Essential Lists for a Happy Mum & Baby

With less than 2.5 months to go until the arrival of B2, I’ve been reminded once more of the excessive consumption that many new parents are encouraged to pursue. It’s ironic, many parents will spend months selecting the perfect cot and pram, yet few spend the same amount of time preparing to satisfy baby’s real needs (breast milk, love and comfort).

Although it may be ‘fun’ to kit out the nursery, it can become horrendously expensive and lead to large amounts of waste. With this in mind, it’s worth taking a moment to remember exactly what babies actually need. Turns out it’s a lot simpler than we are led to believe!
• Breast milk (Only 2-3% of Australian women are physically unable to breastfeed. If you are not in this tiny minority, the health and developmental benefits for your baby are well worth persevering with breastfeeding)
• Love and comfort
• A safe spot to sleep
• Clean nappies

To help you avoid the confusion and excessive consumption advised in most baby lists, I have compiled the below short guide to essential baby items. I hope that you find it useful!

Please note – these are the things that have been of most use to me. Everyone will be slightly different.

Essentials
• Car Seat (Australia law states that children 0-6months must be in a rear facing car seat and children from 6month-4years needing to be properly secured in a front facing seat). This is an item that I refused to scrimp on or buy second hand. You may think differently to me on this or have access to one that you know has not been in an accident.
• Baby sling / carrier (I found a sling to be non-negotiable. It enables Mum to do the household chores, go for a walk or even do the shopping with hands free and a very happy and cosy baby. If you get really clever, you can even breastfeed on the go!)
• Nappies (We have opted for modern cloth nappies for environmental reasons. Do your research and find out what works for you)
• Nappy wipes (Get organised before baby is born and make your own. Cheaper, better for the environment and you never need to worry about running out. Check out my ‘how to’ here.)
• 6-8 Singlets (Opt for organic cotton / bamboo)
• 6-8 Onesies / grow suits (Again – opt for organic cotton or bamboo. Depending on the size of your baby, you may need anything from 00000-000 at the very start. I’ll be taking a few options to the hospital)
• A safe spot for baby to sleep (This could be your bed, a basket, recycled crib or even a wooden drawer lined with soft blankets)
• Breast Pads (I used disposables with my first baby and would prefer to find some reusable ones. Can anyone provide recommendations?)
• Breastfeeding / Nursing tops (Breastfeeding your baby is a wonderful thing and is worth celebrating. I’d personally recommend having a couple of versatile tops / dresses that are suitable for nursing and that you feel fabulous in. After giving birth, spending days on end covered in baby vomit and poo and possibly dealing with leaking boobs, it’s nice to have a few outfits that you don’t feel dowdy in. Bear in mind that the WHO recommends breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond, so it is likely that these tops will get a lot of wear!)

‘Useful, but certainly not essential’
• Baby monitor with motion sensor (Generations of babies have survived just fine without them, BUT if your child is a tummy sleeper like our daughter, the monitor will give you additional peace of mind.
• Muslin wraps / baby blankets (this will depend on your baby’s sleeping arrangements and if they like to be swaddled.)
• Pram (Useful if you need to put baby down to sleep while out and about, but baby will benefit more from being close to Mum or Dad in a sling / carrier)

‘Don’t Even Bother’
• Dummies (Contrary to popular belief, dummies / pacifiers are not an essential item for most babies. Given the number of dummies that are thrown into landfill or end up as litter each year, it’s well and truly worthwhile seeing if your baby is happy without one.)
• Bottles (Unless you are among the very small minority of women who physically cannot breastfeed, or you have to return to work – your baby will not need a bottle in the early stages)
• Special towels / bath products
• Loads of toys
• Baby bath
• Cute outfits
• Baby food
• Formula / Artificial Baby Milk
• Breast pump
• Steriliser

What did you find essential in the early days?

‘Make Your Own’ – Nappy Wipes

Welcome to the very first of the ‘Make Your Own’ series, a collection of posts designed to help you expand your resilience within the home.

Making your own nappy wipes will save you money, be kinder to the environment (hello minimal waste and no packaging) and ensure that you never have to worry about running out!

IMG_1883

What You Will Need
• Fabric (If you have soft t-shirts in need of recycling, use them up! Otherwise, you can use the humble Chux cloth)
• Fabric scissors
• Water
• 1-2tsps Sorbolene / Moisturising Cream (Only necessary if you have horrible household water)
• 1-2drops Lavender Oil
• Storage Container

Method
1. Cut up your cloth into squares of roughly 15cm x 15cm.
2. Optional – overlock the edges to increase longevity.
3. Mix your water, sorbolene cream and lavender oil in the storage container by pouring in, securing lid tightly and shaking thoroughly.
4. Add dry wipes to the container, scrunching up to ensure that all wipes become lightly damp. If too wet either add more wipes or gently wring out moisture.

Notes
• The moisturising cream and lavender oil are completely optional. Our water is horrendously harsh so both are necessary additions for me at the moment. If you have relatively soft water, try making a batch without any softeners.
• Some people prefer to leave the wipes dry and the water mix in a drink bottle until the moment of use. This is entirely up to you.

Peaceful Parenting – Going with the flow

Last night, our daughter experienced her first real nightmare. She’s only 17 months so wasn’t quite able to articulate what it was about but the gulping sobs, clinging arms and gushing tears were enough to tell us that it wasn’t pleasant.

It was a scary experience, but upon reflection I feel very lucky. Within seconds she was in my arms with her head being gently stroked by her Daddy. This is because we co-sleep.

Co-sleeping is so commonly frowned upon that it’s almost shameful to admit in public. In fact, I regularly feel obliged to be self-deprecating about it ‘oh yes, we’re working on getting her to stay in her bed’, or to simply deflect any questions about our sleeping arrangements. Following all the advice about SIDS, we never intended to co-sleep, dutifully prepared her crib and spent the first month fighting against our instincts and hers by insisting that she remain in her own bed.

Now I can understand erring against co-sleeping if you smoke, are under the influence of alcohol or are taking sleeping medication as all of these pose hazards to the baby. But, for us, and I’m sure for countless others, co-sleeping has become a natural and beautiful part of our parenting philosophy.

Does it mean that my hair is regularly pulled, I’m often strangled by too tight cuddles and our king sized bed never quite seems big enough? You bet. Does it also mean that I’m able to instantly comfort our daughter if she happens to have a bad dream, she feels secure and loved, and happily breastfed until 14 months? Yes and for those trade-offs, I’ll happily deal with the hair pulling.

As we all know, in the Western world parenting is often seen as a competitive sport. Sleeping through the night, rolling, crawling, taking those tentative first steps, all of these are milestones for parents to compare themselves with. Why? Children develop in their own way, at their own pace!

Attachment parenting as a philosophy has attracted its fair share of controversy. For that reason, I try to err away from using the term, preferring to think of our approach as simply being relaxed. Co-sleeping, breastfeeding, baby wearing and being flexible during times of teething or rapid growth have helped us to absolutely cherish our first 17 months as parents.

Most importantly, it’s an approach that works for us. Since welcoming our daughter we’ve moved house, dealt with the Fly In, Fly Out lifestyle, travelled (quite a lot), driven extensive and isolated distances, I’ve returned to work(plus returned to university to do my Masters) and we’ve been through a serious head injury for my husband. Not exactly smooth sailing, yet all this and more has simply been taken in our collective stride with minimal fuss and bother. Whether this can be attributed to our parenting and lifestyle philosophy or our daughter’s personality is anyone’s guess.

Our next baby is due in 10 weeks and although I have no doubt that they will have their own unique personality, complete with quirks and idiosyncrasies, I am absolutely certain that by continuing our relaxed approach to parenting in infancy and early childhood we will offer them the best start that we can. Unfortunately, the bed may be even more crowded for a little while!

So, if you are a closet co-sleeper like me or simply struggle to reconcile your version of parenting with what society tells you is normal, don’t despair. Do what feels right for you and your family, without comparing yourself to others.

Do you avoid discussions on parenting to avoid comparison or controversy?

Vegetarian Lasagna (Gluten Free)

large__6466933063“Once again, my life has been saved by the miracle of lasagne.”  – Garfield

Lasagna, or lasagne? It doesn’t really matter, after all who doesn’t love a good one? There is something so enticing about the beautiful aromas that fill the kitchen coupled with the visual appeal of oozing cheesy white sauce. Yum…

We are big lasgana fans in our household (they are great for using up odds and ends and make delicious leftovers), however we had never before attempted a vegetarian version. As with all my Meat Free Monday recipes – feel free to use whatever vegetables you have, don’t go out of your way to buy something!

Ingredients
800g pumpkin (peeled and sliced into 1cm slices)
Dash of olive oil
1 medium eggplant (sliced)
2 medium zucchini (sliced lengthways)
1 red capsicum
1 onion (finely diced)
2 garlic cloves (finely diced)
100g spinach
200g button mushrooms (thinly sliced)
600g tomato puree
1tsp dried oregano
Handful of torn basil leaves
30g butter
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons plain gluten free flour
1 cup grated mozzarella (or cheddar if you don’t have mozzarella)
Dried GF Lasagna sheets (enough for 3 layers)
Salt and pepper to season

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180degrees (C). Line an oven tray with baking paper and spread out pumpkin. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20min or until tender. Set aside.
2. Slice cheeks off capsicum and place under a grill (skin side up) until skins are black and blistered. Set aside to cool before peeling off skin and slicing into thin strips.
3. Heat remaining olive oil in a heavy based frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, sautéing until lightly golden. Add in remaining vegetables and cook, stirring regularly until eggplant is tender. Stir in tomato puree and oregano and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and then simmer for 10-15minutes until thickened. Remove from heat.
4. To make a delicious gluten free white sauce, I’ve found that it is best to mix the flour with a little milk to make a paste BEFORE adding in to the melted butter. Something about gluten free flours means that if you do it the traditional way, lumps are inevitable! So – melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan before adding your milk / flour paste. Gradually add the remainder of the milk, continuously stirring to avoid lumps. Add in ¼ of the grated cheese and a little salt and pepper to taste.
5. Grease a baking dish (this makes washing up easier) before beginning your layers. Start with a small amount of the sauce and build the layers with lasagne sheets, the pumpkin, basil and spinach, remembering to throw in some strips of capsicum every now and again.
6. Once layers are complete, pour the white sauce over the top and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
7. Cover with alfoil and bake for approximately 40-50mins at 180degrees (C).
8. Remove alfoil 15 minutes before the end of cooking time to allow the cheese to become beautifully golden!

Notes
• Some gluten free flours behave differently to others. Adjust quantities for the white sauce accordingly.
• This makes a delicious dinner by itself, or you can easily make a fresh and zesty salad or some homemade rustic potato chips to accompany it.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jabb/6466933063/”>JaBB</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

5 Tips to Get Rich Quickly

Who doesn’t want to be richer? If you’re looking to instantly increase your riches in just a few minutes without succumbing to a Nigerian scam, then the below list is for you!

Be warned, it may not be exactly what you anticipate…

1. Want less.

‘A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone’ HD Thoreau.

The quickest (although not necessarily easiest) way to feel richer is to want less. The benefits of wanting less include the opportunity to genuinely increase your material wealth through reduced spending, increase your happiness through the reduction of ‘wants’ and untold benefits to the environment through reduced material consumption and waste.

2. Reflect on all that you do have.
So, you’re devastated because you can’t afford the latest Wii, but you’ve already got a PS3, a laptop, an iPhone, an iPad and buried somewhere a Nintendo? Sometimes it’s worthwhile reminding ourselves of everything that we do already have. For some these may be wonderful intrinsic things like good health, good friends and a loving family. For others, it may help to reflect on your existing material wealth. Chances are, all of us already fairly rich.

3. Give
A little bit of philanthropy is one of the most generous ways to make yourself feel richer. Not only are you reminded how lucky you are to be able to give, but it also keeps this issue of wealth and richness in perspective.

4. Do something meaningful
Focus on those intrinsic values mentioned under number two by doing something meaningful. For some this may mean volunteering in a soup kitchen, for others it may be spending precious time with loved ones.

5. Break free from the trend cycle.
Getting caught up in the ‘cool’ cycle is a sure fire way to be ultimately poor in those things that are truly important. Is your credit card debt piled high from shopping sprees and keeping you awake at night? Do you have a cupboard full of clothes that are no longer cool (leopard print /neon spring to mind)? Do you feel compelled to queue outside the Apple store in the wee small hours to be a ‘trend setter’? Ask yourself, is this stuff making me genuinely richer?

So, there you have it, a five step plan to instantly boost your riches! Do you feel rich, regardless of your financial circumstances?

Basic Vegetarian Frittata

Home grown tomatoes. Aren't they beautiful?

Home grown tomatoes. Aren’t they beautiful?

A frittata is one of my favourite ways to use up whatever leftovers I have in the fridge, as well as being my go to meal when there is very little food left in the house.

Today Mother Hubbard’s cupboard is almost completely bare and as we are off to the city on Wednesday, I’m not replenishing it. As a result, I am using frozen mixed veggies to make today’s frittata.

As with most Meat Free Monday recipes, use whatever you have to hand. Cherry tomatoes (like those in the picture above) are delicious, as is spinach and ricotta, balsamic onions or some grated zucchini. You can tailor your herbs and spices to suit yourself, I like a little nutmeg and cinnamon but you may prefer Allspice. Experiment until you find something that works for you!

Ingredients
8 eggs (this easily feeds 4)
½ cup of milk
½ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup grated parmesan
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup of thinly sliced / grated vegetables
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
1. Pre-heat oven / barbeque to 180degrees (Celsius)
2. If possible use a flan pan for this dish (one with a removable base like you use for making tarts). Line it with baking paper.
3. Mix all ingredients together. Use a whisk to improve the fluffiness.
4. Pour ingredients into lined flan pan and place in the over for 30minutes or until lightly golden and firm to the touch.
It doesn’t get any easier than that!