Friday, 23 March 2012

Size Zero baby

When you think of happy, healthy babies your mind usually conjures up rolly-polly Michelin Man bubs with roll after roll of delicious chubbiness.

Frankie is no Michelin Man. Infact, she's more Kate Moss, in a size zero kind of way...

When the inevitable daily conversation with a well-meaning person at the supermarket turns to the question "how old is she?", I get the same blood-curdling response each time: "Wow - she's very small isn't she".

YES! SHE IS! I grit my teeth and reply, "it's in her genes". It is to be expected, given that her father would never have made the NBA's first draft pick, or to the dizzying heights of a Sumo Wrestling championship.

We had Frankie's six month checks this week with the paediatrician and the community centre nurse who have have assured me that she is well and healthy. In fact, the community nurse was at one point close to slapping me to ensure I understood that all was well with my darling girl.

The truth is, deep down I know that Frankie is fighting fit. She's expending an awful lot of energy crawling around the place, shoving real food in her mouth, climbing over me whenever I pick her up, and wriggling around on her changemat. She is more lean than lump. But I can't help but let those comments from other people chip away at my confidence. It feels as though other babies her age are all bigger. Where have the smaller babies gone? Do they just breed them bigger on the lower North Shore?

I have let my phobias about Frankie's weight dictate many of my decisions regarding feeding her.At 4 months I started to get paranoid that my milk was drying up or vitamin deficient to some degree. For this reason, I introduced her to solids quite early. She certainly lapped up the food, which in my mind confirmed that she must have been starving! And whilst she did gain a bit of weight when solids were intially introduced, it wasn't much longer before it plateaud again and my fears about my milk supply resurfaced. Low and behold, she started taking the bottle at six months of age so I immediately gave her some formula. She slept through the night - once again, "proving" that I hadn't been able to adequately feed her myself.

And yet, what the doctor and nurses have shown me is that whilst her weight might level out for a while, on the whole her growth has been steady. She is consistently getting chubbier and there is no need for me to be so damn worried about my milk. Ironically, if there's any reason why my milk would be inefficient it would be as a result of my anxiety over the whole issue! So the key seems to be to Stress Less Jess, and go on happily doing as I have been doing without forcing food unnecessarily upon her. The fact that she can now feed herself (oh, the wonderful joy of a self-feeding baby!) means that I can let her explore and enjoy food on her own and I won't have to worry too much about the exact amount of mL's that she's getting out of my weary jubblies.

So the next time someone remarks on my "tiny" baby, I'll just tell them that we have her in training for the next Featherweight championship of the world!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

BLW - that's Baby Led Weaning, not some kind of weird cricket acronym.

When I noticed Frankie sitting upright furiously munching on her coloured wooden stacking blocks, I realised it was probably time to give her some real food to play with. I'd heard about this Baby Led Weaning lark, and decided to do some sniffing around to suss out what it was all about.

Up until this point I've enjoyed watching Frankie demolish bowl after bowl of the mushy stuff. I've been living through my own private Blitzkreig, ensuring my handblender churned out the perfect sloppy consistency to spoonfeed to my daughter. But maybe there's another way... surely our Sisters in the Sudan don't have access to hand blenders when their bubbas start real food, so what do they do?

The BLW principles seem to be as follows:
1. When they are able to sit up by themselves, give them something soft that they can fit in their fists (because they don't have pincer grips yet)
2. Watch them lick, suck, munch, rip, and swallow the food in their own good time

What is so good about this style versus the standard sloppy stuff?

Well, they apparently learn to eat until their full (rather than eating until the tupperware bowl is empty). They learn that food is fun and interesting, rather than something that mummy thrusts upon her like those blasted nappy changes every few hours. They are more willing to experiment later on down the line with trying new and varied things because they see food as an enjoyable experience, not just a routine shovelling of grub into their mouths.

Now, Frankie LIKES her slurpee delights. She's got my appetite (poor kid) and hasn't refused a spoonful yet. But I am already noticing that she is starting to get bored and isn't really engaging in the food itself.

Queue my first experience giving her a "potato stick" (roast potato chip). Instead of simply eating it, then lazily waiting for the next portion to be handed to her on a plastic silver serving spoon, she took the stick into her hand and cautiously, curiously evaluated it. Deeming it fit for consumption, she whacked it forcefully against her cheek - her aim could use some improvement.

After a couple of misguided attempts, she finally hit target and the chip was in her mouth. She sucked it. She bit it. She ripped some of it with her two bottom teeth. She gagged on it. She spat some out. She let out a little pirate 'rrrrrrrrrrr' as she concentrated on polishing off her meal. by now, the potato was now all over her and she proceeded to lift little bits of "tayto" off her bib and launch them back into her mouth where they belonged. She had entertained herself and was thoroughly, delightfully, incredibly content.

The gagging had me worried I admit, but a devout follower of BLW and good friend of mine from Manchester told me to have faith in our babies' gag reflexes. In the same way that we're conditioned to look after ourselves after a huge night out with a good old fashioned spew, babies are programmed to hurl anything that is a potential choking hazard. So long as we keep sensible about what we give them - cheese strips, steamed brocolli florets, boiled carrot sticks etc - we should stay confident.

For those of us who are essentially lazy souls, this self-feeding has the added benefit of giving us a few more minutes to ourselves instead of pandering incessantly to our children. Well, that is until clean-up time begins and we survey the carnage of battered brocolli limbs and decimated breadstick crumbs scattered around the battlesite of the baby's highchair...

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Nothing beats beets.

In hindsight, giving my six-month-old beetroot was a mistake.

I knew it would be messy, but I was shortsighted in my predictions. I planned for the actual feeding process and forgot that one rarely sees food go into the baby's mouth just once. Food will make multiple returns on multiple occasions, and here is what I've learned from the process:

1. You can be as prepared as you like, but your baby's clothes will still get stained. As will yours. All the bibs and towels in the world wouldn't be able to prevent it. Fact.
2. Shortly after feeding, your baby might vomit. Do not do as I did, and plonk your baby onto the cream carpet so soon after her lunch. You'll be scrubbing for hours. Nothing gets out beetroot.
3. Be prepared to have an interesting nappy-change experience. My changemat is now a lovely shade of pink.

My advice if you want to feed your baby beets?

Do it in the tub.

Post-natal fitness and the production line of big, fat babushkas

When I was in highschool I used to participate in icecream eating competitions. I would like to say that I won the grandfinal, but Clare 'Spaghetti' Luchetti holds that record. Needless to say however, as president of the Monte Sant' Angelo Mercy College 10,000Lb club, I had myself a healthy appetite back in my highschool days.

And I still do.

And as my breastfeeding days are numbered I am beginning to wonder how on earth I will be satisfied with a standard portion size. How will I rationalise my daily block of chocolate, no longer needed for the 'energy' to feed my baby?

To prepare myself for the D-Day of breastfeeding, I have dusted off my trainers and taken up exercise. Exercise, yes - but certainly not as I remember it. Now, as I do my squats and lunges I have one ear listening out for my baby's cry, and one eye sneaking cautious peeks at my breasts to see whether they might (embarrassingly) be leaking. Am I the only one out there who feels like working out is now a whole new ballgame?

An expat friend of mine living in Poland once observed that it was difficult to find an attractive middle-aged Eastern European woman. When I scoffed at this, he went on to state that he believed there was an invisible production line for Polish women. They started on the production line as tall, blonde, silky-skinned stunners and cruised along happily until they came to the bend on the line. The bend, he believed, was called Motherhood. As the women entered this next stage of production, they emerged shorter, chubbier, ruddier, and decidedly more grey.

It got me wondering.... Have I unknowingly been plodding along the production line of motherdom? Is it the fear of becoming old that makes us push ourselves to pump iron right after we've pumped milk? What's wrong with embracing the physical changes that motherhood can bring us - a couple of saggy breasts, a slightly flabby tum, a bottom that is decidedly more pear-like than peach-like.

Or are we right to fight so hard to return to our pre-baby bodies? Should we do all within our powers to fool the world into thinking "she couldn't possibly have had a baby recently."

Look, I'm the first one to admit that health is super important. Eating well and exercising everyday is a must. But nowadays we see women haemorrhaging money on pilates classes,  bodypump, and Zumba while their babies sit in childcare, and it has me questioning: is it really a question of health or is it a question of vanity?

I have always been an athlete. I have a competitive drive that is bordering on aggressive. I'm an advocate of moving every single day and I will undoubtedly return to basketball arenas and football fields of my youth (as and when time allows). Meanwhile, I will continue the mountain/bush trekking that my partner and I love so much. And I will continue to carry my baby in her bjorn, push her in her pram, and lift her repeatedly into the air to make her giggle.  Exercise suddenly has a whole new spin on it for me - it's about what I can do with my child, not just what I can do with myself. 

I hope that I haven't yet reached that bend in the production line, but I'm not going to die of shame that I've got a few kilos of my own babyfat to lose either. I'm not knocking post-natal fitness of any sort (in fact, runs some fabulous classes) all I'm questioning is our motivators behind the exercise, and what it is, exactly, that gets us off our butts and into the training room?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Frankie goes to hollywood

For those of you who've asked to see some footage, here you go.

The little miss is almost 6 months old and it won't be long before she's able to catch the cat!

Here she is, at the ripe old age of 5 (nearly 6!) months, sitting in the bathtub, fully-clothed, enjoying the company of the fluffy Easter bunny.

Frankie, the animal lover, comes face-to-face with her first dog, Lulu.


Monday, 12 March 2012

One Baby. One Bottle. One trip to Bali.

Hallelujah! Praise Be! Hot Diggity Dog! Frankie's on the bottle.

After nearly six months of trying every bottle, every teat, and every trick known to man (well, known to woman) Frankie has finally backed down and has taken to the bottle. What exactly does this mean? It means FREEDOM dear readers. Freedom!

Sure, it's a bit late in the day for her to start venturing from the breast, given that the weaning process is about to begin anyway. (FYI, how the heck does one start that process? That's another blog in its own right, me-thinks). But when her little mouth wrapped itself around that bottle I didn't care that it had taken her 154 days to manage this small feat - all I cared about was that she had managed it. And even better, was thoroughly enjoying herself!

Selfishly, I did a silent high-five with the Gods above because I was getting desperate. I have a trip to Bali planned on my Jack Jones for my best friend's wedding, and as each day took me one step closer to that July holiday I started panicking that I would be leaving my darling daughter to starve. Miss her though I undoubtedly will, perhaps agonisingly so, I still want this time away to myself. I have six months of interrupted sleep to catch up on.

"Oh", I hear you cry "Poor little diddums. Finding motherhood a bit tough are we?"  I know what you're thinking and I truly shouldn't complain about it. There was a time in evolution when bottles didn't exist, it is true. And people coped. But let me tell you HOW they coped. Women would share their babies around and let other mother's feed their children so that they could get a bit of shut-eye. Don't believe me? What do you think still happens in African villages? It's natural. It's evolution's way of making sure our bubs don't starve, and that Mother's are fit, strong and well-rested enough to get back in the fields and harvest dinner for the village. True true. Don't judge me until you've walked a mile in my flip flops.

Frankie has done me a huge favour and I could (and will do repeatedly) kiss her for it. She's now happy for Daddy to give her a feed. Or grandma. Or Mr. Smith up the road. Or Fifi the cat. She really doesn't care. Just so long as she gets her precious milk.

I now look forward to my best friend's wedding in  Bali without any guilt weighing me down. Missing Frankie will be punishment enough for me leaving her; but she will be in the loving hands of her father so I can rest easily at night. And rest I will.

For at least 10 hours in a row.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

A wee ditty, for my ditty wee girl....

How did Frankie get her name?

Was it lying on the floor,
Where noone else had looked before?

Did she pluck it from a tree?
It was hanging there so beautifully!

Was it on a pirate ship,
where Captain Blackbeard slept on it?

Was it stuck inside a shell?
Making noises like a bell?

Look! It's there! In the flower pot,
underneath forget-me-nots

Oops, that was not her name -
Maybe we should end this game?

Let me tell you how it came to be,
that you were named Miss Frances Leigh;

Your daddy picked it out you see,
he chose it out especially,

for his lovely little baby girl,
the happiest Frankie in all the world.