Baby-Proof Travel: Seven Steps to Simplify the Journey

We’ve recently returned from a week-long winter break in Slovenia and despite having an extremely energetic and curious child who hates to sit still, traveling with our one-year-old, Seb, was much easier than I had envisaged. When you have a baby, traveling anywhere becomes all about convenience, minimising stress and being time-effective, and I have to say we managed to achieve that pretty well on this trip.

Somehow, I packed for a week-long holiday for the three of us into two and a half bags (Seb was allowed a very small bag). I packed everything we needed, I had no intention or need to buy anything when we arrived. This was a massive achievement for me as (ashamedly) I’m a hoarder and I take too much stuff everywhere I go.

How was it possible I managed to go away for a week and not check any bags at all?

Clever packing and some very obvious, simple but effective tricks;

  1. Pack Light & Pack Smart

Traveling on budget airlines always ensures appealingly low fares, but unfortunately almost always includes high extras; the airlines make their money by charging these “extras” at extortionate prices at the airport, for example if you are even an ounce over your allocated baggage weight.

My husband insisted we needed to check a large bag to take all our things. I insisted we did not. So in the interest of saving us the £80 it would cost to check ONE bag, (yes ONE 20kg bag cost £80 on top of our fare), I researched exactly what we were allowed, then packed and repacked until I had efficiently gathered all our needs for the week into three bags; mine, my husbands and a small one for Seb.

When you fly with an infant you are (usually – check with airline) allowed to take a collapsible stroller or pushchair free of charge, and one small bag for them, both of which came in very handy for us. We needed a stroller footmuff for Seb as we knew it was cold in Slovenia but we kept it attached on the stroller when we folded it at the gate – one less thing to pack.

Packing to maximise space can be easy when you pack well; rolling clothes instead of folding helps to maximise every bit of space. Three outfit changes were enough for the week (we mixed and matched) and I packed extra under-layers for Seb in case of any accidents. Worst case scenario we could always hand wash anything during the week.

Thankfully, one of my favourite non-toxic soaps come in miniature-size; Dr Bronner’s Mini Castile Liquid Soap is perfect for traveling. One drop goes a really long way, it’s gentle for all the family and even performs great as shampoo.

Since my makeup brushes take up more space than my actual makeup itself, I carried them separately in one of the huge pockets of my ski coat. It’s amazing what you can fit in the pockets of a ski coat, I can actually fit whole cans of beer in them. (I learned this handy trick a long time ago.)

  1. Wear the Heavy Stuff

Because we were going to a cold country we needed warm clothes but to maximise space we wore our bulkiest items for the flight; thick sweater, ski coat and winter boots. This might sound unpleasant, but we used the stroller to carry everything through the airport (including our coats) and were actually grateful of the extra layers when we stepped out from our tiny plane onto the tarmac in Ljubliana at -3C.

  1. Take a Baby Carrier

The best thing we did on this trip was to take our Ergobaby Carrier. It meant I could carry Seb through the airport and have my hands free while my husband used the stroller to carry our bags and coats. Carrying your baby or toddler in a sling also means they’re restricted, they can’t crawl away and they tend to be happier when they are carried (no sudden meltdowns halfway through security). I use the Ergobaby Original which is possibly my favourite of all baby-related products. It’s made my life so much easier. (Read more here.)

Because the sling has pockets I was able to fit my phone, passport, bank cards and boarding pass, therefore eliminating the need for another bag for myself, and even a few extra nappies. Yes, I even managed to pack nappies; I counted how many Seb needed for each day and stuffed them one-by-one into any remaining space in our tiny suitcases. But having some extra in the sling meant I didn’t need to risk disturbing (and therefore spilling) the entire contents of our full-to-the-brim bags in the airport. If I hadn’t packed nappies I would have simply bought some when we arrived at our destination, but I’m quite picky about the nappies we use so another safe-saving tip would be to simply order them through Amazon and have them delivered to your destination.

 

  1. Stay at the Airport

This mostly applies for morning flights or if you live a distance from the airport, which unfortunately we do.

Seb’s never been very happy in the car so we didn’t want to face a two-hour journey with him plus the work of getting through the airport, then the flight. So we stayed in a hotel at the airport the night before. When you combine an airport stay with parking it can actually work out only slightly more expensive than parking alone, so for the convenience it’s well worth it.

  1. Check in Online

This is rather obvious and most smaller airlines even charge a penalty for not checking in online, but just having hand luggage and no bag to check meant we went straight through security to the gate, with no one even needing to look at our bulging bags. Once we arrived at the aircraft the stewards gladly took our bigger bags into the hold which meant we didn’t need to have them with us in the cabin. Essentially, we ended up checking our bags for free. Of course this isn’t a guarantee on a flight so otherwise be prepared to fight for space in the overhead bins. If this is the case, having a baby on your lap should get you a little sympathy from nearby passengers.

 

6.  Arrive Just in Time and Board LAST

I’ve never been one for getting to the airport early, but with a baby even less so. Babies get bored easily so you don’t want to spend half an hour on the aircraft before it actually takes off; by this time your baby will likely be bored and restless. And that’s before you even have to strap them in!

We gave ourselves just enough time to get through security with a few minutes spare to get coffee and use the bathroom, then went straight to the gate. We didn’t hang around the airport long enough to give Seb any time to get out and crawl around, we kept moving. Also, because we got on last they were happy to take our bags into the hold and we just walked straight to our seats, avoiding any queues. Babies hate queues. Unless they’re asleep that is.

7.   Be Prepared for Popping Ears

It can be difficult for a baby on an aircraft when they need to pop their ears, so we need to encourage them to swallow often. I tend to chew gum on take-off and landing but since this isn’t exactly appropriate for a baby (it would look a little trashy to have our baby chewing gum), I fed Seb during this time. Breastfeeding, a bottle, snack or any other drink will work.

This is rather obvious and most smaller airlines even charge a penalty for not checking in online, but just having hand luggage and no bag to check meant we went straight through security to the gate, with no one even needing to look at our bulging bags. Once we arrived at the aircraft the stewards gladly took our bigger bags into the hold which meant we didn’t need to have them with us in the cabin. Essentially, we ended up checking our bags for free. Of course this isn’t a guarantee on a flight so otherwise be prepared to fight for space in the overhead bins. If this is the case, having a baby on your lap should get you a little sympathy from nearby passengers.

 

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Everything we took for a weeks winter holiday

I loved this experience of forcing myself to simplify and minimise my life for a week. Now, if only I could replicate this in my everyday home life….

What about you, any tips for traveling with children you’d like to share? Thoughts or questions? Comment below!

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Baby Carrier Review & Guide

Once we understand the benefits to carrying our babies in a sling we are faced with the next big question; which one is best? This is of course unique to each family, budget and need. But after trying a few of the most popular carriers and slings myself, I wanted to review them here. These carriers are tried and tested by me or close mother friends of mine and are only recommended from experience.

BABYBJÖRN Original Baby Carrier

I bought the Baby Bjorn Original when my baby, Seb, was about three months old as it’s one of the most popular carriers out there. But in my opinion it’s just due to the length of time it’s been on the market as opposed to its functionality as a baby carrier.

If your baby weighs more than a bag of sugar, then expect backache, unfortunately.

Pros:

  • In itself it’s lightweight and very user-friendly; it literally clasps together in two pieces making it quick and convenient
  • Easy to clean, wipe-down fabric

Cons:

  • One important factor of the Baby Bjorn Original is the position it leaves the baby’s hips. When carrying a baby their legs need to be in a frog position, bottom down and knees up, with legs up at a 90-degree angle and thighs supported. The Baby Bjorn Original does not allow for this; carrying a baby in this carrier leaves their legs dangling down freely, much more so than do some other carriers.
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    My husband with Seb in the Baby Bjorn Original

    While there is no direct evidence to suggest this can cause hip dysplasia in babies, it isn’t the most supportive carrier on the market, for baby or wearer. I did not learn the correct way to carry a baby in a carrier until after I had bought the Baby Bjorn and having a breech baby, it did concern me (See more on this here)

  • No waist support = Backache. Aside from the baby’s position, for long-term wearing of an older baby, I found it useless as it provides the wearer very little support. Even with a younger baby, when you’re recovering from birth and your stomach muscles aren’t functioning like normal, you need something more supportive, one that will distribute the baby’s weight more evenly using your whole body strength

BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier One

While we’re on Baby Bjorn, a good friend of mine swears by the Baby Bjorn One so I think it’s worth a mention, even though I haven’t tried it personally. Just to note, it’s quite a structured carrier, not a sling.

Pros

  • The One does allow for more support on baby’s thighs to enable the correct hip-positioning.
  • Baby can face inwards or outwards and it can be used as a back carrier
  • Easy to breastfeed in
  • It does have waist support, designed to prevent the backache that is quite unavoidable in its older model, the Baby Bjorn Original
  • Comes in a range of colours

Cons

  • Much more expensive than the Baby Bjorn Original
  • Apparently it doesn’t wash that well

Hana BAMBOO Baby Wrap

I love this type of sling for carrying a baby. Essentially it’s just a huge piece of material that you wrap and wrap until it creates a space to place your baby. Initially it looks complicated to put on but after practicing a few times, it does become easy, although slightly time-consuming.

Pros

  • Great for newborn – this is a really safe, secure and warm environment for a newborn to be close to their parent while allowing the wearer to be hands-free
  • Great for longer wearing, it’s really supportive for the wearer so it can feel comfortable for a good few hours
  • No buckles or clasps to tend with, it’s just one huge piece of material and is easy to transport
  • Offers excellent value for money
  • Easy to breastfeed in

Cons

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The Hana Baby Wrap
  • As it’s a lot of material it can make the wearer hot and sweaty, not great for an older baby, or for use in the warmer months (when I used this indoors at home when Seb was tiny I stripped him down to just his nappy and vest to avoid him overheating)
  • It’s somewhat time-consuming to put on and take off, not great when your baby is screaming and you have to put them down to assemble the wrap, or if your baby suddenly decides to vomit a days-worth of milk all over you while in the sling. It takes a while to unwrap yourself from it so unfortunately, there is no way to avoid or protect yourself from getting completely covered by any lovely baby excretory products
  • Once baby falls asleep it can be tricky to take them out without waking them

Ring Sling Baby Sling

The ring sling is a great option for an older baby or toddler. For those times when they’re around 10 months old and can’t decide if they want to be picked up or put down, or when you’re trying to make dinner and they are demanding your attention; the ring sling is a versatile piece of fabric that is quick to put on and doesn’t require buckles. I have to admit I’m fairly new to this sling and haven’t had it long enough to review it extensively. I will update this post in a month or so with more of an opinion!

Pros

  • Quick and easy, great for carrying a toddler on your hip whilst keeping hands free
  • Simple and lightweight with just two rings, no buckles

Cons

  • Doesn’t feel quite as secure as some other slings

Ergobaby Baby Carrier Original

This is by far my favourite of all the slings I’ve tried. This carrier has been a life-saver for me in so many ways, for the entire almost-year we’ve had it. I didn’t need to buy the infant insert for Seb when I bought this so unfortunately I can’t comment on this as a newborn carrier. But friends who have used the infant insert, say it functions really well and keeps the baby in a safe and secure position.

Pros

  • The Ergobaby has a really solid waist support band to prevent backache and padded shoulder straps for comfort
  • Very easy and quick to put on with buckles – easy to take off when baby falls asleep
  • Made with lightweight cotton material so less risk of parent or baby overheating compared to other slings, and folds well for easy transport
  • Once on, the carrier creates a “seat” for the baby which allows for correct leg and hip positioning
  • Ease of breastfeeding – I found it so easy to breastfeed discreetly in this sling, when Seb was small and even when he grew much bigger
  • My favourite aspect – a hood. This became immensely useful to me when Seb was going through a “distracted by everything” phase and wouldn’t feed or sleep without a fight. Putting him in the sling with the hood over his head allowed me to shut out his world and feed him discreetly without any distractions, which always ensured he would fall asleep. I could then gently take him out and put him down allowing me some much needed free time while he napped. For a baby that would otherwise NEVER fall asleep without me, this became a lifesaving tool to get him to sleep.

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    Seb in the Ergobaby Original 
  • The hood also meant I was less likely to drop food on his head if I attempted to eat anything whilst carrying him (soup is NOT a babywearing-friendly food to attempt)
  • The hood offers weather protection (I didn’t realise how handy this was until I got caught out with Seb in the sun and had forgotten his hat)
  • Option to wear baby inward-facing, on the hip and back
  • Comes in a range of colours

Cons

  • No option for wearing baby forward-facing. This didn’t prove to be a problem for me but of course it depends on how you want to carry your baby. Even though he’s now a toddler, I still carry Seb a lot and I find it really calms him down if he’s being a bit rambunctious in a situation, or if he’s upset or just wants a cuddle. So I don’t really feel the need to have him facing outwards at this age since he is physically able to roam free and explore his world the rest of the time. At around five months I think it can be nice for baby to have an option to see the world whilst still experiencing the security and attachment of being held by their parent, so an outward facing option may be useful
  • Quite tricky to put the baby on your back (without help)
  • Expense – this is not the cheapest carrier on the market (but WELL worth the money, in my opinion)

Ergobaby Baby Carrier 360

When I had decided on the Ergobaby brand, I was then stuck with the dilemma of the original or the 360. They are very similar but the 360 –

  • Has the option to wear baby forward-facing
  • Is more expensive
  • Can’t take as much weight as the original
  • Has Velcro straps

And this last difference is what deterred me from buying it over the Ergo Original. I desperately needed a few Seb-free moments during the day and his sleep time was my only opportunity, so having anything that could potentially make noise and wake him during the transition from carrier to bed was a huge no-go for me. However, a good friend of mine who has the 360 has said that she can take her sleeping baby out of the carrier without needing to undo the Velcro straps. So then I guess it’s just down to personal preference of whether you want your baby to have a forward-facing option. And since this wasn’t a huge necessity for us, I chose the slightly cheaper option and I can honestly say it’s absolutely been our best purchase since Seb was born, and will likely last us many years to come.

What about you? Any experience of baby carriers you’d like to share or questions on them? Any you’ve found worked really well, or didn’t for that matter? Comment below!

Sling the Pram – The Benefits of Baby Wearing

Babies love to be carried. This is a blanket statement that applies to all little humans, it’s in their nature to want to be close and connected to their parents or carers at all times.

When my son, Sebastian, was born, I very quickly learned the necessity of baby wearing. I was not at all prepared for how much bodily contact a newborn baby needs, it was quite literally 24/7 in our experience. Seb never wanted to be put down.

Having a sling was a Godsend for me, it allowed me to keep Seb close, supporting his weight evenly whilst giving me my hands back – to attempt to fold the laundry or actually make myself a cup of tea; those things you take for granted until you have a newborn baby.

What Exactly is Baby Wearing?

Baby wearing is the practice of wearing or carrying a baby in a sling or other form of carrier. Although Dr. William Sears, American pediatrician and author of more than 30 parenting books, coined the term in the 1980’s, baby wearing isn’t some new concept designed by hippy mothers who hate prams, it’s been practiced for centuries all around the world and is still the method of choice by many parents for carrying a baby. Parents have long used a variety of cloths, shawls, scarves and even bed sheets to carry and snuggle their little ones whilst having their hands free to work.

The Rise and Fall of Baby Wearing

Baby wearing lost much of its popularity in industrialised countries with the invention of the first horse-drawn baby carriage, invented in 1733 by William Kent, for the Duke of Devonshire to transport his young children around. Baby carriages then became a luxury item only the wealthiest parents could afford and people stopped carrying their babies as often in an effort to follow this “luxury” trend.

This, along with the ensuing movement intent on making a baby independent by not holding them as often, therefore not giving them the physical closeness and attention they need in an effort to not “spoil the baby”, baby wearing dropped widely in popularity, particularly in industrialised countries.

But in countries that may not have been so highly affected by the movement to avoid holding their babies so much, baby wearing is still the most convenient, practical and effective way of transporting and caring for an infant.

Interestingly, prams that have recently been marketed for sale in Africa failed miserably. Where mothers all across the country are seen carrying their babies on their backs, they said the idea of putting a baby in a pram would actually be bad for the baby. Many African pediatricians think the pram may even damage the relationship between mother and child, with a literal sense of “pushing the baby away” in a pram, as opposed to the warmth and comfort of being held and carried. (Read the article here.)

Benefits to Baby

Studies have shown that babies who are held and carried often during the day (that is more often than feeding and as a response to crying), display less crying and fussing and show increased contentment, particularly during the evening hours which is often the most challenging time with a new baby. Crying is exhausting for both baby and parents, and may cause long-term damage as the baby’s developing brain is continually flooded with stress hormones.

In indigenous countries where it is the norm for a baby to be held and carried for most of the day, a baby may only cry for minutes during the day, as opposed to the hours of crying we commonly see in Western countries.

As mothers we carry our babies for almost a year in the warmth and security of our bodies. In utero, our breathing and heartbeat are their constant, familiar companions; baby wearing allows us to replicate this contact and closeness. Baby wearing calms the baby and helps their brains develop; as they spend less time crying and fussing they spend more time in quiet alertness, learning about their world from the security, warmth and closeness of their parent.

Benefits to Mother

One of the things I missed the most being a new mother is the gym; but carrying my baby to the shops or whilst walking through our local farmers market, on public transport or through an airport (this is when I was probably the most thankful for our sling!), my goodness does it feel like I’ve done a workout at the end of the day! You are weight-lifting, sometimes combined with doing squats if you need to get them to sleep. In my opinion, if you want to lose the baby weight trust two things, breastfeeding and baby wearing.

The sling became my main source of transport for Seb when he was small because he hated the car. Any journey in the car became really stressful for both him and me, so I stopped driving anywhere I could take the bus or train. While a stroller can be very useful when you have an older baby (and it also works as a great bag-carrier), when you have a tiny baby who is too small for a stroller, the pram can be quite bulky on public transport and to push around the shops. Instead I would put Seb in the sling, use a small backpack for our needs and get on the bus, where he would sleep and I would enjoy not having to drive with a screaming and distressed baby.

While baby wearing tends to be the more frequently used method of comforting a fussy baby, any baby will benefit from being held and carried during the day. It’s a cheap, practical, convenient and comforting way to carry your baby with benefits to both mother/father and baby.

Resources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3517799

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Do you have any comments you’d like to share from your experience on baby wearing? Have you found it a helpful asset to parenthood? Comment below!

Why I don’t Take Essential Oils Internally

This post is taken from the blog of Julia Lawless on her company site, Aqua Oleum.

Julia Lawless is a world-renowned aromatherapist, highly respected as an authority in the field of aromatic plants and oils. She believes ingesting essential oils is a dangerous method which she doesn’t encourage.

This is an excerpt from an article written for the Canadian Aromatherapy Association: BCAPA. I wrote the article because of a growing concern I have regarding an increase in members of public in the UK enquiring about taking essential oils internally. I want to make absolutely clear that the UK official Aromatherapy policy as supported by Aqua Oleum Ltd does NOT support taking essential oils internally in any manner by members of the public, as stated clearly on our labels. I myself consider this a very dangerous trend and would like to ensure that this practice is not adopted in the UK despite the internet and other sources, especially in the US, publishing misleading information in this field – as outlined in this article.

I am writing this article in Colorado with a large volume in front of me entitled: ‘Essential Oils Desk Reference’, a type of encyclopedia compiled by Essential Science Publishing and published in the US. In the section entitled ‘How to Safely Use Essential Oils’ it says at point 11:

“Before taking GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) essential oils internally, test your reactions by diluting one drop of essential oil in one teaspoon of an oil soluble liquid like blue agave, olive oil, or rice milk. Never consume more than a few drops of diluted essential oil per day without the advice of a physician”

How many drops are a ‘few drops’? In their ‘Essential Oil Application Codes’ in Appendix E at the end of the book, they divide oils into those that can be taken neat (such as lavender); those which need to be diluted to 50-50% – i.e “one part essential oil to one part vegetable oil for topical and internal use “- (such as basil and bergamot); and those which should be diluted 20-80% (such as lemongrass or clove). A 50-50% blend of an essential oil with a vegetable oil being recommended for internal use is not the same as a few drops! Generally speaking, in making a blend for a massage or body oil, I recommend using a 1% to 5% blend of essential oils in a vegetable oil base – depending on the subject, the specific oil and the region being treated. So a 50-50% blend is itself a very, very strong dilution for topical application… let alone internal use!

When in the same Appendix, an oil such as ‘Blue Tansy’ (Tanacetum annuum) is recommended for neat use while ‘Tansy’ (Tanacetum vulgare) is recommended for 50-50% use, the situation becomes even more worrying! Tansy (T. vulgare) contains up to 80% thujone, as stated in the constituent data section – yet thujone is a severe oral toxin. Moreover the average member of the public is not going to distinguish between tansy and blue tansy so may even be tempted to swallow tansy essential oil neat. Indeed, in another popular book published in the US, I found ‘tansy essential oil’ being recommended for treating tummy upsets in children by adding a ‘few drops’ to their bowl of yogurt in the morning!

In my ‘Encyclopedia of Essential Oils’, which is still used as a textbook for training aromatherapists on an international basis, I also list the essential oils which should not be used for aromatherapy purposes. Under the Safety Data entry for Tansy (T. vugare) it says:

“Oral toxin – poisonous due to high thujone content. Abortifacient. Should not be used in aromatherapy whether internally or externally. … The oil used to be used in alcoholic beverages – it is no longer used for flavouring.”

Another words, this oil does not even have a GRAS status due to its toxicity levels. I specifically decided to include such oils in my Encyclopedia as a form of education … to outline the reasons why such an oil can be dangerous. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) falls into the same category due to its high thujone content, yet it is also recommended for 50-50% usage in the Essential Oils Desk Reference volume. It is not that essential oils cannot be used internally under any circumstances, such as under the guidance of a Medical Herbalist qualified in this field … but the vague, inaccurate, contradictory and blatantly dangerous messages being communicated to the public regarding safety issues via all sorts of media sources these days, such as the internet and you-tube, is of very real concern.

See the post on Aqua Oleum here.

Top Ten Tips for Healthy & Comfortable Long-Haul Travel

Whether you like flying or not (and I happen to love it), there are a few simple, easy, but effective measures I always take for the journey, making it just that bit more comfortable while ensuring I (hopefully) don’t arrive looking like I just spent a week sleeping in the same clothes in a tent.

I’ve flown a fair amount in the last ten years, always on long haul flights, and the few details I add to my regime ensure I have a relaxing, enjoyable and most importantly, comfortable flight

  1. Immune Support

While it may sound obvious, I cannot stress this enough. Airports, airplanes, dirty hands, air conditioning and the overall number of people you are likely to come into close contact with en-route, does not make for a happy immune system. Especially adding on the physical strain of jet leg. Support your immune system with large doses of vitamin C and echinacea. The trick is to take them consistently, not just once or twice. I would take three times a day, the day before, day of and day after travel. It might sound like a lot, but in my experience it’s foolproof.

  1. All-Natural Hand Sanitiser                                                                                                                  

I make a spray bottle of this myself with 6 drops each of frankincense, lavender and melaleuca (tea tree) essential oils, mixed with equal parts aloe vera, water and coconut oil (or any other carrier oil).  It’s a wonderful, natural hand sanitiser that is also moisturising, cleansing and immune supporting.

  1. Lip Balm

The air conditioning on the plane can make your lips dry and crack, so I aways carry little pot of Carmex. Actually I carry a little pot of Carmex everywhere.

  1. Underwear

I don’t want to get too personal here, but do not underestimate the benefits of having a spare pair of underwear and socks. Enough said.

  1. Toothbrush and Toothpaste

This is vital!

  1. Make up and Face Wipes

Your skin can suffer terribly when traveling so I like to take a small stash of face wipes so I can take my makeup off on the plane and reapply it for landing. I use Bare Minerals powder foundation and blush, these two pots and a sample size bottle of mascara means I can fit in the basics for hand luggage.

  1. Relaxing or Night Time Tea        

I swear by these teas and always drink them when I’m flying. Sleeping pills are fine as long as you know you can actually sleep. But if for some reason you can’t, you could end up at your destination feeling drowsy and disorientated. This relaxing tea is all herbal, it makes me feel relaxed and a little sleepy, without any drowsy side-effects.

  1. Eye mask        

Of course it will block out light, but a silk eye mask will also help to avoid redness and puffiness around the eye, and it feels fabulous next to your skin.

  1. Sweatpants, and a Blanket or Hoodie

I always take a warm sweater or large scarf and some light sweatpants. If the air-conditioning is low on the plane it can get cold and if you’re not flying international you are not guaranteed a blanket. I change into them just before I get on the plane. Sitting in jeans can get uncomfortable after a while, and everything else just gets horribly creased.

And finally…

  1. Blag it    

Some call it gift of the gab, I call it just being proactive. This has worked for me in getting an upgrade a few times when I’ve been traveling solo, so it’s worth a try. Enroll in the frequent flier program before you fly, and at check-in – try to speak to a real person, not a machine – tell them you are a bad, nervous or sick flier. (It’s not lying, I can often feel nauseous from airplane food….!) No airline wants a sick passenger, so the least you should get is your window or aisle preference, and you might just be fortunate enough for an upgrade.

My Thyroid Story

 

My first baby, Sebastian was born at the end of 2016, I had had an amazing pregnancy and can honestly say I felt better pregnant than in other times in my life. Although my birth recovery was hard (I ended up with a c-section at 42 weeks as baby was breech and decided not to turn or come naturally!), I revelled in the energy, joy and adrenaline I was blessed with as a new mother in the first few months with a newborn, even though I was feeding him every two hours, night and day.

Things changed when Seb was about five months old. I started feeling unable to tolerate the cold, particularly in the morning. Granted it was winter, but I would wake with freezing cold hands and feet and really struggle to get warm, even in bed. My encouraging postpartum weight loss suddenly seemed to reach a plateau, I was gaining not losing weight and all of a sudden my hair was falling out in handfuls, blocking my drains and sticking to everything, even ending up in my baby’s nappy. I felt anxious and a sickening tiredness swept over me that I was unable to recover from, even when I did sleep. All of a sudden I was struggling, not enjoying motherhood, unable to keep up with the demands of my now-mobile baby, normal household chores and simple outings to the supermarket. I felt exhausted.

We were moving house around that time so I assumed it was just stress, it was a difficult time for us being so far away from family support. My husband was managing our business, I was taking care of Seb and we would both pack bits of the house in the evening, trying to race against the clock of our looming moving date. I cried most of our moving day. I had become so unwell and exhausted I could barely function, our new house was less than a mile away and I pushed our baby in the stroller back and forth from one house to the other using the basket to transport any extra bits from our house, depressed, wondering why on earth my body felt like it was held down with lead. I felt like I had been poisoned.

However, I thought this might be normal for a new, breastfeeding mother of a very energetic child, and that I just wasn’t adapting to it. Weight gain (breastfeeding does make you crave carbs), hair loss (isn’t some post-partum shedding normal?!) and exhaustion (synonymous with sleep deprivation). But then my arms and legs broke out in horrible bumps, I got stinging eczema around my eyes and I stopped being able to taste my food. I couldn’t concentrate on a simple conversation about the weather and while my husband always joked about my terrible memory, I was forgetting everything from appointments to the dentist to names of my family members. The fatigue was unlike anything I had ever experienced, if I missed the chance to sleep while Seb napped I would cry in desperation wondering how I was going to get through the day.

Eventually I went to the doctors thinking I must have a vitamin or mineral deficiency. I had bloods drawn Friday afternoon and 9am Monday morning, the doctor called me in and revealed I had become severely Hypothyroid with my TSH over 100, higher than my doctor had ever seen, apparently.

I was dumbfounded. I had developed an overactive thyroid when I was 17, told I had Graves Disease and was put on thyroid-supressing medication for six months, after which I was told my thyroid function had returned to normal and I was discharged.

Looking back now it all makes sense. The next almost two decades of my life after being discharged from my endocrinologist saw constant fluctuations in weight, unexplained fatigue, persistent gastrointestinal issues which seemed to rule my life, acne, constant thirst and urination, periods of depression and anxiety, brain fog, achy joints and a host of other odd ailments that made me feel “off” most of the time. I went to the doctors often, and usually I got the impression they thought I was a hypochondriac or a nuisance. They looked at everything independently, and I don’t remember them testing my thyroid. If they did I never thought to ask to see the results.

I feel certain now I have had thyroid antibodies for over two decades which have gone up and down depending on my lifestyle at that time. How much damage they have done to my thyroid I won’t know without a scan, I’m almost too scared to have one and find out. I’d rather believe my diet and lifestyle interventions, along with my methods of using essential oils to rejuvenate my thyroid tissue will help bring it back to a state of normal. I know it’s going to take some time but thyroid tissue can regenerate; our bodies are amazing at healing when provided with the right environment, and I have every hope mine will.

Baby Oat and Raisin Bars

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I call these Baby Oat and Raisin bars because they are an excellent and nutritious snack for baby, are great as finger food and are so easy to make, containing just five ingredients. But since my boy is so fussy at the moment, he wouldn’t even try them so my husband and I ended up scoffing the whole lot for breakfast. They are perfect with a cup of morning Joe and are a great on-the-go breakfast option.

I have made these with gluten free oats, buckwheat flakes and quinoa flakes, the latter of which really didn’t work, they fell apart easily and tasted a little odd. I find the oats very chewy so good for grown-ups, whereas the buckwheat is a little softer and less grainy so may be easier to chew for those without a full set of teeth. This recipe makes about 10 finger-sized bars.

200g Gluten Free Oats / Buckwheat Flakes

80g Raisins

100ml Organic Apple Juice

4 tbsp Coconut Oil (melted)

2 tbsp Honey *

1tsp Cinnamon (optional)

*For babies over one year old

Mix ingredients in a large bowl then transfer to an oiled baking tray and cook on 200 degrees C for 15 minutes, or until golden on top. Cool and slice into squares or bars for serving or storing.

 

 

Essential Elements for Overall Wellbeing

There are many factors today that affect our health, many more than our ancestors would have faced. We are ever-evolving and adapting to our increasingly toxic world, but sadly not without a price.

Our vegetables are grown with toxins, the standards of our meat industry are questionable (at best) and our grains are overly processed, almost unrecognisable by our gut which has to work tirelessly to process and protect us from everything we ingest.

We put toxins on our bodies with the promise of looking younger and more beautiful, and we put chemicals on our skin to block out the sun, missing out on much-needed vitamin D.

We forgo sleep, maybe because we are too busy or too stressed, then we rely on coffee during the day to keep us going. We forget to drink water, or if we do, we drink it out of plastic bottles and then drink alcohol at night to relax, only to wake up feeling exhausted and do it all again.

Maybe we follow fad diets and extreme weight loss programs that appear to work for those posting perfect bikin-body photos but end up making us feel ill or gain even more weight.

Does any of this sound familiar? (And depressing?!). Thankfully, even when stuck in a health rut our bodies are amazing at adapting and recovering, and it really doesn’t take much to get ourselves back into balance, feel well, live well and look well.

When we focus on proper nutrition, hydration, exercise, sleep, and managing environmental toxins, we can get ourselves back onto the path towards optimal health.

Lets start with Nutrition.

I can’t stress enough the importance of good nutrition, we can so easily get into a bad rut with our diet and it can seem easier to keep doing what we’re doing than to break the cycle.

Many issues with our health these days result from poor diet, our food can be saturated with hidden fats, sugars and salt, it can be really challenging to eat well and nourish your body. Our global obesity epidemic isn’t reducing, in fact it’s only growing. In the West we rely too heavily on convenience foods, perhaps because we are too busy to cook, too tired or just don’t know where to start. A good way of looking at your food intake is to think, if it didn’t fly, walk, swim or grow from the ground then don’t eat it!

Let’s look at the basics:

* Cut the C.R.A.P – Carbonated Drinks & (excess) Caffeine, Refined Sugar, Alcohol & Processed Food

Carbonated Drinks – This means no soda; Coke, Pepsi, Sprite etc. There is no goodness or hydration in these drinks and they should not make up any portion of your hydration requirements for the day.

I’m not a happy mama if I don’t get my coffee in the morning but it’s not because I need it to wake me up, I actually find the juice from half a lemon with hot water much more energising. I just love the ritual of having a steaming hot cup of coffee and I love the smell and taste. I drink organic decaf. Organic coffee is obviously more expensive but so worth it as coffee can contain a whole range of different toxins in the processing period, which can upset our stomach. I hear a lot of people say coffee upsets their stomach but then find this eases when switching to organic coffee. Waitrose (UK) have a wonderful selection that isn’t too pricey. Caffeine should ideally be limited to two cups per day, otherwise it can affect sleep. Herbal tea is not included in this, herbal teas are a great alternative to black tea and has numerous health benefits.

Refined Sugar – Sugar is not just limited to the obvious list of cakes, pastries, sweets and sugary breakfast cereals, it can also be hidden in things like peanut butter and tomato ketchup. Read the labels on your food; the terms sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose dextrose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup all indicate the presence of refined sugars. Check out my list of sweet swaps to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Alcohol – This is an interesting one, as I love a glass of wine and happen to be quite a dab-hand at making cocktails. So I’m not going to say I think we should all abstain from drinking alcohol, life is too short not to enjoy wine! But I think it’s important to stick to the recommended guidelines and to take regular days off from drinking. However in pregnancy, avoid alcohol altogether.

Processed Food – I have a really simplistic view on this; cook fresh, real food. Even gluten free packaged foods are still just processed foods. I try to think about the process of what I’m about to eat, how did it get on my plate? Meat from my butchers with vegetables from my local farmers market that I cooked on my stove? Or a plastic tray containing meat and vegetables, with a host of other ingredients I can’t pronounce that I heated in the microwave? You get the picture.

* Eat fish at least twice a week.

* Eat the rainbow – eat from all colours of the spectrum, think of beautiful red raspberries, delicious crunchy green peas, succulent blueberries, ripe red tomatoes, zesty yellow lemons, oranges and brightly coloured purple beets. There are so many beautiful plant food choices out there, I think there is nothing more satisfying than having a lovely array of colourful vegetables and fruits on your plate.

* Grow your own. This is time consuming and may take some effort but it’s a wonderful thing to get children involved in and can be simple and cheap (you can buy rocket as an example for pennies and it grows really easily in pots)

* Eat local – visit your farmers market if your town has one, they are a wonderful source of local food and it’s great to support local farmers and businesses. Or look to see if your region has an organic vegetable box business.

* Eat organic (whenever possible)

 

 A Note About Gut Health and Mental Performance

We tend to think the brain is in charge when it comes to your mental health, your behavior, and even your mood, but in reality, your gut has more influence on your brain than you might think.

In addition to the brain in your head, embedded in the wall of your gut is your enteric nervous system (ENS), which works both independently of and in conjunction with your brain. Scientists are increasingly convinced that the vast assemblage of microfauna in our intestines may have a major impact on our state of mind, (and I can attest to this. I always feel really down when I have a stomach ache, and not just because it aches, it seems to make me feel really irritable.)

Your ENS contains 500 million neurons and is thought to be largely responsible for your “gut instincts”, responding to environmental threats and sending information to your brain that affects your well-being.

This communication between your “two brains” runs both ways and is the pathway for how foods affect your mood.

This can also suggest that positive gut health can lead to a better state of mind and encourage mental performance.

I am a firm and passionate believer in probiotic and prebiotic foods, it’s one of the first things I do to support gut and immune health and I’ve seen great results in my GI issues with the use of pro and pre-biotics.

While pro-biotics are the good bacteria that live in our system, pre-biotics are the plant fibers that nourish these good bacteria that are already in the large bowl or colon.

Prebiotics, such as garlic, onions, leeks, artichoke, and bananas help these good bacteria grow, improving the good-to-bad bacteria ratio.

When buying over-the-counter probiotics, generally the higher the number of billions of bacteria, the more expensive the product. However I don’t think they are always necessary if you can manage it in your diet. It’s proving to be more beneficial to eat fermented foods, for example yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi. A recent look at the number of probiotics in sauerkraut showed it to be in the trillions! When buying sauerkraut it’s important to buy it from the refrigerator section as the bacteria don’t tend to have a good shelf life at room temperature. Even better, make your own!

 

Update on Life and Everything Else 

I haven’t written a post for a long time. A really long time.

Maybe I’ve been a little lazy, a little preoccupied with life (having a baby, moving house, co-managing an expanding business), and a little tired (recently learning I had become hypothyroid after a whole manner of fun symptoms), so I’m allowing myself a few excuses.

I’ve never faced such drastic changes and challenges in my life as I’ve done over this last year. Pregnancy and new motherhood being the most intense and joyful of these, without a doubt.

Our incredible, spirited little boy was born in November last year, a profound moment which drew a line in the timeline of my life that is – before Seb / after Seb. Birth and new motherhood is literally life changing, more so than anyone can ever tell you, more than you can ever really prepare yourself for.

So much has happened this last year, so many experiences I’d like to share about motherhood; my wonderful, healthy, nausea and exhaustion-free pregnancy (yes it is possible!), our breech birth, things that helped me with breastfeeding and getting used to life with a newborn, and easy baby weaning recipes.

I’m also attempting to find the root cause of my recently diagnosed hypothyroidism and my journey back to health beyond the standard “take this medication for the rest of your life” protocol. Lots of reading, research and experimenting so check back in if you find any of this interesting…!

In health and wellbeing,

Fleur 

x

Easy Banana Bran Breakfast Muffins

These easy Banana Bran Muffins are a great on-the-go breakfast option, a sweet healthy snack when you really want to resist cake, or a great way to get your kids to eat more fruit while tempting them with something “cake-like.” Even better, get your kids to help you make them.

I made these because I’d been craving a hearty bran muffin for weeks but no matter where I looked, I couldn’t find any that weren’t full of processed sugar. Sainsbury’s Blueberry Muffins really don’t compete with the goodness you can get from these. When in doubt, always make your own. And I follow that rule from food and drinks to cosmetics. Plus it’s much more fun!

These muffins take less than 30 minutes to make and are filled with antioxidant goodness from the dried dates or raisins, omega 3’s in the walnuts & pumpkin seeds, prebiotic goodness from the fresh bananas, fibre from the oat bran, protein and choline from the eggs and wonderful fatty acids from the coconut oil.

I make these dairy-free and with gluten-free flour. Because I add oat bran they’re technically not gluten-free, unless you can find a gluten-free oat bran, but they’re so adaptable you can amend the ingredients to suit your needs.

You can use any dried fruit or nuts you like but remember the fruit needs to be natural, dried, organic if possible and unsweetened, to maximise the antioxidants and limit unnecessary processed sugar. The fruit and banana make them sweet enough, trust me.

Ingredients – Makes about 12 muffins

200g gluten free flour

100g oat bran

5og chopped walnuts

80g chopped dried dates or raisins

40g pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds

2 tsp baking powder

2 mashed bananas

3 eggs

80ml coconut oil

160ml coconut milk

Method

Mix dry ingredients, nuts and fruit.

Whisk eggs and slowly add oil while continuing to stir. (May need to melt coconut oil until it turns to liquid, but not warm).

Mix eggs & oil with dry ingredients, then add banana. Leave the coconut milk until last so you can control that it doesn’t get too sloppy. Mixture needs to be sticky and moist, but not wet and sloppy.

Bake at 17oC for 20 mins or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

Enjoy warm with a little butter or almond butter and a hot cup of energising green tea, or crumbled on top of yoghurt.