Infoband: My Favourite Identification Bracelet – Indispensable for Travelling with Toddlers.

Infoband identification bracelet

Infoband – Toddlers Identification Bracelet

I have always loved travelling. Now, with two toddlers, it is still fun but is more complex and requires more organisation. One thing that I find indispensable for my peace of mind is having my toddlers fitted with an identification bracelet every time I set off with them for a big trip or to a crowded place. I find it really comforting to know that if my child ends up out of sight, in the worst case scenario, someone will be able to contact me and bring my child back.
I researched a few ID bracelets and, although Infoband is one of the cheapest, I believe it does the job really well. You can use it to indicate the child’s name, your contact details, and even allergies or chronic illnesses. If you plan to write more than a name and emergency number make sure you choose a style that allows a ‘larger writing area’ (see also below).

What I like about it:
1) Simple and effective. You just write on it the details that you consider important with a regular ballpoint pen: name, mobile number and even emergency medical details.
2) Water resistant. Once written with a regular ballpoint pen, the text becomes water resistant (although with time, I noticed, it fades a bit).
3) Reasonably safe. The buckle is very difficult for small children to open. The buckle can, of course, break but if you check its solidity regularly it is unlikely to be an issue.
4) Easily removable. An adult can remove it easily (using a two handed grip).
5) Can be re-used. When you don’t need it, just take it off and put it away. It will be ready for your next adventure.
6) Key point: fully adjustable! A lot of the other identification bands come in different sizes or are not fully adjustable. Infoband can made fit even very small wrists.
7) There are many cute colours and design to choose from.
8) Very good value for money: GBP 2.80 on Amazon.

Worth knowing:
1) The buckle might break after several uses. But, considering the price, this is not a major issue for me.
2) The bracelet measures 20 x 2 x 0.1 cms but please note the ‘writing area’ is much smaller and can differ a lot from style to style. The styles with the largest writing areas (such as those in the photo above) allow about 5/6cm of writing space per row.

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Quick, Easy, Healthy Polenta Cake Your Kids Will Love

Healthy Polenta Cake

Healthy Polenta Cake

Although I cook pretty well, baking is not one of my strengths. This is a quick, easy and unusual recipe that even I can do! The kids love it, and adults too because it is tasty and healthy. This version has about half of the sugar and butter of the more traditional versions and can be adapted to be dairy free and gluten-free.

You will need a round cake tin of 20cm diameter and 5cm depth.
You can also make small individual cakes with the same recipe-just halve the cooking time (from about 40 minutes to 20 minutes).

Ingredients:
140 gr sugar (I prefer using brown/raw sugar)
2 large eggs
170 gr self-raising flour (I use a white gluten-free flour and it works perfect)
75g r of unsalted butter (for dairy free you can use olive oil or rapeseed oil).
60 gr of very fine or ‘quick’ polenta
50 gr fine ground almonds
1½ tsp baking powder
225 gr natural yogurt (even with zero fat it will taste nice!)
finely grated zest 2 lemons (if you like you can add also the juice of half a lemon)

Preparation:
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
Lightly oil/butter the cake tin.
Put flour, polenta, ground almonds and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the lemon zest and sugar, then make a dip in the centre.
On the side beat the eggs in a bowl for a couple of minutes, then stir in the yogurt.
Add the eggs and yogurt mixture along with the butter (or oil) into the dip then briefly and gently stir with a large metal spoon so everything is just combined, without overmixing.
Pour into the oiled cake tin and bake for 40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out to cool completely on a wire rack.
Serve with a light dusting of icing sugar.

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Which Weaning Spoon? Vital Baby Soft Tip Spoons: Great from Weaning to Self-Feeding

Comparing Baby Weaning Spoons

Comparing Baby Weaning Spoons

If you are about to start weaning your baby, take a look at the Vital Baby Soft Tip Weaning Spoons.

They are the best I have tried: well-designed, good quality, BPA-free baby spoons that you can use from the first weaning efforts to the ‘self-feeding phase’. They exist in 3 colours: blue, pink and yellow/orange. They retail at GBP 3.45 for 5 spoons.

What I like about them:
1) The tip is soft and flexible. For me this is key when you are weaning as: a) it won’t hurt the teething gums of your baby, b) children love chewing on it, c) you can use it to keep your baby’s face clean while feeding, d) it will help you to scrape every last bit out of the bowl and mixer, and e) your baby can play and try self-feeding without the risk of hurting himself.
2) Well-proportioned handle: long enough to reach the bottom of a baby jar but not too long so that your child can handle the spoon easily and start self-feeding with it. The spoons that have very long handles (such as the Tommee Tippee Basic, on the extreme right in the photo above, which has a total length of 16cm) are good for mothers, but are more difficult for the child to self-feed with. The total spoon length of the Vital Baby is 13cm. A 3 cm difference is relevant for the manoeuvrability of the spoon in the hands of a baby.
3) Thin and elongated tip: good shape for feeding little mouths. Note that the Tommee Tippee Explora Weaning Spoons (light green in the photo above) and the new Tommee Tippee Soft Tip Weaning Spoons (also called Explora) have too big and to deep of a tip for the first months of weaning.

There are also ‘soft finger locators’ on the handles, which are meant to help the baby to learn how to hold a spoon, but I am not sure they make a difference.

Negatives:
1) The tip is slightly longer than some other first stage ‘weaning’ spoons on the market. As a result some food can remain on the top of the tip in the first few weeks of feeding. It did not bother me. I just used the front half of the tip.
2) Not “heat sensing” (i.e. changing colour when the food/spoon are too hot for baby’s mouth), although I have not found a spoon that is as good as the Vital Baby that has a good heat sensing system.
3) A slightly longer handle would make it more comfortable for mums and still fine to use for the baby.

Good to know:
1) All light-coloured soft-tipped spoons on the market, if in contact with carrot or tomato puree, will remain stained. If it bothers you, choose a darker colour.
2) Tommee Tippee used to make the best Soft Tip Weaning Spoon on the market (the second spoon from the right in the photo above). It had a slightly longer handle (total length 15cm), a smaller and less deep tip than the Vital Baby and it existed in a brilliant heat sensitive version as well. Unfortunately they stopped making it. I have just noticed though you can still buy them on Ebay. The new ones are not as good. I prefer the Vital Baby.

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Baby Formula Dispenser: Essential for Mummies on the Move

Brother Max Slimline Milk Powder Dispenser

Brother Max Slimline Milk Powder Dispenser

Although I survived my first daughter without one, I think a baby formula dispenser is a very good investment. Especially if you choose to bottle feed. You will love it any time you will be away from home, needing your formula pre-measured and ready to go. It will be good also for the night feeds. It will make preparing the bottle easier and will avoid getting the counting wrong! Now that I have one I cannot live without it.

Out of the many available on the market I chose Brother Max Slimline Milk Powder Dispenser. At about GBP 6 it is not the cheapest, but it is well designed and durable.

What I like about it:

1) Designed to be emptied by turning on its side (not upside down) which helps avoid leaving powder behind (but does not solve the problem completely).
2) The spout is longer than most on the market, so it goes right into the bottle and thus avoids spilling.
3) The spout cover can be locked away so that it doesn’t get in the way.
4) Each dose remains in its own compartment. This is absolutely key!
5) Has 3 separate compartments for 3 feeds. This is quite standard on the market. What you want to check is the size of each compartment. In the case of Brother Max you can fit 7 scoops of formula comfortably (to prepare 210ml/7 fl pz of milk). Please note that fitting 8 scoops of formula will be difficult. Consider this if your baby is a big eater.
6) Comes with a dedicated funnel that helps filling without spills.
7) Compact. Only around 10 cm in diameter and 4.5cm deep.
8) Dishwasher proof and BpA-free, Phthalate-free, PVC-free.

Negatives:

1) The lid is difficult to clean because of the narrow grooves. I use a baby bottle brush and it comes out perfect. You have just to make sure it is completely dry before filling it.
2) Can only be ‘cold’ sterilised.

Worth knowing:

1) Turn the spout so that it isn’t in line with a hole when not in use otherwise the powder will go in to the spout and you risk losing some when you open it up to pour in to the bottle.

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When Your Lovely Bump Needs a Lift: Nexcare Maternity Support Belt

Nexcare Maternity Support Belt

Nexcare Maternity Support Belt

If you are still working during your last weeks of pregnancy, if you have to be on your feet for several hours in a row, if you are expecting twins or just a heavy child, if you are suffering from back aches or pelvis pains or if you are suffering from Pelvic Girdle Disfunction (also known as SPD), the Nexcare Maternity belt can make a big difference. The belt works very simply by lifting your bump up and taking the weight off the pelvis. Although it can be used throughout pregnancy, it tends to be particularly effective in the third trimester or with twins. I started using it when I was about 8 months pregnant.
It comes in two sizes: Medium (fits pre-pregnancy dress size 10 – 18 UK) and Large (fits pre-pregnancy dress size 18 – 28 UK). I understand size Large is very big, so I would still go for Medium if you are size 18 UK. Note also that if you are a small 8 UK, size Medium might be too big.
Nexcare Maternity Support is one of the most expensive pregnancy support belts on the market, but it DOES work. Considering the difference it made to the last couple of months of my pregnancies I think it’s definitely worth it. It helped me to keep mobile up till the end even when the discomfort/pain would have otherwise stopped me from doing things.

Online I have seen a pretty big range of prices but I think you should be able to find it just below GBP 30.00. Here is the link to Amazon. This is where I found the best price (GBP 27.00 including delivery) when I did the analysis.
What I like about it:
1) It’s fully adjustable, so you will be able to use it till the very end of the pregnancy, even with twins. You can change tension and support easily by stretching the belt a little more or less and adjusting the fastening position.
2) It supports both the lower back and the pelvis.
3) It makes a difference immediately, the moment you wear it. I was very surprised by the level of support of this belt. Take it off after a couple of hours of wearing it and you will notice the difference.
4) Good quality. I used it for my two pregnancies and passed it to at least 4 of my friends (one with twins) and only now it is too old/loose to be used.
5) It does not move or “roll up” once the pregnancy advances, as some of the cheaper ones. As I mentioned before, it will fit well till the very end.

Negatives:
1) It is ugly and will show under work clothes but, when/if you will need it you are unlikely to care.
2) A bit fiddly to fit at the beginning. There are 3 parts/belts: one goes under the bump, one around the lower back and the third belt goes from side to side above the bump. You just need to look at the fitting instructions and you will get quickly the hang of it. If you think it is not working, you are probably not fitting it properly.
3) The velcro can be a bit itchy, so it’s best worn over a top otherwise it might rub on your skin.

Other things to know:
1) If you feel it gets in the way of sitting try not to put it too low. I took it off when I had to sit for a long time.
2) I am very tall, but I read some reviews by shorter women that did not seem to find it as effective.
3) It has been on the market for a long time. It is produced by 3M, a serious, “global science-based company” (their words) with USD bn of revenues. You can be sure you are not harming your baby.
4) Hand wash only (in cold or warm water with mild detergent).

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Baby Colics – Basic Survival Guide

Infant colics are quite common. About 20% of babies suffer from them – breastfed and bottlefed infants in equal measure.
They typically start at about 2 to 3 weeks of age, peak at 2 months, start to improve by 3 months, and in most cases, are gone by 3½ to 4 months of age. Frustratingly, although much research has been done on the topic, there is no one proven cause of colic and very few universally effective solutions. The other annoying thing is that colicky babies run a higher risk of having sleep problems later on. This is often due to the fact that the parents are too tired and struggle to establish healthy sleep habits. My first daughter suffered from bad colics and I found it very tough to deal with. It basically almost drove me insane! If you are in a similar situation this post might help you.
I have tried to list all I would have loved to know and nobody told me!

Colics versus normal fussiness/crying:

Colics are different from normal fussiness/crying. Babies cry for lots of reasons (tired, hungry, thirsty, too hot or too cold, wet, dirty nappy, etc) but you will quite easily recognise the ‘colic crying’ because:
a) It happens typically between 2 weeks and 4 months of age,
b) It tends to have a higher pitch, feels more urgent/inconsolable,
c) It lasts longer,
d) It happens at a specific time of the day. It usually starts in the late afternoon and evening and may carry on for hours. An interesting statistic I read on Dr. Weissbluth’s book is that in 80% of infants the colic attacks start between 5.00pm and 8.00pm and end by midnight.

Best/most recognised soothing methods:

1) Motion. Different forms of movement help: pram rides, car rides, swings, walking, dancing. Certain babies manifest a preference for rocking or other forms of bouncing. A certain rhythm in the motion helps. A trick that worked well for me was raising and lowering the baby above my head like an elevator or rocking her/swinging her while resting with her belly against my arm.
2) Sucking. You can try with a pacifier, a bottle or the breast. Initially I hated the idea of a pacifier but I had to give up, as it made a big difference to my very colicky daughter.
3) Swaddling. This is a quite common practice in the UK. If you don’t like the idea of wrapping your baby with the arms in, try to wrap gently only the belly, leaving the arms free. Massaging can also be effective but often babies don’t seem willing to be touched in the midst of a colic crisis.
4) Sounds. Some babies love to hear the noise of a hairdryer or of a hoover (I know it is strange), others like music or hearing mum singing or saying shush shush.

There is a fascinating theory that explains why these 4 things might help. Human babies have to be smaller at the time of birth than other primate babies because the pelvic bones developed to support an upright posture are narrower. Rhythmic motions, gentle pressure, sounds could exert soothing effects because they re-create the sensations that the baby felt in the womb.

Finally wearing your baby (in a sling or baby carrier) for a walk can be very effective as it combines skin to skin contact, movement, gentle pressure, fresh air and distraction. With my baby it also worked well to walk gently holding her tight, upright with her face resting on my breast and her belly against my belly.

Not universally recognised methods:
1) Dietary changes for breastfeeding mothers. Try to avoid milk and milk products. If you see it helps try to introduce Lactofree products – I did and did not experience negative effects. You can also try to avoid caffeine, onions, cabbage, lentils, beans, broccoli, and other gas-producing, irritating foods. I tried all of the above but, to be honest, I did not see much of an improvement with my baby.
2) Simethicone based medicines (such as Flatulex, Mylicon, Infacol), homeopathic treatments, fennel tea have not conclusively proven to be effective but in case of desperation they are worth a try. I think Flatulex helped me (although I find it only in Switzerland), and my friend Arpana swears by Colic Calm.

Things to avoid:
1) Overfeeding. Especially if breastfeeding, you might be tempted to soothe your crying baby offering the breast over prolonged periods of time. The problem is that many babies with colics often suck more than they need and spit up/vomit and this can be mistaken for silent reflux. If you can, stick to the baby’s regular feeding schedule in terms of both timing and amount of milk. It helped me to try to leave at least two hours between feeds.
2) Gripe water. No matter what some people say, gripe water often contains unregulated ingredients (alcohol, etc.) that may harm your baby. Even if desperate I would not go there.

Have I forgotten anything that really helped you? If so please let me know. I hope one of the suggestions above help you. Please don’t despair, it will pass!!

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Baby and Toddler Sleep Problems: ‘Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child’ by Dr Marc Weissbluth, the book that changed my life!

'Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child' by Dr Marc Weissbluth

‘Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child’ by Dr Marc Weissbluth

 

I shall start by saying that not only is every child different, but every parent has different views and convictions that a book is unlikely to change. Plus solving toddlers’ sleep problems is much harder than preventing them as it demands a very consistent approach that not all parents are willing/capable to implement. So will this book work for you? I hope so. It helped Disorientata and since she has kindly mentioned Dr Weissbluth and Whatsbestfor in her blog, I have written here a bit more about it.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr Marc Weissbluth was first recommended to me by two of my good girlfriends (Eva and Stephanie, I will be always very grateful!). After 12 weeks of ‘not sleeping’ I felt exhausted and unhappy. My first baby had been very colicky right from the day we came home from the hospital. I have always been a 7-8-hours-a-night person so, with an average night of about 3-4 hours of interrupted sleep, I was not in good shape. I became more and more determined to find a solution. I had heard of many children that don’t sleep till they are 5/6 years old and that idea really scared me. My friends said Dr Weissbluth’s philosophy worked even with colicky babies, so I tried. I have to say It worked for both of my children, even if they had very different issues.

Why This Book Is Different

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child was first published in 1999 and has been a bestseller for years in the USA. The author is the founder of the Sleep Disorders Centre at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, is a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Northwestern University School of Medicine, a pediatrician and sleep researcher with 30 years’ experience.
With hundreds of sleep books on the market, this is different because it is based on clinical research. The material presented is not ‘just an opinion’ but is accompanied by a long list of references and citations, which I find very reassuring. The book is divided into three parts. Part I is about why sleep is so important, what constitutes a healthy sleep pattern and typical sleep problems and solutions. Part II is about the sleep problems that may arise within different age ranges – this covers from age zero to adolescence. Part III deals with special sleeps problems (night terrors, nightmares, sleepwalking for example).

What He Says (but there is much more!)

1) Not addressing and fixing a baby’s sleeping problem can cause a number of serious issues in later life.
2) Baby’s sleeping problems do not go away on their own. Studies show that sleep behaviours developed in infancy tend to carry over to toddler-hood, childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
3) Healthy sleep habits do not develop automatically and, most interestingly, parents can help or damage the development of healthy sleep habits! Read the rest of this entry »

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If your toddler is a ‘runner’ try Goldbug Harness Buddy

Goldbug Harness Buddy

Goldbug Harness Buddy

When my number two started walking, I finally understood why mothers would buy and make their toddler wear a harness! My little angel is a ‘runner’ so outings represent a major challenge, unless I use the pram and then she does not really like it. I had seen some dog-leash or backpack-style harnesses around so I decided to do some research.

The product that fitted best my needs is the Goldbug 2 in 1 Harness Buddy. Around GBP 20 well spent.

What I like about it is:
1) It’s cute, really cute and your child will likely want to wear it. There are 25 very pretty animal characters, you should find one you/your toddler likes. Because it’s so cute I felt less awkward than using a dog-leash-style harness.
2) The straps of the harness extend nicely so that they fit also over a bulky coat or when your toddler grows. The length of the fully extended strap is about 54cm. Note that some of the others on the market are very small.
3) The rein (the tail of the animal) is about 1 metre long, which is enough to push a pram and have your toddler walking alongside you without realising he’s being “led”. The result is that it gives the child enough independence but keeps him safe.
4) It has a double strap that stops the pack from slipping.
5) The rain is easily removable to allow more freedom of movement where safe.
6) It has a very small pocket (more a sort of pouch) where you can store small things: a treat, a sun hat, sun cream or a precious toy. The company calls it 2 in 1 because it is an harness that doubles as a backpack but if you expect to see the storage space of a backpack you will be disappointed.
7) It’s machine washable and durable. Mine is still in good shape after several washes.

Finally it’s soft and well made. It makes a lovely comfort toy that can be used beyond walking.

Worth knowing:

1) It should not be used by children who are still unsteady on their feet. The company suggests using it from 18 months.
2) It is not rainproof.
3) The buckles are designed to be difficult to open. My older daughter got her finger caught in and it was not fun.
4) If you lose the ‘tail’ it can be purchased separately for GBP 6.

Goldbug Harness Buddy in Action

Goldbug Harness Buddy in Action

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Chicken Stock Cubes for Babies and the Whole Family: Kallo Very Low Salt Organic Chicken Stock Cubes

Chicken Stock Cubes for Babies

Chicken Stock Cubes for Babies

If you cook everyday for your children, there are times when you want a shortcut. Kallo Very Low Salt Organic Chicken Stock Cubes are the solution. They will fit perfectly your Annabel Karmel’s recipes and also any other dishes you will prepare for the rest of your family. They are not specifically aimed at babies (such as the Boots Baby Organic Chicken Stock Cubes) but they are as good and, in my view, preferable:

1) They are organic and contain no artificial colours, flavours and preservatives (same as Boots)
2) They have a very low content of salt: 0.1g per 100ml of stock (slightly higher than the Boots’ product that has a salt equivalent figure of 0.05 gr of Salt per 100 ml of stock. Boots shows only the content of Sodium of its cubes so to compare you need to convert it multiplying the Sodium figure by 2.5).
3) They dissolve well in water (better than the Boots ones)
4) They taste nice (better than the Boots ones)
5) They are cheaper than Boots (GBP 1.20 versus 1.55) and much easier to find. Only few Boots stores have the baby stock cubes in stock.

Each box contains six individually-wrapped cubes. Each cube makes 500ml of stock. You can use less than a cube and use the rest of it another time, just wrap it up properly.

Worth knowing

Searching for salt content of foods (as one does!) I came across a site that is worth reading.
It says “Babies need only a very small amount of salt – less than 1g (0.4g sodium) a day up to 12 months. Their kidneys can’t cope with larger amounts of salt…Once your baby is eating solid foods (after six months), remember not to add salt to food you make for your baby or give to him or her. And be careful not to give him/her foods that aren’t made specifically for babies, such as breakfast cereals and pasta sauces, because these can be high in salt.”

Chicken Stock Cubes for Babies: Ingredients Comparison

Chicken Stock Cubes for Babies: Ingredients Comparison

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Le Creuset Toughened Non-Stick Frying Pan – Simply the Best

Le Creuset Toughened Non-Stick Frying Pan

Le Creuset Toughened Non-Stick Frying Pan

This is for me, a luxury worth having. It is more expensive than many on the market (GBP 60/70 for a 24/26cm diameter) but is worth every penny. A girlfriend recommended it to me after hearing about my last frying pan disappointment and I am super happy with it. It’s heavier than other frying pans but lighter than a cast iron pan. It comes in different sizes and 2 depths (shallow or deep). Glass lids are also available but need to be bought separately. It is worth noting that the lid handle is quite deep. Depending on the size and depth of the pan you choose, the lid may not fit inverted in the pan, which makes this a larger item to store. I bought the 26cm, ‘deep’ size and I find it perfect for our everyday needs.

What I like about it:
1) It really does not stick. I had it for more than 1 year now, I use it every day and it still works beautifully. All the others that I tried (the Original Green Pan, Tefal, Circulon and Berndes) work ok for the first few months but then lose their non-stick properties. Even if I hand washed them and treated them carefully.
2) Ideal for healthier cooking with very little oil or fat. You can even cook completely without oil.
3) It heats evenly on any type of hob.
4) The handles remain cool and don’t work themselves loose.
5) Easy to clean. As the food does not stick you will just need some warm soapy water.
6) Oven and dishwasher safe. I wash it by hand, though, as it is so easy to clean as I don’t want to risk damaging it.

Other things to know:
1) Works also on induction hobs.
2) The guide recommends to wipe the pan down with oil before the first usage (and every now and then) to keep the non-stick properties. I did it before the first use but I have not done it again. The pan looks fine but I think is worth doing. It is also recommended to: a) use non-stick cleaning pads, b) use plastic or wood (not metal) cooking utensils, and c) avoid using for long periods of time at very high heat settings.

 

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