Monday, December 15, 2014

Newborn photography

When Ellie was born, I was sent a hamper from work that included a voucher for a newborn photography shoot with a free photo included from a big photography company. Not knowing any better, we went along, had a fun shoot posing with the props they told us to in the poses they suggested. We duly went back and were presented with lots of beautiful images that we were welcome to purchase for a small fortune. And that's how they get you.

Look, I'm not saying they weren't worth it. And I'm not even saying we walked away without the photos because, well... it was Ellie as a newborn! I know photographers need to be paid for their time and everything, but sometimes, what they charge is a joke, and your photos look like every other photo that they take there.

So I took a different approach with Jimmy. This time, we had the photographer come to us. We chose someone with a relaxed style, who captured real life images. I didn't want anything too photo shopped or cliched, I didn't want perfect poses that weren't us, and I didn't want to look at the images and feel awkward.

I'm so happy with what we got back. These photos are us. They capture the real us - from Mr Fork having his phones in his pocket (thanks honey!), to Ellie throwing a tantrum because Peppa Pig couldn't be in the photo, to Jimmy yawning mid shot, to my amazing new baby cleavage (ha!). We even had the puppies included because hey, they're part of the family too!

Photography by Little Seeds Photography.

Please note that this is not a sponsored post. I value good photos and I really wanted someone to capture the early days of Jimmy and our family - I paid for these photos.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Let's talk tongue and lip tie

Fair warning. This post is about breastfeeding. I talk about my nipples. There are pictures of my crying child because that's how I could best photograph his tongue. If that's not your thing, feel free not to read this post and maybe read about my kitchen instead :)

I've mentioned that with parenting the second time around, you just know when things aren't right. So I just knew that feeding little Jimmy wasn't going right. Sure, he was gaining weight. In fact, one month post birth he was over a kilogram heavier than birth weight. That's great! Not so great however, was convincing people that something wasn't right, because they all pointed out he was putting on weight and having the appropriate number of nappy changes.

Still... feeding took forever. He slept poorly, waking on a 1.5-2 hour cycle, around the clock. He was constantly gassy, and dribbling milk. My poor nipples were sore and bruised and little Jimmy's mouth was one big blister from gripping onto me for dear life. I'd had his mouth checked at the hospital before discharge and was told he looked fine and his latch seemed good if a little shallow. I never seemed to be able to get him to flange his lips or open as wide as I thought he should to latch on. When he cried, his little tongue would cup up and not poke out much at all.

At two weeks, I reached out to our community health feeding clinic, who watched a feed and told me I was doing everything right from a mechanical perspective. Of all the people I'd seen and asked about feeding, this lactation consultant was the only person who felt around in Jimmy's mouth and diagnosed him with a posterior tongue tie, which was also confirmed at my home midwife visit when I asked her. However I was advised that since he was gaining well, it likely didn't need treatment, and my sore nipples were normal newborn feeding side effects.

I'd never heard of tongue tie before to be honest. I googled the heck out of it, and joined support groups online. It made me feel better to know there were other people going through what I was going through - the sleepless nights, the painful nursing, all while hearing there was no problem "because baby is gaining weight"!

Captured! A sleeping moment
For me though, the pain was awful. My nipples would come out misshapen and I'd dread the next feed. I found a local dentist who was passionate about tongue tie and specialised in laser tongue-tie surgery. I scheduled a consultation and treatment as soon as possible - Jimmy would be five weeks old before we could be seen. Knowing I had that appointment kept me sane... ticking off the days until I could get help meant I was able to get through all those feeds.

The day of the appointment arrived and I have never felt such relief. Someone listened to me and sympathised with all my symptoms. Jimmy was diagnosed with a class IV tongue tie and a class III lip tie, which commonly occur together. Releasing the ties would help our nursing relationship, and further, would decrease the likelihood of future issues such as speech and eating problems, cavities and orthodontic work which are common disorders associated with tongue tie.

Jimmy was taken away and we were asked to step outside so that we didn't hear his reaction to the treatment and I could nurse him calmly afterwards (infants who are breastfeeding are typically revised without anaesthesia). I'm told he was swaddled and held tightly while the dentist used the laser, and that my Jimmy didn't cry at all. All up it took maybe five minutes maximum, and then I was taken to a quiet room, Jimmy was placed in my arms and we breastfed under the direction of the dentist (herself a mum and strong breastfeeding advocate) and a lactation consultant.

Before and after - look how high that tongue goes and how far the mouth opens now!
That first feed... what can I say. I'd always been told that breastfeeding was painless and pleasant. Although I fed Ellie for nine months, I can honestly say it was never completely pain free, but I grew to enjoy it. With Jimmy, I finally got what everyone meant. He latched beautifully, he drained my breast and I fed him without pain. And then... miracle... he slept, for three hours. And that night, he slept in three hour cycles, which meant, for the first time in FIVE weeks... so did I. Do you hear that? I slept longer than an hour. I felt like a new woman.

One week post procedure, it's still rough I'll be honest. We do some manual therapy to complement the release, because Jimmy needs to relearn how to use his mouth and nurse 'correctly' as opposed to coasting along off my let down and gripping me with his gums. We've been given exercises to do to improve his suck and help him develop muscles that he hadn't been using before. Essentially he is re-wiring his brain and learning new ways to control this extra movement he suddenly has, which is pretty amazing really.

Doing the stretches to make sure his ties don't reattach is heartbreaking. Constantly correcting his latch is frustrating, and knowing he is in pain is awful. We are getting there though. We still have bad feeds, but we also have good feeds as well. Just like we have good sleeps and bad ones where he is back to his 1.5 hour cycle. He is gradually starting to sleep longer though (hallelujah!) and he is much less windy because he is latching better and therefore swallowing less air. My nipples still get sore and he still has nursing blisters, but I'm confident that will improve as his muscle tone and mouth strength improve, especially as we continue with the physiotherapy and work with a lactation consultant.

It's hard having a growth-spurt, post surgery cranky baby and a highly energetic and attention hungry toddler, but this is where baby wearing comes in handy. I do adore snuggles and the little snores that happen when he falls asleep against my chest.

Snuggles for the win!
Tongue tie is a contentious issue I've found. Some medical providers don't believe they affect feeding. Some believe if you came poke out your tongue (Jimmy could) there is no issue, failing to consider a posterior, sub mucosal tie might be present. These sorts of ties can only be felt with a manual examination and often cause many feeding problems initially as the tongue doesn't reach the roof of the mouth for efficient drainage. They can be hard to diagnose as some babies continue to gain weight coasting along off initial good supply and strong let downs. Apparently, with the increase in formula feeding, lots of medical people stopped learning about tongue ties, but now that breastfeeding is increasing, a lot more ties are needing attention - after all, a bottle doesn't complain of pain.

I don't blame the medical people I saw at all, but what I did learn from this experience is to trust your instincts... if you don't get the answers you need, continue to seek help because no one knows your baby like you do.

Friday, December 5, 2014

What's in my kitchen, December 2014

As my final IMK for the year, I'd like to take the opportunity to send out season's greetings. 
I look forward to visiting other kitchens redolent with the smells of the festive season and drooling over kitchen creations, something that my kitchen is currently lacking!

In my kitchen is...

A box of ready to eat meals, courtesy of my awesome baker friend and her man. This box is jam packed full of delicious things, both vegetarian and meaty so that Mr Fork, Ellie and I can just reheat and be eating something scrumptious in seconds. I am in awe of the sheer love, effort and thought that went into this box of gifted goodies... and my stomach thanks them every time I eat a meal that isn't takeaway! This is a fabulous present for anyone with a new baby! Or anyone really...

In my kitchen is...

Chocolates from local markets. Delicious dark chocolate with figs or with nuts and chilli to be exact. They are amazing, and I am spacing out the eating of them as otherwise I will indulge far more often than is healthy...

In my kitchen is...

A ginormous blueberry muffin, courtesy of another friend who stopped by to visit Jimmy, and kindly brought his ever-hungry mother some sustenance as well. I shared this monster muffin with Ellie when she came home from daycare so that I didn't feel such a greedy eating machine.

I should add that Mr Fork has gone back to work now, so it's just me watching Ellie and Jimmy during the days. I didn't really appreciate how much work a newborn would be with a toddler as well, and I'm thankful for the generosity of my friends who make sure that I have plenty to eat, even if I can't always find the time to eat it!

In my kitchen is...

A Merryteaser Reindeer (or several). I didn't think it could get better than the MaltEaster Bunnies, but turns out there is a Christmas version too. Oh happy days! These little fellows are harder to find in stores than I'd expect, but Coles sometimes has them in their seasonal aisle. I have to hide from Mr Fork and Ellie when I eat one, as I swear those two have a special extra sense for seeking out the crinkling of chocolate wrappers...

In my kitchen is...

A pile of spinach. Fresh from the garden, I think it'll be the last of my planted spinach as the heat is starting to make it all look a little sad and past it's prime. I hustled out before the day got hot to harvest this bunch, as well as one ripened eggplant that the possums missed. The spinach was then separated into leaves and stems, blanched, cooled, bagged and labeled ready to freeze as I'm just not enthused enough to cook with it right now but I didn't want it to go to waste.

I'm thinking when I get my cooking mojo back in force, I will use the spinach leaves to create a pie I've been pondering lately, and the stems will find their way into various stews, stocks and soups.

In my kitchen is...

An apple tea cake, baked especially to help use up some of the sad looking apples from my fruit box. This is a simple recipe which freezes beautifully and which Ellie and I enjoyed for both morning and afternoon tea one day.

I am linking this post in with Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's monthly In My Kitchen event. Go have a peek through other kitchens around the globe!

What's in your kitchen this month?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Seven song titles to describe life lately

Song titles which describe my life right now:

  • I Think We're Alone Now (Tiffany) - What I sing to Jimmy when I'm up doing the many late night feeds and trying to settle him... it's such a nice snuggly time alone with just him and I
  • Zombie (The Cranberries) - How I feel after a long night where I'm up feeding continuously every two hours or so 
  • I can't help falling in love with you (Elvis Presley) - Lucky the little fellow is so cute... what I think when he snuggles his tiny head into my shoulder and falls asleep... sleep deprivation and milk monster status and all
  • Red, red wine (Neil Diamond) - What I wish I could have... I'm holding out for the time when Jimmy spaces his feeds long enough for me to indulge! 
  • Bad Day (Daniel Powter) - How I feel when I just settled Jimmy down at 4am, Ellie has crawled into bed with us at 4:30 and then Mr Fork's alarm goes off at 5 to get him ready for work. It's going to be a long, long day
  • Right Here Waiting (Richard Marx) - What I'm sure Jimmy is thinking after I've spent ages feeding and settling him for a nap... and he's planning to wake up again as soon as my head hits the pillow 
  • Sweet Dreams (The Eurythmics) - What are these again? I've calculated I'm probably averaging about 5 hours total sleep in each 24 hour period... broken into chunks of time way smaller than I want
Source: unknown

What song title/s describe your life right now?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Review: Coles Little Explorers

I recently had the opportunity to test out the newly launched Coles Little Explorer nappies. Now usually when I'm trialling something, Mr Fork gets all excited (like the time I got to try Nutella for example) as he gets to join in on the joys of blogging life too. However, this time when I opened the box that arrived, it was Ellie who squealed with glee at the sight of all those nappies. I should add that Ellie thinks all mail is hers and rips everything open with the same gusto, but she really did squeal and declare the nappies were 'hers'.

Which was timely really, as she's started to get independent at nappy change times, and the fact that she had 'her' nappies meant that it was easy to convince her to make the change and try out the Little Explorers as part of their five day challenge.

We trialled the toddler size, suitable for children weighing 10-15kg. There were 24 nappies in this sized pack.

How did we fare?
  • The animal designs were a hit. Our size had a giraffe on it, and Ellie took great pleasure in wearing her giraffe nappies. Tick for cute designs.
  • They lasted beautifully overnight with no leaks. Tick for the Coles Dry-tech ultra absorbent core. The nappy was heavy and definitely sagging in the morning, but her big girl bed was dry and there was no skin irritation at all.
  • They totally contained several poopsplosions beautifully. Tick!
  • What chafing? I have to say that for a store brand nappy, the quality is right up there and the nappies were soft, breathable, and didn't seem to shed or pill. Nor did they feel or look cheap. Tick.
  • They fit quite nicely, which is what they are designed to do with the unisex design featuring a stretchy waistband, elasticised legs and resealable side tabs (brilliant for squirmy toddler antics!). Tick.
  • The price is a bit of a winner. $9.99 for a pack is pretty good in my book, although they were launched at a special price point of $8 per pack. All packs are the same price, but I understand different sizes have different amounts of nappies in them.

Also, not relevant for the size we tried, but I imagine it would be really handy for Jimmy in the newborn range:

  • The newborn size has a cut out for the umbilical cord. GENIUS! Jimmy was constantly rubbing his and it got irritated and stinky trapped under his nappy.
  • The newborn range also has a wetness indicator with a star pattern that fades when wet. Seriously, that is awesome. It's all well and good to grab a toddler and check if they need changing, but who wants to manipulate a sleeping baby on the off chance their nappy is dirty? No more! 
The Coles Little Explorer range is just hatched (see what I did there?!) and will be extending to cover baby food, as well as the existing wipes and nappy bags.

Disclaimer: I was provided with the nappies to review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Recipe: Peanut Butter Lactation Cookies

Breastfeeding is hungry work. My Jimmy is a hungry little milk monster and feeds regularly at two hour intervals or thereabouts. Which is fine(ish) during the day but not so fun at night, let me tell you. It's not all his fault though - we are going through a growth spurt, so cluster feedings are normal and expected. He doesn't have the best latch and exhausts himself with the effort of extracting milk (oh to be a newborn!) and therefore feeds (much) more frequently as he isn't filling up as much as he could at each opportunity.

Anyway, ramblings aside, breastfeeding is hungry work. I like to make sure I have snacks and plenty of water handy, and if they're going to boost my milk supply and make it easier for little Jim to chunk up, by all means point me at the food! I concocted these peanut butter cookies as an experiment, and it's been a bit of a challenge not to hoover them all up at once. They aren't the prettiest but they taste nice and serve their purpose.

Peanut Butter Lactation Cookies

  • 1 cup peanut butter (other nut butter substitutions are fine - I used some almond, brazil and cashew butter too)
  • ½ cup agave nectar
  • ¼ cup flax meal + ½ cup water
  • 1 cup flour (you could be fancy and use coconut, spelt, buckwheat etc, but plain will also do)
  • ½ cup rolled oats 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 tbsp brewers yeast 
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ cup milk (I used soy)
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and prepare your cookie trays.
  2. Combine flax meal with water. Allow to rest until it is goopy and most of the water has been absorbed. 
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder, and brewers yeast.
  4. Once the flax mixture is ready, add it and all the remaining ingredients to the flour mixture.
  5. Stir well to combine. Add more milk in tablespoon increments, if necessary. (Coconut flour in particular is prone to soaking up liquids)
  6. Once a dough has formed, use a tablespoon (or thereabouts) to roll into balls and place on tray.
  7. Flatten each ball slightly before placing in the oven.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
  • These would be delicious with chocolate chips or nuts added I think
  • I skipped the flattening step as Jimmy woke up and was crying, so my cookies didn't flatten much. I don't mind, they look rustic and taste the same anyway

What's your favourite go-to snack?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Surviving life with a newborn

I'm not even going to sugarcoat it - life with a newborn is hard! There are emotional swings from low to high and back again. You run on little to no sleep. Better still, if you have other children, they don't understand that you're tired and they still want the same amount of attention. Same with the husband because he gets to sleep through while you're up breastfeeding so wakes up fresh as a daisy. It's exhausting, repetitive, and honestly, under appreciated by everyone except your baby. Luckily, I've pulled together a list of survival tips that help me get through!

1. Have a support network. Whether this is other mums, Facebook groups, a friend on speed dial, your partner... whoever. Have a network in place so you have somewhere to vent, chat, ask advice, and get some social interaction.

I tell you, having a friend who has also recently had a baby to chat to has saved my sanity! Even better if some of that support is online so you can scroll/read/chat while you're up overnight feeding and settling the baby.

Night time feeds and settling go faster with a phone in hand for selfies and support!
2. Prepare meals and snacks in advance. I'm not just talking about for outings here, but I'm talking about for the times when everyone is the house is bone-deep tired. Or when the spouse has gone back to work and there is no one to whip up something to eat while you're trapped under a hungry babe. You can rummage around in the fridge or freezer and unearth something relatively healthy and nutritious without having to resort to the takeaway pizza option again.

3. If people offer to help out, let them. Honestly. There is no shame in that - you have a newborn, you are allowed to have a messy house, accumulated laundry and an empty pantry. But if someone genuinely offers a hand, take it without guilt - and be specific, for example:

 "It would be great if you could bring me a loaf of bread and some milk on your way over. Oh ok, and a Malteaser Reindeer as well, thanks."

 "Would you mind holding and distracting the baby while I nap for 15 minutes."

 "Yes I'd love some of your delicious home made cookies since you're kindly offering."

 "You made me mushroom risotto? You shouldn't have! But I'm glad you did... now excuse me while I start eating it already..."

4. Distract the toddler. My toddler has the best of helpful intentions but sometimes things go awry. I don't want to keep her from her baby brother but she needs to learn to stop waking him, or trying to share her bottle of milk while I'm feeding him. Distraction is key here. I ask her to read me a story. To fetch something for me. Whether she would like me to scratch her back or give her a cuddle. To make me a (pretend) cup of tea. She is happy and attended to, I get a few minutes of respite. If all else fails, I send her and Mr Fork off on a daddy/daughter outing. This obviously does not suffice when he is back at work and I'm on my own though...

5. Connect with your partner. I totally get touched out on a daily basis. I have Jimmy on me all the time, and Ellie attached for a good part of each day and night too. I realise though, that poor Mr Fork needs attention also so I make a mammoth effort to snuggle with him, to chat about topics that aren't the children and to generally let him know that I appreciate all he does to help me. Even if he does get to peacefully snore while I'm up hourly with Jim each night... I acknowledge that he does bring me coffee and breakfast in bed, and he distracts Ellie so Jimmy sleeps peacefully while I get to eat it.

6. Take time for yourself. It's been hot in Brisbane lately. So hot. Jimmy is constantly snacking and cluster feeding, so there is definitely sweat, stale milk smell and a general feeling that I'm over having a babe attached at the end of each day. So when Mr Fork takes pity on me and pries James from my chest you better believe I bolt for the shower and lock the door before Ellie can follow. I leisurely wash my hair, scrub my face, shave my legs and because I'm a mum I scrub the shower too. It is seriously the best 5 touch free minutes of my life, and I emerge human, re-energised and enthusiastic once again, and ready to be reattached to the infant. Do something like that. Make a hot chocolate. Have tea. Go outside and walk around barefoot in the garden... just escape for a few minutes and take some me-time when the opportunity presents itself.

7. Babywear. Seriously. Sometimes, I just can't figure out what Jimmy wants. He is fed. His nappy is changed. He's been burped, he is not tired, but he just won't settle. Baby wearing to the rescue. He is just about 3 weeks old now and perfectly happy in both the ring sling and a wrap, as long as he is wrapped on mama.

Sakura bloom twilight ring sling gets the shopping done
I also think that it helps with his digestion (I mentioned his lip/tongue tie previously, well it makes him a little gassy and uncomfortable after a feed). In fact, in the interest of sharing, here's a picture of how I am writing this blog post, with Jimmy happily wrapped against me. He gets to snuggle, I get to move away from my room and get things done around the house. Win, win!

Didymos Inka in FWCC gets the blog post written
What are your tips for surviving life with a new born?


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