15 Minute Vegetable Rice

The beauty of this is that you can make it suit you and your family. You can add or take away bits depending on what you have in your cupboards and what you like to eat. We regularly eat it as a whole meal but it can be a tasty side dish (or just make  it to save some pennies on take away rice when your order a curry).

Before we get to the nitty gritty let me just say this; I HATE recipes. They always have some obscure thing that isn’t sat in your cupboards or one ingredient that’s crazy expensive and occasionally require you to have a very large piece of equipment that can only be used to do one very specific task. So, this isn’t a recipe as such – it’s an idea. A beautiful, lazy dinner idea that you can feel great about. 
 
 
You will need:
  • A chopping board
  • A knife
  • A saucepan with a lid
  • A hob
  • Running water 
  • Maybe a cheese grater
  • A measuring jug (and yes, you can use a baby bottle to measure, no judgement)
  • Kitchen scales or cup measures
  • Sieve or muslin
  • Rice (I recommend basmati but long grain is fine)
  • Assorted vegetables 
  • Herbs and spices of your choosing
  • Stock cube 
 
 
You can put any vegetables you like in this, if they have a longer cooking time like most root veg then grate them and if they’re fast cooking then chopping is fine. I like to buy onions, cabbage and carrots, prep them and freeze them so they can just be grabbed from the freezer and thrown into dishes like this. 
The only bit of measuring you need to do is with the rice – 70-80g per person and then twice as much water (140ml – 160ml). Brown rice or long grain rice may need a little extra so check your packet or just add about a quarter again. If you don’t have scales you can do it by volume using the 1:2 ratio. 
 
  1. Bring your water to the boil with your stock, herbs and spices and a handful of each of your chosen veg – we like turmeric, mixed herbs, veggie stock, onion, carrot, cabbage and peas. Love the lid on so you don’t lose too much water.
  2. Rinse your rice! This stops it going stodgy and clumpy. Pop it in the sieve or a muslin and run cold water through it until it’s basically clear.
  3. Add your rice to the boiling water and veg and STIR ONCE. Don’t be tempted to keep stirring.
  4. Pop the lid on and bring it to the boil again.
  5. Once it’s boiling turn it down to a simmer and stand back for 12 minutes. Just leave it. Don’t take the lid off, don’t stir it.  
  6. Once your 12 minutes are up take it off the heat, get a fork and  shift a bit of rice to the side. If you still have water in there pop the lid on and  simmer it in one minute intervals until the water is gone.  You probably won’t need to unless you’re making rice for 6 people though. 
  7. Fluff it up with a fork and serve! 
 
The beauty of this is that you can make it suit you and your family. You can add or take away bits depending on what you have in your cupboards and what you like to eat. We regularly eat it as a whole meal but it can be a tasty side dish (or just make  it to save some pennies on take away rice when your order a curry). Sometime we fry up some cooking bacon with courgette and have that with it and some times we fry the rice up with eggs.  I love having this versatile dish under my belt and best of all? It looks like I’ve made an effort when I reeeeally haven’t. 

Pictured:  curried vegetable rice with tortilla chips – beef stock, curry powder, mixed herbs, onion and carrot

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The ups and downs of baby led weaning

I began giving her finger foods like cucumber sticks and avocado wedges to munch on, but every time she coughed I was convinced she was choking. My partner must have been sick of my overreacting, but I didn’t see it as that at the time. There was nothing melodramatic, I really thought she wasn’t breathing when she clearly was.

Our weaning journey began what feels like a million years ago, but it was actually only 10 months ago.

My experience of weaning Olivia may have been very different to others’ experiences, but I think that some of the worries and concerns would be the same as any other mum starting to wean their little monster!

At four and a half months old, Olivia was so interested in everyone’s food. She was rolling and pulling herself along the floor, and could sit up all by herself. She also had a habit of putting EVERYTHING in her mouth, and trying ever so hard to pinch my food and eat it, so her hand eye coordination was good enough for weaning too. But I didn’t feel ready.

My baby was giving me all of the signs to say that she was ready to wean, and so the day before she was 5 months old, she had her first rusk. I watched her like a hawk, terrified that she would choke on a bit of it, but she was absolutely fine and she loved it.

That was the beginning, and it started relatively well. I began giving her finger foods like cucumber sticks and avocado wedges to munch on, but every time she coughed I was convinced she was choking. My partner must have been sick of my overreacting, but I didn’t see it as that at the time. There was nothing melodramatic, I really thought she wasn’t breathing when she clearly was.

She was fast approaching six months old, the recommended age for weaning babies, and so pressure from my health visitor was increasing to let her try a variety of foods herself, and I said yes and went along with it. Every mealtime was emotionally traumatic for me. Every mealtime I ended up in tears and snatched the food away from Olivia, throwing it out and replacing it with milk. It was so hard to be sure that she wasn’t choking and that she was fine. Around that time I was re-diagnosed with depression and anxiety having spent two months thinking everything had gone away by itself, and that explained my irrational fear of the little one coughing at mealtimes, but it’s also a common feeling for new, first time mums to feel so worried about choking. I attended all of the save a baby’s life and baby weaning workshops at the local health centres, but it didn’t prepare me for how hard it would be not to assume the worst and overreact at the slightest spluttering.

It didn’t help being told that it was normal and that every new mum gets paranoid, because personally I don’t believe that it’s true. Why are people on the outside so quick to paint as wide a brushstroke as possible to say what is normal? What is normal for me isn’t normal for somebody else. My obsessive anxiety over feeding my daughter was not normal for me, and once I stopped trying to be normal and follow the advice of other mums, my own maternal instinct was allowed to kick in.

I convinced the health visitor that baby led weaning was too hard for me, listening to my partner who didn’t want to see me and our baby crying our eyes out at every meal. I was able to finally speak for myself and access support, not unhelpful advice that clearly wasn’t working for me. She helped me work out a proper feeding schedule, phasing in a ready-brek breakfast, a pureed lunch and a pureed dinner, healthy vegetarian options incorporating different flavours and textures. Choosing not to continue with baby led weaning didn’t mean that Olivia wasn’t going to experience different foods, or that she wasn’t going to learn how to eat (as my partner kept reminding me).

As my confidence grew and my anxiety lessened, we fell back into baby led weaning as if she’d been doing it all along. She took food off my plate, she had fruit and vegetable finger foods, and we switched to toast for breakfast for her to feed herself.

She’s now 15 months old, loves her food, and has absolutely no problems navigating lumps and bumps in her meals. Most foods she feeds herself, some are still semi-mashed up and spoon-fed. Looking back on the first 2/3 months of weaning, it seems silly and unnecessary that I worried so much. I desperately wanted to be able to do something right, after having a ton of trouble breastfeeding I think I wanted to compensate.

There was nothing to compensate for. She was fed, happy, healthy, loved and looked after. Who cares how we do it, as long that’s what we do?

It may take time to find your groove, but it’s there, and everything does click into place in the end.

Can you breastfeed a baby with tongue tie?

At the clinic we were told that she had an anterior tongue tie. We had been positive it was posterior given that it went unnoticed for so long, but the severity of it was another example of how let down we had been by the health professionals. She could poke her tongue out, yes, but she could neither move her tongue side to side nor up and down. Her movement was that limited.

This is something I’ve balled my eyes out over. Not once, but what feels like a million times.
I never knew what a tongue tie was, until I had Olivia. Even then, it wasn’t a case of her not being able to feed from me and it being diagnosed straight away. Oh no, no, no… She was exclusively breastfed for the first 11 weeks of her life (I hate that it wasn’t even 3 months) and at that time everything changed.
You see, a tongue tied baby can breastfeed, and the longer they can manage it, the more they are exercising and stretching their frenulum – the little bit of skin holding the tongue to the base of the mouth. BUT it will get to a point where the movement is too limited to continue to be able to latch. What makes it more difficult is that the exercise and stretching, in my case, confused the health visitors and breastfeeding gurus/lactation consultants because Olivia could poke her tongue out… something which tongue tied babies aren’t supposed to be able to do.
At 11 weeks old, Olivia’s weight had already dropped twice the 2 weeks before, and there I was at the weigh in, confident that she had been fed much more regularly and must have put on weight this time. That all came crashing down in a split second. In the space of 3 weeks she had plummeted from being on the 75th percentile to the 0.9th. The health visitor looked at me. If you’ve experienced this you know that look. It was saying, “What have you been doing to your baby?” I broke down. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t hold my baby. The guilt consumed me. I only wanted what was best for her. Why was MY milk not good enough to keep her growing?
And then she said it.
“Your baby needs formula.”
It all happened again. I couldn’t breathe. I nodded silently, sobbing uncontrollably.

If you’re a formula feeding mama by choice, maybe you won’t understand this… But my choice was to breastfeed her exclusively. I was against formula completely, I didn’t want to put her on it, I wanted her to have my breastmilk that my body had made specifically for her. I was proud of breastfeeding and there was never a doubt in my mind that I would breastfeed her for as long as I could. Until I couldn’t. The choice was taken away from me.

My daughter was starving.
Starving.
That’s the first time I’ve admitted it, you know. Before now my partner and mother in law have said it. I know that it happened but I couldn’t admit it. It added to my guilt. If she was losing weight why didn’t I put her on formula sooner? But the truth is I was blamed for the problem. It was thought to be because of her having a dummy, or because I had a routine with her and wasn’t feeding her on demand (even though I was).
Jamie (my other half) and his mum pleaded with me to give her a bottle for my own sanity too. I remember in particular she said I couldn’t have Olivia hanging off me 24/7. But they didn’t get it. I did everything to keep breastfeeding.
When she finally got diagnosed with a tongue tie, we were referred to a specialist clinic in London to have it snipped. She was 14 weeks and 2 days old. The oldest baby in the clinic. I had to lie about how much breastmilk she was having because for the NHS to snip the tongue tie the baby had to be almost exclusively breastfed. I hired a double breast pump and my GP put me on domperidone, an antisickness tablet with a side effect of lactation. But even that wasn’t enough to get my supply back up. For 6 weeks at that stage Olivia had either been not getting enough milk herself or had been having formula, and once the demand isn’t there, the supply isn’t either.
At the clinic we were told that she had an anterior tongue tie. We had been positive it was posterior given that it went unnoticed for so long, but the severity of it was another example of how let down we had been by the health professionals. She could poke her tongue out, yes, but she could neither move her tongue side to side nor up and down. Her movement was that limited.
At the clinic they told us we needed to massage the wound daily to stop it repairing, and that the babies weren’t to use any artificial teats. We should finger feed them instead with a nasal tube in their mouths like a straw. That was nonsense. Maybe it would have worked on a newborn baby for a mum whose supply hadn’t deteriorated like mine, but again I had to choose formula. I carried on breastfeeding and the first feed after the operation was amazing. I could tell the difference in her latch. I could see how hungry she was. And I took comfort in the fact that I had this perfect feed and that my milk was healing her wound.

Don’t get me wrong the operation itself was horrendous, but at least she could feed now. I wanted to go back to exclusive breastfeeding, but once your supply has virtually gone it is so hard to get it back. So she stayed on formula, and on the minute amount of breastmilk that I was able to give her.
One night she just stopped. She didn’t want it anymore. I don’t know how it happened, but it felt final and it was the last time she ever latched onto me for comfort in the night.
That was 5 months ago.
At 9 months old we ended our breastfeeding journey. And believe me there were A LOT of trials and tribulations along the way, but her tongue tie was the worst one of them. It broke me again and again. I felt guilty for such a long time, but I did everything I could and I’ve accepted now that formula and breastmilk made my baby girl grow from this….
To this…
I loved breastfeeding. I could never understand why you wouldn’t try, but sometimes you will end up formula feeding anyway. It still upsets me, but I know I can’t carry that guilt anymore.
That’s my breastfeeding story.

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My breastfeeding story

During my pregnancy breastfeeding was the only option I wanted for my baby, well for the first few months at least. My mum had bought me a steriliser, bottles, the teats, the bottle brush and although I was ever so grateful, in the back of my mind I thought “I want to breastfeed, so these won’t be useful… or at least not for a while.”

I wish I could say that breastfeeding worked for me but I can’t.
During my pregnancy breastfeeding was the only option I wanted for my baby, well for the first few months at least. My mum had bought me a steriliser, bottles, the teats, the bottle brush and although I was ever so grateful, in the back of my mind I thought “I want to breastfeed, so these won’t be useful… or at least not for a while.”

I watched the breastfeeding DVD to prepare myself and I attended a parent event where I spoke to two very lovely ladies who demonstrated with a woollen boob just how the baby would latch on. I found some different outfits to wear for breastfeeding and I even spoke to people to find out where I could breastfeed in town. I prepared myself for the odd person I was undoubtedly going to meet who would have a problem with my feeding  in public. How did other people deal with it? I read articles to find out. I knew it might be a bit difficult at first, but this was what I wanted and I was going to keep trying until it worked. I wanted to provide the milk for my baby and everyone I spoke to at that time had told me it was the best option for my baby.

My contractions started at a parent evening class on the Tuesday. I was too embarrassed to say anything because the lady running the group had joked that she’d “never had anyone go into labour at her pre-natal classes before”, and I was the silly sod who left it a week before my due date to attend the first class! I also attended the class on my own because for some reason, despite the fact it was called a ‘parent event’, it didn’t click in my head that my partner could come. I am going to blame the baby brain for that! I gave birth to my daughter on the Friday.
After giving birth to my daughter, despite feeling exhausted, (as I’m sure is the norm in that situation!), I had a new wave of energy and adrenaline.

This was it, I was going to do it. I was going to provide the food for my daughter.

The rest of that day we had a bit of trouble, but my daughter seemed to be latching on for short times. We were both just learning!

That first night though I must have had my finger permanently on the buzzer for the poor nurses. “I can’t do it.” It just didn’t seem to be working. The nurse would try to help me with the latch on each time. “You’ll get the hang of it.” “You’re tired.” In the end we were all getting a bit frustrated and the nurse thought she would try a premade bottle.

‘Hmmmm ok’, I thought, ‘just this once, just while I get the hang of it, but I don’t want her to get too used to the bottle.’I kept trying that day and as far as I was aware we were getting there.

That afternoon we were able to go home and me and my partner were full of excitement and adrenaline… we were mentally ready for this…
… but our daughter cried and cried and cried and cried.My partner sang to her, rocked her, we fed her, we played music, we even played womb sounds from YouTube.

Nothing was working.
By the early hours of the morning our confidence had been crushed in one foul swoop. The experience from that one night was enough to dampen our spirits for the next few months. We felt like absolute failures and we did the only last thing we could think to do at 2am in the morning and it was to phone for the cavalry. My partner’s mum came over, (I’m sure she was absolutely thrilled at that time of the day), and we were grateful that we weren’t alone because we thought clearly we can’t do this.
“She’s hungry,” she said.She can’t be, I thought. I’ve been feeding her constantly!

“We’re setting up the steriliser.” My partner and his mum proceeded to feed my daughter and I sat in the bedroom and sobbed, for what felt like hours. This isn’t what I wanted!

I’m pretty sure that what I was feeling that night was heart ache.
My partner then confirmed to me that she was feeding quite happily from the bottle. She was feeding from the bottle… but she couldn’t feed from me. This was obviously my fault. All I could think was that I was unable to do something that should have been the most natural thing in the world.
During those early weeks I was expressing milk slowly. I tried the nipple covers too but it just wasn’t happening. I had to accept it in the end that she would be bottle fed.
When my daughter was only a few weeks old we ventured out to some baby groups together. There were mums of course at the groups and they were breastfeeding. I felt embarrassed. I’d get the bottle out for my daughter and hide away somewhere to feed her. If someone saw me I felt I had to explain why I hadn’t been able to breastfeed… “My milk was slow in coming through.”
Looking back I think why on earth did I feel so embarrassed? It wasn’t a sign that I wasn’t looking after my child properly!
Over the next few weeks it came to light that as well as my milk being very slow, my daughter has a tongue tie which had been making it difficult for her to latch on.It wasn’t MY fault at all! It was no one’s fault.

In those early days you are just trying to do what is best for your baby. It’s all new and it’s all daunting, because you have this little person relying on you to understand what they need when they are crying and it can all feel a bit like trial and error.
I have the utmost respect for mums who breastfeed and I have the utmost respect for those who bottle feed. We are each going through our own parenting journey. We are the specialists in our own children’s needs.
Please go easy on yourself. You are doing the best you can and that’s all you can do.

Breastfeeding Blues

Initially I tried for almost 48 hours straight to breastfeed and had to beg a midwife for formula as my baby was screaming as she was so hungry. I continued to try for weeks and weeks. Pumping didn’t work and neither did feeding. I never got a ‘let down’, I don’t know what if feels like to have one.

Looking at my happy, healthy, strong and beautiful little girl, it’s hard to remember why I worried so much. My daughter is 18 months old, she’s 95th centile for height and 91st centile for weight. We couldn’t have a more incredible bond. I’ve struggled with Postnatal Depression- but I’ve always adored her and I know that she loves me too.
It’s breastfeeding week this week, and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t shed a few tears when reminded of the fact that I couldn’t breast feed my baby.
I was scrolling back through photos when a found this picture of Florence latching. I didn’t realise it had been taken, but seeing it soothes me and reminds me of how I tried my best. After a major artery was ruptured after a tear during labour I had a massive haemorrhage and lost around 66% of my total blood volume. I had to have a triple blood transfusion and a plasma transfusion but despite this, I was left very anaemic.
I was later diagnosed with sepsis due to complications of being strep b positive. When I wasn’t fighting for my life I was trying to feed my baby. My milk never really came in and due to my mother having to bottle feed my baby whilst I was in intensive care, my already almost non existent supply couldn’t match that of a whole formula feed.
Initially I tried for almost 48 hours straight to breastfeed and had to beg a midwife for formula as my baby was screaming as she was so hungry. I continued to try for weeks and weeks. Pumping didn’t work and neither did feeding. I never got a ‘let down’, I don’t know what if feels like to have one.
We started our journey trying so desperately to breastfeed, but this journey was cut painfully short due to circumstances out of my control. My heart still breaks about this, because after a difficult labour and pregnancy, it would have been lovely for something to work out!
A family friend who is a lactation expert came to see me a few months ago, we talked through it all and she tried to reassure me that I have no reason to feel so awful, I really did try my hardest and she truly believes that it would have been almost impossible for me to breast feed, given the circumstances such as fighting for my life, the medications I was on and other factors such as having an underactive thyroid and PCOS.
Some people don’t want to breastfeed and that is fine. Babies who are bottle fed still thrive… But I wanted this so much for my baby and it still hurts that I couldn’t even provide her with something as simple as my own milk.  Yes she is incredible and she is thriving, but every time I see someone else feeding their baby, I feel like a failure. I can’t help it, but that’s how I felt then and often how I often feel now. One day it might stop hurting, but for now it is still a very sore subject. My body physically couldn’t feed my baby. My body failed me and my baby. Without formula, my baby would have starved.
I’m sure that the colostrum and the action of poaching my daughter on my breast helped to lay the perfect foundation for our incredible bond, but formula, and my love, influenced our incredible girl to blossom so beautifully.
Don’t buy into the “Only 1% of women cannot breastfeed” … it is a load of crap. Think of the Mummies on medications, the Mummies who are mentally or physically unwell, or fighting for their lives through illness or after a traumatic labour. The babies born prematurely or with a tongue ties. This supposed statistic leaves far too many parents feeling inadequate or like failures and it isn’t okay!
Shout out to all mummies in the same boat who have ever felt inadequate because of feeding problems and complications. I completely feel your pain, this week and always.

Bottle Feeding Through World Breastfeeding Week

I am absolutely pro breastfeeding (it’s giving your child food that is designed for them, why would anyone be against it?) but somewhere along the line that has become, to some, synonymous with anti-bottle/formula and that is really not the case.  I don’t want there to be ANY parents out there feeling bad for providing their child with nutritionally appropriate food. 

World Breastfeeding Week makes me kind of emotional because I am constantly reminded of what I fought so hard for and ultimately couldn’t manage. I can’t let this whole week pass me by without saying something because I know it isn’t just me… 
If you are a bottle feeding parent then World Breastfeeding Week can put a bit of strain on you. I know this because I was one and this same week last year was much tougher for me. So, I’m writing this for bottle feeding parents to know they are not alone and it’s okay to feel a bit ‘mehhh’ this week. I am also writing this so that all of you amazing booby mummas  know that us bottle mummas want to offer you support on your journey but can sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by it all.
I am absolutely pro breastfeeding (it’s giving your child food that is designed for them, why would anyone be against it?) but somewhere along the line that has become, to some, synonymous with anti-bottle/formula and that is really not the case.  I don’t want there to be ANY parents out there feeling bad for providing their child with nutritionally appropriate food. 
I desperately wanted to breastfeed my son and I was blessed to be able to do that for a short while but ultimately I made the decision for his health and for my own mental health –  he was better off on formula and I have to keep reminding myself a lot that I couldn’t actually have tried any harder than I did. So, without meaning to, I sometimes find myself feeling a bit bitter over the course of World Breastfeeding Week. It’s not because I hold any kind of resentment towards breastfeeding parents but because I sometimes have a wobble and struggle to be okay with the choices I made for my son.
Some women breastfeed and take to it like ducks to water and feed their little booby monsters right up, they’ll have their rough patches but they come through it well.
Some struggle through it, maybe they find their feet after a little while and breast feed exclusively. Maybe they combination feed or switch fully to formula. Maybe they even discover that they hate breastfeeding but their baby just won’t take a bottle. There’s always going to be more to the story than you’re seeing on the surface.
Some women battle. They fight and cry and scream and fight and cry some more and it just doesn’t work for them. Traumatic birth, tongue ties, allergies, medication… whatever the reason, if you are one of these women I can tell you now, I have cried for you. You don’t know how strong you are. 
Some women choose to formula feed from the beginning and as much as I have struggled to understand that in the past I know darn well it is none of my business. A friend of mine explained her reasons to me once and it was like a storm settling in my head. It was 100% the right thing for her to do.
Some women would desperately love to bottle or breastfeed but can’t do either because  their child needs a tube or other special feeding apparatus. You guys are real heroes.

The point is, lets celebrate! Lets promote breastfeeding and support parents through their journey regardless of its length and if a woman you know is feeding in a different way to you then you have an opportunity to open a really interesting dialogue with her. 

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Happy World Breastfeeding Week, you are doing an amazing job.
 
 
 

Debunking Breastfeeding Myths

I was left wondering so many things about breastfeeding after birth and I usually turned to Facebook groups or Google to help my through them. No matter how prepared we are to breastfeed, there will always be things we aren’t prepared for.

This week is world breastfeeding week!

As a mother who breastfed her child for the best part of a year, I know that breastfeeding can be hard enough without all the issues that come with it, such as mastitis, teething etc. I was left wondering so many things about breastfeeding after birth and I usually turned to Facebook groups or Google to help my through them. No matter how prepared we are to breastfeed, there will always be things we aren’t prepared for. So here are things I wish I knew during my breastfeeding journey.

Patience
Your baby only has a tiny tummy when they are born, so your colostrum will be enough! Your milk can take up to five days to come in, so don’t think because you are hardly leaking or cannot feel any milk in your boobs, that your baby isn’t getting enough!
Pumping means nothing!
If you’re only getting half an ounce of milk out when pumping, don’t think that your baby is only getting half an ounce. A baby’s sucking is SO much more effective than pumping! If your baby is content, don’t worry!
Leaking!
You may think because you are wearing the most expensive breast pad, you won’t leak through it. Oh how wrong you are. I will always remember being in a cafe, breastfeeding my daughter and leaking through 2 breast pads and a muslin cloth and soaking my top! So be sure to keep spare tops and nursing bras handy!
Your boobs will hurt a lot!
At the start, your boobs will hurt. They are getting used to a tiny human draining them but the pain does go. If the pain is unbearable/ more uncomfortable than usual, it may be worth mentioning to your GP or a Lactation Consultant.
Snacks!
You will get hungry when feeding! So try and keep snacks and a bottle of water in your feeding area. Thus is also handy for when baby is cluster feeding and not letting you move for food!
Crying over spilt milk!
Ignore the saying ‘There’s no point crying over spilt milk’, because there is. Imagine finishing up with pumping, turning to grab something and then knocking over the whole bottle of milk. Whether it is 1 Oz or 8ozs, it will always be super devastating.
Breast is best
No, no it’s not. I have friends who tried everything and anything to get their baby to feed and with no success, they turned to formula. Whether the reason be a tongue tie, traumatic birth etc., what truly matters is that baby is fed. If you are unsuccessful with breastfeeding, do not put yourself down. You are still an amazing mummy, no matter how baby is fed.