Archive for the ‘advice’ Category

Weaning & Feeding Hacks

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Weaning, the process of moving your baby onto solid food, is something I missed a lot of first time round. Work and its attendant commute cut out the mealtimes, leaving me the occasional weekend feed. By the time I dropped to working four days a week my daughter was on mostly normal, if babified, food.

So, second time round it’s different. I’ve been off on additional parental leave since my son was six months old, so the bulk of the weaning has actually fallen to me. This means I get to experience the fun of vomited up butternut squash and half choked on rice cakes… More seriously, the joy of watching a baby experience new food is great! The keen-ness and excited waving of hands when a baby when it wants more of a new taste is wonderful to behold.

So there’s certain things that are useful in weaning, especially at the early stage it’s baby rice and pureed vegetables all the way. Kit-wise, get some silicone ice-cube trays. These are ideal for storing frozen pureed vegetables and much, much easier to get stuff out of than the solid plastic ones. Get cheap ones in multiples, Wilkinson’s or a pound shop for real value, if you buy the official “Annabel Karmel Weaning Tray” you’ll get ripped off. A cheap hand blender is pretty essential too.

Freezing pureed veg or fruit allows you to break out a few cubes and microwave them for any meal (make sure it’s cool before feeding it to the baby!) in varying combos. Half a butternut squash will fill a tray, so it works out as a very cheap way to feed and an easy way to store the food. A weaning guide of some sort is useful, if nothing else than for inspiration and knowing which foods to avoid early on. You can borrow those from a library though and a good for tips on quick mixing recipes (it’s where I picked up butternut squash, apple and cinnamon as a good combo).

Feeding wise, my most useful tip is when trying something new, mix in a little of something the baby has already tried. This can lead to odd combos (banana and mashed potato!), but avoids too many looks of utter disgust when a new taste is encountered.

With all this pureeing, we’ve steered away from shop bought pastes and baby food; too many of those would bankrupt you anyway. The only real exception to this are Ella’s Kitchen (warning, sound) or Plum pouches, which are pretty ideal for stuffing into a change bag when heading out for the day. One thing we did do, is sign up for every baby club in sight when our son was born, this meant that just before weaning we got a vast number of vouchers for free or cheaper baby food. Bananas though, being easy to carry and easily mashable are similarly useful on outings and a lot cheaper.

Overall weaning is going well so far. My son is now moving on to yoghurts and other tastes. Hopefully his good mix of early foods will stop him being too picky when older…

So, what did you use and find useful when introducing your baby to solids? Post your tipes in the comments!

Oh, yeah. And its always worth reading the government guidelines.

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The 4 Day Week Dad

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Last year at around this time, as my wife ended her maternity leave and went back to work, I made a fairly big decision. I decided to reduce my working week to four days.

I made the decision for a variety of reasons. The first was an entirely selfish one. I didn’t want to be the dad who missed his daughter’s formative years due to work. I was strongly of the opinion that I didn’t want to get to old age and regret not spending more time with my children as they grew up.

The second reason was to avoid that horrible cliche of the woman going back to work part time and man being the “breadwinner”. Yuck! We wanted to share the childcare as equally as possible. So we decided to both go part time and see how it went.

I was fortunate in that my employers were very flexible. I was actually moving jobs at the time, and both old and new employer were very understanding of my wishes. So, I think my main message to other dads here is that employers are more amenable than you expect. To be in the position of being able to ask a potential new employer to work part time, when the job was not advertised as such and get the result you want is a great feeling. We’re maybe slightly worse off financially that we might have been, but it’s not impinging hugely as we still have two salaries.

It has certainly been an adjustment. The first few months took a fair bit of getting used to. My daughter was about 9 months old then, and I tended to stay at home and just enjoy spending time with her. It took a while to get into the habit of going out and about, and being more proactive doing things. But over time I’ve developed a repertoire of fun places to visit and activities to keep my daughter amused, from sock puppets to a trip to the local farm shop and restaurant.

Balancing work is a certain art. It’s very tempting to let it spill over into the 5th day or the odd bit of evening. So one of the skills to develop is an iron will to avoid opening work email, tricky when you’re somebody who takes their job seriously. Made harder for me as I chose Tuesday as my day with my daughter and so there’s a stop-start to the week that requires me to structure certain bits of work dependent on others more carefully.

Overall the experience of being a dad with some more time to spend with my daughter has been excellent and I don’t regret a moment of it!

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Starting Babies Reading Early

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

One of the things I’ve been most pleased with, now that she’s a year old, is that our daughter goes out of her way to interact with her books. She’ll pull them off her shelf and flip the pages herself, playing with all the textured bits on the touchy-feely ones, handing me the one of choice and shows obvious signs of excitement when I produce a book to read to her.

She’s so interested, that we use an ablative layer of books to protect the DVDs on the TV stand as they distract her from causing too much chaos!

One of the first things we received when she was born was a Bookstart pack. It’s a great idea, getting books into the hands of parents and kids early and encouraging parents to read to their offspring as soon as possible! It’s certainly something I can recommend both as a good shared experience and a satisfying feeling of achievement for a new parent.

I started reading to her very early on, within the first few months. In those early Sunday mornings when I was the one doing the baby shift so my wife could have a break. I read her Mister Magnolia, which is a fun Quentin Blake poem I remembered from my own childhood and that my mum had given to us. The rhyming sounds really seemed to click with her, even if the book is way too advanced for that age really, I knew the words off by heart and that was an advantage to finding the right voice.

Later on That’s Not My Bear and its many companion books were the reading material of choice due to the touchy-feely patches and easy to turn pages. We had lots of luck recently with Dear Zoo and Hide and Seek Bunnies – though these were once she’d got enough motor control to lift the flaps (about 9 months onwards). You’ll need to get a little less squeamish about books being damaged though with those though as infant hands are imprecise tools…

So anyway, the key thing was really to start early and make it a part of routine. At a year old she practically demands a story is read with her before bed, I’m immensely pleased by that and hope it’s the start of a lifelong love of reading!

So what tips and advice do you have for reading with baby?

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