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Do children REALLY keep you young?


I had a lovely evening with an old friend on Friday night. It’s been nearly 4 years since we’ve got together, so I’ve been looking forward to a few precious hours footloose and fancy free in London for weeks.

The trouble with nights out is that they often only serve to remind me of how middle age is creeping up on me, and Friday was no exception. It started with the decision to drive to the station, because I’m so boring now that I’d rather get an extra half hour in bed than drink. And then the relief that I didn’t need to get too dressed up – going out is usually such a big occasion now that it is really nice to just go out for the sake of it. Then there was the search for my make-up bag, which hadn’t seen the light of day in over a fortnight. And then, as I realised that I had 40 minutes to myself on the train, that fleeting wish that I’d brought my crochet…

But, as I rummaged in my bag for my phone, the full measure of my aging lifestyle really hit. In my bag, hastily picked up from the hallway on the way out of the door, I found:

Factor 50 sun cream and some tiny fingerless gloves… because you never can tell what the weather’s going to do, can you? Oh, and a cereal bar, in case hunger strikes.

Antibacterial gel (cleanliness is next to godliness…), jeans and knickers in a size considerably smaller than mine, in case of accidents (not mine).

One large crochet hook.

A ball of knitting wool, and some miniature cutlery.

When they say children keep you young, I think they must mean other people’s children. Your own children make you, or at least your handbag, decidedly middle-aged. I can only be grateful that I didn’t go anywhere where I might have to endure a bag check!

Of course, on the upside, I managed a couple of “granny squares” on the way home. Even my silver linings sound middle-aged!

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How to make going back to work a success: Guest Post & Giveaway


To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (1st-8th August, 2012), MilkChic is hosting lots of giveaways to give mums a boost. Today (a day late due to 3rd birthday celebrations at MilkChic Manor), Greatvine are offering one lucky reader a free call and follow up email worth up to £40 with their Mothers Returning to Work Coach, Joycellyn Akuffo.

Woman working on an airplane motor at North American Aviation, Inc., plant in Calif. (LOC)Here are some tips from Joycellyn Akuffo, Greatvine expert and founder and editor of on how to make going back to work a success:

Going back to work can be unnerving for a lot of mums – just how do you keep on top of the school run, extra curricular activities for the kids and work?

1. Make a plan
Planning is the key to every working mum’s success – without a plan, you plan to fail. So, get off to a good start by investing in a good diary, where you can keep track of the family’s important dates, and key dates for work so you don’t get caught short.

2. Use technology
Set reminders on your mobile phone so you don’t have to remember things – everything from birthdays, school plays and school assemblies should go into your phone, it’s a great way to keep on track…and it’s free to do.

3. Call in your favours
While you’ve been off work, you’ve probably helped out friends and family with one thing or another. Now’s the time to call in those favours. Speak to friends and family to see what they could do to help if your days comes a-cropper. For example, if there are train delays, could they pick up your toddler from nursery for you, or take in your child who walks home from school? Get to know who you can depend on (and help out), so it’s not a major panic when things go wrong…they will, sometimes.

4. Superwoman wore a cape…do you?
One of the perils of being a working mum is that you work and still come home to all the chores that need doing. Some days, you’ll have next to no energy to do anything, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. You are human, after all, and it can be more draining doing things for other people (your family) and working than we give credit for. Don’t feel like you’re useless just because you can’t keep your home pristine during the week like a Stepford wife.

5. A problem shared…
Delegation is a skill that every working mum needs. If you’re cooking, get your partner to do the homework with the kids. Or get them to read the toddler a bedtime story, while you do some chores. If you try to do it all, you’ll get half the work done if you’re lucky, and it will feel like you haven’t achieved much every day, which will demotivate you. Get your children involved – teach them how to tidy up after themselves and it will soon become a habit you don’t have to nag about.

You can do it…you may not have the whole cake to eat, but you’ll definitely get more than a slice if you have a plan.

Win a free call and follow up email worth up to £40:

If you’d like to win a one to one telephone call and e-mail with Joycellyn, just leave a comment below telling us what you most worry about / most look forward to about work. For a bonus entry, share this on Facebook or tweet the following on Twitter:

I want to win a @Greatvine 1-to-1 phonecall & e-mail for #mums returning to #work @MilkChic #workingmums

Don’t forget to enter all the other World Breastfeeding Week Giveaways too!

Giveaway Terms & Conditions: UK only. Closing date: 22/08/2012, 23:59. No cash alternative. Winners will be drawn randomly from all entrants. If the winner cannot be contacted after 7 days, an alternative winner may be drawn.

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Book Review & Giveaway: First-time Mum


For World Breastfeeding Week 2012, I’m hosting a series of giveaways to celebrate. Today, I have 3 copies of Hollie Smith’s latest book, First Time Mum: Surviving and enjoying your baby’s first year to give away.

The book covers the first year of baby’s life, and starts with some great equipment shopping lists which are broken down into essentials, sometimes useful, and completely unnecessary items. I was sold on her criteria when I saw scratch mitts listed in the pointless section – I was given so many and they fell off within seconds!
(Word to the wise: If your child really needs them, and mine didn’t, socks are far more effective)

There are some great practical tips – a lot of those things you spend the first few weeks struggling with are covered here:

Dressing is a skill that can take a bit of practice. The key aim here is to put the garment on your baby, rather than your baby into the garment…

So simple when you know how! It also covers some of the bigger but less talked-about issues for new mums – the mum & baby groups, isolation and adjustment to the new role, baby blues and postnatal depression, and even a potential return to work. These are a bit hidden at the back of the book, but well written and useful.

There are a couple of mentions of Gina Ford schedules (vs demand feeding) and Cry It Out type sleep training, which made me cringe a bit, but I guess if I want to read a balanced, largely unbiased guide to the first year, then I can expect them to be mentioned. To be clear, they were mentioned, explained, but not recommended, and she did make it clear that most health professionals believe demand feeding is important for continued breastfeeding. Having read the recent research on CIO and the effect it has on brain development, it was interesting to know that although she used these sleep training methods with her own children, she would perhaps choose a gentler approach now.

And what of breastfeeding and feeding advice? It’s pretty balanced really. The advice is practical and direct, and I like her honest approach:

…while some women sail through the start of breastfeeding, for many, it’s no picnic. And it’s better to go into it with realistic expectations and then find it’s easier or more enjoyable than you thought, than imagine it will be some kind of rose-tinted rush, only to experience the absolute opposite.

The author has personal experience of feeding both ways and assumes that most mums will try to breastfeed and that some will then move to formula, which is statistically accurate for the UK. It was good to see instructions for making up a bottle safely too – I still don’t know how, and assume other parents are similarly clueless, plenty of whom actually need that information to look after their child.

All in all, a good read and one I would probably have appreciated before small one was born.

Win a copy of First Time Mum:
If you’d like to win a copy to read yourself, tell me what you would like / would have liked to know before your baby was born. For a bonus entry, either share the giveaway on Facebook, or tweet the following:

I’ve entered to win a copy of First Time Mum by Hollie Smith @MilkChic #parenting #pregnancy #baby

Don’t forget to enter the other World Breastfeeding Week 2012 Giveaways too.

First Time Mum by Hollie Smith is available on Amazon for £8.35 (paperback) or £6.00 (Kindle edition). I received a free copy of the book for the purpose of this review.

Giveaway Terms & Conditions: Restricted to UK & Ireland. Closing date: 18th August 2012, 23:59. Winners will be picked at random from entrants. No cash alternative. If the winner cannot be contacted after 7 days, an alternative may be drawn.

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Bittylab: Is your newborn too dependent??


There was a major Twitter storm this morning around a US baby bottle manufacturer called BAREâ„¢ and their charmingly named Twitter account @bittylab

The BAREâ„¢ bottles are marketed as a bottle which closely mimics the breast, reducing nipple confusion and supporting breastfeeding. You’re interested, right? Bottles and expressing are by no means a necessity for most breastfeeding mums, but if you do want to use them, you want the one closest to a breast, as do most formula feeding mums… great idea! (NB. PLEASE DON’T STOP READING HERE. THIS IS NOT A MARKETING POST!!)

Unfortunately, for some reason they decided to market their products like this:

Feeling like you’re competing with your newborn for mommy’s attention? Meet BAREâ„¢ air-free #babybottles #baby

Your newborn takes up all of mommy’s time? Meet BAREâ„¢ #air-free baby bottles #breastfeeding

and… you’ll LOVE this one:

New baby? Reclaim your wife. Meet BARE™ #air-free #baby

Not so interested now? Hmm….! I’ve redirected the links because no-one with judgement this poor is having any free advertising on my site, no matter how negative…

There are so many things wrong with this, I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading! If it was intended as ironic, which from their half-assed apology it clearly wasn’t, it really missed the mark.

So, for those of you who missed it, here is the Bittylab guide to newborns and parenting…

Newborn child:
Small parasite who competes with their father for luxuries as food and water. Clearly this is the case, as breastfeeding mummies will not be able to cook poor ineffective Daddy his steak supper when he gets home… He may starve!!

An inadequate, insecure figure who has no purpose in his baby’s life past his initial sperm donation. Jealous of all the attention the baby gets from his wife and intent on “reclaiming” her for himself.

Provider of milk and attention who will clearly have more time for “attention” if she expresses, refridgerates and then reheats the milk that came out of her at the correct temperature the first time.

Impressively, they managed to unite mums, dads, breastfeeders and formula feeders as one in complete and utter repulsion and their sexist and unethical marketing tactics. Maybe it was a clever marketing plan after all, eh? World peace next?

I thought I’d share with you a few of my favourite replies from Adrian Bott ‏@Cavalorn

Dear @bittylab: I had no urge to ‘reclaim’ my wife from my child, because a) I am a grown up and b) I did not ‘claim’ her in the first place

WTF do these people think men are, Dothraki horse lords? ‘Reclaim your wife’. FFS.

Being less eloquent, I stuck to a factual and balanced response (natch):

A question for @bittylab… If #breastfeeding #mums aren’t sexy, how do we know that exclusive breastfeeding can be a contraceptive? #fools

Oh and lovely Lauren D. ‏@Daresie shared her confusion:

@milkchic never understood the ‘jealous dad’ concept. He’s free to get milk from the fridge whenever he wants. #bittylabsucks #bfing

As usual, Wolf Mommy ‏@Wolf_Mommy summed up the key issues:

there’s no question bottles are useful. There’s no need to violate WHO guidelines or insult women to sell them

You’d think they couldn’t make anything worse, but then there came the apology that wasn’t, where we were told that we had misunderstood, floating the possibility that their Twitter account had been hacked if the offending tweets were still there… really? “Sorry” wouldn’t have worked then?

Shame, but I don’t think they’re coming back from this one. Complete and utter marketing fail.

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What to Wear?


Image: jdurham

It’s June, the season of weddings, and I am in blind panic.

This weekend I attend my first hen do in some time (about 4 years by my reckoning). It will be my first weekend away from small one. I’ve not even had a full night away yet so this is a big deal. I’m not hugely worried – she’ll be with her Daddy, brother and sister, and I’m sure she’ll be fine. I might not be, but it’s my cousin’s weekend and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

I’ve had the niggling worries at the back of my mind of course. There’s probably something in the fact that I haven’t yet sorted transport or thought about packing. But all those pale into insignificance after the text I received just now:

…my friend has been doing some club investigating and has found a place we can queue jump…

Club investigating? I’m going clubbing? I know I’m not supposed to ask this, what with the website and all… but what the hell do I wear to a club in 2012??

The last time I went to a club was half a decade ago, and feels more like half a lifetime. To add to the terror, I have NEVER been to a club wearing flat shoes. I won’t last an hour in heels and I have no idea how to dance without them. I’m not even sure if I’ll manage dancing at all with my back, and I’m certain I won’t manage drinking to make up for it!


Please help me…

Most of you have young babies. Lots of you are properly youthful! You must have been to clubs more recently than me. If you help me dress myself for this weekend, I’ll calm down and post those breastfeeding friendly wedding guest outfit ideas you’re all looking for… deal??