Monday, May 27, 2013

Toes

Sometimes, you just need to leave the baby at home with the husband and go get a spa pedicure. So that's what I did on Saturday.

The colour of the polish is called Yoga-ta get this blue by the inimitable OPI. It makes me smile every time I look at my pampered, polished toes. Which is great, because I've had a pooper of a week already, and it's only Monday.


How's your week going dear readers?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Shhhhh, do you hear that? Blessed night time silence

I'm sure any new parent will agree with me that the first few months with a baby is hard. There are so many new things to get used to, like having a tiny human completely reliant on you for one, but I think the thing that got me the hardest was the sheer lack of sleep. Of course it's expected at the newborn stage, but some eight months in, the lack of sleep is really starting to take a toll.

She has always been a good day sleeper, but with the cold weather lately, Ellie has increased her usual peaceful once a night dream feed to to screaming awake 2-3 times a night with soaking wet nappies and wanting a feed, cuddle and play each time. Obviously, the constant waking up was murdering Mr Fork and I as each time she woke it would take a good hour to get her back to sleep, what with the nappy change, feed, settle etc. She would stand up and scream in her cot for ages afterward and we'd clutch each other in the dark whispering about what we should do next. Finally at about 3am, Mr Fork would bring her into our bed and we'd all doze uncomfortably until it was time to get up.

One wide awake Ellie!

Some internet research pointed at a couple of potential causes. First, her age indicates she's starting to get separation anxiety when anything changes, including a nappy. Or, waking up in a strange room with no mum or dad immediately nearby when they were there when you fell asleep. I suppose when you put yourself in that head space, it's understandable to be sad and scared and want comfort and play when you wake up. Second, being cold apparently makes babies wet nappies more.

Something had to change, and I can tell you, it was not me getting used to waking up rudely three times a night. Instead, we revised and modified our sleeping routine to better help Ellie learn to self settle instead of using my boob, or snuggles as a sleep prop.  She needs to learn that no matter how cranky she gets, she is still going to sleep in her own bed and not ours. I know that many people like to co-sleep but it just doesn't work for us here.

Now, it's a fairly structured routine, to help her get into the habit of knowing that these things mean bed time: bath, quiet play, book, boob, bed. We put her to bed sleepy, but not asleep so that she can re-learn to self settle. During the constant wake ups, Mr Fork got into a nasty habit of letting her fall asleep on his chest while he patted her bum, and then ninja-ed her into her cot without her knowing.

Chest sleeping baby (milk coma helps)
No more.  Now, we dress her warmly (onesie, sleep sack, blankets over the top, heater at the ready for when it's colder), feed her, tell her it's time to sleep and leave her to it. If necessary, we pat her a little then leave the room. She can scream, we simply go in and pat her until she's quiet then leave again.

If she wakes in the middle of the night, we have stopped all but one milk feed as I know that nutritionally she no longer needs as many as she's getting. She gets one (I can't starve my baby, what if she is hungry?!) and then back to bed. She is fed with minimum stimulation - no eye contact, no talking, no cuddles - as utilitarian as I can make it. Once again, in bed she can scream all she likes, I will get up and pat her, but knowing that she is warm and full, no picking up and snuggling. Definitely no bringing her into our bed... I'm looking at you Mr Fork! Any subsequent awakenings - she gets offered water only as I know she's searching for comfort, not food.

Anyway, it was a week of hell at our place - many times I was up and down like a jack in the box with all the patting.  There was much outrage on all sides - Ellie because she wasn't being snuggled and brought into the big bed, mine because I kept catching Mr Fork breaking the guidelines we'd agreed to and Mr Fork wanting to do anything to shut everyone up. Finally though, success!

We had a sleep through, and then another, and let me tell you, I woke up feeling saner than I had in a long time. Bless you, sleep! I'm sure there will still be awakenings, and I can cope with those, but I do hope this is a trend that continues.

A well sleeping bub
What about other mums? Have you had any luck with infant sleeping?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

When sickness is not an option

For the last week or so, Ellie has been snotty. Not the contagious type of snotty, just the uncomfortable stage where we've had to get out the snot sucker before feeding and bed, and we're going through Euky Bearub like it's going out of fashion.

I knew when we put her in daycare, that we'd better brace ourselves for everything that was going around and that was soon the case, with Mr Fork getting snotty and sneezy himself.  I did my usual immune boosting techniques: I dosed myself to the gills on Armaforce tablets, vitamin C and zinc, and if I have to look at another olive leaf extract drink anytime soon, I'll puke.  Breastfeeding pretty much rules out all the good stuff, sadly.

To no avail, as I got whatever my baby and husband had, only it seemed to hit me harder (guess it mutated and got stronger passing through them first!). I hate being sick. Even worse when you've got a little person relying on you to nurture them and can't afford to bury yourself in bed the way you could pre-baby. Here's a photo I sent to Mr Fork of myself feeling sad and sorry while working from home so as not to spread anything around the office. Note the stylish pink Hello Kitty pyjamas. Don't judge me.


However, now that I'm on the mend, I threw it open to friends and the social media-verse, for their best "I'm breastfeeding and can't get sick with what the snotty baby and sneezing husband have" cure all remedies, so I know what else to do next time. Here's the top tips with some of my input added after:

  • Sleep - hard when you have a baby, but do your best
  • Know when enough is enough - when you need to throw in the towel, take to bed, and ask for help
  • Super hot shower. A little extra tip I'd like to add here is add a few drops of tea tree or eucalyptus oil into the bottom of the shower so you can inhale it while you're in there.
  • Sore throat? Gargle warm salty water
  • Congested? Steam inhalation (I stole Ellie's humidifier so I could sleep better, laced with Eukybear inhalation oil)
  • Tea. My favourite immune boosting one is YEP tea - Yarrow, Elm and Peppermint. It's good for clearing mucus, helping to sweat out the toxins, calming sore throats and helping you to relax and sleep better. Some people recommend adding honey, but I don't care for it myself. 
  • Vitamin C. No brainer. However you can get it, fresh juice or tablets
  • Echinacea and Olive Leaf. I get these via the Armaforce but I drink olive leaf separately with water as well
  • Probiotics. A healthy tummy totally helps keep the rest of the system healthy too
  • Garlic. I'll point out that it's better raw so make sure you take that into account when you're chomping into it!
  • Soup. Add lots of chili, garlic and ginger. Mr Fork swears by chicken and corn and I make myself something similar minus the chicken of course.
  • Coconut oil. I'm going to add a plug for this wonder product here. Great multitasking product, but in this case, I smear it around my nose to stop it going red and sore from the constant blowing of
Finally, for no good reason other than my pins looking hot and to balance out the heinous picture of my face above, here is a gratuitous picture of my legs. The photo is my entry for a competition about how people style their clogs in Winter. 


Do you have a favourite remedy for when you're feeling a little run down? Any cure all that works for you? I'd love to hear it!

Friday, May 10, 2013

"Breast is best" but guilt and shame are unnecessary

Before I had a child, I assumed that motherhood would be instinctual, breastfeeding would come naturally and that it would be easy. I was wrong. My daughter was born early, borderline premature with severe jaundice.  We were in and out of hospital in those first days because although we'd been sent home, she wasn't latching well and needed light therapy to help clear that jaundice.

In hospital I was asked to sign a form saying I agreed to formula if I couldn't produce enough milk. I just wanted her to get well so I signed what was put in front of me. My milk hadn't come in properly and I struggled. I felt like a jersey cow – when she wouldn't latch, she was bottle fed, and later fed through a nasal tube when she refused the bottle. I was asked to a pump every two hours. Mostly, she was fed expressed breast milk, but she needed so much to help clear the jaundice that we needed formula top ups.  It was heartbreaking to see my tiny baby in that blue-lighted crib with her little white sunglasses, struggling to drink enough to clear that horrible yellow colour.  I was sure when we got home the breastfeeding would come easier.

After the stint in hospital, little miss preferred the bottle. I persevered, wanting to nurse her and be the one to provide her nourishment. I wanted that bond and I wanted to be the 'perfect' breastfeeding mother. We saw lactation consultants to help with latching; they commended my efforts to feed and recommended new techniques, nipple shields and lots of skin to skin time.  I ate lactation cookies galore and stuffed myself with milk boosting herbs. I don't know how it is for other mothers, but as a new mum there was no way I was getting mostly naked to feed in public so I'd make sure I had bottles of expressed milk ready to go. My daughter had nipple confusion switching between bottles, my breast and the shields. My supply suffered with her poor latch, so I started to express regularly at home to boost supply and build up a store of breast milk for my baby so she could have the benefits of breast milk even if it wasn’t directly from me. Nipple shields and my breast pump were a huge help. Progress was slow and steady, but the stress of trying to feed, then expressing wasn't helping our family and so we made the decision to not exclusively breast feed and to supplement with formula.

I cried when I saw what was written on the formula tub. Yes, breast is best, but for many reasons, some women can't breastfeed or don't have the supply and need a little help. I was embarrassed to get a bottle out in public as I felt people were judging me, regardless of whether it contained expressed milk or formula. Yes, it's a shame I can't feed my daughter exclusively from my breasts but I am not ashamed (anymore). We persevered, and we continued to breastfeed in conjunction with formula - as she got bigger, her latch got better and breastfeeding was not the painful, dreaded experience it was in the beginning. In fact, I love feeding her, and I look forward to our bonding time when her little hands pat my skin and she gazes into my eyes.

Now that I'm back at work, I want to continue to allow her breast milk as long as she wants it. While that is easy when I'm home and with her, it's not so simple when she's in daycare. I have to pump at work, at least once a day to maintain my supply. This brings a whole new level of difficulties. All of the rooms in our office are glass walled, so our receptionist has papered one with A3 paper for me to "extract" in, as my manager put it. There is no lock on the door so I have to trust that people will respect the 'do not disturb' sign outside. It has been joked that I should put my own sign up - "breast out, extraction in progress" and see how that goes. The tech nerd in me would also appreciate an in progress bar on that sign! I then have to carry my pump and bottle of breast milk back through the office, wash the pump out and discreetly hide my milk in the fridge. Yet, I do this willingly for Ellie, and for me too if I'm honest.

I love being a mother. No one told me it was going to be so hard or it wouldn't come naturally, but the look on my daughter's face when she wakes up and sees me, or feeds and manages a successful latch is priceless. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but also the best. We mothers need to support each other and not judge - being a new mum is hard enough without all the pressure from ourselves or anyone else.  I know I’m not the only new mum who's dealt with feeding challenges, and I know it’s kind of a personal topic. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share my story like this, but if I can help others going through something similar to feel a bit less guilt, then it's worth putting it out there.

Monday, May 6, 2013

DIY: Recycled t-shirt dog toy

After having a baby, much of my wardrobe wasn't right anymore. Some of my clothes weren't suitable to be worn now that I am a mother. Some weren't suitable for feeding in or wearing to work. And some were just plain stretched out and not even fit for donation to charity.

I've already talked about how frugal I like to be here and here, so it definitely wouldn't have been 'me' to just throw these clothes out, and there are far too many to make rags. I hemmed and hawed, and in fact, I still have a huge box of clothes I'm not sure what to do with in the corner of my room, but google was my friend and provided an idea for recycling t-shirts into a dog toy. Perfect!

I picked out three shirts with stretchy material whose colours went reasonably well together.


To make it easier for myself to cut the shirts into strips, I folded them in half length ways and just cut them into approximately 2.5cm strips from the bottom. I kept cutting until there wasn't any more shirt left to cut.


Next I unfolded all the strips and cut them at one hem, so that they became long lengths (or, as long as the shirt was round anyway).



I divided them into two piles, where each pile had a fairly even distribution of the colours. Then, I twisted each pile together individually (say, clockwise). Tie the two piles together with a knot, then twist them (anticlockwise if you went clockwise for the individual piles) before knotting off the whole thing again.


Neaten up the ends a little and there you have it. About 10 minutes of effort gives, one recycled t-shirt dog toy!

How do you recycle clothes which are too horrible to sell or donate?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Sometimes life calls for muffins

Delicious home made, muffins. And who am I to thwart life when it calls for something?  

I was craving something hearty, but also healthy and delicious. I knew I wanted oats, and I was thinking about Anzac day and how I didn't make any biscuits this year so somehow in my mind, the two ideas combined and morphed into something new.  Muffins are also very forgiving when it comes to substitutions, so I knew I could get a little experimental with the ingredients.

I call these Vegan oatmeal muffins. Delicious warm, chewy oatmeal muffins. Not too sweet, and actually pretty healthy as there is no oil or actual sugar. Behold!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup unsweetened apple puree
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Method
  1. Heat the oven to 200. If you need to, grease or line your muffin tray, but as I have a silicon one, I skip this step.
  2. Whisk together milk and vinegar in a bowl and set aside to curdle slightly. Whisk in the corn flour and water to the mix, then stir in the maple syrup and apple puree.
  3. Add oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon, then stir until just combined. Don't worry too much if it's a little lumpy.
  4. Fold in the coconut and choc chips. 
  5. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full, then bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean (about 20 minutes).  I got 12 muffins from this mix.

Verdict?
Yum! These were exactly what I felt like. Light and delicious with just a hint of sweetness from the maple syrup. I probably could have made them even healthier by using nuts and dried fruit instead of the coconut and choc chips, so I guess I'm going to have to make another batch to test this out.  I think walnuts and dried cranberries would be a good combination...


As they are vegan, they don't rise as much as non vegan ones will, and are very susceptible to becoming too rubbery if over-mixed, so just stir enough to combine.


I'll be adding these to the recipe file and making them again for sure. 

Do you have a favourite muffin variation? I'd love to hear about it!

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