Saturday, 27 April 2013

Food for thought

You may remember that my best friend's little boy is almost exactly five months younger than E. Not that long ago, she embarked on her weaning adventure and even though she'd done it once before, she struggled to remember what she'd done. She started asking me about what I'd done, and something that was so recent that I'd felt really confident about had started to slip from my mind. So this post is for me, for next time as much as it is for anyone else who might be interested in what our journey with food has looked like. 

E is a great eater. She's always had a good appetite and she's not faddy. The only no no so far has been rice pudding. I can live with that. I, however, am a faddy eater and D and I felt really strongly that we needed to do everything we could to try and ensure that her relationship with food was healthy, sociable and positive.


Let's go back to when E was born. If you read my first post you'll know what E was a big baby born by caesarian. On day zero, my colostrum struggled to come in... And not a great deal else happened. By day five, E had lost 17% of her body weight and we found ourselves, after 36 hours at home, back in hospital in SCBU. I felt that I had failed her. Feeding your baby should be so natural, yet the final thing I had wanted in this 'having a baby' lark (active birth, water birth, mobility, no induction, absolutely not a C-Sec etc etc) hadn't happened either. She was dehydrated and at risk of kidney damage. I admitted defeat. She knocked back 3oz formula in seconds. She really was starving. When my wonderful health visitor sees her now, her first comment is always 'Who'd have thought that this little girl who had such a shaky start in life could be this big and bold?'. It wasn't what I wanted, but formula hasn't harmed this baby. 

She fed well and regularly but by fourteen weeks old she was drinking in the region of 56-60oz of formula a day. 11oz bottles each time. We were getting through boxes of baby milk faster than the speed of light. So, on Alison's (amazing health visitor, we are blessed!) recommendation, we started weaning at 17 weeks. She was ready. And she just loved food! 

So. This was what we did....

There were rules
  • eat socially and together as much as possible
  • don't get angry
  • eat what you're giving her to show her it's ok
  • always offer water
  • celebrate as much as possible
  • get in the highchair as soon as possible (the first weeks were a little trial and error as she was only just starting to sit unaided)
  • It's not ok to show her our food fads and we'll eat it if it's presented to us. Bork.


End of July. 17 weeks. The rule here (another one, apologies) was home make as much as possible but buying pouches for convenience was absolutely fine too. Our favourites included Ella and Plum but I'm sure it wasn't limited to that. I would make flavours in batches and freeze them in cube trays and then defrost them as required, and would make them softer by adding formula or a little cooking water. Annabel Karmel's recipe book was useful, I could never get my puree to be as smooth or liquid as the pouches. E didn't seem to mind and it helped us move on quicker. Until I had E I had a strawberry allergy, so I avoided red berries, but we tried everything. Avocado & pear (AKA Green and Green), apricot, and root vegetable combinations. I never tried new things for three days before adding something new to the repertoire. I had an issue with puree-ing meat unless it was in a soup or something so waited until she could handle lumps or start finger foods.

Her dexterity wasn't good enough for finger foods at 17 weeks, but we would let her lick the spoon. It resulted in brilliant pictures to show her future loves.

Early days.

We just played around, starting with a bit at lunch and within three weeks she was having a solid "meal" three times a day, along side 3 x 110z bottles. The milk bill was getting cheaper...

Finger foods

These were more hit and miss and I guess after a few failed attempts at cucumber and the like, I backed off finger food a bit. My lovely friend Charlie is a baby-led weaning queen, and her success with her daughter inspired me to give it another go. By early September, about 6 weeks in, E was exploring finger food happily, starting with breadsticks and gradually getting braver. I think my mistake in the early days had been making what I was giving her quite small for fear of choking. As soon as I gave her bigger sticks of carrot, or whatever, she found it much easier to pick up and manipulate and this really helped. Her first tooth arrived around the same time, which must have helped, and I imagine veg sticks felt incredibly satisfying on those sore gums! Within a month, she would try anything put in front of her. Cold meats, all fruit and veg, baby crisps and the like. We'd make a point of making lunchtimes at home solely BLW, perhaps with a yogurt for afters. Dinners would be combination of finger food and something hot off a spoon.

Getting thicker

During this time, we'd been gradually introducing more flavours and tastes to E's repertoire, including trying to give her what we were having. The fruit/veg combos eventually being more like a mash and if she was having what we were having (casserole, or anything in the slow cooker being her favourite all time meals) we would never break it down more than what you could do by hand with a fork. Six months arrived so we started adding porridge and cereal and dairy stuff in there too. She was polishing off healthy sized portions of everything, and the milk quickly dropped to morning and evening bottle only. I have gotten over the smell of fish and cook her fish pie in portions for when we don't eat together. D might have tried banana. Once. 

6 months and the first encounter with yogurt.

Eating together

In light of how well she was doing, we made the decision that October half term (when she turned 7 months) we were no longer making her anything different, except "freezer meals" and she would eat what we ate. We stopped using salt when we cook (and now we don't even notice the lack of salt - good for us too!) and we all just dig in. I cut stuff into chunks for her and she uses a fork or her hands to feed herself. I administer yogurt as it gets thrown around otherwise and we let her have fruit pouches as a pudding straight out of the pouch. 

Sharing this journey has made us eat FAR healthier with more variety and more exploration of new things. E likes strong flavours, spice, and I call her fruit bat because she inhales fruit, satsumas in particular, in seconds. She also regularly refuses to eat cake and threw most of her easter egg on the floor. She has juice if we're eating out and when she's really poorly, but the rest of the time she drinks water like it's going out of fashion. At eleven months I took away bottles and gave her milk in sippy cups. We moved her over to cow's milk shortly after. At thirteen months she has bedtime milk and morning milk is intermittent. 

I am so proud of her. Mealtimes are a joy and she loves to try new things. I probably did lots of things the rule books said I couldn't, but it worked out well and she's just fine! Next step is mastering her spoon skills and then getting her involved in cooking. I'm not sure when kids start using knives as well as forks... If anyone could enlighten me that would be cool.

Water is better from mummy's sippy cup.

I think that's about right. I clearly am no weaning expert. This is just our experience. Pick my brains if something wasn't clear! I hope that we have helped her embark on a journey of loving food, loving eating and enjoying it healthily. I feel quite confident that we have.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Friday's round up

Our day in photographs

Rain? Sun? Hail? Sun? Sea Life Centre? Park? With grandad? Without grandad? Hang the washing out? Grey cloud?

It's been one of those days. Take a look...

Happy baby after a teethy kind of night. 
Mummy's favourite cereal is better for playing with. 
Taking advantage of an empty park. They must have known something
we did not...
Over beautiful Rutland and Leicestershire.
E is getting braver on the swings...
...and braver on her feet without me.
Moments later, HAIL stopped play. Yes. Hail.
We resorted to emptying the tin cupboard..
and product testing a Brita filter bottle (hit with us both!)
Those leaves were not on that tree yesterday.
Conclusion: Yogurt is better than cereal.
Daddy's at the pub. I have cider. The end of another lovely Friday.

Colour me pink

I'm not a tom boy. But I'm not a girlie girl. I'm somewhere in the middle. I adore dark blue, neutral colours, browns, greys. I like a splash of colour. Did I mention I love blue? The whole of the downstairs of my house is blue.

This week I found myself in Mothercare returning a dress that had been bought for E for her birthday. It was cute enough; white and yellow with a daisy pattern. Floral. Floaty. I consulted some of my closest mummy friends who all agreed it wasn't very E.

"Maybe if it had been navy with daisies?" Yes. That would have been better. But I can use my fingers alone to count the number of occasions my little girl has worn a dress in her 13 month existence. A tutu to her Godmother's wedding 9 days old. A dress with owls on at Christmas. A smock dress that I just really liked. A denim number with a HUGE bow on the front but more because I liked the stripy tights I found... Her scrummy little thights do look great in tights.

I also have an issue with nappies on show. Although we're long past crawling, E does love to lift her top up and show off her belly, and probably irrationally I can't bear her showing it off to strangers. Probably need to get over that. And, when she's in a dress and I'm in my jeans and a hoody, she makes me feel under dressed. Out dressed by my toddler. Sigh.

I explained to the girl at the till. She looked at me like I was mad. I must be projecting my own dress sense on to her.

In the early days, she wore a lot of pink. I bought a little (very bright) pink for her when I found out she was 'probably pink' at 22 weeks. We were lucky enough to have a huge wardrobe on loan from family and friends that was very pink. Her first shoes were pink because they only had pink in quite small but really wide sizes. They clashed with all her red Christmas attire beautifully. But now the new baby gifts have passed, there are very limited amounts  of pink in her wardrobe. I dont think it suits her, like it doesn't suit me. She looks great in reds, greens, dark blues, purples.

E shows no interest in dollies. She has two. She likes building and bashing and making noise. She's very caring and loving towards us and her friends, but she doesn't seem to show affection to "her babies" in the same way she does her plastic zoo animals. Smooch with the giraffe? Why not! Someone asked me if I wanted them to buy her a toy pushchair for her birthday and I had a small freak out inside.  I know that one day very soon she will want to be a girl and play with dollies and prams (although I never did, as I child, I understand) but I'm in no rush for her to do that just yet. I love the innocence of her not understanding gender stereotyping, that she'll play with cars while wearing fairy wings (which she does love wearing, but again, I didn't buy them for her). I know that one day she'll want to wear a Disney princess outfit to go to the supermarket. Some of E's pals are so very girlie. They look divine in dresses and dainty and pink and floral. So do their mums. I don't have the legs or finesse.

I'll never stop E being whatever she wants to be. Even if that is a pink princess with a pink pram. But this week I've mostly been pondering how much we really influence our children's tastes and styles.

I know that one day, whatever I do, I'll be cramping them.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Thinking about Friday

I spent quite a lot of time today trying to convince teenagers that I was not in control of the temperature of my classroom. Like I thought it would be a good idea to turn up the thermostat because a class of sleeping fourteen year olds is my idea of fun. 

I left work in the sunshine. 

My baby was playing in the garden at nursery when I picked her up from nursery.

Then I checked the forecast for my day at home tomorrow.

Rain. Hail. Cold.

Super. So we all headed out to make the most of the evening sunshine. I love a sunny evening.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Gove - Work - Life*

I was what I would describe as a closet career woman. I was really passionate about my job, about education and working my way up. But I don't think I was too "in your face" about it... I didn't eat and breathe work every waking moment, but I relished in it, quietly. I changed jobs at the end of my first year of teaching, and as we were relocating, and applied for everything I could. I couldn't be too fussy, we had a brand new mortgage to pay. I fell on my feet into a somewhat unexpected managerial position and I could not have been happier. I worked until 6pm every night and rarely took work home except at the weekend sometimes. I (almost) always felt on top of my to do list, and felt able to juggle life and work. Work hard, play hard. 

I didn't take much time off after having E and had planned to go back full time. People raised their eyebrows at me. But "my" children at school were and still are really important to me. Shortly after E was born, my late mother-in-law became very poorly, and our childcare situation changed dramatically... I ended up returning a couple of weeks later than I had planned to, but only four days a week. There were a whole host of reasons why it needed to be like that, but I've not looked back.

This weekend was about family, friends and outdoor fun.

In retrospect, I'm not sure how I'd have coped full time. I am too much in love with my day with my daughter each week. We get to enjoy places like the Sea Life Centre when it's not really busy, I can catch a sneaky nap time cuddle (not often, I have strong opinions on this but that's for some other time), we get to see some of our friends who don't live locally sometimes, we get to be just me and her. Lunchtime, is without doubt, my favourite meal of the week. Me and her.

Last week, we said goodbye to E's nana after her valiant battle with cancer. E never met her Granny, my mum. On my day off last week, E and I stayed home and read books, made lion noises and laughed together a lot. Aged 26 and a few days I've had my fair share of grief. Life's too short. Our day just got a whole lot more special, a whole lot more important. Any thoughts of ever going full time until all the kids (the one I have, the ones I plan to have) are at school have gone. Our day.

That's not to say that I found my happy medium. In twelve weeks time, I'll have been back a year after maternity leave. I've still not mastered my work/life balance. The holidays are great. E comes out of nursery and we have a lot of family time then, as D also works in education. But term time is a real struggle. I have a long commute and my days of working until 6pm are a distant memory as I do the evening nursery run. I've left the building by 5pm. By the time we've done bedtime and fed ourselves, it's gone 8pm and my inclination to work is weak to say the least. I am fully aware that every working household with kids must be similar. Hats off to us all. I inevitably end up working three evenings a week and some time at weekends, and I've become far more productive in my PPA and management time at work this year than I ever was before. I've come to realise that I can't always be outstanding or even good. I just have to be good enough. But I'm yet to work out what good enough is when it comes to my job. Just this week I had a long conversation with a parent whose grievences partly stemmed from something I hadn't done. Or rather I had done it but I hadn't done it often enough. When is the time for it? How can I be more efficient? I obviously teach less but my managerial role didn't reduce when my days did. At the weekends if E goes out with daddy and I stay at home and work I feel like I'm really missing out. On him and on her. If I work late and don't make it home in time for bedtime, I feel hideously guilty. But I've not finished my written feedback from before the easter holidays. Take a step back. Daddy needs time with her too. I was home but I didn't put her to bed last night. What's the difference?


School days should be longer and school holidays should be shorter. A predicament that would have made my heart sink even before I felt like I was juggling 231 balls, some of which have thorny bits and others of which are ticking time bombs. 

I know E is a long way from starting school, but my first reaction to this was "I WANT TO SEE MY KID!" Longer at school in a day means that valuable, precious time of an evening is shortened, and they are more tired and therefore more grumpy. I would feel the same if my days were longer. I know that I'm lucky that I'll get my school holidays with my kids, and not all parents do, and some have to put childcare provisions in place for them but I genuinely feel that the kids need that time off as much as the teachers. To stop, to have fun, to be children. To catch up on marking, to get a bit of sleep, to get that holiday illness I always seem to get. I want to be able to educate my children too. I want to take them places, let them see stuff, spend time with their friends outside of school, see their grandpa who doesn't live in the next town. That's what life is about too, even if I struggle to balance it right now.

I don't even know where I start with how I feel about this as a teacher. Even when I'm finding the balance hard, the children that I teach are of utmost importance. I'm freaking about May Day bank holiday and how that impacts on my Year 11s who only have five weeks until their exam and giving up more lunchtimes for them. I'm thinking of creative ways to get to those kids who don't respond all that well to my natural teaching style, and the big elephant in the room - one word, begins with O - is still very much in the room. I know there are people who think teachers work 9-3 40 weeks a year and that misconception will probably never change. I've had that discussion too many times, but we do work through our holidays, our evenings, our weekends. I did work an 80 hour week when 34 weeks pregnant to conduct the school show. Because we love it. But there's only so much we can give at once. And if we want... need... to improve standards of education, then I'm sure every teacher who does their job for the right reasons is willing to play their part in that. I don't even know where we start, if I'm honest. But I am positive that this wont solve it. Excellent teachers will step down from their positions because of this and that will not help to boost standards of education. Fact.

It fills me with dread: Less time to do even more?

So this term is my time to work out how I make myself more efficient. To work out what rules I will set myself for the new academic year, and ensure I stick to them. The first step to fixing a problem is realising that there is one, right? 

Me and her. I must remember. 

This is the start of summer.

*Yes, I know it's Sunday, not Friday, but this occupied a lot of Friday's thoughts... 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Moving on up

"What a big baby! She's got a lot of hair!"
"But is she ok?"
"She's fine. But she's big! And she's got a LOT of hair."

She was fine. She didn't cry straight away, and I didn't get to see her completely brand new. Ten minutes of tugging to dislodge her from my pelvis after a hideous induction resulting in an emergency caesarian had proved quite a shocking ordeal for all of us. She had a bruised head, looked like she was about to sprout little horns and weighed in just shy of 10lb.

She was big. And she did have a lot of hair.

Brand new E

When older women ask how much she weighed, they wince at the thought of it. Most of my friends, whose little ones have been "average" give me a sympathetic nod. But many people aren't suprised. Babies ARE getting bigger. My best friend, who said she'd eat her hat if my baby arrived weighing less than her first born, a healthy 9lb 3, went on just five months after E arrived to deliver a 10lb 10er naturally, and amazingly before her epidural had a chance to work.  Hats off to her. There was no way E was coming out, head back and back to back... Sunroof it was.

A year on, E is still bigger and hairier than most of her pals of a similar age. One of her "best friends" (Oh I DO hope they will be!) weighs as much now as E weighed at 16 or 17 weeks old. She's tall. And she's rocking a wavy, messy haircut. She wears some 18-24 month clothes. She isn't "fat": She's followed her line beautifully since the horrors of "Day 5", and has actually dropped a line recently since she started walking... She just looks old. And that's kind of what it's aways been like. She's never looked her age. I hope she looks her age by the time going clubbing crosses her mind...

Yesterday we got the letter to say that nursery were starting her settling in sessions to move her up to the Ladybird Room. They're moving her up early. Her buddies, twin girls five months her senior will be staying put while she goes to join the older ones. Sometimes she goes over to the Ladybird room at the end of the day when they're short on staff, and she's never looked out of place. She looks like one of them, and is always having a great time. I know she'll have no issues settling in there, and I know it'll only improve the quality of her day at nursery. I say that like her days aren't good at the moment. They really are. I am blessed to have a child who settled effortlessly at nursery. The only tears shed when she started going at five months old were mine. But it's become clear in the last few weeks that she's getting a bit bored in the baby room. It's time to move on up. I am thrilled. I adore that she's so ready to go, and doing so well. That she loves reading, eating, playing, "helping out". I am proud that nursery see all the things in her that I see. But a little bit of me is sad. It's another of those things that just mean she's growing up, and I'd like that to slow down, please. What do I even mean by that, really?

Obviously I decide to write a blog that calls for a photo and she manages to rub her nose to death.

I don't feel like I've ever pushed E to do stuff before she's ready. I've just given stuff to her to try, and most of the time she's just taken to it. My friends who are raising their second or subsequent talk about how they're in no rush for their babies to do stuff, that they want to keep their babies as babies, almost as if they think I am in a rush. Maybe I'm being too sensitive. I'm not in a rush. Some people told me bigger babies did stuff later because they were carrying extra weight. Others told me she'd do it sooner because she was that much stronger. Who knows. I can't help but love the new things she can do. When she started crawling, life got simpler. She would not longer get frustrated as she could get to where she wanted to be. Going places with a little person who walks seems to make the outing so much more about them and is so much fun. Mealtimes with mastered fork and spoon skills (OK, we're getting there with a spoon...) are cleaner some of the time. She is increasingly independent which I always wanted her to be. Yet I wonder, if without realising, I'm being too keen in my attempts to help her to do stuff? Do others see me as pushy, or think I'm pushy? I see pushy parents at parent's evening at school and I feel bad for those kids. I don't want to be one of those mothers. Do I need to take a step back?

Having a kid that is meeting some milestones earlier than expected fills me with pride, gush gush, but that combined with her toddler-aged looks isn't without its drawbacks. When we're out in the pram, people talk to E, as they would any other child, but look at her like she's stupid when they don't get the verbal response they were expecting. People stopped cooing over her a lot earlier than my other friends' babies. In children's play areas or at soft play I find myself regularly apologising to other parents as she doesn't get the concept of sharing yet and they're trying to get her to share with their kids... Why would she? She's still so young. But she looks like she should. I think, when I explain, they feel bad. But it makes me sad that I have to apologise for her. It's not her fault. 

So where is the line? Where do you become pushy, how little of a rush is too little a rush? Is letting them get on with it and not helping them out acceptable? I don't know. I don't know if I've crossed those lines, and I don't expect I'll treat Number 2 any differently. I suspect, or I'd like to think that she's done these things because she wanted to and because she was ready. Whatever I've done or she's done, she's happy and she's doing brilliantly, and that's what matters more than anything else. I need to take some perspective when it comes to other people's reactions and see the positive more... Dare I say it, be a bit more smug sometimes. A friend of mine recently had a little boy and suddenly before she or anyone else had blinked, he was a month old. She was sad about this. I told her she needed to embrace the change as they just get better and better.

Embrace the change. I need to take a leaf out of my own book.

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