What on earth do you buy for a first birthday present? (sponsored post)

Emily from A Mummy Too asks, do babies need birthday presents?

It’s JD’s fifth birthday in a few weeks and we have big plans – a Halloween soft-play party with his friends, apple bobbing, and some cool gifts. We’re all really looking forward to it.

Miss J has a birthday coming up too. She’ll be one! For us, it’s a big deal, a milestone, a transition from babyhood to toddlerhood. This is it! We’ll have a schoolboy and a toddler, but no babies in this house.

Now when JD turned one, we didn’t worry about gifts, we focussed just on celebration. But for Miss J it’s different because she sees how life works for her older sibling and notices when JD gets something new. When he gets a new action figure to build, for example, she wants to build too. She’s too young, of course, to have a concept of sharing and fairness, but it seems only fair that, come her birthday, that she gets a present too, right?

So what do you buy a one year old? She has rattles, soft toys and occasional access to JD’s toy box. She’s well clothed and fed with a funky pushchair, so what more could she need? It was at this point in my thought process that I hit the internet and was overwhelmed by the possibilities. It’s like a wonderland with ideas for every stage of development!

Suddenly, the problem isn’t being short of ideas but having to narrow down our choice. We’re still debating what to get her but we’re definitely keen on the Fisher Price range, which has a range of bright, engaging, educational toys.

I think we’ll probably go for a musical toy, or one that helps enhance physical development and coordination.

Did you buy gifts on your baby’s first birthday? Let us know!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all words and thoughts are my own.

Fertility advice from Zita West, Midwife and Fertility Expert

Zita West

Zita West, Midwife and Fertility Expert at The Zita West Clinic shares her tips for maximising your chances of conceiving.

I see women who are at all stages of planning a family, whether they just want to plan ahead or have problems they need to overcome. I’m there to provide them with as much, or as little, help as they may need. This is why I’ve partnered with First Response to develop pinktimeline.com, which helps couples who are trying for a baby.

As a midwife I find it’s the ‘two-week wait’, the time between ovulation and when a woman can test, that can cause a lot of stress. It’s hard not to get caught up with the excitement that you may be pregnant but there are also many questions women ask and want answered during that time. What they should and shouldn’t do; what they can and they can’t do. A lot of these questions are based around lifestyle and what changes they need to make. Very often it’s not huge changes, it’s little steps that can make a difference:


My ultimate piece of advice is to ensure there are four key food groups in your diet; protein, fats, carbohydrates and antioxidants. Eat a good breakfast such as porridge, which is a slow releasing carbohydrate, or a protein such as poached eggs with wholemeal bread. This ensures that your blood sugar levels are balanced. At lunch try and substitute white bread for wholemeal bread and add some extra healthy fillings such as avocado. Another important point about your diet is that it’s important to maintain a healthy body weight; being overweight or underweight may impact on your fertility.


I often get asked during the ‘two-week wait’ (when a woman doesn’t know whether she is pregnant or not), “How much exercise can I do?” and the answer is nothing too strenuous, but gentle exercises for around thirty minutes a day such as yoga or brisk walking can be vey beneficial to the body. Exercise is great for stress relief; it helps the body to release endorphins, which are the body’s feel good hormones. It also helps with blood flow to the reproductive organs. Thirty minutes a day can be really beneficial.


Everyday stresses of life can make you feel very anxious and out of control. There are many things you can do to help combat your stress levels, such as visualisation and relaxation techniques. With visualisation and relaxation I suggest you take yourself to a quiet spot that is uninterrupted, turn off your mobile phone, close your eyes and start to take yourself to a place that you enjoy; a beach, a garden and start to count down through your body from your head right the way down to your toes. This can be done for twenty minutes a day and puts you into a deep relaxed space – it re-energises you and the beauty of it is you can do it wherever you are.

Fertility Costs

Fertility can be costly for many couples. To help you embark on the journey, pinktimeline.com has a fundraising resource to help you raise funds for associated costs that can come with trying for a baby. Couples can create a private fundraising page to share with family and friends, at their discretion, to raise funds for specialty consultations, fertility treatments or even to set up a nursery. The first 100 couples to create fundraising pages will also receive a £50 contribution from First Response to get them started.

Visit Pinktimeline.com for details on what is happening to a woman’s body during the fertility process, including Zita’s tips for staying healthy and relaxed. There is even a forum where women can connect with others who are also waiting to test. After testing, there is also a results page with next step advice from Zita.

Support for couples looking to conceive


I’ve just received details of a lovely new website that helps support couples who are trying to conceive.

The company behind First Response (you know, the pregnancy test that gives you a yes or no a bit earlier than the others) has launched Pinktimeline.com, which not only offers conception advice, but also offers a way to raise funds to help finance fertility treatment or prepare your home for your new arrival.

You set up a private page where you can write a bit about yourself and what you’re trying to achieve, then you share the URL with family and friends, at your discretion, to raise funds. It’s a bit like Just Giving, except any money donated goes straight into the couple’s PayPal account.

Supporting the launch is Zita West, fertility expert and midwife to the stars. Zita says:

“Sometimes couples don’t realise what a large support network they have. Those closest to them often want to help but don’t know how to bring up this sensitive subject. So, the fundraising page can be a way to bring everyone together to show their support. This can have a tremendous impact for the couple during this exciting yet stressful time.”

The first 100 couples to create fundraising pages will receive a £50 contribution to their fundraising efforts direct from First Response.

We’ve also asked Zita to give us some tips on maximising your chances on conception, so if you’re trying to conceive, look out for a post coming soon.

Life as a mum to twins…the first few days

Photo from TheNickster under Creative Commons

Leah describes the day her little twins arrived, the stay in hospital that followed, and the challenges her new family faced.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was sat in a tiny hospital cubicle staring at two little wrinkled bundles that barely had the strength to move. 15 months on, the only time my twins are not moving is when they are fast asleep!!

Giving birth

I’ve had friends who ended up in hospital weeks before their due date or have had to have major surgery immediately after giving birth; so I actually consider myself very lucky really as there were no complications with my pregnancy or during birth. In fact, I remember after having had an epidural (my antenatal doctor insisted on this procedure for twins) and feeling rather relaxed, I was texting family and regularly updating my facebook status until it was time to push!

The twins were born naturally, with just a little bit of help from some forceps, but they were quite small. Beau was 5lbs and Olivia 4lbs 8oz. However, that’s an ok birth weight for twins. Another girl on the same ward as me also had twins and one was only 3lbs 6 oz – tiny in comparison.

Staying in hospital

I was in the hospital for a week with Beau and Olivia, it also happened to be the hottest week of the year and as you can’t open windows in hospital, the ward was stifling. Olivia was suffering from jaundice and was put under a heat lamp for three days, making the already stuffy cubicle feel like a sauna.

That week was probably the worst part of the whole experience for me. Rick could only visit in the evenings as we decided that whilst I was in hospital he should continue to work so that he could use his full paternity leave. The ward was jam packed so the nurses were not always there to help. I felt quite lonely and isolated. More than that, I was completely overwhelmed with the fact that I was now responsible for two lives other than my own – their wellbeing was dependent on me.

Struggling through

Sometimes, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The enormity of the whole experience would hit me like a ton of bricks and I would be in floods of tears, wondering if I could actually be any good at being a mother.

There was no proper routine, the twins would sleep a lot and not do much else, I’d just be waiting on tenterhooks for a sign of movement. Admittedly, sometimes I’d dread both of them waking up at the same time because I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to cope, but then I’d get equally frustrated when one would wake up after the other because I felt like I could never get a rest. I think for the first three days I didn’t sleep at all.

Feeding challenges

I decided before having the twins that I was going to give breastfeeding a go, how hard could it be??!! For me…VERY.

Olivia was too weak to breastfeed, she was actually tube fed for the first week, but Beau seemed ready so I latched him on – ouch, ouch, ouch! It felt like someone was running a grater on my nipple. This was not what I had in mind. The nurse came in and told me I didn’t have him latched on properly and ran through a technique with me, but every time I tried it just felt the same.

I was told that a baby would feed from one breast for about 20 mins and then you’d swap. Beau would be stuck on one side for over an hour but would cry when I tried to take him off. The nurses were insistent that I carry on, in fact they were quite abrupt and at once point pretty much shoved Beau’s head onto my boob.

There was one particular night when I started trying to feed Beau at 9pm. He was on and off my breast until 4am. I kept trying to tell the nurse that he wasn’t getting any milk but one nurse turned round to me and said, “What you going to do at home? We won’t be there then.”

Getting by

I shuffled backwards and forwards to the midwives throughout the night until I was practically on my knees begging them to help me because I was so exhausted. Finally they took Beau off me and let me get some sleep.

It was tremendously traumatic; I don’t think there was a day in hospital where I didn’t cry. I began to feel like I was like a nuisance and dreaded having to ring the bell for assistance, but at the same time I was angry because I had two babies to cope with and having had little to no experience with babies before, I needed help and that’s what the nurses were meant to be there for.  The people I ended up getting most help from were the student nurses who had seemed to have less experience but more compassion for the mums on the ward.

I just wanted to go home; I didn’t really feel like I could bond with the twins in this environment. Olivia was so delicate and had to stay in an incubator a lot of the time and the whole breastfeeding drama with Beau made it difficult for either of us to feel comfortable with each other.

One of the most touching moments whilst I was in hospital was seeing Rick change a nappy for the first time. He was ever so gentle, it was as though he was handling some fragile crystal. The poor guy broke into a sweat and kept asking me if he was doing everything right, which he did and with much more precision than I did (that’s the perfectionist in him), although I did have to tell him that sometimes it would have to be speed over the accuracy of a nappy sticker!

Breaking down

The reason we had to stay in hospital was because they wanted the twins to be off tube feeds and putting on weight. Beau was fine, it was little Lady O that was struggling a little. When I first entered the ward I met another woman with twins, she was just entering her fourth week in hospital! So having had such a traumatic week the thought of having to stay another three filled me with dread.

I was so distraught and I have to admit I wasn’t enjoying motherhood at all. I was getting so worked up about everything that it actually felt that me and the twins were on separate sides of a very big room from each other. My arms were reaching out but I just couldn’t feel them.

I just lost it and broke down pleading with the nurses to let me go home because I’d be so much better in my own environment. Now, whether or it was pure coincidence or a bit of divine intervention, a day or so later, Olivia managed to take a little milk in a bottle, the yellow tinge on her skin disappeared and she managed to put on a little weight.

Going home

Finally on the Thursday afternoon, seven days after I’d entered the hospital, I heard the golden words “Would you like to go home tomorrow?” I think I was packing my bags before they finished the sentence. Another woman was coming onto the ward with twins and they needed the bed, so they decided that whilst Olivia was still a little underweight, she was doing well enough to go home.

Walking out the hospital doors on that balmy, sunny Friday afternoon, I took a long deep breath and a wave of calm swept over me. I felt like my new life was finally beginning. Rick and I had entered that hospital as a couple and were now leaving as a family.

In the next post, find out what the first few months were like for me and Rick as we began our real journey into the world of parenthood.

Counting the kicks

Kicking and squirming is such a comforting part of pregnancy, but what happens when you wake up one morning and the kicks won’t come? Emily H shares her experiences (and don’t worry, there’s a happy ending).

Count the Kicks

Throughout my pregnancy I thought myself very lucky to be in the position where I had conceived, albeit not straight away. My baby was growing well and all signs told me that she was going to be a healthy bouncing bubba.

Last minute worries

Towards the end of my pregnancy, my emotions were all over the place and I started to feel nervous and wondered if in fact everything was going to be okay. It seemed a lifetime away from my last scan and I actually felt myself getting a bit jealous of my friends that had bigger babies and had to be scanned every week and have check-ups because they heard and saw their babies regularly. I just watched my ever expanding tummy and hoping that she was okay.

I voiced these fears to my midwife and she told me I had to count the number of kicks in a 12 hour period and if I got the right amount then the baby was fine and active, if I didn’t I had to ring the hospital ward straight away.

Counting the kicks

Off I went, a little more at ease and downloaded an app for my iPhone that helped me to keep track of all the goings on with my baby which I found very useful as it was all in one place and easy to look at an overview of the day.

My baby kicked early in the morning and late at night, mostly when I was relaxing but there were ‘extra kicks’ if I drank really cold water or balanced my cereal bowl on the top of my belly! I started seeing a pattern emerging of when she was most likely to move around and if I hadn’t had as many kicks at certain times of the day I sat and relaxed and had a glass of cold water or orange juice and she would kick away. Sometimes I think she would kick but I wouldn’t always notice as I was working and preoccupied so may have missed the odd few. To be sure, I made a point of sitting down just to count them.

A quiet day

Counting the kicks becomes part of your daily routine and you quickly notice when you haven’t had enough kicks. One evening her kicks had become less frequent and I was a little concerned but had reached the average kick count eventually so went to bed feeling fairly assured.

In the morning I hadn’t had any of my early morning kicks, so I laid in the bath and poured water on to my belly which usually provoked a few nudges but nothing happened. At this point I knew I wasn’t supposed to panic but because it was unlike her to be so quiet at that time of the day I started worrying.

Off to hospital

I decided that even though I might be making a mountain out of a mole hill and being an erratic pregnant woman I called the hospital and explained what was going on. They advised me to get down to see them and they would be ready to see me on the ward straight away, so with a phone call to my in-laws I was on my way to the hospital, shaking slightly at the thought that maybe something was wrong but trying to keep positive at the same time and thinking she’s just having a nap.

The hospital were absolutely fantastic and made me feel like I’d done the right thing but assured me that they weren’t overly concerned as they’d already hooked me up to a monitor and we could all hear her heartbeat. I can’t describe how relieved I was just hearing her little heart bopping away on the monitor and my father in law with his watch counting the beats, my face lit up as did my mother in laws, who was trying to stay brave but I could see panic as soon as she’d turned up to collect me.

Happy endings

I lay back and drank lots of cold water and sure enough I got the kicks I needed. The hospital even let me stay on the monitor to get more kicks registered to completely put my mind at rest. When it was time to leave, I knew that if the same thing happened again I would be straight down the hospital to check up and make sure everything was okay. They handled it all very well and at no point made me feel like and over protective, hormonal, mad woman!

I never did have to go back to check on my kicks and two weeks late, my lazy little girl who obviously found it far too comfortable in there was brought into the world by c-section and is a very healthy, gorgeous, bouncing bubba.

Make it part of your daily routine

My advice to any pregnant mums, is don’t risk it, don’t leave things to chance, it’s just not worth it – count your kicks and if you’re worried, seek help straight away. The hospital won’t think you are over-reacting; it’s all part of their daily routine.

For more advice and help visit count the kicks