On our recent holiday to Portugal, we took Jacob on the beach for the first time. I wasn’t sure what he’d think, but I needn’t have worried. He absolutely loved it. The beach is paradise for a crawling baby. He was fascinated by the sand and kept picking up fistfuls of it. He also ate a fairly large amount! I’m hoping that will have done him no harm…

As babies have such delicate skin, keeping him out of the sun on the beach was my main concern. I realised that might be a challenge with a little inquisitive crawler, so before we went I stocked up on a few essentials to protect him from the intense sunshine.

Surviving on the beach with a baby

Swimsuit

Baby in a swimsuit on the beach

Jacob in his swimsuit

We bought this amazing swimsuit and hat set from John Lewis. The whale and crab design is really cute and perfect for boys or girls. It provides UV protection, which makes life a lot easier and gives a bit more peace of mind that the majority of skin will be protected. The hat has a neck protector and quite a large brim, so a lot of his face and neck were covered.

The swimsuit was £18 for the 9-12 month size, which I think was a bargain considering how much use we got out of it. Since we got home, I’ve also used it in the paddling pool in the garden. It’s a lot easier than trying to put suncream on his entire body.

I’d also bought a two-piece that was similar, but that wasn’t so successful. The top kept riding up, so his belly and back were exposed. The all-in-one version worked a lot better.

Beach shelter

Baby napping in the beach shelter

Napping in the beach shelter

I wrote a stand-alone review of this, but I wanted to highlight it again. The Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter is an easy-to-put-up mini-tent that provides UV protection. It’s £22.98 on Amazon. I actually managed to get Jacob to take a nap in it, which was pretty much a miracle as he never naps anywhere but his cot or the car.

Suncream

Keeping babies completely out of the sun isn’t always practical, especially once they are one the move. We bought Garnier Baby In The Shade suncream to use on Jacob. I hunted around for a suncream designed for babies, and this was actually the only one I could find. Luckily, I was really impressed. It’s thick, which I assume is the point. No sun rays are getting through this stuff. It has a UV rating of 50+. We kept reapplying it frequently.

Snacks

The final weapon in my arsenal was lots of snacks. I used them to entice Jacob into the shade. It was one of the only ways to keep him out of the sun for a while.

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If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know we recently got back from holiday in Portugal. Before we went, I was really worried about how we’d keep Jacob safe in the sun. I decided to buy the Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter from Amazon to provide a bit of shade on the beach.

Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter review

Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter

The Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter in action on a very windy beach (note the use of rocks to hold it down!)

We bought the Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter in blue (I’ve just seen it’s cheaper in green! Not sure how I missed that. It’s £29.74 for the blue and £22.98 in green). In blue they sell two sizes—large and extra-large. I went with large and it was perfectly adequate for the 3 of us. If I had more children, I’d probably go for the extra-large. The shelter protects against UV rays. Apparently not all beach shelters do this, so it’s definitely worth checking before you buy.

Easy to put up

The shelter was really easy to put up. It has 3 fibre glass poles (just like tent poles). One goes across the top and two go from back to front. There’s a black groundsheet attached to the shelter which is good for keeping sand off towels (unless you have a baby who chucks fistfuls of sand everywhere!). I was slightly concerned about the groundsheet being black, but it’s made of a fabric that doesn’t get too hot in the sun. The shelter comes with pegs, so you can anchor it down. We used the shelter on a very windy beach, so we used rocks to hold it down at times. On a normal beach, I’m sure it would be fine just using the pegs. There are also pockets you can put sand in to help secure it.

The groundsheet can zip up to close the shelter off. This means you can all go swimming and leave you bags in a slightly safer environment. Obviously, someone could still break in, but it would take more effort so I think that protects you against a lot of opportunistic theft. We didn’t do this, as the sea was too cold for me and Jacob to swim in, but I think it’s a useful feature.

The Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter folds up relatively small and isn’t too heavy—we took it in our suitcase with no problems. It weighs  1.9kg, so it’s not too heavy. It comes in a draw string carry bag, which is useful.

Napping in the shade

We managed to get Jacob to take a nap in the shade, which was brilliant. I felt massively reassured knowing he was having a break from the sun for a while.

Baby napping in the Coleman Sundome

Jacob napping in the shade

I also enjoyed using it for reading, because I hate having the sun in my eyes. I’d definitely recommend buying the Coleman Sundome Beach Shelter. It wasn’t too pricey and we’ll definitely use it overtime we go away now. You can read my other tips on surviving a beach trip with a baby here.

Baby playing on beach

Using the shelter for reading protection while the boys play

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I did it. I made it to my goal of 9 months so I didn’t have to sterilise or make up bottles on holiday.  The ultimate lazy reason to keep going. If the NHS really want to improve breastfeeding rates, then instead of banging on about ‘best for baby, best for mum’, they should think about promoting how much easier it is once it’s established. It’s definitely the first bit that’s the hard bit in my experience.

Breastfeeding: the 9 month update

Breastfeeding on holiday

If you can, I highly recommend breastfeeding on holiday. It was so easy and seriously reduced the amount of baby paraphernalia I had to take with me. I found it particularly useful on the flight. It allowed Jacob to fall asleep during take off, which was amazing.

Breastfeeding baby on the planeOne of the main reasons I wanted to breastfeed for 9 months was that I couldn’t get my head around how I would make up bottles on holiday. What would I do for the airport and plane? When Jacob does drink formula he has SMA (the only one that didn’t make him throw up), which comes in really annoying ready-made cartons that need scissors to open. Which you can’t take on planes. And if I made up a bottle to take with me at home, it’s meant to be used within 2 hours… but he’d need it about 4 hours after leaving home. So he might have gotten ill… I’m genuinely perplexed! Could I just have taken powder and asked for boiling water? How would I do it?! SMA-using mums help please! (If anyone from SMA is reading this, please make better ready-made cartons!)

I know some people are worried about breastfeeding in public in a new environment, but I didn’t really think about it. I hadn’t checked out my rights to breastfeed in Portugal, but I did it wherever I wanted and no one said anything!

New habits at 9 months

Jacob still has no teeth, so I haven’t had to contend with biting yet. I’ve still got that joy to come.

He has learnt that grabbing my nipple and pulling makes me say “ouch”, which is apparently hilarious to a 9-month-old! He’s actually started looking up, grinning, then doing it and chuckling! Cheeky little monkey. If anyone has any tips on how to discourage that, let me know please!

What’s next in the breastfeeding journey?

As of today I’ve decided to stop breastfeeding during the day, so we go down to just two feeds—first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I’m starting to get a bit anxious about feeding and going back to work, so I want to get a bit of a head start at cutting down. I don’t want to be stressing about it the week before I go back.

Hopefully, if that works, I’ll be able to continue feeding twice a day for a few months longer.

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Flying with a baby. Those four words are enough to strike dread into the heart of any first time parent. We recently survived our first flight with Jacob, and it wasn’t that bad! There was a bit of crying, but nothing too intense. Here’s how we did it.

Flying with a baby

Use a baby carrier at the airport

This was a tip I got from other parents. We decided not to take a pushchair on holiday at all, as we thought we wouldn’t use it that much. If you do want to take one, I’d highly recommend checking it in and using a baby carrier of some sort at the airport. It means you have free hands, and baby tends to be happy being attached to mum or dad and can look around. We used our BabyBjörn (I previously wrote this review of the BabyBjörn).

Use the family security lane

This was a revelation for us. Gatwick airport have a special security lane for families. A very lovely member of security staff came over and told us while I was busy sorting out all the liquids into a plastic bag. It meant we could take our time a bit more and not feel like we were holding other travellers up. I could go through the metal detector with Jacob in the BabyBjörn. As always, I set off the metal detector, so they patted Jacob down (he loved it). He was then handed over to his dad while I went through the full body scanner. It was nice and relaxed and all the staff were helpful.

Be prepared to give baby milk on the plane

Breastfeeding baby on the plane

Another tip from friends with babies. Make sure you give the baby something to drink during take off and landing—whether that’s breast or bottle. The swallowing helps their ears so they don’t hurt. Jacob actually fell asleep during takeoff, which was a bonus.

Take snacks

Once the flight is underway, you need ways to keep baby distracted. If they are old enough, food is perfect. One of the best things we did was to take loads (and I mean loads) of carrot sticks from home. Jacob gummed them for ages, then tried to feed them to us. We had so many it didn’t matter when he chucked a few on the floor. Rice cakes would work well too.

New toys

This was recommended to my husband by a work colleague. We bought 3 new small teething toys to take on the plane. The idea being that because the baby hasn’t seen them before, they keep them distracted for a while. This did work to a certain extent, although carrots definitely keep him entertained for longer!

Use two nappies

This is something we do at nighttime, and thought it would be helpful on the flight. We put two nappies on (and used the more absorbent Pampers Baby Dry ones) to prevent any leaks.

Relax!

Overall, I’d say the most important thing is to relax. It’s pretty likely that the baby will cry at some point in the flight, but the vast majority of people are very understanding and friendly. We didn’t have any negative comments, even though I’m sure some people were pretty irritated their peaceful flight was disrupted.

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Pre-baby I was a pretty active person. I’d go to the gym a few times a week. Spinning was my favourite class, but I’d do some weights, some outdoor running, maybe a bit of yoga and pilates. Post-baby the main thing I do is walk. I occasionally run and do the odd YouTube workout. I haven’t managed to get back to the gym for two reasons—time and money. So when I was offered the chance to try out the new Aaptiv stroller workouts, I jumped at the chance.

Getting back to exercise with a baby

Baby sleeping in the pram during my Aaptiv stroller workout

Jacob is exhausted by my workout!

Aaptiv is an on-demand audio workout app. It has loads of different types of workouts from running and cycling, to stretching and strength training. Their stroller workouts are a new offering and are designed for busy mums with babies. The classes are short (20-25 minutes), making it easier to squeeze one into a hectic day, and because they use the pushchair there is no need for a babysitter. My favourite thing about the stroller workouts is getting to exercise outside in the fresh air. I think it’s good for Jacob to get some fresh air too.

At first, I was a bit skeptical about an audio workout. I’ve done a lot of video workouts and they are easy to follow because you can see what you are meant to be doing. My concerns were unfounded though. The workouts are easy to follow. I did find that occasionally I wasn’t sure I was doing the move exactly right, but as the workout continued I got the hang of it. The workouts are challenging, but modifiable depending on your fitness level. I found the instructor really motivating and having music made the workout go by faster. I don’t know about you, but I need to be encouraged to push myself harder during a workout. If I workout on my own, I never work as hard as I do at a class, so Aaptiv is useful to keep me going.

Another good thing about the app is that you can download classes to your phone, so you don’t have to worry about using up your data.

The workouts

Stroller workout in the park

Jacob getting a bit grumpy by the end of my workout. Luckily you can pause the workout to soothe any grumbling!

The stroller workouts include strength moves, walking, some jogging, and plyometrics. When I heard about the jogging, I assumed I’d need a specific jogging pushchair, but that’s not necessary. The jogging sections are brief and light, and Jacob was fine in my usual Bugaboo pram. I was running on a smooth path though, so that helps. I did all my workouts in the local park, but you could do them anywhere. You just need a little bit of space.

So far I’ve tried:

  • Leg love stroller workout—this really works your lower body hard with lots of squats and lunges. I really liked this one and I felt the burn in my legs and bum the next day.
  • Stroller strong vibes—this also worked my lower body with lots of walking lunges. Jacob liked this one as I made funny faces at him the whole time!
  • Everyday we’re strollering—this is a more cardio focused workout. There are intervals of 2 minutes of running or walking (depending on fitness) followed by strength moves.

If, like me, you want to stay fit and healthy, but struggle for childcare and time to go to formal exercise classes, I’d definitely recommend giving Aaptiv a go.

*I was provided with a free 2-week trial to Aaptiv, but all opinions are my own.

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