surviving-chicken-pox-toddler
Parenting

Surviving Chicken Pox

So it’s been pretty quiet on the blog front over the last couple of months, though that’s definitely not due to a shortage of things to share!

Spring has been so hectic, with a million things going on (because everything tends to happen at the same time, doesn’t it?) and I just didn’t feel like I could catch up on basic life tasks like ironing and meal prep, never mind find the time to blog. One of the main things that set us back a bit was Travis catching the chicken pox in early April. Nothing prepares you for your wee one being ill, or the effect it can have on the whole household. Here’s how we survived the chicken pox…

Early detection

I noticed a couple of spots on Travis’ nappy line when he woke up on Saturday 5th April. I thought maybe his nappy had been on too tight or too long overnight, so lathered him with Sudocrem and kept an eye on him as the day went on. I noticed the spots start to blister later in the day, which made me run to Dr Google as I had no idea that chicken pox actually blistered – in my blissful ignorance I just thought they were itchy spots that scabbed because they were scratched too hard!

After a mild panic at the 7,000 different types of rash and skin disorders children are prone to, I phoned NHS 24 for some advice and clarity. I have to say I was surprised at the advice given over the phone as I had already assumed my Saturday night would involve a trip to the out of hours doctor and an overtired toddler.

In actual fact, we were partly diagnosed over the phone and told to simply use Calpol, monitor temperature and go to the pharmacy when it opened for a confirmation and recommendation of soothing cream. I think this is because, for the most part, Travis was pretty good with his pox and not really showing too many of the bad symptoms or side effects such as loss of appetite or really bad fever. He had his ups and downs, and was a bit more unsettled at night, but that was to be expected as the heat and cosiness of jammies and blankets etc can bring out the itch.

I couldn’t give enough credit to the NHS24 nurse whom we spoke to, as she was full of useful tips and advice. She explained the new guidelines, and how things had changed over her time as a nurse, and what you’re now recommended to do. Over and above the medical advice (ie use Calpol, not ibuprofen, don’t exceed dose etc) she offered practical advice to help get through it and was generally a lovely and empathetic person.

Here are just some of her gems, along with other pearls of wisdom we found helpful during the chickenpox saga:

Bicarbonate of soda bath – this takes the itch out of the spots. Similarly, a post has been doing the rounds on Facebook proclaiming Head & Shoulders to be the bathtime saviour at eliminating the itch. Other remedies also include bundling oats in a flannel and running the water over this – it’s a tip often given to mothers of toddlers with eczema but the soothing properties are the same.

Lay off the calamine – I was told by the nurse that this isn’t prescribed any longer as it hasn’t proven effective or shown any great signs in improvement in symptoms. Instead I was encouraged to use creams like Aveeno (we use this regularly for Travis’ eczema flare ups so that was handy) and Child’s Farm and some other brands I can’t remember the name of.

Use Calpol regularly, but not ibuprofen – As is the usual staple for kiddy illnesses, I was encouraged to use Calpol to avoid a fever, which is common in pox sufferers. Travis was ok during the day, but we did use Calpol in the run up to bedtime as this is when itching tends to be worse, and when we’d notice the little man getting warmer. However one gem we were told was to lay off the kiddy Nurofen/ibuprofen as the anti-inflammatory property in this medicine can actually have an adverse affect on the itching and can make the chickenpox go deeper (yikes!)

Play games with the spots – we found that a nice distracting technique was to point out the spots and get Travis to point different ones out. This distracted from scratching and also meant that he didn’t think it was crazy abnormal to suddenly be sprouting spots.

Prepare for upside down days – between the virus and the Calpol, days and nights got mixed up with grogginess, extra naps, long naps and restless nights. Be prepared to feel like you did in the early days, as routine will go out the window for about a week (maybe longer if your kiddo unfortunately suffers all the side effects) so if you can take time off work and any commitments, it’s advisable not only for your wee one, but for your own health too.

Keep moisturising – for all that the virus is no longer contageous once the spots scab over, they still stay for ages afterwards. In fact, despite suffering the pox in early April, Travis still has some faint marks in late May. My one key piece of advice is to keep moisturising regularly to encourage the skin to repair and avoid scarring.

Even with the best advice, anecdotes and tips, no two children will necessarily cope with the same illness in the same way. Hopefully our chicken pox survival proves helpful, and if there are any tips and tricks you swear by which I’ve not mentioned, please share with me!

Lists, Parenting

Things to do in the summer with an infant

There’s no shortage of information online about things to do with kids in the summer holidays, but unfortunately most of those articles revolve around kids of school age. It can be a little more tricky to find or think of things to do with an infant in the summer, as some of the activities suggested in other articles simply aren’t age-suitable.

Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with, handily split into rainy-day and sunny activities:

Sunny day activities

Feed the ducks
This is a great one that gets them out and about, seeing animals and doesn’t involve spending a lot of money! Most of us tend to find ourselves with with stale ends of bread at the end of the week, so rather than throw them away, pack them up and head to the nearest pond/lake/loch/seafront and feed the ducks. Remember to watch out for the seagulls, and don’t anger the swans!

Go to the farm
Another fun animal-based idea is to head to the nearest farm, pointing out the different animals you see. Of course this can be a bit smelly, but it’s usually a great experience teaching your little ones about the animals and the noises they make. Singing Old MacDonald is optional.

Safari Park/Zoo visit
Can you see a theme appearing here? Obviously zoos and safari parks tend to be more expensive than farms and feeding ducks which is usually free, and they tend to be further away too. However, you may find that kids under 1 get in for free. The major selling point is that it’s an activity you can make a whole day of. Take a picnic and enjoy spotting the animals, playing in the play park and maybe even petting or feeding some animals if you’re allowed.

Get out in the garden
Who said outdoor activities had to cost a fortune or take you far away? Little infants get just as much enjoyment from the outdoors whether it’s in their own back garden or at an attraction 70 miles away. You can plan different activities in the garden for different days – playing in the paddling pool, having a big picnic outside, practising kicking and playing with balls or if you have a lovely, well-kept garden why not walk around pointing out the different flowers and their colours, trees etc? There’s scope for playing peekaboo, bringing toys outside and even buying your own slide or swing, depending on what stage your infant is at and how confident they are.

Rainy day activities

Learn a new thing
Days indoors needn’t be boring, filled with the same toys and cartoons routine. Why not make a plan to try and teach your infant a different new thing on rainy days? This can be anything from helping with speech and recognition to improving motor skills. Simple things like naming items in the room and pointing to them, using “my first…” books, playing with building blocks or stacking cups, naming colours, singing nursery rhymes and more will do the trick.

Become rockstars
Why not turn your kitchen into your very own concert arena with your rock and roll baby? Pots, pans and wooden spoons make a great drumkit and drumsticks, whilst filling plastic tupperware with rice or pasta makes for excellent shakers. Bonus points if you use teddies as your captivated audience!

Have a sensory day
I’m sure there are plenty of items in your home that you probably haven’t thought of for sensory play. Sponges and different textured cleaning cloths are great for their little hands to explore, as are hair rollers, hairbrushes, and much more. If your little one has a nightlight or projector, this can be great for sensory play, along with other light-up objects like glowsticks. (I realise the last one may not be an everyday object for some but I always have spare glowsticks lying around thanks to my love of Clubbercise!)

Go to soft play
If all else fails, or the weather is permanently bad and you feel like you’re getting cabin fever, you can always go to soft play. Also known as UFC for kids, soft play can be a pretty scary experience for first-time mums on arrival, particularly in the school holidays! The plus point is that those under 1 usually get in free, and all that play will surely tire your little one out. An added bonus is that you could make new mum friends, which is always welcome after days stuck inside with no adult company!

Those are just a few suggestions of things to do with your little one in the summer. I’ve tried to avoid things that cost the earth, and hopefully include a mix of busy attractions and one-to-one play/experiences. If you can think of any other great activities I might have missed, let me know!

Mother and Baby classes, mum life

Top 5 free things to do on maternity leave

This list is post baby, not for any mat leave when impatiently waiting for baby to get here. I’ve been there, done that! If that’s what you’re after then maybe this post might help?

Everyone has different ideas about mat leave and how they would like to spend it with their children. However not everyone has a limitless budget to spend on things for baby to see, do and learn from every day so sometimes us mums have to get creative. Thankfully there are also some free resources out there that mums can enjoy with babies. Here are the top free things I’ve utilised whilst on mat leave.

Walking
If its nice (even if its not) then getting your baby out in the fresh air can be a great for both you and him/her. As my mat leave has fallen predominantly in a horrendous winter, there have been times where we literally couldn’t get a pram out in the street for snow/ice, and it really made a difference to our days. Walking gives mum’s gentle exercise whilst breaking up the day for you and baby. Plus babies love seeing and taking in everything going on around them, so a walk provides more stimulus for their senses. And to top it off, Travis loves sleeping in his pram so walks have also been a good, free, helper with sleep and naps.

Going to the park
As I said, my mat leave has been predominantly in winter so there haven’t been a great deal of times to enjoy the park so far, but we go there if we can. Great combined with point 1, the park is a great place to walk through, or to have a wee rest on a nice bench if you’ve overdone it on the walking or need to stop for a feed (for either you or baby, I’m not judging!). Plus, as your little one grows stronger, baby swings and slides become more appealing. A 10 minute play on the swings on an otherwise boring day can burn up energy for your little one, and give you a lot of joy as they giggle their little heads off going back and forth!

Soft play
Soft play is a great invention for kids of all ages, and in our area (and most places I’m assuming?) infants under 1 go free. Admittedly we’ve only started going since the wee fella turned 6 months old, but as long as your kiddo can sit up they will be able to get some enjoyment from it. He loves the ball pit, any mirrors and, after a few confused attempts, the baby slides.

Bookbug
We started going to a bookbug group at our local library in January (see our January firsts) and I couldn’t recommend it enough. As far as I know this seems to be a government initiative (in Scotland anyway) which encourages a love of reading from a young age. The group is for young babies and toddlers and combines nursery rhymes with stories and play to instil an interest in reading, but to break up activities enough so that children aren’t expected to sit still and pay attention for long periods of time. The only criticism is that bookbug runs during term times, which has meant no classes during Easter/Christmas/summer breaks in line with schools. Although it’s free, place a are limited, and you need to sign up through your local authority’s website or page for library services.

Baby massage/baby yoga
Again, I’m not sure if this is just a Scottish service, or even just specific to central Scotland. Our local authorities run a number of free mother and baby classes, again often taking place at the library or community centres. The main ones in our area are baby massage, baby yoga and breastfeeding support classes. I’ve never been to the latter but can definitely recommend both the former classes. Baby massage was great for the wee man’s colic, and we still use some massage techniques today to calm him before bed, help with colic or teething, or just to help promote development. Similarly, the baby yoga is great for their muscle and bone development, and helps you remember some of those old nursery rhymes if you’re a bit rusty!

So those are the great free things we’ve been getting up to on mat leave. I’m really interested to know if there are any other great cost-free activities we are missing, or if there are different local services in different areas. I’d love to get your thoughts!