Mess-Free Baby Weaning

I weaned Austin onto solid food when he was 5 and a half months old. He wasn’t yet sitting up without support so feeding him could be a messy job – here’s a video of his first taste of avocado, which we will call Exhibit A.

 

At the start, we fed him in his bouncy chair or just in our arms. That led to stains that had to be soaked out in every wash. Have I ever mentioned that I hate cleaning?

I do – but I also hate to see the house looking dirty so I find mess-free alternatives for almost everything. Here are some of the things I did to cut cleaning time while Austin learned to eat:

Start with a Bumbo-style seat

I found these little seats brilliant when he couldn’t support himself. He could splash and blow his food on it and all I had to do was wipe it down or tip it into the sink if there were a load of crumbs.

The public health nurse advised that I should have placed it on the floor for safety but I kept mine on the table because I found trying to feed him at ground level impossible with the dog.

However, if you are using a Bumbo style seat at a height you really do need to keep an eye on them as the baby grows because they can be moved if the baby’s feet push off the surface it’s sitting on.

Fooooooood!!!!!

 

Cover the baby completely during meals

I found all bibs were laughably small when weaning Austin. His clothes were constantly covered in food and everything had to be soaked or thrown out.

To reduce laundry, I tied a muslin loosely around his neck and pulled the sides back over his shoulders. You can use pegs to hold it in place of you need. Once I rolled his sleeves up, only the cloth needed washing.

When he got older I bought the IKEA jacket bib which I found brilliant for food and messy creative play.

Start with shallow spoons

If you have a spoon with a little trough in it you might find that half the food drops off at each bite. Use a shallow spoon and take your time with it. Baby is only learning so incy-wincy bits are all that’s needed at the start. This results in much less droppage to clean up. Score!

Ban cushioned highchairs from your home

We got a loan of a cushioned Mothercare highchair from my brother when Austin was big enough  but I found it really difficult to clean. Maybe I’m a little germaphobic (even though I hate cleaning!) but I pulled it apart every night for a week. I bleached the straps and pulled off the cushion to scrub away the dirt that accumulated in the crevices. Then I dried it and put it back together again. The whole process seemed to take forever so I could only really do it once a day after his dinner.

On day three I called Dave and told him I was going to IKEA. There would be no talk of budget or waiting for one to come up on Adverts.ie.

This conversation is over.

Go for a hardwood or moulded plastic highchair

go ahead, drop all your lunch!!

Here’s a  short review of the IKEA Blames Highchair we bought for Austin.

Pros

  1. I can wipe it clean in less than a minute after breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  2. It’s a lovely red colour that brightens up my pale-ass neutral kitchen (It comes in Black too).
  3. It’s small enough to fit where a normal chair would against my kitchen table.
  4. The legs holes are big enough to fit a two year old if you remove the tray and pull it against your table so it will last a while.
  5. It’s kinda funky and hipster in design.
  6. It only cost 55 euro so it wasn’t crazy money. (It also helps if Nana buys it as a present!)

Cons

  1. It’s a hard wooden chair so you have to buy a cushion to pop between it and the baby’s back.
  2. If you try to put a cushion under the baby’s bum, they tend to slip and cause the baby to tilt forward.
  3. You cannot fold it away like most of the cushioned chairs so you will need to remove a chair from your table.

I see the last Con as a Pro really because I am lazy and could not be bothered putting a highchair away after every meal.

Austin is nine months at the time of writing this and only learning finger foods and self-feeding at this point. I’ll update with any more mess reducing tips as he gets older…

I hope you find this advice useful and if you have any mess-reducing tips you’d like to share, this lazy mama would love to hear them!!!

What the first day back at work after maternity is really like. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m lucky. I have a good job with paid maternity and I have spent 8 months with my gorgeous little boy. But going back to work after having a baby is hard, no matter what your circumstances.

Here is what I have found to be the Pro’s and Con’s of Day 1 – Back in the Office:

Con’s

  1. You will cry. Bring extra make up and avoid mascara unless it’s seriously waterproof. If possible, have daddy drop the baby into childcare. I found Austin settled better that way and I cried a little less hard on the drive to work.
  2. Seriously… you will want to cry a lot. Try to really focus on getting back up to speed and keep your mind off the baby. It also helps to tighten your belly muscles when you feel like you might burst into tears – weird tip, I know, but it really does work… mostly.
  3. You will forget something – passwords, cabinet keys, co-workers names or in my extreme and mortifying case, laptop. Laugh it off and work around it as best you can.
  4. Everything will feel familiar but different. I wasn’t sure if I left yesterday or just dreamed my ten years in the company. Ride it out and ask as many questions as you need to. People will surprise you in their helpfulness.
  5. Everyone will want to know about the baby and how you are finding it being back. Which will make you want to cry. See points 1 and 2 above.

Pro’s

  1. You will find that there are nice things about being back – this might surprise you and make you feel a bit guilty about liking anything about being away from the baby but focus on those things and they will help you get through the afternoon.
  2. Warm coffee – really warm, not lukewarm. And no one screams for attention or pulls your hair in the middle of it. Enjoy.
  3. Catching up. If you’re lucky you will have co-workers that you love to talk to and hear how they’ve got on. Go ahead and distract them but do try to be considerate.
  4. You will find that you remember more than you thought you would. This is encouraging and will go some way to making you feel like you can be productive again soon.
  5. Lunch break – admittedly you might use a few minutes to call and check up on baby, but the rest is yours. Bring a book or a magazine if you’d rather not talk and do your very best to make it Mama Time. I am hoping this becomes a new habit.

To be really honest, I found the evening hardest. In a blink, it was Austin’s bedtime and I was devastated that I didn’t have more time with him. Make sure that you are prepared the night before and have a little plan to do something together so it feels special. Today we played blocks and I didn’t think it wasn’t fun enough so tomorrow I’m planning on yoghurt painting!

I’d love to hear how other moms coped with the first few days back in the office after maternity leave so please do share your experiences and tips in the comments below…

Mom-Guilt vs IKEA (Mom-Guilt Wins) 

Earlier today Austin went to the childminder for three hours. It was the longest we have been apart since he was born (while he was awake, at least).

How could anyone not wanna spend all day with this little cutie?
How could anyone *not* wanna spend all day with this little cutie?
Dave is dropping him off in the mornings to save my colleagues dealing with a splotchy, teary mess first thing in their working day.

I am ashamed to say, I never thought about it being hard for him to do the drop-off (my good-wife days are over!) but he found it really tough to leave Austin there.

Rather than spend the childminding time buying lotto tickets so we could afford for me to stay home, we decided to use the three hours to make a run out to IKEA and pick up a replacement lovey for Austin and maybe some baby-proofing gadgets.

 

This one is his favourite
 
This is the haul we came back with.

 

We bought EVERYTHING
We just kept buying things. It was like we couldn’t stop. They had sold out of his favourite toy (sob!) so “He’ll like this” became a mantra we kept repeating on every aisle. Usually, Dave stops me from overspending in IKEA, Penny’s and Heatons (anywhere relatively inexpensive is toxic for my wallet!) but, today, he was just as bad – Dad-Guilt.

When we went to pick Austin up, his voice was hoarse from crying and suddenly I didn’t care that parent-guilt had bested us in IKEA. We gave him his new toys and I felt just a little better seeing a small smile on a splotchy, teary face.

 

New Stuff!!!
Batch Cooking, Cheap Batch Cooking, Cheap Weekly Meals, Aldi

The Monthly Batch Cooking Freezer Meals for 50 Euro – Part 1

I love to cook – yes, even batch cooking. Really, I find it relaxing and satisfying – especially if I have lots of time to prepare and clean the kitchen as I go. I’m not amazing at it (my older brother puts me to shame every time with his Michelin star creations) but Dave has been known fake an argument so I get stressed and start to bake… 🙂

However, when I return to work, I won’t want to cook a dinner in the precious two hours I have with Austin before his bedtime. To prevent meal prep taking much time, I created the following list of batch cooking dinners, just for me and Dave, that can be made and frozen in advance. The prep time for each dish is about a half hour so they can be done at nap-time, on the weekends or during Peppa Pig, if needs be!

For a bit of variety, I created two weeks worth of meals and made doubles of each so I have a months worth of food in the house. Each double week of meals cost only 50 Euro in Aldi so this can be used if you are trying batch cooking from a tight budget and don’t want to spend a million hours working our whats for dinner! I also had a ten euro voucher which was inexplicably satisfying to use.

I’ve split this post into two parts as you would not want to cook the two weeks together on the same day – it would get a bit confusing and messy (or is that just me?)

Here is what’s on the batch cooking menu (and yes, the pizza night is a take-away night – I swear I am starting a diet soon!):

Week 1

Monday – Lasanga
Tuesday – Chicken Curry
Wednesday – Salmon Fishcakes with Sweet Potato Chips
Thursday – Pulled Pork Baps
Friday – Pizza
Saturday – Chicken and Chorizo Potato Bake
Sunday – Fish and Veggie Pie

Week 2

Monday – Meatball Subs
Tuesday – Chicken Enchiladas
Wednesday – Seafood Chowder
Thursday – Chicken and Veggie Pie
Friday – Pizza
Saturday – Chilli
Sunday – Ham and Roast Potatoes

If you’d like to give this a go, I have attached the recipes for Week 1 plus a shopping list that is set out, pretty conveniently, in the order which they appear on Aldi shelves (you can thank me after this saves you twenty minutes in the shop0 🙂

Week two will be coming shortly.

I really hope you find this useful!

This is my first post that holds a printable (and my first time writing recipes) so please let me know if there are any errors so I can correct them.

Also, if you have any other yummy dinners that can be made quickly in advance, please do share in the comments below!

Shopping List for Week 1 Freezer Meals

Week 1 Freezer Meal Recipes

Preparing for Returning to Work after Maternity

Before I had Austin, I spent weeks preparing for his arrival. I researched the best products to buy and spent hours decorating his room. Dave even built him a wardrobe!

Dave looking super-manly as he DIY's the crap out of Austin's room
Dave looking super manly in his work gear

Back then, I found a million posts about preparing for a baby – getting your home ready, steeling yourself for birth and living with a newborn. Every topic you could imagine was out there waiting for me to read it. But now that my maternity leave is ending and I am heading back to work I have found myself unwilling to even think about preparing.

The most that I have done is to finally sort out childcare that I am reasonably comfortable with.

But, having spoken to a few other parents about returning to work, it sounds like just as much preparation, if not more, is required. People have told me that I will be exhausted for the first few weeks and that it will take time to adjust and develop a new routine. Several of my close friends have warned me that leaving Austin with the childminder will be the hardest thing I will ever have to do.

This is about how comfortable I am with leaving my kid!
This is about how comfortable I am with leaving my small baby with someone I don’t know…

So for the next week or two I will be focusing on making this transition a little easier.

First up will be making a good few weeks worth of freezer meals so I don’t have to spend time cooking in the evenings or give up precious weekend time for a big shop. I will organise Austin’s room, including clothes, toys and creams, so that they are easy to find in the mornings. I’ll also be interviewing some working mothers to see how they managed their return to work and I’ll look further into the pro’s and cons of Au Pairs, Childminders and Creches.

In the interest of helping others, I’ll be sharing my findings here so I hope you find this series useful.

As always, if you’d like to leave any tips that you found worked well or just share your experience, please comment!

Reducing Household Toxins with Eco Mutt Natural Dog Shampoo

My little fella has severe eczema and keeping it under control can be a handful. To reduce break-outs, I’ve changed many household products to more natural and organic ones so he won’t regularly encounter harsh chemicals (that’s probably a good idea for all babies, regardless of skin conditions). I’ve even changed my own skin care and detergents to avoid contact rashes.

One thing I had not considered was our dog. When I read the ingredients on Gizmo’s shampoo, there was only one I could understand. I decided to try something different because Austin loves to pet Gizzy’s fur and they often sit together while supervised. Here’s a cute video of their typical “play”.

Eco Mutt, a local artisan company that makes natural grooming products for dogs, sent me a sample of their Rosemary, Lavender and Mandarin Dog Shampoo for review and to say I adored it is a huge understatement.

Eco Mutt Dog Shampoo Range

Firstly, there are six lovely ingredients, including Coconut Oil which is actually recommended for eczema sufferers.

Secondly, the smell was AMAZING. The essential oils aren’t overpowering but I could not stop sniffing her fur that night as we watched a movie on the couch!

Finally, it worked – really well. Check out the dirty paws in this photo!

Filthy!
I’m so dirty I’m gonna shake my head every time you try to photograph me!

Gizzy scrubbed up brilliantly and there was none of the usual face-rubbing after her bath so I think she loves it too.

Yummy!
Yummy!

The company itself is a small family run operation in South Dublin and they have a real passion for dogs. You can read about Jerry the Springer’s adventures and reviews of their products on their Facebook page. How fun is that?

This particular shampoo was one of their more expensive products at 12 euro but there is a range of products to choose from starting at just 2 euro so there is something for every budget. I’ll be buying the same shampoo again though. Because you don’t need much of it per wash, it will last – and, to be honest, I just loved the scent!

So if you have a smallie or two and want to reduce the harsher chemicals in your home while treating your pooch to a lovely bath, I highly recommend this brand!

 

Clean as a whistle and allowed on the couch!
Clean as a whistle and allowed on the couch!

PS. I am SO tempted to use this shampoo on my own hair – it felt nicer than my own and isn’t that how another brand got famous? I’ll update if I try it!

 

Disclaimer: I was given a bottle of Eco Mutt Dog Shampoo in exchange for an honest review and the company owner is known to me personally. These are my own personal thoughts on the product and the medical information related to eczema, while researched, should not be considered professional.

Glenroe Farm (maybe Austin’s a bit too young but I loved it!)

Biddy's cottage, apparently, for anyone who remembers the show.
Biddy’s cottage, apparently, for anyone who remembers the show.

Today was cloudy and a bit drizzly. Yesterday was the same and we spent the day snuggled indoors, only venturing out to walk the dog. I love those lazy days inside – sneaky movies, a bit of cooking (more on that this week) and lots of learning to crawl and pick things up with this elusive pincer grasp I keep reading about.

But we had enough of the house today and decided to head out to Glenroe farm for an hour or two of fun before nap-time. Because it was a bit chilly, I wrapped Austin up in his warmest hoody and double-socked him so he couldn’t kick them off (literally his favourite thing to do!).

 

No Factor on the baby so of course it blasted sunshine while we were there!
No Factor on the baby so of course it blasted sunshine while we were there!

Glenroe is a farm in County Wicklow that was the set of an Irish soap opera some years ago. I only have vague memories of the show but the farm itself is just gorgeous. There is a small shed for the littlest animals; bunnies and chickens and even a little field-mouse that didn’t make me want to scream and run away. (Believe me, when you find one eating the dog food in your kitchen, they are significantly less adorable).

Austin having a staring match with a chicken on our last visit.
Austin having a staring match with a chicken on our last visit.

There are two area’s for the larger animals and a huge pen for some beautiful deer that Austin absolutely loved…

Huh? Who's Bambi?
Huh? Who’s Bambi?

Once you have seen all the animals and tried to sneak them old fridge carrots on the sly (don’t tell on me!) there is a massive playground with a huge array of different slides and swings and monkey bars. Austin can only use one of the little bucket swings at the moment but I really can’t wait to see him running around the place with the other kids when he gets a little older.

After the playground we had lunch at one of the twelve or so picnic tables, which was perfect because it suddenly brightened up so we felt like we were on holidays for our spagbol and fromage frais. Then we went back around the pens again so Austin could have a chat with the donkeys and Mama could nearly pee herself laughing as they actually brayed at each other!

Give me Carrots! No! You give ME carrots!
Give me Carrots! No! You give ME carrots!

Just before nap time we got a yummy latte to-go in the Glenroe cafe, which was a lovely little shop that, crucially, only charged 2.50eu for a frothy coffee instead of the fiver I pay at Starbucks.

As this is only around the corner from where I live, I’ll be heading here often in the future. If you’re a little further away, it’s still well worth the trip for a lovely family day out, especially if you’re on a budget. Entry is 6eu for anyone over two and a family ticket will set you back 22eu. Here’s a link to their website if you’d like to take a look.

I’m still finding my feet in terms of lovely places to take Austin while he grows up so if you know of other good days out in Wicklow and South Dublin, I love to hear your comments.

PS. This is not a sponsored post – we just really liked it and thought we’d share!

On How it All Goes Too Fast

Everybody told me. I was fore-warned every day of my pregnancy. Maybe that was the problem –  I already knew those baby days would be over in a flash.

Day three and terrified to cut off the hospital tag!
Day three and terrified to cut off the hospital tag

Two minutes ago he was born, to the sound of my Monday morning iPhone alarm bells and a room full of laughter, a digital age baby. His first strangled, short cry was the most amazing sound I had ever heard in my whole life.

Day Two he got the hiccups, like he’d had every day for three months against my ribs and I videoed him for his Daddy – our first Bauer “in joke”.

 

Today, he frowned at me and said “Dadadada” when I took his toy off him at lunch. He may as well have called out,

“Give that back to me, woman!” His intent was that clear. And that’s when I noticed that he could talk to me. He could process what was happening and express his displeasure about it, coherently.

How did that happen? How is the time passing and constantly catching me off-guard? Where the hell did those seven months go?

I know I didn’t miss it. I was right here, smiling and teary for almost every second. I recorded half those seconds for Dave while he was working, texting like spam every time Austin did something remotely different.

How was I not more prepared, when everyone had warned me about it?

He’s not a tiny newborn anymore. He is a small baby now and I am shocked and, I’ll admit it, scared. In another minute he’ll be at school and then college and I’ll wonder where it all went.

  

Majoring in digging

Everybody tells me that’s the way of it and part of me wishes I could throw things at them and make it all stop. Then I’d have all my days with him just like this – pick-up-able and sleeping through and full of half laughs and half cries and hard-won giggles.

But the moral is – it does go so fast. And no matter how many times you are told it you will never, ever be prepared for the change of clothes size or the first pack-up of baby toys or, I suppose, college.

It will always be too fast.

All you can do is video the hiccup and take as many photo’s as your iPhone allows. Print them. Go to the park. Lie in bed and play peekaboo in the sheets. Play as many baby games as you can find on Pinterest. Don’t hide the tears when you pack away their too-small clothes and you go right ahead and spam people with their insignificant, wonderful updates.
So, for all the mom’s of Day Two babies – Don’t be afraid.  Fast is amazing too and there are so many more awesome moments to come.

uh-oh, yer one is getting alll emotional again…