Leftover Gravy Pasta Sauce

At tea time tonight I needed a quick tea for my family of 5. We had sausages that needed eating and gravy sauce, which was actually juices from the slow cooker beef stew I’d made at the weekend. I didn’t have any potatoes to do the obvious bangers and mash so decided to do sausage pasta. At first I wasn’t sure how the gravy would fit into this so just decided to experiment. I was pretty pleased with the results and there were clean plates all round so I thought I’d share!

1) Cooked pasta bows

2) Cooked sausages on grilling machine

3) Fried a courgette and leek, chopped into small pieces

4) Heated leftover gravy in a pan and added basil, tomato puree, a tin of tomatoes and Worcester sauce.

5) At this point if it seems really runny just stir in a bit of flour or cornflour but I found the puree, tomatoes and veg made it just the right consistency.

5) Add fried courgette and leek to the sauce, stir, then pour over the cooked, drained pasta.

6) Chop up sausages and stir in.

7) Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan!

Whilst tea was cooking, my eldest painted a dried pasta bow and pretended if was a butterfly!

Let me know if you have an queries or how you found this when you tried it!

Tips for Toddlers: How to excite your boring parents!

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Sometimes adults can be sooo boring, they use this boring adult language and look bored most of the time. Here are 5 tips to get your mummy or daddy to be exciting! Trust me it’s fool proof… Their voices become loud and high pitched, they pull funny faces and sometimes even jump around!

Tip #1

Pretend to be completely disgusted by any food you are presented with (screw up face, spit out food, throw it on the floor or wipe on nearest furnishing). Just when your adult is starting to get excited they may then give up and eat your food themselves. At this point decide you want the food then shout “more” when it’s all gone!

Tip #2

If your parent tries to put you to sleep in the cot DO NOT lie down. If you scream and shout loudly enough they will eventually get excited and then bring you back down to play some more!

Tip #3

They will try to put clothes on you at certain times of the day and then sometimes try to take them off again. This makes no sense and if you let them get away with it they won’t become excited and playful. They may put trousers on you in the morning and then at regular intervals throughout the day they will lie you down to take them off again! Maybe you could try refusing to put on your dressing gown in the morning but when they want to put your coat on you, only allow your dressing gown to be put on. This will cause an excited parent.

Tip #4

Lie placidly and serenly on the changing mat to lull your boring parent into a false sense of security. Wait until the moment when the nappy has been removed and they turn away to reach for the wipes. At this point quickly roll over and crawl away. The parent will become extra excited if you a) do a poo poo first b) stick your foot in the poo c) crawl away with pooey bottom in the air and turn to sit on the carpet / sofa / other soft furnishing.

Tip #5

Your mummy and daddy can sometimes be especially boring first thing in the morning. They need a bit of help waking up and you can help them become excited. Use the above tips when they try and change your nappy, get you dressed and feed you breakfast. In addition when they’re rushing to get you in the car seat or pushchair you could try adopting the plank position. Brace yourself as straight as possible and have fun as they become really excited!!


If you have any more tips for how to make your boring parents into excitable play mates then please share with us in the comments or on twitter @tiddlertales.

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Ending our Breastfeeding Journey – Part 2: Self-Settling

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Self-settling… this is every parent’s dream. For some, it sadly stays just a dream at least until the child is older (I don’t know many adults that still need their mummy to help to get them to sleep). However, for others it can actually become an amazing reality and one that makes bedtime and naptime stress-free, predictable and most of all a God-send! It usually enables the baby / toddler to be able to sleep through the night. I’ve read a few books on this subject and most agree that this is something you must teach your child… I don’t really like the phase ‘train them’ but I have to agree from personal experience these tiddlers need a bit of encouragement and consistency until they get the message it’s sleep time.

I’m going to talk through a few things I’ve found to be useful, some techniques we’ve used and I hope this can help another sleep deprived parent out there. I’ll tie this in with breastfeeding weaning as I feel encouraging self-settling for us tied in with night weaning and stopping breastfeeding at bedtime.

1) Establish a Routine

The idea of just going with the flow seems appealing at first. Babies seem unpredictable initially and you don’t always know when they’re going to get hungry or tired. Eventually a little routine does appear, even from as young as 3 months, if not younger. In my personal experience it is hard work, if not impossible, for a baby to self-settle to sleep when they are overtired. My baby only starts showing obvious sleep cues when she is already overtired and so by the time I tried to settle her to sleep it was hard work… lots of tears, rocking, sometimes just breastfeeding to sleep. I soon realised I was going to have to clock watch and make sure I jumped in there before we reached the dangerous overtired realm.

I remember when my baby was 5 months old and it was a morning when my family were visiting and she was quite happily playing. I picked her up and said “right it’s time you had a sleep”. My mum immediately said “but she doesn’t even look tired”. I took her up to her cot, brought down the video baby monitor and showed her the picture of her fast asleep and she was shocked! I’d like to say every nap time was that smooth… by all means it was NOT! However if you keep at a good routine, your baby will learn to know what happens next, you know what your day will look like and when to arrange trips out, and most importantly you will have a much happier, more content baby (not to mention mum!).

2) Controlled Crying for Wimps

Once you’ve got a nice routine established it’s time to start gently encouraging your baby or toddler to fall asleep on their own. Different people find different techniques work and generally up until 4 months the ‘shush, pat’ technique works well. We started controlled crying at about 4 months. There’s text-book controlled crying which has good recommendations by the NHS and then there’s “controlled crying for wimps” that we did. For nap times and bedtimes I’d go through the same routine in this order (except adding in bath, milk and stories at bedtime):

1) Change her nappy whilst ssshhhhing
2) Put her into a sleeping bag (and pjs at bedtime)
3) Say “it’s sleepy time now, night night” whilst drawing the curtains (also used a Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind)
4) Put her down awake in the cot and walk out the room.

… and initially she’d cry. I timed 1 minute… a very, very long minute. Then went back in and she’d need calming. Then I’d walk out again and she’d cry again. I got braver and timed a longer 2, maybe 3 minutes. I kind of made it up really by listening to her cries. If she cried on and off with pauses I gradually learnt this was her way of ‘crying down’ to sleep and I could leave her longer and only went in if the cries became continuous and accelerated. I found going back into her usually made her crying worse so listening to her cry and the type of cry was really important. Some days she’d just ‘cry down’ for a couple of minutes until she fell asleep. The longest was probably 15 mins of on and off tired crying but I knew it was worth it when she needed the sleep and woke a refreshed and happier baby!

If the cries accelerated and she was overtired I’d usually just breastfeed her to sleep. If I got the timing right I could just put her down and she’d go off to sleep without any fussing which is brilliant! I found it all comes down to timing and getting the routine right and making adjustments as they get older.

3) Weaning off Feeding to Sleep; our version of “Pick Up, Put Down”

So you might be thinking “but controlled crying worked for you so why did you start doing pick up put down?” Well… we went through period of colds, hand, foot and mouth, another developmental leap, holidays and the combination of all those, plus starting to spend days at nursery when I returned to work, put her out of sync and overtired. She really struggled to self settle so we became reliant on the pram or car for naps again and feeding to sleep at bedtime and the night wakings had started again. This all took its toll on me as I needed sleep to function at work and my neck pain flared up during breastfeeding.

When we decided to re-teach self-settling at 12 months and wean off breastfeeding at night, controlled crying more often than not caused the cries to accelerate and we found she calmed better with cuddles. Returning to work was also a hard time of separation so I found this method best for both of us. My husband took over bedtime and if all else failed I stepped in with the boobies! It actually went surprisingly well and we started seeing a difference within the first week.

First night:
– breastfeed earlier downstairs
– husband took up and changed into pjs and read stories
– played in the cot with dim lighting to get her used to it.
– started fussing so he rocked her, walked around the nursery and sang until she settled in his arms.
– put her down in the cot once settled and she cried so left room for a minute
– went in and rocked again until asleep and put her down asleep.
– during night she woke once at 10:30 and wouldn’t settle rocking so needed a short feed.

Second night:
– bath and change into pjs
– breastfeed in light room then hand over to husband
– read stories whilst rocking in chair
– put down in cot and screamed so rocked her until calm (2 minutes)
– put down and was quiet for 30seconds then stood up and cried so rocked again until calm (30 seconds)
– put down in cot, rolled over and slept!
– woke once in the night and husband rocked to sleep.

Continued as above for first week with husband going in during the night if she woke and gradually reducing the rocking motion and putting down as soon as settled. If she cried when we put her down we’d leave for 1-3 mins before returning to pick up.

By the second week she’d cry when first put down but after leaving her for a minute we pick her up and she mostly goes calm straight away within 10 seconds. We’d then put her down awake but calm and she would be able to get herself to sleep. We continued doing the same if she woke at night which worked 90% of the time. Some nights it was easier to just give a quick breastfeed if she really wouldn’t settle.

3) Weaning off Breastfeeding onto Other Sources of Milk

I was quite fortunate when my baby was little that I was able to interchange the breast and bottle whenever was convenient. My husband would do the dream feed until 11pm with a bottle of expressed milk which we started reducing at 6 months and completely stopped at 7 months. If I ever went out I was confident she’d be fine with a bottle. When I started back at work when the tiddler was 10 months old I’d breastfeed morning and night and she’d take a bottle in the afternoon from the childminder.

At around 11 months old I started introducing a bottle a bedtime but until we taught self settling she’d need a breastfeed afterwards as part of her wind down to sleep routine. My plan was to make bath, bottle, bed her routine and encourage self settling however… At 12 months old the tiddler suddenly decided she no longer wanted to take a bottle. Now in hindsight this wasn’t a bad thing as she now confidently drinks from a cup but at the time it ruined my weaning plan!

I tried milk in every kind of other cup initially, it didn’t matter whether it was cows milk, formula or expressed milk she just suddenly seemed disgusted by all of it!!!! I was so frustrated at time. Anyway one day she was hankering after my (luke warm) cup of tea so I let her have a sip and she seemed to love it. So I had a brainwave and decided to put a decaf tea bag in an inch or 2 of boiling water, filled the rest with full fat milk and pretended it was my cup of tea. Sure enough she was desperate to try some. It was a bit messy so I put a straw in for her and she drank the lot! Over the next week I gradually made it more milky until one day just switched it for all milk and she didn’t notice a difference!

Since 13 months our routine has been like this:

  • 6:30-7am wake
  • Milk on waking
  • 7:30/45am breakfast
  • (9:30am catnap for 15-20 mins until dropped this consistently at 15 months)
  • 11:30-12 lunch
  • 12pm nap for between 1.5-2.5 hours (able to make this later start if had a morning nap)
  • 3pm snack
  • 5pm tea
  • 6pm bath
  • 6:15-30 milk and stories wind down in bedroom

As your baby grows developmentally you may need to find other tricks to encourage self-settling as we found we had set backs, especially during the ‘leaps’ and periods of illness. We also struggle with not having a set routine every day as with the childminder she won’t sleep for very long and therefore is overtired by bedtime. This sometimes has an impact on the next day and I still occasionally breastfeed if she wakes early or won’t settle rocking. I’m finding now at 16 months she is less interested in feeding and will just snuggle into our shoulders when she’s tired. I can’t say our breastfeeding journey is completely over yet as we still sometimes have set backs with self-settling and recently when she had a vomiting bug and wouldn’t drink water I knew she was getting fluid through comfort breastfeeding. When she’s well though she settles well and mostly sleeps through the night.

I’d be interested to hear what techniques you’ve used to help your baby to sleep through the night, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked? There’s so much controversy around different techniques people use but at the end of the day you have to do what works for you and your family so you all get a decent night’s sleep!

Ending our Breastfeeding Journey at 15 months – Part 1

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Some people set a goal when they start breastfeeding for how long they will do it for. For some it’s 6 weeks, for some 6 months, a year or longer. I didn’t have any idea how long I would feed for. For a start I didn’t know if I was going to be able to breastfeed as I’d never done it before! I didn’t want to set any expectations as I’d heard stories of people who had struggled and really beat themselves up when they’d not been able to. All I knew was that I wanted to give it a go as I knew there were so many benefits for my baby.


This is a really special photo of the first time my newborn latched on straight after she was born.

I can safely say breastfeeding is up there with one of the hardest but most rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s an emotional bond between you and your little baby and although there were tough times during growth spurts I began to appreciate the cuddly moments and the convenience. We had a tough beginning but kept going through gritted teeth, bleeding nipples, a few tears and maybe some expletives. I finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel at 3 weeks when her latch improved and the pain started easing off. Once we got past that rough start it just got better and better and I started to appreciate the cuddles even more, especially when she started to get on the move and didn’t want to be held!

For various reasons I decided to wean her off breastfeeding as we approached 12 months and it took much longer that I thought. I had lots of very frustrating moments and set-backs trying to give up but we are now at the stage where she can take her milk from other sources and now that she’s able to self settle to sleep  we’re much happier and less sleep deprived. Daddy is loving being able to do bedtime and I’ve got a bit more freedom and confidence knowing she will be settled with other people. I’ll do miss those cuddly feeds though. Oh well, we’ll just have to have another!

Highlights of our breastfeeding journey

BF pic

Skin on skin time at 4 days old

  • Being able to settle her back to sleep so easily and quickly at night
  • The moment she first looked up at me whilst she was feeding
  • Watching her trying to feed whilst giggling the time she parped and found it funny
  • The time I was trying to get us both changed after swimming and she was distressed (hungry and tired) and she crawled over to me and just latched on while I was trying to get dressed!
  • When she was 7 months old I got a flat tyre and ended up at the garage to get it changed and as it was approaching her tea time she started getting really aggitated. I had no snacks as was only popping out before tea so managed to feed her in the fortunately empty waiting room.
  • Going up 2 cup sizes!

This is the first of a 3 part series of my journey so I’ll write further posts on how we encouraged self settling to sleep and our long story on how we weaned off breastfeeding. I encourage anyone to just feed for as long as they feel is right both for them and the baby. The NHS recommend breastfeeding is best (if you can) and the WHO (World Health Organisation) advises there are benefits until at least 2 years old. Don’t be swayed by narrow-minded people who think it’s odd or disgusting when it’s what a mother is naturally designed to do!

With the next tiddler I’m still not going to set any goals on how long to breastfeed for; if I’m able to again I’m just going to keep going until it feels right to stop. Hopefully I’ll enjoy the early days next time a bit more too as I’ll know to expect the cluster feeding this time so will get stocked up on chocolate, drinks and matchsticks to keep my eyes open! Oh and I’ll have my blog now to keep my occupied… goodness knows how I’ll cope with a toddler to look after as well though! Cross that bridge…

Weaning Confusion

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There are so many differing view points on when you should wean, how gradually you should wean, whether you should let your baby lead the way, or direct him/her with the spoon, or just a bit of both! There was very little “official” advice when I started weaning my baby 9 months ago. It was only in passing at a weigh-in that the health visitor said, “Why don’t you get booked onto a weaning class?” I didn’t even know they were available.

The class was basically all about Baby Led Weaning and the reasoning behind it and although it was very interesting it was also very negative about using a spoon to help feed your baby AT ALL. What about soup or cereal, I thought? Anyway, I took some of the advice then applied a bit of common sense… and then read a book which seemed quite sensible and evidence based (called “Weaning Made Easy” by Dr Rana Conway) and opted for the best of both worlds. Bit of baby led weaning for non-messy finger foods (toast, sweetcorn fritters, omelette, cucumber sticks were some of her favourites) and then the stuff she couldn’t handle I mushed up and spoon fed her so she wouldn’t go hungry or choke or smear it all over my walls, curtains, and carpets!

I think at the end of the day you’ve got to go with your parenting instinct which also takes into account how brave you are (it’s very very scary seeing your baby gag on chunks of food!). After my baby seemingly almost choked on a piece of pear I became a bit more cautious and skeptical of fully Baby Led Weaning although I fully agree with the idea of introducing your baby to handling foods and getting used to feeding themselves. I also agree that a baby shouldn’t be force fed, i.e. making them laugh then shovelling in food the minute they open their mouths. Learning to read their cues is an important and helpful part of Baby Led Weaning.

The number of teeth your baby has makes a big difference in how well they handle certain foods so common sense should play a big role in what you let your baby put in their mouth. Baby Led Weaning advocates may disagree but personally I’ve had no problems gradually introducing more and more independence at the dinner table… or at the highchair I should say! As her motor skills improved around 10 months she naturally started wanting to hold the spoon and feed herself. Now at 14 months she is much more confident at spoon feeding herself although she still needs some help otherwise she’ll dive into the pot of yoghurt or bowl of porridge with her hands as sometimes that’s just easier!!

Right to refuse

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You think you’ve got it sussed… you’ve spent months narrowing down your vast selection of baby-appropriate weaning foods to a few they actually like and then *bam* the fussy feeding begins. Yesterday for example Isabella decided I was trying to feed her poison… it was, in fact, just bolognese, the exact same bolognese she usually LOVES… I didn’t hide sprouts in it, or sprinkle pepper over it, just plain old bolognese. Most of it ended up on the curtains and under the highchair. She picked out the pasta and scraped off the meat and that was her tea!

Bolognese is one of those foods that’s so easy to make in bulk and changes into a variety of toddler friendly recipes – lasagna, spag bol, meatballs – I really hope this is just a ‘phase’, a period in which she is exerting her new-found decision making skills and her right to refuse. She is quite clear and competent with her communication of the word no in the form “nahhh” accompanied by a screwed up face, pushing away the rejected item with a shake of the head.

I heard somewhere you’ve got to try a food 8 times before you know they definitely don’t like it so I’ll leave it a few days and try again. At least she still loves broccoli!