run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

16 rainy day (indoor) activities with a baby or toddler

So the season's called summer but don't let that fall you: August is one of the UK's wettest months. On a recent day of downpour my busy tiny man wasn't happy to just 'play' so we got active. Here's what we got up to - and let me know in the comments if you've got some great wet day play ideas - looks like we might need them....

* Make garden soup - in between the rainy spells, I pulled on these (brilliant) JoJo Maman Bebe overalls onto tiny man, popped some wellies on and we went to get messy. We've an empty big plant pot that had filled with water; tiny man added some leaves and grass and used a stick to stir it up: garden soup fun. Just watch out for attempts at worm-eating... they come and play too in the after-wet-weather...

* Dancing. Babies' music doesn't have to just be Twinkle Twinkle etc. We often like to dance around the room - and if tiny man is growing up with just as deep an appreciation for S Club 7 as I did, well... reach for the stars.

* Make a tent - might sound like an older kid's game, but tiny man loves sitting under a sheet draped over a few chairs with me! He'll play with all his usual toys, we'll sit and read, he loves playing with a flashing torch, and peepo is an obvious bonus.

* Plastic bowls - I was struggling to get any cooking done until I did a kitchen reshuffle, put all my plastic and metal mixing bowls and spoons in a big, low drawer and... left tiny man to it. He can play with this for an hour - seriously! I think he might think he's being a bit mischeivious, so there's extra appeal... Tupperaware boxes, kids' crockery, etc all works well. My new strategy is to wash the contents of this drawer just before I need to use it...

* Playdough: we didn't have any in the house (and it was pouring: shopping NO THANKS) but I found a super-easy recipe to make your own tiny man loved helping stir it up. Then I popped him into his high-chair with its washable detatchable plastic tray (Baby Bjorn's brilliant one) and he sat prodding, throwing, shaping and only once trying to taste the dough (he got a tiny bit in before I stopped him, but luckily he hated it.. v salty.. soon stopped that!). You can wrap the dough in a plastic bag and put it into a Kilner - mine's into its third week of happy usage.

* Play TV-making. Tiny man is fascinated by watching himself on an iPhone video - so sometimes I record him laughing / playing / walking and then we watch it back. Also pretty cute when we swap with friends and he points at his chums in videos. Works well with Facetime too - he loves laughing and 'chatting' to my friends and his, and family near and far.

* Make some rainbow spaghetti - saw this online and it looks so pretty - but does require some advance cooking effort.

* Do some shape-sorting with different kinds of dried pasta, measuring cups, and spoons. Different coloured and different shaped pastas are best. And yes, they'll try to eat them!

* Make a treasure hunt / play hide and seek: use a favourite toy - we use tiny man's fave teddy,  and hide him somewhere tricky but visible - eg in the bookcase, under the cot, poking out of a drawer- and sometimes somewhere really high like above the curtain rail - he finds it hilarious when the bear 'climbs' so high up! 

* Read. Not such an unusual activity, sure, but rainy days mean you have time to sit and get through a pile of books rather than rushing at bedtime - I've put a pile on the floor next to our rocking chair so tiny man picks his fave reads (or the ones that look most chewable..) and sits on my lap for a 'boo' as he calls them.

* Make a baby obstacle course, with pillows / cushions / duvets / tunnel etc for your baby to totally ignore negotiate to the end. 


 
* Form a band. No need for drums n bass... just grab a mixing bowl, wooden spoon, (put rice in an old water bottle if you're feeling really creative), can also use food like an onion / carrot etc... and watch your baby become the next Mozart. (Ear plugs optional).

* Pile up some cardboard boxes. H O U R S * OF * F U N. Tiny man goes in them, under them, through them... if he looks like he's tiring of them I make some holes in the side and become 'box mama', dancing around like, uh, someone with a former-Pampers-nappies' box on their head..

* Cleaning! Two of tiny man's favourite toys are the broom, and the hoover head part. He loves shuffling these around the floor, and if your baby sees you cleaning he/she will think that's super fun too - just give them a clean rag and a water spray and you're training them for the future as well as having fun...

* YouTube. Nah, not Peppa Pig - that's for a future we haven't yet reached - but if your babe has an interest, you'll find videos of it here. Ideas include ducks in ponds, airplanes flying/taking off, diggers on construction sites, dogs, etc. This is an entire video of ducks and dogs: baby gold-dust.

* Day-bath: bath-time is always fun but sometimes ruined by tiredness.. So have a day-one: play fun music (to distinguish from night-time routine), put kitchen/plastic gadgets etc into the water rather than the usual bath times and enjoy the splashing.

What are your favourite rainy-day activities? Please share below.
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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Dispatch from the National Union of Babies

Dear Combabes, 

A couple of us were at soft play the other day, and we decided enough is enough. We're sick of our sugar-free diet. Our imposed sleep times (I'll decide when I'm tired, thankyouverymuch.) Too-slow service on the poo front (had to sit in my brown stuff in the car for 15 minutes last week: it's not on.) 

Some of us have got slack: we've been yielding to their 'routines' - and it's making things tough for the rest of us. 

Members of NUB, things must change. We're working to rule now. And these are the new rules:

* Bedtime. That Gina woman is doing the rounds again. The one grandma secretly calls 'Gina-f***ing-Ford-we-never-did-this-in-our-day'. Best to stop this NOW. Here's how: every single night that you've been forced into a Gina routine during the day, you need to stay awake. Pop a building block in your Gro bag, sneak a squirty bath toy into your cot - anything to stay alert. 

Then, cry every half hour throughout the night (keep it plaintive, and stay lying down: start shouting or cot-jumping and they leave you there). It can be tough after a few nights - you're knackered, but it's worth it in the long-term.

Keep this up and then start sleeping til 3am or so, before demanding milk. They'll be so glad for this relative improvement that you'll get an extra night-time shot of the white stuff for ever, hopefully. Definitely for months.

You'll know this anti-sleep thing is working if mummy eats her birth-control pills before her coffee in the morning.

* A word on photos: no more. Lets go Bieber on this. I too feel like a zoo animal sometimes. I'm sick of having that stupid iPhone stuck in my face (and then being told I can't play with the buttons anymore just because I once dropped it and funny lines grew on the screen.) No rusk, no photo, mummy.

* Next time they give you "bum bum time" - where you're forced to wander around naked before bathtime and they take photos that'll undoubtedly be used against you in your teenage years - do a poo. Ideally whilst walking, so it spreads around several areas of carpet. They'll stop that charade pronto.

* No more Mr Nice Baby at the high-chair. Mummy's been staring at her phone like it's a fresh bottle of milk for hours - but I'm only allowed to watch Baby TV if I'm *also* eating her overcooked brocolli? No. Don't open those lips until the screen is on. And make her step up the work on the food, too: demand at least three different meals before accepting one. Make sure it's in the shape of a bear (koala is nice: don't accept generic 'bear'): she should act like Instagram is watching. 

* It's time to broaden our diets. Daddy only lets me eat a dust-sized particle of chocolate (whilst I can see him shoving the whole bar in his mouth from behind the cupboard door. Thinks it's OK because he does a sporadic, brown-toothed 'peepo' - it's not). 

* A bit of social conscience stuff: the playground's looking messy: clear it up. Leaves should be eaten, twigs you can pop in your nappy. Oh, and quick tip combabes: try a slug. I ate two yesterday and mummy was so pleased she gave me four cuddles and an extra cup of milk, whilst phoning daddy to ask if she should take me to A&E, which is probably the name of a new soft play.

* WARNING: A few weeks after they've gotten over the wow-factor that you can travel on two feet, they'll expect you to walk when they want, not when you want. Seriously: you'll be expected to *walk* from swing to slide, slide to car, car to doorway. This is silly - especially as my mummy justifies the fact that she 'shares' ALL my snacks with the fact that she's "effectively doing bicep curls with 10kg every day." So make sure she does. Sit or lie on the floor and refuse to move when they tell you to walk. They'll pretend to walk away and leave you. Hold your nerve: they never actually will. Eventually they'll come back, pick you up, and it's 1-0. Again.

Let me know how you get on, Combabes.

NUB x

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Sunday, 19 June 2016

Is your baby good? What does that even mean?

'Is your baby good?" asks every curious bus passenger and supermarket shopper..


Well, I think of replying, he didn't do nine months inside me as punishment for criminal behaviour. 

He's not thinking of voting for Donald Trump, or any other evil act. 

The closest he gets to insider trading is hiding rice cakes inside his vest (how?). 

And anyway, what baby isn't good?
 
But now I've clocked it. When I enthusiastically respond "YES! He's amazing!" and start reeling off the amazing tricks I'm daily wowed by - the regal wave! The beaming smile! - they don't care. 


That's not what they mean.

Nope. A baby who is 'good' is one who sleeps. They can be a miserable, sad little baba who never smiles, but if they leave their parents alone between the hours of 6pm and 8am they must be 'good'.


The thing is, when grown ups have a bad stomach, or toothache, or a hunger pang, or just a bit of insomnia, we might feel sad about it, and tired. 


We might have to get up for some water or some consolation if in pain - and we'll try to get on with their day as best they can. But we don't berate ourselves for being BAD. 

So why does society rate babies - and by implication their parents - as 'good' or 'bad' because of how many hours they can continuously sleep? Our babies all get there in the end. 

And in the meantime their parents are probably knackered. And don't need to be judged based on something they really can't control. Babies can be happy, and sweet, and brilliant, which they all are. And good? All babies are amazing. So stop asking a silly question.
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Saturday, 18 June 2016

Weaning with veggies

I'm waiting (with fear) for the day this changes, but right now tiny man is a fantastic eater. Much less fussy than me (which isn't saying much) - I'm yet to find something he won't seize with his chubby fist and pop into his mouth. (This almost included a worm in the garden, but I leapt faster than than a jaguar and stopped that source of protein getting in).

Anyway, I didn't do a huge amount of 'research' at the start of the weaning process, or have a big philosophy (I totally failed to vote either baby-led weaning or spoon-feeding in what seems like a serious 'competitive parenting' issue - just got stuck in). See my Slacker's Guide to Weaning with the best gadgets and gizmos here- and a follow-up here.

But I did read somewhere that breastmilk and formula was so sweet that it's savoury flavours that babes have to get used to with their first tastes. So for the first month or so, it was veggie purees that tiny man tasted.

When Ella's Kitchen - the guys behind those lifesaver pouches - got in touch about their Veg for Victory campaign, promoting the virtues of veggies - it struck a chord. Not just because they like a pun as much as me (step forward, Sir Weanston Churchill). 
The idea is, try a new veg a day - and accept that it can take up to ten tries for a tiny one to fall in love with a food.
Ella's sent over a box of delicious organic veggies with the challenge of making a week's worth of imaginative yummy meals - and this is how we got on. 
Exciting veggie box and Ella's meal-planner
My baby-cooking style tends to be either finger food (mostly soft-steamed veg and chicken / fish / bread / cheese etc for tiny man to gobble from his highchair tray, or stew/pie-style meals where I can make a whole bunch in one go. 

So what did we cook?

Day One: lunch was a chickpea shepherd's pie. I'm always worried about getting enough protein in, so chickpeas are a good call. I cooked them with tomato passata, mushrooms, chopped-up spinach, sweetcorn, parsnip, peas, and made a topping of mashed sweet potato with cheddar, grilling the whole pie and then slicing up leftover portions for the freezer.
Dinner was tiny houmous sandwiches, with chopped up cherry tomatoes, cucumber, peas and steamed carrot slices (I love this Avent machine for steaming / weaning)

Day two: today's lunch was fish pie. I hate fish, but it's such a healthy food I want to make sure tiny man gets a lot of it. Still, I find it easier to cook/feed when it's mixed with other foods, so during nap time I bulk-cooked some fish pies and froze them in ramekins. All I did was drop a salmon fillet into the Avent steaming machine with some courgette, a little garlic, basil, parsley, and onion. Once that was cooked I topped with potato mashed with butter and grilled the pies.
Dinner was pasta (I use soup pasta, it's small enough to easily slip down) with a cooked sauce of onions, tomatoes, mushroom and sour cream.

Day three: cauliflower cheese for lunch! I love this as I can make it for me too. We were in a hurry so it was a microwave job: melt butter, cheddar, cornflour and milk in a microwave whilst cooking pasta and cauli (can do this in the same saucepan). Stir in a tiny bit of mustard if liked - then mix the two together. Dinner was a baby version of fajitas: mixed steamed vegetables (sugar snap peas cut up small, courgette cubed, green beans steamed into a paste) with grated cheddar and black beans spread in a wrap, cut into very small pieces.
Cauli cheese .. yum
Day four: we grown-ups had a roast for dinner the previous night, so it was roast chicken, roast potatoes and steamed veggies for tiny man: he loved the suede.
Dinner was couscous with chopped tomatoes, herbs, mushrooms and chunks of butternut squash.

Day five: we were out in town and tiny man was teething. He always prefers purees when teething so I grabbed a tomatoey pasta Ella's pouch.
Dinner was fish pie again. We made a yum secret-veg smoothie for dessert: frozen berries (easy Tesco packs) with spinach, kale and plain yogurt. 
Day six: risotto leftover from our dinner was tiny man's lunch - I cheated and used a supermarket pack of frozen mixed veg, adding fresh green beans and making it creamy thanks to a dollop of marscapone.
Dinner was chunks of avocado, sweet potato, houmous and breadsticks.

Day seven: the veggie challenge has gone so well - it's nice to make sure we're getting enough veg in every meal. We finished the challenge with another portion of chickpea stew for lunch - it's really yummy.  
Dinner was my usual knackered-mum fall-back: scrambled egg, toast, tomatoes and mushrooms, with avocado.

* This post was inspired by Ella's Veg for Victory campaign, who sent a box of veggies, but all cooking was my own.. (sorry tiny man).
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Summer holiday packing list (for older babies)

Just under a year ago, we were packing for our first overseas holiday with a then-five-month-year-old tiny man, and I was so bamboozled with all the stuff to take that I wrote this ultimate baby holiday packing check list. I've used it ever since, taking more or less depending on if we were staying in the UK, going for a few days or longer, etc.

But now tiny man is growing up, the essentials have changed. We don't need to take muslins, expressing gear, etc, and DO need a whole bunch of other things for our non-stop-walking, food-gobbling baby/toddler.
Just back from ten days in France, this was our packing list, plus a bit more on the things we found uber-useful:

* Two Grobags (see summer essentials post)
* SnoozeShade 
(see summer essentials post)
* Monitor and plug adaptor
* 5 vests
* 3 babygrows (warm enough for vest-only at night)
* 4 T shirts
* 5 shorts / short dungarees (see below) 
* 2 trousers
* 3 romper suits (see below) 
* 1 jumper
* two sun hats (one for pool)
* sunglasses (cute factor)
* suncream

* nappies
* wipes
* nappy cream
* changing mat
* socks
* shoes
* swim nappies
* swim suits
* poncho towel 
* toys (stacking cups, toy mobile phone, squeezy water crab, puppet, and main teddy)
* book
* Calpol
* teething gel
* Bibs
* Spoons
* Bowl
* Some emergency Ella's pouches, box of Organix biscuits, Weetabix for breakfast
* Buggy
* Sling
* Toothbrush and paste

* Bath bubbles
* Gro egg (see summer essentials post)
* Travel highchair (see summer essentials post)
* Travel cot if needed - we still love this one

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Review: Taste of London: is it baby friendly?

I've always wanted to visit Taste of London - zillions of the Capital's restaurants, lined up in one (Regent's) park, so you can try their tastiest dishes all in one go: yum.

So today we joined the hordes doing just that - and since I wasn't sure how baby-friendly it would be, and thought others might too, here's our verdict...

Taste is set up like a foodie festival - it's all open air and there are 'streets' of covered stands, some huge and freebie-packed (thanks Green & Black's and Lindt, I'm chocolated out for the next.... ten minutes), some small producers and start-ups - all serving food or drink. (I actually reckon you could get tipsy on the freebie ciders, wines, and vodka alone... hic). There are break-out areas with picnic tables and chairs (though not really enough of these) and a few big exhibition-type areas where you can watch big-chef cookery demos - although since tiny man didn't fancy napping today, we didn't catch one of these!

Practical tips: bring a sling rather than a buggy. There are paths laid out along the grass, but they're fairly narrow and - especially if you go on the weekend - packed with people. Also many of the stalls are raised up a bit - again, there are ramps but these can be congested- with a sling instead you can nip in and out (and make your babe giggle, hard, as ours did by bopping along to the music sprinkled throughout).
 
Tip two - if your babe is weaned, take a travel high chair if you need one - there aren't any here and I find taking this super-light one is easier than trying to feed in a buggy/sling/on laps etc. 

Next up - wear wellies, if you're going this year anyway! Taste's got muddy - Glasto-style - thanks to this week's endless rain storms. Go off-path and you get mud seeping into your shoes. That meant I couldn't let tiny man run around, which is his favourite thing - but you can't legislate for London weather. 
Overall verdict? We had a great day out. It's definitely baby-friendly rather than baby-focused - you'll have to take your own facilities etc and buggy-steering can be tricky - but tiny man looooved staring at the busy scenes, the people, tasting the million free samples (we basically ate the strawberry stand out of business), and watching this amazing fruit-carving dude:

And we loved gorging on top food (highlights were duck bao, Theo Randall's aubergine pasta, Duck and Waffle's soft scoop, smoky barbecue grub, sticky chicken wings... yum. 

So if you're wondering about visiting Taste of London with a baby - do, but plan ahead, and go on one of the weekdays if possible, as they're obviously less rammed than the weekends. Oh, and take an empty stomach...

* We visited as guests of Taste of London
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Five summer essentials

Summer is the easiest season with a baby or toddler, I reckon. When they're tiny, you don't need to bundle them up in six layers like you do in Winter, and can stroll everywhere with the pram. When they're bigger, they're happy exploring in a park and easier to entertain. And I'm sure potty training would be easier in the garden on a sunny week..

But, since this is babies we're talking about, hot weather, bugs, holidays, all mean ... more things to buy. These are our favourite summer essentials, for home and away:

* Buggy - I know loads of parents trade in their big "travel system" buggies for a light umbrella-style stroller as soon as the early days are over, but I was wavering - I like the robustness of a bigger buggy - not to mention the big basket for shopping.. 

In the Joie Nitro, though, (pictured above) we've found a happy medium. It's pretty light - 7.5kg - and very nippy: I find it super easy to stride around the West End and negotiate crowds with. It takes just two flicks at the back to flatten it down, and it comes with a good raincover, which is unusual. The wheels have great suspension so your babe doesn't look like he's on a bouncy castle (something that I've experienced with other buggies of this type), and there's a useful carry handle on the side, great for public transport and holiday travel. 

Other plus points? It was really easy to put together - five minutes, max - and the seat lies really flat and must be pretty comfortable because mr-nap-hater sleeps for over an hour in these wheels! Its nippiness and great mixture of light-but-not-tinny (some super-lights rattle along the pavement like ricocheting frogs) means I really rate the Nitro for travel. Only downside was the in-built sunshade isn't as full as it could be - but I overcame that issue with the Snooze Shade (see below). Aaand it's only £75... which is a total bargain and means I love it all the more.

Travel Grobags: we use a Grobag every night at home but they are extra useful for holidays as if you turn up to a hotel and they're provided a thick duvet or nasty bedding, you've got your own. Plus it's a way to make your baby feel at home - and hopefully sleep - in a new cot. After a year battling to get a sleeping tiny man into his car seat around the Grobag, I'm a bit embarrassed that I've only just discovered the travel version: it has a flap at the back and double-direction zip at the front which means you can easily strap in a snoozing baby into a car seat, buggy, etc, if they're joining you for dinner. 

Wished I'd known about these GroBags earlier!
Grobags also come in a range of togs - we use the 1 tog for summer, although sometimes higher at home when it's brrrrr. There's a useful guide to layers here. We also always pack the Gro Egg - it changes colour depending on the room temperature, so you know whether to add a vest / higher or lower tog Gro Bag - which I find really useful when hotel air conditioning blasts at night.

Travel high-chair: I spent ages researching this - you won't always need to take a travel high-chair on holiday, but sometimes it's hard enough to find a nice restaurant and having to walk away because there's nowhere safe for the babe is annoying - so I bought this. It's so light we just popped it under the buggy, but fits on almost every kind of chair and works really well. And it's under a tenner: win.

 * Snooze Shade: we used this non-stop as pram cover-up when tiny man was small to keep him out of the sun. But now he's bigger this stage two version is proving brilliantly useful for my little nap-battler. On days-out around town, or nights out on holiday, when it's time to snooze, we slide this on (there are two layers so you can be sure to have lots of air vents and spy-holes). It's backed by the Melanoma International Foundation, to give you piece of mind for sun safety, and fits on all buggies - we use it on the Joie (above) and our big Cosatto. It worked so well for us in Paris that he even zzzz'd through some of the world's most famous attractions, including the Eiffel Tower..



Sling: amazing for airports, stations, when the baby WON'T go in the buggy but you need to carry eighteen suitcases so he really needs too... As tiny man now weighs too much for the cosy wrap slings, I've found only one on the market is still wearable for a long time: this Baby Bjorn One carrier which I love in mint.
* Some items provided for review purposes, but rest assured we're seriously gobby and only rave about things we love.
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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Baby boyswear that's not BORING

So this isn't exactly an essential, but sometimes when shopping for tiny man I find the baby boyswear so boring. Some stores focus allll their energy on girls and leave the boys with boring slogan Ts (I'm looking at you, Gap). Others make 'old man' clothes - offering baby boys stiff chinos and small shirts, which is fine for smart dos but not so great for playing around.

But this summer I'm loving the new Ts, dungarees and cardis at M&S babywear. Their kids' clothing range has especially lovely things for boys - and these are our fave bits:

This navy linen dungarees and white shirt set is perfect for smart summer dos - and only £20! For cooler evenings, I love pairing it with this Autograph cardigan - which looks like it's from a Chelsea childrenswear boutique.. but is only £12.

This poncho towel - soft but pretty thin so it dries your baby and itself really speedily. I love the print on this one.

And the print on these cute and soft cotton romper suits too. They're ideal for holiday PJs or cool outfits for fun on the beach - and only £4 each.


* Items sent to ROOW for review - but rest assured we're seriously gobby and only rave about things we really love. 
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Travel: baby-friendly luxury at Le Bristol, Paris

"Paris? Worst place in Europe to take a baby. Except maybe Venice - all those canals - but seriously: the locals hate seeing kids in public. And you can't get a high chair in any restaurant in the city. The Metro doesn't do buggies. Paris just isn't baby friendly. Wait til he's 18 and you can go on a mini-break again.."

That was the diatribe when I told anyone older than 30 that we were planning a weekend in Paris.. Avec le bébé, 


So when we pulled into the Gare du Nord Eurostar terminal, after a very pleasant journey that was about 17 billion times easier than navigating an airport and plane with a small one, we were pleasantly surprised to be ushered to the front of the long, snaking line for taxis "because you have le bébéCome! Come to the front!"


And when we checked in to the uber-luxurious Le Bristol hotel, (after the doormen knowingly hauled our buggy, car seat and zillion bags out of the cab and asked if we'd like it to be stored in the lobby or our room), it was an unexpected surprise to see the beaming staff say 'coucou' at tiny man - then usher us behind the check-in so we could visit the hotel's glorious soft, white and very friendly Burmese cats, Fa-Raon and Kléopatre.

Le Bristol is old-school luxury: marble hallways, huge mirrored wardrobes, beautiful print upholstery. And our suite (the best word in hotel-land for a parent: we and tiny man each had our own room) also had a corner balcony facing a brilliant garden courtyard. You don't expect such a spacious sunshine trap in central Paris - but it was tiny man's favourite toddling-ground. 

Also in our room was a huge soft bed and proper cot (on wheels) for tiny man - thoughtfully filled with a little cuddly gardening rabbit called Hypolite (named after the hotel's founder Hippolyte Jammet) waiting for him, whilst the bathroom had a basket of Klorane baby products. We both enjoyed exploring...





Balcony chilling
Huuuuuuge bathroom number one - we were lucky enough to have two! Amazing tub for bathing with tiny man. He was also intrigued by the bidet ... :O
Cuddly Hypolite rabbit waiting in the cot
Le Bristol has an ideal location - on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where a saddler called Hermès and dressmaker called Jeanne Lanvin (names who've stuck around..) opened their shops in the nineteenth century and hang around today with their equally exclusive neighbours. Plus you're a 10-minute buggy stroll from the Champs Elysee, and I loved walking through the Tuileries gardens, past Le Louvre (I'm sure I should be embarrassed about being more excited to shoe-shop than gallery-gaze, but hey) to Le Marais, with its individual shops and Middle Eastern eateries. Tiny man covered a lot of ground at the huge playground at Jardin du Luxembourg (you do have to pay a few euros to get in). But we also spotted swings and small playgrounds in squares all over Paris, so there are plenty of places to pause for little legs.



We stopped for baguette lunches and macarons, but food-wise nowhere was going to beat Le Bristol. The breakfasts... Oh man. White-tied waiters proffered baskets of pillowy-crusty croissants, vanilla pastries, sweet brioche slices; then perfectly-poached eggs, gorgeous towers of berries; healthy bircher muesli.. Despite the elegant room and smart diners, the waiters were all so smiley and made us feel really welcome - even though tiny man re-decorated the floor a bit with his food.. 

There are a whole lot of amazing things about being a parent, but surely not having to feel embarrassed about taking croissants out of breakfast - "for the day, for the baby..." - is up there amongst the best.. And Le Bristol beautifully packaged it up for us all tiny man to nibble on during the day.



 The food was just as special in the evening: Le Bristol has a three Michelin star restaurant, but we reckoned that's one to enjoy when we're not half-rocking a snoozer in the buggy - so headed to Cafe Antonia - it's more casual, but still crystal chandelier and wall fresco, dress-up-and-enjoy-a-cocktail. I pigged out a beetroot carpaccio, then a cheeseburger with spicy tomato: it was juicy and fantastic, and you'd expect it to be at €44: the hotel does know how to charge. The highlight, though, was the tangy, herby, basil and strawberry jelly with apple sorbet. I'd travel to France and back 18 times to gobble this again just once: best dessert, ever.

I'd love to say I worked all that food off in the gym (with helpful toy-packed kids' club next door) or by swimming laps in the fantastic ship-like, wooden-decked swimming pool. But... our pool time was mainly spent throwing a chuckling tiny man up in the air, followed by towel cuddles on the sun deck overlooking Paris, with a glimpse of that famous tower.




    So the facilities of Le Bristol definitely make it the perfect luxury family base in Paris - everything is top-notch, from the food to the hairdryer (high-powered ceramic: am I the only person who is absurdly grateful when a hotel invests in a good blowdryer?!). But you'd expect that: it's expensive (rooms start from around £500 a night) and highly-rated (it was the first hotel in France to receive the title of 'palace', and was voted best hotel in the world by the Gallivanter's Guide). 

What really makes Le Bristol stand out as fab for kids and babies is the staff and the non-stuffy attitude. As tiny man strolled around the foyer, the door lady would bend down to play with his toys or bring out one of the cats for a stroke. When he was full and bored at breakfast, a member of staff bought out a cuddly toy. All of which means, if you're looking for a base for a special occasion break in Paris and want your family to feel at home, you'll all be happy at Le Bristol. 


* Run Out of Womb were guests of Le Bristol for review purposes, but rest assured we're seriously gobby and would never rave about something unless we loved it. 
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Friday, 10 June 2016

TWINS! A survival guide by an expert mama

Twins. As soon as the sonographer causally dropped it in that there were two heart beats, I could see my husband's eyeballs turning to dollar signs. I was thrilled. Best excuse for shopping if ever I knew one!

* This is a guest post by supermum of twins, Danielle Sidders* 

When we announced the news to family and friends they waved goodbye to us in much the same way as they had done when we told them we were moving to Johannesburg (they believed it to be the most dangerous place on earth) five years ago. Believing that we would never have a life once the little ones arrived, 'good luck', they said - and phrases like ‘double trouble’ and ‘you’ll have your hands full’ became the norm.

Twins definitely are hard work - but the pleasure you get from two tiny tots is immeasurable. Here are a few things that I’ve discovered and thought about. 

1. Get help. It may seem obvious but do.... in any shape or form.  There is the lovely story in the news at the moment of the Australian mother who has had Quintuplets and all of her town have been shifted in to help with feeds and nappy changing! A newborn can be a lot of work when there is just one but when it is double EVERYTHING it's pretty hard to cope especially if your other half is needed back at work PDQ. If you are going to have any chance of getting some rest and you're going to breastfeed (this is best done simultaneously so that you're not sitting feeding all day long). You will therefore definitely need help - someone to pass you the little ones when it's feeding time…and to help with the unbelievable amount of washing.

2. Read up online for things you REALLY need for twins. My top tip if you're going to breastfeed is that the 'My BreastFriend' Twins pillow is a must. The little towelling sun loungers we used for the bath were great too as we could safely bath them both at the same time. Bouncy chairs (we had the Baby Bjorn as they folded up nicely) are great for being able to bottle feed them both at the same time. 

3. Try to get them into a routine ASAP. Obviously this is easier said than done but if you get them on the same schedule when they're tiny hopefully it will be in place for the long term. This includes keeping them in the same cot (we did until 10 weeks old - and I cried when we separated them!) and therefore getting them used to sleeping through each other's cries. Even now when one is wailing I'm astounded that the other is still sleeping soundly. 
4. Be prepared for everything to be that bit harder when you're a mother of twins. Getting out of the house, getting them out of the car, fitting the buggy into a cafe/shop/down the street. It's hard but it's possible and it's all well worth it. Allow a lot of time to do everything!

5. Know that wherever you go, wherever you are, people will stop you. They will smile and then ask if they are twins (and you'll do your fake smile and nod again) and then they'll proceed to tell you (as if you didn't know) that it is hard work, they will ask how you're coping (without really wanting to know the answer) and they will then tell you that their Great Grandmothers sister's cousins niece once removed had twins or triplets or quads....

6. Take photos of them separately. I'm not very good at this but I'm trying to get better. I keep thinking that when they're older they will want some solo photos and I'm trying to be good and do separate photo albums of them.

7. Set up some email addresses for the little ones. That way whenever something important happens or you see something you think they will appreciate in time drop 'them' an email. This is by far the quickest way - when you have two, those baby books take quite a while to fill in!

8. Keep an eye out for offers on daily necessities - nappies especially. You will be amazed at just how many you will go through! Same goes for wet wipes. It's really rather scary. Join twin groups on Facebook and sign up to TAMBA. There are heaps of discounts for everyday things as well as other occasional purchases and travel etc. 

9. Don't be afraid to travel with them. Living abroad we haven't had much of a choice - flying with them at four months old filled me with fear.  Before they arrived I was astonished that one adult wasn't allowed to fly with two babies until they were two years old. Now I can't believe I was ever shocked!  
Just be organised and get a 'umbrella' buggy that you can take to the plane door. Take two baby carriers too in case they don't give you your buggy back straight away when you land. Book window seats - you won't be able to sit in the same row so I've found the best is to sit in window seats one in front of the other. The windows make a good pillow for a (hopefully) sleepy baby. Take more nappies than you think as well as a change of clothes for you and the little ones. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we’ve found the cabin crew to be amazing!

10 We did baby lead weaning. I dreaded the thought of trying to shovel puree in two little mouths at every feed. This worked so well for us although at times I was terrified they weren't actually getting enough food we seem to have come through the other side and now they will eat whatever is put in front of them. The mess is quite unbelievable but definitely easier in the long run. We purchased some excellent silicone mats that stick to the table and are easy to transport the food on. They're called EZPZ. A clever mum invented them!

11 Be organised. Be more organised than you ever thought possible. Have a changing mat upstairs and downstairs. Have a pack of wipes everywhere. Keep a bag of nappies and wipes in the buggy constantly. Buy more bibs than you could ever imagine. Prepare the bottles the night before with boiled water ready to just add formula. 

12 Enjoy them. It goes so fast. 

We've survived our first year. Now to the next. They're both crawling so the fun has started...
By Danielle Sidders
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