It's my life, but not as I knew it!

Archive for November, 2013

Babywearing

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Ever since I decided to start writing a blog on my amazing journey as a proud Mama of twins I knew I wanted to include a post on babywearing. It is something that I love, that I am extremely passionate about and, also, that surprised me as a Mum.
I mean, I knew I wanted to carry my beautiful little bundle around (even before becoming pregnant) but knew nothing about the vast array of slings and wraps available out there. I knew nothing about how damaging using the wrong sort of sling can be for your children and their development. I knew nothing about how much I would actually fall in love with wearing the twins whilst out and about.
I cannot lie, I didn’t have a great pregnancy. I was terribly ill throughout the 35 weeks they were in there and it culminated in an emergency c-section for both my health and the health of Biscuit and Cracker. I felt that I missed out on that lovely time of enjoying carrying my bubbas round inside me and babywearing has really made up for that by giving me that gorgeous time of holding them close whilst walking about.
If you are pregnant, or looking to expand your baby transport options then I beg you to take your time, do your research, look at blogs (!), visit your local sling library, go to baby shows where they have experts on hand, talk to friends who enjoy babywearing and look for slings that will suit you, your baby and your lifestyle.
When choosing and using a sling, make sure they conform to TICKS and promote healthy hip positioning.

20131130-223338.jpg The slings that will promote the best development for your baby will ensure that you wear them parent-facing. This is not only best for their neck, spine and hips, but also their brain development- if they get scared or overwhelmed when they are facing you they can seek reassurance or a hiding place, if they are facing out they will be bombarded by stimuli then can never get away from.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on the many choices of slings and wraps out there (for this you can try an accredited babywearing consultant) but I am a passionate babywearing Mama who can, and will, tell you about her experiences.
We were lucky, the sling that I initially liked and bought was a beautiful woven wrap from Amazonas . Having a woven wrap is a hard way to start babywearing as it requires you to tie it in a certain way at a certain tension. It is, however, brilliant for those babies who are born small (like my 2.5kg twinks) as there isn’t a lower weight limit as there is with other slings, amazingly versatile as there are numerous ways of tying it to carry your babe, beautiful and so comfy cosy.
After some time using the wraps, I knew that I wanted to expand our sling collection with a buckle sling for ease of taking it on and off. After a lot of research and talking to experts we went for Manduca slings from Cheeky Rascals . They are super comfy, super easy and brilliant for toddlers who will want to get down the moment you step into the park (and back up again when they get tired). The padded waist band and straps distribute their weight over your hips and back, meaning that we regularly go on 5+ mile walks wearing the >10kg twinnies with no problem.
I have now become addicted! I love window-shopping online, at baby shows and on the street at new designs and styles of slings. My family is struggling to buy me Christmas or birthday pressies as the only things I really crave are slings (and apparently these do not count as presents for me). I adore the fashion and functionality of Wompat Slings and Rose and Rebellion Carriers. I love the structure and practicality of the Boba 4G and the transportability of the Connecta Integra. I want them all!!

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I have written this post to tell you about the slings we own, and those we’d like to, not because I have been paid to or sent any to review but because we love them.

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A week in tights

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Rob’s family has been over from Italy this week, so we have been out and about with the twins a lot. They have been in their slings, their buggy and toddling round restaurants, the aquarium, the zoo, a museum and the park and the weather has been super chilly.
Having a little girl means that keeping her warm is simple as we can stick on a nice pair of tights keeping her warm from her toes to her tush, even layering them with trousers for extra warmth. But what do you do with your little boy? Trousers and socks can leave gaps where cold air whips around, especially when they’re in a nice ‘froggy’ position in their slings. I have always put Cracker in little girl’s tights, meaning that we have got a lot of strange looks in the park. Then I found Slug and SnailsSlugs and Snails; gorgeously made, funkily patterned, thick and robust tights for boys with anti-slip soles (which also, handily, tells you the size of the tights- good for husbands like mine who struggle finding the right size clothes for the right child!!).
Cracker is a very active little man. He climbs up and down and over and under things constantly and I always try to ensure that his clothes are as comfortable as possible. I didn’t feel he always got this comfort from jeans and trackie bottoms with elasticated waistbands and ankles and his skin was always marked when I took these off. These tights surpassed my expectations on comfort.
This week both Biscuit and Cracker (yes, girls can also wear these tights too) have lived in my many pairs of Slugs and Snails this week, paired with dresses, shorts, trousers or just a cute top. They are bright and colourful in an array of big patterns and this means even the most fashion-forward toddler should be kept happy. People have commented on them and loved seeing them in something a little different.
I know I have already mentioned Slugs and Snails in my previous post regarding my recommendations, but I felt they deserved a post to themselves. Especially as the weather will keep on getting colder and the wind will continue to chill any skin left exposed on your little explorers.
Putting your little boy in tights may seem a bit strange but, trust me, he will thank you for it!

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Again, I have written this post because I love and believe in the products I am reviewing, not because I was paid to or sent any!

Things we couldn’t live with…

This post will not criticise specific items or companies. Nor does it pretend to be the last word in baby items. Some people I know swear by the items I’m about to tell you we found no use for, so again it has to be your own choice and decision. In the end, you know your children better than anyone else.

TUMMY TIME MATS
I had heard lots of good things about tummy time mats from mummy things and mummy websites so thought I was doing the right thing by buying two of them for Biscuit and Cracker. Unfortunately the twins had other thoughts and did not use them, at all. I think they’d be useful if your little ones didn’t like going on their tummys and needed lots of encouragement. My two were the complete opposite of this, they would have rather spent all their time on their tummys and never on their back! Once they could roll it was all we could do to keep them lying back.
For us, it was all about getting down onto their level and giving them interaction whilst they were on their tummy, giving them things to look at (including each other- the ultimate entertainment for twins) and encouraging them to lift those gorgeous heads up!

LIGHTS/SOUNDS SLEEP AIDS
This anti-recommendation was actually suggested to me by my good friend, C. She found that she had used lots of them for her little girl, E, and didn’t feel that any if them actually helped, apart from making her feel she was at least doing something to help.
There are lots of these on the market, with relaxing noises and twinkling lights for bubba if they have trouble going off to sleep or settling if they woke later. I’ve always found that the lights are quite stimulating and the twins would fight sleep to stay up and watch them. Music etc had the same effect, although we found the white noise function on ours (many of them have this feature, or there are apps featuring this too) very helpful. We live in a Central London flat and there is often lots of noise outside in the evening which the white noise helped to drown out. Now they are a bit older their fan in their room did the same thing in the summer. We can definitely hear more noise now their fan isn’t on overnight.

APNOEA/MOVEMENT MONITORS
As a children’s nurse we used apnoea monitors on a regular basis when we had babies on the ward and, yes, they can offer piece of mind to parents who have concerns about their babies breathing. But I also know how regularly a baby can wiggle off the mat and send everyone into a blind panic racing in to find a perfectly well, breathing baby lying nicely just off the mat. This can also happen when one half-asleep parent goes in to feed/change/settle the baby in the middle of the night and picks them up without turning off the monitor. The poor parent still in bed enjoying a few extra minutes of sleep then gets woken up in the worst way, causing palpitations and stress.
If you really want this sort of monitor then use it with a little caution, but I had decided a long time before the twins came along that I didn’t want this sort of monitor. We just have a standard noise monitor, a good friend of mine swears by no monitor at all so each to their own!

‘PACK N PLAY’/COLLAPSIBLE PLAY PEN (for multiples)
We bought a collapsible play pen for our two when they started to roll around (ostensibly to pop them in if I needed to answer the door or go to the toilet). It was like a travel cot. Firstly it wasn’t big enough for the two of them, even at 4 months old and barely mobile. Secondly, they didn’t seem to like the feel of the floor of it. It was off the ground and I think it didn’t feel so stable. Once they’d started pulling themselves up they didn’t like feeling off balance in there.
If you do have multiples and want a good play pen then there are lots out there which are large enough for all children and parents to fit in and play in. We have cats and without this play pen at least one of the twins would have ended up in the litter tray!! It also keeps them away from the TV and all other dangerous electrical equipment when you’re away preparing food etc. Until you know how having two or more toddlers wanting to go in opposite directions feels you wouldn’t know how vital a large play pen can be. Our one is recommended for nurseries to keep the little ones safe so that gives you and idea of the size.

There are other things that I personally didn’t/wouldn’t spend my money on like shoes for non-walkers, designer children’s clothes (they grow out of things and get things messy was too much to justify these), the latest/most popular/most expensive toys (as they’ll enjoy playing with the box more anyway) but whatever keeps you happy!

Things we wouldn’t have been able to live without….

These are all things that we bought to help us in our journey raising our beautiful twinklies. I am recommending them as they have been helpful/indispensable to us, not because I have been paid to or sent anything to review.

BUNK COT
available at http://www.thebunkcot.com
This is exactly what it sounds like! They are like bunk beds, but are two cots instead. They do turn into toddler bunk beds too, or can be used as one cot and one bed for children of different ages. When the twins first came home, they were both in the top bunk together and this was brilliant post-csection as there was no bending to get them in or out of bed. Now they are in separate cots and they are still working out for us. Cracker is in the bottom cot and, as I have heard from others, he has been able to climb out of it since he was about 13 months old. This isn’t a problem for us as he wakes up much earlier than Biscuit so instead of being in his cot and waking her, he climbs out and wakes us up instead!
The bunk cot is sturdy, well made and looks good. It comes in white and brown and will match with most nursery furniture. It takes up much less room than two separate cots do, which is so useful when space is at a premium in a small flat with two children!

AMAZONAS WRAP-ROUND SLING
available at http://www.babyarmadillo.com
Woven wrap slings are probably the most complicated introduction into babywearing, as they require tying at a certain tension to properly hold and support your bubba. You tube is a fabulous resource for seeing the numerous ways you can tie a sling, and your local sling library will always be able to help out too.
Biscuit and Cracker were quite small when they were new as they were not only born five weeks early, but there were two of them! This meant that they were too small to be able to use most other slings (they were 2.5kg and lots of slings need babies to be 3/3.5kg to use it) but we knew it would be better for us and for them to be able to sling them.
These slings, once you have got the hang of them, are comfy, easy, stylish and keep bubba warm. We always had people coming up to us asking where we got them from and the twins were comfy.

MANDUCA BUCKLE SLING
available at http://www.cheekyrascals.co.uk
We bought these when the twins were slightly older as they are much simpler when your little one might want to get down (and then back up again) at a moments notice. They have a padded waist and buckles to keep them to secure. You can wear your bubba on your front, hip or back (ALWAYS parent-facing please, more on that in a later post I think). We found these so simple to use (I have even worn both babies together in these), they suit a wide variety of body shapes and they’re comfortable for carrier and bubba. A lot of the time we don’t even take our buggy out with us as these are so simple, comfortable and easy to use.
We wouldn’t give our Manducas up for anything…!

COSATTO EASI PEASI BATHTIME CHANGING STATION
available at http://www.kiddisave.co.uk
Now, this recommendation doesn’t just cover this specific changing station. There are loads of them on the market from lots of different brands. I think you should just buy one. Any one! There are parts of this one that we didn’t use, and therefore were a waste (like the bath- we found it impractical that the bath was under the changing table. Where do you put your baby when you get them out of the bath whilst you then mess around with trying to put the mat back on top and secure it?) But we found it so useful because of the height you change them at, particularly for post-section mums and those with bad backs. It has lots of storage underneath for nappies, wipes, creams and medicines so that everything is in the one place. It is mobile, useful for our first few months where I wheeled this into the warmer kitchen to bath them but returned it to the hallway afterwards for night-time changes. The one huge letdown was the fact that the material on the changing surface is quite tightly stretched over the comfy padding and ours has split and cracked in lots of little places.

Update: the amazingly friendly customer services team, after seeing this post and contacting me on twitter, have replaced the changing mat as it was in warranty (something that I had totally forgotten about). The replacement is the same pattern but I dont know if they have upgraded their materials as it is much better quality. There seems to be more padding underneath and the wipe-clean surface has a lot more give in it.

CHEEKY WIPES
available at http://www.cheekywipes.com
This is the recommendation that will make everyone go “yuk” except for anyone who has seen these bad boys in action and has been converted. Put simply, they are reusable baby wipes. Lovely little square wipes that you wash with your normal load, keep in a clean box of water and aromatic essential oil until use and then put a mucky box with more oil and water to keep the stink down. I love my cheeky wipes, they are easy to use, always there (no running to a store at stupid o’clock when they run out), money saving (once you’ve bought your kit, that’s it until you no longer need bottom wipes) and kind to little bottoms. Biscuit, like all women in my family, has very sensitive skin and even using fragrance-free wipes from any major baby/supermarket brands leaves her bottom red, raw and broken down. Going to my parents for a few days and leaving the cheeky wipes behind does this every time. Luckily a few days of using cheeky wipes again means her tushy is back it’s gorgeous, pink self!
We have also gone back and bought the pretty rainbow microfibre weaning kit (no mucky box required for these, they just get chucked straight in the washing machine) for hands and faces before/during/after feeding. Even a face full of spaghetti bolognese is no match for these!
I have told everyone that I know/work with that they need to get there hands on these for their bubbas. And if anyone is still unconvinced then I can, hands on heart, tell them that even my husband has been convinced and converted and he is not a strong-stomached nurse like me!!

MAM DUMMIES, BOTTLES AND STERILISER
available at http://www.mambaby.com
From day one my twins have used mam dummies and bottles, therefore Rob and I have used the steriliser since then too.
Mam dummies are orthodontically designed so that growing teeth aren’t pushed out of position. They come in a variety of sizes and a multitude of super cute designs.
Mam bottles are superb. They come entirely apart to make for easy cleaning, plus they can be sterilised individually with no need for a separate steriliser (handy for when visiting friends and relations for the day). There are a variety of teats from slow teats to open ‘skippy cup’ style ones. You can also add handles when bubbas start being more independent.

SLEEPING BAGS
available at http://www.gro.co.uk
Anyone and everyone has heard about these beautiful made and gorgeously designed sleeping bags. Used from birth (as long as they’re the right weight) they are safer than covers as the baby can spin around in their cot to their hearts content without the risk of them getting tangled or going under the blankets. They come in a range of tog ratings, with a free nursery thermometer to ensure they’re wearing the right night clothes. We have used them since the twins have fit into them, are still using them as we speak and have the next size up waiting in their closet for next year! As you can tell, I am a fan!

SPILLY SPOON
available at http://www.spillyspoon.com
Spilly spoons are a clever little invention for anyone who ever has experienced difficulties measuring out and giving medicine to their kiddiwinks. They are sturdy plastic contraptions that can hold 10mls of medicine and be put down flat on a surface with no spillage whilst you get hold of your charge and give it to them. It is substantial enough for little hands to hold and give the medicine to themselves (don’t ask me how/why things taste better when they do it for themselves but they do)! Plus we got the ouch pouch with ours, a cool bag to keep your spilly spoon, medicine, inhaler, epi pen, antibacterial wipes and plasters in. Fab little products to make Mamas lives easier, who can say no to that!

SAFE DREAMS COT WRAP
available at http://www.safedreams.co.uk
There will always be controversy about using cot wraps to stop little heads and limbs bashing against and going through cot bars in the night. Some American States have banned them due to the risk they pose. But Safe Dreams have designed and created brilliant cot wraps that are made of breathable fabric in case little ones end up against it in the night. They tightly Velcro on to the cot so there are no dangerous ties dangling around. We have used them to stop dummies falling out in the night!

PACIGRIP AND SIPPYGRIP
available at http://www.booginhead.com
As parents of babies who love their dummies, there is a niggling fear that the dummy will get thrown out of the buggy/sling and then you’re left with a screaming baby and you have to run around like a blue-bottomed fly trying to find another one. Pacigrips are dummy holders with strong metallic clasps to firmly attach that to clothes so that this fear never comes true.
Sippygrips are designed to put around sippy cups and then attach to buggy straps so that they don’t get thrown out and onto the pavement. I have to admit that we do not use them with sippy cups as we didn’t get them for that reason, but they are wrapped round a favourite cuddly toy in the buggy so that this does not get thrown out and messed up or lost. Plus they come in patterns that match the pacigrips!

SLUGS AND SNAILS TIGHTS
available at http://www.slugsandsnails.ie
I cannot recommend these tights highly enough. They are well made, comfortable, super stylish and cute. Mums and Dad can rest safe assured that their little ones are warm and cosy (and safe thanks to the anti-slip soles) and the bubbas can feel happy that they will be the most fashionable in the playground. Couple this with excellent customer service and a fun twitter feed and it makes me happy to do business with them.

Next time….
Things we couldn’t live with….

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Routine

You don’t become an intensive care nurse without thriving on order and routine (and, of course, being able to cope with chaos and surprises as they happen) and this is a technique that we have definitely used at home.

This is what has worked for us as a family. It is something that I would recommend but I know and understand that it is not for everyone. You have to go with what works best for you, don’t you?

We did try a night of ‘going with the flow’ when we first took the twins home (i.e. feeding and changing them individually as they woke up) but we found we were up all the time!! We did not get any form of rest, so we knew that to survive we would need routine.

We fed them every 4 hours during the day, changing them before hand (and in between if necessary). Over night if one woke up hungry, we would wake the other one and feed them both. We were able to continue this routine until my little biscuit didn’t need a night feed anymore but we still keep them together during the day. She went through the night a lot earlier than Cracker did.

Another routine we have found really important is a bedtime routine. Every evening they play, eat dinner, play some more, have a nice warm bath followed by milk and a story in bed. They know what this routine means and they relax and settle during it so that they go to sleep (relatively) easily. Yes, we sometimes deviate from this routine (when on holiday, have people visiting, go out in the evening or on the days we take them swimming) but I am a firm believer that if your children are secure in a routine then it is easy to take a break from it and they’ll return to it very quickly and simply.

People always comment on how content and happy the twins are, I think this is at least partly due to their routine. They know when things are going to happen, and don’t get upset when they get hungry or thirsty, for example, as they know that they will be getting food/drink soon.

So….you’re having twins!!

Finding out that I was pregnant was one of the happiest days of my entire life. Finding out that I was, in fact, pregnant with twins multiplied that feeling. Not just by two, but by a million! Yes it was scary, daunting and a total shock but how unbelievably special!

If you are reading this whilst pregnant with twins (first, congratulations) I am sorry if anything I proceed to say scares you more than you probably already have been!

Raising, and coping with, twins is without doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. I have nearly 17 years experience of working with and looking after young children (running a church crèche, babysitting, childminding and being a paediatric nurse) and having my multiples has pushed me to my limit. BUT it is also the most rewarding, amazing, hilarious, brilliant, lovely and fabulous thing I have ever done and it does get easier!

Just a “normal” mum…

I would like to introduce myself. My name is Charlii. I see myself as a somewhat boring, normal person! This is not a bad thing….

I live in a 2 bedroom flat with my husband, children and cats.
We both work, my husband in hospitality and I am a nurse.
We are not rich, but we are not poor.
I am not tall, but I am definitely not short.
I am by no means skinny, nor would I describe myself obese.
I am just me.

The thing that I feel makes me special is my children; my gorgeous, 16 month old boy/girl twins. THEY are special, amazing and absolutely not boring!

This blog will probably contain my opinions on toys, clothes, things to do and places to go with toddling twinnies. I will speak my mind about the fantastic and knackering world of raising twins. I will attempt to entertain and enthral you. I will tell the truth.