A blog by Dr Lin Day



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.

Christmas Bow


 And when she snuggles close to me,

Her nose against my cheek,

 The world she means to me,

 Far more than words can speak.

 

At 8 weeks-old, Bow bounced into my life and I fell in love with her. But she wasn’t meant for me. Bow was to be Howard’s new friend and companion.

 

Howard has always had dogs downsizing from elegant Great Danes to a fun-loving family Labrador, and intelligent, working collies. And then Katie had her own dog, ‘Tug the terrier’, who simply bulged with character. After we lost Tug, work took us away from home and we decided to wait a few years before bringing another dog into our lives. Four years later, Howard found Bow. But as she nestled into my arms on the homeward journey from Manchester to Salisbury, we bonded forever.

 

The puppy stage doesn’t last very long so we made the most if it. During Bow’s critical learning period (8 to 19 weeks), we went to puppy school together. Bow learned good manners, how to play with adults, children and other dogs, and how to respond to commands. Only patience and kind techniques were used to train her. I am sure this is why Bow is so gentle and loving and likes nothing more than being part of our family.

Bow is capable of intense feelings. Although I rarely leave her, our reunion lasts 20 minutes and she cries with emotion. Right now, she is curled up on my lap knowing that I am writing her blog. Her waggly tail gives everything away. She is also licking my hand furiously.

 

We have celebrated 2 Bow birthdays and each year, she has a new red collar. The one that Bow is wearing now is decorated with sparkly bows and her name. To celebrate Christmas this year, Bow has a new red and gold starred bow!

 

Bow’s résumé:

•Age: 2 years, 10 months (next birthday: 12 February).

•Mother: Jack Russell (white, tan and black).

•Father: Border terrier (tan).

•Distinguishing characteristics: tricolour with white chest, white right paw, silky soft ears and liquid eyes.

•Command words: over 100 including ‘Go play’, ‘Wait’, ‘Leave’, ‘Drop’ and ‘Stop’ (useful), plus the names of her favourite toys.

•Best friends: Charlie, Owen, Stanley, Dan, Ellie, Lyla, Eva, Leo and Arthur.

•Best doggy friend: Buster.

•Favourite toys: ball, Bear and Fox (soft toys).

•Favourite games: playing hide-and-seek with Charlie, Dan and Owen, and tug-of-war with Snake (soft toy) and Ellie.

•Responsibilities: looking after my grandchildren - Arthur (18 months) and Stanley (23 months). Checking they are entertained and happy.

•Interests: walking along grassy tracks, sitting in my bike basket, swimming (river or sea), and watching Paul O’ Grady: For the Love of Dogs.

•Special talents: sniffing out lost toys, and waiting patiently for ‘Mr. Taupe’ to appear from his French molehill.

•Places travelled: all over the UK and France.

•Fears: loud bangs (fireworks), and objects that are out of context. For example, a man carrying a fishing rod or an empty car seat sitting on the pavement.

 

The love and fear of losing Bow makes me think that she should have puppies. One I shall keep, but then there’s the worry of finding loving homes for the others. I already have names for her puppy - Bear or maybe Fox?

 

When I asked our 9 year-old granddaughter Ellie to sum up Bow, she said:

 

“I love Bow so much because she is very pretty, has silky, floppy ears, loves kissing and she is very cute. She is a joy to have in our family!”

 

Bow means the world to me and I wanted her to look her best for the photograph. It was well worth the three hour trip to see our expert Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense photographer, Mark Fletcher, who was very sensitive, caring and kind. You can contact Mark at mark@photo-sensory.com  or 07714 797730 or www.photo-sensory.com

 

Bow’s red and gold starred Christmas bow arrived in a beautiful box from Tracy at the Distinguished Dog Co (www.theddcompany.com). Bow loves it and so do I!

 

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

 

Happy Christmas Bow!




 


 


Merry Christmas from Around the World

We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
We wish you a Merry Christmas,
And a Happy New Year.

 

 

Christmas is celebrated in many countries, although each one has its own traditions that have passed from generation to generation or have just evolved naturally over the festive season. For many cultures, Christmas is a religious festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus.


Traditions such as the Christmas tree, decorations and lights, the sending of cards, a special meal with family and friends, and the giving and receiving of gifts are common to most cultures.

UK, USA

In the UK and USA, the Christmas season starts in early November, when the lights are switched on in the major cities. In anticipation of Christmas, children may open the 24 doors of the advent calendar; one for each day of December leading up to Christmas Eve.

As Christmas approaches, children may post letters to Santa Claus (also known as Father Christmas) and participate in a Nativity play. They may see Santa at a preschool party or look forward to his arrival on Christmas Eve, when their stockings will be filled with gifts while they sleep.

Other traditions include the exchange of presents and a Christmas Day meal that may consist of turkey, Christmas pudding and mince pies. During the meal, crackers may be pulled, jokes told and paper hats worn. Party games and television are traditional activities, followed by evening tea, which may include Christmas cake and other treats for the whole family.


Australia, New Zealand

In the Southern hemisphere, Christmas occurs during the height of the summer. Snow-covered cards, decorations, Christmas trees, mince pies, Christmas pudding and crackers are a traditional part of the celebrations. Santa arrives on Christmas Eve in much the same way as the UK.


Denmark

Preparations may begin in November when decorations appear in the shops. After the meal on Christmas Eve, the family may sing and dance around the Christmas tree, followed by present giving. Santa (‘The Yule Man’) is said to arrive on a reindeer-driven sleigh with presents for the children.


France

Christmas is a religious festival for many families, who decorate their homes with Nativity scenes and attend Midnight Mass. Father Christmas (Père Noël) may bring gifts and sweets for the children on December 6th, the feast day of Saint Nicholas. The children place their shoes by the hearth to find them filled with gifts on Christmas Day.


Germany

On 6th December, Saint Nicholas may visit preschools (kindergartens) and schools. On Christmas Eve, Saint Nicholas or a sprite-like child (known as ‘Christkindl’), places the children’s presents under the tree. Carols may be sung around the tree before the presents are opened.

 

India


Nativity plays are staged in many schools, followed by the appearance of Father Christmas (‘Christmas Baba' in Hindi), who may distribute presents from a horse and cart. Days before babda din (the big day), the shops and markets will be decorated with Christmas trees, images of Santa Claus and colourful balloons.

 

Italy


Christmas is celebrated in much the same way as other Western European countries, but with a strong emphasis on religion. Gifts may be placed under the Christmas tree, either by Santa or Baby Jesus, to be opened on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

 

Japan

Although 25th December is not a religious holiday, the occasion is celebrated with parties, Christmas trees and Christmas cake. On Christmas Eve, presents are left on the children’s pillows and adults exchange gifts.


Mainland China

In mainland China, 25 December is not an official holiday, although it may be privately celebrated with presents, cards and stockings. During the month of December, Christmas trees and other Western practices are found in many homes.

 

Poland

 

In Poland, children participate in Nativity plays and religious services. On Christmas Day, everyone exchanges a wafer of religious significance before eating traditional foods such as beetroot soup (borscht), carp and fruit. The children give out the presents and they may dress up as characters from the Nativity and go carol singing.

 

Russia

Christmas Day is a religious event celebrated on 7th January. In the home, there may be a Christmas tree and presents for the children from ‘Grandfather Frost’, who represents Peter the Great, and his granddaughter the ‘Snow Maiden’.


South America

Religion dominates the Christmas period, with particular emphasis placed on the Nativity and the family, although Western traditions have also been adopted in some countries. Christmas Eve is an important time for the religious element of Christmas and children may stay up until midnight to open their presents. In Venezuela, the Wise Men (known as the ‘Magi’) leave gifts by the children’s beds.

 

‘Merry Christmas’ from around the world!


China (Cantonese): Seng Dan Fai Lok; (Mandarin): shèng dàn kuài lè

Denmark: Glædelig Jul

France: Joyeux Noel
Germany: Fröhliche Weihnachten
India (Hindi): Bade Din ki Mubarak

Italy: Buon Natale
Japan: Merri Kurisumasu
Poland: Boże Narodzenie

Russia: Novym Godom


Wherever you are, Baby Sensory wishes you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

 

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


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:

 

Cuddles

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.

 

Routine

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.


Comforter

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.

 

Toys

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

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.

 

Games

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.

 

Smells

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.

 

Decorations

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