Once I was up and running with the weaning, I wanted to have a few recipes up my sleeve for some more interesting food for the little one that my older one could also eat but also for stocking my freezer. This is a collection of recipes that I am going to keep adding to, that I can keep coming back to:
The last couple of days we have visited the beach at Puerto Soller in the morning and spent the afternoon in the pool back at the villa.
When I asked her, Molly said her favourite part of the first day was visiting the beach and building up the sand ramparts with Bobby while the Daddies tried to wash it away. It is really calm, so perfect for the little ones.
Today, Molly and Bobby got the tram to the beach.
My favourite part was swimming with Molly. Her enthusiasm is wonderful. But is was her jumps (dives?) into the pool that took me by surprise. I was almost flattened the first time!
The babies like chilling by the pool too.
Tea time at the villa is usually a bit hectic with these two:
Lucy and I have managed to slip away to buy some groceries to get a break on Tuesday teatime:
And the boys were so keen to get away from it that they cycled over the hill/mountain!
Well, we have arrived!
It was quite a trip being so late and a 30 minute delay to our flight just tipped Eve over the edge, who was tired and hungry by 8pm. Once we had taken off and she’d had a feed (the feed has to coincide with take off to help equalise her ears) all was well again. Molly was a super star; she looked it with her gold being headphones too. Neither slept til Eve finally lost the battle and nodded off 15 mins before we landed.
We finally started to relax once the taxi dropped us at the hotel, until Molly got left in the lift and screamed the hotel down!
The next day we took our time getting up. We were the personification of mañana, until we had to pick up the hire car that is.
We got to the villa without any issues in time for a late tea at the local pizzeria. Once the children were in bed we tested the gorgeous heated pool.
With my second baby coming up to six months old, I had a look around published info to remind myself how to do it and see if anything had changed.
The first time, I found some interesting information that led me to avoid giving baby rice. At 6 months a baby’s iron requirements increase as well as having a bigger appetite.
Baby rice and other cereals don’t naturally contain iron in high enough levels. The accepted response has been to give baby rice fortified with Iron. However, there is an article by Renegade Mom that makes baby rice seem really bad, a central argument is that the starch in it can’t be digested by the gut (this isn’t completely correct because the amylase in the babies saliva helps), also rice contains arsenic, which in little quantities is OK but watch for build up (rice cakes, cereal, hungry milk etc). Perhaps a more balanced view is in this nutrition blog. In short, I think baby rice is OK in moderation but for me there is a better way by considering foods that naturally contain iron. These articles raise an important point about not following the herd and understanding what is best. Time for some more research!
Well, I don’t know if I just missed it last time but this time the articles I found that talked through the misinformation around baby rice also had some interesting alternative first foods – bone broth (aka home made stock), liver (good quality, grass fed) and egg yolk. Holistic squid has a great article on these first foods.
In fact, I made some bone broth just the other day after we had roast chicken for Sunday lunch. I had read about it in Hemsley Hemsley a great book about eating better (as adults). Bone broth is very healing for adults’ digestive tract. For babies it helps ‘seal’ the digestive tract, which is permeable in the first months and needs to ‘seal’ this route to protect from some nasties in our diet crossing into the blood stream. It also is an easy way for the body to absorb some useful nutrients – zinc, magnesium, and many amino acids.
Bone broth is very easy to make, no skills required, just time, ingredients and a pot to store it in. The difference between stock and bone broth is really that you leave broth on the heat for longer. Once finished, if you put it in the fridge, the fat rises to the top and forms a seal so it stores well. You can freeze it too.
For me, spooning bone broth into a babies mouth is a bit like one of those challenges on the crystal maze, there is going to be a lot of spillage and if I get any in it will be a miracle. What I’m going to try is mixing bone broth with vegetable puree. Egg yolks will be easy, I love a boiled egg in the morning and the yolk will easily stick to my finer perfect for sucking (edit: My sister pointed out it would have to be a hard boiled egg as the yolk needs to be cooked). Liver though… Yuk! Am I brave enough to grate some liver?
Ah! I’ve suddenly realised how close it is to our summer holiday in June. An early summer holiday is good for cooler weather for the kids and for getting some sun (hopefully!) to kick start what will be a splendid English summer (ahem!) but it is not great for having your body back in shape for summer clothes and swimming cozzies!
To be honest I’m pretty lucky at being able to let the weight drop off, it doesn’t take too much effort to get so far. However, toning up is another thing altogether. It requires a bit of time and effort. I used to do yoga and running but even these I struggle with now I have a four month old baby and a four year old. By the end of the day I’m exhausted and often a glass of wine and hearty dinner and pudding is what I crave most. Since I’m so exhausted I feel I damn well deserve it too!
So back to getting that toned up body. Hmmm.
If I can’t summon up the energy in the evening when the kids are in bed, I have two options. Have a word and force myself out (tried that, not happening, I seem to be a bit too disobedient); or break it into manageable ‘bite-sized’ chunks. This I think I can do. And a positive attitude and belief in yourself at the beginning is an important part of making a start on a new habit and keeping it going.
My new habit
I can fit in yoga in 10, 20 or sometimes even 30 minute slots in the day. I grab my mat and start with sun salutations to warm up. If I then have time, I add on some further mat work. I also find times to weave exercise into my day.
Before my shower, I stretch my arms up, then link the hands together and bend to one side, sticking out the opposing hip, and then the other side. Putting my socks on means a count of four (or more if I can manage it) of holding my newly socked foot out with a straight leg in front of me to tone my gluts/thighs.
I’ve only been doing it for a week, so let me know if you have a routine you fit into your busy day, and I’ll report on how this goes. Fingers crossed!
I wasn’t totally sure if I was completely mad or very valiant climbing on a plane to go to a friend’s wedding with 4 month old Eve. What I didn’t expect is the boost to my self esteem. I think it is really easy to lose some of your self esteem and belief in yourself when you are on maternity leave.
I don’t know about you but when I see my mega mothering achievements – She slept! She fed! She pooed! – through others’ eyes, I don’t rank them as significant as my work achievements. Everyone has children, not everyone excels in their work place. Now it is important to pause here, and state for the record that this is all in my head. When I look objectively, I can see that bringing up a child is an amazing role and huge achievement. Emotionally though it doesn’t always feel like that – it is relentless, a long haul and as full of highs and lows as a roller coaster. My world becomes smaller. Getting into town or making it to a toddler group become major achievements and your sense of self and of courage can slip away stealth-like.
I wasn’t alone completely. And I was only going for a long weekend. (Did you see that mother who went travelling round the world on her maternity leave?!!) But I did it. All. By. Myself. (Wow, I sound like my four year old!) I flew to the south of France with a baby and took her to my friend’s wedding, and even a lunch party the next day.
I’m usually pretty protective of naps and feeding i.e. making sure there is time for these things when my little one needs them. Doing this trip meant I was always trying to work around others’ schedules – flight times, invitation times etc. Babies also are a law unto themselves, they might wake early or sleep late, or really often I found it would take an age to feed because she was distracted by everything going on around her. I started feeling bit like a maths genius in the end, constantly calculating times to work out the best way of doing everything.
The trip itself showed me what a patient, resilient, happy baby I had. It also showed me that she will let me know with a loud wail if things have gone too far and she is too tired, hungry etc. It showed me what a rapport I had already built up with her in just 4 months. It reminded me what great friends I have and how supportive they are. It also tested my problem solving skills, not just working out baby stuff but how to get the rear seats down in a Renault Scenic, driving in France, working out how to fit all our kit into the car and how to find a good restaurant to eat at.
It’s not that I’m recommending this specific thing, but I do recommend getting out of your comfort zone, whatever that may be. Because going to this wedding in France showed me what had been there all the time. You don’t notice how ‘good’ you are until you push yourself a bit. It’s hard when you’re feeling small or inadequete and it may feel quite selfish or guilty putting your baby out of her comfort zone. But challenging yourself and your baby is extremely rewarding. I think both my little one and I have both grown as a result.
At the end of the day modelling confidence and self esteem to your children is a good thing but it can only be done if you genuinely feel these things. Seeing my four year old at the arrivals gate and telling her all about our trip was great because I really felt the confidence shine out of me. My hope for both my daughters is that they will also challenge themselves and surprise themselves with the things they are capable of.
If you are flying with a baby and want some tips there are some great pieces of advice online e.g. Hither and thither
My top three tips are:
Book the flight at a good time for your baby. We travelled out and back over her lunchtime nap. It wasn’t seemless though, she fell asleep with 20 mins left on the flight because she was so interested. However, it gave me a little break and the lack of nap on the plane meant she napped in the hire car later too.
It helps to feed babies on take off and landing to equalise their ears. So I delayed her feed until take off, which made her a bit grisly; but we were 15 mins delayed and it takes an age for the plane to get to the runway and take it’s slot. By the time we took off and were making the changes in altitude that set your ears off, I had been feeding for half and hour and had nearly finished!
Work out the best way to transport your baby. I had my baby sling to hand all the time but kept the car seat was better at some points in the journey like going through security, and we needed that for the hire car. Her buggy would have been too bulky to take with us.
I should be, I do yoga, I birthed both my babies using only self-hypnosis (hypnobirthing), I am a relaxed person (most of the time) if a little rushed sometimes, I’m self aware and try to be kind to myself (doesn’t always work)… hang on this list is getting less and less zen! No wonder! If I try to be a zen person and fail regularly, then of course being a zen mother is going to be difficult. I’ve recently decided to go on a little journey of self discovery (I’ve got a 4 month old so no journey is going to be that big, I haven’t got the brain power) to try to find out why my eldest daughter (DD1) has a problem with getting dressed in the morning.
Just to scope the problem for you, everything is stressful and upsetting. The socks are uncomfortable, the knickers are uncomfortable, the sleeves are uncomfortable and if my husband or I don’t immediately help remove the clothes it can escalate to serious upset and on to tantrum-dom. Not ideal when you’re trying to get out of the house to work.
And that I believe is the root of the problem. When I was at work (I am now on maternity leave), I would find getting out of the house stressful and I believe that I have passed this on to my DD1. So how can I undo this pressure point now, make sure I don’t reintroduce it when I go back to work, and also prevent it happening to DD2? Getting dressed won’t be an issue for every parent but every parent will have a child that tantrums, and if you don’t, bully for you, you can go away to being perfect somewhere else! Whatever form it takes many parents may struggle with how to work happily with their child to achieve mutual satisfaction, and the tantrums are a signal that it is not going quite as well as an apprentice Zen Mother would like.
Becoming the donkey
We have tried the carrot and the stick. Neither really works. The stick is horrible and painful. The carrot route is more successful but it just becomes an expected reward, and tantrums ensue if the reward isn’t given, which is usually because she hasn’t got dressed quick / well enough. What then?
I have been reading a book by Dr Laura Markham that talks about emotional coaching your child, and that is what I aspire to do as a qualified Zen Mother. It’s simple, recognise and deal with your own hang ups (you can spot these by the anger that washes over you at the time), connect with your child and then coach your child rather than controlling them. Hmmm.
This is going to take some time and practice. It does however, give me a map for how to navigate this treacherous part of life. And it is treacherous because as an apprentice Zen Mother you want to give your child the best start and give him/her the tools to navigate the complex human world.
Growing into the Zen Mother shoes
Now, when I get cross, I use it as a red flag for me to either stop myself shouting, or if it’s too late to recognise that that isn’t the right thing to do and show my DD1 that I can with my own emotions not by not having any but by marshalling them when they get out of hand. If I shout and then regain composure and apologise, that is a much better example for her than if I was always perfect. It’s also more achievable!
Now, when she starts acting up, I try to empathise, label her emotions, show her a mirror so that she can see how to manage her emotions. And hold her when they get the better of her, because they always will. I think I’m always going to struggle with this, it’s going to be a long learning curve with me because I just don’t have the natural patience.
With my DD1 (see what I did there) it used to hugely frustrate me that these shortcuts were used so regularly with no explanation I could find. I work in marketing and we always start any written piece with the long form of something we are going to shorten so the reader knows what we are talking about, without that they could be lost. So, to help the uninitiated, here is a short post with the translations of the acronyms used around parenting and birth grouped by usage. Please feel free to make some suggestions and additions.
DD1 = Darling / Dear Daughter 1, or first born daughter
DS1 = Darling Son 1, or first born son
DD2 / DS2 etc = Darling Daughter / Son and the number detailing where in the brood they were born – first, second, third etc.
LO = Little one
YDD or YDS = Youngest Darling Daughter / Son
DH / DP / DW = Darling Husband / Partner / Wife
DSD / S = Darling Step Daughter / Son
MIL / BIL = Mother in Law / Brother in Law etc
BF = Breast Feeding
BM = Breast Milk / Bowel Movement (depending on context)
EBM = Expressed Breast Milk
FF = Formula Feeding
CIO = Cry it Out
BC = Before Children OR Birth Control (ha ha! hopefully the context will make this obvious)
IMHO = In My Humble Opinion
JJ / JK = Just Joking / Just Kidding
NMS = Not My Style
SAHP / SAHM / SAHD = Stay At Home Parent / Mum / Dad
When I first met up with our NCT group after the birth of our children, it stunned me (and them) that I was the only person out of the 8 or so couples who had had a positive birth experience.
I was also the only one who had used hypnobirthing and had had no intervention. Not exactly scientific but my experience is representative of many people who look for a better way of approaching childbirth and choose hypnobirthing.
Hypnosis is powerful stuff
Many moons before, when I was at university studying Psychology, I did my third year dissertation on hypnosis. I hypnotised people and studied the effect on their inability to problem solve in a hypnotised state. I also learned in my lectures on hypnosis about its use for pain relief. Hypnosis was first used by dentists and doctors in the UK in the 1800s but it was also used by the Romans and ancient Greeks. More info here.
The first thing to say is that hypnosis in this context is not the entertainment ‘dance like a chicken’ that you see on the stage. Hypnosis in this context is basically the combination of concentration and focus, with the ability to use your imagination. It can be described as meditation with intent and triggers a relaxation response that can be seen as Alpha or Theta brain wave frequency in an EEG. It feels like day dreaming.
Could hypnobirthing be for real?
Never one to follow the crowd, when I became pregnant with my DD1 (first darling daughter), I started to look into my birthing options. When I came across hypnobirthing or natal hypnotherapy, I was really excited, though skeptical at the same time. In ‘One Born Every Minute’, or in fact any birth on TV, women are screaming with pain so how could it be peaceful and pain free? Surely there must be some voodoo magic involved, which didn’t sound my thing at all.
Well, it turns out that just by regular relaxation practice and use of affirmations, a peaceful, less painful birth is possible. I specifically say ‘less painful’ here, you could say ‘pain free’ but this may be a bit misleading, and I’ll come to this in a bit*.
The relaxation practice helps you learn to come into a relaxed state more quickly and easily than someone who hasn’t practiced, and the affirmations are really to rewire your brain in a more positive way. The relaxation is important because it is the tension that people hold in their body that works against the birthing body. It also helps you maintain the focus you need. The affirmations are important to banish the fear that is really the source of any pain.
How simple hypnobirthing is!
I used the Marie Mongan method and started by listening to the relaxation CD once or twice a week and increased it as my pregnancy progressed. To start with it seemed difficult to make the time, but as I became bigger and had more trouble sleeping, I used the CD as I went to bed, which helped me get to sleep. Part of the relaxation is a breathing technique called sleep breathing, there are two other breathing techniques but these are just needed for the birth, you can practice these once or twice so you remember them. I also I taught my husband so he could remind me if things went a bit off track, which was very useful when the time came. I listened to the affirmations towards the end of my pregnancy, they help to build up courage and self-belief that your body is both capable and ready and that you can tackle whatever comes your way, useful if it doesn’t all go according to plan.
I think its also useful to add here that I am the kind of person who finds it very difficult to make a commitment to something. Although at times it was difficult to make the time (and for my second, this really was a struggle with a 3 year old to keep entertained) as my pregnancy progressed the instinct to ‘nest’ and take care of myself kicked in. I think most pregnant people find their body starts to self regulate as they get bigger and can’t move around so much, so once you start to do the relaxation, I think you will find it becomes easier and easier.
Get positive, take control
A central part of the hypnobirthing ethos is to banish the negative words. Instead of talking about ‘pain’, for example it is more helpful to talk about sensation. If you think about it pain is subjective, it is all about how you perceive the sensation. It is self fulfilling, if you think it is going to be painful you will be fearful and if you are fearful you will feel more pain. Break that cycle and you have less ‘pain’. The other important word is ‘contraction’, that is just going to lead to pain isn’t it? So instead hypnobirthing uses the word ‘surge’ because that is what your body does, it uses a rippling effect of your muscles to move the baby, and it really does move in waves.
Your relaxation and positive thoughts make the sensations you feel manageable, which alters your perception of the sensation as something that is unbearable to the sensation of opening, movement and progress to the ultimate goal, which is meeting your baby. The former is something akin to torture i.e. passive, something that is inflicted on you; the latter is like entering and running a marathon i.e. active, something that you are taking on for yourself.
There are lots of other ancillary tools that hypnobirthing gives you, but for me the relaxation and affirmations were the most useful. It might be useful to mention one in particular, the perennial massage – though some might find it embarrassing, I found it helped – just a few little scratches for both my births – and it has solid scientific research to support its use to minimise the need for an episiotomy.
I built up this set of tools from hypnobirthing and when I went into labour, I used the relaxation track until the surges become more powerful. I then switched to the affirmations. I listened to the affirmations over and over and it really is best described as a trance-like state. My husband did all the communicating and problem solving (see the reference to my dissertation above about not being able to problem solve at the same time) and I just concentrated on my breathing and staying with it. If my concentration broke, I could really feel the difference, the surges became more intense so that I felt like I was being pulled along by a rip tide, but once I regained my focus, it was more like white water rafting – I suppose it is the difference between being in control or not. However big the wave gets, you can ride it.
And so, to the results. I have had two natural births without any pain relief or intervention whatsoever – no paracetamol, not even gas and air. I feel really proud. I get a lot of comments about how ‘strong’ I must be, but it isn’t a physical or even mental ‘strength’ it is just about building up the confidence and self belief, which the CDs help you to do.