Friday, 27 September 2013

Oat and raisin cookies

I occasionally get emails from people asking me for childcare advice - normally about sleeping and eating (what else is there, after all?) - and sometimes these emails are from people who I assume have all the answers about kids already: doctors and teachers, basically.

One was an obstetrician worried about what her under-1 was eating. And I thought YOU DELIVER BABIES surely they are just not a subject you need help with. But she did. And she said "I just needed to hear someone else say it." I get that a lot. "I just needed to hear someone else say it," they say when I tell them to stop eating if they want to be thin, or stop rocking their kid to sleep or to stop breastfeeding if it's making them suicidal.

Yesterday I needed to hear someone else say "You need to do controlled crying with Sam." And my heart sank - right into my socks. But I knew they were right.

Controlled crying is the worst thing you have to do as a parent, I think. Is there anything else? MMmm, no. It is absolutely horrible. And it only looks and feels right and sensible from a distance. It never feels anything other than the most horrific, inhuman crazy reckless selfish evil thing you've ever done when you're actually doing it. There are fewer darker places to be, as a parent, then listening to your child cry and doing nothing about it.

I mean, come on! To leave your child fussing, or wailing or even fucking screeching the house down? Well that's just a thing for social services surely? You're no better than Baby P's mother! The parent of that poor Polish boy who starved to death! YOU ARE A MONSTER! These thoughts loom large in the small hours.

But there comes a point when it is time to get a grip and have some perspective. And I think that controlled crying is in fact a thing that you are doing to yourself, not something you are doing to your child.

Very few parents go for controlled crying as Option 1. When I had to do it with Kitty it was only after days and days of trying other things. And with Sam I have spent the last three months trying everything else when he wakes at 5am: patting, stroking, popping in a dummy, taking him in bed with me - all that. And he doesn't want it, it makes it worse. If all I had to do with him was hop into bed with him at 5am every morning and give him a cuddle and he would fall back to sleep until 7am I would do it. Happily! But it doesn't work. Neither does the dummy. He just spits it out half an hour later.

And I've been fretting and fretting and fretting about it for weeks. What to do? What to do? Then yesterday someone said "Just let him cry."

And I went :(((((((

But this morning as the clocked ticked over to 0500 and Sam began his dawn chorus of snuffling and whimpering and going "ehhr ehhr ehhr ehhr ehhr" which turned to "waaa waa waa waaa" I got out of bed, taking a watch with me, shut the door on my husband, shut Kitty's door and went up to the nursery. I straightened Sam in his cot, as he was headbutting the sides, gave him back his muzzy thing, gave him a pat then went out to sit on the stairs.

A watch is completely vital when you are doing controlled crying. With nothing to mark time it feels like they have been crying for hours, days, YEARS. In reality I let Sam wail and fret for 1min 30secs, then went back in to give him another pat. Then I went outside and left him again for just under 4 minutes. Then he went quiet again and started up for just under 2 minutes. Then he went completely quiet and I went back downstairs and got into bed and didn't hear from him again until 7.20am. The whole thing had taken 15 minutes.

As I sat and listened to Sam wailing I noticed a thing about his cry that helped me whenever I had to do it with Kitty: he didn't really mean it. Or rather, the cry didn't mean the thing I feared it meant. What I fear it means is: "I want my dummy" - and am then baffled when he spits it out half an hour later.

But I realise now when he is wailing at that time in the morning he is saying "I don't understand why I am awake. I don't want to be awake. I want to be asleep but I can't really get back to sleep so I am going to just go WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH until I pass ou..." This is why the dummy doesn't help (because he doesn't fall asleep with a dummy) and why patting doesn't help (get the fuck off me) and taking him into bed doesn't help (what are you doing?!?!?! put me back in bed!!!)

Anyway that is my story and I am sticking to it. At least I've got a plan, now - once you've done controlled crying once and it has worked and they wake up the next morning alive and well and give you a huge gummy smile, it's never as bad again. And with any luck quite soon no-one will have to listen to me going on about how fucking tired I am anymore.

Continuing the theme of baking for Kitty's nursery bake sale day, yesterday we made some oat and raisin cookies (a classic).

They worked very well and were very simple and I recommend them to you.

Oat and raisin cookies
Makes 12

1 egg
50g butter
50g sugar
50g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon Golden Syrup or runny honey
80g rolled oats (like Scots Porage Oats)
50g raisins

Preheat your oven to 170C

1 Grease a baking sheet

2 Cream together the butter and sugar then beat in the egg, then the golden syrup or honey.

3 In another bowl mix together the
- flour
- cinnamon
- baking powder
- oats
- raisins

then add to your butter mixture.

4 To make a cookie, blob a teaspoonful on the baking sheet then flatten down a bit as best you can as it will spread out a bit on cooking but not lots. If you just put a blob on the sheet you will get a sort of rock cake.

The mixture is very rubbly and sticky so manipulating it can be problematic. I think there is a thing you can do with flattening it with a wet spatula?

Leave some space between cookies as they will spread out a bit on cooking. You may have to cook them in two batches.

5 Bake for about 8 - 10 minutes then leave to cool on a wire rack. They ought to be be bendy when they come out of the oven.

It goes without saying you can add anything else you like to these to make them super-tasty: chopped orange peel, hazelnuts, chocolate chips: wevs, man.


  1. Hi, I completely agree with this approach (so long as it is done with kindness and other things have been tried first). I have a 2yo foster child who had been with me for 7months, had no problems with sleeps patterns (once he'd settled in) now suddenly we have screaming when he goes to bed and screaming at 5am. We've had to swap so my partner puts him to bed as he has attachment issues and sees it as a personal affront when I leave him in the cot. Can now settle himself in 7 minutes (with 2 x 3min returns for reassurance) and this seems to have taught him how to settle himself when he wakes at 5am!

  2. Sometimes we all just want a good cry. x

  3. Ohhh I remember sitting on the stairs with my watch in my hands bawling my eyes out whilst Jude was wailing thinking "I'm such a horrible person - all my baby wants is me and I'm keeping that from him" and "Jan and Jim next door are going to call social services"....and then after 13 mins of me popping back in every 5,4,3 mins....he fell asleep and there ended my year of spending about an hour every night rocking from foot to foot patting and shushing bedtime routine...bonkers - and I had tortured myself for weeks beforehand by reading anything I could find on the internet - awful "facts" by bullying women on "mumsnet" about how you would cause your child years of trauma and future trips to a psychiatrist if you subjected them to evil controlled took one night and he then fell asleep himself every night after that (unless he's sick) - I think he was so relieved to be just left the hell alone! These cookies sound lush - I'm going to bake them right now...and probably eat them all even though I've bought a tight dress to wear to a wedding tomorrow and I'd promised myself that I wasn't going to eat today in preparation...thank the lord for M&S fat sucking-in tights x

  4. Totally agree with controlled crying. It worked with both my boys and they have been very good sleepers since. Thanks for the yummy recipe. I will try it out tonight!

  5. Maybe he would like to get up and bake early morning cookies lol

  6. How is that top one so perfectly circular?

  7. it never worked for me. I think I left it too late - I tried it after much convincing from the mummy mafia from nct that it was the only way. but after 3 nights of panicky-screaming hell (proper tears and snot and everything - the baby not me) I was a nervous wreck and refused to continue. so I used to sit in her room reading a book and she'd drop off eventually . she's has never had any sleep issues since. in the end you do whatever works for you..

  8. sooo true, I think you forget in the dead of night that they are still crying because they want you to sod off and let them sleep!

  9. I used to time it on the iPhone: set it to 10 or 15 minutes; if my son or daughter was still crying after that, I would go in. Usually they would stop before. Otherwise, if I didn't have the timer, it seemed like they had cried for a year of two, and it had only been 59 seconds.

  10. Liked your piece in the Times on Thursday. I love that you're planning to take a laid-back approach to starting Sam on solids. In that case, if purees were such a pain with Kitty, why not skip them completely this time? Babies don't need teeth to chew softish foods; if Sam can pick things up and get them to his mouth, he can just join in with the rest of you. Check out baby-led weaning!

  11. You are not just doing the right thing, it's the best thing - children have to learn how to go to sleep by themselves. There is one school of thought that believes if you always go to a child as soon as they start snuffling and shuffling and grunting and making those strange unearthly noises they come up with in the early hours of the day/night that all you are doing is training them to keep waking up at that time because they think that's what you want. It's a thought.

  12. I'm afraid my comment is not related to your latest post, but... how do you stand on Christmas cakes? Yes I know it's far too early to think about it BUT I have tried Delia, Joliver and a recipe scrawled on a scrap of paper some 25 years ago but an old dear (which was my least favourite, despite the lovely story behind it). Can you recommend a good recipe? SORRY for asking so early but I am excited about baking my cake again this year.

    1. I do not like Christmas cake or any rich fruit cake. If I had to make a Christmas cake I would make a standard Dundee cake (a light and crumbly fruitcake, which is still solid enough to take icing and keeps well). That was probably not the answer you were looking for, sorry.

    2. Whoops read this after I posted a comment on your dundee cake post.

    3. I don't like Christmas cake either! Who does, really? I just insist on making and decorating one every year. Also, a Christmas cake is a good vehicle for booze.

    4. Charlotte, the one you want is Darina Allen's from the Ballymaloe school It's a great base recipe-I like to omit the cherries/whang in some chopped prunes (makes it v damp and tender) instead of the currants/macerate the fruit in Madeira or brandy instead of whiskey for example. But it's a heavenly cake, keeps for ages and makes people feel all warm and Christmassy (and drunk) when they eat it.

  13. I still have bad thoughts about letting my 3rd child go to bed every night using controlled crying for weeks.He went on and on for far longer than my daughters, then it got to the point when I had to carry on as I didn't have a back up plan. I have to keep telling myself he is the best sleeper of all and it is true but I still feel guilty abut it now. I could never have gone through that again!
    At least he loves oat raisin cookies.

  14. God I wish controlled crying had worked for us, but nothing has worked, and at the age of three and a half my little girl and her one year old brother wake several times a night each.... I long for the day when they will sleep well, but I guess we are just not that lucky. The cookies are delish! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Snap... Turned out that all I needed to do to combat the 4am wake-ups was to not rush into the nursery. After a week of giving her 5 mins to resettle, she now wakes up at 6/7am AND she wakes up in a happier mood. Win!

  16. Thanks for recommending your Oat and raisin cookies recipe. My kids love it when we make it.