Recently I was part of a truly lovely mums discussion.
Now, it's my experience that these are often few and far between. Plenty of mum's forums and discussion groups centre around the drama and chaos of childbirth and rearing, and so when I fall into a discussion filled with positivity and joy I am compelled to share it.
Of course, I believe in talking through the realities of being a parent, and yes, a lot of the time it is hard and you don't always love it.
But it makes me sad when the majority of the discussions, groups and forums make it almost impossible to share good-news stories (without any judgment) and the little wins. Because if you focus on all the little, good things, then the bad things get crowded out, no matter how small the good things are.
This chat centred around the advice we found most useful when we were new mums and the little pieces of positive information that were gifted to us by unsuspecting friends that became indispensable life lessons.
I had plenty of examples of these. Sometimes you don't realise how significant a passing comment can actually be. Some of my favourite examples that helped me to breath more easily during my own new-mum days included (but were not limited to);
1.) A birth plan is just a plan, not a written in stone road map. Sure, have one, but be open to listening to the advice of those you have chosen to surround yourself with – they've often done this hundreds of times.
2.) Breastfeeding takes practice – even the second time around. You and your new baby need to learn each other, and the first time is not indicative of the babies to come after, each one will be like the first time… and that is okay. And there should be no judgment if you are struggling, only support. If there's not, then seek advice somewhere else. Support is key.
3.) It's ok not to feel like the unicorn of pregnancy, it's ok to say out loud that pregnancy isn't what you expected (or even that it's not something you're enjoying). Feeling this way does not make you ungrateful and it will not harm your relationship to the baby to acknowledge how you feel. In fact, it will help you feel better.
There's a fair few more of these gems. But as a food writer and woman of endless hunger, the one that really stayed with me was this… always have a welcome snack and a bottle of water by your feeding chair.
And leave them there, freshly stocked and ready for the inevitable midnight feed/settle, because once you're settled in (regardless if you are breast or bottle feeding) it's the worst kind of sinking feeling to realise that you're stuck there without a decent snack or some water… and you're the only person in the whole wide world that is awake.
It was a tip given to me from a woman who was several times a grandmother and who still believed, many years after her own last child, that this was important (and tasty) advice.
And for me, she was so very right.
The wisdom of this is actually quite profound. If you are breastfeeding, a drink of water can help with milk let-down (and that was certainly a very physical and direct response for me). But regardless of that, most new mothers are so busy caring for a new human being (without a manual) that they often end up exhausted and dehydrated.
The one place you do get a chance to sit still (maybe) is in the feeding chair (maybe), so it's a possible opportunity to replenish that fluid. If you keep yourself hydrated, it makes everything else a little easier to bear. So, make sure there's a fresh bottle of water there at all times, you beautiful but dehydrated woman you. Ask those around you to help refill it too, it's a great job for partners and support people to take on.
The second part of this great advice is about having the means to sate ravenous hunger and it comes in the form of the ugliest but most wonderful cookie you can imagine. Looking after a new baby is hard work and again, often by accident, new mothers don't get the best chances to eat.
If you're breast feeding you are likely to be hungry because of the physical process of creating milk. But again, hunger is not exclusive to breast feeders and all new mums are busy and need food to burn as energy.
The best part of this tip was to keep some hearty cookies on hand in an airtight container right next to that bottle of water by the feeding/settling chair. Keep it fully stocked and loaded, but not with the usual packets of chocolate coated nothingness. If you're going to stock a snack, make it worthwhile and go for something with a bit of nutritional content as well as comforting flavour.
Enter the lactation/feeding cookie. The version that was passed to me makes the ugliest cookies you can imagine, but by god were they a life saver. They became a staple in my house, because not only were they made significantly of peanut butter (one of my favourite things), they were sweetened with honey and fortified with oats, flax and brewer's yeast – ingredients said to promote breast milk production.
But again, regardless of the milk supporting factor, they didn't contain any refined sugar, were a salty sweet and hearty mouthful that actual filled you up and they were so easy to make that my husband took to baking them when I couldn't (yep, he loved them too).
So, this is the little piece of new-mother joy that I am here to share. Behold, the best cookies to keep by your chair for midnight feeds and snuggles – and that's what I call #joyfulfood. And if this advice helps just one other mother, then my job here is done.
And one more thing; you're doing a great job.
Jane's new-mum cookies:
1.5 cups wholemeal flour
1 cup self-raising flour
1 ¼ cups oats (instant or rolled)
2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
2/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons brewer's yeast (optional)
2 tablespoons flaxseeds (optional)
1.) Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
2.) Mix together all the try ingredients in a large bowl and stir well (include the bewer's yeast and flax seeds here if using).
3.) In a small saucepan melt together the butter, honey and peanut butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well.
4.) Roll table spoons of the mix into balls and place – well spaced – on the baking tray. Flatten them slightly with a spoon or fork and bake for 15minutes or until golden and browning. Allow to cool completely and then store in an airtight container right next to your feeding or settling chair and enjoy next time you're up in the middle of the night to settle the baby.