Friday, 28 March 2014

My Obsession with the John Lewis Baby Department

Last weekend, while the sun was shining, we went shopping in John Lewis Stratford. I'm not sure how we came to be indoors on one of the best mornings of the year so far, but we had such fun! I'd My work colleagues gave me John Lewis vouchers as a baby shower gift, and we finally had the opportunity to spend them! John Lewis' children's department is amazing. It's packed to the brim with gorgeous own-brand clothes, plus a few well-chosen boutique vendors. The own-brand toys are fantastic as well - it's the first time I've seen a display where I've wanted to buy everything. What's more, we spent the last half hour trying out double buggies with the most helpful shop assistant I've ever met. She knew how every buggy folded and adapted, and now I've fallen in love with the iCandy Apple to Pear. More on my double buggy indecision to come!

{I want this}

1. Jellycat Fuddlewuddle Elephant, £17 - too adorable to leave on the shelf!

2. John Lewis Octopus Surf Suit with Hat, £20 - Ivo's loves his swimming lessons, but he's growing out of his JoJo Maman Bebe suit, so time for a new one. I love that this one included a matching hat, so that he'll be protected from the sun when we go on holiday

3. John Lewis Seagull Stripe T-Shirt, £10 - A bit of a naughty purchase, but I'm a sucker for nautical themed and stripey clothes, and this combined both! Plus, at £10, it's cheaper than similar Mini-Boden applique t-shirts.

4. Fish in the Tub Bath Toy, £4.95 - We're desperately trying to stop Ivo from standing up in the bath, and we hoped this would cause enough of a distraction. It hasn't worked....he still stands up...but he loves the fish!

(not pictured) John Lewis Helicopter & Stripe Rompers, Pack of 2, £15 - We actually needed sleep suits - so this was all we were meant to actually buy! We're a sucker for anything helicopter themed, so it was an obvious buy.

More posts like this one:
Top 6 Baby Bath Buys

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Monday, 24 March 2014

First Baby Books Review

It's taken a few months {like 10!}, but Ivo is finally starting to show some interest in books. Before, whenever I tried to read to him, he'd just gum the pages and gnaw on the spine. Even now, when I read to him before bed, if he spots the book, he stops drinking his bedtime milk, and tries to grab it. Not quite the soothing tradition I had in mind! We do a fair bit of reading during the day though - here's a list of his favourites. We're looking to extend his library, so please do leave comments with your suggestions!

{I want this} 1. Ivo's Striped Seaside T-shirt, Mini Boden, £14

1. Monster Mates: Ernie the Eye Monster, £5.59 - A present from a friend, this book is a huge success. Ivo can't get over how the monster wriggles at him, and alternates between trying to fight him {ouch!}, and laughing. We also have the bigger Calm Down Boris! book.

2. Is This My Nose?, £4.81 - The simplest of books, this one has only five pages! But it's a great way for your baby to learn his features, and Ivo grins happily has we point to his ears and prod his nose.

3. That's Not My Robot, £4.49 - Ivo's a massive fan of all the Usborne Touchy Feely Books. We inherited several from his cousin, and I've picked up lots in various charity shops. They have lovely fabric and paper inserts in the pages, which your baby can touch with his fingertips. Other great titles include That's Not My Bunny, That's Not My Tractor, and That's Not My Pirate. You get the idea!

4. Baby's First Words Book, £2.50 - This fantastic little booklet isn't just crazily cheap, it's fast become one of Ivo's favourites. Hard-wearing, and easy to chew, it contains lots of recognisable objects, including socks, teddies and pears. Ivo seems to genuinely pay attention when we flick through the pages.

5. Noisy Baby: Sound Book, £6.99 -There's nothing Ivo likes more than noisy toys, so we have a few of these sound books. At first he didn't know how to press the buttons, but in the last few weeks, he's learned that they make a very satisfying racket. There's one we bought from M&S that plays incredibly loud engine noise, and it's his favourite book of all!

More posts like this one:
✽ Reviewing the Best Baby Travel Accessories

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Thursday, 20 March 2014

2014 So Far....In Instagram Pictures

Back when Ivo was first born, I decided I'd take a picture of him every day, as a record of his first year. I downloaded the Collect Every Day Photo App on my phone, and got snapping. But quickly life took over, and now I use Instagram as a casual record. It's still lovely to look back on the shots, to remind me of how Ivo's changed over weeks and months. You can see he spends most of his life eating, or bathing! For more pictures, follow Before the Baby on Instagram.

{I want this} 1. Ivo's 'wetsuit' Bibetta sleeved bibs, £9.95 / 2. Personalised Helicopter Body-Suit, £4.99 / 3. Stokke Tripp Trapp Highchair, £165, with Baby Set, £49.99 / 4. Mamas & Papas Acqua Two Stage Ergo Bath, £28.50

More posts like this one:
✽ Reviewing the Best Baby Travel Accessories

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Thursday, 13 March 2014

Six Rules for Visiting a New Mother

Until you've been there, it's almost impossible to imagine what it's like to be a brand new mother. I was completely shell-shocked, and along with the natural massive tidal-wave of emotions, I remember feeling immensely guilty. Yup - guilty about the way I'd acted with my friends when they first became new mothers. I'm pretty sure I went round to their houses, ate their food, and insisted on holding their newborn, before leaving, and going back to my easy life, safe in the knowledge that if I felt a bit tired that evening, it didn't matter, because night-time was for sleeping. In exchange, all they got was a gift of impractical {if cute} newborn booties, which their baby would never wear, because babies don't need shoes {ever!}. So to help others who haven't got there yet - this is my list for the rules for visiting a new mother. Send it to your friends before you give birth!

{Picture Credit} Portrait of a birth by Chloé Brown of Caught the Light - more from this wonderful shoot on Chloé's blog.

1. Wait for your friend to invite you to visit. Send supportive texts, but don't ask for an invitation. Remember she'll have family on both sides who have to come first, and she'll be exhausted. Don't make her feel guilty that you haven't met her baby yet.

2.  Once you receive the invitation, arrive exactly at the time requested, and leave within the hour. Newborns have a routine of sleeping, eating, looking sleepily around for 30 minutes, and then repeat. Your friend will be new to breastfeeding, so she won't want an audience. She'll have timed your visit for the 30 minutes when the baby is awake. Be on time, and then leave - she won't have the energy for a longer visit.

3. Before you arrive, send a text asking if there's anything you can pick up for them from the shops.

4. Never accept a meal. Bring food with you - ideally a home-cooked lasagne or stew and a bag of salad. Something that will last for lunch and supper for both parents. If you can't cook, a couple of decent ready-made meals will do. The one thing that actually reduced me to tears during the first week that we had Ivo home, was trying to think of what we should have for supper. Deciding what to eat becomes bizarrely difficult, and it's amazing to have something ready to go in the oven.

5. While you're visiting, if it seems appropriate, do a bit of cleaning. Even if it's just the washing up, or loading the dishwasher. Make her a cup of tea, or bring her a glass of water. Wash up your cup before you leave.

6. Don't ask to hold the baby. Newborns are pretty sensitive creatures, and being manhandled by endless people can stress them out, and make them harder to feed, and get to sleep. If your friend offers a cuddle, pop to the bathroom to wash your hands first, and as soon as the baby seems unhappy, hand them back.

More posts like this one:
✽ Reviewing the Best Baby Travel Accessories

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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Baby-Friendly Boltholes

It was my birthday last week, and as I'm going back to full-time work soon, we decided to go away for a long weekend to celebrate. We considered heading off to Morocco, but now Ivo's more wriggly, four hours on a flight didn't sound relaxing, and we'd left it too late to get properly cheap flights, so we decided on a UK break instead. Searching online for baby-friendly hotels, I came across a fab website - Baby-Friendly Boltholes. It's got tonnes of great suggestions for hotels and self-catering accommodation, all easily searchable, with useful categories like whether they supply baby equipment, toys, childcare, play areas, pre-arrival grocery shopping, and the all-important spa treatments! We quickly discovered Bruern Cottages in the Cotswolds. I was sold by the promise of gorgeous interiors, champagne in the fridge {included!}, indoor pool, nursery equipment, toys and books. There's even a heated play cabin and outdoor play area with swings, and they provide swim nappies in the swimming pool changing rooms. We had a fantastic time, and I couldn't recommend Bruern Cottages more. What are your recommendations for holidaying with a baby? Last summer we went on a Sensatori Holiday with Thomson to Greece, and that was fabulous as well. For more pictures of our break, follow Before the Baby on Instagram.

More posts like this one:
Reviewing the Best Baby Travel Accessories

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Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Baby Activities - Going to the Playground

It doesn't seem all that long ago, that my sister and I went to the playground with my four-year old nephew, and tiny-weeny Ivo in a Babybjorn. My nephew ran around like crazy, and I tried to imagine what it would be like when Ivo was old enough to go on the swings, or down the slide. And now - all of a sudden - he's old enough! We took him to the local playground last weekend, and after a few minutes of uncertainty, he LOVED swinging. Emboldened by our success, we then tried him on the slide - holding on so he didn't go too fast. He seemed to enjoy that, although I don't think he quite got the full effect, as the slide was too small for me to fit on it as well. I now can't wait for him to walk, so he can run around, and explore the fort!

{I want this!} Ivo's wearing a star snow-suit from TU, Sainsbury's {bought from eBay}, and a bobble hat from Boden.

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Cosy Baby Knits

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

Top 5 Buys for Car Journeys with Your Baby

This feature came to me on our loooooong road trip out to the Cotswolds last weekend. More on that later, but in the traffic on Friday night, I had plenty of time to come up with ideas for Before the Baby. It's likely that your first parenthood challenge outside the hospital will involve your car, and the baby's car seat. They won't actually let you leave hospital unless you carry your baby out in its seat!! The first time we handled our Maxi-Cosi Car Seat, I felt I was dealing with an impossible foreign object, so it's worth playing around with it before your baby arrives. My husband was brilliant at fitting the ISOFIX into the car, so we could just click in the seat and go, but that definitely isn't something you want to be doing in the hospital car park. If you're inexperienced, it doesn't click in straight away, and it's counter-intuitive that the chair faces backwards. I felt so sorry for Prince William - he had to fit his baby seat in the glare of the world's press.....he did it first time, so I reckon he'd been practicing in the grounds of Kensington Palace! He still wiped his brow with relief though! {Watch from 3 mins in}.

{I want this!} Clockwise from Top Left

 Maxi-Cosi Car Seat, approx. £93 - We chose the Maxi-Cosi because it fitted with our Stokke Xplory pram. All you do is add these adapters, and instead of having to transfer your sleeping baby from the seat into your pram, you can transfer the whole seat across. For what it's worth, we never actually did this, and I ended up selling the adapters on eBay. Unlike most babies, Ivo never loved his car seat, and certainly wasn't keen on the idea of spending more time in it. Also, we tend not to take the Stokke Xplory in the car. We keep a Baby Jogger City Mini in the boot instead - they're smaller and they fold with one simple movement {I'm quite passionate about the Baby Jogger!}.

2. Britax Sunshade (2-Pack), £4.99 - in the summer, you'll be surprised how worried you'll get about the sun hitting your baby. It can get pretty hot pretty quickly in the back of the car, and most babies are vampires, and hate the bright light. The Maxi-Cosi car seat has a shade, but we didn't discover that until Ivo was about three months {worth reading the instructions!}, and even so, I'd recommend buying these for extra shade protection.

3. Lamaze Activity Spiral, £11.93 - We keep a few toys in the car all the time, just in case I forget to bring some down each journey. This spiral has kept Ivo happy for many a journey, and it attaches easily to the car seat handle, so he doesn't lose it down the side of the seat. He's also a big fan of the Lamaze Firefly, and Captain Calamari the Octopus Pirate.

4. Sunshine Kids Easy View Back Seat Mirror, £12.95 - In the early day, as soon as Ivo went quiet, I started to worry about whether he was okay. Occasionally I'd even stop the car, just so I could have a look at him. This mirror solved all that, and now he's bigger, he likes to look at himself in it. A must-buy.

5. Maxi-Cosi EasyFix (ISOFIX) Car Seat Base, approx. £72 - As mentioned above, this is key for fast fitting. It's also more secure, and therefore safer, than just hooking the seatbelt around the car-seat.

ALSO - An Emergency Pack - One day you'll be out in the car, and you'll realise you've forgotten something essential. It might be a bottle, milk, or extra nappies. So I keep an 'emergency pack' in a bag in the boot. So far it's saved me twice from having to go home, and made me feel super-organised when I could help out a couple of other mothers. Here's a list of what I keep in it.
* a sterilised Tommee Tippee bottle
* a carton or two of Aptamil First Milk
* a couple of Ella's Kitchen pouches {now Ivo's older}, plus a bowl & spoon
* a changing kit of several nappies, wipes and bags
* a spare blanket
* lots of plastic bags {you never know when you're going to have dirty clothes / pram wheels, etc}

P.S. Now Ivo is bigger, we're going to buy him a Besafe Izi Combi Isofix Car Seat. I've read lots of research, and it appears that it's five times safer to keep children facing backwards - right up until their four! This one's pretty pricy, but it gets great reviews on Mumsnet, and it looks like it'll click right into our Isofix.

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✽ Pregnancy Diary - Recording Your Baby Bump
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