Tuesday 31 July 2012

Introducing Solids: Not OR but AND

Natural yogurt with nectarine purée and blueberries

In the first year or so of parenthood, you will likely hear the following:

  • Breastfeeding OR formula?
  • Cot OR co-sleeping?
  • Stroller OR sling?
  • Baby-led weaning OR purée?

I hate all the ORs. I prefer AND. Why doesn't anyone talk about breastfeeding AND giving formula? Why not use a stroller for certain activities AND a sling for others?

I'm a firm advocate of AND methods. I have tried all of the above at one point or another in Junior's short life and they all work in different ways.

As for introducing solids, it seems that people either want to place you in the purée camp (and scoff at you for being a first-time parent who doesn't know better) or the baby-led weaning camp (and deny that there is a time and place for soft foods that can be given with a spoon.)

I started introducing solids at 24 weeks with the reliable starter food, baby rice. Junior is now 33 weeks and eating a variety of purées, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, cheese, meat, toast, and cereal. I aim to give him something on a spoon AND some finger food at every meal, so that he can develop different muscles and motor skills while broadening his appreciation for different tastes and textures.

I am not against store-bought food, but I try to follow two rules: 1) it should be something I wouldn't bother making by myself, and 2) it should only contain ingredients I would use if I could be bothered - in other words, natural ingredients without salt, sugar, or additives.

While I have been relying on store-bought pouches for mains, I purée my own fruit and veg for him. I know that a lot of parents think puréeing is time-consuming, but I do one item at a time and it only takes a few minutes. Most people purée large batches and freeze them in ice cube trays; this works if a) your baby likes the food enough to eat the whole tray, and b) you have sufficient storage space. In our case, I am still discovering what Junior likes, AND we have a tiny freezer, so I have opted for smaller portions more frequently.

For finger food, I give Junior soft fruit that he can pick up and gum without the need for blending: blueberries, kiwi, ripe nectarines, banana, ripe pears. He also likes toast, cheese, and Cheerios. I cut most things into small bites for him, as opposed to giving him larger pieces that he can hold and chew on - he tends to gag on bigger pieces, whereas he can actually ingest small ones.

Again, I know that the prevailing wisdom of baby-led weaning is to simply give the baby what you are eating in normal sized portions, but I prefer to help him out at this stage. (Plus, I'm sure our diet is too salty and processed to be healthful for his tiny body - not to mention ours!) As he gets older, I plan to give him lumpier food and introduce more meals that I cook myself.

Choosing equipment when introducing solids can be overwhelming and potentially expensive. I already had a hand blender, and use the microwave or hob to steam vegetables, so I decided that I did not need to invest in further appliances. I did buy:

  • 3 plastic bowls
  • 3 plastic spoons (with heat indicators to show when food is too hot)
  • 6 pots with lids for storage
  • 1 free-flow sippy cup
I use small soy sauce dishes for finger food. Otherwise, I would recommend using resealable plastic bags for finger food on the go.

The one item Junior does not seem to like or understand yet is the sippy cup. He started holding his own bottle around 10 weeks, but he just can't wrap his head (or hands) around the sippy cup. For now, I'm mainly giving him formula in bottles, but I keep trying water and formula in the sippy cup as well.

So, to sum up: purée/spoon foods AND finger food. Different textures AND flavours. Protein, meat, dairy, fruit, AND veg (assuming the baby does not have allergies and you have not chosen to give him a vegetarian diet, for example).

Experiment with the foods and routine that work best for you and your baby, AND know that there is more than one way to approach solids.

Friday 20 July 2012

The Mum Bag


While writing my tips on traveling with a baby, I thought it might be helpful to share the contents of my Mum Bag (nappy bag, diaper bag) as well.

First things first: The Bag
Mine is the messenger bag I used as a postgrad student when I first came to London. It has sentimental value in that sense, but mainly it's the right size to fit on the stroller and it's perfectly functional. I also use a backpack when I carry Junior in the Ergo, so the items get switched around fairly often.

Next: The Contents
The contents of my bag can be split into the following categories:

  • Changing
  • Feeding
  • Clothing
  • General
  • Essentials

I carry a portable changing mat with pockets for nappies and wipes, by Sunshine Kids. I always have between 2 and 6 nappies and a decent supply of wipes on hand. I also have a small jar of Sudocrem, in case Junior gets nappy rash. When we go swimming, I add 2 Little Swimmers nappies to the bag. I prefer to have at least two of each type of nappy, just in case we are out longer than I planned - or Junior has an exceptionally messy day. In addition, I keep a few nappy sacks to dispose of particularly bad nappies (or for places that do not have proper nappy disposal bins).

I always carry a bottle and 2 cartons of formula for Junior. I also have a pocket knife, since our brand of formula is not easy to open. I'm not against breastfeeding in public, but I rarely do it since Junior is too distractible. However, I carry my Bebe au Lait nursing cover with me all the time, just in case I run out of formula or Junior needs some boob action. I carry a bib for Junior, and now that he is eating solids, I usually have some Cheerios or toast in a ziploc for emergency snacks. When he regularly eats three meals per day, plus snacks, I will carry more food for him.

It's important to keep mum fed, too. I always have a water bottle for myself, and often have a snack.

I keep an extra change of clothes for Junior in the bag, and I have had to use it on more than one occasion. I keep his sunhat in there, too.

Since my main aim is to be "always prepared", I keep the following items in my bag:

  • Extra muslin cloth - can be used as a sunshade on the stroller, for cleaning up messes, emergency bib, etc
  • Antibacterial hand sanitizer
  • Antibacterial hand wipes (different from nappy wipes)
  • Tissues
  • Gum
  • Paracetamol or Nurofen
  • Extra "binky" (dummy/pacifier) for Junior - usually attached to the stroller or Ergo for easy access
  • Umbrella
  • Sunglasses
  • Foldable shopping bag x2 for groceries
  • Pen


You may notice that I don't carry many toys for Junior. I often give him something to play with that can attach to the stroller or Ergo, but most of the time he is too interested in everything else around him to notice it. Depending on the destination, though, it can be helpful to have a toy or two to keep him busy.

With everything in the bag, it can be hard to remember to bring the baby along. Now that I think about it, he should be listed as Essential, too!

What's in your bag?

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Tips on Traveling with a Baby


Before we had Junior, S and I were worried about two things: losing our luxurious weekend lie-ins, and continuing to travel around the world. As it turns out, Junior is a pretty good sleeper, and we now know that at seven months, he is a good traveler as well.

The key to traveling with a baby is PLANNING AHEAD. I'm quite well-organised even when we are close to home, so traveling abroad was more an exercise in what not to bring.

For comparison's sake, when we went to the Lakes, we rented a car and used the space to bring:

  • Stroller and carseat
  • Travel cot with changing table attachment
  • One week supply of instant formula in 200ml cartons (heavy!)
  • One week supply of nappies
  • Playmat and toys
  • Sleepsack
  • Clothes, muslins, sheets, blanket...
  • Calpol (baby paracetamol), thermometer, teething gel

For our Oslo trip, we brought:

  • Stroller
  • Two day supply of instant formula - in hand luggage and checked bag
  • Two day supply of nappies
  • Playmat and toys (about half the amount we brought to the Lakes)
  • Sleepsack
  • About half the amount of clothes and muslins; blanket
  • Calpol sachets, thermometer, teething gel

Following are some of the strategies and services we used to make the trip easier:

Car service reserved in advance both ways to/from Heathrow Airport; carseat provided. This was more expensive than a normal minicab to the airport, but far easier than trying to navigate the Tube with a stroller, two suitcases, and two backpacks. I have read that some minicab companies will allow you to bring your own carseat and keep it while you are away, but I'm not sure I trust them. Who is to say that the carseat we used didn't belong to someone who was lounging on a beach in Tenerife?!

Stroller folded in travel bag and checked in with our luggage. I carried Junior in the Ergo and was allowed to keep him on me going through security.

Heathrow Airport Reserve and Collect service for instant formula: this was brilliant. We only brought one carton of formula with us because we suspected (correctly) that we would have to open it at security and taste it (by the way: gross!) Once we passed through security, we picked up 4 more cartons of formula at Boots. This ensured that we had enough with us for the flight and any delays, plus enough on hand to last until we located a supermarket in Oslo. It also kept the weight of our checked bags lower since we did not bring it with us from home. The customer service reps were wonderful and it was very easy to use. Highly recommended.

Breastfeeding Junior at take-off. This was tricky mainly because economy airplane seats are not very comfortable, but Junior seemed to know instinctively that it would help relax him and he fell asleep almost immediately. We were incredibly lucky that he slept the whole way to Oslo (he woke up shortly before landing on the way home). We had a bottle of formula prepared just in case, but we did not need any of the toys I had packed for entertainment - and thankfully we didn't have to deal with changing dirty nappies on the plane. I am aware that we won't be so lucky on the 10-hour flight to California in October, but we're counting on getting a bassinet (please, Virgin, please!) which should help.

Nappies. We use Huggies at home, but bought Pampers in Oslo. Fortunately, Junior does not have problems with nappy rash so the change of brands did not bother him, although I found that the Pampers had a slightly worrying rubber smell :(

Portable changing mat with pockets for nappies and wipes. This goes everywhere with me and I am surprised at the number of mums who think the pockets are "such a good idea". It never even occurred to me to buy a changing mat without them! For this trip, I had to change Junior on the floor on numerous occasions, so having a mat was imperative.

Formula. This was one of my biggest worries. Junior likes Hipp Organic instant infant milk, rather than powder. The first supermarket we found sold NAN, but the second supermarket - incredibly enough - sold Hipp Organic! Junior was fine with both kinds, but I imagine it would be hard to find the exact same formula in other countries (it's hard enough to find in other parts of the UK). If your baby drinks powdered formula, it would probably be easier to bring your own.

Sleepsack and toys. Junior is fairly easygoing and seems to have inherited my ability to sleep anywhere, but I wanted him to have some familiar items for bedtime and playtime.

Calpol. We bought Calpol sachets, which are acceptable on planes (as opposed to the bottles, which may exceed liquid limits), but Junior did not need them. Some parents swear by a dose of Calpol to knock the baby out before flying, but we got lucky.

Change of clothes for baby AND mum in hand luggage - because you never know when the baby will spit up or smear banana all over you.

Both parents traveling together. This won't always be possible, but I was so glad not to be traveling alone with Junior.

Serviced apartment. We opted for renting an apartment, rather than staying at a hotel. This had several advantages, including full kitchen and laundry facilities. We did laundry halfway through the trip, so I did not have to pack as many clothes for Junior or myself, and we cooked about half our meals (cheaper and easier with the baby). It also gave us a place to hang out during the day while it was raining and/or Junior breastfed.

I can't say that I'm looking forward to a 10-hour flight with a baby, particularly since the chances are good that Junior will be walking by then, but at least I feel more prepared.

What other travel tips do you have?

Monday 16 July 2012

Norway with a Baby

After our trip to the Lakes in May, we decided to take the next step in Traveling with a Baby: a fairly short plane flight abroad, which would allow Junior to use his passport and give us some practice before flying to California later this year. We chose Norway because we wanted a child-friendly, well-equipped country, which wouldn't be too hot in summer. It certainly wasn't hot...

Our trip to Olso started out with a pessimistic weather forecast, which sadly proved to be quite accurate.


Fortunately, we also found that Norway was child-friendly and well-equipped, starting with baby seats on the bus between Gardermoen Airport and Oslo city centre.



We settled into our apartment on Arbinsgate - it was a new experience for Junior to have such a big floor at his disposal.


We began exploring the city close to home.

The Royal Palace, covered in scaffolding

Fountain outside the National Theatre

Junior photographer


National Gallery


I particularly enjoyed the exhibit of Christian Krohg paintings at the National Gallery, including this one of an exhausted mother rocking her baby to sleep.

Harbour and Akershus Fortress

Between rain showers, we looked at the sculptures in Vigeland Park.





Victory - blue sky!

We explored Akershus Fortress and got some nice views of the fjord.






We even caught the changing of the guard as we were leaving.


One of the highlights of the trip was finding the Oslo Opera House, with its slanted roof. It hadn't been built when S worked in Oslo ten years ago, so it was a new attraction for all of us. As a bonus, we had blue skies and the roof was so bright that we found it hard not to squint.



Can you see our reflections?



Annoyingly, the weather was uncooperative again the morning we decided to visit Holmenkollen Ski Jump.

You would think it would be hard to miss something so big, right?

View of Oslo from the bottom of Holmenkollen Ski Jump

Peeking out of the fog


Finally, we gave in to the rain and decided to spend a day indoors. First, we went to the Kon-Tiki Museum.


If you don't know the story of the Kon-Tiki raft, I'd recommend reading the wikipedia page for a brief overview. S and I didn't know much about it, and found the museum fascinating.



Next, we had a quick lunch at the café inside the National Maritime Museum. After being cooped up in the Ergo all morning, we let Junior crawl on the floor and he made a new friend.


Next stop was the Viking Ship Museum.


I was amazed at how well the ships were reconstructed, and also at how little they know about Viking culture.



The only thing left to do was shop! I had seen some gorgeous sweaters in a tourist shop near the Town Hall, and spied an Oleana shop across from the National Theatre. After a fair amount of deliberation (and some advice from Facebook friends), I decided that I needed to bring this home with me...


Isn't it lovely?

All in all, it was a great trip and Junior was a good traveler. It must be in his genes.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Seven months

Such a busy month for Junior:

Pulling up
First two teeth
And his first trip abroad

More on that last one later...