My Favourite Freezer Meals

Another one for my soon-to-be-mamas (and because I’ll need to take some of my own advice on board soon!). What are some good freezer meals or snacks to have prepped before your little grub arrives? This one is obviously quite subjective, as it can not only be influenced by the season your bub arrives, but also your individual preferences. But I’m sure I’ve got some tips and ideas that you’ll love, regardless.

Firstly, timing. Timing is everything when you’re talking freezing food – freezer burn anyone?! I wouldn’t think about making ahead any meals until about 30+ weeks, as you don’t want your efforts to succumb to said freezer burn or end up forgotten at the bottom of the freezer because you made them so well in advance. Even if you end up being a few weeks early, you’ll have some meals ready to go if you wait until around 30+ weeks.

Secondly, you’ll need to think about ingredients that freeze well and those that don’t. Things like cucumbers, lettuce and raw potatoes are an obvious no-no. They go mushy when thawed – yuck! Egg based sauces (which you will be able to have as you’ll no longer be pregnant!) like mayonnaise will separate and curdle when thawed. Many dairy products go watery when defrosted. But; when I freeze something like a lasagne (either pre-cooked or after I’ve baked it, and mine has cream cheese and lots of cheese in it), I have no issues. Most snacks like muffins and bliss balls will freeze well too.

When it comes to main meals, unfortunately you might need to think about making foods that are relatively “bland.” I know. It doesn’t sound appealing at all, but trust me, you can still make some pretty tasty meals. And when I say “bland” I really mean things that aren’t rich tomato flavours or have lots of cruciferous (I love that word!) veges in it. Things like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage can be quite gassy for breast-fed babies and can cause upset tummies. Tomatoes too, as they’re quite acidic, can sometimes be unkind on little bellies. It’s totally up to you though; I found I didn’t notice a real difference with what I ate and how little grub reacted, but he had legitimate reflux and was on medication from about 8 weeks old anyway. Having said that, my freezer meals weren’t tomato based. I figured if I was going to the effort to make ahead some meals, I may as well make ones that are baby-friendly and then if hubby makes a spaghetti when grub has arrived, we can figure out if tomatoes are a no-go at that point.

So what meals would I make? Macaroni and cheese is a good one, and a great comforting food, no matter what the season! My mum also had a great chicken and bacon lasagne recipe, although it was quite time-consuming, so I won’t make it this time around with a toddler hanging about. I’m all about maximising the output and minimising the input! Curries are excellent, and something like a thai green curry isn’t tomato based. If you visit my website, you’ll get a link to this exclusive recipe of mine! It’s a winner for all ages, trust me. I would suggest a spaghetti sauce or a chilli as these are always good for the freezer. But they’re tomato based. So this time I’m going to make my creamed spinach and mince and we can have this over some pasta with a side of garlic bread. Delicious!

I don’t know about you, but I am a snacker anyway, and having done the breastfeeding thing once before, I knew I had to have some healthy snacks on hand. Three meals a day just doesn’t cut it! As I mentioned earlier, bliss balls and muffins freeze well. It also helps that I’ve got two yummy recipes that are both healthy too – here are the bliss balls and my grain-free muffins are seriously delicious and so easy to whip up. Tip: I add some dark chocolate chunks to “Mummy’s” version and man they’re good. This recipe will be coming to you guys in the New year! Biscuits are also a good one to freeze – these ban-anzac cookies are super.

I never really got in to the lactation cookie thing (I prefer a smoothie that I know is good for me and keeps me going for a good 3 hours or so, rather than chowing down on a whole lot of biscuits with added sugars). BUT, having said that, they would freeze well too. I haven’t come across a good recipe, but there are plenty out there.

Bread and loaves freeze well too. I’ve got a good grain-free bread recipe here that I always freeze, and my friend Nutritionist, Natalie Brady (read our interview with her here), has a great banana chocolate chip loaf that I know freezes well. I’ve made it a few times!

Lastly, be sure to label and date your food. Using those tin-foil dishes you can buy at the supermarket are good for meals and something like a Kai Carrier (much more environmentally friendly!) is great for freezing your snacks.

I hope this has been helpful! Let me know how you get on, I’d love to know.

 

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Transitioning To Bottles

If you didn’t start off straight away with bottles, then most of us, at some point, need to transition our grubs from boob to bottle. My mum chose to bottle feed my sister and I from the start, and I’d seen friends really struggle with breastfeeding. So, when I was pregnant the first time around, I was really open to it. My philosophy was, “I’ll give it a go, but if it doesn’t work out, then bottle it is.” The kids’ got to eat right?!

Regardless, I also wanted to have a little bit of freedom (I’m talking just going to the supermarket on my own type thing), and my husband wanted to be involved if he could. So, we made the decision that we wanted to introduce a bottle at some point. What if there were occasions where I couldn’t get home in time? Or, god forbid, I got hurt and couldn’t feed him for a length of time? A bottle was something we wanted to have just in case.

When it came to it though, I was lucky enough to not have too many problems breastfeeding (apart from a bout of mastitis at 8 weeks – that is nasty!) and so we stuck to it. My midwife advised me that if we were feeding well, he was putting on weight and there were no obvious issues with breastfeeding, we could look at introducing one bottle a day at about 3 weeks old. So we did.

I would pump a little off with a Haakaa silicone breast pump (these things are so good to start with in your breastfeeding journey – not just for bottle feeding, but in case you need to pump off a little when grub starts to drop or extend the time between feeds) in the morning and hubby would do a feed at 10pm so I could have a few extra, blessed hours sleep. Bliss! This went swimmingly for about two months, I was even able to get a bit extra for freezing. The supermarket by myself never felt so good! I was doing a bit of part-time work as well, going in to an office for 6 hours a week while my mum looked after him, and it was important for me to be able to confidently leave him. It went well. For a while….

…And then we hit a big road block. At about 3 months old, he decided he would no longer take a bottle. What??!! Honestly, we routinely did one bottle a day, same time every day, so he knew what was coming and it was just routine for him. What happened?! It started with him spilling and not latching correctly on to the bottle and taking a lot longer to finish it. Then after a few days of this, he would start taking in air and crying and I would eventually have to take over.  We then tried giving him a bottle before bed, knowing he would be hungry and tired and hopefully take it. Nope. This went on for about two weeks. I phoned Plunket in desperation (I had to stop going in to the office which was putting a lot of pressure on me) and they suggested perhaps differentiating between bottle and boob. So, if my plan was to introduce formula at some point, why not now?

I tried to mix breast milk and formula (as recommended in my antenatal class) and he hated it. So I went cold turkey; bottle = formula and mum = breastmilk. This STILL didn’t work. I then went through about 4 different bottle brands and just as many teats. Each one received the same answer. We tried different people feeding him; my husband, my mum and then me too. I tried feeding him a little and then trying to slip the bottle in his mouth. That move received the most disgusted look! I also put the teats down my top for about 30 minutes before putting them on the bottle, hoping this would work. Again, nope!

Each day was the same and I was getting more and more worked up about it. After about 6 weeks of this, one day it was like he decided he would suddenly be okay with the bottle. And he drank the whole thing with no problem. And looking at him now? You wouldn’t think he EVER had an issue!

So what’s my advice for others and what would I have done differently?

  • Be consistent. With everything. Timing, bottle used and whether it’s formula or breastmilk. In the end, I decided it wasn’t the bottle and he was going to use one type and that was it. I used the same bottle every day, same time (after his lunch nap) so that it wasn’t the middle of the night, stressing the whole house out.
  • I wish I had known then what I know now; they will get it. Stay calm, sing a song and just try every day. If they don’t want it, don’t keep trying and get them worked up.
  • Act as if you don’t care if they take it or not. Smile! If they don’t want it, then feed them that day. But try again tomorrow.
  • Pick a bottle brand and stick with it. Either breastmilk or formula, you choose, but stick with one.
  • If you’re mixing breastmilk and formula, just try a bottle with one or the other. Have you ever tasted the mixture? To me it was pretty gross! No wonder he didn’t like it.
  • Play around with temperature. In the end, we found he liked his bottle quite hot. To the point where we could feel it on our wrist when testing it.

Did any of you guys have an issue? Any one got any other tips? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Introducing your baby to your pet

Julia Thomas has a Masters of Clinical Animal Behaviour and works with the Auckland SPCA, the Greyhound Adoption Programme Trust, and in clinical practice in Auckland. She’s been studying and working professionally with animals for more than 10 years and primarily works with companion animals.

What are the first things we need to think about when bringing a new baby home (first one or not)?

Bringing a baby home for the first time is a big deal for any animal. Dogs get used to how their family is structured and how things work in their home.  Just because we know that a new baby is a precious family member who needs protecting and nurturing, your dog might not understand this, or see things the same way. For both dogs and cats, you must remember that you’re really turning their little world upside down and it’s stressful.

Preparation is the key word I’ll use. Nothing beats it. There are some great websites that spell out some key steps to take to prepare your pet for the arrival of a human baby. Here’s a link to the ASPCA website and also Dr Sophia Yin who’s very experienced in animal behaviour.

If you’ve had your pet since it was little, socialise them with kids and other animals. It’s so important. Cats and dogs have what we call a ‘critical socialisation period’ and in dogs this occurs from about 3 – 14 weeks of age. It’s during this time that you’ll want to be introducing them to children (and many other different people, experiences and animals) in a safe way, as positive associations created during this period can last a lifetime.  This ensures that dogs can cope with change and new things much better throughout their lives. If not your own, introduce them to friends’ kids or nieces and nephews. Basic obedience training, especially during the first year of a dog’s life, is good too.  This ensures you develop a shared language, so you can direct your dog to behave appropriately when they are presented with new or challenging situations…like when a new baby arrives. For example, it’s much easier if your dog already knows what ‘on your bed’ means before the baby arrives.

Sometimes people bring babies home and there isn’t an issue at all – that’s often a reflection that the pet has been well socialised already. If you’ve picked up an older animal or haven’t socialised your pet with babies before your baby arrives, you’ll want to go through that preparation yourself. Make these experiences positive for them and that’s the learning they’ll bring forward. Professional help can be of use here too.

You’ll also need to think about whether or not you want the pet in the nursery. If you do, then make that a positive experience when you’re setting it up. Sit with a book and read for a bit and encourage your dog with treats to settle down calmly with you. Reward him. Likewise, with cats, put one of those cat towers with treats on it to entice them in (and out of the crib or change mat!). If you don’t want them in there, make it a no-bounds area from the start with a baby gate.

 

We trained our cat not to go in the bassinet or cot using tinfoil – worked a treat! Would you recommend that to people with cats? Also; would a cat really smother a baby or is that a bit of an old wive’s tale?

To answer the first part of the question; using tinfoil is a form of punishment and although this can be effective, there are other ways to train your cat without the use of punishment – cats are incredibly smart and can be trained too! Provide the cat with a more attractive and desirable place to rest in the room than the cot or bassinet.  Cats often like these possies because they are warm, soft and comfortable. As I mentioned before, a cat platform/tower is great. They love to be in high, warm places…in front of a window is often ideal. Use food as a reward. The vet nurses often joke that Whiskas Temptations treats are like crack cocaine for cats!

Secondly, it’s possible that a cat could smother a baby. But it’s just like a child sleeping with an adult and the risk that has. It’s no different. The cat could curl up close to an infant and snuggle into the warm body, inadvertently smothering the baby.  Cats don’t have mean streaks in them and intentionally smother babies. If you don’t want the cat in the baby’s room then you need to close it off from the start.

 

Does it matter how old our pet is?

Geriatric or elderly dogs and cats generally have a reduction in tolerance for anything new. Just like older people too. Most of this is associated with age related deterioration in the brain and deterioration of sight, hearing, and movement. Sometimes pain, such as arthritis, also causes the animal to be more short-tempered than they were previously.  Essentially their fuse becomes a lot shorter and the dog is more likely to be reactive towards new situations, children and other animals. They are less flexible in a change in their routines. A lack of predictability increases stress and causes less resilience in older pets. We should try and have the same compassion towards elderly pets as we do towards humans. Therefore, it’s even more important to be thorough with your preparation.

 

How can we make the transition easier for the dog?

As above, preparation is the most important thing. Remember, a dog needs to learn how to behave with children and that a baby is something that needs to be protected and nurtured, not something that’s feared. If you’re at the point where your dog is showing signs of aggression, I recommend seeking professional help. If you do the wrong thing at this point, you can inadvertently make things worse – you can get an escalation in unwanted behaviour that can be harder to change. Most of the time, we tend to be a lot less patient with our dogs than our children! It’s about persistence and consistency. You wouldn’t expect potty training your toddler to be over and done within a week would you? Try to take the same approach with your pets.

 

How do we overcome any overprotective behaviour (of us the adults/owners) and get the dog to accept the new family member?

If you are struggling with undesirable behaviour I recommend you seek professional help.  Rather than punishing the dog for not behaving how you want them to, you should be guided to direct the dog to behave appropriately when he is around the baby.  We need to help the dog make the association that when the baby is present, and he behaves in a certain way, it’s a really good thing for him. He needs to learn that the baby is part of the family, and good things happen when the baby is around. Unfortunately, what often happens is that the dog is lavished with attention when the baby is asleep (because we often feel guilty for not spending as much time with them) and is ignored or constantly told off or put outside when the baby is awake.  It is easy to see how your dog could learn to resent the newcomer. You’ll want to give your dog lots of attention, treats and encourage safe interaction between the dog and the baby when the baby is awake. You’re trying to tell him that when the baby is awake, his life is much better. And you’re also reinforcing positive experiences with the child. When the baby’s asleep or away, you should not lavish your dog with attention.

If your dog is growling at the baby it is a pretty clear indication that the dog does not know how to behave appropriately in that situation, this is actually a gift. This is telling you that you need to do something here to mitigate this behaviour. A growl is a warning, if you do not respond appropriately to the warning signs; the dog’s next step is to bite, which is very sad. You’ve ignored the warning signs he’s given or told him off for warning you/the baby, and now someone’s hurt and he’s the one in trouble.

 

Do dogs need to have safe spaces that babies know they’re not allowed to go? Would you recommend crating? We have a constant battle at home when Sam is in his bed chewing his chewy and Emerson wants it!

It’s a good idea for the dog to have a safe place, especially older animals, but if the baby can access the dog, then it’s not really a safe space! Having an elevated platform, away from a crawling child, can be helpful. Or, in a crate, provided the child cannot harass the dog there.

 

Is it a bad thing to think of rehoming your dog if the situation feels overwhelming and the dog is constantly being shouted at, reprimanded or thrown outside? Or is it actually kinder to the dog to try and place it where it will be in a happier environment. How much time should we give ourselves to see whether things will work out?

This dilemma is something that’s down to each individual situation. Again, I’d recommend seeking professional help before you make this decision. But make sure the professional you engage is qualified to help with this situation. In New Zealand you don’t need to meet any set standards before you can call yourself an animal behaviourist or trainer. Overseas in some countries there are minimum requirements, such as a Masters qualification, or certification/registration with a professional body that ensures certain standards are met…much the same way as we have registered health professionals here in NZ. There are some terrific trainer/behaviourists that do not have any formal qualifications, but if you are unsure about someone, I recommend you ask your veterinarian for their advice, or look specifically for a qualified behaviourist or vet behaviourist.

A professional behaviourist/trainer should not tell you what you should do, because each family and situation is different.  They should counsel you and help you come to the decision that is right for you and your family.  How much time have you already invested in this animal? How big a part of the family is he? How much time do you realistically have to spend each day on modifying his behaviour?  Is it just one thing that is a problem, or are there many problems that impact your relationship with this pet?

Then it’s about evaluating the options…. rehoming, euthanasia, behaviour modification, dog walkers etc.  There are pros and cons for each option.  These are tough decisions but at the end of the day you must make the decision that you feel is best for your family, including your pet.

 

 

 

 

Some Nappy Rash Solutions

Most babies, no matter how nice their skin is, will go through some sort of skin irritation. Whether it’s nappy rash, dribble rash, eczema or a red-blotchy-patchy-thing-that-no-one-really-knows-what-it-is rash, we all come across something.

Nappy rash is one thing I’d heard of, well before we were even thinking of kids. What I wasn’t aware of though is that you often don’t need a nappy balm or cream for newborn babies with today’s technology in nappies. I’d gone out and bought 3 different types of barrier creams and balms, only to be told at our antenatal class that I probably won’t need any for the first wee while! So, spread the word guys, to all those new mums out there. But, we didn’t avoid it forever. Especially when he started teething. Not only this, but he had quite bad eczema (or what looked like eczema) on his cheeks as a newborn and then from about 3 months onwards, he had a bad case of dribble rash. No matter how many times I changed the bibs or what cream I used, it wouldn’t go away. His skin was in a bit of a mess!

I didn’t like the thought of rubbing all these chemicals on my baby’s skin (I know, it’s probably silly, you can’t avoid it forever, as proven above, but I wanted to try for a little while!) so I tried to find some solutions that I would be happy with.

My mother-in-law used to swear by Aloe Vera gel, straight from the plant. It was basically her first aid kit, all in one. Aloe Vera gel contains two hormones: Auxin and Gibberellins. These two hormones provide wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce skin inflammation. Additionally, in Ayurvedic medicine, Aloe is used to effectively heal chronic skin problems, such as psoriasis, acne and eczema. Because of said mother-in-law, my husband grew a plant a few years back. This came in handy, I tell you, and made a huge difference to grubs’ skin when we used it. Ours seemed to grow better in full sun, and we would cut a whole leaf off and then keep it in the fridge, using little pieces at a time, rubbing the gel directly on to his skin. It’s great for any scratches or scars too.

Another trick I really liked was putting oats in his bath. Oats are great for soothing itchy skin and redness. I took about a cup of wholegrain oats, straight from the packet, wrapped them in a cheese cloth (or muslin would work well too) and dunked that straight in to the bath. You then need to squeeze and knead the oats and you’ll see all this milky white liquid start to come away. This is great for eczema, nappy rash and even chicken pox.

And, I love calendula cream. Calendula helps to improve blood circulation and helps skin wounds heal, including sunburn. The oil can be quite harsh on its own, but the cream has a soothing effect on the skin and relieves itching or pain. And, it’s great for nappy rash. I’ll put this on grub before bed time and in the morning, his nappy rash is noticeably better. This is something I would definitely recommend everyone has in their first aid kit at home. Weleda do a good one, but there are other brands too.

Lastly, if you’re really game and wanting to make your own, I stumbled across this recipe online when looking for an alternative to Sorbolene cream:

  • ½ tbsp. beeswax pellets
  • ½ tbsp. coconut oil (recipe calls for cacao butter it gave it a funny smell, so I used coconut oil instead)
  • ¼ cup avocado oil (or olive oil)
  • ½ cup pure aloe vera gel

Put your beeswax and oils in a glass bowl over boiling water (don’t let the water touch the bowl though) and melt down until mixed together. Let this cool until it’s like the consistency of butter at room temperature. Using a stick blender, mix your oils with the aloe vera gel. Voila! I found the beeswax and aloe vera gel online (make sure it’s pure aloe vera gel, most of the supermarket brands have other additives). I keep mine in a jam jar and find it actually lasts quite a long time as a little goes a long way. I use this after the bath over his whole body and find it works wonders for his dribble rash.

Have you tried any of the more natural suggestions above? Got any other tips? We would love to know, leave us a comment below.

Starting Finger Food

It’s probably quite obvious by now that we didn’t do baby led weaning as we opted to introduce vegetable puree’s first and work our way up from that. It worked well for us, I didn’t have a grub who insisted on feeding himself and getting involved. In fact, at almost 1 he was still quite lazy and was happy to play with some food while we fed him some mouthfuls at home. Whilst at day care, he totally feeds himself and gets right in there with both hands!

So, there came a time where I thought about when and how to introduce finger food. We’d also opted to go grain-free until 10 months, so it wasn’t as easy as introducing soft pieces of bread. When he got to about 8 or 9 months, I felt the pressure to start giving him ‘finger food’ as everyone else we knew around our age was doing so. But this was MESSY, and most of the time, I just felt like it was easier to feed him myself especially as I knew he would eat a lot more and, in my mind, more variety this way. On one hand, I knew of people that did finger food from 5.5 months, and on the other hand I’ve got my mum saying she never did that as she couldn’t be bothered with the mess! Sometimes, I was definitely in her camp haha. And, you don’t exactly see 2-year old’s walking around not knowing how to feed themselves, right?! So, what did I do? Well, on those days when I had the patience and time, I would give him some food to play with, whilst still feeding him the majority of his meals. And on other days it was mashes and lumpy food that I just fed him while he played with spoons.

One thing grub loved from the start was orange kumara. It formed the base of a lot of our meals (see here for some ideas) and it also makes the perfect first finger food. It’s better than the purple kumara as it’s softer, sweeter and doesn’t break as easily (purple kumara is more dry). It’s also great for travelling with as it can be eaten warm or cold. Simply peel a few kumara, cut in to ‘chips’ and bake in the oven at 180c until soft. So, this is where I started.

He also loved peeled slices of cucumber. In the beginning, he would just gum it, break some off and then spit it out as he didn’t get any teeth until much later. I just had to make sure he didn’t swallow any! Grated cheese was a hit too, and then we graduated to slices of it after a wee while. I have a great grain-free banana and carrot muffin recipe (I can share this with you guys soon) that he really enjoyed and I would just break some pieces off for him while feeding him the rest.

I must say that whilst introducing all this stuff, he really only played with it for aaages. He never really fed himself much until he was almost one. So, if your one is the same, don’t worry about it. They’re not gona stay like that forever. They’ll get there! Now at 17 months he won’t let us feed him at all.

Then when he was about 11 months or so, just before he started day care (where they are encouraged to feed themselves at every meal; awesome), he started to get the hang of picking things up and putting them in his mouth. It was at about this time that I gave him peanut butter on toast for breakfast and left him to it. Or I gave him a meatball or two for morning tea (another great finger food idea that also travels well as can be eaten cold, see here for our yummy recipe). Another easy one was rice cakes with hummus or peanut butter and thin slices of soft pear and kiwifruit were great too. Bliss balls are also a favourite! Especially when out and about. Still though, most of the time I’d have to give him some to try and then he would take over. He always needed to take that first little bite and then he would understand that it was yummy and he wanted to eat it. But I often had to give him that first go – weird!

So what are my tips?

  • Don’t feel the pressure to introduce finger foods too early or like your baby is ‘behind’ when it comes to eating by themselves (if you’ve chosen to not start with finger food from the beginning). They’re all different, and hey. On the bright side, you can ensure they’re getting a wide variety of foods if you’re still shovelling it in!
  • When you’re ready, start with something relatively simple and something you don’t mind being wasted. So much ends up on the floor or not getting eaten at all.
  • Take your baby’s cues; if they insist on using the spoon themselves, let them. If they don’t mind playing with a green bean while you feed them quiche, then do it!
  • Start introducing finger food at home. It’s much easier to clean up all that mess and there’s less distraction for them. They can concentrate on exploring the wonderful world of food.

I hope this has helped and given you some ideas on what some good finger food ideas might be. Watties also do a pretty good infographic (scroll down to stage 4).