Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The language of parenting - 3 most used and abused terms

Parenting can be a minefield. The many approaches to how you bring up your baby can be hugely confusing for new mums and dads. It's not helped when much of the language used has multiple meanings.

Here are what I consider to be three of the most misleading terms.

1. Breastfeeding. How are you feeding your child? Do you breastfeed? Or do you nurse? In my opinion the two terms are hugely different. Breastfeeding is purely about feeding your child. But nursing says something more. It's about nourishing the whole child, both with nutrition but also with love. It's about the bonding, the feeling of safety and security and the comfort your child gets from the breast. Breastfeed on demand they say. But actually, the demand for breastmilk is not always about being hungry for food. Often, it's about being hungry for human contact or reassurance too. Mums panic about overfeeding their baby or about baby using them as a dummy because of the misconception that breastfeeding is only about food. Nursing however, covers the whole range of needs that are met when baby latches on and suckles.

2. Weaning. The current UK guidance is that you should start weaning at 6 months. But what does that actually mean? Introducing solids? Or, as many believe thanks to the promotion of formula, the process of cutting down milk feeds, specifically breastfeeding? In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding six months and continued breastfeeding alongside appropriate complementary foods for two years and beyond. Yes, sure, babies may well start reducing milk feeds with the introduction of solids. But, as discussed above, breastfeeding (or nursing) is about more than food. Self-weaning, where the child decides when to call it a day on breastfeeding, occurs on average between the ages of four and seven. Yet I have read of many anecdotal reports of babies 'self-weaning' much earlier. I wonder why that is. Is it perhaps because of a combination of misconceptions around what breastfeeding or nursing actually is? My definition of weaning is when milk feeds (breastfeeding or nursing) reduce and eventually stop. It would be far easier if the other sort of weaning should really be called what it is, introducing solids.

3. Sleeping through the night. Technically, this is when baby sleeps for 5 hours straight. Under that definition, two of my three babies were sleeping through the night at around 6 months: the age bandied around by many experts as when babies 'should' be sleeping through the night. Unfortunately for me. The five straight hours usually took place between 7pm and midnight. After midnight it has not been uncommon for me to be up hourly. So, for me, that definitely was not sleeping through the night. Sleeping through the night should be just that - the age when children (and I deliberately state children not babies) sleep for 10-12 hours straight. It should be more recognised that babies do not sleep through the night and that it is normal for them to wake frequently. That way, parents might stop beating themselves up about how they can get their baby to sleep at night. How do you define 'sleeping through the night'?

What parenting terms confuse you?

Maybe I should write a dictionary of parenting.

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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

My latest charity shop find - the Living Coasts penguins

We were out the other day when Mr Seaside Belle had to run an errand in the bank. We stayed in the car outside, while he ran in to deposit a cheque. The car was stopped just outside one of Teignmouth's many charity shops when I spotted them in the window. 

Two soft penguins.

Both 6 year old Mr E and 3 year old Miss B love penguins. We have an annual pass to Living Coasts coastal zoo in Torquay and we love going to see the penguins, particularly at feeding time. You actually get to walk through the enclosure and can get up quite close. E and B immediately identified them as an African Penguin and a Macaroni Penguin - the two breeds on show at Living Coasts.

It was fate. These two penguins were destined to live with us.

So I jumped out of the car, grabbed the birds from the window and spent a very worthwhile £5 for the two.

The penguins are settling in well at their new home and will shortly be taking a trip to Living Coasts to see their live relatives.

What have you bought recently at a charity shop?

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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Things to do in Devon when it's raining - Swimming at Lady's Mile Dawlish

One of the best things about living in a tourist area is that we can take advantage the holiday facilities for more than one or two weeks per year. While some attractions close for the winter months, many operate, albeit on a limited timetable, year round.

And when it comes to swimming pools - we get the best choice. As well as the council-run pools in Dawlish, Newton Abbot and Exeter, which are great for swimming lengths, we also get plenty of outdoor and indoor pools with fun stuff like slides and inflatables, jacuzzis and saunas. I should add that Teignmouth does boast an excellent outdoor pool, the Lido, on the seafront, but this is only open in the summer.

So, when Mr Seaside Belle decided at the weekend, after yet another week of rain and wind, that we should all go swimming, he was met with shrieks of delight from all three baby Belles.

We opted for the pool at Lady's Mile, a holiday and caravan park at Dawlish Warren, which is open at weekend through the winter. As well as an outdoor pool with a water slide and toddler paddling pool, Lady's Mile has a very warm indoor pool with water slide, another toddler splash pool, a sauna and a hot tub.

As soon as we arrived, I headed straight for the water slide with 6 year old Mr E and 3 year old Miss B. While the slide is never going to compete with the scarier water rides at specialist water attractions, it's long enough and fast enough to offer a frisson of excitement for all ages. Plus, it's easy enough for a 3 year old to cope with and you can even take smaller children down on your knee (as long as you remember to hold them up in the air when you plunge into the water at the end). Even 18 month old Mr W enjoyed it when Mr Seaside Belle took him down.

Because it's a holiday resort pool, there is not always a lifeguard on duty. But to be honest, that makes life easier when you have three small children between two adults. You know there is no backstop, so you have to watch them like hawks, but it gives you the freedom to not always keep to a particular ratio of adults:children. This meant that Mr Seaside Belle could take some time out to enjoy the sauna while I held onto Mr W and kept an eye on the older two as they went on the slide again and again and again. I personally hate saunas - they make me feel very claustrophobic. So he gets some quality peace and quiet on his own.

I love taking the children swimming and we really don't do it often enough. Mr E goes to swimming lessons on a Tuesday evening and he was keen to show me how well he can swim. So when Mr Seaside Belle returned from the sauna, Mr E proceeded to swim 10 lengths of the pool. And Lady's Mile pool is not small - I reckon it must be about 25m!

Going to the pool also gives Miss B confidence in the water. She wears arm bands and a floatable jacket. The bonus of the slide is that when she drops into the pool at the end, she then has to 'swim' to the steps to get out of the plunge pool and go back onto the slide again. She doesn't even realise she is swimming because she is having such fun. It's just amazing how self sufficient she is and what a water baby she is becoming.

The only downside to our time at the pool was the showers, which were cold. I think all the heating must have been used up in the pool, which was blissfully warm. Baby W managed a good hour without looking chilly at all! In fact, the changing facilities at the pool are pretty basic - although they're not as bad as some other pools I've been to.

The other disadvantage was that swimming had made us all ravenous. But, because it's winter and off-season, the resort shop was closed and the bar and restaurant were shut as they are being refurbished for next season. I'm glad the pool is still open though.

I'm thinking of writing more posts about things to do with kids in Devon. Let me know if you have any requests.

Fact File:

A day non-resident's pass to use the camp facilities costs £3.50 for adults and £2.50 for children.

Lady's Mile Holiday Park,
Exeter Road,

T: 01626 863411
E: info@ladysmile.co.uk

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Sunday, 5 January 2014

New Year's Resolutions for 2014

I don't like to peak too soon, so I've left it until nearly a week into the New Year before making my resolutions. Mainly, because I want to bed into the routine of daily life after the break before committing myself to changes to my life. Here are my ambitions for 2014. 

1. Money - track all my income and expenditure so I know what I've got and so I can identify where I can make savings. At the moment, I check my accounts sporadically and can sometimes get taken by surprise at what is in (or not in) the bank. Hopefully, by tracking what I spend I can cut out unnecessary payments and maybe even have a much healthier savings balance.

2. Get fitter by going out for a run at least twice a week. Last year I ran a half marathon in February and then did nothing. This year i want to take part in at least one 10k and one half marathon by the end of the year. I use the mapmyrun app (username Boweryj) so you can follow my progress and maybe even buddy up.

3. Plan meals on a weekly basis so I don't spend hours stressing about what we're going to eat for dinner. I'm hoping this will also reduce food waste and save money.

4. Get a better work/life balance so I can see more of my children. Last year I set up a freelance marketing, PR and proofreading business: Cosmic Frog. I want to really make a go of it this year, so it will be my main source of income by September when my daughter starts school. This would enable me to do the majority of school runs and take time out for school holidays and for events like school plays and sports days.

5. Blog more regularly - ideally at least 3-4 times per week. I love writing and, as a former journalist, I'd love to get back into writing for money, so I hope that blogging will help me practice and hone my long dormant skills.

6. Get more organised around the house. The clutter we have amassed since moving here 5 years ago is frightening and it really gets me down. I plan to tackle one small area per week so by the end of the year the house is ship shape.

I wonder how I'll get on. Check out this blog for regular updates on my progress. What are your New Year's resolutions for 2014?