Donating to the Human Milk Bank

When Oran was a baby I was very happy to be able to donate breast milk to the Human Milk Bank here in Ireland, which was a really rewarding experience.  The milk bank issues breast milk to hospitals throughout Ireland to be used for premature or sick babies.  The milk can help to save the lives of some of the most vulnerable babies.

A lot of people haven’t heard of the milk bank, I hadn’t when I had my first baby, so I want to help spread the word about it, to encourage more people to donate if they can.

When I was pregnant with Oran, I knew I wanted to donate breast milk, so contacted the milk bank to apply to donate.  I had to answer a questionnaire and then they sent the bottles for donating.  I was worried at first that I wouldn’t find the time to express milk, because of having a toddler too.  I started pumping once a day, from when Oran was 6 weeks old, every day after breakfast, and found it pretty easy to fit it into my day.  At first I was only getting about 1 ounce of milk a day, but by pumping at the same time every day, I was soon getting about 5-7 ounces a day, in 10-15 minutes with a double electric pump.  I felt such a sense of achievement with every bottle I pumped, which really made me feel happy for the day.

I froze the milk in the bottles provided by the milk bank, and soon had a box full to donate.  The milk bank provide an insulated box to send the donation in, and it is sent by post or courier (which the milk bank pay for).  I sent off the donation as well as a blood sample for testing.   The milk is also tested and pasteurised by the milk bank.  After a while I received a card from the milk bank, letting me know that my donation helped four babies.  It’s a wonderful feeling to know that my milk could help babies, and hopefully help to take a little stress away from their parents.

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Oran with his milk all ready to send away

My advice for expressing milk to donate would be to find a time when your baby is happy, or pump while feeding from the other breast.  Try to pump at the same time every day and be consistent so your body will start to produce more milk at that time of day.  Even if you are only getting a little milk at the start, stick with it and hopefully you’ll soon start getting more.  And you’d be surprised how little time it takes every day and how quickly you can build up enough milk to donate.

If your baby is under 6 months and you have some excess milk or are able to express milk, then it’s a really wonderful thing to do for premature or sick babies.

If you are interested in donating milk you can contact the Western Trust Milk Bank on telephone 028 686 28333 or email tmb.irvinestown@westerntrust.hscni.net, or if you are outside of Ireland, there may also be a human milk bank in your country, or a network like Human Milk 4 Human Babies.

Please help to spread the word about the milk bank, so that more parents can donate.

Baby Síofra Growing Up

I wanted to write a really quick blog post just to say how Síofra is doing, mostly as an excuse to show off some photos of her, but also to show how healthy the babies of vegan parents can be!  She’s now 11 weeks old and it’s so hard to believe how quickly she’s growing up.  I’m really busy every day looking after the three kids, so I guess it’s not surprising that time seems to be passing quickly.  She doesn’t really seem like a newborn anymore.

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She’s such a lovely baby (all babies are though), super smiley, and she even laughs now.  She loves her big brothers, and when they talk to her or sing to her she smiles and laughs at them.  You can tell that she really loves them, and they love her.  They’re always giving her hugs and kisses, and sometimes just annoying her too!  She’s a very happy baby and even lets me sleep for a few hours at a time now, and lets me put her down a bit more so I can get stuff done.

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She’s really strong and healthy, getting so big now.  She can hold up her head really well, and loves looking around at everything.  Breastfeeding is going really great, and she’s gaining weight and growing well.  She went to the doctor for a check up recently and they said she was perfect, so it goes to show that vegan parents can grow and nourish healthy babies.

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So as you can see, she’s as healthy as can be.  I’ll post another update about her in a few months, and when she starts solids I want to do some more posts about baby led weaning for vegan babies, which I’m very excited about!  The boys are also doing great and we’re having Oran’s birthday party at the weekend (he’s going to be 2!) so I’m planning what food and cake to make, and will do a blog post about that too.

Cork Vegfest 2017

I went to the first Cork Vegfest yesterday and had such a wonderful day.  I ate as much food as I could, brought more food home for the boys, and went to some great talks!  I also met so many lovely people.  I had Síofra with me in a sling and she was amazing all day, loved meeting new people and wasn’t bothered by the noise or people around her.

First stop was The Cinnamon Fiend, who had a selection of vegan and gluten free cakes (the first of many cakes I ate that day), and I had their lemon cake with coconut cream, which was so delicious!

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Their other cakes looked amazing too.  I wish I could have tried them all.  It’s not often that vegans get this much selection to choose from!

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Then to Dream to try some plant milks to wash down the cake.  I had only tried the Almond Dream and Oat Dream, which are both lovely, so wanted to try the others.

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They all tasted really nice, especially the Cashew Dream, which is creamy and naturally sweet, so I picked up a carton to bring home for the kids (who loved it!).

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Then I tried the chocolate coconut ice-cream from Oh! Naturelle, which was so rich and chocolatey.  I definitely recommend it if you love dark chocolate.  I bought a tub of the delicious raspberry rose sorbet to eat as I walked around.  I’ll be looking out for it in my local Supervalu to get some more for the kids soon.

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Then I went to get more cake from Bliss Bites Bakery, where I got a slice of white chocolate and rose cheesecake, snickers bars, and chocolate caramel bars (only some for me, some to take home for the kids).

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They were amazing and nice to know that they’re healthy too!

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I finally got my hands on some of the cheese from Little Green Leaf!  I’ve heard a lot of vegans talking about it and had been wanting to try it for ages.  It didn’t disappoint!  I tried the mozzarella and smoked garlic and black pepper chedda and they were both soooooo great.  I bought some of the chedda to bring home to the kids, though it’s too good, I might end up eating most of it myself!

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At lunch time I headed to My Goodness for a raw mezze plate.  My Goodness are at farmer’s markets around Cork and the food is all raw, healthy and amazingly flavourful.

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Later in the day I got one of their kefir drinks too.  They always make me feel amazing!

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I passed on the cake this time (I’ve tried most of them before though, and they’re lovely!) and got their raw hot chocolate instead, which was easily the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

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Then I checked out the Shine mixes, blends of superfoods that you can add to smoothies, etc.  They all look really good so I’ll definitely try them out.  I love mixes like this to add to the kids’ smoothies, it’s a great way to get lots of goodness into them without them even noticing.  Rian can be a little bit of a fussy eater sometimes but will happily drink smoothies full of spirulina, chlorella and wheatgrass!

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Next I went to try out some of the lovely Bia Beauty natural skin care products.

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Then I picked up one of my favourites, Follow Your Heart Vegenaise (and got some of the Violife smoked slices in my goody bag from Cork Vegfest too) from Art of Zen Foods.  I’m currently eating a baked potato with Vegenaise while typing this and it’s so good!  I might do a recipe with it if I don’t eat it all first…

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All Rian had asked me to bring him was bars, by which he always means some kind of healthy date and nut/oat bars, which he loves.  I found these Near to Nature bars and brought a few home, and they went down really well with the kids.  Lovely to see them enjoying something so healthy!

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Then I tried some of the delicious flavours of raw chocolate from Iswari, so good, and healthy too!

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And even though I unfortunately couldn’t try any (because I’m coeliac), I had to mention the beautiful cakes from Miam! vegan bakery.

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I’ve heard from so many people that they’re amazing and it’s really great to have a vegan bakery in Cork!

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While I really love all the food, that’s not what it’s all about.  There were several vegan information stands there too, Vegan Information Project, Vegan Ireland, and Cork Vegans, giving advice and resources to help people go vegan.

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There was also Back Into Daylight Animal Sanctuary, a vegan non-profit animal sanctuary who rescue all kinds of animals, and PAWS Animal Rescue, a charity who rescue and rehome mostly dogs.

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There were several talks throughout the day, Dr Ailis Brosnan spoke about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, Fiona Oakes spoke about her marathon world records and her work at Tower Hill Animal Sanctuary, and Patrik Baboumian spoke about being the world’s strongest vegan!  I only made it to Ailis and Fiona’s talks but they were really inspiring, and reassuring that being vegan is healthy for us, as well as being better for the animals and planet, and that’s very important to me as a mother.

There was also a yoga class with Sinéad Duffy, as well as music performances by Siân Brown, Ines Khai, and Seb Kerrbay.

I saw the very interesting fermentation demo by Virginia O’Gara from My Goodness.  It was a really fun demo and she got everyone up from the audience to take part in making fermented foods.  It really inspired to try it out at home too!

I also did a food demo, of a recipe for vegan kids, a healthier version of rice crispy buns, and the recipe will be up on the blog in a few days!  It was a really quick and easy recipe, because I knew I’d be there with a small baby so wanted to do something easy, but me and my kids love them and have been making them a lot lately.  I got to chat to a few vegan parents and parents-to-be who had some questions, and it was really great to talk to them about my experience of raising vegan kids.  I saw quite a few kids there, and it makes me really happy that there are all these kids being raised vegan now.

It was such a lovely day.  There was a really relaxed atmosphere and everyone seemed really happy to be there.  Síofra was asleep most of the day in a sling so it was very nice for me to get out of the house and get a bit of a break from looking after three kids!  I had so much great food, got to hear great talks, and wander around looking at all the stands, trying new products, and bumping into some Cork vegans that I know, and a few people who follow my blog, which was really nice.  It’s amazing to see veganism growing so much in Cork.  I’m from Co. Cork myself, so was really happy to have a Vegfest in Cork and hope that there will be many more!

 

 

Our Vegan Easter

This is just a quick blog post to talk about all the chocolate we’re eating today!  If anyone is new to being vegan and wondering if there are vegan Easter eggs available, there’s a great selection of vegan Easter eggs widely available nowadays.  Vegan kids (and grown ups) definitely don’t miss out!  I couldn’t even get photos of the eggs before the kids started eating them, but did get some photos of Oran’s chocolatey face.

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My kids got these Kinnerton Just Chocolate dark chocolate eggs and Tesco Free From white chocolate eggs from their Nana this year.  I have tested both eggs and can tell you they’re delicious!  I had to steal some to make sure the kids don’t get too much sugar, you see.  And for blogging purposes…

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I didn’t actually get them any Easter eggs myself because I knew they’d have more than enough from their grandparents!  I don’t like them to have too much refined sugar on a daily basis but don’t mind them having it on special occasions.  It was great that they got a dark chocolate egg each, because they are eating only small amounts of it at a time, so it’s not too much sugar all at once.  And they did eat a very healthy breakfast and lunch today so I’m happy.

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They really love both of these Easter eggs, especially the white chocolate one, which is a real treat because they don’t often get white chocolate.  I used to love white chocolate before I was vegan, so like having it sometimes now too, even though dark chocolate is my favourite.

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I got a really lovely Green & Black’s 70% dark chocolate egg.  It’s my favourite chocolate!

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Like I said, vegan Easter eggs are widely available nowadays.  Some other brands include Moo Free and Choices, which are available in many supermarkets and health shops.  I’m so happy that my kids get to get the same kinds of treats as any other kid, even if they’re not the healthiest food!  Happy cruelty-free Easter to all the vegan families!

Rian’s 4th Birthday

I’m a bit late writing this blog post (Rian’s birthday was at the end of January!) but I wanted to share what we did (and what we ate) for Rian’s 4th birthday.  (I love birthday party blog posts almost as much as I love throwing vegan birthday parties!)

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I love planning all the food to make for parties, it’s an excuse to cook a lot of new things, which I love doing, and I get to eat lots of nice food myself, and show off how nice vegan food can be to all the omni guests!  Most importantly I get to treat my kids to nice food, especially a cake, and they can eat every single thing at the party.  It’s very important to me that the food is all vegan, because of course I don’t want to buy and prepare non-vegan food, but I also don’t want there to be anything that my kids can’t have.  And nobody is ever disappointed or goes home hungry (they at least will like the cake!).

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For this party I decided to try a few recipes from the River Cottage Veg Everyday cookbook, which I use a lot!  (It’s a vegetarian cookbook, not vegan, though most of the recipes are vegan or can easily be made vegan.)  The main dish was Caponata, which is a sweet and sour Sicilian aubergine stew, traditionally served at room temperature.  I had never tried it before, so was really excited to make it and it turned out delicious.  I’ll definitely make it again.

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I also made two types of houmous, roasted carrot houmous and beetroot and walnut houmous, and oven-dried tomatoes, which are some of my favourite dishes from the River Cottage Veg Everyday cookbook.

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I served it all with sliced up pitta bread, boiled baby potatoes, baby salad leaves and some crisps!

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Then of course I also made some sweet food!  I do like my kids to eat healthily most of the time but have no problem with them eating sweet food (and lots of chocolate) on special occasions!  As a vegan mother, I always feel like I can’t let them miss out on anything, and they definitely don’t miss out on having cake.

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Every year Rian asks for a chocolate cake, because he has this idea that people always have chocolate cake for their birthdays.  I’m totally fine with that because I love chocolate too, but have to come up with a different variation every year to make it a bit different.  He has had a Turkish delight cake before, an Oreo cake, and this year I decided to make a chocolate Bounty bar cake.  It was a chocolate cake with coconut icing and homemade vegan Bounty bars on top!  I based the cake recipe on a Ms Cupcake recipe.  (I always use the Ms Cupcake cookbook ‘The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town’ and highly recommend it!)  The cake was really yummy and the kids loved it.

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I also made vegan Jaffa Cakes because I hadn’t had them in a while.  They were also from a Ms Cupcake recipe.  I really love them.  Before I was vegan I used to love Jaffa Cakes and they were really the only thing I still missed, until I made them for myself.  They’re really easy to make, and really delicious!  The kids really liked them too.

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I also served some Foods of Athenry chocolate cookie shots, which are vegan too.  Yes, we had a lot of chocolate at this party!

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And we had some extra vegan Bounty bars too.  The Bounty bars are a recipe from The Happy Pear, and were delicious!

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The birthday boy was so happy with his cake, though he mostly ignored all the healthy food I made!  I don’t blame him though, and it was his birthday so I didn’t mind.

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I can’t believe he’s four now.  It seems so grown up!  It feels like he’s been here about five minutes, but also like I’ve known him forever and he’s my best friend (along with the other two).  He has changed my life and made me happier every day since he was born.  I was so glad to give him a fun party and see him this happy!

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I can’t wait for more vegan birthday parties every year, and to think of new ideas for how to serve chocolate cake every time!  And to have another amazing year with my amazing four year old.

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A New Addition to our Vegan Family

I’m very happy to introduce baby Síofra who joined our family a month ago!  She was born on the 7th of March weighing 4.2kg or 9lbs 4oz.  Never listen to anyone who thinks vegans can’t grow big babies!  She is perfect and healthy and I’m doing great too.  I had a very healthy pregnancy and straightforward delivery and am feeling great now, only a little tired, but very happy.

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I’m completely in love and have spent the last month just enjoying bonding and getting to know her.  The month has gone by in a blink of an eye.  I love when they’re newborn and it goes by too quickly, but I’m making the most of it, getting as many cuddles in as I can.  She is such a sweet baby, very alert and loves smiling!

Breastfeeding is going really well and she’s thriving.  She has gained over half a kg already and you can see how big and strong she’s getting.  She loves trying to hold her head up and look around.

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Her two big brothers really love her.  They’ve been amazing.  I knew that Rian loves babies but was so happy that Oran has taken well to her too.  He’s only 22 months so I was a little worried that he’d be upset or jealous, but he isn’t at all.  Both of them love hugging and kissing her and are really happy about having a little sister.  I’m so proud of them both.

I’m very busy with three kids but in a way it’s easier with the third baby because I know what I’m doing by now so am quite relaxed about it.  We’ve been taking things easy, relaxing at home a lot, playing, watching movies, going for walks, and just spending time together as a family.

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I haven’t been blogging much at all for the past few months and this is why.  I was pretty tired while I was pregnant (looking after two kids while pregnant is hard work!) and was busy preparing for our new arrival.  But now that she’s here and settled in, I’m hoping to find more time for blogging soon.

Oran’s 1st Birthday

 

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We celebrated Oran’s first birthday on the 29th of May.  One whole year with our amazing little guy.  This year has gone by so quickly, but been so wonderful.  Oran has brought so much happiness to our lives, and is the best little brother to Rian.  I can’t believe he’s not a baby anymore, though he’ll always be my baby.

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Having two kids is a lot different to just having one.  You’d think it would be double the work, but it’s really even more, like triple the work, or it seems like it!  There’s not much time to rest and the days, weeks and months go by quickly.  I loved the time when Oran was a tiny baby and tried to appreciate those moments, lots of long cuddles.  He’s growing up so fast but it’s so fun having two kids and watching them interact and their bond growing.  They are very close and really love each other.

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For Oran’s birthday we were planning on having a party but the timing was difficult since there weren’t many people around so we didn’t end up having one.  I’m sure he won’t mind since he doesn’t even know what a birthday is yet.  Instead we had a day out at the beach, just the four of us.

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It was such a lovely day.  The weather was amazing, really warm without being too hot.  Perfect beach weather.  The kids had so much fun, playing in the sand, running around and splashing in the sea.  I think it’s going to be their new favourite place so I must take them back soon!

 

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Rian loved collecting shells and gave them as presents to each of us, which was really sweet.  But he said, “we must leave the shells on the beach when we go home”.

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We also had a vegan picnic, which Oran really enjoyed.  Rian was too busy running around to eat much of it!

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We also took trips to see the boys’ grandparents and of course Oran got spoiled with presents, which Rian had to help him play with!  I meant to make him a baby smash cake, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.  He did have a vegan banoffee pie that his aunt made him though!

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I really can’t believe he’s one already.  He’s the sweetest little guy.  He’s cheeky and mischievous like Rian but a little quieter, maybe.  He loves giving people hugs and kisses and loves playing and  running around with his brother.  He also really loves Sophie the dog and Holly the cat.  We’re so glad to have him in our lives every day.

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