In the new year, many people are either making resolutions to "do better" in some parts of their lives or are setting goals for the coming year. The people I talk to are nearly all parents and aside from the obvious "eating less and exercising more" pledges, their wishes for the future and regrets about the past are related to how well they think they are parenting. Many people feel that they are doing a terrible job and there are a few really important things to consider:
He's going to find out who's naughty or nice...
Because formula companies don't care what you feed your baby - right?
You might feel like that mantra puts a lot of pressure on you and makes you feel like a failure when you can't provide the "best" for your baby. Well that isn't the only reason to hate it. The thing is that formula companies love the "breast is best" campaign, precisely because you hate it. They love it because it separates us into two categories (this is important). It pits us against each other: those who are breastfeeding and those who are using formula. Now those who are desperately struggling to breastfeed (and it can be bloody hard, especially at the start) and not getting much support, need to defend their reasons for this struggle (sometimes to themselves and close relatives even) by sticking to the "it's best" mantra, and those who formula feed feel attacked by this message. Now why do you think this benefits those who sell formula?
If you have children, you might have found yourself wondering at some point, 'Why didn't anyone tell me?', 'How am I supposed to know what to do?', or 'Which advice / opinion is the one I should be listening to?'
*fanfare* That's where BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm come in (if you're not sure what we're about, then this video will help):
Spreading the word - please vote for us
There are currently four directors (all teachers) running the business. We are extremely passionate about what we do and we want to spread the word to more parents and their children.
In an effort to help the company on its way, we've entered Voom 2016 in the Grow category. Making it through to the next round would make a huge difference to our business, but (and here's the catch) - it depends on votes.
So - if you liked our video and think we could have helped you in those first few years of parenthood, or think it might be something you'd consider in the future, please take a moment to vote for us: https://www.vmbvoom.com/pitches/babycalm-toddlercalm
Voting closes on Monday, and we need to get into the top 80 to progress to the next round. Every vote counts. Every family deserves the best possible start.
It's the 1st December, and in my house that means only one thing - the arrival of our elves.
Now before you roll your eyes and start muttering about people taking something fun and magical and using it for bribery and corruption, rest assured that our elves are here for fun only. They don't report back to Father Christmas or advise him on whether my kids are naughty or nice. They do mischievous things like eating my husband's advent calendar chocolate, or fun things like playing board games with the other toys.
My kids love it - so much, that last year we had to steal Grandma's decorative elf (which, rather handily, was the same as our elf George Jingle) in a bid to reduce the sibling rivalry over who got to the elf first. Now George brings his cousin Jim Jingle with him on his visits to our house, and my two smalls get an elf pal each to tote around and cuddle.
And that's another thing we do slightly differently - the typical 'rule' about Christmas elves is that you cannot touch them or their magic goes away. No such rule here! My daughter has gone to sleep this evening clutching both elves (I had to prise them out of her vice-like grip), and our elves frequently come out on outings with us in December.
Having two house-elves with us for 24 days certainly isn't easy - this is our third year, and I'm scraping the barrel for ideas of what the elves can do each evening (and in fact have zero clue what I'm going to get them to do tonight... better sort that out sharpish). I make my life slightly easier by having them bring advent calendars on night 1, and on the 23rd they leave us a Christmas Eve box. Some nights I delegate responsibility to my husband - and he tends to go for the toilet humour sort of stuff that 5 and 3 year olds find hilarious (like George Jingle pooping DUPLO blocks in the potty).
Another issue is that our elves aren't posable like some others, so in the past we've had to get creative with sellotape (which has raised questions from the littles). That was after a few incidents where we propped George up only to find in the morning that he looked like he'd cracked open the brandy overnight.
Other than having to think up ever more exciting japes for them as well as ways to imaginatively (and invisibly) pose them, they're actually easy house guests to have. There have been a few occasions where I've been tucked up cosy and warm in bed and have had to get back up as I've realised that I haven't sorted the %#~€£¥ elves, but often the simple ones are the ones that my children enjoy the most (usually it involves a bunch of toys playing with cars / tool kits / games / jigsaw puzzles / bicycles - and if your children have anywhere near as many toys as mine, you'll have an inexhaustible list of ideas).
The only word of caution I would give is - once your elves have left, make sure you hide them well. My husband was in charge of putting George away one year - which amounted to him flinging him on his office desk and forgetting about him. Until my son saw him and started shrieking excitedly that George had come back. Didn't make that mistake again.
Right now, elf duty calls, but I'm going to update the CalmFamily blog regularly with details of what George and Jim have been up to - starting tomorrow, when I've (hopefully) thought of something before I head to bed tonight! Wish me luck...
Last night, George and Jim got a bit peckish and decided to raid the kitchen cupboards. Seems they've got good taste. This was a husband suggestion because I (rather shamefully, considering we're only on day 2 - and actually it's really only day 1 as the first night just involved plonking them down with some advent calendars) was too tired to think about what they could do.
My two loved this one - lots of shrieking and excitement, and we got dragged out of bed to see what the elves had done. My 3 year old also had stern words with the elves about not making lots of mess (shame she doesn't listen to her own advice, really)...!
George and Jim and their pals, Frozen the spinosaurus (no prizes for guessing what my 3 year old's current obsession is) and Sabre-Tooth the sabre-toothed cat (my 5 year old is all about original names) played a game of Snakes and Ladders last night. Apparently Frozen won.
Last night, the elves set up the children's mini-tree, ready for them to decorate.
A word of caution to those who consider this one: if you have a child who wakes at night (like mine) and who comes through to your room (also like mine), you may want to rethink putting something like this in your child's room.
I learned this lesson at 2.45am this morning, when my 3 year old woke up and discovered the tree in her bedroom. She shrieked so loudly that she also woke my 5 year old up. Apparently they then decided that 3am is the perfect time to decorate a tree. I half-heartedly attempted to persuade them to wait until a more reasonable time, but honestly, I was still half asleep and just wanted my 3 year old to stop shining my phone torch in my eyes, so I left them to it.
The only saving grace of the situation was that they weren't fighting while they did it - and I actually heard my 5 year old exclaim 'Good teamwork!' That (almost) made up for the numerous visits where they asked me to detangle tinsel or retie baubles.
Discussions about certain styles of baby carriers and the possible harm they could do to the baby and the back of the person wearing it are hot topics at the moment. With this in mind, what should parents pay attention to when choosing a carrier?
M-position baby carriers
A big advantage of an ergonomic baby sling or carrier is that the child can always be carried in the healthy M position. What makes this position so important for the baby’s health? In the M position, the baby ‘s knees are up higher than its bottom. Thus the spine of the baby is not burdened and, moreover, a good development of the hips is fostered. The fabric of a good baby sling can be spread from knee to knee. Whether the baby is small or somewhat bigger, the baby is always in a right M position.
Carrying facing outwards
It is intended that a child, when carried in a baby carrier, is in the most natural position. If you carry the baby facing outwards, its back assumes an unnatural posture as well as the hips. The back isn’t nicely curved, but instead has a hollow curve facing the other way which is neither comfortble or healthy. Your child may also be over-stimulated and this is also unnecessarily tiring for the back muscles. When carrying your child on the back the same applies, the back of your child should be in its natural position. So, for carrying both on the back and belly the best option is having the baby facing the person that is carrying.
Safe ergonomic carriers
Some baby carrying systems don’t provide a facility to support the legs from knee to knee. Something to be aware of when purchasing a baby carrier, particularly those in high street shops The pressure on the hips should be minimal with a good support, because the legs are spread and are also supported by the wide straps. In addition, the hips are in a stable position.
Have a look at the picture below for an example of a good carrying position. On the left you can see the position of the hips that we do not recommend.
Comfort for the Carrier
Let’s not forget the father or mother. We wouldn’t want a baby sling or carrier causing any discomfort for the person carrying. When a carrier has narrow shoulder straps people can still sometimes experience shoulder and back problems because of the weight that burdens these narrow straps, and the minimal distribution of the weight over the shoulders and torso. A good baby carrier distributes the pressure over the body thanks to the wide straps. When wearing a good baby carrier you burden your back and abdominal muscles in an ergonomic way, affording stronger muscles. Back problems are often caused by the lack of strong back muscles, or by an incorrect burdening of weight. When using a baby carrier or sling you train your abdominal and back muscles in an ergonomic way, making your back stronger.
With the right baby carrier it is a pleasure to carry for both baby and parent. Carry your love, anyway you want!
By Kay Poelen, found of ByKay Baby Carriers www.bykay.com
Christmas – a time of festive family fun and memory making… when it goes well that is, but for many parents of young children Christmas can be a time of stress, anxiety, exhaustion and arguments. From the everlasting lure of the Christmas tree ornaments, just begging to be stripped by curious chubby hands, to the frustration of your little darling refusing to eat any of their lovingly prepared Christmas dinner – not just the Brussels sprouts – and perhaps the worst of all, enduring the tuts and “in my day children were seen and not heard” comments of your mother in law.
For parents of little ones Christmas can be a fierce test of endurance and Christmas spirit. But never fear, there are ways to cope without downing Great Aunt Edna’s 20 year old bottle of sherry in the pantry! Read on for our ten top festive parenting tips.
1. Reset your expectations. Visions of 1950s movies, with roasting chestnuts and rosy cheeked children in awe at receiving a Satsuma in their stocking belong just there – in fantasy land. In reality most homes resemble a bomb site by 10am on Christmas morning, children won’t feign joy when unwrapping a boxed handkerchief set from your Grandmother and the only colour to their cheeks will come from the smeared chocolate orange they snaffled from the kitchen at 5am.
2. Stock up on batteries well beforehand. Even if you don’t think you need them, buy some in every size because inevitably your child’s favourite present will require batteries and you won’t have any that fit, resulting in much trauma for the rest of the day. Alternatively don’t buy toys that need batteries – ever – and save your sanity and nerves when you accidentally set off the freaky doll that says “I want to play” on your way back from the nursery at 3am.
3. Babies and toddlers love boxes, don’t be down-heartened or take It personally when they ignore their lovingly selected presents and prefer to play with the box, this is a universal toddler play law
4. Don’t expect your toddler to eat their Christmas lunch, especially if it involves Brussels sprouts, food tastes stronger and much more bitter to young children, to them you may as well be trying to make them eat neat vinegar.
5. Don’t take any unwanted parenting advice seriously. The chances are your in-laws, parents, aunts and other relatives have a rose tinted vision of their early parenting years and have forgotten what it was really like. Nod and smile sweetly, or better still change the subject when they start to give you advice.
6. Don’t expect your toddler to sleep well the night before Christmas, the excitement is too much for them, why not give in and let them stay up and fall asleep on the sofa in front of a festive family film?
7. Be prepared that the idea of Father Christmas can be pretty scary to young children, think about it, would you like a big man with a long beard in a funny red outfit breaking in to your house whilst you were in bed asleep? You could arrange that you meet him at the door and take in the presents when your child is asleep instead. Much less scary!
8. Stagger present opening throughout the day, or even over a few days so that your toddler doesn’t become overwhelmed (which usually results in a meltdown).
9. Don’t expect your toddler to share his new presents with his or siblings or cousins. Toddlers really don’t understand the idea of sharing until at least 4 or 5 years old. Imagine if somebody told you to share your presents of new perfume or favourite chocolates as soon as you’d unwrapped them. You wouldn’t like it much either!
10. Try to restrict the amount of sweets and chocolate that your toddler eats, all of the extra sugar and colourings are likely to make him hyper which will have a negative effect on both sleep and behaviour. Plus you can secretly eat them all when he’s gone to bed instead.
We love babywearing at BabyCalm.
We understand though that for many parents wrap slings can be daunting, we also understand that many (especially dads!) are keen on the idea of a more structured buckled carrier – one that they can simply “click and go” and one that looks a little more mainstream and a little more like the baby carriers sold in most high street shops. Enter the ‘Soft structured Carrier’ – a baby carrier that carries baby in an ergonomically/physiologically correct position and one that is comfortable for the wearer. A carrier that can be used on the front and back (and often hip) and can often be used well into the toddler and even preschool years.
There is one problem though – the huge choice – what one should you buy? We would always recommend trying one of first, but if that isn’t possible for whatever reason there are a few points to bear in mind:
Boba 3G – £89.99 from Slumber Roo
Review by Gwen – her son is 3yrs old in this picture
Connecta Solarweave – £56.99 from Connecta
Review by Claire – her daughter is 16mths old in this picture.
All in all a Solarweave Connecta is very versatile choice with lots to offer – but in my opinion a holiday must-have whether it’s sun or snow!
Ergobaby – around £95
Review by Alexandra – her son is 20 mths old in this picture
you have to buy a newborn insert, the body of the carrier is not adjustable and the simplistic settings do not allow optimum adjustment. I know many parents who had invested in the newborn insert and found it inconvenient and difficult to install correctly. On the other hand it is perhaps the simplest SSC: no accessory to the basic version, no zips (except for the two pockets/pouches on the panel), no safety button on the buckle belt (which makes it easier to un-clip with one hand), a single point of control for the belt and suspenders. The adjustments are thus simplified but less accurate. A strong point in the settings is that the straps can be unbuckled, allowing a hip carry or to cross the straps in the back.
It was our 1st SSC and I found the Ergo rather limited with our 20mth old boy. A large part of the belt is not padded and “dug” into my, rather not flat, stomach (when use for a back carry) and I didn’t really appreciated the shape of the belt on my lower back. I also found difficult to use it higher on my back. My husband who is quite thin didn’t find it uncomfortable though. I have since tried out the Manduca with my son and found it more comfortable and more flexible. The Ergobaby still is compact, lightweight and the fabric is nice.
Manduca – from £99.99 from Cheeky Rascals
Review by Kate – her son is 7mths old in this picture
padding in the waist department and found tie wraps have a tendency to dig in and slip after a long wearing session. Not so with the Manduca. It’s incredibly comfortable and the push and click locking buckle at the waist gives that extra peace of mind that its not going to pull or pop open if strained. I also really like the thick padding on the shoulders which feel much more comfortable than some of the other lesser padded slings.
I prefer the cross over front carry at the moment as my baby is only 7 months old and I like to keep him “close enough to kiss”. However, I can see the back carry becoming a favourite once he’s a toddler and we can play “piggy back” comfortably.
My husband is very happy with the Manduca as not only is it stylish and modern (and doesn’t make him look like a hippy!) but it feels secure, is easy to adjust and he loves the “click and go”aspect which is perfect when you’re rushing about and the weather is not so great – the last thing you need is trailing straps of fabric dangling in puddles while you’re trying to tie it in a downpour!
I can’t recommend the Manduca highly enough especially those who are new to Babywearing and perhaps a bit intimated by the huge varieties of fabrics and ways of tying fabric wraps. It’s been an interesting and educational journey for us so far and I’m really glad we’ve found a sling that suits all our requirements – I’m especially looking forward to snuggly winter walks in the snow.
Tula Toddler Carrier £103.99 Tula
Review by Emma – her son is 4yrs in this picture
weighs 19kg – carnivals and festivals are a regular occurrence on the Isle of Wight where we live. We use the optional leg extenders with it now Alfie is so big and it has meant that this carrier has lasted us a long time.
I recommend this carrier for larger toddlers and into preschool years.
Before children my life was totally unrecognisable from the life that I lead today. I met my husband in Australia and we spent a large chunk of our first 6 years together travelling the world and climbing the career ladder.
When I was 28, I had a cervical cancer scare and the “broody” feelings finally bubbled through and we decided it was time to start our family. We were fortunate that it only took a couple of months before I took a pregnancy test and a blue line revealed to me that my life was about to change forever.
I had a perfect pregnancy and birth experience and my husband and I soon found out that this parenting lark would be the hardest work we’d ever encounter but the most rewarding. My only exposure to parenting methods was that with which I was programmed with through my own childhood and what my peer group were using. I dabbled with a bit of Gina Ford but soon found that the routine was far too strict for my lifestyle. I was one of those mums who spent her whole pregnancy declaring that “this baby was not going to change me, it would just have to fit in around our lives” and to be fair she did. She was a very sociable. I cringe now as remember my attempts to get her onto a 3 hourly breast feeding routine at 6 weeks old because that was what Gina recommended! No wonder she cried. It took a good friend to point out that if I fed her she’d probably stop screaming! I gave up breast feeding at 10 weeks as I wanted “me” back again, I felt sacrificed.
I adored my little girl and was a very proud mummy but looked forward to returning to work when she was 7 months old to restore my ego and fill my days with hitting targets rather than changing nappies. She was happy, I was happy, I worked full time but ensured that I put in some long days so that a few times a week I could be at home with her in the afternoons to spend some time being a quality mummy. By her 1st birthday she was blossoming into a beautiful toddler and I started yearning for a newborn baby again. One flippant comment to my husband about expanding our family and low and behold there was that unmistakeable nauseous feeling and I didn’t even need to do a test this time…. I just knew that another baby was on its way.
In preparation for the arrival of baby no 2, we blindly sleep trained our daughter, using controlled crying. Horrific at the time and one of my biggest regrets, making an uninformed decision without ever considering that I may be damaging my relationship and brain development of my child. Note to self; if it feels wrong, it is wrong!
I sailed through my 2nd pregnancy again, a repeat performance from my last experience although this time a friend recommended I try HypnoBirthing as I’d been disappointed first time round to have quit my home birth dreams after hour 23 of labour at home with my daughter arriving 45 mins after getting blue lighted into hospital for no other reason than I lost my bottle.
This time round thanks to HypnoBirthing I had a quick, easy home water birth with hardly even breaking a sweat. Doors were opened in my mind due to my empowered experience. I started to believe in the mind and body connection and felt close to my 2nd daughter through the amount of time that I spent focussing on her, pre-birth. I trained to be a HypnoBirthing practitioner when she was 11 weeks old as I wanted to be able to share this knowledge with my local community. The more couples I taught coupled with the amazing feedback and positive birth experiences that were shared with me, the more and more I believed in the power of our minds. Freya was your typical HypnoBirthing baby, super well adjusted and super chilled. I couldn’t believe it when she only ever woke up in the night to feed and then went straight back off again. She was a little star. She made the transition into having a bigger family very easy as she wasn’t at all demanding. I could divide my time between the girls and give them both the attention they needed
So my maternity leave this time round was different. It wasn’t so easy to take two young children everywhere with you… My favourite pastimes of lunching, shopping & socialising were a distant memory and I spent a lot more time at home alone with the girls. My two girls were brimming with energy, ever so buoyant and cheerful but I felt pretty glum. I felt unfulfilled and undervalued. I missed my old life and its pay-packets.
This time going back to my full time work wasn’t a straight forward decision to make with two little ones. There was a lot of soul searching taken before I handed in my notice. Sobbing as I did so! I am a big believer in fate and honestly believe that that wasn’t the right choice for me at that time as a week later my boss was on the phone offering me a promotion. I was flattered and the pull of a monthly salary once again convinced me to go back. It was much tougher this time round, a new job role, much more responsibility and tons of travel with two demanding toddlers at home. I started to feel guilty about not being there for the girls as much as I’d like when that sicky feeling returned only 7 weeks after going back to work. It couldn’t possibly be what I thought it was. No way. But 7 days later… there was no denying that feeling. I was pregnant again!
Thankfully, I’d also been running HypnoBirthing lessons for many couples at weekends and evenings and was being pulled in a direction that I could never have predicted. I found the successes couples were having with the techniques and the fantastic feedback I received very rewarding. I felt like I was gaining momentum in raising awareness of HypnoBirthing and wondered if I could turn my hobby and passion into a part time business.
About half way through my pregnancy I became aware of BabyCalm and became a huge fan of Sarah’s blog. I was inspired by the information she presented and started to think very differently about my role as a parent. I loved the BabyCalm concepts which coupled with the Montessori education that I became exposed to via my girls preschool, I started to think differently and realise that this family wasn’t all about me and that by becoming more focussed on my children’s needs they could develop into their full potential. This was such news to me and I began to reassess what type of mother I was and wanted to be. This was such a change as I’d been very conscious of doing things “properly” with the girls. Setting strict boundaries and having strong discipline. I was so proud of my well behaved girls that everyone complimented me on their behaviour where ever we went obliviously to the perils of that “good” girl label making them eager to please whatever the cost.
And so my voyage of discovery continued and after my son’s birth I was a much more relaxed parent and started parenting the way that felt more instinctual to me much to my own mother’s disgust. My son breast feed to 18 months old, and has just chosen to leave mummy’s & daddy’s bed to sleep (mostly) in his own bed without any bribery.
I am far from perfect, and since training as a ToddlerCalm teacher I’ve realised how much more self-development I need to accomplish skills such as emotional intelligence and mindfulness so I can pass these valuable life skills down to my cherished tribe.
Being a mother is relentless. I do consider it to be an ongoing adventure with many highs and lows. I know that just doing what has been passed onto me isn’t enough. Simply loving, is a great foundation to start upon but there are many deeper life lessons I can expose my children to in the hope it will enable them to flourish into well rounded, contented, happy beings one day.
I’ve done things very differently with each of my children and I believe that has impacted upon their personalities. My eldest for example is still very needy at night time whereas the younger two settle and sleep really well.
Natural parenting didn’t come naturally to me, it’s an approach that has been drip fed to me via social media and many great books. When it is all backed up with all the science and brain benefits, it feels like the way forward for my unique family and I love sharing that wisdom & inspiration that BabyCalm & ToddlerCalm provides with new families.
By Naomi Newland, past BabyCalm & ToddleCalm teacher
What is Reflexology?
Reflexology is a gentle form of natural healing that involves treatment by massage to the reflex areas that are found in the feet. Reflexologists believe that by treating the feet we are helping to relieve many common ailments that occur in babies and children, such as:
What are the Benefits?
A mother’s touch holds a very special place in our memories, and touch through reflexology is a wonderful way to communicate and build a healthy and caring relationship with your child. Incorporating reflexology into your daily routine will help to give you a relaxed and contented child.
Studies have shown that touch through reflexology has helped babies to gain weight, (especially beneficial for premature babies), and sleep better, it also shows that touch is a comfort, it reassures, heals and balances the body.
I have worked as a Reflexologist for the last 12 years, working on feet to help with pre-conception, pregnant mums, babies/toddlers and right through to old age, with the most amazing results, here are a few related case studies.
Case Study 1
8 week old baby with re-occurring sticky eye, mum worked massage movements all around the toes paying special attention to the second toe which is related to the eye. She did this for a few minutes on her baby each day and was pleased to see within the second week the problem had cleared up.
Case Study 2
6 week old baby feeling quite unsettled, mother quite stressed as well. We worked out a little routine, reflexology moves, quite time for her and baby, soft lighting and music. This worked well for them both resulting in a chilled out mum and baby.
Case Study 3
8 week old baby suffering with colic. I showed mum a lovely routine to do for her baby’s colic and she was amazed how her baby would release gas as she worked over the related area for her tummy, and more often than not she got a full nappy!
Case Study 4
18 month old boy affected by eczema, mum said that when it was at its worse the reflexology most defiantly help to calm her child and his skin.
Case Study 5
Girl aged 11 was having trouble with constipation. I worked mainly on her digestive system, nervous system and solar plexus, and showed mum what she could do to help her, but before we could finish the treatment she had to get off the bed to use the toilet.
Going through life with reflexology is an invaluable tool to have as a parent as this will give you the techniques to help your child along the pathway of life.
by Alwyn Bessant
Alwyn practices as a reflexologist specialising in fertility, pregnancy and postnatal treatments and runs reflexology workshops for babies and children in Clavering, Essex, close to Bishops Stortford and Cambridge. Her website is www.solereflexions.net or you can email her on email@example.com
To find a reflexologist near you visit the Association of Reflexologists website HERE.