All posts by Arlene Copeland

8 Tips to Make Life Easier with a New Baby

Tips to Make Life Easier with a New Baby? Do they exist? We know from experience that everyone is different. Every baby is different. What works for some may not work for others. So take this advice for what it’s worth and do what is comfortable for you and your baby.

  1. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

If someone says to you, “If there’s anything I can do, just let me know” then they have literally asked for it. Let them help. Get into the habit of taking people at their word and accept their offers of assistance. If they meant it, they will be glad to give you a hand. If they didn’t then they will learn a valuable lesson about offering! Things that seem impossible to you, like just nipping to the shop for some essentials, are not a huge hassle for someone coming to visit. Equally, when someone visits and wants to hold your new-born, take the opportunity to get something done. Chat while you fold laundry or even better, escape for a half-hour snooze while they gaze adoringly at the little one. Chances are, they won’t even notice.

  1. Be Realistic

You really don’t have to have the ironing done. Your home doesn’t have to look like a show-house. Clothes can have some baby sick on them. Your hair doesn’t have to be straightened or curled or even washed every day. When things threaten to overwhelm you, cut things down so that the priorities are covered – baby is healthy and happy, you are healthy and happy and there is enough clean laundry and food to keep you clothed and fed. Everything else is a bonus.

On the days when you manage to get lots done, celebrate it but don’t use it as a stick to beat yourself with when you have a day when nothing constructive gets done. Every day comes with new challenges.  Just because you look around you at the end of it and the house looks the same or you get to midnight and realise you still haven’t had your shower, remember the things you did get done, even if the only thing you can think of is the fact that you kept both yourself and the baby alive. Some days, that is enough.

  1. Life Hack

If there is an easier way to do things, then take that shortcut! Make things simpler wherever you can. This might mean doing things differently for a while. Making a few sacrifices in order to keep your sanity just makes sense. Stop doing unnecessary chores. Organise your nappy changing area for maximum efficiency. Keep a stash of essential baby clothes in the living room to save running upstairs for things Shop online. Download baby apps that tell you when you last fed or changed. Find shortcuts and then use them!

  1. Buy in Bulk.

Buy in bulk – especially when it comes to baby essentials. Those giant packs of nappies and boxes of baby wipes? Those aren’t just for people with triplets and those who live miles from the nearest shop; once you actually get them through the checkout and wrestle them into the boot of the car; they are actually incredibly handy and often better value than buying multiple small packs.

Even better, as long as you meet the minimum charge for delivery, place a supermarket order for delivery that consists of everything you will need for a month or two; nappies, wipes, nappy cream, toiletries, cotton wool, cotton buds, colic drops, chocolate and nice soft drinks for middle of the night feeds. Knowing you have an impressive stash of bum cream, a stack of nappies that the local day-care nursery would be proud of and enough wet wipes to last until baby is 18 feels really great.

  1. Sleep When They Do

I know from experience that this is clearly not always possible, but it’s worth trying.

It’s one of those things that people say and you don’t really pay any attention to but honestly, this is the one crucial piece of advice that new parents should follow. If you sleep, you can handle everything else. If you don’t sleep, you might get the dishwasher loaded but you will find it harder to remember things, harder to enjoy things, harder to cope with the unexpected.

The early days pass so quickly; when baby goes down for a nap, curl up on the sofa or go to bed for a while. You might not sleep your best sleep and it might not last long, but making a deposit in your sleep bank prepares you for life in a way that nothing else can quite match.

  1. Eat Easy

Don’t forget to eat, and make cooking and eating as easy as possible. If you cook, make enough for double portions and freeze it for another day. Batch cooking is an easy and effective way to have homemade meals without the fuss and you will be so glad that you stowed away a healthy dinner when you have had a long, draining day. The best way to eat is to keep it simple – buy a selection of salads from a local deli and nibble throughout the day, have your groceries delivered, ask your family or friends to bring you food instead of flowers and endless bay clothes. Search out healthy option takeaways and allow yourself the occasional not-so-healthy takeaway. Food should not be stressful; during the new-born phase, you simply need to eat regularly, so don’t sweat the details.

  1. Warmth and Security

Ok, this is an actual baby-care tip but a lot of it will apply to tired, anxious parents as well. We all want to feel warm and secure. Swaddling your baby (special swaddling blankets are available and always ask for advice from your health visitor or midwife on swaddling) can make them feel the security and warmth they enjoyed before birth.

If you have one of those little ones that is happy and gorgeous when held but turns into a screaming, wriggling nightmare as soon as you put them down, then using a swaddling blanket, baby sleeping bag (if your baby is big enough – always check the labels) or warming up the Moses basket, cradle or cot before putting them down, can all make a huge difference.

A warm water bottle placed into the cot and removed just before you put baby down can save you hours of frustration. On a side note, lack of sleep, hormone changes and stress can all make you feel chilly – wrap yourself up too and enjoy some comfort.

  1. Say “NO”

“I’m tired, my baby is unsettled, my house is a mess, I need a shower and I need to eat… my friend wants to visit… how do I say no?” This is a question that plagues many parents of new-born babies in those early days (and sometimes they’re 3 and you’re still trying to fob off visitors). The answer is devastatingly simple. Say… no. You don’t have to explain yourself.

No-one is entitled to visit you or spend time with your baby unless it suits you. You will soon find that your list of friends, family and acquaintances divides itself up into 3 groups – those you actually reach out to and call to come and help when everything is a total mess, those you don’t mind seeing you when you aren’t at your best (but you clear the pile of laundry off the sofa for them and wash your hair before they arrive) and those you need a few hours (or days) to prepare for.

That’s ok, unless they migrate into one of the other two groups, they are going to have to wait. Don’t feel guilty. Your baby, your home; your rules.

Toddler Development 19 to 24 Months

After the 18 month milestone, it may be hard to keep track of your little one simply because at this stage they are moving around so much! It is an exciting time; your baby is now a toddler and the toddler stage is lots of fun as well as lots of work. Enjoy it, as it flies by, and make the most of the fact that you can now communicate with your baby in a much more real and effective way.

Physical Development

While your little one may love to run, they may not be so good at stopping or changing direction! They will be enjoying independence in new and exciting ways; feeding themselves with a spoon at 19 months and moving on to a fork in the following months, dexterity improves with every month making it easier for them to play and move around. As they practice, they will improve further and you will see major developments in how they move themselves and objects. Ride-on toys will become a new favourite as they learn to propel themselves forward in new ways.

Speech Development

Your little one may be a real chatterbox by this stage, or they may reserve their chatter for certain people. Either way, by the time they are 2 years old they will have amassed a vocabulary of several hundred words. They will be able to name many of the things around them and describe things well. Sentences will develop to include more words and you may notice that your child is jabbering and chattering to themselves, singing rhymes and songs (perhaps with their own unique lyrics!) and loves to mimic new words and sounds.

Emotional Development

Between the ages of 18 months and 2 years, your toddler is developing a lot on an emotional level. This has its perks and its tough times. On the plus side your child is much more able to express how they feel and show you affection, but they aren’t completely able to cope with all their emotions and this is the root of the toddler tantrum.

Social Development

Your toddler is developing socially and will go from being intensely inquisitive to acting very shy. They may also go from enjoying playing alongside other children to being aggressive or possessive over toys. This might all seem very difficult to deal with but it all comes down to your child’s rapidly developing sense of self and their sudden burst of social development.

This can feel like a difficult time, as well as a rewarding one. Teach your child from this early age how to interact socially and how to cope with emotions and you will be setting them up with important coping skills that they will carry into later life. Remember that they are still too young to really understand hard and fast rules and regulations and may forget instructions quite easily so they need you to be patient and keep gently reminding them of how to behave. Enjoy this time by playing with them and making full use of their natural inquisitiveness to encourage them to learn.

The HSE have more information on their ‘Caring for your Baby and Child’ page

Encouraging Toddlers to Talk

Whether your child chatters away to themselves in a language only they understand, or whether they are the quiet type and save their words for the rarest of occasions, there are times when every parent wonders about their child’s speech development.

While checking guidelines as to how the speech should be developing at each stage and trying to monitor your child’s vocabulary might help you gain a better idea of where you child is developmentally, it is much more useful (and enjoyable) to simply make the most of some clever ideas on helping your toddler to communicate. Most children will talk in their own time, but if you have a reason to believe that your child is lagging behind and you are concerned, then speak to your health visitor or doctor who can investigate or give you peace of mind.

Describe, Describe, Describe

One of the best ways you can get your child talking and improve their vocabulary is to embark on a journey of description! So if you are walking through town, instead of pointing out a car or bus, ask your toddler if they can see the blue car, or tell them to look at the big green bus. By adding an adjective, you are subtly increasing your child’s vocabulary and teaching them important new ideas.

Ask Questions

Asking your toddler questions is a great way to get them chatting and it is easy to get them using new words using questions as a technique. This means talking about how you feel about something in a way that makes new words clear and communicating meaning to the child before asking what they think. So for example, tell your toddler, ?I really like sitting on the nice soft grass. The grass is lovely to sit on because it is soft?? then ask, ?Where do you like to sit?? or ?How does this grass feel??


Your toddler will be much more inclined to talk when they see you reacting positively to what they have to say. So listen. It sounds obvious, but it can be easy to tune out and not really take in what your little one is saying, especially if much of it sounds like nonsense. Listen, try to understand and then respond. It really helps if, instead of correcting a poorly pronounced word, you repeat the phrase with the correct sounds. So for example, if your child says ?The gog says woof?, instead of telling them that they have said it wrong, simply repeat the phrase correctly, ?Yes, the DOG says woof!?

RELATED: Helping Toddlers Learn through Play


Reading to your child is one of the best ways to teach them about intonation and sentence structure as well as increasing the vocabulary. Introduce new books and stories regularly and ask your child questions about what you have read. ?Do? the voices, add in your own details and enjoy the story ? not only will you be setting them up for life with a love of books, you will also be bonding with your child and helping them develop a rich sense of language.

Using Real Words

Most of us are ‘guilty’ of using baby talk in the course of talking to our child. In my opinion there’s nothing wrong with baby talk – in small doses! Speak naturally to your child and they will respond using ‘real words’. Anyway it’s probably inevitable that they will be using text speak a lot at some point in the future!

Slow Down

It’s not a race. If you’re used to speaking like the tongue-twister twins from Bosco, then there’s a good chance your child won’t pick up a lot of what you’re saying. It’s best to slow your speech down so he can understand everything you are saying. there’s a chance that he will be focusing intently on your lips as you speak and speaking too fast may hinder his understanding.

Above all, be patient and enjoy all the new words your little one will be surprising you with.

What If Babies Could Text?

What text message do you send or receive most?

For me, it’s probably something like, ‘Running late, be there soon! Sorry xx’. A quick glance through my messages and I see the same old things pop up again and again. I have a friend I text to rant about whatever is annoying me, a friend I am always trying to arrange a coffee with but it never seems to happen (I’m busy, she is busy, last minute disasters keep happening), my Mum who gets a running commentary of what the kids are doing (interspersed with pleas for her babysitting services), then there are the ongoing shopping lists and messages about where the remote control is and what time football practice starts to my husband (with the odd romantic message and more than one ‘sorry for being a bitch this morning xx’).

Anyway, it all got me thinking, my son loves to send his dad texts with little emoticons or “I luf u” messages, but what about the newest addition to the family? What would our babies text?

The Not-So-Subtle Cry for Help Text

Do you have a friend who sends texts after a bad day that are impossible not to reply to “Hi. Just had the worst day of my life, but anyway, how are you” then you get drawn into the minutiae of their lives and spend half the night trying to analyse their love life? Imagine if babies had yet another way to demand our attention? mine would text ‘Starving. H8 porridge. Weird tummy pain, wish someone would pick me up but doubt it :(‘

The Rescue-Me Text

There are some texts you can’t ignore. Like the text from a friend on a date who needs you to urgently ring her and call her away to an emergency. Yeah, I thought this only happened on TV too – until I got a text asking me to do precisely this. I called to say I needed her to come help me choose some socks and then listened while she tried to make out like I was requesting her assistance in some matter of life and death. Texting could be the ideal way to reach out to lovely nannies and doting grandads and confirm their suspicions that Mum and Dad are just not doing things the way she would. ‘Hi Nanny, it’s Nanny’s Special Little Man here. Have you seen Mum or Dad? They’ve left me to Cry It Out. It’s been a while’

The Passive-Aggressive Text

When a text makes it much easier to NOT say what you mean, while at the same time letting the person know exactly how you feel; I have to admit, I do occasionally (or regularly) allow myself a passive aggressive text, even thought I know it’s the fastest way to prolong an argument and make yourself look like a huffy child. The best example of a passive aggressive text is when you type a big long message and you get one letter in response, ‘K’. Now, I know my baby. She is absolutely partial to a huff (no idea where she gets it from) and I can just picture the texts.

Me: So sorry I had to take that remote control off you earlier. It’s just you were hitting yourself on the head with it and it was hurting. Also, you were changing channels and we were trying to watch the news. Mummy xx

Baby: k

Me: I will get you your own little toy remote control that will light up and play nursery rhymes and you can play with it all the time! Xx

Baby: k

Me: love you snuggles xxxxxxxx


The Text Fail

My friend put a lot of energy into writing a text describing just how annoying her father-in-law is, describing what exactly he had said that day to drive her mad and how much she wished he would emigrate (taking his yappy dog and boring wife with him, if you want specifics). She was thinking so intently about her father-in-law’s particular flavour of crazy that she fired off the text to his number instead of to me, the friend who appreciates the witty texts and knows she doesn’t really mean it. It’s enough to bring me out in a cold sweat just thinking about it. This could be disastrous if our babies could text.

Me: What a day! Why did we ever think we should have children? What made us think we were equipped for this? I’m pretty sure the Health visitor wrote our names on a list today. I’m running away.

Baby: MUMMY?

Me: Sorry chicken, wrong number!


Autocorrect Fails

Then there’s the autocorrect when your phone decides it knows what you want to say and you end up talking about how ship your day at work was. Or, like me, texting your husband to see how much money we have left and being completely baffled when he responds with ‘half a jar’.

Baby: Oh Mummy, feel my happy!

Me: Aw, I’m so glad you’re happy darling! xx

Baby: ‘-‘*nappy

Me: on my way

The Excuse Text

It’s just so much easier to explain things (or make excuses) with a text message, especially when the recipient is likely to question your flimsy explanations. I am very guilty of this. Instead of just calling and saying ‘Hi, look I’m sorry, I’m really bad at organising my life and I forgot about our coffee but if you give me an hour I will be there and buy lunch, I rush to get ready and before I even leave the house I text ‘be there in 10, running late, bloody traffic’ and then arrive 20 minutes late and totally stressed. My baby couldn’t care less about making excuses for her behaviour but if she could… ‘Hey. Soz. Woke up early. Bloody birdsong, right? I know its 4.30 but any chance of a boob? Xx

UPDATE – During the writing of this my 6-year-old has asked for a mobile phone. I couldn’t even present him with any of the many rational reasons I have for saying no, I just burst out laughing in his poor, hopeful face. He says he’s asking Santa for one. I told him to Go Ahead.

5 Great Things about Being a Tired, Tired Mum

The tired, tired days aren’t over. I’m still a tired, tired Mum. Although my baby occasionally sleeps, she makes up for this by running around furiously all day like a trouble-seeking missile. So, if I ever had the time to work it out, I would probably find that my overall energy expenditure is much higher than the little bit of extra sleep I get makes up for. Don’t worry folks, I am doing my best to redress the balance using copious quantities of chocolate.

Maybe it’s because I am through the fog of the new-born days, or maybe I am trying to fool myself into thinking I can cope with the endless tiredness, but I am actually starting to see some benefits in being a tired, tired mum.

Here are my unexpectedly fab things that come with being a tired, tired Mum.


1. People offer to do my ironing.

With my first baby, when people said, “Give me a call and I’ll come around and help you with the housework/dinner/baby stuff”, I never really considered taking up the offer. I just thought it was something that people said to be kind and helpful. I figured my husband and I could cope just fine with a little help from my parents. We had it covered.

However, babies who don’t sleep make you view things differently. Having an older child and a non-sleeping baby made me suddenly aware of offers to help like I never had been before. So, when a friend offered to help and said she just loves doing ironing, I almost bit her hand off. She loves ironing because she only has her own, size 6, designer things to quickly press with her super-dooper iron.

An hour of wrestling millions of school uniforms and about a ton of extremely frilly baby girl dresses using my ancient iron, and she was reconsidering her love of ironing. And her desire to have children at some point in the future. And our friendship. But hey, I got my ironing done and someday soon, I’m going to put it all away.


2. I have become a Competitive Tired Person.

When I meet other tired, tired Mums, a strange competition ensues. We each talk about how little sleep we have had, how incredibly demanding our families have been and how insanely long our to-do lists are. It goes like this;

“I got 2 hours sleep last night before little Alfie woke up, and I have to go do a big grocery shop this afternoon. I’m so tired”

“Two hours?! You are lucky! I can’t remember the last time I got an hour’s unbroken sleep. And I have to give a presentation at work this afternoon, after I do the shopping”

“I haven’t slept in 2 years, I have to do the shopping this afternoon, take the kids to the dentist, worm the dog, make three dozen cupcakes and work a 12-hour night shift while knitting a blanket for orphaned bunnies”

You get the idea; it’s sad, and it’s embarrassing, but it’s the only sport we get.


3. I can treat myself

A fancy coffee, a sneaky cake, a fizzy drink; even though you don’t strictly need the extra calories, and the sugar rush is only good for a little while and makes you feel worse later, it’s still one of the greatest perks of not sleeping that you consider a little treat to be fair game. Ok, it doesn’t do my waistline any good, and I have to swap for a banana when the kids are paying attention (or begging me for sweets), but sometimes, it gets me through the day in a way that a handful of nuts just won’t.

People make it difficult to resist. They say things like, “oh you look so tired, let’s grab a coffee and a bite to eat and have a chat”, and before you know it you have eaten your body weight in carrot cake and had enough coffee, tea or fancy herbal stuff (because drinking herbal tea means you are allowed to eat more cake; that’s an official rule) to ensure you are awake all night because you need to pee, never mind how the baby sleeps.


4. It’s my one great excuse.

No matter what is going on in your day or in your life, what you have done or forgotten to do, how you look or even what your mood is like, being a tired, tired Mum buys you a certain amount of leeway with other people, especially if they have kids and always if they have experience of a non-sleeper themselves.

My brain cannot hold onto things, like when I forgot to buy nappies or when I forgot what day it was (every day since baby number 2 was born), to big forgotten things like forgetting to pick my Granny up (she was fine, she’s fitter than I am, to be honest), forgetting to send lunch to school (he was fine, they fed him) or forgetting how old my baby is (she was born in the summer, not that last one, the one before it, I think). But in each case, I have the excuse that I NEVER sleep. This happened in the supermarket yesterday when I was half way out the door with about 6 bags of groceries.

“Excuse me, you have forgotten to pay for your items”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I went to bed at 2am and got up at 4am”

“No problem, don’t worry, gosh you must be tired!”

It’s the same with how you look; master of the messy bun or going to school with pyjamas under your coat, who is going to question your style if you announce that you have been up since 5am watching Peppa Pig.

People are either understanding of your plight, or so frightened by your lack of grooming and odd, manically smiling demeanour, that they simply let you do whatever you want. Either way it works out fine.


5. I have learned to relax a little

I don’t panic now if my older child hasn’t done his reading homework. I know that he will catch up and that it isn’t the end of the world. I don’t freak out if the housework isn’t done. That’s not quite accurate; I don’t even notice if the housework isn’t done. I don’t compare myself to other Mums just as much as I used to because maybe they have sleeping babies, or maybe they don’t, but we all have our own struggles to get on with and our own problems to manage.

Mine is being a tired, tired Mum, but that isn’t the worst thing to be. Even being a tired, tired Mum with no idea what day it is, a Granny who is wandering around looking for you and a friend who is systematically force-feeding you cake to avoid you bursting into tears; none of it is quite as bad as it looked a little while ago. Actually, I think things are going to get better pretty soon. In fact, around about bedtime, things should be just fine. For an hour.