June 15th, 2012 by Baby Meals

Media, formal and social, is all in a lather today over a blog (called http://neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk/ ) by a 9 year old girl who has been taking pictures of her school dinners and rating them. Irrespective of the sheer ingenuity of this child, and how much her dad may have been involved, it’s the fact a child has been so moved by her school dinners that she’s been blogging about it.

My daughter started school last September and the school dinners have already been a bit of an issue. She is a fussy eater to be fair, but really some of the food served up at her school I certainly wouldn’t touch.  Yes they do seem to be more nutritionally balanced with some healthier options than when I was at primary school, some 25-30 years ago, but I was still surprised to discover thing like cake on the menu for pudding 4 out of 5 days a week. They also still serve pizza with chips and copious amounts of bread and butter. In fact, in one meal my daughter reported she ate pitta bread, bread and butter, pizza and chips followed by ice -cream. So for children who have this kind of stuff at home as well the outlook for their health and waistlines just isn’t great. I know it must be hard to provide healthy food for such little money, but there are loads of alternatives to different types of sponge cake and there doesn’t need to be chips with every meal surely? Pizza is carbs and protein all in one. Aside from the unhealthy nature of the food, it’s just a bit “yucky” (that’s the most polite term I’ve heard it described as). I remember pleading with my mum for packed lunches, which I wasn’t allowed until I could make my own (cue the violins). My daughter has already started pleading with me for the same. I just prefer it that she has a proper meal in the middle of the day, plus she’s in a school that provides free school meals so feel with should really make the most of anything we get back from the council.

I’m wondering if pupil power is the way forward now? Jamie Olive tried and failed, I’m sure there have been any number of complaints by parents over the years about school meals, so maybe it is now up to the kids? Maybe there should be a site that’s about rating your school meals so the schools with the worst can be named and shamed? I do believe on the Neverseconds other children have been posting pictures of their own school meals, so perhaps this is a start of something. I do love this story (so much better than the usual political and depressing news we’re subjected to most days), and I wonder if the school will improve their meals because of it?!

For great packed lunch ideas click here

July 13th, 2011 by Baby Meals

I’m a BBC Apprentice addict – every year I start watching the series and think “I probably won’t watch it all” and every year I get sucked in. This year might have been the first year I didn’t watch quite so avidly, because quite frankly, it’s been a little boring. There’s no one to really dislike, or laugh at, or cringe at… However, I have found myself developing a bit of a crush on the dashing young (well younger than me) inventor, Tom Pellereau. He’s just such a gentleman, he doesn’t like putting the boot in to anyone, and he’s a little eccentric, quite intelligent and he blushes. Or is this all part of the grand plan? Is he just a great actor? What can’t be acted is that he’s invented, or co-invented, some pretty nifty products. We at Baby Meals particularly like the Babisil, Silbottle – a BPA free, anti-colic bottle with a clever collapsible inner tube (check it out here). AND he co-designed these BPA free Mu feeding products which are super cool and we might just have to purchase one for the youngest, and messiest member of the Baby Meals family.

So if the lovely Tom doesn’t win the apprentice, we think he’s pretty damn cool and definitely Lord Sugars loss.

June 20th, 2011 by Baby Meals

This week (19th June to 26th June) is breast feeding awareness week and all across the country proud mothers are taking to the streets, the shopping centers, the parks, and showing that breast feeding is natural, it’s normal, it’s nothing to be scared of, or embarrassed about, and it’s proven to be the best start for our babies.

Everyone who’s had a baby and given breastfeeding a go has a breastfeeding story – well this is mine.

breastfeedingI come from a pretty liberal family so grew up with quite an open attitude towards my body. However, the changes it went through when I was pregnant sort of freaked me out. I struggled to look at myself in the mirror, or rather my growing belly, and where my breasts aren’t exactly small, I was quite embarrassed at how large they grew over 9 months. I loved the feel of my baby inside me, moving around, I just felt a little weird about my body becoming something else, having a different, very visible, purpose.  Even though I assumed I would always breast feed my babies (I remember as a young child trying to breast feed my dolls after my mother had my little brother), I couldn’t think about the reality of it. My boobs were my boobs, and I couldn’t imagine them in the mouth of a little baby. Thankfully, the beauty of pregnancy hormones is they sort of stop you from thinking about the reality of childbirth and after, too much, so managed to bury my head on the whole breast feeding thing.

And then,  after a 48 hour labour and an emergency C-section, out came my beautiful, if rather large, little girl, and it was the most natural thing to do to place her on my breast. I didn’t even think about it, I just did it, with my whole family standing round. I think about it now and actually, if I hadn’t been rather high on whatever it is they give you for the surgery, I may have felt a little awkward in front of my dad and brother particularly – just that first time, when I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Anyway, with a big baby comes a very hungry baby, and my little one had a huge appetite and a very strong suck. Within 24 hours my nipples were agony. Various midwives had checked my technique and her latch and all was good, but my god it hurt. By the time I was home every time she latched on my toes curled in on themselves and tears came to my eyes. Everyone said “when your milk comes in properly it will be better” – well by the time my milk came in my nipples where bleeding and I was crying every time I fed. Everyone I spoke to, midwives, helplines, or read, said  – if it hurts they’re not latched on properly. But the latch was fine. Then a wonderful midwife came by, about a week in, told me to get an expressing machine and give my boobs a 24 hour rest, gave me some amazing cream (Lansinoh nipple cream) and said it was all to do with my babies suck, it was so strong she was taking my nipple to the rough part of her pallet right at the back causing terrible chaffing.  Expressing did help (although still painful but much less than the actual breast feeding) and with the words of my ante-natal teacher in my head (”give it two weeks and you’ll see, it will be fine”), I broke through to day 15 and there was no pain, no chaffing, no blood, just sheer joy every-time I settled down for a feed with my gorgeous girl. And I never looked back. She was a very greedy baby so I got her into a 3 hour routine pretty quickly, and at around 4 months I did give her a bottle of formula in the evenings to help the sleep problems but I didn’t feel guilty about it or anything – why would I?

Guilt; that’s such an awful word and should be banned from the heads of any mother. I was lucky in the sense I had plenty of really rich, good milk to give, some mothers don’t have that and they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because they give up and move to bottle feeding. There’s nothing wrong with bottle feeding if it’s what works for you and your life and family then fine. I can understand why the thought of breast feeding might make people feel weird. I can understand the embarrassment over breast feeding in public – some people react in such a prudish, anal way to breast feeding mothers and we should ignore them but it’s hard to, especially if you’re not very comfortable exposing yourself. I just wish more women who can, give it a try. Not write  it off before the baby is even born, just try it once or twice and then make their decision. And for those who are struggling with pain, try the expressing, nipple cream routine and get those 2 weeks out of the way. It gets so much better and once established it so easy, and so satisfying. I miss the breast feeding days when they finish. I couldn’t wait to breast feed my second child and had no problems at all the second time around. And if I have a third I will look forward to those peaceful, blissful moments, that only women who have breastfed will understand.

See our 12 reasons to breastfeed here – and how to breastfeed here

June 2nd, 2011 by Baby Meals

We associate milk with providing us with the all important nutrient calcium. However it also supplies us with another essential mineral, particularly for girls, iodine. A little like folic acid, it’s during pregnancy that it’s most important, essential for the neurological development of the foetus. It’s been discovered recently that due to the low consumption of milk, teenage girls are highly deficient in iodine, putting their future foetus’s at risk. The results of the recent study (by the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust) show that we could be faced with up to 100,000 babies a year being intellectually handicapped due to iodine deficiency.  That’s a third of the babies born a year.

This is a really worrying figure, and it seems rather surprising and shocking for medical professionals who had thought that iodine levels in the UK population were adequate. In fact, 70% of teenage school girls are showing a mild deficiency.

Since the 1940s milk has been the primary source for iodine and due to farming methods giving milk a high iodine content, there’s never been a concern over iodine deficiency. However, the consumption of milk has been in decline since the 1980s, particularly in older age brackets, being viewed as something that just babies and young children drink.

The most vulnerable groups, pregnant and lactating women, are to be given supplements, but ideally, teenage girls particularly need to be encouraged to drink more milk and eat more dairy products. Milk needs to be made more appealing to older children if we’re going to prevent a 3rd of a generation of babies being faced with brain development problems.

April 19th, 2011 by Baby Meals

easterI had a conversation with my mother this morning and we were discussing Easter as we’re getting together for the day. She said something along the lines of “well obviously not too much of the chocolate stuff – I suppose for the kids if they get lots of eggs you’ll have to quickly hide them and eventually chuck them all away – it’s what we used to do with you”.  Yes mum, it is what you used to do, so chocolate and sweets became a huge temptation for us and when I was allowed to go out by myself with my pocket money at 8/9 years old I started catching up on all the chocolate I missed out on to the point that I became a miserable chubby teenager.

Of course it’s not good for children to stuff themselves with chocolate and sweets during Easter or at anytime, but there’s definitely a happy medium, teaching them that sweet goodies are treats and not the norm, but definitely something to enjoy once in a while.

But of course Easter isn’t just about chocolate, although the retailers would have us believe otherwise. Easter is actually a great excuse to do and make all sorts of things. And not forgetting that Easter is actually a religious festival which might be worth explaining to children even if you’re not religious or of another faith.

Easter activities

  • Get outside – Easter marks the beginning of new life and of spring. It’s a perfect time to get out into the country side and enjoy the flowers and wildlife. There are farms everywhere now open to the public and children love to watch young lambs being fed or playing with their brothers and sisters. And if you live in the city there are plenty of city farms and parks to enjoy in the spring sunshine.
  • Get creative – Easter is a great excuse for getting out the coloured card and paint and start creating large cardboard flowers with a straw stalk; papier mache Easter egg boxes to fill with goodies; painted/decorated hanging eggs; Easter cards; Easter table decorations; cotton wool chicks and bunnies; Easter baskets for filling with chocolate AND healthy snacks like fruit bars, mini boxes of raisins/dried fruit, cereal bars/flap jacks or even little toys.
  • Get cooking – Easter isn’t just about the chocolate eggs (which you can of course make yourself but whats the point?). There are all kinds of other things to bake with your little one. Easter nests containing chocolate eggs or fluffy chicks. Easter biscuits (see Kirstie Allsop explaining how to make some here). Simnel cake. Whole grain Easter bunnies (see Zoe Ball make these here). And if you’re feeling really adventurous, don’t forget the hot cross buns. You can also dye the breakfast boiled eggs by dropping your egg into the boiling water containing a few drops of food colouring.
  • Get active – Did you ever chase a hard boiled egg down a hill as a child? No? Well don’t let your children miss out on this really fun Easter Monday tradition of egg rolling. Take your Easter egg hunt into a large open space so the kids have to run around a lot to find the goodies, and maybe make it a race against the clock. Or if you’re lucky enough to have a big house hide the treats over as much of it as possible. And you can do other egg related outdoor games, like the good old egg and spoon race.

Who knew there was quite so much to Easter??

April 6th, 2011 by Baby Meals

I’ve decided to go back to college to give myself a new career once the kids are in full time school and to pay for what’s going to be a very expensive higher education when the time comes. But deciding what to study wasn’t easy. I’m about to be the wrong side of 35 and it’s a big time and money investment so it has to be the right thing that will give me earning power, and lots of job satisfaction for the next 20 or so years.

My passions are kids, cooking, nutrition and what makes people tick (oh dear, that sounds like I’m looking for a date…). I’d love to be a midwife but I’d have to train as a nurse first and I’m way too squeamish to do that (weirdly I can deal with anything to do with giving birth, but take the baby aspect out of the equation and I’m more likely going to end up with my head between my knees).  And what about a health visitor? Supporting new mums would be a great job for me… oh, you have to have been a midwife first. Seems strange but true. Could be a chef, but there seems to be a lot of budding “mum” chefs out there at the moment and just because my fella, friends and family like my food, doesn’t mean the general public will. Plus a hot and stressful restaurant kitchen isn’t my nice friendly home kitchen so not sure I could take that kind of pressure. So nutrition seemed like an obvious option given this website and the knowledge I’ve already built up and I really want to get behind cutting childhood obesity and being a nutritionist or dietitian would help me get closer to the problem.

Or will it? I started thinking about what makes people eat lots of junk food, and feed their kids junk food, and let their weight spiral out of control despite endless health warnings, guidance, advice on healthy eating etc. I don’t think it’s just ignorance and lack of education. Yes you can ignore the advice, not read the information out there, but why do that? Even if you don’t love yourself, you love your child right? You want them to be happy and healthy no? Plus I see well educated mums every day giving their children bags of crisps and endless chocolate snacks, and then say “Oh they’re just not interested in eating meals” or “they’re ill again” or “they’re just too tired to come out”. And they just can’t or won’t make that link. Laziness? Stubborn? (No ones going to tell me how to treat my kids!) Or just incredibly blinkered?

Ultimately children learn from their parents, and if parents have unhealthy eating habits, whether it’s over feeding or obsessively trying to lose weight and underfeeding, the children will pick up on that. And a skinny little child with a skinny mum almost upsets me as much as an overweight child with and overweight mum.

Of course nutrition plays a huge role in tackling the obesity problems, and actually the rising anorexia problem in teenagers, but it’s the psychology behind it all that needs help and understanding, and is by far the most fascinating part. So after A LOT of umming and erring, I’ve enrolled to do a psychology degree, with the aim of eventually being a child and family psychologist with a speciality in nutrition and health. And also post natal depression since it’s still so poorly dealt with.

Having said all that, after an introduction to criminal psychology, I might decide to become the next Cracker, or probably more like Miss Marple, since it will take me that long to become fully qualified.

February 22nd, 2011 by Baby Meals

A new guide has been published aimed at parents wanting to take their young children out to restaurants. Harden’s Eating Out With Babies And Toddlers, by Peter Harden, aims to help families take the stress out of dining out with they’re young kids, and gives guidance on the most child friendly places etc.

The guide was discussed in an article on the BBC website and it implied that eating out with young kids can be a more stressful than enjoyable experience, whether it’s trying not to annoy fellow diners who might be childless, or trying to keep your children quiet. I can see what the article was getting at, and there are definitely places I wouldn’t take my kids, but I can’t say that I’ve ever felt uncomfortable or stressed out in any “eatery” I’ve taken my children to, and we don’t just stick with the “safe” child friendly options either.We enjoy going out for meals and the only thing I’ve worried about is if there will be appropriate food on the menu.

Generally if a pub or restaurant has a complicated menu (ie snail porridge…) and no high chairs, we don’t go. Mainly because it will be too difficult trying to find something on the menu for the kids to eat. The thought that we might disturb childless groups rarely enters our head. Not because we’re selfish, just because we’ve taught our kids to sit at tables and not disturb others. Of course they want to get up and walk around, but generally this is supervised by one of us and if there is an inkling of loud, boisterous behaviour we take them outside. And I always take some [quiet] entertainment for them. I hate to sound clichéd but my mother was bought up partly in France and we as a family have quite a “European” attitude to children, so causing chaos in an adult environment just isn’t accepted. I don’t want my kids to disturb or annoy other people, whether their childless or not. I get a sense of pride when people tell me they’re well behaved etc. And I like to think I can take them anywhere. Of course they have “off” days when they just don’t want to listen or behave, and on those days I’ll definitely go for the “safe” options.

As well as the high chair and menu “test”, it’s also good to judge the reaction of the staff when you enter an eatery with your children, if they look disdainful and start looking for a table in a dark corner to hide you in, then you’re probably not going to have a very enjoyable meal. And I do get a little annoyed that all children get tarred with the same brush. Not all children are rowdy and shout and scream, and are allowed to do this.

I do see a point to a guide to eating out with kids – especially as I think there are some parents who are too scared to take their kids out in case they misbehave, and it’s so important to have some kind of social life, with and without the children. And it’s great for kids to sample different environments and cuisines. But I do think an awful lot of it, as with most parenting, comes down to common sense. Ask restaurants when you book if kids are welcome, and give them a chance to put you away from couples dining out. Look for the “child friendly” signs. But also teach your children about the way to behave in certain places. It really isn’t hard, and it doesn’t mean you’re “stifling” creativity and development. Kids need guidance just like parents do. In fact, maybe someone should do an illustrated story book about how to eat out, as a toddler, with your parents!? Well behaved children are welcome anywhere.

Click here to read the article and see the top 11 “safe” places to eat with  your kids.

February 18th, 2011 by Baby Meals

Slightly off the subject of food, I’ve had an experience recently which has made me more aware than ever about the lack of control I have over my childrens’ future, over protecting them from pain and hard times, and it makes my insides turn over.

In November last year I was walking over a local high bridge with my kids, and a man chose, at that moment, to jump off the bridge, to his death. It was the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen and the image of him launching himself off will stay with me forever. The reality of death is around us every day and most of us have witnessed an accident where someone may have died, and have certainly had someone close to us die of illness, old age or other. But seeing someone choose to die, to take their own life, say goodbye to the world, is really hard to understand. I’ve suffered from depression, and had particularly dark times after my second child was born so know the feelings of despair, but to actually end it all? It’s incomprehensible. Or course I had no idea what had happened in his life, what kind of mental problems he may have had. This was a stranger who, if I hadn’t stopped to open my daughters umbrella and put the rain cover on the buggy, I wouldn’t have ever seen and never heard of. Just another sad suicide off Suicide Bridge.

The policewoman who took my statement was great. She was first on the scene at the bottom of the bridge and I’m very glad I didn’t see that. Anyway I asked her what she knew about him and she said that she would give me details but actually maybe I shouldn’t know too much, making it easier to remain distant from it. She told me he was 33, had a dad who lived locally, and suffered from schizophrenia. She was right, that was all I needed to know. I gave my statement and avoided the bridge as best I could.

In January, however, I received a summons to appear before the coroner at his inquest, as I was the only witness to him jumping (although several people saw him land, onto a busy road). I felt sick, suddenly he was to become a real person, with a family, a past, a tragic life. I had actually seen his name in an article about the recent spate of suicides off the bridge, and knew he had left behind a son and ex-wife.

The inquest was the beginning of this week and although it was brief and my part even briefer, I now have another image to add to that of him jumping – his mother breaking down in tears as I described how he died. His past was spattered with drug use, mental health problems, assault charges, and failed visitation rights hearings for his son – it was one of these failed hearings that pushed him, literally, over the edge. But looking at his parents, listening to his mother talk, I knew that once she had a little boy, who she had hopes and dreams for, who she clothed and fed and loved and brought up to the best of her ability. She couldn’t have done anything to stop him from becoming mentally ill, from taking drugs, from eventually taking his own life. That was out of her control and that is what shook me to the core.

Huge fears are part of being a mother, but we try and lock them away at the far backs of our minds. Serious illness, accidents, pain and heartache. We want so much to protect our children from all the bad things in the world. We can’t wrap them up in cotton wool, keep them locked away from the world. We CAN only do our best and hope and pray that there’s a bit of luck on their side, and with as much guidance as we can give, let them live their lives. My heart aches for all those mothers (and fathers) who have lost their children in whatever tragic circumstances. And I do wonder about the thoughts that have gone through the mother of the suicide man. Does she blame herself? I hope not. Because sometimes, being a good mum just isn’t enough.

February 8th, 2011 by Baby Meals

We know that giving our children healthy food from an early age is vital for physical health but Research from Bristol University now shows that a healthy diet in the very early years can lead to a higher IQ later on.

At the ages of 3, 4, 7 and 8.5, the eating habits of 3966 children were recorded. It was found that those who had a diet of processed food, high in fat and sugar when they were 3, had a slightly lower IQ at the age of 8 than those who had healthier diets (high in veg and fruit) when they were 3. This was even after social class and parents level of education were taken into consideration. The research suggests that even at an early age, eating habits can have a long term impact, and not just on physical health and weight.

It’s common sense really – we know some nutrients are better for brain development, most of which are present in fruit, veg, grains and fish, and if a child rarely eats this type of food, when they’re at their most rapid growth, then it’s very possible they won’t reach their potential.

It makes me really sad that parents choose to ignore all the advice and evidence that’s out there about healthy eating, and still feed their children crap. And what’s depressing is that scientists, The British Dietetic Association, the government, can spend more and more money on this kind of research and it probably won’t change anything. The parents who care enough about their childrens health and future to make an effort to feed them well, don’t need this kind of research. So is there any point? Or course there needs to be more education about it but as the old saying goes “you can drag and bull to water but you can’t make it drink”. Or something like that.

Click here to read the full article

I quite liked the sound of the other research that came out recently – about chocolate containing a higher concentration of antioxidants than many fruit! Chocolate healthier than fruit? Fab – well, as long as  you eat that really bitter stuff with 90% cocoa solid content that is.

January 19th, 2011 by Baby Meals

I found an article in the Sunday Times that made me feel a little sad and hopeless. Well to be fair, most articles I read in the press these days make me feel a little sad and hopeless but this one particularly so because it’s about parents and how they treat their children, or rather how they feed them, and, unlike some of the other problems we face in this world, it shouldn’t be so hard and so hopeless.

We are all aware that there’s a rising obesity problem in this country (and most of the western world for that matter) not only in adults but in children as well. But there’s also been a shocking rise in babies under one found to be over-weight and even obese. The article says that doctors would expect about 2% of babies under one to be above the 98th percentile on the WHO weight charts, but they’re actually finding nearly 6.1% of babies are in this category. Dr Charlotte Wright of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health says that too many British babies are overweight before the age of one. She goes on to say that not only is this problem caused by babies being fed too much formula milk to help them sleep through the night, but also too many babies are being weaned onto adult food, high in fat, salt and sugar. And this isn’t just a problem of lower income social groups, it’s widespread with middle-class families feeding fromage frais to their babies in the middle of the night. Why??

Apparently Health Visitors training has been adapted to deal with this problem, whereby previously they focused on  babies who were struggling to gain weight, they’re new focus is on babies who are gaining too much weight, too quickly. Health Visitors say that some parents are feeding their babies left over Chinese takeaways and pureed chips.

With so much publicity everywhere about the dangers of unhealthy eating, and the problems obese children face throughout their lives, it’s a wonder that parents are still disregarding advice and feeding their babies all the wrong things. And it’s not just about lack of education or money, with the middle classes being just as guilty. I wonder if new methods of weaning,  such as Baby Led Weaning, could be contributing to this? Many parents I’ve spoken to who weaned their babies using BLW said they usually fed them off their own plates. But that’s adult food, higher in fat, salt and sugar than babies should probably be having.

Both my babies were really good eaters – I struggled to keep their weight down – but it never occured to me to feed them anything but good, healthy food in the right quantities for their age. And certainly no fromage frais in the middle of the night, no matter how badly they were sleeping.

The article concludes that many parents are also weaning far too early, before 17 weeks (4 months) and if it’s onto pureed chips the poor little things don’t have much of a chance do they?

There are so many reports about parenting at the moment, it’s hard not to feel like we’re constantly in the spotlight, being judged. To be honest I don’t really care what people think of me as a parent. Yes I probably let my children watch too much telly, and of course I do have times when I can’t cope and lose my rag and raise my voice a bit (alot). But I know that ultimately I do the best I can, and I’m trying to give them the best, healthiest start in life. I’m trying to teach them right from wrong but at the same time trying to let them express themselves. I’m by no means perfect and I don’t pretend to be, or try to be.

Weaning and feeding your babies the wrong kind of food and letting them become overweight at such an early age (or any age for that matter) is not good parenting in any way. It’s not a lack of love, perhaps it’s too much love? Perhaps it’s just a lack of time? A lack of energy? A lack of education? Just sheer laziness? But ultimately it has to stop or we’re heading into a health crisis. But how does it stop, I really don’t know. And that’s why I feel hopeless. There are many parents who just don’t want to listen and see advice as being lectured to, or told how to be parents.

With all the depressing stories in the press that we can’t do anything about, this should be one we can do something about. So why is it so difficult to get the healthy eating message across? I really, really don’t understand. At the end of the day the people who read sites like mine, do care about what their babies are eating and probably aren’t the type to feed them Chinese takeaway of pureed chips. Am at a bit of a loss on this one. If Jamie Oliver can’t make people listen, how can I?

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