Thursday, 20 December 2012

'Twas a Night Before Christmas' Baby Art Class

Stockings are out and full of presents for babies to explore, paper is cut and prepared such that it can be folded into a stocking once the masterpieces have been painted, Winter Wonderland is playing in the background and mulled orange juice is on the stove ready for parents.

Bags of discovery are ready- Christmas colours and items like pine cones to be explored and dragged through the paint.

Babies arrive and quickly venture over to the presents, which are inspected, bashed and rattled (all containing what babies really want- boxes and random objects like lids of pots!) but abandoned when the first 'paint' is handed out- frozen berries.

From frozen berries on to warmed berries- much messier and fun to paint with- although some beautiful marks were made with the frozen berries. Fruits are mixed with Christmas spices- nutmeg, cinnamon and all spice to add to the sensory experience.

My favourite aspect of the classes Mum and little one enjoying some painting together.

Truly immersed in the paint and all that is going on, with beautifully crossed over feet- sadly missed capturing the big grins and clapping.

Eating is an added bonus (interestingly the frozen blueberries at the beginning were a hit for eating!)- joy of using natural food paints no need to worry about what is consumed! And some bashing of pots, not just used for containing paint.

Bags of discovery being discovered- 'What's in here Mum?' 

There is always something that is good to chew on.

Busy, content babies! I love to sit and watch how amused the little ones are throughout the class- enjoying the space, the paint, the props, the exploration, time with one another and especially time with Mum (or Dad or Granny or other important person).

And I forgot to take a picture of the finished painted stockings! Suggestions are that they can be used to wrap a lucky relative's present or simply to hang on the fireplace. My daughter made her own stocking this afternoon (we used paint, brushes, hands, feet, glitter and 'Baby' helped), she decided to make hers into a Christmas card for Mummy (I am very lucky :-)).

Once again a thoroughly enjoyable class, a lovely end to a year of Baby Art. I look forward to more classes next year, putting together fun themes with various materials and paint and ultimately watching babies paint for the first time, seeing their individual reactions- so different and varied but always absorbed and inventive.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Hanging out with a Toddler

I want to take a moment to share my observations from a morning hanging out with my toddler. I am continually amazed by the imagination and resourcefulness of my daughter as she plays. I love watching how she utilises all that is around her.

Today, to name but a few, she has used a candle as her cake, singing bowls as saucepans, the cupboard as an oven, snowflake confetti left over from lantern making as further food, a Christmas card as something Poppa has (I missed what this actually was), the washing up basket as a bath for baby, a cushion was her wheelbarrow and she has walked her dog the balloon.

 The random household/toys that have been utilised this morning

Alongside her imagination I love her curiosity that drives her need to learn about everything around her. Whilst she was busy cooking I took the opportunity to do some very long overdue filing, so we were busy together doing our own activities and sharing space. It was not long before she came over to see what I was doing and asking to do it herself. So I showed her- it was great watching her learn to place the paper in the hole punch, helping her push down, then how to line up the paper with the rings and get the holes over the rings. Then Teddy was spotted and it was his turn- what I loved about this was that I suggested she show Teddy how to do it- which she did. It was fascinating watching her teach Teddy as I had taught her.

Teddy, the oven, the file and the hole punch

So what has my daughter been learning this morning- 
  • How to be resourceful and make use of the materials to hand
  • How to be in the world- cooking, filing
  • How to teach and show someone how to do something
  • Working together on an activity
  • How to be patient and precise  
  • How to file and use a hole puncher!
 So what have I been reminded of-
  • Less is more- little ones do not need complicated toys to amuse themselves
  • Little ones are interested in what we are doing- they want to learn about the everyday world 
  • Keep it simple- give imagination space to create
These are all important elements that I try to bring to my baby art classes, as time and time again I see that by keeping it simple I give the babies space for their imaginations to grow, to learn about their environment and have free rein to their creativity. 

The results of creative explorations

These times when my daughter and me simply share space and activities together- especially when we are in harmony and have time to be- are precious and it is great to be able to take the time to share and document my simple observations.

So what have your little ones been up to today?

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Babywearing- a Transition from womb to world

Babies spend nine months enclosed in the womb, where it is warm and safe, listening to the constant beating of mum’s heart and feeling her every movement. Then they are born into the world. Suddenly they are exposed to gravity, the cold, separation, bright lights and if placed in a cot on their own, stillness and silence. Human babies are born vulnerable and immature, unready to care or fend for themselves and completely dependent on their parents for their survival. So what better way to help our babies adjust to life outside of the womb and feel protected than to carry them in a sling. Being carried by mum or dad in a sling provides a continuation of warmth, touch, containment, constant movement and the rhythm of a beating heart that they are so used to.  Babies do not know you continue to exist when out of their sight- so stay close and keep them feeling safe.

Mum and Baby as one; Baby warm, safe and contained

For mum it can help her transition from being pregnant and being at one with baby to becoming two separate beings- it can feel so good to still have your baby close to you, near where they have been for nine months, snuggled up and in easy distance to kiss. In addition, with the right sling you can wear them skin to skin, increasing bonding and helping establish breastfeeding. Babywearing is not just for mum, but Dad and other caregivers, it is a great way for them to start to get to know baby and spend close, intimate time together.

Babies are designed to be carried, their natural positioning of their legs as a newborn fits us perfectly, their legs are bowed with feet turned towards one another so they can hold on fast to their carrier. They have a grasping reflex which, whilst now only lasts for a short time after birth, harps back to a time when babies held on to our fur. A baby’s point of focus is approximately 20 cms in front of them- just the right distance for baby to see mum’s face when being carried or fed. Babies quickly learn to actively mould to our bodies, moving with our movement and snuggling up to us.

Embrace your baby close to you

Carrying our babies does not stop having benefits after the early days, as babies become more curious and are able hold their heads up, being carried on your hip or back becomes a great place from which they can view the world.  Babies are social and learn through watching and communicating with others. They learn best when they are calm and in the sling they are upright and alert with the security of being near their caregiver. They can join in with all that the person carrying is up to, interacting with the same people and learning about the world but always able to tuck into mummy or daddy should it all become too much or they are too tired. It is so companionable to share all you are doing with your little one from chatting as you walk around the shops together to cooking the dinner or putting the washing on the clothesline.

Share your world with your little one

Babies are all too soon on the move! First crawling and then walking. Especially with walking, carrying in a sling is a great way of allowing a toddler to have the freedom to wonder- both hands free as no buggy to push- and then when they are tired or in need of reconnecting up they come into the sling for either a quick cuddle or maybe even a snooze.  They now often initiate when they want to be carried and even how- choosing their sling of preference! Carrying your child does not have to stop at any particular time, young children still get tired- a sling in the bag can be a lifeline when you least expect it. 

Up for a rest and a chat with mum

Our little ones are only little for a short while- their needs are constantly changing. Carrying helps enhance communication between mother and baby so that mum can hear and respond to their little ones changing needs. It is also a beautiful way to spend quality, cuddly time together and reconnect as little one slowly finds and moves into their own space and out into the world more. It is great for them to know that mum is always there to return to, through having always had that reassurance of closeness from their initial first days in the world.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Babywearing consultancy- why?

Carrying my daughter was one of the things that was important to me as a pregnant mum- I am not entirely sure what inspired me other than I felt it made sense to have her near me and more practical than lugging a pram around. I first put my daughter in my sling of choice when she was 5 days old- it felt good and brought a warm glow to my heart- I felt very proud carrying her.

Our early babywearing days

11 months down the line I was beginning to find we were not quite so comfortable but the manufactures instructions said the carrier was suitable up to 15kg so how could it not be working for us? Luckily at this point in time fate intervened and my path crossed with Lorette from Sling a Baby, a babywearing consultant, who asked if she could show me how I should be using my sling. The difference was phenomenal. She then pointed me in the direction of my local sling meet and as they say I have not looked back.

I feel lucky that I did have this intervention, which means I have been able to continue enjoying carrying my daughter. However many parents are put off by carriers/slings that are either uncomfortable, they do not feel confident using, become less supportive as baby grows or simply do not feel safe and secure. There are some key guidelines that can enable parents to ensure they are carrying their babies safely and comfortably. There has been significant research into the best way to position babies so as to respect their physiology and enhance the development of the spine and hips that is not recognised by all baby carrier manufactures- meaning some carriers do not enable this positioning and others do not have comprehensive enough instructions or in the instance of some wraps suggest carries that are no longer considered safe. The instructions to the sling I had did not clearly explain this, it recommended positions/carries that are not safe and do not respect the physiology of a baby and it also was not supportive enough for my growing daughter. It is disappointing that these products, which we use to carry our vulnerable, precious babies in, are giving incorrect and dangerous information. My daughter is fine but I still wish I had accessed this important information before starting my babywearing journey.

An optimum position for babies to be carried in is with limbs bent and close to their centre of gravity, in a deep seated position with their back rounded.

I have chosen to train to become a Babywearing Consultant so that I feel confident and safe in helping other parents get access to this information and giving them the tools that will help them carry confidently, safely and comfortably.

I often ask myself, would I have gone to a Babywearing Consultant had I known about them? I would certainly now advise myself to! I think I would have been interested in an ‘Introduction to Babywearing’ workshop, which is an inexpensive way to get an overview of what there is to consider when purchasing a carrier, learning about some of the benefits, understanding the importance of how baby is positioned and finding out more about the wide range of products on the market. I know I was overwhelmed by the choice on the market and had a feeling that not all the carriers being marketed to me were necessarily good. It was also hard to know what would be best for me and my requirements. It is great to get independent information on the pros and cons of different carriers.

Which sling/carrier to choose?

I think from there I would have wanted to get all I could from carrying my baby and so would have invested in one or two consultations so I could feel confident in using my sling of choice. There are other ways to learn though. The internet has a wealth of information, including Youtube videos, some of it is great and some not so great so you do need to be discerning as to what is reliable information. There are also sling meets and sling libraries, which are brilliant resources as you can try before you buy and get mother to mother support and help.  What you decide to do does depend on what you want to get out of carrying your little one and what is right for you.  For me it is how I transport my little one and an important part of our daily life so I am keen to learn about this vital tool in my life. Consultations have provided me with the chance to get one to one tuition, to flatten my learning curve, to learn those key tips that can make the difference between being safe and comfortable and not and enabled me to carry my daughter in the way I want to.

As a consultant I want to help parents get the most out of carrying their little ones. They are little for such a short time, it seems important to make the most of these early days and so much can be gained from having them close to you. I really want to share what I have learnt and to share what I love. The more the word is spread about the importance of a good carrier and the best positioning for baby, the more  people who will know and the less parents who will be put off carrying their babies due to uncomfortable carriers, distressed babies who are not comfortable, or just because they do not feel confident in using their chosen carrier. As I say it does not have to be overwhelming and it is not just for those quirkier parents but for everyone, however they choose to incorporate it into their daily life. It is not only a great way of being close to your little one but very practical.

I believe Babywearing is an art and it is highly individual- every baby and parent is unique, but when you get it right it is magical. I hope that I can share a little babywearing magic with others.

Useful links

Great website providing information on the benefits, the different types of carriers, instructions on how to use and where to buy.

If you are interested in a consultation look up a consultant near you.

Look up to see if there is a sling meet/sling library near you.

For reliable, excellent quality videos on various carriers by SlingaBaby

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Beach Sculpture

Before we headed to the beach I naively made the suggestion that we needed a bucket and spade to enjoy a bit of play on the beach. Luckily we did not make this purchase! It did not take long for me to realise that all the my daughter needed to enjoy play was provide for her naturally. First there was the simply joy of walking on the sand, getting mummy to do some paddling and covering feet with sand, then pebbles and feathers were discovered and soon sculptures were being created. We parents joined in too, it was such a lovely way of simply being  together. I loved the opportunity for a bit of play and creativity: having a go at my own simple sculpture, enjoying the texture and movement of the sand and seeing how I could manipulate it- just as little one was!

'Little Person’s First Sculpture on the Beach'

‘Creating and Playing’

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Yurting and Slinging

We have just enjoyed a few nights in a yurt in Cornwall- a more luxurious, spacious and easier way of camping with little one. It was lovely to have family time close to nature. Amongst many useful tools, such as the torch and corkscrew, that made the holiday more relaxing were my slings. Here are some examples of how and when they saved achy arms and frustrations:

  • A quick hands free when walking between yurt, kitchen and bathroom especially when putting little shoes on was not accepted
  • For a bit of reassurance when feeding the animals in the morning
  • For doing the washing up together whilst being able to chat
  • To enable a lunchtime nap (after a little persuasion) whilst walking along the cliff tops
  • For short ups and downs around town
  • For a tired toddler needing lots of cuddles whilst packing the car on our departure
  • When not in use the ring sling/wrap provided that little bit of extra warmth (it all helps!)

The downsides- only Mummy is allowed the benefits of hands free cuddles, unfortunately Daddy is not allowed any aids to his carrying- arms are apparently good enough. Daddy did get achy arms especially as being Daddy’s girl Mummy often did not get a look in on the carrying!



Our child friendly yurt holiday was courtesy of

Monday, 13 August 2012

The lows, the highs, the dark, the light, the hate and ultimately the love

In this blog I want to find the balance- too often it is easy to simply focus on the joys and idealism of being a parent alongside advice on how to be best meeting your little ones needs so I wanted to acknowledge that parenting is not all giggles and sunny days. There are times when we simply feel pushed to our limits and might even feel resentful, angry and maybe a little hatefully towards our little ones and find ourselves falling short of meeting our little ones’ needs in the way all the books say we should.

I think it can be easy to feel that having these emotions and not being in control somehow means we are not the ‘perfect’ mum but striving to be the perfect mum is not realistic or healthy.  In fact I think there is more value in being imperfect, or to refer to the well-used phrase of Donald Winnicott, an English paediatrician and psychoanalyst, to be a ‘good enough mum’.  I think that it is important that we do sometimes fail our children as this is part of their growing up and initiation into life.

I am reminded of watching the film Shadowlands where they liken the pain that comes with the joy of love to that of the shadows that are created by sunshine- dark is part and parcel of light. Parenting can be magical and the love we feel for our kids is often more than we can imagine but as I’ve said we can also have equally intense feeling of anger, frustration or even hate, albeit briefly. Winnicott is also famous for his 18 ‘reasons why mum hates baby’. If we wanted to avoid there being these intense feelings, or the shadows, then there would be no sunshine, no light, no love- it would just be grey- would we really want such a bland, mute existence? What we can do is enjoy the light but remember to respect the shadows and sometimes shine a torch into the shadows to acknowledge what is there.

I think the trick is to take ownership of these powerful feelings that can be triggered, especially when we are tired and pushed to our limits and taken time out to understand what it is triggering them rather than simply blindly acting them out, which is when they become dangerous and destructive. It is of benefit to all to stop to listen to what we are trying to tell ourselves and learn, making changes where necessary and growing in ourselves. We can also extend this learning process to include our little ones, by starting to teach our children about these emotions, demonstrating to them how best to manage them and bringing into the equation this other side of life. Also if it is them pushing our boundaries we can communicate to them what is and is not acceptable and what the consequences can be of their actions on another. We are ultimately preparing them so they can survive and partake in the dance of life and what better way to learn then with us in the safety of a loving, intimate relationship. 

What I want to remember is that even though my daughter is the most precious thing to me and many moments throughout the day my heart swells with love, there are also times when she does push me to my absolute limits and rather than acting out in these moments I need to accept and acknowledge that I will feel angry/resentful/hurt, and that is okay- what is important is how I deal with the situation. The really intimacy of my relationship with my daughter comes in accepting the whole package- the lows, the highs, the dark, the light, the hate and ultimately the love.

Below some of Winnicott’s reasons a mum hates baby:
’After an awful morning with him she goes out, and he smiles at a stranger, who says: Isn’t he sweet?’
‘He is ruthless, treats her as scum, an unpaid servant, a slave.’
‘He tries to hurt her, periodically bites her, all in love’
‘He is suspicious, refuses her good food, and makes her doubt herself, but eats well with his aunt’

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Why I love Baby Yoga

Ultimately baby yoga has always been and is a great way to simply spend time with my daughter, Caelin who is now 23 months old- setting aside even just 10 minutes to forget about the 'washing up' and just be with her, enjoying time together with lots of interaction, movement and singing.

I love how our baby yoga practice has grown with my daughter. It is great to see her now doing baby yoga with her dolly, independently doing the stretches and moves like downward dog,  tree and butterfly but still loving to be helped into a handstand or be swung for what sometimes feels like forever!

As a new mum, baby yoga helped increase my confidence with how to handle my baby, through teaching me different holds, lifts, swings, drops and inversions.  Whilst many of these moves are quite natural to do, I would possibly not have felt safe and secure doing them and might not have thought to actively incorporate them into my day with Caelin. Baby yoga can be used throughout the day- baby fussing and you simply are unsure what they are wanting- I have been amazed how a quick ' upside down' can literally turn their mood around.

‘Flying Babies’ 

Baby yoga is about sharing space and an activity together. We can do yoga together or I might do my own yoga whilst Caelin plays or Caelin might take the lead for a while, initiating moves and requesting songs.  We have found a rhythm that is reflected in our daily life of coming together, being alongside one another and taking turns in initiating the next activity.

Part of the rhythm of baby yoga is finding the balance between active doing time (asanas) and non- active quiet and still time (relaxation). I have always struggled to stop and relax and I now notice this with my daughter.  Baby Yoga has helped remind me that relaxation needs to be part of our daily life, actively being non active together, giving Caelin the opportunity to learn about relaxation and hopefully grow up with the art of relaxing. 

Baby yoga has taught me how to share and support my daughter as she explores and experiments with what she can do, from her first roll in a baby yoga class to now learning to jump and hop. It also helps her build strength and balance through the exercises- all those swings and drops are not just fun but also great for developing the vestibular system!

I'm a virgo and love the satisfaction of getting several things done at once, especially as a busy mum! So the fact I can spend time with my little one, enable her to have some active time and do a little exercise myself is very satisfying.  I particularly remember in the early days when holding, feeding and gazing at my daughter for hours led to tense shoulders and neck, it was bliss just to take a few moments to relieve some of the stress and strain through simple moves and stretches.

It has also helped me to remember to be aware of how I am lifting and carrying my daughter so as to ensure I am not putting unnecessary strain on my back. Our backs and spine are vital to our health so we need to look after them and respect them.

Finally did I mention it is time spent with my little one? And time spent really being with her, having fun, learning and simply being together.

Friday, 29 June 2012

My First Blog!

You may ask, as do I, why do I want to write a blog? I want to initially share some of my thoughts and musings on parenting and the important job we have in helping our little ones become who they were dreamed to be. I want to share what I am learning on my mothering journey and what I witness and learn through my baby yoga and baby art classes. I want to share the magic of carrying your little one in slings and carriers, sharing what I learn as a Babywearing Consultant and as a mother who carries her little one close to her heart. I want to remind myself, and at the same time others, of the importance of nurturing and being true to ourselves and our little ones, especially in the conscious decisions we make for ourselves and our families. I simply want to write and share.

‘Nature, Trees, Nurture, Painting, Little Hands and Feet, Yoga’

I begin full of trepidation as to whether I actually have anything to share or say, especially as I research and read others blogs, I feel overwhelmed by the wealth of words already out there. I am then reminded of the tree, part of our namesake, it starts as a seed and with nurturing grows, setting its roots into the ground and then reaching towards the sky as it turns from a seedling to a sapling to a young tree and finally becomes a noble, wise, grounded entity reaching upwards, outwards and downwards, providing shelter and safety to those who might need it and playing a part in the cycle of life. This blog is but a seed, in its early infancy, and I hope that I, and my readers, can nurture it to grow and become what it needs to be. I look forward to sharing this journey and learning and growing together.
‘Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.’

Extract from ‘for a new beginning’
O’Donohue, John, 2007. Benedictus, Bantam Press