Introducing your fur baby to your new baby

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Let me start by saying I am not a trained animal expert. I am just a new mom. But first and foremost, I am a dog mom. This is my personal experience and tips which might help you if you are bringing a new baby home.

I had big dreams for Benji’s and Chloe’s first meeting. I have seen all the cute videos on YouTube, you know the ones where the family dog is so excited about the new baby and the baby is licked and adored. It’s love at first sight. Yeah, well it wasn’t like that for us!

When we bought our baby girl, Chloé, home our little jack Russell, Benji, was less than impressed. He didn’t want to sit near her and he would always turn his back to her so not to look at her (I can only laugh at this now!) But at the time I wasn’t sure if he was ever going to like her. Slowly but surely, he warmed up. It took about two weeks for him to feel comfortable enough to look at her and now four months later, he adores her and even sneaks in a lick or two when he thinks I’m not looking!

These are my top tips for introducing your baby to your dog:

1.       Start as you mean to finish. What I mean by this is set the expectation now before you have your baby. If you usually allow your dog on the bed but do not want them on the bed when the baby arrives, start training them now so they have time to get used to their new “normal”. The last thing you want is to make your dog feel replaced when the new baby arrives by always shouting at them to move off a spot they were always allowed on before.


2.       Take something home from the hospital. I had always heard this advice, but I am not sure this really made a difference in all honesty. Brett took the baby’s blanket and a few used clothes home and gave it to Benji to smell the day before we got home from hospital but Benji still didn’t like her. It’s worth doing if you can. Perhaps not the end of the world if you don’t.


3.       Give your dog space. I never put our new baby right next to the dog. I would let Benji decide when he wanted to come over or sit next to us. It’s a huge adjustment for the whole family so let you dog get used to the new addition in their own time without forcing it. Don’t put your baby on them, don’t put the baby up to the dog’s face.


4.       Don’t leave your dog out. If your dog has always been taken on walks, allowed on car rides, joined on family outings, been played with etc. than make a conscious effort to continue doing that. When Chloe was a few days old I went for my first walk with her in the pram. I was on my own but I made sure to bring Benji along. It might feel chaotic at first, but you will get used to having a pram and a dog I promise! If you have a larger dog or feel overwhelmed with both ask your partner or family to help. Exercise and metal stimulation are so important for your dog and their behaviour. If you do not want them acting out, make sure you keep up with their routines.


5.       Watch your dog’s behaviour.  It’s important to recognise common sign of distress in your dog. Perhaps they might shake, pant, cower away. If they show signs of distress / discomfort remove them from the situation. For example, Chloe cried a lot in those early days. It was stressful for us as new parents, but I think even more stressful for Benji. You see Benji is a rescue. He was a victim of fireworks so is petrified of storms / loud noises / bangs and I could see he was uneasy and pacing when the baby was hysterically crying. So, taking the baby into her own room, closing the door and giving Benji some space let him get used to this new noise. A few months down the line and Benji now sleeps through her crying! (I think he’s the only one getting sleep in our house).


6.       Teach your baby to respect the dog. Chloe is only four months old but she already loves watching Benji and tries to reach out to him. Even at this young age I tell her things like “we pat Benji gently like this” to encourage and show her how to treat animals. I also don’t let her lie next to Benji when she starts kicking her legs or swinging her arms around in excitement. No one likes to be annoyed, dogs included. Your dog may tolerate it for a bit but allowing a baby to kick, hit, grab, poke, sit on a dog is cruel and they will most likely eventually snap at the baby. Rather avoid these situations and create a respectful relationship.


7.       Give your dog some time. You will all need some time adapting to life with a baby! If you are feeling overwhelmed having a dog and a new baby don’t be afraid to ask your family or friends for help. Or hire a dog walker, take your dog to a doggy day care every second day, hire an expert trainer.

Dog Friendly Accommodation - Clarens

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

On our recent road trip from Durban to Cape Town we discovered this dog friendly gem! It’s hard to find luxury dog friendly accommodation in a good location so when we stayed here, I couldn’t wait to share it with you.

The Windmill Cottage

Situated in the Freestate, just outside of Clarens, is Ridge Road Estate. There are three accommodation options and we stayed in the self-catering, Windmill Cottage which sleeps six people. This place ticks all the boxes: Karroo charm, beautiful interior, fully equipped modern kitchen, enclosed garden and a braai area, 'sinkdam' styled swimming pool with the most beautiful views and daily visits from their own resident pooches! They have a Jack Russell and Irish Wolfhound.

Inside the Windmill Cottage
We checked in for two nights, unpacked our bags and made ourselves right at home. This place is a perfect escape from the city and is well worth the roadtrip from Joburg or Durban. It feels remote but safe, as there is a security guard who walks around the premises at night which also puts your mind at ease.

The braai area

BEFORE you head to Clarens

Stock up on supplies and take these with you or stop in a big town before you get to Clarens! You can pick up a few fresh baked goods in Clarens but not much else. There is no Spar, Woolworths or good quality grocery store in Clarens. We only realised how limited our options were when we got there and then had to travel an hour and half to a grocery store to buy fresh produce and a few other essentials.

The beautiful views & resident Irish Wolfhound meeting Benji

Driving to Clarens from Durban

We drove this scenic route to Clarens which I thought I would share with you as it was such a gorgeous drive and there are places you can stop if you need to let your dog out for a break along the way.

  • N3 Northbound until Escourt. Stop at The Windmills for a coffee, snacks, to refuel and let you dog out. This is on the N3 Nottingham Road offramp, Exit 132
  • R74 through Wintertin, Bergvile and Sterkfontein Dam (I highly recommend stopping at one of the look out points here)
  • R712 to Clarens

One of the three rooms

What to do in Clarens

I found eating out in Clarens rather disappointing and the food was generally below average. So, I would recommend you eat at your accommodation and rather venture out to walk around the town, grab a coffee, have a drink and hit the shops. Clarens is a cute, little arty town and dogs are welcome almost anywhere. Just make sure they are well behaved and on a leash as there are a few local dogs that roam the streets too, (we had a few follow us and then looked like “those crazy people” arriving at a restaurant with six dogs but only one was ours. The rest Benji had made friends with and invited along the way!) If you are looking to pick up a piece of art, then Clarens won’t disappoint. For a small town, they had a number of art and craft stores and we picked up our first piece of art at a more affordable price than we would have paid in Cape Town for example.  Here are a few of my other favourite stores.

  • Purple Onion - they have a little bit of everything
  • Highland Coffee – pop in for your caffeine fix
  • The Courtyard Bakery - they have fresh bread, rolls, baked good, sauces, koeksisters, cookies, cheeses pies and all sorts of home-made goodies!
  • Art & Wine was my favourite place for art

  • Culture – visit the local museum and other Boer War sites
  • Adventure – there are a number of outdoor adventures to be had! Horse riding, hikes, white water rafting and quad biking to name few

Benji deciding which painting to buy from Art & Wine

Top Tip

During the week Ridge Road Estate offer specials! This place also makes the perfect New Year’s Eve getaway with your dog as there are no fireworks.

Modern Gender Neutral Nursery - On a Budget

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

We decided to keep the gender of our baby a surprise so needed a nursery that would work for either a little boy or a girl who would be coming home. When I started looking for ideas online, I quickly realised that decorating a baby’s nursery could become a very costly project so I set out to create a space that would be cute, practical and most importantly wouldn’t break the bank.
I am not a huge fan of “baby” prints or typical “baby” colours so instead I aimed to create a space that was centred around being neutral, light and calming. Here is how I created this space on a budget. And it’s turned out to be a space I love spending time in.

Ideally, I would’ve loved to put down wooden floors in this room but decided to leave the original jute carpeting. I love the warm tone and texture it brings to the room so for now it works. The walls were painted white as it made this room feel bigger than it is while also brightening up the space.

You really don’t have to spend a fortune on nursery furniture and décor. You just have to get creative and shop around. Don’t be afraid to buy second hand or upscale pieces you already have in your home. I found this rocking moose on eBay for example when I was in London for 99p, the cane chair is from the 1900s and I picked it up at a second hand store on our road trip to Cape Town and the changing table was an old dressing table we painted in sage green. I bought the gold knobs years earlier at an antique market and finally put them to use on this changing table. I did splurge on the brass hand curtain hooks though. I couldn’t resist these from Anthropologie.  

I didn’t want a rocking chair as I wanted something more stable and comfier where I could curl up and feed in the middle of the night or read bed time stories, so we borrowed this from my mother in law. I love mixing old and new pieces in a room. Even the mirror was an old bathroom mirror I had reframed with this simple gold frame. I also decorated the shelves above the changing table with a sketch my best friend gave us as a wedding present and a used biscuit tin from another sweet friend which I loved the colour and detail of. You could even frame family pictures, images from magazines or sentimental post cards to add to shelves or the wall of your nursery. This is a great way to add artwork and personalise a space without investing in wallpaper or expensive prints. I always have a few staples on this shelf and then use this as a space for baby products I am using and want to be in easy reach.

My best friend bought the baby cot for our baby shower which was the most incredible gift. If you are on a budget, there are some beautiful cots and moses baskets on places like Gumtree or Market Place on Facebook. You just have to keep looking. I also ended up only paying R30 for this mosquito net as I used the R100 Babies R Us voucher that comes in the Discovery gift box (read this blog post if you haven't already about all the maternity benefits you get with Discovery medical aid)

We gave the cupboards a fresh coat of paint instead of installing new cupboards which bought them back to life. It’s amazing what paint can do! To organise the baby clothes inside the cupboard I bought these perspex containers from Mr Price Home as baby clothes are so small and I wanted to keep arranged by sizes. This also makes them easily accessible as I can pull them all out and put them on the changing table. I would love to buy a labeling machine but for now I used masking tap and a permanent marker to create makeshift labels. I also found slightly smaller perspex trays from @Home which I used for socks, bibs, hats and other bits and bobs. If you are looking for perspex storage try Mr Price Home, @Home and Just Plastics as they often have stock in store that isn't online. 

When I was little I loved reading, I always chose having a bed time story over watching TV so I wanted to create a little reading nook that our little one could spend hours sitting in. We purposely made the shelves low so when we had a toddler they were able to pick out their own book.  If you are in the US or UK, Amazon sell books for a fraction of the price that are used but in excellent condition. Or alternatively ask for a used or new book for your baby shower and guests can write a message in this instead of in cards which are so often just thrown away.

Other products featured. *Those that are not linked were bought in store and are not online:
  • Block out curtains - Mr Price Home
  • Bookshelves - Kids Living
  • Changing mat - Bumbo
  • Cot - Kids Living
  • Cot matress - Kids Living
  • Display shelves - Custom made pine shelves as we needed a certain length but available from Builders Warehourse, Mr Price Home, Game and a number of other affordable stores
  • Dog light - @Home
  • Moon night light - Takealot
  • Mosquito net - Babies R Us
  • Palm tree print - Desenio
  • Toy Basket - H&M Home
  • Wooden pull along dog - John Lewis
  • Vase - H&M Home

Minimalist Newborn Must Haves

Sunday, 29 March 2020

It’s easy to get caught up in buying every baby product, especially as a first time mom. Everything is adorable and cute, so it is hard not to! But perhaps if this COVID-19 outbreak has taught us anything, it is not to panic buy. And I feel the same applies to shopping for a newborn. You could spend a small fortune on newborn items that would only last you a few weeks or wouldn’t end up being used at all. So, I have made a minimal list of the essentials I recommend having. These are products that were worth every penny and got me through the first few weeks as a first time mama! This is not to say you won’t need other products further down the line, these are just items for the first few weeks which I found made life easier so you know what to buy and where to possibly save your pennies.

  • Hakkaa -  I bought the double Medela electric swing pump for a few thousand rands which I have only just started using  but for those first few weeks after giving birth (especially if you are a first time mom) you are still trying to get used to breast feeding and the pain of it all. An electric pump, even on the gentlest setting was too sore and uncomfortable. It is also awkward to use as it needs to be plugged in (or have batteries), has a lot of attachments to assemble and constantly sterilise, and it is noisy. After I gave birth I realised I needed a much simpler solution and bought the Hakkaa. I am actually tempted to buy another one so I can use two at the same time if I am not feeding but need to express. The Hakkaa is a fraction of the price and I wish someone had told me to save my money and start off with a Hakkaa first. You can pop it on anywhere, the suction is really good so your new born cannot easily kick it off and once your milk supply comes in you can catch your let down while your baby feeds on the other breast and either freeze your extra milk or feed it to your baby as a top up (which I did to get her back to her birth weight). This has been so handy to reach for at 2am. I also measured my output and using the Medela electric swing pump and Hakkaa I got the same amount of milk, this morning was about 40ml.

  • Breast Milk Storage Bags - I use the Medela milk storage bags as these came with my pump. Ideally, I would have liked to have found a glass storage solution instead of plastic bags but I haven’t yet, so these are what I have been using. What I love about them is that you can store them flat in your freezer so they don’t take up much space, they have a great leak-proof double zipper and you can write the date and ml on them.

  • Bottle – You might want to exclusively breast feed or exclusively formula feed. See what works for you and your baby. I liked using a small bottle like the Pigeon or Medela bottles and the NUK premature teet (Chloé was 3.24kgs at birth but a normal size teat made her gag). There are so many different types of bottles and teats so buy one and see what your baby likes before buying a whole bunch. I learnt this the hard way after buying four of the same brand only to discover they let in too much air while she drank which resulted in hours of tears and no sleep, for both of us. I also wish I had bought a wide neck bottle and slow flow teat to have on hand as this is what I ended up needing in the end.

  • Nipple Cream – Pack this in your hospital bag and start using it from day one. Don’t wait for your nipples to become roasties like I did. It took me 5 weeks before breastfeeding was no longer painful and it was a loooong 5 weeks with sore nips! This Aloe Vera Gel is a great alternative if you want something more natural but it is a dark colour so keep this in mind (it doesn’t stain though!) otherwise Lansinoh nipple cream works wonders too and doesn’t need to be wiped off when breastfeeding.

  • Small Dummy – I assumed all dummies were the same. They aren’t. And that goes for sizing too. Size 0-2 months or 0-6 months will most likely be too big for your teeny newborn. Buy and take a Snookums Cherry dummy with you to hospital. They are about R15 (the cheapest dummy out there) and if your baby takes it this will be your saving grace. Pack it in your hospital bag. Chloé didn’t settle in the hospital nursery and always wanted to comfort feed so if I had found these dummies earlier in my mom life, I would have been able to get 40 winks which were so vital yet scarce in those early days.

  • Comfy safe mirror for your carthis mirror is so nice and big and being able to see your baby while driving gives you peace of mind when they need to be rear facing for the first few months. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to pull over because her head had fallen forward or to the side and I thought she couldn’t breathe! Having this mirror lets you keep an eye on them.

  • Gentle baby products – Your newborn baby is so delicate and little so it’s really important to choose gentle products to use on their skin. My favourite products at the moment are:
    • Pure Beginnings bum cream
    • Pure Beginnings or Oh Lief baby wash
    • Water Wipes (these are available at Baby City)

  • A few small newborn / prem clothes for the first four weeks - Chloé was a very average weight and height, born at 3.24 kgs and 51cm long and hardly any clothes I bought fit her. the sizing of baby clothes is very odd. These are the brands I found fit well for newborns: Ackermans, Country Road, H&M. What is great about H&M is they do in between sizes as well 

  • Baby grows with attached, fold down mittens. The best ones I have found are from Cotton On and the have a zip! This is so handy for night time nappy changes when you are doing everything with one eye open.  

  • White noise machine or white noise soundtrack on your phone - If you use your phone, just remember to download the track / playlist and put your phone on airplane mode before putting it near your baby.

  • Muslins – Get three or four soft muslins that are large enough to use for swaddling. This would be my minimum amount as you end up using these as burp cloths, swaddles, blankets and covers over your pram on a sunny day, so they get dirty quickly.

  • A nappy bag – this is something that is worth the splurge, as it is not just for your baby, it is something you will end up using every day. My K’LEA bag honestly makes me feel like I have my sh*t together on days when I look and feel a mess. It goes with every outfit, holds everything I and my baby need for the day and the best part - it t can be attached to your pram with the stroller straps so you don’t even have to carry it if you don’t want to. Make sure you get a baby bag that can attach to your pram as you really won’t want to be carrying anything but your baby. So treat yourself, invest in a baby bag that makes you feel good about yourself.

  • A pram with a basinet – Ok don’t hate me for what I am about to say here… I know everyone is all about convenience these days so prams like the Doona are very popular but babies under 6 months should ideally lie flat in their pram instead of being “scrunched” up like they are in their car seat. If they lie flat is allows for optimal breathing and encourages their spine and hips to develop properly.

  • Moses basket - having your baby sleep right next to your bed for the first few weeks is convenient because you will be up feeding them every hour or two. You don't have to spend a fortune on one either. There are some gorgeous second hand raftan baskets for example on places like Gumtree and Market Place which would only have been used for a few weeks or months. We have actually used Brett’s old moses basket from when he was a baby which his mom made up for Chloé! If you do buy a second hand moses basket you will need to get a new mattress. dont buy this second hand.

  • Reusable breast pads - Not only are these more sustainable and budget friendly but they are also more comfortable to wear. My go to have been these from Olive and you can also buy these from Dischem. I suggest getting about 10 pairs as you go through about three to four pairs a day. 

  • *Cloth nappies* - If you are going to use cloth nappies don’t be afraid to start using them from birth. I loved the Bumgenius Littles Newborn V2 nappies for the first month as they have space for the umbilical cord and are not bulky but still contain that newborn poop. Another firm favourite of mine are the Tot Bots TeenyFit Star which I always reached for once her umbilical cord had fallen off. If you are going to use disposable nappies just get one pack of the newborn size nappies as they grow out of these so fast,.