Sparkles & Stretchmarks: A UK Parenting & Pregnancy Blog

Sunday, 28 August 2016

#SundayBest - A Linky To Show Off Your Best Posts!

Welcome back to #SundayBest - A brand new linky hosted by myself and the lovely Sian from Quite Frankly She Said.

Thank you to everyone who joined up last Sunday and helped to spread the word.

What I love about linkies is how it helps not only to get your blog posts seen, but it also helps you to reach out into the community more and get to know your fellow bloggers - I find myself feeling so inspired by the posts I read on linkies, and it's such a great way of finding new blogs that you'll love.

Each week we will be picking out our favourite posts from the link ups to share with you.

Blogs Of The Week

My favourite post from last week was this one by Belle Du Brighton as she asks "Why Can't I Shout About My Blog?"

Sian's favourite post (And one I also would have voted for, too) was this incredibly moving and thought provoking post from Kate at Family Fever - At Least You Had A Healthy Baby

Featured Bloggers -  please feel free to grab the badge below to display on your blogs!

Sparkles & Stretchmarks Sunday Best


We want to keep things nice and simple, so there are very few rules and if we all play nicely then everybody benefits!

1. You can link up to 2 posts per week - the post can be about anything at all, but the theme is Best Posts so try to link up ones that you feel really showcase your blog. Posts can be old or new, as long as they haven't been linked here before.

2. You must add the Badge to each post that you link up

Sparkles & Stretchmarks Sunday Best

3) Please comment on both Host posts, and the post immediately before yours - and then do feel free to hop around and comment on as many other posts as possible - the more love you give, the more you're likely to get in return!

4) Please write #SundayBest at the end of each comment you leave so that we know you're joining in!

4) If you'd like myself & Sian to tweet your posts, just send us a link with the hashtag #SundayBest and we'll RT for you - you can find us on Twitter @Sparkles_blog and @QFSheSaid

And that's it!

Let's Get Linking!

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Saturday, 27 August 2016

Tonka Tough Mothers: Tonka Steel Mighty Fire Truck Review

Last week, my 3 year old received what is possibly the best thing he's ever been given so far in his life....(Those are his words, by the way)...a Tonka Steel Might Fire Truck!

I was recently chosen as a Tonka Tough Mother, and this was our first assignment as part of this role.

Now when I was informed that we would be receiving a Tonka Steel product in the post for Tyne to try out, I expected something quite small - of course I was familiar with the Tonka name and knew that they had 70 years experience of manufacturing high quality, tough, durable toys but as my son has only just become interested in toy vehicles - we hadn't had yet bought anything from the range.

When it arrived, I was pretty overwhelmed by the sheer size of it - so you can imagine how excited my son was!

The fire engine is super chunky you can tell that Tonka really do mean business with the Lifetime Guarantee that they offer - yes that's right, Tonka believe that toys should never break just because children play with them and so they build their toys to TRULY last - and are so confident of this, that the toys are guaranteed for life! How many other toy brands do you know of who offer that?!

Tonka’s Steel range is a classic and the toys are the perfect way for kids to delve into the world of construction play. The vehicles are made from real steel with chunky tyres and there is a wide range to choose from - from cranes to trucks and more.

My son is currently going through a real love affair with fire engines, and so this was the perfect one for him to receive - he loves that there's an open space to sit his character toys inside and act as drivers, and he loves the rescue ladder too.

Of course, given the size of it, the first thing he wanted to do was sit and ride on it - I tried to stop him as of course this is not what these toys are made for and I worried he might damage it - but he didn't, infact the toy didn't falter under his weight at all - they really are built that tough!

This has been the go to toy in our house for the last couple of weeks and my sons love for it shows no signs of wavering - the only problem we have is that his 16 month old brother loves it too, much to the 3 year olds dismay!!!

The Tonka Steel collection is available from Argos soon with prices starting from £19.99 -  (Mighty Fire Truck priced at £49.99).

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Friday, 26 August 2016

The Anxiety Diaries: A Little Explanation & My Therapy Experience So Far

Considering my extreme issues with social anxiety and the fear of rejection/dislike/disappointing people that goes hand in hand with them - I put myself "out there" on this blog rather a lot.

People probably wonder why that is, sometimes I even wonder myself...

But I guess I see it as kind of a personal diary of my own journey as a person.

A person with mental health issues as well as a diary of a very normal mum, a writer with a drive to succeed and be heard, and a woman with interests in a great many things - because I am all of those things, in equal measure.

I have wondered over the past few days whether I should start a separate blog for my mental health ramblings and emotional posts, so as not to offend or disinterest anybody who is here only for the parenting anecdotes or how to posts. 

But no...I am not just one thing, I am a person with many layers and I don't think its necessary to pigeon hole myself for other peoples comfort.

I feel that each and every aspect of me and my life deserves my equal attention.

And that all of it has a place on this blog.

This will never be a blog only about nice days out with the kids, or only about the happiest times in my life...because that's not an accurate representation of me, and I don't see the point in putting anything out there at all if it's not a full picture or the whole truth - that's not who I am. I am an all or nothing type of person.

I suppose my hope is that other parents who find themselves spending half their time happy and thoroughly enjoying their children, and half their time curled in a ball crying and trying to control yet another panic attack will come across this blog and realise that they're not alone. 

That this is something that affects some people. There is always light and shade in our lives. That sometimes we shout about the amazing times, and sometimes there are very very dark times...and personally, I feel the need to shout about those too. Because they happen and they matter just as much. It's all part of the journey.

I published a post earlier this week in which I sort of rambled about whether I'm mentally stable enough to continue with blogging and dealing with public opinion as a result of it, when other people and their words and opinions are something that makes me crumble. And somebody commented to say "Not again" and that this seems to be a recurring theme of my blog - and they are absolutely 100% right. 

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Our Breastfeeding Struggles & Free Breastfeeding Support For Mums

Today I'm sharing with you the struggles that I faced when beginning my breastfeeding journey with my youngest child, and introducing a fantastic service that I only wish had been around back then as it would have been so very helpful to me - a free breastfeeding Q & A service provided by Wellvine.

Most people assume that when you're having your third baby, you have everything pretty much sussed out.

You've done it all before and you know what you're doing when it comes to things like bathing, nappy changing, feeding and so on.

But for me, things were different with my third...I found that my approach to parenting had changed a little and the ideals I had were different...I wanted a more active role in deciding how the birth should be, I wanted to try things such as cord ties which I'd never used before...and the biggest change for me was feeding.

Throughout my first pregnancy, I had been told that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed due to the medication that I needed to take to treat my Graves disease...I agreed straight away of course, I didn't want to take any risks with my health, it was important that I was healthy so that I could look after my baby.

When my second came along, things were less certain - I was no longer on regular medication but the Drs did say that I needed to be prepared to be put onto it following the birth if my body needed it, so I was able to try breastfeeding if I wanted to but I may have had to stop if medication was necessary.

I was unsure of what to do, and I didn't receive any encouragement to try when I said this to the midwife on the day of the birth - she simply gave me a bottle, so I gave it to him and that was that.

But I felt disappointed.

And when I fell pregnant for a third time, I knew I wanted it to be different - I knew I wanted to try breast feeding.

I tried to prepare myself as much as I could before hand, I read books and asked questions of my friends who had breastfed for years, I thought I was ready.

When Sailor was born, he latched on in the theatre straight away and the midwife even declared him to be "feeding like a pro!" - I was delighted, I thought we'd cracked it and that we'd never look back.

Fast forward to 12 hours later, sobbing in my hospital bed at 3 am, with my baby screaming and me trying desperately over and over again to get him to latch on - and things couldn't have been further from our great start.

I really struggled in those first few weeks - Sailor had tongue tie which needed to be snipped but nobody was available in my area to do it right away, he had a poor sucking reflex too and struggled to even feed from a bottle - instead he had to be fed by syringe.

There was one particular night when neither of us had slept a wink, when I had spent the entire night trying to get him to latch on to no avail, trying to pump as much as I could and syringe feed it to him but he seemed to need more than I could provide and I didn't know what to do.

I pressed my buzzer and when the nurse came she found me crying my eyes out, there were a million questions I wanted to ask her but I was too upset - instead I just sputtered "It's useless, maybe I should just give him formula"

I think I hoped that she'd encourage me or comfort me, give me a bit of a pep talk...but she didn't. She went and got some formula, handed it to me and left.

That almost broke me but I was determined not to give up on breastfeeding, I had no issue with formula feeding at all but I didn't feel that we had been able to give breastfeeding a real go yet and that was something I wanted to do. And so I spent those first few weeks pumping every few hours - trying in between pumping sessions to get him to latch, struggling to be able to do so because my large breasts made things more difficult than I had imagined.

I thought I was well prepared for breastfeeding but there were so many aspects of it that I knew nothing about, and I really needed support.

Support which, in my hospital at least, just wasn't available to me.

I remember asking questions every time a nurse came near in the hospital, I remember bombarding the lactation consultant with questions every time I saw her in the first weeks but yet always thinking of things I should have asked later that night when it was just us at home and we were facing yet more feeding difficulties.

I found it so difficult and I wished there was somebody I could call out of hours, to ask for help and advice.

It was in those dark hours that I struggled the most, when I most needed support and advice, when I most felt like throwing the towel in.

This is why I am supporting Wellvine's new Breastfeeding Q & A service - the service is completely free of charge and gives breastfeeding mums a place to ask their questions, where they will be answered by an experienced, qualified professional.

So many breastfeeding mums find themselves faced with problems out of normal working hours, and without professionals to call on we can often find ourselves looking for answers on mum forums and facebook groups - and while this support from other mums is of course valuable, you're only getting answers based on their own experiences and there's no saying that it will always be medically sound advice you're receiving.

The free breastfeeding Q & A service provides mums with access to the help and advice of people such as Katherine Fisher - an IBCLC certified Lactation Consultant (the highest standard of breastfeeding credential) with 20 years experience, with particular expertise in low milk supply, oversupply, tongue tie, breast hypoplasia, breastfeeding after breast surgery, induced lactation for adoptive mothers, breastfeeding multiples and more.

So how does it work?

It really couldn't be simpler! You simply go online and post your questions. The response you receive is personalised and tailored to you, not a generic one-size-fits-all reply - and you don't even have to remember to log back on to find your answer, it will be sent directly to your email inbox.

Advice is given between 8am-10pm, and response time can be as fast as 15 minutes! If you post a question late at night, it will be answered the next day.

The breastfeeding Q & A service is run by Wellvine, who are the very first on demand platform for maternal and children's healthcare. They connect parents and mums to be to top quality pregnancy and children's healthcare specialists using on demand video calls, anytime - anywhere!

This includes not only Doctors, but also lactation consultants (if you need a more in depth consultation than the free Q & A service), nutritionists and even children's sleep consultants which is a service I would be VERY keen to try myself.

Wellvine is accessible via the website or the free app, and a £20.00 per month subscription gives you UNLIMITED access to all of Wellvines health care professionals, or you can book a one-off consultation using the pay as you go service.

The Breastfeeding Q & A would have been so very useful to me when I was first feeding Sailor, I only wish it had been around then.

To try out the free service for yourself and ask any questions you may have about breastfeeding, just click here

Or to find out more about Wellvines's services, please click HERE

*This is a collaborative post, but all thoughts, opinions & experiences are my own

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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

5 Ways To Spruce Up Your Home On A Budget

We all get that feeling every now and then of feeling fed up with the way our homes look - in fact I remember my mum, every few months or so, would  quite often suddenly tear off a piece of wallpaper in one room or another and declare she was re-decorating - much to my Dads horror!

I'm not quite so intense as my mum when it comes to having the re-decorating bug, but I do find that I chop and change my mind on what styles I like when it comes to home decor and it's not usually long after sprucing up a room before I feel that it needs freshening up again.

If you're a bit like me (and my Mum!) when it comes to keeping yourself happy in your home, take a look at my Top 5 Tips for refreshing the look of a room without breaking the bank!

1. Move Things Around

It sounds pretty obvious, but simply looking at your room afresh and re-organising your existing belongings can really help to update the overall look and feel of it. Whether it's moving your sofa or bed to a completely new place in the room, or just moving around the smaller things like were you display your canvases or ornaments - it really can help to breathe a breath of fresh air into the room without costing a penny.

2. Update Your Photos

If you're anything like me, you probably like to have some family photos on display - be it framed photos or canvas prints - but when you have a young family it's not long before those images are out dated.

Although they're of course lovely to keep regardless, it's nice to update them every so often and it really doesn't need to cost a fortune - and with high quality companies like offering 20cm x 20cm canvas prints from an amazing £6.00 it really wouldn't break the bank either - and they're ready to ship in just 24 hours too!

If canvas prints aren't your thing, you could always dot some framed favourite photos about or even look into some photo gifts for your home - photo cushions are a particular favourite of mine!

3. Add Some Home Made Prints

If photo prints aren't your thing, you can also look at adding some motivational quote prints to your room or for children's bedrooms a personalised print is always lovely! 

You don't need to pay a fortune for them either, you can make your own using websites such as Canva or PicMonkey for free and print them out and frame them at home.

4. Use Wall Stickers

Wall stickers are a brilliant and cost effective way to update a room on a budget, and if you're likely to change your mind on your decor often then they're ideal as they peel off as quickly and easily as they went up!

You can do so much with wall stickers these days - from giant family tree murals, to personalised name stickers for childrens rooms, Family Rules quotes for your hallway or even using smaller stickers to update the look of plain walls in lieu of using wallpaper - so much easier, so much cheaper! What's not to love?!

5. Trawl The Vintage Stores

And finally, if you're keen to get some new bits for your home but you don't have a lot to spend - it's well worth checking out your local thrift stores or car boot sales as you never know what gems you may come across - vintage items are so full of character and can be such a lovely addition to your home.

I hope these tips were helpful, happy sprucing!

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