Little Man has lots of lovely toys, but in the interests of trying to avoid our house becoming little more than extended toy storage for the wee fellow, we also try to ensure we supply him with common household objects to play with. Some household items make great free toys for baby, and not only do they save on storage space, but buying fewer toys is better for the planet too! So here’s my list of the top household items that will keep your baby entranced for hours…
Common Household Objects That Make Great Free Toys For Baby
A Wooden Spoon
“Oh, that’s where it was,” said my husband in an accusatory voice, as I picked up a wooden spoon from the playmat in the kitchen and handed it to Little Man. “I was searching for that for ages while I was cooking.”
Reader, we own a grand total of five wooden spoons (I counted for this article), but as it turns out, I had inadvertently selected my husband’s favourite spoon to give to baby as a fun new toy. Little Man loved it, and now the spoon has visible little gnaw marks on it from his two front teeth. Oops. So, although a wooden spoon is a great idea for an easy toy for baby, in the interests of marital harmony you should probably check with your partner before handing one over…
Every once in a while, our Sainsbury’s delivery will randomly substitute our chosen cardboard box of eggs for a plastic box instead. But not only are they less good for the environment, they’re also 100% less useful for their secondary purpose: entertainment for Little Man.
Just think about it. They’re made of cardboard, eminently chewable, not too heavy, an interesting shape and with a hinge that opens and closes. The perfect toy for a baby who’s interested in everything!
One of Little Man’s favourite toys is known in our house as The Gold Floofer. It has been a favourite since he was a couple of months old. It’s actually made out of a shiny gold plastic envelope lined with bubble wrap, that contained a delivery for me. We’ve long since forgotten what was actually contained in the envelope, but I cut out a large strip from the envelope for Little Man, because I thought he’d like the bright shiny colour and texture. I was not wrong, and he’s been playing with it ever since.
Fruit and vegetables
Over the autumn/Halloween season, Little Man had great fun playing with a miniature pumpkin I used to create a seasonal display in the lounge. He’s enjoyed chewing on it and bowling it across the floor so much that we actually just started calling it his pumpkin!
Now he’s a bit bigger and stronger, I only let him play with tougher fruit and veg like pumpkin, that has a thick rind that he can’t do much damage to! But when he was younger, most fruits and vegetables made great play things, and he loved exploring the textures of different grocery items. The perfect eco-friendly, 100% biodegradable (and delicious) playthings.
I’ve also had great success in making various shakers for Little Man (fancier parents than I will call them ‘sensory bottles‘). One favourite was a bottle part-filled with coloured water and dried lentils, which he loved shaking and rolling across the floor. My husband went to empty it out though when it was getting a bit old, and he reported that it smelled “like mouldy farts” by that point, so maybe don’t leave it too long before cleaning and changing the water!
Another great success has been the Shake Shake Box, an empty ice cream tub with some dried seeds and pasta in it so that it makes a satisfying rattling sound when you shake it, and the sides of the tub are clear so you can see it all shaking around in there. It’s been going for about six months now and still remains a favourite.
Okay, this one was so obvious that I almost forgot it! What child doesn’t love a cardboard box?
Your Ideas For Household Objects That Make Great Free Toys For Baby
Do you have any suggestions for other household items that make great free toys for little ones? Is there anything you think I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!
This morning was my turn to get up with Little Man and, in a rare and excellent turn of events, he didn’t wake up until 7am. We were both in a good mood when my husband came downstairs to join us an hour later, and we all started playing together on the floor. At one point my husband jokingly said to Little Man “Blink if mummy’s being difficult!” and I cracked up – I knew I was safe because Little Man just. doesn’t. blink. And he’s not alone – hardly blinking is one of those weird developmental things that’s actually normal for babies. But why don’t babies blink much, compared to adults?
Why doesn’t my baby blink?
How often do babies blink?
If you’ve spent much time around babies, you’ve probably noticed that they don’t blink much. This actually freaked me out slightly when I was still in hospital just after Little Man was born and I realised he wouldn’t blink for what felt like incredibly long amounts of time. Fortunately, a quick Google told me that it was totally normal. In fact, babies often only blink around once or twice a minute. When you consider that adults blink around fifteen times a minute, that’s a pretty huge difference.
Why do we need to blink in the first place?
Apparently, blinking is still a bit of a mystery to science, which is a mad thought given that there are billions of humans walking around on the surface of the planet blinking 21,600 times a day each. In fact, we blink so often that adults actually spend around 10% of our waking hours with our eyes shut.
Lubricating the eyeball by renewing your tear film, which not only nourishes the cornea, but also helps ensure a smooth optical surface to let your eyes see clearly.
Clearing away dust particles and any other debris from the eye.
Scientists now think that blinking may have a role in allowing your brain to get brief mental respites that help you to concentrate more effectively.
So… why don’t babies need to blink much?
Babies’ eyes presumably need to stay moist just like adult eyes. So why don’t babies need to blink as much as adults?
It’s been suggested that because babies sleep so much, they don’t need to blink as much, as they spend so much time with their eyes shut. Babies’ eyes actually don’t even make tears for the first month of life. Babies also have smaller eye openings than adults, proportionate to the overall size of their eyes. As a result, they might just not need as much eye lubrication as adults.
Alternatively, it’s also been suggested that babies may blink less because they need to focus more in order to take in all the visual information they’re receiving, so they can’t afford to take the short mental breaks that blinking affords to adults. Or that it may be related to babies’ underdeveloped dopamine systems.
So… What does all that mean?
As is so often the case when I’m writing about baby and child development on this blog, the answer seems to be: we don’t really know why babies don’t blink as much as adults. But the take-home message is: it’s totally normal for your baby not to blink much, so don’t worry.
So we’ve been weaning Little Man since he was six months old, and I’ve written a bit about it previously including my top tips for starting weaning. But I thought maybe it was time to write a follow-up post, expanding on one of the tips from my original article: that you shouldn’t make assumptions about what your baby will like.
As time has gone by, it’s come home to me time and time again how true this is! Little Man now basically eats whatever we have for dinner, with the occasional tweak – and it’s incredibly rare for him to not like something. He does have his favourite foods (anything Japanese, cottage pie, cherry tomatoes, banana) but the list of foods he doesn’t like is so short it’s not even a list, because there’s only one thing on it: feta cheese.
So I thought I’d pull together a list of some of the quite random foodstuffs that Little Man has tried and loved…
Weaning: Foods I Didn’t Expect My Baby To Love
If you’re not familiar with kimchi, it’s a Korean foodstuff made of fermented cabbage and other vegetables in a tangy, sometimes spicy sauce. When my husband made kimchi fried rice for us, although I dished some up for Little Man, I also made him a separate supper as we didn’t expect him to like the strong flavours of kimchi.
Boy, were we wrong! He wolfed it down and demanded more. This baby normally enjoys fried rice, but he seemed to enjoy it more than ever with the addition of the strongly-flavoured kimchi. Who knew?
I know so many grown adults who are quite fussy about curries, so I never expected Little Man to be quite so keen on them. He’s already tried a wide range of different types of curry, from more classic Indian aubergine curry with a bit of spice, to Japanese dry curry. And he’s seemed to enjoy them all! I was surprised to discover that he really doesn’t seem bothered about a bit of chilli spiciness in his food, and he has happily eaten a number of foods with a bit of a chilli kick to them.
Weird weaning food combinations
Early on in the weaning process, I discovered that Little Man would very much enjoy eating the strangest combinations of foods. This was super useful as we started our weaning journey and he was eating a lot of mashed and softer foods, because I could put pretty much anything on a plate for him. I remember once I sent my mum a picture of Little Man enjoying his lunch, and she asked what he was eating. The answer? Sweet potato, porridge, and broccoli. Yum. Not sure why I haven’t been awarded my first Michelin star yet… Presumably they have a backlog due to Covid.
Dashi is a broth or stock flavoured with seaweed and flakes of dried fish. It’s a key ingredient in many Japanese dishes.(and is the reason why some westerners complain that so much Japanese food tastes vaguely fishy!). We’ve discovered though that Little Man love love loves dashi! He has absolutely wolfed down any meal which contains it.
I think a lot of small children enjoy fish for its soft texture and yummy flavour, so if your child is one of these kids, why not try cooking them something with dashi – for instance this Japanese oyakodon recipe is easy to cook and even easier to eat!
Okay, I didn’t expect that Little Man wouldn’t like watermelon (who doesn’t like watermelon???) – I just didn’t expect him to like it quite as much as he does. We discovered that giving him a big piece of rind with a little melon attached was amazing at soothing his gums while he was teething in the summer. Obviously you need to be careful that he doesn’t bite bits off the rind and end up choking, but at around 6 months Little Man’s bite wasn’t strong enough to actually cut through the rind, so he just really really enjoyed chewing on it!
Okay, bear with me – NO I’m not advocating giving your tiny baby coffee! Little Man has the habit of climbing up on us and begging to try a bit whenever we are sat down with food or drink and he doesn’t have any. He was doing this once with me when I was drinking coffee, and I thought actually it’s so bitter that if he tried a bit, he wouldn’t like it and would leave me be to enjoy my coffee in peace. So I dipped my finger in my coffee and let him lick it, just to get the taste. And of course, you guessed it… He loved it. Oops.
Weaning foods: the verdict
So I guess in summary, I’ve found on so many occasions that my expectations of what Little Man will or won’t like are totally wrong. I’m sure at some point he will go through a much fussier phase, but right now we’re trying to get him eating as many different foods as possible (within the realms of NHS guidance on safe foods for weaning), and he’s loving it!
What unexpected weaning foods does your baby love?
Have you discovered any unexpected foods that your baby has loved during the weaning process? Let me know in the comments!
So the other day, when Little Man came home from nursery, he had a bit of a runny nose. He was unsettled overnight, and in the morning was very snotty – like a fountain with a bad algae infestation – but seemed happy enough, so he went off to nursery in the morning as usual. Then, just after 10am, the nursery called to say that as he’d been coughing, they needed to send him home. And we needed to get a coronavirus test for our baby.
Nursery weren’t really worried that he had coronavirus; his main symptom was a runny nose, which isn’t usually a symptom of Covid – but as he’d been coughing of course they had to play it safe. My husband booked Little Man in for a Covid-19 test, and I took him off to the testing site in the afternoon. I thought it might be helpful to share our experience, because I really didn’t know what to expect with getting a baby tested for coronavirus, and to be honest some aspects of the process were a little baffling! It would have been helpful to read about someone else’s experience before we went. So here goes…
SPOILER ALERT: As we suspected, when the results came back they showed that Little Man did not have coronavirus, just a nasty cold.
Getting A Covid 19 Coronavirus Test For Your Baby
Booking the test
You can’t just turn up to a Covid testing site and expect to be seen. Instead, you have to book a testing slot in advance, which you do via the .gov.uk website. Testing is free on the NHS if you have one or more of the main symptoms of Covid-19.
My husband actually booked our test slot while I was off picking up Little Man from nursery. You can book up to three household members in together for testing, and the process is pretty straightforward. After giving your postcode, you’re informed of your nearest coronavirus testing site – we were lucky to have one very close by. You could select a drive-through test or a walk-in test, and I went for the latter as it seemed more practical with a baby. You can pick a half hour long time slot for your test, and they tell you that it shouldn’t take longer than an hour. Fortunately for us, there were lots of free timeslots, so we could select a time that suited us right after Little Man has his lunch.
The website tells you that at some sites, you have to do the Covid swab yourself, while at other sites people do it for you – but it doesn’t tell you which one it’s going to be, based on the location you pick. We were also told to bring photo ID, although in the end no one actually asked to see it.
Finding the coronavirus testing site
I didn’t have a problem finding the test site itself – the problem came after we arrived. The testing site was set up in a car park. Not especially surprising for a drive-through testing centre. However there was no signage to indicate where to go for a walk-in test. I wandered around a bit, looking for a sign, being completely ignored by the staff there, and eventually gave up and just walked into the drive-through test entrance.
This attracted enough attention that someone finally came over to help. They seemed surprised to see someone coming for a walk through test, but took me to a table to one side of the car park, and told me to wait…
The Covid-19 Self Test Pack
I was given a sealed pack that contained various items – a swab (basically a cotton bud or Q-tip), tissue, plastic tube, two sealable plastic bags, and a set of instructions for how to conduct a Covid-19 Self Test.
The instructions were fine, but they’re not designed for getting a Covid-19 coronavirus test for your baby. In fact, all the instructions said on the matter was: “Children aged 11 and under – Adult to test child. Use the supplemental instructions to help you do this“. Fine… Except that I wasn’t given any supplemental instructions. Hmm.
I asked a member of staff, who said that he thought that you just needed to swab one nostril for young children – grown-ups have to swab their tonsils and nose (in that order, fortunately). I’m not sure whether the “supplemental instructions” on swabbing young children would have gone into more detail, but I do think it seems daft to have a separate set of instructions instead of just printing them all in one place.
I also think it would have been helpful not only to have actually had a copy of specific instructions of how to administer a Covid-19 coronavirus test to a baby, but to have had them in advance of going to the test site. If you knew what you were going to be asked to do, you could plan better how best to bribe/trick/otherwise deceive your baby into complying with the test. As it was, when we went to the site I didn’t even know that I would be asked to swab Little Man myself, let alone the details of what that would involve.
Conducting A Covid 19 Coronavirus Test For Your Baby
What I had to do:
So, I had to sanitise my hands carefully, swab my baby’s nostril – according to the adult instructions, ideally for 15 seconds and quite deep into the nostril until you feel resistance… It didn’t sound super achievable, when you consider that Little Man screamed, cried, grabbed my hands, and sometimes tried to bite me most times I just attempted to wipe his runny nose with a tissue.
Then I had to break off the long end of the swab, put it into the plastic tube without spilling any of the liquid in the tube, put that and an “absorbent pad” into a Ziploc bag, put that bag into a sealable biohazard bag, and put that bag into a box. Yay.
Did I mention the fact that it was a windy day? And that I was sat at a trestle table in the middle of an exposed car park, with nothing to provide a wind break, and handfuls of plastic bags, loose pieces of paper, and other objects that seemed designed to fly away at any moment. Oh, and nothing to weight them down with.
The inevitable did of course happen, and half my Self Test Pack ended up scattered across the car park by the wind while I was trying to unpackage the swab. So then I had to scurry around trying to collect them all up in one hand without contaminating the swab in the other, which was super fun.
How it worked in practice:
I distracted Little Man with a toy he hadn’t seen for a while, which got his attention enough that I actually managed to wiggle the swab around fairly deep in his nostril for about seven or eight seconds before he started protesting.
When the swab came out it was very snotty (eurgh, sorry). I wasn’t sure if this would be an issue, as the instructions for adults tell you to blow your nose beforehand so that the test won’t be ruined by too much mucus. The guy at the test centre said it wouldn’t be a problem though, and we got the test results fine so I guess it wasn’t!
Getting your Covid-19 test results:
The results took just under 24 hours to arrive. My husband was sent the Covid test results by text message and email, which was handy as we had to send the nursery a copy of them. Happily, as we had suspected, Little Man’s test came back negative – he’s just had a nasty cold, not the ‘rona.
My tips for other parents getting a Covid-19 coronavirus test for your baby
I think that the drive-through test option is probably easiest if there’s two parents on hand, but the walk-in test was much easier for me to manage with Little Man on my own. You’re not supposed to leave the car during a drive through Covid-19 test, and I wouldn’t fancy clambering into the back of the car to try to swab a baby in a car seat that’s facing the wrong way.
BUT. The wind did make the walk in test way more challenging than it needed to be, and it would have been even less fun in the rain, so check the weather forecast before you decide! If you do go for a walk in, expect to be outside the whole time, and take enough warm clothes for you and the baby.
If you’re getting a Covid-19 coronavirus test for your baby, I would take along some form of guaranteed distraction for the actual swabbing process – either a favourite toy they’ve not seen in a while or a favourite item of food. If you go for food though, make sure it’s something that will take them a little while to eat, like a breadstick, because the process is fiddly and takes a little while. If you’re in a car I guess you could even try to distract baby further with a baby sensory video on YouTube or similar.
Your experiences of getting a Covid-19 coronavirus test for your baby or young child
Have you had to get a Covid-19 coronavirus test for your baby or young child in the UK or abroad? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments!
Recently I’ve noticed that when Little Man gets excited, he goes through a very specific set of behaviours. He will raise both arms up and out wide, lean in with wide eyes, and start shaking. This could happen over a new and exciting toy, a new experience (such as when we first took him to the seaside and dipped his toes in the ocean), or even a new food. It’s such a rapid shaking, it’s almost like he’s vibrating with excitement. This got us a bit worried… Why does my baby shake so much when he gets excited?
Shaking when excited
We’ve all heard the phrase “shaking with excitement”, but I have to admit I assumed it was a metaphor until I had a baby. It’s almost as if he gets so excited that he just can’t contain himself! Now, I know that babies do lots of things that seem weird (like staring at lights, or crawling backwards) but are actually totally normal. So, is it normal for babies to shake with excitement?
Is it normal for babies to shake with excitement?
Yes! It’s very common. It’s to do with baby’s immature nervous system. Their developing nervous system sends too many electrical impulses to the muscles and they get all twitchy. It’s normal for babies to shake with excitement, when they see someone they know or a favourite toy. This can present in lots of different ways – for instance, full-body shakes, or baby may clench his fists and shake, or tense up his whole body when excited.
Some babies may also display shuddering or shaking at seemingly random times, when there’s no particular reason for them to be excited, and sometimes it can last for a few seconds. No-one really completely understands the cause of this infant shuddering, but it’s not harmful and usually goes away by the time they’re four years old. Sometimes it’s referred to as infant shudder syndrome, shuddering attacks, or shuddering spells.
If baby is otherwise healthy, developing well and meeting his or her milestones, then there’s probably nothing to worry about if he or she tends to shake with excitement. Life is just that exciting when everything’s new! There’s no treatment for infant shudder syndrome, because it’s not an illness – it just goes away over time.
However, of course it can look a bit peculiar, and as a parent you may worry that it looks like your child having a short fit. If you’re worried, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and speak to a medical professional.
When to get worried about baby’s shaking movements
Of course, as parents it’s natural to worry. Shaking can be evidence of a seizure, but there are some specific seizure warning signs to look out for:
If shaking continues for over 20 seconds
If the shaking movement is accompanied by vomiting, unusual eye movements, or loss of consciousness
If it’s associated with illness or injury, or if baby sleeps for a long time afterwards
If you notice any of these signs, you should seek medical help urgently.
Ultimately, you know your baby best, so even if you don’t spot any of the warning signs, if you think it’s time to call the doctor or NHS 111, then do it. It may help (if you think of it at the time) to take a video of the shaking behaviour that’s worrying you, to show your health professional.
Is baby shaking when excited a sign of autism?
When I got onto Google and started researching about babies shaking with excitement and infant shudder syndrome, it was clear to me from the Google search bar that lots of parents who are researching this subject are worried that their baby’s shaking or shuddering could be a sign of autism. This is probably because some people with autism use repetitive or rhythmic movements to soothe themselves, and this can take the form of shaking or hand flapping.
However, these kind of behaviours are also common with neurotypical children, so just because your baby or toddler shakes with excitement or flaps his or her hands, doesn’t mean that it’s a sign of autism. There are other early markers of autism which are more reliable as red flags that something could be wrong, such as a lack of eye contact or smiling. Again though, you know your baby best – so if you’re concerned that something is wrong, talk to your doctor.
Other causes of shuddering or shaking in babies
There are other reasons that babies may display shaking or shuddering movements, beyond excitement, infant shudder syndrome, or epilepsy. Babies and toddlers often shake their heads from side to side when falling asleep – it can actually be a motion they use to help themselves fall asleep (not that it looks very restful, especially when they start head-banging!), or a sign of teething or even an ear infection.
There’s also some suggestion that infant shudder syndrome could be an early sign of vitamin d deficiency in very young babies, so if you’re exclusively breastfeeding make sure that baby is getting their vitamin D drops in line with NHS guidance (babies who are formula fed get their vitamin supplements from the formula, so they don’t need any more).
So, in conclusion… there are loads of reasons your baby may shake or shudder, but if he or she is specifically displaying this behaviour when excited, it’s probably nothing to worry about. In some situations, continued shaking or shuddering could be a cause for concern though, so exercise your best judgement as a parent, err on the side of caution, and check with a doctor if you think you need to.
When Little Man was about 7 1/2 months old, we went to visit my parents. As they live a couple of hours away, this involved staying over. The little chap slept quite badly the whole weekend, but we weren’t especially surprised as he was in his travel cot which is still an unfamiliar bed for him. But when we got home, he continued to sleep badly even in his own cot. After a week of frequent wake-ups at night, I wondered whether he could be going through a sleep regression.
What is sleep regression in babies?
A sleep regression basically is what it says on the tin: a period of time (usually 3 – 6 weeks) where a baby starts sleeping worse with more wake-ups during the night, and/or trouble settling down to sleep.
Sleep regressions are particularly associated with developmental milestones and growth spurts, so there are some ages when you can more or less expect a patch of bad sleep to come along… And yep, 8 months is one of those ages!
When does sleep regression happen?
Most babies go through their first sleep regression around four months old, which is caused by changes in your baby’s sleep cycles, moving towards a more adult sleeping pattern. We actually didn’t notice that one though! At four months old, Little Man was sleeping so badly anyway that we were already up with him at least 15 times a night thanks to his tummy and colic… So there wasn’t really any capacity for his sleep to get any worse. There’s a strange sort of silver lining…
The next sleep regression is around eight months, although really it can happen any time in the seven to ten months range. And that’s where we’re currently at!
Our experience of the eight month sleep regression
It’s been a mixed bag so far! Little Man has sometimes had trouble settling to sleep at night, and often has been waking up fussing multiple times per night – we’d got used to him only waking once for a feed (or sometimes not at all!) so that has felt like a bit of a shock to the system.
This eight month sleep regression coincided quite closely with Little Man starting to crawl forwards and pull himself up on things. This is apparently often associated with sleep regression, as is the start of separation anxiety, commonly experienced around eight months.
In general I’ve noticed issues much more at night than with his daytime naps, although we have had a couple of incidents of naptime meltdowns and nap refusal. In fact, overall I’d say he’s actually been napping longer during the day (presumably to make up for the night time deficit!). However at times he is doing two very very long naps rather than three shorter naps in one day. That can be difficult to predict, and it’s often difficult to know whether or not he will want a third nap!
We’re probably almost four weeks in and things are just starting to improve again, which is positive. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re back to getting a reasonable night’s sleep most nights…
Tips For Parents
So what are my tips for sleep regression? I guess focus on the positives: although Little Man is waking up much more than he was a month ago, it’s still nowhere near as bad as he was around 5 months old with his colic, or in the very early newborn stage when they need to feed constantly.
I’ve also written previously about our white noise machine and how useful it is at soothing Little Man to sleep. It’s also something I’d recommend to any parents going through a sleep regression! The white noise owl has a noise sensor, and it turns the nose on automatically if it senses baby making noise in the night. This has been so invaluable over the last few weeks – sometimes I’ve been woken by the sound of Little Man fussing in the night, but once his white noise comes on, he’s happily settled back down to sleep and I’ve not needed to get up at all! Of course, it doesn’t work every time, but I definitely recommend getting a white noise machine if you don’t have one.
We started weaning Little Man at six months, so we’re now about seven weeks in and having two solid meals a day as standard (I’ll be honest, we could be doing three a day, I just can’t be bothered cleaning porridge off the walls that early in the morning). That means it’s time to share my top weaning tips so far, based on what I’ve learned!
We’re following a mix of traditional weaning (where the food is puréed or mushy at first, gradually increasing in chunky textures, and you feed baby with a spoon) and baby-led weaning (or BLW – where baby is presented with solid food options from the start and has to feed him or herself). This seems to be working just fine, despite some evangelists on the BLW side saying it’s all or nothing and you must never mix the two approaches for fear of confusing baby. Maybe some babies are more easily confused than others… Mine just seems to treat all food of all textures and presentations as an opportunity to coat himself in muck from head to toe.
In general, lunch is more of a purist’s BLW approach, where Little Man gets foods he can pick up himself and the time to have fun with them. Sometimes they even go into his mouth. Then at dinner, he sits in his high chair at the table with me and my husband, and there’s more of a concerted effort to get some food in his tummy.
Anyway, I’ve been reflecting on our weaning journey so far, and I thought I’d share some weaning tips that I wish I’d known when we started!
Don’t make assumptions about what they will or won’t like
Little Man has consistently surprised me with what he enjoys eating. The other day, I was eating some very strongly flavoured salt and vinegar crisps. Little Man was on my lap, and he was reaching for them. We don’t normally let him have any kind of junk food, but I let him have a crisp, on the basis that I thought the flavour would be way too strong and acidic for him and he wouldn’t like it. I even thought it might put him off asking for crisps in the future! Predictably, I was 100% wrong and he loved it… Oops.
Other foods that he has liked despite my expectations have included raspberries, broccoli mash (come on though, broccoli is grim… I practically made myself ill from the smell when I cooked it for him!), risotto, Japanese-style pork croquettes, and more. Now, I just let him try whatever and see what he thinks. Fingers crossed it works and we avoid having a fussy eater later on in life!
Help them get started off
I often offer Little Man one or two pieces of his finger food before leaving him to try to eat himself. Giving him a piece straight to his mouth at the start of the meal helps him get enthusiastic about feeding himself the rest. I then often give him one or two pieces to hold, as he often struggles to pick things up initially and it seems to help him get the hang of it for the rest of the meal.
Don’t start sweet (unless you mean to go on…)
The other day, I gave Little Man some raspberries to start him off while I made veggie omelette for his main. Oops. He loves veggie omelette, but after the raspberries he was in no way interested. Every time he put a piece in his mouth, he just made a sad face. Now we don’t do sweet things until the savoury is out the way first…
Let him have his own damn spoon
Little Man ALWAYS wants to hold the spoon. He struggles a lot with his teething and loves chomping on our wooden spoons. He’ll take a bite from a spoon, then if his teeth are bothering him, he’ll get very angry if you try to take the spoon back to give him a second bite. So now I have a back-up spoon on hand, and I just let him keep the spoon he wants. It’s much easier all around.
Brace yourself for those first weaning nappies
Little Man has always had trouble with his stomach, but as his tummy had improved by the time we came to start weaning, I have to say I wasn’t fully prepared for the violent and explosive nature of the poops he produced after starting weaning. We went through a couple of weeks where he was routinely experiencing such forceful poops that they completely escaped his nappy and went right up his back. He’s also been quite windy, but fortunately doesn’t seem to have tummy pain like he used to when he was smaller. Luckily for us (and our washing machine), Little Man’s digestive system does seem to have begun to acclimatise to solid foods, and poops are now normally being contained within the safety of his nappy. But I really wish someone had warned me about those first few weeks!
What are your top weaning tips? Share them in the comments!
Before we had our son, my husband and I went to ante-natal classes. The main thing we got from them was a lovely social circle of other expectant parents, but the second useful outcome was the fact that it prompted lots of useful discussions that we probably wouldn’t have thought to have otherwise.
One of these was about dummies (or pacifiers, if you’re an American reader), and whether to use them. After one class, on the drive home, when it came to discussing our feelings on this potentially controversial topic, we looked at each other and pretty much shrugged. Neither of us really had strong feelings one way or the other about whether or not to use a dummy. We concluded we would just see what happened…
How we ended up using a dummy
In the end, the decision was more or less made for us. Little Man ended up in neonatal intensive care (NICU) for several days, with a very bad case of jaundice. Dummies are commonly used in NICU, especially for premature babies, as dummy use helps to soothe babies and develop their sucking reflex.
When Little Man was first rushed into intensive care, I was asked if he could have a dummy. I said yes straightaway. We weren’t allowed to hold him as he had to stay under the phototherapy lights, to reduce his bilirubin levels, he was covered in wires and tubes with a mask over his face. So I was very keen for him to have anything he might find comforting, and agreeing to the dummy was an easy decision.
Once he left intensive care, he kept the dummy he had been given, as we could see that it was something he found soothing. And he’s used a dummy ever since.
What are the benefits?
Dummies help a baby satisfy their sucking instincts. Because I wasn’t able to breastfeed, this was especially important to us. The sucking reflex is soothing and helps Little Man fall asleep – we find that he resists sleep much longer without a dummy.
For us as a family, I’d say there are three further benefits that you don’t usually read about in lists of dummy advantages/disadvantages: firstly, the dummy seems to be soothing for Little Man when he’s teething. Secondly, it’s been good for his fine motor skills as he’s always trying to pick it up, hold it, and manipulate it to get it in his mouth and chew on. And thirdly, I’ve got to be honest and say that Little Man is a VERY LOUD baby. He obviously screams when he’s upset, like all babies, but he also screams when he’s happy, or when he’s just bored. Having a dummy to hand can help to reduce the cacophony…
What are the disadvantages?
Using a dummy does have some potential disadvantages. They’re hard to keep scrupulously clean so can transport bacteria and germs to your baby’s mouth. There is evidence of increased rates of some minor infections in babies who use dummies.
It’s recommended not to give babies a dummy until they are a couple of months old and breastfeeding is well established. Dummy use may interfere with breastfeeding and is associated with a reduced rate of breastfeeding at 3 months of age. As I wasn’t able to breastfeed anyway, this was less of a concern for us, which I’m sure does make it an easier choice.
There are also concerns that prolonged dummy use can have negative effects on your child’s growing teeth.
How to decide whether or not to use a dummy?
Some people seem to have pretty strong opinions on dummies one way or the other… But then, that’s probably true on most decisions you make as a parent. Ultimately, it’s your choice (and you’re allowed to change your mind, as well). Not all babies are interested in dummies, while others really love theirs. There’s no right or wrong answer either way – the main thing that matters is what works for you and your baby.
Since becoming a parent, it’s become clear to me that the inventors of the world really need to get cracking and design some new products for new parents. Forget baby monitors and nappy bins. I’ve come up with a list of the top inventions for new parents… that haven’t been invented yet!
When you put baby in his or her cot for a nap, wouldn’t it be great to know whether they’re going to sleep for an hour or drag you back with a full-scale meltdown in five minutes time? The number of times I have assumed that wee man would only nap for half an hour and then he actually sleeps for three times as long, and I just think of all the useful things I would have done, if only I’d known I had the time (let’s be honest… I would have napped).
A Pause Button
You know when you’re halfway through feeding the baby, and the doorbell rings? What you need is the option to press pause on baby and leave the room, safe in the knowledge that nothing can go wrong. Plus, when they’re screaming the house down, you could just take a break with a nice cuppa.
An Automated Burping Machine
You know those machines that promise to help you lose weight by vibrating the fat away? Surely someone could repurpose this Ultra Powerful Professional Vibration Massage Trainer into a machine that gives baby a little jiggle and shakes all the burps out in one super-efficient go?
Early Warning Poo Alarm
Wouldn’t it be so helpful to have a two minute advance warning that baby was about to poop? Then you could remove them from your lap when you’re wearing that lovely white dress. Ideally, this would also come with a built-in seismometer telling you how severe a bumquake to expect, and whether or not the nappy defences are likely to hold.
What inventions for new parents would you find most useful with your little one? Let me know in the comments!
Queen Victoria allegedly loved lavender, even eating lavender jelly with her roast mutton, rather than the more traditional mint. When my mother plans a picnic, it’s typically on a similarly extravagant scale, and to be honest you’re guaranteed a grand feast even if you end up eating it in a car park. So when we set off for a ‘lavender picnic’ at Castle Farm, the UK’s largest lavender farm, we knew we had the ‘picnic’ part covered. It was up to Castle Farm, Kent to provide the lavender.
Booking Your Lavender Picnic
I had booked our picnic at the last minute, thinking it would be something fun and a bit different to do after months spent in lockdown, while remaining safely outdoors and socially distanced. Tickets were £10.25 per adult, which to be honest is pretty darn steep for the privilege of spending two hours in a field. In fairness, the price does include access to a porta-potty. I’m charitably assuming that Castle Farm need to make a bit of extra cash after the impact of coronavirus.
Our Evening At Castle Farm Kent
But if the ticket price matched the rather steep gradient of the lavender fields themselves, we were far from the only ones prepared to pay up. Although the event was definitely busy, the field we were in was so large that there was more than enough space for everyone to set up their picnic rugs at a safe distance from each other, but right up close to the rows of lavender plants. This was no mean feat when some of the picnics were as lavish as ours (for context, the meat selection alone included roast beef, corned beef, salami, ham, chicken drumsticks and scotch eggs).
Of course, it’s possible that we actually had no need to worry about coronavirus transmission, as the ancient Greek surgeon Dioscorides noted lavender’s protective effect against the plague, and centuries later during the Black Death, plague doctors stuffed their masks with lavender to try to prevent themselves from catching the disease. Castle Farm make no such claims about their lavender. Perhaps their gift shop is missing a trick, given the new requirement for face masks to be worn in shops.
Instead Castle Farm, Kent emphasize the relaxing properties of lavender, even marketing their own range of natural sleep products. Relaxation was certainly in the air as we sat and enjoyed our picnic in the gently cooling breeze. Little Man had a very cosy nap in my arms, meaning I had to ask Martin to cut my food up for me so that I could eat it with one hand. Before we knew it, an hour and a half had slipped by and we had barely stepped beyond the first two metres of lavender.
So, with a newly-awake Little Man, we set off up into the heart of the fields. If the scent of lavender on the breeze was beautiful at the site of our picnic, it was incredible when you were right in the middle of the field. Along the rows of purple flowers, there were hundreds of bumblebees and honey bees hard at work; when you stood still, you could hear a gentle buzzing in the air. Little Man was fascinated by the flowers and the bees, and he enjoyed smelling the lavender as well. Older children from other parties were having a wonderful time running up and down the neat rows of plants.
The views across the purple hillsides were stunning with the sun just starting to set, and the bullocks in a field nearby were in a playful mood, treating us to the sight of them gallivanting about and going for a swim in the river. It seemed only fair that they enjoy life before achieving their ultimate destiny as Castle Farm Beef. I haven’t tried the beef myself, but I can attest that it does indeed seem to come from happy cows.
Picnicking on a slightly overcast evening, amongst cascades of British lavender, felt like an experience that was at once very English (the weather), very French (a la Provence’s purple fields of lavender*), and somewhat Japanese (a la hanami, the celebration of the transient beauty of flowers).
Overall, it was a wonderful, memorable experience that was more than just the opportunity to get some instagramable photos. I’d be interested in the future to try one of the Castle Farm lavender walks, and learn a little more about the farm and how they produce their lavender and essential oils.
Accessibility at Castle Farm, Kent
The car park was nice and close to the field, so if you have reduced mobility, it would still be possible to access the site – although the ground is uneven and flinty, which may be a challenge for wheelchairs or anyone very unsteady on their feet. There are no designated car park spaces for disabled vehicles although you could park away from other cars if you needed the space. We put Little Man in his carrier rather than test the pram’s off-roading capabilities.
Toilets and baby change facilities were provided, albeit as temporary portaloos with steps up to the door, which again could prove challenging if you have mobility issues.
* Actually the “lavender” in Provence is lavandin, which is distinct from British lavender. Both are grown at Castle Farm, so let’s not quibble too much…