Should I touch this baby? 

If you’re wondering this, the answer is probably no. However, if you’re unsure, here are a few hints to help you suss out if it’s ok to touch a baby…

  1. Is it your baby? Yes? Great! Does he or she like being touched, held, tickled and the like? Brill. On you go. 
  2. Do you know the baby or its parents? If not, don’t touch the baby. Yep. That means you, you crazy old bag with outstretched hand. Do not. I repeat, do not, approach the baby and touch its precious little face. 
  3. If you don’t know the parents, have you at least asked them if it’s ok to touch the baby? If not, don’t touch the baby. Equally if you’ve asked and they’ve said no, don’t touch the baby. Especially if you happen to be wearing your most convincing creepy weirdo outfit. 
  4. Is the baby asleep? If the answer is yes, don’t touch the baby. In particular, don’t touch the baby in a way which causes it to wake up. 
  5. Has the parent just said something like, “Oh, she’s just going to sleep,” while rocking the baby and looking slightly frustrated? If so, don’t touch the baby. Don’t talk to the baby. Don’t jingle things in the baby’s face. Don’t pass go. Don’t collect £200. Do choose life.

I hope this has helped. And remember, if you’re not sure, a good default position is not touching the baby. 

Parenting Books: Bibles or Boohockey?

Two of my very favourite humans gave me parenting books which they referred to as their ‘bibles’. These awesome ladies are phenomenal parents and have wonderful children, yet the advice given in the parenting books did not entirely sit right with me. How can this be so? Well, because a one size fits all approach is boohockey. Yes, it’s a Friends reference. Yes, I’m stuck in the 90s. 

Each of the books gave me a snippet of wisdom, but largely left me feeling confused and wondering if I was doing it wrong or being too soft. I’m probably doing many things wrong but I’m doing what I think best at any given time. And that’s all any of us can do. Here are some gems and some goofs which I gleaned:

Gem: If a baby is arching his or her back and has a curled up tongue like a little lizard, it’s probably wind. Sounds obvious, right? Well, no. Turns out, baby body language is an entirely unfamiliar secret code which I was totally unequipped to comprehend! If you only read two pages of ‘The Baby Whisperer’, just read the ones about baby body language. You’ll still spend most of most day playing ‘guess what I need now’, but at least you’ll have some ammo in your belt. 

Goof: Don’t feed your baby after 3:30pm because it will put him or her off the bed time feed. Wait. What? For real? So my baby complains of hunger at 3:31 and I say, “Oh, no, no. Wait until 7:30, tiny human.” Nah. This makes the assumption that all babies are the same. They are not. I, for one, need a late afternoon snack. Does it put me off my tea? Nope! So why assume that it will put baby off his or her evening ‘meal’? My baby eats at about 4:30 and 6:00 and still has plenty of room for a bedtime feed at 7:30. What my family lack in coordination, we make up for in appetite! 

Gem: Get a bedtime routine going and stick to it. Yes! I am a creature of habit and I love to know what’s coming next. Babies feel secure and safe when they know what to expect and we can help them learn by repetition. It doesn’t have to be someone else’s routine. You can invent your own. Now is your chance to create your own traditions. And if you find it doesn’t work, change it! Find out what does work for you and your baby. For us, feed, story, bath, feed and sleep feed works. For you, it may be something entirely different. 

Goof: Don’t smile at or make eye contact with your baby at night. Again, for real? Two things tend to happen and I find it super hard not to smile at my baby in either situation. Either, she wakes me up and I peer in to her Moses basket to see her grinning up at me like a goon or I look in and she’s upset. Either way, she needs (and gets!) a smile. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not setting up a game of chess and playing with baby in the night. But I can still be civil. And to her credit, she has a little snack and then drifts right back off. She’s not even that keen on chess. 

Gem: Babies need to be told when to sleep and helped to do it. Again, sounds obvious. I just assumed a tired baby would go to sleep. Ha. Not so much. Tracy Hogg talks about a ‘three yawn’ policy. This is a pretty good rule of thumb. If your baby is also rubbing his or her eyes and acting cranky, it’s time to help nap time along! 

Goof: Make sure you cuddle your baby when he or she needs it, not when you need it. Erm, nope. Being a mum is super hard. It’s emotionally draining. It’s awesome. It’s the bet thing I have ever done but oh my, I did not expect it to be this challenging. Sometimes I need to hug my baby to feel ok about myself and the world. She doesn’t seem to mind. Maybe if she did, then I’d need to heed this advice. However, while she will hug me uncomplainingly, I’m going to take a hug when I need one. I lent her my womb for 9 months and continue to lend her my milk ducts and about 99.9% of my actual soul. She can afford me a hug or two. 
A third good friend, and one who is never afraid to speak her mind, commented one day, “I think you’re reading too much.”  She was right. So much of ‘Mumming’ is instinct. These books are an interesting read and can definitely help you discover some useful titbits. Take a large amount of them with a pinch of salt though. It’s hard to trust your instinct when you have a new baby and a mixture of sleep deprivation and hormones have you feeling slightly unhinged. Your instincts are there for a reason though. You’ve got this, Mama! This particular friend’s advice was better than anything I’ve read so far. She has two grown up children and says, “If it felt good for me, I usually thought it must be good for the child.” Sound words. Smart lady. 

Super Gooey Flapjack

I have a few people visiting in the next couple of days and was trying to think of something quick and easy to bake. I haven’t baked since before baby and it felt like time to get my bake on. But what to make?

I fancied something oaty and was originally toying with the idea of some no bake peanut butter oat balls but one of my guests doesn’t like peanut butter (I know, I know – I  didn’t know that was a real thing either!) and I couldn’t be bothered getting sticky hands from rolling gooey balls out. 

I settled on the idea of flapjack. My mum makes amazing flapjack. I have always been envious of her flapjack making skill. I am a slightly* competitive person and needed to win the flapjack battle. I’ve tried for years to make a decent vegan flapjack. The results have ranged from break your teeth hard to flaky crumbly sawdust and finally to soggy oats in treacle. At last though, I have perfected the winningest winner of a recipe. It’s the best. So good that I may** have eaten half the tray all by myself. 

Super Gooey Flapjack

Ingredients

10 Tbsp dairy free margarine

1 and 1/4cups brown sugar

7 Tbsp golden syrup

 3 and 3/4 cups oats

Instructions 

  1. Line a deep baking tray with grease proof paper. 
  2. Melt syrup , sugar and margarine in the microwave. Stir well. 
  3. Pour this mixture over the oats and mix thoroughly. Try to eat less than half of the mixture. Good luck. 
  4. Press into the baking tray. 
  5.  Place in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 28-30 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool partially and then cut into pieces. 

*I am the most competitive person. Ever. 

** I did. 

Lemony Asaparagus Salad

I’m short on time at the moment. Although I’m not working, I’m busy growing a human. It’s pretty time consuming. She keeps wanting to eat and be kept clean and stuff. It’s like the most magical Groundhog Day that ever existed. 

Prepping a big batch of salad to last a few days as a side dish is a great time saver. In a household where one is a meat eater and one a vegan, it works especially well at tying your meals together. My husband will have something like steak or chicken as his main and I’ll have something like marinated tofu homemade seitan. Throw on some green leaves, a splodge of hummus and a portion of this lemony asparagus salad and tea is ready quicker than you can say ‘is lemony actually a word?’! 

Lemony Asparagus Salad

Serves 6 as a side dish or 2 as a main dish for hungry humans. 

You will need: 

  • 1.5 cups cooked rice
  • 1 bunch asparagus (roasted)
  • 1 courgette (roasted)
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup artichokes (chopped)
  • 1 tin cannellini beans 

For the dressing:

  • 1.5 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp Salt (optional) 
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley (optional, but fresh herbs make all the difference) 
  • 1 clove garlic (crushed) 

How to make it:

  1. Roast the courgette and asparagus in a little olive oil  for about 25 – 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Add the pumpkin seeds to the tray and cook for 10 more minutes. Allow to cool. 
  2. Put the asparagus, courgette and pumpkin seeds in a large bowl along with the other salad ingredients. 
  3. Mix all the dressing ingredients together well. Shaking it together in a clean jar with a securely fastened lid works well. 
  4. Stir the dressing through the salad, mixing it all thoroughly.

Clean Vs Healthy Eating

I don’t think I had heard the term ‘clean eating’ this time two years ago. I had definitely heard of healthy eating though. Like many other food fads, ‘clean eating’ seems to come with many problems. 

You can keep your juice cleanses, your 5-2 diets and your raw before 4. However, I do choose to eat vegan. A friend of mine shared an interesting article from The Independent this morning, where Olivia Petter talks about clean eating as a form of disordered eating. It reminded me of my dad’s reaction when I first went vegan, almost 20 years ago. (That’s right kids, I was vegan before it was mainstream.) He said that it was an eating disorder. Is this the case? Is it just another fad? 

I’ve been asked why I’m vegan roughly eleventy billion and thirty eight times. Biting animals never seemed natural to me and I don’t recall ever enjoying the taste. Most of my family have trouble digesting dairy so it made sense to give that up too. A book called The Silent Ark by Juliet Gellately changed my perspective forever; it opened my eyes to environmental and human poverty factors which I hadn’t previously considered. 

Don’t worry though, I’m not a militant vegan. I won’t insist on lecturing you about your food choices while waggling a hairy armpit in your face, just as long as you don’t try and put ham in my handbag or sneak salami on my sarnie. This is what is right for me. It’s not what’s right for everyone. 

In fact, I would be more likely to discourage people from becoming vegan. This is because I believe it to be a lifestyle choice which can make you extremely poorly unless you take the time to research your dietary needs and ensure you’re getting all the right nutrients. Do you know how many miligrams of calcium you’ve had today? How about iron? To be a vegan, you have to be pretty comfortable reading and interpreting food labels. And yes, I do read the label of everything. Why wouldn’t you? Don’t you want to know what you’re putting in your body? 

For me, being vegan isn’t about disordered eating and controlling weight. It’s about making a choice which I feel ethically comfortable with while still ensuring I’m as strong and healthy as I can be. After all, strong is the new skinny. Didn’t you get the memo? Admittedly, I can be a little obsessive. Mainly over protein. Man, I love me some protein. But it’s never about calorie restriction or depriving myself. 

Whatever food choices you make, the principles of healthy eating are the same: plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, enough of complex carbs to give you energy, some good fats and some protein. Plenty of protein. All the protein. Maybe veganism can be symptomatic of disordered eating for some, but I think that it can also be a healthy, kind and environmentally friendly lifestyle….if done carefully. And as far as clean eating goes, just be sure to wash your fruit and veg. That ought to cover it. 

Super Swamp Smoothies

This week, I did my first exercise class since giving birth. It had been 15 weeks so it felt like it was time to ‘get back on it’. But ooooh, the DOMs. They hurt so good. Would you think I was a sicko if I said I’d missed them? 

My gym wife messaged me afterwards to ask if I’d got my six pack back by doing the class*. My abs do hurt like they should be ripped now but, alas, no. I still look mumsy. I still have a linea negra. I still wobble where I didn’t used to. I loved my pregnant body. I loved my pre-pregnancy body. However, it’s been tough loving my postpartum body. 

While I’m proud of my body and the miracle it’s achieved, I’m not used to the me I see in the mirror. I know I need the right fuel to allow me to feed and grow my healthy baby so now is not the right time to try to ‘get my body back’. It’s not my body right now anyway. It hasn’t been my body since the moment I saw the positive pregnancy test. And that’s ok. 

What I can do though, is to make sure I’m taking care of this body. So, it’s time to resume food prepping. Not to the same extent because ain’t no-new-mummy got time for that. One step at a time though, right? So it started like this…



Super Swamp Smoothies

For each smoothie, you will need: 

  • 1 scoop of protein powder**
  • 1 tbsp chia seed
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 tbsp spirulina ( I would start with 1/2 tsp and gradually increase this as you adjust to the taste. Admittedly, it tastes like I imagine drowning in the sea feels.)
  • 1 tbsp wheat grass powder 
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries
  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen kale 
  • 1 banana (don’t add this until it’s time to blend) 
  • Optional extras: 1 tbsp peanut butter and/or 1 tbsp raw cacao 
  1. Decide how many smoothies you’d like to prep. 
  2. Set out enough freezer bags. An easy way to prep these without everything going everywhere is to set up the same number of protein shakers or pint glasses. Line each one with the freezer bag. 
  3. Put the ingredients for one smoothie in each bag. Don’t put the banana in! 
  4. Remove the bags and tie them. Throw them straight into the freezer. 
  5. When you want a smoothie, tip the contents of one bag into your blender. Add a banana and 1 1/2 cups water and blend up. Add more water if it’s still too thick for your liking. 
  6. You can throw the freezer bags back in the freezer to reuse next time if you like. This will save on money & waste! 


You can see why I’ve called it a Super Swamp Snoothie, eh?! Don’t expect it to taste like ice cream and pancakes. It tastes like green. It’s going to do you a world of good though. 

Enjoy. Or don’t. 

*I’ve never had a six pack. Four at best and only when pulling my best Instagram angle pose. 

**I use a mix of unflavoured hemp, rice and pea protein. You can use whichever protein powder you prefer. 

The ‘What’s the point?’ Hour

I’m awake. It’s 5:21am. I’m feeding my baby and playing on my phone so that I don’t fall asleep. How did people stay awake before mobile phones? Is there an oppposite to counting sheep? Maybe they sat and tried to remember all the embarrassing things that they had ever done. That’s enough to keep anyone awake. 

5:21am falls smack bang in the midst of the ‘What’s the Point Hour’. It’s so nearly time to get up that if you did get back to sleep, it would be for such a short while that it probably wouldn’t make you feel any better. In fact, it could even make you feel worse. Or maybe you won’t get back to sleep at all. Maybe you will lie there, watching the time tick by, repeatedly calculating how much sleep you could get if you fell asleep now. Or now. Or now. Or now. 

What’s the alternative though? Try to do something productive? Like maybe catch up with replying to emails, finishing your online food shop or even painting the walls of the new nursery. You could catch up with chores but only the quiet ones like dusting and ironing. Who am I kidding? I have a newborn baby. Dusting and ironing are non-essential jobs right now. Folding and putting away laundry though, well that’s my bread and butter. I’d definitely avoid doing the vacuuming or loading the dishwasher though. It may be cute when birds make a whole lot of noise at this time of the morning, but you can bet that no one will think it’s cute if you do. 

Maybe use the time as ‘you time’ and enjoy a brew in peace while you wonder what your life has become that you have to snatch ‘you time’ at 5:21am. Or nudge your sleeping partner to inform them that they’re in sole charge of the baby, pull on your trainers and head out for a run. Be sure to run slowly so that you have plenty of time to work out how long it would be before someone found you if you tripped and horribly injured yourself at this time in the morning. 

Or maybe you could just write a blog post about all the things you could do. But never actually do any of them.