Parenting over the centuries

Parenting is an exciting journey. A fun one, a tough one and an incredibly rewarding one, but has parenting always been the way it is today? Of course not, but unfortunately there’s no one around to tell us how parenting changed when infant formula was invented in 1867 or the first disposable nappy came out in 1947.

Did things get easier or did the unknown make parents question themselves and their skills? Has sending your child to kindergarten changed the way mothers saw themselves. New inventions have changed parenthood and will continue to do so. They might make certain jobs easier, but they will never take from us the responsibility of raising loving and caring children and that’s what makes parenting one of the scariest but also one of the best jobs in the world.

If you want to see the inventions and innovations parents faced over the last couple of centuries, check out the infographic below. It makes for an interesting read:

The evolution of parenthood timeline

Parenthood timeline Infographic by benenden health

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Are pets just for kids?

when is a child old enough for a petThe numerous experiences kids can gain from a household pet can be crucial to development. From learning to care and think about another living creature to gaining a loving companion; pets and kids go hand in hand but it would be a mistake to believe that it is only children that have something to seek in this relationship.

Both parents and grandparents can also benefit from the love of a furry friend – and here’s how:

What are the benefits?

  • An increasing number of adults today make the choice to live alone and a pet can provide a much needed source of company

  • Looking after another creature makes us feel needed and consequently having a pet is the perfect way to never feel lonely when living alone

  • Many studies have discovered that having a pet can help keep us healthy by reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and even helping to combat depression – according to these scientific studies

  • Pets can also provide access to new stimulation and relationships, taking your dog to puppy training classes or keeping a horse at a stable can be a great way to gain new friends

What pet to choose?

When considering a possible pet many of us think firstly of cats or dogs but there are a wide range of alternative companions that could be better suited to your lifestyle. Dogs are perfect if you have lots of space and the time for daily walks but they require a more intensive routine than some pets and not everyone is able to accommodate this into their lifestyle.

For instance, mice or gerbils are great if you lack the space but still want a pet that needs a lot of care and attention while fish can be a low maintenance option and fit perfectly into a busy lifestyle.

Pets and the elderly

As pets have many health benefits and keep loneliness at bay, they can provide excellent companionship for the elderly. It has even been determined that they can help speed up recovery after a bout of illness or surgery!

Homeowners at McCarthy and Stone retirement developments should check with their apartment manager to see if pets are allowed in their home and to ensure they select an appropriate companion to suit their needs.

If an individual is unable to care for a pet as well as is needed then there are still ways for them to enjoy the companionship that comes with owning an animal. Pets as Therapy, for example, take animals to hospitals, care homes and many other locations for therapeutic benefits so that people get all the benefits, love and attention of a pet but without the intensive care schedule.

This is a promotional post with an image from Helen Haden via Flickr.

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How to choose the right birth control method for you

Deciding which method of birth control to use can feel like stepping into a minefield. There are so many different options to choose from these days. Combined pills such as Microgynon 30 are often the first port of call for women looking for contraception and can be easily obtained with a prescription from a doctor at a GP surgery or through online services such as There are, however, a host of other methods available, including progestogen-only pills, caps, condoms, implants, injections, patches, diaphragms, vaginal rings, intrauterine devices (IUD), intrauterine systems (IUS) and natural family planning techniques. Just reading through this list might be enough to make your head spin!

To help you decide on the best form of contraception for you, it’s a good idea to ask yourself some questions.

How effective are the different methods?

For example, it’s important that you know how effective the various methods are. For the lowest risk, you can opt for contraceptives that are more than 99 per cent effective, including the injection, implant, IUD and IUS. If used correctly, the patch, vaginal ring, combined pill and progestogen-only pill are also up to 99 per cent effective.

Meanwhile, the male condom is up to 98 per cent effective and the female condom is up to 95 per cent effective if they are used properly.

Birth control that is up to between 92 and 96 per cent effective, if used correctly, includes the diaphragm with spermicide and the cap with spermicide.

contraception diaphragm for birth control

How organised are you?

You’ll also need to think about how organised you are. If you have a regular routine, you’ll benefit from a wider choice of contraceptives because it’s less likely that you’ll forget to use them. You might want to opt for a method that you take every day, such as the pill, or perhaps you’d prefer something you use each time you have sex, like condoms.

If you’re less well organised, you might be better off choosing a contraceptive that you don’t have to think about so frequently. For example, the contraceptive injection has to be renewed only every three months, while an implant will provide you with protection for three years.

Do you want lighter periods?

If you suffer from heavy, painful periods, it’s worth thinking about using birth control that will make these lighter or more infrequent. Contraceptives that fall into this category include the pill, patch, injection, IUS and vaginal ring.

condoms for contraception and birth control

Do you smoke?

Lifestyle habits can also impact on your choice of birth control. For example, if you’re a smoker and you’re aged 35 or over, certain contraceptives (such as the combined pill or vaginal ring) are not suitable. Being overweight can also have an impact on which contraceptives are suitable for you. You can ask your doctor for advice on this.

Are you planning to get pregnant in the near future?

Just because you’re not keen to get pregnant right now doesn’t mean you won’t want to conceive in the near future. It’s worth bearing in mind that your fertility may take longer to return to normal after using certain birth control methods.

If you want your fertility to get back to normal as soon as you stop taking contraception, consider using the implant, IUS, IUD, diaphragm, cap or condom. Also, you can get pregnant soon after stopping the combined pill, progestogen-only pill, vaginal ring or contraceptive patch.

More info

If you’d like more information on birth control, you may also want to speak to your doctor or pharmacist or use reliable health information websites provided by the NHS.

How did you choose your birth control method and are you happy with it?

This is a promotional post with images from Morgan and Heidi Brandenburg via Flickr.


10 ways to save for a mortgage

10 ways to save for a mortgageYesterday, I took a look at my list of 100 things that I want to accomplish. It’s a list of random goals that I want to achieve in my life. Goals that reach from small things like brushing up on my French to owning a house. I wrote it a year or two ago and to be honest, I’ve been pretty lax with it. I’ve not really achieved many of the goals that I set out when I wrote my list, and I didn’t think I was particularly bothered by that, but seeing it black on white made me realise that I want to make more of an effort, especially with one goal: owning a house.

I know that a lot of people struggle to save for a mortgage and I know that I’m not a big saver in general, so I thought it would make sense to collect some ideas that help save some money on every day expenditures. I hope they’ll help you – and me:

Get an overview over your finances

Sit down with a piece of paper and write down all of your outgoings, e.g. insurance, food, rent, phone bill, eating out etc to get an overview over your finances and see where your money is going each month.

Write a budget plan

Before the beginning of each month, make a budget plan and allocate a set amount to each of your outgoings. At the end of each day, write down how what you have spent during the day and what you spent it on. You will soon see what you waste money on and where you can make savings.

Swap instead of buying new

You have a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear? Why don’t you get together with your best friends and swap until you drop? This way, you can completely revamp the content of your wardrobe without spending a penny.

Meal plan

Writing a meal plan and sticking to it (!) stops you from wasting food and money. When writing your meal plan, look what’s on offer at your supermarket of choice and try to drop brands for value or own-brand ranges. Only having 2 or 3 meat dishes a week will also help keep the costs low.

Shop around

Before taking out insurance, signing a mobile phone deal or extending your broadband contract, shop around for the best deal out there. Take the time to use search engines or sign up for cash back deals to make the most of your money or even get part of it back.

Don’t be lazy

Check, if existing deals and contracts such as insurance, gas or electric are really getting you the best deal. Don’t be lazy and let a contract roll over without checking with competitors or your current provider. Sometimes threatening to leave can lead to considerable discounts – I’ve been there and done that!

Dine In

Having to dine in all the time can get boring, if you’re a social butterfly, so why don’t you throw your very own dinner party with friends? Everyone can bring something to the table and you’ll have a great night for the fraction of the price of a night out.

Be prepared for Christmas and birthdays

Spread the cost of Christmas and birthdays by buying presents throughout the year and storing them in a big gift basket. Sales are great to pick up some bargains and if you stock of them and by bits and bobs throughout the year, you’re not only saving money, you’re also prepared for Christmas or any birthdays you might have forgotten. You can even add unwanted gifts to your box – just make sure to not give them back to the person that gifted them to you.

Collect points

Store cards might seem annoying, but they come in handy when you can swap them for vouchers and gift cards at the end of or throughout the year. You can redeem them in store or use them for restaurant meals, short breaks or days out – making your experience much cheaper or even completely free.

Many pennies make a pound

Empty all your small change into a big jar at the end of each day and save it for a year or a time frame that you set yourself. Put the money into a savings account for your mortgage or use it to pay for your holiday.

How long did it take you to save up for your mortgage and do you have any money-saving tips? If you’re still struggling to get onto the property ladder, are there steps you are taking to save?

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You know you’re a mum when… #1

Amy with the spraying can attacking mum

You find a small person on your living room floor making snow angels – in August!

Your pre-schooler tells you they want to lose all their teeth, so the tooth fairy can visit.

Your washing load has tripled since having children.

You find yourself haggling over Peppa Pig or Sofia the First.

You wake up with the tail of a ginormous plastic dinosaur up your left nostril.

All you hear during the Nick Jr ad-break is “I want that, mummy. Mum, Amy wants that.”

Relaxing baths end with Barbie’s skinny arms poking into your skin.

You can’t remember what your living room floor actually looks like.

You catch yourself watching Bunny Show Jumping on YouTube – don’t ask!

You are regularly used as a climbing frame.

What made you realise you’re a mum?


FGM: The Mental And Physical Effects

FGM is a damaging procedure that causes untold physical and emotional damage as well as reinforces the second-class status of women in the cultures that practise it

Thanks to the recent Girl Summit in London the topic of female genital mutilation (FGM) has received more attention in the mainstream media than ever before and rightly so. The figures alone should be enough to make people sit up and take notice, with an estimated 3 million women and girls at risk of FGM every year.

Female circumcision is a direct violation of human rights. It is a violent method of control that disempowers women and can lead to lifelong problems, both physical and mental.

The Physical Effects of FGM

As with any assault, FGM carries with it several physical impacts, all of which are harmful to a girl’s health.

  • Increased Rates Of Infection. Because FGM is usually carried out by people with no medical training in non-clinical settings, rates of infection from the procedure are high. Girls are often cut with old knives, scissors and even razor blades which are rarely clean and so rates of infection from tetanus and HIV are elevated. Throughout their lives they will also be more likely to suffer from uterine, vaginal and pelvis infections.

  • Higher Rate Of Infertility. Women who have undergone FGM often experience stagnation of menstrual blood and other vaginal secretions which causes inflammation of the pelvis and infections. These can in turn affect the womb leading to infertility.

  • Higher Rate Of Maternal And Child Mortality. Due to the damage wrought on the reproductive system girls and women who have undergone FGM are twice as likely to die in childbirth. The risk of giving birth to a stillborn baby is also elevated due to obstructed labour.

  • Chance Of Death. At the most extreme end of the physical effects is the chance of death either during or shortly after the procedure. FGM carries a risk of haemorrhaging due to poorly performed incisions which can lead to death. The chance of dying from tetanus infection in the weeks afterwards is also raised.

The Emotional And Mental Effects of FGM

As you would expect following such a traumatic and painful event the problems extend beyond the physical. The mental effects reverberate throughout a girls’ life.

  • Increased Incidence Of Mental Disorders. According to one recent study, girls who have undergone FGM are more likely to suffer from mental disorders.1 In the study 46% of girls had symptoms indicating anxiety disorders.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress. The same study also revealed that girls who have undergone FGM exhibit a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress. 74% reported suffering from distressing re-experiences of their circumcision.

  • Lower Self-Esteem. Girls who undergo FGM have lower self-esteem than uncut girls in their age group. They often suffer from depression too.

FGM is a damaging procedure that causes untold physical and emotional damage as well as reinforces the second-class status of women in the cultures that practise it. It’s a global problem and one that doesn’t have an easy solution, but by working together we can end FGM within a generation and save millions of girls and women from the trauma and distress it wreaks.

statistics fgm, how many cases of fgm, which countries in africa practise FGM

To find out more about how you can help with FGM, please visit Plan UK

This is a promotional post with images from the DFID – UK Department for International Development.

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5 Things to Consider when planning a kids party

Most of the time, parents will fall into one of two boxes when it comes to kid’s parties. They will flourish as party planners and love the whole process, from brainstorming and organising to hosting and supervising, or they will crumble under the pressure and will hate the idea of a kid’s party from the beginning until the end.

themes kids birthday party, party ideas, things to do at a kids birthday party

Kid’s parties don’t have to be stressful though. They should bring out the kid in you, and give you the chance to make a memorable party for your little one that will be the envy of all of their classmates. That doesn’t mean you will have to spend a fortune, though. There’s no need for over-the-top cakes and fancy themes or venues. Work within your budget, play to your child’s wishes, and you will have a very happy (albeit sleepy) birthday girl or boy afterwards. Here are five things for you to consider, to help to make your kid’s party as successful as possible.

The Budget

Consider how much everything will cost and set a budget to stick to. This doesn’t just mean the venue, the food and the entertainment. You should also bear in mind the cost of the party bags, the cake, and the party dress – everything to do with their birthday party that you can think of.

Things to Do

To help you to set the budget, write a list of everything that you need to think of, and tick them off as and when you do them. Checklists are a great way of keeping on track.

The Theme

disney princess birthday partyIf you’re planning on a theme, set one early so that you can give clear instructions on the invitations. If it’s a straightforward party with no fancy dress theme, you can still treat the birthday girl or boy with a new outfit. This needn’t take a chunk of your budget, either. George’s range of girl’s party dresses are affordable and of great quality – perfect for any birthday princess.

Think Outside the Box

Why book the same thing that has been done a thousand times before? A soft play centre or village hall with a disco may be the easiest option, but how will your child’s party stand out from all the rest if that’s the route you choose to go down? Think outside the box and make it a little different, and they’ll remember it forever. Perhaps a petting zoo, a trip to Go Ape, a Build a Bear workshop or some
Disney princesses wouldn’t go amiss?

Obviously, this would take a chunk of your budget, so plan wisely.

The Invites

Make sure that you send out the invitations in plenty of time, so that the chance of friends being able to attend is as high as possible. Make sure that you include on the invitation all of the details that the guests will need, including time, date, dress code and contact details. If you’re on a budget, consider designing your own and photocopying them – far cheaper and more personal!

Remember that after all this is said and done, the main person you need to make happy is your child. Ask them what they want – if they’re happy with a couple of mates around for tea, then why bother spending a fortune on a party that they don’t need? Whatever you do, your child will love it.

This is a promotional post with images from Teresa Forn.


3 fantastic ideas for using sprinkles when decorating cakes

When it comes to decorating cakes, sprinkles are a fantastic family favourite. They add a dash of colour and fun to any type of cake, but why just sprinkle them in the usual fashion?! There are plenty of ways in which you could use sprinklesto achieve some pretty unique displays, so it’s time to get creative and experiment using cake sprinkles in loads of different ways! Here are some great ideas to get you started:

1. Birthday cake with sprinkles as the number

birthday cake with sprinkles as number

Children love to have their birthday age written on their cake (adults not so much…!) so if you’re making a child’s birthday cake then this is a wonderfully creative way to add the age. Find a shape cutter for whatever age you are baking for and lay it on top of the cake. Fill it up with sprinkles just as they’ve done in this example here:

Carefully lift the cutter away and you should be left with a perfectly formed number to display the birthday age. This works really well against a light backdrop, so use a white royal or fondant icing as a base. Your birthday cake will look like a professional has decorated it!

2. Sprinkle cookies & pretzels

chocolate covered pretzels with sprinkles

When throwing a birthday party, it’s good to remember that biscuits, cookies and pretzels are a brilliant addition to any celebration, and making these is the perfect opportunity for a little creative flair! Make your biscuits and pretzels unforgettable by icing them before adding a light dusting of multi-coloured sprinkles over the top. We love this pretzel idea here:

The important thing to remember is that you should add the sprinkles while the icing is still wet. This way you can be sure that they’ll stick. Don’t forget to take a photo of your work before it all gets gobbled up!

3. Cake pops with sprinkles

cake pops with sprinkles

Regardless of how old you are, everybody loves a lollipop! Make cakes in a ball shape, add a stick as a handle and then ice the cake (pink icing will make the pops look especially delicious!). While the icing is still a little wet, it’s time to dip the lollipop in a bowl full of sprinkles. Or you could lay out the pops before pouring the sprinkles over them instead just as they have done here – it’s totally up to you.

Display the pops on an attractive cake stand and arrange them so that they are easy for party guests to grab as they pass by. They’ll be the talk of the party and you will love watching them being devoured.
Sprinkles for cake decoration come in all manner of shapes, colours and designs so when it comes to achieving a memorable display, the sky’s the limit! So the next time you are decorating a cake, set yourself a challenge to use your sprinkles in the most creative way possible.

This is a promotional post with images from Little Life Of Mine BlogChocolate Therapy Blog, Love from the Oven via Flickr.


My Underpants Rule – a Twitter competition

If there was ever a time to protect our children and teach sexual predators like Rolf Harris and Jimmy Saville that they are no longer untouchable, the time is now! And that is why former police officer Kate Power and her husband Rod Power have written ‘My Underpants Rule’, a book aimed at children from 4-8 years that teaches children how to be safe without scaring them.

‘My Underpants Rule!’ is a fun and informative book that introduces children to the rule “what’s under my pants belongs only to me!”. Colourful pictures, rhymes and different scenarios explain to children when it is appropriate and inappropriate for adults to look or touch their private parts.the underpants rule book

The book, available from Amazon, is not only a valuable conversation starter and guide for parents, but also makes it a lively experience for children.

Amy is now 3, but I still found it important to go through the book with her and although the recommended age group for ‘My Underpants Rule’ is 4-8 years, she got really involved. The colourful pictures grabbed her attention and the rhyming pattern really kept her interested, so I would think that this is maybe even suitable for children a little younger than 4 years.

Research suggests that at least one in 20 young adults in the UK experienced sexual abuse as a child, but most incidents are not reported to the police, and three-quarters of children who are abused do not tell anyone about it at the time, so this book really can’t be introduced early enough.

If you would like to win one of two copies, all you have to do is follow @caro_mad and retweet the tweet below.

Giveaway terms and conditions: UK entrants only. 18+. 1 entry per person. 1 prize. 2 winners receiving 1 copy of My Underpants Rule. Giveaway is not associated with Twitter. No cash alternative. You must follow @caro_mad and RT this giveaway tweet to enter. Giveaway closes 9pm 26/08/2014. Winner chosen at random using from valid entries. Winner will be informed by DM. If prize isn’t claimed within 1 week a new winner may be chosen. Mummy Alarm’s decision is final.