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'We all have that mother's intuition, so just trust it'

Based on her experience of raising three children, former Celebrity Mum of the Year, television presenter Holly Willoughby shares her secrets of happy parenting in a new book

By Lisa Salmon

As a mum of three young children, Holly Willoughby has experienced all the joys, frustrations and tears that come with being a busy working mother.

She's written a new parenting guide, Truly Happy Baby... It Worked For Me, packed with her own candid experiences of, and practical tips on, everything from feeding and sleeping to looking after yourself.

"I know from first-hand experience with my three babies that one-size-fits-all parenting doesn't work," writes Willoughby.

"I've included all the information and friendly advice I wish I'd been given before I became a mum for the first time, alongside the routines, short-cuts and tips that worked for me."

Willoughby (35), whose children are Harry (7), Belle (5), and Chester (21-months), says she hopes her book will empower new mothers to trust their own "mummy intuition" and confidently look after their children in their own way during the year after birth.

"We all have that intuition, we just need to learn to tune into it."

The former Celebrity Mum of the Year, who's married to TV producer Dan Baldwin, says all three of her babies were very different - the first, Harry, was a "fairly straightforward" baby, while Belle was nearly six-weeks premature, and little Chester had terrible tongue-tie and reflux.

Willoughby says that while she had no problems breastfeeding Harry, she was happy to "top him up" with formula so they could both get some sleep. Belle was successfully breastfed, too, but Willoughby had problems breastfeeding Chester, and admits: "I soon realised that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it doesn't work out."

So her youngest son was bottle-fed expressed breast milk, and then formula.

She stresses that mums shouldn't feel guilty if breastfeeding doesn't work out, as it didn't for Chester.

The book contains advice on all aspects of breastfeeding - checked, like all the other advice in the book, by medical professionals - and also outlines reasons new mums may choose to switch to formula.

And in addition to plenty of feeding tips and troubleshooting advice, she suggests: "Be prepared to have lots of muslins around you.

"And tie your hair back, because if they can see it, they will throw up on it."

As well as advice on sleep routines and safer sleep practices, Willoughby recommends a video monitor - she tried one for Chester and is a convert. She also loves baby sleeping bags, and bedside cots with sides that roll up and down. She used one with Chester when he had reflux problems in his early weeks, and slept downstairs with him to avoid disturbing the rest of the family.

"He just wasn't able to be that baby who sleeps, feeds and then sleeps," she recalls.

"It took me hours to feed and settle him back to sleep, then he'd be waking soon after to start the whole process again.

"Moving downstairs was the only option that worked for me and that particular baby."

Remembering a rare occasion when the kids weren't in the back of the car when she was driving, she says she realised she was muttering "Car ... car ... fire engine ..." because she was so used to pointing out vehicles to Harry.

"See ... you do become a crazy woman."

New mums need to make keeping themselves healthy and well a priority, says Willoughby, advising them to seek practical and emotional support, and not to hide their often-tumultuous emotions.

"I used to announce quite frequently that, 'I'm going to have a cry now' and promptly burst into tears," she admits, while stressing that being emotional is a normal phase that won't last forever.

Overall, Willoughby points out a mum's intuition is her most important tool in the first year after giving birth, and declares: "No parent on the planet gets it right all the time. I certainly didn't, and more often than not the questionable decisions I made were not my own."

Truly Happy Baby: It Worked For Me by Holly Willoughby is published by Harper Collins, £16.99. Out now

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