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The Farce of SATs

This sums up that crazy week in May when SATs fever hits.

Secret Teacher

Take a deep breath. Relax. Exhale. It’s over for another year.

If you have pupils in Year 6, work in Key Stage 2 or have any sort of dealings with a primary school, I’m sure you haven’t been able to miss the fact that Year 6 pupils up and down the country have completed their SATs this week. The past few days will have been about as far from the norm as you usually will find in the calendar. Schools practically fall over themselves to ensure that their statistics (how cynical of me, of course I mean pupils!) are in school in a frame of mind fit to sit the most important exams of their young lives to date.

Except of course… well… they probably aren’t that important to the child and don’t actually have much of an impact on that child’s future. They will be given a score and…

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It’s Not Just About the Milk

Breastfeeding has never been more in the news (it seems anyway). Sadly, however, it is mostly negative at the moment. More and more reports of women being denied their legal right to feed in public alongside internet hate campaigns and trolling of women speaking out about full term breastfeeding.

It’s got me thinking about why I breastfeed.

My favourite time of the day

My favourite time of the day

I always assumed I would for a start. I don’t actually know why I had that assumption, I knew my Mum had breastfed me and bottle fed my sister (due to double mastitis, double ouch!) but apart from that I had little experience or exposure to breastfeeding. In fact the first time I witnessed someone feeding was when I was newly pregnant with Bella, we were at my cousin’s birthday party and a friend of theirs was feeding her newborn daughter. I remember thinking how peaceful and beautiful it looked.

I did not find breastfeeding easy to start with and it was only my stubbornness that got me through (that and the cost of formula, that stuff is very expensive!) and it became something I am very glad I have experienced with both my daughters.

I have had to examine my feelings about breastfeeding very recently. This maternity leave with Rosie is going to be a lot shorter than with Bella, in fact I am returning to work in a month’s time and I am having to come to some decisions about milk for Rosie whilst she is at nursery. My first idea was to pump and freeze a stash so she could continue to have my milk when I’m at work but sadly pumping is just not working for me and I am struggling to get enough to see her though.

My second option was to go to the nursery during my lunch break in order to feed her, but that is looking less likely an option as meetings take up a lot of lunchtime as a teacher.

Which leaves me with one option. Formula.

Now I’m not getting into a formula vs breastfeeding debate here. I find it fantastic we live in a world where there is a safe alternative to breastmilk to ensure the survival of those babies who would have otherwise perished without milk available to them. I always thought I would have no problems switching to formula if needed, indeed with Bella I always said I would breastfeed her for 6 months then switch (as it was I continued to 13 months when she self weaned) so it was a surprise when I found myself very upset at the thought of Rosie having to have bottles of formula at nursery. It seemed completely illogical but it was such a strong emotional response.

So I tried to unpick why I was feeling the way I did (this is very much based on me and my personal experience and is not a reflection on how anyone else feeds their baby):

  • It was my guilt. I think mainly I was feeling very guilty that I was not spending the same amount of time as I did on maternity leave with Bella. I had a year with her and yet I was not with Rosie, this is due to finances mainly. I was receiving maternity pay based on my full time salary with Bella but with Rosie it was based on my part-time salary.

 

  • I’m worried it’ll be the end of our breastfeeding journey. Logically I know this is unlikely to happen, she’ll be with me 4 full days a week and only at nursery for 5-6 hours for 3 days a week with me feeding her morning and evening but in the back of my mind I worry that she’ll prefer the ease of bottle feeding over breastfeeding.

 

  • I never saw this happening. As I said above I thought I would move onto formula with Bella but didn’t so I naturally assumed that Rosie would be the same. Assumption is the mother of all… yeah precisely. I had initially thought I would have a years maternity leave this time as I did the first. However, life gets in the way and it made more sense for us as a family for me to return earlier than originally thought. It’s not a nice decision but a necessary one.

 

  • It’s not just about the milk. This is the crux of the matter. For us breastfeeding is so much more than the mere nourishment of the milk. It’s my special time with Rosie (as it was with Bella), knowing I am helping her grow, it’s something I can do and do well despite pregnancies fraught with problems and in Bella’s case a labour that was far from ideal. I love the quiet closeness, the way Rosie grips my hand as she feeds and her little sighs of satisfaction. I spend hours examining her beautiful features, marveling that I grew her, spotting my husband’s features and traits within her, charting how she is changing each and every day. The warmth I feel when I hold her to feed is both external and internal, I love the feel of her warm little body curled against mine and my love for her grows everyday. Of course this would happen regardless but in our busy lives it’s our quiet alone time feeding that makes me appreciate it most. I, quite simply, love the fact that I am her source of food and it’s something I am struggling to hand over, albeit for a fraction of her time.

 

I hope to natural term feed Rosie as I did with Bella, although in Bella’s case she self weaned a lot earlier than many children do, and let Rosie decide when she no longer wants my milk. Whenever that happens I know I will look back at breastfeeding with great affection and I will always be an advocate for those who wish to breastfeed and need support.

How did you feel about feeding your babies? Was it an easy decision or did you have hurdles to overcome too?

Nursing Strike

Phew, we seem to have weathered our first one. Rosie had been getting fussy last night and this morning, which all merged into one thanks to a very bad night sleep wise, and had not been taking on enough milk.

She was hungry, she knew that, I knew that but still feeding was met with screaming and tears 😦

Thankfully it seems to have passed, culprit discovered. A very angry looking lower gum is to blame it would appear, bastard teething I hate it.

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Why (this time) I’m Following the Leader

Weaning. Eurgh weaning. Not something I was looking forward to this time around.

Weaning Bella was stressful from the start. Bella was a little baby and continued to be little, the Health Visitors couldn’t get their brains around this so I was bombarded with pressure to formula feed. There was even a lovely little threat of contacting Social Services at one point, just what a new mother wants to hear. As such we were pressured into weaning Bella earlier than the recommended 6 months. I am sorry to say I caved at that point after having dealt with everything leading up to it. So we started with baby rice and purees.

Looking back Bella was not ready, many miserable hours were spent spooning lurid coloured mush into her reluctant mouth, it made both her and me unhappy. Plus she would only really eat carrot, her nose went orange 😦

When Bella was 2 years old she was diagnosed with a wheat intolerance, initially suspected coeliac disease, and I will always have mother’s guilt about whether weaning her early was the cause. It probably isn’t but we don’t know that for sure. Seeing my poor baby miserable and in hospital having test after test will stay with me for the rest of my life.

This time is different. I am stronger, I know what I’m doing and I have not seen a HV since the 6 week check (when they started with all the weight stuff again, I make small babies DEAL WITH IT)

This time we are BLW, Rosie is deciding when she wants to eat and we’ll be going with the flow. The fact is she started last week when she swiped some pasta off me at lunch time and it went straight to her mouth and boy was she happy!

This time it’s so much more relaxed, she gets a bit of what we’re eating and if most of it goes on the floor/in her hair so be it, she is loving exploring food and we find it hilarious too!

I have been reading the Gill Ripley book about BLW (generally considered the leading voice on the subject) and following the advice about what to do. There is also this fantastic website which has these handy hints for getting started:

  1. Have a good trawl on the internet for blogs, info and in particular video clips of BLW babies. Seeing little tiny 6-month-old babies demolishing their food and hearing the gasps of admiration from the proud parent behind the camera (and by parent I mean Dad. It’s always the Dad), will do your confidence the power of good.
  2. Next, forget ‘baby food’. Food’s food, as long as you’re not adding salt. To start off with, think chip-sized because it’s an easy shape for little 6-month-olds to grip, but you’ll soon move on to smaller pieces as it’s more interesting for a child developing a pincer grip.
  3. As a first food most people steam carrots (to about the degree that they can be smushed ‘twixt your thumb and finger), cut up cucumbers, make toast fingers or crinkle cut bits of mango, that sort of thing, but remember if there’s no reason whatsoever why your baby can’t have a pile of Spaghetti Bolognese or mashed potato to dig into if that’s what the rest of the family is having.
  4. No bowls, they’re just asking to be flung heavenwards. Put the food on the highchair tray or table and remember, it’s all a learning experience for the baby at this point. They really don’t care whether the experience is ‘oooooh, mango is in my mouth’ or ‘ooooooh, a bowl is flying across the room’.
  5. As an experienced eater yourself, you already have all the ‘equipment’ you’ll need to feed your child, but there are some things to consider. An easy-to-clean highchair is a must, so head to Ikea for a fifteen quid Antilop, which will even fit in the shower for a hose-down on a bad broccoli day.
  6. There will be mess, oh yes there will, so if you are weaning in summer don’t be afraid to eat outside or semi-naked (and the baby too, if you like, hem hem) and for winter Ikea and Tommee Tippee make great cover-all and pelican bibs.
  7. Putting a wipe-clean tablecloth under the highchair is a good idea if you have carpets and some people find that a crinkle cutter is handy to make food extra-grippable.
  8. (Slightly bitter) experience suggests that the more effort you put into making something special for the baby, the less likely they are to eat it. Give them what you’re having. If they hate it, fine, they’re getting their calories from milk anyway.
  9. Of course it would be perfect if we ate every meal as a family, just like the Waltons but this isn’t always possible. Try to keep your ‘social activity’ head on, though, even if it’s just you and your baby sharing a sandwich at lunch. Keep smiling, keep enjoying, keep paying attention. It’s just good manners at the end of the day, something it’s never too early for a child to learn.
  10. Don’t get too hung up on three meals a day, it may take a while to work up to that. Whatever’s convenient and enjoyable for you is best.
  11. And don’t put too much on the highchair tray at the one time, just a couple of pieces of food will stop them feeling overwhelmed.
  12. Actual hunger can be frustrating for the babies when they’re still getting to grips (quite literally) with things. Timing ‘meals’ to between milk feeds seems to be best, and because it’s just finger food you aren’t limited to staying in. There’s no reason why you can’t pack a wee Tupperware with some carrot or cucumber, buy a banana when you’re out or just pull some bits out of an undressed salad.
  13. Never put food into a child’s mouth, let them put it in by themselves so that they can control it as it moves backwards. If the baby gags, remember that it’s their way of moving food around in the mouth and don’t panic. Some parents have found that making exaggerated chewing faces and noises reminds the child to get back on track.
  14. Nappies and their contents will soon fascinate you in ways you never thought possible. Raisins rehydrate, little pieces of still-green broccoli sneak through the digestive system and bananas produce poo with strange black threads. Look and learn, ladies.
  15. Have a camera ready to capture those first gummy, carroty smiles because as daunting as it may seem, weaning is a very short time in your child’s life. So remember to enjoy it…

Bella’s Banana Bread

Nearly every family I know has a problem with bananas. Well our children do. They go through phases of wanting them and then inevitably they don’t so you end up with a surplus.

Banana bread to the rescue! Now I’m not the world’s biggest fan of bananas, I don’t eat them in their raw form so we do end up with lots going brown, but I do love banana bread. Bella loves it too and her favourite recipe is one I’ve adapted to include her favourite thing, namely chocolate. This recipe includes both cocoa powder and chocolate chips and makes a lovely, moist banana bread that is perfect served with whipped cream.

Prep time: under 30 minutes

Cooking time: over an hour

Makes one loaf in a 20cm loaf tin.

Suitable for vegetarians. 10

Ingredients

  • 270 g/9.5 oz plain flour
  • 15 g/0.5 oz cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 110 g/4 oz butter, also a bit extra for greasing the tin
  • 225 g/ 8 oz caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 4-6 very ripe bananas (depending on size, I usually use 6 small ones), mashed
  • 85 ml/ 3 fl oz milk mixed with 1.5 tsps lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 80 g/3 oz dark chocolate chips

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to Fan 160C/180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, bananas, milk & lemon juice and vanilla to the butter and sugar and mix very well. The mixture will look very runny but this is normal.
  4. In a separate bowl sift the flour, cocoa powder & bicarb and fold into the wet mixture.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Grease a 20cm x 12.5cm/8in x 5in loaf tin. I find putting a greaseproof paper rectangle in the bottom aids removal later.
  7. Pour mixture into the prepared tin and transfer to the oven. Bake for around 1 hour (depending on your oven strength). The bread should be well risen and a skewer should come out clean.
  8. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Enjoy! I always have this with cream but it works very well with custard too

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School Holidays Made Better By Maternity Leave

For once I am enjoying the school holidays. For those who don’t know I am a teacher so holidays should be a perk of the job right? Well yes and no. Pre children they were lush, getting up late, able to work as when I wanted, could nip into school to get things done on the school system etc. That all changed with the arrival of Bella.

You see the simple fact is, teachers work in the holidays. There are very few who don’t and usually they work very long hours in term time to free up their holidays more. Bella is in term time only childcare, this makes it affordable for us as a family so is at home with me during the school holidays. Explaining to a pre-schooler that Mummy has to work is not easy, dragging same pre-schooler into a school not suited or designed for that age child is even worse so I end up working evenings just like term time. Quite simply the time I should have been enjoying with my daughter was plagued by the constant worry of my work pile building. What used to be a relaxing time became indistinguishable from my working week.

Then came maternity leave with Rosie. No more work worries = a happy Easter break for us all.

As I am returning to work before the Summer I am determined to enjoy every minute of this holiday as it will be last like this. Now we’re off for a walk in the forest…TTFN2014-03-30 13.05.07

 

 

 

 

Review: Baby Massage sponsored by Infacol

There is no polite way to put this.

Rosie has gas.

She is a little burping and farting machine. Bella was never gassy at all, she was many things but gassy was not one of them! Gas, wind, whatever you prefer to call it is actually quite rare in EBF (exclusively breastfed) babies and it was this that prompted me to look into the cause behind Rosie’s gas problem. She has a complete lip tie which means she has a shallow latch enabling air to be taken in when feeding.

Mostly this means unladylike belches, many farts and quite a bit of posseting. Apart from the change of clothes pretty manageable.baby massage

But then there are the other times when it does become a problem. Trapped wind; uncomfortable as an adult, excruciatingly painful for a baby. All those who have had dealings with windy babies know all too well the red faced screams as they arch their backs, pull up their legs as the bubbles of air inside them cause a whole lot of pain.

So it was with interest when I was contacted by Infacol to try out some baby massage in order to see if it helped with Rosie’s wind problem. I tried baby massage with Bella but that girl hated it, hated being naked, didn’t like being massaged so I had sort of dismissed it for Rosie. I fell into that trap that many parents do of assuming our children will be the same in likes, temperament etc.

So out came the towel, downloaded the info, dug out the massage oil from my maternity kit and off we go!

Now at this point  I must stress that the items I use are what works for us and may not be suitable for everyone, if using oil for massage always do a small test patch on yourself and your baby 24 hours before the intended massage in case of reaction.

We are using Sweet Almond base oil for our massage and only a tiny amount. This is an oil I have used on myself during pregnancy and on Rosie’s dry skin after she was born. We both had eczema, mine the more severe, so it was key to use an oil that would not react.

I started with the anti-colic exercises as Rosie was displaying signs of trapped wind when we tried these techniques. They seemed strange at first but Rosie loved them, out of all the other massage types (apart from the shoulder one, that was her absolute favourite!) the anti-colic trio were the biggest hits!

The information sheet is simple and easy to follow, giving clear instruction on each technique and how long to perform the massage for. I can see these massages becoming part of our nightly routine before bed in order to help Rosie remain pain free. I plan to show my husband these techniques tonight so we can both enjoy the time massaging Rosie.

Infacol are the market leaders in colic relief and have set up a virtual colic surgery with and expert midwife on hand to advise on the treatment of colic in babies. Why not check it out today?

Bella’s Bunting

Sorry for the absence but life with a new baby is seldom conducive to being able to write!

So bunting. I do love a bit of bunting and my all time favourite magazine Simply Crochet spoils me with gorgeous bunting in each issue. One of these beautiful patterns caught Bella’s eye and she asked me to make it for her bedroom. Who am I to refuse my little Squig (short for Squiglet, her nickname since birth). 20140223-083548.jpg

The pattern is worked in rounds starting with a magic circle/ring. Now I class myself as an advanced beginner in crochet terms and the magic circle/ring has always been difficult for me, I have watched countless tutorials on Y0utube, read how to do it in magazines but it never quite works out right so I sort of bodge it so it does the job! The one thing I found about this pattern (found in Issue 13) is that it works up very quickly due to the weight of the yarn and the hook size. The yarn is DROPS Paris and so soft, I had a few issues to start with as it’s the first time I’ve crocheted with a cotton blend and the tiny strands did get caught but I soon got used to it!

The design is simply gorgeous and would work for Christmas decorations with white, red or sparkly yarn. It works just as well with DK yarn and a 4mm hook; I’m thinking of getting some Wendy Supreme Sparkle DK in time for Christmas.

The main thing I adore about this bunting is the ombré effect of the colours, so pleasing and striking. Bella loves red and pink so this bunting was perfect for her room which is decorated in cream and red.

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For finishing I made two slight adjustments. One was to block and starch the bunting, for it to hang right around Bella’s mirror this was a must. The second was to join each star to the chain with a dc, this holds the stars in the right place so they don’t slip when hung.

I am hoping that as Rosie gets older I can finish projects quicker.

 

Yeah that’s not going to happen is it?

My Beauty

Bella has many different meanings across the Internet. Most agree that it means beautiful and when I see pictures like this of my Bella who am I to disagree?P1010374