5 Helpful Gifts For Mums-To-Be | Just Add Ginger

Let's kick things off with a big fat disclaimer - this post is in no way a passive aggressive means of me gift seeking from friends or family! I was really nervous to write a post like this just in case it was misinterpreted that way. But no, it is simply me sharing my thoughts on gifts I think a fellow mum-to-be would find incredibly useful. 

Baby showers are becoming more and more popular in the UK so if you are attending one soon and want to think a little bit outside the box, here are my thoughts on some great alternatives to the more obvious cutesy clothes, baby toys or keepsakes.

image shows a newborn baby's feet and legs

Nappies & Wipes - As a new parent your life pretty much centres around constantly keeping tabs on how many nappies you still have left in the house. The last thing you ever want is to be faced with a baby poo explosion and only then discovering you have just run out of nappies - especially if it's the middle of the night! 

With it coming up to Baby Event season in the shops, boxes of wipes and nappies tend to go on offer. And this is the perfect time to pick up a box or two. Yes okay - it's not as cute as baby clothes or a soft toy but it is a really, really useful gift to get someone that will be greatly appreciated!

 Self Care Supplies - When you've just had a baby your emotions can be all over the place. Your body has gone through a lot, your sleep pattern completely changes and sometimes you don't know whether you want to laugh or cry. It can be tough! 

Throw in the fact that there is a new little life that is totally dependent on you and time for self care is extremely limited. You just don't think about it in the same way anymore. But it is extremely important for both your physical and mental wellbeing. 

Putting together a little parcel of mum's favourite pamper products, ways to wind down or some tasty treats is a great reminder to her to take some time out and relax (even if it's just for a minute or two in the day.) 

Stuck for ideas? Bath or shower products, fancy tea bags or a jar of coffee and some biscuits or something chocolate-y are great additions, as are a candle or incense and some new pjs or fluffy sock. It all depends on what mum enjoys, but having that reminder that she is okay to take off that mummy hat from time to time is something she will really appreciate.

Bigger Baby Clothes - Mum may already have all the clothes she needs for baby's first months, but if you simply cannot resist the call of the cute babygrows and outfits then why not pick up one or two in a slightly bigger size? Babies outgrow clothes at what seems like the speed of light sometimes so having a few bits and bobs all ready to go for when little one moves up a size means mum isn't completely without and feels just that little bit more prepared for the months to come. 

Places that I love to shop for baby clothes and who offer pretty good sizing are Primark (for a true to size fit), H&M (who offer in between sizes compared to other shops), TKMaxx (for gorgeous one off designs) and Next or M&S (who I think do some of the best babygrows - the sizing is on the bigger end of the scale so things tend to last that little bit longer.)

Pre-Made Meals - Enjoy cooking or consider yourself a bit of an amateur chef? Then get yourself some freezable tubs and jump in the kitchen. Because after you've just had a baby eating can easily get pushed down your list of priorities (and sometimes even gets forgotten altogether.)  

Batch cooking and bringing boxes full of frozen food to a baby shower may seem odd but when mum (or dad) are in the delirious state of adjusting to a new routine having something quick and easy to eat that can just be thrown in the microwave will be a godsend. It might be a meal that take them ages to eat and they may end up enjoying it cold, but it is a meal. And it ensures that they are taking care of themselves as well as their little one.

A Helping Hand - When Eric was born, Ryan had three weeks off for paternity leave and if my mum hadn't come up straight afterwards to help me I think I would have been so distraught. Because being a mum to a newborn (especially if you haven't had a baby before) can be one of the loneliest times in your life. Everyone you know is in work, you might not have any mummy friends who are in the same boat and the days are long.

Offering your time or making plans for after the baby is born gives mum something to instantly look forward to. Of course, you need to gauge the timing (taking into account recovery and any paternity / holiday their partner may be taking) but just being there is an invaluable gift. Even if it's popping over for a coffee and letting mum have a shower or offering to take the baby on a walk for 20 minutes while she has a nap! It's a present that is absolutely priceless. 

Especially if you can plan for it to be a regular thing. Once every few weeks, once a month, or as often as you can. In those first couple of months where mum is trying to refine herself and balance life with a new baby, having that reminder that she isn't on her own and does have friends around her who are happy to sit with her, chat to her about anything other than being a mum, or to be a shoulder to cry on...I honestly think that is one of the best gifts you could offer.


Our Naptime Routine | Just Add Ginger

Something we are really proud of as parents is that Eric - for the majority of the time - is a really good sleeper. I worked really hard when he was younger at getting him used to soothing himself in his cot (as a newborn he liked to be rocked back to sleep quite a lot and by the end of it my arm would be dead.) But once he was in his own room that was it....he was doing it himself. I'd sit there for hours sometimes rubbing his back and shushing him back to sleep and now, two years down the line, those sleepless nights have paid off.

image shows a mother and son walking in the woods

I wish the same could be said for nap time! As a baby Eric was great. But now..... bloody hell! It's luck of the draw whether he's going to sleep for two hours, an hour or even go down at all. He will fight it and fight it and fight it sometimes until I look at the monitor and think 'this really isn't going to happen is it?' then give up. Yes, when it comes to naps, Eric gets a serious case of FOMO. 

Which is pretty much when anybody else except for me and him are in the house. I don't take any crap when it comes to nap times so whereas Ryan is great at getting Eric back to sleep should he wake in the night (they are thick as thieves) it is nearly always down to me to be the designated nap time bad cop. 

Routine plays a huge part in whether Eric's naps are successful. It's taken a long time to figure out what works best and things change all the time. The first thing I do is to gauge when Eric might be getting sleepy. He still has a morning nap so when he wakes up first thing I check the time and plan to try him 3.5 hours later. This timing suggestion was given by my health visitor and it's been a really good tip for us. Being a few steps ahead when it comes to predicting when Eric is ready for a nap is essential to it being a success

image shows a mother and son walking in the woods

Now when it comes to nap times it's all or nothing. I have made sure that Eric knows that when he's in his cot and the right conditions are set it's time for bed. I don't count car sleeps or any naps that are induced by motion unless he is absolutely shattered. He gets the best quality of sleep being in a cot so that is what we do. 

When he was younger (and lighter) I would carry Eric up to bed. But now that that is no longer an option (unless I somehow grow a load of muscle overnight) I turn to the thing that instantly nominated you for 'Parent of the Year'.... bribes! 

Biscuits are my current bribe of choice. Oh I can hear the judgemental signs and eye rolls happening as I type, but I don't care. They work! Every morning in the lead up to him trying for a sleep we have 'biscuits in  bed.' He carries the biscuits up the stairs, chomping all the way, and then I put one in his cot to have once he's in. One or two little biscotti are enough to get him where he needs to be and keep him there. It also keeps him occupied for long enough for me to put him in a sleeping bag which are not his favourite things.

Next we have story time. I normally aim to read 2-3 books before he goes down and finish on Eric's sleep trigger book. Sleep trigger you ask. Yes - I've given it a name because that's exactly what it does. A book that Eric associates with sleep. Ours is The Gruffalo. You could be reading him anything beforehand and he would be jumping on the bed, throwing everything out the cot or being a fusspot, but as soon as he hears The Gruffalo that's it, he snuggles down, cuddles his teddy (Mr Fox) and gets ready to nod off. 

For a child who can sometimes be an absolute nightmare to get to sleep this little routine is one that really works for us. Of course there will be the odd occasion where nothing will tempt Eric to sleep but you just have to accept that. But ultimately if you get your timings right, there's nothing bothering him and you stay calm you are on to a winner and have at least an hour and a half for a drink and a snack, to catch up on your favourite TV show, to get some housework done or to have a nap. 

And that makes it all worth it!

Images: Rachel Clarke Photography


Planning Eric's 2nd Birthday Party | Just Add Ginger

When Ryan first mentioned the idea of throwing an actual birthday party for Eric I was not keen. Last year we just had friends and family round to the house. There was food, there was chatting, there was a plethora of toys for Eric to play with. It was informal. It was easy. 

But an actual birthday party? In a hall? Where you are a little bit out of control of how things will come together on the day...? He had to be joking. It took quite a bit of initial arm twisting on Ryan's behalf but eventually I saw how it might make our lives easier. 

For starters - this is the first year Eric has got little friends. So instantly our guest list increased drastically. a majority of his friends are under 3 so having the space to entertain a troop of toddlers might be difficult in our house (plus you can never guarantee good weather in April.) Secondly if we booked a separate space for a party, there would be a definite start and end time. Guests would arrive, and then leave. Not that we don't like hosting people but after a party everyone is tired and undoubtedly we would want our own space to come back to that wasn't cluttered and in need of a clean. 

image shows toddler looking at camera and making a silly face

So the search began for the perfect place to host Eric's party. We had a few initial ideas after attending a few baby classes in church halls and after a quick text to a friend we quickly found and finalised a venue and a date. 

That was the easy bit. Next was trying to sort out entertainment...But just what do you do for a toddler's birthday party? Eric isn't really at an age to join in party games, wouldn't appreciate anybody who was dressed up and is a bit young for things like a swimming party. So actually trying to figure out what to have that would keep everyone occupied (especially the slightly older children who would be coming) was a bit of a stumbling point.

image shows a selection of soft play equipment set up for a party

Soft play seemed to be the most appealing option. There's nothing Eric loves more than going to soft play areas, climbing, jumping, sliding and causing absolute chaos so there was no doubt that at least where he was concerned, we would definitely get a lot of bang for our buck. After stumbling across a local company who seemed to offer everything we were looking for we put in some initial enquiries and waited to hear back. 

I'm not going to lie...this was probably the most stressful part of the whole party planning process, and it was partly due to the fact that I am a control freak when it comes to organisation and in an ideal world would have things sorted instantaneously. We sent off all the paperwork and finalised the details but after that there was nothing until the day before the party. And it just put me on edge. However, the company really came through on the day and were incredibly professional, setting up and packing away the equipment really efficiently. So in the end, all my fears were totally unfounded. 

Trying to organise the food was another stressful factor. Initially were going to order the main bulk of the food from Costco online. However, it got to the Thursday night before the party and the system was not offering us any collection dates until the week after. 

So in a panicked state, with 3% battery left on my phone, I scrambled onto the Tesco website and ordered anything that could be delivered the night before. It was the most decisive I've ever been and I had no idea really what I was ordering but on the day it all turned out amazingly. There were sandwiches, pizza, crisps, and then a designated treat table which held chocolate fingers, chocolate bars, jelly sweets, cake and popcorn (I just couldn't resist putting in my own Popcorn Shed order after being kindly gifted some of their tasty treats.*)

image shows a table covered with food - cakes, chocolate and sweets

image shows a toddler riding on a small plastic roller coaster

image shows a blue two tier birthday cake with a candle and snowman on top

After swearing blindly in the midst of the stress that Eric would never be having another birthday party, we pulled off everything perfectly. I bought a huge pack of balloons that we scattered around the room, hung banners and set up a colouring in table (which was a massive hit.) We bought a speaker from B&M and blasted out children's songs (and some for the adults too). We decided to do our gender reveal at the party so I bought a piƱata for the children to get involved with. One of our good friends made the birthday cake and we bought in a few extra toys from home that we thought were a bit more interactive. 

All in all I think we spent about £250 - £300 which may seem a bit extravagant but everybody had an amazing time. There was ample food and drink, the soft play was a massive hit with everyone and the speaker is going to live with us so is an investment in itself. And where we spent a lot on the party we didn't get Eric a lot of presents so put the money we would have spent into all those party essentials. 

I think a part of us wanted to make this birthday really special for him too. Because after this year he's going to be a big brother, and everything is going to change again.

* I have previously worked with Popcorn Shed and was gifted some of their products to feature in a blog post. However I paid for the popcorn for the party myself. For more information, please see my disclaimer.


How I'm Empowering Myself This Pregnancy | Just Add Ginger

When I was pregnant with Eric pretty much everything terrified me. There was so much that happened in those nine months that I barely had time to process one issue before the next came up. It left me in bits afterwards and ever so slightly hesitant to go through it all again. 

Fast forward to two and a bit years later and things could not be more different. I barely recognise the person I was back then and with every day that passes I am more and more excited at the prospect of pushing another baby out my vagina!

image shows a young woman standing in front of some trees and looking off camera. She is wearing a blue coat and bowler hat.

I of course take a lot of the credit for that myself. I mean, I shot down a spiral of doom and despair pretty quickly and I got myself right out of it again. And sure there are days where I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and worry about anything and everything but these are days are few and far between and never about pregnancy or the thought of giving birth. 

There are however some pretty big changes I've made this time round. First of which is the level of privacy I've allowed myself to have. Instead of plastering regular pregnancy updates all over social media I've taken a step back and kept quite a lot to myself. I mean Ryan and I have only just done our gender reveal and I'm currently 26 weeks pregnant. The level of protectiveness I have over this baby is ridiculous and it's done me the world of good to just allow myself the time to enjoy the pregnancy and get excited about it. instead of involving people in everything that's been going on. That in itself has been one of the most empowering moves I could have ever made

image shows a woman walking on a path through a country park on a sunny day and smiling off camera

I'm also being a lot more decisive. Last time round I think I went with the flow and just went along with things because I thought they were the 'right thing' to do. I was a first time mum. I didn't know any better. But this time I've found my voice. I know how I'd like things to go and I'm not afraid to push for them. We've gone from probably heading to the MLU again to now wanting a home birth (fingers crossed). I'm a lot more vocal about wanting to try breastfeeding and I am asking so many questions so that I am better informed. Ryan and I are practising hypnobirthing together and I just know what feels right. I'm trusting my instincts more. I know what I want

Hypnobirthing is playing a huge part in how strong I feel. We're currently working through The Positive Birth Company's Digital Pack but I've also just started Siobhan Miller's new book, both of which are absolutely game changing in the way I think about labour and birth. I have a new found appreciation for my body and have fallen in love with my pregnant self. I feel confident that no matter what happens I will have an amazing birth experience and am making the right choices that ensure that happens. 

Hand in hand with hypnobirthing comes my musical choices. Environment plays a huge part in the hypnobirthing experience and where as last time I wanted to listen to music with a strong beat, now I've picked music that is evocative and sparks happy memories - from the best gigs I've ever been to to my favourite places to getting married, each piece I've chosen transports me somewhere and calms me. I test out my playlist at times when I need to feel calm and at peace and I'm already "training" myself to associate the playlist with feeling completely relaxed

Never in my life would I have thought I could be this calm about expecting another baby but I am. I really am. And as for really looking forward to pushing out of my lady bits? I'd have laughed out loud. But I honestly can't wait. I believe in myself

 And best of all....I feel amazing!