A blog by Dr Lin Day

GUEST POST - From massage to music – how we became baby group pros! By guest blogger Natasha Al-Atassi

As soon as I clocked off work for my maternity leave, I began to look forward to the groups I could attend with my soon-to-be-born baby. I loved the idea of leisurely carrying him/her in their car seat to and from baby massage, baby yoga, fitness and music lessons, smiling in the knowledge that their mind was expanding as they absorbed all these fantastic interactive classes.

But I didn’t quite appreciate that sometimes – especially at the beginning – it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

In fact, only a few days after becoming a mum, I realised baby groups may be a long way off, as even just leaving the house seemed tantamount to climbing the Himalayas!


Our first group – Finally getting out and about

Admittedly, Moo* was only three weeks old when I took her to her first baby group. In hindsight, I can see she was still only a little dot, but at the time I felt I had endured 21 days of being relatively housebound and I was itching for people to see and things to do.

I know what you’re thinking though, what can a baby really learn at three weeks old? Well, our first group together was baby massage, a free class run by our local Sure Start Centre. So really it was an opportunity for me to pick up skills, not my little angel who spent most of the course feeding or crying if I took her clothes off.

At the beginning, I was really conscious that I barely did much massaging during our sessions as Moo was always tucked under my top, but I came to realise that none of that mattered. I really came to see new faces, talk to people, complain about colic, and have a structure to my day.

It didn’t matter that Moo sometimes stayed asleep in her car seat, or started scrambling off as soon as she could roll over. What was important was that I was building strong friendships already, seeing other mothers during the difficult early days.

That’s one of the greatest rewards of baby groups – being able to support and gain support from other mums when you need it.

That and learning how to help your baby bring up wind, of course!


Next steps – Finding the right class

Once I became confident going to classes alone, I decided to try a few different ones – outdoor fitness sessions (admittedly more for me), sling dancing, music, swimming, baby gymnastics. You name it, we tried it!

But it took a while before we settled on the right ones for us. I soon discovered that it’s not just about whether you and your child like the class, it’s also about which ones fit into your routine.

So many were at the wrong time, too far away so she’d be sleeping on the way back (which was a good or bad thing depending on how many naps she was having), too expensive, or meant you had to wrestle with the car seat too many times in one day – something that often clinched the deal.

Also, I didn’t quite appreciate in my dreamy carefree days of maternity leave that our needs would change over the months. So if a class was at the right time in June, come August when Moo had dropped a nap and was weaning, it’d fall at the worst possible point during the day.

When this happened, I just learned to roll with it and enjoy the groups that did fit in with us. It wasn’t until my baby girl was about six/seven months old and was on a steady two naps and three meals a day that we had a good routine and could settle into classes for long stretches of time.

Although this meant we constantly had to change classes, we also got to make lots of friends, try many new things and find groups we both really loved!


Getting out of your comfort zone and making friends

The main reason for new mothers to come to groups is also one of the biggest things to turn them off – having to socialise.

I relished the opportunity to go out, see new faces, apply a bit of make-up (when possible!), and sometimes wipe away tears and put my ‘brave face’ on just to make me feel a bit stronger.

But I also had those days when I didn’t want to talk to strangers or pretend I’d had a stress-free morning, and I was only there because it was easier to have someone else sing to Moo for an hour than me having to do it… again.

Despite the fact it can be difficult to put your exhaustion to one side and cheerfully talk to people you don’t know, it’s well worth it. You soon realise you’re in the same boat – which for first-time mums is such a relief – and even laughing about some of the more stressful moments can make you feel better.


Now a toddler group pro

All in all, I achieved what I intended to with our baby groups. We tried a lot, disliked a few and settled on a handful we love, so much so that we still go to them now Moo is a fully-fledged toddler!

But best of all, I’ve made some fabulous friends who don’t care if I’ve got traces of dry shampoo in my dark brown hair, sick on my shoulder, or a toddler who’s trying my patience, simply because they’ve been there since the very beginning of my baby’s life.

And that’s something you won’t be able to say about a lot of people.


Your Baby’s First Christmas - 10 Top Tips

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.


Christmas is a special time of the year for parents and an even more magical one for babies. The Christmas tree, presents, shiny decorations, colourful lights, smells, tastes and sounds make Christmas Day a complete sensory delight. Unfortunately, the celebrations can be both exhausting and stressful, so it is important to keep in mind that your baby still needs your love and warmth and the security of a familiar routine. It is also worth considering the safety aspects of anything that can be harmful to your baby.


Here are 10 top tips to ensure that your baby enjoys the celebrations:



Christmas provides the perfect excuse for relatives and friends to have fun together. To ensure that your baby does not become too overwhelmed from the excitement, limit guests to family and close friends (if possible). If they want to hold or play with your baby, keep the changeovers to a minimum and make sure you are available for a cuddle when needed. Nothing is more important to your baby’s emotional well-being than your reassuring presence.



Make your baby’s first Christmas as enjoyable as possible by keeping his or her routine the same. Too much change can raise your baby’s stress levels. To avoid emotional insecurity, give presents when your baby is alert and ready to play and stick to the normal schedule for eating and sleeping. If you are nursing your baby, find a quiet place away from the action. Both of you will appreciate the chance to relax and spend some peaceful time together.


Christmas Day provides a wealth of sensory stimulation for your baby, but look out for signs of over stimulation and tiredness. Too much excitement can make your baby grumpy or miserable. A favourite blanket or toy can provide the emotional comfort and security that your baby needs, but stay close by to provide a reassuring touch.



Age and stage appropriate toys will stimulate your baby’s senses and offer a wealth of learning opportunities for discovery and exploration. Black and white objects, bright, colourful toys that make soft, gentle sounds will stimulate the interest of a newborn or very young baby. Favourite toys for babies aged 3 to 6 months include objects that can be brought to the mouth and play gyms that can be biffed and kicked. From 6 to 9 months of age, pop-up toys, musical instruments, tea sets and activity centres with buttons to press will provide an endless source of amusement. Large plastic bricks, wooden puzzles with handles, shape sorters, drums and push along toys are fun and educational for babies aged 9 to 12 months. However, giving your baby too many toys on Christmas Day can be overwhelming. Limit the number of toys to one or two at any one time to maintain interest. If your baby becomes irritable, take a break.



Books are one of the best toys for babies and it is never too early to introduce them. Books that contain textured or sparkly materials, large, brightly coloured pictures and hide-and-seek surprises encourage adult interaction and make great Christmas presents. Snuggling up close and talking about the pictures is a wonderful way to introduce new words and sounds. For relatives or friends who find it difficult to know what to say to your baby, reading a story makes talking much easier.


Creative presents

Creative presents can brighten up your baby's first Christmas. A treasure basket containing interesting objects or a cardboard box filled with paper or fabric offers endless learning possibilities. However, safety is an important consideration. Christmas tags with sharp edges, long ribbons and homemade creations that contain small parts can present a serious hazard. Never give plastic wrap or Styrofoam products to your baby. If swallowed, they may adhere to the lining of the gut causing blockage or infection. Toys designed for older children such as electronic games and singing Christmas cards may contain magnets or batteries, which if ingested, can adhere to internal tissues or leak dangerous chemicals. Always err on the side of safety and put the item out of reach.



Play with relatives and friends can be very enriching for your baby on Christmas Day. For example, they can show your baby how a new toy works, or get involved in turn-taking activities such as rolling a ball back and forth. Time-honoured games such as peek-a-boo, blowing ‘raspberries’ and being tickled with a soft brush are lovely ways to stimulate smiles and giggles. Adult interaction is vital for healthy social and emotional development because it spells love and warmth, and because it shows your baby that he or she is fun to be with.



Pine needles, scented potpourri, cinnamon, spices, herbs and Christmas cooking smells offer your baby a multi-sensory experience and may be associated with fond memories in years to come. Good smells can enhance your baby’s mood and behaviour, but it will be trial and error finding out which ones appeal the most. Your baby’s facial expressions should indicate if one scent is preferred to another. Avoid essential oils, since these may contain a high phenol content, which can irritate your baby’s skin. Other scents that can cause an allergic reaction include Arum lilies, mustard and horseradish.



Babies are very attracted to coloured lights, shiny decorations, tinsel and glitter. All these things will stimulate your baby’s senses and accelerate learning. Again, safety is all-important. Putting presents under the Christmas tree provides a tactile experience for your baby, but place gifts of perfume and aftershave out of reach. They may contain chemicals that could be harmful if swallowed. Your baby will love the shiny decorations, but make sure that they are shatterproof and do not present a choking hazard. Avoid using mistletoe or holly as decorations. Ingested berries can cause severe vomiting, diarrhoea and drowsiness. Use low voltage LED tree lights that meet current safety standards or better still, use LED battery-operated fairy lights, which do not get hot. The best option is to pick your baby up and look at the Christmas tree together from a safe distance. This will help your baby to feel a part of what is going on.


At the end of a busy day

Christmas carols, songs and music bring warmth and happiness to Christmas Day and they set the tone for a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. Music is one of most beneficial learning resources for your baby and its effect on intellectual development is far-reaching. Music can also help your baby to relax and drift into peaceful sleep at the end of a busy day. There is nothing more important to your baby than snuggling up in your arms and hearing you sing a favourite lullaby. This is the best way to end a wonderful Christmas Day!

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


Visit The Baby Sensory Shop (www.babysensoryshop.co.uk) where you’ll find exquisite books to share with your baby, music and songs, bouncy balls, instruments, activity centres, shape sorters, toys, and other fun gift ideas and stocking fillers.

16 Interesting Christmas Facts

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Toys in ev'ry store,

But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be

On your own front door.

In the Western world, Christmas Day is generally celebrated on 25 December. Some historians believe the date was chosen to correspond with the Roman winter solstice or the birthday of the Persian god Mithras, who was born in a cave on 25 December long before the appearance of Christianity.

Many traditions, such as the giving of presents, are linked to the Nativity. Pagan traditions, such as decorating the home with evergreen, were adopted by early Christians to celebrate Christmas. Non-Christian traditions, such as crackers and cards, were added much later.


Read on to find out more……..

1.            Cards

The first Christmas card was produced in 1846 by Sir Henry Cole, director of the Victoria and Albert museum. With the introduction of the ’halfpenny post’ in 1870, Christmas cards were produced for the mass market.

2.            Carols

It is thought that Saint Francis of Assisi brought carols into the church during Midnight Mass in Italy in 1223. However carols did not become Christmas songs until the 16th century. The custom of carol-singing in the streets dates mainly from the 19th century.

3.            Crackers

Christmas crackers were invented by an enterprising baker, in the late 19th century. To encourage children to have a tug-of-war over his confectionery, sweets were wrapped in coloured papers, which contained a miniature explosive charge. Miniature toys, riddles and hats were incorporated later on.

4.            Christmas pudding

The Christmas pudding originated in Roman times as a mix of meat and vegetables. In medieval times, the savoury content was replaced by 13 ingredients, which included dried fruit (known as plums), sugar and spices, which represented Jesus and the 12 Apostles. To honour the Wise Men, every family member stirred the ingredients from east to west. Christmas pudding in its current form was introduced to the table by Prince Albert.

5.            Christmas star

Astronomers know that there was no supernova star at the possible time of Jesus’s birth. However, in 6 BC the planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were close enough to form a triangle in the group of stars known as Pisces. If the Wise Men had studied the stars and planets, they would have interpreted the event as a great sign.

6.            Christmas tree

The Christmas tree originated in Germany and was associated with a legend about a Devon monk (Saint Boniface), who used its triangular shape to describe the Holy Trinity.

The first decorated tree appeared in Riga (Latvia) in 1510 and was strewn with paper flowers and then burnt on a bonfire as part of a religious ceremony. In the 16th century, Martin Luther decorated a small fir tree with candles to show his children how the stars twinkled in the night. In the 18th century, Christmas trees arrived in England with the Georgian kings, but they did not become popular until the Victorian era. After Victoria’s death, Christmas trees became traditional in almost every British and American household.  

7.            Evergreens

In the pre-Christian era, homes were decorated with evergreens to ward off evil spirits, witches and disease and to encourage the return of Saturn, the harvest god.

The practice of removing greenery from the home on the twelfth night of Christmas (5 January) originated from the belief that tree spirits were released back into the countryside to regenerate the vegetation. According to superstition, it is unlucky to leave decorations in the home after the twelfth night.

8.            Gifts

The giving and receiving of gifts originated in ancient Rome, and northern Europe, as part of the year-end celebrations, but started in earnest in the late 1800s. Today, the exchanging of presents is central to most cultures.

In the Western world, the traditional time for giving presents is Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. However, in some countries, gifts are exchanged on 6 December, which is Saint Nicholas Day. 

9.            Holly

The Druids believed that holly protected the home from evil spirits. In later times, holly was placed around beehives to encourage bees to hum in the honour of baby Jesus. Decking the halls with ‘boughs of holly’ was thought to cure coughs and other ailments. Today, the plant signifies peace and joy.

10.         Mince pies

Mince pies filled with meat, fruit and spices were brought from the Middle East in the 13th century by European crusaders. During the English Civil War, Cromwell banned them as indulgent foods, but they were later restored by the English monarchy in 1660. In the Victorian era, mince pies became sweeter. They have continued to be a popular Christmas tradition ever since.

11.         Mistletoe

Mistletoe was revered by the Druids, who used a gold sickle to cut it from an oak tree. The plant was hung in homes to ward off evil spirits. In later times, kissing under the mistletoe signified friendship and goodwill.

12.         Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop who lived in Myra (near the city of Anatolia in present-day Turkey) in the 4th century. After his death, Saint Nicholas became best known as the protector of small children. In many countries, Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated as a feast for children and without any religious overtones.

13.         Santa Claus

In 1868, Thomas Nast combined Saint Nicholas with a merry-making medieval figure to create the traditional image of Santa. Although an American invention, similar likenesses also evolved in France and Italy. The traditional sleigh and reindeers came from Scandinavian Christmas myths.

In many Latin American countries, Santa makes the toys, but they are delivered to the children’s homes by Baby Jesus. This helps to reconcile religious beliefs with modern ones.

14.         Santa’s home

Santa’s residence was originally established at the North Pole following the publication of a sketch in ‘Harper’s Weekly’ in 1886, which showed two children tracing his journey from the North Pole to the United States. However, in 1952 newspapers revealed that he actually lived in Finnish Lapland. Today, Santa receives thousands of letters from children all over the world.

15.         Stockings

The Christmas stocking can be traced to legends about Saint Nicholas. One version tells of three sisters who could not marry because they were so poor. Saint Nicholas took pity on them and threw gold coins down the chimney. The coins landed in stockings hung over the embers to dry.

The first mention of stockings being hung by the chimney was made by Clement Moore in his story about a visit from Saint Nicholas.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that Saint Nicolas soon would be there.

Today, children all over the world hang up their stockings in the hope that they will be filled with small gifts while they sleep.

16.         Twelve Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas date back to the pagan feast of Yuletide, which lasted 12 days. The religious significance lies in the story of the Wise Men who arrived from the East with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to attend the infant Jesus on the 12th day, which is traditionally 5 January.

Throughout history, celebrating the birth of Jesus has been an important part of Christmas. However, the Christmas that we celebrate today is largely a secular event that contains Christian, pagan and cultural elements. Whatever beliefs are held, Christmas is a special time for children and for families, who will be immersed in it, whether at home, preschool or church.


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


Step into Christmas at The Baby Sensory Shop (www.babysensoryshop.co.uk) where you’ll find exquisite nativity figures, Christmas puppets, sparkly lights and other innovative gift ideas and stocking fillers.

From pregnancy to parenting - why weddings are never the same again

I love weddings – from the excitement waiting for the bride to arrive right through to the last tune at the end of the night, sung like an anthem by the tipsy guests encircling the happy couple. But it all changed once I got pregnant.

While I still look forward to the next nuptial when I can raise my glass to happy newlyweds and wipe a tear after the father-of-the-bride’s speech, I know deep down that weddings won’t be the same for a long, long time.

No booze rules

I didn’t have any weddings to go to while I was expecting *Moo, which was a good thing really as being pregnant at a wedding really doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.

Firstly, where’s the fun in swapping a glass of fizz for an orange juice, or toasting the couple with a plain old glass of water? 

And when everyone else is crooning to Unchained Melody or rocking their air guitars to Don’t Stop Believing, I’m sure to the sober pregnant lady in the corner, they (*we*) just look plain silly. I never want to see this from her perspective, as looking silly (particularly when piling on costumes in a photobooth) is exactly what I love about weddings.

To be honest, even after the baby’s born, if you’re breastfeeding, you still can’t drink much!


Pumping away

This brings me on to just one of the struggles of attending a wedding when you’ve got a young baby – the constant pumping game. Now, I don’t want to sound bitter as I know I was very fortunate in being able to breastfeed when many other mums haven’t been able to.

However, for all those ladies who have suffered with painful, leaking, engorged boobs when they’ve gone just a few hours without feeding their baby, I know exactly how you feel.

When we left Moo at six months old for a wedding one weekend, I expressed 108 ounces of milk – that’s over three litres!

This also meant I had to pump the equivalent amount of breast milk in the months leading up to the wedding, so my mother had enough to give her in our absence. Talk about feeling like a cow…

And for anyone who hasn’t tried, pumping isn’t actually the easiest thing to do. It can take over an hour to empty both breasts, which meant I missed out on so much of the wedding, including the arrival of the bride and groom, the beginning of the first dance and, really disappointingly, all the delicious canapés.

What’s more, my poor, loving husband had to deliver filled breast milk bags to reception after every pump so they could store it in their fridge. Not the glamorous days of weddings that we remember!


Breastfeeding at a wedding

The alternative is to bring your baby with you – which I also have experience of. The one thing that was really difficult was finding somewhere to feed Moo every three hours. I was quite happy to breastfeed under my tried and trusted bib, but you still need somewhere to sit and sprawl your belongings out.

When everyone’s chatting away standing on the lawn in their heels sipping Bellinis, this isn’t really the best environment for feeding a child, especially one that keeps trying to whip the bib away from her face to see what’s going on.

Instead, the only place I could find that was easiest for both of us to feed was the Ladies, and even then there were no seats, so I just walked around the room carrying her as she happily suckled away.

The stress didn’t end there though as, unfortunately, I forgot to put my breast pads in, so one side of my pretty dress got completely soaked in milk while she enjoyed her afternoon snack. Nice.

Looking after a toddler

As babies get older, at least you don’t have to worry about feeding. However, that’s when you have to look after a toddler who’s running around, smushing food into their beautiful cream satin dress, and has the potential to throw a tantrum AT ANY MINUTE!

Even when you come prepared for all eventualities, it’s never easy to enjoy yourself when your mind is focused on your little one.

And at the last wedding we went to, I could be seen (and photographed) crawling on the dining room floor chasing my 18-month-old who thought it would be hilarious to go AWOL during the speeches.

Incidentally, she ended up playing hide and seek behind the top table throughout the father-of-the-bride’s emotional dialogue, which she obviously thought was hysterical. I’m somewhat used to the playful tendencies of a toddler and the unglamorous acts of motherhood now, but who knows what the other guests made of her mid-afternoon game?

It was only when we dropped her off at home with a babysitter and headed back for the evening do that we finally got to relax, and enjoy a stress-free glass of fizz.

So whether you’re chasing your little ones on your hands and knees, trying to get humus out of your hair, wishing you had had time to do your make-up properly, or hiding the powdery-white stain of milk from your dress, that’s when you’ll realise weddings aren’t what they used to be.


My advice? Give yourself a childfree night and get a babysitter! And try to forget about the impending 6am rise…


*Moo is an affectionate nickname for our beautiful little daughter. Obviousl

Best Buy Christmas Baby Toys

Best Buy Christmas Baby Toys

Choosing toys for babies is great fun, especially with so many different products to choose from and Christmas on the horizon. However, deciding which toy will keep your baby happy, interested, busy and stimulated can be difficult.

We have lots of ideas to get you started, but you can also visitwww.babysensoryshop.co.uk for additional gift ideas.

Newborn to 3 months

Newborn babies enjoy looking at black and white objects and bright, colourful toys. They are also attracted to things that move or make soft gentle sounds. Here are a few ideas that will capture their attention and aid development:

  • Cot mobiles (remove the mobile once the baby learns to sit up).
  • Tummy time play mat.
  • Musical toys.
  • Pictures with high-contrast graphics, bright colours, or black-and-white patterns.
  • Textured fabrics.
  • Comforter with ribbons attached.
  • Soft toys with large eyes and happy faces.
  • Rattle or jingle toys.
  • Lullaby CDs.

3 to 6 months

Babies between 3 and 6 months-old may be able to reach out and grasp things with their hands. Favourite toys often include objects that can be held, biffed, kicked or dropped. Examples might include:

  • Brightly coloured toys attached to the pram.
  • Play gym or activity centre.
  • Textured play mat.
  • Books with mirrors, faces and bright colours.
  • Toy telephone.
  • Giggle ball.
  • Teething toys.

Toys that move and make sounds provide amusement and encourage babies to exercise. Babies who are learning to sit up will enjoy toys with buttons to push or press. Generally, toys that can be gripped, squeezed or mouthed will be popular with this age-group.

 6 to 9 months

From 6 to 9 months-old, most babies can sit up unsupported for an extended period of time. Some babies may have started to crawl. The following toys will help to lead their learning and development forwards:

  • Pop-up toys.
  • Activity tables.
  • Large plastic animals.
  • Toys that can be pushed or pulled.
  • Musical instruments.
  • Toys with mirrors.
  • Balls.

A ball encourages a whole range of mobility skills as well as hand-eye coordination and sensory exploration. Balls that are lightweight, bouncy or make playful sounds can provide an endless source of amusement and fun!

 9 – 12 months

Between 9 and 12 months-old, some babies will be crawling and some may be walking. Hand-eye coordination is usually well established at this stage. Babies are amused by toys that they can stack or knock down; they also enjoy putting shapes in holes and making music. The following are both fun and educational for this age-group.

  • Push along floor toys.
  • Strollers.
  • Shape sorters.
  • Nesting cups.
  • Large plastic bricks.
  • Wooden puzzles with large handles.
  • Hammering toys.
  • Large interlocking beads.
  • Drums.

Some babies enjoy playing with bricks while others love puzzles or push-along toys. Very often, it is the simplest toys that offer the best value. Toys that include everything from flashing lights to electronic sounds reduce the potential for creativity and may be relegated to the bottom of the toy box a few days later.

Containers that fit together are fun to play with. They can be stacked, nested or used as hiding places for toys. When the novelty wears off, the lid will provide entertainment.  A soft fabric activity set such as a farm or doll’s house travels well and provides endless opportunities for imaginative play.

Homemade toys

A blanket or quilt can be used as a play mat with toys attached to hooks sewn along the sides, or used as a comforter on long car journeys. A treasure basket filled with interesting objects such as paper cups and plates, a sock with a ball in the toe, a soft brush, reflective paper or a shiny box can provide endless hours of play.

Other simple homemade creations or everyday objects include:

  • Objects that vary in texture and sound such as cotton reels and large play buttons hung from a play frame.
  • Books with different textures glued to each page.
  • Plastic containers made into sound shakers.
  • Net bags filled with crumpled paper.
  • Measuring cups and large plastic spoons.
  • Plastic cubes filled with family photographs.

A cardboard box filled with shredded paper, fabrics or soft balloons offers endless possibilities for creativity.


If homemade presents or everyday objects are given to babies, they should be carefully supervised and removed from the cot during daytime naps and at bedtime.

Classic toys

Classic toys that parents had as babies such as bricks, stackers, balls, tea sets and puppets are usually favourites. Babies will enjoy these toys for many years to come.

Books are also one of the best toys for babies and it is never too early to introduce them. Some contain textured materials, shiny pages and lots of other sparkly surprises. Three-dimensional books, books with large, brightly coloured pictures and hide-and-seek books that encourage interaction with the parent make great toys for babies.

However, second-hand toys may not meet the current safety standards and they might not be safe for mouthing.

Baby bundles

If you are looking for great toys, music and fun ways to play with and stimulate your baby, ask your Baby Sensory Class Leader for information about our baby bundles.

You can also visit www.babysensoryshop.co.uk for best-buy baby bundles and other great Christmas gift ideas.

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