Monday, December 31, 2012

A little new years resolution

I've made a couple of new years resolutions for myself but I also thought I'd make a little one for the whole family and it has a bit of background.  A while back I read a book called Good Health for the 21st Century by Dr Carole Hungerford.  It's a complex read with a lot of arguments for having a more diverse diet and that's what I'm keen to do in 2013. 

The example that really hit a nerve for me was around how heavily Australian diets centre around wheat and dairy.  The book noted that a normal day in an Aussie diet might be weetbix and milk for breakfast, a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch and a margarita pizza for dinner.  While this would be a pretty unusual day for me, there would definitely be days where Leo's diet would look a bit like that.

So in 2013 I'm going to try and include at least one new/exotic/different/seasonal fruit or vegetable in the weekly shop.  I'm also going to write some more exciting resolutions (I really won't spend all year obsessing about what the kids are eating).  I hope you have a happy and healthy 2013!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Now salt can make your kids fat too!

Just wanted to post a quick link to an article that I saw this morning that adds salt to the list of things that make your kids fat.  Once I read it, it's a pretty logical finding saying that the more salt a kid consumes, the more sugary drinks they have as well (not a huge surprise).

I've mentioned before that I originally hoped that I would be the sort of parent who never lies to their kids.  I was just going to lay out the real arguments for and against things and trust the kid's intelligence.  I still stand by this for a lot of things but I also regularly lie about little things in order to get things done (i.e. Kmart isn't open today, we don't have any ice-cream, it's too late to read a fourth story). 

The very best lie I have ever told is that soft drink tastes like beer.  Now anytime someone offers Leo a softy, he looks a bit horrified and says no thankyou.  I know this is not the sort of advice that is going to work for everyone but I reckon anything that you can do to convince your kids that they don't need some forms of sugar is a bonus because you certainly can't convince them that ice-cream isn't wonderful... 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sugar, sugar, sugar

I went to a kids party today and had my usual guilt-intensive session of watching Leo eat a whole plate of disgraceful fatty junk (frankfurts, sausage rolls and chips), followed by lollies and cake, all topped off with more lollies to take home.  Geez Louise!

One of the other parents standing near me said that she had heard a nutritionist on the radio say that it might be best to let kids gorge on the lolly bag all in one go - this way they may not absorb all the sugar whereas if you mete it out over a number of days, they will definitely take it all on.  Interesting theory although this is surely an example of nutrition Chinese whispers (like the one where if a kid eats some kiwi fruit, banana and strawberries that has all the vitamins they need for the day).

So I tried to get at any research/sciency info that can tell you how much sugar a body can absorb in a sitting - although obviously the first answer would be that it depends on a range of factors like the person's size and metabolism.  Maybe I didn't search well (I tried quite a few phrases and terms) but I really just came up with a lot of nutrition related posts and discussion threads where people mentioned 'research' but didn't reference anything I could chase up.  There was some stuff that explained that the fibre content of food affects how much sugar will be absorbed but that's not really relevant when you're talking lollies.

Bottom line - I think that the technique that we've been using might be better at helping Leo not to absorb the sugar.  Put the lolly bag on a high shelf where only his dad can see them.  They magically disappear by the end of the week and Leo forgets about them.  Now there is just the question about how to keep Gaz's sugar intake down...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Are those Frenchies better at food than us?

This week I strangely came across two bits of info which led me to wonder, what is the deal with the French?  The first was this hugely interesting article by Karen Le Billon, who blogs at French Kids Eat Everything.  She is an American lady who lived in France and has observed this amazing phenomenon which leads to French school kids eating carrot salad and radishes and cherry clafoutis - I wish!

Here is the post where she ponders on why France has the lowest child obesity rates in the developed world.  She notes that the French don't know more about nutrition than Americans but that they do tend to take a totally different approach to food (less anxious).  For example, the French are more likely to associate food with pleasure than Americans who associate food with health.  The French spend twice as much time eating than Americans but their kids are three times less likely to be fat!

Admittedly, it's a bit hard to find a take home message from the article but it seems that one of the things that is entrenched in French culture, and importantly French schools, is that kids should try everything.  They don't have to like it, they just have to try it.  There is even a tasting curriculum in schools which culminates in a certificate at Grade 4.

Leo, our 4-year-old, is absolutely hopeless at trying anything that he is not sure about and it often drives me nuts.  So I have totally done something that I swore I never would (again) and started one of those sticker charts.  Every time he tries a new food, he gets a star sticker and when he gets 10 stickers he can have a Lego minifigure (bribery anyone?) 

I used to look at people who did this stuff and think I would never be so lame but it totally works and Leo has already tried a mushroom, a strawberry and a prune. 

The other Frenchy fact for the week is that they have the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the developed world.  I've got no idea why that is so it must be a blog for another day!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What's the point of weighing young kids?

I've been pondering the value of weighing young kids (babies and toddlers) for a while now and the issue was raised again in the Age this week (I couldn't find the link but oddly the enough they ran a similar article in January) which argued for school children to be routinely weighed.  It seems there may be some justification for this age gruop in terms of getting better data Australia wide, and potentially for older kids where you really want to address obesity issues but I'm not convinced of the value at the individual level for really young kids and especially for babies.  This is the cohort that is currently routinely weighed and the data used to plot them on a percentile chart.  However, babies come in all shapes and sizes and there is not much that parents can do about it.

My thoughts were initially provoked by a routine check at the maternal and child health nurse which found that our 8 month old had dropped from the 75th percentile in weight to the 25th.  This worried the nurse which ultimately worried me.  It took me a long time to work through the fact that he had been sick and vomiting for a couple of weeks but ultimately that he is happy and progressing well in all other ways.

This made me wonder what value the weighing process had added?  It made me worry and it triggered a discussion about how he was doing fine.  But if he hadn't been doing fine (i.e. if he'd been lethargic or unresponsive or inactive) wouldn't that have been the discussion anyway regardless of his weight?  If you've got a seriously underweight baby, wouldn't you have noticed that too?

The other thing that made me think it was pointless was that the nurse had basically no advice on what to do in response - i.e. how to bulk up a baby - or whether this is a possible thing to do.  She suggested giving him custard and maybe more meat but it turns out he isn't keen on either of these things.  So even if weighing babies identifies a 'problem' there is nothing that can really be done for it.

While I know that it is unlikely that maternal child health nurses will stop weighing little kids at their regular checks, I think it is important that we parents don't buy into it too much.  Some babies and toddlers will be in the lower percentiles and some will be in the higher percentiles and that's ok.  If you're doing all the regular things (breastfeeding or bottle feeding, starting your baby on mashy solids) and your baby is doing all the regular things (being responsive and active and happy at least some of the time), then there is really nothing to worry about...although we all undoubtedly find things to worry about regardless.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Babyfeeding - the post game summary

Baby number two is now seven months and it seemed about time to stop expressing milk.  Well, that's not strictly true - in my head I'd imagined that I'd probably keep milk-making for a good year or so in line with all sorts of health recommendations.  In reality, now that I'm back at work a couple of days a week, the logistics got a bit tricky and I was finding that I really needed the hour or so of time spent pumping to do all the other things that life requires (washing, cooking, entertaining small people, even occasionally exercising or god forbid spending some time with Mr Williams). 

So now that it's all over I've found myself reflecting on (and discussing with other interested people) how you feed babies in the first few months and I've noticed some things.

Firstly, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't with breastfeeding.  Feeding babies is pretty hard no matter how you go about it.  If it's all happening naturally, you're pretty much glued to the baby and if it wakes in the night, it's you who is going to sort it out.  If you express, you're stuck using time to make the milk and then put it into the baby, and you need to have access to power source in a private space a lot of the time.  And if you're using formula or mix feeding you have to deal with all the guilt and judgement (as I've written about before), not to mention the time-consuming cleaning and sterilising involved. 

So secondly, the grass will always seem greener on the other side. Because there is a downside no matter how you feed, there is a terrible tendency to assume that if things were going differently, things would be easier.  If you're breastfeeding, you probably wish someone else could do the overnight feed at least sometimes.  If you're bottle feeding, you probably wish someone would pay the exorbitant cost of formula at least sometimes.  On the upside, that means there are good aspects no matter what you're doing (breastfeeding can be cheap and bottle feeding can give you some sleep).

Thirdly, there is nothing worse that you can do than judge someone for their choices around feeding (or any aspect of parenting really).  Absolutely everyone has a story about the aunt/colleague/frenemy who said "you just didn't put him on the breast enough when he was born" or "that's an expensive way to feed a baby" or "she looks like she's been grazing on the green pastures".  Even when it's a throw away line to you, those comments stay with people for a really, really long time and can really effect someone's state of mind.

Finally, it's not all bad!!  While I've may have highlighted the negatives, the first few weeks and months can actually be an awesome time.  The baby is little and will stare into your eyes while the milk goes in, you get cuddles all the time, their heads smell good apparently (I've never got into baby-sniffing but some people swear by it), and they can pull some really funny faces.  So it's really just a matter of holding onto this stuff at 3am when the baby pukes all over you and himself and the floor...

Anyways, I hope that my feeding experiences may someday help others as they navigate some of the harder moments.  I haven't written about the practicalities of stopping feeding (which is surprisingly hard to get detailed info on beyond, drop one feed a week) so please feel free to get in touch if you ever want to discuss.  Best of luck to anyone currently in the process of feeding a small baby!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Breastfeeding - not as cheap or easy as it sounds!

I read about some research that was published in the American Sociological Review this week that showed that women who breastfeed ultimately earn less than women who formula feed.    Basically they have shown that the longer you breastfeed, the more severe and prolonged the losses in your earnings.  I've never seen any discussion of the downsides of managing breastfeeding before and it's an interesting issue that certainly isn't mentioned in the early days when you may be considering whether you will ever offer your baby a bottle.

The research is no surprise to me as I have been grappling with how I am going to manage to get back to work in three weeks time while I am still expressing for my six-month-old bub.  I actually work for an excellent employer in terms of family friendliness (a State Government department).  There is a lactation room and I am sure my bosses would be totally understanding if I wanted to take breaks to express milk while I'm in the office.  The fact is that I just don't want to do this.  There seem to be so many logistical issues around bringing the pumping gear in, storing and transporting the milk, arranging my work around half hour breaks, wearing clothes that I can get in and out of easily etc etc.

What this shows though is that even in the best of circumstances where I have a supportive employer, I'm working part-time and I'm a skilled milk expresser, breastfeeding and work still aren't a great match.  Worse still, there isn't necessarily anyone to blame or an easy answer to the problem - except perhaps to suck it up and deal with the inconveniences, stop breastfeeding, or not go back to work and deal with that loss of earnings (not really an option unless we want to somehow rid ourselves of the mortgage). 

While the easiest option is to stop breastfeeding, it's funny how hard and emotional that decision is proving.  While I would objectively like to stop and get my body and time back, for some reason I can't stand the thought that I've got milk and it's not going to the baby.  So thank you researchers for adding to this complex discussion and best of luck to all of those with these tricky decisions ahead!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Those proud moments (and a recipe for Pad See Yiew)

I'm not sure if I've come out and said it before, but our 3 year old is a pretty dud eater - he's fussy, unwilling to try new things and most dinners are a bit of a battle ("I don't need dinner, I'll just have a snack, I'm not hungry").  That said, through a series of well-practised tactics we can generally get him to eat almost anything, it just takes quite a lot of patience and occasional bribery, i.e. if you eat all your brocolli we can watch the rest of Lego Star Wars.

Knowing that this is the situation, I felt quietly smug when Leo's kinder teacher asked him what his favourite dinner is the other day and he said "Tofu, I love tofu".  What a hipster kid!  I think this comment stemmed from the following recipe which I adapted from Bill Grainger. 

Eleanor's Pad See Yiew

200 grams dried rice stick noodles
1 head brocolli, chopped into small florets
200 grams marinated tofu, chopped into cubes
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
60 mls light soy sauce
2 tablespoons caster sugar

Cook the rice noodles according to packet instructions boild for around 8 and throw the brocolli in for the last two minutes of cooking time.  Drain noodles and brocolli.

Heat oil in a wok over high heat, add garlic and stirfry for about 1 minute until fragrant and softened.  Add soy sauce and sugar and cook until bubbling and starting to reduce.  Add tofu, brocolli and noodles and stirfry for a further 2 minutes until all are coated in the sauce.  Make a hole in the middle and tip in the eggs.  Stirfry until egg is cooked.  Serves 2-3

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why is feeding babies made so hard?

Generally I think that introducing food to babies shouldn't be so tricky but it seems confusing even the second time around. The Age ran an article on their front page this weekend titled "Who knows best in the battle of the breast?". It covers some new research around links between the age of starting solids and allergies.

The first thing that struck me was that this was front page news - really? Is this all you've got (accepting that it was a slow news Sunday). Surely this only interests a teeny tiny portion of the population.

The second thing that struck me is that they'd somehow managed to make the article about breastfeeding - what sensationalist journalism! The research in the article suggests that there may be benefits in introducing a wider range of foods between 4 to 6 months, rather than waiting until after 6 months or longer, to prevent allergies. This really has NOTHING to do with breastfeeding - it's about introducing babies to food. However, they'd managed to get an (almost entirely irrelevant) quote from a lactation lady saying that the introduction of solids might reduce the level of breastfeeding - based on no evidence. The quote was used to suggest that if you feed solids slightly earlier you will deprive babies of breastmilk whereas I think most mothers would totally understand that you still offer plenty of milk when starting solids (give us some credit - the breast is best message is very loud).

The advice around when to start babies on solids seems to change each year from 4-6 months to after 6 months and then back again and really there is no concrete evidence on which to base your decision - which is later acknowledged in the article. While of course I think the media has a role to play in promoting new research in this space, I think there is no reason to add a controversial angle to it and further confuse what should be a relatively straightforward decision.

Most of the sane advice that I have read suggests to start kids on some basic foods (fruit, vegies, baby cereals) when they show interest and have reasonable head control and to seek medical advice if you have a family history of food allergies. Breastmilk or formula should still be a central source of nutrition for the next few months after introducing solids. It should be that simple! Let's not add an element of guilt (am I depriving my baby of precious breastmilk) to this normal developmental stage.

If you want some reliable advice on introducing solids, I think the Victorian Govt's Better Health Channel is a good enough place to start -

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Speed lunch - a race against time

I was talking to my sister on Skype the other day while she whipped up and ate a quick bowl of pasta before heading back to work (what a multi-tasker!) I mentioned that many of my lunches are made and eaten at this speed when trying to do a hundred things while at least one small boy is sleeping - clean the house, express the milk, sterilise the bottles, watch the Fashion Police etc etc. I realised there are probably a lot of people who try to do these 10-minute healthy meals for a variety of reasons (not just making time to watch Joan Rivers bitch about celebrities' lack of taste) and are probably as sick as I am of toasted sandwiches and tuna salads.

One of my recent discoveries has been how fast you can knock up a Japanese miso udon soup using only cupboard ingredients and this is one of my favourite ever lunches. As with some other recent recipes, I'm not sure that this one is a winner with kids as it's pretty messy eating but potentially worth a try as udon noodles seem to be pretty popular in our household in other recipes. This recipe is for one but can easily be increased to serve more noting that this makes a seriously large bowlful of noodle soup.

Eleanor's Miso Udon Soup

1 small packet vacuum packed udon noodles (approx 200 grams)
1 tablespoon white miso paste
500 mls water
1/2 teaspoon of dashi granules (optional)
1 tablespoon dried wakame or arame seaweed

Put seaweed in some warm water for a few minutes until hydrated then drain. Put 500mls water, miso paste and dashi granules in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir until the miso paste has dissolved. Add udon noodles and boil for around three minutes. Add seaweed and serve.

If you want to make a heartier and lunch add some silken tofu and vegetables at the end. I often throw in a few snow peas and some spring onions but any greens would work.

Serves one

* All of these ingredients are available at our local supermarket but you may need to try an Asian grocer. The miso paste and dashi granules can seem a bit expensive but they last forever and mean that you can make this soup whenever you like.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Is that a zucchini in your muffin?

...or are you just happy to eat me? Please ignore the very wrong connotations in this heading but I just discovered an excellent zucchini and choc chip muffin recipe. I made a few tweaks just due to what I've got in the house but they taste fabulous and include vegetables - what more could you ask?

Eleanor's zucchini and choc chip muffins (based on a recipe by Poh)

2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup of dark muscavado (or brown) sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sour cream
85gms melted butter
1 egg lightly beaten
1 medium zucchini grated (to make around 1.5 cups)
Zest of one orange
1 cup semisweet or dark choc chips

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and choc chips in a large mixing bowl. Mix all other ingredients in a separate bowl before adding to the dry ingredients and mixing until just combined.

Spoon mixture into a greased 12-hole muffin tray or paper cupcake holders (patty pans). Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through. Cool on a wire tray and serve.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Booze and boobs - can I have a glass of wine now?

Drinking when pregnant and breastfeeding is one of the most confusing issues to get straight and partly this is because there aren't controlled experiments in this space (i.e. you can't ask a randomised group of women to chug beers while pregnant/nursing and see what happens). I should say up front that I have no strong views on this one - I really feel like this is every woman's choice about what they are going to do - especially considering that the science behind it is not clear cut. My interest really just stems from me trying to work out what I should do while I am continuing to express all the milk for baby number two.

After some recent reading, I realised that the periods of pregnancy and nursing are pretty different in terms of what gets passed on to the baby and finally got some answers on what you should consider when working out whether or not to have a drink when breastfeeding. So, thought I should share what I found.

It may seem obvious to some but I only just learnt that alcohol doesn't stay in breastmilk so if you wait long enough the booze won't even reach the baby. This is clearly different than pregnancy where whatever is in your blood stream is getting channeled straight through. Basically breast milk holds about the same amount of alcohol as your blood stream so if you think you could blow a 0.0 on a breathaliser, you probably don't have any alcohol in your milk either. This means, you're best to do your drinking well before feeding, i.e. directly after a feed/express is probably going to be the best time. The general rule seems to be that women clear 1 standard drink in about 2 hours.

There is some suggestion that you shouldn't drink at all until your baby is either one month or three months (I was admittedly a little surprised when one of the ladies in the hospital was encouraging me to have some wine two days after giving birth). This seems to be based on when the babies' liver has developed enough to process alcohol but surely this is less relevant if you generally aim to clear your milk of alcohol before feeding.

I've also read that alcohol both encourages and inhibits milk production so I think you can probably deduce that neither of these is based on strong science.

Basically everyone seems to agree that it is possible to have a drink or two while breastfeeding as long as you plan it right - I'm off to get a glass of red to celebrate!

If you want to read some more yourself - here are the articles I looked at:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What child wouldn't eat saag paneer?

...and the answer is probably every child! As I've mentioned before, I was hell bent on having kids who ate what we ate all the time but I now realise that is probably an insane pipe dream.

I still try to make the same dinner for the whole family most nights but the fact of the matter is, there are very few kids who love a seriously spicy Indian curry (although I'd love to be proven wrong). I was at a cooking class on the weekend with Di Holuigue who cooks her four-year-old grandson big bowls of prawns, mussels and pippies so there is some hope.

So on the nights when I want to have a grown up dinner, Leo has leftovers or a classic kids' tea like baked beans on toast and I throw an extra chilli in our dinner to celebrate! Here is the recipe for a not very authentic, but very quick, saag paneer (spinach and cheese curry).

Eleanor's Saag Paneer
2 tablespoons korma curry paste
1 onion chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls baby spinach
1 cup frozen baby peas
200gms paneer or haloumi cheese, cubed
2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt
Steamed basmati rice to serve

Fry onions in some vegetable oil until soft. Add the curry paste and cook until fragrant then pour in the tomatoes and bring to the boil. Add the spinach, stir through and cover with a lid until wilted.

Quickly blitz the mixture with a stick blender until the sauce is relatively smooth. Bring back to the boil and add the baby peas. Cook for around 5 minutes until peas are tender. If using paneer, add and cook until heated. If using haloumi, fry pieces of cheese until lightly brown and then stir into the mix.

Turn off the heat, stir through the yoghurt and serve on rice. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The problem with maternity leave (and a recipe for Vietnamese coleslaw)

First up, I should say that I am actually loving maternity leave and even more, I think paid maternity leave is a wonderful thing. However, there is one thing that really lets maternity leave down and that is the fact that you imagine that you will have this huge, long period to do things for which you don't usually have time. For me, that includes cooking elaborate dishes that need more than the 30mins cooking time available at the end of the working day. For my mum it was finishing off a Masters degree (if I remember rightly she enrolled for both rounds of maternity leave and subsequently withdrew!) I also remember friends suggesting that I should start writing a book when Leo was born.

For some reason, even though you know that having a baby means extra work, you can't factor in the impact of sleep deprivation, the time needed for feeding and bonus loads of laundry, and the brainspace that gets used up wondering 'what does that cry mean?' and 'where is that smell coming from?'

So I thought i would be worth sharing another shortcut recipe that I have been using lately because I love it even though it is a serious quicky. Warning - this is really a grown up recipe unless you have fabulously adventurous children as the dressing has a reasonable hit of chilli. Maybe give any kiddies a toasted sandwich or some baked beans (that's what I do).

Vietnamese Chicken Coleslaw

Half a roast chicken, shredded
1 bag of ready made coleslaw or Asian salad mix
1 handful chopped mint
1 small cucumber julienned
1 handful chopped peanuts
150mls of dipping sauce for spring rolls* Fried shallots to serve*

Mix chicken, salad mix, mint and cucumber in a large bowl. Pour over dipping sauce as a dressing and mix well. Serve scattered with chopped peanuts and fried shallots.

Serves 3-4

*from the Asian section in the supermarket

Sunday, January 29, 2012

New ideas from the good old Women's Weekly

I've been desperately trying not to cook the same old things for dinner every night since the new baby was born almost three months ago - I even bore myself when home-made pizzas roll around for the second time in a week. It's easy to fall back on old ideas even when you're not a little bit sleep deprived and trying to please a highly critical three-year-old. On this basis, I've been trying to slip in something different at least every couple of weeks when I can muster the enthusiasm.

That said, a couple of the new recipes that I've tried recently have been pretty expensive just because of one or two ingredients (salmon, lamb cutlets) so I decided to check out the Women's Weekly "$ Smart Cook" during a recent trip to the library even though it looks pretty lame and mumsy. The good thing about Women's Weekly books is that all the recipes are triple tested and they almost never use ingredients that are hard to find. The bad thing about Women's Weekly books is that they are pretty repetitive (this one has two recipes for fish pies and chilli con carne and three for rissoles) and include some things that you've been served up at school camps and may subsequently choose never to eat again (tuna mornay, sausage casserole).

I haven't actually made any of the recipes from the book but it did at least give me some inspiration. They had a felafel recipe which I thought wouldn't fly with the toddler but it inspired me to invent some new hidden vegie meatballs that turned out to be awesome and were very well received when marketed as "mini burgers". I'd serve them with tzatziki but it seems toddlers may prefer them with tomato sauce (ew).

Lamb and felafel kofte (meatballs)

500gms minced lamb
1 packet felafel mix*
Olive or vegetable oil to shallow fry
Tzatziki and cous cous to serve

Make felafel mixture according to packet instructions (the packet I bought just needed water added and to stand/soak for 15 minutes). Mix lamb mince into prepared felafel mixture and shape into small balls around the size of a golfball - it should make about 16.

Heat the oil over a medium-high heat and fry meatballs until golden brown on the outside and cooked through.

Serve with cous cous (add some sultanas, dried apricot and pinenuts if desired), tzatziki and greens.

Serves 3-4

*Felafel mix can be found in the health food aisle of supermarkets but is often very difficult to find! It's made up of ground yellow split peas, garlic and herbs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tips on expressing breast milk

*Please note this is a very niche post for those interested in how to use an electric breast pump and is not necessarily recommended to anyone not interested in my boobs*

I thought it might be handy to share some tips on how to successfully use an electric breast pump as I think most people who have had a go would agree that it is pretty hard work! Although I was originally quite doom and gloom about how much breast milk I could make just expressing with a machine (as my baby just cannot attach successfully) I have been producing about five times more than I did with my first bub and am now feeling pretty proud that I can produce most of what my new baby needs (about 500 mls per day).

I've learnt quite a lot about what works for me and it seems very much at odds at some other advice that I found in books and on the net so here are my five key points about what has worked for me in the hope that it might be handy for others:

1. Don't express too often and wear yourself out - most advice that I've read suggests that you should express as many times as is physically possible to keep your supply up. What I have found is that I get about the same amount of milk whether I express 8 times a day or 4 times a day. The only difference is that I have spent twice as much time at the pump if I go eight times and I feel super grumpy about how little I can get done. My boobs also tend to get pretty sore if I am expressing too often.

2. Massage, massage, massage - it doesn't take long to work out where all the milk ducts are and it is really worth giving them a good massage throughout the time you are expressing as it seems to make a huge difference to what you get out. It also helps to avoid getting close to mastitis - you certainly know when you get a hot, sore patch in your boobs and it is really important to get the milk flowing.

3. Make sure you are all set up - I find that I am much more willing to spend a full 20 minutes or so expressing if I have something to read/watch and some water and the baby is all set up either sleeping or keeping busy. Getting the milk out takes time so it is worth finding ways not to make the time tolerable!

4. Make sure you are not racing - a trap that I sometimes fall into is trying to express some milk before someone comes around or before I need to leave the house. When I do this I tend to only make a little bit and then feel really uncomfortable until I can pump again. It is better to try and allow more time than you need and not have to panic about how long it takes for the milk to get flowing.

5. Don't worry about it - while the advice you get given as a new mum is the very blunt "breast is best", sometimes it is just not going to happen. This time round I decided from the start that I would just express as much as I could and whatever would be would be. This has worked much better for me than last time around when I saw all the lactaction consultants and took all the supplements that are meant to increase your milk supply. I will always wonder whether all that worrying played a part in my supply not coming in but either way, it was not good for my state of mind and just got in the way of me enjoying the new baby.

I am totally aware that this advice just relates to my experience of expressing full time and may not work if you are just trying to express a bottle or two around breast-feeding. If you need more info about expressing and storing breast milk a couple of useful and far more comprehensive sites are:

Good luck!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thank you Mr Lightyear

I'm not really sure how it happened but sometime over the past year our three-year-old Leo developed an extreme obsession with superheros (or soup-ette heroes as he would say). It doesn't really matter which one it is, or whether he's seen the superhero on tv or in a movie, as long as the character is wearing a cape, and underwear as outerwear they must be cool - god help us if he ever comes across Lady Gaga.

I was recently led to realise that these superheroes can use their powers for good or evil when I noticed that the supermarket sells bags of Buzz Lightyear apples and pears. You have never seen a three-year-old get so excited about fruit, and especially not small and tasteless sundowner apples and packham pears. So consequently I got to smugly walk through the supermarket with a toddler in the trolley whining "Can I please have one of the apples NOW!!".

On the flipside, there are also Toy Story branded icy-poles that cause the same level of excitement and are plastered with "contains real fruit" (which I assume means grape juice concentrate or similar) as well as Wiggles biscuits, muesli bars and ricecakes etc etc. None of these things are especially bad, but it is super irritating trying to sneak past them when you're trying to get to the nappies or tinned fruit.

Despite this, I am grateful that the mega-zillionaires at Disney Pixar have chosen to use their immense branding power to sell something nutritious for once. This means that now I can always tell Leo that we've got a Buzz Lightyear apple in the bag and know that I'm reaping the benefits of the marketing geniuses - to infinity and beyond!