Operation sleep: the giveaway!

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It’s funny how a plan comes together. I’ve been organising¬†this bedtime giveaway for a while, but it seems to be fate that the week I’m all ready to go is the week Ralphie finally gets his head around sleeping through the night. Cheers all round!

I wanted to do this giveaway as I believe¬†that the bedtime routine is so important. After a lovely day together, you need that time in the evening as a mum to switch off and chill, even if it’s only for a few minutes before you fall asleep! We didn’t really have a good bedtime routine for the first six months of Ralphie’s life. We cuddled him well into the evening and he usually ended up going to bed when we were ready to go upstairs too. I don’t regret one bit of what we did, but now our baby’s in bed by around 7.30pm every night, and it has transformed our evenings for the better. We’ve got our ‘us time’ back and we can eat our dinner in peace. Bliss!

So, to celebrate the greatness of bedtime, I’ve teamed up with some amazing small businesses to bring you all the essentials you need to help your little ones drift off to the land of nod without a tear in sight! To enter, all you need¬†to do is head to my Instagram page and read the super simple instructions on my giveaway post. In addition to liking the post and following all six businesses involved in the giveaway, I would love to hear about your baby’s bedtime routine. What special things do you do before tucking them up in bed? Do you have any tips or tricks you would like to share? We’ll be picking our favourites, and six lucky winners will get their hands on some goodies. I’ll also be featuring some of the best comments in a follow-up blog post next week.

Before you go, here’s a bit more about the businesses behind the giveaway and what you can win:

A Little Bit Milo

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This online children’s fashion and homeware store only launched at the end of last year, but is already making a name for itself as a stockist of some of the best¬†independent brands going.

One of the newest items to join¬†their ever-growing range is Guess Who!, a clues-and-answers set of three books from London-based children’s book publisher Owl & Dog Playbooks. What makes it cool is that it can be¬†opened and read in different ways, without affecting the rhythm and rhyme. I definitely need to get this for Ralphie (I’m a massive fan of quirky books and I hope he will be too!). If you enter the competition, this is up for grabs along with a pear night light. The perfect bedtime combo!

Didi and Bud

Every baby needs a cute, comfy sleepsuit and Didi and Bud do the best, in my humble opinion. If you’ve been following me for a while, you will know that I’m a big fan.¬†Super soft cotton, cool prints – what’s not to love? Didi and Bud’s debut collection includes four patterns – penny farthing, top hats, lace umbrella and vintage bicycle in black, blue, pink and grey, respectively. One lucky winner will get their hands on a sleepsuit in the size and pattern of their choice.

Kokoso Baby

I hadn’t heard of this baby skincare brand until recently when I was looking around for something to treat Ralphie’s eczema. We’ve been to the doctors numerous times and got various potions and steroid creams, but what I really wanted was a long-term natural remedy. We’ve been using the organic coconut oil for a couple of months now and I’m really impressed. The redness on Ralphie’s face has cleared up completely and it’s my first point of call for any flare ups. Plus, it feels lovely to put on. Buttery soft, yet surprisingly not greasy. But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you win, you’ll get a pot to try yourself.

Mama Designs

With its removable inner layer, the Babasac is the perfect year-round¬†baby sleeping bag. And it looks really cool too. We’re currently using ours on ‘summer mode’ without the warm lining, and it keeps Ralphie just the right temperature at night. It’s a great investment piece, as I know it will last through the colder months too. Mama Designs has kindly offered up the green apple Babasac in a size of your choice for this giveaway.

Megan Illustrations

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I know I will sound biased as she is my sister, but Megan is one super talented lady! She has just graduated from the Winchester School of Art with a first-class honours degree in Fine Art and is now taking design and illustration commissions, as well as selling prints and artwork. One of her first jobs has been a collaboration with Cribstar to create a bespoke¬†emoji design, which is being used across a wide range of baby clothing – I cannot wait to see the full collection, which will be available to buy soon. We’re lucky enough to have an amazing piece of artwork in Ralphie’s room. If you win, you’ll get to have your own too!

Milk Moustache

This clothing brand has some of the coolest prints¬†going. Teepees, spots, ice creams, doughnuts – if you haven’t checked them out yet, then you must. We’ve got a few rompers and tops, but when I go back to work and bring in some more money, I’m going to have to try and stop myself from buying the entire range! Milk Moustache is best known for its baby clothing range, but did you know they do cot sheets too? The sleeping eye sheet could be yours, and if you really wanted you could even buy the leggings and top to match. Ultimate camouflage!

Remember, head to my Instagram page to enter. And good luck!

 

Operation sleep

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312 days – that’s how long I’ve gone without a full night’s sleep. Until Tuesday when a miracle happened and my sleep thief slept all the way through the night. I was so happy and proud, I could have burst. Ryan proclaimed that he really did love his son more than anything. If he didn’t have to go to work, I think we’d have cracked open a bottle of champers!

Admittedly, it wasn’t a total surprise, but it did happen sooner than we both expected. After a particularly rough night’s sleep staying over at a friend’s house with him at the weekend, Ryan and I finally agreed that we would try and crack Ralphie’s rude night awakenings. And so, on Sunday night, ‘Operation sleep’ began.

The premise was simple. Stick to our usual bedtime routine and any time Ralphie would wake up in the night, one of us would go in, lie him back down again, give him his dummy and stroke his head. No talking, no cuddles – nada! We’d start off by leaving him to ‘cry it out’ (oh I hate that phrase!) for five minutes, and then we’d stretch it out to ten.

It all started off really rather badly! Usually, bedtime is pretty straightforward. We have a manic half hour or so before bed of playing, belly laughs and generally going rather mad, then it’s bathtime, a quick massage with Kokoso Baby coconut oil (I need to write a separate piece about this, because it is doing wonders for Ralphie’s eczema), pjs, teeth, a milk feed, a cuddle, and bed. Or so we hoped!

Maybe we changed too much too soon. I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding Ralphie since day dot, but I’ve been wanting to start weaning him off for a little while; I start back at work soon, plus Ryan and I are dreaming of one night away at a spa before I start the old 9-5!

We’ve been getting Ralphie to¬†try follow-on formula milk from a beaker for the last week or so. We’ve worked out that it goes down better if I’m not the one giving it to him. On Sunday, we thought we’d bite the bullet and let Ryan give the night feed. It was a disaster: tears, milk everywhere. I was sat outside the door feeling like the world’s worst mum.

But we persevered. I knew Ralphie was full. He’d had milk from me at 5.30pm followed by a full meal. Ryan did his best to settle him, but it was close to an hour (and a lot of tears later) before our baby finally relented and went to sleep.

At 10.30pm, I popped in and gave Ralphie a dream feed. I’ve never done this before, but I thought my boobs would pop if I didn’t. He went back down no trouble and I crossed my fingers for a restful night.

1.30am – Ralphie’s cries interrupted my slumber. As planned, I held out five minutes before going in and settling him. Except because I didn’t get him out, cuddle and feed him, I didn’t settle him at all. He was furious! The plan was not to stay in there for more than a minute, so I left and he bawled. Ryan then went back down five minutes later and did the same thing. Followed by me, followed by him, and finally…sleep.

Then it happened all over again at 3.40am.  Again, we took it in turns, going in to settle him every five minutes. This quickly stretched to ten/twelve minutes as we were so damn knackered. After just over an hour and 20 minutes, Ralphie finally succumbed to sleep. When the alarm clock went off at 6.30am we could have cried!

Monday night, we were tired but committed. Ralphie took more milk from the beaker this time. Tired and much more settled, he went to sleep without any fuss. So far so good.

Again, I popped in later to give him a dream feed. No trouble. We went to bed and then…nothing. We didn’t hear a peep from him all night! It was a MIRACLE!

You should have seen us all in the morning. It was like Christmas had come early. We¬†didn’t stop smiling.

Of course, the big question is, was it a one off?

No! Every¬†night since has been¬†the same – better even, because I’ve slept more soundly¬†too. He’s been going to bed without any trouble, a quick dream feed at 10.30pm and then all the way through until just before 7am (bar one minor wobble last night when he cried for a few minutes – no idea what happened there!). Unbelievable. I still can’t get my head around the fact that we’ve cracked it. And it only took one night. We’ve not dared to say it aloud, but I know Ryan’s thinking it too. Why on earth didn’t we do this sooner?

To mark this huge milestone and to celebrate all that is great about sleep, I’ve teamed up with some amazing small businesses to bring you the ultimate bedtime giveaway. There are some fantastic prizes up for grabs. Check back tomorrow to find out more.

Goodbye gummy smile

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When I was pregnant, I couldn’t for the life of me picture what Ralphie was going to look like. There he was, growing away inside of me and I had no way of seeing that tiny little face of his.

Poor Ryan. I think I must have bored the socks off him speculating what facial features and characteristics our unborn son would possess. I just wanted to know. It drove me potty.

And then he arrived. And he was so very clearly Ralphie. He looked just as he was meant to, button nose and all. I haven’t stopped admiring that face ever since!

You will know that Ralphie’s development is very well documented. I take plenty of pictures! But I’m so pleased that I have. Because you forget how much they change. Already, that face of his is barely recognisable from the newborn days. I can’t put my finger on what’s different; it seems that everything is.

Now, with hair (admittedly not loads!) and teeth (two at the bottom and the top two on their way), Ralphie’s face is ever evolving. That gummy grin is gone, and in its place two shiny bottom pegs are sticking up proud.

I think a smile says a great deal about a person – how often you use it, how real it is, whether it reaches your eyes, teeth or no teeth. Ralphie’s is my favourite. It’s the cheekiest of smiles, with extra cheese on top – and he knows it! And now, with teeth, it has got even better.

Those teeth – they’ve been a subject of much discussion and I’m sure they will continue to be until he gets his first full set. Then, they will drop out and we will start over again!

We’ve been fairly lucky so far on the teething front. The little man seems to deal with pain pretty well judging by how he bounces back after his many falls and bumps. Nonetheless, we have needed a bit of help along the way. Nelsons teething granules have been a handy little thing; Ralphie gladly licks up the powder that I pour into his mouth and it helps him settle at bedtime.

We’ve also found teething toys and accessories an absolute necessity, for the sake of his fingers and our furniture! Here are a few of our favourites:

Sophie la girafe – every baby seems to have this and I honestly didn’t get what all the fuss was about. We caved fairly early as we’d had so many recommendations, and she’s still one of Ralphie’s go-to toys. He finds the legs particularly satisfying to chew on!

Little Big Things Fio Teether – we were lucky enough to product test this for Kidly, and I’ve been really impressed. Not only does it look cool, but it keeps Ralphie’s attention too. The petals are made from soft silicon and the centre is wood. It now comes with us wherever we go.

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Teething necklaces – I have two (a monochrome and yellow number from Indigo and Wren, and a nude palette one from Organic Mama) and they’ve been very handy, especially when we’re out and about. They also save my chest when breastfeeding. As much as I cut those tiny nails down, they are still so sharp and Ralphie loves to have a sneaky scratch while he’s snuggled up getting his milk fix. If the necklace is on, he usually goes for that instead. Phew!

With four teeth now broken through in the space of the last six weeks or so, we’re firmly on the dreaded teething journey, and there’s no going back! Which reminds me – dribble. These babies of ours produce lots of it, especially when teeth are on their way. Don’t forget the trusty dribble bibs. Cribstar do the best.

Getting creative in the kitchen

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Ryan and I LOVE our food. I mean, we really love it. Our text conversations in the day (while Ryan’s at work) tend to revolve around what we’re having for dinner. At the weekend we make special trips to the market to pick up fresh, local ingredients; we seek out new eating haunts (although we eat out far less now than we used to); we pour over recipe books. You get the picture; we like food, a lot!

When we were trying for a baby, we went on one last big foodie spree in London, our bellies leading the way¬†from one fine restaurant to another – Claridge’s, The Dorchester, Berners Tavern, Hawksmoor; the poshest pub crawl ever! It was actually ridiculous.

As you can imagine, then, it’s kind of out of the question for Ralphie to be a picky eater.¬†In those early weeks of weaning – when he screwed his face up at the mushed carrot I was trying to spoon into his firmly closed mouth – I was worried. But now I’m giving him stuff¬†that more closely resembles proper meals, we’re starting to make some headway.

Bar the odd sneaky takeaway, we cook everything from scratch. I’ve been determined to do the same with Ralphie’s meals too. We haven’t yet reached the stage where he eats what we do, but that’s mainly because he eats at 6pm and Ryan isn’t usually back from work until 7. Plus, I do like my food seasoned.

That doesn’t mean to say, though, that Ralphie’s meals can’t be flavoursome. Bland, single flavour purees didn’t really do it for him, so I started mixing things up fairly early on. I combined¬†pears with broccoli and parsnip, banana with avocado, prunes¬†with sweet potato and carrot – not necessarily the most obvious combos, but he liked them.

And then I wanted to get even more adventurous. I needed to start adding more protein, fibre and general variation to his diet, so I began scouring the internet for recipe ideas. I came across an absolute gem on Instagram (@young_gums), which I check on a daily basis for food inspiration. The recipes are compiled by a lovely London mama who is weaning her baby¬†girl, and they’re healthy, fun and simple. My go-to favourites are the Tuna Ni√ßoise Smash, Mini Moroccan Tagine and Mexican Eggs. But all the recipes are great. If you’re in a bit of a baby food rut, I urge you to check this fabulous account out.

I am also very pleased to say that I’ve finally sorted out Ralphie’s highchair situation! Don’t worry, he has had a highchair for a good few months now, but I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect insert for it to keep him eating comfortably. I eventually found one from Kidly, and I held out and held out until I could get my hands on it. Nothing else compared. While we waited, poor Ralphie had to make do with a blanket behind his head, which he quite enjoyed rubbing his food covered fingers into. Lovely! When it finally arrived I was probably far more excited than I should have been. But just look at it! Isn’t it the coolest highchair insert you’ve ever seen?

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Mealtimes are fun affairs in our household. They’ve now become a great deal more messy and noisy (who knew shouting at the top of your voice and blowing raspberries is the thing to do while you eat?!), but I’m hoping that Ralphie picks up mine and his dad’s passion for food. Now all I need to do is figure out portion sizes. Ryan did the breakfast shift the other day and proudly showed me two empty bowls of porridge – he made up seconds because Ralphie was enjoying it so much! Yes, I want a food lover on my hands, but I don’t want him to be obese.

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41 weeks in, 41 weeks out

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82 weeks. It sounds like a long time, but I can’t believe that we’ve reached this point already. 82 weeks – half of that time I was carrying my baby boy inside of me, and now I’ve got a bouncing nine month old dangling off my hip!

Time sure does go fast when you don’t really want it to. Of course, it does quite the opposite too. I remember that last two weeks of my pregnancy dragging like anything. Patience really isn’t a virtue of mine, and the anticipation of finally giving birth was almost too much to bear. Come 10 September (his due date), I was convinced he would arrive. I waltzed into work (it was probably more of a waddle) and waited for the drama to unfold. Nothing.

He made us wait a whole extra week before making his grand appearance. I spent those long days chomping on¬†pineapple, cleaning, polishing the leather sofa (as you do), watching crap TV, eating, hovering on all fours (to encourage him to turn), and pacing. Looking back on it, I wish I’d chilled out a bit more.

Fast forward to today – a whole 41 weeks on. Where do those baby days go? Ralphie is into EVERYTHING at the moment! He particularly loves¬†climbing up our¬†glass coffee table (bought before we’d had a chance to think about how stupid a purchase it would be with children in the house) in pursuit of the remote control. Seriously, what is it with babies and electrical items?

It saddens me that I no longer refer to Ralphie’s age in weeks anymore, but I couldn’t let this milestone¬†pass us by without a mention. I proudly grew him inside of me for 41 whole weeks. And here he is on the other side – 41 weeks old. We did it!

I thought I’d take a nice photo of the two of us to mark the occasion. As you can see, that didn’t quite happen. Our selfies need some serious work. This first one is my favourite!

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