Saturday, 26 October 2019

she's here! our labour story...

hey all! our daughter has arrived, and we are so thrilled with our gorgeous girl.

today i want to share our labour story with you all, because firstly this blog is somewhat of a diary for me, and i want to remember all the details, and secondly, because i know that i like to read other peoples stories, so perhaps you'd like to know mine... i will hold nothing back, so if you don't like all the gross, gory bits, stop reading now!!

firstly, let's talk about why i had an induced labour. if you're new here, you may not know that i have type 1 diabetes, which although it was very well controlled throughout the pregnancy, they still like to induce early due to the likelihood of a larger baby and need for a c-section if the baby went to 40 weeks. but, for my good sugar level control they scheduled me in for 39 weeks as she wasn't measuring as too big on the scan.

so the day came when i was to be induced, they had actually called a couple of days early to say that the ward was less busy than normal, could i come in earlier than planned? and of course, i said yes...

We arrived for the induction at the labour ward. The induction room at our hospital had 4 beds in it, each with a separate curtain for privacy. However each space was pretty small, just about enough space to sit on a ball if you wanted, and enough space for your bags and a chair for the birthing partner to sit in. One of the hardest parts about induction is being confined in this space waiting for something to happen.

After a little intro into what induction would entail, and what options/routes it could take, i was put on monitoring to check my baby's heartbeat and my contractions. it turned out that i was already having some small contractions, but nothing major. they also did an internal exam to see if i was dilated already, and i was about 1-2cm.

because of the mild dilation and contractions, they decided to give me a 6hr pessary instead of the 24hr. so that was put in at about midday - quite an uncomfortable process as it has to go in a very exact place in your cervix... so for me there was quite a bit of wiggling and shoving and manoeuvring around to get it in the right place. but it was worth the discomfort to make sure it did its job properly.

then i was immediately placed on more monitoring to check it started to do something straight away. when that was confirmed i was allowed off the monitoring, and they told me to get up and about and go for a walk to "get things going".

i walked with Pete over to the hospital shop to get sandwiches and ate them outside on a bench. on the way over there i wasn't really feeling anything, but then by the time we sat to eat the sandwiches i was feeling regular pains, not too strong, but definitely present.

by this time the contractions were fairly thick and fast - it's a strange sort of muscle memory, and it made me feel really emotional, recalling the last time, thinking of the pain to come, as well as the joy, and really feeling like "ok, we're gonna have this baby soon!"

i needed to go back to my bed, and sit, so we found a ball and sat on that - the ball was lovely in those early stage pains, because you can change your position easily to relieve pressure, and it's easy to sit on and lean on the bed too. i loved the ball and was so grateful there was one available.

i was put on more monitoring, and the contractions were already at 4 every 10 minutes. the midwives were impressed!

we waited. waited on monitoring for half the time to check the frequency didn't get too strong too fast. and then we ate some dinner. the thing about induction is that it brings on the contractions, but that doesn't always mean something is happening... so you can contract without any dilation, without any shortening/ripening of the cervix. at least that's my understanding, as well as my experience.

i had an internal exam,. they concluded that there was some small thinning of the cervix but not more dilation, eg not enough to break the waters (which was the next step). but as i was contracting still 4/5 in 10 i was told to wait longer,. the midwife suggested i do a sidewards wiggle walk up the hospital stairwell. which i did, another 3/4hrs seemed daunting in that tiny space, and any distraction was welcome.

i felt really low for half an hour - the idea of more contractions without progress was frustrating - i wanted to meet my girl! and i knew that every hour of contractions was tiring me out for the main event. i had so badly wanted to do this labour faster and without any pain relief... i cried. and then realised that my mood was affecting my contractions, and decided to be determined and positive again. it's crazy how quickly my attitude change affected my contractions.

i was put on more monitoring, which showed that the contractions were getting stronger. i was really having to breathe through them at this point.

i had another internal exam, and they decided that i was just about dilated enough (about 3cm) to break my waters.

my waters were broken. perhaps the most uncomfortable thing ever! it takes a while to find and hook cervix with finger first, and the first student midwife's fingers were too little for my long body, so i had to have it done twice. i was also refusing any sort of pain relief at this point, although it had been offered to me. but oh my goodness, it was a horrid feeling, on top of breathing through the contractions. but after many minutes of wiggling around the midwife hooked it, then used the giant crochet hook to break it. my water came leaking out everywhere, lots and lots.

i was moved straight to the delivery room.

which was good, because the contractions got wayyyyy worse!

i decided that an epidural was needed, as my body was too tired from all the contractions and lack of progression earlier in the labour. and i knew that if it was going to take much longer that i would need some intervention. also, my legs were starting to shake, and i could barely hold myself up on the ball or on my feet. the only other option was the bed, and i know that lying down was far more uncomfortable. i also knew that it would take an hour or so for the anaesthetist to be available, so i wanted to get ahead.

whilst i waited for the anaesthetist, the midwives put a canula in my wrist - i still have bruising from a couple of failed attempts. i tried also to eat some toast, because you aren't allowed to eat with an epidural in.

the anaesthetist arrived to administer the epidural. it's a really tricky procedure, requiring exact position for placement, so i had to sit on the edge of the bed, squeezing my husband's hands whilst i stayed as still as i could during contractions whilst she administered it. i kept repeating "the pain will be over soon" and then finally by about 3:15am it started to work and i felt that warming numbness pass down my legs, not quite to the end of my toes.

i had another internal check, and i was declared 4cm dilated, and officially in active labour. i was still having the same amount of contractions, but i wasn't able to feel them!!

i had on and off sleep, realisitcally i was dozing, and probably only slept for about 10 minutes at a time. i was having checks done every 30minutes, on my sugar levels, my blood pressure and to check the epidural wasn't spreading with a cold spray. i could also top up the epidural every half an hour, so i did that when i needed to.

one thing that really surprised me about the hospital was the permanent 1to1 midwife care during active labour. literally no-one left my side. and then every hour my midwife would get another midwife to double check the baby heartbeats, to make sure they weren't missing anything.

we were both so happy to be able to sleep a little. it had been quite an intense day.

the thing is, last time with my son, i had an epidural because it was the only form of pain relief my Belgian hospital offered, so i knew i could trust that it would work, and i knew how it worked. and even though i'd really wanted to labour naturally, i knew with the facilities available to me and the fact that the induction had been relatively slow, that i just didn't have the stamina or strength.

another internal exam - and this time i was fully dilated! they said it so casually, i was like hold on what?! then standard practice with an epidural is to wait for another hour before you begin the pushing, just to make sure your body is ready, as you can't usually feel that pushing urge.

handover to new shift staff and meet new midwives that will birth our girl. we were also asked if a 1st year Junior doctor could watch the birth, and we agreed - it was his second week of the course and he needed to tick the box 'watch a baby being born', and so it was really cool to be the first birth he would ever witness.

we commenced pushing. it is so weird pushing with an epidural, as you can easily put all the force into the wrong place, and so you really need guidance as to if you're doing it right. they did keep saying that i was doing really well, but it went on for a long time...

as pushing gets stronger, babies heart rate is dropping with contractions as my O2 levels drop, this is usual but midwife decides to review with a doctor.

reviewed by Junior doctor who passes case to obstetrician. they consider the positioning of the head might not be where it needs to be to crown. they have a feel for where babies head lies. apparently i kept almost crowning and then she would slip straight back up.

the obstetrician says to keep going for half an hour and we will review then, as i was pushing so well.

obstetrician asks for review from consultant as baby is not birthing as quickly as expected (later our diabetic consultant suggested that the labour could/should have been allowed to continue naturally and this might be as a result of diabetic bias amongst the team at the time).

the consultant reviews and determines exact baby positioning, suggests an episiotomy and forceps in the labour room will be enough to deliver baby imminently.

obstetrician prepares for this by wearing scrubs and cleaning herself. a baby resuscitation cart is wheeled into the room in place of the cot in case of complications, along with a neonatal paediatrician. i was feeling overwhelmed by all the movements around me, without anyone really asking permission, or feeling like things had been explained adequately. i cried the second i saw the resus cart arrive, it felt all too similar to the birth of my son.

pulled with forceps, quite easily, and had the midwives pull my legs back to get the shoulders out, she arrives! she was immediately placed on my chest, vernex, blood and all. thankfully she needs no help from the paediatrician, she cries a little, seems to be very well and also very large! the cord was left for a time to drain, as the placenta was born, and then we breastfed pretty much straight away (whilst i was being stitched back up).

i was kept on a drip for 4 hours in the room - oxytocin (to stop further bleeding - i'd lost 500ml in the process, which is on the border of concern - and contract my uterus further) and sodium lactate (keep my fluids and electrolytes up). during which time she was weighed - a glorious 9lb 1oz, or 4150g - the midwife wrote up my notes, we called our family to tell them the good news, and we took lots of pictures of her cute little cheeks...

then i was moved to another ward for recovery, blood pressure checks and catheter removal checks (pee twice) post-epidural.

checks on our girl the following day, we discovered a broken collar bone (clavicle), and severe tongue tie, otherwise all well. we went for an X-ray to confirm the clavicle. and the physio was booked for the following week. apparently should heal itself within a week! newborns have really quick healing rates usually. we went home that evening, 36 hrs after she was born.

however, when my milk came in, i got a low grade flu/fever, i was shakey, had a high blood pressure, and my temperature elevated. it went away with breastfeeding. i was sent in to the hospital for review, and they sent me home with antibiotics as a precaution (the blood test results showed i had an infection). i felt better about 36 hrs later after starting the antibiotics.

then, a couple days later, at our next midwife appointment, we spotted she was getting jaundiced, and so we ended up spending two nights in the hospital having blue light phototherapy, and now we are finally home and i'm sat here again, engorged breasts, slightly yellow baby, still with a tongue tie (that hopefully will be fixed next Tuesday) and needing much more sleep than i got at my second stay in the hospital...

birth is different for everyone, but that's my story. please ask questions if  you have them, either here in the comments, or via DM on my Insta (@thealissaevelyn). i hope you found that interesting!

Friday, 13 September 2019

what's in my hospital bag? preparing for our baby girl

hey all, today i'm sharing my packing list for my hospital bag. i'm prepared for a long stay in hospital, because of my diabetes and the fact that last time i had a preemie at 35 weeks... so it might be more than a person really needs, but i'm prepared for a few nights stay and a baby in neonatal care with the amount i have!

hospital bag checklist

for baby:
a pack of size 1 nappies (we use Bambo Nature - UK/US)
biodegradable/compostable nappy bags (UK/US)
wet wipes (we love Water Wipes because they are just water and grapefruit extract - UK/US)
changing mat
clothes for baby, inc. socks, hat & scratch mitts
baby blanket
muslins & swaddle cloth
nappy change cream (Weleda is our fave - UK/US)

for mama:
slippers & socks
breastfeeding bra (i love the iLoveSIA ones via Amazon - UK/US)
3 tshirts (easy to breastfeed in and good for photos)
yoga trousers
large black panties
maternity pads
breast pads
water spray
giant water bottle, with sports cap or straw
fennel tea bags (my favourite is the Three Fennel by Pukka - UK/US)
2 bottles of energy drink
antibacterial hand gel
my expert midwife spritz for bitz (UK/US)
toiletries bag: body wash for sensitive skin, facial wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hairbands, earplugs
birth notes & birthplan

for my backpack:
spare charger
medical supplies
lip balm
music, hypnobirthing, tens machine, birthing ball, swimwear for birth pool - or other additional birth aids you need - i'm not taking anything other than my phone with a playlist ready to go!

also, read my living life with a newborn blog, which has so much useful info in, i would really recommend reading it, it's so juicy!

please note: i receive a small % of commission from anything bought via any amazon links above. it doesn’t cost you any more, but is a little way that you help this blog keep on going.

Monday, 9 September 2019

summertime and the living is (mostly) easy

hey everyone, i just wanted to check back in here with a round-up of my favourite summer photos and moments. because this blog here is a journal of sorts for me, and it's so lovely to look back on things. and also, let's face it, that last blog post was sort of a downer, and i wanted to show you all that we're doing well and we had such a happy summer.

this was the first summer where we've experienced it as a 'summer holiday' from school. our boy has been at preschool since this last February, and was doing quite a few mornings by the time summer rolled around. so it was equal parts nervous about having him full time and excited that i would get to spend this precious time with him before our girl arrives this autumn.

well, the time flew past, and was absolutely filled with happy friends and families, new experiences and lots of great bonding time between us both. it's been so lovely to go through the summer album and look back at all of those memories we shared - i will treasure them forever...

at the beginning of this year we moved into our new house, and with it, a new garden. so this year was my year to experiment with growing a few things and see how they went...


...this summer was fairly productive in the garden - there are two main issues with the garden, firstly there's a huge oak tree which means the garden is in shade for half the day, which means that sun-loving plants just didn't thrive. secondly, the soil is terrible! the garden hasn't been loved on in a long time, and so it will be my mission over the coming years to add good nutrients back to the soil, but all these things take time.

things that did do well: wildflowers (they love poor soil), edible flowers (see borage and nasturtiums above), peas + sweet peas, tomatoes (ish), herbs & flowers in containers.

we started the summer holiday by making some new friends, and meeting up with some lovely insta-friends in real life at our local gardens. it was a really special moment, confirming to all of us that went how social media can be amazing if used correctly. it was amazing to be in the company of other stay-at-home mums, talking about transitioning to two, how we were all coping with little ones and sharing similar stories. it was such an encouragement to me, and a great way to begin our summer.

there was a looooot of baking this summer, which was odd given how hot the whole summer was really. but i felt like i was in my groove with baking, and that i just needed to keep practicing. red bean paste buns (pictured below, basically cinnamon roll dough with red bean paste spread on instead), marmalade brioche, loads of cookies and brownies too.

i also made 45 jars of jam/jelly over the summer! the blackberries appeared in our southern neck of the woods at the very end of July this year! so i started to pick and didn't stop for a couple of weeks. and then fortune had it that just up the road, literally a 1 minute walk away, was an abundant apple tree where i was allowed to scrump to my hearts delight. so blackberry and apple jam it was, all i had to buy were jars and sugar.

one of the most fun things we did was to that my dad sent my son a pot of caterpillars, and we got to watch them turn into butterflies... a really quick process, and so incredible to watch with little ones. we loved it and would definitely do it again another year.

we didn't go on holiday as such, but we did get to go and stay with some friends down in Devon, and so we got to stroll the cliffs and beaches, eat cream teas and enjoy the fresh sea breeze.

we also discovered our local lake, completely man-made but still beautiful. we visited a couple of times, and will continue to do so on nice sunny days, it's just such a peaceful spot...

we did a lot of hosting in our new home - there were even several weeks straight when the house was not without a guest. it is our greatest joy to host friends and family, to feed them food and to enjoy their company. we always particular love a good weekend breakfast with friends, especially when we get to eat outdoors.

of course, i spent a while growing our little girl! thankfully the heat didn't get to me much, thanks to great insulation in our house, and also the giant tree in our garden providing much-needed afternoon shade. it was miraculous to watch my little bump grow into a big one throughout the summer months.

home improvements and DIY projects were abundant this summer - my husband and i both took on so many different little bits and bobs, so we would feel nice and cosy in our home this winter, and not feel like there was an abundance of things to do around us. and really enjoy our home together. most of our home diy's are on a highlight on my instagram stories, if you're curious.

we got the pleasure of meeting our new nephew, who was born in the middle of August, and we got to share so many cuddles and precious first moments. he's so gorgeous...

my hair grew like wildfire, thanks to pregnancy hormones and prenatal vitamins... and i kept it curly all summer long, often sporting some sort of braid or bun on days 4/5/6 of course!

most of all i was so happy to spend the summer with my little boy, who i so enjoyed spending time with and nurturing into the man he will become one day. we spent a lot of time outdoors, playing on his 'tractor' and digging up his little corner of the garden. we read a lot of new books together, and he really got into longer stories with fewer pictures. he learnt so many new words, and his conversational skills improved loads. he was a pleasure to be with, and i'm so pleased i get to call him my son.

the last thing i did was to make sure to spend a little bit of time faith journaling every time he napped (which was about every other day). when i didn't get to do it, i noticed a distinct difference in my attitude and temperament - and i'm thankful for the coming cooler seasons where i get to do it more. it's my daily way to connect with something greater than myself, to align myself with truth and to fill myself with His word.

so there you have it, our summer. chilled and lovely and homely. everything i could've wanted it to be. i feel so blessed.

currently listening to: bloom by the paper kites

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

i didn't want my baby

today i want to admit a feeling that is controversial, perhaps arguably just plain wrong, but i felt it, so that makes it real right?

and i wanted to share it out loud, because it's good for me, and it's good for anyone else out there who has struggled with similar thoughts.

this is a very vulnerable thing to express, so i hope you treat it with respect, kindness and gentleness above all.

let's begin...

we've wanted a second child for a while now, but we weren't really in a practical position to be able to have one. our house was "too small" - really, we could've fitted in there, but it wouldn't have been ideal or very relaxing - and more than that, we knew we wanted to get our 'forever home' so that we could set roots near schools we loved.

so we waited. we waited through all of the trauma of last year - and thank goodness really, because the emotions of that were so deep and difficult that fluctuating hormones on top of that would've been too much to bear.

we moved late January this year, and decided to start trying for a baby once we'd packed away the last boxes (which didn't take long).

somehow i'd got it stuck in my head that this pregnancy would take longer. the first was instantaneous, but i'd known so many people that had struggled with their second, and lots of people who are still struggling to conceive after years. it seemed too much to possibly conceive the notion that it could be just as simple once again. and so i got it fixed that it would take some time this time...

but of course it didn't. it was another instant pregnancy.

now, i know at this point i should've felt super happy that there was no struggle, i should've been feeling so extremely blessed that i didn't have to go through the hardship of miscarriage or time spent waiting. but i didn't right away. instead i felt tremendous shock.

shock that i would be blessed this way. shock that i was having another baby. a second baby. shock that our family would expand to four. shock at the fact that i would have another person to look after, all the time, forever. shock that i would be doing pregnancy all over again. a type 1 diabetic pregnancy nonetheless. what had i gotten myself into?

it's not unlike me to do things fast. i got engaged after 8 months of knowing Pete, and we only spent 11 weeks being engaged before we got married. i moved to Belgium at the end of my first trimester with my son... i'm used to doing things at a different pace. so why did this one rock me so much?

honestly, i think the hormones got the better of me. the exhaustion and the nausea of this pregnancy took me right out of the world of regular understanding. it had me at my absolute worst. i wasn't able to rationalise much, and it was also at my husband's busiest time of year at work, so i didn't have many people to confide in.

i remember calling my mum and crying down the phone saying literally 'i don't want this baby'. i even googled abortion laws. i didn't feel remotely capable or ready. i didn't feel like i had any support. it spoke only to another couple of friends about how i'd felt, and none of them knew what to say, and thankfully sidelined it and moved the conversation on.

it was just the hormones. it was often a bit of an outer body experience. exhuastion + hormones are a treacherous combination. it can make you think thoughts that are unlike your regular self.

so for me, i waited. i prayed. i waited. i waited for my body to regain its balance, and to stop feeling so tired all the time. i didn't listen to myself. i trusted in God rather than myself.

and it got better and i was able to think clearly, with my head and with my heart. once i passed week 16, i could focus. i could think about the positives a little bit more. and although i'm still apprehensive about being a parent to 2, i'm looking forward to it too.

i'm glad i didn't give in to those fears and feelings. i'm glad i knew somewhere inside me that it was a lie. i'm so very glad i waited.

it's terrifying when you feel like your hormones have the better of you. and it's even scarier when you genuinely believe the feelings to be real. when you believe so matter-of-factly. i guess it's what a lot of people describe when they experience postpartum depression? only mine happened when i was pregnant? i guess if i googled it, it would be a thing.

so, the only thing i wanted to say, was to say this out loud, because i felt so incredibly LONELY in my feelings. NOBODY understood. they all said 'it's great that you're pregnant', 'it's so amazing it happened so easily', and the few people i told looked shocked and had no words for me when i said 'i don't want this baby' and 'i can't do this'. i want more people to know that people feel this way, so that if someone says this to you, you can look at them knowingly rather than confusedly. you can say 'i once read a blog post about someone that felt the same as you'. and then ask them if they need practical support - maybe some food? maybe some time away from toddler? maybe some time to themselves? maybe they need help finding more sleep? because i reckon if i'd have taken a bit more time for myself, to rest, to reflect, i would've been better faster. but no-one saw me or knew how to help.

so i've now googled it and yes, depression in pregnancy is a thing. seek help. call your midwives or speak to someone. apparently it affects a good portion of us, but somehow i'd never heard of anyone else feeling like this. a bit blue maybe, but not to the extreme i was feeling.

anyhow, peace out. that's enough for now. i hope this has been helpful or informative, or both. and i'm sending a lot of love through my typewriter to you today xxxxx

Monday, 3 June 2019

cracking down on the monthly food bill

hey all, today's post is one of complete honesty and openness, and i'm even quite ashamed to admit what i'm going to tell you today. so here it is, let's cut to the chase, we spent on average this year £164 a week (a WEEK!!!) on food. that is a LOT. that's about 2-3 times as much as the average in this country. it actually makes me feel physically sick that i've been so wasteful.

firstly, i need to tell you why this has happened, and then secondly, i'll go into what i'm going to do about it.

why have we spent so much?

i think there's two main reasons for the excessive spend on food. firstly, i eat when i'm emotional and it's been an emotional year. secondly, i've been giving "special" foods to my son instead of making one large family meal (which has in turn lead to some fussy eating habits that i'm now going to need to spend some serious time and energy on undoing).

also, perhaps a side note, we've been shopping mostly at Sainsbury's which is not very cheap it would seem. but i like the fact that they deliver.

what are we going to do to lower the monthly food bill?

it's funny, it's most definitely not the first time i've got into a spending craze when it comes to groceries. back in 2013 i took part in the Big Budget Food Challenge, and then in 2018 i made a whole video about my family meal planning tips. i guess i need to take a page out of my own book and re-align myself with my values. i love to meal plan! why haven't i been doing it? i think because i just fell out of the habit for too long when we moved house, and it has taken a while for me to realise it would be good to get back into it!

and quite frankly, i think i need to simplify the meal planning system once more, taking a leaf from all the latest podcast episodes from Thriving in Motherhood. perhaps we need to say Tuesday is simply 'soup' night, etc, and then the whole procedure of planning is easier...

so maybe i'll try this to start and see where we go from there:

breakfasts - i know it's indulgent to have different breakfasts, but it's my favourite meal of the day! and without a happy start, i don't seem to keep going as happily:
  • monday - pancakes/waffles
  • tuesday - smoothie & toast
  • wednesday - porridge
  • thursday - bircher muesli
  • friday - fruit salad
  • saturday - breakfast cookies & smoothie
  • sunday - egg & soldiers

lunches - i now make packed lunches three times a week for my son, so this needs to be factored in to the budget:
  • monday - omelette
  • tuesday - lentil "sausage" roll (batch cooked and frozen)
  • wednesday - sandwiches
  • thursday - avocado toast
  • friday - tortellini/pasta
  • sunday - sunday roast or slow cooked meal

  • monday - soup night
  • tuesday - pasta 
  • wednesday - bean/lentil chilli
  • thursday - potatoes
  • friday - fish
  • sunday - leftovers

gosh, that feels SO good to have written that down! in addition to this, once i have successfully worked out that this format works well, i will also add in 2 or 3 homebaked/home-prepped treats, like muffins or bliss balls. but, i don't want to get too ahead of myself here.

i'm going to keep a record of all my food spending this month, and try to shop at Lidl instead when I can, as well as use up more of my tinned/packaged foods/frozen foods. i'm excited to see how much we can save, as well as how much healthier my son will chose to eat!

thanks for reading today! and pretty please let me know your favourite low budget family recipes in the comments below x

Friday, 3 May 2019

potty training : how we did it

hey all, today i want to share our potty training experience, because to be frank, there isn't enough of this talked about on the internet, or at least any stories where the training takes longer than a couple of days isn't talked about. so this is our very real story of how we accomplished toilet training!


the whole process started late october last year, so over 5 months ago. we bought our 32 month old boy all the "stuff", and we included him in the process of it, so he'd be excited about it. we bought multipacks of little boy pants with cars on, with dinosaurs on and with lions on. we bought far too many pairs probably, but i didn't want to have to wash all the time.

we also went to ikea to buy a toilet step and a toilet seat and a potty. all super cheap and pretty good (though my husband isn't so convinced on the shape and design of their potty, because it leaks through if you're a boy).

and i bought a couple of things off amazon, which have all turned out to be brilliant - some bambino mio washable training pants (UK/US), a very loud timer which he nicknamed 'the poo timer' (UK/US), the Pirate Pete Potty book (UK/US), and a car seat protector (UK/US similar). eventually we also bought a little foldable step too (UK/US) for ease of use when out and about (lifting a very heavy child whilst he is learning to wee is not easy!)

the whole process of purchasing took about 6 weeks, and in this time we were talking about everything, showing how mummy and daddy use the toilet. we also printed off a potty chart (this is the free one we used) and got a bunch of dot stickers (UK/US).

let's start

to begin, i brought the potty downstairs, put it on a plastic mat (UK/US), and then he got half naked and we asked him to sit on it. of course this did require some incentives - we would read the Pirate Pete book, play with the Bible for Kids app on my phone, or watch Chuggington on the iPad.

once he was happy to just sit on it, i explained again that now this is where the wee-wee goes and the poo-poo, and when you need to do one of those then you must do it in there.

i set the timer for 30 minutes and asked him to sit again, although he loved sitting so much he kept sitting anyway! he was really quick to learn to do his wees and poos in the potty, and it was only about 3 days before there were zero accidents around the house. though, in honesty we stayed so much in the room with the plastic mat to avoid ruining our carpets, so he was always really close by to the potty to remember what to do.

BUT there was a major flaw! although after 3 days he could happily use the potty half naked he couldn’t pull up his own pants or trousers yet! somehow in most of the potty training advice people don't usually tell you that it's important for them to be able to pull up their own pants.

so i decided to get a better book on potty training and wait for another few months. it was coming up to the busy Christmas season and we were moving house soon, and they say not to try and do potty training around big life events. the Gina Ford book i bought laid everything out so plainly and showed quite how to move to true toilet independence, which is what i was truly looking for - a great little book if you want to teach your child quickly (UK/US).

round two

so we started again in the long two-week Easter holidays in April, as he started preschool just after we moved house, so we had a limited choice of time, and i felt we'd both feel more confident if we chose a longer two-week option instead of a half-term single week. and i'm glad we did.

the second time round was easier to begin with because he remembered what the potty was for (for the most part), but he was super resistant to “big boy pants” for the first couple of days. but we persisted even when he cried for nappies instead.

we had one day off where we went out to a friends house, it was the third day and i didn’t feel like he was ready yet for a long journey in just pants - we hadn’t yet mastered “mummy i need a wee”, instead he’d just go when he needed because the potty was right there, so we did the whole trip in nappies. it's fine to have a day off if your life needs it. the Gina Ford book says not to resort to the 'easy' option, no nappies, no pull-up nappies either, but for one day his regular nappies was fine. we still haven't worn pull-ups because i agree that they're a confusing and 'easy' option for the child and will make the process longer.

on the 4th day i felt like we were going in a backwards direction, because he made more mistakes and the biggest ones too on that day. he had thought he needed a wee, gone to the bathroom to try, and upon nothing coming out had gone back to his task - but then two minutes later was at the bathroom door with wee all down his legs and a huge trail of wee behind him... he learnt a lot from that, though he was annoyed at the time. that was also the day he did a poo in his pants, which he was more upset about, but again, it only happened once (and thankfully was an easy one to clean).

he was dry for naps quite quickly though which we took as a good sign, after 4 days we even confidently left him in pants for naps. and so we continued on, making sure he had plenty of delicious drinks to keep the systems flowing and getting lots of stickers on his chart. even though it was April i made a lot of smoothie ice lollies, both as incentives and an aid to the process.

on the fifth day he woke with a dry nappy, and he stayed dry until he did the biggest wee on the potty just before breakfast. the rest of the day we had a couple of outings in the car, all dry, though not without worry from me. but i was feeling confident from the signs that morning - he had never held such a big wee for so long! and i felt confident with the car seat protector and the thicker Bambino Mio pants as an additional layer, and then of course a full change of clothes in the car boot, just in case.

we made sure that he knew where the toilets were in each place we went to, so he would know that it was available. and said “make sure to tell mummy or daddy when you need a wee-wee and we will take you”. but actually he didn’t ask, even though we made sure to remind him, but he didn’t wee whilst we were out. and then at the end of the day he did his first no. 2 in the potty all by himself, followed by a big wee he’d been saving up all afternoon. both my husband and i were so happy!

after that day i felt like we'd accomplished the majority of the task!

steps ahead

we had a whole other week of practice, which was sprinkled with only a couple of accidents - mostly where he had struggled to get his pants down in time, even though he had made it as far as the potty. pulling pants up and down is a bit of a tricky one to learn, and although we'd done some practice, it will still take even more time for him to get the hang of it entirely.

it wasn't until the middle of the second week that he felt more comfortable doing a number two on the potty, and then even into the third week until he was genuinely happy to do it regularly. because until the potty training, he had really found the whole process of pooing uncomfortable and embarrassing and had been taking himself off in private somewhere to stand and relieve himself with rather a great deal of effort. that's why we knew we needed to persevere with the potty training!

thankfully Easter fell at the time of his training, so we had little chocolate egg incentives to give him, which worked really well. and the sticker sheet was also one of his favourite things to do!

the next step very recently has been to practice using the step and seat instead of the potty, which is still favoured, but of course less readily available when we go out. and he's become so much better since daddy has been home this week to show him what to do on a regular basis.

we've taken the portable step with us on a few occasions just-in-case, and we've also purchased the Potette Plus (UK/US), which is a foldable toilet seat, so little bottoms can use toilets everywhere - we bought it when we had a last minute trip this last weekend and we knew we'd be away and we'd forgotten the potty. but it worked really well. you can also use it as a standalone with sanitary bags. hmm.

it's lovely to see him wearing proper pants instead of the bulky nappy, and i'm very happy for the savings in costs. it had been a long time since a cloth nappy was possible to use for us - they were all too small for him, and we loved our Bambo Nature ones (see my video on eco biodegradable nappies), but the price of any kind of nappy is very high in comparison with pants.

thankfully we have now done many long car journeys and outings and he's been totally dry, and he hasn't had issues since we've started back at preschool. so hopefully it will mostly be smooth sailing going forwards, and we can get him out of nappies overnight too soon!

i hope this has been a helpful blog post for you, please pin it in some way for future reference if you need to! and leave me a comment letting me know any other resources you found helpful, or any tips you'd not heard before.

otherwise, have a lovely day x

Monday, 11 February 2019

curly haircare products i've tried - a working list : leave-ins, stylers, gels, mousses

Here is a working list of all the leave-in conditioners, creams, curly girl gels, and hair mousses I've tried, and I'll be adding to it any time I try a new one...

Leave-in Conditioners/Creams
  • A’Kin Leave-in Conditioner - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    I loved this conditioner, and I will likely buy and use it again. It isn't too heavy, you need very little product, and it makes a noticeable difference even used just by itself.
  • Boucleme Curl Cream - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    My current fave, although not my HG, this curl cream does the job and is totally reliable under pretty much any gel.
  • Flora & Curl Curl Activating Lotion - (International)
    *****, CG approved
    Light, fresh and smoothing. This is a go-to product to mix with other gels.
  • DevaCurl Wave Maker - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I find this to be so very similar to a lot of the above mentioned products, it is light and yet adds definition. My only hesitancy is with the price and the availability of this product.
  • Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Leave-In Defining Crème - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I really like this creme - it's sort of a cross between a leave-in and a gel, and so I included it in this category so you know not to double layer it. Otherwise it works so beautifully at holding you curls, adding hydration and it's a great one-and-done product.
  • Andalou Naturals Styling Cream - (US/UK)
    ***, not CG friendly (amodimethicone)
    This isn't my favourite, and I found it a little heavy. The ingredients list isn't the best. The A'Kin one is a much better buy for the money.
  • Briogeo Rosarco Milk Leave In Conditioning Spray - (USUK)
    ***, not CG friendly (isohexadecane)
    I like this product, but it's not love, like any other spray conditioner I feel it's good on refresh days but I'm not convinced it actually does anything for my hair.
  • Calia Purifying Leave-in Conditioner Spray - (US/UK)
    **, not CG friendly (cera alba)
    I don't find this does much for my hair.
  • Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie - (US/UK)
    **, CG approved
    The 3rd ingredient is shea butter, so I think this is why this product sits so heavily on my fine hair. I really didn't get on with this, when I use it (I hate throwing things away) I use a teeny tiny pea sized amount mixed with gel.
  • Only Curls Hydrating Curl Creme - (International)
    **, CG approved
    This weighs my hair down, and is therefore unusable because the following day my hair is flat and full of product, however little I seem to use.
  • Giovanni Weightless Moisture Leave-in Conditioner - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    This does nothing much to my hair at all, which is a shame, because I wanted to love it as so many others do. Instead it just seems to add frizz.
  • Flora + Curl Floral Hydration Hair Mist - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    Smells so bad, leaves my hair sticky... perhaps this is intended for much thicker, denser hair types? I cannot figure out who would benefit from this product.


  • Jessicurl Spiralicious Styling Gel - (US/UK)
    *****, not CG friendly (alcohol)
    I really love this gel, and I always get super tight ringlets when I use it.
  • Boucleme Curl Defining Gel - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    I love the way this smells and feels, and it provides just the right amount of hold for me. I will always go back to this.
  • Calia Organic Styling Gel - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    Probably my HG gel, I love this for the price, the quality of the ingredients and how nice my hair looks and feels when I use it.
  • Kinky Curly Curling Custard - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    This is so similar to the Calia gel, in that the ingredients list is super similar, so whichever you get you'll be happy with, lovely tight curls and great longevity. I love this!
  • Flora & Curl Curl Defining Gel - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    Lovely fresh scent, perfect hold and definition.
  • Not Your Mother’s Naturals Blue Sea Kale and Coconut Water Weightless Mousse - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I love this for a very easy and quick drying wash and go style. The curls aren't as defined, but I like it that way, they're looser and more romantic but with lots of volume still. The smell is gorgeous as with the rest of the line. The only trouble is that it really doesn't keep any hold to the second day, meaning a completely new wash or new product application.
  • Bounce Curl Light Creme Gel - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I really love the longevity I get with this one, it keeps the curl structure overnight better than any of the other gels I've tried. However, it can be easy to add too much, you only need a tiny amount, and it isn't always friendly with leave-in cream products.
  • Biotera Ultra Gentle Clean Gel - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I like this one for refresh days - it's really light and therefore will work better in some climates than others, and in certain seasons. This is a really reasonably priced product as well, and layers brilliantly.
  • Giovanni L.A. Natural Styling Gel, Strong Hold - (US/UK) & Giovanni Natural Mousse Hair Styling Foam - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    These products only seem to work well enough when used together, otherwise apart they don't seem to do enough. The scent isn't great, but they sure do provide some hold and definition, without the need for a refresh.
  • Ecoslay Orange Marmalade Flax Seed and Aloe Curl Definer - (US/UK)
    **, CG approved
    This trendy creamy gel has to be stored in the fridge. That's its first downfall for me. I mean I get the reason why (it's ingredients are super pure), but it get's easily forgotten about in there. Second, it's too moisturising for my hair, and leaves it frizzy without much definition.
  • Only Curls Enhancing Curl Gel - (International)
    **, CG approved
    This needs the Curl Creme from the same range to work well, but it still leaves my hair too weighed down. It doesn't have much hold, it's more of a moisturising product. Perhaps better for thicker hair.
  • Aussie Instant Freeze Gel - (US/UK)
    **, CG approved
    This is an example of an 'approved' product that actually just isn't very good for your hair. It does have a strong hold, but easily builds up, and leaves my hair drier after I wash it out. It's super cheap for a reason folks.

Still waiting for review:
 - Innersense I Create Lift Volumizing Foam

It takes a long time for me to review, because it takes a long time for me to test each product fully, so I thank you for your patience.

Thanks for reading x

curly haircare products i've tried - a working list : treatments, oils & deep conditioners

Here is a working list of all the treatments, oils, & deep conditioners I've tried, and I'll be adding to it any time I try a new one...

Treatments/Deep Conditioners

  • Briogeo Don’t Despair Repair Deep Conditioning Mask - (US/UK)
    *****, not CG friendly (isododecane - form of wax that may cause buildup)
    My absolute HG deep conditioner, always leaves my hair feeling moisturised and cared for. I think it helps the curl pattern.
  • Rice Water Protein Treatment DIY - see my video for full instructions
    *****, CG approved
    A great way to add structure back into your hair, and the price to make it is so low! I love to do this at least once a month these days, and it always gives my curls extra bounce.
  • Jessicurl Deep Conditioner - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    I like this blended with rice water to make a moisturising protein treatment for my hair. Otherwise, all by itself, it's a little too heavy for my hair type.
  • Boucleme Intensive Moisture Treatment - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    The most mega list of ingredients, the nastiest smell. Also doesn't seem to hydrate my curls?!
  • The Innate Life Herbal Hair Mask - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    I required so much of the bottle to saturate my hair, as the consistency is very thin without much slip at all. Therefore, cost per use is extremely high. I also felt that it didn't make much different to my hair, other than adding shine.

Oils & Scalp Treatments
  • The Innate Life Rose Hair Elixir - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    My HG hair oil, for refreshing, for eliminating frizz, for providing shine, for scrunching out the crunch. It smells divine too.
  • Righteous Roots Hair RX - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    The perfect oil for both scalp massage, adding shine, and also an all-over hot oil treatment - I love this stuff, and I see it staying in my routine for a long long time.
  • Living Libations Scalp Tonic - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    This is a great oil for nourishing your scalp, goes in easily, washes out easily and leaves your scalp feeling fresh.
  • Nurturing Soul Nourishing Herbal Hair Oil - (International)
    ****, CG approved
    This gorgeous smelling oil, comes in cute packaging, and is handmade in small batches in the UK. I love this for my scalp and it's got fab ingredients for scalp condition and hair growth. I only use a couple of drops of this and give it a really good massage in before a brush out.
  • Flora & Curl Superfruit Hair Oil - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    Gorgeous chocolate-y scent, rich and moisturising. Perfect for winter, but can easily add too much weight to my hair.
  • Forest & Shore Hallelujah Hair Oil - (US n/a /UK) *gifted
    **, CG approved
    Lovely scent, natural product. The packaging is also nice, and has a great pipette dropper to make it easy to get just a small amount. I just don't find this does much to my hair, and it seems to break me out a little around the nape of my neck, so perhaps the choice of oils is simply too heavy to be absorbed?
  • Evolve Beauty Nourishing Hair Elixir - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    It's started to refer to itself on the website now as a 'serum', and that's much more accurate. This oil sits on top of the hair providing shine for a short while but not penetrating the shaft.
  • The Innate Life Scalp Treatment - (US/UK)
    *, not CG friendly (cera alba)
    I expected so much more from this, and perhaps it just didn't suit my hair/scalp type? It was difficult to apply, difficult to wash out and made very little noticeable difference.

curly haircare products i've tried - a working list : shampoo & conditioner

someone on Instagram asked if i had a working document of products i’ve tried and my thoughts on them. so, today i thought i’d start it, for you to reference whenever you like.

if you’ve got similar hair to me then you’ll know that products can be hit or miss, and that a lot of them can weigh it down or make it feel greasy.

if you don't know what type of hair you have, then check out my YouTube video about figuring out my hair porosity, density, thickness and curl type, because all of these play a factor in which types of products work for your hair - and if you're similar to me then you'll find this list super useful, and i hope you save it somewhere so you can keep it as a reference guide (i'd also love for you to recommend products that might work in the comments below!).

i've also added links to where you can pick them up, just to make it a bit more convenient for you to find the exact thing i've tried. some of these are affiliate links, which means they throw me a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to yourself, and that enables me to continue making content for you.

for each product, i'll give it a star rating, tell you if it's 100% Curly Girl approved (i've put it through, and also give you my opinion + thoughts based on using it with my hair type. i've ordered them by my most favourite to my least favourite, so if you want to know my HG, you'll find it at the top of each list!

ps. HG stands for 'Holy Grail', and I've listed which my current top HG products are in the mini reviews ;)

below you'll find my favourite and least favourite shampoos and conditioners, i've now separated (because it was getting SO long) the other products into new pages:
  • Calia Purifying Shampoo - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    Cleanses beautifully, lovely ingredients and fab brand, my HG shampoo - a little pricey but worth the investment, also a little hard to source in the UK (I get it shipped from the continent).
  • Rye Flour Hair Wash - see my Youtube video for rye flour shampoo tutorial
    *****, CG approved
    I love this easy-to-make, DIY natural hair wash, made simply out of rye flour and water. It gets my hair as clean as a standard shampoo but at a fraction of the cost, plus it's zero waste.
  • Not Your Mother's Naturals (NYM) Blue Sea Kale & Coconut Water Shampoo - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    I love how this doesn't strip the hair, but yet gets it feeling really clean. The smell is divine too. It lathers great, much like a conventional shampoo, and adds great shine.
  • Bentley Organic HydraVitality Shampoo - (US/UK)
    *****, not CG friendly (sodium coco-sulfate, alcohol)
    This is a cheaper option for those who still want a 'natural' brand - it cleanses well, lathers a good amount, and doesn't leave a residue at all. My hair loves it. The only problem is that the pump dispenser doesn't work perfectly.
  • Shea Moisture Black Castor Strengthen & Restore Shampoo - (US/UK)
    *****, not CG friendly (hydrolyzed vegetable protein pg-propyl silanetriol - a silicone)
    This works great for my hair, and is so easy to find around the globe. The silicone included is one that is a protein and silicone blend that helps fortify and strengthen the bonds in the hair - so if you don't mind silicones (and your hair doesn't) then this is a great one.
  • Only Curls All Curl Cleanser - (International)
    *****, CG approved
    This is a fab cleanser, not cheap, but it cleans without stripping the hair, and doesn't leave any frizz.
  • Childs Farm Strawberry & Mint Sensitive Shampoo - (US/UK)
    ****, not CG friendly (sodium coco-sulfate, alcohol)
    I find this shampoo works beautifully on my hair as a clarifying shampoo (which I use most wash days tbh), but it got demoted for its ingredients list - it will likely dry my hair over time.
  • Beauty Kubes Shampoo for Normal to Dry Hair - (US/UK)
    ****, probably CG friendly (sodium cocoyl glutamate)
    I actually love these shampoo cubes for washing my hair. They're light and portable, easy to use and plastic free.
  • Boucleme Curl Cleanser - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    I don't find this washes deeply enough, but it's certainly better than the below Boucleme alternative. High cost-per-use.
  • Rhassoul Clay - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    I did a video with my brother and niece where we washed our curly hair with just plain clay - one of the best things to remove product build up and give some definition to your curls, plus it absorbs oils really beautifully afterwards. But it's hard to use and can be drying for the hair.
  • Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Shampoo - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    Left a residue that meant that my hair needed to be washed more regularly, but looked great on wash day.
  • As I Am Coconut CoWash - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    When I used to straighten my hair I really loved this cowash, but now I'm curly I actually really don't love it. I find it doesn't clean well, sits heavy on my hair and is a bit too chemical smelling for me.
  • Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo - (US/UK)
    **, CG approved
    I've also tried the 50/50 Balancing Shampoo, and I regret to say they're similarly bad, although the smell of the Tea Tree is much better. They leave hair frizzy, and none of us curly girls want that.
  • Boucleme Hydrating Hair Cleanser - (US/UK)
    ** , CG approved
    Did not cleanse my hair well at all, would perhaps work for someone who doesn't use much product or who has very fine hair, or who has the patience to scrub it into their roots for 5 whole minutes.
  • Tabitha James Kraan Hair Cleanser - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    The most expensive hair cleanser I've tried, and I really didn't think it was worth the pricetag (thankfully I only bought a trial size). It says 'It's not a shampoo' on the website, and it's right that it doesn't lather, but it also doesn't really clean...
  • Not Your Mother’s Naturals (NYM) Blue Sea Kale and Coconut Water Conditioner - (US/UK)
    *****, CG approved
    This is my new fave, because it's reasonably priced, has lots of slip, smells amazing, and it's only flaw is that the pump dispenser isn't that great. I love this conditioner.
  • Only Curls All Curl Conditioner - (International)
    *****, CG approved
    This conditioner doesn't weigh down hair, instead it super hydrates the hair. It's only downside is the price tag.
  • Inecto Naturals Coconut Conditioner - (US/UK)
    ****, not CG friendly (isopropyl alcohol)
    Demoted for it's one drying alcohol ingredient, but my hair seems to love it anyway and this is also the cheapest conditioner on the list. It's also my HG.
  • Tresemme Botanique Nourish & Replenish Conditioner - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    I used this in my recent 'Trying Curly Susie' routine' video, as I probably wouldn't have reached for it otherwise. But it's a lovely conditioner, lots of slip, and washes out without leaving residue. You can't get much better for the price (and Susie agrees with me).
  • Bentley Organic HydraVitality Conditioner - (US/UK)
    ****, CG approved
    This conditioner doesn't have huge slip, but always makes my curls look healthy and shiny anyway.
  • Boucleme Curl Conditioner - (US/UK)
    ***, CG approved
    I like this product, but I don't love it. It's ok, but it's a little bit heavy. I wanted more from it for the price that I paid.
  • Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Conditioner - (US/UK)
    **, CG approved
    Not as bad as their 50/50 Conditioner in terms of the smell, but literally doesn't seem to do a thing for your hair - no hydration, no moisture, no definition. 
  • Bar None Hydrating Conditioner Bar - (US)
    **, CG approved
    I was supposed to love this bar, it's zero waste and easy to travel with. BUT, it just doesn't do anything for my hair but weigh it down. It is possible to use it though, that's why I gave it two stars, because if you're desperate for a bar conditioner, this does work better than some others, and at least it's easy enough to use.
  • Tabitha James Kraan 4 in 1 Conditioner - (US/UK)
    **, CG approved
    I really found this conditioner had no slip, and I needed a lot of product to coat my hair. It also left a residue on my hair.
  • Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl & Shine Conditioner - (US/UK)
    *, CG approved
    Leaves too much product residue in my hair, so it gets weighed down easily. Not great for fine hair.

things i've got sat on my shelf waiting to review:
  • Noughty Wave Hello Curl Shampoo & Conditioner
If you'd like to see more in-depth reviews and routines, please hop on over to my YouTube channel and subscribe.

Please feel free to make suggestions for other products I should try! The curly girl community on the web is INCREDIBLE and there are so many products T would never have found if it weren't for the recommendations of other people, so please let me know your favourites below…

Otherwise, have a lovely day and thank you for reading x

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

combatting the winter blues

hello lovely reader, i hope your day is going well so far, and if it isn't i hope you find something to cheer it up.

today i'm going to talk about my struggle against the winter blues, which is something i've been wrestling with for many many years now. i'm loathe to say that i'm 'cured' because it's more like i 'manage' it, and if i follow just these couple of pieces of advice then i'm pretty much ok.

so let's start this story back in 2014, i'd been married a couple of years and my husband noticed distinctly that in the winter months i was a different person. i don't remember exactly what it was about these times, whether i was more prone to anger, would isolate myself more, was just a lot more depressive? but, to this day, he's always a little bit worried about how i'll cope as the days draw in. and my mother agrees, she also noticed this tendency in me (i'm pretty sure that's why she got a dog).

the other part of the puzzle was that my joints get particularly bad during the winter months - i always joked to myself that i needed to 'winter in Spain on doctor's order' like they would've done a century ago.

so, i went to see a rheumatologist about my joints a couple of years ago, and whilst she diagnosed me with 'insulin arthralgia', as a symptom of my Type 1 Diabetes, she also found out that my Vitamin D levels were extremely low. so, i was put on 10,000 iu's a day for a whole week to boost myself back up to normal, and then told i would need a daily dose for ever.

so, this is truly my BEST piece of advice for anyone suffering with the winter blues: get your Vitamin D levels checked, and/or start taking a Vitamin D supplement.

i have previously done an at-home test, called Thriva, which i would recommend to anyone. their baseline test is not cheap, but it will test cholesterol, liver function, iron, vitamin d and vitamin b12. i did this to check that my regular dose of vitamin d spray was working as i expected.

the vitamin d spray that i use now is a 3,000iu spray from BetterYou (UK/US) - it's not heaps expensive, but does seem to work and it's a much higher dose than a lot of the others. it tastes good too! if you haven't been diagnosed with a deficiency then i would recommend the Junior spray which is the UK government recommendation of 400ius (UK/US), or the 1,000ius is another lower dose option (UK/US).

i don't supplement hugely anymore in other areas, i try to get most of what i need from whole foods. but it's been medically proven that anyone living in the northern parts of the world need a little Vitamin D supplementation to keep them strong (see NHS, and BBC) during the winter months.

the other thing that i've been trying to do so far this year is to get outside, which you'll know if you read my last post about my 2019 intentions. even when it's super cold, we dress appropriately and we go outside. even for just a quick 30 minute walk around the block. it's important to have that regular practice throughout the year, because when the sunshine comes in the summer you'll want to get out in the sun as much as you can in good daylight hours to top up your vitamin d levels to a high level to last longer into the winter.

there's a great app called 'dminder' and it can tell you what the UV ratings are in your area at any moment in time, and can tell you when you'll next be able to get Vitamin D from the sun (45 days from today!!), as well as during the day how long you need to spend in the sun to get the amount you need that day / before you catch a sunburn. it's a fab free app!

plus the fresh air is also so important for your wellbeing, and the sunlight is great for helping set your circadian rhythms.

so those are my two best pieces of advice for anyone suffering from the winter blues:
 - get tested for Vitamin D deficiency and/or take Vitamin D supplements
 - get outside more! use the dminder app to get as much sun exposure as is safe.

another couple of extra things which i find help:
 - booking a holiday in the middle of winter, topping up those Vitamin D levels in a sunny foreign place will make a huge different to your levels through the rest of winter - however this isn't financially viable for everyone. we did this one year and it was a very happy year!
 - making sure that your lighting is warm and hygge (cosy). get some candles, light a fire, lay the lights low - follow the advice of wise Scandinavians who only have a couple of hours of light in the day. keeping things cosy helps tremendously.
 - i have never tried (but friends of mine have) a SAD lamp, but i will likely get one in years to come, because they're raved about.
 - get a dog if you struggle with the incentive to get outside!
 - eat healthily, don't let your health be compromised in other ways because you're feeling down. i know to be extra cautious in the winter months of incorporating veggies and fruit in reasonable quantities, and in nice warming, satisfying, wintery ways. and drink lots of herbal tea!

i hope this post is helpful! i'd love if you would share your tips, experience and advice in the comments below.

please note: i am not a doctor, and therefore none of this should be considered medical advice. this is not sponsored in any way.