Cold Relief for Babies and Children

In the UK as of March 2009 many over the counter remedies that had helped parents and children navigate the minefield of winter coughs, colds and sniffles were branded ‘bad’ for children – some reported dangerous, others simply labelled as ‘ineffective’. Many of these medicines had been tried and trusted by mums for years, offering relief from fever, cough and congestion and helping everyone get a better nights’ sleep whenever the dreaded lurgy came to stay.

But the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) ruled earlier this year that over 100 products were to be banned for under sixes due to the potential risk of sleep disturbance, hallucinations and allergic reactions. The decision followed an earlier report in March 2008 recommending that certain over-the-counter medicines were unsuitable for under-twos following a number of overdose cases in the United States.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that if I thought any drug was a risk to my child’s health I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole, but to me this is yet another example of a nanny state gone mad. When this ruling was made, it was agreed that products need not be removed from shelves – many were still available to buy in supermarkets for some time afterwards. Furthermore, product labelling was unaffected at the time and many of the products to this day still feature dosage information for under sixes, and even under twos. Are these medicines, then, really not safe for young children? Or is it just that in today’s society mothers can’t be trusted to follow simple instructions and not to dope their own children? Are the sins of the few causing the punishment of the many?

In America, the same studies were looked at but regulatory bodies stopped short of banning the products from being used in under sixes, because they feared this would lead to parents giving their children adult cough and cold remedies instead. In the UK, it has already resulted in parents lying to pharmacists about their child’s age, and here in Northern Ireland, of parents travelling across the border to obtain medicines that have been banned in the north, with some ‘mummy mules’ even buying in bulk for friends and family. But if you’ve ever spent the whole night consoling an unwell, exhausted child who can’t sleep due to a blocked nose and hacking cough, you’ll understand why they do it.

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Anyway I digress. Since this ban came in Bubs has had one or two colds, and in fact we are currently in the middle of a snotfest that’s been rumbling pretty much since the new school term started in September. And during that time I’ve come across some tips, tricks and remedies that have helped us all to breathe easier, without partaking in any illegal activity – and here they are!

Humidifier

I shied away from buying a humidifier for ages because they’re not cheap and I was undecided as to whether it would actually help. One night of using the thing convinced me that they definitely work and now I would recommend anybody with young kids to invest in a decent one – the moist air means your child’s nose will be less stuffy and dry, tickly coughs are soothed. There are three types of humidifier – warm (often known as a vapouriser), cold and ultrasonic. The warm steam variety is not recommended for use in children’s rooms because of the obvious burn risks. Cold and ultrasonic humidifiers essentially do the same job but the ultrasonic produces a finer mist and is a lot quieter, so we went for this option. It does still emit a low hum but I find that this doesn’t disturb Bubs at all – in fact I sometimes wonder if he in fact finds the white noise soothing. A final point about humidifiers; it’s really important to keep them clean and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for doing so. This prevents a buildup of minerals and bacteria within the unit, which would then potentially be pumped into the air, possibly doing more harm than good. Ours is easily cleaned with a solution of water and white vinegar which kills bacteria and removes mineral deposits.

Pillow

At 17 months Bubs is still a bit young for a pillow and doesn’t like using one. I do, however, place a low pillow under the head end of his mattress when he is unwell. This raises him up a bit, making it easier for him to breathe and reducing his cough. You can also place chunky books under the cot legs at one end, but I find the pillow works better as it raises his head moreso than simply having him sleep on a slope.

Olbas Oil

I don’t rate Vicks at all really because I don’t think the vapours are strong enough to do any good, especially not when applied to the chest under pyjamas and a sleeping bag, but Olbas Oil is my saviour. I sprinkle a few drops on a muslin cloth tied securely to the bars of the cot. This combined with the humidifier fills the room with a vapoury mist that tackles a blocked nose brilliantly.

Saline drops

Such a simple remedy but saline drops are great for thinning nose gunk, making it easier to remove, and I recently found that the people at Calpol make a saline nasal spray that’s really easy to administer as it gets right into the nostril and clears out all the crap. It’s a really fine spray and Bubs doesn’t mind having it in at all, which is practically a miracle considering he hates me wiping his nose the way cats hate water. If you’ve got a super-placid kid you can also buy a ‘nasal aspirator’ – a posh name for what we have affectionately dubbed ‘the snot sucker’ – to remove mucus but I gave up trying to get Bubs to submit to this ages ago and am working on teaching him to blow his wee nose instead.

Medicine

Thankfully, the powers that be didn’t ban the use of paracetamol (Calpol) or indeed ibuprofen (Nurofen) for little ones and I rely on both of these to relieve cold symptoms. Calpol is fine for minor grumbles but the Nurofen is my favourite – it works quickly, keeps a fever down for longer and tastes nicer. Plus it’s got a really handy dosing syringe that fits into the cap for mess-free dosing when your eyes are stuck shut at 3am. If your child has a cough you can give a simple cough medicine of honey and lemon or glycerol although these are mainly aimed at soothing tickly coughs and sore throats.

The MHRA were right when they said that colds and coughs are generally self-limiting conditions that improve with rest and TLC, and hopefully these tips will help you get a bit more of the former while you wait for them to pass. However, if you are at all worried about your child’s health or if symptoms persist for more than a few days, you should of course consult your GP.

Pregnancy Tips: Dealing With Changes in Libido & Affected Relationships!

This is going to be one of the most difficult posts I’ve ever written for my blog. It just seems that discussing certain personal topics can be so controversial and even frowned upon. Yet I know there are many women out there that struggle with frustrating hormonal changes that affect their personal life. It’s difficult to deal with and nice to know that you are not alone.

If you are uncomfortable with discussing or reading about libido and other personal information… I suggest you pass on this post and check out some other information I’ve posted on dealing with pregnancy.

For those of you that are still with me, I assume you, along with me, have noticed certain hormonal changes that have befallen you since you first found out you were pregnant. It seems for me that the changes are even worse this time around. I’m more moody, weepy, and just plain whacky than ever before.

Seriously, I found myself crying in the kitchen yesterday as I was preparing dinner and listening to a song on my iPod. And no, I wasn’t chopping onions. I’ve never been the type of person to cry over “silly things” but it seems that lately I have a harder time containing myself. I’m more emotionally sensitive lately which means I have to be on guard not to let my feeling get hurt by my husband’s harmless teasing or unintentional remarks made by my friends.

Does all this sound familiar? Why does pregnancy cause such havoc? Well, there are both physical and emotional changes that come with pregnancy and since sex and emotions are so intricately tied together for women, our libido is definitely going to be affected, one way or anther.

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Some women report that they feel sexier when they are pregnant. The additional estrogen and progesterone that a pregnant woman produces is most often the cause behind the increased libido. Added curves and changes to the body can also be the cause behind the change in drive.

Other women actually find a decrease in their libido and as one women put it, “Cleaning the grout in my shower sounds like more fun.” This drop in drive can put quite a strain on a marriage relationship, as if pregnancy and the thought of a new baby isn’t enough.

It’s quite common for a new mother to feel pressured and pulled in so many different directions. They can make the mistake of accusing their husbands of being selfish for having the desires God gave him as a man. Don’t get me wrong, this is in no way intended to excuse the husband who may make ridiculous and selfish demands. My intent is to help the wife understand that her husband is a man with normal desires that you, and only you, can and should fulfill.

How can we deal with low libido and low energy levels and still be the loving wife and mother God wants us to be? Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful:

  • This tip is first because I find it the most important: Talk to your partner! Try to understand how he feels and do your best to accommodate each other and your needs. Try starting the conversation and allow him to talk without interruptions, accusations, or negative responses. He’s more likely to listen to you when he feels understood and respected. In short, be open and understanding and he’ll likely return the favor.
  • Get as much extra rest as you can. An understanding husband will gladly trade watching the little ones while you take an hour nap. Especially if it means you have more spunk after the kids have been tucked in for the night.
  • You may have heard this before: women are like ovens and men are like microwaves. Ladies, give yourselves time to “preheat.” Take a long hot shower. Light some candles. Put on something pretty. Set the mood. Also remember, the longer men go without sex, the more they want it. The longer women go without it, the less they want it. Bluntly put. one of the best ways to increase your libido is to have sex.
  • Talk to your doctor to rule out any other hormone imbalances or complications. Dealing with other symptoms such as morning sickness or exhaustion can help many aspects of your pregnancy. My doctor recommended an herbal supplement that has helped tremendously. (If you want more information on that, feel free to email me.)
  • Take heart, many women find that the second trimester brings an energy and libido boost! And even if it doesn’t happen for you, don’t worry, no pregnancy has ever lasted forever. Don’t let your temporary condition cause permanent damage to your relationship with your spouse.

Do you have any other suggestions or thoughts? I’d love to hear them; just leave your comment below and thanks for reading this post.

Review: Lindam Clarity Digital Video Monitor

A baby monitor is one of those things few parents could live without – after all, we spend most of our time when our babies are tiny trying to get them to go to sleep, and then most of the time when they are asleep fretting about whether or not they are OK! Being able to hear their baby – or even better see him or her – gives parents the reassurance and peace of mind they need to relax and get on with things while the little one sleeps.

When the lovely folks at Lindam offered to let me trial the Lindam Clarity Digital Video Monitor, I jumped at the chance. Even though Bubs is two we still use a baby monitor every night and I sleep much easier myself knowing I will hear him if he cries. Lately he has been difficult to settle for naps and sometimes for bed in the evenings and because I find it so stressful to leave him crying I felt it would make things easier if I could see him and satisfy myself as to whether he was genuinely upset or just trying it on!

The monitor comes in two parts – a compact parent unit and a larger camera/baby unit that comes with its own stand. The latter was easy to assemble even without using the instructions and comes with an AC cable for plugging in, although it can also operate off batteries if you aren’t near a power supply. The parent unit requires no assembly and comes with a rechargeable lithium battery plus an AC cable for charging – you can also leave it plugged in if necessary, and it has a fold-out stand for positioning it on a table or other surface.

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The monitor is easy to set up – simply place the camera on a flat surface or mount it on the wall so that you can see your baby’s sleeping area on the parent unit’s large screen. The unit switches on at the flick of a switch and an unobtrusive red light indicates that it has a power supply. There is also a dim, red night light that operates with a push button. The camera automatically switches between full colour and infra red (night vision) mode depending on the light level in your baby’s room.

The parent unit switches on with a roll switch at the side and you can adjust the volume with the same control. You can switch between three modes at the touch of a button: ‘Automute Off’ shows video continuously and transmits all sound from the nursery; ‘Automute On’ shows video continuously but turns the speaker off when there are periods of silence in the nursery (so you only hear sound when your child makes a noise); and ‘Vox’ mode turns both the screen and the speaker off when there are periods of silence in the nursery, switching both back on when your child makes a noise. The parent unit also allows you to play music remotely from the baby unit – there are three different melodies to choose from and you can start or stop the music or flick between melodies easily. If you play music in ‘Automute On’ mode, the unit will automatically change to ‘Automute Off”. The parent unit also has noise level LEDs which show the sound level in the room even when the volume is turned down. Screen brightness can be adjusted with two buttons on the side of the unit, and the unit shows a green ‘link’ LED when it is within range of the baby unit – the light turns red and the unit will beep a warning if it goes out of range.

I found this monitor extremely easy to use – the controls are simple and I didn’t need to use the instruction manual to figure it out. I loved being able to see Bubs as he settled down to sleep and we have spent quite a bit of time just watching him on the screen! I also really liked the fact that the parent unit has rechargeable batteries and no base unit as this meant we could carry it with us around the house. We left it plugged in overnight however as the manual says the battery life is approximately six hours from a full charge – this could be a criticism of the product if you were somewhere that had no access to mains power.

The lullaby feature was also a huge plus for us – we have used a wind-up music box since birth for Bubs and have already had to replace it once, so being able to switch it on and off without going into his room is brilliant for us, as is the fact that there’s no mechanism to wear out. I also liked having the three different modes – we have used the monitor mainly in ‘Automute On’ which is excellent as it eliminates any static while still allowing us to have the monitor turned up as loud as we want – with our own monitor we have to turn it down really low to get rid of the static buzzing and it’s difficult to hear Bubs unless he is really crying. At night I use ‘Vox’ mode as this turns the screen off as well – otherwise it’s quite bright when we are trying to sleep ourselves.

The monitor picks up sound well and both the audio and visual transmission is clear with only minimal static – which I suspect is caused by the myriad electrical devices we use around the house. The range is good as well; it does sometimes drop out of range briefly but this is easily resolved by adjusting the position slightly. I’ve tried it all over the house and it works in every room, plus I’ve used it outside albeit reasonably close to the house, which is perfect for catching a few rays while baby naps or eating alfresco after bedtime.

I only have one real gripe with this product – I was disappointed that there was no bracket for attaching the camera to the cot. Placing it on a piece of furniture made it awkward to get a good view of the cot while for me, wall-mounting is a very rigid solution and impractical for travel. It also makes it nearly impossible to position the camera close enough to your baby to give the same reassurance as a monitor with a sensor pad, for example. A simple bracket similar to those used for attaching a cot mobile to the bars would have worked brilliantly. Friends who have this monitor use a flexible tripod to attach theirs and it works well but I felt something should have been included in the price. The only other thing I would change would be to have the option to turn the lullaby function on from the baby unit as well as the parent one – I always turn the music on before I leave the room and it’s annoying having to bring the parent unit with me when I put Bubs to bed.

Other than that I think the product is fantastic and I would have no hesitation in recommending it to other mums – in fact I wish we’d had one when Bubs was a newborn as I think I would have saved myself a lot of heartache by being able to watch him when he was having trouble settling to sleep or stirring in the night. It would definitely have helped me to work out when to rush into the nursery and when to leave him for a moment or two to drop off by himself. Retailing at around £120 I think the product is a worthwhile investment for anybody with a new baby. For further information visit www.lindam.com.

Something for Nothing – Free Stuff for Mums

Having a baby is an expensive business. From state-of-the-art buggies and luxury cot beds to nappies, endless clothes and mountains of toys, the spending starts before the baby is even born and continues, well…let’s just say I’m not hopeful of having any spare cash anytime soon.

The good news is that all those companies out there that manufacture ‘must haves’ for mums and babies know they’re operating in a competitive market and need to win mums over by hook or by crook, which means only one thing – freebies! Many of the big baby brands have their own ‘clubs’ offering free stuff and perks for parents, while other companies offer free samples of their products, allowing you to try before you buy. I’ve trawled the web looking for UK freebies, and here’s what I came up with…

1. Pampers Village – sign up and they’ll send you £4 worth of coupons plus email newsletters pertinent to your stage of pregnancy or your baby’s age. The site also has lots of interesting information and articles, mummy blogs and forums where you can discuss your experiences of pregnancy and parenting.

2. Huggies Club – receive £2 off any pack of Huggies nappies when you join. The website is also packed with information for mums-to-be, mums and even dads and there are loads of great competitions to enter. At the Huggies Pull-Ups site you can also request a free DVD to help with potty training.

3. Emma’s Diary – one for the expectant mums, you’ll receive a copy of Emma’s Diary from your midwife but if you register online you’ll get stage-appropriate goody bags (pick up from Boots or Lloyds Pharmacy) including £40 of Argos vouchers, sample products and more. The website is packed with info including foetal development, baby names, budgeting and more!

4. Bounty – the original and still the best, Bounty offers packs for every stage of your pregnancy from your first visit to the midwife, through to the birth and beyond. Each pack is stuffed with free samples, money-off vouchers and information and if you register online you’ll also receive email updates and details of special offers in conjunction with Bounty partners.

Free Johnsons Newborn Baby Pack

5. Boots Parenting Club – join to receive regular voucher packs and double Advantage Card points on certain baby brands. You can also get a free changing bag when you register and purchase Pampers New Baby or Active Fit nappies.

6. Lansinoh – a lifesaver for all breastfeeding mums, the Lansinoh website has answers to lots of common questions and you can register to receive free samples of their breast pads and milk storage bags. No free Lansinoh cream though, as they quite rightly want you to discuss any discomfort with your midwife first.

7. Johnson’s Baby Naturals – just fill in your details for a free sample of this moisturiser! It’s actually a really nice cream and didn’t irritate Bubs’ normally sensitive skin.

8. Hipp Baby Club – register to receive free baby food samples, money off vouchers, and a free weaning pack including recipes, bib and feeding spoon. Also stage-appropriate emails. I found some of the info they provided really helpful when it came to weaning!

9. Bepanthen – love this nappy cream and if you visit their website you can try it yourself! They will send you a fairly tiny sample but it’s enough to gauge whether it’s suitable for your baby’s skin – and I think it makes a difference to nappy rash even after one application.

10. The rest! In many ways I feel so passionate about breastfeeding that I don’t want to link to formula companies but it has to be said that most of them offer treats for new mums. So if you do register at the following clubs my advice would be to throw the powdered milk samples in the bin, and keep the other stuff – such as the pregnancy diary and cuddly cow on offer at Cow & Gate, the cuddly polar bear available from Aptamil and the free muslin cloth and magnetic photo frame from SMA.

Of course there are loads of other offers and free things available online but I felt these ones would be of interest to the majority of mums. If there are any real gems I’ve missed then please let me know!

Baby Weaning: Tips for Mums of Reluctant Eaters!

Weaning isn`t a small thing for mommies – especially when it comes for first-time moms. This huge importance is always attached to the milestone of the life of your child. When it comes to the first months, the whole thing is drilled into you by the establishment that you must not wean before six months, while on the other hand friends and relatives may be pushing you to wean earlier, luring you with the promise of a baby that ’sleeps through’ thanks to the alleged miracle properties of baby rice. When you do make the decision to begin weaning, there’s a whole host of other issues – how much to feed, and how often; introducing new flavours; ensuring your baby is getting enough nutrients, fussy eaters – the list is endless. Weaning can be a stressful time for mums and babies, and while most find what works for them within a week or two, others take longer to get the hang of it!

If your baby is reluctant to eat solids, or if your older child is a picky eater, the first thing you should do is stop worrying. The important thing to remember is that no baby ever starved itself to death, and if you keep offering food, your little one will eat enough to satisfy his or her requirements. But struggling to get your baby or toddler to eat is enough to have you tearing your hair out by day and lying awake by night (sometimes literally if he or she wakes up hungry!) so while you should never force the food issue, there are some things you can try to make mealtimes less of a battleground.

The blueprint for your child’s eating habits is sketched by those very first spoonfeeds so it’s important to make them a positive, stress free experience for both of you. Regardless of whether you start weaning early, or wait until the recommended six months, it is crucial that you wait until your baby shows signs of being ready. These include:

  • Demanding milk feeds more frequently than usual.
  • Seeming unsatisfied after a milk feed.
  • Waking in the night after a period of sleeping through.

Babies that are ready for weaning will also be able to hold their own heads up strongly and sit well with support, they will show interest at mealtimes and may even grab for a piece of what you are eating. The natural ‘tongue thrust’ reflex that protects them against choking will also have diminished – if your baby repeatedly pushes the spoon out of his mouth then he may not be ready for solids. In these early days remember that the amount your baby eats is not important – weaning should be a relaxed and fun learning experience. If you or your baby gets stressed during a meal, just leave it and try again another time.

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Encouraging your baby to eat

If you’re sure that your little one is ready for solid food, but they don’t seem keen on eating, there are a few things you can try to pique their interest.

    1. Start with sweet tastes. Babies – especially breastfed ones – have a natural preference for sweet tastes so things like stewed apple or pear, carrot and sweet potato are ideal first foods. If you have started weaning your baby with baby rice, you could try adding a little fruit puree to it as a gentle introduction. You can also sweeten savoury purees by adding these ingredients – try combining sweet potato with broccoli or cauliflower, or butternut squash with pear. As your baby becomes accustomed to these flavours, introduce new ones gradually – and don’t assume that all baby food should be bland. Many babies enjoy stronger flavours such as garlic (houmous is often a favourite) and even mild curry! Allowing your baby to explore a broad spectrum of tastes will make him or her less likely to be a fussy eater in future.
    2. Involve your baby in mealtimes. Babies learn by watching adults and older children so sitting at the table for mealtimes is an important chance for them to observe and mimic you eating. Your baby’s routine may differ from your own but wherever possible you should try to sit down together at mealtimes, even if it’s just once a day – this is a great opportunity for family time as well!
    3. Offer finger foods. From six months, most babies are capable of self feeding with chunky pieces of easy to manage foods and for babies that don’t like to be spoon fed, baby led weaning can be a great (albeit very messy!) option. Because babies at this age haven’t yet developed a pincer grip, it’s best to offer foods that they can hold in their fist so things like broccoli florets, well cooked sticks of carrot, pieces of banana, unsalted bread sticks, mini rice cakes etc. are ideal. You should supervise your baby closely, especially in the early days, while they are still learning how to move food around their mouth. It’s best to offer large pieces of food that your baby can nibble small bits off, rather than giving tiny pieces that they may cram into their mouth whole. You can also buy mesh feeders which allow your baby to chew or suck on soft fruits and vegetables without being able to bite pieces off, and these can be helpful as an introduction to baby led weaning. If your baby enjoys finger foods, you could try encouraging him to dip vegetable sticks etc. into a small pot of another pureé you have prepared as a way of getting more variety into his diet.
    4. Don’t wait til your baby is starving. You should try to offer solids before a breast or bottle feed but if your baby is ravenous she is likely to refuse a spoon feed in favour of the ‘instant gratification’ a milk feed offers. Time spoon feeds so they happen when baby is just beginning to get hungry, and then follow up with a milk feed if necessary. Also, remember that teething can have a major impact on your baby’s willingness to eat – if her mouth is hurting she won’t want you shoving a spoon in there! Offering baby paracetamol shortly before a meal might help but if not, let the solid foods slide for a day or two until she’s feeling better.

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Fussy toddlers

Babies who have been encouraged to try lots of different flavours are less likely to grow into fussy eaters, but even the best eaters go through fussy phases when they hit toddlerhood – this often has as much to do with asserting their independence as it does with appetites and preferences! Every parent has days when they feel like their toddler has barely eaten anything but at this age it’s better to look at the bigger picture of what your toddler eats over a couple of days. Some days they will be ravenous and eat everything in sight, other days they’ll pick and fuss over their food, but if you average this out you’ll probably find that they’re getting plenty! Again, they key is to try and relax – if you force the issue you’re more likely to create a lasting problem with mealtimes.

To make mealtimes easier for you AND your toddler:

  1. Keep portions small. A typical toddler portion will be around a quarter to half the size of an adult portion. If you put too much food on the plate, your child is more likely to feel overwhelmed and less likely to finish the meal, but if you serve a smaller amount and they finish it, they will benefit from lots of praise – and they can always ask for more!
  2. Make food manageable. Cut it into bite sized pieces or chunks that are easy to pick up, and choose utensils carefully too – wide, shallow spoons and deep-sided bowls make it easier for toddlers to feed themselves, which they generally love to do!
  3. Presentation, presentation, presentation! You can make food more appealing to your fussy child with just a little attention to detail – home made pizzas can be made into funny faces, for example – I know one clever mummy who cuts sausages into octopus shapes and lets them ’swim’ in a sea of baked beans! Even something simple like using a pastry cutter to make sandwiches more interesting can work wonders.
  4. Offer healthy snacks. Toddlers cannot consume large quantities of food at a single sitting so snacks are an important part of their diet and energy intake. Snacks should be offered roughly midway between meals and you should try to choose foodstuffs that are healthy and release energy slowly – raisins, fruit crisps, breadsticks with houmous, a banana, crackers and cheese or a small pot of berries all make great, nutritious snacks. Sweets, crisps etc. are fine as an occasional treat but try to offer them after meals rather than between, and always encourage good oral hygiene.
  5. Introduce new foods one at a time. Serving them alongside foods your child likes will also help. Encourage your child to taste the food but don’t force them and don’t lose your temper if they won’t try, just leave it til another day. And if your child doesn’t like a food first time, don’t give up! Sometimes it can take up to 10 attempts before a child will accept a new food and their likes and dislikes change over time.
  6. Don’t hurry your child and never force them to eat. Up to the age of three most toddlers will need some help with feeding but don’t shovel food into your child’s mouth if she doesn’t want it. If nothing is eaten after a reasonable amount of time, take the food away without comment and try again with a healthy snack later.
  7. Sing their praises! Never underestimate the power of praise in motivating little people – whether it’s a round of applause for clearing their plate, a sticker for behaving nicely at the table or a special pudding as a reward, ‘carrot’ usually works better than ’stick’ when it comes to persuading toddlers to eat well.

The advice in this article is intended only as a guide – if you have concerns about your child’s diet and nutrition you should raise them with your GP or health visitor. And if you’ve survived a picky eater, why not post your tips in the comments section below so that other mums can benefit from your wisdom?

10 Must-Visit Websites for Mums

The internet is an invaluable resource for knowledge-hungry mums; whether for information, support or even just shopping, the web has loads to offer at every stage of your pregnancy and journey through the early years of parenthood. As with all things web, though, you often have to do a lot of wading through mountains of crap before you find a real gem, and let’s face it, what mum has time to do that?! Well, me, as it happens. As a consequence of having a remote-hogging, football mad husband, I spend a lot of time in the evenings trawling the net for cool things and I’ve compiled a handy list of the websites I think every mum should bookmark.

1. Find a forum. There are loads of these out there and my personal favourite is iVillage, although I also like Babycentre for its regular updates on your baby’s development both pre and post natal. There’s also Mumsnet, Netmums…the list goes on. Most of these will allow you to sign up to your ‘birth club’ which means you can find a group of mums at the same stage of pregnancy or with a child the same age which is fantastic when it comes to getting advice on common problems and worries that crop up. Lots of people look down their noses at these sites but personally I have found genuine support and even friendship through using them – plus it means you can quickly get advice from a wide range of viewpoints, 24 hours a day. Many also have specific boards to help out with everything from breastfeeding to special needs and more. You may find you have to try out a few forums before you find one you like, with a group of people you like – and be warned, sometimes arguments and even feuds like the now infamous Mumsnet disputes do happen. But if you find a group of like-minded mums prepared to share the benefit of their experience without any of the playground nonsense, that forum will be worth its weight in gold.

2. Mothercare is an obvious one but nonetheless essential. They offer everything from Tens machine hire to baby clothes, furniture, equipment and toys and I cannot recommend their online service highly enough. Products are always good quality and well priced, and although there are better bargains to be had elsewhere the site more than makes up for this in terms of convenience. There’s even a parenting section with lots of useful advice, and you can sign up to receive newsletters and special offers relevant to your child’s age.

3. If you’re breastfeeding, Kellymom is an absolute godsend and has information on practically every question or concern you could ever have from advice on common problems to reassurance that you and your baby are perfectly normal! The La Leche League website doesn’t have as much info online although it’s still pretty good and has the added benefit of online help forms and telephone numbers for LLL support workers.

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4. Blooming Marvellous is one of my favourite websites because in addition to well-priced, practical products it also has some more exclusive ranges including bloom, OiOi, hotMILK feeding bras etc. Their maternity clothes are excellent and the range has been widely acclaimed in the fashion press for its good looks. The site is also packed with innovative ideas to make pregnancy and parenthood easier.

5. If you’re on a budget, Kiddicare is an absolute must. The site undoubtedly offers the lowest prices online for practically anything you could possibly need for your new arrival – they are especially good when it comes to getting a good deal on pram packages including car seats, footmuffs etc. with large savings to be made on high street prices. They have a vast stock and most items are available for immediate dispatch.

6. I’m the first to admit I’m a sucker for gimmicks and brand names but I make an exception for JoJo Maman Bebé. This is another great all-round destination for online baby shopping but what sets it apart for me is the sheer volume of clever products on offer – they’ve got everything you’ll need to see you through breastfeeding, weaning, holidays, potty training and beyond. They offer plenty of brand names but also have their own, cheaper takes on many of the popular products and the quality is really good. They also have great baby clothing basics and their maternity range is both stylish and practical. Also great for gifts.

7. There’s so much choice out there for parents that I often find it difficult to make a decision, especially when purchasing investment items like prams, car seats etc. Babyworld is an online parenting resource that includes forums, articles and even and online shop but for me it really comes into its own in terms of product reviews which are plentiful and comprehensive. If I’m buying something new I always make a point of checking it out here first.

8. Weaning can be a tricky time, especially for first time parents and I found Annabel Karmel’s books and website really helpful when getting started. There’s lots of nutritional info, advice on what your baby should be eating at various stages, tips on fussy feeders and of course recipes to try out. Over time we have found it easier to freeze portions of our food as cooking for the baby from scratch is time consuming, but I found Annabel’s recipes great when I first introduced proper food and I still dip into them now and again when I have the time. The website also has lots of other information for expectant mums including diet, development etc.

9. Everybody needs a fashion fix now and again – even babies! I’ve been a fan of asos.com for a while and was delighted when they launched a kids section. There are big brand names and some lesser known gems to help your little one stand out from the crowd. Their beauty department also stocks a load of fabulous brands including two of my favourites for mums and babies – Mama Mio and Cowshed. Of course, it would be practically criminal not to have a browse on the womenswear section while you’re there…

10. Finally, another internet staple – Next. Before my son was born I swore I wouldn’t dress him from top to toe in Next clothing but I quickly realised that when it comes to finding trendy, top quality baby clothes that don’t cost the earth, there’s no better place. Their clothes wash like a dream, sizing is generous so my son gets good wear out of them and their customer service is practically faultless – fast delivery, easy returns, online account management – fab.