Saturday, 28 July 2012

A muscular hitch

I have had a bit of a week.

On Monday I threw myself at the roof terrace in a bid to break the back of the chaos that inhabited it and render it usable for us and the babe in the sunshine that we were enjoying. I hauled pots of soil, dug up half a meadow's worth of weeds, cleared debris and rearranged everything neatly. I swept, bagged and tagged.

It's not finished but it is looking clearer and neater and I was pleased. And I'd done it quickly too, so a pat on the back for my efficiency.

Until I woke up Tuesday morning that is. I could hardly move! It is a couple of years since I've done that kind of speed gardening and my muscles were screaming in protest, even my hands from where I had been lifting heavy bags of rubbish up and over high railings. I felt a wreck. Also, somehow, I had managed to sprain an ankle. I blame my flip flops which I should not be allowed to wear as I am simply not competent on them.

Oddly, as the week progressed, other muscles decided to get in on the act - yesterday one dorsal muscle went twang - and by Thursday only a hot shower first thing was getting me moving and I was struggling to pick the babe up safely. Unsurprisingly I have been feeling a tad sorry for myself, especially since the babe has also been teething ferociously (third week and counting) so sleep is something of a distant memory.

I haven't been able to do anything other than get through the days and so it is lovely to get to today and to start to feel less pathetic! I'm even starting to think about meal planning for next week which I have been a little slack about of late.

One thing though, it has made me extremely grateful for my normal good health and mobility.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Baby plant-eater vitamin essentials

In this first look in detail at my one year old's plant diet, I'm looking at four vitamins and minerals that are essential but which also can be tricky to get right. 

Vitamin B12
This is a really important vitamin, essential for forming red blood cells and a healthy nervous system. Too little can lead to nerve damage in babies. We can store some in our bodies, but a daily supply is the best approach.

Felix is 13 months so needs around 0.5 micrograms (mcg) a day. The best sources are fortified products such as plant milks and yoghurts (check they are fortified with B12 specifically), yeast extracts and nuturitional yeast flakes. We use a mix of these to get his daily intake: 60 ml of soya milk with his cereal or in a smoothie or yoghurt pudding, plus 1g of yeast flakes gives him the right amount. Often he has more than this over the course of a day as he tends to have a second milk or yoghurt portion.  The yeast flakes can be sprinkled into anything from a smoothie to a stew (with hot food it's best done just before serving so the vitamins aren't lost through too much heating).

Alternatively, you can give a supplement. B12 is available in palatable powdered form and I take a daily supplement which includes B12 as I am still breastfeeding (which means Felix gets some from me as well).

Vitamin D
Astonishingly, rickets is on the rise in Britain, amongst the general population regardless of diet. This vitamin helps bone growth and health, calcium absorption and the immune system. It can be produced by the body direct with sufficient sunlight on the skin (half an hour outside three times a week is what we aim for but Felix gets more than that). There aren't many vegan sources of vitamin D so we use fortified milks and yoghurt, and fortified breakfast cereal (Weetabix in our case) to be sure Felix is getting enough. 

Omega 3
Fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6 come from polyunsaturated vegetable fats and cannot be made by the body. They are essential in children for the development and health of the brain, eyes, and nervous system. A balance is needed between the two types and it is easy as a vegan to have too much Omega 6 (from vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, seeds and sunflower oils) and too little Omega 3 (from flaxseeds, walunt and rapeseed oils, green leafy vegetables and grains). There is also some current uncertainty as to whether it is enough to get Omega 3 from the sources listed above or whether you need to take a DHA (a particular kind of Omega 3) supplement to ensure your body has enough of each of the three kinds of Omega 3 (see for a good explanation of all this).

At the moment we are giving Felix 1 tsp of ground flaxseed a day, sprinkled on his cereal or in smoothies. I am still looking into DHA supplements. We are also minimising our use of sunflower and vegetable blended oils, and instead are using rapeseed and olive oils. 

Iodine is necessary for producing thyroid hormones and therefore regulating your metabolism. It is an essential mineral but is a common deficiency. Like Vitamin D it is not found in many foods, and seaweed is the only reliable vegan source. Annoyingly, many plant foods (such as soy, flaxseed and members of the cabbage family) actually block iodine uptake so this can contribute to low levels. You can also take too much iodine. 

At the moment I have my iodine amount from my supplement (as I'm breastfeeding) and Felix gets his from seaweed crumbled over food (such as stew) three times a week. Check the amount of iodine in whichever seaweed you have as they vary a lot. I am considering using a supplement for this instead as I find it difficult to know exactly how much seaweed to give him. 

Please note that I am not a healthcare professional, but a mum who has done a lot of research. If you are considering changing your child's diet I recommend going to the sources direct yourself to be sure of what you are doing.

I find these sources really useful:

'Feeding your vegan infant - with confidence' by Sandra Hood (The Vegan Society - their  website is great too)
'Becoming Vegan' by Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina (American, so the recommended daily amounts can vary and tend to be higher than UK) (a great factsheet on B12)

Friday, 20 July 2012

Foodie Friday (20 July 2012)

Today's Foodie Friday is an homage to thrift born out of laziness. On my meal plan it said vegetable kebabs to celebrate the newly summery weather, but when it came to it I couldn't find the kebab skewers and wasn't in the mood to search too hard. I also wasn't in the mood to cook from scratch any of the lovely vegetables I had to hand. 

Instead I decided to piece together a meal using whatever I could find. On inspection of the fridge and freezer I assembled the following:

3 baby size portions of mushroom & black eyed bean bolognese sauce
1/3 pot of Tofutti (soya cream cheese, excellent stuff)
1 handful of leftover roasted root vegetables
1 baby size portion of lentil stew
1 slice of roasted red pepper

I chopped the roasted veg and red pepper, added them and the lentil stew to the bolognese sauce and heated it through. I cooked spaghetti and added as much of the cooking water as was needed to make the bolognese good and saucy, together with a few handfuls of chopped spinach. Just as it was ready I melted in 2 tbsp of the Tofutti which added a lovely creaminess to the sauce and stirred in 2 tbsp of Engevita Nutritional Yeast Flakes for a slight cheesey flavour and a good shot of Vitamin B12. 

This fed two hungry adults and our 13 month old and I have to say it was the most enjoyable meal I've had for a few days! The baby couldn't eat it fast enough, which was lovely to watch. Aren't the surprise successes always more satisfying? Not only did I use up a few odds and sods that were threatening to be forgotten about, but I discovered a new dish that I will definitely try to make again!

Not sure what to call it. Creamy roasted vegetable bolognese...Leftovers Spectacular...Lazy Mother's Saviour...anyway, it was excellent and will encourage me to throw random things together in a pan more often.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Across the bar

Customer: I went to Newtown today.

Me: Why's that?

Customer: I wanted to go to that new pound shop. You know the one.

Me: No, I don't know Newtown.

Customer: You know the garage by the roundabout?

Me: No.

Customer: Well, you go left by that, then curve up the hill and you come out near the garden centre. You know the one I mean?

Me: No. I don't know Newtown.

Customer: The one next to the furniture shop.

Me: No. Never been there.

Customer: Well, I went there.

Me: Great. Would you like another drink?

The best toys in life are free

Yesterday I had a 'my baby's growing up fast' moment. My first one, as it happens, despite him already being 13 months. It's amazing. He can change his entire face shape just overnight. He develops new habits in the blink of an eye and is off developing something new before I've had a chance to get used to the last thing.

At the moment his fixations (sorry...interests) include any button associated with a little led light. He has learnt exactly where to place his sticky little finger to turn the television on (yes, I know, leaving it on standby is wrong for so many reasons) and  can pause the washing machine mid-cycle. This last one is understandably annoying as I return two hours after putting a load on to find the babe paused it after five minutes and it'll be another two hours before it's ready. He has also learnt to adjust the volume on the surround sound box so listening to his nursery rhyme CD is now a painful experience as he twiddles his way from whispering volume to eardrum burstingly loud. Lovely.

On the other hand, he is coming on really well with his shape sorter. Except tonight he got his hand stuck inside hole for the letter B and had a meltdown that lasted all the way through to bedtime. Oh well. He's also very good at thrashing his dad with a piece of foliage while he's in his carrier on walks to indicate he wants to go faster please.

Then there's his interest in cooking, in particular his love of spices. Last week the kitchen reeked of asafoetida (pungent, to say the least) and today it is cinnamon. A lovely smell when it is associated with spiced apple cake or hot cross buns, but not tipped out in large quantities all over the floor. And why is it his dad always walks in the door at exactly the moment that these things happen?

I am very much a 'let them explore the world' kind of woman so none of this really bothers me (well, I wish he hadn't learnt to turn the bedroom lights on from his cot since he likes to do this to celebrate particularly early morning wake-ups, and that reminds me I really must move the musical glo-worm from his cot...).

In fact, I love to see him pottering around finding everyday objects absolutely fascinating. My mum always said give a baby a bowl and a wooden spoon to keep them quiet and she was right. There is a pile of baby toys upstairs and they are played with, some everyday, but I reckon we could easily put half away and they wouldn't be missed.

So long as he is allowed a generous rein to rummage to his heart's content in all the dusty corners of the house, he will have a whale of a time and learn everything he needs to learn as he goes along. And together with a little of my time to admire his latest discovery, what more does a boy need?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Meal Planning Monday (16th July 2012)

Yes, I know, it's Tuesday already but better late than never right? I've not done a full menu for the last two weeks and have really missed it. This week I've taken it up a gear in reaction to include lunches as much as possible.

This week I am aiming to do as little shopping as possible and to use my store cupboard to its fullest potential. I have also been re-reading my nutrition books as we have been plant-eating for three months now and I felt like a reminder on what vitamins come from where and just how much seaweed are we expected to eat a week!

So, here is our menu for this week.

Lunch: Tomato & vegetable pasta with homemade garlic bread
Dinner: Roast dinner (roast potatoes  root veg, peas & sweetcorn, pan fried kale with walnuts & brazil nuts, yorkshire pudding and gravy)

Lunch: Curried veg, bean & lentil soup with bread
Dinner: Spaghetti mushroom, spinach & lentil bolognese 

Lunch: Hummus, avocado & salad sandwiches
Dinner: Quinoa burger, potato wedges & salad (with uber-special salad dressing, more on this later!)

Lunch: Baked potatoes with lentil & vegetable stew
Dinner: Bean & vegetable fajitas

Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Vegetable Kebab, quinoa & bulgar wheat salad & green salad (the forecast says sun!)

Lunch: Soup or sandwiches (depending on weather)
Dinner: Bean & vegetable bake

Lunch: Pizza (experimentally with no cheese! will report back on success....)
Dinner: Vegetable & potato gratin

Snacks & puddings
Tinned, fresh and dried fruit, smoothie, crackers or rice cakes & nut butter or hummus or marmite, whole nuts, yoghurt, muffins

I'm going to be posting more later this week on the Babe's food, particularly how he gets his nutrition as a plant-eater so come back to check that out.

For more on Meal Planning Monday, visit At Home with Mrs B and hello to Stateside meal planners at Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

How far would you go for a supermarket?

So, we have reached a little bit of a crisis point in life and are tightening our belts, as are many people right now. An area where we can definitely save money is food. This doesn't distress me in theory, as I know I can provide cheap tasty food  but it does bring into sharp focus a couple of issues that are annoying me.

I live in a small village near a small town surrounded by other small towns. There are three larger towns within 45 minutes drive. Our nearest food shops are five miles and the largest of those is a small Co-operative. Otherwise, there is a Spar, a weekly market, a bakers, a butchers and a few speciality shops. I shop using a mixture of these shops. I like local shopping.

When it became clear that we needed to cut back substantially, I began to take more notice of exactly what our food cost. I was horrified.  I love the Co-operative in general as I like their ethics but I am aware they are more expensive and this store in particular is pushing the boundaries of acceptable expense. No point moving to the Spar as that is a convenience store and with a few exceptions is no cheaper than Co-op. We don't need the butchers any more, and I use our breadmaker for bread so that leaves the weekly market. 

I know from doing food for the pub that fresh vegetables and fruit, like all food, have gone up in price. I think I can get my food cheaper at the weekly market than at Co-op, though it varies from food to food and I haven't done a detailed comparison because it's just too daunting, with four stalls to compare. The downside to the market is it's only once a week and with the quantities of veg we get through (it's our mainstay) I need to shop twice a week really.

So what's my plan? Well, the nearest larger supermarket is 1 1/2 hours round trip away so the petrol is not inconsiderable. Also, I don't want to do this once a week let alone twice. I have no reason to visit these towns on a regular basis other than food shopping. None of them deliver to us so that's not an option. However, when I did a shop recently in one of them I estimated that it was at least a third cheaper than a comparable shop at our Co-operative. A third! Shocking. And that's without buying the very cheapest own brand items every time.

I've decided to do a dry goods shop occasionally, hopefully no more than once a month once I am used to it. Since I generally see my parents at least once a month, and they live 1 1/2 hours away close to the English border where there are supermarkets at every turn, I am doing on online order using MySupermarket and getting the cheapest supermarket to deliver to my parents house. The shopping stays there until we see them. Isn't that mad?

For now I can't see a better solution to my fresh food issue than the weekly market topped up by Co-op or anywhere better I happen to pass on trips out. I will just have to get much more savvy on prices so I can compare as I go along. I buy as much as possible in season which helps.

As for the luxury items, or the buy on the spur of the moment items, I stick to my list and that's pretty much that. I also meal plan now which is so useful. We do have to buy a few plant diet specific items such as ground flaxseed and seaweed and I like to make sure the babe has things like avocado and a variety of nut butters regularly but these are low-use items so their initial higher cost is stretched quite far.

I love living where I do and I relish the remoteness, and I'm lucky I have my parents close enough by that this weird system is actually quite practical.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Power up Smoothie

We all felt in need of a boost this morning, so Kev (smoothie supremo) went to town with today's offering. This non-dairy smoothie is suitable for all ages from one year upwards (for under ones, leave out the flaxseed and don't use any sweetener).

Power up Smoothie
(the amounts are very flexible so use what you have and adjust to taste)

Spinach, couple of big handfuls
100g mixed soft fruit (today it was frozen mixed berries)
1 orange, peeled
1/2 banana, peeled
100ml oat milk
1/4 big pot soya yoghurt (fortified with calcium, & vits B & D)
2 tbsps ground flaxseed

Just whiz it all up (best to do spinach and frozen fruit first, then add the rest). Adjust the amount of milk according to how thick or runny you like it.

Other things you can add or substitute if you fancy it:

Any other fruits, including things like stewed rhubarb
Sweetener (honey if you eat it or maple syrup are better choices than agave syrup)
Avocado (this can replace the yoghurt or banana as all are creamy ingredients)
Nori seaweed (crumbled up)
Substitute the oat milk for any other non-dairy milk

This smoothie tastes great (you don't really taste the spinach and depending on your fruit it might not even turn it green!) and gives you a great kick of goodness. The spinach and orange are a good combination because the Vitamin C boosts your uptake of the iron. The flaxseed gives you omega 3 oils. There is loads of fibre, protein and calcium. If you add seaweed you get iodine and there are loads of healthy oils in avocado.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Pass the play dough...

I have been feeling a little inadequate recently, feeling that I don't spend enough time playing directly with my babe. He's just turned one and while there are days when we spend loads of time down on the floor playing with his toys, there are also days (like this week) when there just isn't time and he spends his time pottering around my feet wherever I am finding his own entertainment. Running a business is hard enough at the best of times, but at the moment it is a little crazy.

I also never quite get round to 'crafty' style play. Now, I know I shouldn't get too worried since the babe has only just turned one but you could be forgiven, with the wonderful advent of the multitude of parenting blogs, that all parents spend all their time either dreaming up creative play ideas or putting them into action...

So tonight, feeling a little wilted and tired, I looked at my blog roll and my eyes alighted on Anna's Imagination Tree. I instantly felt guilty as I knew in all it's legions of wonderful ideas, I hadn't really done anything with them. My finger hovered over the delete button so I wouldn't have to look at it again...

Then I thought, I'll just take one last look. Maybe I could fit in some play dough or...something?
I can fit in this bucket...

I found this post: Baby Play Activities 6-18 months. I was delighted to find activities directly aimed at my babe's age group as so much stuff is too old for him.  I was even more delighted to find that, actually, we do quite a lot of the stuff mentioned, or very similar things. Playing with egg boxes and kitchen equipment... treasure boxes... emptying and filling material boxes (clothes boxes count, right?)... playing with mirrors... stacking and sorting stuff... posting stuff (where is that pool ball, baby dear?)... it goes on!

I am a good mother after all! And now I come to think about it, I have a very happy baby in general (except when he's teething) so I must be doing quite a bit right.

I am also fired up with some of the other ideas. One day, maybe soon, maybe not, my babe will make a giant felt picture!

Foodie Friday (13th June 2012)

I love risotto. Quite a lot. And I have happily switched to risotto made without cheese since the whole plant diet started. Turns out it's not essential like I assumed. I am aware though that as grains go, rice is not the best in terms of nutrition. You get a lot more buck for your bite from grains like quinoa and bulgar wheat.

So last week I decided to see if you could make a decent (and it has to be decent) risotto without rice...the aim is creamy, delicious and full of goodness. This would also be a practical risotto in that it's not cooked all in one pan with you stood over it for ages. You can cook the veg and the grain separately and mix it together at the last minute when you're ready to eat. Hooray!

The problem was, I didn't write any notes when I first made it. And it was sooo good. Sadly, when I tried to recreate it today, it just eluded me. It was tasty and healthy, but lacked flavour and...well, essential risotto-ness.

So this Foodie Friday is a memory of a great meal and a report of a miss. I shall work on my not-risotto and write it down properly next time!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

I'm having one of those days

The builder didn't turn up to work until 11.30am and then seemed very offended that I didn't want to buy his leftover bathroom tiles. Problem is there were two colours, I only liked one, and there wasn't enough to do our bathroom. I'm pretty sure he thinks it was ok to count the tiles on our time as well...

Went to town with the babe to do a market veg shop. Got there (late, because I'd fruitlessly been waiting for the builder...) to find I'd left the sling at home and had no decent wet weather kit. Resisted giving in and doing a dry supermarket shop (sigh, trying to save pounds, never mind the pennies and we are only blessed with an expensive Co-operative). So I had to heft a one year old up the high street in the pouring rain, clutching my shopping bag, no arm left for a brolly, ignoring all the disapproving looks aimed at my sodden child.

Don't understand my new phone. When I say new it is a secondhand Blackberry my lovely friend gave me. Exciting? Theoretically, yes, it's great. It would be better if I could figure out how to use the damn thing, but I seem to have a brain block about it. 

The router has had a stroke of some kind and now the laptop will only connect to the internet if it sits very close by and the PC won't connect at all. That means ringing TalkTalk who are known for their customer service, aren't they? My joy increases.

And it's raining. Still. Constantly. Heavily. Depressingly. It is July, right?

So, here I am, about to get nicely hopped up on coffee and bourbon biscuits, trying not to snarl at the builder every time he passes in and out of the room (I thought the building site was upstairs but he seems to like being outside today). I am supposed to be either doing admin or cooking but neither appeals.

Instead I shall count my blessings to cheer myself up.

1. We thought some sick person had stolen all the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon books we had in the pub. Turns out we just hadn't looked for them properly so we still live in a world where you can have a snigger any time you fancy it.

2. Wet though it may be, we live in a very beautiful part of the world. And the rain just makes it greener and more lush and more lovely. Honestly, it looks great out the window. 

3. Husband is painting some fantastic paintings at the moment.

4. I have an amazing family who support me through thick and thin. 

5. I have bourbons and coffee and vegetables!

6. I have a baby who is simply divine.

7. Some day soon, I shall have a lovely flat to live in with a bathroom. A Bathroom! 

So I shall stop whining. Until the builder wakes up the baby with mucho mucho power tool noise that is...

Monday, 2 July 2012

My breastfeeding story

I have been avoiding talking about breastfeeding, partly because it is such an emotive issue causing arguments as soon as you even open your mouth and partly because I didn't trust myself to write evenly on...well, such an emotive issue! But with National Breastfeeding Week just behind us, there's been a lot of chatter about the issue and I have a particular experience so I am going for it. Sorry for the length of this post.

My first baby was born last summer. I fully planned and looked forward to breastfeeding. After he was born, I thought he had latched on nice and quickly and had a little drink but it became apparent over the first day that he wasn't feeding. He wouldn't open his mouth at all to latch on. I was left alone for several hours after the birth and when I asked if it mattered that the baby just slept and didn't want to feed, I was told it was fine, he was tired from the birth and I should get some rest.

It wasn't fine. He didn't feed that day. He didn't feed within 24 hours. We spent most of the first night trying. I tried hand expressing to feed him with a syringe, but got very little colostrum out, even by colostrum standards. The second day was no better, he literally wouldn't open his mouth. Staff started to talk about formula top ups and as I wasn't producing colostrum, and he wasn't latching on I didn't have much choice. Feeding became syringes and cups of formula, interspersed with failed direct feeding sessions.

I can't now remember exactly when the expressing machine appeared, but it was probably day two or three. It didn't work, nor did the hand expressing. He wasn't even taking much of the formula. Day three saw us going home, the staff saying they'd let us go if we had an expressing machine. Now, looking back, I am shocked by that (I was desperate to go home and 'be normal' but I should not have gone, I know that now).

Home was no better. The baby didn't feed. My milk came in day four and I instantly became horribly engorged. Massive, rock hard, and very painful. Our hand expresser was useless. The midwife brought me an electric expresser on day five, but by that time my breasts were probably thinking there was no baby to feed.

Feeding attempts were awful. The midwives spent hours with us each day which was great of them, but the comments of 'we really need to get this baby feeding now' did not help. I wanted to scream at them that my every moment was about trying to get the baby to feed and how could they not think that? Occasionally he would get some kind of latch and get a bit of milk, but if it lasted a couple of minutes that was it. The advice seemed to change each day and rocketed between not topping up at all to motivate him to feed from me, to topping up if he seemed hungry still after trying the breastfeed and everything in between.

Feeding attempts were also excruciating. We never once got the latch right. I had cracked, torn and black nipples. Painful just doesn't come close. Lansinoh cream was helpful but nothing could solve how to let the nipple heal while still trying to feed.

He also didn't open his bowels after day four, everyone told me it was because he wasn't eating. And of course he lost weight. As each day came with no change, I would ring the midwife helpline and they would send someone out. I felt like a burden, a failure, and I was scared. I was getting virtually no milk with the expressing machine, so I had to top up with formula which I hated.

On day ten I had a joint visit from the midwife and the health visitor. I reported the baby seemed to have fed a little better that morning, but he weighed in at 10% less than his birth weight. They said technically he should go to hospital but they would just persevere with what we were trying at home so we'd wait a bit longer and see how it went. It went badly. He went downhill that day, lethargic and finally throwing up green bile. It was enough. That night we were back in hospital and the following day transferred to Cardiff Children's Hospital.

At eleven days old my baby had emergency surgery for Mal-Rotation of the Small bowel. His bowel wasn't fixed properly and had twisted 180 degrees, shutting down the oxygen supply to his bowels and closing his digestive system. No appetite to make him feed, the little bit of food backing up through his closed off system into his stomach, and finally coming up in the vomit. The surgery went fine, he was very lucky and his bright blue oxygen starved bowels pinked up by the time they had finished so he didn't have any bowels removed.

It was quite simply the worst night of our lives, but he is now fine, bonny and bouncing. I wish I could say, however, that as he recovered from the surgery and went back onto feeding by mouth instead of a tube, he latched on eagerly and we launched into being a lovely happy breastfeeding duo.

My supply, despite continuing to express throughout this time (in all, the baby was off direct feeding due to surgery for six days, sitting on top of ten days of virtually no direct feeding) was non-existent. We went home after ten days in hospital having satisfied the hospital we could feed him adequately but this was - out of necessity - combination feeding.

I could have given up and just bottle fed him. It would have been easy and I wouldn't criticise anyone for making that choice. I just wasn't ready to stop trying. I remember one Friday afternoon, when he was about 10 weeks (yes, this went on  a LONG time) we spent three hours solid trying to breastfeed, him stopping and starting, still wanting to try, but never getting satisfied. Having to top up after that felt like a kick in the teeth. I was in tears as I fed him the bottle. My sister begged me to give up, but I just couldn't. I felt like I hadn't tried enough, hadn't expressed enough, hadn't put the baby to the breast enough to stimulate supply. Ridiculous I know, but trauma is a powerful thing and I transferred a lot of grief from what we went through onto my performance. 

That day was my breaking point. I told myself we would have one last try and then that would be that. I went back to basics. I read and reread the Sears breastfeeding book, looking at the pictures of successful latch-ons. And then I read about the Sears lower lip flip. It changed everything. The baby still didn't open his mouth well,but with this technique I learnt to open his mouth wide while getting him on, and also to roll his lips out further without breaking his latch.  The pain went, it literally just went. At 11 weeks, we had learnt how to latch on. Now we could breastfeed at night instead of faff with bottles, and we just (just!) needed to up the supply. 

For several reasons (not the least of which was helping my husband run our business which meant I wasn't always available at feeding time), I couldn't make this my only task. A wise midwife told me to bide my time and I might find one day I had the time to focus more on it. I also still had to top him up pretty much every feed to satisfy his hunger which of course creates a vicious circle of confused breasts. I was only my stubborn streak made me continue to try breastfeeding. I wouldn't recommend combination feeding to anyone as it seems designed to torment the mother, but it was what I chose.

By sixteen weeks I would say we could latch on confidently. If I am honest though, all autumn I felt that I was indulging myself that I was breastfeeding, when in reality at least 75% of his milk probably came from the formula bottle. By early winter, just before we started Baby Led Weaning that was edging down towards 50%. He to solids very enthusiastically so we now had a three point feeding system. Even thinking back to it now is exhausting. But.

But. In early February, when the baby was coming up to 8 months old, I realised that the bottles of formula were being pushed aside after only a few sucks, and he was asking to breastfeed more. One day I simply didn't offer him a bottle and we have never looked back. My milk supply improved week on week and I have never felt since that day that I didn't have enough to offer him.  

He has recently turned one and he has a great appetite for solids. We are also still breastfeeding and we both love it. It is easy, convenient and bonding. It is everything I imagined it would be. It was invaluable a few weeks ago when a combination of sick bug and hot weather destroyed his appetite for three weeks, apart from milk. It was incredibly hard getting to this point and that makes it even more precious.

I consider myself lucky, which might seem odd considering this tale I have just recounted, but I do. I am lucky that persevering worked out for us, I know it doesn't for everyone. I didn't know in the early days that it would happen this way and if, in my former childless days I had read this I would have been horrified at the apparent self-torment. But for me, the torment of not thinking I had done enough would have been worse. And despite how hard it was, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I wouldn't have missed this experience for anything. I always fed my baby, one way or another, but now feeding is a pleasure as well as a necessity.

How to write a list that works

For someone who is completely and utterly disorganised, I have an unexpected love of lists. I make lists about everything. The house is littered with them. When I get my winter or summer coats out each autumn and spring, lists flutter from their pockets. I even find other people's lists fascinating.

A list can be many things. It can be a quick memory aid or a complex project plan. It can be tomorrow's shopping list, or your life mapped out on paper. It can be a throwaway moment or a back of a fag packet start of something exciting.

A list can be a godsend, but it can also be a millstone.

Am I losing you in my list love? Not sure how a list can actually matter in any way beyond it's immediate purpose?

A bad list can drag you down, make you feel guilty, stare at you reproachfully with each drop of self-righteous ink. It can give you sleepless nights as you focus on what wasn't done, what's still to do.

A good list can make you smile with satisfaction. It is littered with confident crossings off and annotations of things to go on other lists.

So here's a few tips for writing fantastic productive lists you will love!

Choose a list style specifically for each individual occasion. If it's a supermarket shopping list, group the different food groups together, and in order of how you find them in the supermarket you use. If it's an ideas list use a brainstorming chart (sorry, I don't do thought showers) preferably with coloured pens!  

Never, ever write a rolling list. These suckers will drag you down. As you work your way down, other tasks occur to you so you just pop them on the bottom. Eventually you get to the bottom of the piece of paper, so you transfer all leftover tasks onto a new sheet and just keep on going. You'll never finish it, never get to congratulate yourself on a job well done and never get to freshly appraise what tasks you'd like to go onto next. Don't. Just don't.

Break tasks down properly. It is common to list tasks that are actually a number of tasks rolled into one. This creates a false list that is much bigger than it initially looks, which makes it harder to get to the bottom, finish and sit back with a celebratory cup of tea and a biscuit. Don't put 'decorate the bathroom', when that realistically involves at a minimum 'clean bathroom walls' and 'remove any lose paint and rub down walls' and 'paint bathroom walls'. Smaller tasks means smaller blocks of time are needed at any one time (a godsend if you have small children for example) and tasks ticked off more quickly!

Make sure your list items really belong there. It is actually very easy to put tasks on your list that should not be there. Take admin tasks as a good example. You've gotten a bit behind on admin and need to tackle it. You write a list. It's huge. Enormous. You look at it and your heart sinks. Well, look again. Look for any 'tasks' that are actually regular activities rather than one-offs. Paying monthly bills, doing the weekly check of the bank account, anything that happens every week or month. Take those off the list straight away. If you can't remember your regular tasks design a memo sheet you don't hate looking at and stick it on the wall. 

Use image lists for creative or big ideas. Lists don't have to be words. One of my all time favourite non-word lists that I use is a montage. Needing to do a bit of major life rearranging a few years back, I spent a happy hour flicking through magazines, cutting out images that represented to me how I saw wanted my life to be. I then stuck the images onto a piece of A3 paper, and voila! A list of life aims in a powerful and motivating presentation. I did that list over 6 years ago and I still remember it clearly. It also really, really helped figure out some difficult stuff. This type of list is also great for creative planning - lifestyle magazines and interior designers use it for decor planning, but they call them mood boards. Personally, I hear mood boards and I think of Grumpy the blue Care Bear. No idea why, I just do.

Use multiple linked lists if you have a stupid amount to organise. If you are careful, this can turn you into a superhuman list maker, but care is needed not to create an overwhelming pile of lists that just makes you want to cry. This kind of list making should be reserved for the experienced or the desperate. I probably qualify for both...

Whatever task areas your lists need to cover, this option would definitely have a 'mother of all lists' central list that detailed what the other lists were, and a 'urgent do first list' to focus your mind. This urgent list should have no more than the most important tasks that need doing as soon as possible (preferably this list would be done within a few hours, never more than one day).

Whatever your list needs, there is a list out there for you. Just open yourself up to the power of lists and feel the love!