Parenting and toddler activities in North London -Taaperon aktiviteetteja Pohjois-Lontoossa

I have enjoyed my every day life in London with our little daughter since we came back from Finland. I have done something lovely every day, I have either seen my friends or taken my daughter to some activity, sometimes doing both. Usually every morning in the week I take my daughter to some class. They all vary from music and dancing to toddler gymnastics. She loves them all (and I love them too!). Our daughter is such a social little butterfly, active and adventurous. This morning my 20-month old daughter told me not to assist her as she wanted to walk on the beam all by herself. She did it without any mistakes, she confidently just walked  on the narrow beam and did not fall down once, my little gymnast! I know, how funny is this, when I did gymnastics and was in the Finnish junior national team I always swore that my child -if I was to have one- would never do artistic gymnastics, at least not at the competitive level as I did..and here I am seeing the same glow in my daughter’s eyes when she gets onto the beam as I did when I was taken to my first gymnastics training. How could I say no. I probably won’t.

Anyway, as a tip for you all, if any of you is living in North London the following classes are great: Movers and Shakers, Tumble Tots and Monkey Music. My daughter absolutely loves all of these activities. In general she is extremely kind with other kids, she is not possessive at all and even now when her ”mine” -phase is going on, she is always sharing toys with other kids. I have to say I feel extremely proud. I think this is not only a natural characteristic of her personality but also a result of her having been surrounded with other kids on daily basis since she was a baby, attending various classes or having regular play dates with other children. It was amazing to see when my Finnish friend was visiting us that her son and our daughter played hours and hours together, hugging and kissing and there were no sharing issues or toddler fights. We were both looking at our children with mother’s pride in our eyes.

I have been thinking of children’s social skills a lot lately and I have to admit I get very sad when I see toddlers who don’t know how to play with other kids or are extremely possessive or coping badly socially. It must be horrible, embarrassing and make parents’ life really difficult as every play date ends up being a nightmare and it is just easier to stay at home than confront the situation. I always thought that our difficulties with allergies were tough but now I see everything in a different perspective, allergies are a small little complication in our every day life compared to social difficulties toddlers may have. I think a socially difficult toddler would be my worst nightmare as I love being with other people so much and my husband is the same.  I cannot wait for us to move to Melbourne and hang out with all our dear friends with children. I love parties, hosting people and invite people with kids to our house and we genuinely enjoy family gatherings. This is why I feel blessed to have a daughter who loves it too.

One more activity trip. If it is a rainy day and we have no play date scheduled (which is rare) I take my daughter to Little Dinosaur. It is a wonderful indoor soft play adventure play ground. It has a cafe attached to it so you can sip your coffee whilst your toddler is discovering the play ground. When I went there my daughter was so fascinated with other kids that I was just looking, admiring and thinking I should have asked some of my friends to come to have a coffee with me!

Here are some pictures of Little Dinosaur.

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There are two areas, one for babies and younger toddlers and one for bigger toddlers.

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Our daughter was still in younger toddlers area as she is so tiny.

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These pictures were taken before it got so busy that there was no spare space on the playground!

Have a great Wednesday. Our nanny is looking after our daughter tonight so I am having a date night with my dear husband again! Such a treat!

Next recipe will be the pumpkin pie!

How to get your baby to take solids? -Kuinka saada vauva syömään kiinteitä ruokia?

Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that I have been struggling to wean my baby for three months now. I will not go into details as it will bore you all. It is enough to mention my baby girl is a fussy eater with the capital F. There were two months that she literally did not take anything and I tried so many lovely things. Due to her allergies (milk, soy, nuts, egg, gluten, coconut, carrot, banana, sesame, pulses…etc…) we have had crazily limited range of foods to choose from which has not made things any easier. My baby girl is not only fussy with flavours but also with textures. In addition to this she is moody and I mean really moody. She is worse than ladies in their menopause. She gets ridiculous tantrums like a two year old, throws herself to the floor, kicks her legs and acts theatrically without any reason. The better side of the coin is that she is intellectually very developed, alert and attentive. She is extremely mobile but slightly hyperactive -like her parents :)- which means she cannot concentrate on sitting down in her highchair for any longer than five minutes. Below you can see my list of things how I got her to eat..eventually. Of course we are still talking about spoonfuls. A huge feed for her is half of the regular size baby food pot which means half of the 125g. Her favourite fruit and berry flavours are pear, blueberry, blueberry-raspberry-lingonberry, rose berry-pear.  So my poor mother has dragged tens of pots from Finland to her as you cannot find pure blueberry puree in the UK. My baby girl’s vegetable favourites are potato-broccoli, potato-parsnip, cauliflower and sweetcorn. Pear and broccoli are perfect as they have a huge iron content. I also recently read an article about white vegetables. The article highlighted that cauliflower should not be overlooked as it is one of the healthiest vegetables and has amazing nutrients and vitamins in it, luckily my fussy baby likes it!

Before you start reading this I want to highlight that I am very much pro breastfeeding. I find myself belonging to the school of though that believes ”boob is the best”. I was dreaming of breastfeeding until my baby was one year old. I encourage breastfeeding on demand, I have never looked at the clock and thought ”my baby cannot be hungry”. I have always fed her whenever she has asked for it (this is why I woke up hourly for months and months..). So when I decided to quit breastfeeding it was mainly due to my baby’s allergies and bad excema. It was a difficult decision and I shed many tears for it feeling like I failed as a mother. During the first few weeks of formula feeding my bad mother syndrome got just worse and worse until I got over it. In the end I just felt I had no choice. Despite how carefully I looked at what I ate, my baby girl’s skin and tummy just reacted badly all the time. Now when she is on formula (special formula Nutramigen in which milk protein has been broken down) her skin has cleaned and she is pretty much all smiles. We were recently discharged from the special excema care and she is happier than ever which for me is more important than my ideal of breastfeeding. She has also finally started to sleep peacefully during the day. Now when I look back I almost think that the reason why I carried on breastfeeding after 6 months was not only that I thought it was best for her, I also did it for myself thinking selfishly that I would be somehow a better mother. I know it is naive, but I think this is quite typical for new mothers with their first child. What I have learned is that sometimes you have to forgive yourself and let your ideals go in order to gain something more profound and better.

Here you can see what helped me with my baby:

1. Starting mixed feeding changed my baby girl’s eating drastically. I started giving bottles during the day time (she was 7 1/2 months old) and I breastfed only at the night time. Suddenly she started eating during the day time as the breast was not available every minute. In fact she forgot breastfeeding and is hardly interested in it anymore so in the end the quitting of breastfeeding happened quite easily after she started to take bottles (it was a fight at first!!).  If you feel like you could do this I would say it is not a bad option.

2. Smooth purees. My baby girl was so fussy with the textures that if there was even one lump in it she spitted it all out. The food processor that saved my life was Tommy Tippee Explora Baby Food Blender. It was only £20 (now in fact even cheaper) and it makes the smoothest and creamiest puree textures ever! My baby girl loves those purees now. After your baby is bigger you can leave the purees lumpier. This is a very good blender so definitely worth every penny!

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3. Books and toys. Some people would say this is malpractice and that babies should not be taught to think eating time is play time. I can only comment on this by saying that you don’t care about good practice as long as your baby starts eating. I bought books that had textures on them hairy or scrubbily spots to touch, feel and experience and whilst she was discovering the book I scooped spoonfuls into her mouth. Works these days every time!

4. Distraction. If your baby gets tantrum and starts crying whilst putting her to highchair distract her with something unusual,  a new noise works quite often. I do drumming noises or I knock the table and suddenly the crying stops and she cannot even remember why she was crying. After the distraction you can finally start feeding her.

5. Timing. It is all about timing. If your baby is cranky (unless hunger crankiness) , don’t even try to feed her. If she is a fussy eater she needs to be cheerful in order to discover new food and flavours. Try different meal plans. Try Central European 3 meals plus snack a day, if that does not work for you, try Northern European 4 meals plus snack a day. For my baby girl who is very petite the English meal planner just did not work, the Finnish guidelines  have been the best. My baby could not possibly drink 210ml of formula in one go she would have popped as she has been exclusively breastfed so far and her tummy is a lot smaller than that of formula fed babies. By spreading meals and giving smaller portions in one go she felt better and she actually started eating more overall and what matters is overall, not one meal. So try smaller portions often. Don’t look at the clock, try to offer her food when she is cheerful and willing to experience new things.

Our sample day is:

07-07.30am breakfast: porridge with fruit or berry puree and 120ml formula

10-11am lunch: vegetable puree and 120ml formula (potato-broccoli,  potato-parsnip or cauliflower)

1.30-2.30pm snack: fruit or berry puree and 120ml formula (pear, blueberry or blueberry raspberry puree)

4-5pm dinner: vegetable puree and 120ml formula (potato-broccoli,  potato-parsnip or cauliflower)

6.30-7pm  supper: porridge with berry or fruit puree (and sometimes a tiny bit of formula)

7-7.30pm 150ml formula

01-02am 120ml formula

6. Good spoon. You need a really good spoon as you don’t want all the food to fall down or dribble out from her mouth. I found that OXO Tot Travel spoon has been super good. It is deep enough, the shape is good and with it I find it easy to stuff food into my baby’s mouth. She seem to like it too. This spoon comes also with a handy travel pack. At least John Lewis sells them in the UK.

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7. Patience. Babies can take a long time to taste and feel the food in their mouths. In the beginning our eating sessions took 20-30 minutes (long sessions do not work anymore). Try small amounts often if longer feeds don’t work for you. It feels like you are offering the food constantly but it does not matter as long as she takes some. I was a way too petty about feeding solids with the clock. In the beginning of weaning process it does not work, fussy eaters eat only when they are happy.

8. Sleep. I noticed that my baby started eating better if she slept better during the day time. Particularly after the naps she was very inclined to take solids and happily experience new flavours. For 8 months my baby hardly slept regularly. Between 6-8 months she stopped sleeping all together. She was cranky, frustrated and tired all the time but she did not understand to go to sleep. She fought back and just refused to sleep when she was put down. Of course this was related to her allergies as she was just feeling unwell and could not relax as she was scratching herself all the time. By establishing or even trying to establish a nap schedule will ease the weaning. My baby takes solids very happily right after her long day time nap which is usually between 10am and 12 or 1 pm.

9. Pep talk! Give yourself a good old fashioned pep talk. Imagine of coaching a rugby team. You can do it, you can do it, you can do it. Don’t give up. My GP gave me the biggest pep talk ever when I visited her tears in my eyes. She told me not to give up as ” if you give up now, next comes TV watching, then home works and then boyfriends!”. Be disciplined and strict but kind and patient. It is tough, I know, I have been going through this for almost four months now. It will change just do not give up.

10. Age. If none of my tips works I comfort myself by saying every baby learns to eat within the time. Some are slower, some love food immediately. My baby girl has not gotten teeth yet and she is almost eight and half months old. I see teething having a natural relationship to their ability to eat. If the baby does not have any teeth how could she possibly feel ready for chewing things, no she is not ready, she needs more time. Many people have told me when the teeth appear, taking solids takes a new turn. Whilst waiting for the first tooth, I keep on giving myself pep talks.

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Good luck!

Mummy diet – Äitiysdieetti

I have often wondered how some women can have pregnancy kilos after being a mum for more than half a year. One of my friends commented on this question in one of the emails we sent to each others by saying ”I think those ladies who still have kilos left after mummy days must have boring babies”. I don’t know how fair this comment is but this applies to my situation at least!

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My ”mummy diet” is very simple. I wake up at 6am at the latest (after waking up 2-4 times a night). I prepare the breakfast for my restless baby. I bounce her in my arms whilst making the porridge, I feed her whilst entertaining her like a circus clown (believe it or not I am doing African drumming at the moment, it is the hit!). After her breakfast I manage to prepare my own breakfast but just when I am about to have it, my baby starts crying again and I cannot finish it as I need to breastfeed her…a new attempt..fails..a new attempt..fails..a new attempt..finally a success and I eat in a speed of a rocket. I take my baby upstairs, change her nappy, I put her to bouncer, I bounce her with my leg whilst putting on my make up.

I keep on bouncing her, entertaining her until it is her morning snack time..same show again..she starts to be tired but doesn’t know how to fall asleep. A new breastfeed, I call this a knock down morning feed..usually it works. I go for a pram walk in the park to keep her asleep then to supermarket to use this nap time efficiently by buying all the food for lunch and dinner. This includes some super heavy spring water bottles and vegetable bags. My baby wakes up just as I am about to start walking back home..she start with a whinge that turns to a cry and she cries and cries. I sing to her, no impact. She cries still so I have to pick her up and take her to my arms. I keep on pushing the pram that weighs like it was full of stones. I do this with one hand, holding my baby in another. Whilst doing this I regret we chose the house that is uphill from the supermarket as I need to always hike uphill with all these bags and baby in my arms. I look like a donkey.

At home I keep on bouncing my baby whilst unloading the shopping into the fridge. It is time to prepare her lunch, I repeat the bouncing, putting her down pattern, never works. I feed her, this time drumming doesn’t work so we need toys. A new game, my dear daughter throws the toys to the ground I pick them up, she throws them down, I pick them up. We play this game and I scoop food into her mouth. My back feels sore.  Finally done. I start preparing my own lunch (usually salad , it is fast to eat and not bad if eaten cold) and I reckon I have never chopped cucumber and tomatoes so quickly. I have no time to do any meat as my baby is cranky. I throw some leftover chicken on top of the salad, I eat it whilst holding my wiggling baby who does not want to crawl on the ground or be left alone with her toys. I have  a cup of coffee -surprisingly warm this time- and yay I got some lunch down. I am still hungry, salad whilst breastfeeding is not enough but there is no time to prepare anything extra as I really need to do some washing too. I carry dirty washing baskets up and down the stairs whilst holding my baby. In my mind I wonder why I let them fill up so full that they are heavier than my usual 20 kilo travel suitcase.

I try an afternoon knock down breastfeed, sometimes it works. I take my baby for another walk so that she would stay asleep even for half an hour. Same story as in the morning, she wakes up 15 minutes before we hit the home door and I end up carrying her in my arms whilst wheeling the pram uphill. It is time for her afternoon snack. This time we start with African drumming and end up throwing toys. I comfort myself, at least she ate it all. Now my baby starts getting her ”evening crankies”.  The alternating game begins. This means I move her from room to room, we have a mirror game in between, I put her to door bouncer, then to the regular bouncer and a new round again. As the clock approaches 5.30pm she gets manic. She wiggles and requires heavier bouncing. At 5.30pm I am too tired to bounce, my hands ache and eyes hardly stay open. I take one rice cake and stuff it into my mouth, some blood sugar.  I open a pack or crisps but manage to get only two into my mouth. I prepare her porridge whilst entertaining her, I sing, I dance and she still whinges. I feed her the porridge. This time no games, good eating, luckily.

I run upstairs to make the bath whilst holding her, I let the water run. I realise all her washed clothes are downstairs. I hold her  and I run downstairs to pick her night romper, I run upstairs with her. I bath her and entertain her by splashing the water and singing songs. I take her away from the bath and I wrap her with the towel. When I get to her room I remember her sleeping bag is downstairs. I run downstairs whilst holding my towel wrapped baby. I run upstairs with my towel wrapped baby. Suddenly I feel something warm against my skin. She weed. Well here we go again. I take her to bathroom and wash her again.  Whilst doing this I realise that all the towels are downstairs as I have not had a chance to bring them upstairs during this day long entertainment show. I take my wet baby to downstairs and wrap her in her towel. I run upstairs hoping she has no more wees to do. I start putting her nappy on. She hates it, she wants to be naked like Adam and Eve.  So I sing and I drum. Nothing works, I give up. As soon as I get her ready I start the knock down good night feed. I see her falling asleep, her eyes are slowing closing and after every minute I feel my body is getting more and more relaxed. Soon I will have my own spare moment. Win. Sleeping baby.

I run downstairs, I prepare a dinner for me and my husband. Usually this is something super carbful like risotto or potato dish!  I have my glass of white wine and take a breath. I haven’t had a chance to snack anything during the day, I have hardly visited a loo myself, I have run like a crazy chicken, I have entertained my baby like a jumping monkey. I reckon I have lifted up weights more than I could ever do at the gym. I have walked at least two hours outside, I have pushed the heavy pram and shopping uphill. I have run up and down the stairs all day long and not alone. No kilos after this. Does your baby not need entertainment? Mine does. All the time. This is my mummy diet. Does it sound familiar?

As crazy as it is I love it and I love her.

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If you felt like this could be a day of your life listen to this song on Youtube. This ”Motherhood feat” video was something that my colleagues told me to watch before going to maternity leave. I was laughing at it back then, now I know what they meant 🙂

My articles about motherhood in London- Artikkeleitani äitiydestä Lontoossa

Despite my crazy tiredness due to non-sleeping multi allergic baby I have still found some time to contribute to a website that is directed to Finns who are moving to London and looking for information regarding various topics. My articles have all been about pregnancy and motherhood in London. They have been published as a series on lontoossa.fi website lately.

If you are interested in having a look at them see the links below. Unfortunately or fortunately (depends which way you look at it from) they are all written in Finnish this time 🙂

Raskaus Lontoossa suomalaisen silmin

Kymmenen tärkeintä ohjetta synnytykseen Lontoossa

Synnytys Lontoossa suomalaisen silmin

10 tärkeintä ohjetta vauvanhoitoon Lontoossa