Review: Tiddler Toddler Tracker

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One of the best pieces of advice I (stupidly) ignored as a new mum was to keep track of your little one's sleeping and feeding times, to help you establish a routine that didn't result in them becoming overtired/hungry at night. I did it a bit, to begin with when Daph was tiny and seemingly drinking eighteen bottles of milk a day, but then as she got older I didn't keep up with it. I had an app, which I never really got the hang of using (the breastfeeding ones in particular, with their built in timers, were just way too much faff for me!), and a paper chart the midwife gave me, but that soon got covered in milk/vomit.

So when I heard about the Tiddler Tracker (I saw a post about it from someone I follow on Facebook) I was pretty impressed, and really wished I'd had one in those early days, as it would have been much easier to keep on top of everything with a proper physical book. The Tiddler Tracker is a Moleskine-esq book filled with useful charts and pages for you to fill in, to track all aspects of your baby's day. And it's not just for babies, as there's also the Tiddler Toddler Tracker for older kids, such as Daph, designed to be more relevant for them.

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As a stationery fan, I just loved the idea straight away. I was also amazed that no one had thought of it before. I pinged off a tweet about them, and the company kindly got in touch and offered me a Toddler Tracker for review. Its arrival was very timely as we have recently been trying to keep a log of Daphne's nap times to get on top of this early waking issue - it's been SO helpful as we've realised that she actually needs to go to bed earlier than we thought if we want her to sleep in a bit later. It's all to do with how long she's awake for between waking up from her nap and going to bed for the night - any more than six hours, and she's overtired and will wake in the night (and then, inevitably, wake for the day super early and grumpy).

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There are several designs available to choose from, so you can find one that works for you, and the books are handily sized, so they're not so small you're squinting to read the pages, but they'd fit in your changing bag easily so you can take them out and about with you. Best of all the folk behind the company are parents and have really thought about the product, designing it based on personal experience of what works and what you need to keep a record of (they had a son with reflux, so understood the importance of tracking things carefully).

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We've been using the Toddler Tracker for a week now, and we love it. Daphne's also keen and enjoys watching us write things down in 'her book'. I actually think the Tiddler Tracker would be a perfect present for new parents - something most people might not think of, but that would undoubtedly become an essential bit of kit for anyone coping with those crazy first months.

18 month baby update

Eeek! It's my last baby update for a while! I think I'll do another one when Daphne turns two - it'll be amazing to look back and compare how much she changes in six months, rather than one. But first up, my little madam is finally a year and a half old, and I know I keep saying this, but this really is the BEST age so far. She's so bloody cute at the moment. She definitely went through a weird mental leap thing (her last ever Wonder Week - wow!) and changed a lot afterwards. The main thing I noticed is that she now doesn't do things just because you ask her to. Ha! Before, if I said 'Daph, go and get your shoes' or something similar, she'd trot off like an obedient dog and bring them back to me. But now, she looks at me, thinks about my request and (usually) decides that she'd rather do something else instead. It's actually amazing, and it fits right in with what they're supposed to have learnt in the last leap - that they have free will, basically, and don't have to do what they're told. Of course, this means a LOT more frustration on both our parts, but it's also amazing to think of her as this sentient little being with her own thoughts about things.

Another change - and the loveliest by far - is that she's suddenly got super cuddly. She's always giving me cuddles now - coming up to me and when I pick her up she throws her arms around me and buries her head against my shoulder and it's soooo sweet, because she was never a cuddly baby at all. She's also finally started sitting still a bit with me to watch television (yes I know this is terrible, but she's always on the go and sometimes I wish she'd just have some quiet time and chill out because she wears herself out). The only thing she'll watch at the moment is Little Baby Bum, the most random nursery rhyme cartoon thing on Netflix, but even so, it's been lovely to have her snuggle up against me and watch it - we even ate some popcorn in front of the telly together yesterday and finally, I was living the parenthood dream. Ha.

Other developments - she is finally walking, but only with her push along walker dog. I know this isn't a big deal for people with babies who've been walking from 10 months, but for us, this has been a bit mindblowing, and she looks so pleased with herself as she trots along behind him. She's also taken a few steps towards me if there's a gap between me and whatever she's standing against - it's almost as though she CAN walk, but she's just too scared to do it, in case she falls over. Because she does it without thinking sometimes (admittedly only a few steps, like I say) which proves she IS capable. She just overthinks things. She's got until the end of the month if she wants to beat me as I walked at 18 months, and I'm not sure if she'll get there, but we'll see... She's standing really well now, too, finally!

Sleep has been another big big change this month. We've finally transitioned to one nap. Which has been SO brilliant, as usually it's at least an hour, so we get a decent ish amount of time to get stuff done during the day finally. I know some babies sleep for two or even three hours a day, but that's just not going to be Daph, I don't think. She much prefers a shorter nap and an early bedtime, and is still going to bed around 6.30pm (but it has been 5.30 when her nap has been too short). Wake up times have been all over the shop, but that's because she's been ill the last week or two, so she seems to be waking in the night with a sore throat about 3am, and then going back to sleep quickly (a miracle in itself) until past six. This morning was 6.40am, which is the latest we've had in absolutely ages, but then I was awake at 1.30am myself coughing, as well as going in to her at 3 with milk, so we didn't really feel much benefit! Typical! I'm hoping once the sickness subsides, we'll get some kind of firm routine in place that we can stick to for the next year or so. That would just be amazing. Currently she's sleeping from 11.30am to around 1pm, which is quite good as it means we have a decent length of time in the afternoon to do things - in fact today, we had a Sunday roast at my parents, which we haven't been able to do for months.

Another big thing that's happened this month is that Daphne started at the childminder. The childminder is like an angel sent from heaven - she's absolutely wonderful, and Daphne has settled in really well. It's changed my thoughts about childcare so much, actually - I thought it was all about the parents having time to work, but in fact, it's Daph who seems to be benefiting the most, as she's getting to interact with other kids, play with different toys, and generally have a whole day focused on her development and needs, rather than fitting in at home with whatever (not) exciting things we're doing that day. We're actually going to go up to two days at the childminder's in March, and it makes me so happy to see how happy she is when I pick her up on Thursday evenings - she's always really chatty and excited, almost a different child. Also, the childminder has taught her to drink out of a beaker on her own. FINALLY.

Speech wise, there haven't been any noticeable changes this month. I think Daph has added to her repertoire of 'b' words - she can pretty much say anything beginning with B if you say it first. But other than that, not much to note. Still obsessed with the cat (is this normal?!) and still can't say Mummy. The cutest thing in the world though is every morning when Oli goes in to get her hearing her excitedly squeak 'Daddy' when she sees him.

The best thing about this age is seeing the development of Daph's personality. She's really becoming a little person. Loves the cat, loves giving things to people (will crawl over to any grown up and hand them a piece of Duplo within minutes of meeting them), loves Duplo, is very cuddly and affectionate, will wave at anyone, loves other kids - especially bigger kids... Doesn't have any patience for Peppa Pig, is SO OVER the Teletubbies now, likes to dance to music (shake her head and wave her arms around), can't go to sleep without clutching one or more muslin cloths, is still obsessed with milk and only drinks milk from bottles, loves her baths, hates being in the pushchair, thinks soft play is a load of crap, only likes pop up books... I could go on and on forever. I'm so proud of her.

17 month baby update

I wonder how long I should carry on doing these baby updates. Technically speaking, is Daphne still a baby? She doesn't toddle yet, so maybe she is. In any case, at this rate, I can envision myself continuing to blog about her when she turns 21, which I'm fairly sure she wouldn't be that impressed with...

Anyway, I'll keep going I think, at least until next month (18 months feels like a big milestone - something to do with it being the next clothes size up maybe!), and then maybe I'll have a break until she turns two. Which I am sure will come around in record time. It's crazy how much growing and changing a baby can do in two years (and how much ageing their mum can do at the same time - ha!).

So this month has been dominated by the sleep issue I already wrote about. And I think it's probably related to her naps. I really want to transition her onto one nap, but it's so hard when she wakes up at 5am, and is utterly shattered by 9 - it feels cruel not to put her down for a nap when she's yawning and grumpy and rubbing her eyes, but of course, this just perpetuates the problem, as then her afternoon nap is short as she's not tired enough for a long one, and thus her bedtime ends up being early too... and then we go round again. We try to push her nap back a little each day (15 mins or so) but somehow something will always go wrong - she'll fall asleep in the car, or we'll need her to nap a bit earlier one day so we can go somewhere later, and we just seem to be back to square one. I'm not sure how to solve this. Daphne started at the childminder's last week (more on that later) and she usually puts them all down for a long nap at 12.30. There's no way Daph could survive that long without going mad, so we agreed to let her have a little power nap in the buggy when the childminder walks to their playgroup in the morning, which seemed to work OK with regards to her getting overtired. Because the irony is, of course, that an overtired baby just sleeps worse (more badly? my grammar has deserted me today) and wakes up even earlier the next morning - babies make no sense! My preoccupation every waking moment is ensuring that Daph doesn't become overtired during the day, because that just makes everything go to hell. I am a woman obsessed.

We have the Gro clock but the first time I tried to use it I forgot to set it (didn't realise you had to do it manually every night), and then she woke up at 5am and so I set it then, trying to explain it to her, and it went straight to a great big cheery sun and lit the whole bloody room up, so I've obviously done something wrong. Anyway it made me so cross (little things will do that at 5am) that I unplugged the damn thing and now it lies next to her cot looking forlorn and useless. She's probably (definitely) a bit young to make sense of it anyway, but I was hoping for a miracle, as people in desperate situations do.

I guess the only solution is time, and her growing up a bit and being able to handle longer wake times. So it's a case of sitting it out, like all baby phases, trying to go to bed early (I'm getting better at this but do seethe with resentment at having my grown-up time curtailed in favour of a morning that starts before the dawn chorus) and just praying that the eighteen month sleep regression passes us by. Please god, don't we deserve a sleep break?! We've had it all: colic, split nights for MONTHS, middle of the night poos for MONTHS, a dream feed that persisted past 12 months... and now the super early risings. Let us off on this one thing, pretty please?!

Ahem. Yes, I am a woman obsessed. But onto the good things - Daph seems to love the childminder's. And no one told me how much more you love your child after they've been at the childminder's all day. I didn't cry when Oli took her (hardhearted mum that I am) but I did get a bit teary picking her up, and seeing how happy she'd been playing with all the bigger kids. It's so cute to see that side of her, and see how desperate she is to have 'friends' and copy the older kids. Bless! Made me feel we've been depriving her a bit by keeping her at home with us all day. And of course, it's great (although so weird) to have a day to myself to focus on my own stuff (although we've invariably been washing and cleaning and doing the noisy/dangerous DIY you can't do when she's here).

Not much else to report this month. Still no walking, although she's become a master cruiser, making her way across a room using every available surface to help her. Standing is getting better but she'll still only do it for a few seconds. I did notice this month that she's learnt how to crouch down from standing to pick something up, so clearly her legs are getting stronger. We took her to have her feet measured last week, and bought her her first proper pair of shoes, and we're trying to make her wear them in the house more, as we think they'll help her put her feet flat more often (she still mostly stands on tiptoes, it's no wonder her balance is so off). If she's still wobbly standing at eighteen months I might take her back to the GP, just to see if there are some exercises or something we can do with her to help her, but I'm confident that she'll get there in her own time, as she is still making progress. Baby steps. Ha.

Mid-clap :)

Oh yes! One thing she has finally mastered this month, is learning to clap. About a year after the baby books said she should. Even longer perhaps. It kind of makes me laugh that she just clearly didn't want to do anything to the conventional timeline. But yes, she now claps, on command and at things that excite her, as if to stick two fingers up at Mummy a year ago who was paranoid that her lack of clapping meant something serious was wrong. Ugh, how I wish I could go back and tell myself not to worry about this stuff.

She's as chatty as ever, and keeps stunning me by answering quite complicated questions - for example, we were walking back from the town the other day and about to turn into our road, and I said 'Who are we going to see at home Daph?' and she said, without a second's hesitation, 'Purdy'. Considering she couldn't see the house, or the cat, I was quite impressed with her brain working that one out. Oh and other developments - she is utterly obsessed with Duplo! We got her some for Christmas and she loved it, so we got her a few more boxes and it keeps her entertained for hours. She particularly likes posting the little people through the windows of the 'houses' mummy builds. I actually quite enjoy it too - certainly more fun than rattles and endless stacking cups!

16 month baby update

Goodness me the last month has gone quickly! We're edging even closer to the 18 month mark, which is amazing really. During the past month, Daph has been an absolute dream. She's emerged from the recent grumpy screaming phase and is instead incredibly happy most days and incredibly sweet. Which is brilliant. She's even decided she doesn't mind going to the supermarket anymore, and the tantrums have subsided. (For now. I know, as ever, everything is a phase, even the good times).

This month her speech has come on leaps and bounds. She has a whole repertoire of words now, including: tea, Purdy (Percy the cat), Poph (my sister's name*), Daddy, teddy, bath, ball, hi, bunny, poo poo (when she's having her nappy changed), Dee Dee (the model in the Hush catalogue - have I mentioned here that she is OBSESSED with her?!)... I think that's about it. Still no Mummy but I get random variations of things instead, such as Bobby, Uddy, and just Bob, which I think is my favourite. Bless her.

This week she finally started standing without support, but it's still only for a few seconds before it's almost as though her brain figures it out, panics and she drops to her bum. She has an incredibly long back and quite stumpy legs for her height actually, so I am sure that doesn't help. Also, the muscles in her legs don't seem very big (literally, she has quite scrawny legs), but hopefully they'll keep growing and developing! I SO wish she could walk because she weighs an absolute ton, but she's a master crawler and moves at lightning speed, so she clearly doesn't see any great need to start using her feet instead. We measured her the other day and tried to plot her on the red book, and she's on the 87th percentile for her age, which is crazy when she was on the 2nd when she was born! I can't believe how tall she's getting now - the leggings I bought for her in the autumn are all coming up short already, and she's filling out 18-24 month babygrows. Madness.

Every time I do a baby update and I boast how her sleep's been good, the next day it goes to shit. So I am VERY reluctant to tempt fate here but... her sleep has been the best it's been ever in the past week. She's been going down easily at 7pm, and sleeping through until somewhere between 6am and 6.30. We've had a couple of early wake ups (like 5.30 etc) which I still find absolutely killer, but in the past few days it's been amazing really. I'm fairly confident now that I've written this that tonight will be an absolute disaster but anyway, thought I'd mark this time for posterity and to remind myself that it wasn't all totally helpless when I look back...

The one thing we have changed to try to stop her early wake ups (on the advice of my friend and fellow mum Alice) is to wake her up after 40 mins of her morning nap. We never used to wake her - we always let her sleep as long as she wanted and wake up naturally, but this did mean she had her long nap in the morning and then a poxy short one in the afternoon, which is the wrong way round. So now we've been trying to get her to do the long nap in the afternoon instead, and it's a bit hit and miss, but waking her up from her morning nap does seem to have done something weird to her brain and helped her sleep in later in the morning, which is great.

However, I'm fairly sure this rosy patch won't continue as I keep hearing all about the bloody 18 month sleep regression. It's like some awful hurdle looming on the horizon - I can't bear it! I think I'd rather not know. It's also going to coincide with Daph starting at the childminder's, so I'm fairly sure February is going to be an exhausting month for all of us... *tries to think positive - we WILL be one of those lucky families that skips it entirely! we will we will we will!!*

One last slightly weird thing - Daph has started holding her wee in when she has a bath. It's so funny, when we get her out of the bath now, she's desperate to get her nappy on to relieve herself, and genuinely seems so relieved when she can finally wee. My mum thinks this is a sign she's ready to be potty trained but seeing as she can't walk yet I'm not entirely convinced. It's interesting though, and just another reminder of how quickly she's growing up. Sob.

So yes, on the whole, this has been a bloody LOVELY month - Daph is happy, chatty, relaxed and eating and sleeping well. If babies were like this all the time I'd have hundreds of them. Maybe.

*my sister's name is actually Sophie, but when *I* was a littlun I couldn't pronounce it, so I used to call her Pophie, which got shortened to Poph. Pronounced to rhyme with Soph, in case there's any confusion (people always think it's Pop-h or something!)

15 month baby update

15-month-baby-update-2-lifebylotte Hello hello! I'm a bit late with this one, sorry! Daph turned 15 months last Thursday (which was also my mum's birthday) and I kind of forgot until later on the evening. When people ask me how old she is these days I tend to say one and I actually have to think about it if people want the precise number of months - time is rushing past so quickly!

Development wise, not much has changed in the past month. She's still not walking and is showing no signs of starting, but she is much more confident standing now and can stand unsupported for about two seconds before her little legs decide to give up. She's also started cruising around the furniture. The only time I mind about her being behind with this is when we're out and about and I think how much easier it would be if she could walk. That's been the biggest frustration of the last month actually - she has decided she hates going shopping, or being restrained in any way (eg in a pushchair or a trolley). She just wants to be crawling everywhere and anywhere, and doesn't seem to understand why that isn't allowed in the supermarket.

We had a really fun moment on Friday in M&S when she just totally lost it and started screaming at the top of her lungs in the trolley - a proper tantrum. Everyone stared at me. EVERYONE. A little old lady walked past and said 'Oh dear, someone's not very happy are they?' and I wanted to say 'Damn right I'm not, I've had enough.' Daph's screaming is really very very impressive and could probably shatter glass. I remember how, before I had Daph, I used to think 'Oh god, why do people with bratty kids take them to supermarkets in the first place?' and I have to say, I had no good answer for my old self on Friday.

It was so bad actually, that I left Oli to it and took her back to the car. I resisted the urge to weep. I envied the days when people could stick their babies in prams and leave them outside shops without fear of them being kidnapped. (Sort of).

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What else what else... oooh, one of the best things is she has finally started feeding herself, which has been amazing. She always 'could' feed herself (eg if I give her a biscuit she knows what to do with it) but at mealtimes she stubbornly used to sit there staring at whatever we put in front of her, waiting for us to feed her. This definitely ties in with her lack of interest in walking - she's figured out that life's easier if you get other people to do stuff for you, and don't trouble yourself with doing anything on your own. But in the last week or so (thanks I think in large part to my mum having less patience when she looks after her on Wednesdays) she's started to pick up food and put it in her mouth All By Herself. The other day she ate a whole (slice of) pizza all by herself, and then followed it up with a mandarin (cut into pieces). It was amazing to be able to eat my own piece of pizza before it got cold, and watch her happily helping herself. There was a LOT of mess, obvs, and I had to leave my OCD hat on the peg, but I've bought her one of those brilliant bibs that is basically like a bib jumper and covers everything, so at least she's not ruining her clothes... I've long given up on the carpet under the dining table (who puts carpet in dining rooms anyway, morons).

As for talking, 'tea' is definitely her first word (she says it whenever she sees a mug), and she's added lots of other interesting sounds to her repertoire in the last month. I love listening to her babble away because now it sounds as though she thinks she's actually saying real sentences, with little inflections that go up at the end, as though she's asking a question. She's also started giving us kisses along with the cuddles. It's all very adorable.

Her sleep is back to normal, although we had a few days of nap refusal which weren't fun. Generally though she's still having two naps a day, one at 9.30am and another at 2.30pm, and then going to bed at 6.30 and is (usually) asleep by 7. However, the time she wakes up each day seems to vary enormously which is weird - the past few days have been 5.45am *weeps* but earlier in the week she was doing more like 6.30 - 7. No idea how to make this more consistent, as she always goes to bed at the same time, and her bedtime routine is identical every night. I guess that some days she's just less tired than others?! She's been sleeping through though, 90% of the time, which is great.

Her sense of humour at the moment is just WONDERFUL, with lots of giggles and cheekiness. She deliberately does 'naughty' things (like trying to escape through the cat flap) just to see how we react - it's VERY hard to tell her off with a straight face when she's chuckling away at you, her little eyes shining with delight.

So yes, on the whole, a quiet month, apart from the screaming which hasn't, er, been quiet at all. I hope this is just a phase, as so many things turn out to be, and eventually she'll cotton on to how wonderful shopping is (yesterday I was in Baby Gap trying to get her some cool new leggings and she STILL had a meltdown, I mean, HONESTLY!) and then we'll be able to leave the house again. Having a toddler to entertain is SO much easier in the summer when you can take them to the park and let them roam free, and I do so miss all our outdoor pursuits... I guess it's time to start investigating some soft play areas. Gulp.

Wonder Week 9 and the need for rules

discipline-lifebylotte I'm going to be honest here, trying to write a 90,000 word novel in nine weeks is pushing me to the brink (of something, not sure what). I stare at my laptop on a daily basis and know I should be blogging, but I am totally drained by pumping out 2000 words every night. But today I wanted to write a few words about discipline. Not mine, which seems to be holding up OK no matter how many tempting crappy programmes are on TV. But Daph's.

She's currently in the middle of Wonder Week 9 - I think I've mentioned the Wonder Weeks before, but if not then click on the link to find out more. I was quite sold on their theories when Daph was tiny, but as she's grown, a couple of the 'leaps' have been completely off for us - she's been grumpy when she's not meant to be, and vice versa. But this latest leap (thankfully the second to last) has definitely seen a marked change in her behaviour. She's pushing boundaries all the time (and not in some groundbreaking scientist way, but more in a pushing-her-luck-with-mummy way) and it's quite exhausting. She's whining a lot, is incredibly clingy with me in particular, is sleeping at random times during the day and not falling asleep easily at night, and is generally being quite 'challenging'.

The most difficult thing with Daphne is her patience. Or lack thereof. She's always been quite feisty, and I do like it - rather that than a wallflower - but if we go out to the shops or whatever now, within 10 minutes she's screaming her head off trying to get out of her pushchair, and generally kicking up a stink. If she doesn't get what she wants immediately, she has a meltdown. Yesterday I had grand visions of us enjoying a nice Sunday lunch together as a family, but this went out the window as soon as we plonked Daph in her high chair in the restaurant. She screamed, and bashed her little fists about, leant over the edge nearly toppling over - she was desperate to get out. People stared. I felt embarrassed and regretted taking her. Eventually I grabbed her and she sat on my lap for most of the meal (of which she ate very little, while screaming for no apparent reason as I tried to eat mine). Everything I've read lately has said that this is the prime time to 'lay the groundwork' to ensure that she doesn't turn into a terrible two year old. But I don't really know where to start.

I've downloaded a few toddler books and they mostly refer to using a 'naughty step' system or similar, but all also (un)helpfully explain that it doesn't work until kids are around 2 and have enough verbal understanding to know what on earth is going on. At present when Daph kicks off, we mostly try to distract her as a means of calming her down, but I do often give in for an easy life (eg picking her up and carrying her when she's moaning in the pushchair, taking her out of the playpen when she screams) and I think I'm probably making a rod for my own back. Anything for an easy life. Ironically, I wish I could lose my temper a bit more with her - I hardly ever do, I just get tired - but perhaps I need to raise my voice a bit to let her know 'I'm serious'. On the handful of occasions I have shouted at her in the past, she's just found it hilariously funny, which wasn't really what I was aiming for.

So yes, really this is a bit of a cry for help. If anyone has any tips on how to deal with temper tantrums in 15 month olds, I'd love to hear them! I am going to try being a bit firmer and ignore her whining. My mum has also suggested offering her choices, so for example, if she doesn't want to eat her dinner, rather than trying to force it into her (I have long since realised this never works) I take it away and offer her a mandarin or a yoghurt instead, and usually she's happy to eat one of those (or both). I do understand that everything that's going on in her little head at the moment is related to wanting to be in control and can imagine that a toddler's life is a very frustrating one, but so is a parent's! ;)

Here are some more of the tips we're going to try:

  1. Distraction - we've got this one down but it's beginning to lose its effectiveness and I am slightly worried I'm shortening her attention span (eg if she screams in the supermarket, I give her my keys to play with - this used to fascinate her for ages, now they are boring after five minutes...). I think I need to take more toys with us when we're out and about, and should probably get some more board books, as she loves them. Also, I'm thinking of saving some special toys for when we're out and about, so she's not bored of them
  2. Sitting with her on my lap facing outwards - if she's screeching or whining for no apparent reason, I'm going to sit with her facing away from me and give her no attention whatsoever. I'm hoping she'll soon figure out the cause-and-effect here. We ignored her when she went through her biting phase and I'm happy to say she's no longer doing that, so hopefully this will work again (although I know that screeching is a whole different ballgame!)
  3. Trying to sound strict - altering my tone of voice/facial expression when I say no (in the past I've probably been a bit too mild). And explaining to her why I am saying no, even if it does seem she's too young to understand me
  4. Giving her choices - as explained above with mealtimes and also things like what top to wear, which socks to put on etc
  5. If she throws something or drops it deliberately, she doesn't get it back, or get another one (eg a biscuit when we're out and about - she quite often drops them over the side of the pushchair and looks at me for my reaction, because she knows it's wrong)
  6. Giving her loads of praise when she does something good - we've started this already and it sits with me better than anything else. I've been going ridiculously OTT if she feeds herself nicely, or tries to use the fork herself etc
  7. Limiting snacks - so she's hungrier at meal times and eats better
  8. Screaming to get out of her playpen / cot - this is going to the hardest but once I've established she's OK and it's just attention, I'm going to ignore her... *gulp*
  9. Full-on tantrums - eventually if she has one (I can tell it's only a matter of time), we'll put her in her room on her own (or maybe her cot) and shut the door for a minute. This seems mean to me but I'm hoping will give her a chance to learn to calm herself down

So yes, that's my very rough plan for surviving this phase. As I said, I would love to know of any obvious tricks or tips that I'm missing - please do share with me here or on Facebook!

To cut or not to cut?

cutting-baby-hair-lifebylotte ...that is the question! In case the photo doesn't make it obvious, I'm talking about Daph's hair. She's got quite crazy hair really - nothing like it was when she was born (when it was almost black and thick at the back with none on the top). Now, she has loads on the top, a kind of long side fringe going on, and just a few wispy curls at the back. It's so cute but the long bit gets in her eyes all the time. Which is why she usually has a hairclip in. The hairclips work quite well until she realises they are there and then gets pissed off and tries to yank them out, usually taking some hair with them and making herself cry in the process.

I really have no idea about cutting a baby's hair - what do most people do? I sort of imagined that I'd never cut it, actually, as it feels a bit sacriligeous. I imagined I'd just leave it to grow until she was about five, then I'd take her in for a bit of a trim and a tidy up. But as it's so uneven and so curly, I think it might be good to tidy it up a bit (not least so she can see where she's going when she's crawling), but how?!

I asked my hairdresser yesterday (finally got around to having my own hair cut after, gulp, eight months) and she told me to do it when she was in the bath, and just comb it upwards and take a bit off the end. But I'm not sure I can bring myself to do it. Am I the only one who feels stupidly sentimental about cutting her hair? I struggle enough with her damn fingernails, and curly strawberry blonde baby hair is SO much nicer than fingernails. Sniff. Would love to know what others have done - have you kept a lock of your baby's first hair in a locket around your neck?! Or did you just cut it without thinking twice (ie am I being stupidly sentimental about nothing - very possible!?)?

In other Daph news she is finally talking! Lots of attempts at words that are suddenly becoming recognisable - eg 'baby' for a person (whether they're a baby or not), tea for anything in a mug, Daddy for, er, her daddy, Dee Dee for the woman on the front of the Hush catalogue, who she seems to be obsessed with (perhaps she wishes she was her mother...) and just 'Dee' for the cat. She's also trying to copy everything we say, so if I say 'book' she'll say something like 'buk' and it's so cute. I can't wait till she can communicate properly with us!

PS hello to anyone who found me because a random baby sleep site posted a link to my rant about the Sleepyhead! I've had my entire month's usual hits in the last four hours, which is somewhat terrifying, as I thought I knew most of my readers personally. Anyway, sorry if you loved the Sleepyhead, didn't mean to offend anyone or criticise their parenting choices, it's just something I wish we had never bothered with! I'm always happy to hear that other mums lives have been made easier :)

14 month baby update

14-month-baby-update-lifebylotte So, the picture above probably gives away the biggest development this month - namely that Daph is finally, finally (about ten years behind the baby books) pulling herself up to stand! She still mostly stands on her tiptoes, but puts her feet flat from time to time too so I think it's just a case of getting her muscles to relax and get used to this new position, and then she'll be fine. It's so exciting and cute to see her pulling herself up and bobbing about, all pleased with herself. She also occasionally lifts each foot in turn, as if she's trying to walk (although she can't, as obviously she's still hanging on to whatever it is that she used to pull herself up in the first place). It's hard to imagine her walking about as a little person of her own accord, and while it's exciting (because my god is she heavy now and carrying her everywhere gets very tiring) it's also a bit sad - five minutes ago she was my helpless prone 5lb newborn! Gah!

She's still not talking in much of a meaningful sense, although she does very often say 'tea' when I pour water into my mug of tea, or when she sees me taking a sip from a cup, so I've decided that's her official first word. Ha. She's also been babbling 'mama' for the first time ever (it was only really dadadada before) and also 'nana' in the past week. She has a tendency to say 'dere' when she's pointing at something or reaching for it, which sounds very much like 'there', so I wonder if that counts! Any speech therapists out there? The doctor said we need to take her for a referral if she's not using words with meaning soon, but I'm reluctant to now, as I can see her progressing in her own way, and I have faith that she will get there eventually. Anyway, we'll see how she is next month and take it from there.

In other news, her understanding is coming on leaps and bounds. She can now do terrifying things like turn the telly on with the remote (I mean, seriously, and we hardly ever watch TV!) and also she knows to press the main button on my iPhone and wait for the screen to light up to swipe it. Also quite terrifying, really - these were not the skills I was hoping to foster in my tiny baby. She's still very good at fetching things you ask her for, or finding them in her toy basket, and she now also puts things back if you ask her to (eg, she has a habit of pulling things off our coffee table, but if you ask her she'll then pick them up and put them back on it - so cute). She also feeds her doll with her bottle, and also tries to feed me during mealtimes by offering me a bit of chewed up soggy bread, or half-bitten piece of cucumber. That's true love that is.

She can point with her index finger now, and she also points things out in books if you ask her to 'find the cat' or whatever. In the last few days she's started waving, but not at anyone in particular (yesterday it was at the trees - bastards didn't wave back) and not on demand. Still no sign of clapping however - she's a tough crowd.

Sleep went to shit again quite soon after my gloating post about her finally sleeping through, and I realised it was all down to the damn Sleepyhead. She was going through a phase of practising sitting up while she was half asleep and then getting stuck in weird positions and bursting into tears, so... we decided to put the Sleepyhead back. It was tough to go backwards after feeling we'd finally weaned her off it but in all honesty, it just wasn't worth the lack of sleep. As soon as we put it back, she started sleeping through again, so we're stuck with it for the foreseeable alas. But the sleeping through has been so epic - most nights she does 6.30pm to 6.30am without a peep. It. Is. Brilliant.

Napwise, she's still doing two naps, one for about an hour from 9.30am and another for 45 minutes from 2.30pm. I wish she would nap for longer as really it's hardly enough time to do much apart from pick up the trail of destruction that she leaves behind, but at least she's still doing two naps and hasn't dropped down to one yet. I am kind of dreading her dropping to one main nap in the middle of the day because surely it means you can't go anywhere?! I have to say I do miss the days of multiple naps when she was younger... oh, and her being able to nap in the buggy which meant I could go shopping without having to bribe her not to whine with gingerbread biscuits.

This month she also had her MMR. I agonised over this for weeks, and in the end she had it a bit late. I *think* I'm pleased we had it done - I have read about how terrible measles can be in children - but I still found it incredibly stressful (in fact, I wimped out and made Oli take her while I was at work), and she did have the predictable side effects 10 days after the injections. She woke up screaming hysterically (cue a horrendous 3am googling session of 'encephalitic cry' - DO NOT do this), had a really bad tummy and was generally grumpy and whiny for three days. It was so sad to think that it was something I had *done* to her, but thankfully she seems to have recovered with no ill effects.

The only thing we did do is put off her Meningitis B vaccination - at my surgery they give babies all four at once (MMR, Hib/MenC, PCV and MenB), but as MenB is the one that gives them a fever, I thought it would be better to have this once the MMR was completely out of her system. The nurse was apparently quite grumpy about it but they agreed to let her have that in a fortnight's time, and then it's no more injections until she's three and a half, I think. Phew!

14-month-baby-update2-lifebylotte

Two more developments this month: cuddling and... biting. The cuddling is lovely - she will now put her arms around me and give me a proper squeeze, but it's quite often followed up with the less-than-desirable sinking of her teeth into my neck. I am not sure what it's all about quite frankly - she's not cross when she does it, and it's not an anger thing. It's more that she's so excited she just wants to take a big chunk out of you. Very weird. And very bloody painful - I have lost my temper with her a few times when she's caught me off guard, which makes me feel terrible. Most of the time now I can tell when she's about to do it, and manage to distract her or hold her off, but my god it's annoying! I really hope it's a phase that doesn't last long, and if anyone has any tips for dealing with it (other than saying 'NO! NO BITING!' which seems to be what I say most of the time to her - poor thing!) then please ping me a comment here or on Facebook!

Why I wish I'd never heard of the Sleepyhead

sleepyhead-lifebylotte

sleepyhead-lifebylotte

*Hello everyone visiting from The Gentle Sleep Book FB page (there have been thousands of you!). Not sure why they chose to link to my blog post out of the blue, but I'd just like to say that the following is NOT meant to be an impartial review of the product, but just our personal experience of using it. This is a personal blog and I like to be honest about my experiences. But they are just MY experiences. I'm not saying this product doesn't help others, just that we didn't need it and we are finding it incredibly hard to wean our baby off it, hence the title. Phew!*

My mum had a point when she said there's a lot of baby 'stuff' available today that her generation coped perfectly well without. I remember moaning about her point of view in one of my pregnancy updates, but now, I'm starting to come around to it. There are plenty of things that I can't imagine doing without - my Perfect Prep machine, for example, has been a lifesaver - but then there are other things, such as the Bumbo seat, which, while useful at the time, definitely wasn't an essential. But my biggest regret, purchase wise, has to be the damn Sleepyhead.

The irony is that I think I wrote about this 'wonder product' in a post when Daph was tiny, calling it one of my most useful purchases. And I suppose it has been useful, but it's come at a price.

It was the lactation consultant we saw when Daph was about five days old who first told me about the Sleepyhead. She said every mum and dad she saw nowadays had 'one of those cushion things, so you can have the baby sleeping next to you during the day'. Of course, I went straight on Amazon after she'd left and bought us one (blame the new mum hormones - I was sucking up advice left right and centre like a very dry sponge). And it was useful in that we had it on the sofa with us a few times when Daph was napping. But if I'm honest, I think a MOSES BASKET would have done much the same job. And if I could turn back the clock now, I'd buy a moses basket for Daph when she was first born, which I would put in the Chicco Next 2 Me at night time. If my mum is reading this (hi Mum!) she'll be rubbing her hands and mouthing I told you so at the screen, no doubt.

But we live and learn. The problem with the Sleepyhead is that you pay a very heavy price for it. Not just in money (and it is stupidly expensive for what is essentially a fancy cushion). But in the future. It's all very well when you first tuck your little one in and feel pleased that they are all comfy and cosy in their cocoon. But then they get bigger. And bigger. And the Sleepyhead doesn't. So it starts to be too small for them. So then you try to get them to sleep without it, and all hell breaks loose.

sleepyhead2-lifebylotte

sleepyhead2-lifebylotte

It's OK though, because you can go back to John Lewis or Amazon and spend EVEN MORE money on a giant version of the Sleepyhead. What thoughtful folk they are! And of course, you get a spare cover for another £493, because you just know there will be puke incidents. Problem solved.

For now.

The next problem arises when you try to get your baby to nap somewhere else - in a travel cot at her grandparents' house for example, or on holiday - and you've neglected to bring the Sleepyhead. No chance sucker. Your baby is now totally used to turning about in her bed and bumping off the sides and without them, she feels lost, confused and uncomfortable. Which means she wakes up a lot. And cries.

It also becomes a pain when your baby learns to sit up and crawl, and thus decides to explore her cot in the night - turning upside down and crawling to the foot of the bed, but unable to settle because there's no Sleepyhead bumper at that end.

There's also the small matter of the weather - if it's warm, the Sleepyhead doesn't allow the air to circulate around your sleeping child, meaning one sweaty baby (and in our case, super curly hair in the morning - cute but still upsetting to see your baby drenched in sweat).

The covers are a pain to get on and off and wash, and so you try to cover them with a fitted sheet, but of course they don't fit properly, meaning the whole thing is a big bumpy mess.

sleepyhead3lifebylotte

sleepyhead3lifebylotte

The big Sleepyhead is allegedly suitable until they are three, but really, do you want a three-year-old that can't sleep in their bed without cushiony bumpers surrounding them?

The most annoying thing is that Daph was sleeping pretty well when she was first born WITHOUT the Sleepyhead. She was quite happy to be swaddled, and even though she looked tiny in the Next 2 Me, she seemed to settle just fine those first few days. I agree that it's probably worth a try if your baby seems very restless and resists being swaddled, but honestly, you DON'T need a Sleepyhead. You don't.

We've been suffering the effects of this ridiculous cushion over the past month or so as we've been weaning Daph off it. First of all, we took the bumper out of the cover and just put it loose in the cot (this is not recommended, please don't do this!) but then she managed to pull it over her face and woke up screaming and terrified. So then we went cold turkey, with muslins rolled up and tucked under her fitted sheet to try to provide a similar effect. That didn't work. So we just decided to go for it and take everything out completely. The cot looked so big and she looked so small. She wasn't used to all that space and ability to move about at night, and it's been a real struggle to try to get her to settle without it.

My other qualm about this 'must-have' is that it must, surely, stop them from rolling about as much as they might do normally. I know that Daph is behind developmentally in her gross motor skills anyway but I don't know how much of this was caused by her being effectively slotted into a space every night to sleep. With those bumpers surrounding her, she never had the opportunity to roll about in her cot, and she never had the opportunity to try sleeping on her side or front either (which she does now, finally, at 13 months). I'm sure plenty of babies use Sleepyheads and don't find it affects their development, but I'll never know with Daph if she would have advanced more quickly without it.

So yes. That's my tuppence worth. If you do decide to get one, I suggest not using it every night  - or maybe not using it for naps or something. Just so that your baby also gets used to being able to move about in her bed and doesn't think the only position for sleeping in is flat on their back, pinned in either side...

THE RIVAL, my novel about career and motherhood, is on sale now. You can find out more about THE RIVAL here, and order here if you want to make my day. UNFOLLOW ME will be published in June.

13 month baby update

13-month-baby-update-lifebylotte Oh how I wish I could freeze time! 13 months old is the best age yet - hands down. Daphne is so flipping cute all the time that I keep getting 'cute aggression' where I want to eat her/bite her/crush her. Google it (or click the handy link I provided, heh) - I'm not a psycho, it's an actual thing, a response to when things are so cute you have to rebalance your emotions by feeling violent. Like laughing when you're nervous or crying when you're happy - it's weird brain stuff and totally normal. Interesting eh? But I digress... Here's how Daphne's is at 13 months...

So, the biggest and best change is: she is FINALLY SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT. From around 7pm (she goes down at 6.30pm) until 7am. Cue massive hurrahs, loads of gin, and me generally feeling like a normal human being again. I had forgotten what it was like, in all honesty. It's amazing what a decent night's UNBROKEN sleep can do. It is bloody wonderful. We no longer have the weird dream feed thing at 11pm, so I can go to bed early if I like and get some proper zzzzs in. Of course, I never do (go to bed early) because it's too exciting have unbroken evenings to sit around, write blogs, watch TV and read books. Bliss.

I don't really know what exactly got her to sleep through, to be honest, but I did start to leave her for a bit when she woke at 11pm for her feed, and I did gradually water it down, and reduce the amount, over about two weeks. Eventually she sort of got the message that it wasn't worth bothering to wake up for, but it did take a while and there were several false starts. I think one of the keys to all of this is giving her a massive dinner, which can be a challenge as she's generally not that hungry in the evenings (she eats like a starved dog at lunch). But we have managed to get her to eat lots of different things for dinner - finger food works best - which keeps her interested and generally means we can fill her up before she gets too whiny.

However, the sleeping through the night hasn't been completely consistent - mostly because of the hot weather. The days when we were dealing with 30 degrees outside and 28 in her room she woke up a few times in the night at random hours, which was quite stressful. Settling her when she wakes is actually really hard now because she only semi wakes up - and usually sits up in her cot - and yet she can't seem to lie back down and go back to sleep. But if I go in to 'help', she often gets freaked out and wakes up completely - I think I'm interrupting her in the 'zone' as it were, and although she can't settle herself, it makes it worse if I barge in there and pick her up. She'll start to scream and freak out, which is pretty horrible. And the only thing that will settle her in that situation is a bottle, which always scares me as I don't want to start the habit up again...

But now the weather's cooling down, fingers crossed we won't have any more sweaty wake ups. Of course, there's still teething, separation anxiety, learning to stand up in the cot etc etc to keep me on my toes so I am sure there are plenty of unbroken nights to come, but the main thing is the majority of the time now she's sleeping through and it is bloody marvellous. I've aged about five years in the last year and I swear it's all sleep related. Sigh.

Another achievement this month is that we've weaned her off formula. She now happily drinks cow's milk and doesn't even mind if it's cold from the fridge. We've got a carton of formula to finish off so she's still having that at bedtime, but I'm quite confident she won't miss it. I can't wait to get rid of the Tommee Tippee machine from the kitchen (although it has been a lifesaver and is highly bloody recommended). Next up, we have to wean her off bottles. I thought it was too risky (read: stressful for me) trying to do both bottles and formula at the same time. She has all her normal drinks from a beaker but milk is in a bottle. I know it's not great for her speech development and my mum keeps telling me that I stopped using bottles at six months so I *know* it's something we need to get on top of, but she gets so windy and burpy drinking large amounts from a cup that I'm a bit wary. Any tips appreciated!

Weaning off things seems to be the order of the day at the moment actually - we've also just managed to get her to give up her Sleepyhead in her cot. Another great hurrah. I'm going to write a blog post about my issues with the Sleepyhead so won't go into too much detail here about it, but it's been another struggle and I'm so glad we've got rid of the damn thing. I replaced it with Airwraps - her cot has bars so without the Sleepyhead she can easily get her arms or legs stuck. The Airwraps have gone down quite well - they're not at all squishy though so don't particularly protect from bumping herself against the bars. She was a little freaked out at first, not having her nice soft pillowy sides to snuggle up against but she seems happy now. Her latest bedtime habit is sitting up in the middle of the night, turning round and crawling to the other end, so that her head is at the foot of the cot. She can change positions about ten times a night without waking herself up (we have a video monitor so can spy on her) which is rather amusing.

What else what else... on the speech front, we're no further along, but I wrote about that in my last blog post. She makes loads of different sounds but nothing specific or consistent yet. She's started pointing, sort of, but she uses her middle finger not her index finger and doesn't fully extend it so not sure it counts?! But she can follow me pointing at something and she also definitely understands 'no' now, and will stop what she's doing for a second if she hears me do my 'stern voice'. Although it doesn't stop her going right back to doing it. Sigh. I read somewhere lately (probably a self-help book or something on PMA) that babies are the ultimate inspiration as when they want something, they Just. Don't. Give. Up. I guess that's how you progress through life, and something we forget to do as we age/get lazy? Ha! I'll leave you there on that unexpectedly philosophical note...