Maura Derrane on the joys and challenges of raising a baby in her 40s

It’s Friday afternoon of the May Bank Holiday weekend and Maura Derrane is in full mammy mode.

Introducing her son, Cal, to the public for the first time, The Today Show presenter is ambassador for the First 1,000 Days movement, which highlights the importance of nutrition from conception up to two years of age.

Cal will be one year old next week so he’s about two-thirds of the way through this critical nutritional window.

“Oh, good boy,” Maura coos as Cal plays with a balloon. He loves eating, she says.

“He’s not a complete savage but he loves his food. He has porridge in the morning with fruit. The first thing I ever made him that he ate was mashed avocado and kiwi. He loves fish pie, cottage pie, scrambled eggs and natural yogurt with fresh fruit.

“When I first gave him fish, he puked. I had to disguise it. But I’d given him salmon — it might have been better to give him hake’.”

Maura says she was always aware of the importance of good nutrition from the very beginning of a child’s life.

“From the moment he was weaned, we’ve been conscious about getting key nutrients into him like iron and vitamin D. I’d definitely say introducing him to a range of food from the outset helped keep him open-minded about different types of food. When both parents work outside the home like we do, it’s important to plan meal times as much as possible to help him develop a healthy relationship with food.”

Cal is teething at the moment. “He has two big apple cheeks on him.” Since his birth on May 12 last year, time has flown.

“But it was weird at the beginning — it felt like time moved very slowly. You have to get used to not sleeping. Now he has turned into a little human — he’s sleeping the night and it’s great. He’s crawling and pulling himself up. He babbles from the minute he gets up until he goes to bed. I think he’ll speak early.”

Cal, she says, is a real little trickster. “He’s a little individual. He’s very good-natured. Everyone says he’s got my eyes and John’s looks.” Maura, 44, is clearly besotted with her son. As he crawls under the table she coos: “Come out you cuckoo.”

Is she a doting mum? “I’d like to think he won’t be spoiled — that does no one any good. But he winds me around his little finger.”

Did she feel very lucky to have a baby when she was over 40? Maura says she and TD husband John Deasy were very happy without a baby. But it was “a great moment” when they realised she was pregnant.

“People make a big deal of it [having a baby in one’s 40s] but lots of women do it. I say go for it. There are advantages to being an older mum — you’re much more confident and practical.”

She has previously opened up about her fears that she would die in childbirth with — she’d been diagnosed with placenta previa, which can cause severe, dangerous bleeding prior to or during delivery.

She has told media about the massive bleed that caused her to lose two litres of blood in minutes and about how was delivered by emergency C-section. Understandably, it’s not ground she wants to cover again. “I got over it. A couple of months after having the baby, you forget about it.”

But she won’t be doing it again — she’s content with one baby. “I’m very happy with Cal. He’s my one and only. I have my hands full with him. I’m happy I got a good one.”

She acknowledges that having a baby totally upends life as you knew it. “It’s a big change. It’s all about the baby. You forego going out. The first year, you must devote yourself to the baby — it’s a nurturing time. And it’s fine because what you give up in one way, you get back two-fold another way.”

The hardest bit is juggling a busy working life with raising a child.

“I wanted to go back to presenting the show. We’ve got a good childminder — she loves him and he loves her. I’m tired but I’m going to be off [work] for the summer and I’m thrilled about that.”

John is great at caring for their little boy. “He’s well able, extremely patient with him. I can go out with my sisters for a night and leave him with John.”

She always loved the name and had decided on it before the baby was born. “If I’d had a girl, she would have been Lara. I loved Dr Zhivago. Cal is a derivative of the old Hebrew name, Caleb. It means ‘loyalty’.”

Off air for the summer, Maura’s going to get in shape. “Physically, it takes a year to get over having a child. I don’t think I’m in great shape. I want to tone up this summer. I’m going to do yoga and Pilates.”

Then — like any first-time, devoted mother, her attention is on her baby. “Oh, look at him! Poor little angel-face — he’s rubbing his eyes, he’s tired.” And with that she’s away, to look after this new, very important addition to her life.

A DAY AT A TIME

Maura Derrane on the joys and challenges of raising a baby in her 40s

The First 1,000 Days covers four key stages: Pregnancy, breastfeeding, weaning, and the toddler stage. The 1,000 figure comprises 270 days of pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life.

Providing good nutrition in this period means parents are taking advantage of a unique window of opportunity to secure their child’s long-term health.

Increasingly, research indicates that getting nutrition right for infants and toddlers can ensure a lifetime of good health, including reduced risk of adult obesity and heart disease.

Michelle Gray, dietician at First 1,000 Days, says it aims to help parents take simple steps to ensure optimal nutrition is received from conception right up to baby’s second birthday.

“Feeding your toddler with the foods rich in iron and other important nutrients powerfully impacts on their brain development and future potential right through their lives.”

Parents should:

* Include two small daily servings of iron-rich foods: Meat, fish, eggs, and fortified foods/milk drinks. Iron supports normal brain development. Poor iron intake in infancy and toddler-hood is linked to lower IQ score in childhood. Research shows 23% of 1-year-olds in don’t get enough iron in their diet.

* Include vitamin D in the daily diet — eat oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals, and milk. Vitamin D supports normal bone and tooth development. Over 90% of Irish toddlers (1-3 years) don’t get enough Vitamin D, essential for normal bone and tooth development.

* Eat as a family and lead by example. Toddlers like to copy their siblings and parents — eating as a family will make them more likely to eat their meals and enjoy them too.

* Join the First 1,000 Days movement and get a free copy of the recipe book at www.first1000days.ie  

See www.facebook.com/first1000daysireland 


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