you put the materials back in the box, they continue to exist even though they are hidden from view. 

To encourage logical thinking, problem-solving and exploratory skills, hide behind the sofa and call out your baby’s name. When your baby discovers your hiding place, she will learn that you haven’t just vanished because you are out of sight. This teaches your baby about object permanence and stability. Psychologist Jean Piaget suggested that this awareness was typically achieved at about 6-months-old. However, recent studies show that if peek-a-boo games are played regularly, babies understand these concepts from about 2 months-old.


Easter puppets

A rabbit puppet and a pop-up frog are wonderful hide and seek toys. They provide a wealth of learning opportunities from visual stimulation to speech and language development. They also encourage rich parent-baby interactions and the element of surprise that babies love so much. 


Easter Books

Three-dimensional books with large, brightly coloured illustrations, textured materials and hide-and-seek pictures that encourage interaction make great Easter presents for babies. Your baby may investigate the properties of a texture with her finger tips or turn the pages to discover something new. Your voice and facial expressions will capture your baby’s interest and attention and liven up her experience of the world. Best of all, your baby will enjoy cuddling up to you, which has a huge impact on her future learning and development. Research shows that babies who are regularly cuddled have bigger brains than babies who are deprived of close loving physical contact. 


Easter Treasure Basket 

Line a shallow basket and fill it up with Easter-themed objects such as a textured book, a soft toy rabbit or lamb, a plastic bath duck, a shaker (a must-have for every baby), and a toy your baby can safely chew on (see www.thebabysensoryshop.co.uk for ideas). 

 When your baby can sit up with or without support, a treasure basket filled with interesting and engaging objects will develop her sense of curiosity. When your baby explores the objects, she will find out about weight, size, shape, taste, smell, sound and temperature. Every time a new object is explored, highly sensitive nerve endings in the skin will send messages to her brain. In this way, information is collected that will lead to the later recognition of objects. 


Easter Songs

Focus on Easter songs such as ‘Peter Rabbit’ and ‘5 little Ducks’. Even if your baby cannot understand the words, she will enjoy the sound of your voice and your facial gestures and body movements. These time-honoured songs have a repetitive theme, which help to establish a sense of order (mathematical reasoning) and a sense of security. They also provide a powerful stimulus in terms of language and social development. 


Easter Games

A simple activity such as rolling a plastic egg across the floor will encourage a whole range of mobility skills as well as hand-eye coordination and sensory exploration. When your baby is a little older, you can sit on the floor and roll the egg back and forth or roll it down a slope for your baby to catch. Best of all, your quality interactions will make a huge difference to your baby’s emotional development and learning.


Nesting Set

Towards the end of the first year, your baby will enjoy activities that encourage use of the pincer grip. A multi-coloured nesting set for example, provides a wonderful, educational opportunity. When your baby tries to nest the cups, she will learn about size and space, which forms the foundation for mathematical and spatial awareness. These skills will stand her in good stead for the future.


Easter Outing

The spring air provides the perfect opportunity to tantalise your baby’s sense of smell. The fragrance of flowers, cut grass, new leaves growing and the smell of rain will help your baby learn about the world. Fresh air contains high levels of negative ions that can have a positive impact on your baby’s health and brain function. Sunlight provides Vitamin D that your baby needs to grow strong, healthy bones and offers protection from a number of common ailments and disorders. 

Activities that the whole family can enjoy together might include a visit to the river or pond to see the ducklings, a trip to a farm to see the baby animals or the excitement of an Easter party, which involves relatives and close friends. Avoid dressing up as the ‘Easter Bunny’ since the costume might unsettle or even frighten your baby. 


Capture the Occasion

To mark the occasion, dress your baby in an Easter-themed outfit. Your baby will look adorable in a bunny costume. Capture the moment on camera. A photograph will provide a fond memory of your baby’s first Easter for many years to come.


By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com) 






GUEST POST- Gearing up for a magical first birthday!

Gearing up for a magical first birthday

 

During the first few weeks of our baby’s life, it felt like time suddenly stopped still. The 12-week milestone everyone kept raving about when things apparently get easier felt like an eternity away, and every challenge seemed to last forever.

 

But then something astonishing happened – our newborn baby turned one.

 

Waking up to a one-year-old

 

My daughter’s first birthday was probably one of the only times we were awake before her, waiting eagerly for her to get up. I don’t know why we were so excited to see her little face, it would’ve been just the same as the day before, and the day before that. But this was the first time we’d see her as a one-year-old.

 

Before, Moo* had been “x-days old”, then “x-weeks”, finally “x-months”. But now, quite simply, she was “one”. And it suddenly sounded so grown up.

 

It’s a mother’s prerogative to go overboard

 

As a first-time mum, I found it hard to work out how to celebrate our little cherub’s first birthday. I’d never done this before, so gauging what to spend on a present, what to do for a party and who to invite were all mysteries to me.

 

After confident declarations of “we won’t do much – she won’t even understand”, we did the exact opposite. Moo ended up having not one, but three, birthday parties, three birthday cakes, and a whole host of gifts.

 

We had a birthday party with her friends (aka our friends’ children), one with her NCT baby pals, and one with family. Of course, each party needed a separate cake, decorations and activities, and there were presents galore.

 

I still (perhaps naively) claim that this was a unique birthday – her first one! Therefore, it’s only natural to go a bit overboard and get excited, right? But I can’t help but feel there will be many more birthdays to come that are met with the same enthusiasm as her first.

 

Reminiscing about last year

 

Of course, Moo’s first birthday wasn’t just special because it was such an important milestone in her life. It was also significant because it brought me back to the events of last year – her birth.

 

I found it so poignant to recall the days leading up to labour, knowing our lives would change forever but not really understanding how. And then as soon as she was born, it was like we’d never been without her.

 

She’ll probably tell me to “shutup mum” when she’s older and I’m trying to tell her the beautiful story of her birth every year on her birthday. But I still find it moving – from the speedy labour and being rushed in a wheelchair to the delivery suite, to being told she’s a girl by my husband and holding her in my arms for the first time. 

 

All of it was difficult, painful but amazing. And that’s probably one of the main reasons us mums all go a bit mad over our babies’ first birthdays. Because it reminds us of such a phenomenal point in our lives, and all the amazing changes that have occurred since.

 

Seeing the years fly by

 

In the end, our baby girl becoming one was a huge turning point for us. Not so much for Moo, who had already been walking and chatting away for a couple of months.

 

However, for my husband and I, this was the first time we could see the years fly by in front of us. Instead of feeling as though time had paused and the weeks were passing ever so slowly, like they did in the beginning, it suddenly dawned on us we’d be preparing for her second birthday before we knew it.

 

And now as I spend my weekends learning how to bake a Peppa Pig cake and trying to throw a special (albeit much smaller) celebration for Moo as she turns two, I realise we were totally on the money.

 

 


Mother’s Day –Top Tips

In the UK, Mother’s Day traditionally falls three weeks before Easter Sunday. It is an occasion to thank Mums for their love, care and support throughout the year.

 

Mother’s Day is celebrated in over 40 countries. Although there may be cultural variations, mothers are usually honoured with flowers, cards, gifts and special gestures of attention. Dads may cook, clean and look after the children, allowing mums to relax and enjoy the day as a special ‘Thank you’.

 

 

Mother’s Day origins

 

Mother’s Day can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who held an annual festival to honour the goddess Isis, the ‘Mother of the pharaohs’. In Rome and many other societies, honey cakes were eaten and flowers were given in honour of the ‘Great Mother’ goddess Cybele.

 

With the development of Christianity, people honoured the Virgin Mary by returning to the church in which they were baptized on the fourth Sunday in Lent. In the late 15th century, the practice became ‘Mothering Sunday’. It was later widened to enable working mothers to be reunited with their families. The tradition of celebrating motherhood eventually blossomed into what we now know as ‘Mother’s Day’.

 

Here are a few ideas that can make Mother’s Day enjoyable for Mums and the whole family.

 

 

Planning

 

To ensure that the occasion is an enjoyable and memorable one, planning and preparation are vital. According to retailers, Mother’s Day is the second busiest period after Christmas, so allow plenty of time for shopping. Mother’s Day is also a busy time for amusement parks and restaurants and advance booking is therefore essential. Long distance calls also peak on Mother’s Day, so keep the telephone handy.

 

Breakfast in bed

 

Start Mum's day with breakfast in bed served with a bunch of spring flowers. Smiley pancakes, heart-shaped toast, or a slice of Simnel cake, accompanied by a cup of tea, her favourite book or magazine will give Mum the chance to relax, or maybe open her cards and gifts.

 

Babies and toddlers won’t feel left out if they have their own pretend food, dishes and cups. Besides being good fun, pretend play develops imagination and it encourages problem-solving and exploratory skills. Young children will happily fill up the dishes with food, match lids to pots and pretend to feed their teddy bears. They may even end up feeding Mum while she relaxes in bed.

 

 

Household Chores

 

On Mother’s Day, the whole family can help with the chores. Young children love dusting, but if Dad tickles them with a feather duster, it is even more fun. Mums will appreciate the quality time that Dad spends with the family, even if he does things his own way.

 

Junior chefs may be able to prepare a meal and wash up the dishes, but leave the knives and glasses for Dad to clean. Babies can help by sorting out the measuring cups, pots, pans and spoons. If it turns into a noisy musical activity, Dads are going to want to join in.

 

School-age children may be ready for more difficult chores under Dad's supervision. Having a ‘job card’ can motivate them and if they are praised for being so helpful, they will want to help again. This gives the family more time to play and have fun together.

 

Giving Mum the day off will show her how special she is. Whether it involves emptying the washing machine, putting away toys, preparing lunch boxes for school the next day, brushing teeth, making the beds or doing homework without being asked, Mum will enjoy the break. It will also give the children the chance to model adult behaviour, which is good for their development, and it will give the whole family more time to have fun together.

 

Gifts

 

It is traditional to thank Mums for their love and care with a gift. There is nothing that mums like more than a creation that has been lovingly made. This could be a paper bracelet decorated with hearts and flowers, dried lavender or soap wrapped in muslin and tied with a ribbon, a family photograph in a homemade frame, a friendship bracelet or a hand decorated mug that Mum can use everyday. Young children will be inspired to try out some creative, imaginative ideas and mums will feel loved and valued. When the children see Mum smiling, they will know that their efforts have been worthwhile.

 

A box filled with paper and ribbons and balloons make an original gift on Mother’s Day. The box, and its contents, will keep babies and young children happily entertained for hours. When the box is transformed into a pirate ship, a train or a robot costume, Mum and Dad get to see the world from their child's point of view.

 

Voucher

 

Mum may like a gift card so that she can select the perfume or jewellery that she wants. However, a ‘help’ voucher, which includes promises to wash up on Monday, a foot rub on Tuesday, setting the table on Wednesday, or good behaviour all week, will be appreciated even more.

 

Flowers

 

In the UK, a bunch of spring flowers, violets, carnations or roses are traditional Mother’s Day gifts. Other popular flowers include orchids, which come in different colours, shapes and sizes. Alternatively, a bouquet of paper or tissue flowers will encourage the children to try out their creative skills and provide a lasting reminder of the occasion. Whichever flowers or plants Mum receives, she is sure to love them.

 

For an unforgettable experience, take Mum to a romantic flower garden or to a garden fair or nursery, where she can choose her own arrangements or plants. Stroll around the lawns and finish off with afternoon tea. Everyone will enjoy the sounds, colours and scents of spring. The fresh air, exercise and sunlight will also ensure that the children sleep soundly at the end of the day.

 

Outings

 

One of the best Mother’s Day gifts is spending quality time with the family. Ideas might include a trip to the zoo or beach, a nature ramble, a cycle ride through the countryside or a walk through a wild-flower meadow. End the outing with lunch or afternoon tea in Mum’s favourite pub or restaurant. If the outing is carefully planned and packed with entertaining things to do, it can be a wonderful experience for the whole family.

 

If it rains, visit a museum. Children will enjoy looking inside an Egyptian mummy or finding out how mothers did things in the ‘old’ days. Most museums offer activities for children of all ages from interactive games and puzzles to quizzes and touch screens. While young minds are happily occupied, Mum and Dad can spend some quality time together.

 

Older children will enjoy indoor skydiving and bungee jumping or being orbited around in a giant plastic ball. If Mum and Dad join in with the activities, children will know that their parents are fun to be with.

 

Picnic

 

A picnic hamper filled with mouth-watering food from smoked salmon to gourmet cheeses and chocolate truffles will be a special treat for Mum. The children can prepare heart-shaped biscuits and sandwiches and Mum will enjoy sampling the finished products. Dad can supervise the preparation to ensure that the play is safe.

 

Take Mum on a woodland picnic. The sun filtering through the trees will be a memorable sight. The children will enjoy exploring and they will burn off excess energy and sleep better at night, which gives Mum and Dad a chance to enjoy quality time together. If it rains, lay out the picnic on the living room floor.

 

Family photograph

 

Have the camera charged and ready to capture the occasion. Mum will keep the photographs along with special cards, homemade gifts and other Mother’s Day mementos. When Mum looks through the memories, she will reminisce about the day when she felt so special.

 

A special treat

 

Although it may not be possible to take Mum to Paris, pamper her with an evening meal complete with French food, twinkling lights and French music playing in the background. The children can make the decorations, set out the table and help with the washing up. Themed bunting, plates and table decorations will add to the ambience, and Mum will appreciate and treasure the occasion.

 

Pampering

 

At home, Mum and daughter can indulge in a make-over followed by hair styling. A relaxing foot massage will make Mum feel really pampered, but the children may want one too.  Touch is good for their physical and emotional well-being and for healthy brain function. Children usually feel very relaxed after a massage and it makes them sleepy.

 

Bubble bath

 

Treat Mum to an anti-stress bubble bath complete with scented candles or LED T-lights, and put on her favourite music. An inflatable bath pillow will provide the ultimate in comfort, although Mum may not want to come out of the bathroom.

 

Children will also find bath time to be a fun experience. They will enjoy tasting the water, making bubbles and listening to the sounds that they make when they pop. Make sure that the bath water is not too hot. A temperature of 38 degrees centigrade is ideal for babies and young children.

 

At the end of the day

 

At the end of the day, cuddle up with Mum under a quilt and watch her favourite DVD together. Chocolate-covered strawberries and popcorn will go down well with the whole family. Simply giving up time to be with her will make Mum feel loved and valued.

 

Snuggling up with a book provides a perfect opportunity for parent-child bonding. Babies and children will enjoy the closeness and warmth that naturally occurs during the activity. They will love listening to the sound of Mum or Dad’s voice, which has a positive effect on language development. 

 

Put on a calming piece of music or a lullaby. It will help babies and children to relax and drift into peaceful sleep at the end of a busy day. Mum and Dad can then put their feet up and enjoy the evening together.

 

Shopping

 

If you are looking for great books, music, bubbles and fun toys to keep your baby or toddler entertained on Mother’s Day, visit www.babysensoryshop.co.uk

 

Finally….

 

With a little planning, Mums will feel loved and appreciated on Mother’s Day. Best of all, the whole family will enjoy quality time together, which has a positive impact on relationships and all aspects of development.

 

By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

 

 

 

 

 

GUEST POST - Baby, it’s cold outside!

January has a lot to answer for – the post-Christmas blues, Dry January madness, wobbly bellies that can no longer be excused for ‘mum tums’ thanks to all those Quality Streets, and people going on a diet everywhere you turn. There’s also something else that’s very miserable about January. The weather.

 

While I’d normally avoid the bitter winds and nasty rain by staying indoors, it’s a different story when you’ve got a baby. Try as you might not to leave the house, it is totally unavoidable… with the freezing weather bringing even more challenges when it comes to motherhood. Thanks, btw.

 

- Facing the frost

 

I remember in the hazy first few months of Moo’s* life I spent all the time walking around. I must’ve trampled miles every day, with my worn-out legs going for hours in an attempt to get her to nap.

 

To be fair, it was probably really good for me – exercise and fresh air and all that. But boy am I glad a lot of time spent outside was when the frost was beginning to thaw and spring was coming to life.

 

Having said that, Moo was a February baby so, like every winter mum knows, there were many days braving the freezing chills to take her for a walk so she’d sleep. In fact, you’d recognise other mums on their own little ambles around the area, wrapped head to toe in thermals and a snood so far up their face, you can only see their eyes.

 

Sometimes the struggle to get out of the house at the crack of dawn when it was icy outside was enough to convince you to stay in instead – but then when those tired screams start and there’s no way they’re going to nap in their moses basket / swing / bouncer / sling / lying on your arm like a damn tiger, that’s when you deeply regret your decision to choose warmth over walking.

 

- Wrapping up

 

There are so many guidelines when it comes to wrapping your baby that when we first took Moo out, we were at a complete loss. Presented with vests (both short and long-sleeved), sleepsuits, mittens, cardigans, snowsuits, hats and blankets, we didn’t know if we should just pile them all on or if this would cause her to overheat, which is really dangerous for a newborn.

 

As someone who always feels the cold, I favoured the layer-on approach, whereas my husband – who can happily wear shorts in October – was the opposite. Eventually, we worked out what was right for our little angel – and as long as she slept snugly in her carrycot, we were all happy.

 

- Getting ready to go out

 

Getting ready to leave the house has always been a challenge, although a constantly changing one. At the beginning, there were the “let’s get out of the house to stop her crying even though we haven’t showered or eaten yet” conversations, then it involved trying to squeeze her into a snowsuit when she just wanted to roll around, and now it is a game of chasing my almost two-year-old around the house while bargaining with her to put on her shoes, coat, gloves and hat.

 

As a summer girl, I hate all the paraphernalia that comes with dressing for winter and can’t wait till I can shove all the hats, coats, gloves, scarfs and wellies away for the year, but it’s even worse when you’ve got a baby.

 

Not only do you need to add extra time when leaving the house, you have to constantly undress when you arrive anywhere. This is particularly the case when they’re little and you have a relentless fear of not wanting them to overheat, while also not wishing to wake your soundly sleeping baby up.

 

For me, by the time I’ve wrestled on outerwear for the fourth time that day, it’s time to call it quits and have a cup of tea inside instead – Pa, if only!

 

- Toddler fun

 

The only thing more challenging than wrapping up a baby for the winter – with the long frosty walks and endless concerns about temperature control – is dealing with a toddler in the freezing cold weather.

 

I’ve already mentioned the difficulties of getting ready, but at this stage, you can forget about layering up – she takes it all off when we get out of the house anyway. I assume she takes after her dad when it comes to not feeling the cold.

 

What’s more, thanks to Peppa Pig, my little girl is a big fan of splashing in muddle puddles, and while I encourage her active and adventurous nature, it doesn’t make it any easier when she then has to spend the day in wet tights.

 

Only the other day, she got covered head to toe in mud at the park and, even though I should know better by now, I forgot to bring her splash suit or any replacement clothes for her to change into. Doh.

 

So whether they’re a newborn or an energetic toddler, winter is no easy time for parents. Roll on summer, I say. At least then you only have to remember sun hats, sunglasses, shades, parasols, suncream, aftersun, water, more water….

 

*Moo is a affectionate nickname of our daughter.


GUEST POST - Baby’s first Christmas – Tinsel, teething and tears!

Baby’s first Christmas – Tinsel, teething and tears! 

 

I’m a huge fan of Christmas. You know, one of those people who are itching to bake Christmas goodies and tuck into a tin of Roses once the BBQ has been put away. So it’s safe to say I couldn’t have been more excited about our baby girl’s first Crimbo 

I even had all the ‘My First Christmas’ signs ready, and bought her very own Christmas jumper before she was born!  

But what no-one told me was babies don’t stop being challenging just because it’s Christmas Day – something we found out the hard way.   


Awake at 5am – for the wrong reasons 

The Christmas before last I was heavily pregnant, and I couldn’t enjoy an afternoon glass of sherry, a mulled wine, or a cheeky Amaretto with my cheese – I couldn’t even enjoy cheese! – so I was really looking forward to being able to eat and drink what I wanted at Moo’s* first Christmas.  

And while I certainly tucked into pate, soft cheeses, and boozy puddings, unfortunately I couldn’t appreciate late nights or too many drinks because my little angel was still keeping me awake at all hours. 

At 11 months old, Moo had been sleeping through for a while, but we were struck down with the most trying of afflictions – teething! 

That’s right, with sky-high temperatures, incessant screaming and endless syringes of Calpol, we were in a full-blown teething nightmare.  

So, I kissed goodbye to late nights watching Christmas films and evenings out with friends, as I knew I would be up with my poor baby whose gums were red raw. And comforting her with a mulled wine hangover didn’t appeal, strangely enough 


Days in = cosy or cramped? 

Her teething only escalated on Christmas Eve, which is usually my favourite day of the year. I love the anticipation of the next day, and even if you don’t do anything, it’s great to simply see family and friends and spend the day baking, cooking and wrapping. Right? 

Well, since I’ve had a baby, I’ve quickly learnt staying in the house is far harder than leaving it – especially with a poorly baby. Even if I wanted to have fun preparing for the next day, it’s near impossible to do anything with a child permanently attached to your hip. Try wrapping while bopping them on your knee, desperately keeping the scissors out of their way. Or chopping vegetables as they’re pulling on your tights. Or chatting to loved ones with a mince pie and a cup of tea when they’re forever reaching for the scalding drinks.  

Of course, there is always the respite of naptimes. But the teething nightmare put paid to Moo’s naps, which meant we were all knackered by the time Santa was meant to be making his rounds. In fact, as she spent all Christmas Eve crying, any festive-themed activity we had planned simply fell by the wayside.  


What Christmas traditions? 

This included introducing her to our new family traditions – from leaving out mince pies for Santa to giving her a gift to open on Christmas Eve and tracking the sleigh around the world – which I had spent months looking forward to.  

But what with the teething drama and the fact you still have the normal routine to stick to, we totally forgot to do anything of it. 

It was only once she was tucked up in her cot sleeping soundly after a day of upset and pain that we realised we hadn’t given her the present or left out treats for Rudolph and his pals 

Despite how much I had looked forward to Christmas Eve, it was just another day for Moo, complete with dinner times, milk feeds, naps, bath and bed. She had no idea what the fuss was about and didn’t have a clue what the next day was to bring.  


All better for Christmas Day! 

And neither did we, for this year we got everything we wanted for Christmas. Two beautiful pearly white teeth. And a happy, cheery baby.  

In spite of the stress of the previous day, Moo was back to her old self once her teeth had broken through, and loved all the excitement of Christmas Day – the unwrapping, the toys, the crazy hats and the delicious foods. She had no idea what was going on, but enjoyed every minute of it. 

I had built up Moo’s first Christmas so much in my head it was hard to realise it may take years for it to be the all-singing, all-dancing occasion I longed for. We hadn’t gone to a carol concert, watched a Christmas movie or baked mince pies together. She didn’t appreciate the advent calendar I stitched when I was pregnant, seeing Santa Claus reduced her to tears, and it took days to open her presents, as it was all so overwhelming.  

But it was still hands down the best Christmas ever – even with all the tears, pain and sleepless nights. We may not have done all the lovely festive things we had planned, but the best part is knowing we have all that to come.  

And I, for one, can’t wait for December 25th to roll around so we can create some fab memories of her second Christmas together 

*Moo is the affectionate name for our baby daughter.