To Wean or not to Wean…

The title of this may be slightly misleading to some. The term ‘Weaning’ has different meanings, but both boil down to the same thing.

When you begin to wean, as far as I was brought up in England, it’s when you start your baby on solids. But the majority of people also seem to understand Weaning as meaning stopping breastfeeding. Both terms are actually correct – Weaning (solids) is the beginning of the end of the breastfeeding journey, no matter how far away that may be, because baby no longer relies solely on breastmilk for nutrition.

Now we’ve got that out of the way – this week we’ve started to very gently wean Elia. Weaning meaning the solids version. She meets the full readiness checklist, as suggested by KellyMom (my bible when it comes to infant feeding):

• Baby can sit up well without support.

• Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex and does not automatically push solids out of his mouth with his tongue.

• Baby is ready and willing to chew.

• Baby is developing a “pincer” grasp, where he picks up food or other objects between thumb and forefinger. Using the fingers and scraping the food into the palm of the hand (palmar grasp) does not substitute for pincer grasp development.

• Baby is eager to participate in mealtime and may try to grab food and put it in his mouth.

On paper, she is 100 percent ready. Yet… she’s just not that keen. Last night, she nibbled on a strip of chicken, chewing away happily. She gobbled a piece of Swiss chard without a blink. It was lovely to watch. But this morning, and the rest of today, she’s not been that bothered. She had a nice chomp on a chicken leg bone (so much like her sister). She had great fun playing in the scrambled eggs and avo I gave her (I didn’t see any enter her mouth, but her breath had a distinctly eggy smell afterwards).But here’s the beauty of Baby Led Weaning – it really doesn’t matter. As we did win Stevie, we want Elia’s experience with food to be fun. Especially at such a young age, it’s more about her tasting her foods, playing in them and fully understanding the fun behind eating. It’s messy and filthy and the dogs definitely put on some weight when Stevie was younger, but I love it. We don’t have to rush – when she’s ready, she’ll show us. And, if she’s anything like her sister, she’ll be eating like a grown-up at 3 years old (and by that, I mean eating when she’s hungry, and declining when she’s not). No, seriously – I’ve never seen anyone that size shovel so much food into their mouths in one day. Little food monster!

On Breastfeeding and Working

Elia is now 8 weeks old. This past week, I’ve started expressing milk for when I return to work. Oh, the joys!

On average, a breastfed baby needs approximately 1 litre of breastmilk per 24 hours. So, by the time I go back to work, I’ll need the very bare minimum of 3 litres in the freezer for Elia. Thankfully, Stevie hasn’t taken breastmilk from a bottle since she was just over a year old – otherwise I’d be pumping my entire life away!

Just a snippet of what I left behind for Stevie

3 litres will last her roughly 3 days, so that’s allowing for a one day job and travel time. Ideally, I can get 4 litres. But I absolutely despise expressing.

I don’t have an issue, as far as ease goes. I’ve been blessed with a plentiful milk supply (seriously, you wanna see this stuff go shooting across the room on a let down) and 15 mins with a double electric Medela pump yields around 150ml easily. I just struggle to find the time to sit with a cup of coffee and pump. I also hate the sound of the machine and the feeling of it – breastfeeding an infant is a nice experience, but having your milk sucked out by a machine is, honestly, cow-like. Moo.

But I refuse to be beaten. The first time I went back to work after Stevie was born, I left enough milk bar two feeds. This time, I will beat my own record and leave surplus. Now I just need to motivate myself enough to sit every single day and remove it. Wish me luck!

Baby Things – Good or a Waste?

So recently my friend Billie Brown, of Young London Mum, asked me for my list of what’s good, and what’s not-so-good, to buy for baby. I thought I’d post my recommendations here – and add a couple more, of course!

1. Top 5 Buys

– a stretchy baby wrap. I now have two that I interchange. I started with a Jojo Maman Bebe wrap with Stevie, and now with Elia I primarily use a Mona Lisa Mamas wrap (a homegrown South African company). You can also make your own using t-shirt fabric!

– a baby bath seat. We bought one for Stevie originally in the UK, and we bought another one for her when we loved to SA. We now also use it for Elia- babies are slippery to hold in the bath, and much as it sounds lovely to bathe with them all the time, sometimes it just doesn’t work that way.

– a good bouncer/rocker. Brand really doesn’t matter (although we love our Tiny Love rocker), just find one you like and it’ll prove invaluable – so handy for when you need that 5 mins just to have a quick shower or make a cup of tea.

-a great quality, long-wearing travel system. We have the iCandy Peach, which we bought before Stevie was born. We did a LOT of research into different brands, and we liked the giant wheels and the slightly higher vantage point of the seat. Besides missing a bar (I think it’s still in my cousin’s car) it’s lasted us well for 3 years! It fits either a Maxi Cosi or BeSafe car seat, then has the pram attachment and the buggy. Stevie still uses the buggy bit, and Elia has taken over using the car seat and pram. Special shout out to the BeSafe car seat, which has also lasted 3 years!

Mimijumi bottles. Essential for a breastfeeding mum with a boob monster! The shape mimics that of a breast and baby needs to suck to get out milk, thus making it the closest bottle to a boob. Weirdly, it even looks like a slightly odd nipple! Every other bottle was useless for us – Stevie refused anything but the real thing until this bottle came along. It’s pricey, but totally worth it.

– a baby nest. We stupidly left our Sleepyhead sleep pod in storage in the UK, but we found a new one! A must for any mum, it can create a safe co-sleeping space (nice, firm walls) or a safe space where they still feel cocooned inside their cot.

2. Useless things

– Tommee Tippee breast pump. Sorry to the makers of this breastpump, but if I’d have known how long I’d be feeding for (nearly 3 years now) and how much expressing would have to happen per trip (hi, model who looks like a dairy cow in designer clobber) I’d have gone straight for the big guns in the form of the Medela Swing and saved myself a load of hassle. Frugal doesn’t always mean sensible!

The joys of pumping and travelling – this is on a 16-hour direct flight on the way back from Mexico

– Moses basket. Thankfully we didn’t invest in one, but we know lots of people who did and who weren’t happy. It’s cumbersome to move with one hand (whilst holding baby) and just gets in the way – and baby grows out of it so quickly, it just seems a waste of space.

– breastfeeding pillows. I used one with Stevie, but I haven’t needed one at all with Elia – I’ve realised far too late that any cushion will do the same job!

– dresses for girls and fussy clothes for boys, in the 0-6 month size category. Super cute but totally uncomfortable and impractical! Our girls have been stuck in them for photos, but for everyday wear, stick to a cute baby grow or trouser/top combo.

– expensive baby clothes. Okay, so this one is kind of a given – but it’s still true. Babies wear their clothes for maximum 3-4 months, and I guarantee that they’ll poo/puke in the most expensive item you own. My MIL bought a beautiful Petit Bateau baby grow for Stevie, white velvet with a Peter Pan collar. So pretty, but the Cursed Onesie. If we ever needed her to have a poonami, we’d pop her in that. Rather stick to Asda/Tesco or Morrisons clothes in the beginning – they wash nicely and you won’t get upset if your child explodes in them!

On Tandem Nursing and Adjusting to a Little Sister…

Elia is 3 weeks old today. 3 whole weeks! Time has flown by so quickly. I knew it would – it seems like yesterday Stevie was this small. And I’m literally pinching myself every day, trying to remember every single moment, because I know that, in the blink of an eye, it’ll be June and I’ll be going back to work, missing my now-chaotic little household.

But I will be completely honest – adjusting to having two children, and also tandem feeding and letting Stevie adjust, hasn’t been the easiest – and I didn’t expect it to be.

Right now, Stevie is about 90% in love with her little sister (maybe more like 95%, actually – her love grows day g day and it’s wonderful!) but 5-10% jealous and trying to get used to not being the centre of our attention all the time. Thank god for tandem nursing!

Baby bums!

Tandem nursing has been our saving grace, but also my biggest adjustment. Stevie loves sharing her booby with her baby sister, but I’ve been trying to limit Stevie’s intake still. Which may turn out to have been a silly idea – from tomorrow, I’m going to let my girls have a lot more control over their routines. The hardest thing for me has been adjusting to having two creatures demanding not just my time, but my body. But then I sit and think how small they both still are (even though Stevie now feels giant) and I just melt. I love feeding both my girls, so I’m going to do it as they want it. Besides, Elia’s already put on 700g (900g if you count from her lowest weight) so I’m obviously doing something right!

Sorry for my slightly ranting, verbal vomit post, but I like to keep people informed. I know tandem feeding is a controversial subject, but I see nothing controversial about it for my family.

Tandem Feeding Info

Every Baby is Different

I was so spoilt with Stevie. She was the world’s most perfect baby – she fed well, she slept well from day one. The only issues we had were that my own, personal sensitivity to cooked onions caused her extreme discomfort, and she never pooed. Seriously, even before the expected 6 week mark, Stevie pooed once a week – and my god did she poo. Once, she showered Pete, the wall, the door and the floor (and there may have even been spatters on Rome).

Baby Stevie – the face that launched a thousand poonamis

I appear to have been spoilt with Elia, too. This little poppet came out of the womb with the world’s most perfect latch, cluster feeding her way through the day. But she doesn’t seem to like dairy. And by that, I mean the fairly common intolerance that babies sometimes have to cows’ milk proteins, transferred through mum’s milk. In formula babies, this often results in transferring to expensive, sensitive formulas made with soy or other substitutes. In breastfed babies, this means mum has to cut all dairy out of her diet.

Little Miss No-Dairy

This isn’t the worst thing for me. In order to get my body ‘back,’ I’m going to have to look after myself, and I don’t mind admitting I need to cut out my addiction to cheese. Thankfully, that’s my only dairy weakness. But wait – what about my porridge?

Bring in the almond milk and coconut milk. Almond milk porridge (half water, half almond milk with oats. Stir in a tablespoon of real maple syrup and a teaspoon of Flavorgod Gingerbread Cookie and let simmer fill at your desired texture) or coconut milk quinoa porridge (about 2 parts coconut milk to 1 part quinoa, with cinnamon powder or Flavorgod Chocolate Donut simmering but not stirring until fluffy and light) – and you can also do chia seed puddings with either, letting the chia seeds soak in the fridge in your desired milk overnight. I like mine done in coconut milk with vanilla essence, topped with berries the morning after.

Thankfully, the possibilities are endless. Now, to just convince myself that I don’t miss my stinky cheeses…

Chia seed pudding topped with pineapple, with banana loaf and almond butter

Quinoa porridge with coconut milk, topped with bananas, blueberries and coconut bits

Banana and egg pancakes – that’s it! No more ingredients! Top with whatever you please – lemon? Yup. Real maple syrup? Yup yup.

Flavorgod ships worldwide, including South Africa, for a small fee. Head to Flavorgod.com for prices.

Then There Were Four

Guys, I had another baby! And my heart is so full – I have two beautiful little girls. I am so happy, that amazing, peaceful, contented kind of happy.

If you don’t like birth stories, look away now. I promise to try not to make it too graphic.

On Wednesday morning, we visited the midwife for a check up, and ended up having a Stretch and Sweep. For 3 weeks now, the fundus (basically my baby-carrying sack) hadn’t grown, and Karen was worried that baby was running out of room. So, stretch and sweep time (and let’s-move-baby’s-arm-from-its-head-internally time – that was comfortable!).

We went home for the rest of the day to wait for (hopefully) labour to kick in. Poor Pete – he was so impatient to meet his child, he couldn’t sit still. In hindsight, I should’ve sent him to the pub.

My mum also came straight back from my sister’s on hearing about the ‘sweep’ – I really needed this baby to come today, otherwise everyone’s hopes would be up high for nothing!

Thankfully, like clockwork, my labour started as I fed Stevie her bedtime booby (nipple stimulation, especially towards the end, I known for releasing oxytocin – the labour hormone. Interestingly, oxytocin is released 3 times naturally in a woman – during orgasm, during labour, and during breastfeeding. The human body is fascinating – it’s all connected to making babies!). Quarter past 8, I was feeling intense pressure and let Karen know.

Luckily for me, my doula was Karen’s daughter-in-law, Bianca – I have a history of short labour, and this meant they could get to me, together, nice and quickly.

And of course, my history of fast labour repeated itself. Karen and Bianca got to the house (and assisted Pete with the birthing pool) just in time for my contractions to start with a real bang – I was told the day after, that on my first check after arrival I was between 5 and 6cm dilated already.

When watching period dramas involving labour, I always wondered about the towels and pots of boiling water that they ask the husband for every time – it turns out, keeping a birthing pool hot is hard work! I don’t think Pete has boiled so much water in his life – because of course the geyser ran out after a while!

Anyway – the pool was run in perfect time and in I hopped (I did not hop anywhere, of course – hopping whilst 39 weeks pregnant and in labour is not an option). Water birth was the best decision I ever made. I went from 5-6cm to the full 10cm in about 40 minutes, so I have very intense labours and the water really helped with supporting me. It was still bloody sore, but I didn’t worry so much about finding the perfect position, as the water balanced my body.

Active labour started at round about 9pm. Karen kept me informed all the way through that my waters still hadn’t broken, and that she was reluctant to break them for me while I was progressing nicely – which I was thankful for. En caul births are rare – so of course I wanted one!

In the end, my water sack actually broke shortly after contact with the water. I got to feel it though, which was different. It felt like a very rough, papery water balloon. Then came the head, and a strange, primal moment where I tuned out everybody in the room and pushed – Karen said she even saw the change. My body, knowing what to do from last time, took over of its own accord. I tilted my pelvis, let out some kind of weird noise and the biggest push I have ever known had her out, pretty much in one fluid movement.

Looking down into the pool and seeing this little, tiny creature floating in the water will go down as one of the most surreal, and amazing, moments of my life.

But wait – what I haven’t even mentioned yet is that Stevie was in the room for half of the process, and got to physically see her little sister being born! My mum brought her through and talked her through the entire thing, and she thought it was fascinating. As I lifted our new baby onto my chest, Karen called Stevie over and asked her to to be the first to see what sex her new sibling was. It was such a special moment.

I know, I my new-mum, baby-brain muddle I will have missed something out of this birth story – probably something really vital, like how Pete was with me in the pool the whole time, or how important perineal massage is. But this is just how I remember it now, 3 days after the event. Birth is beautiful, and painful, and overwhelming, and the best thing I have ever done now – twice! Even if there was a small moment on the last contraction before her head crowned where I wondered why I’d ever put myself through this again.

Home birth isn’t for everyone – as stated, I have a history of quick labour, I had a textbook, complication-free pregnancy, and I don’t like hospitals, so home birth with a midwife was ideal for me. If you feel as though this sounds like you, and something you’d like to do, then I highly recommend it. I got to labour and birth in the comfort of my own home – I got to use my own towels, tandem feed my kids for the first time in my own bed, and wash off in my own bathtub. Plus, I now know how to clean off a murder scene – always handy, no?

My midwife was Karen van der Merwe, who also works as a private midwife at Genesis Clinic in Rosebank, if the whole home birth thing seems a bit much. To contact her re a home birth: karenvdm61@gmail.com

0823357731

My doula was Bianca van der Merwe. A doula is a birth assistant, who can be hired for both natural and assisted births, and also c-section. Bianca also offers pregnancy massage and reflexology.

https://www.facebook.com/SimplyBinx/

binxycastle@gmail.com

0615467020

The Family Unit

Recently, I’ve been considering going back to work much sooner, after this baby, than I did after Stevie. Much as I hate to admit it to myself, my job and my independence are quite important to me.

Quite a few of my close friends and family have ‘warned’ me that, once the baby arrives, Stevie will become a lot closer to her Daddy. Now, for your standard life, this may well be completely true. And it’s not at all a bad thing – fathers or father figures (or just plain, simple parental figures who are not mum) are so important to children’s welfare.

But in our family, this is already happening. I went back to work when Stevie was 9 months old (yes, it was a very long maternity leave – that’s why I’d like to half it this time). So, from 9 months old, Daddy has looked after Stevie at least once a month without me.

I refuse to say he babysits – she’s his daughter, she’s as much his responsibility as she is mine, and therefore he is just looking after her solo.

I won’t be sad to leave my kids (yep, plural) with their daddy when I go back to work. I have no worries that they will love Daddy more than me, or that they’ll resent me. I don’t worry about him seeing more milestones than I will – because these are his children, too. I am so, so lucky to be married to a man who is happy to let me go to work, to let me earn some money, and who is happy to look after the kids, to nurture them and provide for them, and pace-feed them breastmilk in a bottle.

I know how privileged I am to be in this position. And I’m very aware that families are different – but this works so well for mine. I know some mothers struggle, and this isn’t meant to be smug. I am fully aware of how golden this situation is, and this is just a post of gratitude.

If anyone wants to follow my beautiful hubby on Instagram, his account is @petebolton07

Leftovers for Lunch

So, last night we made excellent stuffed peppers for dinner. I stuffed them with quinoa (boiled in chicken stock with peas), mince beef (stir fried with coriander, cumin, paprika and turmeric), finely chopped baby spinach and grated mature cheddar.

So today, for lunch, I wanted to do something that both Stevie and I could enjoy – something healthy (because I am not getting fat this time around) and tasty and filling.

So I decided to use the leftover stuffing for a quinoa bowl – with a twist.

I should explain now – we love quinoa bowls in this house. They’re a staple meal for when we’re feeling lazy. Before Stevie could use utensils, she could get her hands in and dig around, and as far as sensory experimentation and pincer grip goes, it’s fab!

So back to the recipe. I just made more quinoa-and-pea mix, and strained some baked beans. Stevie adores any kind of legume, and they’re full of goodness. She sometimes brings me cans of kidney beans from the cupboard if she’s hungry… I know, odd child. Maybe I should move them up a couple of shelves.

I chopped more spinach, grated some more cheese and fried everything off in a coconut oil-filled pan.

And voila! We have a glorious, healthy, economical lunch that both adults AND toddlers can enjoy. Next time I’ll add a soft-poached egg!

The best thing about this, is that you can meal prep as it’ll stay good in the fridge for a good 3 days – and it can be eaten cold or hot.

Weaning Sense

So this week I was invited to the launch of a new book, Weaning Sense.

The majority of South African readers will be familiar with the author and occupational therapist Meg Fauré. She’s written countless baby books. As a Brit abroad these days, I wasn’t all that familiar. So I went into this launch with a nice, open, new mind.

The launch was in the gorgeous Broadacres Mall in northern Joburg, in BubHub. This is now my new favourite shop. They act as almost an old-fashioned community centre, with preggy belly Pilates classes and a coffee bar, and a baby clinic alongside the all-natural baby toiletries and amazing boutique buys (my favourite was Little Me – black and white, high-contrast pram toys, muslins and baby crockery). Pete and Stevie took themselves off to browse the pet shop and look at the duck pond.

I was introduced to Meg and her co author, Kath Megaw (clinical dietician). They said that this book has been the most fun the write of anything they’ve writtten before, and I can understand that completely.

Their concern is that the amount of ‘noise’ around baby feeding and weaning (in the traditional sense of weaning baby onto solids and not off milk) has taken the fun out of the whole exercise. The whole book concentrates on both parent AND baby being involved with the weaning process – no force feeding baba pureés until they literally scream for no more, but rather giving them an interesting variety of complimentary foods and putting some of the enjoyment back into eating. Because who wants to be that person who doesn’t enjoy food?

The book categorises babies and toddlers into different types of personalities, and by understanding which ‘type’ your child is, you can learn to help them eat and experience food better. For example, there’s the slow-starting baby, who needs time to understand food instead of it just being shoved in their mouth. There’s also the settled baby, who is so laid back they’ll just go with the flow.

Each section of the book is accompanied by scientific research to back it up, and recipes (with beautiful pictures, of course!) to accompany each ‘stage’ of eating. The photography and recipes are truly beautiful – I will not be waiting for baby no 2 to arrive and start solids before attempting the quinoa beef meatballs! And, as a bonus, there’s a freezer guide for each section, too! For myself, with my 3 freezers (no joke, but one is full of dog food) this is VERY handy.

This is a commercial baby book, but the general feeling is to take the business out of it, and to strip the whole experience back so parent and baby both have fun experimenting with new textures and tastes. If you only buy it just for the recipes, it’ll be so worth it.

The book Weaning Sense is available at Takealot and in select Exclusive Books stores. Meg Fauré is a renowned Occupational Therapist, and Kath Megaw is a clinical dietician and contributor to Nutripaeds. BubHub is based in Broadacres Mall, near Fourways, Johannesburg.

A little bit ‘taboo’

So here’s something only my friends know about me…

I’m still breastfeeding my toddler. Yup, you heard it right, my two-year-old still latches herself onto my (sore, swollen) nipples every night before bed. Now, she doesn’t fall asleep on there anymore (apart from last night, since she’s poorly), she just has a 5 min comfort suckle.

Why does nobody know about this, you may ask? Because it’s still, somehow, taboo.

Baby needed boobie, apparently

Just this week, I’ve had judgement. Mostly, it comes from people who are ‘concerned’ that Stevie is too old for her boobie. Well, in the words of my lovely hubby, if she was too old, she wouldn’t have it any more. These are the worst kinds of people. There is no basis to this claim, other than it makes them feel uncomfortable. I do have an issue with this – Stevie only feeds at bedtime, these days, and barely then, so who, exactly, is it offending? It’s nobody’s business how I put her to bed.

The other type of people are genuinely concerned about the safety of breastfeeding whilst pregnant. Some people, not incorrectly, are curious whether I still have milk left for her. Well the straight answer is ‘no.’ My body has been producing colostrum since 13 weeks (I travelled for a job, so had the luxury of seeing what I expressed). And it’s perfectly safe to feed whilst pregnant, as long as you have a healthy, low risk pregnancy. I have been very lucky, both times now, to carry children with ease. Long story short, if you can have sex, you can breastfeed.

Stevie’s first latch

Breastfeeding was the most wonderful child-rearing tool for me, with Stevie. It’s something just she and I have to share, it’s all ours, and I hope to have the same experience with the growing babby. It also helped me to lose all my breastfeeding weight and be back in shape by 6 months post partum.

6 months PP

I’m sharing this story because it was World Breastfeeding Week recently, and I wasn’t sure how to say what I wanted to. But here it is. I’m proudly breastfeeding a toddler while I’m pregnant. So there!

All breastfeeding information can be found on the Kelly Momand La Leche League websites.