What’s APP-ertaining- the best apps for new mums

Picture credit: Hello Magazine

Being a new mum is absolutely exhausting – from the lack of sleep to the attempting to keep your little one alive, let alone entertained, it’s easy to see why many mums will download any app going to help out!

As a brand new (clueless) mummy myself, I have put together the apps I have found most useful in the first three months of my baby’s life:

Hoop – The one for keeping your sanity by getting you out of the house

Despite how difficult it is some days to get out of the house, (the sheer organisation and logistics behind ensuring the change bag has everything you need, the travel system folding in and out of your car, and praying that the traffic lights won’t turn to red as you HAVE to keep moving so that your baby won’t scream) going out even once each day definitely kept me sane during those first whirlwind weeks.

Hoop helps you to find drop in sessions and bookable classes for you and your baby. You can easily select your location, how far away you’d be prepared to travel, and then it displays all the classes on each day of the week in your area. You can also search by category, day of the week and age range of your children! This really helped me to try out new activities with my baby and therefore to have more of a structure to my day, and meet other mums, as well as stimulate and interest Baby R.

Hoop is a free app, downloadable from all app stores.

The Wonder Weeks – The one that explains why your baby is being a nightmare

What I didn’t realise before I gave birth is that there are key age-related developmental leaps in the first few months that every baby goes through. What I also didn’t realise is that babies become DEMONS during this time as they process new skills and sensations.

The Wonder Weeks is an app based on a best selling book and audio book, and the app includes free links to the pertinent chapters. It highlights the particular leap your child is going through, helps you visualise through informative videos, and gives you hints for games to play to further develop key skills. Despite the sometimes slightly archaic language, this app is great for knowing what your baby is going through, and even syncs with your calendar to give you fair warning of when your baby will need some extra love (and patience – I’d recommend getting the wine in.)

The Wonder Weeks is £2.99 from app stores.

Baby Sensory Signbook – The one to help you communicate with your baby

Baby Sensory is my favourite baby class of the week. Singing songs, flashing lights, fun themes, different textures and new games – all so helpful for those of us new to the baby business to inspire playtime. Babies love singing, and by signing as you sing, you are developing their language and communication skills.

This app contains the signs for the key words to the opening song ‘Say Hello To The Sun’ (sung worldwide to tens of thousands of babies each week in the Baby Sensory classes!) and hundreds of other signs to help you and your baby learn to communicate with each other. You can search for key words on the home page. Each sign has a clear video showing you how to do the sign, and you can select your favourites to keep handy.

Baby Sensory Signbook is £3.99 from app stores.

Mush – The one that’s like a dating app

So the thing I wasn’t anticipating as a new mum was having to make new friends as an adult. It can be excruciating if (like me) you are at all socially awkward, however new friends will help you make plans to get out of the house, and also give you adult conversation and a sounding board for all the ‘is it normal for my baby to….’ questions you will have.

Mush allows you to create a profile, and then browse profiles of other parents in your local area. There are also scheduled meet ups, and message boards for questions and recommendations. It feels a bit like a low pressure dating app when you try and connect with other mums, but is great to broaden your friendship group when on maternity leave.

Mush is free from app stores.

Apps I did not find useful

I really loved the idea of apps such as Kinedu and Baby Sparks – who doesn’t want tailored games and activities to play with your child each day? In reality however, I was extremely disappointed.

The free trial I had with Kinedu was brilliant – I was given four new games to play each day with my baby that suited her age and upcoming developmental milestone, with instructional videos, and lists of equipment I would need in upcoming days. In order to continue with this, I would need to pay a large subscription fee, which on my statutory maternity pay was not feasible, so sadly I deleted this initially free app.

Baby Sparks worked on a similar premise, where you were shown activities to play with your baby, however only a couple of these (the most basic) were free – the rest (which looked far more exciting) were locked until you paid a fee to release these. Boo.

Which apps have you found useful to use with your new born baby?

Clever stuff – happy babies

One of the most expensive purchases we made as new parents to be was the travel system. I had to google ‘buggies for dummies’ during my pregnancy as I didn’t know my pushchairs from my prams – I certainly didn’t know what a travel system was. To my naive pre-baby self, you got some sort of contraption to push them around in and that was it!

To anyone as clueless as I was – don’t despair. A travel system combines everything you need – a car seat, a pram and a pushchair, all of which click into the same chassis. This proves really useful as you can transport baby easily from birth til a few years old.

We knew a travel system was the way to go for us. What we didn’t realise was how saturated the market was! We walked into Mothercare and stood dumbfounded at the enormous display of travel systems at every price point imaginable. Surely we didn’t need to spend thousands of pounds to take our baby out?!

I was instantly drawn to the Cosatto range. Bright, colourful and unique – it stood out instantly in the sea of grey and black.

Their motto ‘Clever stuff happy babies’ inspired me. I had no idea that Cosatto worked so closely with top researchers to help our little ones develop and learn just by looking at the unique patterns on their pushchair!

We were amazed at how light the Cosatto range was. Even heavily pregnant and increasingly weak me could pick up, fold and manoeuvre each one. My special awareness is the absolute worst – even supermarket trolleys can defeat me – so having a tiny turning circle, and quick, simple folding mechanism that I could work out without assistance was amazing!

We decided on the Wow, chose the gorgeous rainbow bright ‘Spectroluxe’ and rejoiced in having made the choice so easy.

Baby R was born, and a couple of days later I finally felt ready to venture out. A short (ouchy) walk close to home was all I could manage, but my smile couldn’t have been bigger on that cold January day as I proudly showed off our bright pram!

The Wow is INCREDIBLE. Every detail of being a new mum has been thought of and attended to. There is loads of room in the bottom for all those necessities you can’t possibly leave the house without (my change bag is stuffed full). The sturdy chassis travels well even over quite rough ground such as parks. You can remove the wheels to wash them if they get caked in mud (a regular occurrence in this cold wet winter!). The mattress inside is comfortable, and babies can sleep in it safely for the duration of any outing. We have even used it overnight when staying with family. Baby R loves looking at the high contrast patterns in the hood, and I can’t wait to use it to teach her colours. The motivational messages such as ‘dream big’ inside the hood reassure me that Cosatto cares as much about my baby’s future as I do.

Once Baby R is big enough, we can replace the lie flat pram with the pushchair. We foolishly didn’t purchase the footmuff at the same time as everything else, and as a result it sold out. I rang the Cosatto helpline in desperation, and the attentive customer service helped me out – within minutes we had a suitable alternative shipping out. Like the rest of the travel system, it arrived the very next day!

The travel seat is also absolutely brilliant. Safe and sturdy, with a newborn insert and easily adjustable straps, I know that Baby R is snug and comfortable in it. It is light weight so can be carried on its own, or clips quickly into the chassis or isofix base.

The only thing I would say is that the car seat buckle can sometimes be slightly tricky with a wriggling baby – but it is soon mastered!

In conclusion, the Cosatto Wow really does live up to ‘clever stuff happy babies’, and I couldn’t recommend it strongly enough to any parents to be!

What travel system did you choose to buy? Were you happy with your choice?

Disclaimer: I researched and paid for my Cosatto Wow myself, so all views are completely my own.

Once upon a time, there was a pregnant woman who wanted a natural birth…

So this is my birth story. Although it does have a happy ending, be warned – that is where the similarity to a fairy story ends.

My pregnancy had progressed relatively straight forwardly – despite unpleasant nausea in the first trimester, and the never ending exhaustion, I was feeling healthy and ready for birth. I’d attended NCT classes and completed my own research, and wanted a natural birth with minimal pain relief.

In one of my final midwife checkups, I had a high blood pressure reading. It was not my usual midwife, but a stand in. She’d been brusque from the start, and raised her eyebrows at my reading. She re-took it 5 minutes later, and without telling me the results, or even speaking a word to me, made a phonecall. I gathered this was to the ante-natal assessment unit at the hospital, where she was explaining she was concerned about my blood pressure and wanted me to be be checked out. This was how I found out about it. She offered me no reassurance or explanation of what this meant. I left the appointment blinking away tears, and then cried all the way home. After a sleepless night, and hasty call to work to arrange cover and explain my absence, I reported to the antenatal assessment clinic first thing in the morning. They took my blood pressure at 10 minute intervals, and listened to my baby’s heartbeat, and were satisfied I was fine. My first blood pressure reading was slightly high, which they accredited to my worrying about it, as it settled to normal throughout the readings. However I now was worried sick about my blood pressure. As a result of this, I had a high reading at my next two midwife appointments, and each time was sent to hospital to be checked. Each time i was discharged as my reading would return to normal, but my anxiety about it meant my initial reading became higher and higher. Eventually a week before my due date I was admitted into the Maternity Assessment Centre overnight for monitoring. I cried constantly. I was woken every 4 hours to be monitored – each time the initial readings were high before settling. I didn’t sleep at all, so I demanded to be discharged the next day – all I wanted was to go home. I was given beta blockers, and had to return every couple of days to be monitored. This was over the Christmas period – my favourite time of year. I was devastated to have to keep going into hospital, and terrified each time that my reading would be high and I would be kept in again. Perhaps as a result of this, my blood pressure remained high and I was strongly advised to be induced before my due date.

The induction process was frustrating. I was in hospital for three days and nights. Women were coming and going into labour, then being taken to the labour ward, whilst I was still there with nothing happening. Following procedure, I had a pessary inserted, then removed after 24 hours, then another pessary inserted, and again removed after 24 hours. I was not even 1cm dilated. The internal examinations were absolute agony and I dreaded them. After waiting for 6 hours for a doctor to become available, I then had a fast acting gel applied to my cervix. Due to how painful I found the internal examinations, they took me into a treatment room and gave me gas and air. I cried throughout. Contractions started soon after, then died away completely. At 10pm that evening I sent my husband home, as we had been assured that I would not be admitted to the labour ward for the next stage of induction until tomorrow. I settled down to get some sleep. It was New Year’s Eve, and at around 11:45pm my contractions started in earnest. My waters broke, although I was still only 1cm dilated, and I rang my husband to come back – it was midnight, as I’d heard fireworks during our call. He arrived 40 minutes later to find me launching myself off the bed in agony. I’d been given gas and air, and a midwife was pressing her fingers into my lower back and try and relieve the pain. More waters gushed out, and to my horror I felt the overwhelming urge to push. Mr F says this is when my midwife’s face fell – this should not be happening so quickly. I was now fully dilated, and my baby’s head was ready to come out.

I was urged to get on a wheelchair, with only a vest top on and a sheet slung over my lower half, and I was run through the corridors and into a room in the labour ward, roaring in pain the whole way. I climbed onto the bed, with the feeling of my baby’s head ready to come out. The midwife turned her back for a moment to attend to something – I had a contraction and almost against my will pushed, hard. I felt the entirety of my baby’s body come straight out. Shocked, I said nothing, and my midwife turned around and gasped. Suddenly more medical professionals entered the room – my baby was wiped and put on my chest. ‘What was the time of birth’? one asked. My midwife was flustered – she hadn’t even had the time to check it had been so fast. ‘1:20am’ she answered. I’d been in labour for around an hour and a half.

I don’t recall how much time we had together as a new family – it felt like barely minutes before another midwife was gently telling me that she thought I’d had a third degree tear. All I knew was that more and more bloody towels kept being taken up from under me and rapidly replaced. We were urged to ‘take pictures and bond’ despite the fact that shortly I’d be taken away for surgery. I almost laughed – I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do less than have a picture taken. Mr F was in shock – he’d left his wife falling asleep and returned shortly after to find me in full blown labour. Our baby was born less than 40 minutes after he got back to the hospital.

I was taken for surgery to repair my third degree tear. I was given an anesthetic which mercifully numbed my lower half. I was nearly asleep as for the first time I was completely comfortable. I kept urging the midwife to check on my husband and baby. During the surgery I remember looking at my monitor – ‘why aren’t you measuring her heart rate?’ I asked. ‘Because she’s no longer inside you’ they answered, bemused.

I was in surgery for around two hours before being reunited with my husband and baby. With the pain numbed, I felt euphoric. My husband was not faring as well, and seemed completely out of it and shocked. He’d been left almost completely on his own with our new baby, worried sick about me, with no sleep, following a fast traumatic birth where he’d had to watch the bloody towels, the concerned faces of the medical professionals, and his wife in absolute agony – he’d felt helpless.

Fortunately, our gorgeous baby girl was unscathed by the birth. My husband and I – not so much. Besides the physical pain, I was left confused, angry and emotional. Our plans for future babies are now on hold following the most terrifying experience of our lives.

We have sought help and been offered a debrief/counselling session back at the hospital – however the earliest appointment is three and a half months after the birth. We are able to talk to each other, and have been open with our friends, family and medical professionals that our birth was traumatic, but currently I am worried about the long lasting emotional effects it has caused.

Have you experienced any emotional pain from your birth? How did you cope with it?

 

 

 

 

Nearly £200 to make some friends – or the best money you’ve ever spent: What to expect from your NCT Signature Antenatal class

NCT Logo

Being a first time (and therefore totally clueless) mum, Mr F and I signed up for antenatal classes. We were primarily looking for advice on every aspect of the birth and first few weeks of caring for a tiny human, and as a side note, to bond with other parents to be. I decided that NCT seemed to be the way to go. Their mission statement was one I was completely on board with:

We are the UK’s leading charity for parents, for your First 1,000 Days – right through your pregnancy, birth and beyond.

We’ll give you accurate, impartial information through our website and our much-loved courses and classes.

We’ll bring you together with other new parents in your community, to make vital and lasting friendships.

We’ll campaign on your behalf to change the things that matter to you.

Because we believe everyone can, and should, feel supported in becoming a parent.

The website was easy to use, and I quickly found details of classes in my area. What I hadn’t realised was that all the other mums-to-be attending would be due within a few weeks of me, a perfect idea! There was the option of doing two full weekends, or a series of two hour classes once a week. We went for the evening classes, to give us maximum time to digest the information and bond with the other parents. I was shocked to find out that the NCT Signature Antenatal course was £187 – this would likely be out of the price range of many parents to be, and seemed a bit steep. Nevertheless, we needed all the help we could get, so we booked onto the course.

Before our first session, we both felt nervous – almost like the first day at school! Making friends as an adult in a forced social situation is not the dream. I’m socially awkward at the best of times with new people, and usually over compensate and terrify people by asking stupid questions such as ‘if you were a biscuit, what biscuit would you be?’ I also toyed with taking a pad and pen to make notes – then decided not to be ‘that’ mum-to-be. We were contacted beforehand by the course leader who sent us a welcome, a bit about her background, and clear directions on how to get to the venue. Using these we arrived catastrophically early to the first class…we chatted with our course facilitator as we helped her set up. She was friendly and welcoming, and had supplied a selection of drinks and biscuits – extremely welcome to starving pregnant ladies!

As the others arrived, I looked around the room. Would these women become my close friends? Was it possible that as other highly publicised stories, our children would grow up pals for life? They all seemed far more together, knowledgeable, and pro active than me – the first instance of ‘mum comparison’ (or as I call it, ‘comparimum’) kicked in.

After some slightly cringe worthy getting to know each other games, and a break to mingle and chat over more biscuits, we agreed on course guidelines – the course would then be tailored to our wants and needs. I was amused to find our suggestion of ‘there are no stupid questions’ to be slammed by one of the other mums to be, who pointed out ‘but there are stupid questions – no-one has time for that!’ I decided that she would absolutely be my friend!

Over the weeks we learned about birth, caring for your child, and, unexpectedly, about caring for each other as a couple. Each week we were sent useful links by our course leader to support our own further research into the topics we’d discussed. Despite the claim to give ‘impartial information’ there was a definite lean towards natural births with minimal pain relief, however debate and discussion were welcomed through various activities. Our course leader was extremely knowledgeable and able to answer every question, no matter how strange (or stupid!) Over the ever-popular biscuits, we also gradually started to get to know the other couples. Towards the end of the course, we set up the ubiquitous WhatsApp group – originally for all the parents, then we created a ‘mum chat’ splinter group to prevent the dads getting jealous of all our plans for maternity leave meet ups! Little did I know that this WhatsApp group would be my saviour time and time again.

Each of us shared our birth story in the WhatsApp group as they occurred – not one went the way we had wanted it to, and we were dismayed. Our disappointment was shared by the only people who could honestly know how we felt – each other. Our struggles to feed our babies were endlessly discussed and supported. Tips, help and links to information or helpful purchases were shared. Meetups were planned on at least a weekly basis, plus info on mum and baby classes we were attending. Some days the messages would creep towards the hundred mark. As we had heartaches, down days, and triumphs, we went through them all – together. I shared the most intimate details, thoughts and fears of being a first time mum with these women – now my best friends.

A newly pregnant friend recently asked me what the most useful thing was I’d bought for my baby – my reply: NCT Signature Antenatal Course. Best money I could have spent.

What was your experience of NCT antenatal courses?

http://www.nct.org.uk

 

 

 

3 Things No-one Ever Tells You About Being Pregnant

1. You will hear the most God-awful birth stories that are like something from Saw

(Full disclosure – obviously I’ve never seen any of the Saw films – even Midsummer Murders can make me scared to go upstairs in the dark in my own house. Yes I know it isn’t scary. Yes I know I’m a pathetic wimp. Yes I know I’m about to be a parent and therefore need to pretend nothing is scary. But murderers are terrifying – even nice ones who do the deed in a genteel way at a country fete in the jam judging competition.)

I cannot count the number of times strange women (that’s right – you are under attack every time you leave the house and someone spots your bump) have come over specifically to tell me how awful their birth/their friend’s birth/their friend’s hairdresser’s dog walker’s cousin’s birth was. The baffling thing about these women is that they seem to think that they are helping you. They honestly think they are providing a service. After they leave you, patting your arm, or worse, patting your bump, in what they perceive as a comforting way, they go on their merry way, sighing with happiness at a good deed done. You are left with the images from words such as ‘third degree tear’, ‘permanent incompetence’ and ‘prolapse’ and a growing horror that puts your slight discomfort around spiders to shame.

 

2. You will experience excess bodily fluids (yes I’m going there)

You have this vision, (not helped by our media who still seem to hold pregnant women up to the pedestal of the virgin Mary, but I digress) of being a serenely smiling, gently glowing, tidy bump delicately emerging from a gorgeous dress, magnificently coping fertility goddess. Kate Middleton! You think you will be Kate Middleton! Oh ladies. I’m so very sorry, but this image is clouded by the fact that your ‘glow’ is actually sweat. And I wish this was the only bodily fluid you will sprout excess of…You will drool when sleeping, to the point where little pools and strange marks will appear on your pillows. Sweat will come on suddenly, sometimes for no reason, and from weird and wonderful places (my palms and soles of my feet are regularly dripping. DRIPPING.) And the most disgusting of all – VAGINAL DISCHARGE. (I think I felt by capitalising it I made it less grim – this is clearly not the case. Sorry.) You will find this in excess throughout your pregnancy, to the point where my husband asked me suspiciously if I was eating toilet roll, as we were going through it at a rate of knots (I think he’d read an article on pica and was concerned I was stuffing my face with tissue paper. The reality of course was that I was hoarding rolls everywhere to help feel fresher down below. Sorry. Again.)

3. You will have a quiet panic at least once a day (a.k.a – the internet is not your friend)

My google history (other search engines are available) is full of searches such as ‘is it normal to want to eat so badly that you would tear apart your loved ones in order to satisfy your hunger?’ and ‘WHY OH GOD WHY ARE MY PALMS SO SWEATY?!!!’. Do not succumb to the temptation of the God of Google. It is perfectly normal to have a little panic every day of your pregnancy. This can range from ‘does my bump feel a bit smaller/lot bigger/lumpy today’ to ‘I’m sure I haven’t felt the baby move for an hour.’ Please please please do not consult the internet. Just as when you consult the internet for a minor symptom (slight headache, sore throat etc) and message boards tell you you are dying, the same goes for pregnancy. The message boards will terrify you – they are full of doom and gloom, catastrophe vultures, and most worryingly, wrong medical advice. If you are at all worried, ring your midwife. They will give you reassurance, and most importantly, correct medical advice! Never feel like you are being a pain, and that perhaps you’ll consult the internet first…RING THE MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL!

Once again ladies, I am so so sorry. Please let me know if you think I have missed something that no-one tells you about pregnancy – the stranger the better!

Picture credit: http://www.healthline.com