Monday, 31 January 2011

Weaning wonders

Our independent girly takes after her Mummy. Not that I need spoon feeding, more that I am an independent girly. Grace is independent in as much as she refuses to be fed by grown ups. She is just not willing to forgo the power of feeding herself.

Her favourites to date include:
Baked aubergine, baked courgette, garlic bread, toast with olive spread, apple, raw red pepper, steamed broccoli, fromage frais, rice cakes, carrot and steamed baby corn.

And here's a few pics of her efforts. Of course, if it's sloppy she needs a spoon loading for her. After that she's happy going it alone!

Getting prepared for FOOOOD!

Mmm. Porridge!

Oops! Porridge...

Banana & Broccoli.

A day of firsts

Numero Uno: Sitting unaided.

VERY proud Mummy. Matt the Husband and I were at the nursery where Grace is starting next week, for a familiarisation session, when woah there Grace, she stayed sat up when I moved away from supporting her. Yes indeedy friends, Grace sat with her hands on her knees for long enough for me to get giddy and for everyone in the room to ooo and arrrr. Of course my challenge now is to capture this on the camera!

Numero Due: First nursery session.

Grace, being the big girl she is, had an hour's play at nursery today. She's back tomorrow for an hour and this time we will leave her there with the other babies in the Pixie Room under the care of her key worker Dolomey. Then on Wednesday she's going to be very grown up, spending half a day there in preparation for next week when she has her first full day. The price has gone up since we made the reservation for her, but I suppose should be doing a mexican wave or something as apparently the fee includes her own school bag for her to keep her nappy rash cream in along with anything else I wish to send her in with. I'm thrilled. Sarcasm aside, I'm looking forward to it - the nursery has a strong Ofsted rating and I'm confident the staff do a sterling job... and I know that's what counts.

Numero tre: the chickpea curry face

Shame that it is that we didn't eat dinner tonight with the camera poised, Grace thoroughly enjoyed stuffing fistfuls of chickpea curry and rice into her readily munching mouth... nom nom nom. Such mess, but oh such fun to watch.

Grace on a play date with Scarlet and Berrie

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Treasure Hunt!

Heuristic play anyone?
It's a little early in the day for fancy words, but I've woken with my fancy head on, and anyone reading this shall suffer right along with me! Heuristic play is a phrase coined by a child psychologist (Elinor Goldschmed) some 30 or so years ago to describe the activity of babies playing with 'objects' as opposed to 'toys'. These objects are from the 'real world' and will trigger the babies senses of sight, touch, taste and so on... in other words they are stimulated into a rich learning experience. I suppose it makes sense - our world is dominated by plastic toys that all look, feel, taste the same give or take. So I woke early this morning and decided I'd scour the house for objects to create a treasure basket for Grace. She'll be able to sit properly soon enough, and it'll be nice to have something cheap and cheerful, as well as interesting to play and explore with.

So let the treasure hunt begin! It's on my list to snaffle these items over the next few days...

Natural: pine cone, pumice stone
Metal: whisk, teaspoon
Rubber: bath plug, door stop
Wooden: spoon, curtain ring
Card: egg box, toilet roll tube
Textile: flannel and shower puff, small knitted toy
Other: cork, hair brush, mirror

When I've got all the treasure gathered, I'll be sure to post a picture for you to have a look out. Until then... Grace enjoying her fake toys...

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Milestone of the day

Grace has doubled her birth weight! From 9lb 5 oz to 18lb 11oz some 23 weeks later and that's on track according to the 'average' baby. I am a very proud Mummy today, and so pleased that Grace's is growing at a steady rate hovering somewhere between the 91st and 98th centile. May I also take this opportunity to express thanks to SMA for providing plentiful substitute milk for Grace, and long may they prosper with the money I have spent on it - I'm guessing somewhere in the region of £250 to date. If I'd been able to successfully breastfeed, I'd be half way to a week in the Canary Islands by now for some winter sun but such extravagances are on hold until Grace gets a paper round or until Matt the Husband gets a paper round, which ever comes sooner. Well that's it for now, happy days!

Grace just back from weighing clinic

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Salt Police

Salt. Today we have had the last supper. Tomorrow 'no added salt' cooking begins. Let the taste cessation commence. I joke because I'm not looking forward to it - we've had salt added to food during preparation all my life so this salt situation is not something I relish. This is all in preparation for home-cooking with Gracie, and salt as we all know is bad for us and especially so for babies. Apparently her kidneys can't cope with salt at this stage, so until she is 1 year old she can take in no more than 0.4g sodium per day. To put that into context, Grace can enjoy 2 x 15ml servings of Heinz tomato ketchup before the Salt Police come knocking. Shocking isn't it? I've just googled our favourite bread for the ingredients, and the first hit is a report from the 2008 Telegraph news page with a feature on how the manufacturer has the highest content of salt per slice than any other in the UK. Amazingly it has 12% more salt per slice than Tesco's own. Scandalous!! Seems we're going without our favourite bread as well as salt in cooking!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Stay at Home Mum.

Me. I am a SAHM. Temporarily at least.

I have a mere three weeks left until I return to work after a break of some seven months. At times I feel it has flown, and at others I feel I have been away from the office for what seems like forever. Life has changed, and will never be the same again. Of course that change, having a baby, has taken getting used to. BIG TIME! And now we're happy with our lot, and have a beautiful little girl who brings light to my life every waking day. Anyhow, back to business. Before I say a sad farewell to being a SAHM for a life of working three days a week (for now), I thought I'd share with you a typical day with Grace.

06:00... Alarm goes off to nudge Matt the Husband out of a warm bed and into his running gear for a training run with The Dog. His goal is the London Marathon this April and he's taking it all rather seriously, hence the early start. I tend to slip back off to sleep, although if I feel the urge I'll get up to shower before having a tidy up around the house while Grace is still sleeping. Sometimes Grace still wakes for an early feed which can be anywhere 4.30am onwards although as a rule she's sleeping through.

07:00... Matt the Husband arrives back, puffing like a donkey pulling a heavy load (and that's only The Dog)... The next hour is spent having breakfast, shipping Matt the Husband off to work and trying to stop The Dog from getting muddy paws on the sofa. Usually around this time, Grace tends to wake up and start chattering to herself - perhaps wondering what's on the menu today. She has a short memory - it's milk. Anyhow, we get her up and dressed, fed and then think about what activities we're going to do today.

08:00 Matt he Husband out of the way, Grace and I tend to read a book or two, or perhaps have a little sing song. I find she's really receptive in the mornings fresh from a long sleep, so we'll usually get through all of her favourites with signing as well.

09:00 Around this time, Grace is starting to show signs of needing a nap so I'll tuck her in upstairs, close the blinds, and give her a kiss goodnight. She sleeps in a sleeping bag now so we don't have to faff with her kicking off the blankets which I am sure has helped with her settling herself back to sleep in the night if she wakes. While she naps, I wash the dishes from breakfast and maybe pop a load of laundry on. It's usually a good time for me to get online to read emails, the news and tend to this blog. The Dog is generally sleepy after her early morning jaunt and it's the only time in the day I regularly get to myself.

10:00 Grace after a nap of around 45 minutes will wake, and we tend to head off then for a play date. Sometimes we head to the Children's Centre in the village, although today we visited Christina and her little boy Dimitris of the same age as Grace. They're starting to show a real interest in each other now, so they lay on the play mat amusing themselves which gives me and Christina the time to put the SAHM life to rights and discuss our worries about returning to work, finances and other such things. Grace usually has her second bottle late morning, so I tend to that, change her nappy and then we sit down to lunch.

12:00 Lunch and more chat over Baby-led weaning over mush feeding and where our thoughts lie on this matter. Christina has started puree feeding with Dimitris and he seems to be taking it well. We're eating soup and bread for lunch, neither of which I would trust Grace with so she stayed playing on the mat having a conversation with a stuffed elephant.

14:00 We make a run for it to miss the school traffic and Grace naps in the car. We manage to get home before she tells me in no uncertain terms she'd like to take her afternoon bottle of milk now Mummy, thank you very much. It's late and I feel a little guilty. Nevertheless Grace forgives easily and merrily took the full 9oz before having some tummy time on the play mat.

15:00 Grace's only regular nap time between 3 and 5pm lets me get chores done, make up her bottles, do some cleaning and spend time with the dog. Grace wakes a few hours later, full of beans and ready for her evening routine.

17:00 Grace and I prepare dinner, her in the Bumbo shaking a wooden spoon, me chopping veggies into big chunks while she watches. We're having mediterranean veg with cous cous tonight. Grace doesn't show a blind bit of interest, although I'm sure she's taking in some of what I'm telling her about home cooking.

18:00 Matt the Husband arrives home and we eat dinner as a family in the kitchen. Grace is getting used to sitting in her highchair although she's still not showing consistent signs to wanting food. We have let her have a play with a piece of carrot and a broccolli spear and we have more planned in, when she's ready.

18:30 I clear up while Matt the Husband takes Grace to the nursery for some play, a bedtime story, and some kick time without her nappy on. He baths her, gives her the last milk of the day, and she's usually asleep by 8pm.

And that's it. Our day. By the time we both sit down to unwind, it's usually around 8.30pm, sometimes a wee bit later. As we like our sleep, we're lucky if we get an hour before we're feeling the need to get some Zzzz's.

Three mere weeks left to this life I have become used to. It's taken me time - I hated being at home in the first weeks after Grace was born. It's been a massive adjustment to make but I rather like it now, and Grace enjoys having me around. I don't know if I could be a permanent SAHM, or whether working full time is right for me either. I suppose working three days a week could be considered a happy medium (although my overdraft provider may feel otherwise!) Time will tell if this is the way forward for Grace and me, but until then, happy days. She's five months old this week, and already Grace is clearly a nice natured little poppet with a smile on her face all through the day. Assuming there is milk.... there must be milk.

So yes, that's an insight into our Daily Routine. It's going to change when I'm back at work, it's inevitable!!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

There's something about Mary

She's a Saint. I do apologise to my mother-in-law for this, as I'm not referring to her (although she does bake exceedingly good cakes). I'm talking about St Mary's Church and our first service with Grace this morning. Wrapped up warm in a very cute bear-suit (Grace), we headed off with Gran Fran to the sung Eucharist at 10am. A beautifully sunny morning cleverly disguised the sheet ice lurking on every windswept corner, making us a wee bit late and rushing for a pew in the back. Grace behaved impeccably throughout the service, despite having to listen to Matt the Husband mumbling half-hearted hymns off key and out of time. He says he'd like to join the choir to help his singing voice, but I think he ought to refrain, it's probably the Christian thing to do.
Grace received her first blessing during Holy Communion and we're pleased she's had such a pleasant introduction to the Church. We chatted briefly to Ian the Vicar after the service about fixing a date for having Grace Baptised. The church isn't in our Parish, but Gran Fran attends regularly and the family have other links with the Church so he agreed, which has made us very happy parents. It's a delightful church and we're hoping Grace will become involved with the children's activities as she grows up.
So it's fixed, Sunday 27th March. Woo!!

Credit for this pic goes to the St. Mary's.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Splish Splosh!

It's that time again and the new term of swimming for Grace has kicked off with a splash! We've changed swim schools and now attend Splish Splosh Swimming School. We arrived early as it was our first time at this pool and I get a bit nervous about going to new places for the first time. I needn't have worried, we were chatting with Helen, Mum to Lucas while we were getting changed and it turns out we both used to swim at the same place before Christmas... and we'd both swapped schools to save a few bucks but also to have the novelty of being able to swing a cat in the changing rooms! Grace kitted out in Huggie's Swim Nappies and a Happy Nappy over the top (a neoprene pant that's supposed to keep accidents from happening), we were dressed and ready to swim.

There were 5 of us on the class, which is a great ratio to work with, and the instructor Debbie was friendly and immediately welcoming. It was nice to see family able to watch the class on the pool side and I have to say the atmosphere felt really positive. I recognised Jacqui immediately as someone I used to work with, with her little girl Freya, now 28 weeks old. There was another Mum (I forget her name!) with Isla (I'm guessing her at around 10-12 months old) and a very brave Dad in a pool full of women with another little girl. Grace already a little tired from going to a Men Behaving Dadly play group at the local Children's Centre surprised me by not only getting through the lesson without a meltdown, she managed to splash her way through the half hour in high spirits and general amazement at the squeaky duck she was chasing in the water.

We started by singing a song to get the babies used to the water. It's about a months since Grace last donned her waterwings so it was a nice introduction to the session - she loves the Grand old Duke of York at the best of times so singing a familiar song with actions eased her in with confidence. After that we put our babies into swim position one. This is with Grace supported under the arms in a horizontal position in the water, facing away from me so as I walk she's swimming level with me. We had a few early episodes of drinking the water as I got used to walking at the right height - the water is quite shallow so all of us adults are left to modify our gait to suit.... being tall I was almost on my knees. Anyhow, when we got to the side, I asked Grace to 'hold on' to the bar (which at the moment she plops her fists on), then we 'turn around' and head back the other way. I encourage her, as instructed, to 'kick, kick, kick' although at just shy of 5 months old, her legs are trailing behind her with a cute little bobbing motion.

Debbie then had us sitting our babies on the side of the pool. Two more songs. Five Green Bottles (where each of us in turn jumps our babies into the pool with a big splash), and of course Humpty Dumpty. After a spot of swimming Grace on her back, it was time for the matter of submersion.

Grace has done this before and her response to it has generally been good, if a little bemused as she bats her eyelids in rapid succession to clear the water from her eyes. I read somewhere that it's at around 10 months onwards when babies start to lose their natural DIVE REFLEX. This bradycardic response causes babies to hold their breath and open their eyes the moment they are submerged. We get the same response by gently blowing in our babies faces, and this can be a good way of helping them catch their breath again if they do inadvertently take in a little water. The rationale of the submersion so early on in swimming lessons is that it allows baby to 'swim' before they can intentionally hold their breath. Anyway, we did 3 submersions, and all the babies in the class, included Grace did great and there was no fussing whatsoever. It can however be a little daunting for the first time parent, and if anything, the look on their faces is far more comic! Still, we all have to start somewhere.

A few more activities and songs, and the lesson was over. Time flies when you're having fun, and Grace was ready for a cuddle, some milk, and a well earned snooze. A success, we can't wait for our next lesson.

All dry, and ready to go home!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Research Bunnies

In the interests of doing our bit for society, I have signed Grace and myself up for a research study. A Masters student at Bastyr University in the States is looking for volunteers to take part into a study into parents who chose to go down the route of Baby Led Weaning (BLW) for their babies. More specifically, she is investigating the dietary pattern of the parents implementing BLW as the method of choice for introducing solid foods to their infants - the thesis for her Masters is "Baby Led Weaning and the effects in the family diet".

After passing the screening questionnaire, which wanted to know things like if Grace was our first child, whether or not we had read the BLW book by Gill Rapley, and how many days per week Grace would be in non-parental control (e.g. Grandma and Nursery), we were sent a consent form explaining the detail of the study and a consent form for us to sign. It's simple really and we don't need to dedicate a lot of time to it, but I'm pleased to be taking part. Not much is known about BLW as it's still a relatively new concept and doing my bit feels right.

I need to keep a food and drink diary for 3 days running before we start weaning. Then 3 months in, I need to do the same again, but this time also a 3 day diary for Grace too. It's as simple as that. If anyone is interested in participating, leave a comment and I can post details.

No babies or mothers will be harmed in the development of the study.

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Politics of Puree

To gradually introduce what will be adult food to the infant while simultaneously yet slowly reducing the intake of milk, be that breast or formula. It's well recognised that current NHS guidelines suggest delaying weaning until 6 months of age to ensure the digestive system is sufficiently developed and ready to digest 'real' foods. As a strict rule of thumb, the lack of teeth in the baby would suggest the inability to chew and therefore solids as such should be considered a no-no. Thus by process of elimination, one is left to conclude a hand blender or sieve and a steady stream of pureed mush is the food of choice.

We all know or know of this method. We cook carrots (without salt), mush them, and shovel them in with a soft plastic spoon. We might try banana, or sweet potato, perhaps broccoli or pureed pear and apple. Shovel shovel shovel, gobble gobble gobble. (And no, I am not doing an impression of the poultry farmer mucking out the turkey shed). My point is, weaning in general, is about breaking down the foods we offer into a pulp, then offering it to the baby (or forcing it on the baby if we don't pay attention) and we keep control, and everyone's happy. It's the norm. Time consuming maybe - think ice cube trays full of ready mushed green beans, and one gets the picture. Or of course, we could just stock up on convenience jars from the supermarket. Either way, it's just glupe isn't it? I remember my sister rounding off a spoon of pulverised baby food ready to fire into her daughter's open mouth, and I distinctly remember thinking a) yuck, and b) what a faff.

Now a relatively recent concept, Baby Led Weaning, is likely to put the willy's up the older folk, but is now recognised by the World Health Organisation as a suitable alternative method which sees the baby taking control of the transition to solids from milk from the very first stages of weaning.... by self-feeding from the offset.


The WHO indicates the maturity of the digestive system and the baby's ability to cope with the transition to solids will likely be recognised by the external faculties that the baby is ready to wean. Meaning? Well, think about the ability to sit upright (supported perhaps, but nevertheless upright). Now think about the ability to reach out and grasp an object and to be able to direct that object up to the mouth. So that's digestive ability and the fine motor skills mastered - both necessary to self-feed.

So eating or just playing?
It's safe to say the early stages of baby led weaning are exploratory mainly with little food actually ingested - textures, tastes, colours and smell. Coupled with the benefit of copying those eating 'grown up' food at the table - baby's love to mimic and copy. So in a nutshell, instead of offering a spoon of pureed foodstuffs directly into the mouth at each sitting, the baby is offered a variety of finger foods which they can chose from themselves at their own pace. It makes sense. How many babies do you see refusing to eat from a spoon, or making a fuss over the process? And yet chances are the same baby would gladly pick up a baton of carrot and gnaw on it, or maybe just suck on it a while. The point is, the baby is in control and stress free. It's a game in a way. Mum and Dad can relax and eat their meal, while baby has a go on their own.

Weird? No, just different. Messy? Definitely. (Well, I say that, I have no experience of it yet, but I do have visions of spaghetti bolognese splatted over the dogs nose and half way up the wall).

My plan hence, is to offer soft foods to begin with - soft fruits and vegetables, or steamed vegetables softened so even a toothless gum can chew on them. Something the size of a chunky chip - big enough to provide a handle for Grace to grab hold of, leaving enough free for her to suck/chew on without it getting lost in her fist.

Choking? Yes, its a possibility. But it is with spoon feeding too, in fact more so. Think about it. Mum's spooning apple mush into baby's mouth, there's a few lumps in it, baby gags on it as she can't keep up with Mum's pace. It happens. Compare that to baby led weaning. Yes, its possible baby with pop too much in, but chances are she will be able to roll it back to the front of her mouth or cough it back to the front or out.... in principle - the ability to chew develops after the ability to grasp and place things in the mouth, and thus the baby's development keeps pace with the ability to process the food.

Fan or fearful, Matt the Husband and I have decided on baby led weaning as our route forward for Grace. She isn't 6 months yet, but she is showing signs of being ready. We can't go wrong really- we're taking it at Grace's pace. If she does nothing but pick the food up, that's fine, it's progress. If she picks it up, sucks on it a bit then drops it on the floor, that's also fine. When she is ready, she will start to chew and swallow. Until then, it's just fun and learning. A playtime in the kitchen where she wont go hungry as she will already be fuelled by her milk. And when she is ready, she'll cut back on her milk intake by herself.

Decision made, I'll let you know how we get on. We're excited, and Grace seems keen to be in her highchair now too...

Acknowledgements to the authors of "Baby Led Weaning", Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett for their inspiration. Thank you!


I just want to say THANK YOU to LAMAZE TOYS for making such fabulous toys. We bought the Lamaze Octotunes the Octopus for Grace some time ago and she is really beginning to show interest in the way each tentacle when squeezed produces a different note from the octave. Genius. Matt the Husband loves it, and is already plotting to learn everything he can to play to Grace to keep her entertained. It'll be wonderful once she can make the notes herself - right now her grip just isn't strong enough to produce a decent squeeze to eek out a note. Wont be long though, then she will be holding her own Octotunes concert for the family no doubt. Better still, if we buy a second one, she can duet with Matt and they can feature on Britain's Got Talent. Royal Variety Show line-up organisers, watch this space!

Welcome 2011

Happy New Year to you all! We are embracing the start of a new year with open arms and know there are fun and adventures ahead in the months to come. It wont be long now until Grace starts weaning and for us the fun (and mess) then really starts and we hope you will join us on our journey.

We celebrated the New Year in with Grandma Mary and both Great Grandmothers in Yorkshire which was a bit of a novelty having four generations together for once. We had a splendid day and Grace behaved wonderfully despite being a little out of sorts with her teething. Fortunately Grandma Mary had bought her some 'biccie-pegs' for Grace to gnaw on (Grace, not Grandma) and that seemed to do the trick. Thank you!

Anyway, here are the last few pics from the end of 2010.

Christina with Dimitris, also just shy of 5 months old.

Grace looking cool and set for the sun of Ibiza!