Overcoming our fears as we start the milk ladder

If you are following the blog you will have seen in a few previous posts that Millie, now almost 11 months old, has a dairy allergy (cows milk protein allergy, CMPA for short) along with a couple of other food allergies. It has meant that the weaning process has been both restrictive and quite complex, slowly trying new foods to make sure there are no other allergies. So far we know she has CMPA, soya and possibly a cod allergy.

As she’s approaching her first birthday and will be starting nursery in a few weeks I have decided to start her on the milk ladder, giving us a couple of weeks at home to take the first few steps with her. The milk ladder is a way of challenging and reintroducing dairy very slowly into an allergy sufferers diet. Each step of the ladder trials milk in different forms, starting with cooked milk leading right up to rung 12 which is tolerating milk in its pure form to drink.

Below is a link to the milk ladder we have been given to follow, there are other alternatives around, some of which differ greatly but offer more flexibility at each stage.  I may look into using a different ladder further along the way as I’m not particularly keen on giving Millie shepherds pie every day for a full week!



We had an appointment with a dietician a few months ago to talk through the process and to get all of the relevant information we needed. Quite frankly the appointment was a waste of time! Since then I have done a lot of reading about how to go about a milk challenge and the best ways of following the milk ladder. But for some reason I have still been feeling incredibly nervous! Im guessing its quite common to feel this was as its a fear of the unknown, wondering what symptoms or reactions your baby will have, not wanting to cause them any pain, worrying that they will fail the challenge! So I thought I’d write a list of some of the really valuable advice I’ve read and things to remember along the way:

– Take all the time you need – although the recommendations are to try each step for a week and if no reaction move on to the next step, if you don’t feel ready or are unsure if there has been a reaction then there is no need to move on just because the week is up. My health visitor suggested to try each step for two weeks initially for Millie as she had only ever been exposed to dairy through breast milk so we were unsure of her reaction symptoms.

– Talk to others who are also starting the ladder – this has been crucial for me. I think because we didn’t have a very positive experience with our dietician I have called upon various support groups whenever I have had a question. I also regularly look through previous posts in the groups as there is more than likely someone out there who has already asked the exact same question that is worrying you. (this group on facebook has been invaluable for us CMPA Support For Weaning)

– Familiarise yourself with possible signs of a reaction – for us Millie’s reactions had always been fairly sudden and severe vomiting, explosive nappies and a swollen tummy. It wasn’t until I started reading a bit more that I discovered things like puffy eyes, coughing and wheezing, dark circles under their eyes, constipation and even blood in their stools can be a sign of a reaction. Because these had never happened to us I wouldn’t have know to watch out for them.

– Make others aware – this may seem obvious but in our case I intend to fully brief Millie’s nursery of the stage we are at on the ladder before she starts and also give them full details of things to look out for in case she starts showing a reaction while she is in their care. Thankfully it doesn’t seem like Millie has any IgE reactions to cows milk (things such as breathing difficulties, swelling of the lips and tongue, loss of consciousness etc) but I still think it’s crucial to keep updated anyone who is caring for your child as you never know how well aware they are of allergies.

– Be prepared – if you plan to cook everything for each stage of the ladder yourself make sure you have all of the recipes to hand ready for moving on. Alternatively if you are using shop bought products make sure to check the ingredients to ensure they include the right form of diary ie malted milk biscuits for stage 1 should include milk powder not whey powder.

– Don’t panic – if your little one does react the best advice I have been given is to not panic. You need to stop all dairy for at least a month, or longer if symptoms still haven’t cleared, and then restart again from stage 1.  Some children take a good few years to grow out of their allergies and only a few manage to complete the ladder first time round.

We are now on day five of stage 1, Millie has been eating a full malted milk biscuit everyday for five days without any severe reactions but I will do a full update at the end of each week which will also include any recipes we have used.

Mummy’s First Mothers Day – What I really want!

Everyone everywhere seems to be talking about Mothers Day, so not wanting to feel left out I thought I better jump on the bandwagon and do a very quick Mothers Day wish list on the off chance Mr H happens to be reading this.

As a step-mum I haven’t had a Mothers Day as Nicholas always spends it with his own mum so this year will be my first.  I know friends who have been promised all sorts of wonderful gifts for their first Mothers Day, Rolex watch, spa breaks, mulberry bags… you name it!  There are however many things Id really really like ahead of all these and here is my list:

1. A full night of unbroken sleep!!

2. A coffee brought up to me in bed and the chance to drink it while it’s hot – ideally not before 7am too!

3. A handmade card or picture – Millie had her first attempt with a pen this morning and made daddy a picture… and decorated the sofa in black ink to make it look pretty too.

4. A shower that lasts longer than a minute and gives me the chance to use my lovely Molton Brown set I got for Christmas, followed by five further minutes so I can use the matching body lotion.

5. A day without changing a single nappy – Millie is now impossible to keep still when doing nappy changes and I truly dread them!

6. A clean car – inside and out, all the rubbish taken out of the side pockets that I never seem to get a chance to do, the emergency nail varnish supply bringing back indoors as it never gets used these days and the mud from football boots cleaning out of the boot.

7. A day without any sport on TV – got more chance of a mulberry bag than this one happening.

8. A massive box of calorie free chocolates – Make it happen Mr H, make it happen!



And last but not least….

9. Diamonds – Any shape, any size!!

I don’t think I’m asking too much…


The Social Life of a Baby

Is it just me or do your children have a more active social life than you? I was just sitting thinking of all the different baby clubs, play groups, classes and activities we’ve done over the last ten months and I think it’s safe to say Millie has had more social outgoings in her short little life so far than I have had over the last five years combined!!

Probably like most mums we’ve tried it all, some stuff we’ve loved and a few, we’ve errr… tolerated??!! It got me thinking though about the things both myself and Millie really have enjoyed together while I’ve been on maternity leave. Both of us love being outdoors. Millie is very inquisitive and is fascinated by wildlife, trees, flowers, random bits of twigs, lumps of mud… Anything she can look at outside. So we spend a lot of time walking around the fields and woodland near us. We also enjoy play dates with Millie’s little buddies and her cousin. It’s been great watching her develop alongside her baby friends and how as they get a little bit older they are starting to play together. But aside from these we have also done our fair share of baby classes over the months and I thought I draw up a list of those we loved the most:

1. Baby Sensory – we have been going to baby sensory classes with our NCT mummies and babies since Millie was just eight weeks old and both of us LOVE it! The combination of both a structured class and a break in the middle for some free play works really well and isn’t a long stretch for Millie to have to remain engaged. Our leader was excellent and the activities were always really well organised and varied. Millie loves the baby sensory song “Say hello to the sun” and every time we play it at home it calms her and she joins in with the actions.

The classes are tailored to different age groups and both age group sessions we have been to have been perfectly suited to the baby’s age range. Millie has now graduated from Baby Sensory but we are sneaking in a one off Easter special next week. I can’t wait!

2. Jo Jingles – Another class we have been to since Millie was only four months old. It is singing and dancing using the puppet, Jo Jingles, as the main prop. Millie loves making a noise so anything musical is right up her street. Although we don’t go every week, whenever we do I always wonder to myself why we don’t make it more regularly.

imageThe classes are suitable for babies up to pre-schoolers and even if your baby is too young to get involved in all of the dancing, the whole experience is great for them to sit and watch. Each week has a different theme and the leader brings out different props and musical instruments for the children to use and participate. Jo, the puppet, also interacts with each child and it’s wonderful to watch their fascinated little faces as he talks to them. But be warned, it’s very noisy and the theme tune will stick in your head for days!!

3. Swimming – since I was pregnant I have been excited to take Millie swimming. I swam right through most of my pregnancy until my bump was so massive I kept floating to the top of the water and could no longer swim. I figured maybe the baby would love the water as I do if she was used to being swished around in uetero as I swam. I first took Millie swimming when she was 12 weeks old and was so relieved that she seemed happy in the water. I signed up to our first term of swimming lessons straight afterwards. We are now onto our third term and Millies confidence in the water is wonderful to watch. She happily “jumps” into my arms from sitting on the side, splashes and kicks to try and catch toys and is starting to be able to hold herself up on the side unaided and pull herself out of the water.

Each week swimming is the one class that really makes me burst with mummy pride as my little girl learns new skills in the pool and increases in water confidence week after week. Before long I’m sure we will be swimming lengths together!!

As much as we have tried to make the most of everything we’ve done, there are a few we didn’t love quite so much…

1. Messy play – I think we may have trialed this one a bit too early. Millie was only seven months old when we signed up to a taster session and she seemed to think the glue and paint were some new approach to baby led weaning we hadn’t yet tried at home and proceeded to eat everything in sight, feathers, paper, fake mud… My OCD was going wild! Then I kept finding paint on various parts of her body for a good few days! Maybe we will give it another try when she is a bit older but for now I’m filing this one firmly in the no thanks pile!!

2. Soft Play aka Hell on Earth!! – don’t get me wrong soft play generally is ok and Millie really rather enjoys it however it’s all about timings. School holidays and weekends are generally a big no no unless you can drag yourself up and out by 9am you have no hope. Far too many over excited kids drinking cheap fizzy pop, pumped on sugar and their little bit of freedom while mummy and daddy relax with a coffee.  Then there’s the smell of wee from the ball pit and the fact that Millie always seems to get ill within a few days of us going, probably from her licking the floor or some other grubby surface that takes her fancy! Grim… Yet we seem to find ourselves there at least once a fortnight!

If only soft play could always look this…. (9am one Sunday morning just as the doors opened!)


Disclaimer: no payment or receipt of services has been made in lieu of these reviews, they are written independently of all companies listed in the post

Our Reluctant Reader the Bookworm


As Nicholas’ step-mum I’ve only been in his life since he was five years old. One of the things I remember when I was first getting to know him, along with being a lovely, well behaved, well mannered, kind, caring little boy, he was also an excellent reader. He was able to read way ahead of his age expectations and loved books. However as the years have gone on his desire to read has slowly dwindled and over the last few years in particular it really has been a struggle to get him to read.

A couple of years ago I spent hours researching how to get reluctant readers to develop, or in Nic’s case, rekindle his love of books. We tried all sorts of ideas, I spent ages setting up an online reading rewards system for the whole family with prizes depending on how many books you read. As a keen reader myself I loved this but Nic lost interest after the first book. Then we joined the library’s summer reading challenge thinking a certificate might be a good incentive, again with no success, I don’t even think he finished one book over that whole summer. Someone even suggested trying comics because any reading is better than none at all. Nic just wanted to do the puzzles on the last page and pull out the posters for his bedroom walls!

But over the last year something seems to have clicked, he’s found what interests him and now can devour a book in just a couple of days. Here’s a few of the tactics that worked for us:

1. Mix up fiction and non-fiction books – we tried all sorts of fiction from Shakespeare to Harry Potter but it took me a good while to realise Nicholas really enjoyed fact finding. For his birthday last year we got him the Guiness World Records book and he would read snippets here and there every day, reading out random facts to us. From then on we have tried to mix in some similar type books such as Ripley’s Believe It or Not books which he really loves.

2. Big books – although the reading reward system didn’t appeal to his competitive nature for some reason Nic gets a buzz from finishing a really big hard backed book with a lot of pages but something that at the same time doesn’t take weeks to read. He is particularly keen on Tom Gates books which mix in doodles and cartoon style pictures throughout the text (also similar to Diary of the Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries). It means he can tell us he has read a 400 page book in just two days and is really proud of this. I’ve started buying him mostly hard backs now and for some strange reason it seems to work, a bit of an ego boost at how quickly he can polish them off. Last weekend he read David Walliams, The Midnight Gang in just three days!


3. Books that are relevant – Nicholas is a massive football fan, Arsenal in particular, so when I saw that Theo Walcott (Arsenal and England footballer) had published some children’s books I quickly snapped them up. Although not as keen on these as the “big books” he still enjoyed reading them as he said he could imagine himself being one of the boys in the books.

4. Reading together as a family – Although I like to get books Nicholas is really into I do think there does need to be a little bit of variation in what he reads. Mr H has a keen interest in history so we have thrown in the odd history book such as Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to mix it up a bit. Some of the story lines can be a bit challenging and often use words he isn’t familiar with. Normally Nic would show no interest in these books but if we read them together as a family, taking turns reading a page, he really enjoys it and it gives us the opportunity to explain things better than if he was reading the book alone.  It also means we get some quality family time away from the tv, phones and Internet.

5. Film adaptations – Again this has helped broaden his book choices by promising we will all watch the film together once he has read the book.

These are the techniques that have worked for us and I do hope Nic continues to enjoy reading. Perhaps it will be War and Peace in a few years if his love of big books continues….

Ikea Wishlist

Before we moved “out to the country” we lived about 10 minutes from IKEA so I always used to nip in for this, that and the other but now we are about 35 minutes drive away I very rarely get to go. So tomorrow I’ve decided to make a special effort to pop down there and pick up some bits I’ve been wanting for ages, mostly baby things but I’ve also seen a few accessories I’d really like to “Pinterest worthy” my house (as per the Maternity to do list ).

Here are a few of the things I have my eye on and think are really great for baby and mummy:

1. Cover-all bibs – I have a bit of an obsession with bibs, mostly because in the early days of weaning Millie was a seriously messy eater and used to stain so many of her clothes. We have tried various sleeved bibs from all over the place but these IKEA ones are by far the best. They don’t ride up or come undone and also manage to catch a good amount of spilages and at just a fiver each they are a bargain.



2. Toy saucepans – recommended by a friend as a good way of including the little ones when you’re cooking plus they make a huge amount of noise when bashed together so double the fun! They are a really good price of £6



3. Hammer and peg set – I really do love IKEA for lovely little, reasonably priced wooden toys. There are loads to choose from in store but I thought this peg set was age appropriate and such a bargain at only £8. Millie really loves banging things and this set looks really sturdy and durable.


4. Corner guards – I have a real phobia of Millie falling and bumping her head on one of the corners of our furniture so have been looking out for some plain white corner protectors. They are all really ugly and spoil the look of the furniture but as I know I need something I thought these hand ones were quite quirky. Just £3 for a pack of 8


And now for a few little treats for Mummy too:

1. Cream metal tray – I’ve been looking for a lovely centrepiece for our kitchen table and wanted something that is both beautiful but also easy to take on and off the table at meal times. I found inspiration on another Blog post , showing really pretty vignettes (basically a tray with a load of stuff on as Mr H would say!). I thought this metal tray would be a perfect starting point and only £7, now I just need some pretty bits to add to it


2. Mirror – I really love this mirror! No idea why as it matches nothing else in our house but I do rather like it. Probably won’t buy this one as its £60 and I have nowhere to put it but it’s definitely on my wish list



AND… Last but not least….

3. Meatballs – just because I’m at ikea and that’s what you do, right??

Milestone cards for Mummy

image.jpegWe’ve all seen them, most of us probably have a set and gloriously post pictures of each and every milestone all over Facebook but what if those milestone cards were also available for mummies??

Over the past ten months since Millie was born I’ve had various milestones… First birthday with my baby girl, first time Millie and mummy went shopping together, first hot coffee drank without any baby interruptions etc etc so here are my top five “if milestone cards were for mummies…”:

1. First day daddy doesn’t irritate mummy moaning how tired he is – this one really had to be top of the list. I think I can count on one hand the number of times Mr H has seen a day go by without complaining he’s tired. Really?? How can you be tired when you managed to sleep (and snore) your way through every night feed, remain in bed an extra hour after me and fit in an afternoon “power nap”! No darling, you aren’t tired!!

2.  First pee without feeling like you’ll split in half – this one primarily refers to the agony of trying to sit on the toilet after a c section and get back up without feeling like your intestines may fall out from under your scar at any given moment! But I’m guessing this could also be applicable after a natural birth too??

3. First day I haven’t been shat on – no further explanation needed really! It does remind me however of an occasions a few months ago when I walked round the supermarket doing the full weekly shop only to glance down at the checkout to see the arm of my jumper was totally caked in bright green baby poo and I hadn’t even noticed!!

4. First time wearing non-maternity clothes  – this one would still be sitting in the packet for me ten months down the line. I just can’t give up those comfy non-wired bras…. (See previous post on things I miss about being pregnant )

5. Today I shaved my legs – also applicable to all other forms of hair removal. Seriously who has time for that?! Im lucky to even have time to get washed in the shower these days never mind beautify myself. Long gone are the days of fake tan and weekly hair treatments, if the shampoo and conditioner don’t come in a two in one variety they won’t be making it anywhere near my shopping trolley!

This list really could go on and on, there’s nothing quite like a mummy’s initiation! I’d also love to hear any of your mummy milestones too….

You Baby Me Mummy

Surprisingly dairy and soya free!

When Millie was diagnosed with a dairy and soya protein allergy I was still breastfeeding. Determined to continue, I cut dairy and soya completely from my diet. It wasn’t until I started reading every ingredient label on every last thing I bought that I realised just how many day to day products have either dairy or soya in them. Who would’ve thought gravy granules were a no go or sliced white bread??!!

There were however a few surprises out there that I was convinced couldn’t possibly be dairy and soya free but were in fact “safe foods”. So here is my list of unexpected dairy and soya free every day products that you can pick up in most supermarkets without having to go anywhere near the free from aisle:

1. Oreos – this is by far the most surprising of all. I really missed milk chocolate and when I was really craving a bar of dairy milk I would have a couple of Oreos to get my chocolate fix.

2. Puff pastry – jus-rol and tesco own brand are both soya and dairy free and there is so much you can make with it. Millie loves both sweet and savoury pinwheels and mini vegetable pasties.

3. Crumpets – when I found out I could no longer have white bread I thought everything pastry/bread-like would also be a no go but most brands of crumpets are safe just remember to use a free from spread not butter!

4. Tesco value celebration cake – it was my birthday in July and the thought of not being able to have a slice of cake made me a little sad but a quick scour of the cake aisle in tesco and I discovered their basic celebration cake was both dairy and soya free and great for any celebration not just birthdays.


5. Mayonnaise – I automatically thought Mayo would contain some form of dairy so started buying one from the free from aisle rather than Helmans but on closer inspection Helmans Real Mayonaise is in fact fine to have. Unfortunately the low fat versions are made with cream so aren’t  dairy free which is slightly annoying.

6. Drinking chocolate – most hot chocolates such as options, cadburys and galaxy are all made with milk but if you buy every day drinking chocolate and make it with your choice of alternative milk instead of water it is just as nice!

7. Bagels – just like crumpets most bagel varieties are dairy and soya free and a great alternative to bread for a sandwich.

8. Basic digestive biscuits – it seems that the cheaper brands of digestive biscuits are safe but unfortunately not McVities which is a shame as they are my favourite!

All of the above were free from soya and dairy at the time of writing but please check before buying just in case the recipes have changed which does seem to happen sometimes.