We’ve been living on a baby budget since baby was born. If this is the time to take advantage of the wonderful benefits we have in this country for low-income families this will be it for me.
Discovering the Healthy Start initiative for families on low incomes was a saviour for us. As freelancers living off a small maternity monthly pay out for me we are entitled to healthy start vouchers giving us a certain amount each month off of fruit and vegetables, milk, baby formula (although I’ve not regularly bought this ) and vitamins for me and Baby-O, from many major supermarkets. I’m yet to find any independent F&V stores that take them – and not sure it would be worthwhile for them to take them.
Learning to shop and cook on a low budget but still making tasty food has been a fun challenge for me. We’ve tried cutting down on meat we’ve tried going vegetarian and I’m still not sure how to cook sufficient food that will sustain us without meat. I know it can be done but we are a work in progress.
Although it drives me mad that organic produce is more expensive than non-organic I have tried to use organic for Baby-O where possible and therefore largely our diet consists of lots of fruit and veg and easy to throw together meals, cutting down on meat to allow for the slight luxury of organic.
I keep the store cupboards stocked up with red lentils, pulses, whole wheat pasta and lots of dried spices, so I know veggie dishes, although basic, can be bulked out with protein and with different flavours. As I mentioned yesterday, I’m cooking in bulk and freezing meals so I try to minimise wastage of some F&V that many not always get eaten up.
Now baby led weaning is underway and Baby-O is eating breakfast with us, the cheapest and most sustainable breakfast I know is porridge. I’ve been mixing it up depending on what fruit we have in, always mixing in full fat cow’s milk and a couple of dollops of full fat Greek yoghurt on the side has been a winner. My fave additions are:
*Apple or pear chopped into tiny pieces mixed into the porridge has gone down well.
*Frozen berries mixed in whilst the porridge is still on the heat to defrost them makes for a fun pink porridge.
*Always mashed banana mixed in with some cinnamon
*Dates soaked overnight, chopped and using the sweet water the next day to cook the porridge has been an occasional addition (dont want baby poop overload!)
*I’ve been adding a little peanut butter as I understand after 6 months babies can have peanut butter to help build up immunity to nut allergies.
I’ve learnt a lot since being off work about how to cook yummy things with very few but healthy ingredients and this will be a good life skill which is going to continue with me as Baby-O grows up.
No – BLW isn’t a delicious sandwich filling! Baby Led Weaning has been hailed by child experts as an effective method of getting babies food savvy and ready to eat many types of flavours and textures. I’ve got a few friends who recommended it, along with my cousin who is a community nursery nurse for an NHS health visiting team.
The deal is, instead of buying ready made baby food in jars or pouches, babies eat pretty much the same food as us, with their diet and nutritional dos and don’ts in mind first and foremost. I’m going to talk about cooking on a budget tomorrow, but this helps to keep food bills low.
Now I’m having a go at baby led weaning we’re more or less eating the same foods as Baby-O, meaning we mostly cooking everything from scratch, really cleanly, without salt. Much of the base of our food is veg and pulses. It feels good. And although I’m making most recipes up, I’ve found a few recipes that I can adapt and they still taste pretty good. A recent hit was Joe Wicks, Body Coach’s Lamb Curry! Baby-O didn’t each too much of the lamb, but loved the sauce and veg, with coconut oil, curry paste (I found a low salt one and only put a small amount in her portion), red lentils to thicken the sauce, and ground cashew nuts instead of cream, as a few of the healthy tweaks Joe has made. I do sometimes take Baby-O’s portion out before adding stronger flavours or some seasoning for us, but the base of most dishes can generally be shared by us all.
I’ve found Annabel Karmel’s website, where baby specific recipes can be added to, to make them a little more interesting for the adult palette. The Baby-Led Weaning book (Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett, The Experiment, 2010) was a useful read to see how easy and straight forward BLW is, with minimal extra preparation, and I also grabbed the Ella’s Kitchen: A Tiny Taste of the First Foods Book (Hamlyn, 2015) free with the Boots Parenting Club, which gave a few more ideas for using basic ingredients, but experimenting to adapt for my meals too.
BLW has really helped me think about cooking from scratch, using fresh ingredients, largely veggie dishes as I’ve cut down on meat – and I’m definitely feeling the health benefits with more of a spring in my step!
Since I’ve lost a bit of the baby weight and my latest triumph is being able to fit into my Levis again, I thought I’d do a few days
of sharing my post-natal nutrition story. Again, not just about losing the weight (although that is a factor so I can get back into my old wardrobe!), but about regaining my fitness and getting healthy for me and Baby-O.
Day 1 is Smoothie-Spiration!
I’ve been short on time for myself so a smoothie every morning has helped me ensure I’m on my way to getting my daily Fruit and Veg (F&V) intake. There is some controversy over smoothies – the process removes some nutritional value, and then we don’t absorb all the goodness as the smoother liquid passes through the gut too quickly. I also lack the tools of a smoothie maker that optimises the nutritious benefits from the F&V etc.
It’s the difference though between me being able to throw everything into my ‘soupmaker'(!) blender quickly and getting an easy and fulfilling breakfast as regular practice, versus haphazardly finding time for my F&V throughout the day and running out of time to eat. I’ve got my same old ingredients I pretty much use all the time if they are in the cupboard/fridge, as I’ve got used to buying them as standard on the shopping list, but I haven’t got bored of it.
I’m quite impressed with myself that this is one routine I have managed to stick to!
Just had another massive realisation on my Pilates course today – many things I thought I knew about my body are verrrry different now in comparison to my pre and post-natal body. Whereas previously I would have considered myself having good bodily awareness, it took the Pilates instructors’ corrections today to tell me my body alignment has changed, my core is weaker and my proprioceptors have lost their compass as my ‘new’ body needs to be re-tuned.
I’m thinking like a lizard changes skin! I’m renewed and it’s a gift to me as I’m going to also be teaching beginners and may be able to recognise the point of view of others who may rarely workout and are not accustomed to physical activity, or indeed other athletes and dancers who are recovering themselves from pregnancy or injury. So back to the basics I go without regret but with vigour.
That said I’ve just bombed it up the long escalator to catch my train, got to the top without stopping and still managed to engage my core and zip up my pelvic floor as I went… not entirely lost it. 😉
I heard a really relevant joke today:
– How many dancers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
– One to screw in the bulb and the rest to say they could have done it better.
…for now I’m the one reading the instructions for how to screw in the bulb.
This time last week I was on a dance floor. Sitting here on my sofa thinking about it, it’s not that crazy because that’s what people do. That’s what I do…albeit I only had 1.5 hours to sweat it out before I had to pick up Baby-O from the babysitter, and the last real ‘Dancefloor Time’ I had was probably 9 months ago before baby arrived, but I suddenly had a realisation. There is a danger I am becoming more ‘Mum’ than ‘Me’. I’m losing Me!
Through no fault of my own other than natural circumstance I’m in the danger zone of letting go of the things that used to really matter to me. I used to thrive for the moment when I would arrive at a club, take my coat off, say my hellos to the friends comprising of 80% or so of the room’s population, before starting to find that hedonistic state on the floor. The music takes over my body, puts a big smile on my face, and before I know it I’ve sweated gallons for a good four or five hours, and not had a second thought of feeling tired or too hot. This is where I grow as a dancer, where I connect my body with my passion for music, importantly where I found my partner, and if it weren’t for this combination I may not have met Baby-O. That for me replaces any 5 mile run or boring workout at the gym by far. For that moment on the floor last Sunday, dancing with my partner, it reminded me of the carefree beings we were before Baby.
The sound system of this noisy club however is no environment for a young baby’s ears. I’d been meaning for months to make a concerted effort to prepare Baby-O for being looked after by someone other than me and her Dad so I could get back to the club. I thought I’d not given her time to learn to fall asleep on her own with out me feeding her to sleep for example, so she can be looked after without her babysitter experiencing prolonged crying when she gets tired and doesn’t know how to comfort herself. I thought I should be leaving her for increasing periods of time so she would gradually get used to our absence. Finding the first moment to need to ask someone to look after baby for whatever reason – be it work or leisure – hadn’t been so important. We’d not had a strong external pressure, e.g. returning to work, to force us to practise. As a result I’d not left her for more than the occasional hour or two. So last Sunday I finally trialled leaving her with my cousin.
My ‘Schoolmum’ error of forgetting the expressed milk was my first major fail, but we live and learn. I won’t forget it next time. My expert cousin (a nursery nurse/health visitor) put me at ease, took baby from my hands with a bit of Sunday roast to fulfil her in other ways and sent me on my way. I’ve then this weekend left Baby with my mum for 2 whole days whilst I’ve been on a Pilates Instructor course, and by all accounts it seems Baby-O didn’t miss me. She had her expressed milk and her solid foods, she fell asleep without feeding from me, and that’s it. Pressure off! Seems there wasn’t really much to worry about. Ok we’re very blessed with a lovely ‘low maintenance’ baby, but now I know we can comfortably leave Baby with our trusted babysitters, I can reinstate my identity as a person not just as a parent. I can get back to being ME!
I can confidently start getting the qualities back that made me who I was, or doing the things I loved before Baby, whilst still being Mum. My mental health and wellbeing is important too. I’m going to be a little selfish, take a break from being mummy more often and make more time just for me or for me and my other half to re-kindle who we were pre-Baby-O.
Are we (Hu)Mum, or are we Dancer? I’m both. 😉
Here’s a clip of me the last time on the dance floor at month 8 of my pregnancy, before Baby-O made her appearance!
The best purchase by far was a pilates ball…not originally intended for pilates or my post-natal fitness routine – I bought this as I was planning a home birth, and all sorts of bouncing and hip rotations on the ball are supposed to induce birth. Not for me – sitting on the ball during labour just didn’t have the desired effect…but that’s another story. However, post birth and we discover that aforementioned bouncing on ball whilst holding baby not only gives a mini work out, but also helps to send Baby-O to sleep!
During my pregnancy I really worked on my posture. When I slouched everything squished inside too much and I got indigestion easier and couldn’t breath so well…I thought that by sitting without too much support at my desk at work or in the evening at. home etc. would stand me in good stead post pregnancy. Not to be as my back muscles felt weaker. I assume due to everything starting to shift back into place. I also now really notice that following long periods of breastfeeding, and sleeping whilst feeding for long periods of time (I just can’t stay awake!), the top of the lumbar region of my back is really struggling and I’ve now started physio for it.
I was trying to use the ball on a daily basis to start strengthening my back again and now trying to be more mindful when I’m feeding – e.g. not slumping back into the sofa, or slouching down or over towards baby. I’m trying to focus on drawing my shoulder blades down my back as much as possible and getting myself comfy before feeding. I’ve noticed this is hardest when LO is in a screaming fit and I’m trying to get boob to mouth as quickly as possible before she completely melts down. As I got into month two I took the (rare) moments of screaming in my stride and put myself a little bit before her needs to make sure I’m properly set up before feeding. Besides what’s two extra minutes when I’ve got to look after my health to get stronger again for her?
- 25 bounces, squeezing up pelvic floor and buttocks as I go
- 25 hip swings side to side – I think pendulum, squeezing either side of the body at the waist as I contract to tone my waistline, and a little bounce through centre, working the legs a little too.
- 25 pelvic isolations forward and back – as I tilt my pelvis forward squeezing buttocks, and working lower back muscles as I tilt backwards
- 12 smooth pelvic circles round the clock each way without bouncing, and then with a gentle bounce at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock pelvic tilts
- 25 standing ‘preparations’ – these are similar to the action of the initial moment of standing from a seated position. With momentum a bounce rocking backwards on the ball and then a bounce rocking forward and pushing up as if about to stand. I have a rhythm playing out in my head bounce, back, bounce forward with these 3 variations:
I’ve actually found the last one helps when I’ve finished feeding the baby last thing at night, she has fallen asleep, and I need to do that ninja move of standing up from the sofa without changing the sleeping position of this light sleeper whatsoever to take her to her crib. The unique talent of standing without the heave ho action, nor needing to push up with my hands. Yes. I have got skillz.
I checked the correct ball size to suit my height and got an anti-burst ball – the knees should be lower than the hips when sitting on it. I also found an electric pump easier to blow the ball up – it came with the birthing pool pack(!) if you can get your hands on one.
Here’s a little video of the pilates ball at work (sorry it’s a bit dark – it’s the late night low light to help Baby-O to sleep!)…
2017 was a BIG year for me in many ways. I gave birth in June. I’ve had a baby (life-changing), and I’ve gone from having lots of endless energy pre-pregnancy to feeling like an 80 year old post pregnancy. Ok, so that’s nature, but here’s my reason for writing: I’m a dancer and dance teacher.
For someone so accustomed of jumping to life when I hear the beat, of throwing myself in the air and then directly flat out to the floor in a contemporary class without a thought, or to sweating it out through high octane jazz dance rehearsals, at 7 months post-natal, that still doesn’t feel so possible. I’ve decided to document my journey from physically wild ‘soloist’ to careful, conscientious vessel carrying a mini passenger, to now: the little one has disembarked, I’ve got her in tow and I am trying to get energy, motivation and routine back.
Where It Began
My first three months of pregnancy felt like a licence to slow down. Shouldn’t I be protecting my foetus from shock by ‘not over-doing it’? The advice from the midwife; if you’re used to a very physical fitness regime then continue until it doesn’t feel comfortable. Week 10, and it didn’t feel comfortable. So early on? Maaan! My effort in my usual high impact all over again body workout contemporary dance class felt half hearted as I became suddenly extremely aware of my core. It felt weak. Well not so much weak but again – like I needed to protect my centre from sudden movement or for example anything involving floor work, bending forward, plank or ‘cobra’ style action.
So there I was. Jan 2017. 5 month countdown until baby arrives and it was going to get harder. I know; the cliche of new year, new me, new routine, New Years resolutions to try swimming regularly, blah-di-blah – obviously that didn’t last. Baby-O arrived in June and time to myself was far from my grasp. It would just take some time and independence training for her to be looked after (for her and me!), so I could get to the swimming pool, a dance class, rehearsals or just go to a club dance event.
To start a walking ‘network’ to reintroduce my body back to fitness with baby by my side and, in the meantime, practise Baby-O independence, building up again to higher impact training!
I know I will be more motivated if I have a commitment to others, to help me stay focussed, I am going to create a forum over on The Love of Dance Facebook group, aimed at women like me, who are used to physical, powerful fitness regimes, who want to sustain as closely as possible their strength and healthy lifestyle during pregnancy, whilst protecting the growth and wellbeing of the delicate baby cargo, and then to try to recuperate once baby has arrived.
So what now?
In my experience as a dance teacher, alongside that of health and fitness experts, I want to investigate:
- the most effective and safest fitness plan that can be practically maintained, with the understanding that this will need to adapt to a changing body;
- different forms and methods of exercise in conjunction, of course, with a healthy diet and mind-set,
- focussing also on mental and physical preparation for the birth;
- and look at techniques to manage fitness time with and without baby by my side;
- all working hand in hand with a holistic journey to a healthy pregnancy helping baby’s development,
- and ultimately so I can get quickly back into shape post baby popping out!
I’m writing from the POV of a:
37 year old;
Previously full time office worker with no routine in addition to dance teaching;
I have no routine that I can stick to (trust me, I’ve tried. I stick to anything I have a responsibility or incentive to stick to – e.g. Rehearsals for the incentive of chance of performance or where I have to answer to someone if I don’t turn up…or where I’ve paid for the course. Fickle right?!);
My aerobic training mostly used to happen at music events – mostly house music or jazz fusion events happening in the early weekend evenings. Most attendees go to these events to dance AND SWEAT IT OUT ON THE DANCEFLOOR, not to drink. Perfect for happy feel good vibes, getting a workout without really noticing, and doubly perfect if you’re preggers…but not so perfect for baby’s sensitive ears…so what’s next to get my workout fix?