It’s Time to Talk About Weaning…

Weaning your baby can seem like a minefield.  There may be well-meaning advice given about what may be best for you and your little one, the guidelines seem to change all the time and there are many myths surrounding when a baby is ready to wean.  Here Daisy teacher Chloe Sena helps you to sort the facts from the fiction when it comes to weaning.

Weaning Guidelines

Firstly, let’s start by saying, you know your baby. You are their mother and motherly instinct can be a powerful thing – follow it!

Now let’s try to de-bunk some myths surrounding weaning so you know how to best prepare yourself and your baby for the next exciting chapter in your lives together.

The guidelines are to wait until baby is six months. It did used to be 4 months and in some cases, early weaning may be necessary but the guidelines now suggest that you wait until 6 months and even then, it should be a gradual process of dropping milk feeds slowly.  It isn’t that the guidelines change for no reason, they are the result of much research into infant developmental stages.

Why Six Months?

By six months a baby’s immune and digestive system are more mature so they can cope better with solids.  Also, the gag reflex reduces from six months, which means rather than spitting out a lot of food, with more ending up around their mouths or clothes, they will start to actually eat more.

What if your baby is chewing his fists and watching you eat, is he not ready for solids?  No, this is a developmental stage where the baby is learning more about himself and the world around him.  These signs do not mean he is ready for food.

If your baby has started waking in the night when they used to sleep through, does this mean they need food?  Again, this is not the case.  As baby moves through one developmental stage to another and begins to learn new skills like rolling, and sitting up, it can disrupt their usual sleep patterns.  Again, this doesn’t mean they are ready for solid food. It means you may need to increase their milk intake by giving them more milk feeds.

Signs of Readiness

Now let’s look at the signs that DO mean your baby is to start solid food.
Your baby should be able to sit upright and hold their head steady.  They should be able to coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at a piece of food, pick it up and put it in their mouth.  Finally, they should be able to swallow food. If a baby can’t swallow food easily, they tend to push the spoon/food out with their tongue. If you are planning on weaning before six months, speak to your health visitor for advice on how to start.

It is important to point out that even though weaning may have started, a baby’s main source of nutrition should be from milk until 12 months old. Choose a time of day when you and baby are relaxed, and give them some milk first so they are not too hungry.  You may be wondering about going back to work, and baby needing to be on 3 meals a day before they start nursery – this isn’t the case and your baby will adapt to the routine you set for them and what fits into your lives.  It may be that your baby doesn’t eat much at first, again this is normal and not something to worry about, your baby won’t be the only one. Remember the adage ‘Food is for fun, until they are one.’

Types of Weaning – Puree or Baby Led?

Puree-led means a baby is spoon fed.  You start with fruit and vegetables, gradually increasing different textures before introducing finger foods around 7/8 months old – no later as if a baby is fed only puree for too long, it can affect their development.  It can mean babies may not able to self-regulate their food intake so are more likely to over eat and not learn the sensations of being full.  It is therefore very important to follow baby’s cues and not keep giving them food if they have had enough.

Baby-led weaning is giving finger food or the same as what you eat, with no spoon feeding.  It helps a baby develop their pincer grip and also means that a baby can self-regulate their appetite more easily.  It also means families can sit down together and eat.  Be prepared for the mess though!  Mums often talk about the fear of their baby choking but gagging is often mistaken for choking and gagging is an important part of baby learning how to eat and is a protective mechanism.  Again, there is a phrase “Loud and red, let them go ahead. Silent and blue, they need help from you!”.  With baby led weaning, there is less control over what baby is eating and some mums may struggle with this.

Instinct

Whatever way you choose to wean, follow your baby’s lead and do what works best for you both.  Ignore well meaning advice if it doesn’t sit right with you, and just allow yourself to be guided by your baby.  Weaning will be a lot more fun if you take the focus away from how much baby is eating, and instead allow them to explore in a sensory way the many different textures and tastes food has to offer in a relaxed environment.  This is a sure-fire way to foster a healthy attitude towards food that will take your baby right through their life.

Love Daisy x

Useful links for further reading:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/solid-foods-weaning/?

https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/baby-friendly-resources/leaflets-and-posters/weaning-starting-solid-food/

The Fourth Trimester – Why Your Baby Wants to Be Held

The chances are that if you’re a new parent you’ll have uttered one or more of the following phrases: “my baby will only sleep on me!”; “my baby hates their cot!”; “my baby will never be put down!”.  If this sounds familiar, read on to discover the science behind the ‘fourth trimester’ as explained by Daisy teacher Meg Hill.

The ‘good baby’ myth

The phrases above are often uttered as part of an existential crisis and accompanied by the idea that you don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t do this and that you’re a rubbish parent.  You ask and search around for help and the nagging doubts you have of yourself – that you’re not parenting in the right way – are cemented because so frequently these questions are packaged as a problem to be overcome.  A problem to be worked on, to fit in to the “good baby” narrative that is so frequently forced on new parents.  (Sadly, from which many so-called ‘experts’ exploit new parents into shelling out many, many pounds).

Baby’s experiences in the womb

Yet picture, if you will, the life your baby has had while growing inside the womb.  Dark within the confines of your uterus, warm and protected by your body.  Comfortably hammocked, rocked by your movements, the swoosh of amniotic fluid in their ears.  Their every primal need met instantly by your body that they’re connected to.  Then they are born.  The world is a vastly different place to everything they have known to this point.  Temperature changes, the feel of nappies and clothes on their skin, sights, smells, feelings of hunger and thirst.  All these wonderful things we take for granted in this world are brand new sensations for babies.  When you appreciate this, you suddenly take in the enormity of life as a newborn and understand why babies cry to be held close by you.  Why they yearn to be nestled in your warm embrace, able to smell you and hear your familiar heartbeat.  Wanting to be with you is not a problem to be fixed: what baby is biologically designed to need is often not what our environment and culture encourages.

The fourth trimester

If we look at and treat the first three months of a baby’s life as a transition period, the so-called fourth trimester of pregnancy, a lot of the heartache and pressure we place upon ourselves as parents can be reduced.  We need to understand antenatally that when baby appears we must treat them as though they’re still in utero.  If we do this, that terrific pressure of wondering why our baby won’t be put down, why won’t he sleep in his cot, what am I doing wrong will disappear.  You are not doing anything wrong.  Your baby is behaving exactly as he/she should.  You’re doing a great job!  Let’s repeat that, because it’s so very important.  You are doing a great job by tending to your baby’s needs.

There are some great ways of replicating that womb-like environment for a baby, many of which help to soothe them, reducing crying, and reducing the effect of their crying on you.  Because let’s not forget how important you are in this picture.  A phrase which is uttered almost as often as “my baby won’t be put down” is “a happy baby is a happy mom”.  It’s certainly true that if a baby is crying your own stress levels will rise, making it more difficult to understand and react to what your baby is trying to communicate with you.  But remember, none of these are guaranteed to work all the time for all babies because every baby is different and will react in different ways at different times.

Movement: Your baby is used to moving when you move. Which is why so many will be soothed to sleep by the gentle rocking motion of a car or pram.  This is also why so many parents have developed their own baby-sway which is often so well-used that you can see it in practice when baby isn’t even with them!

Noise: Forget the lullabies and soft music: anything that mimics the swoosh of amniotic fluid will help soothe your baby best.  So some serious SHHHHHHing, the hoover, Ewan the Dream Sheep or one of the multitude of YouTube videos.

Water: A nice deep bath mimics the feeling of the amniotic fluid around your baby while they were inside you, and can soothe (or at least distract!) from a troubled soul.  Even better if you or dad can get in the bath with them as the skin-to-skin contact will do wonders for both of you.

Sucking: Sometimes a baby is cross because they’re hungry, so it’s important to be led by their feeding cues rather than a schedule, whichever way you choose to feed them.  However, sometimes babies crave non-nutritive sucking, similar to when they suck on their own fingers in utero.  If you’re breastfeeding offer the breast even if you don’t think baby is hungry, and if you’re bottle feeding try a dummy or a clean finger.

Babywearing: Slings and carriers aren’t just a good way of not getting the pram muddy when you go for a walk!  They’re a really useful tool to enable you to keep your baby close-by while you go about your day.  Research has shown that babies who are carried in slings cry less than their non-slinged counterparts, not just while they’re being carried but throughout the day.  That’s a pretty compelling reason to babywear, right?

Skin-to-skin: Not just for the golden hour after birth, but helpful at any age.  Skin-to-skin contact can help regulate your baby’s temperature, regulate their breathing and heart rate, reduce stress hormones (in both of you!), and can boost oxytocin (the love hormone) production in you both.

Co-sleep: 50% of babies in the UK bed-share at some point before they are 3 months old. Many because their parents recognise that they will both get better sleep when they’re close to each other. Make sure that this is planned, and safe. More information can be found here https://www.isisonline.org.uk/sleep_health/

Many of these methods of recreating the womb-like environment for baby can be used in conjunction with another.  Sometimes one will work where it didn’t yesterday.  Dad may find one works best for him while you find another works best for you.  All of this is ok.  These are tools to add to your growing parenting toolkit and nothing will unilaterally work for all babies and all parents in all situations.  And that’s ok.  Enjoy your fourth trimester <3

Love Daisy x

 

Supporting our children at school

Contributed by Sharon: a Mum, Teacher and creator of a great new resource for Parents with guidance in supporting our children at school.

Turn back the clocks to September 2012 – the moment that I left a little bit of my heart at the school gate as my daughter started Reception. I was so excited to be starting this next chapter of her journey with her but did not expect to feel so lost, and for me to have a wealth of unanswered questions.

I am lucky. Why? Because I could use the tools that I have been trained in. I am a teacher. I taught Reception. I knew how to prepare my daughter for school – getting dressed independently, opening wrappers in her lunchbox, learning to share, etc. I knew how to tweak information out of her about her school day, no matter how little that information was. I knew that she’d be tired, grumpy, be learning lots of new things. I knew about phonics and how it was taught. I knew about how children learn through play based activities. I knew about free flow, rotation, reading books….. The list goes on.

However, as I didn’t work at my daughter’s school, I didn’t know the little details about what was happening. I knew she was happy. I knew she was learning. I knew she had friends. But I wanted more. I was thirsty for every little detail about my girl because I missed her and I wasn’t alone. I would stand in the playground with other parents also craving more information and I realised that most of them had questions, but ones that I could actually answer for them. What are reading book bands? How do I teach my child to read with a book that has no words? What is phonics? How do I complete this homework? The list of general questions continued and I realised that this was a common thread amongst first-time parents. So I decided to create a website aimed at bridging this gap – helping parents through the education process.

So, Panda-Education was born. A website, a Facebook page, a Pinterest page and twitter feed later and I now have lots of amazing parents following this incredible transitional journey with me and I am so proud to be able to offer support and guidance. I am not a guru, I am just a Mum and a teacher. I love my job and I feel so privileged to work at such an amazing school with supportive and inspiring colleagues.

My top tip, when asked how to help children learn at home is – Go outside, be active, make memories and have fun. Parents feel that they have to sit down and do structured activities in order to progress, but actually, this is not always true. Children are all different and if your child doesn’t ‘sit’ to learn, then that is fine. Embrace their learning style and pack it with fun opportunities to learn; ones which I bet you are already doing without realising it is actually ‘learning’!

And remember, not everything in life is black and white, but you are doing a brilliant job.

Written by Sharon (creator of www.panda-education.co.uk)

Why it sucks to be a single parent!

Reasons why it sucks to be a single parent!

Now don’t get me wrong I know this is not true for ALL single parents/ex partners but it is definitely true for me and seems to be a common theme amongst my other single mummy friends which doesn’t give me much hope for the future!

I am not even going to go down the whole “why it sucks financially” route as that is a blog in itself but for everything else this in my opinion is what sucks:

1. I am the one that has to get up at 6.30am every single day, weekends included, I would love to be my ex that only has to do that every other weekend when he has my son, what it would be like not to be woken every day with a “wake up mummy” screaming in my face!

2. I would love to have uninterrupted nights of sleep. When my little one is poorly I am the one who is up on the hour every hour through the night and when I call my ex to tell him his little one has been poorly he really doesn’t give me any credit for sleep deprivation, as long as he had a long an peaceful night because “I have to work” even though I probably do more hours than him with work and looking after our son – not that the latter counts in his eyes!

3. When he has to be off school because he is sick, it is MY responsibility to come home from work and look after him as my ex’s job “is more important” and it is just expected that the mum should be the one that takes the day off, oh how I would love it if the fathers were the one that had to be called mid-way through their working day, dash to the school and try and figure out how they will cope the rest of the day to get some work done before they get fired.

4. I have to get myself ready for work and him ready for school, always in a rush, and anything other than military precision timing means that I am the one that suffers like not having time to find clean underwear wearing yesterdays AGAIN whilst my 4 year old is always the picture of perfection. How I would love to just get myself ready in the morning, have that shower on my own, maybe tea in bed, nope instead I am running around with half wet hair, no idea what to wear shouting “teeth”, “shoes” whilst my ex has that leisurely hour or so in the morning.

5. As soon as I get home from work, the door is hardly unlocked and I am being screamed at “when’s tea” “I’m hungry” and as usual I don’t have time to cook anything nice for myself so I end up eating fish fingers, boiled eggs or smiley faces on a regular basis whilst my ex can come home, have a bottle of wine, relax whilst he prepares some kind of culinary delight!

6. Between the hours of 7am-7pm I am subjected to kids TV and by the time it’s his bedtime and I sit down to watch the TV nothing is on. So when making small talk with my ex and he said “did you see on tv…”….no I friggin didn’t all I have watched is Mr Tumble for hours on end, I wish I could be more in touch with the world, oh how I would love to be him and sit down and watch the news and not have to jump up to attention every time my little one needs help with something!

7. “Well I think” soon as I hear those words, I know what’s coming….his opinion or some form of criticism about the way I parent our child. Never with any offer of help or involvement just a list of what I should do better, what I should change…..well when you have more input into our child than just a fun filled weekend every other weekend then fell free to have a go with those suggestions yourself!

8. On the subject of weekends, mine is focussed around all the chores which I didn’t get chance to do all week, getting the school uniform washed and ironed by Monday morning, the dreaded grocery shop as I can’t do it during the week because of being stuck in of an evening whilst his weekends are full of fun days out, trips to the park, chilling out with a film…..so by comparison I am the boring shouty mummy and dad is the cool fun one, well I would love to have time to do all of that!

9. The ability to have a social life! My only form of a social life is through work or when my mums has my little one for the night. I don’t get every evening free to pop down the gym, go and see a friend so when he calls on his “way home from the pub” I want to scream at him “bleeding hooray for you”. I really resent the way that my freedom is gone and he still has his! And that my social life revolves around organising and PAYING for sitters! Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t change my little boy for the world but I do resent the inequalities the effect of having him as had on the two of us!

10. When I do get to go out, similar to the mornings, gone are the days now of taking time to make myself look pretty, spend some time painting my nails or choosing what to wear as I am the only “entertainer” until the sitter arrives. I carefully time my little one to bath whilst I put my make up on the bathroom mirror beside him, give him some milk and biscuits on the sofa whilst I dry my hair, let him play on the ipad whilst I paint my nails and then stay in my dressing down until he has gone to bed so he doesn’t realise I have gone and there is a sitter downstairs!

11. My ex dropped my little boy off early not so long ago as he wanted to go shopping “and you cant shop with a toddler in tow” to which I screamed out “how do you think I manage every day”. They have ample time on their hands to do stuff without a child in tow, I would love to have that luxury, instead I bribe my little one around the town with promises of coke and sweets, why can’t they just learn no cope, we have to!!

12. I will end as I could go on, I really resent the way that I am predominantly responsible for my child’s development. It is I that has to practice reading every night, do all the small homework things the school asks for like suddenly getting a costume made for next weeks play. It is I that is taking him to swimming lessons, teaching him how to ride a bike, how to draw picture or how to play the piano. I feel the pressure that I carry the majority of the responsibility as it is I who has our child the majority of the time. When he has him, does he do homework with him…no! does he help teach him to read…..no, does he help him practice adding up……..no of course not! Their time is always about fun which is great for my child but I feel immensely pressured and resentful of the fact that the future of how our son develops academically comes down to me!

So if you are a single parent and this rings true for you, you are not alone!

Contributed from one of our Daisy Mums who really wouldn’t change it for the world but knows it’s still ok for it to suck sometimes!

One word I urge every parent never to teach their child!

At what point is it…. as I can’t remember a defining moment, I think it has just slowly crept up on me that my once beautifully compliant little boy started to challenge everything I said…..with the word “but”.

I think if I had a pound for every time I heard that word I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams. Some days I think if I hear that word one more time come out of my nearly 5 year Old’s mouth I am going to scream and run down the street naked!

This is particularly true in the mornings when emotions are heightened due to time pressure to get out of the door, to school and work on time!

“Joshua please put your school clothes on now” to which I get “but I am playing” or “can you clean your teeth” he replies “but I am watching this”, “here is your breakfast” to ”but I didn’t want that cereal”, “can you hurry up” to “but you said we had ten minutes” aghhhhhhh!

Have you ever noticed that? That your toddler has a “but” for everything you do, say or suggest, why is it that they just can’t do what you have asked without some form of “but”, simple no?

Reasoning doesn’t work, shouting makes it worse, changing the subject and counting 1…..2…..3…..and then take a breath before you try and reason can work at times but my sure fire way to win has always been until now – bribery “if you hurry up and just do it I will take you to McDonalds for tea” which is naughty I know but for the sake of my sanity at times has been a necessity, but these days it is not a guaranteed winner anymore, I think he enjoys watching me squirm as I try and find a better counter argument, it is like being prosecuted in a court room!

The worst “but blow” as I like to call it as he throws it at me like a winning punch is when he recalls something I did or said days, sometimes weeks ago as part of his counter argument “but you said…..” aghhhhhhhh how did he remember I said that/did that, that was a big “but blow” how the hell do I worm my way out now, he has me cornered, he knows he has the killer “but” and there is no way out for me and I surrender to a 5 year old!

So I give every parent permission to never teach their child the word “but”, I think it should be replaced in the dictionary with “of course mummy”!

Inspired by Joshua, written by Karen.

Going your own way

Why going your own way can be lonely and fantastic at the same time

I can still clearly remember the first time we gave our (now 3-year old) son his first bath. We carefully tested the water with our elbows, made sure it wasn’t hot, got the towels ready and lowered him in, ensuring he didn’t slip and his precious head was supported at all times. He screamed blue murder. And he did the same the second time.

It wasn’t until we asked our midwife to show us how to bath him that we realised that you didn’t need to have the water at approximately 20o, a temperature that would have made me scream too! A nice, comfortable 37o bath wasn’t going to scald his precious little body any more than it damaged mine.

The problem with pregnancy and birth is there is so much information out there, and so much emphasis on the things you can do wrong, that it is easy to lose sight of common sense and your instinct as a parent. If we’d taken a minute to step back and think about what temperature of water we would like to be put naked into, we’d have got it right first time.

When you are a first time mum, your baby is so precious, and – more importantly – often so completely baffling that you can end up spending more time worrying about the things that might be going wrong than relaxing in the joy of watching them figure out the world and their place in it.

I used to worry about everything.

The first time I took him out in his pram down the busy main road to the supermarket, I worried that I was poisoning him with the traffic fumes.

When he was 5 months old, and still showing no sign of trying to turn over, I worried that I hadn’t given him enough tummy time and was stunting his development.

I worried that using wipes for his bottom instead of clean, healthy (and frankly useless) cotton wool buds would lead to permanent skin problems.

The one thing I never worried about was weaning. I knew before I had my son that I was going to do baby-led weaning. I knew this based on one pub lunch I had with a friend about 2 years before I even got pregnant, when I watched her share her sandwich and salad with her 6-month-old child. I watched the pleasure both of them got from him trying proper, grown-up food, testing the different, textures, colours and flavours and figuring out what to do with it all. It was lovely to see both mum and baby happy and relaxed around food – the thing that brings families together, but can so often turn into a battleground.

And as I sat there and watched, I thought “When I’m a mum, when I’m the world’s most perfect mum, who never gets stressed about anything and knows exactly what she’s doing, I will do that.”

It was the easiest and best decision I have made as a parent so far. I loved baby-led weaning; my son loved baby-led weaning. Even the grandparents loved it, despite it going against everything they were told when they were bringing us up.

The only negative aspect was losing my peer support. I have a lovely, supportive, fun and honest set of friends with children of a similar age, but I used to sit in cafés with them on a regular basis, listening to their stories of endless pureeing, freezing and spoon feeding and feel entirely on my own. It would have been great if I had known one other person who was doing what I was doing, to swap recipes, stories, successes and failures with. I was sure that I was doing the right thing, but being different and going it alone can be scary.

At the end of the weaning story, I am proud of my healthy, active, inquisitive and energetic son. What I’ve come to learn is that being a mum is all about doing what is right for you and what is right for your baby. Sometimes that means following the advice to the letter (I would never have given him formula in a bottle that wasn’t sterilised, for example), but sometimes it means going your own way, and having the confidence to know it’s the right thing for you and your family.

Written by Sue Jackson, a mum that did her own thing!