Tag Archive | "motherhood"

About Grandparents

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About Grandparents

Posted on 07 September 2015 by Kristrun

Most of us were lucky enough to grow up in a loving family and environment.  Most of us have parents that we love and who love us back.  As mentioned in my last blog, parents can be helpful, and also unhelpful, when it comes to the first days with a new baby, partly because when they were raising their children, the environment and advice was very different to now.

It is hard for parents to abandon their beliefs and habits and they do not always understand the way our generation does things as parents – all the access to courses and information, how we research and investigate before we do anything.

In fact, our parents are often of the belief that despite it being great to be able to get support from the internet and our friends, the overflow of the same is only making our lives more confusing and frustrating. Taking away the independence and “get on with it” parenting.

Of course, we all know this and probably agree to a point, but we cannot go back in time.  And to be honest, there are so many things from the past that we are grateful to not have to go through. I am not even going to start the list of comparison.

What I wanted to remind us all of was that grandparents, despite their perhaps different opinions and other difficulties (the typical MIL issue), are not something we should take for granted.

The day will come, and has already come for some, that the grandparents will say goodbye for good. There will be no more remarks or comments, no more unrealistic demands or opinions, no more decisions on how to split the holidays etc. 

And in my opinion, to have grandparents in my children’s lives, is such a treasure.  They add such tremendous value and richness into the lives of those kids – they teach them so much by just being there.  By their manners, their personalities, the way they speak, think, the things they have gone through in life, their way of handling situations, money, travels, how they hold books when they read and how they patiently cut the food for the children.  How they have time, and make time, and quietly teach them without teaching them.

Everything about the grandparents is different and not easily emulated by those of a younger generation.  It is something that comes from living through the times they lived through, growing up amongst larger families and more generations of people under the same roof. Having gone through the times where money, electricity, heat, access to all sorts of products and services was limited, travel was not an option so easily and more and more.

If we grew up in a loving household where our parents were kind to us and did their best, our parents deserve, however annoying they may sometimes be (I mean this in a humorous way), that we treat them with dignity and kindness back. Perhaps they can sometimes just have their way with the kids, without us getting annoyed.  Perhaps it will not do any harm to our children.  And perhaps, we need sometimes to slow down and remember to enjoy all the moments that we have with our own parents too. 

Every year I try and “let go“ of my kids for a few weeks and they grow up in the arms of their grandparents. I try and let them not be guests in the homes of their grandparents, but rather to live with them. I am lucky, as the grandparents have health and the willingness to offer and welcome this.  They get something out of it too, of course.  But it is not something I take for granted. 

 

Of things in life that my children have, I rate this amongst the highest of all things.

 

Hulda 2015

 

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About support

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About support

Posted on 28 August 2015 by Kristrun

hthorey

Most of us have many loving family members and friends that surround us when we have a  baby. Even if we are living away from home, often our nearest and dearest will come to visit to offer their help and support and of course many others want to feel involved and offer advice. I remember it being so nice when the extended family offered to help and even just spend some time at home with us and the new baby, once some time had passed and we were getting used to this new reality. Luckily for most new parents, the support is genuine and needed.

Last month, I was seeing a woman at home to help her with breastfeeding.  She was having a hard time adjusting her sleep to the baby and breastfeeding was more tiresome than she had expected.  I guess we have all been there at some stage.  What caught my attention was that she kept repeating to me how supportive her family was and that she really should be grateful.

She had a little bit of – again what most of us have unfortunately – the ‘good girl’ syndrome.

She felt she should be grateful, even though actually the support that she was getting was entirely on the terms of the givers – not the receiver. The kind of things she was hearing, I have heard many times before….

“He is just hungry, I really think we should give him some formula, you have had no rest“

“If you want us to help, we need to be able to soothe him, and obviously we cannot breastfeed him.“

“You really should go out more, it will do you good, plus we have not seen any of Hong Kong during our stay here…. let’s go for lunch.“

“A baby should self settle, crying does no harm to them“

The thing is, all of the above can be said and may sometimes be appropriate, but it is NON-SUPPORT when it is given in this format.  It is not actually helpful, especially in a case like this, where the mum was just in a very normal situation – baby was sleeping well but waking up reasonably often, gaining loads of weight and nothing wrong with him.  But what has got to be remembered is that our parents’ generation grew up in a different environment to us.  They received very different instructions and advice from those in the know and sometimes, despite their best intentions to support, they just don’t actually know how to.  Hence the comments that don’t help.  So it is important, before inviting them, to ask yourself if they will actually be helpful, i.e. are they happy to just hang around you on yours and your baby’s terms.

Another comment I had from a lady not so long ago threw me completely.

“My husband is so happy how everything is going well but he really thinks that I should stop breastfeeding now“.

The couple had a two months old baby that was happily breastfeeding, no problems at all.  The opinion expressed, was because the husband was uncomfortable with his wife breastfeeding right from the start – happy to tolerate it for a certain amount of time – but was of the opinion that it was inappropriate and unnecessary. He was formula-fed himself, as his mother had reminded him, and he really did not see the need for it.

A part of me wanted to scream.  Sorry – but I really feel that that this is simply not even something that anyone, but the mum, can even have an opinion about, let alone express it to the mum. How dare anyone suggest that she should not feed her infant when everything about it is going very well?

A part of me remembered that this is actually, all about how people are raised, what information they are given and so on.  Of course this dad really must not know any better.

So parents, we really do need to educate our kids well.  Raise them up in an environment where this is not even a debate.  That they understand that breastfeeding is normal for babies for as long as mum and baby want it and nobody should question that.  Equally, that when someone bottlefeeds their baby, they are not entitled, as kids or adults, to judge that.

And when we grow old ourselves, let’s try and remember, when our kids have children, that we can support them a lot.  But it is not our role to tell them how to do things.

“Surely this kid needs to socialize“ – I was once told about a 3 week old.
Seriously!

Hulda x

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Mothers’ Day. Every Day.

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Mothers’ Day. Every Day.

Posted on 10 May 2015 by Kristrun

mothersMy Facebook page is today inundated with messages from everyone around me about Mothers’ Day.  As a result I am reminded of the fact that it is “Mothers’ Day”.  One more time, how annoying.  From the grumpy corner in which I sometimes sit, I cannot help but think, how many mother’s days are there per year? Or how many should there be?  I find this just as annoying as all the Valentine’s Days and whatever else they are called. There seems to be no end to all sorts of special days that actually we should be celebrating every day and not restricting to an annual and public display on social media but rather to actually focus on being nice to each other, wherever we are, with those around us.

Sorry, readers, I actually am nice to people most of the time, although these words do not sound like they come from a nice person.  I just get very annoyed sometimes in between.  A little bit like the character Dr. House, if you know him.  You can interpret it the way you like.

Nevertheless, it is, in fact, Mothers’ Day.

I just sent my own mother a rather difficult email about her flaws.  But that could have been any other day, life goes on you know.  Are we supposed to behave better on these special days?

No – we probably should all try and behave, live and think a little better every day. About ourselves, our mothers, our children, other people around us in general.  Because to be human is also to be nasty, selfish and unkind.  Greed, lust and whatever all the other sins are called…  And sometimes it can be an effort to think kindly of others, or to be grateful for what we have. Not you?  Great, but most of the rest of us could do with a little wake-up call every now and again.

There are people suffering everywhere around the world.  Of course the latest on everyone’s minds is the terrible disaster in Nepal. It makes it hard to celebrate – if you start to think about it too much – your own victories and successes and good life.  But as I said before, life does go on and we carry on the best way we can.  So we can brag about achievements and our own great children and I can tell everyone how I actually ran 5 km in less than 30 minutes (if that ever happens), without feeling too guilty about the mothers in Nepal.

So I am going to tell you about two mothers that I admire.  None of them has had a tough life as such.  But they both deserve admiration for their everyday efforts to make their children happy, to keep the ball rolling and being the ones that carry much weight of the routines and rhythms of their households.  And let’s not forget – and I think us mums all agree in this – that the routines of one’s household can be quite a task to manage.

When I was little, my mother had me, a total nightmare child that was all over the place from day one.  She was 20 years old and had moved from the capital of Iceland where all her family lived, to a very small town of 150 people in the rural north of Iceland, 650km away.  Three to four months of the year there was so much snow there, that the cars were snowed in and could not be moved, but most families did not even have a car so that did not matter anyway.  When we were out playing with our friends in the village, our parents would have a certain light turned on in the house to indicate to the other parents that we were playing at that place, because in those days there were no phones in most homes, so  it was not possible to call and check. The young families of Iceland in those days had little money and none extra, and made do with whatever they could, so my mother and grandmothers hand-made much of our clothes and fixed the ones that broke.  They baked the bread and the cakes at home and there were few days in my youth where there was not freshly baked and yummy food available for our teatime snack.  Because my mother had gone to “Good Housekeeping School” (for the lack of better translation), good housekeeping was definitely important and the standards were not dropped when my three siblings were born, two within a year, in December and January of the same year, and my youngest sister six years later.

My mother annoyed the hell out of me when she was running the household in her very organized way.  I was so pissed off as a child or teenager to have to participate in all the chores and cooking and babysitting, it must have been hard to chain me down to do all of this.  And I think the reason that I like Baby Led Weaning (another concept that pisses me off – why do we have to label everything, so that some greedy person gets royalties every time a child sticks a carrot in its mouth) is because I fed my siblings so often as a kid that I got the overfeeding-others-disease.

But she did a fantastic job in her mummying and housekeeping, my mother.  Despite me being rather un-upbringable, I did learn stuff, and I was well loved.  I learned to be sustainable and take care of myself and others at a young age.  I learned that things don’t get done unless someone (I) does them.  And that playing with your siblings is actually way more fun than playing with anyone else.  I learned to fix things, to bake and to cook, and a lot of other practical household skills that have, even in Hong Kong where everything seems to be done by a specialist, gotten me far.

I also was very much loved, despite me being annoyed by my mother. There was always time for us children, and our parents took extremely good care of us through our hobbies and school, without hovering over our heads all the time, but by supporting our uniqueness and our strengths by nurturing them further. Mostly I did not see all the little things that my mother did for the household, or for me, while I was busy playing in my worry-free world as a child.

While my mother had friends amongst the 30 or so other mothers her age in the village, there were few “me days” like we get nowadays.  There were certainly no mani–pedis and dream on about suggesting that she would go out for a little morning jog before everyone woke up. If not too exhausted by yesterday’s work, there was plenty to be done each day, other than “me” stuff.  And as it was not until I was quite old that my parents got a decent washing machine, the laundry piled up easily in a household of five and later six.  I think that my mother was happy though, and she got her me-times differently; through drop-ins between the mums in the village where they would give each other a cup of coffee and a taste of the latest bakings, gossiping about what had happened in the days before.

Funnily enough, these kind of drop-ins is something that I have often thought that the mums in Hong Kong could so do with.  Casual and non-prepared, just genuine friendship and a check to see that everyone is doing fine, while children play without the mums being in a structured paid playgroup environment.

I can only imagine that sitting down with a friend must have been great after chasing after me, taking care of my one and two year old siblings and managing all the household chores at once without help.  Just going to the shop that was open a few days a week, with snow up to your waist and having to pull and carry all three of us, to buy milk – took two hours.

You are wondering, where was my father?  Just like today, in those days, many fathers were working a full day and in the year 1976, it was more common for dads to have a social life after work than for mums to have it.  They would play Bridge, volleyball and go to a Kiwanis meeting (a mens’ club) in the evenings.  No offence to my father, he is also a great man and did lots of great things with us, but this was the atmosphere of that time.

There are so many things that I could say about my youth and my mother and I am certainly not writing this about our life to have you think that we were very poor and struggling.  This was just the life that the year 1973 in Iceland offered and everyone had to get on with it in the best way.

In 2015 in Hong Kong, we have other battles and joys, quite different ones, us mums here in Hong Kong.  A lot is shared and many feelings are the same, as when my own mother was raising us.   It may be worth it, while we moan about our helpers and complain that we cannot have a shower before lunch with our singleton child in our 100K a month flat, to think a little bit to the year 1973 in a small town in Iceland, and then perhaps moan a little less.

It may not work, again, all our troubles and emotional ups and downs may be very relevant to each one of us as we go through them – and despite all the real sufferers of this world – but it may well make our challenges a tiny bit smaller.

Happy Mothers’ Day my dear mothers in Hong Kong and around the world, I hope my own mother one day realizes how happy I am with her upbringing, love and support for all of the 42 years that I have managed to spring through.  And I so dearly hope that my own children will love me as much as I love her, despite all my flaws and grumpinesses, for another 42.

This blog entry has already gone on far longer than I planned, so I will tell you about the second mother in my next post.

From the very imperfect mum of 4,

Hulda Thorey.

Consultation with the midwives, available on Skype (face time or other platforms), over the phone or in the office. Click here to book. More information about our services on our website.

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Still going strong

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Still going strong

Posted on 09 February 2015 by Kristrun

stillgoingstrong­Oh yes, there have been many times when I was annoyed by marriage or by my man.Same for him. Looking at me and thinking how my opinions and views on certain things differ, how hobbies are not all the same and how we do some things differently.

We met when we were 23 and 25 years old. We soon moved in together and in our last year at university we had our first baby. Happy times all the way through. We were so fortunate that we had our parents around us and they both helped us and were great in raising our kids together with us, inspiring them in a different way than we, the young parents were able to do.

When we had our second baby, one year after the first, I did not realize it then but how slowly life got a little harder. Or rather, our relationship. We were also madly in love with her and the two kids soon got along very well and we certainly never regretted having such a small gap between them. I heard people whisper, “I would never do this to my children, think about the lack of time you have, it is so cruel to the first one to have such little attention…etc”.  But I never really felt this much, as I had both a partner who came home for lunch and early from the office and parents and parents-in-law who drowned my kids in attention and good care.

It was a reality though, that time was now more limited for our relationship and we found ourselves drifting apart a little, without noticing. And not realizing this, we also did not do all that much about it. We were just busy keeping things together, raising the children, finishing some more education and career and all of a sudden it was obvious that a relationship needs more.

We moved to Hong Kong when our kids were 3 and 4 years old and went straight into what in those days was quite an isolated community, in Gold Coast, close to Tuen Mun. It was a great place for someone like me who just wanted a bit of peace and quiet and not to have to worry about losing the children somewhere in crowds as they spoke no English and I was quite worried about this. In Gold Coast, there was just a gated community that we never really had to leave. We had a huge pool and huge grass area, it was clean and enough, but still few people lived there. My husband set up his office there and lunchtime was spent together in the pool and all meals were with all four of us. People that I met in town for work kept saying “oh, you live out there” – as if it was hundreds of miles away from civilization and quite horrifying. I would laugh and just think what a good life I had, lucky not to be in the snow and cold and the challenging task-filled life that I had had in Iceland, where raising kids was much more tiring than these first months in Hong Kong seemed to be.

Many times since I have thought of this time, as the years have passed and we had two more children and life got even busier, much more complicated and involved much more people, especially since my own work has been full on, day and night for many years.

What stands out from this time is that when we moved here and stayed in Gold Coast, life became about the family, first and foremost. Things like NOT having friends for a little while, i.e. not socializing all that much, NOT eating out except for very few times, NOT going to the gym but together… – basically all the things that many have warned me about, becoming isolated and not in touch with “anyone” – they were the things that got the relationship and the family back together to the place it was before.  Just spending time, the four of us, hanging out. The cost of that lifestyle was also so low and we could as a result not worry about any financial issues and afford more holidays together, or pay for our parents to come and visit more often.

Basically, the simplicity of the life we lived, saved us from drifting further apart.

I am not sure if anyone can relate to this, but as I have many times before written about, I see many parents in my work who seem to be struggling. They struggle even before they have the children, because their upbringing and views on things are so different. Some know about this and others don’t realize it. It just becomes apparent when the subject of a baby or how to raise that child becomes unavoidable.

In Hong Kong, we live in such a fast paced, fun, energetic and demanding world, a world full of opportunities, people, culture mixes, choices… that it can never really be seen as negative. But it can be challenging and not everyone finds the perfect balance. Certainly not me, or most people around me, and there are ups and downs in everyone’s lives here.

Me and my husband have been together for 20 years. We have been through thick and thin. I have loved him so much that my heart aches and I would drop everything to be with him and I have found him so annoying that I wanted to scream and kick. And everything in between.

Spending time together for all these years, having all these kids together, working from home sometimes, living in special places like on the boat, living in cramped conditions like in Hong Kong flats, being poor together, not having money to pay bills when we were younger, seeing all these new opportunities, people and world here in Hong Kong together, growing older, losing family members while we lived abroad, seeing our kids grow up and become grown-ups in schools far away, having kids in Hong Kong schools through tough times, with drugs and alcohol a normal part of teenage growing up here, being together through my parents’ divorce and see the effect that that has on families, having our own siblings and friends go through tough times, and very happy times, and ourselves, going through the same.

All this, and more, matures you and makes you appreciate each other more. You also become more forgiving – and demanding. You want to spend your later half of life with a person who is happy and fun to be around. You want to spend it with someone that you can be yourself with and now that the tasks and duties of bringing up children become slightly less time consuming, and you get more sleep at night, you want to be able to relax and enjoy.

Sticking together through thick and thin makes for a good friendship. Every year we realize more and more how important we are in each other’s lives and how lucky we are to have survived as a married couple.

Today, our lives are not simple. They is full of people, activities, meetings, lunches, travels, working around the world, family all over the world, helpers and more and more and more.

It is quite challenging to keep it all together and I am again reminded of the fact that a relationship takes effort, commitment and time. I am forever grateful that me and my husband have realized that trying the change the other person, will never work.

What I have learned from these 20 years is that it is so important to have a companion that you enjoy spending time with. Someone who understands your jokes. Someone who just gets it.

The next few years of mine will be spent trying to create the Gold Coast atmosphere again.  Simplifying things. Slowing down. Being together more. But also do stuff with friends. Not isolated, but just more simple. Having meals together. Going for a swim, the whole family.

Just the way we used to do it.

I look at my man today and still think how lucky I am to have had this great life. I also realize that if it had not been for regular focus points, we could easily have drifted apart. So I write this blog in honour of my family and just want to say thank you all.

Consultation with the midwives, available on Skype (face time or other platforms), over the phone or in the office. Click here to book. More information about our services on our website.

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Hands on Pumping

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Hands on Pumping

Posted on 15 September 2014 by Kristrun

Although pumping or expressing is not recommended for the first 6 weeks after birth, it is sometimes necessary especially if your baby is ill, premature or unable to breastfeedingonbedbreastfeed for any reason. To get the milk production started after birth it is important to stimulate your breasts as soon as possible – preferably within two hours after the birth. To maximise the amount of colostrum produced, you may have more success hand expressing the first time since this is often more effective than using a pump.

After that initial expressing it is recommended to use a hospital-grade pump with a double pump kit about 8 times or more per 24 hours. This works out as approximately every 3 hours or whenever convenient – it doesn’t have to be always at the same time. For maximum milk production by pumping, it is important you use breast massage before and during the pumping session. This will stimulate the ‘let-down’ and the milk will flow more easily. When you’re pumping you should watch the sprays of milk and when this subsides, turn off the pump. This might take 5 minutes for some women and 25 minutes for others; you don’t pump for 20 minutes just to pump for 20 minutes. After you turn off the pump, it is recommended you try to hand express for 5-10 minutes into the pump flange since that can sometimes double your output and you can get more hindmilk which is the richest milk for your baby.

Maternal factors influence milk volume and things like stress, anxiety, fatigue and illness can decrease milk production significantly. Having an ill or premature baby can call on all these factors, so it is really important to be kind to yourself and give yourself time. It is crucial important to try to sleep and rest regularly, eat well and drink lots of fluids since your own nutritional status during lactation can affect milk volume and composition.

It is also important to know that there are experts out there who can help you so you don’t have to suffer in silence. If you’re having problems or concerns don’t hesitate to call Annerley and schedule an appointment with our breastfeeding consultant or one of our midwives. Or as a home visit.

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My child is biting…. what do I do?

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My child is biting…. what do I do?

Posted on 13 August 2014 by Kristrun

IMG_2162Let your child know immediately that biting is unacceptable. Use firm, short and simple commands: “No, no biting”. But don’t dwell on it, don’t shout and be careful not to scare your child. Distract the child and try to focus on something else almost in the same moment…. “look, the moon”, and walk away from the scene where the biting took place.Don’t explain why they should not bite, don’t say anything else about the biting and don’t mention it again. You are actively ignoring what happened, and that works! Praise the child for doing other, unrelated things. Make sure to support positive behavior and the child will be a lot less likely to bite again.Remember: toddlers don’t understand the concept of apology until the age of 3 or 4 (depends on the child). By spending time on forcing the toddler to say “I’m sorry”,  you are dwelling on the negative behavior and it’s a lot more likely to happen again. Children don’t care if the attention is positive or negative, just as long as they get your attention. Support and praise positive behavior and actively ignore bad behavior.
It works!
Conchita Amende
Specialist community health nurse (health visitor UK)
To book consultation with our health professional click the link – available as home visit, skype, phone or office visit.

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Parenting Strategies

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Parenting Strategies

Posted on 26 March 2014 by Kristrun

How to create your parenting strategiesCOSLEEPING

I know this sounds like a project that can’t be resolved without doing a lot of research or by consulting a professional. Of course there are plenty of professionals out there who can help, but you can also do it yourself, and it’s easier than you think. It will save lots of conflict in your relationship with your partner and other caregivers in your family. In Hong Kong, parenting strategies actually become more important than in many other countries as it is very common to have 2, 3 or even 4 caregivers in your household.

When and where do you start?

Try to start bringing your views together before the baby is born, even before you conceive. How were you raised? What do you want to avoid? Who are your role models in child care? Try drawing up the big picture together and do some reading if you think it helps. If you are completely new to childcare, simply focus on simple advice that is easy to find online. Make it yours – if you don’t like some of the advice, then don’t use it. Personally, I would never use time-outs for example, but I like the rest of that list.

Focus on the outcome

Let’s say you want your child to be confident more than anything else. Take time to consider if your parenting methods are likely to achieve this outcome. Firm discipline will not work, fear will not help and a screaming and frustrated parent is unlikely to result in raising a confident child. This is just an example; the main thing here is to focus on the outcome and try to work towards that and to understand what builds the foundation in order for the outcome to be anywhere close to what you hope for.

Beat the Peer Pressure

Try to understand what is age appropriate behaviour. Young children are often expected to behave in a way which is simply not appropriate for their age. For example, a one year old does not understand the word sorry and they don’t understand about sharing toys. So if you are striving towards building confidence in your child, keep praising them for their good behaviour and ignore the peer pressure in the playgroup.

Make time

Make time for your parenting strategies. Make sure all caregivers understand what type of care you expect and help them putting it into practice – all your work will go down the drain if you are doing one thing but your helper is doing another. It is time consuming to do the training but it will help a lot. Make time to spend with your children – it sounds obvious, but you are much more likely as a parent to make a difference with your presence than anything else.

Relax and try your best

There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Don’t forget to live your life at the same time as you work hard on being a good parent. Do fun things together, even if it means staying out past bed time. Use common sense, try to form a united front with your partner and remember that you are the biggest role models in the life of your children. Your children may not hear or remember everything you say but they are constantly learning from what you do.

Best of luck

Kristrun

B.Ed, M. Ed. (Iceland, HK)

C.E.C.E. (HK)

For guidance on creating your parenting strategies – let us help – consultation available in our office, on skype or over the phone

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Raising a Good Eater

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Raising a Good Eater

Posted on 28 February 2014 by Kristrun

stimulating-baby-indoorsMy children eat fruit and vegetables. They eat salad and sushi, spinach and seaweed. They eat curry and cabbage, kimchi and cauliflower. They eat pretty much anything. What’s more, they enjoy it. OK, some things more than others, but there is very little they will point blank refuse.

I’m not taking all the credit for this. I think I’ve been pretty lucky in so much as they genuinely enjoy food. I know this is not the case for many others. I would also like to point out that picky eating due to a disorder, such as that resulting from a child on the autistic spectrum, bears no resemblance to regular fussiness, and any healthy eating guidelines are not applicable in these cases.

I would like to share with you some things I have learned with my three children. Take what you fancy, and ignore what you don’t. What you are reading is based purely on my experience, nothing more. No research involved at all.

Make it tasty

Toddlers and children enjoy tasty food just as we do. I remember when my eldest was small and I was feeding her cold baby food from a jar. She was fussing and spluttering and spitting it out. I was staying with my sister in the UK at the time (jetlag and fussy eating – oh the joy) and she said to me “have you tried that stuff, Ailish? it’s revolting”. And so it was. My sister mushed up some vegetable stew with mashed potato, warmed it nicely and my daughter lapped it up. It simply had not occurred to me that a baby would have any preference when it came to how food tastes. How strange that seems now!

Don’t be afraid to cook with vegetable or chicken stock. Use a little butter. Add herbs, spices, garlic, ginger, a splash of soy sauce, a touch of chilli or curry powder. These are not adult flavours, they are just flavours. Go slow and easy and gently build up your child’s repertoire.

This may have worked a little too well for my youngest, who at age 9, adds tabasco to a worrying number of savoury dishes. What will he do for a chilli kick aged 20……?

Involve your child

The sooner you do this, the better. A baby can sit in a high chair or on the floor playing with a carrot, whilst the carrots are being chopped. Give a pan and a wooden spoon. Let them see, smell and touch whilst the food is being prepared. Before long, they can help to stir a pot or add the seasoning. A child who has had an active part in preparing a meal is far more likely to eat it. When they are old enough to appreciate it, take them to the market where they can see the food before it reaches our kitchen and allow them to make some choices. Shall we have chicken or fish? Potatoes or pasta? This involvement really does work and rather than presenting a finished meal out of nowhere with which the child feels no connection and therefore has little interest in, give them some insight, some input and a little control.

 

Use your fingers

Finger food is always a winner. I’m not one for terribly fussy food, and those images on the internet of children’s food as works of art on a plate give me hives. But various different foods, chopped smallish, always worked for us for a quick meal. Grapes cut in half, small cubes of cheese, carrot sticks….. this kind of thing generally appeals to most children. They can use their fingers to eat which is very important so that they learn about the different textures, and it is fun. Let your toddler make their own sandwich – give the bread, and the filling, and let them get on with it. A bit messy, but worth it. I used to also give my toddlers a blunt knife, a small tub of hummous or cream cheese and let them spread it onto crackers. An activity in itself! Filled a whole hour! Touching, feeling and dare I say it, playing with food, is very important to children so they learn it is nothing to fear. They are going to put it inside their mouths, which is a very personal thing, and they need to learn to trust. So let them explore it as much as possible.

Eat together

We all know this works. Children ultimately copy adults and eating is naturally a social time. Eating on your own is no fun, especially while feeling pressure to perform! Commonly in Hong Kong, Daddy is returning home late from work and Mummy would much rather eat a civilised dinner with him at 8.30pm, than feeding-time-at-the-zoo at 5.00pm (I don’t wish to generalise, but I know this to be true for a lot of families). This is perfectly understandable, who wouldn’t? But it is still important to sit down at the table with the children at meal times, maybe eat a few vegetables at the same time, talk and listen – make it comfortable and a time when they know they have your attention. A time to look forward to. It may be worth thinking about having your full meal at this earlier time once or twice during the week, and make a point of doing it all together at the weekend. And if it is impossible for either parent to be there, have your helper have dinner with the kids, rather than her only ‘feed’ the kids.

The chicken nugget trap

Try not to think in terms of kids’ food versus adult food. It’s all just food. Your kids are more likely to eat if you’re all eating the same thing and this is very possible once your child reaches the 12 month mark. You may need to adapt your child’s portion in some way (adding yoghurt to curry, taking a small portion out before adding chilli etc) but starting young with regular food will avoid them getting addicted to bland “kiddy” food and developing anxiety towards anything novel or with a strong flavour.

Back off

Nobody likes to be scrutinised while performing a task. Try taking the pressure off your little muncher. Offer the food, give a mouthful, and then take the focus off. Look to your own food, or chat to another child. You may just find they eat that broccoli when you are not watching them like a hawk. Especially if you are eating broccoli too!

Stay calm

Children pick up so easily on our mood. If you feel the tension rising as meal time is approaching, then so will they. Stay light hearted and strive towards making dinner time a time to enjoy. If they eat almost nothing, keep calm, smile, clear it away and try again tomorrow.

Firm but fair

I love food, and good food is important to me. So it was important that my children learned to love food too. Now, all children are naturally picky. I know some are pickier than others, but all children like to stick to what they know. This is normal. Encouraging new foods is a slow and gradual process, and it starts very early. My kids know they have to try something quite a few times before they are allowed not to like it. There are many things they have proclaimed they hated (no. 3 child is the best at this) and have ended up loving. Spinach fried in garlic. Roasted sweet potato. Beetroot. I could go on. So, don’t give up at the first hurdle. Offer tiny amounts of new things to try. However, I do respect them if they really cannot bear something after a valiant attempt. Child no. 1 doesn’t like celery. Child no. 2 doesn’t like pumpkin. Child no. 3 doesn’t like cream. And none of them will touch a mushroom.

For very small toddler munchkins, reasoning is not really an option, and so then I can see the value of “hiding” vegetables in food and there are many fabulous ways of doing this. But as they get older, this is, well…. quite boring, and I think they should have an idea of what they are eating.

Give some control

At meal times, in our house, there are certain things the children have little control over. They must come to the table at dinner time and they must try anything new. But, they can choose how much they eat. Taking this pressure off is sometimes enough to stop the battles.

Eating away from home

I cannot tell you the number of times I have had other people’s children at my house to eat and their Mums have been aghast when I tell them what we had for dinner. “Oh, but Johnny wouldn’t eat that.” Well, he did. Quite happily.

Children do all kinds of things differently when they are in different environments, away from familiar triggers and routines. So, don’t reject the restaurant, or the neighbour’s place for fear that your fussy eater will create a scene. They just might not.

Start small

A huge dish of food is a very intimidating thing to a small child. Offer small portions which they won’t feel threatened by. Better still, once they are old enough, let them serve themselves or choose how many carrots they want. This way, they are far more likely to be able finish it and you won’t be left with the “don’t waste food” argument. Personally, I never make my kids finish their food, but ask them to stop when their tummies feel full. Quite frankly, forcing food into a child does not seem better to me than putting it in the bin or feeding it to the dog. We just got our dog its preferred by dogs.

If they finish and ask for more, then great!

Eat local when travelling

I’m passionate about this. My children were born in Asia, and like most expat families, we have been fortunate to travel quite a bit. Travelling and food for our family go hand in hand. Memories of different places become entwined with the fabulous food we ate there. Pho in Vietnam. Nasi lemak in Malyasia. Chicken rice in Singapore. Hoppers and curry in Sri Lanka. Seafood in Australia. Pies in New Zealand (!!). Having good eaters really comes into its own when travelling. To be able to eat anywhere and try anything is such a joy in a foreign land. To have to trawl in search of spaghetti bolognese wherever one goes is tedious. And expensive.

Educate

Most kids like to eat junk. If we are being honest, most of us like to eat junk. In a few short years, you will have no control over what your child chooses to eat. All we can do is educate them about making healthy choices and why that is a good thing. My biggest bug-bear is sugary drinks, and it worries me when my children tell me how many cartons of iced tea, or cans of soda their school friends drink on any given day. If my kids choose not to do this, I will be happy.

Everything in moderation

I don’t believe in banning any foods; rather teach that some foods are for every day, and some are for special occasions. Party food is to be enjoyed at parties and life is too short not to eat chocolate and ice-cream.

 

I am well aware that some children have no interest in food and just view it as fuel, just as some adults do. I have a very dear brother-in-law who would be happy to see out the end of his days eating only cornflakes and chocolate. I am also willing to accept that I just struck lucky – both my husband and I enjoy good food, and therefore it may seem reasonable to assume that our children would be interested too. Be that as it may, but I am going to give myself a smidgen of credit; I put in the effort. My children are now 13, 11 and 9. My work is almost done. Start early and be confident.

Ailish Cotton

Mum of 3

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crying baby tongue

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Soothing a Crying Baby

Posted on 27 February 2014 by Kristrun

Keep calm skin to skin

Congratulations on the birth of your baby!

Your baby is an individual that you need to get know and unfortunately, he or she does not come with a manual. It can be exhausting and devastating when your baby is crying and you don’t know why or what to do. You may have already fed the baby, burped him and changed his nappy and still he isn’t settled. Why won’t he stop crying?

Remember your baby is new to this world and experiencing a lot of new things: now she needs to breath on her own, digest, pee and poo and is dependent on you for all of its needs. There are a few simple things that you can easily do that might sooth your baby and give her comfort.

Skin to skin contact is a great way to sooth your baby and can be easily given by both mom and dad. Skin to skin contact is the placing of your baby, unclothed (or nappy only) onto your chest, under a blanket or your clothing and it will usually be enough to calm your baby down. Even a hungry baby will be soothed when he can smell your skin and hear your heartbeat. In utero, your baby was used to hearing your heartbeat, so patting baby on the butt while giving skin to skin can calm her down quite quickly. Skin to skin also helps with digestion as well as giving a sense of security and feeling loved which is one of the basic needs of all babies.

Holding your baby and rocking him, bouncing, walking or dancing can also help to sooth. Remember that your baby has been rocked and walked to sleep whilst inside you and probably was quite awake and kicking when you were going to bed in the evenings and wanted to go to sleep!

While holding your baby, sing a song or talk in a calm voice. Your baby loves listening to your voice, he is used to it and it is something familiar. You won’t spoil your baby by holding her or attending to her needs.

The single most important thing for you to remember is to stay calm when your baby seems distressed because your baby is very in tune with your feelings and stress levels. So stay calm and your baby may follow suit.

Hafdis Runarsdottir

Annerley Midwife

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Screen time and Toddlers

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Screen time and Toddlers

Posted on 07 February 2014 by Kristrun

Most of us are guilty of using Peppa Pig or Thomas the Tank Engine as a pseudo baby sitter. Or these fantastic apps that can keep little ones occupied for indefinite periods. I’m putting up my hand, here – I use screens in my house to buy peace and quiet, some quality time for me and often just that one email or a cup of coffee. I do it despite knowing that when I remove the screen, they will cry, there will be a fight and they will beg for “just one more”. It’s amazing how addictive this screen is to these little creatures and how difficult it can be to balance screen-time and non-screen-time. The very fact that this term “screen-time” has so quickly become a part of our vocabulary is alarming in itself.

How much screen time is safe?

Research has suggested that if you introduce the screen too early, language development may be affected. Some even say that the child can be six times more likely to develop speech problems. Teachers and early childhood educators know that a child’s vocabulary can vary greatly from one child to another, and that can often be linked directly to screen time versus oral interaction with real human beings. People ultimately do not learn language from a TV. Expression, emotion, tone, pitch, and the myriad of subtleties linked with any language comes from human interaction. I recommend less than 1 hour total screen time per day per child from the age of 1-5. None, or as little as possible, for babies younger than 12 months of age.

Screen time and Sleep

We know that screen time close to bedtime will affect sleep. The lights from the screens – especially screens that are kept very close to little faces will have an impact on their sleeping patterns. Try to balance the routine around bedtime so that watching anything on screen is kept as far from the actual sleeping time as possible. Easy way to do it is to use the screens to quiet things down, then switch off, play quietly, have dinner, then bath, read a book and go to sleep.

Screens and meals

As tempting as it may be, we all know it is not a good habit to allow children to be in front of the screen when having a meal. It can affect the amount of food they consume and their overall eating habits. They may eat like robots and completely out of balance with their appetite. Children want to copy everything adults do – including eating. If you have fussy eaters or children not interested in meal times, the best advice is to eat with your children or have your helper eat with them, if it is impossible for you to do so. This will help in making them interested and engaged during feeding times. Eating should be a social time, and it is never too early to instill this association.

Stick with what works

Some will argue that there are many educational apps and TV programs that can be very good for children. That may be right – there are certain programs that are very well designed and can stimulate and teach children all manner of things. But children learn far more from interaction with you, or others around them. Focus on labelling your surroundings – talk about size, shapes, colours, emotions, distances etc. Also focusing on stimulating their senses by allowing them to touch and feel their environment, and make an effort to have them exposed to soil, sand, grass, stones, pebbles – as many different environments as you can. This varying stimulus is so important to a baby’s development. Good old fashioned books, nursery rhymes and songs, always work. One of the biggest problems society will face in the future will be children who have severe problems socializing and they will be hiding behind their computer screens, unable to cope with the world around them in all its unpredictable, messy, disordered, wonderful glory. By focusing on communication, verbal interaction and stimulation, we will help build a foundation for life.

Bear all of this in mind whilst being realistic. Sometimes the screen is a lifesaver for everyone. When travelling with my children in the double buggy- the small screens makes us capable of doing these long haul flights with layovers. And when they are sick – it completely saves everything to have Peppa Pig with us to shorten the day. But let’s make it an exception, rather than a rule. A treat, rather than the norm. A conversation with Mummy or Daddy beats Peppa Pig, hands down, every time.

Kristrun Lind – Mother of two toddlers

B.Ed, M.Ed. (Iceland, HK), C.E.C.E. (HK)

kristrun@annerley.com.hk

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