Friday, 31 January 2014

Sleep: How to Get Some

It's six months since Elsie was born and, I have to be honest, we are on our knees a little bit from a lack of sleep. It's not that she doesn't sleep; actually, she goes down really easy at about 7.00pm and wakes at around 11pm which I am SO thankful for as it means I can at least eat and get in an episode of whatever box-set we're currently watching (Boardwalk Empire). Nope, it's the 1.30/3.30/5.30 wake-up calls that follow that I'm tearing my hair out over - well, I would be if I had any hair. So I am more than open to any advice right now.
And what do you know but this week,  the lovely people at Pampers asked me if I'd like to have a chat with Baby Sleep Expert Jo Tantum, who is also on the panel of experts for their Love-Sleep-Play Campaign - find out about that here Obviously I jumped at the chance and actually, I think I picked up a few pretty good tips. Some of them might sound pretty obvious but sometimes, you need an expert (Jo has 25 years experience of working with babies) not your mum, to guide you in the right direction. If you'd like to share yours, I'm all ears!

1. Remember the sleep 'triggers'
Unless we are out and about, Elsie is rubbish at napping throughout the day - and it's so important to get her doing this if she's to sleep well at night time (an overtired baby is not a good thing). Jo suggests I use exactly the same routine I do at bed time for her naps too; so pull the black-out blind down, change her nappy, pop her in her sleeping bag and have a little cuddle. Usually, I'm so desperate to get on with things, I just pop her in her cot, pull the blinds and hope for the best. Oops.

2. Babies need a lot of naps
Jo told me that babies (at least at Elsie's age) should be having around two hours of wake/play time before they'll need a little nap again. I'm often so busy I don't pick up on this but the last few days, I've been looking out more for her I-want-to-sleep signals (pulling her ears/burrowing into my chest/gentle moaning) and popping her into her cot. Cue: happier, playful baby when she's awake.

3. Try the stealth settle
Though I'm pretty hacked off that my baby wakes up three times a night (I thought girls were meant to be better FFS!), I have to admit, I haven't really tried that hard to settle her when she does wake. And more often than not, I'm feeding her within a few minutes of her crying. Yes, I know. Jo suggested that next time she woke, I made 'shush' noises whilst at the same time slowly pushing, (not patting) her bottom, almost like a massage action. I tried this the other night and it worked. High five.

4. The 15 minute break
Usually, straight after feeding Elsie at bedtime I would pop her straight into her cot. Big mistake. Huge. In doing so, I've pretty much been showing her that she needs a feed to get herself to sleep. Great. Now, I'm feeding her 15 minutes earlier and maybe having a little bedtime story instead. I hope this doesn't mean she'll want Twinkle Twinkle every time she wakes up now?!

5. Keep them dry
During my Skype chat with Jo, I also had a little demonstration of how Pampers latest nappy, Baby-Dry (from £11.99 for 54) works - yes, they even used the blue water! They're pretty clever because they have a Double Dry-Zone; one which absorbs the wee and another that locks it in and all for up to 12 hours - so it's pretty much the perfect bed time nappy. Actually, I was already using the nappies anyway and am a Pampers devotee but, as they suggested, I'll use these just for bed time and maybe the Active Fit during the day. You can get the new Baby-Dry nappies here:

Learn more about the brilliant (and lovely) Jo Tantum at her website

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Baby Stuff: Six Ways to Spend Less

When it comes to babies there is, seriously, just so much stuff you need. I'm not talking the latest Stella McCartney baby jeans (that will be £42 please) or the ridiculously cool, clear perspex cot Kim and Kanye have reputedly invested in for their little one. Nope, I mean the real basics; nappies, wet wipes, clothes, formula and bath time bits and bobs that you really couldn't afford to be without. And though, with my first baby, I pretty much just bought whatever I thought was reasonable enough in cost, I rarely looked at cheaper store-own brands or searched around for deals. I just popped them into my virtual online basket and there you have it. Done. However, this time around, I've tried to be much more frugal and endeavoring to shop smarter. Here are my tips - let me know yours.

1. Buy nappies in bulk
I've always bought my nappies (Pampers FYI) in my usual weekly shop and though I've kept an eye out for the 2-for-1 deals and all that malarky, I often miss them. I also do this a lot: run to my local pharmacy when they're out of stock at my supermarket and buy teeny packets which obviously ends up being much more expensive - and there are no snazzy deals to be had in such smaller, niche shops. And then I discovered Amazon. Brilliantly, they sell HUGE boxes of big name nappies for bargain prices (at the time of typing this, you could buy a box of 156 Pampers for £16.50 as opposed to £5 for a pack of 30 at Tesco - amazing!). I think Amazon also do a 20% of all nappies if you sign up to their Amazon Family service.

2. Try store-own wet wipes
I admit it, I won't buy any other nappies than Pampers but that's because I've tried every other brand and they're just not as good. However, when it comes to wet wipes, I've been a bit more experimental. I always look at the ingredients as I hate for mine to be fragranced (and some are even if they say they're for sensitive skin) and honestly, I sometimes test them on myself to see if they really don't sting. My latest find? Essential Waitrose Baby Wipes, £1.12 for 80, knocks spots off the others; they're super gentle, come out the pack separately and not in handfuls (which is so annoying) and, at £1.12 come in much cheaper than the £2 you tend to pay for most brands.

3. Search for bargain bath buys
I only use natural or organic bath products on my little ones and absolutely heart Burt's Bees Bubble Bath and Weleda Baby Calendula Cream Bath so much but, at around £9 each for both, I don't feel the same way about the price. However, take a little virtual trip over to and the lovely Weleda Cream Bath is a teeny bit cheaper at £7.95. And at the moment, they're doing a 3 for 2 deal on selected Weleda products, so you could nab the brilliant Weather Protection Cream, £6.95 and the Shampoo and Body Wash, £7.10 and get the cheapest for zero. Deals like this come up a lot on Boots - always worth checking out.

4. H&M
I'm having a little bit of a love-in with H&M at the moment, having just bought another of their cute, 2-Pack Bodysuits, £4.99, (see left) and a Chinti & Parker-inspired striped body with pink heart emblazoned across the front. They are so worth stocking up at for vests and bodies that your baby outgrows super-quick (or completely ruins with an atomic poo) and are 100% cotton too. Save your bigger splashing-out sessions for lovely knits, jackets and coats that will last all season.

5. Be organised
In preparation for my second baby I carefully went through all my first child's old clothes, strategically chucking out, charity-shopping or holding onto and labeling bags of stuff I knew I could get a second wear out of. I was so organised. Or so I thought. This week I was GUTTED to find a whole box of immaculate, hardly-worn baby clothes tucked away in the loft that Elsie is now too big to wear. Other things I've never used? A set of Avent newborn baby bottles/a pack of 12 muslin cloths/completely girly OTT summer dresses. I'm still breastfeeding so the bottles and teats are redundant, I no way needed so many muslins and putting a newborn in a frilly dress just wasn't going to happen. It definitely pays to think (hard) before you buy.

6. Always look for deals
Top places to find deals are at good old Boots (often online only) and Amazon. I've seriously bought every last packet of cotton wool, nappies and wet wipes through these online stores rather - but only after I've done a little research and compared prices  first. It takes a bit more time but you can end up saving a huge amount.

Monday, 13 January 2014

On Test: Pantene Age Defy

So as I've said (and said) I'm raging through an ongoing battle with my hair. It's still falling out, though I think the regularity of that might be slowing down by the look of my hairbrush lately (and the bathroom floor). Or, it just might be down to the rather brilliant shampoo I'm using. I wanted to put the Pantene Pro-V Expert Collection Age Defy to the test way back when I went to the launch of the range in summer but it got lost amidst boxes of nappies and DIY stuff. No matter. My sorry state of hair affairs post-pregnancy has provided the perfect test; the anti-aging collection claims to deal with seven signs of aging hair - unruly greys, dryness, lacklustre colour, breakage, split ends, frizz and thinning. Sounds good right?
Before you roll your eyes at the idea of an anti-aging shampoo, a little dig at the nourishing ingredients involved, the clinical study undertaken and the experts they've got on board indicates Pantene have thought a bit about this one. According to their research, women worry about thinning hair more than 'weight gain and wrinkles,' which, considering my own hair loss hasn't been monumental but distressing all the same, I can totally relate to. So it makes sense their latest range is dedicated to the issue.

So here's the deal: I've been using the shampoo, conditioner and hydration mask for the last three weeks and, I have to say, they've beaten some pricier brands (I'm talking three times as expensive) hands down. All three products (I've yet to try the thickening treatment) are super creamy, though not so much that they weigh your hair down, they rinse out well and they smell amazing. And as for the actual 'hair that looks up to 10 years younger' claim, well, I can't say for sure if my hair looks or feels like it did way back in 2004 - or if I'd even want it to - but it certainly feels thicker, shinier and in better condition than it's done for a long, long time. And that's good enough for me.

Pantene Pro-V Expert Collection Age Defy Shampoo and Conditioner, £5.99, Hydration Mask, £6.99, Advanced Thickening Treatment, £9.99

Monday, 6 January 2014

Best of 2013

photo credit: Stuart Miles
Happy New Year! I've been reading a ton of 'best of,' features based on the last year or so and I find them so interesting; it's intriguing to see what buys have really stood out for, not just beauty bloggers but fashion, cinema and homes bloggers too (I'm a sucker for a pretty interiors blog). So I thought I'd go with the general flow and tell you what beauty buys I've loved and would genuinely buy again once I've squeezed out every ounce. And here they are. They're not all new but some are just so, well, amazing, (I literally use them every day) so I couldn't not include them.

1. Pantene Pro-V Expert Collection AgeDefy Shampoo, £5.99 (
As you've probably read in previous posts, I've had a mainly hate relationship with my hair these last few months; it's been falling out, getting greasy quickly and generally just felt awful. This shampoo promises to sort all of that out with a whole host of anti-aging ingredients and I have to say, it works! My hair has definitely looked thicker and glossier of late and even got me a few compliments - which never happens.

2. L'Oreal Paris Super Liner Brow Artist, £5.49 (
I love the way a good brow pencil can give shape, structure and an all-round groomed effect in just a few seconds. And this one is brilliant. The texture of the pencil is just right and I use the little brush and wax at the other end of the wand to hold them in place. It's amazing value for how great it is.

3. Eyeko Skinny Mini Liquid Eyeliner, £10 (for full size) ( 
To be honest, I haven't been spending a whole lot of time on my eye make-up since Elsie, my now five month old arrived in July but I do love a little liquid eyeliner when I can be bothered to make the effort. This goes on easy and stays put all day. Yes, really.

4. Tangle Teezer, £10.20 (
I've gone on about Tangle Teezer before but I can't help it, it's genuinely fab. I use this every time I wash my hair (before and after) to ease out tangles and when I had my hair cut recently, my hairdresser used one too. Mine is a little worse for wear now but I'll be buying another.

5. Kiehl's Creme de Corps, £27 for 250ml (
Okay so this isn't new but oh I love this SO much. I used it every single day when I was pregnant because I loved the very subtle fragrance (which comes from cocoa butter) and how easy it was to apply - this never leaves your skin greasy. It's not cheap, in fact, I think the bigger size I have here may be £48 but it's worth it.

6. Weleda Baby Calendula Face Cream, £7.95 (
When I was pregnant with Elsie and working at Zest magazine, I stockpiled everything Weleda sent my way, I love it so. At the moment, Elsie's teeny cheeks are taking a bit of a battering from the weather so I've been using this to keep them soft and the lotion and oil on her body. I love that it's so natural and it genuinely seems to work in soothing dry patches.

7. Creme de la Mer The Moisturising Soft Cream, £105 (
I have to confess, I hadn't really been a Creme de la Mer fan before; I thought the moisturiser was much too rich for me. However, I was very luckily given a few Creme products to try last summer and now, I'm a convert. I love this lighter version of the original, I love the SPF18 Fluid Tint and I love their cleanser. My skin has really never looked better. In all honesty, I probably won't be able to afford to buy it once it's gone but my birthday is coming up so....

8. Clarins Wonder Perfect Mascara, £21 (
This little mini sized mascara, I think, was a gift in a magazine and, when I went into hospital with baby no2 I packed it in my bag along with some other mini sized stuff. What a revelation. This is quite possibly the best mascara I have ever used (and, as a beauty editor, you get to try a lot). It lengthens so brilliantly well, I was kind of gobsmacked. I'll definitely buy this when my mini runs out.

9. Vichy Liftactiv Serum 10 Eyes & Lashes, £24.50 (
Eye creams are so clever now. Forget your bog standard moisturising cream. This one has a serum formula (so it feels much lighter), ceramides for plumping out fine lines, instant illuminators to brighten dark circles and lash strengthening ingredients. Why would you buy anything else?

10. Benefit Hydra-Smooth Lip Colour, £15 (
I had a little venture into a Benefit store to spend a voucher I had been given last Christmas and, on top of a few gorgeous gift sets I bought for family, I picked up this little lipstick - for myself. It's super hydrating (thanks to the shea butter) and comes in a sheer, balm-like finish. I went for 'Air Kiss' - a kind of soft, rose pink - and wear it pretty much every day. It's so easy, you don't even need to look in a mirror to put it on. Bonus. Love the 1920's style packaging too.