Swansea-bay-beach-photo

Camping with the beach on your doorstep

I’ve said it before, and no doubt I’ll say it again (and again), but my children love the beach.  Winter or summer, rain or shine, they’ll happily jump in the car for a visit to the beach.

And we really are spoilt here in Swansea, as we have such an amazing selection of beaches to choose from.

From our old faithful Swansea bay, to the award-winning Rhossili bay on the gower and all the gorgeous beaches and bays in between, there really is a beach for everyone here.

We can see Swansea bay from our house, and so it does feel like it’s pretty much on our doorstep.  But we do still have to either jump in the car or walk for 20 minutes to get there.  Now I know that’s not far by any means, but I do sometimes think how amazing it would be to pitch up a tent at one of the campsites on gower and really be right next to the beach.

Swansea-bay-beach-photo

The thing is, I’ve not really done much camping.

When I was growing up we went on holiday to Devon and Cornwall, and then as I got a bit older we started travelling to the south of France every summer.  We would stay on a campsite there, but always went for the caravan option rather than a tent.  So the idea of pitching a tent and piling in with my husband and two kids is a little bit daunting to me.

Luckily for me, Halfords have created the ultimate guide to camping, to help make a potential camping trip go smoothly.  The guide is nice and compact but it’s full of useful information about campsites and attractions around the UK as well as fab tips and tricks on:

  • how to keep the kids entertained while you’re away
  • what you should and shouldn’t do as a newbie camper
  • cooking at a campsite
  • glamping (if you’re not the back-to-basics type of camper!)
  • travelling safely with children

There’s also a really useful checklist on the back so you can be sure you’ve not forgotten any essentials before you head off.

It really is a fab little guide, and you can check it out for yourself by clicking here and downloading the ultimate guide to camping.

Halfords-camping-guide

I’ve now had a good read of the guide and I have to admit, it’s made the whole idea of camping with the kids sound like a lot of fun!  Maybe this will be the summer our tent makes it’s way out of the cupboard and into the sun.  And if we choose gower as our destination, at least I know we’re not far from home if it doesn’t go to plan!

This is a collaborative post

Benefits of eating together as a family

5 benefits of eating together as a family

Quick question – how often do you sit down as a family and eat a meal?

I know we don’t do it anywhere near as much as we should.  Mainly due to the fact that my children are hungry and ready to eat their dinner by about 4.30 every day, and my husband is still at work at that time.  It just doesn’t work for us to all eat dinner together during the week.

But I know we need to make more of an effort to find a way to sit down together for more meals.  I’ve done a bit of digging around and found some really interesting points about the benefits of families eating meals together, and it’s definitely inspired me to make sure we do it more often.

Here are my top 5 benefits of eating together as a family on a regular basis: 

5 benefits of eating together as a family (4)

 

1) Your children will eat better
Various studies have shown that children who regularly eat meals with their families tend to eat a healthier, more varied diet.  One particular study carried out in 2000 found that the 9-14 year olds who ate dinner with their families had diets that were higher in loads of key nutrients like iron and calcium.If your children are fussy eaters then sitting and having dinner together regularly could help to increase the number of foods they eat and enjoy.  A study carried out in 2003 found that children who were offered sweet red pepper every day for 8 days said they liked it more (and were eating more of it) than children who were offered a reward for eating the pepper.  This research seems to suggest that constantly exposing our children to new foods, without pressure from threats or rewards, will help them learn to try, and like, different things, even if they don’t like them at first.So, eating dinner together, and offering our children new foods to try each time can gradually help them to start eating a more varied, healthy diet. 

2) They’ll improve their vocabulary
Assuming you don’t sit in stony silence at mealtimes, you can help increase your children’s vocabulary by eating dinner together.  Studies have found that chatting together over dinner results in children knowing, and using, more words than average.

Not only that, but they also know six times more rare words (by which they mean words that children don’t typically use) than children who don’t eat meals with their parents.

 

3) You can tackle bullying
Bullying is something that most children will be exposed to in one way or another while growing up, and now there’s also cyber-bullying to deal with.  It’s easier than ever for children to bully each other, and perhaps harder than ever for parents to prevent it.

What research has found, though, is that eating meals together as a family can actually be helpful in recognising that bullying is going on, and addressing it.

Regularly sitting down as a family gives parents a chance to pick up on warning signs that their child is being bullied, and to provide support to help get the situation resolved.

 

4) You’ll form closer family relationships
We all lead such busy lives, that taking time out to sit down together and share a meal and a chat can be a great way to deepen family relationships.  Studies have found that families who do often eat together are more honest and open with each other, and that the children are more likely to turn to their parents with any problems they might have.

 

5) The whole family will be happier
Research carried out with American teenagers found that those who regularly eat with their parents are more likely to be emotionally strong, and less likely to experience mental health problems.

They were also found to have good communication skills and manners, most likely through learning by their parents’ example.

Interestingly, the results don’t just apply to children.  Studies have also found that Mothers who eat with their families are happier and more relaxed than Mothers who don’t.

 

Those are my top 5 benefits of eating together as a family, but there are also a few other things that I think are worth noting to really get the best out of doing it:

 

It doesn’t have to be dinner.  If you find that your lifestyle really doesn’t allow you to sit down with your children for dinner every night, then it might be worth seeing if you can share another meal together instead, like breakfast.

 

Get everyone involved.  Get your children sitting at the table as early on as possible, so they’re exposed to all the benefits from a young age.  I find that booster seats that fit to kitchen chairs are a great alternative to high-chairs, as you can push them right up to the table so that even babies and toddlers can be part of the action.

 

Keep it light.  Family mealtimes should be relaxed and fun.  If you have young, fussy eaters you don’t want dinner to become a battleground, so try offering different foods with no pressure, alongside food they know and like.  And with older children keeping things light will encourage them to feel more comfortable opening up to you.

 

Limit distractions.  Most of the benefits of eating meals together comes from the conversations that occur during the meal, so having the tv blaring at the same time will have a negative impact.  So when you sit down for dinner, turn off the tv and keep phones and tablets away from the table.

 

Researching and writing this post has really made me think about how I do need to make more of an effort to plan our meals so that we can all sit and eat together as often as possible.  I know that on weekdays it just won’t work for us to try and eat dinner as a family, but, if I get a bit more organised, I can see how I could change our mornings a bit to make sure that I sit at the table with the children each day for breakfast.

And there really is no reason why we can’t eat lunch or dinner as a family at the weekends, I just need to get in the habit of doing it, but there are enough benefits to make it well worth it!

 

One thing I will say though, is that I don’t think parents should feel guilty if they aren’t able to sit down together for a meal every day.  A lot of the benefits I’ve found seem to be a result of time spent together, being relaxed and chatting openly with each other, and I think you can create a lot of that away from the table.  So maybe you spend a few minutes each night before bed, chatting with your child about their day, or take a little walk every day as a family and discuss what’s going on in everyone’s lives.

As long as you’re creating a space for open conversation then I think you can still reap a lot of the benefits.

 

But if you can find a way to have regular meals together, so much the better!

Picture

Being a parent really is wonderful … I promise!

Most of my friends these days are Mums.

They’re either (relatively) new friends that I’ve met at babygroup, or they’re friends from ‘before’ who are also now Mums.

And with these friends I feel I can be pretty open about the hard parts of being a parent, because they understand.  They’ve been through all the same stuff, and know how exhausting it can be.  They get that some days are just hard.

But they also know the good stuff.  I don’t feel the need to gush about how wonderful being a Mum is, because they know that stuff too.  What we really need to talk about is the hard stuff.  To feel like we’re not alone in finding some days hard.

I do have one good friend in particular though who isn’t yet a Mother.

Who is still considering all sides of the decision of whether to have a child or not.   And I have to remember to be a bit more aware of what I say about how tired I am and how hard some days are with the children.  I have to remember that she needs to hear about the wonderful moments, as well as the awful ones.

So, this is for any women out there reading this who aren’t quite there yet, but think one day you might want to be a Mother:

Picture 

 

It is hard.  It is really damn hard at times.  There will be days (and nights) when you just want to hide and cry.  There will be times when your patience is pushed to it’s absolute limits.  You will shout and you will hate yourself for it.  You will not ‘cherish every moment’, some days you will count down the minutes until bedtime.  There will be days when you’ll be so tired you won’t be sure if you’ll make it through.

But.  Oh but.  It is worth it all.

It is worth every single sleepless night.  Every single tear.  Everything.

You will know love like you’ve never known it before.  A fierce, all-consuming, unconditional love.  You will feel it for your children, and you’ll feel it from them.

No, you won’t cherish every moment, but there will be moments that will stay with you forever.

These moments won’t come with a fanfare, you might not even notice them as they happen, yet they’ll stay with you.  The quiet moments.  The feel of your newborn’s hand wrapped around your finger.  The smell of the back of their neck.  The warmth of their body and the feel of the gentle rise and fall of each breath as they sleep on your chest.

Those moments are yours and yours alone.  And they make it all worth it.

Please, don’t let my words of tiredness and frustration put any doubts in your mind about parenthood.  Yes, it is hard.  But it is also wonderful.  Becoming a Mother is the best thing I’ve ever done.

I wouldn’t change it for the world.  

 

Come and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram andPinterest.
Mummascribbles
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
stop offering false hope to parents of babies who don't sleep

Maybe we need to stop offering false hope to parents of babies who don’t sleep.

For the first 4 months of my daughter’s life if someone asked me ‘how is she in the nights?’, I would answer ‘brilliant…for now’.

See, at the beginning she would sleep for a good 5 hour stretch every night.  But I just knew it wouldn’t last.  I knew that something would come along and it would all go to pot.   And that something turned out to be the 4 month sleep regression.

It was crazy, in the space of about a week she went from sleeping these lovely long stretches at night to waking up every 2-3 hours (at best).  On our worst nights she woke up pretty much every hour.  And each time she woke, she fed.

This carried on until she was about a year old and I finally managed to cut out her night feeds.  She still rarely sleeps all through the night, but the days of 2-hourly wake ups are behind us.

Those 8 months were some of the longest, hardest months I’ve ever had.

There were days where I was so tired I felt dizzy.

I constantly craved caffeine and sugar.

A lot of exhausted tears were shed.

And one thing that really didn’t help?  False hope!

offer false hope parents babies don't sleep (1)

When you tell people that your baby is waking a lot in the night, they’ll more often than not offer you some advice.  And the internet is full of suggestions and miracle cures.

And you get your hopes up.  You start to believe that your baby will sleep better if you just do this one thing.

The thing is, some of the advice will work for some babies, but not for others.  Sometimes you can try everything under the sun and still get nowhere, because your baby just isn’t a ‘sleeper’.

And sometimes, the advice being handed out isn’t even right.

One big thing that we hear a lot is that your baby will start to sleep for longer stretches if you switch them to formula, or start feeding them solid foods.

And I remember reading this and being told this and really getting my hopes up that Nerys would sleep better once she got to 6 months and was starting to eat solids.

But, it made absolutely no difference to us.  I would give her a bowl of cereal before taking her up for her bath, in the hope that it would fill her tummy and get her to sleep for longer.  But it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference.

So I was really quite relieved to read this research from Dr. Amy Brown at Swansea University that found that switching to formula or giving solid foods had no effect on how many times babies wake in the night.

The study involved asking over 700 mothers with babies aged 6-12 months how often their baby woke up each night, and whether or not they fed them each time.

Dr Brown found that “there was no difference in the number of times babies woke up dependent on whether they were breast or formula fed, how many feeds they had in the day or how many solid meals they ate.”

So, basically, no matter what you feed your baby if they’re going to wake in the night, they’re going to wake in the night.

And I think there’s some comfort in that.

I mean, it’s not what you want to read at 3am when you’re desperate for an answer (and some sleep), but there is some comfort in knowing that it’s just the way it is.

You can easily drive yourself crazy by worrying about what you’ve done wrong to make your baby a ‘bad sleeper’ and putting together plans of attack to solve the problem based on bits of advice you’ve read.  But maybe it isn’t a problem that needs to be fixed.  Maybe it’s just the way it is.  Just the way your baby is.

I know that my approach in the end was to try my best to just accept the sleepless nights.  To steer into the skid.

It’s not a miracle cure or a perfect solution to your sleep problems, but here’s what helped get me through it:

  • Accepting the situation and keeping in mind that, one day, it would improve.

 

  • Coffee.  Lots of coffee.  And sweet things.  My body was craving sugar and energy, and while I’m sure there are healthier ways to get what I needed I was too tired to do more than grab a handful of skittles.

 

  • Having other people to talk to who were going through the same thing.  This is huge.  A good friend of mine was dealing with the same thing as me at the same time, and seeing her every morning on the school run and comparing stories from the previous night (and knowing I wasn’t in it alone) really helped get me through.

 

  • Taking naps.  Whenever and wherever I could, I would shut my eyes.  And at the weekend I would head back to bed for a good few hours and let my husband have quality time with the kids so I could catch up on some sleep.

 

  • Netflix.  When Nerys woke up for a feed in the night I would grab the ipad and prop it up in bed next to me and at least be entertained while she fed (and fed and fed).  I got through all of Prison Break, Orange is the new black and Charmed (along with few other shows) in those 8 months of endless night-feeds.

So those are my thoughts on the whole thing, and my advice for getting through it.

I’d love to know what other people think about this.  If you had/have a baby who wakes a lot in the night, have you found any advice useful, or did it just give you false hope?

Parenthood and the spotlight effect

Feel like the whole world is watching you?  (Parenthood and the spotlight effect)

When you have a baby you’re suddenly faced with so many things that you have to learn how to do.  

It can take a long time to feel comfortable and confident tackling all the tasks that parenthood demands of us.  And while we’re finding our feet it can really feel like everyone and his mother is watching us and judging our abilities as parents.

A lot of things, like changing nappies for example, we can practice in the safety of our own homes before we have to potentially do it in front of other people.  But eventually we have to venture out into the world and in front of witnesses!

I’ve definitely had several moments when I’ve felt awkward and like I’m being watched while I’m out with my children.

The first few times I went out to baby group after Nerys was born and I had to attempt to get her safely into a stretchy wrap I felt really self-conscious.  I felt as if I was drawing attention to myself with this huge length of fabric.  I felt like the baby-wearing pros were watching and wondering if I had a clue what I was doing!

Then I had to face something I was really worried about – breastfeeding in public!  Even in the breastfeeding-friendly atmosphere of baby group I was still unbelievably self-conscious.  Especially because, in those early weeks, Nerys was a very messy feeder and I had a tendency to end up covered in milk!  I didn’t want to use a cover, but also really didn’t want to end up flashing the room, so I moved as quickly as I could to get her latched on!

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the parents who are bottle feeding who worry so much about being seen and judged by the breastfeeding mums that they would rather leave than pull out a bottle.  My son was formula-fed from 2 weeks and I was lucky enough to feel confident in my decision that this was what was best for our family and so never had any problems feeding him in public, but I know that some women find this really hard.

There are so many other times that we feel like people are staring at us when we’re out in the world.  

When you head out on the school run with unwashed hair and weetabix smeared on your clothes.  Or when your toddler is pitching a fit in the supermarket when you won’t buy them any chocolate.  Or even when you take your baby out without a hat on a chilly day.

But it turns out, we might be worrying unnecessarily.  We might just be falling victim to the spotlight effect.

Parenthood and the spotlight effect

The Spotlight Effect is the psychological term for our tendency to believe that more people notice things about you than actually do.  

So, while we might think that all the other parents at the school gates have noticed that the baby is still in her pyjamas, chances are only one or two of them actually did.

People in general are really egocentric, meaning that we’re basically the centre of our own universes.

This doesn’t mean that we all think we’re great and so everyone must be looking at us, more that we’re so used to seeing the world from our own perspective that we believe other people must do the same.

We are so aware of the fact that we’ve got baby food splattered on our top that we assume that other people must be aware of it too, when in reality they don’t even know that the stains exist and are, in fact, much more preoccupied with their own appearance to even pay much attention to ours!

This quote from a study carried out at Cornell University sums it up really well:

“Strangers, colleagues, and even friends rarely have the luxury of devoting their full attention to either our triumphs or our slips….They are typically busy managing their own actions and appearance and the impressions they hope to make.”

Makes sense really, if we’re preoccupied with our own lives, then it does follow that other people are preoccupied with theirs!

So next time you’re anxious about having to feed your baby in public, or getting a newborn in a fancy sling or just leaving the house with no make up and hair that needs a wash, don’t worry too much about it – people aren’t looking at you half as much as you think they are!

What are your experiences with this?  When have you worried that everyone is looking at  you?


Come and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Mummascribbles
The best parenting advice I've been given

The 6 best pieces of parenting advice I’ve been given

I know, I know, you’ve been given so much parenting advice already you probably want to scream.

And while a lot of the advice can happily go in one ear and out the other, there really are some little gems of wisdom that are worth listening to.

Out of all the things I was told when I became a parent, here are the 6 things that stuck with me and really did help on my parenting journey:

The 6 best pieces of parenting advice I've been given

 

1) Don’t tip toe around the baby – get them used to noise.

I remember going to visit my sister when her oldest was a baby, and before I had any children of my own.  We were sat in her living room with the baby sleeping in the next room, with the doors to both rooms wide open and the tv blaring.

I mean, it was really loud.  And I asked, wouldn’t it wake the baby up?  Shouldn’t we turn it down a bit?

And was met with words that have stuck with me ever since.

“It’s fine.  It won’t wake her.  She’s used to noise”.

She’s used to noise.

My sister and her husband never tiptoed around when she was sleeping.  They went about their day (and night) as usual.  Making all the usual noise.  And the baby got used to it.

So when Rhys came along we made a point of doing the same.  And he will pretty much sleep through anything!

 

2) Wipe their lower tummy before you take their nappy off.

I wrote about this tip the other day.  Basically, if you want to try and avoid getting hit in the face with a stream of wee during a nappy change, loosen the nappy, wipe the lower part of baby’s tummy with a cold baby wipe, then wait.

The cold of the wipe makes them wee while their nappy is still on, rather than them doing it a few seconds after you take the nappy off.

Game changer!

 

3) Pick your  battles

Seriously.

Some things are worth battling with your kids over.  When their health or safety is at risk, then yes, you battle with them.

But if they want to go the shops wearing a pyjama top, a tutu and their wellies?  Well, does it really matter?!  In the greater scheme of things, is it worth a battle?

So they want to pile all their teddies in with them at bedtime.  Does it matter?

They want to colour the sun in green and the sky in orange in their colouring book.  Does it really matter?

Just take a second and think about it.

Don’t fight over things that really don’t matter.  Save your energy for the important stuff.

Pick your battles.

Parenting advice weaning

 

4) Don’t stress about what they eat in a day, look at the whole week

Weaning your first child can be really quite stressful.  I mean, it can also be a load of fun, watching them exploring the wonderful world of food, and learning to navigate different textures and tastes, but weaning does come with its stressful times.

One of those stressors can be the concern that your baby isn’t eating enough.  Or isn’t eating enough of a variety of foods.

The best advice I was given about that was to look at what they’re eating over the course of a week, not just a day.

While it might be concerning when they eat nothing but yoghurt for a day (or two!), it’s less worrying when you consider that for the other 5 days of the week they also consumed plenty of things from the other food groups.

 

5) If you’re bottle feeding, give them their milk cold or at room temperature from the start.

I nearly forgot about this one while writing this post, but luckily my husband pointed it out to me!  When Rhys was born I tried breastfeeding him for about 2 weeks before deciding that, for us, moving on to formula was the best decision.

I was talking through my decision with my Mum when she gave me this piece of advice that proved really useful for us.

She told me to give him his milk at room temperature (or cold from the fridge) from the start, so I would never be stuck trying to warm up a bottle when I was out and about.

Now, I’m sure some of you will disagree with this, and I think that the standard advice is to prepare fresh bottles as you need them and to make them up at a certain temperature.  But what I used to do was boil the kettle, fill the bottles with the right amount of water, screw the tops on and then leave them on the work-surface until I needed them.

Then, when he needed a feed, I would just add the right about of formula powder to the, now-cooled, boiled water and shake it up.  Simple.  And meant that all his bottles were basically room temperature when he drank them.

And when we went out I would just take my bottles of measured out water with me, and a useful tub with measured out portions of formula powder.  Then just mix them together when needed.  No need for flasks of boiling water to warm the bottle.  He was used to drinking it as it came.

So much easier.

 

6) “Listen, smile, agree, then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway.”

Ok, maybe Robert Downey Jr didn’t say that in relation to parenting, but I still apply it in that way!

People will give you tons of advice when you have a baby, and most of it will be conflicting and confusing.

Some of it will speak to you, some of it will sound like complete nonsense.

Some will just sit well with you, while other bits of advice will make you want to scream ‘how on earth is that the best thing to do in this situation?”.

So the trick is to do what Robert suggests.

Listen to the various bits of advice (mine included).

Smile.

Agree.

Then listen to your heart.

Listen to your instincts.

And do whatever feels right for you and your family.

 

What is the best piece of parenting advice you’ve been given?

Try this trick to stop baby peeing everywhere during nappy changes

Try this one little trick to stop your baby peeing everywhere during nappy changes

You know how it goes; you make the big announcement that you’re expecting your first child and suddenly people start inundating you with tips and advice and things-you-must-do when the baby arrives.

It can be really overwhelming, and really hard to pick out the bits of advice that will actually be helpful and that will work for you and your family.  I can’t remember lots of the tips I read and advice I was given when I was pregnant with Rhys, but there are a handful of things that I was told that have held up over the years and proved to be very good advice.

One key bit of advice we were given was to do with nappy changes.  

Specifically, what you can do to stop your new baby peeing everywhere as soon as you take their nappy off to change it.

Boys in particular seem to be renowned for peeing all over the place during nappy changes, so when we told a friend we were expecting a boy he was quick to let us in on this bit of advice.

Are you ready for this little trick?

Stop baby peeing everywhere during nappy changes

 

Before you take the nappy off, loosen it a bit then wipe your baby’s lower tummy with a nice, cold baby wipe.

Then wait.

After about a minute you should be safe to take the nappy off without risking being covered in wee.

It’s all to do with the cold apparently.

Have you every noticed that you suddenly need the loo when you step outside on a really cold day?  It’s because the cold makes your body take blood away from your extremities and to your core, which means there’s more blood in a smaller volume, which raises your blood pressure.  This then makes your brain tell your kidneys to remove liquid from your blood,  so more urine is produced and you need to pee!

So, getting back to babies, when you take a nappy off, their skin is suddenly exposed to cold air which makes them more likely to wee.

Wiping their tummies with a cold baby wipe causes the same reaction, but because you’ve left their nappy on, you’re protected!

So simple right?!

Just be aware that this isn’t a 100% foolproof trick.

Babies are babies, and they like to mess with us, so there may well still be times that they catch you out, but this trick turns the odds in your favour!