Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Harry's 5 Best Baby Books

Though it may sometimes feel a little thankless, especially when they seem more interested in chewing/throwing/tearing the books you've carefully selected for them than actually listening to you, reading to your baby serves a vital role in their growth and development.

Not only does reading help build their vocabulary, it also stimulates their imagination and memory, encouraging your baby to listen and connect with a variety of words, pictures, sounds and stories.

I try to read with Harry as often as I can. Not just to help with his language development, sometimes just as a way to bond over a story and have a laugh together. 

I collect books mostly from charity shops. I gravitate towards classics, but also tend to pick them if the illustrations or stories grab my attention. 

I'm no expert on what makes a good baby book, but these are our 5 best baby books at present:

1. The Tiger Who Came to Tea By Judith Kerr

We have a big ginger cat called Arnie who Harry knows as 'Puss Cat'. He makes Harry laugh all the time and now if I say 'where's Puss Cat?' Harry giggles and looks over my shoulder for the cat. As the Tiger in this book is big and ginger just like Arnie, I feel Harry had a natural affinity towards it... 

As I read the story I ask 'where's Tiger?' and Harry laughs like he does when he looks for our cat. 

Because it makes him laugh, and because in 2 words it can be best described as quirky and charming, this book is currently our favourite.

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar By Eric Carle

It's a classic. I had to get it. In fact it was one of the first things I bought for Harry whilst I was pregnant. 

Because I bought the board book version having Harry turn the pages is relatively low risk and I can confirm that the spine doubles up as a very durable teether...

The illustrations and layout of the book keeps Harry entertained, making it one I can easily read from start to finish without Harry getting bored or distracted.

3. Winnie the Pooh and Ten Busy Bees By A.A. Milne

Ultimately this is a book that helps teach the art of counting backwards as we follow Pooh and ten busy bees on their journey as they disappear one by one. 

Harry loves this book because they bees are plastic and stick out of each of the pages. He tries to pick them off as I read the text and so again this is a book that keeps him engaged from start to finish.

4. A New House for Mouse By Petr Horacek 

I found this picture book in my local Oxfam and bought it because the illustrations are bold, bright and engaging. The story follows Mouse who goes in search of a bigger home after finding a large red apple. 

It's a little longer than the other books, making it one I have to try harder to get Harry to stay focussed on or just read in two halves, but he likes the pictures and I like the story ;)

5. Piper By Emma Chichester Clark

Okay, so I'll admit that this book was more for me than Harry. I think he'll appreciate it more when he's older but I had to get it when I saw it for 50p. The story is about a puppy called Piper who is brought up by his mother to be good and kind to others. He is sold to a cruel owner and the tale follows Piper as he sticks up for what he believes is right.

That's it guys, our 5 current favourite baby books.

Let me know any of your recommendations in the comments :)


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

What's Really in My Changing Bag

There are LOADS of 'What's in My Changing Bag' blog posts and YouTube videos out there. I don't know what it is about them,  we all just seem to love having a peek at what other parents take out and about with them. 

Of course I had to make my own. 

WARNING: Mine is a REAL LIFE edition and comes with additional crumbs, filth and general oddities.

I use the Eastpak PCEE bag for my 7 month old and I manage to fit a LOT into it. I had originally planned on using the Eastpak Delegate bag I used as my baby's hospital bag (What's in my Baby's Hospital Bag' post here) but for me it's too big and it gets in the way. I use it as an overnight bag for Harry instead. 

For me there is just something about Eastpak bags. I find them very versatile and they look cool. The one I use as my changing bag is a laptop bag but I can fit everything I need into it.  They're not typically 'feminine' and the look and style of the brand suits urban and country living, which is great for us. Plus as its not a floral Cath Kidston number my partner can comfortably use it without feeling as though his masculinity is being called into question...

Anyway, ramble over. This is what is in it. 

I must say I was not aware I carried this many toys around with me. It's amazing what parenthood does to you isn't it? In another life I swear there would have been  an overabundance of lipsticks in my bag not finger puppets and other random oddities.

Rather than list what's in my bag, I made a video chatting about where I'd been and why certain things are in there. I'll insert it in here so you can take a look. 

PS. there was some other snacks in my bag  but Harry came in and finished them off before I got a chance to take the photo!


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

How I Weaned My Baby from Breast to Bottle

In this post I'm going to talk about how I weaned my 7 month old from 100% breast to 100% bottle feeding. 

If you're interested in finding out how I stopped breastfeeding and helped my baby to accept a bottle and formula instead of breast milk, you've come to the right place. 

As you may have seen me talk about elsewhere, I gave up expressing when my son was 6 weeks old because I personally found the process wasn't worth the time and hassle of manual pumping, when I could just feed him myself. Because I gave up expressing early, Harry quickly fell out of practice drinking out of a bottle and later REFUSED to take a bottle at all. 

When I was looking for advice on how to wean my baby from breast to bottle I couldn't find much out there for parents who's babies ABSOLUTELY HATED bottles. I was starting to feel quite desperate and so when I found a way to successfully wean my baby, I knew I wanted to share my experience incase anyone else out there might find it useful. 


I started to think about weaning Harry when he was 6 months old. I had tried him with a bottle prior to that age (when he was 4-5 months old) but I wasn't really ready to stop breastfeeding and so it had been unsuccessful. At the time I was trying the Phillips Avent Classic+ Bottles and the MAM Anti Colic Bottles and was offering him breast milk and formula. I had other people try to feed him, I tried waiting till he was really hungry, I tried when he was tired but not too hungry, when he was in his highchair, lying down...No matter what I did he REFUSED the bottle EVERY SINGLE TIME. 

Having seen him happily take a bottle (of breastmilk) when he was a newborn, and take a soother on a daily basis, I knew it was the association of comfort from me and routine that was causing him a problem. At 6 months he was also eating 3 meals a day and had a varied diet including foods prepared with formula milk. That said, I started looking for bottles and teats more specifically for breastfed babies and decided to stick to my guns with choosing to transition to formula in tandem. 


That's when I found the NUK First Choice+ Bottle with Natural Latex Teat. The NUK Latex teat is extremely flexible and soft and to my mind more closely resembles a human breast and nipple than anything else I had seen or tried. I made Harry a small amount of formula and he accepted it. He only drank about 1 floz but this was the first bottle he had accepted since he was 6 weeks old. For me this was a break through.

I carried on offering him a bottle daily for about 2 weeks. He would accept, drink a tiny amount, get upset and I would cave in and feed him myself until he was full. 

Looking back I wasn't ready to give up breastfeeding when Harry was 6 months old, so I wasn't committed to stopping. Coupled with the fact that I didn't like having him upset, I gave up trying to transition again until he was 7 months old. Still, I had the bottle and knew now that it was the approach I would have to tweak when the time was right.

At 7 months, I had only 8 weeks before the end of my maternity leave. I knew I had to wean Harry before I went back to university and at this age I felt he (and I) were now ready to transition. 


When I committed to weaning Harry from breast to bottle, the process only took us 2 weeks. I thought it would take much longer, but changing my approach made all the difference.

Instead of offering the bottle at every feed and having Harry associate it with something negative I decided to drop a feed per week for 4 weeks. Week one, I dropped the third feed of the day right before his morning nap. For the first couple of days I offered him a bottle instead but he refused and so I offered him a solid food snack and water instead, which he accepted, for the rest of the week. 

On the first day of the second week I dropped the second feed of the day, the one right before his morning nap. Again I did the same, offered a bottle (3 oz as I knew it would be wasted anyway), have it refused then offer a solid snack and water which he would take so I knew he was at least not starving before he went down to sleep. 

That day he had only his morning and evening breastfeeds and no other milk. I wasn't happy with this as this is not enough milk for a baby of his age but I was committed to see what happened for another 7 days. 


Literally overnight. The very next day I went to do the same thing and he accepted the bottle and drank the full amount of formula at the second and third feeds. Can you imagine my disbelief. I could not believe it. 

I took photos, I sent them to all of my friends, it was amazing. That was it after that. For the rest of the week I dropped the morning feed, increased the amount of formula I was making to 7floz per feed (I upgraded to the NUK Size 2 teats and a larger bottle) and by the end of the second week I stopped breastfeeding altogether. 

In my opinion it was the combination of finding the bottle Harry was comfortable and changing my approach to dropping a feed at a time, and offering an alternative at feeding time that was not a bottle after having refused that worked for us.

Though I didn't plan on ending our feeding relationship so quickly, I felt it was best to transition completely whilst I had the opportunity. Call me crazy, but after having him refuse the bottle for so long I had images of it happening again so I dropped all feeds by the end of the second week. 

If you'd like to read about the side effects this had on my and my physical and emotional experience of stopping breast feeding, I wrote this post about it.

It's hard to get everything in to one blog post on this topic so if I've missed anything or you have any more questions you'd like me to answer please feel free to comment below!


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Stopping Breast Feeding - Symptoms, Side Effects and Unexpected Emotions

When I was looking online, I couldn't find much written on what to expect when stopping breast feeding. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of information out there on how to avoid mastitis and engorged breasts, but when looking for information on what other physical, emotional and hormonal symptoms may be experienced when ending the breast feeding relationship, my trusty Google searches came up short.

I was quite surprised by this. Like many other new mums, I've spent the last 7+ months treading water in a literal sea of breast feeding information. From online hacks and how tos to NCT classes and health visitor demos, there is A LOT of guidance out there if you're trying to find out 'How to Do Breast Feeding'. 

'How Not to Do Breast Feeding Any More', and 'What Stopping Breast Feeding Actually Feels Like' however, are another set of spanners all together. 

With the exception of a couple of articles (like this one and this one) I couldn't find anything much that made me feel better about what I've been experiencing. 

That's why I'm writing this post.

Because in my experience stopping breast feeding comes with a whole bunch of untold feelings, symptoms and side effects that I wished I'd known about before they started happening to me. That's why I'm writing this post. To make anyone out there going through this whole weaning thing feel like they're not alone. And for no other reason. I'm not an expert, this is just what stopping breast feeding has been like for me.

Where do I start... 

There's the nausea, the night sweats and the shitty sleep in general. There's the uncontrollable lactating, bulging, and milking of the self at times most inconvenient (in the car, into an empty bottle...yep).  There's those awkward under the skin spots, lumpy boobs, general exhaustion and impatience bordering on out-right hostility for all other human beings who aren't my baby. 

Oh. And there's the tears, the (however brief) mourning of the end of that particular kind of relationship with my son. 

Well, that's been my experience any way.

I stopped breast feeding completely 10 days ago and in that time these are all of the 'symptoms', 'side effects' or whatever you'd prefer to call them, that I've felt. Things are now a little better though. 

10 Days Later...

After going from seriously full, strangely lumpy and painful over days 1-7 post breast-feeding, my boobs have gone back to how they where pre-pregnancy. Like totally back to normal. I don't know whether to laugh or cry about this though because I now have no bras that fit me whatsoever. How can this be you ask? 

Well, what they also fail to tell you about stopping breast-feeding is that there is a chance that if you forget to adjust your diet back to when there was only one of you to feed, then you will likely experience some form of weight gain

Yep. Having previously bragged about being able to eat a few extra cakes when breastfeeding, I'm now the proud owner of a few extra lbs. I wouldn't mind this if I had the money to replace all of my clothes, but I don't so I'm putting the cakes to one side for a few weeks until life balances back out again!

Emotionally on the first day I finally got my son to accept a bottle I felt jubilant. On day 2 I felt overwhelming sadness and I cried in bed over the thought that my baby didn't need me any more. Of course he does, and after reading this Kelly Mom article I found today I am more in perspective about ending our breast feeding relationship than I was to begin with. I realise that these feelings (and the feelings of hostility and rage my boyfriend is currently bearing the brunt of!) are linked to the shift in hormones experienced during weaning

A week and a half after my last feed with Harry, the most prominent symptoms that I'm still feeling are nausea and exhaustion, just like I did in early pregnancy. I've seen other mums talk about this too so presume like they have that this is linked to hormone fluctuation. 

Man, weaning really does suck. 

Harry has basically flown through this whole thing as though nothing at all has changed whilst I'm all up in here feeling like a bedraggled, lethargic, semi-sane, cake deprived ball of rage. 


If you'd like to read about how I actually managed to wean my baby (who previously REFUSED to take a bottle) you might like this post :)

How's weaning going for everyone else? Have you experienced any symptoms? Please leave a comment below if you want to share your experience too. 



Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Harry's 7 Month Baby Update

Weight? I took Harry to get weighed at baby clinic last week. He now weighs 19lb and is 72 cm long. I thought he'd gotten taller because he's a like a machine in his walker now whereas at Christmas he could barely reach the floor. It's so strange, all of a sudden he's more a toddler than a baby... 

Feeding? The BIG thing with feeding this month has been weaning Harry from breast to bottle. I don't know if I have ever talked about Harry's refusal to take a bottle on this blog, but I know I mentioned in his 3 Month update that I had given up expressing. I also talked briefly about this in my recent weaning video over on my YouTube channel but to cut a long story short I gave up expressing and giving Harry a bottle when he was 6 weeks old because I couldn't take the faff of manual expressing. 

When it came to trying to use a bottle again and wean Harry off me, he was NOT game. He'd refuse the bottle every time, scream, and protest until I fed him myself, which wouldn't take long, because I hate letting him cry. I won't go into too much detail here as I'll be writing a detailed post soon, but basically I have managed to successfully wean Harry from being 100% breast fed to 100% bottle fed in time for going back to university. Woop.

Baby groups? Whilst Mum's and Toddlers isn't particularly high on my personal agenda I am going to start going soon because I think Harry would really enjoy the interaction with other babies and children. I mean I might actually end up liking it myself but I'm not sure... 
We have been taking him swimming to one of the heated baby pools we have in our area quite regularly now though and he loves it. It's been great watching him grow in confidence, going from being really quite nervous to literally roaring with happiness :) 

Sleeping through the night? Christ, so last month was an awful month of sleep as you can read about in this post if you haven't already. This month we're back to mostly sleeping through the night for 11-12 hours. THANK GOD. I ended up taking advantage of the rough patch we experienced last month and developed a new bedtime routine with Harry that sees him in bed between 7pm and 7:30pm. This is much better as I literally live all non-parenting aspects of my life in the evenings. Anyone else?

Clothing Size? Harry's now well into 6-9 month clothes with some things getting a bit tight already. 9-12 fits him best but it seems like we're slowing down with the growth spurts a little so hopefully he'll stick at this size for a while. Size 5 nappies already though (we use Lidl Toujours). 

New Abilities/Developments? Last month Harry learned to sit up on his own and this month he has become much more sturdy on his own. Developments in the last 4 weeks have mainly been around eating and 'speaking'. 

Starting with eating, though he doesn't have any teeth yet, I've noticed Harry has started to bite off pieces of finger food to make eating more manageable for himself. His hand eye coordination has also really improved and he can now pick up smaller items and guide them into his mouth. Eating is still so so messy but it's great to see him develop a bit more control over the process!  

In terms of 'speaking' he has learned to say 'babababa' and 'mamamama'. Obviously he has no concept of what these sounds mean but being able to produce distinguishable vowels and consonants is an important part of their development.  

Nicknames? Like with previous weeks nicknames are getting pretty out of control up in here. Bubby Roo has drifted into Chubby Roo on account of his chubby red cheeks and Ed has taken to pluralising other names for him so he now gets Monsters, Tinkers and still Babys like last month. Anyone else call thier children anything but their names?

My Recovery
As you will have seen last month, my postpartum hair loss stopped recently and so this month I've been deep conditioning and air drying my hair as much as possible to help it to recover. Although it still feels very brittle and dry, it has started to grow at last so if anyone out there is suffering with the same symptoms it does get better!

I don't really know if this should come under 'My Recovery' or not, I'm thinking I might do a dedicated post because there's not much out there on this, but since stopping breastfeeding I have been experiencing a few strange symptoms including nausea, headaches, weight gain and waking during the night. 

Right when I thought I might be experiencing some kind of weird pseudo pregnancy, I found this article and realised that these symptoms are all actually side effects of stopping breastfeeding. Nobody really tells you about how you might feel when you stop, physically and emotionally so yeah,  I think I might write a post about my experience. Let me know if that might be of interest in the comments.   

See you next month for more updates.

Thanks for reading 


Friday, 5 February 2016

Stage 2 Weaning Equipment for Babies 7+ Months

I recently visited the Tommee Tippee Factory Shop in Cramlington and ended up buying pretty much all the equipment I'm now using with Harry throughout Stage 2 weaning. Having recently written a post about what we used during Stage 1 weaning that was quite well received, I figured I'd do an updated version for any one out there who might be transitioning at the same time as us.

I actually vlogged our visit to the factory shop and made a haul and try out video of the products I ended up buying for Harry. I'm only just trying my hand at filming and editing, but if anyone would like to have a look at those I'll add them into this post (scroll to bottom) or you could head over to my YouTube channel if you'd prefer. 

Until last year I had no idea that the Tommee Tippee Factory was located just outside Newcastle, or that if you went you would be able to pick up their products for a nicely discounted price. 

Though the factory shop was just small, I found everything I was looking for and more for stage 2 weaning on my visit. 

Here's everything I picked up and am now using with Harry as we transition into the messy world of finger food. 

1. Tommee Tippee Explora Sectioned Plate (2 Pack)

RRP: 4.99 (I paid £2.00) 
I picked these up with the idea that eventually I would like to teach Harry that food comes on plates, and is not just piled directly on the table in front of you for you to bash, throw, wear, maybe eat and/or rub into your hair. 

I haven't given him one to use himself yet because at 7 months Harry has no concept of plates, gravity and the boring consequences of having to clean up mess. But I like using them. If nothing else they've encouraged me to offer three different tastes/components for Harry each meal time which has to be more exciting for him.

2. Tommee Tippee Explora Weaning Spoons 7+Months (5 Pack)

RRP: 3.99 (I paid £2.50)

In my Stage 1 Weaning Equipment post I mentioned that I was using the weaning spoons from Boots which were ideal for small mouths and first purees. 

Lately I'd noticed I couldn't pack quite enough food onto the Boots spoons to keep up with Harry's appetite, so I new it was time for an upgrade. 

These Tommee Tippee spoons are much wider and deeper and much more appropriate for the kinds and quantities of foods we're now shifting so really pleased with these. They're also made of much more rigid material than the Boots ones making them less bendy and less porous than rubber so they don't discolour as badly.

3. Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Fun Style Soother (2 Pack)

RRP: 4.79 (I paid £3.00)
As I talked about in my video, I recently worked out that upgrading dummies to the appropriate age of your child is definitely something you want to do if you want to avoid them trying to eat the entire thing whole. I had previously used the MAM 0-6 Months Soothers with Harry and noticed last month that he was starting to be able to curl his lips right round them. In to the recycing bin they went.

I thought I'd give these ones a go as they're much bigger and I liked the design. Harry has taken these no bother at all which is great given that when he was little the only soother he would take was the MAM ones!

4. Tommee Tippee Food Pouch Spoons (2 Pack) 

RRP: 5.75 (I paid £1.00) 
I didn't know these existed until I saw them in the factory shop. Although definitely not an essential they were only £1 so I thought I'd give them a go. I'll be honest, I don't know how much they really help with things. It's not so much hassle to squeeze food out onto a regular spoon and at a normal retail price of £5.75 I have to say I wouldn't bother. For a quid they're fun but completely gimmicky. 

5. Tommee Tippee Baby's First Straw Cup

RRP: £5.24 (I paid £3.00)
Okay so I talked about this in more detail in my video, but basically I got this cup because I was trying to wean Harry from breast to bottle and it wasn't working. I thought if I could find something in between a bottle and a weaning cup (with the regular three hole spout which he also hated at the time) he might take milk in it. Literally the day after I bought this cup I found THE BOTTLE to wean Harry with and we've never looked back. 

I have started to use this cup at meal times with Harry anyway and he has got the hand of the straw really well. Still can't use the handles to direct it to his mouth that well but I'm sure eye-balling the straw will get old soon ;)

6. Tommee Tippee Training Straw Cup 

RRP: £4.95 (I paid £3.00).
I really liked the straw design of these cups (and the one above) because you can conceal the straw by simply pushing the spout cap back down. 

They seem quite hygienic in that way if you're cramming them in and out of changing bags. I got this larger version for when the other one is too little and Harry needs more liquids :) 

7. Tommee Tippee Roll and Go Bib

RRP: £3.50 (I paid £2.00).

As I mentioned in my Stage 1 Weaning Equipment post, I had been using cloth bibs with Harry as we'd been experimenting with purees and it wasn't that messy. OH. MY. GOD. How things change when they learn to spit, to grab the spoon off you and intermittently refuse to use cutlery all together. 

I needed something more robust and with a trough asap. This one is excellent I have to say. It catches a lot of the mess, saves on the laundry cost and the neck is comfortable for Harry to wear. Some plastic ones rub at the neck or come off but this one doesn't. I highly recommend this and it does roll up really well for when you're on the go.

That's everything we've been using with Harry throughout Stage 2 weaning.  Please head back soon for more weaning updates and meal ideas!

Factory Vlog:

Haul and Try Out:


Monday, 1 February 2016

Easy Vanilla Birthday Cake & Funfetti Icing Recipe

My (not so) little brother recently turned 17 so I baked him this really easy Vanilla Birthday Cake with home made 'Funfetti' icing. 

As I figured there would probably be some parents out there with little ones to look after and bigger ones to make cakes for, I thought I'd share the recipe because although this cake is super quick and easy to make, it also looks pretty cool and like you've made a proper big effort. 

Scroll down for what you'll need and how to make this three layered vanilla birthday cake, and the 'funfetti' (a.k.a sprinkles) icing to go with it!


For the cake:

250g butter or margarine, softened plus extra for greasing
250g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
5 large eggs
85g plain flour
100g Greek or Natural Yoghurt
250g Self-raising flour
3tbsp semi-skimmed milk

For the layers (optional):

3-4 tbsp jam (I used blackberry)

For the icing:

1 tub of sprinkles (I used the Dr Oetkar Sour Power ones)
500g icing sugar (sifted if needed) 
160g butter or margarine, softened
50ml of milk
half a tsp vanilla essence
food colouring


For the cake:

  • Heat oven to 180 degrees. 
  • Grease and line three 8" cake tins (or two and re-use one later like I did)
  • Whisk together sugar and butter until light in colour and smooth in texture.
  • Add eggs and plain flour and continue to whisk until combined.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together slowly until you have a smooth cake batter. 
Split batter evenly over three cake tins and bake in the oven (ideally on the same shelf for even baking) for 30-35 minutes. 

Allow cakes to cool slightly in their tins before turning them out to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the 'funfetti' icing:

(I adapted the Humming Bird Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes Icing recipe)

  • Place butter, milk, vanilla and icing sugar in a large bowl. 
  • Whisk until light and fluffy.
  • Fold in sprinkles, I used three quarters of this jar of Dr Oetkar Sour Power Strands
  • Place a third of the icing in a separate bowl and add food colouring, I used about 2 tsp in total for one layer and kept the icing for the middle layers white.

 To Assemble:

  • Trim the bottom and middle sponges so that they are level (do all of them if you have time- I didn't). Use a serrated blade for this if you have one.
  • Add jam and white funfetti icing to the bottom layer, place the next cake on top then repeat adding jam and icing.
  • Place the final sponge on top.
  • Ice with coloured icing and add more sprinkles if desired.
Add candles, sing 'Happy Birthday' and away you go!