Monthly Archives

February 2017

The Big Sleep Post, part 2.

February 27, 2017

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If you haven’t read part 1 of this post, I insist you go back and start at the beginning.

When we left off, I had transitioned Joan from baby-wearing, to napping in a bed without me. We were also feeding a lot less during the day. Everything was going really well, but we still needed to address the night stuff.


Offering Joan breastmilk when she woke overnight had been an easy and effective way to keep us all happy and well-rested. Until it wasn’t. Somewhere around the 10th month of her life, Joan began waking more and more, and by the time she was 13 months, she was sometimes waking every hour. And it was different to when she woke due to developmental leaps or teething, she appeared to be waking out of habit. We were exhausted, and I knew that Joan needed better rest, too, so I spoke to friends who were going through (or had already gone through) similar things, which is how I came across Dr Jay Gordon’s recommendations for night weaning babies over the age of 1 (side note: this guy is pro co-sleeping, which is rad, but he’s also anti some vaccinations, which is not how I feel). I showed the article to Ben and we agreed to try it in December, when Joan would be just over 15 months old. I insisted that Ben take some time off work or work from home, as I expected we would be up for hours in the middle of the night, and I didn’t want him driving into work excessively tired. I also didn’t want to do it alone, and assumed he would need to take over the role of comforter, as I worried Joan may not be able to separate me from milk. You can read more about the process Dr Jay Gordon recommends via this link, but essentially you select a 7hour period where you won’t offer milk (we chose 10pm-5am), and either side of that you feed as much as you want. Over 10 days, you gradually do different things when bubba wakes. For the first three nights, you still feed them when they wake, however you remove the breast before they nod off completely, so that they begin to get used to falling asleep without it. After that, you don’t offer them milk when they wake, instead you pick them up/rock them if they need comfort. Three days after that change, you don’t get out of bed when they wake, you just pat their back or verbally tell them it’s time to sleep. Eventually, they start waking less (what’s the point without milk, right?!) and when they do wake, they are used to falling asleep without the breast. There’s a reason Dr Jay Gordon suggest waiting until babies are older and ready, as they are very secure and it is easier to comfort them in other ways. As he says, they may be upset and annoyed when you don’t give them milk, but they’re not distressed. They just need some time to learn the new routine. I still worried, however, that Joan would be distressed if I refused milk, and I knew in my gut that if she was, I would give it to her and wait a couple of months before trying again.
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The Big Sleep Post, part 1.

February 26, 2017

I haven’t wanted to write another post about sleep. It’s a loaded topic and I wasn’t sure I could convey my feelings accurately. I also didn’t want to be another voice in the sea of advice that is given to parents, as loving and caring as most advice is. Sleep, or lack thereof, is an overwhelmingly popular topic of conversation in the baby world. First-time parents expect to be tired when their newborn arrives, but nothing can prepare you for how the sleep deprivation will truly feel (well, besides getting a puppy, perhaps). And when you’re deep in the sleepless days, it’s difficult to trust that you will ever sleep solidly again, even when you are reassured of the fact. Sleep is a big deal. It is crucial to keeping everyone happy and healthy, and it’s a tricky one because babies’ sleeping habits change all the time, as they go through developmental leaps and grow teeth and get sick… and each family contains multiple individuals with different personalities and schedules, attempting to co-exist in harmony. What worked for one family, therefore, may not work for another. And though we may acknowledge these differences, when we are tired and hormonal, we don’t always respond the way we should when receiving advice (even if the advice is respectful and legitimately helpful, and even if we asked/begged for it), which is to take the ideas that resonate with you and tune out the rest. It is very easy to compare your baby and feel like you’re doing something wrong. Joan was never a baby to happily drift off to sleep on her own, Ben and I were always keenly assisting her, and very few of the tricks people suggested worked for us, which made me feel worse. This is why I have been hesitant to share more of our sleep story, as I don’t want anyone to compare their baby or question their gut, because that’s your guide, not me. You can learn very useful tips from gentle parenting books, like those written by Pinky McKay (clearly I’m a fan of gentle methods, here), such as learning how to swaddle and rock your baby, and encouraging a night-time routine. But you need to implement these strategies alongside the knowledge that your baby is unique and they may not take to these suggestions in the manner, time-frame or consistency that other babies do.

When Joan was around seven weeks old, I attended a New Parent Group session that was run by my local council. The topic was sleep – what was good and healthy sleep behaviour, and what not to do. As I stood in the circle, rocking and feeding my baby to sleep, I learnt that you shouldn’t rock or feed your baby to sleep. I understand where this thinking comes from, I do. It is GREAT if you can put babies down happily in their bassinet/cot when they’re drowsy yet still awake, so they learn to fall asleep on their own and don’t wake up going, “Hang on, where am I? Where’s my mum, I was just snuggling her!?!”, but that was never, ever going to happen for us without Joan screaming, and my instinct was to not put her through that distress, so we didn’t. Much advice given to new parents aims to help them survive those early, gruelling days and acknowledges the fact that many mothers won’t be staying home with their babies as long as previous generations (the going back to work thing is another loaded topic, and I won’t get into that now. I’ll simply say, wouldn’t it be great if we were all able to choose whether we wanted to go back to work or stay at home with our children, and for that choice to be properly supported by society and each other?) These days, many families have two working parents because they want to and/or they have to, and a baby who sleeps independently will be supportive of this. However, it was absolutely the wrong advice for Joan and I, and I left the session feeling ashamed and conflicted. I was vulnerable and lacked the wisdom that comes with time, when you see that eventually it all works out and none of the things you did in the early days spoiled your baby.

As Joan has grown, I’ve become more protective of her privacy. I post few shots of her face and I pause before sharing too much of what she says and does, even though I want to scream it loud and proud, because she’s so darn amazing. I adore seeing other families on Instagram, and if my gut told me to keep sharing lots of photographs of her cute little face I would, but it’s not. She’s not a baby anymore, she’s a little girl, and I’m feeling the pull to protect. Me? I’ll keep writing and sharing because it makes me happy, but her? That’s Joan’s call now. Despite all of this, Ben and I are very happy to flow freely on the topic of sleep and gentle parenting methods. The sleep stuff, especially newborn sleep, is less about personality anyway, and more about basic, primal needs. I think the main reason I started sharing my thoughts on the matter is simply because it was a big part of my life, as I wore Joan in a sling/carrier for practically all her naps until she was 14 months old. And it turns out that by sharing our reality, Joan and I have helped normalise the fact that some babies require a lot of assistance and patience when it comes to sleep. I think bubba will be chuffed to learn the number of mothers who have been in contact with me to say, thanks. I know I’m chuffed, because goodness me, I was not prepared for this. I thought babies just slept in a cot when they were tired. Right? Isn’t that what babies do? I know that some bubbas do actually sleep this way, however I now also know that some need a little more help, and some need a lot more help, and that is totally normal. And so I share, because I remember how it felt to see pictures of babies sleeping blissfully in cots and feel like a failure. I share to help shine light at the end of the tunnel, because as lovely as baby-wearing and non-stop sleep snuggling is, you don’t want to have to do it forever, nor do you want to waste those precious moments worrying that you’re doing something wrong. I share so that others will feel reassured that by responding to your child’s needs, you are not creating bad habits, you’re actually helping them thrive.

This post is a long one. Too long, probably. And while I did edit it down, in the end I decided to stop cutting the content. As I said, sleep is a big deal, and to share only part of our story is misleading. So, this will be a two parter. To those with babies who happily sleep independently, don’t worry about reading this post, read something else. And to those with wakeful babies who are requiring a lot of patience, please don’t hope for bundles of helpful tips. I’m not an expert, I have only one experience and you and I (and our babies) will be different. But I’m sharing our story all the same, in the hope that it feels like a giant hug of recognition and reassurance to those who may need it.

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Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Ricotta on Toast

February 19, 2017

slow roasted tomatoes
Lately, I’ve had ricotta on my mind. I’m not sure why. Aside from the fact that it is delicious, which is reason enough, I cannot recall any recipes or meals from which this craving has sprung. But it’s here, and I’m happy to play along. Yesterday, Ben, Joan and I went out for lunch and shared two pasta dishes – one, a creamy mushroom pappardelle, and the other, a pumpkin, spinach and ricotta lasagne. After lunch, I ducked to the shops and bought a tub of ricotta, and as we drove home, I informed Ben that I had grand plans for our Sunday breakfast.

This morning, as soon as we were woken by Joan and before I had even grabbed a jumper to stay cozy in this unseasonably cold weather, I walked down the hall and into the kitchen to turn on the oven. I then ran back to the bedroom and helped Joan in her endeavour to tickle Ben awake. She loves to tickle these days, though she doesn’t quite appreciate that in order to complete the act, you need to touch the person. Joan’s tickle involves her wriggling her hands near our necks and over our heads while saying, “dii dii dii dii dii!”. After getting up for good (and rugging up good), we settled in the kitchen. Ben prepped a smoothie for Joan, and I sliced a bunch of tomatoes and onions from the farm and popped them in a baking tray. After cloaking them in olive oil and a gentle seasoning of just sea salt and black pepper (we had no basil or oregano on hand), I placed them in the oven to slowly roast. Ben and I munched on walnuts while the three of us played with Joan’s toy cars. I attempted to fold laundry, but the noise kept pulling me back to my two babes. A little while later, in place of an extra cup of coffee, we pulled our beanies out of an old suitcase at the top of my wardrobe and went for a brisk walk. While outside, we planned travel adventures that may never happen but are fun to plan all the same.

“Breakfast won’t be long”, I announced as we walked through the front door. Your sense of smell informs you when the slow-cooked tomatoes are ready. You wait for the stage when the aroma is sweet and the thought of holding off any longer feels unbearable. I popped slices of my Dad’s sourdough in the toaster and warmed milk for our coffee. When the toast went “pop!”, as Joan says, I placed a generous spoonful of ricotta in the middle of each slice. I then topped the ricotta with a few slow-cooked tomatoes and onions, before finishing it all with a good drizzle of the pan juices. It’s a simple preparation, but the results are enriching. I’ll be using the remaining tomatoes in a pasta sauce tonight, that is, if there are any left when I return to the kitchen after typing this post.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Ricotta on Toast

Slow roasted tomatoes
Quality ricotta cheese (we love this one)
Sourdough toast or favourite dense loaf

Heidi xo

Monday 6th February: “AhhhUmp”

February 9, 2017

The past Monday morning, Joan woke hungry. More hungry than usual, that is. Usually, the first thing Joan says to me upon waking is “Up!” or “Hiiiiiii.”, but on this day it was, “AhhhUmp!”, alongside the action of pretending to bite her finger. This is Joan’s preferred way of telling us that she wants something to eat. Baby girl’s words have exploded in recent weeks, and she can indeed say “food”, but for whatever reason her instinct is to make that noise and action and Ben and I are thankful for this, because it’s really very cute.

Into the kitchen we toddled, where Joan pointed at the blender and said, “Mee Mee!”. Sure thing, babe, smoothie (mee mee) time. These days, we often have a smoothie in the morning (and at night, too, but more on that in an upcoming post on sleep). I used to be a porridge and granola-lover at breakfast, but these days I gravitate towards smoothies or savoury meals – things like eggs, leftover quinoa and veggies, or toast with nut butter and avocado. And if we don’t have a smoothie for breakfast, we have one throughout the day as a snack. It’s a great way to ensure bubba stays hydrated and I can easily pack a bundle of goodness into our cups. We tend to make berry or banana smoothies using frozen fruit, as well as organic full cream milk and organic full cream yoghurt (one with live cultures). I also add a sprinkle of hemp seeds, which are super good for us (more info here and here), and perhaps rolled oats, chia seeds, spinach or coconut flakes/cream… whatever I’m vibing. Often I’ll remove her serve before jazzing up my portion with extra hemp seeds, spinach, raw cacao powder and a Medjool date (I like my smoothies rich in date-sweetness, and I prefer to save dates for Joan to eat during the day as a snack). Anyway, while making Joan’s smoothie I had a thought that it may be fun to record a day of eats and share it on the blog. I hadn’t planned what we’d eat, we would just go with the flow and I thought it would be neat to see how that unfolded. Over the weekend I said to Ben that I was surprised I wasn’t more concerned with what Joan was eating day to day, that in fact I didn’t give it much thought at all. I guess I just trust that she knows what she needs, while we continue doing our job of exposing her to a range of whole foods that we like to eat ourselves.
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