As a new mother I have been bombarded by others’ opinions on how I should raise my child, but never so much as when the subject of feeding rears its peach-fuzzed little head.
Like all mums-to-be in the UK I had been inundated with the ‘breast is best’ propaganda issued by the NHS, but a search for for a balanced discussion on the pros and cons of each method drew a frustratingly blank, blank.
I was coming to this debate with no particular leaning, but trying to find unbiased advice out there is really hard. Other than the occasional breakfast news story I had never really been aware of the depth of the breast v bottle debate, but the parenting forums and baby blogs were full of dictatorial ranting, polarised opinions and outright declarations of war.
If I were to believe the pro-breastfeeding extremists all bottle feeders are bad mothers; selfish, uncaring harridans who just weren’t willing to try. However, when I spoke to many bottling feeding mothers they told of the heartbreak over their decision, of the guilt, of the pressure placed on them to breastfeed whilst in hospital and the feeling of failure and inadequacy that accompanied the choice to switch to bottle when they left.
One mother even commented that a mutual friend was “very brave” for saying that she never wanted to breastfeed and sticking to her decision despite the pressure she felt from others.This seemed like a ridiculous thing to say but the further along in my pregnancy I got, the more I understood what she meant. The NHS in particular piled on the pressure to breastfeed, sending me through enough pro-breast leaflets to paper a palace, but not once did they discuss the pros and cons of bottle feeding.
So what did the other side have to offer to the debate? Well according to the bottle feeding advocates all breastfeeding mothers are middle class hippies who are pampered and have nothing else to do but see to their babies. Indeed, even the National Childbirth Trust has been in the news recently for abandoning it’s evangelical breastfeeding stance as part of their push to become more inclusive and attractive to the working classes. (I would argue they’d be better dropping their prices to be honest, but that’s a rant for another day).
There are clearly some out there who feel that breastfeeding is a middle class endeavour and certainly I can see why – the cost of electric pumps, breast milk storage bags and pots, slings, concealed feeding tops and the time taken to feed or express for your child makes it seem that a great investment may be needed.
Reading all this had made me more and more confused. I didn’t really want to be seen as uncaring or as a tree hugger. I’m not middle class and I certainly don’t have the luxury of a lot of time to sit around doing nothing but feed, but by the same token I don’t really fancy a great pile of bottle-fed guilt. Even the statistics didn’t help me; although most women breastfeed immediately after birth, by 6 weeks 53% are bottle feeding. So, still baffled by all the conflicting advice, I did what I do with any decision I’m struggling with, I scribbled away at a pros and cons list. And here it is:
Bottle feeding cons
So what did I do? Well I spoke to my Granny, as the only person I knew who’d fed both ways more than once and she gave me the best advice of all – do what is right for you and baby. As it was my daughter was in neonatal care for the first 15 days of her life and was severely underweight, so what was best for her was breast milk. But as I wasn’t in hospital with her, she had as much breast milk as I could manage and formula when there wasn’t quite enough to fill her up. Having tried both methods, I found I actually enjoy breastfeeding (despite a few problems we encountered) and I hate all the faffing with bottles and sterilisers and powder that formula feeding brings. So although my little girl will still take either method happily, I’m trying to get her off the bottles for the most part.
I think Granny had it right. It doesn’t matter so much what you feed, what matters is that whichever method you choose, it meets the needs of both of you. If you don’t want to breastfeed or you try and don’t like it or struggle and run out of steam, you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for that. As for my little one, she’s lying in my lap feeding as I type, and looking at her chubby chomping cheeks I can’t help but think it is the fact that I am happy with what I chose to do that makes her so happy and healthy today.
good places for support/further reading.
It’s a sorry state of affairs to see a grown woman crying at the supermarket checkout but that’s exactly how I felt today when I saw my final food bill. Prices are now so high that we all have to make some serious changes in how we shop to survive. There are the basic options: change down a supermarket or change down a brand. However with many supermarkets price-matching at the moment that might not make much difference. What are the best ways of cutting our food bills without cutting our lifestyle?
1. Know your labels.
So many people do not understand the difference between a best before date, a display until date and a use by date on food:
Best Before means just that; that the food is guaranteed to be at it’s best before that date but is perfectly fine to eat after that date provided no signs of degradation (i.e. mould/separation of dairy products/fermentation) are visible.
Display Until dates are much the same, often found on fresh fruit and vegetables these are purely for stock rotation. They tell the shop staff when they need to remove old stock.
Use By dates on the other hand should never be ignored. They are there for your safety. Usually this date is on things like meat, fish, poultry and dairy and items which may carry salmonella. Please do not attempt to eat any of these after the use by date.
2. Make use of your freezer.
Frozen food is much cheaper and actually fresher than a lot of the ‘fresh’ produce you get in stores, especially when it comes to fish & vegetables. You’ll also find you have far less waste.
Batch cook. Freezers work more economically when full. The less space they have to chill, the better. Resist the temptation to fill it with over-priced ready meals – shop smart and batch cook your favourite family dishes. Lasagne, curry and stew are favourites in our house but pretty much anything will freeze. Just remember: if it’s already been thawed it must be cooked before you refreeze it. If in doubt, Google it.
Be a yellow sticker shopper. Most supermarkets have a reduced section. Get to know where yours is and don’t be afraid to ask staff what time they normally do the markdowns. Remember that although these products may be on their display until or best before date if you freeze on day of purchase they will last months. Alternatively you can cook up a batch of something tasty on the same day and freeze that for later.
Split meat packs. If you regularly buy packs of meat which are large enough to feed your household for more than one meal split them into individual portions before freezing. I always freeze chicken breasts, pork chops, steaks etc individually to reduce waste.
3. Be fridge smart
Can you remember what is in your fridge right now? So much of our food budget is spent on perishable items which must be stored in the fridge. Much of it gets wasted when it’s pushed to the back and forgotten until well after it is edible. Perishables like meat, fish, fresh vegetables and dairy are some of the most expensive items on your shopping list each week so think smart. Only keep in your fridge what needs to be there. This is usually only dairy products, cooked meat and enough raw meat for the next couple of days. Get in the habit of freezing all your meat and take out what you need each morning/evening for the following day. Switch to frozen vegetables,for everything but salads and you will cut down massively on waste.
Top tip: NEVER use the salad drawer. Once it goes in the drawer you instantly forget you have it because you can’t see it.
We all have foods that we loved as a kid that we feel either guilty or silly for enjoying as adult. Since most of us weren’t regularly served partridge in a red wine jus as 8 year olds, these meals are often cheap and cheerful dishes that can make us smile and save us pennies at the same time. In our house this amounts to spaghetti hoops on toast, potatoes and cheese sauce or fish fingers, chips and beans. Whip out one or two of these dishes a week and you’ve cut a chunk off your final bill.
5.Check your portion sizes
Once you have served a meal how much left over rice/pasta/potato goes in the bin and how much extra did you eat because it was there? Could you cut your portion sizes and cut your costs this way? Historically we have always used cheap carbohydrates like bread and potatoes to pad out a meal but often we take it too far and make portions far too big, making us both fatter and poorer at the same time. Even if you think your portions are about right try cutting them down a little. If you are actually still hungry finish off with some bread.
6. Dish up in the kitchen, serve to the table.
Unless it’s a special occasion, plate your food up in the kitchen and then bring to the table. By placing self-service dishes on the table you are likely to:
a) Cook more. A ramekin of peas doesn’t look right on a table so you’ll do a bowlful of unnecessary and wasteful peas to fill the space.
b) Eat more. No matter how much you’ve had you’ll have a little more if it’s right in front of you. If you have to walk to another room you are less likely to eat for the sake of it. This is also true of bread products. If you are eating something with bread only take one portion each to the table. Do not take the whole loaf or pack of rolls as they will be eaten just to empty the bowl.
7.Make use of your leftovers.
Always have a plan for your leftovers. You may wish to freeze them as they are ready for an emergency lunch or speedy evening meal. Most meats will make a great curry the day after you’ve cooked them. Keep a couple of premixed sauces in for this purpose and try and get them when they are half price. Alternatively, mix with a can of tomatoes and stock for an Italian style casserole or simply a little instant gravy and some homemade pastry for quick and tasty pie.You can always use roasted or grilled meat for packed lunches, sandwiches or salads.
8. Get inspired and learn new recipes.
Most of us have the same tried and tested recipes we use over and over again. As a consequence meal times can become quite boring. But with the same few ingredients it is possible to make several different meals (I’ll be showing you how later in the month with some of my store cupboard essentials). There are many websites out there, like www.supercook.com, which can help you by providing recipes tailored to exactly what you have in your cupboards. The more recipes you are armed with, the more successful your battle against waste and expense will be.
There are those who see books as a resource to be consumed, those who see them as an almost religious artifact to be revered, and protected and those who have no interest. Both of the first two sets of people adore books, love literature and all it stands for and think a world without the written word would be a sorry, sorry place. That however is where the similarities end and the fine line of separation starts to widen into a gulf.
I have loved reading since I realised that decoding those squiggles meant I could get a story out of the thick cardboard pages of my nursery books. I saw being able to read and read well as a mystical, magical skill and I to certain extent, I still do. My mother filled every space of our home with shelf upon shelf of poetry and prose, fact and fiction, classical and modern; the greats, the good and the not so good and saw value in it all.
She taught me how to enjoy the smell of an old book; dusty, worn and full of knowledge and insight. Introduced me to the sensual beauty of a new book; the feel of fresh pages, smooth and crisp and eager to be read.
Each Christmas I would eagerly await my presents knowing there would be a stack of new books in there, all full of fresh and exciting adventures and things I didn’t yet know. I’d peel off the paper carefully, stroke the front cover, gently adjust the dust jacket and then open the first page to read the inscription. Right from the off I was a book worshipper.
My husband is a good man, but like all of us he has bad habits. His book reading habits though are enough to make me want to live in a different postcode. He is a consumer. He devours books at great speed, so focused on greedily pawing his way through the pages that he doesn’t give the book itself the appropriate respect. He will read while he’s eating, turning pages with jammy fingers or leave oily marks on the pages where he’s been eating crisps.
He will leave books in the bathroom until they get damp from the steam, their pages all wrinkled and withered like the veins on an old lady’s hands. Books never make it back to the shelf on finishing, they are unceremoniously stuffed everywhere; between sofa cushions, on windowsills, around the bed, in wardrobes, rolling around the passenger footwells of the car, abandoned like they were nothing more than an old till receipt.
The most heinous of all his crimes however, is that he will never use a bookmark. Pages are turned and folded at best, but more often than not they are held open by a half-full coffee cup, discarded plate or pages viciously forced akimbo and rammed face down on the nearest (not necessarily clean) surface. Spines scream as they are bent and creased and pages cry as they are coated in coffee dribble and I silently monitor the progress of my seizures wondering if I should be documenting this as an example of prolonged emotional torture for use in the murder trial.
If you are like my husband you will be sat there now shrugging, thinking: Seriously, what is her problem? It just shows that a book is read and loved if it shows a little wear and tear. To a certain extent I do agree with you, far better to see a book that has been read and enjoyed than one that has never been opened, but here is the crux of the matter: imagine you are me, with your shelves and shelves of cherished treasures, pristine in their dust jackets, spines creased just enough to show they’ve been opened, like literary laughter lines, the only marks on the pages where the tears elicited by the tales inside have fallen, the only creases in the pages are those made accidentally whilst in storage or transit. Now imagine that Oaf Boy up there; with his sticky fingers, coffee dribbles and spine-splitting tendencies is approaching said revered volumes, arms outstretched and full of intent. It’s like watching someone pick one of your children to mutilate. Of course, you can’t say anything other than a gentle “be careful with that” because after all you love Oaf Boy and you love that he wants to share in your love of these books, and you love that he is willing to let you share his favourites with you despite the fact you can rarely bring yourself to read them because they wail horrific tales of abuse, scaring on every page.
I’m sure he finds it just as hard watching me grimace as I do watching him and I’m sure that my neurosis seems as unreasonable to he and his ilk as their repeated torture does to me. So to all of you, whichever camp you belong to, heed my warning: pick carefully, and if you value your own sanity, stick with your own kind.
With just days to go until the birth of our first baby and several friends with new babies already born or expected, my brain is firmly on baby related craft at the moment. It can be really difficult thinking of gifts for a new mum or mum to be, especially if the baby’s sex is still unknown, or is a second or third child for parents who already have most of the necessary kit.
I always like to find something that is both a treat for mum and a practical gift for baby, and this year I think I have finally cracked it with my handmade baby sock bouquet.
Baby socks (each individual sock makes a single rose bud, colours entirely your choice)
Florist/thick jewellery wire (1 length per sock I normally use 10” lengths)
Florist tape (any coloured tape will work; just pick one that fits with your theme. For realistic roses you can usually get green florist tape at craft shops and garden centres year round and a lot of pound shops through spring and summer)
Optional: vase, florist foam, flowers (real or fake), tissue or cellophane to wrap
And that’s it: your first baby sock rosebud. Simply repeat with the remaining socks and arrange to your own taste. These are so simple (and cost effective too) but stunning and adaptable too. You can see here I’ve done them in a vase with fresh flowers but they are equally as nice with wooden, dried or fabric flowers or just as a large bunch of sock roses wrapped in cellophane like a fancy bouquet. The friend I made this bouquet for didn’t know if she was expecting a boy or girl so the white socks and yellow fresh flowers fitted her perfectly, but I love mixing up different colours and tailoring them to the mum & baby in question.
Let me know how you get on!
Fortunately I know I don’t have to blow all my plans to be healthier and less wasteful because there at the bottom, under the leftover trifle and Christmas pud, is the veg drawer. Huzzah! I think, I am saved from yet more dairy and carbs! And yet as I open the drawer I know what will greet me. It’s the little green ghosts of Christmas past; brussel sprouts, by the armful. Luckily I am armed with a secret which can turn even these inglorious little fridge squatters into an appetising and surprisingly slimming little dish perfect for the New Year detox. So here is my recipe for easy-peasy spicy-sprout soup.
1. Raid the cupboards
So we start off by raiding the cupboards for relatively few ingredients:
1-2 handfuls of sprouts (replace with any other green veg if you prefer)
Stock cube (chicken or veg work best but this is totally optional miss it out if you prefer)
And the special ingredient: Tabasco sauce
2. Heat stuff
First, get the kettle on- you will need to fill your pan in a few minutes so best get this boiling before you start. Now find yourself a decent sized pan and whack it over a low heat with 1-2 tbsps of oil while you chop the veg.
3. Chop stuff
I like my soup farmhouse style (with chunks in) so I tend to dice my veggies so that they are bite size, but it’s entirely up to you. The smaller the bits, the quicker they cook so if you want to do this for a speedy lunchtime snack dice them finely.
Start with your onion- get it peeled, chopped and straight in the pan while you finely shred the sprouts. Add two thirds of the sprouts to the pan and put the final third to one side for later. Give your sprouts and onions a quick stir before finally dicing your potato – don’t worry about peeling, the skins just add more flavour. Then simply chuck the potato in the pan and stir for a minute or so.
Next, simply cover the veg with your pre-boiled water, add a pinch of salt, stock if you are using it and 2-3 drops of Tabasco. Simmer for 10-20 minutes or until your potato chunks are soft enough to crush with a fork. Remove from the heat and mash using a potato masher.
Remember those sprouts I told you to hold back? Add them now and leave the soup to stand for a further 5 minutes. This will allow the soup to thicken and the latest sprouts to soften without losing their vibrancy.
5. Season & Serve
At last, taste time. Make sure you taste your soup before you serve it. It will need seasoning here and how much depends on the age and condition of your ingredients to start with and your own preference. I like mine very spicy so I tend to add a lot of black pepper and another 3-4 drops of Tabasco at this point. I know full well when it gets to the table my husband will always add more salt so I tend to under-salt here on purpose.
And there you have it, ready to serve, an easy-peasy lunch with minimal ingredients, minimal fuss and maximum good girl (or boy) points. I have had mine just with some breadsticks left over from New Year’s Eve broken up as croutons for lunch, but I have an adaptation of Alicia’s Bread Recipe for the Slapdash in the oven as I type to go with tomorrow lunch’s serving (if either lasts that long).