Sunday 8 June 2014

Inspiring ABM Conference #ABMConf14

My alarm woke me, confused and half asleep at 4am yesterday.  Trying not to interrupt the peaceful snores of my family, I dressed, grabbed my already packed bag and slipped out to the car.  A short drive to the train station found me Birmingham bound, ready for this year's Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM) conference.

I didn't go last year.  I had not long qualified as a Mother Supporter and had a lot on my plate with a 6 month old baby.  But I heard such amazing things that as soon as the tickets went on sale I put my order in.  Although I have had my reservations - booking a day that cost me an 8 hour train journey and a day away from my babies - I was foolish.  It was amazing.

The speakers for the day were just...timely.  Arriving at the exact moment I needed to them,

Naomi Stadlen - "Can't you pull your socks up darling?" Grandmothers, supportive and not-so-supportive.
Naomi made me see the grandmother through the mother's eyes and vice versa.  You can understand that some can make errors of judgement and the repercussions can be huge.

Anne Harper - Connecting the dots - social media and breastfeeding support in the C21st
Well, here I am with my blog associated to Facebook and Twitter.  I use breastfeeding support sites online and have done since before I became a mother.  Of course I also love the 'Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths' site so it is wonderful to put a face to a name.

Louise Hunter - Teenage Mothers who breastfeed :exiled on the Postnatal ward, exiled at home.
I sympathise hugely with young mothers, but what I took from this talk was that I also empathised.  I may have been in my twenties when I became a mother, but I was still naive, afraid and vulnerable.  We can learn so much from these strong young ladies.

Sarah Oakley - The Sharp End - Rising to the challenge of supporting mothers with tongue-tied babies
I have come across a few cases of tongue tie.  It is something that I find fascinating - it can have such an impact and cause such heartache.  With 1 in 10 affected it seems so important to raise the profile of this condition and ensure support.

Hollie McNish - A story from birth to work
I have been subscribed to Hollie's YouTube channel for a while.  She is just amazing.  The room was silent, except when filled with laughter.  She made me laugh and she filled me with emotion.  I hope she gets her book deal :)

Along with these speakers were a host of fascinating exhibitors, who were all so helpful, informative and friendly.

So, an emotional, inspiring day.  Really, at times it made me feel sick with excitement and emotion (and the migraine I nursed all day).  I arrived home at half past nine exhausted, emotional, excited and dying to go next year. Oh, and I'm writing again, with the quiet passion I had at the start.

Friday 25 April 2014

Happy Birthday Dear Boob Group.....

As I fast approach my own birthday I was privileged to be invited to a very important celebration, a second birthday party.  Birthday parties for two year olds are of course generally thrilling events, attempting to control your sugar-rushed, hyped-up children, but this was a different affair.  This was celebrating two whole years of Deal Breastfeeding Support Group

At the event I rubbed shoulders with local MP Charlie Elphicke.  Shame that he didn't choose my baby for the obligatory 'MP and baby' photo, probably since mine was covered in mushed up hot cross bun.

The raffle (which I forgot to enter, sorry!) had some amazing prizes, including a cut and style at Men's style, and wine.  All this contributed to the day's fundraising which totalled £91!

I know I talk about the group a lot.  But I really do believe in them.  They provide such amazing support for mum's as well as raising awareness within the community.  The work they have done in two years makes me very excited about what is to come. 

The group chose this event to announce their education programme.  They are sponsoring 10 places for mums to train as 'Mother Supporters' with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers.  I underwent this training about six months ago.  It was intense but interesting and rewarding.  It has enabled me to give back a little of the support I received.  But aside from that the course gives you more understanding of your own journey.  For the Deal community, this opportunity can only help in the sea change of breastfeeding awareness. 

'People give one another things that can't be giftwrapped' Nadine Gordiner

Anyway,  Happy Birthday DBSG and many happy returns xxx

Monday 14 April 2014

Sorry I haven't been blogging.. (Or 'the trials of teaching')

I have been a bit absent from this blog lately.  I have been working on some exciting writing projects and of course enjoying time with my kids, but mostly I have just been snowed at work. You see, I'm a teacher. Yeah I know 'that's great, you get to spend the holidays with your kids' and 'so you finish at 3.20, that's so lucky.'  Well, that is true, but it's not quite so simple.

Yes I finish at 3.20. I jump straight in the car and drive home so I can maximise my time with my kids.  This is something that I feel fortunate about. But I don't drive alone. I am accompanied by books or paperwork.  In fact I spend around 1.5 hours working on 4 nights a week.  I'm not full time, I only work two and a half days a week.  If I didn't have the kids I would stay at work till 5 or 6 to get the job done, but I would rather see the kids.  I know that's my choice, but it means that when the kids are bathed and storied up, and I have gone snoozy from breastfeeding, I descend the stairs and get the books out. Not exactly first on my list of things I would like to do in the evening.  When you consider that I arrive at work at 8, I have already worked a 7.5 hour day, so add it all up and it starts to make me feel even more worn out. 

And the holidays?  Well, yes they are great. But teachers work in the holidays. Sure we also relax, but you know what, I am burnt out by then and I need the break. But the joy I used to get from a bit of a rest in the holidays along with a few days of hard graft to get myself caught up is tempered somewhat.  I have to look after the kids, so there again I have to work in the evenings, or when I can get somebody to watch the kids.  And resting? Well any parent knows that is rare. 

I don't mean to complain.  I consider myself lucky. I have a great job. I am lucky that i have more flexibility in my work than most working mums. I am passionate about teaching and really happy in what I do. It's fun, creative, rewarding, busy and the students are just great....But teaching is a real slog. I don't take breaks now that I don't express at work. I work any chance I get at home so that I can keep on top of things. So while I have the benefits of choosing when I work a little bit, I suffer from an industry where a great deal of 'overtime' is necessary. 

What is my point....I'm not entirely sure. If you are a parent and thinking of being a teacher, it's not all rosy. If you know a teacher, be nice to them. Being a working mum of any profession isn't easy, and being a teacher is certainly not as easy as public perception would make you believe. Also, I promise I will blog more now that the heavy marking season is over xxx

Saturday 22 February 2014

Breastfeeding, allaitement, nursing.....

Recently I travelled to France with one of my best friends, the husband and the kids.  A lovely wintery day trip was had.  At lunch time baby girl started to get whingey.  She was tired and hungry.  I knew that I had an easy way to stop her complaining and using her food as projectiles.... but I got cold feet.  I was under the impression that the French are not so 'boob friendly'  I was too afraid and held off feeding until I could secretly do so in my baby carrier as we strolled back towards the car. However, breastfeeding in public is essentially legal in FranceAlthough it is not generally as supported as in the UK so one could be subject to some prejudice.

Our little family has recently returned from California.  We had such a wonderful time.  On perhaps the second day we found ourselves outside.  Boy was playing in the park with daddy.  I was lounging with a fretful baby girl.  I wanted to feed her.  I was aware that by law I was OK, but I wasn't sure what the culture here was.  I faltered. 

There were two ladies and their kids sat near to me.  One of them started calling over her toddler (I would guess about 18 months). 
'Baby, you want Doh-Dots?'
(Toddler ignores her)
"Doh-Dots?  Come here baby, Doh-Dots"
I think to myself, 'she's got to mean breastfeeding'.  I couldn't think of anything else.  I start spying secretly.  Eventually toddler loses interest in whatever it was she was playing with and wanders over to mummy.  She promptly lifts her shirt snuggles up with toddler and they start nursing.  Mummy continues directing her other children and holding a conversation with a friend.

I smiled secretly.  At that exact moment where I felt unsure the solidarity of another mum had given me the confidence I needed to feed my baby - which I promptly did.  That just goes to show how important it can be!  On walking over to husband to tell him about my experience I spotted another woman nursing by the park, this time under a nursing cover.  I couldn't believe it.  2 in one park?  Plus me makes 3, that must be some new record!! (Having taken part in the Big Latch On I know that's not true).

Seriously, though, I have never seen so much open breastfeeding as I did in California.  It was awesome (said in an American accent, in case you are unsure).  Breastfeeding is protected by the Civil Code § 43-53 in California.  In fact in America breastfeeding in public is protected by law in most states in some form.

The following link shows the difference in perceptions of breastfeeding between the UK, the USA and France.

 I find these cutural differences fascinating.  I wander where it comes from, rates? Law? Health systems? Overriding political or religious sentiments?  But when travelling abroad a breastfeeding mother may feel unsure, even if she is aware of her legal status - yet another reason to breastfeed openly whenever possible, just in case a foreigner is feeling unsure :)

Monday 17 February 2014

My how they've grown..

I recently went to a christening.  A friend of mine has a little two and a half year old boy.  He was bimbling around, content playing with the baby toys.  He was talking in stilted disjointed sentances.  He was popping out of the fire engine toy's roof and shouting 'DADDY, DADDY' until he was acknowledged.  I looked down on my lap where my three and a half year old sat.  He was grumpy because the toys were for babies (or so he claimed).  He chatters on all the time.  He has friends that he made himself.  He was disappointed that it's the school holidays because he wants to go to nursery and play all day with his new friends.  He is too big to go to toddler groups and has to be enticed with 'you can show your sister what to do'.  Yet when his sister was born he was like this other little boy.  Still in nappies, still not talking properly and happy spending all day playing with the same toys over and over. 

That same day my daughter took 4 steps.  4 steps!!  She can say mama.  She knows what she wants and asks for it.  Last night she went into her big girl bed.  We have been having issues at night as she wants to feed continually and my tolerance only goes so far.  However we have foud that if she isn't hungry she is just as content to have a big daddy cuddle. So, in her big girl bed, either I can cuddle her and feed her until I sneak away while she snores.  Or daddy can sneak in for a cuddle to soothe her tears.  She looks so tiny in her big bed.

It is so bittersweet.  Much as I love tiny babies they are just such heart rending hard work.  I am more comfortable with chatty playful toddlers.  Or even older (I teach at a secondary school -  a class full of teenagers doesn't bother me).  But I feel nostalgic for the old times.

  I am going to give away my rocking chair.  The place where I have spent countless hours nursing my babies.  Sleepy and dreamy and snuggly.  That feels like a big milestone, me saying that I don't need a place to feed my babies.  But I still have a place to feed my littlest toddler.  In her big girl bed (she is far too busy and grown up to feed in the day).

I know my breastfeeding days are numbered now. I know I am unlikely to ever hold my very own little newborn again. But I will have first steps, first words, first days at school, first friends and so on to make up for my unending sadness for the babies who are growing up. 

Saturday 14 December 2013

'Boobles bazaar'

This afternoon I popped by 'Boobles bazaar'.  As I mentioned in my last post, Deal Breastfeeding Support Group were using this event to raise ever needed funds, raise awareness and to launch their 'Breastfeeding Welcome' scheme.  I delivered my homemade cakes (gotta love food that looks like boobs :) ) to add to the appealing array already there.  I did sample some of the chocolate cake, as did baby girl until husband told me not to give her anymore chocolate :P

My boy made another glittery monstrosity to add to our tree..... He loves a bit of crafting and this was particularly good as it involved smothering his hands with paint.  He has hung his creation on the tree just near his armchair so he can admire it...most definitely a happy camper.

After winning 2 items on the tombola we had a little meander around the stalls.  There were a few craft stalls with some gorgeous items, including booby beanies.  Elite Beauty and Spa were making people's hands look pretty.  Babybeads UK  had a stall- I would have bought an amber bracelet from them if I hadn't decided that I couldn't wait and bought it a fortnight ago.  Weirdly I did buy some honey from them, much to the boy's delight that they had 'pet bees'.  I admired the wares from Breastmilk Keepsakes... such a lovely idea (and they do 'first curls' charms too now). 'Audrey her cards and art' was selling Phoenix cards ready for Christmas.  Creative Minds Nursery were raising awareness of their services in the area.  There was certainly plenty to see!

A great outing was had.  DBSG Main organiser Candice Roberts tells me they made £240, which will certainly make a big difference.  Not only that but people visiting the event could rub shoulders with Deal town mayor Cllr Marlene Burnham, local MP Charlie Elphicke and Cllr Mike Eddy.  A success in anyone's book :).

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Local ladies doing lovely things

BBC Radio Kent ran a great programme yesterday at 10am.  Three local mums and their babies from Gravesham Breast Buddies were interviewed concerning breastfeeding in public.  These mummys have produced a breastfeeding calendar to help fly the flag for public breastfeeding.  Kudos to them for going very public indeed!  This is (in my humble opinion) a great way of showing the many ways that breastfeeding in public takes place (I particularly like the picture of the nursing bride).  The discussion was well handled by Radio Kent and didn't resort to the usual antagonising slanging match of breast vs formula.  They stuck to the point and I felt all parties handled the issue gracefully and intelligently.  The particular highlight was the heavy breathing of the babies into the microphones though :D.

Tomorrow I shall be baking cupcakes to take to 'Boobles Bazaar' in Deal on Saturday (one of the places where the calendars are being sold).  I am strongly considering making them look like mini boobs.  The event is going to be amazing as can be seen below (although my cupcakes are not listed despite their promise of awesomeness....)
Oh and get this, the Deal Mayor and local MP Charlie Elphicke will be there....that's how cool it is.  Aside from being a fundraiser, and a generally festive fiesta, Boobles Bazaar is also going to be the forum to launch Deal Breastfeeding Support Groups 'Breastfeeding Welcome' scheme.  Local businesses can sign up to this scheme and they then display a 'Breastfeeding Welcome' sticker to show their support.  Of course they don't get away that easily...their staff need to be made aware of the law (as found in the Equality Act 2010) and they adopt a breastfeeding policy to ensure that breastfeeding mothers are treated appropriately and in line with the law of the land.

Candice Roberts, main organiser of DBSG has recently signed up the first few premises, "I felt physically sick", she told me at the group recently, "I didn't know what to expect from the meeting.  But it was so positive!".  Grinning ear to ear she told me about the questions she had been asked and the dialogue that was being started by this initiative.  As usual, Candice is overflowing with enthusiasm about the groups ventures and I doubt not that the number of premises signed up will multiply post-launch.

I hope that when I walk down Deal High Street in a year's time I see a sea of purple stickers.  They will be unobtrusive but if you know what to look for, or if you have a hungry baby, you will see the sticker and know that as a breastfeeding mother you will be welcome.