Tag Archives: Connecta

Why I (still) love wearing my preschooler

The unschooling diaries: week thirty-eight

Arthur is definitely in the process of levelling up again at the moment, and there are so many moments I could write about that I’m struggling on choosing one to focus on!

Seeing as it’s International Babywearing Week, though, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on our continuing babywearing journey – one thing I am very glad he hasn’t grown out of just yet.

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It certainly raises eyebrows with some people, seeing my tall three year old perched up on my back in one of our trusty preschool Connectas. I suspect they think he’s older than he is – though admittedly plenty of people would balk at still wearing a child of his age anyway!

I don’t wear him as often as I used to, but I still very rarely leave the house without stuffing a Connecta into my backpack – just in case. It gives us the freedom to set off on adventures (in the city or the country) without a particular destination in mind. There are days when Arthur can quite happily walk his ten thousand steps alongside us, but there are others when his legs get tired and all he needs is a cuddle.

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Sometimes he’ll sleep, but often he’ll want to chat. We talk lots when we’re holding hands as well, but there is something about the closeness that babywearing affords that makes the conversation flow even more easily. I was reflecting recently on why babywearing seems to have such a positive impact on language development, and there is no denying that it has helped Arthur become a confident communicator, just as happy talking to adults as he is to children of his own age.

It is an important reminder too that whilst sometimes he seems wise beyond his years he has only been on this earth for less than four, and so much of what he is experiencing balances precariously on the fine line between inspiring and overwhelming.

In fact there are lots of things we do together – many of them revolving around live music – that I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to venture into if I didn’t have the ability to hold Arthur close in the sling, to keep him safe and secure.

I am so grateful that I persevered through those early, sometimes confusing, babywearing experiences to find a way to make it work for us – and especially grateful that Connecta came into our lives when Arthur was eight months old to open up a whole new world of opportunities. It remains my one and only real blog collaboration, but has developed into so much more now that I manage the company blog at Connecta Lives and get to work within a truly inspirational community – one which has given me so much confidence as a parent and as a writer tentatively trying to carve out a new career.

Both Arthur and I have benefited so much from this babywearing adventure: we’ve no intentions of giving it up quite yet!

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My editing essentials

This really isn’t the easiest time of year for keeping motivated and focused on an edit. The burst of enthusiasm that January brings has passed, and yet it’s still very much still winter. The cold, wet days are taking their toll and, whilst there’s a glimmer of hope in the lengthening hours of light, springtime – let alone summer – still feels a very long way away.

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At this point in the last two years I’ve been in the early stages of first drafts, when everything is exciting and new and I’ve just been able to write without fear of getting it wrong. But this year I’m attempting the third draft of my latest novel, and whilst it’s actually going pretty well I’m having to pull out all the stops to keep things that way.

So I thought I’d share my editing essentials: the crucial elements that have kept me going when the going’s got tough, the crutches I’ve turned to when I’ve been sorely tempted to curl up under the duvet (or at least under a blanket on the sofa whilst Arthur watches The Lion King for the umpteenth time).

First on the list is…

Coffee

No surprises there then. I have always really appreciated a decent cup of coffee, and since Leigh bought me a gorgeous DeLonghi coffee machine for my birthday last year it’s become something of a ritual.

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I like my coffee organic and strong, with a generous serving of frothy milk. One with breakfast, and another (with a large glass of water for good measure) when I sit down to write.

Almost as important for firing up the brain cells is…

Chocolate

I’m generally on a bit of a healthy eating tip at the moment, but decent dark chocolate is definitely one of my weaknesses. My brand of choice is Plamil – organic, nut free and delicious – and I will invariably enjoy a couple of squares of their ginger chocolate, or if we’re out of that a handful of chocolate drops, whilst I sit down and gather my thoughts.

For that of course I need a bit of peace and quiet, which is one of the many reasons why I love my…

Connecta

I have made no secret on this blog of my love for the Connecta baby carrier – and in fact you will find me extolling its virtues over on their blog too. But it really has been invaluable for the tricky business of writing whilst looking after a toddler.

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Arthur still naps in the sling, as he has ever since he was a tiny baby. I think the fact he enjoys his cuddles so much is one of the reasons why he still often has two naps a day. The design of the Connecta means that it is essentially supporting him to sit on my lap, so his (ever increasing) weight is spread evenly and unless he has a really monster sleep it’s pretty comfortable. And knowing that he is safe and close and happy means that I can focus all my attention on my work.

And for that I am still reliant on…

Scrivener

My discovery of this software has done wonders for my organisation. I found it great to write the first draft in, following my carefully planned structure and using the daily targets to keep me motivated, and now I’m deep into the edit it’s really coming into its own. I love how I can flit back and forth, move things around or cut them out completely safe in the knowledge that I can still get them back if I need them. I can keep an eye on my word count, and refer back to all the bank of research that I built up whilst I was writing the first draft. And all in one window.

Though when I’m tired of looking at that one, I can instantly refresh my soul by looking out of another at…

The view

I always dreamt of one day living by the sea, and more specifically having a place where I could write looking out over it. When that dream became a reality I was worried at first that the view might be a bit too beautiful and would distract me from getting anything done. As it happens though, that’s not a problem. I think my big computer screen helps – I have to consciously shift my gaze to get away from my manuscript. But there are times when I’m getting so frazzled that I really need something to give me a break from it all, and looking out at the big open sky and the ever-changing landscape of the sea is just the ticket.

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And that’s about it! Those five things have done a sterling job of keeping me on the straight and narrow so far, and I’m hoping I can continue to rely on them over the next few weeks as I bring this edit to a close.

How about you? What are the things that help you keep your focus when you’re writing (or editing)? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Mama and More
Mums' Days

Connecta Lives

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In the craziness of the run-up to Christmas I forgot to mention a very exciting new venture I’ve become involved in – the blog for Connecta Baby Carrier, otherwise known as Connecta Lives.

Having done a bit of modelling for them back in October 2013, I have become very attached to my Connecta carriers – as regular readers of this blog will no doubt have noticed.

So it’s a real privilege to be working with them in a more formal capacity as one of their regular bloggers, especially as they have sent me some particularly beautiful carriers in exchange for my words. And also, let’s be honest, it’s awesome to have another outlet for all that babywearing love…

I’ve just published a post about how handy the Connecta was over Christmas so feel free to go and check that out, as well as all the other fabulous content of course!

Why I love wearing my toddler

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I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages. I got distracted during International Babywearing Week and a few irritating encounters meant I ended up writing about the things not to say to a babywearing mama. But actually my experience of wearing my ever-growing baby is an overwhelmingly positive one, and as Arthur approaches his second birthday that’s what I want to focus on.

So without any further ado, here are the reasons why I absolutely love wearing my toddler:

1) It gives us both some company

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I don’t drive, which means that getting anywhere tends to involve lots of walking and often also the bus. This would mean that Arthur would be spending an awful lot of time in a pram, which to me would seem a rather lonely option for both of us!

With Arthur in the sling, he’s up on my level. He sees the things I see, and we can talk about them. When I bump into friends he’s right in the middle of the conversation – not waiting for me to finish whilst he looks at our knees.

I love that he’s included in my world, and that I get to have him there as a little companion. Even with a parent-facing pram I think that closeness would be very hard to achieve.

2) It keeps him safe

Now I’m not saying that prams aren’t safe, but there have been lots of situations when I’ve been glad that Arthur’s up where I can really keep an eye on him.

In crowds for example, especially if there are smokers about. Or in heavy traffic: less of an issue in Devon, but on the London streets I become very conscious that a pram would put him at exhaust level. On our country walks dogs are more often the issue – we’ve had a few close calls when he’s enthusiastically run up to embrace them, but it’s nice to know I can whisk him up if I need to.

I know if he’s too hot or too cold, if he’s frightened or sad. Ultimately there can’t really be anywhere safer for my little boy than cuddled up next to me.

3) It keeps me strong

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There is no denying that walking around with a 15kg weight strapped to you feels like a pretty good workout after a couple of hours. My carrier distributes the weight evenly so I very rarely have an aching back, but my core and my legs are definitely working harder.

With wearing a toddler, it becomes even more important to have a well designed carrier. I love my Connecta for it’s combination of support and ease of use, whilst other toddler-wearing friends swear by the more traditional Mei Tais or woven wraps. There are a whole range of slings and carriers designed for toddlers and even pre-schoolers on the market – something I had no idea about before I entered the wonderful world of babywearing, and something well worth investigating if you’re keen to keep on wearing your baby for longer.

4) It makes nap time a breeze

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I realise this will be a little controversial for some people, but Arthur has almost all of his naps in the sling. He can sleep elsewhere – but he sleeps longer and deeper if I’m wearing him.

He still has two decent naps a day, and that time is invaluable for me to get writing done – all the more so because I’m forced to stay reasonably still rather than getting on with chores around the house!

And if we’re out and about it means he’ll sleep when he’s tired – no rushing home to get him into his cot. He’s even happy to begin his night’s sleep on me if we’re out in the evenings, and there have been a couple of times recently when I’ve managed to transfer him from sling to bed, via nappy change and pyjamas, without him waking up.

5) It’s an instant tantrum soother

Arthur hasn’t really hit full on tantrum mode yet, but on the odd occasions when it looks like it might be approaching there is nothing more effective than holding him close in the sling. He might struggle a bit at first, but actually invariably cuddles are what he really wants and wearing him for a while will help him calm down and get back on top of those troublesome toddler emotions.

6) It’s made it so much easier to continue breastfeeding

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If I’m honest, I’m not sure I’d still be breastfeeding Arthur as regularly as I am – if at all – if it weren’t for babywearing. I’m fully aware of all of the benefits of extended breastfeeding, but if I had to stop what I was doing every time he wanted a feed I reckon I would have started to think about weaning a while ago.

But the Connecta is brilliant for breastfeeding – comfortable, and utterly discreet. I don’t even think twice about feeding Arthur when he needs it, and he certainly seems to be pretty happy about that.

7) It’s a closeness that daddy can enjoy too

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I know that I’m tremendously lucky to get to spend all of this time with this incredible little person, especially since a lot of that time is spent holding him close and benefitting from the magical little person cuddles. But I am also very glad that the fact Arthur loves to be worn means that my husband can also share in that wonderful closeness – often when we’re out and about at the weekends it’s Leigh who wears the baby, and it’s clear how much he and Arthur gain from that.

8) It gives us freedom 

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The first (and only) couple of times I took Arthur out in the pram I felt terribly self-conscious. I guess you must get used to it, but I just didn’t seem cut out for lugging this contraption around. There was one day, one of my first trips out after Leigh had gone back to work, when I walked into town with the intention of picking up a couple of bits, maybe grabbing a coffee. But the shop I wanted to go into had steps I’d never noticed before. And the coffee shop was busy – I really didn’t fancy negotiating my way around the chairs. So I gave up and went home,  resigned to not really going out much again.

But then we started babywearing, and we’ve never looked back. Whether it’s country walks or escalators, crowded pavements or steps down to a beach, music festivals or art galleries, it’s just so much easier with a sling.

And now that Arthur wants to spend at least half of his time when we’re out and about running around that’s even more true. I’m really not sure how people manage to keep one hand on the empty pram whilst chasing after the toddler. I know I couldn’t!

But with the sling it’s easy. If I need to get a move on, or we’re near a busy road, or he’s tired –  then there’s somewhere for Arthur to go. But when he wants to explore then I can clip the sling around my waist or slip it into my rucksack and I’m hands free again – ready for that all-important toddler chasing.

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So there you have it. I could go on, but I’m sure it’s pretty clear by now: I really, really love wearing my toddler.

I’d love to hear about your experiences too if you’re a toddler-wearing mama – please share them in the comments below, and if you have any questions then I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

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Mums' Days

Things not to say to a babywearing mama

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I’ve been wearing Arthur since he was five weeks old. It was a bit of a revelation to me, and in many ways has shaped my whole approach to parenting. In the beginning the world seemed pretty supportive of my choice: there were still those who had something to say about it, but most mums I know wore their babies at least part of the time when they were tiny.

However as Arthur’s got older – and bigger – an increasing number of people have felt the need to voice their opinion on me wearing him, from well-meaning friends and family to total strangers in the street or on the bus. Most people are of course still lovely and supportive, but there are others whose comments range from the slightly irritating to the downright disturbing – and having spoken to other babywearing friends I am by no means the only one on the receiving end of them.

So here, in no particular order, is my list of things you might want to think twice about before saying to a babywearing mama.

“You’re going to spoil him, you know.”

Now I get this quite a lot. I suppose it’s my own fault really, for leaning towards the attachment parenting side of things. But as I’ve said before and I’ll doubtless say many times again I don’t believe that keeping my baby close and secure is going to spoil him. Yes, he’s very happy being worn. But does that mean I should be choosing to follow an approach that makes him less happy, just in case? I think not.

“Gosh – is that safe?” (For one friend I spoke to this question was combined with vigorous tugging on the straps of her baby carrier)

Um, yes, thank you for your concern, but this is perfectly safe. (At least it was until you started to undo the buckles!) There are of course precautions to be followed when wearing a baby, just as there are with any means of transporting a child. People have been wearing their babies for hundreds of years, and if I didn’t think it was safe then I wouldn’t be doing it.

“Oh your poor back. He must be so heavy!”

Now I feel a bit bad about including this one, because I know that most people who say it do so with my best interests at heart. But still, when you hear it several times a day it can get a bit annoying! There are of course carriers on the market (naming no names of the carrier that inexplicably seems to be the most popular despite managing to make newborns feel heavy) that are not as comfortable, for mums or babies. However having fallen in love with babywearing I’ve done my research and found one that is supportive and spreads the (quite considerable) weight of my baby evenly. There are lots to choose from, but the carrier we use now is a Toddler Connecta, designed for babies from 18 months. It’s fab, and I find it decidedly easier to wear my son than I do to carry him in my arms.

“Heh heh, I wish that was me nuzzled up in there.”

This one freaks me out a bit to be honest, and depressingly it’s the one I’ve heard most. It’s most commonly uttered by old men, and why they think they can get away with expressing to a mother walking with her child their desire to have their face in her breasts is beyond me. Seriously gross.

“Can’t he walk?”

Do mums with pushchairs get this one? I’ve been hearing it since not long after Arthur turned one, and I’m not entirely sure what the implication is. Yes, he can walk. But like most not-even-two-year-olds his little legs get quite tired when I’m rushing around trying to get things done. And if he couldn’t walk..? Well that would just be entirely inappropriate.

“You don’t want to still be doing that when he’s a teenager!”

And we’re back to that other attachment parenting chestnut. My son is one. Much like co-sleeping and breastfeeding, I very much doubt I’ll still be wearing Arthur when he’s a teenager. I might be wearing him for a while longer yet mind – I’ve been quite inspired by mamas wearing their pre-schoolers, and he still feels light as a feather when I put him on my back.

So there we have it: the things I most definitely don’t want to hear whilst I’m wearing my baby. I’d love to hear about your experiences so please share them in the comments below!

 

 

Mums' Days

Welcome to the weekend

Come Friday evening we’re usually pretty exhausted, and last week was no exception. Arthur and I had been booked up with play dates and activities every day – though we had lots of fun it maybe would have been sensible to leave us with a bit of breathing space. With my novel deadline fast approaching I was keen to get lots of writing done too, and of course that coincided with having lots of things I wanted to add to the blog!

By the time Leigh got home at about 6.30, tired and stressed by a long commute and an irritating encounter at work, we were very tempted to go to the pub. But instead we decided to go for a walk. Leigh put Arthur in the sling, and we set off up to Berry Head to catch the last of the evening light.

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Arthur loves being carried by his dada, and the stresses of the week quickly melted away for Leigh: I think it would be nigh on impossible to stay stressed with the combination of fresh air, beautiful views and baby cuddles. They carried on their bonding when we got up to the fort, examining the world around them. As usual Arthur was thrilled to be outside.

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I managed to get some mama cuddles too, though that did involve quite a bit of chasing. As Arthur gets faster we’ll definitely need to teach him about cliffs!

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As the sun began to disappear and thoughts of dinner set in Leigh put Arthur back in the sling to head home. It was lovely to watch him snuggle up against his dada, him calmed and Leigh reinvigorated by our little adventure.

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By the time we did get home Arthur had drifted off, so he even managed to fit in a power nap before we all sat down to dinner. It was the perfect start to the weekend, a weekend that turned out to be decidedly grey and drizzly – something that made me even more glad we’d made the most of that Friday sunshine!


      Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

Becoming a mum: babywearing

Alongside breastfeeding, I think the most significant choice I’ve made as a mother is to wear my baby. A lot. Getting to grips with babywearing transformed my experience of motherhood, and it continues to give us a special combination of closeness and freedom that I’m not sure how I would have otherwise achieved.

One of the first books I read as a new mother, once I’d decided that actually some informed advice would be useful before I scared myself silly on internet forums, was ‘The Baby Book’ by William and Martha Sears. I had a hunch that I might be leaning towards an attachment parenting approach – not something I’d really considered before Arthur was born – and reading this book seemed to help everything fall into place.

Of course in the early days I didn’t have much choice but to be attached to my baby. Our struggles to get breastfeeding established meant spending an awful lot of time snuggled up in bed, and even when Arthur wasn’t feeding I found I rarely wanted to put him down. We’d bought a Babasling before he was born having been recommended one by some friends, but though I used it for our first family stroll when Arthur was only a few days old neither of us really got comfortable with it.

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I figured I’d maybe try again when he was a bit bigger, and consigned myself to spending my days stuck on the sofa. The turning point came when I had a visit from a neighbour. She’d just come across to check up on me really – make sure I wasn’t struggling on my own. I remember saying that I was fine, that I was loving being a mum, but just couldn’t imagine how I’d ever get anything done when I was permanently attached to Arthur on the sofa. And she asked whether I’d tried wearing him.

I felt a bit silly when she’d gone – of course that was the solution, everything I’d read about attachment parenting indicated that babywearing was the answer. But after those tricky first experiences I’d just put the whole thing out of my mind. I certainly wasn’t ready to give the Babasling another go, but then I remembered the Moby Wrap. I’d ordered it, taken one look at the intimidating length of material, and put it back in its bag. Maybe now was the time to put my nerves to one side, read the instructions, and see what all the fuss was about.

By the time Leigh got home that evening I’d already been wearing Arthur for a few hours and was loving my new found freedom! It’s safe to say we never looked back.

At home, I wore Arthur to settle him and to reduce the wind he suffered after feeds. It soon became apparent that it was the best place for him to nap, too, leaving me free to get on with things round the house. It was soon after my babywearing revelation that I got started on my first novel. With Arthur safely strapped to me I didn’t need to worry about him – we were physically attached, so for a little while at least I could allow my mind to wander elsewhere. Leigh got in on the game too: it was a lovely way for them to develop their bond, even when he had work to do.

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It also gave us the freedom to get out and about. Our local terrain is not best suited to prams, but wearing Arthur meant we could go for walks on the beaches and up to Berry Head – even just going into town was easier without needing to negotiate a pram up steps and round cafes.

The first big test though came when we took a trip to see my brother in Paris when Arthur was three months old. We were travelling by Eurostar, and as well as the usual sightseeing we would be taking Arthur to his first gig. We decided that babywearing was the way to go, and it made everything so easy.

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As summer approached we were looking forward to lots more adventures, but it became clear that the Moby might no longer be up to the job. Arthur was growing fast, and I found his weight made the stretchy wrap sag after I’d been wearing him for a while. It was time to find a new solution, and the best solution we could find was the ERGObaby. Leigh tried it out first, and both him and Arthur loved it.

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I was a little bit disappointed with how utilitarian it looked, but I couldn’t deny it worked well. Easy to slip on and off, and its handy pocket particularly useful for when we were on the go. We used it to take Arthur to festivals, and even on an epic journey from New York to Toronto and Halifax by train. It made his first plane trips a breeze too.

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But despite the convenience of the Ergo, I was longing for something a bit – well, prettier. Arthur and his carrier had become my most commonly worn accessory, and I was getting a bit bored of sensible khaki. I thought about dabbling with woven wraps, lusted after some online in beautiful fabrics, but after the ease of the buckles it seemed like such a hassle. And then I came across the Connecta.

We were actually asked to do some modelling shots for them through a friend and were given a couple of carriers in return. I was sceptical at first, not having heard of Connecta before, but they soon won me over.

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The Connecta shared the ease of the Ergo with its simple straps and buckles, and was just as comfy if not more so despite using much less padding. I find now that Arthur’s getting heavier by the day that the way the Connecta holds him high and close really helps protect my back – I can wear him for hours at a time without so much as a twinge. The Connecta is really easy to breastfeed in too, which is definitely a bonus. And, even better, the Connecta is available in a huge array of fabrics! From funky prints to wrap conversions, from gorgeous silks to warm tweed: my yearning for something stylish and practical as a new mum was more than satisfied.

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What my adventures in babywearing have taught me so far is that the key thing is finding a way to do it that suits you. I never would have imagined that I would still be wearing Arthur so regularly at fifteen months, but now I’m on the verge of upgrading to a toddler Connecta so I can continue for, hopefully, a good while longer yet. Arthur is of course walking now, but he’s not confident or strong enough to walk for any length of time. Even when he is I imagine I’ll have my carrier in my bag ready for when he’s tired or needs a cuddle.

I honestly believe that babywearing has been key to the relationship I’ve developed with Arthur. Studies have shown that it has a whole raft of benefits for both mother and child – and in fact for developing closeness with other carers, as Arthur has done with his dad and my mum. For me, though, it’s really just helped me maintain my independence and sense of self whilst navigating this new territory of becoming a mum. It might seem like a contradiction in terms as that independence has been won whilst having a little person strapped to me, but if he wasn’t I doubt I would have managed to write or travel or just hang out quite as freely as I have.

I’d love to hear your babywearing experiences so please feel free to add them in the comments. I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have about babywearing – and if I can’t answer them myself I’m sure I can point you in the direction of someone who can!