Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Dear mum, cut yourself some slack

Image result for lynette scavo memes mum
Lynette Scavo of the Desperate Housewives series often comes to mind whenever I think of the challenges of motherhood. I also often wonder how some mums like Bree in the same series seem to get it all together.

A mother often finds out that her to-do-list for the day is hardly completed each day and wonder as much as she can, she finds it difficult to figure out what exactly took up the hours. This is especially the case when a mother has a baby, and perhaps a toddler. Working-mums often think Stay-At-Home mums (SAHMs) usually have the entire day to themselves while in reality,  they are often busy round the clock especially during working hours. Working mums often find it easier to cut themselves some slack but not so for SAHMs.

The increasing use of social media which gives many people the opportunity to showcase their picture-perfect lives adds even more weight on the shoulders of mums, leading some mums to believe they are not doing well as mothers.

Dear mother, cut yourself some slack. The most important things in motherhood include your sanity and your kids' well-being. Ticking off all the boxes in your to-do-list is not a priority. Having a spick and span home is beautiful but not always realistic especially when you have toddlers in the home.

Remind yourself each day you are unable to finish all your tasks that you are an awesome mum. Babies and other children do not care about to-do-lists. If you ever have to choose between rocking or tucking into bed your child and cleaning up the house,  please choose the former. Showing them love and giving them attention rank higher than a spick and span home.  Whenever you feel tired and unable to finish the day's chores, give yourself a break.

Bottomline: Be the best mother and homemaker you can be, never compare your motherhood challenges to that of another, never see someone else's as standard. Whenever you see that mother who like Bree seems to get all her motherhood acts together, wish her well and remind yourself that your struggles aren't the same. You do not have to be a perfect mother, just be the best mother you can be and take it one step at a time. Sometimes it is okay to offer children junk food; sometimes it's okay to just offer them biscuits and tea for breakfast; sometimes it is okay to ignore the toys and clothes scattered all over the house.  At the end of the day the memories that linger are neither the spick and span house nor the days you have all your acts together; the memories that linger are the heartfelt smiles, the first steps, the day something frightened them and they ran into the safety of your arms, the day you wiped off the blood gushing from the cuts they sustained, the days you told them bedtime stories and the stories you told, the day you winked at them or laughed at their silly jokes or pranks, the day they screamed at the top of their lungs as the merry-go-round moved.  The memories that linger often never get made because mummy was busy trying to be the perfect mum with a spick and span home. 

Children grow very fast. In what seems to be the blink of an eye, your baby becomes an adult. Focus more on making memories your children will always cherish and less on being a perfect mum. If a spick and span home seems to elude you now, calm down, someday sooner than you expect, you will long for the noise and seeming chaos that once characterized your home as you stare at your spick and span home almost empty except for you and your significant other. 

Monday, 9 April 2018

Mango puree for babies

It is the mango season and why would our little ones be denied the joy mango seasons bring? Mangos are loaded with vitamins A and C, contain carotenoids, folate, iron, potassium and several other minerals. Except a child is allergic or intolerant to mango, I doubt if there is any reason to deny a child who has started complementary feeding the sheer joy mango brings. Who doesn't remember licking mangos as a child and having the liquid drip up to one's elbows, and having mango fibers stuck between one's teeth?

Like almost all seasonal fruits in Nigeria, there is a period of excess when mangoes are very cheap in the market and often thrown away, then followed by a long period when the only reminder one gets of mangos are mango trees. Like all fruits too, there are myths surrounding taking a lot of mangoes like 'mangoes cause intestinal worms' or 'mangoes cause dysentery' both of which are unfounded. Mango in itself neither causes worms nor dysentery, but licking unwashed mangoes can cause diseases because of the microorganisms the fruit may have been exposed to during handling. Hence it is better to only choose mangoes without breaks in their skin and to wash them in salted water before licking. 
Needless to say, when preparing any food for babies, every utensil to be used as well as the hands of the food handler should be properly washed. When choosing fruits or any food to be prepared for babies, blemish-free and if possible organic ones should be chosen to reduce the risk of contamination. Homemade foods are usually recommended over commercially-processed foods for babies. 

According to Nutritionists, mango puree can be given to babies above 6 months of age. 
Procedure for preparing mango puree.
  1. Choose a ripe but firm mango without breaks on the skin. A break on the skin of a mango increases the chances that the mango could be contaminated.  
  2. Wash the fruit in clean, salted water
  3. Using a clean knife, cut the mango along the sides of the seed to separate the flesh from the seed. Remove as much flesh as you can from the seed
  4. Peel the skin off the flesh and cut the flesh into smaller sizes to enable ease of blending (or mashing). Doing steps 3 and 4 as described is a more hygienic way to handle the mango as compared to peeling off the skin first before cutting off the flesh. The recommended method ensures the handler's hands have as little contact with the mango flesh as possible.   
  5. Blend the mango flesh. Unlike with most fruit purees, blending mangoes gives a far better result than mashing as mangoes can be quite fibrous. Blending ensures most, if not all of the fibrous materials in mango flesh is pureed.
  6. Your mango puree is ready
Mango puree can be frozen in the freezer for future use, that is if you have no concerns about electricity supply like most Nigerians do.  
Fruit purees can be warmed before presentation to a baby by using a water bath method of cooking; place a pot of hot water on a stove and put the plate containing the puree in the water to warm it. Do not let the water level reach the top of the plate else the water could enter the puree when it boils which could make your puree watery. Do not use a plastic plate to warm the puree to avoid chemicals leaching into the puree. Ceramics or stainless steel plates are better. 

Pictorial representation of the procedure
Image may contain: fruit and food
A mango specie commonly called "opioro" in South-Eastern Nigeria
The mango used for preparing the puree in this article

Flesh sliced off the seed

Skin removed from the flesh and flesh diced into smaller bits to make for easy pureeing
End result

Ready for freezing

Recommended articles
Homemade baby meal ideas. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Fruit of the week: Avocado


Avocado can be found year-round in Nigeria but at certain seasons of the year, like now, the green-shaped, fleshy body fruit that could be described as ' pear-shaped' or 'egg-shaped'  is aplenty in the Nigerian market and thus relatively cheap. Unlike other fruits that consist primarily of carbs, avocados are high in healthy monounsaturated fats and other nutrients, making avocados beneficial for the heart. When compared to similar fatty foods like butter, avocado contains low levels of cholesterol, is a low-calorie food, and does not lead to increased weight gain. 

Below are some of the things we found out about avocado that we wish to share with Nigerian mothers. 
  1. Avocado is a great source of minerals and vitamins. It also contains phytochemicals that help in protecting the eyes as they are said to reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. 
  2. Avocados are weight-loss friendly as they are good sources of fiber: Fiber is an indigestible plant matter that helps increase the satiety value of food which eventually reduces one's desire to eat more thereby contributing to weight loss. They also help prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive tract and lower the risk of colon cancer. 
  3. Avocados are said to be rich in folate as 100g of the fleshy fruit contains about  20% of the RDA of Folate making it beneficial for pregnant women. Folate reduces the risk of miscarriage and neural tube defects in unborn babies. 
  4. Avocado has been described by nutritionists as "a great first food for babies". Avocado is a great nutrient-dense food full of healthy monounsaturated fats and nearly 20 minerals and vitamins. Its texture and creaminess make it acceptable to many babies. Avocado can be mashed/pureed with different fruits to make wonderful baby foods.

Mashed/pureed avocado; a great first food for babies
See Avocado and egg puree and other baby meal ideas for suggestions on healthy and nutritious foods you can offer your baby

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Sweet Potato and Spinach puree

Spinach in its pureed forms may not be the among the visually appealing foods, but they certainly make the foods nutritionally richer.  Spinach is a wonderful vegetable that serves as a great source of Calcium, Iron, Vitamin A, Folate and several other micro-nutrients. In its pureed form, Spinach imparts an intense green colour to any food it is mixed with hence the colour of the potato puree presented in this article. 
Ordinarilly, sweet potato puree could have any colour ranging from white, yellow to orange but never green. Green-coloured potato purees got their colours from other contents of the puree apart from potatoes. 

Iron, Calcium, Folate and Vitamin A are among the food nutrients babies need sufficient supplies of and considering the fact that Spinach has sufficient quantities of these nutrients, then potato and spinach puree is a great food for babies who have started eating solids. 

Method of Preparation
Preparing sweet potato and spinach puree involves the same method employed when preparing sweet potato purees except for the addition of spinach leaves.
  1. Peel the skin off the sweet potato and chop into small bits which makes the potato cook fast as well as makes the potato easier to mash or blend
  2. Boil potato until soft
  3. Mash or blend the cooked potatoes alongside the washed spinach leaves. Add water to achieve a consistency suitable for your baby's age and palate. You could use the water used in boiling the potatoes or entirely new water. 
  4. Your Sweet potatoes and Spinach puree is ready. 

Unpeeled sweet potato
Bits of sweet potato with spinach leaves
Cooked potatoes ready for blending

Potato + Spinach puree ready

Click Baby meal ideas for more suggestions of healthy and nutritious homemade meals you can offer your baby

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Baby-friendly pasta

Feeding your baby healthy homemade meals does not have to be difficult. Sometimes you just offer the baby a mashed version of what others in the family are eating. Just that when preparing the food you have to put the baby's palate into consideration and use as little seasoning as possible. 

The food presented in this article is spaghetti with vegetables, mackerel, and egg. The baby's version contains spaghetti, vegetables, mackerel and egg yolk all mashed to a consistency befitting an 8 months old baby. 
You can make yours' with any pasta of your choice as well as any healthy vegetable you can lay your hands on.

Adult version of the food
Adult vs baby version of the same food

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Pureed meat for babies

The decision to give increased attention to infant nutrition this month is not only because of how important nutrition is in the first one thousand days of a person's life is, it is also because we understand the challenges parents often face in knowing which healthy and appropriate foods to offer their babies. Under the guidance of a Nutritionist plus evidence-based research, The Informed Mum offers suggestions on healthy, nutritious, and homemade alternatives to store-bought baby foods. Clicking on the label "Baby Meals Ideas" on the blog shows different suggestions on baby meals one can easily whip up for one's baby. 

Meat is rich in dietary iron. The more finely grounded meat is, the easier the body finds it to absorb the iron. Given that dietary iron is one of the nutrients a baby who has started eating solids needs, then offering meat-based foods to such a baby is a good idea. Nutritionists recommend that meat be pureed with other foods such as vegetables to reduce the possibility of getting a 'stringy' end-product.  

Method of Preparation.

  • Wash and cut your preferred type of meat into small bits. It could be beef, chicken or any other fresh meat available. Chicken was used in the one presented here. 
  • Put meat bits into a pot and add enough water to cover the meat
  • Cook on low heat until meat is tender and soft.
  • Wash and if necessary chop the vegetable you have and add to the already cooked meat. The type of vegetable determines how long it should stay in the hot meat stock. Some vegetables cook faster than others. You could also choose to steam your vegetable in a different pot. Carrot was the vegetable used in the one presented here
  • Allow meat to cool a bit then transfer meat, stock and vegetable into a blender or food processor and blend. Blenders or food processors are usually better choices here as they tend to completely mash the meat to reduce the risk of bits of meat choking the baby. 
  • Your meat puree is ready to be served.
Pictorial description presented below
Bits cut from chicken thigh

Meat cooked on low heat till tender
Sliced carrots added to the already tender meat
Tenderized meat, carrot and meat stock ready to be blended
End product. 

Meats by nature are tasty. Adding a slightly sweet vegetable like carrot further enhances the taste of pureed/mashed meat. 

N.B: Neither salt, pepper or nor sort of seasoning was added. Nutritionists recommend that baby foods be as free from seasonings and spices as possible. 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Mashed/pureed rice and vegetables

Parents of babies who have started eating solids are often at cross-roads of what food options to offer their babies, the challenges are more for nutrition-conscious parents who want to offer the best they can afford to their babies, as well as for parents of picky eaters who need to keep trying new meals to see that which their baby would love. 

Home made baby foods are usually better than store-bought ones for several reasons among which are discussed here. 

Babies do not have to be limited to eating pap alone, babies like all humans love variety.  Sometimes offering a baby a baby-friendly version of what the grown-ups are eating is good. It saves one the stress of preparing an entirely different food for the baby and also introduces the baby's palate to staple foods in the family. 

Rice is a staple food in Nigeria. Most homes eat a rice-based meal at least once a week. Some store-bought baby cereals are also rice-based. Rice is actually not a great food for babies because of it's low content of nutrients needed by babies. Like all such foods, rice can be supplemented with other foods to create a nutrient balance of sorts. The rice described in this article is supplemented with nutrient-dense vegetables. 

To prepare this one needs rice and any variety of vegetables one can get. The more varied the vegetables, the better

Method of Preparation
  • Boil the white rice just the way you do for the entire family but do not add salt. Pediatricians discourage the addition of salt to foods meant for babies below a year old.
  • Thoroughly wash and steam the  vegetables (either using a steamer or spreading over your hot, cooked rice for about 2-5 minutes depending on the type of vegetable). Some vegetables take slightly longer to soften, example carrots and broccoli. 
  • Scoop the softened vegetables and a little rice into your blender or food processor and mash. Or use whatever method of mashing baby food you use. The aim is to achieve a consistency suitable for your baby's age and preference. Older babies can handle not-so smooth consistencies. 
Your baby food is ready. The major difference between this food and a regular vegetable puree is the inclusion of rice. 
N.B: Stew was not added to the baby's version as the stew contained salt and some seasonings believed not to be very suitable for babies. Feel free to add a little stew to yours if your baby is at least 10 months old and/or your stew contains nothing you think the baby cannot handle. 

Vegetables added to the rice meant for the family

The rice and vegetable ready to be mashed
Mashed rice and veggies. Notice the not-so smooth consistency?

Adult version of the rice meal

Click here for more baby meal ideas